Real Betis sacked Pepe Mel and he found out on Twitter. Photograph: Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images Classiest sacking
found out about his sacking via Twitter , while David Moyes was back in the UK at his daughters birthday, and late on the afternoon when the media were told that Bentez was sacked (weeks after they had been told that he would be), Rafa still hadnt been told. That evening at the announcement, he wasnt there but Zinedine Zidane was. There were no questions, no explanations, and no contrition. And when institutional director Emilio Butragueo was asked if he could explain the decision the next day, he said: That doesnt matter now. Best excuse
One reason offered up for James Rodrguez screeching round the motorway and into the clubs Valdebebas training ground without stopping was that he was scared that the police car following him at 200km/h with its lights flashing was actually a kidnapping, while he insisted that he hadnt heard the sirens or the order to pull over because he had the music on so loud. Which poses the question: what was he listening to? The Benny Hill theme?
Cheer up, my love, its
only a game of football. Best pre-match entertainment
In the theatre in San Sebastin, two teams of Bertsolari were competing in
a Basque poetry-off before the derby as they do every year while outside Anoeta, you could chuck an egg at the student of your choice for a euro two in Athletic shirts, two in Real shirts. Which beats Gazprom themed fun and all that Super Bowl stuff, any day. And the game kicked off on time, too, not that that turned out to be such a good thing … Worst game
There was a touch of class in the Basque derby when the ball dropped near the right wing and a neat, first time flick with the outside of the foot set la Real on a swift counter. It was just a pity that it had to be David Moyes
that produced it and that it had to be such a one-off, El Diario Vasco describing the game as turgid, Marca calling it nothing, and El Mundo going for insufferable. The return of the Seville derby wasnt much better, either. Theyd waited over six hundred days, tickets had sold out in hours, and Estadio Deportivo had produced forty-six pages of breathless build up, including a Star Wars cover with Rubn Castro and Kevin Gameiro holding lightsabers alongside the headline may the derby be with you!, but they soon wished it wasnt with them at all. It began with the ball going out after two seconds and went steadily downhill from there: stop, start, dive, foul, complain, repeat for ninety tedious minutes.
There was something about Celta this season: Real Sociedad-Celta, Celta-Eibar and the two Celta-Barcelona matches were all fun. Before the first meeting at Balados, Nolito was asked: If Messi, Neymar and Surez are the MSN, what does that make Aspas, Nolito and Orellana? It was a risky enough question anyway a, n and o spells anus in Spanish but Nolito went a step further, responding: A turd … a turdy turd. It also turned out he was wrong. If Messi, Neymar and Surez are the MSN, the turdy turd was better,
beating Barcelona 4-1 in a game that could have ended 10-7. If I have to lose, let it be against a team that plays like Celta, Luis Enrique said. Weve honoured football, the Celta manager, Tato Berizzo, added. The last 15 minutes of the return game in Barcelona were absolutely outrageous, the Catalans barely believable, but whats been forgotten is that for most of the match Celta were excellent too odd though that sounds when it finished 6-1.
All six Barcelona goals were fantastic that night and if it was goals you wanted, El Molinn tended to deliver and Rayo were always worth watching. Well, Rayos opponents were, anyway and Rafa Bentez scribbling away at his notebook and still shouting instructions at his players at 10-2 said more than it probably should have. He was writing something in his notebook in the final minutes of the first clsico too:
Shit, presumably. Another of the seasons outstanding performances, it finished 4-0 with some in the Madrid media complaining that Gerard Piqu was unashamedly seeking the fifth, the monster. Better days lay ahead for Madrid, the most enjoyable of them perhaps the 3-2 win in the rain at Rayo, although they were impressive against Sevilla.
Speaking of whom, this seasons
best game was probably Sevilla-Villarreal, a match that went from 1-0 to 1-2 to 2-2 to 3-2, and almost 3-3 before Jos Antonio Reyes made it 4-2 in the last minute, and which had it all: twenty-eight shots, six goals, wonderful assists, brilliant finishes, and even an own goal that was pretty tasty. It had a player so fast that everyone else seemed to be going backwards, an overhead kick off the line, and songs sung so loud they were still ringing long after Yevhen Konoplyanka released his inner Vasily Rats, sending the ball travelling through three times zones to win it. Football is all about these moments, about the journey: thats the nicest thing of all, Unai Emery said. This was a great game against a great team. Im proud of the players and Im proud of the match. Lets forget the result; this was a really, really lovely game. Its been a long time since I enjoyed a match as much.
Jos Antonio Reyes celebrates with team-mates after scoring Sevillas fourth goal in the game of the season, against Villarreal. Photograph: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images Coolest manager
Quique Setien. How can we tell players not to dribble? he asked. Dribblers are an endangered species. He also said he was a Rolling Stone, but didnt say which. Keef, probably.
Pepe Mel, who admitted: I promised the players three days off if they beat Sporting and Rayo Vallecano, because I didnt seriously think they would … but these guys will kill for a holiday.
One Sunday morning in January, the league ran
a story that declared: 180 minutes are all Zidane needed to be the best coach in the history of Real Madrid … break[ing] all the records set by all the coaches in Real Madrids long and legendary history. Which quite apart from the fact that of course 180 minutes are all it takes to break a record for the best debut from a manager when debut means the opening two games, wasnt really much of a record and was soon gone. By Sunday night, his record was worse than Rafa Bentezs. And yet in the end Zidane made a compelling case: 12 wins in a row, a title unexpectedly taken to the final day, and the European Cup, players falling over themselves to love him.
As for Luis Enrique, he won the double to go with his treble, kept everyone on their toes, in the press room as much as on the pitch, and probably should lead this list. After all, thats five of the last six major titles he has won. And Diego Simeone, well, he was Diego Simeone, the revolutionary who turned Spanish football on its head and had
Gazetta dello Sport turning him into Che Guevara. After the final in Milan he said it was time to reflect and think about his future and Atlticos supporters took to the Caldern to plead with him to stay, terrified that he might not. Which kind of says it all. He has everything a manager needs, Zidane said.
won a treble of his own, making it three Europa Leagues in a row and a Copa del Rey final. Ernesto Valverde took Athletic to fifth and their first trophy in 30 years. Javi Gracia did it again with Mlaga; over the last three years no team has taken more points off the top three. Juan Merino quietly saved Betis for the second time, and for the second time was moved on for someone else Gus Poyet this time. Abelardo Fernndez brought Sporting Gijn up and kept them there, a miracle that meant su