Benvingut, Jordi Alba!

He’s 23 and looks like 13, is generously listed as 5’7”, and once played for Barça’s youth academy. It’s becoming somewhat of a familiar refrain, isn’t it? Born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the same city as Víctor Valdés, Alba first joined up with Barcelona’s younger teams in 1998 at age 9, but he was dismissed in 2005, having been judged not good enough, not big enough, and certainly not Barça material. He was 16 and looking like becoming another might-have-been, after all. He joined up with Tercera side Cornella, did well, and caught the eye of Valencia. He signed for los che in 2007 as a member of their B team, was loaned to Segunda side Gimnastic for a season, and then made the move to Valencia’s first team upon his return.

108 matches later, Alba makes the move home. Or, well, er, home in the same sense as Cesc, right? He’s back after a 7 year absence—extremely formative years that changed him from a talented kid without the right combo to a starting left back at Euro2012. That’s some big steps and they were, I think it should be said, made outside of La Masia. It shows incredible self-belief and a will to succeed that he didn’t crumble to pieces or hold it against Barça (attention Mourinho). It also shows that even the great La Masia can make mistakes and is forced to pay the difference later.

Welcome, Jordi Alba! May your years here be full of trophies and, uh, fondue? I’m not sure what he’s all about, so maybe it’s that. Maybe he too loves Legos and he will begin to form a partnership with Messi that will go beyond goals and assists.

Thoughts on his transfer, independent of my hopes for him as a player: At €14m he’s generally considered a bargain in today’s market, but Barça did purchase him with 1 year left on his contract. My first reaction is to say that we overpaid: Afellay was €3m for 6 months, after all. Not having been privy to all that was going on, however, there are several factors that could have been important: did Jordi Alba play hardball and threaten to sign a contract extension with Valencia, thus upping his price by a good €10m? Did he do the opposite and refuse to sign an extension, thus lowering the price? Did Barça negotiate well or badly? It’s impossible to really know, but the deal might better be considered as two signings: €7m is being paid up front and another €7m will be paid next summer. There are no variables, no appearance or performance bonuses to Valencia. It is €14m and we’re done with it.

As someone who believes pretty strongly that Barça is in a far better financial position than Rosell is making out (more on that in the coming days), €14m is not particularly massive a sum (Rayo Vallecano fans are throwing eggs at their screens as they read that), but if Rosell is to be believed about the team’s coffers, €14m for 12 months is quite steep. There are sporting concerns, of course, given Abidal’s absence (sob!) and those have to be considered. If we win La Liga, will €14m seem like a piddling sum to have doled out on an integral piece of the puzzle? Villa, Afellay, and Fontas are returning from injury, so that alleviates pressure to sign other players as well. If we invest €14m for an entire summer, that’s not a bad turnover (we’ll see about that in August, though) and you could say the penny-pinching is really working.

Somehow, though, I think we’ll sign someone else in some splashy deal. Or perhaps we’ll find out that Tito is made of adamantium and no matter how often Rosell threatens to purchase some Brazilian bobble (we’re not naming names here), he remains inflexible. That would be great.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

67 Comments

  1. June 28, 2012

    Bienvenue, El Chipmunk.

    (Probably paid 14m than we should have considering the nature of his contract, so well played Valencia. Guess it couldn’t have been helped)

    • Jim
      June 28, 2012

      On the other hand, if Spain win the title it might have attracted a few large chequebooks so best to get it done now.

    • mom4
      June 28, 2012

      He does look a little like a chipmunk come to think of it. We have ghosts and chipmunks and fleas and cavemen and all manner of awesome beings.

  2. Alex
    June 28, 2012

    Off topic, but wow, Super Mario playing like a boss. What a cannon to put Italy up 2-0….. this game is soooooooooooo much better than the snoozefest yesterday

  3. jordi™
    June 28, 2012

    Super Mario! Of course that yellow for removing his shirt will probably come back to bite him but maybe people can stop lecturing Spain about learning from the Germans now.

  4. Ryan
    June 28, 2012

    Oh my, Balotelli, when he wants to play, is a beast. An absolute force to reckon with.

