MATCHES like those between Real Madrid and Barcelona are definitely complex to analyse, because both teams have fearful weapons.
They are like commandos, with soldiers” who are capable of flying planes, driving tanks and shooting rifles, machine guns and cannons. Still, I get the impression that Real Madrid have less pressure right now, that they face fewer obligations and are in a better position to be adventurous.
Pressing needs are rather on the side coached by Luis Enrique. He is trying to impose new ways and more direct play on Barcelona, a club that has achieved many good results in recent years under Pep Guardiola.
Carlo Ancelotti, on the other hand, is a coach that faces no such urgent demands. He has already won everything, he is a successful man.
I think Real Madrid are more solid and Barcelona are still a work in progress ahead of El Clasico.” However, when you have players with the quality that Lionel Messi or Neymar have, anything can happen.
So far, Barcelona have not played well. I think Luis Enrique is trying to get them to be more direct, and that has a lot to do with how he himself used to play.
He was a dynamic footballer, with good technique but also very hard-working and generous, an all-round player. I think that is what he is looking for. Barcelona are yet to develop a strong idea, but that does not mean they are not competitive, because they have excellent players.
Real Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo, a player that one could not expect more from in football terms. He shoots hard with both legs, he is fast, skilful and heads the ball like the best of them.
To top it all off, since last year, he has become a more generous player, and he is more alert to understand that some of his team-mates may be better placed than him at any given time.
However, on the other side you have Messi, who has constant creativity. If Messi were a pianist, every time he put his hands on the piano he would play a different chord. Cristiano is also a fantastic player, but I have the feeling that Messi remains number one today.
I did not pay a lot of attention to the controversy around Messi in Barcelona’s match against Eibar, but it reminds me of something that happened to me with Diego Maradona when I was Barcelona’s manager.
Diego was very angry with me when I took him off the pitch at a European Cup game against Manchester United. However, the player who came on for him scored two goals, and we ended up winning that match.
I had the impression that Maradona was not at 100 percent: he had just overcome an injury and was recovering.
I understand that, when a coach decides on a substitution, he does not need to ask anybody about it, but perhaps Luis Enrique did not want to take Messi off the pitch and simply asked him whether he was feeling well.
Maradona stopped talking to me after that match, he always got angry. Still, our relationship did not suffer, although he made his annoyance clear.
It is always a good sign when a footballer gets upset about being taken off the pitch. Just imagine if Maradona had been taken off and he did not care that would have been serious.
Going back to El Clasico,” I cannot fail to mention the return of Luis Suarez. I think he is a footballer who is ready for this sort of team.
Suarez can give Barcelona effectiveness and experience at the top level, because he has played in Europe and with the Uruguay national team for many years. The issue is how to structure the team as a whole.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, after their 7-1 win over Roma. Guardiola has created a team that is not based on huge stars but rather on certainty about an idea of play.
The German team has excellent players, but not superstars like those at Real Madrid or Barcelona. I think that, up-front, Robert Lewandowski has given them different options. Mario Mandzukic was more of a target man, while Lewandowski plays well, drops back, is a good passer and suits Guardiola’s style better. – GMS