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TUG OF WAR

Barcelona and Real Madrid’s power struggle is everything that’s right (and wrong) with football

In recent times, Los Blancos have been the best team in Europe without being the best team in Spain

Football has never had much time for logic.

Real Madrid have dominated Europe’s premier club competition in recent times.

Los Blancos have won four out of the last five Champions Leagues including three in a row, a feat made even more impressive when you consider the fact no team had previously retained the European Cup since Milan in 1990.


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Legacy

Getty - Contributor
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Legacy

You can hardly blame those who have reached the conclusion Real Madrid have been the best team in Europe in recent times.

And yet, they have not been the best team in Spain.

Barcelona are on course to win their eighth league title in 11 years.

Real Madrid have won two in this time, with neighbours Atletico Madrid making up the numbers.

Barca are also one game away from winning five consecutive Copa del Reys.

Trophy hoarder

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Trophy hoarder

This contradiction, of a club being heralded as a continent’s best while simultaneously being inferior domestically, acts as a timely reminder of football’s inconclusive nature.

Tribalism dictates that fans must campaign for their side’s undisputed supremacy.

The Bernabeu faithful will point to their Champions League triumphs as proof of primacy while their rivals will present a formidable domestic record as evidence to the contrary.

There’s justifications for both sides, of course.

A gruelling 38-game, ninth-month league campaign generally succeeds in identifying the standout best team.

Whereas to win the Champions League, you only have to be good for 13 games.

Fewer than that even — Spurs lost their first three group games this season but are now in the quarter-finals, for example.

How very ‘Spursy’

EPA
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How very ‘Spursy’

Contrastingly, there is plenty to said for performing against the teams who are, on merit, the continent’s elite.

And besting 19 others over the course nine months is hollowed somewhat when only two or three teams have the resources to be truly competitive.

Sadly, fans who understand and accept such ambiguity and nuance are becoming a rare breed — in the cesspit of social media at least.

One has to be a ‘bottler’, apparently

PA:Press Association
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One has to be a ‘bottler’, apparently

Once upon a time, teams who won trophies were celebrated and congratulated.

That doesn’t seem to be enough these days.

We’re all desperate to put each success into context and quantify everything.

Man City may have pilfered 100 points but they didn’t last the season unbeaten.

Arsenal didn’t lose a game in 2003/04 but they won six fewer games than Pep’s City.

Here’s a zany thought — what if they were both good?

There’s an idea!

Getty - Contributor
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There’s an idea!

Toxic one-upsmanship has spoiled the game to some degree.

It’s easy enough to ignore certain comments on social media but the sheer volume of them is distracting to say the least.

Rivalries are part of football and they offer much value.

But rampant whataboutism has caused a pessimistic gloom to fall over the sport.

For some reason, people crave definitive rankings, absolutes.

This is why top ten lists are so popular — the seek to enforce order on the intangible while stoking feverish engagement.

In reality, football is far too chaotic and unpredictable for such things.

Do individual awards do more harm than good?

AP:Associated Press
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Do individual awards do more harm than good?

That’s why we end up with oxymoronic scenarios like Real Madrid and Barcelona’s complex power struggle.

In a logically sound world, the Champions League would always be won by a team who bested their domestic rivals.

Then said team could be crowned as the undisputed best.

But complete sense is a fantasy.

And good job too, because imagine how boring football would be if it was all neat and tidy.

We should savour the contradictions and uncertainties — debate instead of argue.

Let’s be better, all of us.


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