A former professional footballer, Rob Palmer is a commentator, presenter and reporter at Sky Sports, specialising in Spain's La Liga. He began contributing a weekly column to SUR in English in 2015. He is a pro-celebrity golfer and divides his time between the UK and the Costa del Sol.
The Ernesto Valverde Appreciation Society is an exclusive club, but membership should be growing rapidly.
The problem is that he looks more like a bank manager than a football manager; he's careful and considered rather than controversial and drama
Sometime soon they need to rename the Celta Vigo stadium after their saviour Iago Aspas.
Bear in mind that Getafe play their games at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Pérez (in honour of a player who was born in the area but never actually played for t
While England took the talented teenager approach and Germany ditched their World Cup winners for the new generation, Spain decided to go all retro.
Luis Enrique opted to bring back the old faces who hadn't been part of a national team picture for
Monday was the day a fashion statement became a football statement. Above the waist Zinedine Zidane conformed with a jacket and open-necked shirt but below, the cameras were trained from his ankle upwards.
I'm no Gok Wan but I'm pretty sure that th
It's going to be like one of those furniture sales you see around Christmas time: "Billions of pounds' worth of stock must go!"
Real Madrid need to ignite a fire sale; not one player can be assured of a locker at the Bernabéu next season. It's said
It may be wise for Luis Suárez and Gareth Bale to take a moment to take stock and savour Wednesday night's Clásico carnival as there's a very good chance that this will be the last for both - the sell-by date is fast approaching.
Though the diminut
Let's get this straight. I'm sticking by my early season prediction that Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City will contest the Champions League Final... but Real Madrid are beginning to do that thing again!
I witnessed a footballing masterclass
We've all seen the TV detective series where the trusty lieutenant does all the leg work but disappears from the clinching scenes after the ad break. Karim Benzema is the football equivalent to the trusty sidekick who steps aside to allow the star, w
Are you aware just how rife 'dog whistling' is right now in European football? I'm not talking a high-pitched noise to bring your pooch to heel. Normally employed by clever political speech writers, this week I'm convinced it has been adopted in the
Kevin Prince-Boateng and Denis Suárez have been fighting for the column inches in the winter transfer window.
In Spain, Boateng has dominated the headlines as Barcelona's completely left-field signing. They often speak of a midfielder DNA at the Ca
The headline transfer talk in both Spain and England this January window revolves around Chelsea's Spanish striker Álvaro Morata. But is he worth all this attention?
His suitor is Atlético Madrid's Diego Simeone who I can compare in many ways to th
At the Bernabéu a soul-searching expedition has started to find out just where on earth the Real Madrid identity has gone.
The club lost the defining personality when Cristiano Ronaldo jetted out of town. He left behind a group of lost souls who ar
The Basque country is a little like the north-east of England where football very much represents and reflects the people. For Newcastle and Sunderland, read Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad.
Back in the eighties, La Liga was dominated by these t
As the Spanish football clubs take a breather for the festive season it's time for reflection on the past year and predictions for the year ahead.
If only we all had the ability of Zinedine Zidane to look into the future: while many were still rejo
I'm so surprised that Diego Simeone's name hasn't been more prominent as Manchester United start the worldwide recruitment drive to find their next leader.
The fact that he's reportedly the third best paid coach in the world suggests that he's righ
Cancel the plans to fly to Miami in January; the bold idea of playing a La Liga game in the United States has been shelved. (I say bold... in truth it was ill-conceived. It was like one of those ideas you have after a strong bottle of sangría with yo
Athletic Bilbao is a club that is respected globally for being a constant in Spain's top league and sticking to its Basque-only player policy.
It's a club with a magnificent support, an incredible modern stadium and an impressive history but the pr
It's the only time I will start a column about Spanish football with the sentence "It was a warm August night in Oldham..."
Well, that's where I first encountered Pablo Machín. Little did I realise then that this fellow could be the next Rafa Benít
Pardon my French, but I think I've mistranslated the meaning of 'Ballon d'Or'. I always thought it meant 'Golden Ball', hence it was awarded to the footballer whose balls shone the most golden over the past 12 months?
It has been reported that the
In Barcelona there is a quiet restoration of a masterpiece. In Madrid it is like a jigsaw that has been strewn across the floor and needs someone to piece it back together.
Maybe too much has been written about what is going wrong with Real Madrid
It's a sign of the times when it's Clásico weekend and there won't be a parade of Galácticos.
