It’s certainly been a week of weaving the season’s tapestry in Spain and wider Europe as time marches on and the transfer guillotine looms.
On the banks of the Mediterranean Monaco played hosts to Thursday’s Champions League draw that saw Barcelona paired with Juventus, Real Madrid alongside Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham and Chelsea with Atletico Madrid. Subplots are sprouting already. The Diego Costa saga, a re-run of the 2015 final between Messi and La Vecchia Signora and Gareth Bale’s showdown with his former employers at White Hart Wembley.
Add to that the transfer trivialities. Real Madrid look set to be beaten to Kylian Mbappe by PSG’s loan-to-buy loophole while Barca have finally concluded their £96m deal – or £135m depending on this and that – to bring Ousmane Dembele to the Camp Nou. The Coutinho conundrum lingers on.
To the field then where only three of the best retain their 100% records – Barcelona, Real Sociedad, and the mighty Leganes. Messi propelled Ernesto Valverde’s men to six points after netting a brace away at Alaves. He even missed a penalty to modestly deny himself a hat-trick.
In the capital, their eternal rivals Real Madrid endured a home humbling at the Bernabeu against Valencia. Awkwardly, the game was preceded by the presentation of the trophy for last season’s title win. Suspended Sergio Ramos lifted the silver sheepishly in conjunction with Marcelo.
Los Blancos took the lead early in the first half thanks to another goal from the scintillating Marco Asensio. After collecting the ball in the Valencia half he broke to the edge of the box, nullified three defenders and spanked the ball into the bottom-left corner past a rooted Neto. Real were then undone by goals from Carlos Soler and debutant Geoffrey Kondogbia – freshly arrived from Inter. An 83rd-minute Asensio free kick – past an again rooted Neto – spared Real before Benzema spurned a golden opportunity for the winner.
The indiscipline of Sergio Ramos in La Coruna and Cristiano Ronaldo during the Supercopa has cost Zidane’s team two important points that could come back to haunt them. The red cards for each of Real’s talisman were more than avoidable and it’s fine margins like these that can cost a team. Ronaldo is out for three more games.
All the talk before the season was of the chaos and lack of signings at Barca and the settled, continuity at Real. So the situation after two games is perplexing. Failure to prepare seems, in fact, not to be preparing to fail. Barca now hope to bed Dembele in as fast as possible and form a new trident to blow away the lingering memories of some Brazilian. The SOM? No, it doesn’t work does it.
It’s a little early to be reading too deeply into these things but I suppose we can at least infer that Barca have the ability to ride out a storm. And that can prove useful in a war of attrition.
Elsewhere Girona are taking to La Liga like a society girl to champagne and caviar – they sit in seventh just outside the Europa League places (here we can get carried away). Their opening weekend draw with Atletico Madrid was followed up by a 1-0 home win over Malaga. Manchester City money looks like it will keep them at the top table for years to come too. The Citizens’ parent company, the City Football Group, just acquired a major stake in the Catalan minnows.
Another promoted team, Levante, are also riding the crest of a wave after coming from 2-0 down to steal a draw and maintain their unbeaten record.
Las Palmas conversely – fresh from their divorce from Kevin-Prince Boateng – are laying roots at the bottom of the table. Beaten 5-1 by Atletico Madrid. The Canary Islanders will certainly be hoping new signings Alberto Aquilani and Sergi Samper – on loan from Barca – can reverse their fortunes.
Either way, Barca have stolen a march in the race for the summit, but the ascent is long…