Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Barcelonaís Lionel Messi and Real Madridís Cristiano Ronaldo, left, know each other well having played on opposing sides so many times. Paul Hanna / Reuters
Barcelonaís Lionel Messi and Real Madridís Cristiano Ronaldo, left, know each other well having played on opposing sides so many times. Paul Hanna / Reuters

Novelty value of Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo is starting to wear off

The reaction to Friday's Uefa Champions League semi-final draw shows that many football fans around the world have had their fill of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The press corps waited impatiently. As did those watching on television. An army of Twitter warriors had their messages ready, thumbs hovering over the send button. On stage, Uefa's pomp and circumstance, as usual, did little apart from irritate all concerned.

One question dominated: would Barcelona and Real Madrid be kept apart in the Uefa Champions League semi-finals?

"One prediction I can make for sure about the draw today: someone will say it's a fix," Sid Lowe, the Spanish football expert, tweeted just before the draw.

He was not far wrong. The notoriously partisan Catalan and Madrid media would no doubt have for once been united in Pavlovian indignity had the two been paired together in the last four, as they were two seasons ago (but not last season). And when the content of those red plastic balls were finally revealed, the rest screamed "fix" as they were kept apart.

You can see, if not necessarily agree with, the logic.

Except there was no fix, no plastic balls heated in microwaves, and no logic for keeping the world's two biggest clubs apart. For one simple reason; while a clasico final remains a distinct possibility, it is far from the certainty, or even probability, that many observers assume.

Barcelona and Real Madrid on current form have as much chance of beating each other as they do of overcoming their German opponents. Privately, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, will be confident of progress.

The reaction to the draw made one thing clear: we are all suffering from clasico fatigue. Another semi-final would have meant eight games between the two this season.

The first leg of their tie at this stage in April 2011 produced some of the most cynical football Europe had witnessed in years; overly aggressive, and cautious, tactics by Jose Mourinho, and excessive play acting by Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.

It was left to Lionel Messi to illuminate a dismal night at the Bernabeu with a sensational solo goal in a 2-0 win. (The return leg finished 1-1).

Since then, it must be pointed out, el clasicos have intermittently provided some fine footballing spectacles, and a final between the two would be historic. But the absolute domestic dominance of the pair, and blanket TV coverage, mean el clasico has lost its novelty value.

Hardly a month passes without a meeting in one competition or another, and the time between those is spent looking ahead to the next instalment. Familiarity has bred contempt; among the managers, players and fans.

Not everyone will agree.

In the Middle East, el clasico has long been a highlight of the football calendar, engendering blind devotion from people who have been no nearer to Camp Nou or the Bernabeu than Satwa.

Not even they, however, can deny the combination of hype and toxic atmosphere that surround many of those clashes, or indeed the monotony of regular four- or five-goal thrashings of lesser opponents.

Even the ceaseless brilliance, and astonishing statistics, of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have, harshly, taken on a routine nature.

Barca and Madrid are now the school bullies who beat you up and take your lunch money. And then demand to be loved.

Not that Dortmund or, certainly, Bayern are footballing paupers by any stretch.

The economic success of the German Bundesliga is the topic du jour in football circles these days, and the business model of Bayern in particular is the envy of clubs around the world.

And yet the obsession with the Spanish duo, and the English Premier League, has meant the German clubs have, at best retained a relative level of mystery that Barca, Real and Manchester United do not have. It also means German clubs have been denied as much acclaim their football so obviously deserves.

The likes of Tony Kroos, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger, from Bayern, and Marco Reus and Mario Gotze of Dortmund, would walk into any team in Europe.

And while manager Jurgen Klopp has been doing a fantastic job since taking over at Dortmund in 2008, last week's dramatic win over Malaga has raised his profile to a whole new level.

Above all, there seems to be an intangible joy attaching itself to the underdogs of Dortmund. And never was this more evident than last Tuesday night.

As Ronaldo performed his now customary "calma, calma" non-celebration after scoring against Galatasaray in Istanbul, breathtaking scenes of celebrations were taking place in front of Dortmund's fans at the Westfalenstadion following the win over Malaga.

Supporters of the world's two biggest clubs will disagree, but many will be hoping for a repeat at Wembley Stadium on May 25.


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Walter Zenga is one win away from claiming silverware for the first time in the UAE. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Walter Zenga seeks early retribution at Al Jazira in Arabian Gulf Cup final

A victory over Al Ahli in the Arabian Gulf Cup final will help prove the Italian has turned around the fortunes of the capital club.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National