Barca 5, Atletico XXXXXX 0, aka “It’s just like Frogger, people!”

Euler is coming with the meat to my potatoes, but I wanted to throw a few thoughts out there, mostly as an excuse to piss everybody off with my match ratings.

Okay, seriously.

Perspective is a beautiful thing, and this match made me think about that. To us, our possession game is beautiful, a way to keep our defense from …. well …. having to play defense. To others, it’s just boring possession with no real point …. until there is a point and suddenly, the ball’s in the back of the net.

While watching us today, it finally hit me: We’re like the Frogger video game.

You know, the arcade classic where you navigate the frog across the highway, hopping up and back, from side to side, often moving back and sideways to move forward. And I actually started laughing, because it’s all just so beautiful. Up, back, side, back, up, across …. goal.

You’d think that ATM would just stop coming to the Camp Nou. It never seems to go well for them in our house, and they always seem to show up when it’s Statement Time. Coming off of a draw with Valencia, a match that either side could have/should have won, it was that time, and we made the point with movement and intelligent possession. This is as smart as we have been with the ball all season, because we knew that the threat of Falcao, who’s been scoring goals in his sleep, could be eliminated simply by never letting them have the ball. They ended up with about 37% possession, a deceptive stat because most of it involved trying to get the hell out of their own end.

Pressure, pressure, pressure. This match was the first time we played our game this season, of incessant pressure and defense through possession. We’ve hinted at it from time to time, but this match was how, if we just had the energy, we could play every match. For me, the second goal was my favorite, because whatever ATM tried in getting out of their end, there was a midget battling for the ball until finally Busquets, Gulliver in our passing Lilliput, forced the turnover that sent Pedro and Messi off to the races, for an own goal born out of panic.

It’s also why I say that the only defensive crises that we ever have are when our defense has to function as an actual defense. Unlike today. Note that the only time ATM was able to run at our defenders at pace, a goal almost resulted, stopped by an excellent Valdes intervention. It’s the job of the midfield to make sure runners don’t get free, and they did a great job at that today. I also liked the strategic fouls that reared their heads today, from Villa, Busquets and Mascherano in particular. Better to give up a free kick at midfield than a possible goal. Every time.

They had two real scoring chances today, the first from taking advantage of that space we sometimes leave between the midfield and back line and the second from taking advantage of rapid ball movement to burst out of the midfield. The end. The rest was thanks to our defense not actually being a defense but rather, a trio of sweepers. Pick up stray passes, feed the Mighty Mites, watch them go.

Yes, we scored 5 goals, tallies that were, for me, of surpassing quality:

1. Xavi is magic! That pass to Villa was absolute perfection. The rest was relatively easy.
2. Chaos reigns, as described above.
3. Messi beats the entire ATM defense. Twice.
4. Never forget that Abidal pass to Alves that set up Messi.
5. So Villa can pass, so beautifully that Fox Soccer Report commentators thought it was Xavi.

But as noted above, Euler will break it down with the tactical realness. I have some ratings to take care of:

Team: 10. A faultless match from top to bottom. A favorite sequence was in the second half, when ATM got the ball and was breaking, and our attackers were on the back line as the defenders were pressed up, slowing down the action in the midfield. Passing, movement, style and grace. This might seem obvious, but is still worth saying: We’re better with the ball than most, which makes so much of our game possible.

Guardiola: 10. Again, perfection, with the exact right lineup, including the role of Thiago. Excellent subs as well, bringing on The Chicane (Keita) at the right time, as well. Mentally and physically, the players were so ready today that ATM didn’t have a chance.

Valdes: 7. Would have played to a higher rating, but didn’t have all that much to do. His distribution was excellent, and his stop on Falcao to prevent the honor goal for them was classic Valdes.

Alves: 7. Lovely interplay with our attackers, but rather a tamped-down match for him, which in many ways is good, particularly on the defensive end.

Busquets: 9. A brilliant, brilliant match, between passing, attacking, pressure at key times and defensive interventions, he was just wonderful.

Mascherano: 8. I’ve said it before and will say it again: We HAVE to find a way to keep him on the pitch, once we return to full defensive health. I think he is our best ball-winner and tackler, and now that he gets the system, his passing out of the back is marvelous.

Abidal: 9. Great scott, what a match. Attacked like a demon, defended with strength, physical presence and pace and almost always made the exact right pass. He still makes me nervous with his circling back with the ball in our end, it must be said. The standing ovation from the Camp Nou folks spoke volumes. Dude had something to prove today.

Xavi: 9. Magic. Absolute magic. Recall the sequence of moves in which he drove an ATM defender to distraction, before plopping that inch-perfect pass to Villa for the first goal. If that ball is a little off, Sir Hack-A-Lot (Perea) heads it away. Too much, and Villa has to struggle with it. Instead, it was absolutely flawless.

Fabregas: 9. Okay, okay, I give …. he’s worth every penny we paid for him. For me, it wasn’t the passing, running and offense, it was the tracking back. ATM was off on a dangerous break, and No. 4 came charging in like a demon to win the ball, and off we went in the other direction. Time and again, he was in the right place at the right time. He’s scored goals and ladled out assists, but for me he’s yet to have a better overall match than today.

Thiago: 8. He probably reduced the running that Xavi had to do by a third today, as he was everywhere. Those interventions that Xavi usually has to run over and make, Thiago was doing. His distribution was brilliant, and that late-match nutmeg and attack in the box was just stupid good. His most controlled match in the colors, as well.

Pedro: 8. If he keeps this up, he’s going to get some exclamation points back. Far and away his best match since the injury last season. Hopefully it’s a harbinger that he is back to anticipating the match, rather than chasing. On the offensive and defensive ends he was part of so much of what we did, and hardly looked tired. Windmills away!

Villa: 8. Again, I absolutely loved his match today. I stopped counting the times I saw No. 7 running around on the defensive end of the pitch, pressuring in the midfield and battling their attackers along the sideline. Marvelous, and his assist to Messi for the 5th goal was stellar.

Messi: 5. A hat trick, but not that great a match overall, which sounds absurd but longtime Messi watchers know what I mean. His passing (as pointed out by Josep) is still off, and he made me scream at the TV on the break where he ran and ran and ran, ignoring an open Villa only to be stopped by a trio of ATM defenders. He also wasn’t that involved in the pressing part of things, which to me is a sign that he isn’t at his best. At his best, Messi is omnipresent, rather than solely an offensive force.


Pique (for Busquets): 6. Almost like he never went away, on his way to a higher rating. You can see the lack of match fitness and mind pace, however. That will come.

Keita (for Fabregas): 6. Again, The Chicane was probably on his way to a higher rating. Sometimes, you can see that his job is to just get in the way, like a chicane set up to slow down traffic. It provides crucial time for the defense to set, or ball-grubbing midgets to work their nefarious wiles.

Maxwell (for Abidal): incomplete. An excuse for Abidal to get an ovation? Who knows, but Maxwell looked rusty as heck, which isn’t surprising. More than any of our players, he thrives on playing time.

So to end as I began, here’s some more perspective. Messi’s three goals were brilliant, particularly the first one. It’s hard to understand how someone who notched a hat trick didn’t have a great match. One perspective is that it’s impossible, and Kxevin hates Messi. Another is that his immense personal standard, coupled with how involved he is with our whole game when he’s at his best, makes it easy to see how this wasn’t his best match today.

So let the debate begin, until Euler rolls in with The Truth.

"Neener, neener!"
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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Blau-Grenade
    September 24, 2011

    Lovely review. Agree with all your ratings. Including Messi’s rating.

  2. Xingxian
    September 24, 2011

    The Frogger metaphor is beautiful and wonderful.

    I remember you saying in the recent past that Euler/Kxevin dual reviews of single games were going to be flukes. I hope this is not the case.

    Kari should review this game too.

    And everyone else on staff.

