LaLiga’s Weekly Review

What’s been going on in LaLiga this past week? Here are all the top stories from around Spanish football, from a coaching change to Messi’s latest record. 

Wins for the top four 

In an unusual weekend by this season’s standards, each of the top four won in LaLiga Santander this weekend. Leaders Atletico de Madrid won at Granada CF, while Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla FC each picked up home wins against D. Alaves, Valencia CF and SD Huesca respectively.  

Pellegrini’s happy return to Villarreal 

Manuel Pellegrini took his Real Betis side to the Estadio de la Cerámica this weekend, returning to the ground where he was Villarreal coach between 2004 and 2009. The Chilean ended the night happy after watching Betis – one of LaLiga’s form teams in 2021 – beat the Yellow Submarine 2-1 to close in on the European qualification spots.  

Yet another record for Messi 

Just when you thought Leo Messi had run out of records, he goes and reaches another. This weekend the Argentine master tied Xavi Hernandez’s all-time record of 505 LaLiga matches for Barcelona, putting him on the brink of setting a new record himself. He also marked the occasion by scoring a brace against Alaves, taking his tally for the season so far to 15. 

LaLiga’s birthday 

This season marks the 90th anniversary of Spain’s domestic football league, making LaLiga’s birthday extra special this year. The first ever league matches in Spain took place on February 10th, 1929, with last Wednesday marking the anniversary of that occasion. Many events were held around the world to celebrate the event.  

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Is the Year of the Ox a good time to buy a house?

Even though the much anticipated CNY celebration is different this year, it is still a time where families look forward to coming together, no matter how physically far apart they are. CNY reunions may not be possible, but we make the best out of technology through virtual reunion dinners, online gifting and other creative ways to welcome the Year of the Ox.

Albeit open houses and lion dances might only make a comeback next year, there are still plenty of CNY promos to soften the blow of this hard-hitting period. For one, Sime Darby Property (SDP) is bringing auspicious CNY deals online with a number of beautiful freehold developments for you to choose from.

What makes this year an Ox-picious time to invest in a home?

In every crisis lies the seed of opportunity. If you’ve been thinking about it, this could be the  best time to buy a property as the overnight policy rate (OPR) is at a record low since 2010, which can translate to thousands in savings per property through a lower repayment amount.

Another layer of savings comes from the government’s ongoing Home Ownership Campaign  (HOC) that will end soon this May 2021. HOC is a great way to reduce your cost of buying or investing in a new home through:

  • Stamp duty exemptions on instruments of transfer and loan agreement 
  • A minimum 10% discount offered by developers

On top of that, SDP’s CNY deals are happening from now till 28th February 2021, offering great savings on selected properties:

1. RM8,888 Prosperity Package

2. Up to 18 months of loan instalments taken care of

3. Lucky Draw for selected properties

A new year is a new beginning. If you’re looking for a new home, read on for exclusive festive deals on the selected SDP properties. 

Featured properties with auspicious CNY deals

1. Serini in Melawati, KL

Nestled in a popular matured township of Melawati, the twin towers of Serini Serviced Residence are freehold and surrounded by both nature & modern conveniences. Type A (from RM499,000) is move-in ready & comes partially furnished with kitchen cabinets and air conditioners – perfect for investors or first home owners looking to move in soon.

Be the first 8 to book during the campaign to enjoy up to 12 months of loan instalments, plus a chance at a lucky draw!

2. Lot 15 in Subang Jaya City Centre (SJCC)

This freehold serviced residence located in the centre of Subang Jaya is a dream home for urban dwellers. Lot 15 is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, so there is no need to wait long to move in or to rent out. From RM592,999, it comes semi-furnished with hotel grade finishes. 

The first 8 units booked during the campaign are entitled to the RM8,888 Prosperity Package and up to 18 months of loan instalments* taken care of. Limited units remain, so don’t miss out!

*Selected units only

3. Ilham Residence in City of Elmina, Shah Alam

Ilham Residence is one of the recent launches in the City of Elmina, featuring freehold double-storey linked houses that come with up to 20 exciting facilities catering to all generations. 

Type 3 has a flexible dual-key layout with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. For bigger families, there is Type 4 with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. This CNY, purchasers of selected units of Type 3 and 4 get to enjoy the RM8,888 Prosperity Package plus 3 months of loan instalments taken care of.

4. Serenia Ariya in Serenia City, The Garden City of KLIA

Serenia Ariya is located in the picturesque Serenia City which stretches along the ELITE Highway, between Putrajaya and KLIA. Don’t miss the special CNY preview for the final phase of this popular development. The final phase consists of freehold 20’ x 70’ double-storey linked houses with 3 types of build-ups, ranging from 1,589 to 1,934 sqft. Type 2 starts from RM 667,888 and comes with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.

