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There is no doubt that money talks loudly in soccer. But for Real Madrid, the almighty Euro is not flexing its vocal chords as much as the club would like right now.
Watching hated rival Barcelona win an unprecedented Treble while struggling both domestically and in Europe was a bitter pill to swallow for Real. The humiliating experience prompted a glut of summer spending at the Bernabeu, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema all arriving in blockbuster transfer moves.
However, Sunday's El Clasico proved that while cold, hard cash can buy you some of the world's best players, it's not an automatic recipe for success.
The 1-0 victory by Barcelona, despite having Sergio Busquets sent off after an hour, showed that it's the Catalan side that maintains the top spot in Spanish soccer. The defending champion of La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League get to keep the bragging rights over its fiercest foe, too.
Sure, Barcelona also spent on new players, acquiring Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a deal that sent Samuel Eto'o to Inter Milan, but Barca's squad cost less than a third of Real's team. Also, the end product is stronger, more fluid and more effective, and it's marshaled expertly by head coach Pep Guardiola.
Barcelona has had its troubles this season and is still not guaranteed a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. And yet, anyone who is prepared to bet on Barca failing to repeat last season's heroics should accept that their investment may not realize the desired return. Just like Real Madrid's.
Weekend Best XI
1. Get him an Advil
If it's not one Merseyside head coach in trouble, it's the other. Or both. Liverpool's 2-0 derby victory at local rival Everton may have slightly eased the pressure on Rafa Benitez, but it put his opposite number, David Moyes, in deep trouble. Everton has taken just 15 points in 14 games and is in danger of being pulled into a relegation scrap instead of challenging for a place in Europe, as expected. And despite Sunday's win, Benitez is still in peril as Liverpool struggles through a dismal campaign.
2. Get him a beer
Steffan Kiessling confirmed his place as one of the rising stars of German soccer with a superb hat trick as Bayer Leverkusen thrashed Stuttgart 4-0 to go to the top of the Bundesliga. Kiessling is now considered a certainty to be selected in Germany's World Cup squad, and his efforts have made Leverkusen one of the favorites for the domestic title.
3. Get him some earplugs
Controversial German FA president Theo Zwanziger could be in line for more public criticism after heavy violence broke out at three separate Bundesliga games over the weekend. An estimated 85 arrests were made in flare-ups that suggest Germany's attempts to cut down on hooliganism are not working.
4. Keep an eye on …
Jimmy Bullard. Hull City's midfield star produced one of the EPL season's funniest moments following his penalty kick equalizer at Manchester City. Last season, Hull boss Phil Brown delivered his halftime talk on the Eastlands pitch with the side trailing 4-0 thanks to a pitiful display. After Bullard's spot kick made it 1-1 this time around, he stood and comically wagged his finger at his teammates as they sat around him in a circle. Even Brown saw the funny side of it and praised Bullard's "comic timing."
5. Catch a flight to …
Turin. It's still early in Serie A, but victory for Inter Milan at Juventus on Saturday would open up an 11-point gap for Jose Mourinho's side – a deficit that is hard to see them squandering. Sightseers will enjoy taking a look at the world-famous Shroud of Turin, while soccer purists will relish the intense atmosphere between two of Italy's most storied clubs.
6. Useless and completely made-up statistic of the week
2 – The number of minutes FIFA president Sepp Blatter spent considering the matter before delivering his sycophantic defense of Thierry Henry over the France-Ireland handball saga. Would Blatter have taken the same approach with a player less popular and famous than Henry? Of course not.
7. Fond farewell
Yura Movsisyan. The Real Salt Lake striker signed off his MLS career in style by winning the championship, and now he'll head to Denmark to join Randers.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Barcelona star Andres Iniesta. He appeared to hint in a recent interview that he would be interested in spending a couple years in North America toward the end of his career. Major League Soccer should be so lucky.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
… the court case that could have cost Chile a place in the World Cup. Chilean club Rangers decided to drop its lawsuit against the national federation that contested its relegation from Chile's top division. If Rangers had insisted on carrying out the action, governing body FIFA had threatened to pull the national team out of the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
10. Get excited about …
The World Cup draw. On Friday, half the world will be transfixed upon an African auditorium where men in suits will pluck plastic balls out of goldfish bowls in soccer's greatest entertainment that doesn't involve painted white lines and a referee. The fate of 32 nations rests upon the luck of the draw, and once the groups have been named, the anticipation for next year's tournament will be fully cranked up.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Take a look at Giselle Santa Cruz, wife of Manchester City and Paraguay ace Roque Santa Cruz.
- Real Madrid
- Inter Milan