Monday, July 20, 2015

Barça keep Bartomeu while Roma block Real

Josep Bartomeu sees off the challenge of Juan Laporta to stay president of FC Barcelona, while Rafael Benitez's first game in charge of Real Madrid is a stalemate down under.

THE SPANISH WEEK IN REVIEW


* After all the hype of a second coming with star-studded backing for Juan Laporta as FC Barcelona president, 47,080 club members re-elected incumbent Josep Bartomeu for another six years instead.


Bartomeu's victory, garnering 54.6% of the votes, was bigger than predicted.

"We have proved that not just on the field we are the best team in the world," he waxed.

Bartomeu took over in January 2014 after president Sandro Rosell, director of football Andoni Zubizaretta and assistant Carlos Puyol all resigned in the wake of the Neymar transfer scandal and the subsequent year-long transfer ban on the club.

Accepting his win, he pledged to forge ahead with the €600 million "Espai Barcelona" plan for remodelling the entire Camp Nou stadium complex.

Laporta conceded defeat but added, in English, "No surrender, never give up," explaining that the Qatar connection is slowly destroying the unique culture that is FCB. He called Bartomeu "a processed president who will destroy La Masia" (the club's youth academy) and said the club is "trapped by Qatar."

The 2022 World Cup host nation has become such tainted goods in the light of human rights abuse revelations and the ongoing FIFA scandal, that Agusti Benedito had pledged to ditch Barça's shirt sponsors by 2016 and even Bartomeu announced there was an unnamed Asian electronics firm (rumoured to be Rakuten) with the money ready to replace the Qatar Foundation.

"We will continue to fight what is happening at Barcelona," Laporta insisted. "It remains clear there are two ways (of running it)". So no love lost then.

Laporta had Johann Cruyff ("The situation at the club is unacceptable with all the accusations") and Pep Guardiola supporting his campaign, and had dangled the prospect of Paul Pogba in the blaugrana in front of the faithful, with the Frenchman's agent confirming his player would move to Catalonia if Laporta were elected, but more than half of Barça's members opted instead to keep the status quo after a perfect trophy haul in 2015.

If what matters at the end of the day is winning football matches, it seems a case of 'if it works, don't fix it.'

But being president of one of Spain's big two comes with near impossible demands and while Bartomeu basks in the limelight of his presidential victory, he also knows the knives will be sharpened again as soon as FCB fail to win La Liga or the Champions League.

Luis Enrique, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique made sure they voted before joining their colleagues to jet off to the United States for their pre-season tour.



Missing from FCB's lineup in America however will be Lionel Messi, Neymar, Claudio Bravo, Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves, whose Copa America duties have earned them a well-earned rest.

BARÇA PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS:

Josep Bartomeu 55%
Juan Laporta  33 %
Agusti Benedito 7%
Toni Freixa 4%

* And finally Iker Casillas left the building for good. Real Madrid's storied goalkeeper had been slowly heading toward the exit ever since Costa Rica's outstanding World Cup keeper Keylor Navas was acquired last summer and aged 34 was not getting any younger.

But Florentino Perez's summary sale of one of Real's longest-serving soldiers has nevertheless been met with some dismay in Madrid. Coach Rafael Benitez said he was unhappy how the issue was dividing Real's fans when it was a finished story.

Casillas is still first choice for Spain after all and despite the boos now and again from insatiable fan sections, shows few signs of diminishing powers for club nor country.

Some fans on the airwaves and in the letters pages this week have been slamming the Real owner and vowing to forsake the Bernabeu until he leaves the scene.

Seeing their 19-trophy legend in Porto colours this week has come as a shock to the system as Casillas has been on the books of Real for 25 years, and a ready, worthy replacement does not seem forthcoming, although Navas has not been given enough chances to establish himself thus far.

