Barcelona maestro Cesc Fabregas has retaliated to Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho’s assertion that Barcelona’s players spend too much time talking to the press.
As the heat turns up for tonight’s El Clasico in the Copa del Rey semi-final. Mourinho, now regarded infamously as something as a master of mind-games or, if you’d prefer, a pesky wind-up merchant, told reporters earlier this week that Barcelona players complain too much about referees.
"I prefer to stay with the lessons we have received in the past from Barcelona. Lessons in sportsmanship, how to be in football. Not talking about the referees, not surrounding them, trying to get opponents booked,” said the Real coach.
"And, of course, giving lessons on how to play football, they do that very well. They would be well advised if they humbly followed that line."
It seems the Portuguese boss holds something of a grudge, leftovers from previous encounters with the Catalans. El Clasico clashed all too often centre around controversy – the tackles, the dives, the bookings, the referee’s susceptibility to an ear-bashing – you name it, this fixture provides the drama year in year out.
Fabregas retaliated by issuing this response to Madrid’s manager in his press pre-match conference:
"As a team we don't like to complain to the press. There are things that need to be said, but we've always said those things on the playing field."
When it comes to Barcelona, the Spanish press, most notably publications like Marca deal with the team as if they are the national team of Catalonia which, in many ways, they are. The press whip up a storm about transfers, they jump on players who are supposedly underperforming like the English press hound the England national team.
It’s something of an obsession – the players are regarded as demi-gods and I think this has to be taken in to account in this instance. Mourinho may well have a very good point – Barcelona players are not known for their diplomacy or regard for other clubs’ feelings.
I would also agree with the estimation that Barca players do tend to be favoured by referees – both domestically and in the Champions League where their simulative amateur dramatics go unpunished season in season out. They are by far the best football team in the world, certainly the best in Spain at this moment, but they are afforded privileges other lesser teams are not.
They have the most exceptional quality within their ranks and Mourinho is wise to tell them to do their talking on the pitch. However, synonymously, Mourinho needs to learn when to keep it shut from time to time.
It’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black when the special one starts complaining about other people talking too much. At Porto, at Chelsea, at Inter Milan he constantly berated officials, stirred up storms in the press with his constant commentary and, even now, when he’s over in La Liga he still chimes in with his two cents about everything and anything in England.
Effectively, this pre-match squabble is nothing short of hypocrisy from both directions. Do Barcelona talk too much? Yes, they probably do. Now can everyone stop talking about it, already? Just play football.
image: © ins11thiago