The Rebound: Worldwide - Barcelona embroiled as the kebab king scores a cracker
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Welcome to The Rebound Worldwide, breaking down the vast roast chicken of global football into tasty bitesize nuggets for your delectation.
Last week, I mentioned that storm clouds were brewing over Catalonia as a scandal began to take shape over payments made by Barcelona to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former vice-president of the Spanish refereeing body. Now, the storm clouds have burst and the rain in Spain is falling mainly on the Camp Nou.
Lawsuits have been brought by the Barcelona public prosecutor’s office which targeted the club and former presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu over alleged corruption, while La Liga chief executive Javier Tebas – seldom shy of an opinion - has said that current Barcelona president Joan Laporta should resign if the payments cannot be explained.
Laporta has insisted that the club have not been involved in any wrongdoing, saying that “Barcelona have never bought referees, absolutely never.” But it should go without saying that what every Culer wanted this weekend would be a nice, straightforward match without any controversial refereeing decisions. Fat chance.
Their 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao saw an 87th-minute Inaki Williams goal (brilliantly taken, for what it wasn’t worth) chalked off after VAR found a possible handball in the build-up – and video was also used to give Raphinha’s winning goal after it was initially ruled to be offside. Both decisions were correct, for what it actually was worth, but you can imagine the glee in Madrid and elsewhere as another meaty stick was provided to beat Barcelona bloody with. All of this will rumble on for a good long while.
They remain nine points clear after Real Madrid beat another Barcelona-based side, Espanyol, 3-1, while there were big wins for relegation-threatened Valencia and Sevilla, but both remain hovering precariously over the drop zone, with Valencia safe only by goal difference as it stands.
Over in Germany, I suggested last time that Bayern Munich were looking very much like a side heading towards a tediously inevitable title despite only being top by the finest of margins – a margin which is now two points after they beat Augsburg 5-3 in a hugely enjoyable match and Borussia Dortmund could only manage a 2-2 draw against Schalke in the Revierderby, arguably Germany’s biggest rivalry.
With Union Berlin also dropping points again, the chances of a truly shocking title winner are disappearing like Neymar during carnival season – while at the more dangerous end of the table things are looking seriously bleak for former Champions League side Hoffenheim, who lost their eighth consecutive game and haven’t won since October. Sufficed to say, they’re bottom, albeit somehow only two points from safety. They’re Hoffing and, er… poffing, but the house hasn’t been blown down quite yet.
Let’s also quickly check in on life in Italy, where the race for the title is dead and buried but the battle for top four is alive, well and dancing a merry jig for our entertainment. Just three points separate the four teams immediately below the all-conquering Napoli, and Roma were the big losers this weekend as Jose Mourinho’s men went down 4-3 at home to Sassuolo in a humdinging game. That leaves them in fifth with Inter Milan, Lazio and AC Milan narrowly above them – and with Atalanta and Juventus not so far behind, the Special One might be renaming himself the Nervous One rather soon.
Finally, a brief word about Belgium, where globetrotting cardigan enthusiast Scott Parker was sacked in midweek by Club Bruges following a crushing Champions League defeat to Benfica. Bruges, who were also miles off the pace in the Belgian First Division A, replaced Parker with former Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion defender Carl Hoefkens, which immediately resulted in a win over Standard Liege and that faintly pleasant feeling of vaguely remembering a player you’d largely forgotten about. They’re still 18 whole points off the top of the table, mind you.
Would you like to see a goalkeeper scoring from a drop kick in his own penalty area in Bahrain’s second tier? Of course you would. Head over to this Instagram page to witness Busaiteen equalising in rather unlikely fashion against Malkiya, with one of the worst efforts at a save imaginable coming at the other end. Tremendous work all round, apart from the global failure to put in on Twitter anywhere.
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There was also some more fun and games in Serie B where Cosenza manager William Vialli celebrated his side’s 1-0 win over SPAL by allowing himself to be simultaneously possessed by the spirits of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Peter Kay in this bicycle kick/’ave it hybrid:
And finally, it is my duty to inform you that Lukas Podolski, hero of both the German national team and the Cologne kebab shop scene, is still playing and still scoring absolute screamers. His goal for Gornik Zabrze couldn’t prevent his embattled side from going down 2-1 at Jagionella, but Podolski is at least in line for the unwanted award of becoming the best player ever to get relegated from the Polish Ekstraklasa.