Barca 2, Chelsea 2 (2-3 agg), aka “What now?”

In thinking of images that would lead off this post, which will be short, this one strikes as perfect. Because here it is:

Support your club. I know. You already do. Go deeper. Dig like the players did to bring us so much happiness.

When you signed up to be a cule, irrespective of when you signed up, you signed up for this, the same thing that every football fan in the world signs up for: That time when your beloved club just can’t get it done.

And you know what? It’s that time, more than any other time, that your club needs you the most.

You bet the bandwagon is going to get a bit lighter. Next season, there aren’t going to be celebrities sitting in the posh seats, rock stars visiting rock stars. There is going to be a club that didn’t, for the first time in three seasons, win major silverware. And no disrespect meant to the Copa del Reig, but it isn’t major. Not like Liga or Champions League major.

So sit for a moment and think about when you were down, when you were thinking “Man, life sucks,” and the value of a support network. Yes, the players have home lives, friends, spouses, etc that they will go home and mope around. But they also have us. You wonder what this mes que un club business is about. It isn’t about piousness, as some allege, or about this notion held by outsiders that we are somehow more special. It references history, struggle, the club’s place in Catalanisme, the cules who love and support it and the socis who, in effect, own it. It’s a proud, beating heart like that of every club, but with something more. And that’s not just if you ask me. History says that.

And it’s that pride that makes it easy to say that Chelsea played brilliantly over the two legs, just like EE played brilliantly on the weekend. And in both cases, even not at our best, we almost got it done. But it just didn’t happen. And that’s that. So NOW what? It seems weird not contemplating next steps this season, doesn’t it? To be playing out the string, giving young players a run out and exhausted veterans rest, but there it is. Second place is secure, assuming nothing catastrophic happens to EE and we don’t vault our way to the top.

And wouldn’t that be crazy.

So it’s time for rest, time to consider an off season in which moves are going to be made, players are going to come and players are going to go, and we will spend hours and hours debating the value of moves, rumors and other business, how much someone costs and whether that player is worth it. And yes, it’s time, for those that choose, to battle trolls and haters, to remind people that you know what — we didn’t get it done this year. But for three years, we did. And how. That nothing, no matter how much hate someone spouts or bile they can muster, will change that.

For me, I just have a little something for now, about a turning point. I don’t know about anyone else, but somehow, weirdly, it seems right that this club didn’t win major silver without Eric Abidal there to hoist the trophy. Last season, on the Champions League podium, the moment was so indescribably beautiful and poetic, that anybody who got through it dry-eyed is far, far stronger than I am.

Last season was about redemption and unprecedented success. Abidal beat the big beast, or so we thought. Little did we know at the time that he was just delaying payment of the piper, that the club would renew him even as it knew that he would never again prowl that side of the pitch like an ebony gazelle, owning, shutting down and being Le Roi Eric.

When I heard about the transplant surgery, I didn’t think “Shit, now what about the left back slot?” I thought “I hope he doesn’t die. I hope that he beats this, goes home to his family to watch Barca matches on TV, able to actually fulfill his wish to retire with the club that he loves.”

So in a weird way, this season that has taught us so much about humanity, with Abidal, Fabrice Muamba, Piermario Morosini, the incidents that reminded us that life is life, that a game is a game, it’s somehow correct that the most enduring recent memory of this club should be of a player whose struggle and comeback became the story of last season, hoisting the trophy on the biggest club stage in the game and roaring in exultation.

It’s also an elegant bookend to a sequence of amazing, unprecedented successes. So when I think about last season, and this season’s ending, I can’t be anything except proud and joyful to have witnessed this all. We forced the absolute best out of each opponent who laid us low this year. Chelsea defended like lions, took their chances when they had them and had to turn themselves inside out to beat us. And the strength, the power of this club is that we weren’t at our best, its best players weren’t at their best, a key link in the game plan carted off to the hospital after an ugly-looking collision in our box.

We danced, we played our game, we threatened, spurned chances as usual, yes. And what we are left with are memories of glory, and a current feeling of love and pride.

But when I think about the turning point of this season, for me it was when we knew that Eric Abidal wasn’t going to playing left back for us. Emotionally, it was brutal. I cried. Couldn’t help it. The human side of it was awful, even as we are now buoyed by the knowledge that the operation was a success. He loved this club so much that he practiced with the first team, right up until the day of his surgery.

And tactically, returning to the field of battle, a player who wasn’t at all liked when he arrived, reminded with his absence that he is one of the most important players on the club. When he was gone, Puyol had to run more, Mascherano had to run more, spaces were open, danger was more present and holes were found where previously, they were rare. Was Abidal underrated by a lot of cules? I’d say yes, even as I say that he is the best left back on the planet, and not just the best left back for our system.

So physically and from a human aspect, that was the turning point for me. I Tweeted that the season didn’t mean as much for me at that time, that I was reminded of humanity, and life and wanting nothing more than for him to be home with his family. So I can’t be sad about this outcome of the season.

From a broader sense, I can’t be sad because of the absolute, immense joy that this club has brought me, has brought us all. So when you sit, maybe or maybe not daring to watch this match again via digital means, as if there will somehow be a different, happier outcome, think of Abidal, and the teammates who worked like dogs, fought like lions to bring glory to the colors that so many of us wear with pride. Think of a coach who wrung the best from them, until finally, the vast reservoir of genius, magic and tika-taka, was empty.

Think of all that, and don’t be sad. Support your club, and be proud.

By Kxevin

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


  1. Note that the two clubs who were effectively out of league competition and could rest key players, advanced. El Clasic was like a duel in which both antagonists shoot each other in the heart.

    This game never ceases to amaze, astound and just plain knock you on your bum.

