South American fantasy artists add spice to battle of the big two
Friday 05 August 2005
For all the talk of Real as a club in transitional disarray last season, it is worth remembering that they finished with 80 points, just four behind the champions, Barça, but 15 clear of third-placed Villarreal, who will provide a Champions' League test for Everton. Villarreal, with Diego Forlan prolific, led a chasing pack of five sides, the others being Real Betis, Espanyol, Seville and Valencia. There is little evidence to suggest that the top two will be toppled.
Barça have sparkled in pre-season, not least in Wednesday's 9-0 rout of the Chinese Super League champions, Shenzhan Jianlibao. Their 18-year-old Argentinian playmaker-striker, Lionel Messi, celebrated a senior international call-up with two goals, while Samuel Eto'o also got two. Henrik Larsson, Giovanni van Bronkhorst, Deco, Andres Iniesta and Ludovic Giuly also scored to illustrate Barça's firepower, while Ronaldinho was eye-catchingly influential without finding the net.
For all Barça's attacking options and glamour names, they have been quiet in the transfer market, leaving Real to grab the headlines with the signing of two Brazilian internationals, Julio Baptista and Robinho, either of whom would be a mouthwatering prospect for most sides.
"Baptista is very powerful, has great technique. He can score goals and has the ability to play in several different positions," said Real's director of football, Arrigo Sacchi. "Robinho is incredible, a fantasy player who will bewilder the supporters in the Bernabeu."
The transfer carousel has also brought a pair of Uruguayans, the midfielder Pablo Garcia and the winger Carlos Diogo, to the Bernabeu, while Santiago Solari, Walter Samuel and Luis Figo are gone or going, as might Michael Owen be. David Beckham said yesterday he wants to stay for the rest of his career, while his England team-mate Jonathan Woodgate will be happy just to get his career back on track at last in Real's defence.
Real's coach, Wanderley Luxemburgo, has made it clear that he expects his new-look squad to gel quickly, with any dissenters or impatient players urged to leave. "I don't want to see angry faces here," he said. "Everyone should be content because if not we will not be able to construct a winning team."
Barça are the bookmakers' favourites for the title, by a slight margin, but their president, Joan Laporta, is emphatic about their chances. "We have a very powerful squad that does not need anybody," he said, discounting the view that Real's new Brazilians will give them an edge.
"We are the team to beat. We have generated a great sense of expectancy. We are not scared."
Barça and Real both start their league seasons away at promoted clubs, Alaves and Cadiz respectively. Expect flying starts and a thrilling duel at the top.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre