Every Monday, I’ll wrap up what happened over the weekend in the top leagues across Europe, and I’ll share what I think are some of the most insightful soccer reads on the web from the past week.
RONALDO BAGS A HAT TRICK FOR REAL
While Barcelona dropped points in a 0-0 at home to Getafe, Real Madrid took care of business with a 5-2 win over Real Sociedad, highlighted by Cristiano Ronaldo’s three-goal effort. It was the first hat trick of the season for the Portuguese star, who also had a hand in setting up Real’s opening goal in the first minute of the match. It was a strong performance from Ronaldo, the timing of which could not have been any better with Paris Saint-Germain scheduled to pay a visit to the Santiago Bernabeu this week for the first leg of their Round of 16 series in the UEFA Champions League.
Worth a read: José Luis Hurtado in Spanish sports daily MARCA writes about the culture of insults between players in La liga, and how what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch.
Hurtado quotes former Real Betis player Poli Rincon, who said:
“It’s a code that exists in football; in my era it was like that, you are paid to take insults. I don’t remember players going to the press to complain, we fought to the death but then ‘see you later mate, best wishes’.”
INTER FINALLY WINS A GAME
While Napoli and Juventus remained atop the Serie A standings, Inter Milan, a distant third, ended a two-month winless skid with a 2-1 victory over nine-man Bologna on Sunday. Yann Karamoh, still only 19, scored the decisive goal for Inter, whose previous league win came on Dec. 3. “After a period of crisis we had a sort of duty to invert the trend, to continue our path to the Champions League,” Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said
Worth a read: Matthew Santangelo of Football Italia writes about teenager Pietro Pellegri, touted as the next big star in Italian soccer, and argues his decision to choose Monaco over Juventus was the best for short- and long-term future.
“There is no better club in world football for developing youth than Monaco, where the likes of Kylian Mbappé have been allowed to thrive and move on to bigger things. There will be relatively little pressure on Pellegri in the Principality, he’ll have the option of Champions League football and isn’t massively far away from his hometown of Genoa.”
REUS RETURNS, BATSHUAYI SCORES AGAIN
Borussia Dortmund has no chance of catching league leaders Bayern Munich – they sit third in the table, 19 points adrift of the Bavarians. But Dortmund extended its unbeaten run to seven games with a 2-0 win over Hamburg on Saturday, a game that marked star forward Marco Reus’ first appearance of the season – he’s been out of action since sustaining a cruciate ligament injury in the German Cup final. Also, Belgian forward Michy Batshuayi scored his third in two games for Dortmund since moving on loan from Chelsea.
Worth a read: Matthew Burt of the Bundesliga Fanatic website takes a look at Paul Mitchell, RB Leipzig’s New Talent Spotter, writing that his recent appointment could prove to be a very smart move by the German club.
“Paul who? I hear you ask, and you would be fully justified in having never heard of him before, but it is hoped the 36-year-old will be a key figure in RB Leipzig maintaining their newly found position at the top end of German football. Mitchell has been brought to the Red Bull Arena to serve as Head of Recruitment. having been identified as the man to find the players to help feed Ralph Hasenhüttl’s team.”
BALOTELLI STANDS UP AGAINST RACISM
Paris Saint-Germain retained its 12-point lead over AS Monaco atop the Ligue 1 standings, but the headlines news was Nice forward Mario Balotelli being booked for complaining about racist abuse directed at him. Following Nice’s 3-2 road loss on Saturday, the club tweeted out that Balotelli, who is black, was cautioned in the 72nd minute after complaining about racist abuse from Dijon fans. Ligue 1 hasn’t commented on the club’s allegations, but if true, it’s absurd that the Italian received a yellow for telling the referee about the racists chants being directed his way from supporters in the stands. If anything, Balotelli should have been applauded, and the referee should have called an immediate halt to the game.
Worth a read: Andrew Gibney writes about Newcastle United flop Florian Thauvin who has thrived since his move to Olympique Marseille.
“The mere mention of Florian Thauvin’s name will bring shudders down the spine of most Newcastle United fans, but in the south of France visitors to the Stade Velodrome are given chills of very different kind. In Europe’s top five leagues, only three players have currently managed ten goals and ten assists this season: Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Marseille’s No.26.”
SPURS GO FROM STRENGTH TO STREGNTH
You can check out my Premier League weekend review, including Spurs’ North London derby win, Sergio Aguero’s four-goal effort, and more.
The Sportsnet panel of Danny Dichio, Jim Brennan and Brendan Dunlop also recapped Saturday’s action:
ALSO WORTH READING
Michael Cox wrote this thought-provoking column for ESPN.com in which he argues that red cards should be delivered to players who commit tactical fouls.
Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron wrote this eye-opening and scathing piece for The Players’ Tribune on the U.S.’s failure to qualify for the World Cup and a host of other issues in American soccer.
Forbes.com’s Bobby McMahon examines the election this past weekend of Carlos Cordeiro as the new president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, and the immediate and long-term challenges he faces in his new post.
Stuart Mactaggart of the Northern Starring Eleven blog took an in-depth look at the Ottawa Fury, explaining what the Fury have to do this season in the United Soccer League to bring back a winning mentality to the nation’s capital.
Dan Williamson of These Football Times penned this very thoughtful read on Diego Maradona’s idol, Independiente icon Ricardo Bochini.