    1. It’s a pity that Madrid dropped points before the Classico so we couldn’t rest players before it

  2. Wow!!!

    For me, a mix of sadness because we were in the same position yesterday so I feel for their fans, but happiness because Mourinho’s team lost.

  3. Haha, was watching with a Real Madrid fan, not a true Madridista but at least a fan.

    He said before CR took his penalty in the shoot-out that he will fail, just like he did vs Chelsea with ManUtd.
    Too much pressure on him.

    Anyway, I’m extremely happy that Real failed, that Ronaldo failed. It eases the pain of our own failure quite a bit.

    With Ramires, Terry and Ivanovic suspended, we have opened up the way for Bayern Munich to win the final. They should do it against Chelsea, because now Chelsea cannot defend as much as they’d probably like to.
    Through Bayern Munich, the spirit of offensive football continues to enrich the CL. They are not us, but definitely the closest team of all the others. Their possession, their mentality and their whole game-plan / playing style is a lot like ours.

    So, in 3 words:

    1. Well said! I have been licking my wounds since yesterday but this has made me feel a whole lot better!! Seeing Ronaldo miss that penalty felt soo good, almost as good as winning… is that wrong?

      Bayern deserve to be in the final and I hope they win it, but Madrid were pathetic tonight. Its one thing to play defensively against a team that are clearly better than you (us) but to do so at home vs a team that on paper are not quite as good is just awful. Puts into perspective our loss a bit. Would much rather go out the way we did than the way Madrid did.

    2. And even though they tried to play it rather safe and defensive, it was a very poor showing from them. I never saw them so vulnerable in defense for a long time. Over the two legs, Bayern thoroughly deserved to beat them.

  4. There is justice in football after all.
    our penalty was way too soft and messi missed it. Justice.
    Today the 1st penalty was really harsh and Penaldo’s goal was offside. Penaldo goes on to miss a more crucial penalty. Justice.

    Thank you Neuer! You truly are a beast!
    Our season just got a little better.

  5. Alaba is my new favorite non Barca player after these two games. Its a travesty he wont play the final for that soft handball called against him.

    1. i disagree, that would reward time wasting and those ‘small’ misdemeanors. the appeal process is there if a yellow card was handed unjustly.

    2. I would love to see him at Barca. He’s very impressive, and only 19.

      A good man to stand in Abidal’s shoes and, with Abi still around, he’d have the best mentor.

      He’s Austrian by nationality, (Filipina mother and Austrian father), but speaks German with a really broad Bavarian accent. It sounds totally weird coming from him!

    3. Oooh…I’m proud that there is a (half) Filipino doing well in the footie world. Well done, Alaba!!!

      Too bad he’s missing the finals.

      I am of course rooting for the Germans.

    4. I am very much impressed with Alaba… at 19, it’s rare to see such composure in high intensity and crucial game. Happy to know that he’s half filipino, maybe there’s a bit of Paulino Alcantara in him 🙂

  6. To all my Cule friends who are busy ripping on Madrid, remember this, we could and should be in the final and we were unable to do so..Madrid losing does not make the pain of Barça losing magically vanish..

    1. No, but it eases it somewhat, wouldn’t you agree?

      1. The Barca and Madrid players can go forward as equals into the Euros. Better unity.
      2. Messi has a chance at a 4th Balon D’Or.
      3. RM is down to 1 trophy for the season.
      4. Barca has the chance to finish the season on a high by winning the last trophy to be played for – the CdR.

      Certainly, there were a lot of people in Barcelona celebrating tonight.

    2. Not sure what’s included as criteria for voting, because there doesn’t seem to be any info on it that I can find.

      But if Champions League is included, then Messi is over Ronaldo on that one.

      It will all depend on how they go in the remaining 4 Liga matches, I think.

    3. Well Messi has four more goals in the Champions League but Ronaldo will win La Liga. So ultimately at the end of the season Ronaldo will have a major trophy and Messi won’t. So I’d think he would stand a much better chance, because winning major trophies is a major criterion in deciding the Ballon d’Or.

    4. Umm…….Club World Cup, European Super Copa, Spanish Super Copa….

      Not to mention 63 (?) goals right now. Another 4 and he’s equalled Mueller’s record from 1972. Another 5 and he’s broken it.

    5. Seeing another great player miss a penalty does help the pain sting less. They’re still going to win the league anyways, but I’m glad Bayern lived up to the game’s billing.

  7. I am kinda sorry that RM missed out. I am happy that Mourinho missed out though.

    Finally i can put our exit behind because of this result and just for that, thanks Bayern and may you win the final and whoop Chelsea. At least Bayern played football.

  8. I just can’t take any joy in them losing. We aren’t there, which is plenty for me to deal with. I know that makes me weird, but there it is.

    1. Now that I’m home and not typing on that blasted droid, I can elaborate. I take no joy in the fact that some good Madridistas (especially Bassam, Kaushik, and Rahul Madrid) are feeling the pain we felt last night, but I love that their club won’t be raising that trophy. The thought of one more reason for Mou to gloat, one more reason for the Spanish press to taunt us was too much. The weirdest thing is, and I know it’s not even considered one of the major trophies, it would have hurt for me to watch them lift the Club World Cup, the one that Mou said was won by practice games for us. I’m also glad for the tiny bit of pressure it might take off of Messi–TB missing the winner the day after he did.

    2. Knowing that Mou won’t get his 4th CL trophy this year makes the pain of yesterday just that bit better.

    3. But he won with a Porto that hadn’t won it in 20 years and an Inter Milan that hadn’t won in 45 years.

      Personally I think Fergie is over-rated. Yes, I said it. Two Champions League titles in around 25 years of managing Man U.

      Sigh, if only we let Del Bosque manage Real Madrid for 25 years who knows how many Champions League titles he would’ve picked up, seeing as how he managed two in four seasons :S

    4. I think it may be more to do with English sides having to adapt to the “European game”, fouls more easily called, diving, etc, you only have to look at how the EPL has changed in that sense over the last 15 years.