  3. SteveHK
    September 25, 2011

    Messi a 5 – what are you a troll? This is a FC barcelona fansite, not a Cristiano Ronaldo fan club!
    Just joking, I enjoyed your review and always appreciate your perspective on games.
    But I think that if you are going to give Messi number grades on a special Messi Scale – or how a particular game matches up against Messi’s own “immense personal standard” then you should make that more clear to the casual reader. For example Messi 10 (5 Messi Standard) or Messi 10.5.
    Besides I think you really are being too harsh, even if his defense and passing were worse than usual today, in Pep’s words “scoring goals is the hardest thing in football” (paraphrased) and Messi scoring 3 (or 3.5) of our 5 goals is an immense contribution to the win.
    I would have given at least a 7 for a hat trick. 🙂

    • Vj
      September 25, 2011

      I’d dock one point more for not passing to an open Villa..

    • Chiu
      September 25, 2011

      Agree with your suggestion Steve. Messi should have the special scale. His standard is far too high-ceilinged now. Even in his bad day – the goals, assists, combination play, dragging defenders from him always crucial for the team.

  4. blaunero
    September 25, 2011

    Messi is going to grab all the headlines, but I too thought he looked rusty and at times selfish. Could it be he feels the need to match Ronaldo goal per goal? Personally I much prefer the Messi we saw during the Manita or vs Espanyol last December rather than today’s goal machine.
    I really enjoy Euler’s tactical reviews, I really do. They’re brilliant and intricate. It’s just that for the last two games that he has written pieces we’ve tied the following game, in San Sebastian and Valencia. I hope it isn’t bringing us bad luck…

    • blaunero
      September 25, 2011

      And anyway that haircut doesn’t suit Messi at all.

    • Chiu
      September 25, 2011

      Pretty sure Messi never thought about how many goals CR7 scored and chases individual glory/statistics over him or any other players. We have heard this so many times from his interview or speeches. Team glory and titles is the most important. Individual award is dedicated to all team mates. Messi is absolutely the best in the planet now, No contest.

      Dribbling inside the box and shoot is typical Messi. He must be sensing the momentum and opening from his run and settle on not to pass and go alone to goal.

      Waiting Euler tactical review!

  5. Agree with Messi rating, not exactly. I will give a 7. He was on – off the entire match and then just like that scored three brilliant goals. Collectively the team did well. Villa goal was crucial that took the early steam out off Atletico. Apart from Thiago and xavi I don’t think any off our attacking players hit top gear, actually there was no need for it.

  6. OSBAG
    September 25, 2011

    Messi- 5! Hhah.. I so much at it wen he plays selfishly. Drove me crazy against sociedad.
    Villa’s haircut is cute not so sure about messi’s.
    Fabreegas missed out on ceasar and ibra’s record

  7. barca96
    September 25, 2011

    Did you guys see the look on Villa’s face right after Messi scored the 4th goal? The one where Messi ran across the goal and shot it low to the corner. I was looking at Villa’s face before Messi released the shot and Villa just looked as if he already knew that it was going in and when it did go in, he had this funny smile. He looked so un-surprised.
    I don’t know if you it’s possible to see on a stream or a normal broadcast. I was watching on HD.

    I also noticed Messi not passing to an open player when he should have during the match.

    Great review Kxevin.

  8. barca96
    September 25, 2011

    Btw, usually Kxevin always write like this

    Guardiola rolled up with VV-Alves etc.

    As for me, I was offline for the past few days, so I didn’t know the squad. Was CUenca included in the squad for this match?

  9. Anonymous_69
    September 25, 2011

    For Messi standards, he didn’t do too well, but I still think 5 is a little harsh! If he played this way against a very weak team and didn’t score any goals, then 5 would be fair. But it was against Atletico Madrid, and he scored two wonder goals. But I guess that is just a regular day for Messi…

    I think Cesc is doing great. His finishing and combination with Messi is terrific. However, I still think his ball circulation and build up play is below average. I don’t know if it will come with time, or if that is just not a strong spot for him, but right now it is at a lower level than Keita’s ball circulation. If that is something he struggles with, than I don’t think he will ever be a permament starter in our midfield. Thiago has similar scoring capabilities, and even better dribbling, so it would make sense for him to play forward. Yet, when Cesc and Thiago start together, it is Cesc who is given the free roaming role. Xavi and Iniesta, and guys like Thiago and JDS, seem to be much more natural at keeping possession and dictating the pace of the game. Maybe Cesc will be a forward for us. When Xavi supposedly steps down to the bench in a little while, I think the youth players are the favourites to take his place in the starting 11.

  10. Chiu
    September 25, 2011

    off topic a bit (not sure somebody has mentioned before). Our Don Andres is getting married next year. I thought he’s married already. Congrats!

    • Jackieboy
      September 25, 2011

      He’s getting married the exact same day Cristiano Ronaldo is. COINCIDENCE???

      • Chiu
        September 25, 2011

        what??? we’ll be not seeing casillas, ramos and other NT players from EE in iniesta wedding haha

  11. Dani_el
    September 25, 2011

    Thanks for this Kxevin, great review!

    Though I think it’s a little unfair to Messi to rate him with Messi standards, if it wasn’t Messi he would have gotten a 8+. In Sport average people rated him with something like a 9.2. It’s so great to see this team, I hope this never ends, it feels like history in the making.

  12. Mila
    September 25, 2011

    Guys, any links for downloading the game? Can’t believe I missed it 🙁

  13. Worddriven Bozo
    September 25, 2011

    For a striker, the only object is for the team to score as many goals as possible. Hard to carp about Leo being selfish when he scores three times. Let’s say he passes to the “wide open” Villa. Odds are about 1 in 3 that Villa scores (it’s amazing that he can get a rating of 8 when he blows an entirely open one-on-one with the keeper). Now let’s say Messi keeps the ball on a break. What are the odds of him scoring? Better than 1 in 3, surely. (Look at his three goals — he made two of those three chances entirely on his own.)

    So keep your two standards to yourself. That isn’t journalism, that’s petty favoritism. No matter how hard they worked, Villa and Pedro didn’t have the positive effect on the scoreline that Leo did. Think about it, and repent. Just because he’s a great player is no reason to rank him lower. It’s a cheap shot.

    • Jim
      September 25, 2011

      Woah ! That’s a bit strong. The one thing you’ll learn about Kxevin is that he has his own criteria for his ratings and they don’t involve favouritism. We can agree or not – personally I concentrate on the words not the numbers – but if a player has a bad game in his opinion he’ll say so.

      I’ve said before that it’s almost not worth rating Messi as he doesn’t fit neatly into any assessment which attempts to rank him alongside other players. He scored three goals as you say, two of which were entirely of his own making and were probably both early candidates for goal of the season. Nobody else does what he does. However, there were also there or four occasions when the better option was a pass. Rate him as a mere mortal and he’s a 10, no question for me. Rate him as Messi and he’s lower.

      Villa’s rating for me is entirely deserved. He worked his socks off for the whole game, made loads of runs that weren’t spotted in time, finished the one chance he had total control of beautifully and missed the one that had to be hit quickly. There’s a lot of rubbish talked about one on ones with keepers imo. It’s easy to say you should score them every time but that ignores the variable in the situation which is the keeper. You never know where the keeper is going to throw himself – the one against Valencia was a good example – and if he throws himself the way you have chosen you’re in trouble. That’s why you’ll never come across anyone with a perfect penalty record. Messi, Ronaldinho, Rooney – brilliant strikers of the ball but they’ve all missed loads of penalties.

      • chop
        September 25, 2011

        LOL, according to the writer’s previous ratings, Messi has an average rating of 6 for the season. He’s on pace for 60 goals and 50 assists. Haha.

        Messi, 3 wonder goals, 2 goals out of absolutely nothing. Instrumental in the 2nd goal too. Set up Villa for what should have been an easy goal. Winner of the most free kicks. But I guess he misplaced some passes.

        Oh yeah, on the play where he didn’t pass to Villa, he wasn’t “stopped by a trio of ATM defenders.” He was fouled by the last defender to beat and earned a FK, almost a PK.