    • jordi™
      June 28, 2012

      Spain are much stronger defensively than Germany.It will be an even game.

    • Momo
      June 28, 2012

      Why should they? If del bosque could play without any width at all and still get a tie vs this italian side imagine how easy spain will have it once he decides to play with wingers in the final.

    • Momo
      June 28, 2012

      Plus the German defense has been atrocious

      • Artur
        June 28, 2012

        Really? Because I thought the 2 goals and all the chances created by the Italians were touch of magic.

        Germany penalty

        • Momo
          June 28, 2012

          The first goal was terrible lax defending by Hummels, letting cassano turn him so easily, and badstuper forgetting how to jump.

          The second goal was school boy error, Lahm out of position playing balotelli onside, center backs fell asleep

          • Messiah10
            June 28, 2012

            I concur. I was disappointed to see Hummels let Casanno go thru his double team. Perfect ball and perfect timing by Mario. It was a great header, but the ball was right on the $. I couldn’t believe how bad the center backs were on the 2nd goal. I couldn’t tell who it was that kept him onside, but atrocious! Made me relive some Barca moments last year. Balls over the top and bam, goal. That said, I don’t think it was Germany’s day. Maybe Jogi made a mistake by starting Kroos instead of Rues. Maybe he got it tactically wrong? The ball didn’t seem to be dropping Germany’s way. Disappointing, b/c I definitely wanted a Spain/Germany final.

          • Messiah10
            June 28, 2012

            Congrats to Italy! Well played. I’ve been more and more impressed with their game plan. It’s not the old Italy who the English imitated. They try to get forward. They can hit a rapid quick counter. Man marking was superb. They even play a little possession here and there. Credit due when credit deserved. I think if VDB doesn’t change his tactics it will be a very tough 1st half. Hopefully, he realizes(team need over politics) what he needs to do. Start Pedro. I know Navas has been dogged on here, but I like him. Start Torres or Llorente(doubt the later) Keep defense as is. No need to change what’s worked. Ab

          • Artur
            June 28, 2012

            I thought Cassano turning Hummels was pure skill (how often does Pique get beaten in that edge of the Penalty box?) and Ballotelli caught Badstuper ball watching and scored from his blind side.

            Second goal you can argue all you want but you can’t expect CBs to offside trap when ball was on the other end of the field. Was a great cross which, yes, caught CBs out of position. Lahm was doing his job defensivly in the midfield he’s an attacking full back and when ball is on the other side of the field he’s going to follow.

            I dunno, I feel like Italy played a great game and people making all these excuses for Germany losing just… Meh. Germany hasn’t had a serious chance on goal entire first half and I can only recall Reus’s freekick that worried Buffon. Cmon their only goal came from a penalty!

            I’m a huge fan of Buffon and Pirlo after this Euro, that’s for sure.

    • Ryan
      June 28, 2012

      I don’t know, Spain hadn’t even practiced the false-9 position for that game. They’ve improved it and have looked good with Cesc flanked by Pedro and Cesc. But Balotelli does look scary; he gave Spain problems in the Italy-Spain friendly that Italy won.

      • ciaran
        June 28, 2012

        Interesting formation with ‘Cesc flanked by Pedro and Cesc’. 🙂
        Spain look best last night without Xavi.
        With Iniesta playing how he is, width is essential to give him even more room to play.

        • Momo
          June 28, 2012

          Dropping Xavi wasnt the main reason, its the fact that alonso, busi, and xavi shouldn’t play at the same time as they constantly get in each others way.

          As good as spain looked yesterday after dropping xavi and putting iniesta in the middle, They would have looked even better if alonso had been off and the barca trio were allowed to play.

          Del bosque wont do that though because: a) Politics

          b) Alonso provides more physicality in midfield in comparison to xavi

      • Gogah
        June 28, 2012

        spain ain’t gonna have it easy, thas for sure.

        and they’ll need to do more than just show up to win this thing and that goes the same for dull bosque 😀

        balotelli is a much better version of ronaldo

  5. nzm
    June 28, 2012

    Four things Spain has to do:

    1. Keep a high defensive back-line to nullify the long-balls for Balotelli/Cassano/Diamante.
    2. Put pressure on the Italian defence in the penalty box.
    3. Score first.
    4. Score second.