Johann Cruyff, while voicing his support for Juan Laporta in the Barça presidential elections, also paid tribute to the departing goalkeeper:

"He has always been a gentleman on and off the field and an example to everyone," he said. From Catalonia, Spain teammate Xavi said Casillas had been poorly treated by his club.

One has to reduce by at least 50% any truth contained in the daily Real press hyperbole, but clearly Casillas' rapid departure has been controversial. In Madrid this week, Casillas shirts and photos were suddenly discounted, a sad reflection of a done deal.

His tearful farewell to the press stamped his image as a man of honour, which paints Perez as the villain of the piece if any blame were to be appointed.

Casillas nevertheless has been accused of briefing against Jose Mourinho after being dropped and one has to wonder how much of his parents' raging attack on the Real Madrid president in the press was a proxy action.

By some quirk, Iker Casillas has been replaced by the similar-sounding Kiko Casilla, like him a Bernabeu product before being sold to Espanyol in 2008.

The 28 year-old should slot into Real's No.2 slot behind Navas, but his acquisition also puts the whole David De Gea project back a notch. Real's third custodian is 23 year old Spaniard Fernando Pacheco.

De Gea is out of contract next summer at Old Trafford, so instead of breaking the bank this summer, Real may wait to pounce then for free instead.

The latest theories insisted Louis Van Gaal would only sell his goalkeeper if Sergio Ramos moved in the other direction, but that looks ever more unlikely before the 1st of September transfer deadline.

Ramos seems set to stay at the Bernabeu as Benitez rates him so highly.

"I see the future with Sergio," the Real coach said this week, "because he is a key player because of his abilities and quality on the field and for his leadership and mentality in the dressing room."

* Spain won the UEFA U-19 Championship Final defeating Russia 2-0 in Katerini, Greece.



Real Madrid youngster Borja Mayoral scored the first after 37 minutes and won the tournament's golden boot. Villareal's Argentine-born Matias Nahuel grabbed the clincher twelve minutes from time.

SPAIN U-19: Sivera (Valencia II), Martin (Espanyol II), Mere (Gijon), Merino (Osasuna), Ceballos (Betis), Mayoral (Real Madrid II), Asensio (Real Madrid), Hernandez (Villareal II), Vallejo (Real Zaragoza), Pedraza (Villareal II), Borja (Racing Santander).

subs: Leiva (Villareal II) for Pedraza 74', Marin (Almeria II) for Borja 81', Fernandez (Sevilla II) for Mayoral 90'.

Spain had lost 3-1 to Russia in the group stage, where they beat Germany 3-0 and drew 1-1 with the Netherlands. In the semi-final they defeated France 2-0.

La Roja's record in UEFA's 2015 finals competitions stands thus:

U-17 - Quarter-Finalists; Champions: France
U-19 - Champions
U-21 - Did Not Qualify; Champions: Sweden

Spain at senior level remain European Champions following their 2012 win in Poland and will defend their title next summer in France.

* Atletico Madrid have signed Fiorentina's 24 year-old centre-back Stefan Savic for €12 million plus colchonero midfielder Mario Suarez.

* MK Dons have signed Real Madrid reserve Cristian Benavente on a two-year deal. The 21 year-old attacking midfielder has eight caps for Peru.

* Javier Tebas, president of Spain's Professional Football League, confirmed he does not see eye to eye with Angel Maria "all the fish are sold" Villar Llona, president of the Spanish F.A. and vice-president on FIFA's Executive Committee, and that he would be supporting a rival candidate for his post.

"I cannot get anything done with Villar," he told Marca. "Angel has done good things for football but for some time he has not adapted to the reality of modern football...What is FIFA's vice-president doing not talking about all that has happened? Did he forget, did he not want to or could he not? There are colleagues of his in prison for corruption."

* One of the summer's longest running rumours got closure as Belgian international defender Toby Alderweireld left Atletico Madrid for Tottenham on a five-year deal.

* Atletico are still seeking Filipe Luis from Chelsea but Jose Mourinho said if they want the Brazilian defender, "they'll have to pay."