Lionel Messi will be watching from the stands, Cristiano Ronaldo via satellite in Italy and the heirs to the throne of world football are lording it in Pa
What a top manager allows the fans to see and what he is actually like beyond that portrayed image are quite often two very different things.
Mauricio Pochettino has many admirers in the media and has often been touted for a potential return to La
Julen Lopetegui is like a swimmer who is hanging onto a thin branch to stay afloat, but can see the rapids ahead and he's not sure if he can survive them.
The international break used to be his period in the public eye, now it gives him respite fro
Have you ever tried swatting a bluebottle on a hot summer's day, in a room with very high ceilings? That's what it's like trying to catch Lionel Messi. One minute you are on a stool, the next on your knees.
Now he's showcased his mesmeric powers at
I've seen the future! One day the giant European teams will have nurseries set up miles away from base, taking the club to the player rather than the player to the club.
As I prepared for commentary on a series of European games this week it struck
Who would have thought that any team could be improved by shedding one of the greatest players of all time?
It's true that Cristiano Ronaldo has inspired Real Madrid to crazy heights over the past decade but the transfer of his ego and his entourag
One huge order of humble paella is on order for those of us who dared to question Luis Enrique's first Spain squad.
The Spain national team celebrated victories against two World Cup semi-finalists as the new manager initiated his 'evolution not re
For the first time in over a decade, if you were to pick a combined 'Spanglish' eleven, the balance would probably be tipped to the English.
If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have argued that the Spanish stars would dominate every department wi
The English football system is largely failing the young players and they need to take a leaf out of the Spanish coaching books. Who told me this? None other than the guru Pep Guardiola!
One of the perks of the job is that I get the undivided atten
So often I get asked about the difference between La Liga and the English Premier League.
The answer is always the same "Spain may have the most iconic players on the planet but England has the most organised and best marketed league in the world."
After an incredibly close battle with Barcelona last season Diego Simeone reasoned, "Give me Messi and we'll win La Liga."
A few months on, his team are much fancied by many experts to take the title in 2019. Ok, he hasn't acquired Lionel Messi but
Forget Messi and Ronaldo... there's a new debate to split all football fans. Who is the best goalkeeper in the world?
Once upon a time the value of the shot-stopper was almost discarded and the goalkeeper wasn't said to reach his peak until his thi
It was an American voice that could sell the latest keep-fit equipment or Hollywood blockbuster.
"THE greatest soccer tournament this summer," he belted out from my taxi driver's radio before lowering his voice an octave "... on American soil."
"It's all gone quiet over there!" could be the shout from the other leagues in Europe as La Liga clubs continue to keep a low profile in the summer spending market.
There's a trend for the big clubs to go for Brazilian players with names that would
It's normal at this time of the year for Florentino Pérez to move his glasses to the end of his nose and order the finest delicacies from the menu.
Whatever is in World Cup vogue is his desire. This year, it is a little trickier to fill his plate,
The key for any great performer is to forget the encore and depart leaving the crowd wanting more. Cristiano Ronaldo bid 'adiós' to Real Madrid after nine incredible seasons at just the right time; everyone is a winner.
Juventus have acquired a wor
We suspected it on the eve of the tournament, now we know it to be true. The "poaching" of Julen Lopetegui created more disharmony in Spain than a year of political arguments.
Ultimately it was like the step-father standing in to take the kids to t
Years ago, when we introduced the small clock at the top of the screen for televised football matches the reaction was vitriolic. I imagine it was the same when somebody suggested that they give the referee a whistle to make himself heard.
Juan Carlos Osorio is currently the darling of the World Cup coaching circles after masterminding Mexico's defeat of the pre-tournament favourites Germany... and I couldn't be prouder of my old amigo.
I can imagine there's a conversation where som
Whenever asked who I'm tipping for the World Cup my answer has always been always the same: "Spain, as long as they don't do anything crazy to implode."
But forget imploding, this was a gigantic explosion on the eve of the World Cup Finals; an incr
Even in my job, where I keep a daily tab on comings and goings, I didn't fully comprehend just how many changes there have been in the hotseats at La Liga clubs over the past year.
Only four clubs, Barcelona, Atlético, Valencia and Eibar have the s
Watch the tributes flow in for Zinedine Zidane... now!
