In his latest column for Tribalfootball.com, Valencia and Boca Juniors legend Dario Felman backs Leo Messi choosing Inter Miami, ponders if Gabri Veiga is suited to Premier League football, laments Karim Benzema quitting Real Madrid for Al Ittihad and takes fresh aim at VCF president Peter Lim. All this and much, much more:
LIONEL MESSI AND HIS DECISION TO GO TO INTER MIAMI
I think it is a very good and very correct decision by Leo Messi to choose to go to Inter Miami. Those that are close to him and know him and care for him, like myself, see him as a good example as a decent ‘personita’ (little chap). He has a wonderful family, including his father and mother. Messi has made the best and the sweetest (mas linda’) decision of his life. He has turned down the enormous salary of 400-500 million euros offered in Saudi Arabia to go and live instead in Miami, a city where a lot of Spanish is spoken. Had he gone to Saudi Arabia, Messi would have been living with his family in a gilded cage, where he wouldn’t have been able to express himself as a person or as a footballer… what he really feels.
I really congratulate him on his decision to choose to go to Inter Miami. His reasons were also for football, given that the next World Cup is in three years’ time and the soccer league in the United States has a three month break, which gives him the opportunity to maintain fitness and play in any team in Europe to keep in shape for the following World Cup. Messi has chosen well to play for Inter Miami …despite their lowly position in the league as they do not have relegation in the MLS! He’s going to feel even more at home in the United States too, as there are about 40 Argentines playing Major League Soccer at the moment.
For sure, there are people who are disappointed in Spain that Messi is not returning to play in La Liga. I think Messi feels defeated by the President Joan Laporta and the Directors…. not the club and not the fans. The club gave Messi everything in its day but the people currently running FC Barcelona at the moment do not feel the same as ‘la gente’ (the people) that support the club.
Those that run the club are looking more at the money situation than at Messi…a player who gave everything to the club and has been the best player in the history of the club too. However, now, all of that prestige now takes second place and Messi was not going to allow Laporta to trample (‘pisotear’) all over him again. FC Barcelona have lacked respect regarding Messi, making promises to him that they are not going to carry out. FC Barcelona cannot spend the money that they have promised him, it’s just not possible. You have to respect the Financial ‘Fair Play’ rules and FC Barcelona seem to be all about “inventing” ways around the rules, which they don’t respect.
BARCELONA STILL NOT CLOSE TO MAN CITY
It’s a difficult situation for FC Barcelona now because I don’t know the margins they have in terms of spending despite the fact that they have won La Liga this season and are in the Champions League again…unlike teams like Valencia CF who will be able to spend very little money in comparison.
FC Barcelona’s problem is that they are letting go of great players like Sergi Busquets…who is irreplaceable. You could travel the globe searching for a new ‘Busquets’ but you won’t find one. Also, players like Jordi Alba are leaving; Messi has gone for good, Gerard Piqué has left the club too. It’s going to be hard for Barça to replace those quality players.
However, it is true that FC Barcelona have some spectacular young players like Gabi and Pedri who are both Spanish Internationals and they have the great left-back Aejandro Balde too…who is only 19 years old. They are all young players who can give a lot to the team in the coming years.
That said, I don’t think FC Barcelona can get close to Manchester City in the Champions League. In this day and age, Manchester City is the best team in the world. However, in the future, it is possible and plausible that City might, in theory, have a bad day (one day) against a big team with Champions league pedigree like Real Madrid in a theoretical big match in the future. That said, these days, City know how to defend, and defending was an area they were criticized for in the past…with the accusation being that they know how to score lots of goals but they don’t know how to defend. Manchester City have learnt from their past mistakes. At this moment in time I believe that, on the ladder, Manchester City are currently two rungs above any other football team in the world.
WE SHOULD NOT BE CELEBRATING VALENCIA BEATING RELEGATION
In truth and with all of my heart, we should not be celebrating that Valencia CF has survived relegation this season. Valencia CF merits respect given that it is an historic club with 104 years of great footballing history too. It does not deserve to be suffering, football-wise, what it has been going through recently. I’m well aware that the Valencia CF squad was not planned out properly, last summer, in the pre-season. They brought in players on loan or on free transfers or players that could not find another team. The project of Valencia CF is a bad one. A project that starts badly will end badly too. We had to wait until the final minute of the final match of the season (the Betis vs Valencia match) to see Valencia CF finally stay up in La Liga!!
However, I love Valencia CF with all of my heart and I’m really grateful and happy that the manager Ruben Baraja had faith with a few young lads from the second team (Valencia Mestalla) to get them to play in the first team. I’m talking about young players like Javi Guerra and Diego López. These lads scored important goals for Valencia CF and gave the team joy in the stands and more speed on the pitch too. Thank to these ‘chicos’ in the final 4 matches of the season, Valencia did not get relegated!
Peter Lim has been charge of Valencia CF since 2015 and every year he is running the team more and more into the ground. I’m talking about the ‘equipo’ more than the club. He is doing a disservice to the club too. If I run a business I want it to improve, year to year, not for it to get worse as time goes by! The politics of the club and the mentality of the owner has to change if things are going to move forward.
Back in the day, Valencia CF was Spain’s third biggest club after Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in terms of ranking and prestige. I would say, these days, that Valencia is about the 8th or 9th biggest club in Spain and they finished just 16th in La Liga this season!
For next season, the project has to be a serious one… where the owner will keep his word and commitment to the team and manager; regarding promises being made for the future. That way, we will see a good team start to evolve. However, if the manager gets sacked three months in to the following season and they sign players on loan again or players who cannot find another club to play for and so on…Valencia CF will be going round in circles again and will get nowhere in La Liga…just like this season!