      Two CL titles in 25 years isn’t great but it could’ve been 4 were it not for a fantastic Barca side.

      For the number of teams he’s built that are more than the sum of their parts, the league titles, the philosophy of attacking football despite perhaps not being a ‘tactical genius’, mental strength during ‘squeaky bum times’ I think he’s done alright…

      Agreed on Del Bosque though!

    5. Pep has 3 CL trophies – 1 as a player and 2 as a coach. The player one is something that Mourinho will never have.

  9. Wow – it’s going to be some final with key defence players missing from both sides.

  10. I am a sick person, I feel so much better than last night.

    Just because of all the diving and general Mourinho influence, I am happy(And petty yes). The Mendes crew are utter dirt (and add that toe rag Marcelo)

    Some thoughts
    Brilliant Bayern. I know, I know their basically the Madrid of Germany with their big pockets but WOW, they have done incredible work at youth level, Kroos, Alaba etc
    Real ethos of Bavarian brilliance there

    Scweni is an awesome player, real leader, reminds me of a mixture of Xavi and Roy Keane.

    Lahm is also exceptional. Brilliant brain. So composed.

    Alaba brilliant looks like an Abidal replacement? Just joking, want to see a strong Bayern.

    Neuer is the world’s best. What were Man u thinking?

    Now imagine if they had a striker who took his chances.

    Happy for Robben, hes had little luck and was awesome for Real.

    PS Uefa should allow everyone play except Terry. Pure Mule.

  11. Mou: “Cristiano tenía que fallar algún día. No quiero ser tan radical diciendo que este o el otro es el mejor. No quiero ir por ahí. Hablamos de Messi y Cristiano, dos jugadores únicos. Pero esta temporada Cristiano ha sido el mejor y con diferencia. Si Barça y nosotros no hemos llegado a la final es por culpa de los dos. Después de dos horas de trabajo hasta el límite ir a los penaltis no es fácil. La suerte ha sido para ellos”.
    “Cristiano had to fail something someday. I don’t want to be too radical saying this one or the other is better. I don’t want to go that way. But we’re talking about Messi and Cristiano, unique players. But this season Cristiano has been better by far. If Barça and we didn’t make it to the final it’s the fault of both of them. After 2 hours of work to the limit, going to the penalties is not an easy task. Luck was on their side.”

    1. And…this is why I hate the man. Seriously. I mean, can’t he give credit where it’s due? Bayern battled so courageously. They fought and clawed their way back after 2 nil down and shut down the most prolific goal scoring team in the world this season. Why is it luck? I don’t use the world “hate” at all. However, I have such disdain for this guy. He is truely classless. I’m going to be a pyschiatrist and say he suffers from a major superiority complex, bordering on parnoid pyschosis. I’m sure it’s now going to be a conspiracy b/c Bayern weren’t going to be denied playing at home and he’s personally made enemies of UEFA, so their out to get him. Nothing to do with heart, determination, skill. How has CR been better by far when Messi has more goals? Please answer that for me? Please? CR has genuine goal scoring threats for teammates. Messi has played by himself the whole season. Expected to do everthing. Put them in and set them up. Argggh

    1. And Villa had 5 in the few minutes he played this season. A true champ and I’m sure a healthy Guaje will be competing right up there with the big guys!

      (Seriously, I miss seeing Villa, his soul patch, and even his offsides!)

    2. I’ve commented before that the difference between Villa and Ibra being offside, is that Villa is often caught “just” offside as he’s running forwards, but Ibra was often offside standing still or walking back. 😀

      Be so good to see Villa on the pitch again next season.

  12. I can’t help it, saw this on the Guardian comments page and am still laughing:

    “S***, I lost tv service during the last penalty; I think Sergio Ramos hit my satellite.”

    What an amazing 9 days of football. Even though little turned out the way I hoped. Hard to beat the ups and down we’ve seen.

  13. Happy that Mou lost. I like a number of RM players including the Spanish ones and even CR7, and I have mostly admired them over the years, not as an RM fan, but as a football fan of the last 45 years.
    Mou is a very good coach, without question, but he is a bad person. Bad character and personality. Someone you would not want your children to grow up admiring no matter the professional success.
    I think RM played the way they did at Camp Nou the last weekend despite Mou because the Spanish players insisted on it.
    I think the Munich front trio of Gomez, Robben and Ribery are second to none today, and without Villa, I would even rank higher than Barca’s.
    Barca’s midfield and Messi are the strengths.
    Glad to see that at least one attacking side will be in the Final. We could see some beautiful football especially since it will be at their stadium.
    If RM had made it, I think Mou would again have held back their attacking instincts.

  14. Does anyone else wonder if Ramos is secretly a cule?

    First he drops the cup and breaks it. Then he hits his penalty into orbit. At least Ronaldo and Kaka forced a save from Neuer. Its almost as if he is trying to undo the pain Barca fans are suffering.

    1. Well, I’m gonna use “Duncan Castles Logic,” so here we go:

      Ramos is from Andalusia, the Spanish Socialist Party has a majority in the region’s government. Who was the PSOE’s former leader? José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero…and he supports Barcelona. You can connect the dots, right?

    2. And do you know the actor from Crackovia who plays Puyol, our fearless leader? Do you know who else he plays? You guessed it – Sergio Ramos!