As the cameras were whirring, the spotlights illuminating the squabbles of the players and the president, he just sat back as an exhausted figure who had claimed immortality by winning his thir
Longest serving manager, purpose-built stadium, crazed fans and a loyal squad of players, Atlético Madrid must now be regarded as the model for all football clubs to follow.
Diego Simeone has delivered his sixth major title in seven seasons and th
My mum used to say "You get what you pay for". She should have been FC Barcelona's director of football!
In the summer of 2016 the reigning champions thought they could pad out a talented squad by picking up a few bargains and the result was the la
So the house keeping is all done with three rounds of La Liga to go; we know the champions, the Champions League representatives and who we won't be seeing in La Liga next season.
"You wouldn't get this in the Premier League," reasoned the student
It's so sad to see the demise of Deportivo La Coruña, now a shell of the club who were possibly the most exciting Iberian footballing enterprise of the nineties and noughties - Spain's very own Blackburn Rovers!
There are so many parallels between
Think of the iconic player of your favourite club, and the chances are it will be a local lad made good who speaks about the glory years in a distinct local accent.
The Class of '92 are making a killing on the back of their togetherness at Old Traf
If a Formula One car has no fuel in the tank then it's about as useful as a tractor with no diesel... and that just about sums up Barcelona.
In La Liga they have so far proven to be the "Invincibles" with a reserve of energy, yet when it came to Eu
'Rafa Benítez for Real Sociedad' screamed the headlines back home; personally I think he's better suited to their eternal local rivals Athletic Bilbao.
There are so many comparisons to football in the North East of England and the East of Northern
When it comes to weighing up a pass on a football pitch, Andrés Iniesta can make the calculated decision in a millisecond; ask him to weigh up his future and it takes a great deal more consideration.
Does he listen to the roars of advice from the B
Ok, he doesn't have the manic charm of Jurgen Klopp, he doesn't pout quite like Jose Mourinho and doesn't offer considered wisdom like Pep Guardiola. You won't walk into his club and see his anecdotes projected onto the walls of the museum.
This Real Madrid band is like an egotistical monster of rock - the bigger the arena or festival, the better the performance.
I once saw Meatloaf; I'd been waiting for years to see the legend in the flesh. When he came to my local arena he was all o
The story of Sociedad Deportivo Eibar is so different from anything else we've ever witnessed; it's like a street busker going to representing Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest.
In fact the way things stand; they will be one of Spain's represent
It can be quite mystifying why some footballers can't transfer their skill-set from one country to another, their talents getting lost somewhere in customs.
This week Sandro Ramírez and Roque Mesa fly back in the direction of the sunshine hoping th
Springtime in Paris and St Valentine's Day evoke romantic images... unless you are Zinedine Zidane.
Whether he continues as the manager of Real Madrid will boil down to two dates with the Parisians and even if they go well it's only a stay of execu
It's one of those phrases I never thought I'd be using as a commentator: "Ronaldo seems to be having a crash of confidence!"
Let's face it, there isn't a sportsman on earth with greater self-esteem, and rightly so given his incredible achievements
Spain and the UK already share so much, and now they are ready to divvy up a footballing soap-opera, suffering a month long plot line, with Phillipe Coutinho as the star.
The Coutinho saga ran all summer with an inconclusive final episode. Unlike h
Nobody was disagreeing with Gerard Piqué when he declared: "In the nine years I've been here, it's the first time I feel inferior to Madrid."
This was August when Real Madrid added the Spanish Super Cup to the enviable collection of trophies won in
It's quite apt that I've been accompanied by Terry Gibson, an FA Cup winning hero of the Wimbledon 'Crazy Gang', when commentating on Getafe games recently.
It's no great confession to admit that there are teams that make your heart sink when you a
If the gauge of what is the best league in Europe is who succeeds in the Champions League, we may have a problem convincing the unconverted that La Liga continues to rule.
It's an argument that is open to personal opinion, a little like the Messi/R
You must have seen the argument over in the Premier League that the same old faces are just rotating clubs on the managerial merry-go-round while the elite are signing the superstar managers? Over here in La Liga it is the complete opposite.
The workmen need new tools. No longer is a whistle, watch and a flag enough to officiate at a multi-million pounds football event!
The quote from the normally diplomatic Andrés Iniesta summed it all up: "Everybody saw it, except those who actually
He's about as far away from Pep Guardiola as you can get but Ernesto Valverde deserves equal plaudits for the mini-revolution he's leading at Barcelona.
