My main interest has always been in the Premier League. But football is a global game, with so much movement for players between leagues that — as a soccer pundit — you have to know your stuff. So I found said stuff, pressing my nose to the computer screen, scanning for facts and figures, and forcing my brain to sharpen its knowledge of all the big leagues.
Fast forward to November. After Real Madrid’s humiliating defeat in El Clasico, I became intrigued. Now I wanted to see how Real’s season plays out. Of course, Los Merengues are the biggest football club in the world (and I’m saying this as a Liverpool fan). Their manager might be the best football mind in the game today (sorry, Manchester). But my reasons for watching them aren’t entirely academic.
I despise Real Madrid and I want to watch them lose.
I think Jose Mourinho is an evil genius, a Professor Moriarty. I remember his time in the Premier League as an instigator, an irritant in front of the microphone who could make an enemy out of Doug the Dog.
I think Cristiano Ronaldo is an enfant terrible, a child prodigy whose ascent into adulthood has done nothing to curb his toys-out-the-pram attitude. If anything, it has enhanced it. Every time I see a call go against him, I secretly revel in his misfortune. Well, actually, there’s nothing secret about it: I swear at him through my TV screen.
I think Real Madrid are what’s wrong with football. They are a club who started the inflationary economics of today’s game with the assembly of the Galacticos teams ten years ago. I hate it when they trot out their nine European titles, even though the first five came when the competition was still finding its legs.
The truth is that Real are a very good squad right now. But they share a league — and a bitter rivalry — with what could be the best team that ever was. So yes, Ronaldo scored two more goals tonight, putting him ahead of likely Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi. And yes, Real dominated their neighbours tonight — but not like they have other teams this season.
It might be that, despite their best efforts, Real Madrid will be pipped to the league and European titles by an incredible Barcelona side. Of course, there is still half the season to play, and I don’t know how it will play out. But I’ll be watching.