      • just listenin
        September 25, 2011

        I think Barca96 makes a key point above, it’s not that you don’t expect a large number of close in tight angle 1v1’s with the keeper not to get shut down by the keeper making himself large… It is a tougher shot than it appears as stated, the problem is it’s made tougher if you get a reputation for playing the same card all the time. This is why I’ve been wondering if it doesn’t have something to do with the consistency of angle of attack he sets himself up with and the limits of repetoire (which I’ve been calling decision making, i.e., deciding to go to the same well again and again) that makes not just the expected large, but rather an inordinately large number of opportunities that come up empty. It’s not a question of allowing for or expecting many to go bust, it is more when it becomes predictable in result and appearance just how it will go bust that suggests something is amiss. I think having to avoid the last defender actually forced some spontaneity and opened options, and he still megged the keeper if I saw it right, that altered the path to getting there that seemed to help make it work. Maybe he should pretend to avoid a defender even when they’re not there once and a while to change it up. All that aside, he played a super match.

    • barca96
      September 25, 2011

      it’s amazing that he can get a rating of 8 when he blows an entirely open one-on-one with the keeper

      It happen’s to the best of players. Remember a few seasons back in the beginning of the season, Messi kept on missing one vs. one with the goalies. And that went on for a few weeks.

      And do you play football? You do know it’s not as easy how it looks like. Against Valencia, he tried to bend it around the goalie and against ATM, he tried to nut meg (his usual style).

  14. Chiu
    September 25, 2011

    Guardiola: “I prefer to think that when things are not going well it is by merit of the rival and if they go well merit is ours ” (TW Barca_Latest)

  15. Manish
    September 25, 2011

    What is a 5 supposed to mean..? Is the reviewer out of his head? Or is Messi not supposed to get more than Abidal?

    • Vj
      September 25, 2011

      The reviewer is clearly a biased idiot. FIFY..

  16. Nav
    September 25, 2011

    I’m a huge Villa fan but I don’t blame Messi for not always passing to him — Villa missed one or two 1-on-1s with the keeper. And the pass he didnt make we were up 3 already. It’s important to keep the balance of selfless and selfishness — too much of neither is good.

    That being said his passing was a bit off but I think scoring him the lowest of everyone is a bit harsh. Without him we go from a comfortable 5-0 to a shaky 2-0. He is the difference maker.

  17. Jackieboy
    September 25, 2011

    My thoughts exactly, that time he did not pass came just a few minutes after Villa blew it, so I figured he just though ‘Mate, you had your chance, you blew it, this one is mine’. Can’t blame Leo for that.

    I loved how Pep held Alves on a very short leash this game, there was this moment at the start of the second half, Messi wanted to let him run the usual Dani-run, and then they both realized that this game, Dani wasn’t supposed to do that. Looked like Pep trying to remind Alves that he’s still a defender.

    I also love Abidal’s circling even around our own box, he’s so calm and composed on the ball, as if he was saying ‘child, please’ whenever anyone tries to close him down.

  18. K_legit
    September 25, 2011

    Noticed we started with:
    Alves Mascherano Abidal

    Triggers parallels with
    Chapi Koeman Sergi

    don’t it?

    Dream Team formation yo!

  19. barca96
    September 25, 2011

    I thought it was petty of Maxwell when he kicked the ball to Falcao’s face while he was on the ground. He literally passed it to Falcao’s face. Not cool at all. I always complained when other player’s of other teams whack the ball at an oncoming falling player so I will complain one of our own too.

  20. Jim
    September 25, 2011

    Yeah, I saw that although i didn’t realise it was Maxwell. Can’t think why he would have done it deliberately though. He was just on and we were cruising so he wouldn’t be upset about anything and he’s not a dirty player.

    • barca96
      September 25, 2011

      I thought it was Pique at first because he was the one marking. But replays showed it was Maxwell who attacked the ball and hit Falcao’s face. This happens a lot in football. Even Xavi did it before to Villa while he was with Valencia.

      • Jim
        September 25, 2011

        Just had another look at it. Masch has tripped Falcao and he’s on his way down when he’s hit in the face. It’s not like he was lying on the ground when it happened but yeah, I don’t know, maybe Maxwell could’ve pulled out of it.

        • barca96
          September 25, 2011

          With all due respect Jim, Falcao was already on the ground. I have the match on HD DVR.

  21. Diego
    September 25, 2011

    This comment is about Messi’s rating :

    – Messi beat 2 or 3 players and was on the run, He had every right to be selfish, We were 3-0 up and he wanted to score a wonder goal, Villa still had a player to beat, Messi wasn’t stopped on that play, He was fouled.

    – Does every player has to run and tire himself out to earn a rating ? If he was strolling the whole match and scored a hat-trick. Should we ask him to run and press more ? Look at the Valencia game if you want to see running, dribbling, pressing from Messi when we were 2-2.

    – It’s really really really harsh to give all players 7 and above when their contribution to the scoreline was (Xavi – Assist) and (Villa – Goal). Messi gets a 5 for 3.5 goals.

    – If Pep had Benched your lowest rated player in this match (Worst Barca player according to ratings) and Imagine how it could have went.

    • Nav
      September 25, 2011

      Your second point is very important. Pressing and workrate is very important for us, but intelligent pressing and intelligent workrate is even more important. It does no one any good if Messi is running around like a headless chicken 90+ minutes 3 times a week when we’ll need him the entire season. I’d rather Messi takes it a bit easier and only turns on the top gear when needed, eg the tie against Valencia.

      • Ron Mexico
        September 25, 2011

        “Your second point is very important. Pressing and workrate is very important for us, but intelligent pressing and intelligent workrate is even more important. It does no one any good if Messi is running around like a headless chicken 90+ minutes 3 times a week when we’ll need him the entire season. I’d rather Messi takes it a bit easier and only turns on the top gear when needed, eg the tie against Valencia.”

        Did you watch the Valencia match?

        Listen, Messi is the best player in the world and it isn’t even very close. His ability to beat players and finish is unrivaled, as evinced a few times today. However, like Kxevin rightly suggests, we know Messi is capable of more. When he is at his very best he is not only connecting both the short and intermediate passes that are so vital to the possession game, and hitting on some of his killer balls, but also tracking back and acting as an Eto’o-esque pressing forward.

        Both in the Valencia game and today (though I would argue more in the later) he was off his average form, not to mention his peak. Sure he scored some crackers, but jesus, he almost always does. I don’t think its wrong to judge him on a different plane than a Maxwell or even a Cesc.

        Context is everything in life, and yet, too often we miss the forest for the trees.

  22. Diego
    September 25, 2011

    Anyway ..

    I don’t really care about numbers and ratings but I think it’s quite harsh to rate Messi a 5 no matter how he did after scoring 3 goals.

    Good Team Game, I predicted a 5-1 as I thought that They would sneak one past us. Villa and Pedro are getting back to Full Mode which is good given that We’ll need them the next 2 months.

    I love Rayo Vallecano and their hairless no.7 Movilla ! They played a wonderful game, It really is a shame that they lost with such a high score.

    EE lost and Barca drew, It’s because They’re arrogant, disrespectful and too confident.

    ManU and ManCity drew, All Hail The Great EPL where no match can be predicted and All teams can win, It’s 11 men against 11 men.

  23. Olufestus
    September 25, 2011

    And why is the messi rating generating so much furore??should that be a big deal or to old bfb’ers??and some new posters raining some veiled- invectives on kxevin a la MANISH

  24. Barcaleya
    September 25, 2011

    Thanks for the review, Kevin! I quite agree with the rating explanations.

    And I don’t care what number we give Messi. He’s from another world. You don’t compare apples with oranges. Messi’s rating is based solely on what he’s capable of. A 5 for him is a 10 for everyone else. Or 11. Or 12. He’s such a genius really so even when he gets a 5, he played very well compared to normal players but not have played well within his level.

    Anyway – wish I saw more of the game. Stream I had was soooo slow, it was hardly moving. Uselesss.

    Another great game, though. Yay! Visca Barca!!!

