Barcelona Kits 2012-13

Because there’s no better place to unveil a jersey that a team of sweaty men wear, Barça unveiled their 2012-13 home and away kits in an art museum. I mean, er, what, yeah? Okay, I guess. I imagine the color copies we didn’t make this year have saved us an extraordinary amount of–nevermind, you’re here for the jerseys, right?

Here at BFB, you get what you asked for:

Home 2012-13

It’s not so bad. I mean, really, it’s not. I think my eyes gloss over the QF logo, which I’m still not down with, and the darker blue is better than the rumored slightly lighter blue.

Away 2012-13

I do actually love the old orange away from 2006-07, but I wasn’t a fan of the 2009-10 “mango” disaster. This feels like they wanted to do both, but couldn’t decided on which, so they made a combination that just looks…awful. Also it’s held together by tape?

We’ve certainly lived through worse shirt designs and I’m not totally convinced the home one is actually all that bad thanks to the darker blue, as I said. Overall, though, I’m splitting hairs. I kind of hate them and the “let’s sell more jerseys with constant redesigns” horse they rode in on.

Champions League Reactions

Didier Drogba won it with a well-taken penalty and you could basically hear the collective groan from around the world. Let’s get this straight first, though: there is nothing wrong whatsoever with Chelsea winning the Champions League. It’s their first such trophy, it was won the same way everyone else wins trophies–by winning a final–and the likes of Juan Mata, Drogba, and Solomon Kalou (to pick 3 pretty much at random) certainly deserved to win it as much as any other player in the game.

And yet.

From a fairly neutral perspective–I’ve no love for either of the teams in the final and was rooting for Bayern mostly because I don’t like John Terry as a player more than I don’t like Bayern’s players–it was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen. One team wanted to play, the other wanted to go to penalties as soon as the opening whistle went off. Sometime early in the second half, Gary Neville, commentating on the channel I was watching, said that it was a fabulous game. It was, in fact, the exact opposite of that. Chelsea were sitting deep and kicking the ball as far as they could in hopes that Drogba would either get on the end of it and score a solo goal or at least make Bayern reset their offense and come through bank-upon-bank of defenders. Parking the bus, in short, and hoping for a goal against the run of play. Bayern didn’t score (somehow) and we were back in that situation where Chelsea were maybe going to run out winners because their opponent screwed up rather than because any actual outplaying came from the CFC side.

Tweeting after the match, I asked the twitheads out there whether it was the worst CL final ever or if that was just my boredom from one day overwhelming my memory of past encounters. The reply was pretty unanimous: it’s at least the worst final since the last time Chelsea was in it (that’s 2008, fyi). I cited the Juventus-Milan match from 2003, which I remember as a decidedly dull game (0-0 after 120 minutes). I have little faith in my memories before that (did I even see Bayern-Valencia in 2000? I can’t recall it at all), so I can’t cite anything else.

I’m sad I didn’t make good on my promise to not watch the final. I happened to be invited to a party that I wanted to attend so I could see everyone who would be there and I happened to finish what I was doing before that just in time to go for the game. In retrospect, I saw it coming. I knew not to go. I knew to do something else outside in the gorgeous weather. I knew to go day drinking and get text updates from friends bored out of their minds wherever they chose to watch it. And that’s an awful feeling. I wasn’t a fan of the Bayern-Inter match in 2010, but that was at least something of a interesting match to watch.

Mourinho’s teams may not be my cup of tea, but they’re at least capable of playing fluid football when called upon to do so. They’re not always called upon to do so, such as last year’s Madrid team when facing Barça (I mean 2010-11), but they, Inter, and even Chelsea under Jose were capable of passing, attacking nicely, and creating a host of chances while remaining defensively solid. This year’s Chelsea, on the other hand, while containing a slew of players capable of doing exactly that, was under strict orders to look like crap.

In the end, it doesn’t much matter whether it was a Champions League final or a Division 18 league match between Joe’s Pub and Bill’s Bikes. It was boring. But that brings up the question of whether I’m not just a spoiled FCBrat; are we, the products of the last few years of Guardiola’s Tiki-Taka Revolution, simply holding everyone to a standard that can’t be met without €300m in transfer fees each year or an academy that has gone perilously close to establishing itself as a local religious institution?

My response would be Swansea, first and foremost. Real Betis springs to mind as well. No, they didn’t win anything this year, but they stayed up and looked excellent while doing so. More than can be said for Blackburn or Villarreal. My response would also be the difference between Montpellier and PSG (the factoid of the moment is that Javier Pastore cost more than all of Montpellier put together). Bayern were not swashbuckling attackers throughout the year, but they were at least adventurous against Real Madrid and Chelsea. Napoli may be counterattack-oriented, but they do it with some style; they beat Juventus 2-0 today with a very nice Hamsik goal. Benfica too was fun in the CL. I won’t act like I watch enough other teams to really know, but there are definitely teams out there that are enjoyable for neutrals (my team could probably line up with players from my co-ed league in a 10-0-0 and I’d cheer vociferously for them) and that’s reassuring.

Manchester City have often been fairly enjoyable this past season and they ended up winning the title (and how!), which is nice in a lot of ways. I’ll probably always support Arsenal in neutral games simply because they’ve tried to stick to their free-flowing guns as much as possible (and shot Wenger in the foot repeatedly with financial decisions related to their stadium); Athletic Bilbao made the Europa League and Copa del Rey finals with a pleasing-to-the-eye style that, from all accounts, is about as physically taxing as you can get.

Chelsea plays the footballing equivalent of rope-a-dope, not some “manly,” back-breaking style that can only be emulated by means of tough resolve and total fearlessness in the face of certain doom. They’re defensively gifted and incredibly capable of concentration; in short, they’re good footballers. But like rope-a-dope fighters, I find them boring. I find them to squeeze the life out of a game and that is precisely the opposite of why I watch. Winning, to me, isn’t everything—I want Barça to win, but I want them to win by being better, by not sitting back and employing a very talented forward as nothing but the steel point to a battering ram. And when I’m not even remotely interested in who wins the game, it matters all the more how they go about winning it. Chelsea isn’t anti-football by any means; they’re simply boring football.

Congratulations to them and congratulations to their fans, who have waited literally for their entire fan lives for a CL trophy. Kudos and may your next one be a better game for us neutrals.

The Kids Are Not All Right, or, What Hath Eusebio Wrought?

It’s been a while since our last look at the Barcelona B team, so let’s check in and see how their season is going, shall we? With 38 games played, the team currently sits in 9th position (out of 22 teams) with 53 points (for reference, the leader is Deportivo de la Coruna with 82 points). They have recorded 14 wins, 13 losses and 11 draws. There are 4 games still left to play. Barring some disastrous occurrence, I expect the B team will finish the season comfortably mid-table. If you had told me at the beginning of the season that would be the result, I would have been pleased with that. After all, no one expected the team to reproduce the fantastic result of last season, coming in 3rd and only being denied the chance to be promoted because of their status as a reserve team. Several key players of that team (Romeu, Nolito, Soriano, Thiago) have moved up or out, and the team has had to accommodate quite a few new players. Also, due to injuries in the first team, senior players like Bartra, Montoya, Muniesa & Tello have been called up and unavailable for quite a few recent games. Most importantly, of course, the coach responsible for taking the team to that level of success left to take a job at Roma. In my opinion the departure of Luis Enrique and the appointment of Eusebio Sacristan has had an enormous effect on the B team, and not for the better.

It may seem churlish to be unhappy with the B team’s performance given all the factors I have listed above, but if you have been watching the games over the last few years, you will have noticed that this season there has been a marked difference in the style of play. One of the fundamental tenets that Johan Cruyff introduced to the youth system at Barcelona is that all teams at all levels should play the same style of possession-based attacking football. This enables youths to move seamlessly from one level to another so by the time they “graduate” they will already know the system the first team plays. Not every La Masia product will be good enough or find a spot in the first team, of course, but the skills they have learned will serve them well wherever they end up. As Kari so eloquently ranted summed it up in a recent email:

“Barça B is meant to be a place where talented youngsters can learn the style, hone their skills, better learn things like positioning, patience and being team players.”

The primary function of a B team is to develop young players and many of us feel that Eusebio has sacrificed this development for results. The B team has played their way to a decent set of results this season, but how have they done it? Sloppily, for the most part. Undisciplined. Loose balls, lost possession, long balls from the back. Watching this B team at times this season you felt they were…well, a bunch of kids playing a park game, not the well-disciplined tactical squad Lucho molded them into last year. Partly this may be due to Euesbio having a less-talented pool of players to choose from to begin with (Kiko & Rodri being prime examples). It is also true that the constant absence of key players due to first-team call-ups has left the B team defense particularly frail and reliant on less experienced youth. With abundant playing time, however, and constant drilling in the components of the Barcelona style, one would expect to see those players improve over the course of the season and gel into a competent, if not always brilliant, team. This has not happened.

