Ten days after the Ballon d’Or gala, in which no Spanish soccer player was among the 30 nominees for the award, the the debacle of spanish football with the elimination of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid Y Seville of the Champions League. Only Real Madrid remains in the elite of European football. Two of those eliminated are relegated to the second division of European club competitions, the Europa League, and the crisis situation could be even worse if Atleti fail to qualify for the match they have to play in Porto.

We call it a failure, but we should reflect on the reasons for such a huge disappointment because we are not talking about a KO in knockout rounds. It is a problem of competitive regularity and modernization. The three teams have fallen in the group stage of the Champions League. It is a matter of competitive mediocrity that is recognized in Simeone’s statements when he says that it has been difficult for them to win the games due to lack of forcefulness in the group of ‘luck’, in which they have only taken two points in the four clashes against Bayer Leverkusen and Club Brugge. Or the impotence of a Barcelona that, in the group of ‘death’, did not shoot on goal in the match against Bayern, nor was it able to beat Inter Milan at the Camp Nou to depend on itself.

Oblak, resigned after the game against Bayer Leverkusen

“That only one out of four has passed denotes that something has failed,” he commented. Xabi Alonso after putting Simeone’s Atleti on the ropes at the Metropolitan. The missed penalty by Carrasco cannot cover that Oblak had a couple of saves in the second half and that ‘cholismo’ is old and is not worth competing in the Champions League. Simeone’s success depends on solidity and when he wants to go for the games he has no boss. The plan is green. The same thing happens to Xavi with his ‘Cruyffista’ style. It is outdated or useless because it does not have footballers to play what it wants. The tactical lurches and readings of Xavi’s matches are notorious. He has stopped playing with two wingers since the defeat in the Clásico. Barcelona’s main problem is that he defends badly and he was joined by the gibberish of the attack against Bayern due to a lack of clarity and depth. Xavi’s Barça is nonsense.

competitive talent

The level of demand in Europe is very different from that of the Spanish competition. It is played at a higher tempo and speed than in the League. It is where you really see the category, the personality of the footballers, the knowledge of the coaches and the seams of the team. Everything as a whole forms competitive talent. The small details, those that Xavi and Simeone talk about so that they fall on your side, cannot depend on inspiration or on one of your players having a good day. The best example is in what happened to Paris Saint-Germain of Messi, Neymar and Mbappé last season. Barça and Atleti, with lower individual quality, should be more of a team.

Photo: Messi orders the team in a PSG match.  (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)
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It is the lesson that his opponents have given him in the group stage. It is the reflection that Xabi Alonso put on the table without going into depth. The Spanish crash is in not knowing how to compete as teams with a balanced and consistent structure. The rivals come out with the knife between their teeth, with the maximum intensity and aggressiveness. You have to have very hard-working teams tactically, physically and mentally so as not to notice the “castañazos” to which Xavi clings as a learning lesson for the future and an alibi to buy time. The club uses it as a distraction maneuver to cushion the blow and to get the message of a project under construction. We have to be realists. Simeone’s Atleti is a mystery. He has not been able to win the fifteenth in the Bundesliga and the third in the Belgian League. The Seville thing, with poor sports planning and the dismissal of Lopetegui, was the chronicle of a death foretold. Football has equalized.

The result of the shipwreck of Spanish football is as follows. Since the Champions League format existed, in the 2003-04 season, with the group stage and qualifying for the round of 16, it is the first time that only one Spanish team qualified. In the previous 18 seasons there have always been at least two Spanish clubs in the knockout rounds. The blow is important after achieving last season that Real Madrid achieved the success of being the champion and Villarreal reached the semifinals. In the absence of a day to finish the group stage are qualified for the round of 16 three English teams (Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool) and Tottenham have options. There are two Italians (Naples and Inter Milan) and Milan have options. Two Germans (Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund) and Eintracht Frankurt have options. Two Portuguese (Benfica and Porto) and Sporting de Portugal can go through. There is a Frenchman (Paris Saint-Germain) and Olympique de Marseille has a chance. There is Bruges.

competitive mediocrity

The question is whether in this competitive mediocrity, from which Real Madrid must be excluded, it is because Spanish football is becoming obsolete. Are we more interested in talking about styles, systems and philosophies than in the competitiveness that must be had to be a modern team? Modern football is not only that of the high pressure that Xavi proposes to recover the ball in the rival’s field or the one that Simeone defends of closing the games behind and looking for the counterattack. The modern and competitive football of the only Spanish team that is still in the Champions League is what Real Madrid practices when it is able to adapt to different game situations to be forceful in the areas, control the game with possession and get together to steal and be direct. To say that Real Madrid is capable of winning by playing badly is to be delusional.

The issue that there was no Spanish footballer among the 30 nominees for the Ballon d’Or is also important. It marks the individual level that the Spanish player has in Europe. Of the three eliminated, the star of Barcelona is Lewandowski, that of Atlético de Madrid is Griezmann and that of Sevilla, Isco. How will Sevilla be so that its best footballer is Isco? The man from Malaga had been in competitive decline for three years and in the current Sevilla he serves him with his talent, with sparks, to be the most important. How will Griezmann be not daring to catch the ball and shoot the penalty against Bayer Leverkusen. You have to ask yourself if Lewandowski has come to Barcelona in search of the Mediterranean.

Photo: Courtois shouts in action in the match against Leipzig.  (Reuters/Annegret Hilse)
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We are satisfied that Gavi has been awarded the Kopa trophy and the Golden Boy as the best soccer player under 21, a boy only 18 years old who, by the way, Xavi did not use in the eleven or against Real Madrid, in the Clásico at the Bernabéu or against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou. Gavi’s recognition is, therefore, what sets the benchmark for who is the best Spanish footballer today. We leave aside Busquetsto whom his coach points out for poor performance in the Classic and a part of the fans whistle at the Camp Nou. We cannot brag about Pedri, a player who a year ago was in the same situation as Gavi, receiving awards, and now seems disoriented. “It’s not enough for us to compete in the Champions League. It’s been a failure,” acknowledged the Canarian.

We hope that Ansu Fati can be Messi’s successor again, who was given the number ’10’ and who Xavi still does not see as a starter in this soulless Barcelona. So we could continue with Eric García and his defensive failures, the slump of Ferran Torres and other internationals with whom in less than a month Luis Enrique will have to perform miracles to compete in the World Cup in Qatar. The crisis of the Spanish teams in the Champions League is influenced by the low competitive level and the mediocrity of the Spanish soccer player. What Xabi Alonso couldn’t do is set an example or talk about how well Real Madrid competes in Europe.

Ten days after the Ballon d’Or gala, in which no Spanish soccer player was among the 30 nominees for the award, the the debacle of spanish football with the elimination of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid Y Seville of the Champions League. Only Real Madrid remains in the elite of European football. Two of those eliminated are relegated to the second division of European club competitions, the Europa League, and the crisis situation could be even worse if Atleti fail to qualify for the match they have to play in Porto.

Source: www.elconfidencial.com

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Peggy McColl

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