Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid move three points clear in Spain ahead of the winter break with his fifth hat-trick this season in Saturday's 6-2 win at Sevilla, as both teams had a player sent off.
There were contrasting fortunes for the two superstars of La Liga as Lionel Messi missed an injury time penalty for Barcelona in the Nou Camp to allow Real Madrid to go top as Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a quickfire hat-trick.
It was Fernando Roig who said it best, explaining the truth that lies behind the Spanish League or the LFP. "You go to a league meeting and you discuss things, you explain, you talk about your position for half an hour," the Villarreal president told the radio station Cadena Cope, "and then it turns out to be completely worthless. There you are making proposals, analyzing the situation and it means nothing because the decision has been taken by in some restaurant the day before the meeting. You can talk, but the decision has been made and there is nothing you can do."
Two games, 11 goals and one mighty familiar looking league table. A player's strike denied the Spanish league its opening round of games and put everything back by seven days, turning Week Two into Week One, but it only delayed the inevitable. And the inevitable still arrived with indecent haste, not even hanging on for a fortnight or two. When it did, it brought with it laments and arguments.
They blew their opponents apart, tearing into them, voracious, implacable, unstoppable. They seemed to be coming from everywhere, swarming all over you like some kind of biblical plague. When people asked what the secret recipe was, the answer was: well, yeah, a secret recipe. At halftime they took special shakes, fruit and vegetable purées prescribed by a doctor that were a soccer player's equivalent of Popeye's can of Spinach. And then they went back onto the pitch and ripped into their opponents a little more.
When 18 of Spain's 20 First Division clubs agreed to a collective TV deal that enshrined inequality, giving Madrid and Barcelona more than a third of the money all to themselves, it appeared to be definitive proof that they had finally given up. They might as well offer their congratulations to Madrid and Barcelona for winning the next 50 league titles.
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Every summer, football clubs all over the world throw their money away. In Granada CF's case, quite literally. One morning in July, the Spanish second-division team awoke to find that the money earned from season-ticket sales -- which it had handily "stored" in bin bags -- had been thrown out by the cleaner. Already racked by debt and in administration, Granada had lost an estimated $500,000 thanks to a woman with a mop and bucket. Luckily, in the end most the cash was found in a recycling box.
When people name their favorites for the World Cup, Brazil comes up every time. The Seleção conjures up images of excitement and artful soccer. With a record five World Cup titles, it's the most successful team as well, and is the favorite to add a sixth crown in South Africa in July.