Monday, August 8

Messi, Figo, Higuaín … when changing jobs is a betrayal

Nobody was prepared to see Messi with a different shirt from Barcelona, ​​the club he arrived at at the age of 13 from Rosario and the team in which he was called to retire. Even last summer’s episode of the burofax already seemed forgotten by him and forgiven by the fans, but the love story finally ended. Three days after mourning the breakup, the player walked smiling on the arm of another through Paris. No better city to live a new love. There he will meet Sergio Ramos, another footballer who will take some getting used to seeing with other colors. Ironies of life, the two captains of Barcelona and Real Madrid, irreconcilable enemies until the day before yesterday, will play next year together, side by side. As with politics, soccer ends up making strange bedfellows.

Suckling pig and J&B

Messi and Ramos may be the first to be surprised by the turn their lives have taken, but plans don’t always go exactly as one had planned, as Luis Figo proved 21 years ago. The face of the Portuguese, when presented in the trophy room of the Santiago Bernabéu, showed anything but the euphoria that a newcomer is supposed to be. His forced half smile, with Florentino Pérez on one side and Alfredo Di Stefano on the other, underscored his discomfort and the desire to be in any other place on the planet at that moment. The Portuguese played his cards badly and, when he wanted to realize it, he was posing with the Madrid shirt.

Figo had been the desperate bet of Florentino Pérez in his electoral fight with Lorenzo Sanz, who had decided to call elections taking advantage of the air in favor of the eighth European Cup. What no one expected is that Florentino, against all odds, would end up beating Sanz and his Champions at the polls. The one who could least imagine the electoral result was Luis Figo, who had signed a pre-contract with Pérez, convinced of his defeat, as a measure of pressure to negotiate an improvement in the contract with Barça.

Once the elections were won, Florentino deposited the 10,000 million pesetas of the clause and Figo saw himself, from one day to the next, changing the azulgrana for the white. The merengue fans forgot their anti-Madrid proclamations (“whites, crybabies, say hello to the champions!”, They had chanted in a celebration from the balcony of the Generalitat) and the culé turned them into their enemy number one. If in Messi’s departure the feeling that best defines the Blaugrana fans is melancholy, with Figo anger undoubtedly prevailed. His return to the Camp Nou was like a horror movie. Five years earlier Laudrup had been greeted with Judas banners and traitorous cries, but with Figo the scenery included the throwing of suckling pig heads and bottles of J&B.

Change teams, but not city

Signing for the maximum rival and having to endure the anger of his fans once a year, with or without suckling pig, is annoying, but when the two teams share the city the situation becomes complicated. Even more so when the rivalry exceeds the merely sporting and sinks into the very idiosyncrasy of society, as it happens in Seville. Diego Rodríguez was a Betis center-back in the mid-80s, one of those forceful defenses that existed before broadcasts with a thousand cameras, who were said to hit first and then ask questions. Known for his characteristic curly hair, which gave him the air of a flamenco singer, and a regular on the coated role due to his wedding with the Eurovision songwriter Lucía, Diego’s life changed the day he decided to change Heliópolis for Nervión, after a juicy proposal from Luis Cuervas, president of Sevilla.

“What is lived here between the fans of one team and another does not exist anywhere in Spain or on the planet. This is a world apart ”, Diego himself explained already with the Sevilla shirt. “The fans of this city are not used to shocks like this and I was afraid that an accident might happen to me.” Although Diego had to endure first the indignation and then the contempt of his Betic neighbors, the blood did not reach the river. The central defender played for eight years at the Nervión club, where he formed together with Prieto and Martagón one of the most fearsome defenses of the late 80s and early 90s.

When soccer, politics and religion mix

Diego claimed that the rivalry that existed in Seville did not exist anywhere else because he had not lived in Glasgow. When sporting rivalry, politics, culture and religion are mixed, as in the Scottish city, the perfect storm is unleashed. The rivalry between Celtic Glasgow and Glasgow Rangers goes far beyond the purely sporting. The former Catholics and the latter Protestants, their antagonism dates back to the early days of football. Maurice Johnston was Celtic’s star when he signed for Nantes in 1987. So far nothing out of place. The controversy arose when, two years later, he decided to return home, but instead of returning to his home club, he signed for Rangers. An unforgivable sin.

Mo Johnston was the second footballer to change curb since World War I, and the first openly Catholic player to join Glasgow Rangers. The scandal was huge and agreed, for once, the two hobbies. Celtic fans did not forgive Mo Johnston for his betrayal, while fans of his new club condemned that a Catholic was part of their team’s squad, something not expressly prohibited, but tacitly. Aware of the controversy that could be unleashed, Johnston negotiated a clause in which his departure from Rangers was contemplated if the situation became untenable. Fortunately, it was not necessary to call on her: Rangers fans forgot Johnston’s background and religion as soon as he started celebrating goals for his new team.

Return to Naples with metal detector

Despite the fact that the Italian culture is very similar to ours, and that they live football there with great passion, the changes of stickers between the big teams are not experienced with the same drama. Footballers like Roberto Baggio or Andrea Pirlo played for several of the biggest clubs in the country (Milan, Inter and Juventus) and both are considered Italian football myths, without partisan fanciers getting in the way. However, there are exceptions that are considered high treason.

Higuaín went from idol in Naples to traitor in the time it took to accept the tempting offer from Juventus, which paid the 90 million euros of his termination clause. For a Napoli supporter there is no greater affront than being seduced by the liras of Juve, the powerful neighbor of northern Italy. Aurelio di Laurentiis, president of Napoli, accused the footballer of being a traitor and ungrateful, and even Mayor Luigi de Magsitris intervened. “Renzi came with a metal detector and 1000 men surrounding him; Higuaín must do the same ”, warned the president, referring to the disturbances that had taken place during a visit to the city by then Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. When Higuaín returned to San Paolo a sullen reception was prepared for him, with banners, insults and a deafening clamor of whistles every time the ball passed his feet. Fortunately, the metal detector was not accurate.