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 jury is out, and the jury is very much split on what verdict to return on the Spanish national team.
The loss to Sweden ended a twenty-eight-year run without defeat in a World Cup qualifier, so we could justifiably say it is the end of an era.
Who would ever have thought that Atletico Madrid would be the model of stability and the club that all La Liga rivals' envy?
As the 'Big Two' struggle to balance books and form a team for the forthcoming season in a fog of uncertainty, Atletico flo
It really hit home just where football sits right now when Real Madrid staged the unveiling of their biggest signing of the summer - a centre-half on a free transfer.
It's absolutely no disrespect to David Alaba who is one of the most accomplished
At a time when football is data driven, we are swamped with statistics and drowned by analysis, Luis Enrique summed up his philosophy in two words: "Enjoy football".
His Spain team are like a richly talented bunch of eleven-year olds who have been
Spain did explode like a bottle of Cava, just as coach Luis Enrique predicted, however, to ultimately become the champions of Europe again, they need to play the champagne football of the French.
To be more accurate, they need to produce a vintage
The Euro show got off to a solid start, no twists or turns, the usual stars rising to the occasion and it's all pretty much as predicted.
Spanish football fans didn't approach the tournament with hearts bursting with hope. It doesn't help when the
It should be France... but could it be the young Turks? Surely Spain can't 'do a Denmark' and conscript a bunch of players who were destined for the beaches and go onto conquer Europe?
We didn't think the disruption of changing coaches on the eve o
Do you stick with life in your seaside home, fans who place their absolute faith in you, operate away from the main media scrutiny and work for an owner who trusts you with his millions?
Or do you head back into the heat of Madrid, answer questions
Luis Enrique's trademark has been revealing his Spain national squads with stunts and gimmicks.
THE 24-MAN SQUAD
Unai Simón (Athletic)
David de Gea (M. United)
Robert Sánchez (Brighton)
César Azpilicueta (Chels
Will La Liga provide a dramatic final day or is it just a warm-up for Eurovision?
The colourful international song contest has dictated that the decisive games must kick off at 6pm as the Spanish TV airwaves are reserved for the sparkly outfits and
In the UK, television audiences have been gripped by a drama, Line of Duty, where the failure of an institution is pinned to an insider known only as 'H'. Without creating a spoiler, the top man gets away scot-free whereas the failures are blamed on
There are many arguments at the bar contending "the best league in the world"; but nobody can argue against La Liga winning the vote for the most entertainingly chaotic and fiercely contested.
It's now a four-club chase to the championship as Sevil
A Clásico that lived up to the spectacular billing and a Champions League date with Liverpool which was as workmanlike as it needed to be. Zinedine Zidane has mastered the art of management again.
Let's be truthful, the Real Madrid team is held tog
Mention Basque football to anyone with a modicum of La Liga knowledge and they will tell you all about Athletic Bilbao and their locals-only playing policy.
Real Sociedad rarely get a mention. They don't play in a stadium which is nicknamed 'The Ca
It's a week when Diego Simeone, Ronald Koeman and Zinedine Zidane will be having a lie in, putting their feet up, catching a little sunshine, and preparing for the grand finale to this exhausting season.
With their players trotting the globe, the c
I vaguely remember the school lessons when we tackled the term 'common denominator'. Now I know the answer to the question posed by my teachers is... Levante.
I've worked it all out and can reveal that the humble club from the eastern peninsula of
It will be the most unlikely of dinner dates, yet one of the first appointments in the diary of the new Barcelona president will be with his opposite number at Real Madrid to discuss the proposed elite European league.
Real powerbroker Florentino P
It's been just another average week at FC Barcelona. Outgoing president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his executive team were arrested as investigations deepen into 'Barçagate', just as club members are pondering who they want to lead the club out of a cr
The demand for a post mortem on Spanish football is a little premature. Its health is in a very serious situation but there is still a faint heartbeat. The prognosis isn't good, and action needs to be taken as La Liga's clubs have struggled against t
In normal times the debate would be about how Barcelona and Real Madrid divvy up the signings of Kylian Mbappé and Erling Braut Haaland. Both players are at an age and stage in their careers where the Spanish giants would be ready to break the bank t
Yet again Gareth Bale has become an unwanted sideshow rather than a showstopper. Zinedine Zidane will be smiling wryly as he sees José Mourinho face familiar questions about the mysterious star.
The Welshman was supposed to return to the Premier Le
It's a moral dilemma, we don't want to delve into the pay packet of Lionel Messi, but it is human instinct to have a little peek.
