Don’t say it too loudly but Real Madrid and Barcelona have something in common and it isn’t their TV revenue, their ability to attract big names or have media outlets in their back pocket - allegedly.
No, it’s the fact that both clubs have fans that are less than happy and recently they haven’t been afraid to let their beloved team know it. In the past week fans at both Santiago Bernabeu and Camp Nou have been heard booing their teams during games. So how and why has this come about?
Real Madrid may not have started the season the way wanted and during El Derbi, fans’ boos and whistles could be clearly heard. The main targets of abuse were Iker Casillas and Karim Benzema and whilst both players haven’t been up to scratch, for some it was the wrong thing to do. But the attitude of fans may have been a reaction to other issues and not the action on the pitch.
Madrid’s transfer activity generated another summer of headlines and whereas last summer fans voiced their concern of replacing Mesut Ozil with Gareth Bale, for Florentino Perez it turned into a ‘Pete Best- Ringo Starr’ moment and the rest is history. This summer he sold Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso and brought in Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez and some fans believe that this time Perez may have tried to swap Lennon and McCartney for Bob the Builder and Wendy.
Both new players are quality additions but they need time, and some fans don’t want to give them that. That said there may be another more important reason behind the anger at the Bernabeu.
An issue that may be causing fans to be vociferous is one that has been mainly ignored by the Press. Fans feel that players and clubs are out of touch with the current and actual situation facing people in Spain and around the world. When Santiago Bernabeu was the President of Real Madrid he famously ordered players not to arrive to training and games in luxurious and expensive cars as he felt it would upset fans. It was an action that won him respect throughout Spain, from Real Madrid supporters and non-Real Madrid supporters.
It was a different time and to quote that often over used cliché, football was different back then. Yet, as fans are struggling to pay bills and get to the end of each month in the black, watching multi-millionaires not give 100% may have ruffled a few feathers and not just amongst Madrid supporters.
Barca fans too have spoken, tweeted and written about the annoyance of underperforming players. This week in the Champions League, fans were heard booing the team for the first time this season. Whilst it has been played down, it also raised a few eyebrows considering the club are sitting on top of the League. Times are changing and before whilst fans stood with their club through thick and thin, as football evolves, it seems so too have fans attitudes to what should and shouldn’t be done.
At Vicente Calderon for many years, Atletico Madrid was the place to be if you wanted to hear fans venting their fury at players, Coaches and owners. Now things have changed. Diego Simeone came back to the club, preached his mantra of hard work and commitment and the club have gone from strength to strength. A club that was once the poster child for La Liga disorganisation is now seen as somehow a symbol of stability.
Even when they sold their best player, fans still stood behind the club because of the attitude of those still on the pitch.
How to stop fans from getting on your back and getting them to chant your name once again is simple: silverware. Atletico prove that point but Madrid won La Decima just a few months ago and already have fans abusing them. So how do you keep fans on side?
Again Atletico prove that point. Simeone has demanded 100% all the time from his players and also acknowledges on numerous occasions the sacrifice made by fans to pay for tickets and merchandise. It seems to be the winning formula and one can only wonder how long it will take other La Liga clubs to catch up.