After a week when I was told “Only four more Chelsea managers until Christmas !” – Real Mallorca play Girona tomorrow at 20:30 in La Liga Smartbank. The Palma side are joint top with Espanyol and will be looking to win their first home game since they walloped Castellon 3-1 on December 7. After that win we surprisingly lost in Palma to Fuenlabrada 2-3 and Las Palmas 0-1. Mallorca’s record at the Son Moix so far this season reads : played 11, win 6, lost 2 and drawn 3 – goals scored 18, goals conceded 4. February is a crucial month for us, we face two of our automatic promotion adversaries, Espanyol and Almeria, on the 14th and 21st, both in Son Moix. Last Sunday Mallorca turned on the style early and scored three goals in 19 minutes in a 1-3 win at Rayo Vallecano. Various Spanish football programmes on TV, radio and social media were praising our performance saying that if we continue to play as we are now, automatic promotion is a distinct possibility. Our away form is impeccable but it’s just these two home defeats that spoil an otherwise brilliant season as we reach match day 23 (19 games to go !).
Once again coach Luis Garcia Plaza will rotate with both right backs Joan Sastre and Fran Gomez missing through injury. Third choice centre-back Franco Russo played most of last week’s game at right back after Gamez’s departure and could well deputise again. One player back in training but not yet ready for selection is striker Marc Cardona. The Catalan, who joined Mallorca last Summer after being sidelined for a month by Covid-19, started training on Tuesday. The on-loan from Osasuna player came here in an exchange with Croatian Ante Budimir who moved the other way.
Speaking after his first training session, Cardona said that he had a bad time after testing positive over Christmas but he realised that a lot of people have had symptoms far worse than him. He’s hardly featured for Real Mallorca and apart from Covid he had a knee injury before that. It’s been almost two months since he played a first team game and he’s only scored one goal.
There are only three days left in the January transfer window which closes on Monday night at midnight and Real Mallorca’s sporting director Pablo Ortells has been trying to bring in another striker. With the transfer market in Spain stagnant, bringing in players is difficult. The club were interested in signing 26-year-old Senegal striker Mamadou Sylla from Girona. Mallorca made an initial bid of one million euros for his signature but Girona wanted their asking price which was two million, an amount Mallorca thought was excessive. With Girona’s main striker Stuani out with a long-term injury earlier this season Sylla played in his place. But as soon as Stuani had recovered a month ago and regained his place, Sylla went back to bench-warming.
He asked to leave and join Mallorca where he would get more money and more playing time, however Mallorca were not willing to pay Girona’s asking price so it looks like that deal won’t happen. The other striking option could see the return of Alvaro Gimenez from Cadiz, who played for us under Joaquin Caparros between 2011/13. He then went on a footballing merry-go-round, playing for several clubs including Birmingham City and Almeria where two years ago he scored 20 goals. Signing possibilities could well carry on until the midnight hour on Monday night and I’ve no doubt Ortells has other options in the pipeline as many clubs are looking to lighten their squads.
FC Barcelona are in the midst of one of the biggest ever economic footballing scandals in Spain and the scale of their debt has sent shock waves through Iberian football. With reports of a 1.2 billion euro debt (730 million owed short-term), the club has no president, no sporting director or even a board of directors to take decisions. Star player Lionel Messi’s future hangs by a thread despite his contract running out this Summer. The string of improved contracts handed to Messi have taken their financial toll on the club, not least because they have pushed up team mates wages (players haven’t been paid for last month) and there are at least seven Barca players who pocket more than Real Madrid’s biggest earners.
The present pandemic hasn’t helped, it’s cost the club 330 million euros since March. The biggest payout for Barcelona and indeed most top clubs these days are wages. The Catalan giants (now reduced to dwarfs !) spend a whopping 85% of their budget on wages. They sit 10 points behind La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid. Barcelona sold their striker Luis Suarez to “Atleti” (one of their arch rivals) a few months ago saying at 34 his career at the Nou Camp was over.
Suarez (Lionel Messi’s best mate) has proved Barcelona wrong by scoring 12 goals and is top of the (pichichi) leading goal scorers. He was treated very badly by Barcelona and is now laughing his shin pads off. His presence still causes panic in opposing defences. The club’s ex president Bartomeu has a lot to answer for with an irresponsible financial plan throughout his presidency in which he delayed so many payments until future dates. That future has now caught up with Barcelona big time.
PS The Spanish minister of sport, Irene Lozano, told La Liga on Thursday that there will be NO fans allowed back into football grounds this season. Let’s hope we can get back in 2021/22.
AND FINALLY, a man is driving down the M5 about 3 a.m. doing 120mph when he gets pulled over by the police. The officer says in a thick West Country accent “Do you realise, sir, how dangerous it is to drive at such high speeds on this motorway ?” The driver protests “It’s 3 a.m. officer, there’s nobody else on the road, I just want to get home.” The officer replies “You think it’s clear and safe but what if you had come around that bend, sir, and come across Mr Fog ?” The man smiles and says smugly “I would simply put Mr Foot on Mr Brake.” The policeman growls “I said mist or fog !”