    1. The EE loss makes me feel a lot better. I’m happy for Bayern. Imagine how special it will be for them to play at home for the CL Final! Amazing. There weren’t a lot of people who gave them a chance. I definitely beleived they could do it. Neuer is an absolute stud. He is so confident and just commands his backline and demands the balls in the box. VV should def take a page. Iker was so close to saving that penalty in 1st half. Maybe 3-5 years ago he would’ve. He still has cat like reflexes but has def lost a step in quickness, but man is he good. I find it ironic that CR & Kaka both missed their penalties. The 2 that usher in a new era w/Galacticos 2.0 cost their team big. However, CR did score 2 so team wouldn’t have been there if not for him. Strangely, I think Messi lost the Ballon D’or in 1 day and then won it back the next. Had CR converted, he wouldn’t have got it back. I really don’t care if Messiah wins or not. I stated that yesterday. Still would be amazing to win 4 straight. End of era talk is absolute nonsense. Why? Where are we going? Same team back next year and probably few new faces to integrate. I don’t get it? It is crazy to me that the 2 best teams in the world didn’t make the Final. It’s why I love the game. Even if it hurts me.

    1. After last 3 games and realizing the hard way that winning does matter at the end, even I feel that if Barca has to win against ” Anti-Football” clubs, they have to adapt and evolve but by not compromising on their tiki-taka. Winner always overcome the adversaries by evolving and making themselves even better. I guess Guardiola will take a notice of it and evolve our club into a even better team by closing this loop hole. Hope he renew his contract 🙂

  15. Hey rahul_madrid,

    Sorry for your loss. I’m curious why did Ramos take the penalty and not Higuain? Was it the player’s decision or the coaching staff?
    BTW, Casillas did an excellent job.

    1. I am not entirely sure about this but Higuain might have been taking the last penalty. Madrid only took 4 penalties. The fifth one even if they scored would not have mattered. I think their five penalty takers were fine. Who would have thought that both Ronaldo and Kaka would have their penalties saved? Ozil, Benzema, Di Maria had all been taken off. The only other player I can think of who could have replaced Ramos was Granero. Otherwise the remaining penalty takers are Casillas, Pepe, Arbeloa, Marcelo and Khedira. Between these 6 Ramos would seem to be just as good a bet as any.

    2. Thanks for the condolences. And yes, I’m so proud of Iker, words can’t begin to describe how fortunate we are to have him as our goalkeeper for over a decade and our club captain. He almost saved Robben’s penalty and he saved two in the shoot-out under high pressure, the second save was special.

      Ramos has a great deal of confidence in himself, and it’s well known in football that when it comes to a penalty shoot-out, your most confident players should be the ones that step up. Ramos scored a very good penalty kick for us last season. Ultimately tonight, the pressure was too much and he flopped. But it has happened to better penalty kick takers in the past and it will happen again in the future.

      As for Higuain, he would’ve been taking the last penalty. So the penalty kick taker selection was fine, that wasn’t why we lost. We conceded a 90th minute away goal in Munich, and that ultimately is why we lost this.

  16. I’ve heard a lot of rubbish from Barca fans about parking the bus and not playing football the right way and such, but this supercilious rubbish only detracts from identifying your faults.

    Firstly, Pep has to realize that you need squad depth. You can’t play football at this level for extended periods of time without a good bench.

    Secondly, and more seriously, you can’t defend. Why was torres left unmarked for his goal? You can’t be offside in your own half. What defender does not know that? Being so poor at the back only puts extra pressure on your attack to perform. If even a passing thought of defending entered Pep’s mind, you would have won at 2-0 up. You didn’t even have to sacrifice your attacking mentality, but only not be so reckless. But Pep seems to think that all ails can be solved by attacking. This team is devastatingly brilliant at one thing (the movement in the attack, the runs, the passing — just amazing), and Pep seems to think that being so good at this one thing means he can neglect everything else. Wrong. Nobody, anywhere, for anything, ever, is so good that (s)he is above challenge from a skilled opponent. Every style of football has a counter, and Pep has to realize that he’s being naive. I hope he learns from this to become a more catholic manager. Then he will be truly great.

    1. Lie

      I do agree to your point of poor defense of Barcelona in the entire season except couple of matches. But point about torres goal is not valid. Chelsea was winning irrespective of Torres goal and Mascherano sacrificed defense at the last minute. Torres scored his goal in 90+1 minute.

      And yah this club has to evolve to defeat ” Anti-Football” club

    2. VJ

      I agree to it but along with that Barca has to make itself even better if teams like chelsea ( who has put even their striker Drogba on defense) and Madrid has to be beaten. If we are not able to convert it because of a bad day we should be atleast in a position to stop the opponent from scoring too. What happened yesterday is not justified but history will cherish opportunistic/coward Chelsea.

    3. Sacrificing defence, yes, but gifting them a goal is different. I’ve never seen anyone do that before, even when teams are desperate for a goal at the end of the match. It was like playing Russian roulette with a semi-automatic. Stupid, dangerous, and inevitable. One kick upfield and you’ve definitely lost. If just one person had marked him he wouldn’t have scored and you’d of had maybe a minute of more attacking. Maybe there wouldn’t have been a goal if you had another hour even, but there was still a chance. It just smacks of lack of defensive brains in the team. I mean, if it’s the last minutes of the game and you’re sacrificing defence, then why not send Valdes up too? Because the result would have been the same: one kick upfield and your dead.

    4. I wont mind sending Valdes too if it had made us win :). We fight for winning and even if we loose we do it by fighting to win, till the end. I guess players in this club are matured and experienced enough to understand the risk they have taken at the end. It didn’t payoff but it make us all proud of the team’s attitude. And I am sure, Barcelona will focus on strengthening their defense in the next season. Pep is aware of it and we are hunting for defenders.

    5. More catholic manager

      You should know this is the strangest term related to football I’ve ever read.

      To us, our attacking mentality is our soul. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, we should’ve done this/that but the fact of the matter is all that we’ve achieved, everything that has been won, can be put down to the ‘filosofia’.

