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Join Date: Jan 2004
It's The Sids 2005...
Sid Lowes' round up of the good, the bad and the ugly in La Liga...
It's the Sids 2005!
Sid Lowe's end-of-season gongs spell good news for Samuel Eto'o, Florentino Pérez and AS. Oh, and even Jonathan Woodgate makes a rare appearance
Monday June 6, 2005
In the end, it was Samuel Eto'o's year. His move from Mallorca (and, effectively, Madrid, who owned 50% of him), proved a symbol of the power shift from the capital to Catalunya and provided the hunger, desire and goals for Barcelona to win their first league title in six years, while Real Madrid went through coaches like Joan Collins goes through husbands.
It was just a shame for Eto'o that his goal at Levante tied up the title with two games to spare, removing his team-mates' edge and leaving him vulnerable to the late charge of Diego Forlán. Forlán promptly hit a hat-trick at Camp Nou and two against Levante to take him on to 25 and make him the season's top scorer, one ahead of Eto'o who had led the way all year.
Hopping mad though he was [is], Eto'o needn't worry. Not only did he get his hands on the league championship trophy, and score the goal that clinched it, he's also in line for some of the most prestigious awards known to man, starting with the Guardian Unlimited gong for Spanish football's...
For celebrating Barça's league title win by shouting: "Madrid, you arseholes, salute the Champions!" And shouting it six times. With a microphone. In front of 100,000 people. And the world's media. "I'm sorry," Eto'o apologised the next day. "I have spat on the plate that used to feed me."
Another award for Eto'o, shared with Osasuna's Richard Morales. They responded to incessant ooh-oohs from the crowd by celebrating goals with monkey dances. "If they're going to treat me like a monkey, I'm going to dance like a monkey," said Eto'o.
AS's Tomás Roncero, who wrote in November that: "Owen is a junk galáctico. This newspaper said so on that ill-fated 12 August, that desperate day of self-inflicted pain when Madrid signed Owen, sold Eto'o to Barcelona and missed out on Patrick Vieira. Owen is not Henry. Owen is not Reyes. Owen is not Totti. Owen is not Drogba. Owen is not Adriano. Owen is not Figo. Owen is not Zidane. Let's face it, Owen is not a galáctico. Rafa Benítez cracked open the champagne the day he sold him to Madrid. No, no, no."
Which might have been fair enough, but it was a little odd that Roncero didn't recall how he wrote on that ill-fated 12 August that, "anyone who questions Owen's ability is a cretin."
Most extended metaphor
The Athletic Bilbao versus Valencia match report in Marca. "Claudio Ranieri is a cinema fan," wrote Angel Cabeza, popping on his 3-D specs, while everyone else hacked at their wrists with rusty razorblades "and to judge by yesterday, he ought to change the script of his film. He shouldn't rotate: he should always send his best actors onto the stage - the ones that won two Oscars last year because the whole cast of Italian supporting actors he's brought in don't know how to act like Aimar, Angulo or Vicente. They waited in the stall seats for their chance, until the director finally gave them the star billing they deserved - and they immediately rescued box office sales for 'Fellini' Ranieri."
Most fruitless attempt to escape the inevitable
Lucas Alcaraz, who lasted two days longer as Racing Santander coach than anyone, including his president, expected. By doing a runner, leaving the club unable to find him and sack him.
Just pipping Ronaldo's 80-odd day marriage that wasn't, is Real Madrid coach [No1] José Antonio Camacho. The consciously big-balled, galactic-antidote, central plank in Florentino Pérez's summer election campaign lasted just 115 days in the job. Which was, at least, slightly better than his first stint as coach at the Bernabéu, when he walked out after 23 days and without taking charge of a single match. With comic genius, Camacho announced that he was off to the States for "six months" to relax after his resignation - and was back within the week.
The Joseph Stalin memorial award for attempting to re-write history
Florentino Pérez, who rather than using an airbrush, went the long way around and had Madrid's 2003-04 official team photo re-done all over again just 14 days after the first one, in the hope that no one would notice that the coach had lost a couple of inches and a couple more pounds, grown a moustache and changed his name.
Most emphatically broken promise
Madrid players' vow to be top by November. Then January. Then March. Then May. Barça won the league. Which brings us neatly to another broken vow: that of former Argentina goalkeeper Hugo Gatti, who promised to shoot himself in the middle of the Bernabéu if Madrid failed to win the league. We're still waiting, Hugo.
