Everton vs Liverpool: Barcelona's gifted Gerard Deulofeu can make the difference in the derby
A Different League: Barca have no doubts they have the next big thing in the talented winger
Wednesday 20 November 2013
Every time Everton leave Gerard Deulofeu on the bench, his contract decrees that the money they have to pay Barcelona for his season-long loan rises. Saturday's derby against Liverpool might be the day Roberto Martinez decides to save the club some cash and give the 19-year-old winger his first league start.
Deulofeu was involved in five of Spain Under-21s' six goals on Friday against Bosnia and scored again on Monday in Albania. Those underwhelmed by his arrival at Goodison Park will point out the world of difference between under-21 football and a Merseyside derby but, after two goalless draws for Everton, Martinez is considering his options.
Character will not come into it. This is a player who was once disciplined at Barcelona because he told rival youth players as he left the field after being substituted: "Pass by the dressing room afterwards and I'll give you an autograph." Deulofeu had given them the runaround and they had tried to give him a kicking. He called his opponents afterwards to say sorry.
He is not at Everton to overcome big-game nerves. Deulofeu signed for Barcelona aged nine, had his first Nike contract aged 12 and made his Nou Camp debut at 17. But it will be a test of how much he has learnt under Martinez. He is at Everton to improve the defensive side of his game, his positioning without the ball and his decision-making. There is a place waiting for him at Barcelona, if not next season then the season after on the right of a front three that will include Neymar and the man who picks up the Golden Boot award in Barcelona today, Lionel Messi. Not for nothing did Barça give Deulofeu a new five-year contract last May with a €35m (£29m) buy-out clause.
The player has made the right noises: "There are a lot of very experienced players and Roberto Martinez is introducing me gradually," he says. "I know that I'm not Leo Messi." His former youth-team coach Oscar Garcia used to make him watch videos of Messi so he could copy his defensive movements when he didn't have the ball.
Deulofeu is a lot more like Cristiano Ronaldo than Messi. Not the current, complete version but the work-in-progress teenager who first turned up at Old Trafford a decade ago – the same explosive pace from a standing start, the same quick feet and powerful shot. His goal against Albania was a perfect example, racing down the right before rifling a shot into the roof of the net. In the previous fixture against Bosnia the full-back marking him, Dino Bevab, was taken off at half-time, virtually in knots.
Barcelona have no doubts they have the next big thing. Martinez believes if he gets it right with Deulofeu he could end up being one of the sensations of the second half of the season. The question is, does he try to make the second half of the season come early at Goodison on Saturday?
Was Germany's 'Miracle of Berne' cooked up in a lab?
Brylcreem? Check. Dubbin? Check. Liniment? Check. Amphetamines? Check. Reading Sid Lowe's Fear and Loathing in La Liga this week just as the Mighty Magyars mark the 60th anniversary of their 6-3 demolition of England at Wembley, one of the book's many remarkable stories comes to mind.
A year after trouncing England, that extraordinary Hungary side lost the 1954 World Cup final in Berne to West Germany in strange circumstances. Lowe spoke to the son of Zoltan Czibor, who played for Barcelona and for Hungary in the final.
"My dad told me that at half-time and with Hungary winning 2-0 the Germans took this drink that they used to give to the pilots who flew Stukas in the war so that they wouldn't feel fear," he said. "Hungary had beaten Germany 8-3 in the group. But the Germans came out for the second half flying. Some of them didn't know their own names."
Earlier this year, findings by Berlin's Humboldt University for Germany's Federal Institute of Sport Science supported the idea that the 1954 World Cup-winning team used the methamphetamine Pervitin.
The Germans are not alone in terms of the trickle of revelations questioning football's so-called age of innocence. In August, 1970s Dutch international Johnny Rep revealed that taking an amphetamine pill before a game was not unusual. And a new book published in the Netherlands – Guido Derksen's Voetbal Mysteries – also suggests the practice was commonplace.
The idea of doping in football prior to it being flooded with money is fascinating. And with every revelation, there is one question that remains: what were England up to while all this was taking place?
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