      Sure managers like to take their foot off the pedal and start out with a defensive approach once ahead with say, a 2 goal lead. But how many of them can take comfort with the fact of beating your most bitterest rival 5-0, who is being coached by a manager that has 2 CLs under his belt and who always embraces the philosophy you are asking for. (It didn’t work out for him today too BTW)

      And if you think achieving 13 out of 16 trophies during one’s time as coach doesn’t make you great, well what can I say, pull your head out of your….

      I’ll gladly sacrifice 1 CL for the for the philosophy, only because I know it’ll help me win again and again and again..

    6. You should know this is the strangest term related to football I’ve ever read.

      I know it sounds strange, but “catholic” comes from the Greek, “katholikos”, meaning broad, eclectic, or wide ranging. It’s the primary meaning of the word. The Catholic church (note the capital letter — it’s a proper noun) named itself after the word to give the impression that it was the all embracing church. It’s a good word to know.

      Anyway, betraying your attacking principles and defending are not the same thing. If Pep played four at the back at 2-0 but still threw everything at them, would that be a betrayal? If he then played a DM infront of that four but still allowed him to fuel the attacks, would that be a betrayal? Don’t get confused: it’s only betrayal of that particular style of attacking, but NOT a betrayal of your attacking impetus.

      You’ll be surprised how easily 13 trophies out of 16 is forgotten. Fergusen, Sacchi, Paisley, Herrera, Shankley, Jock Stein — these are all great managers. Pep’s done well, and maybe he is already great, but he has to go on and do more.

    7. Pep and Naivety are not words that should be in the same sentence.
      Pep and a complete and irrepressible faith in the system employed by Barcelona, introduced by Michels/Cryuff and perfected over time.
      If football rewarded only the best team, Barca and Madrid would be playing each other in the final, this and most recent years and Barca would be collecting their 4th Champions League in a row as well as the league trophy.
      Football is a sport and is unpredictable.

      To blame Pep for not learning is to ignore the statistics of the two matches that put us out of the Champions League. Rarely does a team hit the post/crossbar, rarer still to do both in a match. Then to replicate that in both legs of a semi-final is incredibly bad luck, if you believe in it. Add to that a missed penalty and it is either terrible luck or an incredible coincidence.

      Statistically, also, Barca has the best defense in the entire league. One result doesn’t change what the team has achieved, and I for one don’t want this team to change it’s system over this result. I am proud of this team.

    8. You were unlucky, sure. But if you calmed down a little at 2-0 and then mopped up Chelsea as they looked for another goal you would have destroyed them. I’m not blaming Pep for anything at all. I’ll blame if he doesn’t learn from this though. Hpefully he will and nobody can ever say he is not one of the greatest managers ever.

    9. First off, as rajg states, the Torres goal can’t be included in analysis because Barca was giving it all to try to score another goal to win. Defence was sacrificed in the last minute for attack.

      But if you want to analyse the Chelsea goals just before halftime in each of the 2 legs, plus the Ronaldo winner in the clasico, then that’s another story. 🙂

      With a healthy team, Barca has the depth, but with so many injuries and illnesses, there have not been many weeks this season where Pep has had a full squad at his disposal.

      I listed this the other day, and I’ll repeat it here.

      Injured this season:
      VV – no
      Alves – yes
      Pique – yes
      Cesc – yes
      Puyol – yes
      Xavi – yes
      Villa – yes longterm
      Iniesta – yes
      Sanchez – yes more than once
      Messi – no
      Thiago – yes
      Pinto – no
      Mascherano – no
      Keita – yes
      Busquets – yes
      Pedro – yes
      Maxwell – yes and he left in January
      Afellay – yes longterm
      Adriano – yes more than once
      Abidal – yes longterm
      Cuenca – no and he arrived fulltime in Dec/Jan
      Fontas – yes – longterm

      5 out of 22 players not injured during the season, and 2 of those are Goalkeepers. 4 longterm injuries and a spate of hamstrings that kept snapping like tired elastic keeping key players out for 2-3 weeks at a time.

      Add to that the stresses caused by Villa’s injury, Abidal’s liver woes, Tito’s throat surgery and Keita being away for about 4 weeks playing in the African Cup.

      Pep did what he could with what he had. If he renews, it’s going to be a different game next year – and with a proper pre-season to start it rolling.

    10. nzm

      U have put it down beautifully. But I believe in this club and will believe forever because of its greatness, attitude, ethics, integrity and perseverance. Till now it has done everything to go in the record books as the greatest club of all time. Being said that, greatness is achieved by overcoming adversaries like what happened this season. And, one thing I love about Pep and if I remember correctly about all players is that they have not given injury as an excuse this season. It is the media or others who have interpreted it. And because of that attitude we have been winning everything till the last 3 games and would have won everything if those games would have gone well. We have to evolve ourselves to be even better than what we are today esp. to beat teams who put everything on their defense and close the gaps as Chelsea did after 65 minutes and less chances were created compared to 1st half and earlier in 2nd half.

    11. But surely Pep wanted a small squad, didn’t he? He was happy with it. Am I wrong? That’s what I thought. If those stats are correct, that’s incredible, but it’s a positive feedback loop isn’t it. If you have a small squad, then any injuries mean that the remaining players have to play more, meaning they’ll be more likely to get injured too. It can be a vicious cycle. Like I said, Pep must increase the size of his squad. If he truely did not have a hand in it, then I can’t blame him for it and I retract that criticism, but still he should be privately banging on about it incessantly during the summer to the board and directors.

    12. It is not a choice Barcelona makes to keep a small squad if it seems to be. In this club player wages are highest among all the clubs. Added to it is the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulation. Rules for it state that clubs cannot spend more than their accumulated revenue on player transfers and wages. If it is not followed then team won’t be able to participate in champions league.Barcelona was on debt of 21 million euros in Fiscal year 2010. Even with the debt they brought Fabregas and Alexis last summer. They might have to sell players to buy new and follow UEFA regulations.

