The new season started the way the old one ended: with Real Madrid and Barcelona taking center stage, eclipsing everyone else as they fought it out for a trophy. And by the end, "fought" was the word. Those who hoped
It ended with midfielder Cesc Fabregas on the ground while all around him people lost their heads. It was impossible to follow everything that happened as virtually everyone piled in. There was no surprise in seeing José Manuel Pinto in the thick of it, but even Mesut Ozil, normally the most restrained of players, was having to be held back as he tried to get at David Villa. Villa, after all, had pushed or allegedly slapped him. Jose Morais, Mourinho's assistant, was sprinting across to take on Tito Vilanova after he had slapped Mourinho. And he had slapped Mourinho only after
Afterward, the recriminations were bitter,
Worse of all was the fact that suddenly we were all talking about the punch up and the fall out, rather than the games. That was even more of a pity this time round. Last year, there were four clásicos in 18 days. There were
Never had it conceded so many chances. Even more strikingly, Real Madrid had enjoyed more than 50% of the possession -- the first time Barcelona had not had more than half of the ball under Guardiola; Madrid had removed the very oxygen that keeps Barcelona alive. The shot count over the two games read: Barcelona 13, Real Madrid 26.
Much of the criticism surrounding Mourinho has been unfair. Not least because, when it comes to the need to change the structure at Real Madrid, he is quite right. But this time, frankly, he deserves to be admonished.
Mourinho sneaked up behind Tito Vilanova and poked him in the eye, before tiptoeing away again wearing a cheeky smile. He then pretended not to know who Vilanova was after the game, inventing a new name for him -- Pito (which is also Spanish for the male genital area). And when Messi came near his touchline during the match, he did a "pooh, you stink" gesture, waving his hand in front of his face