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Dario Felman column: Barcelona stained success; Real Madrid wronged Ramos; Spain can forget Man Utd whiz Garnacho

In his latest column for, Valencia and Boca Juniors legend Dario Felman considers Ruben Baraja's appointment as VCF coach, fears the worst for Barcelona and Spain over the Negreira case and recalls Alvaro Rodriguez's father and questions whether the superkid is ready for Real Madrid. All this and much, much more:


Valencia CF are in a difficult position at the moment. However, Valencia have contracted Baraja as the new manager… and he knows the club very well and their directors too. He is a manager who, as a player for Valencia CF, very much made his mark in a very special era for Valencia. It was an historical epoch for the club. Valencia CF were La Liga champions and won various other titles as well. (Valencia CF won La Liga twice in this period and the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup too.)

Baraja is a manager who has personality. Marchena is his assistant coach and he was a fellow player with Baraja at Valencia CF in that very successful period for the club. Both Baraja and Marchena are respected by the fans for what they achieved for the club as players, which gives them an advantage. The people of Valencia ('la gente') are with them, urging them on to save Valencia CF from being relegated. Do note that I'm saying "the people" of Valencia are with Baraja and Marchena… but I'm not including the Directors of the club! Also, all of the actual squad also respect Baraja and Marchena for what they have achieved as players for the club and because they are legends of Valencia CF too…they were two very important players for Valencia CF back in the day.

I'm sure that Valencia CF will avoid relegation because, with Baraja in charge and Marchena as his assistant, Valencia CF are already showing that they have already improved in their last four matches. Baraja and Marchena have put 'un orden' (an order) in the team now. This is despite the fact that the squad was badly put together last summer and the club sold key players and didn't make the signings that they should have made either.

To quote the new manager Baraja: "Valencia has got back to being an old-fashioned team." He is basically saying that in defence the result has to be no goals are allowed in, in midfield you fight for every ball and upfront you have 2 fast 'wing forwards' who attack going down their respective wings, to feed the ball to the number 9 Hugo Duro… who is prepared to make sacrifices to make the team more effective.

Before Baraja became manager, Valencia CF were letting in a fair number of goals from dead ball situations…that was their weakness. Baraja has corrected this mistake and Valencia have only conceded one goal in the 4 matches they have played under him.


Regarding Alejandro Garnacho, we are talking about a very special player with a big future ahead of him. This is a spectacular "project" …given that he is just 18 years old! He was born here in Spain. His father is Spanish and his mother is from Argentina. They decided he would play in Spain and I believe that Garnacho has played a number of matches for the Spain national under-18 football team. However, in 2022, Garnacho was called up by the Argentina national team to be part of their squad in a number of matches. No doubt, Argentina then winning the World Cup got his interest up too!

Manchester Utd bought Garnacho when he was just 17 years old for 500, 000 euros…which is a bargain price (these days) given his obvious potential. I believe that Javier Mascherano was scouting or spying for the Argentina national team (under- 20s) and spotted Garnacho playing in England and decided that "this lad has to play for Argentina."
For such a young player, he is "interesantísimo." Garnacho has tremendous potential and is a really interesting player too. He's already started to score goals as a professional footballer too and for all the clubs he has represented.

No, it's no longer possible for Spain to steal Garnacho back as Garnacho has played in friendlies for the actual Argentina national team before the World Cup. By FIFA rules, he can no longer therefore play for Spain. It's impossible now.

That Garnacho was so disappointed that he was not chosen to play for Argentina in the World Cup is a sign that he wants to be an important footballer. Given that he is just eighteen years old, my advice to him would be that he has to be patient and wait his turn. He has already made his debut for Manchester United and he has already made his debut for the Argentina national side so things are happening for him…he just has to learn to be prepared and really ready for when his next big moment arrives. His moment will come, given his potential and also given that he is a forward too.


I believe that all of this corruption is doing a lot of damage and a disservice to Spanish football. Someone has taken away seven million euros from all of this, which is a lot of money. It's taking away the credibility of the referees, people who don't even have fans to support and defend them in the first place. This had been going on for 7 years, passing on information to FC Barcelona…one of the most famous football clubs in the world.

The real truth of the matter is never really going to be completely revealed. However, from what I understand, FC Barcelona were being informed about which possible choice of referees were going to be chosen for key matches beforehand…which gave FC Barcelona the unfair advantage of eliminating referees being chosen that they felt would prejudice them. "This ref?Yes! This ref?No!"

Of course, FC Barcelona will deny all of this and this all might just come to nothing in the end. However, I believe that FC Barcelona have acted in bad faith and they should have put a stop to this situation as it developed over 7 years. Laporta was in charge back then as well as now. Why did FC Barcelona do nothing to stop this? Because they were very successful and achieving a lot at that time, winning titles and trophies. FC Barcelona had wonderful squads, in this long period, with spectacular individual players too.

Unfortunately, this whole episode and debacle has somewhat stained what they have achieved and their legacy …and that of Spanish football too.


First of all, I think that Sergio Ramos choosing to retire from playing for Spain is a great thing to have done. He has completed a very good cycle, which has come to an end. Between himself and the Spanish coach, they have decided that he will no longer play for Spain. Ramos cannot stain his reputation by continuing to play for Spain in the World Cup qualifiers, given all that he has represented for Spanish football in the past. First of all, as a player for Real Madrid where he won everything and also as a player for Spain where he won a lot too.

I believe that he is the defender who has played the most matches for the national side as well as the defender who has scored the most goals for Spain too, if I'm not mistaken. He has had an impeccable career as a player and a person. He is a family man. His decision to retire from playing for Spain is a very, very good one. Sergio Ramos is one of the most important central defenders that Spain has produced over the last 20 years.