    13. Yeah the wage bill is a big problem. I can’t believe how high it is. Ridiculously high, in my opinion. Criplingly high, in fact. Offensively high. OK, you get the idea…

      Part of this particular problem is the wasteful transfers. Ibra and Chygryinyychszky in particular. There has to be wiser investment in up-and-coming players.

    14. I’m sorry but this is no excuse and doesn’t justify having a small squad. The injury list you’ve drawn up is common for most teams. In recent years Barca have been lucky to not suffer more injuries. Part of it is the playing style which ensures that the ball does a lot of the work and players don’t have to sprint all the time. And part of it is luck.

      The injuries Barca have suffered this season are not extraordinary, they are in fact quite normal. Pep knew before the season that his squad had only one centre-forward. He knew Keita would be gone for 4 weeks.

      Barca really do need a slightly bigger squad and this season has proven that.

    15. Ok I agree, I don’t mean to be insensitive as I have the greatest respect for Abidal as a player and a person.

      But Abidal’s unfortunate illness is not new, it was known last season. And he returned in heroic fashion to lift the CL trophy. But my point is going into this season, Pep knew he was ill and still chose not to get a back-up.

      That’s basically what I mean. Losing your LB to cancer is hardly normal, but neither is choosing not to purchase a back-up when you know King Eric is ill.

      Even more than that, I’m astounded by Pep’s decision to begin the season with only one centre-forward in Villa. I know Barca fans won’t tolerate any criticism of Pep, but I think his squad planning shows his inexperience as a coach. He probably figured that ok if Villa gets injured we’ll just readjust and shuffle Messi, Cesc, Alexis, etc. around to make up for the lack of a true striker. But I think this season he’s learned that you can never replace a true striker. And regardless of your style of play, you can’t begin a season with only one centre forwad in your entire squad.

    16. This isn’t a small squad. We have 2 less than Real Madrid. A liga team can only have 25 squad members. There is a limit to the number of players that can be listed in the A team.

  17. To any of our friendly madridistas who happen to check in:

    I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t want your team to lose because that would be hypocritical. I wanted them to lose and laughed when they did.

    Having said that, believe me I understand your pain and I feel bad for you as fans. That was an excruciating way to lose. You can at least be proud that your team played very well over both legs and have had a fantastic season.

    Football is a harsh mistress sometimes. Cheers.

    1. Hey blitzen, thanks for the honesty. Even though I wanted a Clasico final, I was a bit happy inside when Chelsea won. I wouldn’t say I laughed when Barca lost, but it made me happy.

      Thanks for understanding our pain. We may support different teams but the pain we feel when our teams lose is quite the same.

      I’m not satisfied with our performance over two legs because Bayern were better in both games. But I will take plenty of consolation from the Liga; the fact that we finally beat Barca at Camp Nou for the first time since 2007 or 2008, and the fact that we have broken the all-time La Liga goalscoring record despite some people calling us a defensive team.

      Tonight I will be sad over our heartbreaking penalty kick defeat. And the fact that we now look forward to a Bayern – Chelsea final instead of Madrid – Barca. But that’s futbol. The great thing about futbol? There’s always next season.

  18. I think Abidal’s replacement has been found: David Alaba. For a 19 year to have that level of confidence and poise to take the first penalty knowing he wont play in the final…what a talent.

    1. Agreed. Have said it a couple of times that I’d love to see him at Barca with Abi as his mentor, and providing some strength for some left wing forward play.

    2. He’s definitely showed a lot int he CL this season. I haven’t watched much of him in Bundesliga b/c I watch Dortmund whem I can. However, I’m still not sure a 19 year old LB is the way to go. He would have to learn an incredibly different system and also switch an entirely different culture. The expectations on him could be enormous. Filling King Eric’s shoes will be a chore. I think we can go w/a more seasoned(23-25) LB if there’s one available

    3. Well its ‘found’ but only to look at admiringly from a distance.Bayern are wealthy enough that Hoeness will just tell us where we can stick our money.They dont sell players they want to keep, if you leave its on a free transfer after the contract is up.Just see Ballack, van Bommel, Lucio, Demichelis etc.Remember they were quite content to let Ribery run down his contract before he signed a new one.100 millions was their price,Its just principle and I respect it.

    4. He’s not Abidal’s replacement because there is no way that Bayern will sell him. They developed him. They’re a perennial Champions League contender, and I don’t see why Alaba would want to leave.

  19. Pep talked to Tito yesterday (different timezone?), could meet Rosell today to make a final decision. He wants to tell the players on Friday and then the club will issue an official statement (from MD via @barcastuff.

    Now, I’m worried.

    1. Nah, he’s coming back for sure. No way will he leave us like this. He is a Cule & Soci from the bottom of his heart. Can’t see it happening.

  20. To be perfectly honest, I will not be overly surprised if Pep doesn’t renew..

  21. Not sure what to think about Guardiola. Reports say that he and RoSELL met, then RoSELL met with ZubiZa. And now comes the word of the meet with Vilanova, and his wanting to tell the players befire any official announcement is made. None of that leads me to believe that he is staying

    The individual meetings are the worst for me.

    But we will know very soon

    1. I’m thinking he’s going. I also think, despite the fact that he’s well compensated, it would be unfair of us to think any less of him if he didn’t. It’s obviously the job from hell.

    2. If he leaves, who do you Cules think will replace him? Bielsa is a fantastic coach, known to be one of Guardiola’s coaching mentors. Or will it be someone from inside the club?

    3. Oscar Garca is being touted as the next Pep Guardiola (that’s funny, we’re talking about “the next…” but with managers :p), but he needs more experience before he is ready. Which is probably why he is leaving the Juvenil A team this summer.

