El Clasico

Ten years ago the game between Barcelona and Real Madrid held little interest outside of Spain. But thanks to the arrival in Spain of David Beckham (and of course Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate), the coverage of La Liga on our TV’s and of course the rise to worldwide dominance of Barcelona, it has today become the biggest club match in the world.

Ironically, over this period, the animosity between the players seems to have been replaced by hype in the media. This has been quoted as one of the reasons for the success of the Spanish national side in the past five years which has seen them win 2 x European Championships and a World Cup. For many years the reason for their capitulation in major tournaments was said to be the divisions in the squad between the Castillians and the Catalans.

However, today the Spanish are undoubtably one of the greatest international teams to have ever graced a football pitch, and those divisions have disappeared (10 of the 11 starters in the 2010 World Cup final played for the two teams). But that hasn’t stopped the game capturing the eyes of the world.

Over recent years the teams seem to have played each other more and more, and with characters like Jose and Pep in charge, not forgetting some of the world’s greatest players such as Ronaldo and Messi, it is more than just a game. Fortunately, this excellent book, written by Richard Fitzpatrick has come along just in time for the first high-octane meeting of the two Spanish Giants in the Super Cup.

For anyone interested in the history of the rivalry, both in terms of the political and geographical context then this is a must read. It contains some fascinating interviews as well as a page turning history. If you have read Morbo, the history of Spanish football by Phil Ball, then you will certainly enjoy this. The book also packs some serious facts and stats at the end which would put John Motson to shame.

Fitzpatrick’s advantage of living in Spain, covering football for a living allows him to get under the skin of the performers and audience of the greatest show on earth. He examines some of the classic games played between the two, and the impact the results had. The 1974 5-0 win by the Cruyff-inspired Barca team in 1974, for instance is put into context, along with the more recent encounters under Jose and Pep.

Whilst it is hard not to see that Fitzpatrick takes the Barca side in some of his debate, it is still a great read and one that should be slipped into every piece of hand luggage for those travelling, or downloaded onto the Kindle for those delayed train journeys. You can buy a copy of the book from Amazon here.

La Beuna Vida

After a totally depressing week watching the daggers lose again who can blame Brian Parish and Dagenham Dan for wanting another change of scenery.  So as a treat we sent them off to Madrid to take in a weekend of La Liga action.

Booked several months ago, I am torn as to whether this is a good time to be going or not. At least we will know how we get on before our first game of the weekend starts. It is a tough choice; jet off for a couple of games in the sunshine, or watch your team (possibly) struggle in a game they simply have to win. There is a part of me wishing I was staying in the UK.

Before we get any further, one quick thing; did you know that, on an Android phone, when you try to type in Madrid, it offers the word “masturbated” as well? Honest, its true.

As with most of the airlines that don’t allocate seats prior to boarding, the crowd starts to build up early for the scramble to the departure gate. I had to stop myself doing a pit walk, a la Martin Brundle, because once the gate number appeared, it was like the start of a grand prix. As we approached the first corner, I was certain that we would have at least one coming together. After all, that’s why most watch formula one, isn’t it?

The flight out is also made more eventful by the presence of about forty Spanish school-kids, which means that, as one fellow traveller remarks just as we are about to board the plane, this could be a painful flight. Luckily, it isn’t too bad, and despite leaving Gatwick late (because the fuel truck hadn’t shown up in Madrid on an earlier flight), we land in Madrid just after the scheduled time, and about forty five minutes after landing, we are safely ensconced in our hotel. Let the football begin! Continue reading

It’s not all about the Camp Nou

Brian Parish abandons the Daggers for one weekend and heads off to the delights of Barcelona.

About twice a season, Dagenham Dan and I eschew the delights of Dagenham, and board a flight to the Iberian Peninsula to take in a game or three over the course of a weekend. Normally these involve a trip to the Camp Nou to watch Barcelona destroy whichever team happens to be that weeks whipping boys, but this time around we thought we would try something different. Neither of us has yet made it to the new Espanyol stadium, so we decided that a trip to watch them instead was in order.

Well, that’s not strictly accurate. Just before the tickets went on sale, I spotted that the fixtures had been altered because of a player’s strike that had postponed the first round of league games. So when I rang Dan with the news, the conversation went something like this; Continue reading

Fiesta time at the Liberty

After their goal riot against Neath on Thursday, Abi Davies headed off to the Liberty Stadium yesterday, praying that goal machine Jonathan Periera would have forgotten his shooting boots.

Saturday afternoon saw Swansea entertain La Liga newcomers Real Betis in their final pre-season game before making their Premier League bow against Man City next weekend.  Having beaten three Welsh sides already this week Pepe Mel’s side should have been full of confidence going into the game.