I’m not as tactically astute as some, but even I can see that the way this B team plays under Eusebio is lacking in, well, tactics. They may initially line up in the familiar 4-3-3 formation we would expect to see, but that is where the resemblance to the first team ends. The lack of pressing for the ball is the first difference you notice. If the opponent gets the ball there should be a swarm of angry Barça players snapping at his heels to make him give it up. Instead a lone player may run at the opponent, while the rest hold back and hope for the best. Big chunks of precious game time are spent sitting deep in our own half absorbing pressure from the opponent and hoping to make a break on the counterattack. When an attack is mounted, it seems to largely bypass the midfield in favour of simply lumping the ball up to one of the boys up front. Now and then you will see a spell of possession or breathtaking bit of teamwork that reminds us why we are watching this team in the first place, but by and large it is apparent that Eusebio has abandoned the fundamental principles of the Barcelona-style of football. These talented young players (and most of them are very talented or they wouldn’t still be here) are simply not being encouraged to develop the skills that would (should!) make them future prospects for the first team. In fact, some players in most need of playing time to further their development (Espinosa, Sergi Gomez) are consistently being passed over in favour of older, less technical players (Carmona, Armando) whose main purpose seems to be to add some “muscle” to the team. And not much else. From the outside looking in, one can’t help but feel that Eusebio is sacrificing the opportunity to develop youth players in order to win games by any means necessary. Yes, winning games is important, and avoiding relegation is crucial, but sacrificing talent in favour of expediency is a betrayal of the principles the Barcelona youth system is built on and a failure in the core aspect of managing a B team.

Sadly, Rosell and the Barcelona board don’t see things the same way and have renewed Eusebio’s contract for another season. We may be in for more of the same next year unless someone intervenes. This is one reason why I am very happy that Tito Vilanova will be the first team coach next year-I believe that he is just as committed to the idea of bringing players up through the system as Pep is, and will continue to give these boys opportunities to train and play with the first team. These opportunities are crucial for the development of these players as they can learn from the best. Playing with the first team forces them to raise their level correspondingly and play up to expectations. You will have noticed that when given the chance to play in a CdR, Primera, or CL game, the B players have impressed in a way rarely seen during their regular season. Partly this is because of the level of the other players on the field, but it is also because they were being coached by someone committed to the Barça system and capable of bringing out the best in them.

This is the other area where I feel Eusebio is lacking and that has made him a poor choice to coach a team at this level. To me (and do remember that I say this from the perspective of a home viewer with no actual knowledge of the man), Eusebio does not have the strength of character to be a true leader for the team. Even a mediocre coach can make up for multiple failings if he or she is blessed with a charismatic personality that can inspire a team to exceed their expectations. Players need a coach that believes in them 100% and makes the players believe in themselves. That is something Lucho gave them in spades. Compare the self-confident way Lucho’s B team carried themselves on the field last year to the disjointed, almost desperate air the team gives off currently. This is not a team that believes they are the best. It’s not even a team that believes they could be the best. Eusebio is not a hands-on sort of coach. You rarely see him shouting encouragement or instructions from the sidelines. You could say that’s just his style, and maybe so, but remember that these are young kids. They are still learning. If things aren’t going to plan they need a coach willing to jump in and correct them. To teach them, inspire them, berate them if necessary. How are they ever going to be good enough to get into the first team (which is, remember, the ultimate goal even if only 5% of them actually make it) if they don’t have a coach that pushes them to excel?

The most frustrating aspect of this season has been watching the regression of talented players who were expected to keep performing at a high level. Marc Bartra is a good example. This is his third season with Barcelona B, and he has been a linchpin of the central defense. Last year when a lack of defenders prompted Guardiola to call up Andreu Fontas to the first team for the remainder of the season, there were many who thought Bartra would have been a better choice. Last summer he was the captain of the Spain U20 side that made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. The leadership and confidence he showed in that tournament were those of a much older player. Watching him now when he plays with the B team he seems completely different. That confidence is gone. The communication and control at the back is rarely there. Rafinha has also not progressed as expected under Eusebio’s management. Thiago’s younger brother is incredibly talented and was supposed to be the Next Big Thing on the B team. He has definitely been a key player this season, but aside from a handful of first-rate games, has not been quite the game-changer that he should be. This may be partly due to Eusebio tinkering with his position, moving him from attacking midfielder to false 9 and back again, so that he has not been able to make any single position his own.

Won't someone think of the children?