      Luis Enrique is a good coach, but not great, and I see him as only a single-season coach for us, until something better comes along. Right now, there aren’t many good coaches available. Luis Enrique wouldn’t take long to adapt and get to know our players. He can fill in well and keep things together for a year, but with him, I don’t see us playing at our best.

      Bielsa is a dream, and if he is available, then get him. But he isn’t available. At the very least, not for another year.

      I like Aston Vilas-Boas a lot, and I see him doing well here. But for obvious reasons, he won’t be a popular guy to hire. Still, besides being a very intelligent coach, he is usually humble and polite (nothing on Pep’s level, but still way better than Mourinho in this regard). And there’s also the obvious thing: he plays our style. Better yet, he plays a more direct variation of our style, which is exactly what we need. We need to become more direct, which is why I favor getting guys like Bielsa and AVB.

      I used to favor Laurent Blanc, not so much anymore. Joachim Löw is an awesome coach, but there’s no way he will be available any time soon, unless Germany absolutely fail at the Euros.

      The absolute best option? Pep Guardiola, the best coach in the world. Hope he renews, and renews for a long time. Best case scenario, he stays for two more years. Most likely, only one more season. Worst thing that can happen is for Pep to leave now. I really really hope he doesn’t. At least for two years, when Bielsa will be easier to acquire, or Oscar Garcia will have more experience.

    4. I like Jorge Sampaoli, La U coach (Official name: Club Universidad de Chile).

      He’s Argentinian, got his start at Newell’s (that place produces a lot of good people 🙂 ). Also, he’s a Bielsa follower and believes in progressive style.

      Maybe, he’s a bit of an unknown quantity, but I think having a non-EU experienced coach can be a good thing.

    5. I would like Tito Vilanova to take the reigns and Oscar Garcia to become his assistant. It would ensure continuity and groom Oscar Garcia as well.

      If Pep is serious that he’ll do whats best for the club then in my opinion whats best for the club is that he stays. I hope he sees it that way too but often visionaries see things much earlier than us common folk do.

    6. Is it time to reuse Kari’s “We are going to die” gif? 😆

      In either case, Pep has given us an amazing 4 years. I’d obviously love for him to stay, but it’s also clear how badly this job is affecting him physically.

    7. I wouldn’t try to make too many inferences from these leaked half-reports. No one knows what’s going on, least of all these papers.

      I think he’s staying but that’s just a hunch and I really wouldn’t be surprised to see him not renew.

    8. I don’t think Guardiola will leave. Had he won one of the big trophies this season he would have left. But no now. Atleast I believe so. He knows clearly this seasonw as all about his tactical innovations and I think he would love to refine it more with some grand succes once more.

    1. Meh… whatever makes you happy bro 😛 Have to agree the purchase of Kaka was in hindsight not a good decision. Ronaldo and Alonso? Don’t worry, they will both win the Champions League with Real Madrid. Marcelo and Higuain are also in that photo but they were bought for pocket change in late 2006

  22. So someone from ZM mentioned that Drogba is FREE this summer. Is he a good fit for us? The thought of having Drogba occupying the box will make defenders think twice. He’s 34 and probably wants to find a retirement club that is willing to pay him big.

    But just a thought…

    1. Not a Llorente’s fan, but he has the CdR and Euro to convince me.

      In my view, we can’t afford to spend a lot on transfers, which leaves me confused with reports of us getting Neymar for 60 million euros.

      I think we have about 50 million for summer spending, but the club has to take into account wages. Our payroll is high, which includes both football and non-football activities.

      Barca has a multi-tier system. Tier 1 is Messi (though he is not the highest paid player in the world). Tier 2 includes Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Alves and Puyi(?). Tier 3: Pique, Busi, Valdes, Abidal and Pedro (?). Tier 4- the rest. I think Alexis and Cesc might fall under Tier 3. These are well known players, so I’m assuming their wages and incentives are fairly high.

      Then, there’s La Masia players. Since our youth teams are well regarded, scouts are coming in more. Youth players with potential have more leverage. That’s why we see Bartra, Montoya, and others being promoted per contract agreement. So this forces the club to offer them more incentives, such as higher wages and first team opportunities(note: this is my speculation).

      FCB also has other activities- Basketball, Hockey, Futsal, etc…The cost of running these departments is small relative to its football operation. But if the football side has an annual budget of 400 million, and say other budget is 20% of that, the number is about 80 million (note: I’m making this up). The point is the cost of running this club is high. And our non-football activities don’t generate profits.

      Add to that is our debt. At this point, I’m against the club borrowing more to cover transfer fees and wages.

      I’m not sure what FFP will do to the transfer market, it might force teams to look outside of major EU leagues. I just hope there’s a midpoint equilibrium between supply and demand.

      I think we should look more to Asian and Eastern European markets for players. The J-League might be a good start.

    2. Are you looking at just wage earnings, or total money taken in when it comes to Messi? I recall reading an article a little while ago that had Messi as the #1 best paid soccer player for 2011, with Beckham as #2, and TB as #3. If he isn’t earning the highest salary, who is?

    3. Wage earning. He’s #1 total including commercial activities. I think CR is first for wage earned.

    4. Drogba I think Drogba would be the perfect player for Barcelona – if he was 8 years younger. But 8 years ago, we got another certain African who goes by the name of Samuel Eto’o. And I am not at all mad about missing out on any other potential Striker… Honestly speaking, I am a huge admirer of Drogba (despite some of his antics). I think he is one of the greatest Striker I have ever seen, and I do think his qualities would have been perfect for Barcelona. And if he IS free (really doubt that) in the summer, then yes, I still want Barcelona to snatch him up (and still go for another top CF like Cavani or Llorente).

      Seriously though, I am a huge fan of Llorente and he is one of my top targets for Barcelona.

