Raphael Honigstein, Guillem Balague and Gabriele Marcotti discuss the upcoming Spanish football season and give their predictions on who will be winning the 2008 / 2009 season.
Raphael Honigstein: Gentlemen, let’s talk about Spain now. Guillem, your prediction?
Guillem Balague: Real Madrid to finish runners-up, fighting with Villarreal and Sevilla… Barcelona to win it.
RH: Why Barca?
GB: They have the best squad, although they should still get Silva or a striker. Pep Guardiola is making the team train hard but they needed to get rid of Eto’o and Henry. Pep thought both couldn’t be saved. He will ask his midfielders for goals and still try to get Silva, maybe even Berbatov. They look like the Barcelona of 2006, but without Deco, of course. Having said that, they have Xavi, the best player in Europe.
Gabriele Marcotti: Best player in Europe? Hmm.
RH: I take it you see Ronaldinho’s departure as a good thing for the team? But can Eto’o keep it together for the whole season?
GB: That is indeed the question. Still, I think they have less problems than Madrid.
RH: Why don’t you like them this season?
GB: Instead of Cristiano Ronaldo, they have only signed Van der Vaart. Sneijder’s injury made the midfield very weak, and they will probably lose Robinho, too. Signing Huntelaar might placate a few fans but it doesn’t really solve their problems in midfield.
RH: Do they look a bit silly now after the unsuccessful Cristiano Ronaldo transfer?
GB: Ronaldo gave an interview and said he was to blame for everything. The Catalan press are obviously having a big laugh about it. Madrid truly believed he was coming.
RH: Is an agreement in place for summer 2009? And could Barcelona come in as well then?
GB: Good question, Raf. Barcelona will have elections in 2009 and Sandro Rosell could promise to bring Ronaldo then. There’s certainly no agreement with Real Madrid for 2009.
RH: I believe there’s a tacit agreement between United and Ronaldo, though. “You’ll stay for another year, but we won’t make it difficult for you next year. And we can create a little auction as well.”
RH: So Madrid not good enough this year then?
GB: They were poor in Europe last season because they don’t have players who can win big matches, like true world-class players can. If they get Villa — Calderon says they won’t — things might change. They are still trying to sell De la Red.
GM: I thought he was some kind of superstar, a member of “the best midfield in Europe” last season with his friend Granero?
GB: He is. But Madrid make money by producing players and selling them for overpriced fees. And in England they are in love with him. That would mean 15m euros going to the Bernabeu if they sell him. I really like him.
RH: How are Valencia still able to pay wages? Weren’t they supposed to be broke?
GB: They’re not broke, not yet. They have big loans but are able to service them. Selling Villa or Silva would certainly help, however.
RH: Your prediction for the title, Gabi?
GB: You are supposed to be an European Football expert – don’t destroy your reputation!
GM: Why not Sevilla? I also predict Fiorentina for Serie A.
GB: I see. You’re in the mood.
GM: Konko is a player, yes? Squillaci helps the back, yes? Monchi is still there, right? Kanoute, Luis Fabiano, yes?
GB: Agreed. Capel is also great, best player in pre-season. Navas still there, Renato, Konko.
GM: You see? This is Pep’s first season. The Henry and Eto’o situations are unresolved. Schuster is a freak and Valencia have money. And Atletico will never win. So why not Sevilla?
GB: They haven’t got a winning mentality, Manolo Jimenez is not a good coach, Kanoute is getting older and gets injured, Alves is gone…
GM: Rubbish. Spain didn’t have a “winning mentality” either, did they?
GB: That is true.
RH: I have to say, I like Barcelona more though. Madrid second, Sevilla third, Atletico fourth.
Who do you think will win La Liga this season? Let us know in the comments.
Roundtable discussion printed here courtesy of Raphael Honigstein and Footbo.com. Visit Footbo.com for more Roundtable discussions and articles by Messrs Honigstein, Marcotti and Balague.