    The Italian man-marking was absolutely world-class tonight. They completely shut down Germany.

    So much cheering here in Spain for Italy’s win. I’m more worried about Spain playing Italy than I would be if they were facing Germany.

    One thing’s for sure: the Italians aren’t going to agree to watering the pitch. If they didn’t in the group play, they won’t in the final, either.

    • lyd
      June 28, 2012

      5. “entertain” the neutrals ?

      You are right about the soon to be state of the pitch. Xavi is already furious 😛

    • Kimcelona
      June 28, 2012

      Hey nzm,

      I’m a little confused with how a high defensive backline would really “nullify” long balls? A good long ball for the forward from a maestro like Pirlo and the forward (Balo) times his run right..means disaster for Spain..Pique is slow..Ramos has trouble with playing offsides and the fullbacks would be pushed up. Balo would be one on one with Casillas a whole lot!

      But I agree with your other four points 🙂

      I have a REAL sneaky feeling Italy are gonna best Spain. I’m a neutral watching the Euros so I wouldnt be bummed out and I think Italy is playing tactically superior football anyways.

      • nzm
        June 28, 2012

        If you keep the space between the Spanish frontline and the backline to a minimum, it gives Italy very little room to successfully work the long ball. It requires split-second timing, and will frustrate the hell out of Balotelli.

        If you re-watch (not that you’d want to!) the first leg of the Barca CL match against Chelsea at the Bridge, you’ll see that’s what Barca did to contain Drogba. Every time a long ball was sent to Drogba, he was caught off-side. He then resorted to lying on the pitch and writhing around.

        Unfortunately, it didn’t ultimately pay off too well for Barca in those games because they couldn’t score, but it’s a good way in which to contain the attack.

        However, it does depend on the back-line being in perfect synchronicity and understanding of the tactic.

        Tonight, we saw Germany pay heavily for being hesitant. Both Hummels and Badstuber were too cautious and wouldn’t play the offside trap which would have stopped a lot of Italy’s movements.

        • nzm
          June 28, 2012

          Meant to add: you’ll see that Germany kept a man on Balotelli most of the time, but that player also kept Balotelli onside.

          If the Germans had all moved further upfield, Balotelli would also have been forced to retreat as he would have been offside whenever the ball was passed to him.

          Balotelli’s strength lies in being closer to the goal and taking on the GK and maybe 1 defender. The further away you take him from the goal, the less chance you give him to score.

          He’s fast, but he’s a sprinter – not a long-distance runner. The more he has to run, the more tired and frustrated he becomes.

  6. nzm
    June 28, 2012

    Gotta say that, although Italy didn’t need that much help, the referee calls sure didn’t go Germany’s way tonight. Horrendous calls in a lot of cases. Someone wanted an Italy-Spain final.

    • Momo
      June 28, 2012

      Don’t see how that is the case, the penalty seemed harsh to me. Yes he missed some calls, but I think “Horrendous” is an excessive way to describe it.

      • nzm
        June 28, 2012

        You need to watch how Italy got awarded the ball for fouls which they committed, and how balls which Italy sent out got given back to Italy.

        • Blau-Grenade
          June 28, 2012

          Yes, the refereeing was a disaster.

    • Blau-Grenade
      June 28, 2012

      Im not worried about stopping Balotelli. Worried about stopping Pirlo.

      • Jim
        June 29, 2012

        Pirlo will have to do a lot more chasing of the ball against Spain. He’ll also have less time on the ball due to pressing. Italy were out on their feet last night but a lead gives you the strength to keep on playing. I don’t expect him to be nearly as influential. I think it’s more about the team Spain puts out and how they play. Despite all the doom and gloom they are proving pretty sound defensively. Just need a bit more guile in offense and Ini to be in the mood.

    • Messiah10
      June 28, 2012

      I think there were some bad calls, but not overtly horrendous. The ball bounced Italy’s way quite often. I thought the foul called on Hummels towards the end, when he went to head a ball, was bad. It could have led to a chance in the box. Germany had opportunities. The final touch/pass was lacking and it killed their attack. Rues should’ve started. He adds so much with his ball skill, scoring ability, and work rate. His runs are amazing. To bad.

