September 19, 2010.
Barcelona are facing Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon, the start of their tertiary (and arguably best) season nether Pep Guardiola. Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique have scored in the beginning half and Barca are two-i to the good every bit we enter injury time.
Another Atleti attack is broken up and Messi sets his sights on the corner flag. He quickly flicks effectually Luis Perea to collect at the other side, simply Tomas Ujfalusi arrives at warp speed to his left. He careers straight into the Argentine, sending him rolling two, three, five, 10 times across the pitch in desperation.
At first, it’due south not immediately obvious that the tackle is particularly dangerous and indeed the Barcelona players are not surrounding the referee in search of justice.
Only Fernandez Borbalan knows what he has seen and brandishes the carmine carte du jour with haste. Ujfalusi is confused and argues his case. Borbalan refuses to fifty-fifty appoint in heart contact. Information technology’s all happened a little too apace.
While Messi is taking off his boot and sock to prove instantaneous swelling, the replay is shown.
Ujfalusi’s impact into the side of Messi is like that of a minor car hitting a wall. His last step is a big 1 – to give the defender some benefit of the doubt, it appears as if he is trying to step
of Messi to initiate a ‘professional foul’, equally we might call information technology. But his step in fact crunches downwardly completely on Messi’southward right ankle while he is in full flying.
Messi is no stranger to rough treatment. Despite those who would similar to compare the roughhousing Diego Maradona received to modern-day defending, Messi has had his fare share of ultra-aggressive antagonists coming after him. Only past any standard, this tackle was at all-time utterly reckless and, at worst, potentially career-ending. Indeed, at that place are many parallels betwixt this and the Butcher of Bilbao, Andoni Goikoetxea, whose lunge on Maradona shattered his ankle in 1983 and almost ended his career.
The reaction afterwards would accept been worse in these days of social media, but fifty-fifty back so, Ujfalusi’s impression on the ankle – burdensome his unabridged body weight downward on top and folding the foot underneath Messi’southward frame at a 90 caste angle – was on the front end page of every sports newspaper in Spain.
Squad-mate David Villa called it a ‘horrifying, brutal challenge’, while boss Pep Guardiola criticised the referee and demanded more protection for his players, not merely Messi.
Ujfalusi was public enemy No. 1, vilified and subject to vitriolic criticism. In ESPN, journalist Graham Hunter referred to the Czech as ‘a street thug’. Marca’s front page – notoriously partisan towards the Madrid clubs – had the banner headline ‘CHILLING’ nether a picture of the incident.
Catalan-based Sport ran with ‘HUNTED’, while El Mundo Deportivo accused Ujfalusi of ‘MESSICIDE’. Indeed, in combination with an unsavoury tackle Cristiano Ronaldo had received when facing Mallorca a few weeks prior, an entire debate nearly the protection of players was instigated. Marca’s editorial line read: “It’s time for measures to exist taken, time for the impunity to end.
“At that place should be zero tolerance.”
Ujfalusi, it must be noted, was a player who had just been sent off for only the second time in his career, but he had kicked the wrong player at the wrong time, and Atleti president Enrique Cerezo petitioned for him in the stereotypical ‘not that type of player’ case for the defence force.
But the Czech’southward public non-apology a few days afterward did admittedly nothing to pour water on the biggest national news story of the week.
He said: “I wanted to apologise. Information technology was not my intention to hurt. I wanted to play the ball and had the misfortune to hit Leo when I came down on his leg. Yes, information technology was scary to see his ankle bent, simply information technology was non my intention to hurt.
You’re almost at that place, Tomas.
But he merely
to add together more: “In the picture it becomes clear that I am touching the brawl earlier injuring his ankle. At that place were harder tackles than mine.”
Hmmm. Every bit it was, Spain’s Competition Commission fabricated the call to suspend Ujfalusi for the minimum two matches, despite the choice to ban him for an entire month existence available to them and, needless to say, the Barcelona media pack were non even slightly done with this.
El Mundo Deportivo’due south columnist Luis Racionero seethed: “The just thing this maggot [Ujfalusi] should do is shut up and disappear. The Competition Committee should kick him out of the league, but that putrid committee packed with Madridistas is delighted for people to destroy Messi.
Swain writer Claudio Chaves said simply, “Tomas Ujfalusi can get to hell.”
And after all that, despite Messi suffering internal and external ligament damage, he was dorsum two weeks after as if nothing had e’er happened.
From the type of tackle that could have ended Messi’s entire season – which would likely have meant no 2nd Champions League, no Man Utd procession at Wembley, no semi-final goal versus Madrid that is among the greatest ever scored – he barely missed a beat.
And when Ujfalusi and Atleti arrived at Camp Nou in the following February, he predictably scored a hat-pull a fast one on, Ujfalusi’s flowing locks bobbing effectually in his wake in every case.
The actions of the defender are barely remembered at present, especially given the chaotic 4 Clasicos in 17 days at the end of that flavour which pushed Guardiola to the limit in his exact jousting with Jose Mourinho, and set a new low bar for prejudiced, sensationalist coverage.
But if Ujfalusi’s pes lands at a different bending, there’due south a chance he is remembered with the aforementioned animosity as the Butcher of Bilbao and we are potentially robbed of some of Messi’south moments of greatness.