The newspaper El Mundo led with a headline that just looked like a random set of nine numbers this week - 555,237,619.
The phone has been buzzing this week from fans of Arsenal and Wolves asking about the two players who have managed to find a way through the English airports on a flight from Spain.
Young Martin Ødegaard is looking for a lift in London with Arsena
To generate worldwide interest in Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona need to be in the headlines - and this week they haven't let us down.
Real captured attention by losing to a third-tier team, with Casanova emerging as a romantic hero, w
Giving the matchday briefcase its annual replenish this week, I was reminded just what a state of limbo football and our lives have been in for the past year.
Sitting in the briefcase, in pristine condition, was the programme from Atlético Madrid's
A seasoned chairman once confided in me that the key to success is refreshing the players from season to season or admitting defeat and changing the manager.
"It's easier to replace a coach than a whole squad of players!" he reasoned.
At one club
As La Liga takes a festive break it's a time for recuperation and reflection at Spain's major football clubs.
Real Madrid and Barcelona find themselves at completely different junctures in the modern history of their organisations. Inside the Santi
This week he was declared to be the greatest French striker of all time; quite a contrast to when Karim Benzema arrived at Real Madrid and was labelled as the new Nicolas Anelka.
The Anelka comparison wasn't a good thing... it was a reference to a
Here it is, I'm finally going to say it... It's time to end the marriage of Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona.
The relationship turned sour in the summer. It looked like a little counselling had cleared the air, however it's clearly not working and the
It had to be asked: "Zinedine, are you considering resigning?"
It was a fully justified question to a Real Madrid manager who had just followed up a defeat to one of La Liga's lesser lights by losing to one of Europe's lesser lights.
As kids we used to marvel at the skill of Brazil, a whole generation has cited Barcelona as the model to follow and Manchester United's style made the football club a global brand. The names and faces changed in the teams above, but you knew exactly
Sergio Ramos always splits opinion; in the next few weeks, he's going to completely divide his beloved Real Madrid fan base. He's still going strong, arguably the best defender in the world right now, but his contract expires at the end of the season
If you're looking to make a 'journey of recovery' and find your former self, you wouldn't necessarily head to the ceramic capital of Spain. That is, unless you are a footballer!
A small city of just over 50,000 inhabitants has the most incredible r
Nobody could understand why David Moyes had selected Imanol Agirretxe ahead of Willian José when he was manager of Real Sociedad, so I bluntly posed the question.
His 'off the record' answer was that the Basque club had an unwritten rule that the b
A football club owner once told me that when he finally sealed the deal, he found a closet full of skeletons he wasn't expecting. At FC Barcelona, the departing directors leave behind a whole graveyard of skeletons!
Normally a Clásico defeat shapes
How do you spot a director of Valencia football club in the streets? Easy, just listen out for the Mexican musicians!
With disgruntled supporters unable to use traditional forms of showing disdain - waving white handkerchiefs and generally booing -
It's like having the wealthy relatives living in the big house on the hill; you may live in the same postcode, but you'll never quite enjoy the same riches or power.
Football is ripe for a major evolution. In fact, prepare for a revolution.
At one point when Spain ruled the world, one of the newspapers ran the headline 'Barça-dependiente'. There was a theory that there was far too much reliance on the players who had graduated from the famous FC Barcelona academy - La Masia.
I managed to make the eyes of Pep Guardiola light up this week with one simple question "How much pleasure does it give you to introduce an academy player, compared to spending millions on a superstar?"
It related to him giving 18-year-old Cole Pal
It's like the day the two school bullies are picked to play together on the same team on the school playground - brace yourself for the partnership of Luis Suárez and Diego Costa.
For years the 'bruise brothers' have been kept apart but now there i
Remember when transfer market headlines were all about who would sign the most desired player on the planet?
If this was a decade ago, we'd be discussing whether Kylian Mbappé would hit the ground running or if Neymar would fit in again at Barcelon
The King of Catalonia may not have abdicated but the Prince has been anointed and is clearly ready for the accession.
Lionel Messi grabbed most of the headlines and media spotlight by teasing Barcelona for the short summer recess as his successor s
When 12-year-old Lionel Messi agreed to sign for FC Barcelona, a signature on a napkin was enough to seal the deal; now there aren't enough napkins in the world to cover the paperwork. It threatens to be the most complicated legal battle the business
A seasoned manager once told me that the first thing he does when taking on a new job is seek out the most disruptive and influential character in the changing room, make an example of him in week one and bring him back into the fold the following we
It was following a pretty routine pre-match interview, you know the kind, "There's no easy games in the Premier League... blah, blah..." when I brought up the subject of Barcelona.