      • nzm
        June 28, 2012

        In the sum of things, the bad calls started to add up against Germany. It started to play on their psyches. It certainly didn’t help their game. I don’t think that it changed the result, but it didn’t give them any joy.

        Reus and Schuerlle should have started. They were dynamic against Greece. And Mueller wasn’t even a starter! Golden Ball winner at the World Cup, and 2 years later, he’s not even there at the kick-off!

        Some of these coaches need to start rejuvenating their teams and bringing in new blood. Maybe after this tournament that will happen as they build up to the World Cup qualifiers.

        • nzm
          June 28, 2012

          Sorry – Mueller was the Golden Boot of the World Cup.

        • Ryan
          June 28, 2012

          I’m not really sure how much new blood Germany can bring in, though. They were already the youngest team in the tournament!

          Spain, on the other hand, are going to be fun to watch once they start including the exciting talent that’s been winning all the youth tournies. Who knows how much fiddling Del Bosque will do after the Euros, but the status quo won’t last him till Brazil ’14.

          • nzm
            June 28, 2012

            Reus and Schuerrle, for sure, and Lars Bender who, although classified as a midfielder, played better than Boateng at RB when he came in for the Denmark game. Mario Goetze needs a place too.

            Gomez and Podolski need to be on the bench sitting beside Klose.

            They may be young in years, but some of these guys have been in the Mannschaft since before the 2006 World Cup. They’re getting stale, and so is the German game. Mixing it up like they did against Greece, gives the whole side a much needed lift.

          • mom4
            June 28, 2012

            You just used fiddling and del Bosque in the same sentence. Del Bosque almost never fiddles, only plays his chosen few. Once in a while he fiddles when he wants to royally mess with us like the wth Negredo thing.

          • Ryan
            June 28, 2012

            NZM – Right, but I think it’s a matter of fine tuning rather than wholesale change. The squad is young enough to build upon these experiences. I’m no expert though, as I only occasionally watch the Bundesliga.

            mom4 – Yes, I think VdB will tinker rather than massively change the side for 2014. He’ll be forced to have a Spain with a lessened Xavi, much like he has had to adapt to no Puyol. I mostly just want to see Muniain, Thiago, Adrain, and several defenders get a chance to play. 😀

          • Ryan
            June 28, 2012

            Adrian, rather. And maybe there’ll be a miracle and Bojangles fights for a spot? 🙂

          • nzm
            June 28, 2012

            Ryan – that’s exactly what Klinsmann, and then Loew, said, before, during and after the 2006 World Cup.

            “It’s a young team; we’re only just beginning to reap the benefits of the youthfulness. By the time the next World Cup comes, the German team will be a force majeur.”

            Or words to that effect. We were living in Berlin then – we heard it all! 🙂

            Since then, Germany stalled at the 2010 World Cup, and yet they still persisted with pretty much the same line-up into the Euros, 2 years later.

            This German team has had 3 major tournaments, over 6 years, to get its act into gear. It’s not going to happen for them, without some fundamental changes.

            I was pretty surprised at how they crumbled against Italy tonight. It was mostly because of what was going on between their ears. Italy’s quick goals stunned them into not being able to play their game, and the team isn’t used to coming from behind. Loew had no answer – he stayed on the bench for a lot of the time.

            The German press and public have a lot to do with it too. They’ve built these guys up into football gods, lauding their team as the best in the world – with little to show for it over the past few years. It bred complacency and over-confidence. They paid for it tonight.

          • Ryan
            June 28, 2012

            Being top 4 in the last 3 tournaments is still pretty impressive. Could part of it be that Italy’s players had a less intense playing schedule? Unlike the Bayern and Madrid players, Juventus didn’t have a European campaign to worry about.

            If Germany do indeed go back to another rebuilding phase, all the better for Spain. They seem like they can just keep slowly slotting in new players into the working system and keep competing for trophies for years to come.

