Atletico Madrid, Champions League, Odegaard, and Messi
Atletico Madrid ten points clear in La Liga
With half of the 2020-21 La Liga season over, Atletico Madrid leads Barcelona and Real Madrid by ten points with a game in hand. The Colchoneros have been very consistent this season and deserve to be on top while the Catalans have been building up steam with ten wins and two ties in their last twelve games. Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s Merengues have been all over the place, losing at home 1-2 to Levante, getting booted out of the Copa del Rey 1-2 by Third Division Alcoyano, this after having beaten Atletico Madrid themselves 2-0 on December 12th.
Atleti’s Uruguayan striker, Luis Suarez, leads all scorers with 14 goals while Barcelona’s Argentine striker, Lionel Messi is tied for second, at twelve goals, with Sevilla’s Moroccan star Youssef En-Nesyri.
In UEFA Champions League play
This month, Barcelona play hosts to PSG on Tuesday, the 16th at 3:00 pm, followed by Sevilla playing host to Borussia Dortmund the next day at the same time. On Tuesday, February 23, Atletico Madrid host Chelsea and the following Wednesday Atalanta host Real Madrid, both games at 3:00 pm.
The concept that Messi might move to PSG should be laid to rest by the time this tie is over. New Chelsea coach, Thomas Tuchel, will have his chance to showcase his wares in what could not be a more challenging and entertaining two-match stand. Meanwhile, new PSG coach, Mauricio Pochettino, will have a chance to make amends for his past failings at this level by making a statement on this grand continental stage if his Parisians are able to defeat Barca. As to Real Madrid, do not be surprised if they advance over Atalanta, but frankly, also if they don’t. Finally, Atletico Madrid’s form ensures that they could progress with no big surprises, and then we would see what coach Diego Simeone’s men are made of this year. Methinks this team is better than it has been in years, so also keep them in mind for European glory.
Martin Odegaard leaves Real Madrid for Arsenal
Papa has been very critical of Real Madrid’s administrative leadership and coaching for several years now and it has to do with the disconnect between those who get paid to lead and those who get paid to play. Soccer organizations should be simple—you hire an administration that focuses on finances and infrastructure while you hire a coach to facilitate the on-pitch performance of the players. But those two leads need to be heading toward a joint-goal consistency in the quality and results of their performances. Not winning because they have more money than the next ten teams in their league. The issues with Real have been that Florentino Perez believes you hire eleven galacticos and a hand-holder and the players will deliver the trophies. He has no clue how to build a club for the long-term, only his term.
Zidane is the ideal hand-holder but not yet a true coach and every time the team underperforms, he takes the blame but does nothing to rectify the situation. How can a group of superstars that includes the best midfield in soccer—Luka Modric, Casemiro, and Toni Kroos (with Isco and Federico Valverde as subs)—and a goalie and defense that can stand against most teams they play, and with Eden Hazard upfront, not be consistent? Why is Zidane still subbing on a pre-set rhythm (67th minute!!) regardless of action on the pitch. Why is he incapable of developing young talent even when it lands on his lap year after year—see Martin Odegaard, Rodrygo, Marco Asensio, Nacho, Mariano, Vinicius Jr., and even Lucas Vazquez and Raphael Varane. The fact that Odegaard has asked to leave Madrid should have been a lightning bolt striking alarm bells throughout the club, a clear harbinger of things not right. But…
Lionel Messi’s Salary comes to light
Somehow the idea that the best soccer player on the planet is making (nearly) more salary money each year than the next four on the list of highest-paid athletes in the world has come as a surprise to many. What is fascinating, of course, is that Messi’s potential $674,000,000 salary earnings over four years ($168,500,000 yearly), bonuses, and incentives included, should be in question. He is responsible for bringing an estimated two to three times that much in yearly club earnings off of his brand and performance and has been at the top of his game for a decade!
The issue of course is the internecine battle between Messi and the FC Barcelona administration who likely facilitated the leaking of the striker’s contract as a chip of sorts in the upcoming negotiations over his potential departure as a free agent this coming summer. The Spanish paper El Mundo argued that given the Catalan club’s financial difficulties Messi’s contract was egregiously unfair. Then again, the club has been mismanaged for some time and in as much as Messi may have played a role in that he is likewise culpable, but that is another issue.