I wasn't even talking about the football club, Ronald Koeman had ju
Gareth Bale used to be a footballer who divided defences, now he's a man who divides opinion.
In the opinion of Real Madrid, their manager and supporters, he's a waste of space who is drawing £600,000 euros per week for doing very little. He needs
The first time I cast eyes on Íker Casillas, he was sitting in the passenger's seat of his dad's car leaving the secret exit of the Bernabéu Stadium.
My TV crew and I were waiting to follow Steve McManaman back to his home as part of a 'day in the
When Zinedine Zidane decided he'd get the band back together again and give them one final farewell tour, very few people thought it would end well.
A year ago this week, Real Madrid were a dysfunctional mess as they lost 3-7 to capital rivals Atlé
I used to give a tip to tourists who, through bad luck, visited the beautiful city of Barcelona on a weekend when the main team in town was away: "Get the tourist bus and stop off at the Olympic Stadium."
It was easy to pick up a ticket for an Espa
When they look back at the history book on this La Liga season, it will go down as one of the least notable in decades.
The motivation has been to just complete the campaign; but, in truth, it is mainly a year of transition with Real Madrid a littl
Cast your minds back to the time when a supply teacher took over the classroom from the regular tutor. At first, he's welcomed for his laissez faire attitude which gives the kids freedom to express themselves but after a few weeks, and, especially at
It's looking increasingly likely that La Liga's run-in will be decided by the club that has the "X Factor". Or, to be more accurate, the "Z factor".
A whole season ago, Zinedine Zidane returned to Real Madrid with 11 games remaining and discovered
At least in lockdown we had an excuse for not knowing what day it was; the return of La Liga and other top-class football has left us completely confused.
First impressions of the "new normal" are favourable, especially in Spanish football.
One rainy afternoon at the FC Barcelona museum I stood for what seemed to be an hour, transfixed by a video wall where fans from all over the globe sang El Cant del Barça, the club hymn in unison. Little did I know that a couple of years later this c
The silly season has started before the soccer season has reconvened and if you believe all you read, Newcastle United could have the most star-studded forward line-up in European football next season.
It's easy and lazy journalism: use the name of
Those fans who have been desperate for their fix of football, rehashing any fag ends from days gone by, need to be prepared for an overdose. From the famine of absolutely no live football since March, there will be a feast with plans for at least a g
Anyone who was the supremo of swapping football stickers (or cigarette cards for older readers) could soon be much sought after by the leading football clubs.
Directors of football could be replaced by savvy twelve-year-olds who understand the valu
Television remotes at the ready, iron out those football scarves, professional football is very close to returning - in Spain at least.
La Liga is a few weeks ahead of the Premier League and the decision makers are on a mission to get the competiti
So, the call has gone out: "Let's get the band back together".
La Liga's players are tuning up again with the intention of finishing off the season and providing some much-needed entertainment.
Of course, health comes absolutely above anything
Cameras rolling, the luxury car pulls up to the kerb of one of Madrid's swankiest hotels; the concierge opens the door to one of Spain's most recognisable characters, who duly fills the night air with unprintable expletives.
The idea was to illustr
In this time of reflection, in my office sits a single football boot. It's not just any football boot... it's the only boot I ever scored a goal with - and it's not even mine.
I borrowed it from a footballer who I regard as the best there has ever
The reputation of FC Barcelona as the club held in the highest esteem for its pure football and proudest principles appears to be in ruins.
'Més que un club' is the slogan of an entity that boasts to be 'more than a club', refusing to sully the shi
It's time for top-level footballers to stop juggling toilet rolls and posting Instagram pictures from their palatial villas and tune in with the current world mood.
The reaction to the state of emergency has been quite unsavoury and damaging to the
Football, like life for all of us, is at standstill. If I had a euro for every time I've been asked "will the season be completed?", I'd be able to bathe in contraband antibacterial handwash and sleep on a bed of cushioned, luxury loo roll.
With all this time for reflection I thought it would be a good time to cast the mind back over the past quarter of a century of commentating on La Liga and come up with my dream team.
He may have preceded Paul Pogba and the Chelsea physio as Jose
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were all together on the football terraces instead of staring in isolation into the uncertain distance from the terraces of our homes?
