Football: Rivaldo and Barca Cast into Shadowlands
Carlin, John, The Independent (London, England)
If David Beckham and Gary Neville can crack their metatarsals in successive games of the same competition, then almost anything is possible. Even victory for Barcelona by a margin of three goals at the Bernabeu on Wednesday against Real Madrid. But the odds on Barcelona doing so, and making it through to the final of the Champions' League, must be marginally longer than on Manchester United doing the only treble left open to them this season: seeing yet another of their players stretchered off with a broken metatarsal at Leverkusen on Tuesday night.
Barcelona might be one of the two or three most glamorous clubs in world football but they have had a miserable time of it these last two years. Since the summer of 2000, the summer of infamy when Luis Figo defected to Real Madrid and Joan Gaspart was elected club president, they have spent pounds 100 million on new players without winning a trophy. The best they can realistically hope to do now is match last season's solitary achievement: squeezing into fourth place in the Spanish championship and clinching a spot in the qualifying phase of the next Champions' League.
But even that looks a tall order. Last time around they could rely on Rivaldo to perform a little magic. He obliged in the decisive 3-2 victory against Valencia in the last game of the season by scoring one of the most unforgettable hat-tricks in the history of football: all three goals were sensational but the third - a flying overhead kick into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area in the 90th minute - was the most cartoonishly implausible thing that anyone who was there is ever likely to see.
This season Rivaldo has been a shadow of the player regarded as one of the two or three best in the world. He has been dogged by niggling injuries and has only made 19 starts out of a possible 35 in the league. His tally of seven goals is well short of his previous strike rates, and offers a faithful indicator of how leaden- footed he has become. Just how low his star has fallen was shown by the reaction in Barcelona to the traumatic 2-0 defeat at home to Real Madrid: no one even thought to suggest that Rivaldo's absence though injury had any influence on the result.
Which is not to say that Barcelona are good losers. Gaspart, who looks more and more these …
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Publication information: Article title: Football: Rivaldo and Barca Cast into Shadowlands. Contributors: Carlin, John - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 28, 2002. Page number: 8. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.