As a Real Madrid fan, I was hoping for a draw today in the Camp Nou. A win would have been a pleasant surprise, despite hearing plenty of experts tipping Los Blancos for victory. Deep down however, I couldn’t shake this feeling that Barcelona were still the world’s best club, despite Real’s undefeated record in all competitions under Jose Mourinho. While Madrid have improved under the “Special One,” it is clear the best soccer team on the planet dons Barca Red and Blue.
Anyone who watches enough European club football knows how tough it is to play against Pep Guardiola’s men. Their defense is a cohesive unit, led by perhaps the best centre back pairing in the world (Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique). The midfield features the most skilled passers in Xavi and Andres Iniesta, and obviously the attack is nearly unstoppable with Pedro, David Villa, and of course Lionel Messi. Plus, it helps that Victor Valdes has grown into a true number one in net, and it can be argued that he should be the starter for Spain instead of his Madrid counterpart Iker Casillas, who had a match to forget.
Of course, nothing I’ve written is new or unknown. This Barca team has been dominant for three years now, even if last year they were a bit weaker due to the failed Zlatan Ibrahimovic experiment. Madrid are much better this season, but look at the number of new players and lack of experience in the squad. Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil are key players for Germany and were stars in the Bundesliga, but they looked overwhelmed Monday night. Karim Benzema, who replaced an injured Gonzalo Higuain, struggled to lead the line, and despite big matches in Ligue 1 the El Clasico got the best of the young striker. Angel di Maria stunk up the joint, but he is young and in his first La Liga campaign after coming over from Portuguese side Benfica. Marcelo is still learning to play left back, and the bench consists of offensively challenged Mahamadou and Lass Diarra, as well as youngsters Pedro Leon, Esteban Granero and Sergio Canales.
Florentino Perez may have been lauded for his signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Ricardo Carvalho, but selling Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Royston Drenthe for Ronaldo, Kaka, Ozil and di Maria is an epic failure. Ronaldo has been great (except when facing Barca), but Kaka was damaged goods and is still not healthy for Mourinho, while Ozil and di Maria could be stars down the road, but right now they are overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Robben is again hurt, but Sneijder would have been dominant in the middle of the park (and we saw last year how well he worked with Mourinho). As for VDV, he is dominating with his chance at Tottenham, and his excellent corner kicks and set pieces from the flanks are much needed in the Spanish capital (because if I see one more crappy corner kick by Ozil or Alonso, I’m going to lose my mind). As for Drenthe, he plays for a club (Hercules) now that actually beat Barcelona in the Camp Nou this season, and his performance was a big reason why.
Barcelona is best, and as a Madrid supporter, it sucks to say so, but it is obvious. Real can keep making signings (which they do need since the squad they have now is still lacking pieces), but they also need to keep their nucleus together. Edin Dzeko, Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and/or Javier Pastore would be fabulous signings, and would add to an attack that is not good enough to challenge Barca. Patrice Evra, Benoit Tremoulinas or Fabio Coentrao would be excellent left back replacements for Marcelo (who should do like Royston Drenthe and become a left winger), but again, these signings would take time to gel, whereas Barcelona is practically the same team for the past three seasons. Until Perez and Co. understand chemistry is as important as selling jerseys, it is going to be tough for my fellow Madrid fans.
One last thing, Barcelona is best, and it ain’t even close.
About the Author
Written by Robert Bode
A sports die-hard through and through. I grew up playing almost every sport possible, and to this day I try to stay as active as possible. However, since I'm not a professional athlete, talking and writing about sports is the next best thing. A University of Florida graduate but living in my hometown of Washington D.C. (well Northern Virginia), my favorite teams are the Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Real Madrid, good up-tempo NBA teams (so not the Knicks), and Washington Capitals.