How four El Clasico’s took their toll on the Catalan giants and their public image.
For some time now, in fact for as a long as I can remember, Barcelona were a team who appeared to be loved by all, except of course those who follow Real Madrid, and that the Catalan club were the purveyors of the purest form of the ‘Beautiful Game’ and were a joy to behold. However in recent weeks they have suffered a great deal of bad press and a significant portion of the footballing public have turned against the Blaugrana.
It appears that this back-lash is in part of their own making and partly down to a clever use of the media by the irrepresible Jose Mourinho and probably has a lot to do with Barcelona’s incredible success over the past few years. Jealously, as a certain Sir Alex Ferguson will tell you, of your achievements can make you a whole lot of enemies.
There are many now who are convinced that Barcelona are in some way the beneficiaries of a great deal of help from UEFA, be it in the choice of officials or the manner in which discplinary matters are dealt with by European football’s governing bodies. Are such attacks merely a clever way of deflecting blame for Real’s losses away from the players and management?
After four El Clasico’s fell within such a short period of time it was highly likely that talking points would be aplenty and whilst Jose Mourinho did lead Real Madrid to a long awaited Copa Del Rey success the Portuguese ‘Special One’ will clearly feel he has come out on the losing end of the mother of all battles but the manner in which he has reacted to the defeats has been called into question by many within the game.
Even former Real Madrid president Roman Calderon has admitted Jose’s antics have been a disgrace and perhaps this has in part led to the Barcelona backlash, but that isn’t to say that the Nou Camp side are without blame themselves.
It does seem that whilst diving and general over the top theatrics are unfortunately very much part and parcel of the game, Barcelona appear to have more than their fair share of offenders. The likes of Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano being the worst of the bunch. However perhaps more unpleasant and unsavoury is the constant attempts to get opposition players cautioned or sent off, putting excessive pressure on officials by surrounding them en masse like a group of killer ants.
Clearly one could highlight that Real Madrid have one or two play-actors of their own, but that would merely be an exercise in attempting to justify the unjustifiable.
Accusations that Mourinho made in relation to Barcelona having some sort of hypnotic effect on UEFA were not new but to make them on such a public stage was a mistake and one that could ultimately lead to his sacking. Allegations that Barca somehow get the rub of the green when it comes to poor decisions do sound churlish when uttered after a defeat and to claim that perhaps the link with UNICEF may in some way lead to preferential treatment was a step too far in my book.
Yes Pepe should never have been sent off in the first leg of the Champions League Semi-Final and of course there were hideous displays of simulation enacted by at least four Barcelona players but note how Mourinho, and indeed the entire media machine, appears to have missed the fact that Marcelo deliberately stamped on Pedro and Angel Di Maria’s constant diving.
Yes referees have made mistakes in the El Clasico encounters of late but mistakes are made every week in the Premier League or in any other league for that matter. When Harry Redknapp saw his side’s top four aspirations take a dent at Chelsea due to a wrong decision by a linesman, he didn’t claim that Chelsea were in cahoots with the FA.
Jose Mourinho has a history of playing the victim, it’s part and parcel of the way he bonds with his teams, building an us Vs. them dynamic that has clearly worked wonders.
Barcelona sit pretty at the top of La Liga and are through to their third Champions League final in six seasons and anyone who truly believes that these achievements are down to factors other than the style of football they play and the quality of players on their books would be foolish in the extreme.
At times Pep Guardiola has struggled to cope with the backlash from the negative attention and the attacks he has come under from the media and opposition alike and the 40 year old would do well to take a leaf out of Ferguson’s book. He needs to learn how to take the rough with the smooth.
Immediate and continuous success has probably led to the Barcelona boss being lulled into a false sense of security and he has not felt the full force of some expert mind games delivered by one of the best manager’s of his generation, Jose Mourinho, and has come out the other end relatively unscathed, lesson learnt.
Yes Guardiola would do well to tell his players to stop flinging themselves to the floor at the merest suggestions of a tackle and that he should warn them to not surround the officials in order to push for punishment for an opponent, but these are offences that a number of club’s are guilty of.
Barcelona are as a club no angels but to attempt to blacken the name of the Catalan giants, by suggesting that the success the Nou Camp club has attained has been sullied by some conspiracy is a complete and utter fallacy and one that doesn’t hold much water on closer inspection.