          • mom4
            June 28, 2012

            I was just messin’ with you Ryan. Yeah, he will tinker after the Euros but not before. We are doomed to see a double pivot crowding the midfield and plays die at the feet of Silva for yet one more game.

            But I for one hope that it’s someone else doing the tinkering for WC2014. I know he has renewed his contract but I think it’s apparent, to more than just us lowly blogpeople, that his success is due to the individual brilliance of his players more than any tactical input he has had.

            Maybe Pep can save us? =)

          • Ryan
            June 29, 2012

            I actually don’t want a Pep-guided Spain, because I want Messi to win the WC. And with Pep having access to so many great players, it’d be really hard to see Messi lifting the trophy. How about Pep for Argentina coach? 🙂

  7. mom4
    June 28, 2012

    Wait…so I’m home from work, remote in hand, ready to hit my DVR button to watch Germany beat Italy and…

    Strange old game aint it!

    Back to DVR.

  8. Helge
    June 28, 2012

    Italia, Italia, Italia !!!

    Fratelli d’Italia,
    l’Italia s’è desta,
    dell’elmo di Scipio
    s’è cinta la testa.
    Dov’è la Vittoria?
    Le porga la chioma,
    ché schiava di Roma
    Iddio la creò.

  9. Kimcelona
    June 28, 2012

    Is it wierd that I am both happy and indifferent with Jordi’s signing?

    On one hand I wanted someone more in the mold of Abi i.e, a LB that can play CB, tall, strong, more conservative but can attack well. My thought is that we already have someone similar in Adriano..who is an LB keen on bombing up and down the flank…
    But on the other hand, the more I see of him in the Euros, the more I wanted us to get the deal done. He’s SPEEDY. Damn that boy is fast, he is great in attack but he’s also not bad in defense either..he’s also an energizer bunny, who seems to never get tired..basically he is a shorter, speedier Dani Alves for the left. He also links up splendidly with Don Andres and Pedrito.

    • ciaran
      June 28, 2012

      I was unsure before the Euros also, having been impressed with him with Valencia I was still unsure as to how much better he was than Adriano. Now, after watching him in such a demanding environment, playing a match every 3 days like with Barca, I am very impressed by his energy levels and in the match against Portugal, he marked Nani out of the game and still got forward

    • nzm
      June 28, 2012

      The big thing for Alba will be the extra demand on his fitness and stamina when playing for Barca.

      It’s a big step up from playing for Valencia. The pressure in each game will be greater and there will be more high-intensity games to play on a more regular basis.

      Hope that the club works to ease him into it and that the extra workload doesn’t give him injury problems from the get-go.

    • Ryan
      June 28, 2012

      Wow, you’re right, he indeed is shorter than Alves! So we’ve got a 5’5 left back and a 5’7 right back. I guess we want to solidify our position as Europe’s shortest team. 😉 I think that record even includes semi-pro leagues!

  10. K_legit in Oz
    June 28, 2012

    So, here goes,

    Italy

    Background:
    Italy is a team built on strong defensive character and a structured midfield. But this Euro they have been way more dynamic in attack and have attempted to dominate midfield in defense and attack which entirely belies their legacy. Some things are absolute though, Pirlo stays deep and anchors, Marchisio and Montolivo take turns as box to box…De Rossi moves around but mostly stays defensive offering an outlet to Barzagli and Bonucci..

    Formation:
    The Italian fullbacks are a revelation..Chiellini and Balzaretti both are often as high up as possible offering support to Cassano who pulls wide right or left and Balotelli who stays primarily central. They will probably play the same squad that beat Germany and probably won’t attempt 3-5-2 as they did with Spain in the first game (I think they should because they stopped Spain dominating midfiield by going one for one and not offering Spain a numbers majority in the midfield).
    I think they will play like below:
    Buffon
    Balzaretti Bonucci Barzagli Chiellini
    —————De Rossi
    ————————–Pirlo
    ———-Montolivo————Marchisio
    ——-Cassano
    —————————-Balotelli——–

    They will try to employ zone pressure to stop Spain from getting an advantage in midfield and since Spain are not playing classical forwards in their recent line ups, this tactic of flooding midfield should work for Italy.
    Italy should try to stay compressed in defense and try to use Cassano’s pace on the counter and increase his possession on the ball by allowing him to drop deep and change positions as frequently as possible to keep him (their primary threat to open up the Spanish defense) as involved in the game as possible. Pique is slow in defense and Ramos has to cover for the fullback on the left who is advanced and so, Italy can take advantage of this.