  25. messi_fan
    September 25, 2011

    Yes, Messi deserved a 5. No, it wasn’t just a case of being too selfish. Yes, his passing was off today. No, it hasn’t been off all season.

    Now that that’s out of the way, allow me to point out my #1 Messi peeve. I honestly believe that Messi could score 10 more goals a season if he’d stop going to the left all the time.

    Often when Messi gets the ball outside the box, he starts drifting to the left to get off a shot. But any defender who has seen Messi is expecting this, so he has to keep on going further and further to the left. Yes, he often ends up scoring anyhow, but more often than not he runs out of space and has to pass the ball backwards.

    Cut back to the right, darn it. On the few occasions when he does cut back to the right, good things happen e.g. the goal he scored from the corner. He has the most devastating change of direction in the game, but doesn’t use it nearly enough.

  26. September 25, 2011

    Hey! Finally, I’ve been called a biased idiot. That it took this many matches into a new season for this to happen means that I’m must be getting rusty. Whew! Hiya, new folks! 😀

    Some interesting points were raised. Most interesting to me was “What if Guardiola had benched the lowest-rated player?” Well, we would have won 2-0, assuming that someone else would have half-assed the shot at the keeper during the ATM own goal sequence, that Pedro also deserves immense credit for. Or 1-0. Still 3 points, right?

    My explanation stands, and it’s very clear. We have ALL seen Messi have excellent matches. This wasn’t one of them. But we do have what I call the “did you see that?” syndrome to blame for some of it. You see it when Messi slaloms the defense, gets into the box then shoots wide. “Did you see that!!!!” It’s almost like he scored. But he didn’t. And he probably ignored open teammates along the way. Yes, he got full credit for scoring 3 delightful goals. This minute-by-minute from The Guardian is top-notch:

    But what else did he do? And I realize that I sound like Argentina World Cup naysayers at this moment, but I have seen Messi play truly wonderful matches by his standard. (Oh. For the newcomers, every player has an individual standard. If you watch them enough, it’s easy to establish.) He is running intelligently, working to maintain possession at both ends, fouling, tacking, and scoring goals. He reserves those efforts for “big” matches these days. Nothing wrong with that as long as everyone else works like dogs, which was why he was so quick to credit his teammates after yesterday’s match.

    Yesterday was one of those matches where he walks around, looks grim, materializes for some magic, then lets his teammates take care of the rest.

    Nothing wrong with that either, but that isn’t a 10. Or even an 8. Not for Messi or any other player, because my ratings encompass the entire match, rather than just 6 seconds of excellence. You’d think I’d called the Queen Mother a ho or something. 😀

    Is he the best player in the world? Without question. Does this mean he is immune from criticism? Hellz no, yo. Does this mean I’m immune from criticism for criticizing Messi? Nope. But discuss it within the standards of this space, new folks. Name-calling doesn’t become anyone.

    –Villa and his “proximity issues.” Simply put, he rushes things. His 1-v-1s in two consecutive matches show that. He has more time than he thinks, but wants to get it done quickly, he thinks, before defenders have a chance to shut him down or the keeper can get fully set. As a result, he cheats himself out of one of his best attributes, his shotmaking creativity. Lord knows why he does it, but he does, once a match (or more) these days. Where some players touch the ball too much when in on goal, he doesn’t touch it enough. Sometimes, one more touch is just right.

    –More blasphemy: Messi isn’t a complete player yet. When he becomes one it will be staggering, and it’s our pleasure to watch him do this. His passing/assistmaking is new. He’s 24 years old, still like a colt finding his legs in footballing terms. In 3 or so seasons, he will be passing like Xavi AND scoring like Messi, while also understanding when to run and when NOT to run, also like Xavi. Right now he’s like Michael Jordan his first 5 or so NBA seasons. Lots of “Whoa!” moments, but look at how Jordan improved as a player over his career, right?

    • September 25, 2011

      I never really thought that about Villa and I think you are right. Sometimes he is in too big a hurry when he has all the time in the world. I don’t if it is the Barca weight doing this because I didn’t pay much attention to his missed chances while he was at valencia. Yet I think this yeas he is much more confident and he always responds in the next match when he makes a mistake in the previous one (sociedad – milan, Valencia – Atletico).

      • September 25, 2011

        Thanks, Vj. Sorta like a one-person LiveBlog. I disagree, though, with his “barely breaking a sweat” comments. It wasn’t just rain soaking the players shirts.

    • stowe
      September 25, 2011

      thank you for explaining that each player is judged by his own standards. it was definitely the new commenters to BFB getting upset (with VJ and his random bile spewing 😉
      I agree with Messi’s rating. He has to fit into the system. Passing and pressing are the vitals of the system. if he didn’t do them, subtract points

      • Vj
        September 25, 2011

        I apologize.

        Note that every comment that starts with SEL.. is sarcasm, making light of all the negativity/knee-jerk reactions in the previous seasons’ liveblogs. Villa offside? Sell him. Keita backwards pass? Sell him and so on and so forth.

        And I was only warming Miguel up to the level of bile and shaming generally attributed to Atleti fans (Sorry brah!). It will only make him stronger and well prepared.. 😛

    • Camero
      September 25, 2011

      Hi Kevin, even though I kind of get what you are saying about Messi becoming a complete player, I don’t think you can criticise his off the ball running now which I think is one the best in the team. Notice how many goals Messi gets bu timing his runs perfectly in the box. I don;t think he gets enough credit for this part of his game as compared to players like Villa and Pedro.

      • September 25, 2011

        No, my point isn’t his off-the-ball running, but all of the other aspects of being an attacking player under Guardiola. My point above about that late-match moment where defenders became mids and attackers defenders illustrated that. The Guardiola system is such a demanding one. In some matches, Henry, for example, had more fouls than defenders. He said that he has never run in his life as he has under Guardiola.

        Now, if Messi wants to suborn a more complete “Guardiola game” for goalscoring, that’s certainly the right of the best player alive. It’s hard to argue with the results. But I’ve seen him score one goal, and dominate a game completely, just by being everywhere.

        So to clarify, there’s off-the-ball running on the offensive end, running for ball control and running for defense.

        An early knock against Villa was that he stood around, waiting for service, like most good strikers do. But that isn’t really an option under Guardiola. This season he’s fitter, and is much more a part of the all-pitch attack, offense and defense.

        It’s going to be a long season for Messi, a player who doesn’t want to take matches off, ever. And Guardiola usually accedes to his demands. So I understand him wanting to take rest where he can, even as I note such things in the match ratings.

      • Obii
        September 25, 2011

        Not trying to take anything away from Messi’s brilliance, but the fact of the matter is, this team is built around Messi’s attacking talent. So if he’s not making those well timed runs into the box, he’s a waste of space. Players like Villa are already sacrificing a lot of their goalscoring potential to accomodate a better player. There have been countless times where I have seen Messi drop into midfield to link up and Villa has made one of his defense splitting runs, but is ignored, because the team is more tuned in to creating that same sort of opportunity for Messi. Not trying to say they purposely ignore Villa, just saying that it is a natural consequence of the way the team is set up around Messi.

        For all the Kxevin haters, calm yourself. He is just measuring Messi by his own standard. No need for name-calling.

        • September 25, 2011

          See, I don’t think that it is, Obii. I think that Messi is a featured player, but we play the same way whether he’s in the lineup or not. It’s a system that Guardiola has implemented that should be player-proof. I think building a team around a player would be madness, because if the player gets hurt, the system falls apart.

          Your observation about Villa is spot on. He made a number of runs yesterday that were ignored, which is unfortunate.

