The Duellists - Paolo Condo


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I have just finished reading this book which was one of my birthday presents........

I would like to say that my Mother in Law was showing a very astute knowledge of her daughter's husband after 30+ years but as the conversation went along the lines of "My Mum's not sure of what to get you for your birthday, do you have any ideas"? To which the answer was "Yep, and they are much better than some more birdseed for the garden"......actually, that was the answer that was triggered in my head but which thankfully was never uttered. The real response was "Yes I do, I have a super idea. A book I have had my eye on. Shall I get hold of a copy for her to give to me"?

Result :026: Everyone is happy :052:

I can heartily recommend this title written by Paolo Condo who is a reporter and commentator for Sky Italia, and a European Football Correspondent for La Gaze a dello Sport. He is the only Italian journalist with a casting vote for the prestigious Balon d’Or award.

Easy to read it is focused upon the intense period of 18 days in April 2011 when fate threw together Real Madrid and Barcelona who were to face each other four times in the space of just 18 days - twice in Champions League semi-finals, once in La Liga, again in the Copa del Rey.

Those 18 days descended into a strained, feverish period that defined an era for one of football’s most intense rivalries.

Barcelona was Guardiola’s past and his present. Born and raised in Catalonia, he had grown up at the club, eventually witnessing the footballing philosophy of his idol Johan Cruyff first-hand. With the Dutchman as manager and Guardiola his midfield conductor, Barcelona lifted their first European Cup crown in 1992. Nearly 20 years later and it was Guardiola implementing Cruyff’s teachings in his own gifted and independent way; a methodology which had already led the club to more dizzying success.

Mourinho – a man with his own history at Barcelona – had arrived at Real after the triumph of his treble-winning season at Internazionale, where he became the first man to truly upset Pep’s dream team. Mourinho was attempting to stamp his authority on his new dressing room in Madrid, overhauling the natural hierarchy inside it by establishing himself as its absolute leader. He was doing his utmost to take Los Blancos back to their former glories.

Whilst the focus of the book is quite narrow it does touch upon and reveal much more than just the relationship between the two rival managers and their philosophies - both footballing and personal. It also highlights the impact that this intense series of games had on the individual players of both teams especially those who were team mates within the Spanish national side as well as allowing a better appreciation of the significance to the Spanish of the rivalry between the two football clubs. I think I was aware that fixtures between these two teams is more than just a football game to the Spanish.......we think of football as being 'tribal' in the Uk, but this takes things to a different level.

Well worth a read.


The clashes between these two Clubs has from the time when barcelona started to entertain the masses as Real madrid had done, but the heightened atmosphere created by these two managers is unlike anything that had occurred in the UK, there was never Taggart v Shankley it was Stretford v Liverpool.

In Spain it was Pep v Poke your eyes out Maureen and the football wasn't bad either, but to me it was a pleasure to watch Barcelona play, as much as I enjoyed watching Brazil.