Whereas Pep has taken his "man from GQ" image to the touchline of Manchester along with his sty
It seemed like reflective honesty at the time and few were arguing when Gerard Pique declared "In the nine years I've been [at Barca], it's the first time I feel inferior to Madrid,"
This was on the eve of the season when Real Madrid claimed yet an
When Julen Lopetegui announced his latest Spain squad there was a mass raising of eyebrows back on Merseyside as he'd apparently found a theme - Liverpool FC rejects.
Luis Alberto and Suso have rebuilt a footballing life in Italy after their short-
Until last week Real Madrid had never visited Girona for a La Liga match, nor played at Wembley Stadium. How the European Champions wish they hadn't!
Ahead of the trip to the iconic English stadium, they visited the humble, municipal sports ground
I'm not one for 'second comings' and 'next new' tags but... we could be about to see Portugal's latest contribution to the very top echelons of world football.
Step forward Gonçalo Guedes. He's actually stepped so far forwards defenders are finding
A very limited Christmas card list was the key to Sir Alex Ferguson's long-lasting success at Manchester United; now La Liga's longest serving manager must follow his master plan if he is replicate his success.
The legendary Scot is close to the he
I've commentated on my fair share of memorable football games in the past quarter of a century but nothing will go down in history like Sunday 1 October.
We'd all seen the troubled pictures from the city of Barcelona and quite frankly I couldn't im
Gareth Bale back on form, Barcelona's situation is downgraded from catastrophe to crisis, the Alavés board are the first to blink and Diego Costa will return to Atlético Madrid. That's what we've learned from our first month of La Liga!
Right now there's one team that's pound for pound ahead of the rest in La Liga; and it's the British pound that has been significant in the reconstruction of the team.
In fact it was probably the Scottish pound that was responsible for instigating
When you've commented on football for a quarter of a century you become blasé about the announcement of "the next big thing".
I've been fortunate to commentate on Lionel Messi's arrival, Wayne Rooney's first ever top-flight goal, and the teenage Cr
Behind closed doors at the Camp Nou and the Bernabéu, they will be going through the pre-season checklist.
New kit launched - tick, global trip completed -tick, schedule in hand - tick, and then we come to the tricky ones... Significant signings comp
A significant part of the audience was aghast when I countered my esteemed colleague's gushing description of Neymar with ''...he's just not quite a legend in the making''.
This was back in the summer of 2013 when the young Brazilian was about to j
We can discount Messi as he's signed a new deal at Barcelona, Ronaldo's posturing lasted a couple of weeks until Real Madrid appeared to call his bluff. So where do the media turn next to overdose on speculation?
Will Neymar head to Paris? Is Kylia
A gun-toting security guard less than politely telling me to stop diving around the goal-mouth of one of Spain's most famous football pitches, overruled by the man sitting in the leather clad president's seat up in the stands... It sounds like a scramb
If I had a euro for every time an Evertonian asked me about the talents of Sandro Ramírez, I'd probably have enough to spring his incredibly low buy-out clause.
The Malaga supporters reading this know what a steal it has been for the Premier League
So far, so quiet in LaLiga! There hasn't been a grand unveiling of a world superstar for an astronomical transfer fee with the fireworks to match - yet.
Back in the day we would have to leave a gap in the diary for a record-breaking presentation. C
The answer has been right under our noses!
The question for quite a while now has been how can Andrés Iniesta possibly be replaced?
Iniesta has brought authority, poise and drive to the midfield of both Spain and Barcelona for a decade and the co
Mark your diary. In twelve months' time there will be an inquest to why England failed at yet another major football tournament while Spain, Germany and all of the major rivals have flourished. The reason for all this is unfolding right now!
How I chuckled when those who follow the Premier League whinged when they saw the fixture list! Here in Spain, we don't even know for certain when La Liga will reconvene nor the identity of all the promoted teams just yet.
The two clubs who have ma
I can only imagine the scenes as the Real Madrid president and coach sit down to plan for next season - it must be like a game of poker.
"I see your De Gea and raise you an Mbappé."
Florentino Pérez will be pushing for a new "Galáctico" as Zinedi
The worst kept secret in Spanish football became a reality when Ernesto Valverde was confirmed as the new manager of Barcelona this week and the commendations have flowed in.