    • chaospheory
      September 25, 2011

      Thank you for the review Kxevin, well written and well observed, as usual.
      Thanks for putting in words what I was trying to figure out yesterday about Messi’s performance. I felt that he was “off” (compared to what I know he’s done before), and that the rest of the team seemed so vitally “on”. Sure, he scored beautifully, but in the attempts that he didn’t score, he seemed as though he was trying to work himself into good form.
      As for Villa, well, I am very impressed with him. He’s made his share of mistakes this season, but for the most part, he seems to really have made the transition to Barca’s system. His endurance is so much better, his passing is more consistent, his defense is more effective. He seems SOOOO much more comfortable on the ball than the second half of last season.
      Our team yesterday was, for me, a wonder of movement and focus. The pressing especially impressed me. I feel like they are getting the hang of the “tinkering” that Pep is doing.

    • September 25, 2011

      I think Kevin you forget to mention what if he’d played “10” rating? What would the scoreline be? Would Cesc have broken that Ibra/Cesar record?

      • September 25, 2011

        Interesting question, Stephen. It’s hard to know, really, because when Messi plays to a high rating, it is usually to the detriment of his goal scoring. And it isn’t as if ATM could have scored negative goals, right? But I do think the pressure would have been that much more effective, as Messi is a dogged defender with incredible ball skills, aka the worst nightmare of an attacking opponent. He also never gives up. He just wants the ball.

        He’s also so intelligent in tracking back. I really do think the game happens in slo-mo for him sometimes. But tracking back takes a LOT of energy. Look at how Fabregas looked when coming off, for example. Dude needed a xocolata and a nap!

    • September 25, 2011

      Was just going to post this. Yes, the guy has some axes to grind, but holy cow, what a dirty business!

      • dennise
        September 25, 2011

        It is probaly similar everywhere….

        the new wrinkle is betting scandals….

    • Vj
      September 25, 2011

      Oh and its via @Marcotti over at twitter..

  27. September 25, 2011

    By the by, imagine this club in a few months, when Sanchez is healthy and on his way to really figuring it out, Iniesta is healthy and our back line is at full strength.

    It still might not win everything in front of it, but it’s going to be amazing to watch.

  28. September 25, 2011

    Perez over at the madrid assembly is actually saying while addressing his members that mourinho TAUGHT them that being a gentleman is also criticising the cheaters in football and that they can not congratulate those that attack them.
    HE also claimed that socios as old no. 16331 and 13447 should open their eyes and see that their influenced by the Barcelona based press!
    Oh my…! Seems perez is really scared of another sporting failure that may cost him his presidency…and the riches and construction opportunities (he is president of the biggest construction company is spain) that come with that…
    He also goes on saying that the fact that they didn’t win the CL wasn’t their fault, though on that we agree on since they really COULDN’T do anything more…

  29. Vj
    September 25, 2011

    Miguel Serrano over at Marca has lost it. Ayatola Pep? FC Burka? Allah Barca? They’ve stooped to newer lows..

    • Srini
      September 25, 2011

      Residual fascism in the EE Central Lechera from the Franco days. What else can this reaction be?

      • September 25, 2011

        Those comments were very, very disturbing for so many reasons. I’m glad (in the Twitterverse) that the good folk @LaLigaLoca aired them. It’s pretty awful stuff.

    • blitzen
      September 25, 2011

      Guardiola es el Mahoma del barcelonismo. Gracias a la palabra revelada por el Ayatolá Pep, el FC Barça se ha convertido en el FC Burka. Al viejo ¡hala, Madrid!, los culés enfrentarán desde ahora el ¡Alá, Barça!

      Google translation:

      Guardiola is the Mahoma (Muhammed?) of the barcelonismo. Thanks to the word revealed by Ayatola Pep, the FC Barça has become the FC Burka. To the old Hala, Madrid! , culés will face from now on Allah, Barça!

  30. Mila
    September 25, 2011

    Kxevin – really want to hear your thoughts on the ongoing “junta” battle between the accusations thrown by Rosell and the responses of Laporta, especially in the new light of Pep actually finally speaking about it and apparently taking Laporta’s side by branding him as “suffering” and achieving “grand things” while in the office.

    Really want to hear what you guys think about this. Is this going to affect Pep’s contract decisions?

    • nzm
      September 25, 2011

      This is the real reason why Pep only takes 1 year contracts. If it gets too ugly, he can opt to bail. Also, if it gets too ugly, Pep can “threaten” the club and the Soci fanbase that he is going to leave because of the current board/President.

      Guess who would win – Pep or Rosell – if it was put to the Socis? Another President and board can be found. Another coach like Pep? Not so easy!

      • Mila
        September 25, 2011

        nmz, I agree with you that these are reasons Pep doesn’t do long term contracts, but seeing how he is a classy guy, I don’t see him going against the system, threatening or putting the club into “Rosell or Guardiola” situation.

        He is too classy for this.

        I think he is trying to stop the hatred and the rabid dog reactions from the current junta towards Laporta.

        • nzm
          September 25, 2011

          Pep only signed 1 year contracts under Laporta’s board too – he knew that when Laporta left that it could get tricky.

          He’s well-aware that he can’t turn his back on Rosell for a second.

          His refusal to sign a long-term contract keeps everyone on their toes.

          If push comes to shove, he won’t have to threaten anyone. The board doesn’t agree to his terms and conditions? The fans and the team will back him to the hilt.

          Rosell knows this. That’s why he’s making such a big deal over the financials, and the “progress” that he’s making in reducing the deficit. It’s the only leverage that he has. Even in this area, he’s doing a superb snowjob on the majority of socis and fans.

          The lawsuit against Laporta is another diversion – and it’s more of a personal grudge for Rosell than it is a professional decision.

          Laporta has resigned from the Catalunya Parliament and stepped down from the Presidency of the SI Party which he helped to found. Some say that it’s to prepare for the court case, and to divert unecessary focus away from the Si Party during the proceedings. His family (divorced wife and sons) have moved to the UK.

          Personally, I doubt that the court case will occur, if Laporta can produce the required defence/evidence needed to shut up Rosell. I think that an “out-of-court settlement” will be made, and the conditions will include that no one talks to the press about anything to do with the charges.

          In this way, Rosell will be seen to have “won”, whatever the real situation is.

          Laporta is certainly battening down the hatches in preparation for the fight. His one powerful “pawn” left in the club is Pep – and through his recent statements, Pep has shown that his loyalty still lies with Laporta.

          I’ll never forget the TV coverage here in Barcelona of Pep arriving to vote in the board elections in June 2010. You could tell that he was going to vote for anyone but Rosell, just from the way in which he carried himself! Unfortunately, the majority of Socis didn’t agree with him.

    • September 25, 2011

      Well, I think that Guardiola is on the record (finally) as saying it’s a shame, and that the previous board, who built this team that we are all enjoying, doesn’t deserve this.

      Not that this will stop RoSELL and his minions from dragging Laporta and the club through the mud in search of what, exactly? This is what happens when friends and associates become enemies.

      His first effort was to try to keep Laporta from winning elective office. Didn’t happen. So what’s next? Good question.

      Will all the BS chase our coach away? Doubtful. I think what will make Guardiola stop is feeling as if he’s gone as far as he can with this group of players. And only he will know when that has arrived.

      As nzm notes, Guardiola only takes one-year contracts for the reason that he wants a way out if things get to my aforementioned point. He really does seem to coach by feel when it comes to how HE feels about the task at hand.

      As for contract decisions, I don’t think it will affect what he does in any way. He and the team are insulated from all of that nonsense — and that’s what it is, nonsense. All RoSELL has to do is manage the club to the next level(s) of sporting success, without extracting his pound of flesh from Laporta. He is, to me, like the kid who was always pushed around who somehow has become class president. “It’s payback time, muhahahahahaaaa!”

      It doesn’t become him, or the club.

      But politics and crap are unavoidable with our club, which is the shining symbol of an “autonomous region.” “Mes que un club” can be both good and bad, right? It means so much to so many in so many different ways, that the president who doesn’t turn it to his own needs will be the first. Laporta wanted to win trophies, meet famous people and party. Pretty harmless, right? Depends on who you ask. RoSELL says that Laporta’s desires led to fiscal malfeasance, and the piper must be paid. When Laporta took out the insurance policy, he must have either seen this coming, or was harboring some guilt about something running in the background. I don’t know, and we might never know.