After delivering a stand out performance at left back against Celtic, Alan Tate was moved into the heart of The Swans defence to partner Ashley Williams against Betis, due to the absence of Steven Caulker. Continue reading

The seven deadly sins

He may only be 5foot 5inches tall, but last night a The Gnoll, in the Vale of Neath, Jonathan Pereira Rodríguez was walking as tall as one of the legendary giants that roamed these parts.  Few strikers can boast a 4 goal haul in a competitive match, let alone a 5 goal salvo.  A double hatrick is as rare as Stan Collymore letting a caller on his show actually get a word in.  But to score seven is almost unheard of in modern football.  At 9pm when he left the pitch to a standing ovation, Jonathan Pereira joined an elite club.  For not only was his seven goals the sole difference between the teams on the pitch, but he became the only player currently playing in Europe to score seven goals in a game twice.

But let’s rewind to Monday 1st August first.  That magical day happened to be CMF and my 13th Wedding Anniversary.  A blissfully happy day, spent with the little Fullers on the beach of the Gower Peninsula.  At 2pm I received an email from our good friend Mark Pitman. Continue reading

Who said there was no money in football anymore?

Is it any wonder that we are still seeing silly transfer deals going through, with sums changing hands more than the total GDP in some countries when cash is flowing into the game in other areas.  We recently looked at commercial deals in general on the blog (see post from July here) but we now want to look at Shirt Sponsorship again after World Soccer Magazine published its findings.

Liverpool New Shirt - probablyAs of the start of 2010/11 season, the traditional Top 4 in the English Premier League will be earning close to £58m PER ANNUM just for selling the space on their shirts.  Leading the silly money stakes are surprisingly in times of banking crisis, a bank.  Not just any old bank but one that has run into major issues with the sub-prime market in the US.  Step forward Standard Chartered Bank who are taking over the shirt sponsorship from Carlsberg at Anfield.  They feel that an investment of £20.25 million per annum on a four year contract is worthwhile.  And we wonder why we are still in the deepest financial crisis in history.

The top 25 deals in the World in 2009/10 equate to over £225million per annum flowing into football.  If we look at which leagues get the share it looks like:-

English Premier League – £75m (flowing to just 7 clubs)Dortmund
German Bundesliga – £90m (10 clubs)
Spanish La Liga – £16.7m( only 1 club in the top 25 and that is Real Madrid)
Italy’s Serie A – £31m (4 clubs)
France’s Ligue – £14m (3 clubs)

LeverkusenThe Spanish situation is the most surprising – only Real Madrid attract a sponsorship deal worth more than £2.5m per annum.  The other surprise is the mix of clubs from England.  In the top 25 we only have 7 clubs – aside from the “Top 4” there is Man City, Spurs and Fulham.  No Aston Villa, Newcastle United, West Ham United, Everton or Sunderland.  Could that be because they are still in their old deals?  Not in the case of West Ham or Sunderland that is for sure.

Surely the one sector that needs to take a long hard look at itself is the Online Gambling one….BWin, the Austrian gaming company weren’t satisfied with one top European side to sponsor so they signed up 3!  Real Madrid (£16.7m for 3 years), Bayern Munich (£16.6m for a further 2 years) and AC Milan (£10m pa for 2 years) have all been sporting their logo recently – but surely one online company cannot produce revenues that justify a commitment of over £100m in the next three years.  Emirates aren’t exactly far behind either spending  £5.5m per annum until 2012 with Hamburg, £5m with Arsenal and £3.6m for another 5 years with Paris Saint-Germain – meaning a commitment of over £60m.

Madness, sheer madness…..and as a final point and WITHOUT cheating by using Uncle Google can you name the sponsors of the following 5 clubs all of whom appear in the top 25 AND the 5 clubs from the sponsors name?  Answers on a postcard of course or by clicking here

Sponsors Name…
1. Juventus are sponsored by this company for another season for £10.1m.  Clue – It’s not Old Dutch
2.  Schalke have already spent their £16.6m this season they get from this company. Clue – Paul Gascoigne’s graduation party?
3. Inter Milan are years into this £5.5m per annum deal. Clue – I bet they get as many calendars as they want
4. Werder Bremen have been passing go and collecting £7.3m for the past few seasons. Clue – You can’t miss their building if you fly into City Airport.
5. Man Utd will get £20m per season until 2013 for this new deal. Clue – A is not off

Easy eh?  So how about these?
1. Evonik pay £7m per season to sponsor which German team?  Clue – they have a real Kop
2. Volkswagon like to keep it close by sponsoring this team who debuted in the Champions League this year? – Clue – Lupo
3. Wind are a big noise in Italy but who do they spend £5.5m per annum on? Clue – Eternally yours
4.  Etihad are an airline but who did they fly into sponsor this season contributing £5m per season in the process? Clue – like they really need the cash!
5. Fraport is one of the biggest transport hubs in the world so why do they need to spend £5m per annum advertising the fact? Clue – Hot dogs all round

VillaIf you can answer these without cheating and get more than 5 then you are an expert or a sucker for sponsorship.  But there are the good guys. Those clubs who want to put things back into the local community or a charity.  These are very rare these days but there are two notable examples – FC Barcelona who still pay to have the Unicef logo on their shirts, and Aston Villa who sport the logo to Acorns, a local hospice..  I am still not convinced.

Thanks to World Soccer Magazine for providing the above financial information and Colours of Football for the graphics.