Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunny Spain. Big clubs, big money, big players, big football. What could be better? Spain was constantly in the news after lifting her ban on foreign players – a lot of hype! Not one-sided, though – Spanish football was observed with excitement, envy, and fear. Buying the best players of the world was exciting: Cruyff and Netzer in 1973; Neeskens and Breitner in 1974. It provided constant clash of the best brands of contemporary football in a way. And it was not to be long before all great players in the world concentrated in Spain – was it not the eternal dream of fans? To see the brightest stars in one championship? Of course, everybody outside Spain was envious… and critical. Big Spanish sharks combed every nation, snatching whatever talent appeared. Nobody can compete with their money – hence, they were robbing other countries. With all best players going to Spain other championships were to become poor and alienating fans. The Spanirads were killing football with their greed, not to mention their methods – who can forget the bitter saga of the possible transfer of Gerd Muller to Barcelona in 1973? Even the player complained from the unhealthy pressure. And did they not not buy Neeskens in the middle of the World Cup, thus creating undue tension if the Dutch dressing room when the team had to concentrate on the championship? The Spaniards were ruthless, shameless predators and nobody was safe. Football is not only money, critic said… but money ruled and Spain was the place players found irrestitable.
The big bang of 1973 continued with 1974 big bang: Paul Breitner went to Real Madrid. Johan Neeskens – to Barcelona.
One more flying Dutchman in Barca to confront the mean German Real.
Spain was becoming larger than the world… what better example than the testimonial of former Real Madrid defender Isidro, played in early December, 1974? Big testimonials were traditionally a game between ‘home team’ vs ‘World’s XI’. Traditionally, it was celebration of a great star, honoured by great stars coming from around the globe. Mighty Spain spat on tradition: Isidro was well known member of the great Real of the early 1960s, but hardly a big star – a journeyman, rather. To assemble world’s selection, Spain did not have to place long distance phone calls – the ‘world’ was already playing in Spain; it was enough to get a squad of foreign stars playing in Spanish clubs. Whe else was able to do that? To make a first class testimonial for second-string player, chosing world class players from those playing in the domestic championship?
What a fantastic tribute! It was also ironic and misleading.