* Valencia have signed promising Brazilian midfielder Danilo Barbosa on a year's loan from Sporting Braga with an option to buy. The 19 year-old captained Brazil at the FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer in New Zealand, where the seleçao lost 2-1 in the final to Serbia.

* Sevilla have signed Brazilian left-back Mariano Ferreira from Bordeaux in a three-year deal. The 29 year-old had a €20 million release clause.

* Getafe have acquired Argentine centre-back Santiago Vergini on a two-year loan from Sunderland.

* Newly promoted Las Palmas have signed midfielder Jonathan Viera on a three-year deal from Standard Liege for €900,000 following a half-year loan.

*The Red Devils are said to be keen to buy Pedro from Barcelona, whom they will play in a friendly next Saturday in Santa Clara, California, where a possible deal could be ironed out.

A figure of €25-29 million has been mentioned, and Pedro may be tempted to link up with friends Ander Herrera and Juan Mata at Old Trafford, although Barça boss Luis Enrique is said to be against Pedro leaving.

The Spanish international's arrival could mean Angel Di Maria leaving England, but the former Real wide man is not expected to return to Spain, with PSG in pole position for the Argentine's signature.

In another join-the-dots story, the Sunday People newspaper claimed Louis Van Gaal will launch an audacious raid for Gareth Bale next week, right.

* UEFA have put their foot down and reminded Barcelona they cannot play €41 million capture Arda Turan in any match, friendlies included, until their transfer ban expires in January.

* Rafael Benitez's Real Madrid reign began with a 7-6 penalty shoot-out defeat to Roma following a 0-0 draw in front of 80,746 in Melbourne.

Real played a 4-2-3-1 with Keylor Navas in goal, Sergio Ramos as skipper, Martin Odegaard starting and a bearded Gareth Bale with relative freedom on the right of a trident behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

The team missed a host of goalscoring chances but showed signs of adopting more of a pressing game and a new formation. The starting line-up appears largely to be Benitez's preferred although the teenage Odegaard did not convince and Benitez admitted they were debating sending him out on loan. The team missed chances and Ronaldo looked frustrated as usual. It is early days.

Real Madrid: Navas, Ramos, Marcel, Carvalho, Varane, Modric, Bale, Illarramendi, Odegaard, Ronaldo, Jese. Half-time subs: Arbeloa, Pepe, Kroos, Benzema, Silva, Pepe, Cheryshev, Nacho, Isco, Vasquez, Danilo.

FRIENDLY RESULTS:

Real Madrid 0:0 Roma
Bayern Munich 4:1 Valencia
Eibar 1:4 Celtic
Athletic Bilbao 2:0 Xolos
Nuremburg 2:2 Celta Vigo
Freiburg 0:1 Malaga
Alcorcon 1;1 Sevilla
Reus 0:1 Villareal
Alzira 0:3 Levante
St Pauli 4:2 Real Vallecano

FRIENDLY FIXTURES:

Weds 22nd July - Barcelona v LA Galaxy, Levante v Teruel, Ponferradina v Deportivo La Coruna, La Hoya Lorca v Granada, Gimnastic v Villareal, Koln v Espanyol, Sporting Gijon v Lealtad
Thurs 23rd July - Logrones v Eibar, Athletic Bilbao v Real Betis
Fri 24th July - Real Madrid v Manchester City, Real Union v Eibar
Sat 25th July - Barcelona v Manchester United, Valencia v PSG, Toulouse v Real Sociedad, Real Betis v Marseille, Numancia v Atletico Madrid, Werder Bremen v Sevilla, Port Vale v Getafe, Wolfsburg v Villareal, Albacete v Rayo Vallecano, PEC Zwole v Levante, Lugo v Deportivo La Coruna
Sun 26th July - Stade Reims v Sevilla, Lyon v Villareal, Deportivo Cali v Malaga, Tenerife v Sporting Gijon



(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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