So, having said all that, what of the prospects for the future? There are some rays of light. Several of the most talented players are due to be formally promoted at the end of the season (Muniesa, Montoya, Bartra & Jonathan Dos Santos). Nothing has been said about Tello’s situation, but it would be difficult to send him back to the B team at this point. Sergi Roberto is not being promoted this year, or at least we haven’t heard anything, and will likely be the heart of the midfield next season.

Gerard Deulofeu is another reason to be optimistic. The young striker has been touted for years as the “next Messi” to come out of La Masia. He is certainly not there yet and may never be (he is a different sort of player), but he has cemented his place in the B team and his future looks very bright indeed. He had a slow start this season, not getting many minutes, being benched in favour of Tello, Rodri, & later Soriano. When he did play, he often looked “off”. Ungainly, a little pudgy, not comfortable in his skin or in his position on the field. In the second half of the season he improved rapidly. With Tello and Soriano gone he has had plenty of starts, and he has lost weight and looks physically much more confident. He has lost much of the selfishness on the pitch that used to earn him criticism, and is one of the few players this season that presses relentlessly for the ball. Rumour is that Kiko Femenia may not be staying, and Juvenil A wunderkind Dongou will be formally promoted, so our main forward line next year could be Deulofeu – Rodri (yeah, well) – Dongou. There should be some goals in there! With Riverola leaving for Bologna, we can hope to see Espinosa get a lot more playing time in the midfield, as well as Ilie, who is finally back from a long-term injury. Well, we can hope.

OK, this turned out a lot longer than I expected and much rantier. I’ll stop now. Your turn.

A War of Weasely Words

There are a lot of ways to read a statement. There are certainly more than twice that many ways to read two statements. In Wednesday’s El Mundo, Salvador Sostres wrote a very interesting article. It included a quote of Pep Guardiola telling Sandro Rosell, to paraphrase, “Screw me over and I’ll air your dirty laundry for everyone to see.” It mentioned that Pep was blindsided by secret negotiations between the Rosell administration and Tito Vilanova in the run up to Pep’s resignation as first team coach.

The Rosell administration has responded with a double barreled attack in the form of an official club statement condemning Sostres by name and basically calling him a liar. The statement denounces El Mundo’s article and demands an immediate retraction from the newspaper or, in essence, there will be consequences.

One way to interpret this kerfuffle is to point out that El Mundo is Madrid-based, Sostres has had it out for Rosell in the recent past, and the club is merely responding to false accusations in a strong way. Each of those clauses is certainly its own interpretation, and they don’t necessarily follow along logically. Certainly Sostres has pushed the idea of Guardiola being forced out by Rosell as a major talking point, and it would appear that Rosell has had enough.

Sostres’ arguments seem to have little significant backing other than his own bold proclamations. My own interpretation lies between where Sostres has landed (Rosell hates Pep) and where Rosell sits (the administration is doing far better than anyone else possibly could). Rosell is, from where I sit, clearly pushing to eradicate everything Laporta did, not Pep. Unfortunately for Pep, Laporta appointed him and Rosell is still grumpy about that despite the success Pep has brought Rosell’s administration.

If one is to believe Sostres, Tito Vilanova failed to discuss Rosell’s approaches throughout the final half of the season with his extremely good friend who has previously dedicated trophies to him and made it clear that the two would be inseparable as long as Pep remained coach. And that brings up a very serious interpretation of all of this: Rosell is more worried about protecting his personal honor (whatever that means) than running the club in a way that maximizes its successes.

I’ll let nzm take over for a second:

[Rosell] didn’t turn up to the RFEF when strong words and a show at the meeting were needed to voice the club’s dissatisfaction in the refereeing standards. Instead, they sent “a strongly worded letter”. There has been little in the way of public support for Pep and the team, nor any in the places where it counts. Give me Laporta any day. He would have been in there shaking hands, slapping backs and telling them jovially, “Don’t mess with us. Do your jobs or we will become too difficult for you to ignore. Now, enough of this nonsense, let’s go to lunch. I’m buying.”

Yet, whenever Rosell is in the firing line, they come out with all guns blazing. He’s taking it too personally – not able to separate himself from the role that he has. It’s a dangerous thing, because he can’t see the whole picture when he’s only concerned about what affects him.

It’s a fair point to say that when Tito was poked in the eye during a match, when he was, to perhaps put too intense a point on it, attacked by a rival manager (now his direct equal — though always beneath him in so many ways), the club said virtually nothing. Yet now the club is threatening legal action because a journalist pushed Rosell’s buttons, threatened his legacy, said something that didn’t paint the administration in the great of light.

