Sunday night’s top-of-the-table clash between Valencia and Barcelona at Mestalla, in which a 1-1 draw was played out, was marred by the controversy of a Lionel Messi goal that clearly crossed the line but was not given. This meant that instead of the focus being on a thrilling game, where Los Che proved their title credentials and the Blaugrana probably played some of the best football they have in 2017-18 – making them well-backed on sports betting sites – the majority of the attention was paid to the goal that wasn’t, especially over in Catalonia.
The incident once again raises the question - why is there no goal-line technology in La Liga, which markets itself as arguably the best League in the world? When it comes to organisation and being ahead of the times, or even keeping up with the times in this case, the top flight is nowhere near the quality of the football that it produces.
Last year, La Liga chief Javier Tebas claimed that goal-line technology was not affordable. As it stands, Spain’s top division is the only one out of Europe’s top five Leagues to not have the technology. Despite that, Tebas suggested he had been pushing for it for two years after the furore surrounding Messi’s phantom goal at the weekend.
“If I couldn’t see that with the benefit of video replays then I’m blind, but we’re hopeful that VAR technology will be able to solve these situations over the next few seasons,” Tebas told reporters. “La Liga has been pushing for this technology for several years and has worked hard on making others agree as we have a real desire to bring it in. Of course, technology still has problems, like it has been the case in Italy, Germany and Portugal – no one League has made a fool of themselves with their approach as it’s still trial and error.”
Barca have every right to feel aggrieved with the incident. On paper, that goal means they win the game and puts them right in the clear for the title. It seems inexplicable that the referee, or more so his assistant, did not spot that the goal had crossed the line. But to make that decision in a split second, when you are perhaps not 100 percent sure whether it has crossed the line, when the Mestalla crowd is ready to turn into a cauldron of anger against you, is not a fair situation at all.
As is so often the case, nobody put the affair into better perspective than Barca Coach Ernesto Valverde.
“The Messi goal was seen clearly on television, but it’s very difficult to see it on the pitch,” he said. “Iglesias Villanueva's refereeing was very good, it was just that one moment. And if he says that he didn’t see it, then it doesn’t matter. It’s not easy for people to understand that what’s seen on the television is not always the same as on the pitch. I’ve talked to him and I know what he’s going through. It isn’t fair that he’s being treated the way he is.”
You could say it is all part of the drama of La Liga, but goal-line technology cannot come quick enough in Spain, as Sunday showed.