He's been described as a deep-thinking, footballing philosopher returnin
In the end it was the "Quiet Man" getting tossed up into the night air like a rag doll and later doused in champagne as he addressed the press.
Zinedine Zidane has swung the balance so dramatically in his short tenure that Barcelona may have to tea
The boy from Benalmádena returns home this week as a man.
Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez to his family, Isco to the rest of us, is proving to be the X-Factor that drives Real Madrid to possibly their greatest of their many great achievements.
Zinedine Zidane's legacy at the Bernabeu may yet be the 'Americanization' of Real Madrid.
As Johan Cruyff revolutionised the way Barcelona played, Zizou may well have revolutionised how teams approach marathon football seasons. Let me explain...
Prepare yourselves: an almighty storm is coming and Malaga will be the epicentre!
The forecast is that it will hit La Rosaleda on Saturday 20 or Sunday 21 May at a time yet to be confirmed (by the Spanish FA).
It is a man-made cyclone caused by a
My TV mentor insisted early in my career that commentary should come from the heart and not a script. So, when the 92nd minute of El Clásico came around, I was following his advice.
"The best there is, the best there has ever been, the best there p
I'm not quite sure how one era ends and another one starts but I'm pretty sure we are in the middle of a transitional time where Real Madrid take the balance of power and Barcelona go away and have a significant period of soul-searching.
Cristiano Ronaldo will still continue to jump out at us from the pages of glossy magazines and grace us with his social media presence but I fear this is the final straight for one of the most dominant footballers on the planet.
For a decade he has
As I write, there will be sportswriters checking out the availability of budget flights to Granada to see first-hand what Tony Adams is letting himself in for.
There are similarities to the appointment of another England stalwart, Gary Neville, who
This week's friendly game between France and Spain, which was equally as meaningful as meaningless, gave us a glimpse into the future. You'll have to get used to the term VAR; very soon it will be part of the football lexicon and he (or she) will be
As Gareth Southgate struggles to pull together a squad of players currently worthy of an international call-up, his Spanish counterpart has an embarrassment of riches.
I'd argue that the players Julen Lopetegui can't find a place for in this round
On the phone of all club chairmen of top flight clubs that operate on a limited budget, there is button that says "dial in case of emergencies". In England this puts you through to the agent of Tony Pulis or Sam Allardyce, depending on who is between
It is like someone has turned on all of the lights at the funfair!There was a point a few weeks ago when I wondered to myself whether some of the life had gone out of La Liga. Real Madrid were walking the league, Barcelona looked spent, Atlético were
The first time I encountered Luis Enrique was by the pool of the Barcelona team hotel as he sunned himself just hours before a major game.
"Just look at him" said Bobby Robson, "he looks like he's just off his yacht."
As a player he was nonchalan
There's a great phrase in Spain to describe the last few footballing days: "¡Hay liga!". In other words, "Game on!"
This could well be a decisive week in deciding where the title ends up. It was almost the last rites of the Catalans' claims as Real
The knee-jerk reaction to Barcelona's embarrassing Champions League humiliation in Paris was to blame the coach.
This isn't a sudden collapse and it isn't the coach alone who should be shouldering the blame; this is the result of poor signings and
There's a Liverpool fan who somehow finds me, often at a congested train station, who delights in yelling at me: "What about that Iago Aspas, eh? What a waste of money!"
He refers to an interview I conducted with his club TV station when I inferred
When Luis Enrique first took his seat in the Barcelona dug-out he looked like he'd just sailed into town on his yacht from Puerto Banús - all sunglasses, jeans, trainers - the picture of mid-life relaxation.
That was the image, and he managed the s
I very much doubt that the Spain coach ever heard the famous "you won't win anything with kids" analysis, but Julen Lopetegui, nonetheless, adheres to it.
Look very closely at the squads of Spain and England this week and you will discover the dist
What a good idea to have a mid-season rest; we all come back refreshed, replenished and ready for the second half of the season. Well, almost all of us!
Valencia and Malaga used the break to make a break and others may soon follow.
As the Liga season takes a break, it's a time for reflection and a look at who has caught the eye in the first half of the season.
It says plenty about the competiveness of the Spanish league when I can cast from most clubs to make up my team of t
As the Liga season takes a break, it's a time for reflection and a look at who has caught the eye in the first half of the season.
It says plenty about the competiveness of the Spanish league when I can cast from most clubs to make up my team of t