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Valencia-Athletic: Marcelino, Bordalás and the "other football"


The first leg of the Copa del Rey tie between Athletic and Valencia stirred the embers. From within San Mamés, those connected to Athletic and ever further afield there was plenty of criticism over the footballing formula employed by José Bordalás, the same that he used at Getafe and which characterizes his teams, above all when playing away from home: unprejudiced and tough football, giving nothing away cheaply, avoiding every margin for error, and looking to take advantage of any weakness in the opposition. And when a lead is achieved, to play as little football as possible. It is also a style of play that tests the permissiveness of the match officials to the limit. Athletic boss Marcelino complained that the second half lasted 51 minutes but the ball was only in play for 20.

It is what former Real Madrid and Spain manager José Antonio Camacho called “the other football,” alluding to the use of these resources at determinate stages of the game when required, which is something pretty much every team does. The difference between Bordalás and other coaches is that the “other football” is not so much an exception to the rule, but rather the essence of the model itself. Valencia lead LaLiga in fouls committed, as did Getafe when Bordalás was at the helm. The bill for is paid in yellow and red cards, in which Valencia also have no equal in the division, in the second case ex aequo with Levante and Espanyol. The data suggests that Valencia know this style of play will cost them in suspensions, but take on that risk anyway.

Marcelino to return to Mestalla

For some observers it is a valid model as long as it produces results. For others, who wouldn’t cross the street to watch football played in this way, it isn’t just the “other football” but “anti-football,” regardless of whether or not it works. It is an ever-present debate in today’s football landscape and one that will provide a sub-narrative to the second leg of the Copa semifinal in Valencia. Adding to the interest is the fact that Marcelino led Los Che to their most recent trophy in the same competition, only to be unceremoniously sacked by the Valencia board immediately afterwards. Mestalla remembers Marcelino and loves him, but those affections will take a back seat to wanting to see Valencia in the Copa final. Whether that is achieved with the “other football” or not won’t matter a jot.

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