      What I do know is that the public, press and courts is NOT the place to fight a personal vendetta.

  31. nzm
    September 25, 2011

    Good performance from the team. They took their foot off the gas in the second half – perhaps in an effort to conserve their energy for this week’s Champions League game.

    They did enough for a mallowpuff.

    Kxevin – you mention Thiago doing the running for Xavi. In my comment under Kari’s post on the Valencia game, I also commented on that. I believe that both Thiago and Cesc will now be doing a lot of running in order to save the old man’s legs. 🙂

    This leaves Xavi to be the General on the pitch – directing the play while the foot soldiers protect him and do all the legwork. It also allows him to play deeper, both for defence in the same area as Busquets (especially when there’s only a 3 man backline and Busquets isn’t in it!) and to set up the forward movements of the team.

    It’s exciting to watch the progression and evolution of the team as the players learn new roles and tactics. What we’re seeing is another step in Pep’s and Tito’s Master Plan. This year is going to be a tough one on us all!

  32. Blau-Grenade
    September 25, 2011

    I do notice that Xavi is playing much better this year than the last few years that I have seen him play. Makes sense now that you put things in context with regards to Cesc and Thiago running to save the general’s legs.

  33. Vj
    September 25, 2011

    Levante beat both EE and mini-EE. The blaugrana jersey is that powerful..

  34. Azulgrana
    September 25, 2011

    5??? After another dominant display by our footy demi god against his favorite victims. C’mon, not a fair rating for him. He’s on course to displace Kubala as the club’s 2nd all time leading goal scorer and will hopefully dethrone Cesar by the end of the season. Despite all this, his primary concern is the team to keep winning more trophies not personal records.

    • MiZa
      September 25, 2011

      We had about 70& possession and allowed maybe two goal-scoring opportunities and someone complains that our most offensive-minded player didn’t put in enough effort on defense?

      Where exactly was the harm of Messi not running back to the halfway line in a game completely dominated by us, just a few days before an away game (and we do mean away) in the Champions League?

      • September 25, 2011

        We had about 70& possession and allowed maybe two goal-scoring opportunities and someone complains that our most offensive-minded player didn’t put in enough effort on defense?

        “Complains” is an incorrect word choice, but yes. People call out Villa for not tracking back, so should Messi be exempt? Is Messi more “offensive-minded” than Villa? Not by any stretch of the imagination.

        • MiZa
          September 25, 2011

          I think they only complain about Villa not tracking back in games where he scores less than three world-class goals.

    • September 25, 2011

      Mmmmm, no. Xavi was dominant. Abidal was dominant. The team was dominant. Even Thiago verged on dominant, not to mention impudent with that late-match nutmeg/attack.

      The rest is explained quite thoroughly above. If you don’t agree, that’s one thing. But not “fair?” What does that mean, exactly, other than that my rating of him doesn’t hew to your view of his performance. By definition, that’s a “disagreement,” and it’s fine that we disagree. Folks rarely agree on everything, right?

      • ciaran
        September 25, 2011

        Thiago was fantastic last night.
        Even for Villa’s goal, if you watch it back Thiago’s movement was almost as important as Xavi’s ball or Villa’s control.
        Perea stepped forward covering Thiago’s off the ball run giving Villa just enough space to control it. Without that the ball gets cut out.

      • The__K__Man
        September 25, 2011

        Got to say scoring those kind of goals automatically make you dominant. How do you dribble past so many players and aren’t considered dominant?

      • kinukinu
        September 25, 2011

        “Now, if Messi wants to suborn a more complete “Guardiola game” for goalscoring, that’s certainly the right of the best player alive. It’s hard to argue with the results. But I’ve seen him score one goal, and dominate a game completely, just by being everywhere.”

        I wouldn’t say I disagree with your observations, but I wonder if maybe his game was intentionally designed that way? For all we know, Guardiola could have instructed Messi to chillax when he’s not wreaking havoc in or near the box. Perhaps Pep has purposely exempted Messi from the requirement of omnipresence, so that he can save his energy for his trademark bursts of brilliance?

        After all (like you said) sometimes when he plays his most well-rounded games, he’s not scoring as much. And, (as demonstrated by AC Milan, R. Sociedad, and Valencia) Barca can dominate 99% of a match but are still vulnerable to giving up goals in an instant, even with a 2-goal lead.

        While the rest of the team can press harder to make up for Messi’s lower workrate, it’s not as easy for them to make up for his goal-scoring ability when it’s not his primary focus. He’s already proven that he’s capable of working hard and not above defending when necessary, but just because he can and is willing doesn’t mean he always should.

        We have lots of players that can press and play all over the pitch, and many who can score, but no one is quite like Messi when it comes to creating goals out of nowhere–which is what we need the most as our opponents spend more and more time finding ways to limit our scoring and capitalize on even the most fleeting moments weakness.

        • September 25, 2011

          I’ll buy all of that, kinukinu. It still doesn’t change the reality that he is so extraordinary when he plays a complete game, and makes himself more unplayable because of his omnipresence.

          And because I’m not privy to Guardiola’s instructions, I can only react to what I see, and evaluate accordingly.

          • kinukinu
            September 25, 2011

            I don’t disagree that his “complete game” is extraordinary, but your reaction to “what you see” is based on the assumption that he failed to do something that he was supposed to do. We don’t know that, and the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

            What we need right now, more than 100% Messi brilliance for the whole game, is a few brilliant, perfectly executed, Messi Moments that lead to goals–enough to ensure that we can’t give up the lead in a couple of counter-attacks or set piece headers. The other boys are perfectly capable of picking up the slack, if you can even call it that. (it’s not like he’s totally standing around a la TB) It’s an efficient use of energy and talent, especially given the schedule ahead. So, personally, I’ll take a little Messi conservation if it means we don’t just dominate the game, but win it too.

          • September 25, 2011

            I agree with you. But it doesn’t make a match rating based on a complete, excellent overall Messi game incorrect, unfair or biased. It’s just the reality of that particular moment, right? By his personal standard and the team’s expectations, he’s been better. Simple as that.

            The reaction does speak to a broader notion, that goals=goodness. The end. But that isn’t necessarily so. At least not to me. Fabregas had a remarkable match, and didn’t score. Or assist. But in the context of his personal standard and team expectations, he tore it up.

            So people are saying “Messi scored 3, and you gave him a 5. You’re stupid and unfair.” Which isn’t accurate, for any number of reasons, all clearly laid out above. But it’s hard to accept, because Messi scored three goals. And good for him. But my role when I write match reviews isn’t affirmation. If it were that easy, I could visit the LiveBlog, get a general sense of what people, sit down and bang something out rather than watching twice, taking notes, tracking individual players, doing frame-by-frame, etc. Hell, affirmation would save me a TON of time.

            But that wouldn’t meet MY personal standard.

          • kinukinu
            September 25, 2011

            For the record, I’m not calling your rating stupid and unfair. I completely agree that Messi didn’t work as hard as he usually does outside of his goal-scoring moments. And based on the assumption that Messi could have worked harder, I agree that he didn’t meet his potential. But I ask you to consider the possibility that maybe Messi wasn’t underperforming, because maybe running all over the field was not his job yesterday. (The same way that Dani Alves’ job lately has been to defend even less than usual.)

            Look at our opponents from yesterday–they are EXACTLY the kind of team that can kill a close game out of nowhere with a set-piece header–even if we are dominating the entire game. We just couldn’t afford another one of those games.

            I’m not suggesting that goals=goodness–at least not exclusively, but goodness–even greatness–doesn’t always=wins either. And yesterday, we really needed a win. So maybe–just maybe–that was the plan all along.

            Either way, how lucky/spoiled are we??? We have several key players out and yet our biggest concern right now is the debate over the merits of a Messi 5 versus a Messi 10 versus a regular 10 after a MANITA againts a very strong team??? Damn lucky!

            In Turkish, we have an expression: “May our worst days be like this!”

    • Ryan
      September 25, 2011

      He traded one bench for another it seems.