UEFA came up with a plan last week for when the world comes out of the tunnel and
Anyone who was shocked by Atlético Madrid knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League has been oblivious to exactly what the club is about.
They may be 'anti-heroes' but the team, coach and the colourful fans are certainly not 'anti-football' wh
For decades El Clásico was a showcase of the greatest footballers on the planet; now it's in danger of just becoming another game of first-class football.
Every year since 1996, the FIFA World Player of the Year played for La Liga's big two or went
The biggest obstacle to Zinedine Zidane being recognised as one of the greatest coaches in world football is Zinedine Zidane the footballer.
If only he could express himself in a press conference the way he spoke with a football or be as demonstrat
Just when Manchester United thought they'd cornered the market of bizarre winter signings, Barcelona turn up and blow them out of the water.
Odion Ighalo's unexpected transfer from the Chinese Super League to the Premier League appeared to be the w
When it comes to football, Atlético Madrid are just like Andy Ruiz Jr, the ugly fighter than nobody fancies to become champion, but likewise nobody wants to step into the ring with.
Liverpool's biggest obstacle to regaining their European title is
If you were to liken Getafe to an English club, you'd have to go for Millwall whose fans proudly chant: "No one likes us, and we don't care."
Like Millwall they are based in an unfashionable part of the country's capital, they bask in their unpopul
What do you get for a combined 350-million-euro summer investment in the transfer market? A poor six-month return appears to be the answer.
Eden Hazard, João Félix and Antoine Griezmann jostled for the summer headlines but come the winter stock tak
One day, Quique Setién was staring peacefully at the cows in Cantabria; the next, he was herding thoroughbreds in Catalonia.
He's left behind the calm life in northern Spain to enter the eye of a storm in Barcelona, as a surprise replacement for Er
"Explain VAR to us in your SUR column!", requested a rather confused football fan I met on the Costa this week.
Well, they only give me 500 words to play with, so it won't exactly be comprehensive!
As an international commentator, I was invited t
It's that time of year when the agents, friends of agents and 'influencers' get themselves busy as the winter transfer window creaks open.
If you see me on a Costa boardwalk over the next couple of weeks please don't let them know back home, I'm in
As La Liga rests for the mid-season break, it's pretty much all as expected for all but one team. Real Sociedad are rebuilding in more ways than one and are exceeding expectations while having an absolute ball.
This is the club that used to have a
It used to be like the world's greatest fashion show when a new vogue would be unveiled, and the globe's 'Galácticos' would strut their stuff.
Don't get me wrong, 'El Gran Clásico' is still one of the greatest sporting sights, but it appears to hav
Some footballers invest millions in experts to cultivate their brand and personality, Joaquín Sánchez needs none of that.
You could make this fellow up. He's the most loveable player, at one of the most likeable clubs - Real Betis. Last weekend he
As a guest on Liverpool FC's global TV station, I was put on the spot this week when asked if Lionel Messi really deserved to be crowned the best player in the world ahead of their own giant Virgil van Dijk.
I referred the host back to an old comme
What's worse for a footballing superstar in his downtime - a game of golf or arranging an internationally renowned tennis tournament?
Both are the root of all evil according to the Spanish media and have been used as a club, or racquet, to beat Gar
When Spain completed qualification for the European Championships, we expected an outpouring of emotion - just not the kind we encountered.
Robert Moreno celebrated on the final whistle after hammering Romania to secure a seeded spot in the draw fo
For the managers of the La Liga giants, the international breaks are like islands in the ocean; if they can reach the next one safely it's time to assess exactly where they are on the journey.
Neither Ernesto Valverde nor Zinedine Zidane will feel
Ernesto Valverde's honeymoon is well and truly over and he's going through a period of domestic uncertainty that will decide whether he'll get a divorce from Barcelona Football Club.
If you judge by appearances in league tables, all is fine and dan
Rugby Union is a sport I've painstakingly tried to watch and enjoy without any success but my latest attempt has convinced me that football can learn from the way the odd-shaped ball game utilises the VAR.
Quite frankly I'm bored by the game but in
Just when will the guardians of Spanish football learn? To become the best league in the world you need to be able to schedule and market the biggest club game in the world.
Over the years, uncertainty over El Clásico has led to us commentating fro
Spain have made it to the Euro 2020 finals but it's not the national team we know or anyone recognises anymore. When they scraped the equalising goal to clinch qualification, not one player from the big three clubs, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atlético
There's an incredible ignorance in England over the methods of Pep Guardiola, possibly the finest judge of a young footballer and what it takes to nurture him to the absolute top of the game.
