Barcelona host Actual Madrid amid angst over referee fee scandal | La Liga

A Real Madrid supporter holds up a sign about Barcelona during the Champions League second leg against Liverpool

The battle for the fantastic previous might be fought within the inglorious current. And it is going to be fought with closely edited Twitter movies. Early final week Actual Madrid TV launched what can solely be described as an assault video, aimed on the former La Liga referee José María Enriquez Negreira. If this appears a little bit excessive, it’s price noting this was actually a follow-up, sequel to Actual Madrid TV’s earlier assault video geared toward referee Carlos Clos Gómez, now head of La Liga VAR.

There have been grander, starrier, extra knife-edge conferences between Barcelona and Actual Madrid. However not many have been extra surprisingly pitched than Sunday evening’s clásico on the Camp Nou, or extra clearly fraught with angst, mudslinging and paranoia.

The sport itself will both determine the title race or inject a little bit late-breaking life. Defeat would minimize Barcelona’s lead on the high to 6 factors with 12 matches to go, which nonetheless seems like plenty of factors. The hole from Barcelona to Atlético Madrid in third place was a muscular 17 going into this weekend. Squint and it may nearly be the grand outdated days of the worldwide duopoly, when the bloom of the Messi-Ronaldo years made this fixture soccer’s grandest single occasion.

However this isn’t fairly that. As an alternative it is a fixture that might be performed out to the sound of the current previous being angrily divvied up. The European Tremendous League fiasco had appeared to heal the outdated wounds within the identify of pursuing frequent pursuits, with stories of Joan Laporta and Florentino Pérez being seen commonly taking dinner collectively. The newest from Barcelona is that Laporta is contemplating cancelling the standard pre-clásico lunch. As an alternative La Liga’s two strongest golf equipment appear intent on consuming each other.

The spark for all that is after all the fees introduced in opposition to Barcelona this month in relation to funds made to Negreira throughout his time as a senior La Liga referee. Actual Madrid have now formally joined the case, a course of that permits them to assist and current proof, which after all they have been all the time going to do.

That is already a scandal of jaw-dropping proportions. The interval being investigated ranges from 2001 to 2018. Throughout these years Barcelona gained 10 league titles, 4 Champions Leagues and three Membership World Cups, within the course of establishing the Barça model as a definitive trendy sporting juggernaut.

The complete foundation of Messi-dom, the best particular person membership profession in soccer historical past, was pegged out round that timespan. Huge, fortunes have been made on the again of it. In 2018 Barcelona turned the primary sports activities group to cross $1bn in annual revenues. All of the whereas they have been concurrently paying one in every of Spain’s most senior referees a daily stipend totalling nearly €7m. To present some context that is the equal of discovering out Manchester United had Howard Webb secretly on the payroll via the Ferguson years; after which arguing of their defence that this could all be seen as completely regular.

A Real Madrid supporter holds up a sign about Barcelona during the Champions League second leg against Liverpool
A Actual Madrid supporter makes his emotions about Barcelona clear through the Champions League second leg in opposition to Liverpool. {Photograph}: Alberto Gardin/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Therefore the general public fury, the net howls, the hostile compilations of alleged refereeing oddities in favour of Barcelona overseen by the named events; batted again with counter-outrage about Actual Madrid’s personal affect over all ranges of energy in Spanish soccer.

Trying again on the clips and the cuts in these slickly edited movies what strikes you is the epic shapes and hues, the iconography of what was, trying again, the best international membership soccer present ever staged. Right here is peak, hyper-elastic CR7 hurling himself with thrilling athleticism to the turf. Here’s a boyish Lionel Messi trying baffled. Listed here are lovely, shiny photographs of the centre of the sporting world: Pep-José, Catalonia versus royal Spain, a star two-hander that drove the industrial progress of the worldwide sport greater than another single occasion. What wouldn’t it imply to tarnish that period now, to begin knocking down these statues and throwing them into the harbour?

It has been reported that Barcelona’s administrators will argue Negreira was paid solely to redress what they noticed as bias in the direction of different golf equipment, a form of backdoor vigilante refereeing justice. It has additionally been claimed that Negreira threatened to go public if the funds have been stopped, an announcement that, if true, skirts fairly near an admission of wrongdoing (what, in any other case, can be mistaken with going public?).

Past that the road from Barcelona appears to be the funds have been in return for “scouting stories” with the implication that everybody else is as much as this too. The president, Laporta, denies any wrongdoing, insisting that Negreira labored as an adviser, getting ready stories and guiding gamers on refereeing points – one thing Laporta described as “very regular”. He’ll give proof, with an opportunity the previous Barça coaches Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde will even be dragged in.

In actuality the probability of Barcelona being stripped, banished or financially pummelled appear distant. Which pursuits precisely – which supply of energy and wealth – would that serve?

Probably this may current an impediment to the stadium rebuild plans, which contain taking out a €1.5bn mortgage. It is a membership jacked up precariously on their very own financial levers, hostage to an enormous debt secured through their very own good identify, the knowledge this factor will all the time proceed to generate extra income. And that’s arguably what’s at stake right here, the essential vitality supply, the purity of that identify,

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Is it going to be potential to keep up that extremely worthwhile sense of Barça exceptionalism when the grim and granular particulars emerge?

Barcelona managed to retail the Més que un membership shtick whereas carrying Unicef and Qatar Airways on the identical shirt, like some rapaciously moralising two-face, and all the time presenting itself because the underdog; the ewoks not the Dying Star. All of it begins to look a little bit stranger if this model of the previous takes maintain.

The Barcelona manager and former player, Xavi, arrives for a press conference before the visit of Real Madrid
The Barcelona supervisor and former participant, Xavi, arrives for a press convention earlier than the go to of Actual Madrid. {Photograph}: Lluís Gené/AFP/Getty Photographs

These are tough instances usually for La Liga, which has struggled to match the Premier League’s mixture of huge TV rights revenue and the presence of nation-state golf equipment with financial ensures of their very own. There’s something touching, and maybe just a bit bit creepy in regards to the jealous zeal with which the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, talks about Kylian Mbappé, who’s instantly so very important to the vibes, the vitality and aura.

It is a league that consumed stars for 15 years and the place the president is instantly appearing as a form of Pandarus, purring about Madrid’s enduring industrial energy, conscious of the very important uplift in curiosity and TV values his presence would carry to a league presently marinading in its personal concern and loathing.

For now Barcelona might be slender favourites on Sunday evening. The referee story has coincided with three consecutive wins and a way of galvanising fury. Solely Bayern Munich have gained on the Camp Nou all season. Pedri is again for Barça, Karim Benzema match for Madrid. All that actually appears sure is it needs to be tight, angsty and a little bit spiteful.

Some issues, no less than, don’t change.