Best not to dally, as the first 2 phases are already sold out. Remember to book by May to take advantage of the HOC 2021 benefits and stamp duty waivers.

5. Embun 2 in Bandar Ainsdale, Negeri Sembilan

With the WFH lifestyle becoming a norm, one can consider living further away from the bustling city. Imagine staying in a lakeside home surrounded by parks and open spaces – that’s what Embun 2 is all about. 

Located in Bandar Ainsdale, Seremban, Embun 2 is the newest launch comprising 20’ x 70’ freehold double-storey linked houses priced from RM551,888. Make this lakeside home your reality this CNY with extra savings from the RM8,888 Prosperity Package on top of 8 months of loan instalments taken care of. 


To discover more participating properties with auspicious deals, check out SDP’s CNY website.

But how to buy houses safely during the pandemic?

With Covid-19 cases raging all over the country, there is great concern for safety. Furthermore, no inter-district and inter-state movements are allowed during MCO 2.0. Purchasing a property is a huge decision, but how do you buy a property without being able to visit the show unit or the sales gallery? Fret not, SDP has addressed these concerns for you.

Explore from home! SDP now has 360 degrees home tours of existing show units and 3D virtual show units on its website, complete with all the information you need for every development. 

Have questions, need more information, or want to book your unit immediately to lock in the special deal? Let the sales gallery experience come to you via an Online Guided Sales Experience, all from the safety and comfort of your own home. 

Simply visit Sime Darby Property website and follow these steps: 

1. Register your details for the property you are interested in.

2. SDP Sales Consultant will get in touch to guide you over the phone, provide advice and answer any queries you may have.

3. When you are ready to book your unit, the Sales Consultant will help you complete your booking online & safely from home.

For more information on the CNY 2021 promotions and participating projects, check out their website here.

LaLiga rising star Sergiño Dest

Sergiño Dest set to add to Barcelona’s Dutch tradition and launch a new American legacy 

Ronald Koeman will finally get to work with Sergiño Dest, the 19-year-old right-back who has just his first signing for Barcelona, arriving from Ajax in a deal worth up to an estimated €26 million. During his time in charge of the Netherlands national team, Koeman actually tried to convince Dest to play for the Oranje, although the player ultimately opted to play for the USA at international level. Now he’s got his man.  

Born in Almere in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and American father, Dest was eligible to play for either country. He only visited the USA for the first time in 2014, but felt a connection with the country and also appreciated the trust placed in him by US Soccer. Dest thus decided to play his club football for Ajax and his national team football across the Atlantic.  

It was with the USA’s youth sides that Dest was first able to gain experience playing in front of big crowds, doing so at the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland. There, he helped lead the USA to the quarter-finals with his attacking play down the right wing and this set him up perfectly for his club debut.  

That came when Ajax coach Erik ten Hag threw the teenager into a huge occasion, giving him his debut in the Johan Cruyff Shield match against PSV Eindhoven in July 2019. The right-footed Dest had to play at left-back and was up to the challenge by playing the whole 90 minutes of Ajax’s 2-0 win. The youngster even had a shot off the post during his first outing.  

Having impressed Ten Hag so much in that debut on the big stage, Dest quickly became a starter at Ajax and was able to make the right-back spot his own, playing in his natural position and playing with a coolness that caught the interest of Europe’s biggest clubs. Just over one year after his debut, with 38 Ajax appearances under his belt, Barcelona have signed the attack-minded full-back – who had the fourth most Eredivisie assists of his team, with five, last season – to replace Nelson Semedo at the Camp Nou.  

Able to finally work with Dest, Koeman is particularly excited about this acquisition. “He’ll be a very useful player for Barcelona,” the Dutch tactician said in a press conference. “Having young talents is important for this club and, despite his young age, Dest has already played many professional matches, including some Champions League matches.” 

In total, the 2019 US Soccer Young Male Player of the Year already has five Champions League appearances to his name and he didn’t look flustered when he stepped out under the lights on those European nights. “You never have to get stressed because, if you get stressed, you’re going to do weird things in soccer,” is a mantra that the right-back has taken to heart, as he told ESPN. “Even now, if someone’s trying to press me or run in behind me, I just think about it and have it in the back of my mind.” 

At the Camp Nou, the biggest stadium in Europe, there will be pressure in every match. However, those who know Dest are confident that he can deal with that and show LaLiga and the world what he can do.  

For Barcelona, the Dutch-American will continue one legacy and launch another. 20 different Dutch players have represented Barcelona in official competition over the years, including the legendary Johan Cruyff, current coach Koeman and current midfielder Frenkie de Jong, whereas an American is yet to play a competitive match for the club.  

Konrad de la Fuente recently became the first USA national team player to feature for Barcelona at all, albeit in a pre-season friendly, and he knows Dest well since they were in the USMNT’s U20s side together. They’ve even combined for a goal before, with Dest assisting Konrad for a strike against France in March last year.  

