12 Questions for Graham Hunter about FCB, Part 2, aka “Still haven’t bought the book? What’s your problem?”

Here’s Part Two of the interview with Graham Hunter, author of “Barca: The Making of the Greatest Club in the World.” In case you missed Part One, fie on thee! You can read it here. If you don’t already have your own copy, you can order it directly from Back Page Press, or via Amazon.com.

Today, we deal with management styles, players and assimilation complexities and other fun stuff. And as an aside, management style is suddenly become very interesting, in light of our spectacularly dim-witted decision to, like petulant schoolchildren, boycott the RFEF meet about the Plat del Reig final because we’re in a snit because Pique made a stupid decision in a match, got red carded, then compounded the stupidity by blathering inanities after the match. By the by, the final will be at the Vicente Calderon on 25 May. You people planning ahead will note that this means 3 matches in 12 days, if we make the CL final. Here’s hoping.

Back to business: The final part of the “Graham Hunter Triptych” will be a review of the book, to come next week. So those of you sitting on the fence, thinking about waiting to see what I say are misguided, as you already know what a biased jackass I am. Further, you should automatically buy any, all and everything related to Our Beloved Club, so long as it doesn’t have “Qatar Foundation” on its front (yes, I said it). And without further ado, here is Part Two:

As the club “internalizes,” restricting membership and the potential number of socis, what is the potential damage to the club as regards its roots (and perception) as a member-driven entity?

Zero as far as I’m concerned. The restriction seems to me to be well-founded. In the time I’ve lived in Barcelona the Socio numbers have gone up by around 80,000. That is serious, serious revenue and it would have been in FCB’s interests to allow that revenue stream to grow. Their argument that there are not seats for all those who want to be a Socio and buy a Carnet is well founded. The waiting list is huge. If they argue, as they do, that controlling the list and only allowing family members of existing Socios with a certain number of years on the books to become new members, it seems to me to be an intelligent policy. For those who cannot join it’s a shame but FCB is still, wholly, a member-driven entity.

False equivalency in sports is a widespread malaise. Why do you think people believe diving and violence are equivalent, i.e. “Divers deserve to get kicked?”

I’ve never heard the term ‘false equivalency’ before. And here’s where I betray my Scottish roots. I don’t like diving but I get less rabid about it than some in the UK. It happens, it’s cheating but it’s for the referee to spot and punish. Increasingly I think that Spanish refs are getting more robust about it. However I lament the fact that football is becoming a non-contact sport. I acknowledge that some who are myopic will claim it’s hypocritical of me to promote the values of a brilliantly gifted and entertaining Barcelona era while making a case for football to retain physical contact but I don’t see it. The brutality of some of Pepe’s, Diarra’s and Ramos’s play in trying to bully Barcelona during the Juande Ramos and Jose Mourinho Clasicos has been reprehensible. But football cannot, or must not become a totally non-contact sport which is the direction some are trying to drive it. Going back to what you said, there is no ‘equivalence’ between diving and violence. Diving is an affectation, a transgression which can be punished (or missed) without the same kind of consequences which deliberate violent play brings.

People generally despise dynasties, but the hate for Barca seems out of proportion. Is it the “mes que un club” business? Fabricated quotes? What accounts for it?

I’m well aware that there will always be people who tire of an era and want it to end. I didn’t enjoy the Schumacher era, not at any stage did I take great joy in Tiger Woods — both stood for an excellence which I never felt emotionally attached to given that both talked and acted with an arrogance and disdain which, I felt, distanced them from the joy I get from truly great sport. So I’m a victim of some of what you refer to … but I had no idea that there was widespread ‘hate’ for Barca. If there is it’s a bit foolish. RM fans must pray for a reversal of fortune but it’s pretty shriveled if you can’t find some level of respect for this quality of football.

How would you express the difference between Rosell and Laporta in terms of management style / ethos / effectiveness?

Boy, thanks for that one. They are hugely different individuals but with some shared facets. I thought that, initially, Laporta’s project and his decisions (particularly about those who he surrounded himself with) were brilliant. He might not have been consistently brilliant but people like Cruyff, Soriano, Ingla and Begiristain were.

It’s clear that FCB was run in an increasingly erratic and whimsical way towards the end of the Laporta reign and that is something that, thus far, Rosell has steered firmly away from. There is a more conservative, focused, orderly and businesslike feel to the club during the short time Rosell has been in charge. Less flamboyant but more consistent. His great, great tests are a) finding a way to help Guardiola stay, willingly and full of energy. b) replacing him if he leaves c) managing and reducing the debt.

What is the dynamic like between Guardiola and Rosell in regards to club management, that you know of? How about personally, and how do both compare to the dynamic between Guardiola and Laporta?

I think that’s fairly easy. Laporta was a boisterous, flamboyant, passionate Barça fan. Generally the fit between him and his coach was very straightforward, and open-door. If there wasn’t a paternalistic relationship then perhaps there was an Uncle-favourite nephew thing going on. They also shared an absolute respect for Johan Cruyff.

Guardiola and Rosell began on a slightly more wary basis. The structure is now far more corporate and more structured. In no way is that mean to be disparaging or denigrating. Rosell has backed Guardiola on a number of issues and I’d judge that there is a decent level of respect between the pair. There has been chafing, no doubt and I think that their personalities do, certainly, have the capability of falling out. Guardiola would like to be left alone and not pressurised about renewing, for example, but for the moment things are acceptable.

What do you think has been the principal failing of Guardiola and the club, in some of its more recent high-profile signings, including Hleb, Chygy, Zlatan, Villa (to an extent), Maxwell (to an extent) as compared to those that have been successful, including Mascherano, Keita, and Alves.

First I don’t accept, under any circumstances, that Villa should be in this list. AT ALL. Second it’s important to say that while Guardiola sometimes holds the whip hand he is in no way solely responsible for signings. Finally the key thing which links Hleb, Chygrinski and Zlatan is personality. Not one of them is a poor player but Hleb acted like an immature teenager once he reached the Camp Nou, Chygrinski froze on the ball but was trying like a badger to adapt. He was only sold because of financial necessities. Zlatan took about six months to decide that he knew better and to play the way he felt he needed to not the way he was told to. These are personality traits which betray even the closest market preparation. On the other hand, for as well as Masche, Keita and Alves have played (and they have been excellent) their personalities have been utterly outstanding — committed, mature, team spirited, well liked, grown up, intelligent men.

With the selling of Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, tailspin/loan of Bojan Krkic and the rapid decline of David Villa, some suggest that Messi may have some difficulties playing with a “9”. What are your thoughts on this?

I disagree with the concept, totally. When he played with Eto’o they won the treble and Eto’o scored 36 times yet Messi was absolutely fundamental to that year. However IF you want to play Messi as a ‘false’ 9 or even as the regular centre forward then it absolutely utterly goes with the fact that any other player who considers himself to be a No. 9 is going to find it hard to cope. Villa adapted. I don’t think he prefers playing as a ‘false’ winger compared to being the king of the jungle but he adapted. Zlatan’s decline and subsequent sale were nobody’s fault but his own. He acted like a clown. Bojan is not top, top level. End of story.

The line between Cruijff and Rosell, as you see it, seems to be a huge deal. What do you see as the next step? Do we revert to Laporta-era Cruijffism that led into Pepism or do we move toward a Rosell-centric way of life, if such a thing can be defined? And what does any of this mean for Barcelona and Pep?

The question confuses me. It’s too complicated. What I would say is that Cruyff’s basic principles, his advice and his vision have all guided Barcelona for the good since 1988. It’s not a coincidence that the fallow years came when his teachings were least adhered to.

I’d go so far as to say that Rosell seems to be pathologically opposed to everything to do with Cruyff and I will take my hat off to him if he manages to maintain his dislike of the man but to show great Presidency by accepting that the general philosophy of how to recruit, train and play are what makes this FCB era great. If Rosell can maintain an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach to change and development by buying into the Cruyff philosophy without, for him, necessarily buying into Cruyff, he’ll earn my respect.

And that’s it from the Graham Hunter interview. Hope everyone enjoyed it. Expect the book review about this same time next week and as everyone knows, we have a bit of business to tend to between now and then, in Champions League and La Liga.

But I want to close with expressing an immense debt of gratitude to Graham Hunter (he’s @BumperGraham on Twitter, so follow him. Now.) and Neil at Back Page Press for making this all happen. My hat’s off to you both, gents.

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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.

177 Comments

  1. blitzen
    March 6, 2012

    Someone clearly had an axe to grind regarding David Villa. Wonder which of the mods that could have been? :roll:

    • March 6, 2012

      And you would be completely, comprehensively wrong. That was NOT my question. Which goes to show what happens when you make assumptions based on what you think you might know, right?

      The mods collaborated on the questions, and two of today’s questions are mine. Only one of yesterday’s was.

      Finally, I would encourage everyone to put aside things like “He hate so and so,” mostly because it isn’t true. Note Hunter’s comment regarding Krkic. Had I said that, I would have been a “BoBo hating, teddy bear-snatching hooligan,” right?

      If I’m a fan of any player, I can’t objective about that or any other player. And that means love or hate.

      • blitzen
        March 6, 2012

        You’re assuming I meant you…

        😛

        • March 6, 2012

          If you take a scientific view of the assumption process, you can use a process of elimination to make a reasoned guess, one that reduces the randomness of the assumption process. If you look at it that way, it becomes easy:

          SoccerMom: Nope
          Kari: No way
          Euler: Nope
          Jive Ass: Hardly
          Luke and Calvin haven’t been all that busy, so: No

          Which leaves ….

          I take a stand on stuff. And often, that stand won’t jibe with what others think. I’m fine with that. I just don’t think that it warrants in any way accusations of unfairness or being biased. But that’s me. Maybe it’s because I’m biased in my own favor.

          And I don’t want to distract from another lovely set of questions from Mr. Hunter, that are worth a thorough discussion.

          • blitzen
            March 6, 2012

            OK, OK, I apologize. I shouldn’t have singled you out.

            But I do think some of the questions were a bit awkwardly phrased and presented presumptions as received facts. Maxwell, for example. How was he a failure? He was never going to be a world-beater, but he was useful, even vital at times, fit the system well and only left when it became apparent there were younger more talented people superseding him. That’s no failure, that’s football.

          • March 6, 2012

            But note that the question was about the club and its abilities as regards high-level signings, rather than the signings, per se. Also note the parenthetical qualifiers in the cases of Villa and Maxwell.

      • March 6, 2012

        to be quite honest, the general disregard fans and media have for Bojan Krkic is baffling to me.

        the way he is discarded almost every time by people who supposedly know their thing makes me wonder, what exactly did Rijkaard see in him, and how on earth was he so successful at all youth levels?

        i know collective blindness cannot be taken in consideration when the only thing opposing it is one madwoman’s apparent sentimental fangirlism, but the discrepancies between his all successful youth spell and first year with the senior team and the woeful 3 seasons that followed [with the break of 2009-2010 season, of course] are simply unacceptable.

        it’s hard to believe he was just a flash in the pan [far more applicable to Pedro] when he had had years of excellence with Barca before.

        regardless, i think whoever included Bojan in that question was either a very very cruel person or someone with an itch to scratch. and if the latter, scratching itches is never good.

        • Roberto Senyera
          March 7, 2012

          You greatly over-rate Bojan. He’s out on a two year loan for a reason. Mr. Hunter doesn’t think he is a top FCB quality forward judging from his response. Nor do I for that matter. Bojan’s just not gonna cut it here. Period.

          Apologies to all upset teddy bears out there 😉

      • jmiddy05
        March 6, 2012

        wow…without a doubt, one of the most ridiculous comments I’ve ever seen you write mate. Come off it!

      • Obii
        March 7, 2012

        Kxevin, for someone who always seems to understand things and keep a level head, why do you ALWAYS get so defensive when somebody is joking with you? Blitzen was clearly just pulling your leg.

        • blitzen
          March 7, 2012

          I can’t help myself, it’s so easy. I’m bad. 😈

        • March 7, 2012

          Because integrity is all I have. It’s the one thing I lack a sense of humor about, I admit.

    • Jafri
      March 6, 2012

      Villa’s not a flop by any means. With Messi in the center it was always going to be a square peg round hole sort of thing, but he’s tried valiantly to adapt, and for me at least, he has. And if you’d play him in the center in his natural position, he’d be scoring butt-loads of goals from there I’m sure.

      • March 6, 2012

        If you look at Villa’s output, he isn’t that far off of his normal production. Last year for us he had 22 goals in all competitions. The year before he tallied 24 for Valencia, and was a dead-reliable 20+ goals per year man. He nailed 30 in 08-09, but that was clearly an aberrant season.

        Some of the Villa complexity is one of perception. Henry had the same difficulty. It’s “Boy, he scored 30 goals for his club. In our system, he’s going to score infinity squared goals a month!” And it never works out that way. It can’t. Like Hunter’s observation about 13 trophies from 16 not being anything approaching “normal expectation.”

      • Roberto Senyera
        March 7, 2012

        Agreed. Villa most certainly is not a flop.

        However, considering the seriousness of his injury, his age, and increased competition at his position, he may not be long for FCB (which is a pity).

  2. providence
    March 6, 2012

    is it true that pep insulted Alexis when he got injured? kxevin

    • March 6, 2012

      He rather aggressively noted that Mr. Sanchez needs to take care of his body, and understand the situation. No need to go full throttle when the club is comfortable in a match, has a lead and it’s latelatelatelate. And he’s right.

      As a former player, Guardiola understands the notion of personal (i.e. player) responsibility. You handle your own business (body). This means understanding when to run full out and when NOT to run full out, etc. Sanchez screwed the pooch on that one. Fatigued muscles injure easily, and it’s up to the player to know that.

      I do suspect that some of it was that Guardiola didn’t want to insert Sanchez, but was forced to out of necessity. You wonder if some of it wasn’t being mad at himself, too.

      • hansh
        March 6, 2012

        Just a quick followup question to this: some people have been saying that Pep was criticizing Alexis for playing 90 minutes for Chile midweek in Philadelphia – does Alexis get to decide how much he plays for Chile? Is it common in international friendlies to ask out of some minutes?

    • mangut
      March 6, 2012

      It may not have been an insult but certainly was a show of anger and frustration at the situation. Sanchez should have been smart and not sprinted after that stray ball. It makes sense for Guardiola to be angry considering the week the internationals had. Maybe Pep does not mind when Messi conserves some energy out there from time to time.

  3. Jafri
    March 6, 2012

    “Bojan is not top, top level. End of story.”

    Sad, but so true.

  4. mangut
    March 6, 2012

    Amazon has sold out!!
    I too tried to boycott the kit with Qatar Foundation on it but relented because it is the club’s decision and ultimately I support it. Quite a quandary though since women’s rights should be what everybody supports and Qatar does not…

    • March 6, 2012

      Reach out to the folks at Back Page Press. Not sure where you are, but mine arrived from the UK in 5 days to the U.S.

  5. barca96
    March 6, 2012

    -I am so happy that me and G. Hunter share the same views on many things.

    I would like to add that Villa is not a flop bit.
    Why is he suddenly a flop after having a poor 2 month spell? He was better than ever at the start of the season. Anyways, that’s an old story.

    -Bojan is just not good enough for us. I watched him play vs. Lazio. He was good for them, in an open DIY system but he just isn’t good enough for our system.

    Ditto for Chiggy. He was never a beast as mentioned by Kxevin back then.

    -I hope people will stop getting on the anti-Rosell bandwagon and give him some credit. I’m glad that G. Hunter painted a different picture of him.

    -Perhaps next time we could all give our questions to G. Hunter and at the end we do a vote to which member’s question will be raised along with the mods’ own set of questions.

    • March 6, 2012

      That was considered, but time was of the essence. We also felt that we had a large enough group of mods where we could hit questions that would be representative of the views of the family.

      As you also see, many of Hunter’s answers debunk myths and notions, which I find very interesting.

      • barca96
        March 6, 2012

        Will there be a next time?

        I liked the questions anyways. Could you perhaps show us the other questions that were not raised?

        • March 6, 2012

          I would, but that e-mail has long since been deleted. I’m one of those frantic inbox cleaners, who deletes something the instant it ceases to be of currency.

          And re: the anti-Rosell bandwagon, for me it isn’t a bandwagon. The man has a lot of questions to answer that are above and beyond the sporting project, having to do with simple business. Why do silly crap like whitewash the FCB Museu of Laporta references? What’s up with the Brazil business? Irrespective of what Hunter thinks, I see absolutely no harm in letting people become socis, as so few of them will even attend matches, much less jam up season ticket waiting lists. (The club could have also adopted a Soci+Carnet level, right?) Wanting to be a Soci means you love the club enough to want to support it directly, for a great many Socis. And what’s wrong with that?

          This doesn’t even get into the Laporta legal actions, bred of precious little more than hate and a need for revenge, the “no color copies” silliness, selling Txigrinski right out from under the nose of a coach that wanted to keep him, etc, etc.

          And when he has his OWN sporting project, rather than skating on the tails of Laporta’s, I’ll give him credit for that. As of right now, he’s gambling with someone else’s cards, and taking credit for the winnings.

          • nzm
            March 6, 2012

            Hear, hear.

            Add to that a disastrous pre-season ordained by Rosell that certainly hasn’t helped the team this year.

            I also see no harm in introducing a sub-level to the Soci member status.

            There could be a cheaper level which includes free museum entry, match ticket discounts, club magazine, discount on clothing etc BUT without voting rights. I’m sure that more revenue for the club in this way could be a good thing. Member fans of most other football clubs don’t get voting rights either!

          • nzm
            March 6, 2012

            Besides, Hunter isn’t going to say anything negative about the incumbent President which could potentially mean that he becomes a persona non grata at FCB.

          • Nav
            March 6, 2012

            I think that’s a bit harsh on Hunter. Your suggestions are good, but all of them require a whole bunch of planning and time to put in place. Sometimes priorities get in the way and issues are shelved or ‘temporarily’ dealt with.

          • nzm
            March 6, 2012

            Nav – you replying to me? It’s hard to tell.

            If you are, then that lower-level Soci thing could have easily been put through at the same time as the top-level Soci membership was closed. I’m sure that the General Assembly would have had no issues with voting that one through.

            And how was I harsh on Hunter? If I was him, I wouldn’t do anything to make myself unpopular at the club either. Why cut off a source of income?

          • Nav
            March 6, 2012

            Yeah relpying to you NZM, there seems to be no ‘reply’ button under your post — to ensure things don’t become too nested I presume.

            I said you’re being harsh on Hunter because you’re questioning his journalistic integrity by saying ‘why cut off a source of income’.

            Yes, these restrictions could be put in place, but then there would need to be a debate/vote on what ‘low level’ meant, etc etc. There’s always a whole bunch of logistical issues when you introduce tiered models; perhaps the board decided to just bench the issue now with a blanket decision and will revisit it later. Just trying to offer another perspective.

          • nzm
            March 6, 2012

            Actually, I wasn’t being harsh on him at all – I would say that he’s playing it very intelligently and prudently.

            When you watch Graham Hunter in a TV interview and he gets a hard question, he always pauses to formulate his reply in a way that won’t cause offence, and won’t be taken out of context. But I get the feeling that sometimes he’s busting to say otherwise!

            The man is playing a political and diplomatic line, and there’s nothing wrong with that, given the position that he’s in. He relies on his sources at the club for his info, and he depends on maintaining a good rapport with FCB to write and speak about the club in the way he which he does.

            As Kxevin would say, “Why screw the pooch?” 😀

  6. blitzen
    March 6, 2012

    Pep showing off his Barça Troll DNA to the media:

    Guardiola: “Have I talked with Chelsea? Every day, every day… (smiles)” #fcblive

    Via @barcastuff.

  7. Gogah
    March 6, 2012

    very nicely compiled questions and I too, am very much satisfied to see the similarities between mine and Mr.Hunter’s understanding and perception of Barca. I thoroughly enjoyed the questions and the answers more, would have been wonderful to hear some experiences of Hunter himself – the interview with Pep, on Xavi, etc.
    Completely agree on his assessment of Villa too. He was here for so much more than goals.

  8. Laurentiu88
    March 6, 2012

    Great interview! I read that first chapter that’s available online so fast … can’t wait to read this book in some holiday!

    All this club politics sound a bit stressful, I can see why the English model may appeal to Pep.

  9. blitzen
    March 6, 2012

    Andy Gray still has no idea why he was fired, “cannot accept he is remotely sexist”:

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/sport/football/andy-gray-id-be-lying-if-i-said-i-hadnt-thought-about-killing-myself-7541534.html

    “It happened on a Saturday morning,” recalls Gray. “I got a call on Monday from Andy Melvin [deputy head of Sky Sports] just telling us, ‘Don’t come in today for Monday night football.’ Gray and Keys were also sent final warning letters but the feeling was they would keep their jobs. But then, as Gray recalls, “It escalated from there for some reason, I’ve no idea why.” More footage emerged of Gray making sexist remarks about Massey — this time to Sky’s pitchside reporter Andy Burton — and also of an incident recorded a month earlier showing him making a suggestive ¬comment to colleague Charlotte ¬Jackson, followed by laughter from him and Keys. The result was a call that Monday night from Barney Francis, head of Sky Sports, sacking him. The next day Keys met Francis and resigned.

    As for Jackson, Gray says: “Again, it’s probably an old man trying to be funny. It was no more than that. Charlotte knows us very well. For 17 years, my life was a dressing room and everyone who’s been in a dressing room knows what kind of banter goes on. It’s a place where you can get ripped apart at times by your fellow players. We had that type of dressing room at Sky where we wanted people to feel comfortable and we had conversations about many things.

    Aside from apparently not knowing the meaning of the words “feel comfortable”, or the difference between a dressing room and a place of business, Keys also points out that he cannot be sexist because he has four daughters, was raised by a woman, and has even been married to a woman by a woman priest. So “there you are.”

    Levity aside, let’s be clear. Gray was not fired for his comments about referee Sian Massey. He was fired for sexually harassing a coworker and for perpetuating a workplace atmosphere where such “banter” was seen as normal, acceptable, and even desirable. He had a reputation as a bully behind the scenes and whoever was responsible for leaking that video had clearly had enough of it. Good for them.

    • blitzen
      March 7, 2012

      Seriously? I’m the only one who wants to comment on this?

      • Roberto Senyera
        March 7, 2012

        Let the ladies comment on this one brother. I’m not gonna touch it 😉

  10. Nav
    March 6, 2012

    Puyol is injured and is out for the game tomorrow.

    • hansh
      March 6, 2012

      What happened? Injury in training? I can’t believe it.

      • Nav
        March 6, 2012

        He was training separately to the group yesterday, so I think it happened before training. Sucks. 🙁

        • hansh
          March 6, 2012

          :c Thanks for the info. Get well soon Puyi!

  11. hammeronmessi
    March 6, 2012

    in light of our spectacularly dim-witted decision to, like petulant schoolchildren, boycott the RFEF meet about the Plat del Reig final because we’re in a snit because Pique made a stupid decision in a match, got red carded, then compounded the stupidity by blathering inanities after the match.

    its not dim witted.barca is seeking whats the criteria are? that’s perfectly fair and rational.

    and although i dont believe in ref conspiracy,those who say we must overcome all the unfair calls by playing better i refer to this quote from graham
    Thirteen trophies won out of a possible sixteen is, however, freakish and should not be the standard via which future ‘excellence’ is judged.

    but some us are still judging on those 3 years.

    madrid are deserved leader but if the correct calls were made they only lead by 1 point and that also disregarding the favorable calls on them.

    as for the Q A,i disagree with graham on the soci thing, and the mod who prepared the question regarding the flop signings,ibra,villa and maxwell were not flops.it was rosells fault that he brought zlat for 40m+etoo.

    although i m happy that ibra is gone

    • mom4
      March 6, 2012

      hammer…long time…how the heck are you?

    • March 6, 2012

      Regarding Ibra… I believe that was a Laporta move to buy him for 40 million + Etoo. Proof of what Hunter calls “increasingly whimsical management at the end of Laporta’s management.”

      • Roberto Senyera
        March 7, 2012

        Man, was that ever a prime example of financial mismanagement. Eto’o is better than Ibra straight up. Adding 40M € on top of that is like rubbing salt into an open wound. No wonder the club is in such debt. I still hate that deal 🙁

    • March 6, 2012

      The world’s best football club isn’t supposed to pout. If we’re seeking to define criteria, show up and ask questions. Like grownups. It isn’t about calls or a misguided belief in ref conspiracies. And I won’t even get into the magic bugbear word finally coming up: Franco!

      I have previously documented the opportunities that this club had to help itself, and didn’t. If people want to think that is the fault of refereeing, I can’t help that. But a ref didn’t make Messi miss that PK against Sevilla, or the chip against Villarreal. If just those two shots are made, it’s a 6-point lead. If we assume Valdes doesn’t go lazy on the backpass that led to the sole goal at Getafe, that’s a 4-point lead. That’s just three instances.

      Have there been refereeing errors? Yep. Pinto is probably happy about that, as he handled the ball outside the area. There were a couple of ball-to-hand episodes on Sunday that weren’t called on Sunday. So we can thank our stars that the ref was stupid in an egalitarian fashion.

      EE lead the Liga because their style is more conducive to putting clubs on the back foot. They can score in 3 passes, we seem to take 437. As Hunter noted in the previous part of the Q&A, we slacked off this season in a Liga where there wasn’t the same margins as there have been in the past.

      And as I noted above, the real question at issue is about the club and what it does as regards such signings, rather than the signings themselves. Excellent players can not work out at a club, as we see in the case of Ibrahimovic.

      The Eto’o deal was to get Guardiola what he wanted at any price, which was the Laporta way. “You want it, coach? You got it.” And had Ibrahimovic continued to play the way he was the first part of the season, it would have been a genius move. But he went rogue and it backfired. It happens.

      • Nav
        March 6, 2012

        I think the issue is with the asymmetrical handling of Pique’s comments in contrast to Mou’s or Casilla’s — not that the ‘refs are helping Madrid win’ sound bites.

        I do think it’s very strange that the referee’s committee can ignore all of Mou’s derogatory comments regarding the officiating by stating ‘oh we don’t remember that, not much was made in the media’, whilst condemning Pique’s, albeit unnecessary, comments.

        • Roberto Senyera
          March 7, 2012

          As well as the Iker and Ramos comments and Mou Mou confronting a referee in the car park. All of these transgressions on the referees from the LWBs have gone unpunished by the RFEF while Piqué is up for deserved discipline for questioning the referee’s integrity.

          Sounds like asymmetrical justice to me.

  12. mom4
    March 6, 2012

    Puyol (thigh) and Thiago (shinbone) are not available for the CL game against Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow #fcblive

    So, my preference, and I would have rather seen Pique sit until all the stupid left his system:

    VV
    Alves, Pique, Masche, Adriano
    Keita, Busi, Iniesta
    Pedro, Messi, Tello

    Pedro gets another chance. Cuenca in if Pedro fails to impress. Xavi resting his achilles unless needed. Boy we have a thin squad now! JDS or another baby in if we can afford to for some minutes.

    Thinking of getting the Kindle version of the book for my droid so I have something good to read while waiting for kids, etc.

    • Jafri
      March 6, 2012

      I’m thinking it’ll be Messi-Cesc-Pedro up front. Don’t know if Pep thinks Tello is ready to start a match.

      • mom4
        March 6, 2012

        Cesc has been looking dead tired lately imo. He’s not used to playing this many games in a season. I think he needs a rest. But yeah, the above was my preference(except for Pique – that was necessity) not what I expect from Pep. I bet he plays Cesc, too.

        • nzm
          March 6, 2012

          I think that Xavi will start. Pep will be looking for the team to seal it early, and then Xavi will come off for Keita.

  13. Jafri
    March 6, 2012

    Arsenal 2 goals in about 25 minutes. An hour to get what may be one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory.

    • mom4
      March 6, 2012

      Holy cow! Thanks for the heads up. I wasn’t gonna even bother watching it.

      3-0 RvP with the PK!

      • Jafri
        March 6, 2012

        3-0, and a near miss from el sharawy. Haha, should have had an LB for this!

  14. nzm
    March 6, 2012

    If you’re not watching the Arsenal – AC Milan game, then you should be. 😀

      • nzm
        March 6, 2012

        Little wonder then, that you’re not answering my Facebook question (re watching the game) to you! 😀

        • mom4
          March 6, 2012

          If Arsenal actually manage this I’m gonna chill the bottle of Freixenet and dad4 and will have a soccer-watching date when he gets home! I’ll go to FB now.

    • Ryan
      March 6, 2012

      It actually pulled me away from Mass Effect 3 for a little bit, and that’s saying a lot!

      If only they had scored one goal in the first leg…but oh well! Chelsea is England’s only hope now.

  15. jordi™
    March 6, 2012

    Its like Depor- Milan all over again. Too bad Arsenal didnt have an away goal or it would be that much easier.

  16. mom4
    March 6, 2012

    What the heck has Chamakh done to his hair? Geez, between him and Gervinho…

  17. mega_tajh
    March 6, 2012

    OT: It seems Pep is in agreement with the board regarding the ref problem, from todays quotes.

  18. nzm
    March 6, 2012

    Arsenal being very clever so far – they’re playing a high backline and forcing Milan into offsides. Of course, it only takes one ball and a fast onside player to go through…

    • nzm
      March 6, 2012

      But the Gunners are getting really tired now. Mistakes are happening.

  19. Manish
    March 6, 2012

    Go Go Arsenal… beat the hell out of Milan.. go go go..

    • Manish
      March 6, 2012

      too bad i am at work.. just thinking about the stuff at emirites…:D

  20. mom4
    March 6, 2012

    Seemingly, it’s easier to get goals 1-3 than 4. Stoppage time miracle please!

    • mom4
      March 6, 2012

      Well dang!. At least they made it interesting. Saving the cava for our game tomorrow I guess.

    • Miguel
      March 6, 2012

      Game ended with a whimper. Not as satisfying as Arsenal losing in extra time, but I’ll take it.

  21. mom4
    March 6, 2012

    We have a winner amongst us:

    barcastuff ‏ @barcastuff
    5 fastest correct answers: @SophSlater 10 points – @M17CH3LL 7 – @marcbv 5 – @Eklavya_FCB 3 – @IsaacCuenca_fan 1

  22. mega_tajh
    March 6, 2012

    Benfica!!!!!!!! I like them. Especially cuz of Nolito. Atleast they went through.

  23. K_legit in Oz
    March 6, 2012

    A bit off topic but its Super Tuesday in the US of A and I guess Romney’s winning the Republican ticket!

    • culegirl3
      March 6, 2012

      He may win the Republican ticket but he certainly won’t win the Presidency. If he’s the best the Republicans can come up with..they are doomed before the November election IMO.

  24. culegirl3
    March 6, 2012

    Awesome interview, very insightful!

    Currently reading Graham’s book on my Kindle(gotta love the convenience of technology!!), so far its great 🙂

  25. mega_tajh
    March 6, 2012

    Graham just completely lambasted the club in the way we are dealing with the ref situation on Revista.

    He called it a “loser mentality” on how Pep asked for backing from the board in dealing with the referees and that its a “child’s argument” to say Madrid were doing this 1st.

    Before Graham, Guillem stated how the reason Freixa (our board spokesman) came out with the club appealing Pique’s red is way in backing Pep.

    From what I gather a lot of meetings are going regarding this topic.(Revista said one with Rosell and Pep on last Thursday).

    The Pique incident about the ref committee wanted him fined and suspended more just made us(Pep & the board) to be more vocal and question a double standards.

    Messy stuff I say. To an extent I agree with Graham in that we don’t complain about refs so why start now just because were’re 10pts behind.

    But then if Pep is noticing a trend and asking for the club’s back in becoming vocal shouldn’t we support our coach?

    • blitzen
      March 6, 2012

      How does he know it was Pep that asked for support from the Board?

      Haven’t downloaded Revista yet, probably won’t until tomorrow.

      For the record, I don’t think the club should appeal Pique’s red. I do think there are major issues with the refereeing this season.

      • Chiu
        March 6, 2012

        Pique statement deserved a ban. No complaint at all.

        It’s the different standard apllied to other liga participants that made the board react.

      • mega_tajh
        March 7, 2012

        Its all journalist assumptions really, but from these latest Pep quotes from the last 2 weeks or so,I can see why the Revista team came with this.

  26. Chiu
    March 6, 2012

    Interesting quotes from Leverkusen coach and German journalist:

    – Dutt (coach Leverkusen): “Fight for Messi’s shirt in first leg? Tomorrow we’ll decide before the game who can swap shirts with him.” (barcastuff)

    Haha it sounds joke 🙂

    – Holger Dahl: “every team that goes up against Barça thinks they’re playing against the future European champion. In Germany, we’re surprised with the point difference in La Liga, because the perception is that Barça is the best team in the world.” (http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/the-german-press-believes-the-tie-is-over)

  27. mega_tajh
    March 6, 2012

    BTW really take a listen to Cesc’s latest interview.

    Standout lines to me were.

    “At the beginning it was difficult because, as I said, I was going forward and I was caught out of position many times and I knew I had to learn but now in the last three or four games I’ve felt so much better already.

    “Maybe some people will not see it but before if I saw Dani Alves and Alexis and Pedro playing on the same right side and they were going forward, I was going forward too; now the other day against Leverkusen, Dani was going forward a lot and I thought ‘wait a second, I have to stay and I have to cover a position’.

    Really shows the hard work he is putting in to become disciplined in the system. Maybe this is why he have been quiet in recent games, especially in the Gijon game.

    Against Gijon I guess he was caught in two minds without Messi on the field. To note after Cesc was subbed off, Iniesta shined and the midfield play greatly improved.

  28. Kimcelona
    March 6, 2012

    Thanks so much for the interview, BFB staff and Graham!

    I am very happy that a lot of rumors, questions, theories and speculations were debunked 😀 I pretty much agree with all of Graham’s thoughts.
    Villa a flop? bahahahahhaha..hardly.
    And as a Bobo apologist, its sad that I agree with the harsh truth about Bobo. He isnt top top level..as yet..he still has time on his side so maybe he can surprise us all couple years down the line.

    • barca96
      March 6, 2012

      Bobo looked good vs. Lazio over the weekend. But his game just doesn’t suit us. He is fast so I think he is more suited to a faster playing team, counter attacking team, tiki taka.

      Actually in his first few matches where he saved us under Rijkaard, if I can recall correctly, most of his goals were not tiki taka style goals, more counter attacking.

  29. mom4
    March 6, 2012

    The Arsenal game was exciting but in the end disappointing. The one EPL team I wanted to go through is out. Hope Chelsea crashes out spectacularly next week.

    So aside from our game tomorrow, there’s one other game this week that I’m DVRing.

    Valencia did it on a cold Thursday night at the Britannia. Now can Athletic Bilbao take dowm Man U at Old Trafford this Thursday in the Europa League?

    Atletico v Betsiktas and Valencia v PSV Eindhoven also this Thursday. Go La Liga teams! (except for that other team in the CL)

    • Chiu
      March 6, 2012

      I think Bilbao have chance to make things difficult for United over two leg tie. Hope they get good away result. San Mames would be a tough return leg for United.

      Go Basque!

      • Helge
        March 7, 2012

        A draw with goals would be a very good result.

        The question is, which ManUtd will show up?
        Will it be the ruthless, defensive but very effective one that we’ve seen against Spurs, for instance. Or will it be a team that takes a win for granted, as they did in the return leg vs Ajax. Ajax is 6h in the Eredivisie, they are far from a good side and still won at Old Trafford. If ManU plays such a match, they will definitely be eliminated.
        My huge favourite for the Europa League is ManCity, though. I would say, despite their shortcomings in the CL groupstage, they are the 3rd-best team in Europe. I cannot take Milan as a serious contender since yesterday, and Bayern is struggling since the 2nd half of the season began.

        • Roberto Senyera
          March 7, 2012

          Agreed regarding Man City and Milan. I haven’t considered this Milan side as a serious contender for the UCL all year. Now, after they got humped at the Emirates, I consider them even less of a contender. That’s a poor Milan side, by Milan standards. And they’re the Champions of Italy and current table toppers? What does that say about the quality of Serie A?

          I know Bayern Munich isn’t playing well at the moment but I’d be more concerned about facing them down the road (as opposed to Milan) and I’d take Bayern over Milan if they were to meet up.

          Milan concerns me very little. Their LB yesterday was comical.

  30. messifan
    March 6, 2012

    Our squad looks so thin, and I’m nervous about the game tomorrow. Hopefully, there’s no complacency. Everyone must focus because Bayer have been winning a bit lately and they will probably play with a nothing to lose mentality like Arsenal did today.

    One game at a time; let’s win this Barca.

    • Chiu
      March 6, 2012

      Pep stated in the presser that we will play to win and try to qualify. I don’t think Pep will let the complaceny creeping the team in the CL knock out stage. I’m optimistic we’ll join Milan and Benfica tonight. Lyon would follow, too.

    • Roberto Senyera
      March 7, 2012

      I love her passion. And she makes some interesting points.

    • March 7, 2012

      Interesting read with some good points. But that God awful font/background combo is seizure inducing at its finest. My eyes they burn!

  31. hammeronmessi
    March 7, 2012

    @kxevin,
    The world’s best football club isn’t supposed to pout. If we’re seeking to define criteria, show up and ask questions. Like grownups.

    agreed wholeheartedly,which barca has been doing for the last 3 and half years,but this imbecile liga management took this as a sign of weakness,so barca board is acting just like the EE.cause the acting of EE seems to work on them.

    But a ref didn’t make Messi miss that PK against Sevilla, or the chip against Villarreal. If just those two shots are made, it’s a 6-point lead. If we assume Valdes doesn’t go lazy on the backpass that led to the sole goal at Getafe, that’s a 4-point lead. That’s just three instances.

    messis goal against bilbao,athletic,valdeses save if those werent made,then we are 8 point behind.right?player performance is not a constant,its a variable which increases the chances of winning if the player performs well and vice versa.

    ref performance is also a variable,but while the player performance depends on the whole 90 minutes,the ref performance is defined(most of the cases)in some key moments of a match which often decides the outcome of a match(chelsea cl 1st and 2nd leg,portos draw against manu,inter chelsea cl qf 1st leg,rvp,pepe red,valencia,espanyol penalty,pinto,busi handball,cdr final and thousands of other matches).

    we are lucky in such a way that despite the bad performance of the ref our player performance (for the last 3 years)outweighted them,but this is an exception not a norm and it is justified to ask that fair calls were made by the ref.once again i am not in the belief that refs are corrupt,but if somebody ignores so many non calls for us in the liga,then let him be.for the record,real deserves the liga lead,no question,but do they deserve to lead by 10 points?

    EE lead the Liga because their style is more conducive to putting clubs on the back foot. They can score in 3 passes, we seem to take 437. is it they are fitter and hungry and we r not?

    ref calls normally evens themselves over a season,but i dont see it happening for both EE and us.

    Cheers

  32. hammeronmessi
    March 7, 2012

    @mom 4,

    always lurking in the shadows.i m just fine,been very busy with my work.

    i know you are quite well,so i m not asking how you are.

    i have a complaint though,where are the pictures of your espana trip.i was looking forward to see you encounter with NZM.

    • nzm
      March 7, 2012

      Heehee – it occurred to us, AFTER mom4 left Barcelona, that we hadn’t posed for a photo together! 😀

      (Unless dad4 has some on his phone that we don’t know about!)

      • Chiu
        March 7, 2012

        No taking picture??? whoa you guys must be having so much fun there 🙂

      • hammeronmessi
        March 7, 2012

        thats incredible.
        No photos in a vacation.
        Tell me more what kindda bizarre fun things u 2 were doing?

        • mom4
          March 7, 2012

          Nope, no photos. I:
          1. Don’t know how to upload them here.
          2. Hate having pictures taken of me. That’s why I’m always the one behind the camera taking the pictures.
          3. Enjoy my online anonimity 🙂

          I never even brought my camera when going out with nzm&j because by the evening I was kinda pictured out and one gets tired of carrying it around and dragging it out every time you pass something interesting (which in Europe is every 5 seconds). Took TONS of photoa otherwise.
          And yes, we were having far to much fun (and cava in my case, beer in theirs) to be bothered with photos! 😀

          As for what we were doing.
          -First night out- basic bar hopping
          -Second night- watched first (away) leg of CdR clasico together at an Irish pub just off la Rambla. Steriotypically celebrated at the Font de Canaletes.
          -Third night- a little sight seeing, a little shopping, and the best little tapas place in the Born neighborhood.

          • nzm
            March 7, 2012

            And I’ll have you know that watching the CdR clasico together meant that both mom4 and I watched the Madrid corners through our fingers – or with our heads on the table unable to watch the screens. 😀

            Too funny.

            The first night set the modus operandi for the following nights…. ’nuff said.

  33. March 7, 2012

    Seriously dude, you waste 2 questions arguing about Villa, while his injury and our serious lack of goal threat upfront, struggle to score goals and his off-the-ball movement missing are kind of obvious reasons why we’re 10 points behind.
    Like, get over it mate! and yes, we should maybe sell Messi in order to play with a regular 9 again. Hope we get Ibra back too! Much better than Messi, very underrated.

    Incredible..

    • nzm
      March 7, 2012

      Great article.

      The Board needs to grow some cojones.

          • Roberto Senyera
            March 7, 2012

            You’re too funny nzm. And pretty tricky with computer too.

          • Chiu
            March 7, 2012

            haha am just too lazy to google it. btw i just know google have that lmgtfy.com? thanks LOL 🙂

            how come i never know about it

        • Roberto Senyera
          March 7, 2012

          They’re like onions, Chiu. Only, of the Spanish variety 😉

          • nzm
            March 7, 2012

            LOL!

            In Catalonia, it’s capsicum peppers, Roberto – hence the team’s La Liga winning t-shirt from the end of last season and the throwing of peppers during the celebrations.

            “Amb dos pebrots” means “with two peppers”, where the word pebrots is used instead of cojones. 😀

    • Dani_el
      March 7, 2012

      Awesome share, he may be right about the possible reasons for Guardiola’s someday departure.

  34. Srini
    March 7, 2012

    Kxevin’s holier than the club attitude is nauseating. He is a great writer, but I find his ridiculing of every sane decision utterly disgusting.

    He did an opposite thing during the Busquets non-incident. When it was patently clear that there was no qualifying proof about Busquets’ racism, he demanded a statement from the club then and almost argued that the player was guilty. Why should the club react to every silly insinuation? It did when there was a formal complaint but there was a valid reason then.

    The same Kxevin now calls the club dim witted for protesting RFEF double standards. I think the boot is on the other foot.

    There is ample proof that the referees have been abysmal in the Madrid and Barcelona games this year – tilting various games in the favour of the former and against the latter. Fans deserve a better refereeing unit and a fair regime that oversees football affairs. If that is not guaranteed, the clubs they support are within their rights to demand justice. Conspiracy or not, the refereeing standards have been at the nadir and so has been RFEF’s general management this season – fixing the venue for the Copa Del Rey, punishing Jose Mourinho appropriately for his noxious eye-gouge, Pepe’s actions and so on.

    It is to the credit of Barcelona that they have been staid in their response all season, but this blatant double standards against Pique takes the cake and deserves an institutional response.

    “Pouting”?

    • keith
      March 7, 2012

      i agree broadly with your point of view – and i think that referees, being human, are fallible and not immune to bias or fear of public fallout (aka. the parking lot man) but there’s really no need to to lambast kxevin like that.

      in any case, kxevin’s point holds true that both the busquets incident and this current saga could have been handled more appropriately; not by a boycott, for instance, but perhaps with a public statement or a request for an official investigation. or something, i don’t know.

      • March 7, 2012

        This is a free Internet, Srini. You don’t have to visit or read. If you do, perhaps a supply of Pepto-Bismol is in order.

        You compare two situations that can’t be compared.

        In the first, a player made a stupid play in a match, got red carded, made even stupider statements after the match and is now in hot water for that stupidity. What stance should the club take in that matter? You tell me. If we are going to ride our horse called Dudgeon, we should have saddled up when Pepe stomped on Messi, or the other violence attendant to the Clasics. THAT is the time to boycott meetings, and get all stuffy. Not in defense of dimwitted actions.

        Further, said boycott (to me a pout) insults Bilbao and all the other clubs who bothered to show up. It also doesn’t become us, and is, as Graham Hunter correctly labeled it, a loser mentality.

        In the Busquets situation, a player is accused of making racist statements during a match by an opponent. We should have taken the matter no less seriously than Liverpool or Chelsea did, as footballing clubs who claim to stand for something. To label the allegation “silly” boggles my mind. A player on our club was accused of making racist comments during a match. There was as much evidence that he did, as that he didn’t. The club’s silence was, to me, unacceptable. Was then and is now.

        “Holier than thou?” Not at all. But I do have standards that I hew to, such as not verbally assaulting people on message boards, fairness, and my views on what I think is acceptable behavior by my club. You have different views. That’s fine. I respect those. So respect mine.

        • Srini
          March 7, 2012

          Kxevin, if you have the right to call out the club for being “dim witted”..you should respect my right to criticise your view as well..as much I will do yours. I come to this message board to read about my favourite club and I expect it to be treated fairly for its actions. If you think I am “verbally assaulting you” – you are wrong, I am “verbally assaulting your views about your and my favourite club” – a particular view in specific.

          Make your point properly first. Do you have a problem with the timing of the “dudgeon” or the “dudgeon” itself? Or both?

          You seem to hem your arguments in a way that you make them sound not logical at all – Barca can’t complain now and should have complained earlier, but should not have complained earlier, because they should not complain about “external factors” when their 10 point misery is of their own making.

          Graham Hunter perhaps has a point – there is no point complaining “now” but it should have come in earlier. You can’t make that point for you have forever assumed that Barca have none to complain.

          You again twist the “racism incident”. Here’s the lineup of events from my reading. Busquests was accused of racism by a bunch of EE fans, not the player. The club did not respond to the media firestorm stoked from EE based on a dubious video that was based on ridiculous lip reading. You had a problem with that. You went overboard. Called Busquets nearly guilty without assuming innocence.

          EE made a formal complaint. The club responded. Busquets was subject to an inquiry which proved he was innocent. Your outburst in the first place about the club was unwarranted and ..forgive me for saying so.. Stupid. As much as it is now, for quite sometime.

          Pique’s foul was as much a mis-played tactical foul as we see many. Yellow card? Yes, definitely. Red..umm..no way. Pique’s “dudgeon” was because of the terrible inconsistency shown by the referees. I share that ..but who am I..just an ordinary fan. The club’s “dudgeon” is based on the fact that the RFEF’s competition commission has been terrible in its functioning and so have the referees. And they have registered this form of protest. Timing is problematic, maybe? But is there reason behind the action, Yes.

          This comment is obviously getting hectored. I saw a new post. But let me reiterate. I respect your writing and your views on various things. But I don’t agree with the “holier than thou” ranting on the refereeing issue as much.

  35. Gogah
    March 7, 2012

    I found Hunter’s views on the Guardiola – Rosell relationship very interesting. The fact that the club has moved on from a cruyff worshipping, erratic & whimsical one to a more professional business like environment can only be a good thing for the club. As much as i hate Rosell for his diplomacy and lack of courage to stand up to all the ridiculous accusations from Madrid, I do think that he is steering the club in the right direction. We need to demystify this “mes que un club” business a bit and seek out the logical evolution for this club. And that should mean being competitive in all the other areas too, whether that be business, stadium facilities, incoming funds, or leaving nothing to chance by calling out double standards and partial treatment from governing bodies. Like someone said, In today’s football turning the other cheek will only ensure that you get slapped more and we must find a way to work around this problem while keeping the core of our values intact.
    I really think that the barca players have been absolutely impeccable in their behavior, attitude and performance while representing the Spain national team, and the madrid press and the RFEF have been pretty unreasonable to their world champions. I am not saying we should get any special treatment, but if we are being singled out and treated unfairly there is nothing wrong in naming your price. I’ve always believed that ‘nobody can put you down without your permission’. And if someone has, it is because you have allowed that to happen. Rosell, as the face and a defender of the Barca brand, would do well to emulate some of the passion of Laporta and defend his club, the coach and the players whenever necessary.
    Now that all our barca players have won euro and world cup medals, i just wonder what it would do if barca voiced its disappointment on the treatment of its players and boycotted the national team. Spain would surely miss barca more than the other way around.

    • blitzen
      March 7, 2012

      I have to (somewhat reluctantly) agree with you about Rosell. Although I am in fact a Cruyff-worshipper and disgusted by Rosell’s treatment of the great man, the current president has brought some positives to the club, especially as you say, a more “professional” business-like environment. Roles at the club are much better-defined and the paranoia of Laporta’s last couple of years has dissipated. Monetarily the club is in better shape (although the controversial shirt sponsorship still rankles, and Rosell may not be as squeaky clean in his financial dealings as he pretends). Where Rosell really fails, though, is his clumsy handling of public relations and his failure to let go of his personal feuds with Laporta and Cruyff. Those are the sticking points for me.

      • nzm
        March 7, 2012

        I’ll credit Rosell in that he’s a good spokesperson when things are going right, and his snow job regarding the success of Laporta’s tenure was exemplary during and after his campaign for presidency.

        The big sponsorship deals that are being put in place are coming at a cost, and only time will tell if they are all worth it in the end. There’s a danger of the team becoming a dog-and-pony show as the sponsors’ demands for games, appearances and friendlies start to increase. Look at this season’s pre-season failure.

        The publicised bad state of the financials is something that will never be proven as long as an honest set of financial accounts aren’t produced. People have lost sight of the fact that Laporta and his team actually left the club in a better financial position than when he took over as President. Rosell’s personal determination to undermine Laporta, and paint him in a bad light, erased any good that Laporta had done on a financial level. Sure there were transfer disasters, but it wasn’t all bad.

        When there’s controversy or tough decisions to be announced to the public, you won’t see Rosell. He leaves the unsavoury press conferences to his board members. The court case against Laporta was announced when he was out of Spain (and in the US, I think from memory).

        Until the man fronts up to the tough parts of his job, he’s a long way from achieving his cubscout leadership badge in my eyes.

        • Gogah
          March 7, 2012

          My comment was not so much about Rosell as much as about demystifying our club’s perception and in some ways stepping down from a pedestal of values. I took particular interest in the question raised by one of the mods about dynasties and would have loved for Mr.Hunter to expand more on his answer about how his joy and love for sport made him distance himself from the kind of self righteousness and arrogance, the truly dominant and special teams / players have exhibited. But he stopped short of fully answering a great enquiry about why this barca is sort of “hated” in some sense.
          Which is exactly why I have to disagree with some people when they say continually that we must stay above all the shit because it’s not our club’s philosophy.
          We can always mould our philosophy. Its not something etched in stone.

          • nzm
            March 7, 2012

            Ah – but then you mention Rosell all through your initial comment and surely, as President, he has to be the one to drive the philosophy from the top?

            So far, I haven’t seen much proof that he can do it. He’s not a game-changing type.

    • nzm
      March 7, 2012

      First of all, there needs to be a distinction made between what happens at a team level and what happens at the national level, because the 2 aren’t the same and shouldn’t be lumped together to be treated as such.

      A boycott of the national team cannot come from Barca – it needs to come from the individual players. Can you honestly see any of these guys, who have dreamed of playing for their country since they were little boys, wanting to be the ones to say that they no longer want to play for the NT because of what’s happening at a club level?

      Think of the ramifications of that, and it can only get uglier. They will be called traitors once more, (you’ll see how very near the surface this whole Franco hangover still truly is in Spain), and the whole thing will spiral out of control very quickly. I honestly doubt that anyone wants that.

      Yes – the club could refuse to release the players for international duty but why should they, and why should they damage the relationships between their players and the club management?

      Do you really think that threatening the Madrid-based powerhouse will bring capitulation on their part? It will only make them worse.

      Where the club has erred in recent times is not to come out shouting in support of their team and Pep. This namby-pamby “seny” way of dealing with things isn’t cutting it.

      When Mourinho was in full flight last season and the allegations of the Busquets racism comments were thick in the air – that’s when the FCB board and management should have made a stand. They should have been shouting back and drawing a line in the sand, then. It was left to Pep and his “puta” comments – THAT was the only reaction from the club, apart from a lawsuit against COPE for the drug-taking allegations.

      There was no show of allegiance from the board for Pep and the team; no statements made in support or apology; no wronging and no righting – just silence. That silence was taken as admission of guilt – not as any code of honour, except by those who wanted to believe that the lack of response meant that this club is “honourable” and “above such pettiness”. They are, but the silence did not help – nor did it make the team or the training managers feel backed by the club. Pep received a standing ovation from the team when he got back from “that” press conference – finally they could see someone sticking up for what was happening.

      The “mild-mannered Clark Kent” way in which this board has approached the RFEF probably has them laughing at Las Rozas. The FCB management should have been busting down the doors and busting balls in that meeting, and making it clear that they aren’t going to be anyone’s bitch. To simply send a letter wanting to know “what the rules are”, and to not show up at a meeting, is akin to the RFEF receiving a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket from Barca. The RFEF was probably happy that FCB didn’t show. It made their meeting easier.

      According to reports, Pep has now asked the board for support. If this is true, then it says a lot about how unsupported by the FCB management and board that the team is feeling. They are doing their best on the pitch, and it’s about time that the management did their best in the boardrooms and meeting halls when it comes to reciprocation.

      Imagine if Pep didn’t turn up to a game for the same reasons that the club management didn’t turn up to the RFEF meeting? People need to be doing what needs to be done, and if there’s an obligation to be present at a meeting, then it should be met.

      • Gogah
        March 7, 2012

        Thanks Michelle for that comment. I agree with you on all points. Its really worrying how unsupported the team feel from the management and the board and pray that Pep gets all the backing he needs. Also on some level it may have been some wishful thinking from my side to expect the barca players to feel more for blaugrana than the national colors. I dont think its unrealistic. But clearly this board with rosell at the helm are not showing enough teeth. and it pisses me off!!!

  36. March 7, 2012

    I find myself somewhat conflicted about this whole RFEF issue. There has to be a line between classiness and being a punching bag, and I think the club is struggling to walk along it.

    While I don’t think there is a grand conspiracy to rob Barcelona of La Liga, I do think Mourinho’s referee intimidation tactics of the past two and a half seasons have paid off. That sort of thing can work at any level. Referees might be afraid of making tough, but right, calls against Madrid and not even be consciously aware of it, or they could be afraid of what might happen to their careers, like the official who has reportedly been banned from officiating Madrid matches after a Copa Clásico this season.

    But I don’t think the club should talk about the referees. Because these things can’t be proven, and because in a luckier season for Barcelona, Madrid say the same things, Barça need to be careful about setting a precedent. They need to stay classy and above the drama. Like Kxevin has said, if just a few plays by individual Barcelona players had gone differently, the league would look a lot different, referee mistakes or no. And we need to be honest, Madrid have been on blistering form this season, and have been more consistent than us. Those matches they win even when they don’t play well are league-deciders, and they haven’t all been won because of referee decisions.

    However with the Piqué issue, I think the club has every right to ask what is going on, because it’s so obviously a double standard. That said, childish gestures like not attending the meeting to decide the Copa final venue do no good for anyone except the Madrid press.

    I think Pep is the model to follow. He will speak up when he feels the need, but he does not complain about the referees. He has too much respect for his team to believe that our destiny in the league is in anyone’s hands but ours.

    • Roberto Senyera
      March 7, 2012

      One thing is for certain — there most definitely is a double standard. Even Stevie Wonder can see that 😉

  37. mom4
    March 7, 2012

    Loveblob avui?

    US programming note:
    FSC 2:30 EST (must have a pregame as the official site says the game begins at 2:45 (20:45 BCN time))

  38. Manish
    March 7, 2012

    With all this crappy ref issues rearing its head again.. why doesn’t the fed ban Mow mow first.. for each and every outburst of his against the ref before even training it’s guns at others.. such a shame really…

    It’s not a trend that Barca is about to start but something which has been already been well executed by Mou mou.. how i hate the man..

    • Manish
      March 7, 2012

      I am sure he is hiding in his dark room with a big big smirk on his face.. some how he reminds me of Darth Vader…

  39. Roberto Senyera
    March 7, 2012

    Pique only given a one match ban and fine along with a club fine. Both fines are nominal and have nothing to do with comments made after the match (via totalbarca.com).

    • nzm
      March 7, 2012

      That’s good news.

      It possibly means that what Pique said has been proven, as otherwise they could have made an example of him.

      • Roberto Senyera
        March 7, 2012

        Hold the phone though. I read in the comments section that the committee did not decide today with respect to Piqué’s comments made in the mixed zone after the game. The committee will decide upon that matter at a later date — would it be too cynical of me to guess that any match sanctions Piqué receives for the mixed zone matter will invariably coincide with the league Clasico???

        Me cynical? No.

        • nzm
          March 7, 2012

          Ah – that makes sense.

          I’ll join the cynical party as well, Roberto!

          • Chiu
            March 7, 2012

            haha, i think april classico is still too far for that coincidental cynical ban 🙂

  40. blitzen
    March 7, 2012

    Just in time for today’s game against Bayer Leverkeusen, I present you with The Sky Sports Barça Commentary Drinking Game!

    As a few of us in the last liveblog noted, the English commentators can be somewhat predictable and repetitive during Barça games. So here is a fun way to follow along and get totally bladdered while doing it. Last person standing wins! Take a shot/drink whenever:

    –Commentators mention that Cesc Fabregas played in the EPL.
    –They say that Messi has failed to reproduce his Barcelona form with Argentina.
    –When either “Stoke” or “the Britannia” is mentioned.
    –They refer to Busquets’ reputation for diving. Double shot if Busi is not actually playing in the game they are watching.
    –On a call for a penalty, the commentator has “seen them given.”
    –Any reference to the average height of the Barcelona players. Double shot if they “are no use in a wall.”
    –La Liga being a “two-horse race”.
    –Disapproval of Spanish players crowding the referee (as opposed to right-thinking English players).
    –Any mention of “tapping up.” Double shot if they refer to the Fabregas/Barcelona shirt incident.
    –A shot for any of these terms: maestro, genius, tiki-taka, “wee man”, or telepathy. Triple shot for “hive mind.”

    That should get you good and drunk. Feel free to add your own suggestions!

    • blitzen
      March 7, 2012

      Those who watch GolTV commentary will have to make up their own, Ray-Ray specific game, obviously. 😛

      • nzm
        March 7, 2012

        If you watch Spanish TV, you would get drunk solely on the number of times that they say “vamos a ver”, “fuera”, “penaaalty” and “oi yoi yoi”. 😀

      • Roberto Senyera
        March 7, 2012

        I’ll drink to this game.

        Won’t be on GolTV though as they don’t have the UCL rights. We get a British feed through Sportsnet in Canada.

        Bottoms up brother 🙂

          • Roberto Senyera
            March 7, 2012

            Hey you. Don’t start on that sexism topic again sister/brother.

        • March 7, 2012

          Sportsnet FTW! Thank God it’s not on Sportsnet World, that paid TSN2esque garbage.

    • Roberto Senyera
      March 7, 2012

      – “Barcelona’s weakness is their backline” double shot
      – “Valdes is a suspect keeper” double shot

    • Roberto Senyera
      March 7, 2012

      – any reference to Pep being the next Chelsea or England manager” double shot

      Hey, this game is fun and I haven’t starting drinking yet.

      Right. I’m off to read that chapter from Hunter’s book that a kind BFBer gave us a free link to. Just the thing to do before the match.

    • zashaw
      March 7, 2012

      LLOL (_literally_ laughed out loud)! One more aspect of the game for me to look forward to.

    • messifan
      March 7, 2012

      Well, in order for this game to be super successful, let’s hope Gerry Armstrong is calling this match 🙂

  41. blitzen
    March 7, 2012

    Racing Santander have sacked their coach ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Barcelona.

    I don’t want to get too overconfident, but I can’t see them being in any shape to put up much of a fight.

  42. March 7, 2012

    The full, uncensored, properly translated Guardiola Champions League rant against Mou Mou by itelf makes the price of the book worth it. Full stop.

  43. March 7, 2012

    I confess to being torn about the match yesterday. Every time I would see either Wenger or Ibrahimovic, I would want to throw a shoe at the TV set. Couple that with the fawning, obnoxious Britmouths calling the match for Fox Soccer, and it made for pain. And then there’s the whole hair business. Is Arsenal trying to corner the market on the shittiest aggregate hair in world football? Song, Gervinho, Marouane “cats have been sucking on my dome” Chamakh, Sagna “my mama saw ’10’ so shut up.” Gaaah!

    After wracking my brain trying to gin up some way for both teams to lose I gave up, fast-forwarded to the end and re-watched the second half of the Hee Hon match.

  44. Dani_el
    March 7, 2012

    I just wanted to drop by and thank the BFB team for the interview, I’m looking forward to read the review and to get the book somehow (I live in south america), though I’ll try. Thanks guys!

  45. March 7, 2012

    I apologize for being late to this excellent mega_tajh comment, excerpted below:

    Graham just completely lambasted the club in the way we are dealing with the ref situation on Revista.

    He called it a “loser mentality” on how Pep asked for backing from the board in dealing with the referees and that its a “child’s argument” to say Madrid were doing this 1st.

    Before Graham, Guillem stated how the reason Freixa (our board spokesman) came out with the club appealing Pique’s red is way in backing Pep.

    From what I gather a lot of meetings are going regarding this topic.(Revista said one with Rosell and Pep on last Thursday).

    The Pique incident about the ref committee wanted him fined and suspended more just made us(Pep & the board) to be more vocal and question a double standards.

    Messy stuff I say. To an extent I agree with Graham in that we don’t complain about refs so why start now just because were’re 10pts behind.

    But then if Pep is noticing a trend and asking for the club’s back in becoming vocal shouldn’t we support our coach?

    Hunter is right. As to the last question, not blindly. We’re 10 points down. The refs didn’t do it. We sound like sore losers. The time to fight that battle is when it matters. It doesn’t matter now, if there was even a battle to be fought. There is a larger struggle against refereeing incompetence, that ALL clubs should fight. But as Ramzi says, anyone who thinks that a refereeing “fix” is in, should just stop watching matches.

  46. March 7, 2012

    Just a brief note about standards and discussion:

    I don’t mind being called out. Nobody should. We can discuss things, and agree, or agree to disagree. But it has to start with respect. For everyone.

    I was called out for a question to Hunter that wasn’t mine, labeled a prig for not understanding that a swipe at my integrity was all in fun and told that my “holier than thou” attitude is “nauseating” to someone.

    But my integrity is all that I have. If I don’t have that, then what am I doing here. I don’t take swipes or jibes at anyone, and expect the same respect in any and all cases when it comes to family members. We ALL should. It’s a basic assumption for me. It’s not different than racist, sexist or other things. We’re all different, do different things and have different ways of communicating. But we should be able to find a common ground in respect.

    Yes, there is definitely humor. But there hasn’t yet been invented a sarcasm font, and emoticons often fall short. So in black and white, it’s easy for jokes to be perceived as insults. And not just in my case.

    I know that this space has changed in tone, in some aspects not at all for the better to my view. It has become much more message board like which I confess to not being a fan of. Others will disagree, which is cool. But I think you can disagree with someone without being insulting. I take a stand. People don’t like that. I get it. But tell me why you think that I’m wrong, or why mom4 or Blitzen or Euler or anyone else is wrong. A dialogue can’t start with name calling. At least not a productive one.

    My general view is if I wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, I don’t type it. Again, that’s just my view. Others have different views, and that’s cool, too. But we have to find a way for them to co-exist.

    So this is, again, another appeal for civility not just in my case, but in everyone’s. We all have to live in this “room,” so to speak. It’s a lot easier if we understand that.

    • blitzen
      March 7, 2012

      Considering how many jokes you make yourself about being called a biased idiot, I didn’t think you would take my teasing seriously. I apologize if I offended you. I hope you know that while I may disagree with you on some points, I find you an intelligent and talented writer. I tend to joke around a lot, but it comes from a respectful place. You do sometimes seem a bit thin-skinned, but I guess my sense of humour can be a bit abrasive if you’re not used to it. Sorry.

      Now, when you say this site has become more “message board like” and you don’t like it, could you be more specific? Aside from the rudeness issue that you mentioned, what else bothers you about how people are using this space? Because I’ve been here for about a year-and-a-half, and the only real changes I have noticed are that there are more commenters than there used to be and (thanks to registration) there is less trolling from “outsiders”. Those are both good things.

      This space belongs to you, so if there are kinds of comments you would prefer not to see or topics we should refrain from discussing (personal lives, trips, other sports), please let us know. My blitzen awards are a good example. I post them here because I enjoy doing them and people seem to like them. But if you feel they are intrusive or not in keeping with the tone of the blog, let me know and I will find somewhere else to post them. No hard feelings.

      • March 7, 2012

        For me, there is a certain edge that wasn’t present a year or so ago, a certain lack of civility that manifests itself. Maybe it’s a consequence of growth. Who knows?

        Everyone, including me, loves the blitzen Awards. They might even become posts at some point in the near future, to make for the slacking of your life-jammed mods.

        And I don’t even know if everyone feels the same way about the space, or just the old-timers, who date back to The Offside days. Of course, we only had 5 people commenting. I reckon the mood would be different.

        And maybe it is like a family in that certainly family members want to shove other family members in front of a train. But I mostly wanted to speak up, to give voice to something I’d been noticing, and what (possibly) others have noticed.

        I’m only thin-skinned when it comes to my integrity and sense of fairness. I don’t know how many journalists you know, but that’s the bedrock of what they do and as far as their work goes, it’s all they have. You can see something similar from Sid Lowe via Twitter when people accuse him of favoring one club or another, or any of the other journalists on there. It’s a danger that is constant, because once people believe that you feel a certain way, there’s no going back. Then you’re screwed.

        • blitzen
          March 7, 2012

          Funny you should mention Sid, I just had a long twit-chat with him today as I said something (a bit unfairly, to be honest) that ruffled his feathers. Think we worked that out. 🙂

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