Baraja has made good his promise to keep Valencia in La Liga and avoid relegation. That was what he committed to when he signed his short contract for this season that has just ended. I remember his first press conference where he said that any former player of Valencia CF would dream of managing the club one day. He said that he would be open to staying on if Valencia CF were “saved” and avoided relegation under his management but would leave if he failed as a manager to keep Valencia up.
Baraja has achieved what he set out to do and achieved his objective of keeping Valencia CF in La Liga. I believe that he has renewed his contract with Valencia CF until 2025. Baraja is a person and manager who is loved in the city of Valencia, he has plenty of personality and knows the club well and won lots of thing here as a player too. The fans are very demanding here and rightly so. Valencia CF is a big club with a long history and it has seen a lot of managers come and go in the last 7 years!
BENZEMA HAS GONE TO SAUDI ARABIA FOR THE MONEY
Karim Benzema is doing it for the money… for economic stability for the future and to enjoy his football too. It pains me that he has left. Real Madrid are going to miss him. However, it has to be said, Benzema showed his worth as a striker at Real Madrid since Ronaldo left the club in 2018. When Ronaldo was in the team, Benzema mostly served the Portuguese striker. Once Ronaldo finally exited from Madrid, Benzema really grew as a striker and won everything for the club…including the ‘Balón de Oro.’ It’s going to be really, really difficult to replace him. I was a striker myself so I really enjoyed seeing the ball at Benzema’s feet. ..even more than Messi! Benzema directed the play when he was at Real Madrid.
However, I’m not so worried about the Saudi Arabians taking away the famous and really established players like Benzema… I’m more worried about them poaching the younger players with lots of promise. In ten years’ time, we’re all going to be crying because we won’t be able to compete with the Saudis regarding the money being offered and, also, where will our great young players be? An example would be Javi Guerra at Valencia. He is just 20 years old and has played about 5 games for the first team and Valencia CF are already putting a high price value on him, way above his real value. Yet, what then happens is that ‘Don Dinero’ (the really big money) comes along and young pearls could be plucked from ‘La Liga’ by the Saudis… and this could possibly happen to youngish players like Ansu Fati, Gabi and Pedri at FC Barcelona, for example.
European clubs are going to have watch out now when they are going through difficult economic times. As a metaphor, if they miss the bus, the Saudis will be there for the ride and will take the players that they want. It will be like “picking fruit” with the sheer economic power that they possess. That said, if players go to play in Saudi Arabia they could most probably lose their place as internationals as European managers of national sides will not be following the Saudi league like they follow the European leagues.
I REALLY LIKE THE STYLE OF YOUNG GABRI VEIGA
When Gabri Veiga arrived on the scene as a central midfielder for Celta, we are talking about a young and spectacular and daring player! We’re talking about players who are from “el barrio” and who enjoy their football and want to have fun on the pitch! They are the best sort of footballers! Also, Celta has always been a team that has tried to play good football. Celta was getting towards Europa league places in La Liga and then Iago Aspas got injured and the team started to evaporate. I’m not really sure what happened but Celta ended up having to fight against being relegated…similar to Valencia’s problems in the league too!
Veiga started to disappear on the pitch too. He’s a great player that adds freshness to the team but you cannot give him the responsibility to lead the team…he is not that kind of player…he does not have those leadership qualities. Veiga is lacking the experience and toughness of leaders at Celta like Aspas. Aspas was his other half on the pitch until he got injured. However, Celta is a team and it is not all just about Aspas.
I think Gabri Veiga could adapt well in English football. Why? Because he is a distinctive player, he knows how to “anticipate” the state of play or a particular key moment in a match…to get to difficult crosses and passes and be in the right position at the right time to receive the ball. He has a quick mind, he’s fast and he has “gol” (a nose for goal) which is fundamental in football.
I believe that Gabri Veiga is going to stay for another year at Celta…given that Celta ended badly in La Liga this season and Veiga will want to prove himself there at Celta for next season at least.
WHAT I’M HEARING ABOUT INIESTA AND ARGENTINOS JUNIORS
The idea came from Gabriel Milito, the Argentine manager of Argentinos Juniors. Milito played at FC Barcelona with Andreas Iniesta and they remain great friends. He will have told Iniesta that the Argentine league is a competitive one but he won’t have told Iniesta that Argentina is a chaotic country with economic insecurity and very high inflation.
It’s not Japan! Football is everything in Argentina. It’s really a passion there! However, for the problems I have explained…I just don’t see Iniesta playing in Argentina as viable.
I SUPPORT REGETUI’S CHOICE TO COMMIT TO ITALY
Mateo Regetui has made the right decision. What a strange surname he has! He is a great striker too! He has made waves in Argentine football as he started out at ‘Boca Juniors’ and he was then at ‘Estudiantes de La Plata’ and ended up at ‘Tigre’, which is really just a mid-table team in Argentina. However, he scored almost 30 goals at ‘Tigre’ which is a very noticeable amount! It’s clear that the Italy manager Roberto Mancini has been checking out Regetui’s progress again and again…knowing that the player has an Italian passport too.
I believe that Mateo’s father is Italian and his mother is Argentine. Now that Mateo Regetui has played for Italy he will not be able to play for Argentina. I believe that Italy have poached a great Argentine forward. He is a great striker in the goal box with both feet… and he pounces on mistakes and opportunities when presented to him. Unfortunately, Argentina have lost the opportunity of having this great forward play for the national side.
However, I wish him the very best. Mateo Regetui is a spectacular player and an interesting one too. He deserves to play for a big club soon…