Most ludicrous lie
Valencia's Mohammed Sissoko unexpectedly missed two Valencia training sessions because, he explained, he was playing in an international for Mali against Kenya - a match in which he played for 48 minutes and Mali won 1-0. So far so good, but there was just one tiny flaw in the explanation: it was complete rubbish. The match didn't exist; Sissoko had made it up. Which was a bit odd - after all, if you're going to invent internationals, you might as well invent yourself a goal or two.
Most naïve fool
Real Madrid coach [No2] Mariano García Remón. Allegedly asked who he thought he was to leave Ronaldo on the bench against Sevilla, García Remón responded simply: "The coach". Within a week he was the ex-coach.
Athletic Bilbao president Fernando Lamikiz, who got dangerously close to uncovering the secret of the Spanish media when he [necessarily] pointed out: "If Raúl scores a goal and it gets shown on telly ten times, it doesn't mean he's scored ten goals."
Most unfortunate headline
AS's "Night of White Pride", in reference to the evening when the Olympic inspection committee went to the Bernabéu and had a wizzy jolly time despite [thankfully unfounded] fears of another outbreak of racist chanting.
According to AS's Tomás Roncero, Zinedine Zidane won the 2012 Olympic Games for Madrid with a virtuoso display against Espanyol in front of the swooning IOC inspection team at the Bernabéu on that Night of White Pride. "Thanks to Madrid's fine football, the capital will host the 2012 Games," Roncero wrote. "The members of the inspection committee are still pinching themselves. Not even the leaps of Bob Beamon or the sprints of Carl Lewis got near to what they saw at the Bernabéu. And my hand trembles when I write the words Zinedine Zidane. He belongs to humanity, he is a world heritage and he has handed us the Olympic games." Which is bound to have delighted Zidane. After all, he is an ambassador for the Olympic bid. Paris's Olympic bid.
Worst kept secret
The war between Barça president Joan Laporta and vice-president Sandro Rossell. Officially, the pair managed to keep on lid on their mutual hatred for a year, until it finally exploded all of a few days after the season finished. Everyone knew it was coming. What they didn't know is that Rossell plans to run against Laporta in the next elections, which now promise to be as gloriously dirty as a tramp's feet.
Most arrogant president
Pretty much all of them, let's face it. But Sevilla's José María del Nido takes some beating for his claim to be "the most important man in Seville, after the Pope".
When it comes to toadying, even the author who described Florentino Pérez's Madrid as "a safe, magical place, a football heaven where they played football like the angels and everybody wore white" can be beaten into second place. This year's winner is Madrid vice-president Emilio Butragueño, who embarrassed even the most rabid madridistas by referring to Pérez as a "superior being".
Best organisation, sponsored by San Miguel breweries and piss-ups
Goes to Sevilla, Betis, and referee Fernando Teixeira Vitienes, who decided that for the first time in 98 years of Seville derbies the two team's kits clashed: Sevilla play in white and Betis in green and white stripes, "too much white" according to the referee.
Yet Teixeira who, as a first division referee, presumably knows what colours the teams play in, hadn't warned anyone in advance and when he did, it was already too late. Betis hadn't brought a spare kit and Sevilla, being Betis's rival and playing at home, refused to change into their red shirts.
So, at 6.45 - with kick-off scheduled for 7 - Betis club official Gregorio Conejo set out across town in a van to get a spare kit, even though there's a shopping centre where he could have brought a new one right next to the Sánchez Pizjuán. At 7.17, Conejo returned, Betis put on their spare [all green] shirts, ran out onto the pitch, applauded the fans, took their pre-match photo and ... noticed that Sevilla weren't there.
A couple of minutes later, Sevilla emerged from the tunnel but they weren't wearing their shirts. Instead, they were in tracksuits and had come out for the warm-up that they could have had while Conejo was dashing across town but that they had been promised by the ref. At last, the two sides appeared together at 7.45, only to have to wait a couple of minutes more as Teixeira sent his linesmen off to check the nets.
Apparently they hadn't had time before.
Most humiliating photo
Never mind the infamous shot of Butragueño with his willy hanging out his shorts, this award goes to the picture of the Real Madrid squad getting a harangue from Florentino Pérez that appeared on the front cover of Marca. It would have been bad enough if some cunning paparazzo up a ladder had taken it but the picture actually came from realmadrid.com: the entire squad humiliatingly sat in exam-style school chairs, complete with attached, flip-up individual tables while Pérez, Arrigo Sacchi and Butragueño sat before them in suits like a parole board and Vanderlei Luxemburgo, the coach [No3], sat at the side, in tracksuit like his players not suits like his bosses - a naughty boy like the rest, the perfect embodiment of his secondary status. "Hands up who thinks Barça have won the league," joked Marca's headline.