    Spain:

    Background:
    Spain have not been playing a typical system this Euro. They are trying to go about recreating a Barça type team relying on continuous ball circulation and possession based attack which at time can seem monotonous and pointless but is not at all so. Xavi remains their heartbeat and Iniesta has been (in my opinion) one of the best players in this competition. .

    Formation:
    Spain play without a forwards and rely on Silva/Iniesta to make a run ‘between the lines’ of the opposition to get to the goal. The problem with this strategy is apparent, if the opposition floods midfield like Italy will, this tactic will be forbiddingly ineffective unless, del Bosque uses his trump cards.

    Trump cards for Spain:
    Pedro and Fabregas..Pedro and Fabregas are both players who are anarchic in their positional play. Cesc as a withdrawn forward will be more effective than Silva has been and Pedro will give Spain verticality in attack, plus a genuine pace threat. However, this will only be effective if there is a way in which Spain can create enough space between the opposition lines, something which will be very difficult considering how compact Italy are drilled to stay.
    For me, Spain should play,
    Casillas
    Arbeloa Ramos Pique Alba
    ——-Alonso——-Busquets
    —————–Xavi
    ————————–Iniesta—-
    ————-Cesc
    -Pedro———————–

    Use Alba to provide width on the left and link up with Iniesta and shuffle the Italian defense to (the Italian) right and thus free up space between the lines for Cesc.

    Prediction:
    Honestly, I cannot see a winner in normal/extra time. And penalties are a lottery. On the balance of it, I do fancy Italy to win this

    Tl;DR: Penalties

    • Chiu
      June 29, 2012

      Nice sum up K. Penalty shootout to decide the winner would be a likely ending. But if this match ended in the regulation time or extra time, I have strong feeling it would be Spain. One or two moment of brilliance from “more experienced” La Roja players will give them edge.

  11. June 29, 2012

    A new signing is reason enough to come out of lurking.. 🙂
    Welcome Mr. Alba!

    • nzm
      June 29, 2012

      That’s brilliant – seeing all that footage compiled into one clip.

      Please send this to VdB and show him that Iniesta is far more effective when he plays in the middle of the pitch. 🙂

  12. Chiu
    June 29, 2012

    Iniesta and Pirlo are strong candidates as the best player of the tournament. If Spain win, Iniesta will get it and vice versa for Pirlo.

    • June 29, 2012

      They usually vote for such things before the final. At least the “official” ones. Newspapers can and will do what they want.

  13. June 29, 2012

    Anyone know why we are letting Ibi leave??? So much promise before his injury and I thought he had a great tournament at the Euros.

    Also, long time no comment. Wow.

    • June 29, 2012

      Who says we are letting him leave? As far as I know he’s not going anywhere.

      • barca96
        June 29, 2012

        3M had a good Euros??! I do think he is better than Cuenca and Tello which some bloggers here think it’s the other way around but Affelay didn’t make any impact at all during the Euros.

        • June 29, 2012

          No, he wasn’t great at the Euros. Which is odd because he was fantastic in the two friendlies the Netherlands played just the week before.

          • nzm
            June 29, 2012

            He was played out on left-wing at the Euros and barely got any ball.

            In the friendlies, he was played on the right and more central which is his favoured position.

            BvM played him on left wing to make way for the likes of Robben, Van Persie and Schneider.

            Hopefully with BvM gone, the new manager will put Afellay back where he does well and axe Robben from the team.

    • June 29, 2012

      Begging Your Majesty’s pardon, but looking at pictures where they are standing side-by-side, he seems to be almost exactly the same height as Xavi, who is 5’7”.

  14. Dani_el
    June 29, 2012

    Keita: “I’d like to retire at Barça, hope it will be possible. We need to sit down, see what Barca offer and want and iron out the details.”

    Via Barça stuff

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