Inside Spain is a weekly instalment brought to you by Football España, providing an insight into all of the major stories coming out of the rich and intense climes of La Liga and beyond.
Spanish football returned from their World Cup break last weekend and it has been a rollercoaster since. It started of with soft, amusing content, like a picture of US singer Miley Cyrus emerging – imitating Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez’s infamous World Cup celebration.
It wasn’t long before controversial referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz was back into the swing of things though and whipping out his cards again. After showing 16 cards during the Netherlands-Argentina World Cup quarter-final, he came back with 15 yellows and 2 reds in the Barcelona derby, causing mass hysteria, not least because Barcelona drew 1-1. He will spend this weekend ‘in the fridge’ as they say in Spain, cooling off.
President Joan Laporta was strangely quiet about that, but did reveal that Barcelona must find €26m in the next six months to be able to conduct business as usual in the summer. Without it, they will be restricted by La Liga in terms of players they can bring in.
Meanwhile Hector Bellerin is going in the opposite direction. He confirmed that he earns less than €10k per week at Barcelona, claiming footballers are becoming ‘dehumanised‘ as a result of the bubble they live in.
Vinicius Junior suffered from racial abuse for the fifth time in Spanish football, but in more positive news, the man who stopped him was highly impressive. Real Valladolid right-back Ivan Fresneda, 18, is attracting attention from across Europe, in particular Real Madrid and Newcastle United.
Barcelona squeaked past third-tier Intercity 4-3 after extra time in the Copa del Rey, while Real Madrid were also uncomfortable in their 1-0 win over Cacereno. Particularly Eden Hazard, who ‘didn’t look as if he cared, didn’t run, didn’t want the ball and didn’t ask for it.’ And that’s just according to the opposition players.
As Atletico Madrid gear up for the visit of Barcelona on Sunday, free to watch on ITV, they appear to have found their own gem too. Exciting midfielder Pablo Barrios, 19, is one to keep an eye out for, and Atleti are already in talks over a new deal for him.