Good luck to you, sir.
Gary Neville at Valencia
Former Manchester United legend Gary Neville took over at Valencia earlier this month, with his team sitting in fifth place in La Liga. Not even a month into his tenure, he’s already let his presence be known, and made sure to let everyone know he is focusing on the players he has already in the locker room, not on who could come in the January transfer window.
Still, he has some other questions to answer as he takes over in the south of Spain.
First off, how will he transition to instituting his brand of soccer? Of course Neville is English, and as such is naturally inclined to a pressure-fueled brand of play, pinning the opposition to their backs. This is quite different than what is the norm is La Liga, where many teams prefer a more tactical, passing and possession oriented approach.
His team is young, and it is mid-season already. Meaning Neville will have to be tactful in how he mixes his players into his philosophy.
Second is what he will due with his gluttony of talent at keeper. Diego Alves is due to return after seven months on the injury report. That would be great, but they have Australian Mat Ryan who was playing superbly until he fell victim to injuries of his own. No matter, because local product Jaume Domenech has filled in as number one and showed his talent in the process.
Now Neville is faced with the conundrum of what to do with the three. Does he sell one? Who does he sit? How short of a leash does he give to whoever he does choose as the number one?
Neville’s biggest hurdle is the most obvious one, the language barrier. Englishmen aren’t known for their linguistic prowess, nor are the Spanish known for their knowledge of English. With all the little intricacies beyond the pitch that need attention, medical issues for example, how quickly Neville learns Spanish (and maybe Valencian) will be a huge factor in how well he connects with his players, staff and fanbase.
Real Madrid – Real Sociedad
Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals to help Madrid win at home 3-1, although the score can be very misleading. Throughout the match Real Madrid played without much harmony in attack and some could say had luck on their side. Ronaldo missed his first penalty shot from the spot, and often coughed up possession. Fans continued their mixed feelings about the Portuguese superstar, with some whistles mixed in amongst the cheers.
Many respected media outlets have claimed that Ronaldo will leave after this season if he does not the support he feels he is due from Madrid fans.
Even with the win, manager Rafa Benitez’s seat is so hot it’s burning holes through his pants. And his team’s lack of cohesion on the pitch and public displays of defiance to him are not helping.
Barcelona – Betis
Real Betis came into the Camp Nou and suffered the same fate as countless others before them, losing 4-0 to an unstoppable Barcelona squad. Barcelona’s big three of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Leo Messi played their usual role of propelling the scoring attack, but Sergio Busquets continued his impressive form of late.
Busquets has really come on to be the creative force in midfield for the Blaugranas, creating the opening goal and then assisting on the game’s third goal.
Messi scored in what was his 500th appearance for the club, and Suarez netted two of his own, bringing his goal total to 26 in 25 matches.
Photo: Flickr/Dan Farrimond