Guardiola made the point that the club kept silent on a lot of things, took the high road. What high road is Rosell taking now? When it’s the players’ reputations, the staff’s reputation, the club’s honor, it’s time to take the high road. But Rosell’s honor? Rosell’s actions? Lawyers, sally forth.

Turning to nzm again:

The next board meeting is at the Dali Museum in Figueres. Wait? No money for colour copies, yet they can travel a couple of hours there and back for a board meeting in a museum out of Barcelona? Couldn’t they find somewhere in the city or at the club?

So much for Laporta being the only one who wants to lead the good life. If it comes out in the papers, will they take Joan to court for having arranged this meeting years in advance (and paid a premium for the reservation)?

The Battle is Won. The War is Not Over.

Agony and Ecstasy:  polarized ends of the pendulum, between which swings that fickle thing called “hope”.  That powerful glimmer of what could be – or maybe not – as it flirtingly sashays from one emotion to the other.  Hope is, according to the old adage, always the last thing to pop its clogs, and it did just that in quite a few stadiums around Europe over the weekend.

With the season over for most European leagues, let’s do a quick wrap-up of some of the results.


ENGLAND

EPL Logo
Yesterday, we watched one of the greatest finishes, ever seen, to an EPL season.  Man U won their game and then had to wait for 2 minutes until City, with an Aguero strike in the final minute, claimed its first Premier League Trophy in 44 years.

As a UK-based City-fan friend wrote to me, “Down to the wire just doesn’t describe what happened – no words can justify the gamut of emotions that we all experienced.  The first goal was like riding the most perfect wave; then we were dumped off our surfboards into the maelstrom of undercurrents, struggling for breath and doomed to drown. Suddenly, we popped up; could breathe again; found the sand beneath our feet and all was very right with the world.”

Somehow, Arsenal found its way into 3rd position with Chelsea finishing out of the table’s Champions League places.  Tottenham grabbed the last CL position for the 3rd round play-offs. However, if Chelsea wins the 2012 Champions League, then Chelsea will be in next season’s CL and Tottenham will play in the Europa League.  (See Champions League 2012/2013 for more details.)

EPL:
1st:  Man City
2nd:  Man U
3rd:  Arsenal
4th:  Tottenham


ITALY

Serie A Logo
Over in Italia, it was more cut and dried.  Juventus (with ex-Barça, and on-loan from Sevilla, player Martín Cáceres) won Serie A and remained unbeaten in all 42 games played (a record 43 counting their last game win from the previous season).  It was the farewell game for legendary Alessandro del Piero who has played for the Old Lady for 19 years.

AC Milan says goodbye to Inzaghi, Seedorf, Nesta, Gattuso, Zambrotta and Van Bommel with Galliani stating that it’s the end of an era for the Rossoneri.

Napoli lost out on a Champions League place (will Cavani leave?), finishing 5th behind Udinese and Lazio.

Serie A
1st:  Juventus
2nd:  AC Milan
3rd:  Udinese
4th:  Lazio


GERMANY

Bundesliga Logo
Bundesliga results were settled a few weeks back.  Klopp’s BVB Borussia Dortmund won its 2nd successive league title, beating Bayern Munich who sank, still claiming that they are the greater and better team.

Nails were driven into the Bayern casket when the team was trounced 2-5 by Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal Cup (German league’s Copa del Rey equivalent) on Saturday night for BVB to claim both league and cup trophies.  What a game that was – if you haven’t seen it, find a download and watch it.  Dortmund played like Barça at the end of Pep’s first season.

Third on the Bundesliga table was Schalke 04 which will be bereft of Raúl’s services next season, as he’s off to join Al Sadd in Qatar.

Bundesliga
1st:  Borussia Dortmund
2nd:  Bayern Munich
3rd:  Schalke 04
4th:  Borussia Mönchengladbach


FRANCE

Ligue 1 Logo
Ligue 1 in France will go to the wire in the last round to be played this week.  If they win or draw, Montpellier, with wonderboy Moroccan Younès Belhanda, is poised to top the table and keep Paris Saint-Germain in 2nd place.

PSG, (now re-invigorated with Qatari cash, Ancelotti as manager, and after a buying spree which included ex-Barça LB Maxwell), stuttered in the final weeks of the campaign, and Ancelotti has all but conceded the league to Montpellier HSC.

The third and fourth spots are already decided.