    5. No he is not. We did the same mistake with Ibra. Drogba will be a great addition to have a PLAN B but as we saw in case of Ibra(who actually is technically more suited than Drogba), he will take a lot from out of PLAN A. If you want a striker to really give yourself a Plan B, then you have to go for a mediocre striker who is ready to sit in the bench but also can offer some physical strength when needed. The problem is that our Plan A is so refined that we cannot afford to mess with that.

      Secondly I am with Biesla on this Plan B stuff. he clearly said that we don’t need a plan B. Take a moment and think even with our Plan A , which was not supposed to work against team which park the bus in the box we created enough chances. So in my opinion our Plan A itself is getting evolved to tackle these kind of situation. Have faith, they just need to play a bit faster than they did in the second half to break the BUS.

      Also where are the teams with Plan B in place in Champions League. Bayern plays in only one way whether they are at home or away from home. And this Chelsea is also playing this way(may not park the bus, but they still are defending against the likes of Wigan etc). What happened to Real madrid’s supposedly Plan B? Where is ManU, Milan, Inter etc? In football nothing guarantees success. So why not stick with something which has worked for us.

    6. Plan B isn’t what I’m talking about. I just think Drogba is awesome and would be good for any team.

      Ibra didn’t fit in because of his mentality and personality, not because he messed up our plan A. He suffered a dip in form and got injured, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t fitting in. The potential there was huge, but Zlatan’s ego was gigantic…

      I agree that we need to improve our plan A, not get a plan B. And part of improving that plan A is incorporating a CF. “why not stick with something which has worked for us.” As Ramzi says, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality isn’t optimal. Why wait until something is broken before you start fixing the flaws? Like Bielsa, no plan B, just improve plan A. And he does that with a powerful CF like Llorente. Bilbao play a similar style to Barcelona, and Llorente is a key part of that. Llorente can be just as important for tiki taka and possessional play as Cesc. Besides the “HE STEALS MESSI’S SPACE, MESSI NEEDS TO BE FALSE 9!” argument, can you give me an actual reason as to why a CF wouldn’t be a good option for us? Because if I remember, we only started using the false 9 permanently last season. And this season, Pep has already been trying to change that, by playing Sanchez as a CF.

    7. Reply to Anonymous_69 post below. For some reason the reply button is not there for me.

      Llorente is a good option but will we be able to afford him. And here is another issue, we have a CF who will return most probably this or next month. What you suggest to do with him?

    8. Nope – not Llorente. The guy can’t dribble a ball to save his life. I don’t think that he would be happy merely being a substitute impact player for his headers.

  23. This game has shown us what losing means. We experience too much wins and well we never really experience the true impact of losing. You saw Messi, he was gutted. Chelsea played well and really we didn’t act right. Cuenca in the side?? I mean, this guy is renown for his crossing but is there any need of his crossers if 98% of the time its going to go into a head of a Chelsea defender? Fabregas in my opinion, was the key and his link up play had to be precise. Messi and Fab link up was good and Messi stuffed up a great opportunity that he hit at Cech. Overall, what do we do now? Well now, we start resting players (Xavi, Puyol, Messi, Mascherano) and start rotating and introducing the promoted players and other B team players. THis players are going to be playing for us next season so why not get some extra experience and play them in the remaining rounds? Pinto also needs to go in goals as he will surely be in goals for CDR and well we need him to be on his best game otherwise we will lose that troph as well. Afellay needs to start playing because he has been fit, fresh and ready for a long time. Play him otherwise sell him!

  24. Hey guys, do you think Messi will once again win the Ballon D’or after Real Madrid got knocked out of the CL?

    1. So far:

      RvP: 34 goals and no trophies
      Gomez: 40 goals and 2 trophies to play for (Pokal and CL)
      Ronaldo: 56 goals and La Liga trophy
      Messi: 63 goals; Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Liga Supa Copa and 1 trophy to play for (Copa del Rey)

      If Messi equals or betters Gerd Mueller’s 1972 record of 67 goals in a season, then he should have the advantage.

      If Ronaldo has a good Euro Cup run, then he may have the edge.

      If Gomez scores in CL and has a good Euro Cup, then he may be a strong outside contender.

    2. I think Messi is a contender but perhaps it may go to an outstanding performer from the Euros (or maybe even one of Bayern’s top players if they win the CL and perform well in the summer)

  25. The way RM played in their home, I felt more proud of our boys. Our boys gave it all and went out. RM was the home team and had atleast 500 Million+ talent on the field. Had they showed a bit of intent to attack they would have gone past the Germans. But Mourinho can’t help it! He set them for counter, the Germans were clever they never rushed for that goal and never exposed themselves to heavy counter. Their midfield was so effective that they plucked out all the danger. For the majority of the match Bayern looked like the home team. Mario Gomez is quite a player. He was so good in harrassing Pepe and Ramos but wasted atleast three clear cut chances. As the second half went to a close it was clear that RM cannot afford to attack more since the away goal rule was against them. but they should have done that atleast properly in the first half. apart from the first ten minutes they never looked to seize the initiative, that too against a Bayern team whose defense looked more doubtful than Real’s.

    It is suicidal to play for penalties against Germans. They always win those. And Spanish teams record with penalties is not that great either to hold on. I always like the way German teams(especially the national team) go about in Penalty shoot-out. The first one is taken always by a less fancied person and the second one by the premier striker. In contrast Ronaldo who is Real’s premier player went to take the penalty and missed.

  26. Also I know what is the music lyrics that is ringing on Mourinho’s head right now – “be careful for what you wish for, you just might get it all” What he wished?

    He famously said that he is sure that Real Madrid and Chelsea will never meet(aiming a swipe at us) in the final. Careful for what you wish for….. Yahoooooooooooooooooooo

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