News from Spain

The football world was rocked this week with news from Spain. First, from Valencia, the action-packed, COVID super spreading thriller that was known as the Trofeo Naranja. It was a match that could only be decided by the very slimmest of margins, and a match that was of infinite importance, at least to the marching band. As if that wasn't enough, further up the coast, in the wantaway region of Catalonia, some Barcelona player called Lionel Messi also declared his wantaway status. It is difficult to establish which of these news stories will have more impact on the footballing world, so I will do my best to cover both.

Obviously, Messi would accept an invite from World Cup winner Zaccardo

Chronologically, the epic match that Milan played against Valencia said more about COVID regulations than it did about football. With 3,000 fans allowed in the stadium, having them sit all in one section seemed very bizarre. At least Serie A has finally agreed that stadiums can re-open at 50% capacity, now that the season is two weeks away. Even more curious was the apparently important cultural tradition of having a live marching band and singer on the pitch and then in the stadium for the rest of the match at the Mestalla. The drummers were masked, but the wind musicians were not, and no one was socially distanced. After a year and a half of a global pandemic, it seems like people would have learned that singing or playing wind instruments are basically one of the worst ways to spread the virus.

Even better than a marching band

Also, there was a football match. That the COVID narrative was listed first should tell you how dreadful it was. Pioli's starting lineup was Maignan; Conti, Tomori, Romagnoli, Ballo-Touré; Tonali, Pobega; Castillejo, Brahim Díaz, Daniel Maldini; and Leao. That the young Portuguese player started again as a center forward still feels like Pioli is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, but Leao did score a goal just before halftime that was called back for offside. Brahim Díaz, Daniel Maldini, Romagnoli, and Maignan were amongst the starters who played decently, at least for a friendly. Also, shoutout to my commentator for using the best adjective to describe Castillejo that I have ever heard: "spindly."

Growing into that big number 10 jersey

Pioli subbed on Tatarusanu, Gabbia, Kalulu, Krunic, and Saelemaekers at halftime. I was incredibly impressed with Kalulu, having only just returned to Milanello the previous day after arriving from the Tokyo Olympics, and was playing at center back instead of his right back position. In the 61st, Pioli brought on the big guns in Giroud, Theo Hernández, Calabria, and Rebić, although none of them were able to break the deadlock.

Straight outta Tokyo

It was clearly hot and humid, and as the game went on, the players were increasingly frustrated and more physical. Krunić had been fouled by Correia in the 60th, with the Valencia player receiving a yellow for his efforts. I don't know if that was the spark that set him off, but in the 83rd, Krunić gave Gaya a nasty tackle. The Valencia captain was injured so severely that his response was to head butt Krunić, and a brief but not-very friendly brawl ensued involving many players from both sides. The ref only gave Krunić a yellow, although he held it up to the whole group. And even though Krunić should have definitely been sent off, Gaya went unpunished for his more calculated violence.

Would still like to see Pobega given a chance this season

That was an interesting turn of events, because after a frustrating nil-nil 90 minutes, it would be Krunić who missed his penalty to give Valencia the coveted "Orange Trophy." It is also curious that Hauge has not been called up for the last two matches, pending a move to Eintracht Frankfurt that the press has written about since the beginning of time and still hasn't materialized. While I understand that Pioli values' Krunić's physicality and versatility, his one sublime free kick was not enough to warrant the disciplinary risks and overall mediocre play that we see when Pioli plays him week in and week out, often at the left wing spot we are supposedly so deep at. If there was one takeaway from this match, it would be that Hauge deserves a spot in this team ahead of players like Krunić. Well, and perhaps Castillejo isn't even worthy of Spain's 13th placed team last season.

Only the best defensive legacy for a star like Messi

As a side note, Messi is not going to renew his contract with Barcelona, which makes losing Donnarumma on a free seem incredibly forgivable. Well, and also losing Gigio Donnarumma. Speculation has him linked to clubs all over Europe, possibly the world, and maybe even intergalactic football clubs. Wait, no. He is not linked to Real Madrid. But I will say that  the World Cup winning Zaccardo did invite Messi to Milan in 2019 on Instagram. So these other clubs will have to get in line. Messi has played against some of the best defenders in the world when he faced Milan, and one of them is on the coaching staff at Milan now. That's right, the legendary Daniele Bonera could be another key for us in the free signing of the century.

Another dull, dreary summer week making fans think of nothing else but the upcoming season. But we do have to get through this European Tour of friendlies, so I guess we'll face another Spanish side on Sunday, some little club called Real Madrid. Maybe they would like to sign the ferocious Krunić or the spindly Castillejo? That would be some truly noteworthy news from Spain.

This post was inspired by the music of The Prodigy's "Firestarter"

Our next match is a Friendly
Real Madrid vs. AC Milan
Sunday, August 8 • 20:30 CEST (12:30pm EDT)
This match will be shown on ESPN in the U.S. 

News from Spain News from Spain Reviewed by Elaine on 11:30 PM Rating: 5
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