Ligue 1
1st:  Montpellier HSC
2nd:  Paris Saint-Germain
3rd:  LOSC Lille Métropole
4th   Olympique Lyonnais


NETHERLANDS

Eredivisie Logo
Despite their board room mutinies, Ajax managed to finish top of the Eredivisie for the season.  Twente didn’t have the best of seasons as they finished well out of contention for CL and into the play-offs for Europa League.

Eredivisie
1st: Ajax
2nd: Feyenoord
3rd: PSV
4th: AZ


SPAIN

La Liga Logo
With 1st and 2nd positions decided a couple of weeks ago, the interest lay in which teams would finish in the remaining CL spots, as well as those who would qualify for Europa League and who would be relegated.

First to go down was Racing de Santander – a team which not only suffered on the field, but was led astray by their new owner who hasn’t been seen since last season.

Sporting de Gijón was the next to fall, after sacking their beloved coach Preciado earlier in the season, and then not doing any better under Clemente.

At the other end of the table, Valencia claimed the 3rd CL position, while the CL play-offs 4th place depended on the last games of the season for Málaga and Atlético de Madrid.  Málaga had to win.

All the remaining La Liga BBVA games were played at the same time last night (Sunday 13th), and the focus was mostly on the games which involved the teams facing relegation.  Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal, Granada and Zaragoza were in the danger zone and their games ended, as follows:

Getafe vs. Zaragoza  0-2

Villarreal vs. At. Madrid  0-1

Rayo Vallecano vs. Granada  1-0

~ Zaragoza won against Getafe, so they were safe.

~ In the final minutes of their away game, At. Madrid’s Falcao headed home the winning, and only goal, in the match, giving At. Madrid the win, and the hopes of a CL play-off spot if Málaga lost.  Villarreal staying up was now dependent on Rayo Vallecano losing.

~ In the dying minute of their match, Rayo Vallecano scored against Granada.  The Granada players sank to the pitch, thinking that their First Division run was over after just one season.  Someone let Rayo’s Diego know that Villareal had lost, and he went around telling the other players, and suddenly everything was ok for Granada once more.

When the news of Rayo’s goal against Granada reached El Madrigal, the scenes were heart-rending.  I thought that Villareal’s president, Fernando Roig Alfonso, was going to collapse as he made his way down from his seat to the pitch.  Fans, players and management were left desolated.  They stood or sat in numbness, and no one seemed to have legs strong enough to carry them away from the stadium and the pain.

Málaga won the match against Sporting, and secured a Champions League play-off position for the first time in club history.  What a great start for the club in Manuel Pellegrini’s first full season.  Dutchman, Ruud van Nistelrooy, announced his retirement and will now leave the club.

Real Madrid won their game against Mallorca, and achieved a record 100 points haul in La Liga.

Levante, after topping the Liga table for a few weeks, also created history by finishing in 6th place, thereby qualifying for Europa League – the first European championship for the club.  They needed to win their last game to qualify and did so by beating a struggling, still down-hearted, Athletic Bilbao, 3-0.

Barça’s Victor Valdés created history twice, as he won his 5th Zamora equalling FCB’s Ramaletts’ record of 5.  Victor also recorded his 4th consecutive Zamora – a new record.

Lionel Messi won his 2nd Pichichi with a record 50 league goals and, with one game remaining, has a record total of 72 goals for the season.  Messi also won Europe’s Golden Shoe, and broke so many other records that he deserves a post of his own.

La Liga
1st:     Real Madrid
2nd:    FC Barcelona
3rd:    Valencia
4th:    Málaga
5th:    Atlético Madrid
6th:    Levante
7th:    Osasuna
8th:    Mallorca
9th:    Sevilla
10th:  Athletic Bilbao
11th:  Real Sociedad
12th:  Real Betis
13th:  Getafe
14th:  Espanyol
15th:  Rayo Vallecano
16th:  Real Zaragoza
17th:  Granada
18th:  Villarreal
19th:  Sporting de Gijón
20th:  Racing de Santander

La Liga Adelante (Second Division)

Galician derby rivals, Deportivo de La Coruña and Celta de Vigo will be promoted to La Liga BBVA for the 2012/13 season.  Depor is back in the first division after only 1 season, and Celta is back after 5 seasons.

Valladolid, Hércules, Alcorcón and Córdoba will contest each other in play-offs.  The winner will also be promoted to the first division.

*Edited to add:  silly me didn’t realise that Adelante isn’t over, so the above will only happen if no positions change before June 3rd.  Ha!

 

And that, my friends, is that!