A statue, some cameras, and yet another spat between best of frenemies, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos – no games but plenty of spice in La Liga this week
Although many would think a game-less week in La Liga would result in a slow news cycle, the debates have actually been piling up in quick succession.
Sevilla fans shake their heads in disbelief as their mastermind Monchi leaves town and heads to greener (and more Italian) pastures, while Valencia CF has thrown itself in the arms of former Mallorca executive Mateo Alemany in the hopes of turning around some of the poorest management a professional football team has seen in decades. Yeah, and Cristiano Ronaldo got a pretty weird statue, too. Yikes.
Lots of people taking the piss out of that Ronaldo statue yesterday, looked fine to me… pic.twitter.com/BnC19ZNvoe
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 30, 2017
However, the two main topics this week are intimately related. The most transcendental one should be the hot debate in Spain regarding the use of the Video Assisted Referee (VAR) in La Liga games, after a particularly successful test last Tuesday in the friendly game between the French and Spanish national teams (0-2).
Spain played maybe some of the best football under Julen Lopetegui, but only a few could savor it as everyone was paying attention to how, when and why the video-aiding of referee Felix Zwayer would be used. Two plays summarized how useful this technology actually can be: a Griezmann goal that was (correctly) disallowed, and Gerard Deloufeu’s capper that was (properly) green-lit. A huge triumph for modern football… and the spark for a fierce debate the following days.
Why isn’t the VAR already implemented in La Liga? Most fans bickered about the lack of technological prowess in Spanish elite football, especially as bad referee calls tend to favor big sides as Real Madrid and Barça.
Soon, La Liga’s top brass Javier Tebas washed his hands of the affair by claiming that the Spanish Federation’s own Angel Maria Villar in the one blocking the technology in our country: “After the VAR was created there was no turning back, but the system is endangered as long as Villar remains as the RFEF’s president”, he insisted.
Indeed, twelve European football leagues (including Calcio in Italy or the French Ligue 1) are already using video-assisted refereeing. The Premier League seems to be eyeing a potential use in the near future. La Liga, meanwhile, remains mute on the subject while the top executives in our football dig their particular trenches in a power-struggle that has been going on for many years.
Piqué, master of trolling
The VAR was the undisputed king in the friendly between France and Spain, which was friendly only in name. Then, once the dust had settled down and everyone had had a shower and was set to leave, Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué decided to have some fun.
It is well known Pique’s craving for theatricality. Arguably he’s one of the smartest players in the national team, but he combines that with a pretty big mouth. Out of the blue, he went on a rant slamming Real Madrid in a way nobody remembered: he first laughed about the VAR’s success rate (“it helped us because we wore a white shirt”), and then reassured everyone that he’s friends with Sergio Ramos (“even when we keep teasing each other and joking”).
The big burn came immediately later, after getting asked about former player Raul Gonzalez and if Piqué himself would ever consider a job inside Real. “I would never work for them. I appreciate their players, but I don’t like the club’s core values, the people who often go to the Executive Box in their stadium and puppet the strings in our country”, he calmly stated. He then added that some of his team mates, like Neymar or Messi, were being investigating by the countries tax agencies while others who play in Madrid, like Cristiano, are not.
Such a bomb-dropping surprised and enraged Real Madrid fans. Even Ramos himself, minutes later, quickly fired back as Madrid’s captain that “strings are pulled in every stadium” and that, regarding referee calls, “Barça has nothing to complain about this season”. However, this statement seems tame in comparison to Piqué’s huge shout-out, in words that seem to come from the most hardcore Barça fan in any tavern and not from one of Barcelona’s top players.
And, in pure troll fashion, Gerard seems to be enjoying the hell out of the ruckus he made.
Although they initially thought about seeking some kind of legal action against the player, Real Madrid’s management decided to remain silent. In the same day a news report disclosed evidence of president Florentino Perez paying huge amounts of money to improve the club’s online reputation and push for some of his favourite players to start (he would send text messages to journalists that would in turn press the issue to Carlo Ancellotti in press conferences), Madrid’s top executive simply said that his club “has core values including humbleness and respect”.
No time for petty quarrels, I guess?