Now, as Dest lands in Catalonia, Barcelona fans will hope to see plenty more of that as this new era gets under way.  

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LaLiga rising star Bryan Gil

Bryan Gil showing his audacious talents on loan at Eibar

Not many 17-year-olds would try and nutmeg Atletico de Madrid veteran Diego Godin on their LaLiga debut, but current Eibar winger and LaLiga rising star Bryan Gil has always been something out of the ordinary. 

Born in the town of Barbate in the southern Spanish province of Cadiz, Gil was invited to join Sevilla’s youth system aged just 10. He advanced quickly through the ranks, often being picked in teams with players one or even two years older. A big step forward came during 2018-19, when he scored four goals and gave six assists in 23 games for the Sevilla Atletico youth team playing in the third tier.  

A first team debut arrived in January 2019, with Gil getting a taste of the famous Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan atmosphere during a high-profile top of the table clash against Atletico de Madrid which was balanced at 1-1. A few minutes on the pitch was enough to make a big impression, including on surprised veteran and grizzled LaLiga winner Godin. 

Gil was regularly given more chances to impress and gain experience off the bench. When he set up teammate Munir El Haddadi to score in a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid in April, he became the first player born in the 21st century to give an assist in any of Europe’s top five leagues. A few weeks later he became the first of this new generation to score in LaLiga, with a fine left footed shot to wrap up the scoring in a 5-0 victory against Rayo Vallecano. 

Gil’s expansive wing play and quiet personality off the pitch reminded many at Sevilla of his boyhood hero and now club captain Jesus Navas (albeit on the other side of the pitch), although competition for places at the Sanchez-Pizjuan limited his chances to play every week. So, January 2020 brought a loan move to CD Leganes. While a relegation battle was not an easy environment for the youngster to come into, he gained a regular starting spot by the end of the campaign, even scoring in the 2-2 draw against champions Real Madrid on the final day.  

The summer unsurprisingly brought further interest from different LaLiga clubs, with SD Eibar winning the battle to get him on loan for the 2020-21 campaign, and he joined the Ipurua club along with fellow Sevilla youngster Alejandro Pozo. Again, he has had to work hard to impress new boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, but the quick learner has gained many new admirers with both his dribbling and creative skills, and not shying away from hard work off the ball. 

While nominally a left-winger who likes to take on his defender and get the ball into the penalty area, Gil has also played on the right side from where he can cut inside and link with teammates. This versatility and willingness to learn have also seen him fielded in a number 10 position for Eibar. He was especially impressive in October’s 1-0 victory over his ‘parent’ club Sevilla, which was no doubt a bitter-sweet occasion for all involved. The celebrations were more open as he bamboozled Real Betis defenders in a 2-0 victory over the Andalusian capital’s ‘other’ team in late November. 

At international level, Gil’s progress has also been smooth. He won a European U-19 championship with Spain in summer 2019, with Manchester City’s Ferran Torres and Huesca’s Sergi Gomez as teammates. Since progressing to the Under-21s this autumn, he outshone Barcelona’s Pedri to be named man of the match in a Euro qualifiers victory over the Faroe Islands in November.  

Gil does not turn 20 until next February, by which time he is likely to have further established himself as the most exciting attacking threat in Eibar’s current team. Looking longer-term, many at Sevilla feel that they already have a long-term successor to Navas, now 35, as a locally born standard bearer in their side. For the moment though, LaLiga’s latest rising star has his head down, eye on the ball, and is fully focused on making the most of every opportunity he gets.  

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On this day in LaLiga: Marcelo

15th February: Marcelo opens his LaLiga account (2009) 

February 15 2009 at El Molinon, and visitors Real Madrid are already 2-0 up at Sporting Gijon thanks to goals from Raul Gonzalez and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Sporting try to react, but Blancos coach Juande Ramos’ side break dangerously and Gonzalo Higuain’s clever back-flick puts the ball into space. Into the picture arrows emerging star left-back Marcelo, who sprints clear of the Sporting defence, and finishes calmly past goalkeeper Iñaki Lafuente. Raul later completed a 4-0 victory, Madrid’s eighth win on the bounce in LaLiga. Marcelo’s clean strike was his first of 25 career LaLiga goals, and the now 32-year-old Madrid club vice-captain has since added five LaLiga titles.  

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Review of Anwar’s review of the Tommy Thomas memoir

In his review of Tommy Thomas’s book, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did not come out strongly enough on the right of free expression.   FILE PIC
In his review of Tommy Thomas’s book, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did not come out strongly enough on the right of free expression. FILE PIC

IN extravagant prose beyond the reach of most Malaysian understanding given the standard of English in our country, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim tried to offer an even-handed measure of the Tommy Thomas memoir My Story: Justice in the Wilderness.

