Barcelona & Real Madrid renew rivalries after Euro 2012 truce
Madrid: After the storm came calm. Barcelona and Real Madrid players put their differences to one side and united for the good of their country this summer, going on to claim an unprecedented third consecutive major title for Spain with success at Euro 2012.
But just 10 days later, the Clasico clashes were back in the news once again - a whole month ahead of the new season.
The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) met on Tuesday to finalise La Liga`s calendar for the coming campaign and, even more significantly, discuss disciplinary decisions from 2011-12. The conclusion raised eyebrows: Jose Mourinho was off the hook. And so was Tito Vilanova.
But as the seconds ticked away, tensions boiled over on the touchline: Marcelo scythed down Fabregas and an unseemly melee ensued. Amid the chaos, Mourinho extended his right arm and gouged Barca assistant coach Vilanova in the eye. The act was captured on camera and in the press conference in the bowels of Europe`s largest stadium, once Jose`s home, the Portuguese pleaded ignorance. "I don`t who this `Pito` Vilanova is," he claimed. There were some sniggers and shaking of heads. Few believed him. And Pep Guardiola later replied: "How can he not know who he is? I know who [Madrid assistant Aitor] Karanka is ..."
Mourinho subsequently received a two-match ban for his antics, with Vilanova (who would later become Barcelona`s coach following the decision by Guardiola to step down in the summer) suspended for one game following his retaliation as he slapped the Portuguese around the back of the head.
Mourinho, then, would miss both the Spanish Supercopa clashes against Barca - and Vilanova - in August. The two teams would meet on the pitch, but the protagonists from last August would be far removed from the action.
Not now, however. Absolved from blame by the RFEF, Mourinho will sit on the bench at the scene of the crime, Camp Nou, when the two teams meet next month. And Barcelona are furious.
"We are angry, we do not agree with the Spanish Federation`s decision," Barca spokesman Toni Freixa said on Wednesday.
"We believe that an aggression like Mourinho`s should not go unpunished," Freixa added. He also described the Portuguese`s actions as "treacherous", "very serious" and remembered they had been "witnessed by the whole world."
"Shameless," screamed El Mundo Deportivo the day after the decision, while Sport said Vilanova would meet his "aggressor" in the Spanish Supercopa series. Joan Laporta also criticised Mourinho for his actions, but claimed the rules must be respected.
During his mandate, it is unlikely Mourinho would have gone unpunished. Laporta enjoyed - and continues to preserve - a warm relationship with the RFEF and president Angel Maria Villar. His predecessor, Sandro Rosell, has fewer ties with Spain`s Football Federation - and it shows here.
Johan Cruyff, elected honorary president by Barca and then removed by Rosell, believes the current chief has been weak when he should have defended the club with greater authority and conviction. Madrid, meanwhile, say Barca have got away with plenty of infractions in the past. The Catalans claim in turn that they have never committed comparable crimes or such sins as the one perpetrated by Mourinho.
So the new season may still be weeks away, but tension is mounting and rivalries renewed - the perfect picture of Spanish harmony at Euro 2012 is now well and truly in the past. Clasico clashes, La Liga, a Spanish Supercopa sequel and a remarkable roller-coaster ride all await in the coming weeks. And the pointing of fingers has already begun.