    • Ryan
      September 25, 2011

      CT is getting 20 minutes it looks like.

  35. Vj
    September 25, 2011

    Um. Lets say you are the manager of one of the biggest clubs in your league and your job would be on the line if you don’t get results quickly. Would you start Bojan?

  36. September 25, 2011

    RoSELL called Ibrahimovic the “worst transfer in the history of Barca.” Really? What did he have, 20 or so goals and 7 assists or something like that? Worst in the club’s history, or just “worst by that bastard Laporta.” And as I recall, Laporta wasn’t the one who blew him out for pennies on the dollar, and took a 10mn loss on Txigrinski.

    Grrrr! Be presidential, manage the club, and leave the petty stuff alone.

    • Vj
      September 25, 2011

      Could’ve easily named Hleb. Jerk..

    • SteveHK
      September 25, 2011

      no Laporta was the one who gave up Etoo and 30 or 40 million for Ibrahimovic – plus assuming his inflated salary that hurt the teams ability to keep semi-uniform salary structure for all of our star players.
      The value Rosell got for selling Ibrahimovic was his ACTUAL MARKET VALUE – as far as I know, Rosell didn’t turn down any better offers for him! It only looked like pennies on the dollar because Ibrahimovic’s actual market value was so much lower than what Laporta paid for him.

      • The__K__Man
        September 25, 2011

        Rosell may not have had any other options but 24 million is nowhere near his actual market value. Ibra is one of the best forwards in the world, no way that’s his price. It’s kind of like the Fab deal. There was only 1 buyer.

        From what I read Rosell meant it in a financial way, not on a sporting level, which is kind of true.

        • SteveHK
          September 25, 2011

          I appreciate your reply, but I think that 24 million actually was Ibrahimovic’s market value last year.
          Unless there was as you say only 1 buyer because Ibra would have blocked a sale to any other team than AC Milan (similar to Cesc) Ibrahimovic’s market price is like a well advertised auction for a one of a kind piece of art – the winning bid by definition is the market value of the piece of art. The large and seemingly irrational fluctuations in amounts paid for players is due to there being a relatively small number of buyers bidding for their services.
          In short Ibrahimovic is worth what people are willing to pay for him, and no one was willing to pay more than AC Milan a year ago.
          Even given his skills, i can think of reasons why not – his huge salary, his mercenary attitude, and his prima donna attitude.

      • SteveHK
        September 25, 2011

        Forgot to include that Ibrahimovic’s “me first, team second” attitude is exactly the type you don’t want on the field or in the dressing room. (Would you want Thiago learning from his example?) Selling him was addition by subtraction for the team.
        I think a bias against Rosell is the only explanation for how one could believe that selling Ibrahimovic for what we did was a worse trade than buying him for what we did.

      • September 25, 2011

        Actually, Laporta did what he was supposed to do, which is get the player that his coach wanted. He also did what his coach wanted in shipping out Eto’o. Guardiola’s a remarkable coach, but he isn’t made of Teflon. Not to me.

        The market, in the case of Ibrahimovic, was defined in two very different ways. Laporta was going to get Guardiola what he wanted. So:

        1. Inter could work an excellent deal, and pick up Eto’o.
        2. Guardiola wanted Ibrahimovic gone, so the market became a buyer’s market, and the player went for a fraction of his real value. No, his market value is NOT 24m. That’s less than Alexis Sanchez, for the most talented striker in the game (Messi isn’t a striker, so dismount from the high horses).

        This all came about because a player and his coach couldn’t get along in a way sufficient to help the club. Or maybe Guardiola saw that Ibrahimovic wasn’t the player that he wanted. Either way, the club had to sell him, which defined the price. But club presidents don’t buy players that the coach doesn’t want. Or sell them (usually, except in the case of Txigrinski).

        None of which stops RoSELL from demonizing Laporta, by calling Ibrahimovic the “worst transfer” in the club’s history. He helped the club win the Liga, and advance in the Champions League. He also contributed stats that any striker would be thrilled with.

        And if we define “value” by what a player did for the club, what did Hleb do for his 17m? Txigrinski for his 25m? It isn’t Laporta’s fault that we had to fire sale Ibrahimovic.

        As for an “inflated salary,” that was defined by his value to Inter, not us. We met his accepted pay packet as part of the deal. But it isn’t as if Ibrahimovic came, did nothing but sit on the bench and get paid, a la Thierry Henry his last season with the club. IIRC, we picked up a trophy or two that season with Ibrahimovic as our striker. People forget that.

        Laporta also spent 40m for Villa. The difference? Some will say that we won the Champions League with Villa as our forward, right, and will ignore the fact that an incorrectly disallowed goal was the only reason we didn’t make the CL final that year, with Ibrahimovic. Nobody will argue that we discovered that his attitude was toxic. Which doesn’t change the fiscal reality of the situation.

        It’s easy to hurl accusations of bias, rather than looking at a situation for what it is.

        • SteveHK
          September 25, 2011

          Kxevin, I appreciate your reply and I don’t want to get into a Laporta vs Rosell discussion with you because I’m honestly not knowledgeable enough and it’s fairly obvious that you have strong opinions about it. (Just from the RoSELL nickname for one.) However strong opinions doesn’t necessarily mean you are biased so I apologize for implying that you were.
          But I think you are plain wrong about Ibra’s market value. In a financial/economics/accounting sense market value is not a subjective “feeling” type of thing – it is based on data from market transactions. As an example, if someone puts a one of a kind mansion for sale on the real estate market, the price that the house sells for IS THAT HOUSE’S MARKET VALUE. (sorry about the all caps, just trying to emphasize.)
          It doesn’t make any difference if the person who sold the house paid a lot more for it, or if houses that you or I think are susbstantially similar sold for more near the same time. So long as anyone who wanted to make an offer for the house could, then the purchase price is the best measure of the house’s value – much better than using the prices other “similar” houses have sold for.
          Finally in the real world people do get “good deals” and maybe Ibra was a good deal for Milan. But also one should consider that the men running the large football clubs of the world are for generally great businessmen, or have great business men working for them. They aren’t that likely to not make an offer on a player that is being sold for much less than he is worth.
          (See my reply to The__K__Man above for more on same subject.)

          • September 25, 2011

            You’re right. I love my club, and probably know far more than I should. Milan stole Ibrahimovic from us, because we had to sell. So at that time, defined by market conditions, 24m was his market value, which is different than actual market value.

            Wifey and I are bidding on a house that, 2 years ago, was on the market for $550k. Now, it’s a short sale at $275k. That’s the current market value. But sale price is different from market value, in terms of both players and homes. It’s why the comment from a board member that Fabregas was indeed worth 60 was a misjudgment. We got a deal because we were the sole bidder, as Milan did because they were the only ones willing to foot the bill for Ibrahimovic’s salary. A lot of teams would have been in at the price, but the world of clubs who can pay a player 12m per, is pretty small.

            We agree that 24m after what we spent was ridiculous. You missed my screaming about it at the time, along with everyone else in this space, pretty much, even the ones who wanted him gone. My only point is that in the entire case, it’s presidents doing what their coach wanted.

            Now, this is very apart from my views on RoSELL who, to my eyes, isn’t very presidential for too much of the time, his Laporta vendetta being the most recent example.

          • Miguel
            September 25, 2011

            Now, this is very apart from my views on RoSELL who, to my eyes, isn’t very presidential for too much of the time, his Laporta vendetta being the most recent example.

            And I loved his, “you’re gonna go out dressed like that?!” moment with Alexis before the Chilean’s photo op in front of the Barça crest. This guy’s hilarious!

  37. September 25, 2011

    Hey, ref Iturralde is on Twitter, at @EduIturralde. Probably worth a follow.

  38. September 25, 2011

    As an aside, and maybe it’s the same every year with new commenters, but we HAVE to able to discuss things without resorting to name-calling and accusations. When this space becomes like a message board, it loses its sense of family.

    You can disagree with someone, withOUT calling them a name or saying they have some sort of bias, particularly when the accusation is unsupportable. It also derails any logical debate, a la the classic “Have you stopped beating your wife yet” challenge. No matter how you answer, it’s wrong.

    For the record, I write posts here because I enjoy this club, and enjoy discussing the way that it plays and what it does. I learn many things from many commenters here, as I do from my fellow BFB Team members. Much of what keeps me here is the friendly, collegial approach of its denizens. Because it sure ain’t the pay, right?

    But when the space starts to degenerate into ugliness, in full honesty, it makes it hard to want to have the same dedication to the task, particularly in light of real life, such as friends, work, wife, life, hobbies, training, etc. Sorry, but that kind of stuff just starts to wear you down, and the season is still very young.

    For the record. I don’t care a whit if NOBODY agrees with me. But do so in a reasonable, civilized manner, and we can discuss it.

    • SteveHK
      September 25, 2011

      I am a new commenter, just started a couple of weeks ago, but have been a reader for a couple of years. Since I just disagreed with you I am curious if you are talking about me.
      I’d like to know because honestly I tried hard to be polite and focus on the issues in my posts. I did say
      “I think a bias against Rosell is the only explanation for how one could believe that selling Ibrahimovic for what we did was a worse trade than buying him for what we did.”
      but I didn’t name you personally, and I do honestly believe that the most likely reason an FC Barcelona fan in general would think that buying Ibra for Etoo and 30 million was not a worse deal than selling him for 24 million – for the reasons I stated.)
      I’m asking, because if you are talking about me when you say “new commenters” then maybe I’m thinking that I really don’t know how to disagree with you in a polite enough way and that maybe I should go back to not commenting or to only commenting “Good job!”
      Of course I have been a reader of this blog long enough to know a little about the posting styles of it’s various family members – and to want to start participating in discussions – so maybe I shouldn’t take your post personally.

    • SteveHK
      September 25, 2011

      I do appreciate the time and effort you put into this blog. I check it at least once a day!

      • September 25, 2011

        No. I appreciate the debate and commentary. It isn’t any commenter in specific, more a general mood, and a “mods are people too,” plea. Thanks for asking.

        I get called biased a lot. I loved Henry, loved Abidal, hated Busquets, hate Villa, loved Ibrahimovic. Someone did a breakdown of my ratings the year I loved Henry, and discovered that his average rating put him in the bottom third of the season ratings. And maybe it’s the Web, that makes people type things they wouldn’t say to someone in person. Dunno. But it’s safe to say that Kari and I are the two most visible mods in the space these days, because I think it’s important. And we’re people too, and part of the family, I hope. And I think we should be able to say things and make judgments, then discuss those statements like family sitting around the dinner table rather than adversaries. It’s what makes this space so appealing for me.

        • SteveHK
          September 25, 2011

          Thanks for replying. I hoped you weren’t talking about me, but not being a mod I don’t know how many other new commentators there were posting! 🙂
          I really do appreciate this blog and all the time and energy you and the other mods and contributors put in to it, and also that even though all the regular contributors to this blog are passionate FCB fans, the tone is civil and friendly – not adversarial. Thanks and good job! 😉 🙂

        • kinukinu
          September 25, 2011

          Hope you’re not talking about me either–I was actually enjoying what I thought to be a friendly discourse and thought you were too 🙁

          • September 25, 2011

            No and yes, I was as well, kinukinu. I hope my explanation above was sufficiently clear. If not, please let me know.

          • kinukinu
            September 25, 2011

            I’m glad. The (mostly) elevated quality of discussion in here truly makes it mes que un blog. It has been cause for me to enjoy and appreciate following this sport on another level. Cheers!

    • Barka
      September 25, 2011

      I don’t think Kxevin was refering to you SteveHK. He was probably talking about those who reacted against Messi’s rating with name calling.

  39. Kimcelona
    September 26, 2011

    Damn, people here are SPOILT.

    Messi scores a hattrick, is involved in every play the team does going forward yet his performance is still rated as “not his best.” I know that can only be a compliment in itself but gosh a little perspective is needed at times. He is human. Yep, I know hard to believe.

    And I’m not with everyone saying he was selfish in this match. He wasnt in this match. That ONE run he had where he didnt pass, Villa was actually moving out of his way when he realized what was about to happen. He never ran into three defenders, he was running away from them before he got fouled by one of them on the edge of the box. We were three goals up for God’s sake!

    I agree with the ratings you gave everyone else though.

  40. Worddriven Bozo
    September 26, 2011

    Thiago reduced the running that Xavi had to do, Kxevin said. Messi, meanwhile, didn’t run enough for Kxevin.

    Xavi get MOTM. Messi gets a 5.

    This all reminds me of the Sir Alf Ramsey days as England manager, when he boiled everything down to what was then a new phrase: “work rate.” Hell, the Premier League has been suffering from that apprehension for decades. The harder you play, the better you play.

    Messi did miss a couple of passes. They weren’t passes in the danger zone, putting his team into peril. He didn’t always pass to a man more open, but Messi with two guys on him is quite equivalent to Villa against one defender. The case could be made that Messi is actually more likely to score in those circumstances. So do you want the football version of realpolitik, where you play to actually maximize the chances of scoring, or do you want a fantasy game, where the players always pass to an open man, while the Disney music plays?

    Scoring requires a certain single-mindedness, you know; you have to be convinced that you are doing the right thing at the moment you do it; you can’t have the nagging feeling that you’re messing up just as you try to drive the ball into the net.

    What I said was the your ratings were not journalistic, that they are evidence of favoritism. That’s not name-calling, if it as you admit yourself that you apply “different standards.” Maybe you don’t have an axe to grind, but it certainly seems you do. Give Xavi the MOTM, sure, he was great. It would be boring to give the best player the MOTM almost every time, no?

    Just looked at They gave Xavi an 8.5. Very good indeed. Messi a 9. MOTM. QED.

    • September 26, 2011 compares players against each other. Kxevin compares players against their own personal best. It’s different

      • Worddriven Bozo
        September 26, 2011

        Well, that’s kind of insane. So if a player is slow (hello, Gabriel Milito) and they get beat by sheer speed, then they don’t get lower ratings… because they did the best they could?

        Sorry, they’re playing the game out there. If a player contributes to a victory, or causes a defeat, their rankings should show it. You don’t judge by some idiotic Personal Best standard. You compare to other players. Man of the Match, for example, is clearly a comparison.

        Otherwise you’d never give Messi very good ratings, because he was so amazing against Arsenal two years ago……

  41. karyvero
    September 26, 2011

    First time on the site and first comment.

    Its kind of difficult to grade Messi on games, because even when he plays horrible (In Messi standards, because he really never plays badly) he is able do a magic trick that ultimately wins the match. I personally would have rated Messi’s game against Atletico with an 8. It wasn’t his best passing or defensive game, but his three out of the world goals and the “assist” for the own goal make for his lack of commitment in defense. I think above all Messi is a very intelligent player. He senses when matches are controlled or open and act accordingly. He knows when is not his scoring day. If by the third shot he does not score, he turns into Xavi 2.0. In Mestalla he knew he was not going to score, so he pressed the defense and gave away three amazing assists (Sadly, the one he gave to Villa did not finished on goal). With Atletico he sensed that the team had control of the match and decided to have fun and put on a show for the Camp Nou crowd. The main reason why Messi has been able to avoid injuries and outperformed himself every year is because he reads games and dose out his interventions. He doesn’t waste his energy on trivial plays. That may be a little selfish of him, but when the team really needs him he always responds with goals, great defense and amazing assists. What makes Messi the best player in the World is that he makes the impossible seemed ordinary. Playing at 50% he is able to assist 2 goals to tie a game, score a hat trick or win a Supercopa title for his team. The scary part is that he is only 24 years old and I believe he will only get better. Something tells me that he will want to have bigger role in the future taking an even more Xavi-Iniestaesque approach to his game. That will allow him to be the best scoring and passing player at Barca and who knows maybe the whole La Liga.

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