Inside Spain is a weekly instalment brought to you by Football España, providing an insight into all of the major stories coming out of the rich and intense climes of La Liga and beyond.
Barcelona have been short on good news in recent years, but Camp Nou was euphoric last Sunday night when Franck Kessie bagged a 91st-minute winner to put them 12 points clear of Real Madrid. ‘El Presidente’ all but sentenced the La Liga title, after a Ronald Araujo own goal and Sergi Roberto equaliser in the first half. Despite their European failures, all will be forgiven for Xavi Hernandez if he brings home the title, and he’s well on his way to doing so.
The other President at the club is under signficantly more pressure, after UEFA announced they too would be investigating the Negreira case. Barcelona and Joan Laporta have begun suing journalists for libel in response to the negative press they are receiving. He was all smiles on Thursday though, as former Barcelona wonderkid and Stoke City star – not every day those fit into the same sentence – Bojan Krkic said goodbye to the professional game. At the age of 32, his career lasted 15 years and spanned 7 countries, also passing through Milan, Roma, Ajax, Mainz, Alaves, Montreal Impact and Vissel Kobe.
The frustration at Real Madrid was tangible. Dani Carvajal said something to in the aftermath of El Clasico that caused one Barcelona player to lose their mind on the pitch, while Carlo Ancelotti complained that he doubted whether Marco Asensio’s potential winner really was offside. The Italian manager is under pressure for his job now, and some have even been calling for Karim Benzema to be dropped, as the French forward continues to look unfit.
It’s no surprise as a result that there has been plenty of transfer news surrounding Real Madrid to distract from that defeat. Los Blancos appear set to pursue Erling Haaland in 2024, and believe they have the edge on Manchester City and Liverpool in the race for Jude Bellingham.
Across the city, Antoine Griezmann lost his proverbial upon finding out Kylian Mbappe would be France captain, he feels that he deserved it. Atletico Madrid have been the second-best side in Spain after Barcelona in 2023, while Griezmann has been the best player in Spain this calendar year. Continuing the French theme, Rayo Vallecano forwards Oscar Trejo and Isi Palazon were the stars of one of the most bizarre penalties in La Liga history last weekend, putting together a sort of tribute to Thierry Henry and Robert Pires.
That good atmosphere at Atleti is in part due to Joao Felix’s absence, according to captain Koke who has admitted he was a distraction for the side. Meanwhile Elche have appointed their sixth coach of the season – Sebastian Beccacece will have to beat an average of 2.6 points per coach previously. Ahead of their Europa League tie with Manchester United, Sevilla have sacked Jorge Sampaoli too, bringing in Jose Luis Mendilibar to steady the ship, as they sit just two points outside of the relegation zone.