Most surreal sight
The Real Madrid and Real Sociedad players sitting, still in their full kit, on the pavement outside the Santiago Bernabéu after a bomb threat forced an evacuation with six minutes remaining and the score at 1-1. Those six minutes were replayed in January and Madrid managed a 2-1 victory. The surreal seemed to suit Madrid this year in fact: they also beat Roma in a eerily empty Stadio Olimpico, after Roma were forced to play two Champions League games behind closed doors, to the back-drop of a screaming radio commentator that the players could hear from the pitch.
Banner of the Year
Unfurled at the Madrid derby, just days after a bunch of Atlético fans wearing suits and ties and balaclavas, and carrying truncheons in their pockets, invaded the training ground to remonstrate with their under performing players. The banner, stretching right across the south stand at the Bernabéu, finally broke the boredom of the worst derby ever, reading:
Balaclava: 10 Euros
Suit and Tie: 50 Euros
Watching you lot making idiots of yourselves: priceless.
Passing the buck...
Luis Aragonés, Fernando Garrido, the Spanish Football Federation. A disgrace.
Signing of the season
Jonathan Woodgate. Say no more.
Goal of the season
For importance and sheer, rocket-like perfection, Ronaldinho's opener against Valencia takes some beating but the season's best goal never actually counted, thanks to a linesman who, much like the bloke at Spurs, envisioned a Omega-shaped goal-line. Athletic Bilbao's Pablo Orbaiz hit a 45-yarder at the Bernabéu that hit the bar, bounced down way over the line and was promptly ruled out.
Getafe's. They travelled to Villarreal, down on the coast near Castellón, on a bank holiday Friday afternoon, by coach and on the A3, Spain's worst motorway [which is quite an accolade; rather like being Big Brother's shallowest contestant]. It was a schoolboy error and one that left the driver desperate to escape as he hit a wall of traffic. So, naturally, he took a shortcut down a bank and into a ditch from which he couldn't escape, leaving Getafe's squad to lug their kit bags back up the hill over the rough terrain.
The other sort of best coach
Getafe's again. Impeccably presented, handsome Quique Sanchez-Flores, nephew of flamenco singer Lola Flores and Spain's youngest coach, was expected to preside over Getafe's inevitable relegation to the second division. Instead, they stayed up with a month to spare, defeated Real Madrid, and finished 13th despite having some utter planks in the side. Honourable mentions also to Villarreal's Manuel Luis Pellegrini, Llorenç Serra Ferrer at Betis and, of course, title-winning Frank Rijkaard. Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach [No3] Vanderlei Luxemburgo may not so much have a skeleton in his closet as a cellar full of corpses, but the signs are that he can turn Madrid around next season.
Player of the Year
3rd: Juan Román Riquelme. Slow-motion, creative genius.
2nd: Deco. The complete footballer.
1st: Samuel Eto'o. Attitude and goals.
Team of the season
GK: Iker Casillas (Madrid)
RB: Míchel Salgado (Madrid)
CB: Carles Puyol (Barça)
CB: Luis Perea (Atlético)
LB: Rodolfo Arruabarena (Villarreal)
RM: Joaquín (Betis)
CM: Deco (Barça)
CM: Ivan De La Peña (Espanyol)
LM: Juan Román Riquelme (Villarreal)
CF: Diego Forlán
CF: Samuel Eto'o
Subs: Owen, Guti, Helguera (all Madrid), Orbaiz (Athletic), Oliveira, Edu (both Betis), Ramos, Baptista (both Sevilla), Xavi, Ronaldinho (both Barça).
And finally a Real Madrid special for Quotes of the year
"Sometimes when newspapers say things against Madrid their sales suffer." - Florentino Pérez responds coolly to accusations that he manipulates the media. All it lacked was a sinister, finger-waggling "excellent".
"Well it's not going to take long, is it?" - Michael Owen responds to journalists asking if he's got time to talk about the worst Madrid derby in history.
"We have signed Denmark's best player. Thomas Gravesen had some important offers from Italy and England but he only ever wanted to come to Real Madrid." - Florentino Pérez announces the signing of Thomas Gravesen.
"I didn't have any offers at all except for the one from Madrid." - Thomas Gravesen, presented to the world the next day, doesn't exactly agree.
"[Prime Minister] José Luis Zapatero shouldn't be so openly pro-Barcelona, it's just not on. He represents all Spaniards not just one team." - So says Esperanza Aguirre from the Partido Popular, whose former leader José María Aznar invited Real Madrid for tea, turned up in the directors' box week after week and even played on the pitch. Twice.
"Your only stain was not playing for Real Madrid." - Florentino Pérez welcomes Diego Maradona to the Bernabéu. Now, where shall we start?
Leaving Fear Behind
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