Guardiola oversaw the development of the finest midfield
The only time Granada CF made any international impact was when Tony Adams did a 'David Brent' style dance on the training field and it went viral.
That was when the Andalusian club was at its lowest ebb; Adams was a laughing stock and David Brent
In a quiet moment on the day of a Clásico, about twelve years ago, I flicked through the channels and stumbled upon FC Barcelona's TV station: it was just like watching the first team. It was almost as if they were developing clones in every position
The first week of the Champions League has been like the first hour of a house party when all of the different personalities mark their entrance in a vastly different manner.
Real Madrid are concocting a cocktail of what's left from previous celebr
As far as making managerial decisions go, replacing Marcelino with a rookie manager makes about as much sense as bringing in Gary Neville for Nuno Espirito Santo.
This is all part of the madness of the Mestalla and the whim of Peter Lim, a billiona
So, after a summer of newspaper headlines, none of the hyped-up superstars got the multi-million-euro moves they so desired!
My prediction was spot on; the names of Neymar, Paul Pogba, Gareth Bale and Christian Eriksen would not be ironed onto the
Remember those days, not so very long ago, when FC Barcelona was held up as the model for all to follow?
The team was packed with graduates of the famous La Masia academy and complemented with a handful of world superstars. The club had an enviable
Any multi-million business deal is dependent on a due diligence investigation, so I wonder just what on earth Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing at?
Neymar is loving being the centre of attention as the two Spanish giants play tug-of-war over th
Who would have thought that the club once considered to be the craziest in the world is now the model of normality?
Jesús Gil, the president who courted controversy, cut a figure like one of the Sopranos and changed managers as often as his shirts
The most frequently asked questions by fans of Spanish football are definitely: "Where can we see the game on television?" and "What day will it be played?"
Rarely can I give the answer to either; it's not ignorance, it's just a downright lack of p
The public game of poker between Real Madrid, Gareth Bale and Zinedine Zidane is now getting to the point where the stakes are higher than ever. The club wants to cash in on the Welshman, the manager wants to speculate the money, but the player doesn
It isn't a move that has captured headlines but there are very few transfers that tick as many boxes as Kieran Trippier to Atlético Madrid: the players are happy, the clubs are happy, and the fans should be happy.
It's very rare for a British playe
There's a whole circus surrounding football and there seems to be more time devoted to speculating than covering the actual games. Will he? Won't he? And if he does, where and when will he do it?
Neymar has gone AWOL, Gareth Bale got screamed at fo
It's been the summer of a star trek for the next generation of Spanish footballing superstars.
Manchester City fans are eagerly asking about Rodri, their new record signing; West Ham followers are very excited about Pablo Fornals; and the Spanish p
Roll up, roll up... Get ready to jump on board the most star-studded football merry-go-round in the history of football.
This summer is going to be a headline writer's dream, with superstar names screaming out from the front pages of the sports dai
Well, we know he's not a rap star but that's about all we really know about Robert Moreno, or 'Bobby Brown' as an online translator will tell you - the new Spain head coach.
Google went into overdrive on Wednesday when it was announced that Luis En
So now we know who wins when a billionaire fights a multi-millionaire; it the same as when a president takes on a captain or father takes on a son.
You don't get to the top of the largest construction business in Spain and run arguably the world's
At the turning point of the season a very strange thing happened in Valencia; they didn't sack their coach!
In a decade-long game of stick or twist the club had always opted for twist, and the cards they chose never improved their hand.
Gareth Bale ditching the lap of appreciation was symbolic; for not just him but many in a very strange and unspectacular season in La Liga.
It now seems that the circuit of the stadium at the final home game of the season is obligatory, even if it
Last summer it was all subtle lighting, expensive editing, moody locations and pensive posturing as Antoine Griezmann pondered publicly on 'La Decisión'. The climax was he stayed at Atlético Madrid.
The sequel was a low-budget job, shot against a b
At almost any club in Europe clinching the double-double would ensure you a footballing sainthood; at Barcelona it may get you the sack!
It's feasible that Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino could finish the season without a trophy to show for th
Occasionally when I was commentating on a Lionel Messi wondergoal I'd be concerned that I'd gone over the top with the hyperbole.
"The best there is, the best there has ever been and the best there will ever be..." was how I verbosely summed up one
He could well have ended Phil Jones' top-level career, Fred was frazzled, and David de Gea looked like the kid forced to go in goal because he is lanky. Manchester United were the latest victims of the greatest footballer who has ever walked this pla
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