His conclusion: The book should not be banned. With which I entirely agree. His warning, if I may continue in the vein of Latin expressions in his review: Caveat Emptor. Buyer beware, usually used in the capital market, which could apply equally in the purchase of a packet of cigarettes, or of a book.

In my commendation of the book I had observed and celebrated Tommy Thomas’s “refreshing and open style not characteristic in this country”. Anwar is only implicit on this in his review because, I guess, to refer to one of the extensive quotes, which is his predisposition: “I still have miles to go before I sleep.”

The trouble with writing in English in this country is that neither its language nor its texture is well understood and appreciated. Anwar is not unaware of this. Thus, while his review is mainly directed at those — his multiracial but inadequate base — who are okay with the language and its feel, he could not throw the baby out with the bathwater by fully embracing Tommy Thomas’s book.

He had to treat and save up for that most important constituency — the Malays. Hence, while his review is not without merit, at the end one is left to rue the fact it is somewhat constipated.

He could not come out to tell the Malays they should not be moved by the instinct to bully and threaten, and to go after, like a pack of hounds, something or someone they feel has transgressed their ever-expanding sacred territory. Thus Anwar had to side with the judicial and civil service, even the judiciary that was emasculated by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1988, against criticism in the book, or with the opinion rendered on the May 13 racial riots and Tun Razak’s alleged hand in it — indeed with all matters he saw the Malays could get worked up over.

Nowadays it would seem that Malays get or are made to be enraged over so many things, in direct proportion to incremental accumulated power ever since May 1969. There are even veiled threats of another May 13 if that is what Tommy Thomas wants. Quod erat demonstrandum (Q.E.D.), Tommy Thomas might say.

What instead should be happening is to challenge Tommy Thomas in a civilised manner to provide proof of his assertions. He could be criticised as not having the temperament and character to carry that great office of state as attorney-general. He could even be asked if he was not being racial in many of his aspersions.

The trouble is the ground has shifted so much that so many Malays have become so used to getting their way, come what may. The laws they use to persecute others they believe do not apply to them. We cannot have this situation get worse that some people are above the law.

It is that constituency that Anwar must reach. It is that drift, that has to be checked, the privilege that has reached the point of legal impunity in exercise of political power and domination.

To me, “justice in the wilderness” describes something more than an attack on the judiciary, and other things many see are plainly wrong in our country. It is a cry for justice in the Malaysian political system which, even when you hold a high office of state, as a non-Malay, you are demeaned and denied.

We Malays must think and understand how the non-Malays feel, instead of always wanting to put the boot in. Tommy Thomas opened up because, despite having been a successful lawyer and holding briefly a high office of state (which only received half-cocked acceptance and a cold shoulder from the Malay establishment), he was never allowed to feel the country gave him any love. If not love, not even recognition.

Maybe he should not have lashed out as he did. Even so, I can understand why. Anwar should have, but did not and could not.

This is the narrative Anwar should be coming out with, how this country is so much in need of a reset, a process which everyone thought Pakatan Harapan was embarked on. However, they screwed up on so many levels.

No one took a handle on promised reform. There was no sequence, no communication plan. I had worked something out, was supposed to get something going, but was not allowed to do so because of the internal politics of Tun Dr Mahathir’s office.

In any case, nobody could have saved the day because the promise of reform was a sham and a shambles. It was all Mahathir-Anwar, with Anwar the pupil sitting across the table from Mahathir, notebook in hand, hoping to placate the old man who took him for a ride.

Now Anwar reviews the Tommy Thomas book without even seeing in the totality the anguish, a tortured soul, subjected to and reflecting on so many things wrong in the country.

I have observed previously the Pakatan Harapan victory in May 2018, with not a little to do with their political incompetence, released a race-religion reaction not unlike May 1969, with no physical violence of course, but still with the fist-thumping re-imposition of the perceived order of things — unremitting Malay political dominance, diminution in the rule of law and of the constitution, tightening of Malay economic hold, even corruption justified in the name of religion!

What Anwar should have seen from Tommy Thomas’s book is that the work of reform is still to be done. That, if I may be allowed to refer to Graham Greene’s book, is The Heart of the Matter. Instead Pakatan Harapan continues to talk of Anwar as prime minister and Mahathir as senior minister — what?

It is clear the task of reform and reset lies elsewhere. Have independent people look at the Malaysian political system again. The rights of the Malays, Islam, the non-Malays and their religions should all be clarified and restated. The weaknesses of nationhood should be identified and addressed. The future of the country needs to be secured.

We must have a Malaysia First Council, Majlis Mengutamakan Malaysia, all of its people throughout all of its territorial extent. The person or body that sets this council up will get the eternal gratitude of all Malaysians.

The writer, a former group editor of NST, is visiting senior fellow and member of the Advisory Board of LSE IDEAS (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy)