A Note on San Siro’s Pitch and UEFA’s Standards

Before I say what I want to note, let me first say that if they stay within the regulated standards (i.e. don’t break any rules) home teams can do whatever they want with their pitch. Many teams morph the pitch to suit their game. For example the grass is cut shorter at Camp Nou than most stadiums so it suits our playing style better. Some other teams like to let their pitch’s grass grow a couple of inches more than usual. If it’s within the rules, okay.

Having said that the state of the San Siro pitch yesterday was, simply put, disgraceful. If that pitch meets UEFA’s standard, then things will have to change in the future.

Should it be blamed exclusively for the draw? Absolutely not. There were other, more important issues. Is that field historically bad? Undoubtedly. It’s been relayed 75 times since 1990 and the fact both Inter and Milan share the stadium compounds the problem.

But the thing is, the pitch wasn’t just “bad” – it was extremely dangerous. To the point where there was a conscious decision taken by Barcelona to not get injured. Blaming the disastrous state of the pitch on it being “historically bad” is, sorry to say, a lazy excuse. I saw the pitch against Roma at the weekend, it wasn’t as catastrophic as that.

Therefore it’s logical to assume that Milan was trying to hamper Barca and their playing style with that field. Which is not surprising (and within their right) considering it’s what home teams usually do and they did a similar thing against Arsenal in the first leg of that tie. (Who really should have complained about it because it was so blatant. Had they done it, it would have put more pressure on UEFA to look into the issue).

That's legal.

But it’s one thing to have the pitch to your advantage and another to have such dangerous conditions. In their attempt to handicap Barca, they created a pitch that was probably worse than some relegation threatened teams in administration. It was the extreme example of what can happen if pitches aren’t held to a certain standard. And it’s UEFA’s job to make sure they uphold that standard. If no one’s going to hold Milan accountable, why should they change anything?

Now, as I see it the word ‘complaint’ carries the connotation of childishness and pettiness. As if the one complaining is whining about something immaterial. There are some who are saying that by lodging an official ‘complaint’ Barcelona are whining about something irrelevant and blaming it and nothing else on the draw. That’s off-base.

What a complaint means in this context is: “A statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable.” In this case the situation is the pitch. Does anyone (besides Madridistas and Milanistas) believe the San Siro field was satisfactory for a game of football in any way? I sure didn’t. I don’t think Robinho does either.

To lodge a complaint is well within the club’s rights; they have to defend their interests and that interest is doing their best to ensure their players don’t get injured. In a meeting before the game Barca and Milan had agreed the pitch was dry and it needed to be watered. Milan didn’t do it. Had they not asked UEFA to get Milan to release an official explanation we wouldn’t have known that. It gives us real answers rather than assumptions.

If Messi twisted his knee as his cleats dug into a tearing turf and tore his ACL, how many people would begrudge Barca for asking UEFA why it was in that condition? How many people would be outraged after it was revealed Milan broke the pre-agreement to water the pitch? Or angry at UEFA for allow a field like that in the first place?

It would be worse to make a whole media storm about it and not do anything to address the root of the problem which UEFA’s standard of what is an acceptable pitch. Barca didn’t kick up a fuss; they just submitted a complaint – a legitimate one. This is the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League, the best football competition in the world. Expecting a playable pitch is not unheard of.

By officially ‘complaining’, Barca are also questioning the standards set by UEFA for allowing such a field. That’s important. I would have been annoyed at Barca if they didn’t lodge one, because it was just terrible. There are people who call it whining or whatever, but what they say is irrelevant to me. As stated before, a Club protects its interests and that field was a serious injury waiting to happen. I don’t see any problem with letting UEFA know that.

And it should be noted that Pep has been calling for better pitch conditions for some time. It’s an ongoing issue. At the latest event at Elite Coach Forum, Pep was backed by both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger (of course). This pitch just gives him more ammunition in that saga.

That all said the first leg is over. Milan executed their game plan very well and for that, you have to commend them. (Good ol’ Seedorf’s still got it!) The pitch isn’t the reason we couldn’t finish, nor the reason Xavi was so determined to play through the middle. But it wasn’t an non-issue either. In the future, if UEFA continues to allow such fields to be played on — we’ll see some serious injuries. That’s the real complaint.

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  1. Helge
    March 29, 2012

    Well said Kari. I fully agree with you.
    Note that Milan players also slipped on that turf and could have suffered serious injuries. How desperate can one be to find a way of stopping our football? I don’t think that teams like Bayern Munich would ever lower them to such a level.

    To my surprise, I think it was Unai Emery who was one of the fiercest antagonists of stricter pitch rules during that forum.

    PS: 2 posts within half an hour from the same editor? New record! Congratulations 🙂

    • March 29, 2012

      Actually it was all one post, but I split it in two because the pitch rant ended up being longer than the trolling part. Decided to address them separately. That there was a time gap between posts shows you how incompetent I am.

    • G6O
      March 29, 2012

      Milan suffered from the pitch too indeed – there was this situation in the second half in which Emanuelson had a great chance to score but he got tricked by the grass, lost control of the ball and didn’t even get a shot on goal.

      Yet we all know how much in favor of which team the odds would have been had it been in a condition allowing for accurate exchange of quick passes at short distance

  2. blitzen
    March 29, 2012

    I completely agree with this post. That pitch was downright dangerous. For both teams. UEFA needs clear standards, and a clear policy of enforcement.

    An NBA stadium wouldn’t be able to get away with having a splintered, cracked surface. Ice rinks in the NHL are strictly monitored for temperature & smoothness and are resurfaced between periods. Why should pitches for top-level teams in the world’s most popular game be allowed to be deliberately sabotaged this way?

  3. messifan
    March 29, 2012

    Wenger did mention the state of the pitch before the first match but it was at a time when Arsenal did not play well, and many in the press viewed his comment as another premeditated excuse for Arsenal. Then Arsenal lost by 4 goals and Wenger couldn’t really say the pitch influenced the game b/c that would again be viewed as an excuse. Arsenal couldn’t ask for an official statement because both flanks were placed and satisfied UEFA standards before kickoff. There was no agreement like in our case.

    I agreed with you that there should be standards regarding pitch sizes and conditions. At my old high school, we had to restructure our soccer field because it did not meet standards set by the local division (Disclosure: I graduated from high school a long time ago 🙂 ). I thought it was a standard practice everywhere but I was wrong.

    • G6O
      March 29, 2012

      Pitch size has in fact been standardized – the rules still allow for very wide variations in the size of the pitch, but most top-level stadiums are 105 x 68 meters, Camp Nou included. I am pretty sure IT used to be bigger and people keep talking about the big pitch there and how it aids our game, but right now it is the same size as most other stadiums. Bernabeu has a bigger pitch, in fact, but whatever variation you see on the top level is within 1 to 4 meters from 105 x 68. not more than that.

      Grass condition is a whole different matter though…

      • sd
        March 29, 2012

        I have a feeling those 1-4 metres make a huge amount of difference. When players spend most of the time in generalized locations and you have to ensure that the team stays compact it could make a big difference. If you have your back four spread 2 metres more on one pitch then the other you have about half a metre more per player. The ball is only about 22-23 cms in diameter. That could be the difference in Xavi making a pass at a diagonal that wouldn’t have existed were the pitch narrower. The same applies to length. You have four metres extra in length and that stretches your defender-to-striker length from Sacchi’s optimal 40 metres to 42 metres or so. That gives Messi playing between the lines half a second more to look up and decide what to do or a meter more to accelerate past and change directions.

        Like Pep says “At this level the smallest things can make the biggest difference”. This game can be a game of inches just like American Football (or “Soccer” as I like to call it).

      • Peterj
        March 30, 2012

        What about stamford bridge?…their pitch is way smaller than camp nou

      • endico
        April 1, 2012

        Although I have confirmed it but I still find it difficult to believe that the pitch Bernabeu is bigger than Camp nou. During games it looks smaller. Strange!

  4. Dani_el
    March 29, 2012

    The joke’s one them. By making us (our team and theirs) play in that field, not being true to their word (there was a previous agreement), they actually hurt their own players. If I would be a Milan fan (or player for that matter, they’re the ones who get injured)I would be fuming, that’s downright incompetent. If Robinho doesn’t play next week, it would be such a loss for them. It’s not becoming of a great team like Milan.
    Oh and about the Graham Hunter book, “Barça, the making of the greatest team of the world”, he tells an interesting anecdote. Just before the South Africa World Cup, there was a FIFA refereeing supervisor’s briefing showing were they would show the spanish NT the interpretation of the rules of the game for the WC. Pique and Cesc were joking around as usual, and all of them were kind of bored for that hour, but Xavi was pretty focused. He waited until they finished the conference or whatever, and Casillas ceded the word to Xavi as vice captain, so then, at the end he stood up and said this:
    “We’ve sat here and listened to you for an hour telling us about how
    the rules are going to be interpreted, which is fine but you go back and you tell Sepp Blatter this. Tell him that because FIFA aren’t watering the pitches anything like sufficiently and because they aren’t cutting the playing surface short enough, they are handing a huge premium to defensive football [Spain were one of the last to kick off and there was already a furore about how few goals and how little entertainment the world was watching]. If he wants good football and he wants exciting games, tell him that; tell him to sort the pitches out.”
    Like a boss, Xavi like a boss.

    It’s time we repeat this to Platini as well.

  5. Kimcelona
    March 30, 2012

    AWESOME post!
    Just when I was beginning to tear my hair out you come in and speak THE TRUTH.

    I totally agree with everything you said. I have tried to avoid the drivel from Serie A fanboys and their EE lackies in their attempts to demonize Barca but its getting to me..its seeping through,even supposed “experts” arguments and its annoying me.
    Its good to come here and read some fulfilling and insightful AND level-headed words.

  6. Huckleberry
    March 30, 2012

    On the really bad pitch of FC Basel, Bayern lost 0:1. Basel apologiesed and changed the pitch short after for the benefit of their own game in the home competitions. On the Good pitch in their own stadium, Bayern won easily 7:0.

    • March 30, 2012

      Can’t recall an exceptionally/ relatively bad pitch during that match.

      Basel won due to their defending (and were lucky on many occasions that Bayern couldn’t finish). Bayern simply didn’t match any mistakes during the return leg that’s all.

      • Huckleberry
        March 30, 2012

        I was at that game, so and can tell you… But at least Basel did water the pitch before the game. By the way, they lost 0:5 at home against Barça 3 years ago on a good pitch 😉
        The better the pitch the better for the technically advanced side.

    • Huckleberry
      March 30, 2012

      Not a surprise. What else could they say? Or do?

  7. Laurentiu88
    March 30, 2012

    I think the ‘state of the pitch’ has become a key tool in the arsenal of strategies against us. I wonder when was the last time we played on a decent surface away from home? Who can forget the rice plantation at Stamford Bridge?

    I think that we didn’t complain too much before for strategic reasons, as it would have only pointed that we were really bothered! but now that this has become the rule of the game we must insist on some standards here. It is sad to think that even for neutral games like finals we will have to ask for pitch to be wet and the grass cut as in CDR final last year.

    Unfortunately journalists – the other factor who can press for this sort of regulations – are no more influenced by nationality/team here, being labelled pathetic.

  8. March 30, 2012

    Problem is every opponent of ours is now going to seriously consider mucking up their pitch to gain any sort of advantage against us. Especially seeing how much it bothered us in Milan.

    Di Matteo is probably already holding a training session with the ground staff.

  9. March 30, 2012

    There was some confusion up above concerning pitch size/regulations etc, so I’ll drop some information. First some pitch sizes for comparison (meters):
    Camp Nou: 105 X 68 (area = 7104)
    San Siro: 105 X 68
    Stamford Bridge: 103 X 67 (area = 6901)

    To be eligible for the Champions League the pitch must be between 100-105 meters in length and 64-68 meters in width. The smallest pitch allowed is 10% smaller in area than the largest pitch allowed.

    However it probably doesn’t make much difference. Stamford Bridge was mentioned as a pitch much smaller than ours, but it is only 3% smaller in area. I would wager that actual pitch size has little to do with our advantage (and phenomenal results this year) at the Camp Nou.

    • March 30, 2012

      A quick look at some info and it seems my information may be outdated. I believe ALL pitches must be 105 X 68 for CL games.

      Will pitch size may have made a difference for Barcelona in the past, it is an urban legend these days (at least in the CL).

      • March 30, 2012

        I was reading that a stadium must be classified as a class 4 stadium to host Europa League games or Champions League games, and to be classified as a class 4 stadium you have to have a 105 X 68 pitch. Not sure how to explain that the Stamford Bridge is apparently 103 X 67 within these rules…

    • March 30, 2012

      How big or small a pitch looks to us on TV is really down to perception- camera angles and how close the fans sit. As your numbers point out, the pitch dimensions are very similar, if not identical for a lot of these stadiums.

      Camp Nou looks massive because of the camera work and just the sheer size of the stadium itself. Stamford Bridge looks so much smaller because the fans are pretty much just sitting on the pitch, especially behind the goals.

      • endico
        April 1, 2012

        Mani I get your point but it’ll take some time for me to adjust my perception because I used to think that Camp nou has a far bigger pitch than Stamford Bridge. But again during games in Stamford Bridge players always look congested but in Camp nou it’s the opposite

  10. March 30, 2012

    Look, I know this will make everybody think that I am an even bigger asshole than so many already do, but Milan can do whatever they like with their pitch. It’s their stadium, and their right. And you’d better believe they made sure that it conformed to UEFA standards, so the fact that UEFA found that the pitch conformed, shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.

    But if a team wants to have a cow pasture because they think it will help their game, as long as there aren’t actual cows grazing on it during the match, rock on. Because it’s not like we cut our pitch with tweezers then water the hell out of it for altruism. We do it because it facilitates our game.

    Did Milan screw the pooch deliberately? Dunno. But it isn’t as if they play sucky football, right? Other teams in the world besides us like to play slick, attacking, possession football. The San Siro is the home pitch for not one, but two major footballing sides, in a stadium that just doesn’t get a ton of sunlight. That’s going to happen.

    Was the pitch unusually bad? Yep. Would we have complained about the quality of the pitch had we won 0-3? Valid question, and not one that I have the answer to. I just don’t believe that everything is a conspiracy, or done to hamper our beauty. I can only imagine what a difficulty it must be keeping a pitch in shape with two big European sides playing on it.

    Does any of this excuse the condition of the pitch? Nope. It was ridiculous. But as Kari notes, the pitch wasn’t the reason we finished like crap. Now we get on our billiard table and turn the trick, then wait for (probably) Chelsea, who probably won’t manicure the heck out of their pitch, either. Why volunteer to hold the gun to your head, right?

    • G6O
      March 30, 2012

      Your logic has flaws in it.

      Yes, we would not have complained so much about the conditions of the grass had we won 0-3. We would still have complained though because we very much did that last season at the Bernabeu, when we got favorable results. But more importantly, perhaps we didn’t win 0-3 precisely because of the pitch. And that we didn’t finish well maybe also had something to do with it, because it didn’t allow us to set up good enough chances, especially given how packed Milan’s defense was around and in the box, and maybe, as anyone who has played the game and thought about it long enough knows, loose turf, tall grass and bumps on the pitch do not exactly make for the ideal conditions for one to be sure where exactly the ball is going to be and to properly keep his balance in that crucial moment when he has to hit it the right way so that it goes past the keeper…

    • March 30, 2012

      I have to disagree with this and I normally agree with most of your points.

      This is the champions league and we are talking about AC Milan, not Stoke. Most teams we play away that have poor pitches have a genuine excuse in that they simply cannot afford to keep the pitch in top top shape. This is not the case with Milan. They are one of the richest clubs in the world and most weeks their pitch is in very good condition.

      They should not be allowed to purposely gut their pitch to the extent it was done in this case and not because it hampers our style of play but because it is dangerous and substantially increases the risk of injury. Players slip, their studs get stuck, their knees and ankles twist and it can lead to serious injuries. I suspect that was why Iniesta was taken off, since he is particularly injury prone.

      Comparing this and how we make sure the Nou Camp is in tip top condition to facilitate our play doesnt really apply because what we do isnt dangerous and it doesnt increase the risk of injury.

    • blitzen
      March 30, 2012

      See my point about basketball courts and ice rinks above. Standards are there for a reason, to ensure fair play and a safe playing surface for both teams. Milan broke the agreement about watering the pitch. That is unfair play. The pitch was dangerous (ask Robinho). That’s a disgrace.

      You can go on all you want about “playing to the conditions” and “we should be above it all”, but Barça has a legitimate complaint about that pitch. And it wasn’t an enjoyable game to watch, which is the real shame of the thing.

    • March 30, 2012

      I do believe we would have complained about the pitch if we had won. Pep has been most outspoken about the state of various pitches when we win. He complained after we won the European Super Cup over Porto, he complained in about the pitches in the Club World Cup in 2010.

      The fact is Pep has complained about poor pitches since he started coaching almost 4 years ago. He complains whether we win or lose. This isn’t an issue of the club complaining because we didn’t get a result, as the club has had a constant and clear message about the state of the pitches for years.

      • March 30, 2012

        But why should Milan hold the knife to their own throats? If they deliver a slick, manicured, well-watered pitch, what’s the advantage for them? And why shouldn’t they be able to make their field any way that they want it, within the strictures of the UEFA guidelines which, apparently, they hewed to?

        Yes, we have noted that pitches haven’t been in the best condition after wins. Has the club ever filed an official complaint? Not to the best of my memory.

        And the club complains about pitches because we would like every pitch to be like the Camp Nou, so that we can play our game and kill one and all. It would be one thing if UEFA examined the pitch and said “What the hell were you guys thinking, putting this crap out here?” But that didn’t happen, and Milan almost certainly knew that it wouldn’t.

        Both clubs played on the exact same pitch. Did it help them more than it helped us? Ask Robinho. Great clubs, and ours is a great club, play to the conditions. The few times that we did, we screwed the pooch on finishing. This whole pitch business is blown way out of proportion, propagated by the club filing an official grouse with UEFA.

        Yes, many noted on Twitter that the pitch was bad, You could see that it was bad. I don’t think it was supposed to be that bad, even as I’m also sure that Milan wasn’t seeking watered, buzz-cut perfection, either. It happens.

        • March 30, 2012

          Im not saying Milan should be forced to keep the pitch in the same shape as the Camp Nou, that is a non issue that I don’t think anyone is arguing. I also don’t think the club (or most people) are blaming the pitch for the loss.

          Pep speaks up when the pitch is in such bad condition that it poses a serious risk for injuries to the players. The pitch in Milan was that bad. It was impossible for players to make quick cuts because massive pieces of the pitch would come up – these are the conditions that you see ligament injuries in – specifically knee injuries like ACL tears.

          I’m not saying Milan shouldn’t be able to grow the grass long, or not water the pitch, or whatever the hell they want to do. But when the pitch is so bad that it significantly increases the possibly of injury then the club/Guardiola should point this out and complain. And the pitch was that bad on Wednesday.

        • Helge
          March 30, 2012

          I wanted to reply, but I am too late…
          Calvin already spoke for me 🙂

          I just want to add that you could literally see the upper side of the turf fly through the air with every stronger step on it. It was not just dry, it was not properly rooted yet.
          I didn’t see the AS Roma match, but I believe Kari when she says the pitch looked better on that day.

          It’s ok to let the grass grow, it’s ok to keep the pitch rather dry – but it’s not ok to offer a pitch that provides an undeniable risk of severe injuries!

          I somehow wish a Milan player would have gotten injured on that turf…

  11. March 30, 2012

    To me this is really largely a non-issue.

    The pitch was awful. It really is always awful at the San Siro. But yes it was particularly awful for this match. My sense is that Milan actually most likely tried to do last minute improvements to the pitch that backfired.

    It’s been reported that Milan put some new grass sod on the pitch and that it didn’t have time to take. That was my sense as well watching the match. The major problem was that the surface was coming up in almost sheet like sections.

    Manipulating the pitch in that fashion is not something Milan would do just to alter match conditions. That’s just more ongoing incompetence in management of the San Siro.

    That entire stadium is such a boondoggle on Italian tax payers. It’s really quite telling that neither Moratti nor Berlusconi was willing to make any investment in the infrastructure his club plays in to improve playing conditions. Instead both just decided to spend more on players and let the public take the economic hit.

    That’s now coming back to haunt them. The San Siro is outdated and their match day revenues are extremely poor making it difficult for them to compete. On top of that the Eurozone crisis is hitting Italy very hard and will continue to do so for years. Building a new stadium – public or private – will be much more complicated.

    All that said – I don’t think Milan did very much in particular for the Barca match other than not water the grass. But that happens to Barca all of the time.

    Most of the really poor parts of the pitch – were just structural issues that are either long standing or complications of long standing structural problems Milan were trying to patch at the last minute – likely to make the stadium look better on global TV.

    Ok so they didn’t water the pitch. That’s just not such a big deal, IMO.

    If Barca want to file a complaint it’s absolutely within their right to do so. The pitch was dangerous. It’s not something I would have done but if they want to so be it. But filing those kinds of complaints is going to come at a cost of perception. It’s just going to come off looking petty.

    • March 30, 2012

      True. All fair points.

      Manipulating the pitch in that fashion is not something Milan would do just to alter match conditions.

      I respectfully disagree here. To be honest, I didn’t think they would do that either. But that image I posted above was of the San Siro pitch against Arsenal. It looks pretty clear to me that the pitch is designed to play to Milan’s strengths and neutralize Arsenal’s*. It was really disappointing to see it, as I’ve never seen them do that before.

      *It doesn’t excuse Arsenal’s shambolic performance in any way, mind you.

      It’s been reported that Milan put some new grass sod on the pitch and that it didn’t have time to take.

      But that’s where I take issue with it. It was in good condition against Roma. All they had to do was maintain it, no? Patching it up at the last minute – it just doesn’t convince me. If that were true, why didn’t they use that excuse in their official explanation? It would have been better than simply saying ‘it was humid so we didn’t water the pitch’ and ‘UEFA accepted it’, no?

      And it’s also been reported that they painted the bad parts green to hide the bad condition. Seems pretty manipulative to me.

      To clarify, as disappointing as it is, they can do that. The main thing I’m trying to say is it was an unsafe pitch and UEFA shouldn’t have allowed a game to be played on it.

      Ok so they didn’t water the pitch. That’s just not such a big deal, IMO.

      I agree. But again, I should have been more clear – I feel the complaint was because the pitch was a genuine hazard, not to call out Milan on their broken agreement (that was only notable to show that Milan did influence the state of the pitch). Irrespective of what the perception* is going to be, they have to point that out IMO. Put it this way, if there were sizable holes in an ice rink during a hockey game, the teams shouldn’t play on it. Simple as that.

      *As I said to fcbfandrivel below, to the people who don’t bother to look at it from Barca’s perspective (the majority of people), it’ll came out as petty but to me, that doesn’t matter much. (A sizable portion of those people still call Barca ‘Farca’ and believe Messi benefits for his growth hormone treatment). This is something the club had to pursue regardless of result or perception (as the team to beat, it’s always going to be bad anyway. Demonizing them the norm nowadays).

  12. blitzen
    March 30, 2012

    Why do two of the biggest clubs in the world have to share a stadium anyway? That’s the root cause of the problem. Yes, current economic climate and all, but they should have built a new stadium years ago.

    • March 30, 2012

      Why would you ever spend hundreds of millions of euros out of your own pocket when you can get a stadium for free from the tax payers?

      Even if that stadium isn’t great – you’ll make due for as long as possible.

      Or in other words look at it this way-for years and years Moratti and Berlusconi bought players out of their own pockets. It was their personal money.

      So they were basically faced with this decision on opportunity cost: do I invest this euro in my pocket into buying players or building my own state of the art facility?

      Buying players won every time.

      • March 30, 2012

        I was under the impression that one of the problems with finance in Italian football is that proceeds from ticket sales either weren’t seen at all by the clubs or that the clubs only got a small percentage of it. That would give some incentive over the long term for Italian clubs to build their own stadiums, but short term results would probably still be prioritized over longer term financial stability (especially when very rich owners are doing the prioritizing).

        • messifan
          March 30, 2012

          Yeah, I thought that too. That was one of the reasons Juventus decided to build their own stadium instead of renting it from the state. Plus, investing in a stadium is a good long term investment. It might have a higher short-term opportunity cost but in the long run, it can put the club in a better financial situation. Arsenal is probably a good example of that. They are reducing their debt and maybe sacrificing investment in big name players, but what they are planning is admirable (although their board is greedy).

          • March 30, 2012

            Arsenal is a good example. It’s exactly what Moratti and Berlusconi were looking to avoid.

            Financing the Emirates has forced Arsenal to completely change the way they structure operations. It’s the major reason why Arsenal don’t spend a great deal on player acquisition or on salaries.

            Moratti and Berlusconi knew this would happen if they built a stadium. Cash going into the building would mean less cash to buy players and pay for stars.

            Moratti and Berlusconi-for a long time they had no interest in making the painful trade offs Arsenal has.

        • March 30, 2012

          It more gets to the business model of the team. Inter and Milan’s business model based on “patronage.” Long term revenue generation is secondary in that model because cash flow wasn’t a concern.

          But it’s become a major issue for a few reasons now. First Moratti and Berlusconi became much less willing to finance out of pocket player costs, especially with spiraling valuations. Second, is the overall Italian economy and asset prices both of those men hold (Berlusconi in particular). And the third issue is financial fair play.

          There are several reasons why match day revenue is low in Italy. Part of it is the revenue sharing with municipalities. But a big part is that the stadiums just aren’t modern. In particular – there are few luxury boxes. Also, the patronage model that they’ve grown up on hasn’t necessitated that they develop real acumen in developing commercial sponsorship revenue like a Bayern for example.

          But it’s all becoming a big problem now as seen by what’s happening at Inter.

  13. March 30, 2012

    Lovely piece, Kari. Very well presented arguments though I don’t agree with parts of it.

    I don’t think complaining to UEFA is bad or shameful of Barca, I just think it’s not very smart. I completely agree that there’s a line between having a home pitch that plays to your advantage (or opponent’s disadvantage, and a pitch that’s downright dangerous, and the San Siro one almost crossed that line. Like you mention, to the extent that Pep had to tell his players to not concede but NOT get injured during HT. It’s lamentable, as Xavi says, that there are rules about players taking off shirt or wearing snoods, but not on pitch conditions.

    All that said, nothing is going to come out of this complaint anyway, except make Barca look like sore losers (though we didn’t lose) or petty. I think the pitch issue is something that teams need to unite on and press for a standard, but complaining about one particular pitch immediately after one particular game is not going to get that result. To repeat I personally don’t think the complaint as such reflects badly on us, but I just think it’s not smart and the only effect will be to create perception issues (which we might or might not care about, but it’s still there). If I’m wrong and something does come out of it, then that’s really great.

    • March 30, 2012

      Fair points, and I agree that to those who don’t bother to see it from Barca’s perspective (i.e. the majority) it does end up looking petty. (But then, a portion of that majority still call Barcelona ‘Farcelona’ and think Messi gains an advantage because of his growth hormone treatment so…)

      complaining about one particular pitch immediately after one particular game is not going to get that result

      True. But it should be said that Pep complained about the Bernabeu pitch last year when we won 0-2, the pitch vs Porto in the Super Cup, and in the Club World Cup. There’s been a constant message given out by Barca about poor pitches.

      But specifically at the San Siro it was so bad that it carried significant risk of injury. If you don’t officially complain about that kind of pitch, when will you? As I said to Euler above: I feel the complaint was because the pitch was a genuine hazard, not to call out Milan on their broken agreement (that was only notable to show that Milan did influence the state of the pitch). Irrespective of what the perception* is going to be, they have to point that out IMO. Put it this way, if there were sizable holes in an ice rink during a hockey game, the teams shouldn’t play on it. Simple as that.

      *Barca’s the team to beat, so no matter what they do the perception of them is going to be bad, or spun in a negative way. Demonizing Barca is just the way it is now. But that doesn’t mean they should let that influence their decisions.

      • March 30, 2012

        haha agreed, some of those points made by “experts” are so appalling that it’s not even laughable.

        There was a pic posted by youngcules on twitter just a while back that summarized the state of the pitch, and it’s usually not good when fans are saying “so what if we drew? Thank heavens no one got injured!”

        I agree that haters are always gonna hate, but I guess it’s a tradeoff between getting something done vs perception, and if there’s a possibility for the former then we shouldn’t let the latter affect the decision. The debatable point is, what if there’s no discernible effect.

        I wonder if it would carry more weight talking about playing conditions *before* the CL game, like after training the previous day. Either way, I don’t think it is *that* big a deal that Barca complained about the pitch as it’s being made out on some sites including bs.com (but then it’s called bs.com for a reason!)

        • Ryan
          March 30, 2012

          If Messi were to get injured in another crappy field, BS.com would be the first to argue for improved pitch standards. The speed in which they switch positions on issues based on current events is pretty stunning, but like you said, they’re called that for a reason!

        • March 30, 2012

          If they talked about it before the game, it’d be seen as Barca already making excuses before the game is played :roll:

          But yeah, FWIW I think the probability of UEFA doing anything is pretty low, but we might as well do our part to keep ’em on their toes. Something is better than nothing though. Who knows? If we both qualify, maybe it’ll deter Chelsea from doing the same extreme thing. Or at least make UEFA keep a better eye on them.

  14. ooga aga
    March 30, 2012

    i’m confused. we heard that abidal was to have his surgery days ago. and yet today on the official site it is reported that he was at the practice, and there are images of him in his practice kit, and it suggests that he was even working out with the team: “Además de los 21 jugadores que conformaban la convocatoria para el partido contra el Milan, se han ejercitado Adriano, que ha comenzado a trabajar este viernes junto con el resto del grupo, así como Éric Abidal.”

    i can only hope this means something good. but, probably just means that the transplant was pushed back.

    • March 30, 2012

      My understanding was that the reports of the date Abidal was going to have surgery were just made up.

    • blitzen
      March 30, 2012

      One of the papers reported that the transplant is scheduled for April 10, but that has not been confirmed by the club.

      Abi is working out with the team because he is reasonably healthy and doesn’t want to sit around doing nothing. It is good for his and the team’s morale.

  15. Laurentiu88
    March 30, 2012

    Without any of us having a complete picture my guess, trusting our club of course, is that they made the complaint because they had reasons to suspect foul play in part of Milan. This has been the worst pitch we have played judging after how our players tripped or missplaced simple passes (Alves landing on his nose was quite funny).

    Uefa may debate whether to enforce such rules but it seems teams try to set up by mutual agreements that these standards are in fact followed. Why would Milan agree to this? Well because next time Milan may travel to some other team and offer them their own version of cow pasture! And this is the reason we must complain! To assert the blame and for the next team to feel ok to do the same to Milano. And we should already bring about the Stamford Bridge pitch state, put some pressure on them too, after we qualify of course.

    The problem is that maybe our club has ignored this problem, or assumed that keeping quiet was the best way. It is time to think of another strategy!

  16. hammeronmessi
    March 30, 2012

    i cant but help myself comment at last.

    1.The pitch is not a big factor.but the most prestigious and best club competition in the world deserves at least a decent pitch?right?was that a decent pitch?

    2.pep,IMO compensated too much due to puyol playing as a LB.the problem was not keita,the problem was him playing on the left side instead of ghost face.

    3.messi dependence?teams best player should play where he can maximize the most damage?right?this season pedro is off form,villa,affelay were injured,alexis is hurt in every other match.so whats messi supposed to do?and its normal and logical that when you are going to play with the best player in the world you are going to support him not the other way around.ibra wasnt prepared for that and he was booted out quite rightly.although to me messis most natural position should be a classic no 10,but that time hasnt come yet.in this regard what do u people think messis best position is?

    4.screaming at tello?both are right.tello should be sale fish as a forward,messi should point it out that it wasnt the right option. remember tello is still a b player,so messi screaming at him is not the same as say screaming at pedro,villa or alexis.there were incidents where he was frustrated with their choices but there was no screaming.other forwards dont scream at him because just maybe he is messi.messi made bad choices but most of the time he made the r8 choices?right?that being said messi shouldnt scream like that to a player like tello.not beneficial to team and tello.

    5.we cules are so full of negativity.after the phenomenal pep era i thought the negativity should vanish but it seems most of the cules, now a days become a fan after the pep era,not before that.(apologies to kari,mom4,u r such lovely cules,full of passion and optimism).remember guys we were playing against ac berlusconi milan in therir stadium,not apoel.

    6.why there is no re action of denying us 2 stonewall penalties?if there are some debatable calls in the return leg,all hell will break loose and the so called neutrals will say that we are being favored again.whats the point of appointing additional linesman if they cant see those?

    7.speaking of neutrals,they are saying alexis dived.mama mia,if that was not given to them i wonder what their re action will be?

    8.return leg barca 3 milan 0.yep u hear it first.

    9.bilbao was once again fantastic.their high pressing style just may be not suitable for the league.muniain,llorente were boss.muniain may be the best wide player in the world after robbery IMO.llorente is a fantastic 9 but i like cavani more and believe he can function as a 9 and a wide forward for us.didnt he play for uruguay as a wide forward?.moreover he is pacey.

    thats all.

    visca barca

    • March 30, 2012

      I was a fan before the Pep era. Not that that matters much.

      • mom4
        March 30, 2012

        I didn’t know (honestly) of the existence of FC Barcelona before the summer of 2009. I didn’t know that soccer of this caliber existed. Always thankful to our friends who introduced to this by forcing us to watch soccer at their house(sadly EPL) and the Confederations Cup(where I fell in love with Spain’s NT) on vacation with them.

        But I’ve been a fan of the Ravens(American football) and the Orioles (baseball) for a long time (for those unfamiliar to baseball, the Baltimore Orioles are the basket case of the American League East. They had their glory days… a loooooong time ago—not that I could bear to watch baseball anymore now that I’m accustomed to 90 action-packed minutes. ‘Twould be like watching paint dry). I’ve learned to accept the good and the bad and appreciate the special because it’s usually fleeting. Age does that as well…sigh.

      • hammeronmessi
        March 30, 2012

        woops,sorry.u r a fan of messi first,then barca later.

        Whats your take on messipendencia and the tello incident.?why do u ask you?maybe your reasonings and messimania .

  17. mom4
    March 30, 2012

    Haven’t we had enough sad soccer news already! Prays out to Petrov!

    Offside Barcelona ‏ @BarcaTheOffside
    Our thoughts and prayers are with Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.

    • March 30, 2012

      Yeah, I heard about that earlier. Thoughts go out to him.

      • yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
        March 30, 2012

        Leukemia is perhaps the deadliest form of cancer, hope Petrov can survive it.
        one good thing in favor of Abi and Petrov is that they are young and strong athletes, that’s always is a cause for optimism. optimism that they can overcome such a big challenge.

        • Kimcelona
          March 30, 2012

          Yes. I lost my best friend last summer to leukemia of the blood. It was only a month’s battle. So everytime I hear of someone being diagnosed with Cancer of this kind I tear up.

          My thoughts go out to Petrov and his family.

    • messifan
      March 31, 2012

      Wish him well. So many depressing stories from the world of football these days.

      • yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
        March 30, 2012

        I like your site a lot but your not updating it lately, what happened??

          • blitzen
            March 30, 2012

            He meant fcbfandrivel’s site.

            Not always about you, Kxevin! 😉

          • yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
            March 30, 2012

            Kxevin, i have nothing but admiration for you, how did u conclude that i was talking about you? i was asking fcbfandrivel about his/her website

        • March 30, 2012

          Thanks Yassir! Really glad you like the site 🙂

          Last few months have been really busy, but I’m really hoping to update the site more regularly in the future! Spending less time posting nonsense on twitter and more time posting nonsense on the blog might also help. :p

  18. Cule
    March 30, 2012

    Just a random note: The weather forecast in Barcelona for Tuesday is “showers”. 50 % chance of rain.

  19. March 30, 2012

    My opinion reflects a lot of others here, namely that the pitch was genuinely dangerous and could’ve ended the season for a number of players, especially those who rely on dribbling (Alves, Messi, Iniesta). You could see our players slow down and not attempt quick movements, either off the ball or with it, owing to the state of the pitch.

    So to those saying the pitch didn’t affect our performance or the result, I completely disagree.

    As for making the complaint, I’m fine with it. Who cares what the haters think. Everything about Barca gets blown up because of how well the team has been playing recently. Just read a Guardian comments board every now and then and see for yourself. People like to bitch and complain about us and our actions regardless of merit, so whatever. Screw them and their perceptions. The club stood up for the team (in a not dissimilar way to the el puto jefe presser by Pep) and I’m glad. I only wish we would’ve made formal complains about eye poking and hand-stomping, both of which we just let slide. Maybe they don’t make a difference at the end of the day, but maybe they do. It’s better than the alternative, which is just shutting up and appealing to the good heart of opposing clubs and teams.

    • Dani_el
      March 30, 2012

      Thanks for the video! Beautiful. They all seem really happy.
      Google, Apple? I think FCB must be the best place to work. To take a look of the climate and organizational culture, must be most psychologist’s dream.

      • March 30, 2012

        While I agree that this team seems especially close, I wouldn’t put too much stock into these officially released vidoes. Their job is to show the great and hide the bad with regard to team spirit and camaraderie. At the end of the day, Barca is a corporate entity like any other, and prone to propagandistic inclinations as any other.

        But yes, always fun to watch.

        • Laurentiu88
          March 30, 2012

          so… are you saying it was staged? 🙂

    • Jafri
      March 30, 2012

      Puyi – sliding about all over the place! 😀

  20. Dani_el
    March 30, 2012

    Bielsa’s quotes from his presser:

    “That saying of the teacher and the student is justified by our works. See Guardiola’s work and then see mine, and say who’s the teacher and who’s the student. No, I’m not the teacher, because the things I have built in football don’t justify that condition, to say the least if you compare them to what Guardiola has built.
    Guardiola is a coach that has constructed a team establishing diferences in football, not just diferences, he has improved the game for better.”
    (About their 11 hour talk a few years ago): “I accomplished to bore him at the 11th hour, but I believe I bored him from the start, but he was to nice to go say goodbye that fast.”
    “It is the only time I have ever seen him. Did I admire him? Of course. He was an emblematic player, part of an unforgettable team that constructed the team that they constructed. But to say that I had a relationship with him, I wish I would have had one, because he’s a valuable person, that would enrich a relationship with any human being.”

    Such a class act. I admire the respect the shows. He’s a gentleman.
    Pep’s right, he would improve most likely, any team he would care to coach. If Pep ever leaves (though I hope he doesn’t), I wish Rosell can look up the possibility of Bielsa. Chile’s NT still owes him a pretty big debt in improving their football.

    • messifan
      March 30, 2012

      He is so classy. Can you imagine these two engaging in a conversation? Wonder what they would talk about. Is it true that he was a lawyer and his family has been pretty involved in Argentine politics?

      • Srini
        March 30, 2012

        Yes, Marcelo’s brother Rafael was and is still a Justicialist – the Peronist faction – party member and an ex-foreign minister of Argentina.

    • Chiu
      March 30, 2012

      love the respect shown by the two coaches. oh what a wonderful situation for this game if that “other coach” can learn to respect fellow professional.

  21. Roberto Senyera
    March 30, 2012

    Tomorrow is the day the league tightens up, boys and girls. I can smell it!

    Actually, with my cold I can’t smell or taste much.

    But Osasuna is gonna do us a favour, ACB played on Thursday, and Messi didn’t score last game. It all adds up to a perfect storm.

  22. Laurentiu88
    March 30, 2012

    re-watched the game with AC today and have to say that yes the pitch did influenced our play – especially our speed of execution (which is essential in breaking down packed defenses); that said we did miss a left band player and our attacks were quite predictable and easy to counter as the review here soundly pointed; that might have mattered a great deal too. i wonder how our formation will be in the return leg, still Keita will Pedro or Tello or Adriano be there? I have to say that ref was not as bad as I thought. Yes that Alexis has been called a penalty by almost everyone – but let’s be frank he was not going to catch that ball and I think that matters. Remember CR in Manita Game? I guess the most that can be said is that some tackles from Milan players were left unpunished – but we got a fair treatment too – with some referee maybe Puyol or even Messi might have seen a card; I am sorry for Iniesta’s generally poorer game but maybe he was really hampered by the pitch and position. Our best chances, and they were great, came after long periods of passing the ball, by-passing their first line of defense…our finish was poor, no one else to blame.

    I hope we did not exaggerate with the ref and pitch, in the end it was a great game with a great Milan team defending very well. We did dominate almost all the game – with the exception of first 3 minutes maybe. I loved how at the end of the game both teams congratulated, players felicitated Seedorf (i think his 36 birthday was recently) … just to remember us of the toxic Clasicos and how ugly those games have become.

    I wonder what sort of attacking threat Milan will be able to pose at Nou Camp? We manage now not to give corners or even free kicks! (considering how Ibra won every high ball that is some feature).

    How great was Messi’s back hill dribble ?

    How great was Mascherano’s spider hug of Ibra? :))

    • ooga aga
      March 30, 2012

      good post, but with regard to the reffing, you forgot puyol’s shirt fouling the milan defenders’ hand. we got away with one there.

    • Kimcelona
      March 30, 2012

      I agree with much of what you are saying but I am gonna have to totally disagree with you about the CR comparison. That is a toally different situation. CR and VV were both fighting to get to a loose ball. VV actually touched the ball away JUST as CR approached. Replays showed that. He didnt bring CR down and CR didnt get a kick in before VV could get to it. That was never a PEN in my book.
      Alexis’ situation is a PEN. He got the ball first..even if you THINK he might not get to it..that is irrelevant. The fact is he was brought down AND Abbiati did not get the ball.

      But I agree, we had some let offs as well. I could of sworn Puyi would have been carded and missed the next matche but the ref was pretty lenient in that sense..although he had let go similar play from Milan minutes earlier.

      I really somehow wish Seedorf is too tired to play the whole game or at all lol. That guy is too good for words at his age. I hope he doesnt turn out to be Milan’s Zanetti against us. :S

      • Helge
        March 31, 2012

        I hope he doesnt turn out to be Milan’s Zanetti against us.

        Or United’s Scholes, remember? That would be more likely, cuz Seedorf is more similar to Scholes than to a defender.

  23. Jafri
    March 31, 2012

    Pato might return against us. Brilliant.

    • Helge
      March 31, 2012

      Damn. He is certainly twice as good and dangerous a player as Robinho.

      Pato, for instance, would not have smashed the volley from 7m range into the sky, as Robinho did in the first min. of the match.

  24. Laurentiu88
    March 31, 2012

    Some game this one sets out to be…

    On the bright side I think we improved from the 2-2 game where again we did not have that many chances. I think we are somehow better at unlocking packed defenses. And they will try to pressure us too, don’t think they will seek to defend a 0-0.

    I still fancy our chances with a full Camp Nou behind us!

  25. mega_tajh
    March 31, 2012

    So I’m hearing now that Cesc wasn’t 100% fit for the Milan game and thus did not play any part as prevention.

    • blitzen
      March 31, 2012

      Wait…are you saying that Pep had a good reason for playing the lineup he did? That maybe he knows things about his players that we don’t? And that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t be second guessing his player choices all the time?

      Huh. Who knew?


  26. blitzen
    March 31, 2012

    Barcelona B plays Nastic at noon Eastern time today. Be there!

  27. barca96
    March 31, 2012

    Pique looked really good out there. He looked really sharp and confident.
    Maybe he really broke up with Shakira.

    About hte pitch issue.
    Do you guys really think AC Milan did it on purpose to hamper our game to the point it is dangerous for both our players and theirs. I don’t think they would go that far.

    Or maybe they were but experiment gone wrong in the end?

    • Laurentiu88
      March 31, 2012

      YES, more easy to defend on a hard dry pitch that hampers one touch grass level play. No need for digging ditches for this…

      I thought Pique and Shakira are playing scrabble in the night…

  28. barca96
    March 31, 2012

    Not related at all but I dislike Facebook so much that I had to share it 🙂

    f facebook ever shut down youd see people roaming the streets shoving pictures in peoples faces screaming “Do you like this?! DO YOU?!”

  29. Laurentiu88
    March 31, 2012

    seems Man City is some how disintegrating I wonder if they are really pushing for JM for the next season…

    I am really sick of the guy and seeing him at RM has only made things worse. Hope he goes the fuck away and stresses other leagues!

    • messifan
      March 31, 2012

      No, not yet. They just got two goals.

        • messifan
          March 31, 2012

          And Torres scored!!!!! I’m so happy for him 🙂

          • Ryan
            March 31, 2012

            Dang, I switched to the City game around the 85th minute or so! Great to see him score, especially since his build-up play today was pretty good. Him and Mata were able to one-two their way through Villa at will.

  30. Laurentiu88
    March 31, 2012

    What do you think Mourinho will say if tonight they concede one offside goal, have a valid goal canceled and a 50/50 call goes against them to loose the game?


    • G6O
      March 31, 2012

      I don’t care what he’s going to say, I just hope it happens… 🙂

  31. March 31, 2012

    hey guys, we won 2-1 on a potato field Stamford Bridge in 2006. this pitch complaining is out of place with a Barca that doesn’t seem to complain about anything.

    • G6O
      March 31, 2012

      Just because we sometimes win in such conditions, does not mean they do not hurt our game. Also, back in 2006, we were playing broadly similar but not exactly the same style, the way we play now, it hurts us even more than back then

  32. mega_tajh
    March 31, 2012

    Cmon Osasuna you can do it!!. Only a goal down, but damn what a player Benzema is this season, we can’t deny that.

    • mega_tajh
      March 31, 2012

      Ps. The Osasuna coach was sent to the stands btw, in the 11th min of the game for protesting.

      Like really? Thought that can only happen for constant protesting/whining.

    • Ryan
      March 31, 2012

      They’ve been doing pretty well aside from their offense – how many crazy bad crosses will they attempt before one actually lands in the box?

  33. Ryan
    March 31, 2012

    Not quite the same Osasuna that pushed and eventually beat us..

    • G6O
      March 31, 2012

      And not quite the same frozen pitch and referee mistakes…

      • Ryan
        March 31, 2012

        Indeed, at least they’ve gotten one past Casillas.

  34. messifan
    March 31, 2012

    Barca lineup:


    Tello is starting!

    • Ryan
      March 31, 2012

      Nice, Puyol and Xavi get some rest. And Adriano’s back! (please, please stay healthy!)

    • Nik
      March 31, 2012

      Can we have Adriano play in bubble-wrap? Please?

  35. mangut
    April 1, 2012

    I got to this post a bit late but I hope to provide a comparison that came to mind watching basketball. What if a road team in that sport played fast break, fast paced transition game? And what if the home team decided to allow for puddles of water, sweat on the gym floor? Or for loose or upraised boards on that floor all in the gamesmanship of slowing the opponent’s style. I think it’s a valid comparison and the road team would have every right to file a complaint. The pitch at the San siro was atrocious and UEFA should not stand for that. If the champions league is the best football competition on earth then the playing surface should befit that. I can understand poor quality fields at small towns like Pamplona or the weather conditions affecting the game through the field but purposely setting up the situation that took place in Milan is absolutely preposterous.

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