Many of the great players of Real Madrid have left the club badly and via the back door…including Raul, the Brazilian Ronaldo, Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and more. Cristiano Ronaldo was the greatest player of Real Madrid's history as a club and it ended badly! Perhaps Zidane didn't end so badly at Real Madrid …as he later returned to manage the club. However, most of the other big players have left under a cloud with disagreements about money, ego clashes and lots more reasons. It's almost like they left Real Madrid in hiding and skulking off, to a certain extent. In a just situation, these stars should have been paraded in front of 50, 000 fans and applauded for all they had achieved at Real Madrid.

The president of Real Madrid Florentino Pérez always plays the role of being the big boss, the one in charge, the one with the money, the one who decides: "I'm Number One!" that is his philosophy and outlook. That's his Ace card.

Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world; it has a lot of power. It's the club that has won the Champions League more than any other too. However, there is a lack of recognition from the President to the many key players that have come and gone. So many big players have contributed to Real Madrid's huge success over the decades and it's a shame that 'big business' interests overrule the human factor… it just shouldn't be that way in a sport.


Regarding Alan Varela, the power of Argentina winning the World Cup is evident. It makes the younger Argentine footballers in big clubs rather fashionable too. Varela is a great striker of the ball and has great skill too. He can play in front of the back four or back five. He is like a number six! We're talking about a young lad who has a long career ahead of him. Indeed, Alan Varela plays for Boca Juniors, no less, which is a major club in Argentina… and the mirror and 'filtre' to the world of football in general.

I do see it plausible that Alan Varela could replace Busquets in the future. Having said that, I really want to enjoy seeing Busquets play some more …i would enjoy watching him play when he is 50 years old! However, there comes to a time when you have to retire as a footballer and leave on a high with "un abrazo" (a hug) and a "thank you for everything" and an "hasta luego"…having achieved so much as a player. Busquets knows and is conscious that FC Barcelona are now looking for a replacement for him.

I wouldn't want to compare Varela to Busquets but the Argentine does have some great abilities as a player when he defends and he also knows where and when to pass the ball too. Varela has great peripheral vision, which is a real attribute for a footballer. He has a really panoramic view of the field of play. That is vital for his position on the pitch.

Regarding Enzo Fernández in comparison to Alan Varela, there is a difference. Enzo was formed at River Plate, which would be like FC Barcelona. In contrast, Boca Juniors, which is where Varela plays… would be more like Atlético Madrid. It's not that Boca Juniors doesn't like to play well… but it is more of a fighting team ('un equipo luchador').

Enzo then moved to Portugal (Benfica), which is a more disciplined kind of football and is now adapting to playing in England (Chelsea)…which is another step up. Given that Varela is from 'Boca' I'm not sure that he would adapt to Portuguese football (for example) in the same way as Enzo Fernández did.

Varela has great vision as a footballer but it would take him longer to adapt to playing football abroad. In trying his very best to win matches, Varela has a tendency to make some mistakes. It's that engraved philosophy that "in order to win matches, you have to avoid losing them". Varela is still young and he is still prone to error but he is superb in his position in front of the back four or five…a really spectacular player when he sticks to that zone of the pitch. However, when he tries to win the match by any means necessary…he is prone to error. Varela needs a coach to guide him.


Alvaro Rodriguez is six foot 3 inches tall. Indeed, he has a lot of qualities as a footballer. He has already represented Uruguay as a lad, which is a country that produces winners and fighters (Born in Spain, his father is from Uruguay). However, given his age, I don't yet see him playing for Real Madrid regularly at the moment. Why? Because Real Madrid would have to change their philosophy to fit with his style of play, which is very much about heading the ball to score from crosses. Alvaro heads the the ball very well… as he showed when he equalized for Real Madrid against Atlético Madrid recently at the Bernabéu. It was a spectacular header, actually.

So, why is that Real Madrid don't need Alvaro for the full 90 minutes of every match? It's because they have Benzema who needs the ball to his feet and then he thinks next what to do it with. He doesn't need crosses for headers, that's not his style of play nor is it Real Madrid's. Benzema plays for Rodrigo, Asensio and Vinicius and all the team. If you put a really tall player like Alvaro Rodriguez in the mix, the 'laterales' would be crossing all the balls into the box for Alvaro to head because of his sheer height, which would eliminate Benzema from the match. This just wouldn't fit with the way Real Madrid play football and that shows just how important Benzema still is for the team too. What Ancelotti is doing right is slowly introducing Alvaro Rodriguez to the first team… 20 minutes here and 15 minutes her and 30 minutes there. However, it is very difficult to be a fixture in the first 11 of the team. I see Alvaro like a number 10. Like a super-sub? Yes!

Yes, indeed,I knew Alvaro Rodriguez's father 'Coquito' when he was a football player too.He was skilful and fast as well. He's one of those players that you would stop and watch as he took players on in one-on-one situations! "Wow! What's 'Coquito' just done now?" He was exciting to watch. He was one of those players that are vital for any team. Back in my day, football was more open in terms of play. You saw a lot, lot more one-on-one situations in those days on the pitch.

For that reason, there were great players on the wings because there was more space. Like Vinicius now, Coquito was a player... like a locomotive... that took players on. Nowadays, that is difficult to do because there is less space on the wings in modern football. From Uruguay, Coquito was an interesting player; he was rapid and contributed a lot to the team.

He was that type of player who makes his mark on the squad, gives everything for the team and never seems to get injured. Out of the 90 minutes in a game , he was the type of player that would always make the most of the one or two chances he got. 'Coquito' was a very important player.

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