Barça’s 2011/2012 Season – Part 1

Part One of Six: In a multi-part saga, Barcelona Football Blog offers a retrospective blow-by-blow account of events around Barça’s First Football Team over the past season.  Join us as we look back on the high and lows of the 11 months that were Pep’s last, as Manager.

After Guardiola’s successful first 3 years, odds were severely weighted against the team to do it all again, because of the oft-spoken 4th year slump.

It takes an extraordinary set of circumstances for a successful team to remain focused enough, when continuous success may bring feelings of complacency which subdue the drive to maintain the required high standards to win and win and win.

The motivation slips, as does the concentration, no matter what anyone says to state otherwise.  The psychological tolls, (of being on top and being the team to beat), stack on top of physical limitations as bodies, given little rest, begin to fail.

The following quotes are part of an unattributed AP article, (published on 15th August 2011), which was perhaps the bad news harbinger of what was to come, without pointing to specifics:

“The fourth season is different from the first, the motivations are different.  It’s a little calmer, but I still have the same enthusiasm and desire to play football well.” ~ Pep Guardiola.

“I have told (Guardiola) if you have a good team you have to squeeze everything out of it. (Then) he has to look to make a change before the team dies out.  Each season it gets harder.  First, Barça is the team to beat, and second, everyone is increasingly analyzing ways to do so. Staying at the top is harder than getting there.” ~ Charlie Rexach, while explaining that often it is easier for a new coach to make those tough choices.

This past season was interesting, to place a positive spin on it.

Players left and arrived; playing formations were tinkered with, as were starting line-ups; results fluctuated on a weekly basis as home wins were mostly multi-goal affairs while away games were eked out to draws or scrappy wins, as well as a couple of losses.

The year was filled with so many obstacles that most coaches would not face over their entire careers.  Abidal’s liver replacement; Tito’s salivary gland tumour; Villa’s broken leg; Afellay and Fontàs with ACL injuries and a dire spate of hamstrings and calf muscles twanging more often than Eric Clapton replaces his guitar strings.

There was hardly a week where Pep had more than 17 players fit to play.  He also had to be mindful that to field injury-prone (and aging) lynchpins Xavi and capità Puyol, (in less meaningful games if, in fact, there are any of those for the club nowadays), meant risking their presence in more important matches when their leadership was mandatory.  Calling up Barça B Team players is a great fall-back option, but playing B-teamers who were already struggling with play in the Liga Adelante was a stop-gap measure, at most.

Let’s review the past season with all its glory and gore, and there’s no better place to start than at the very beginning.


JULY 2011

After an off-season period of about 6 weeks, activity started to ramp up again at the club.  The pre-season was affected by the South American Copa América in which several key club players were involved.  July is also typically a month in which there is player movement.  New players were signed while others moved on. Existing players’ contracts were also renewed.

Starting the Season, Injured: Puyol who had a knee operation on 2nd June, Xavi with a calf muscle twinge, Pedro and Maxwell with general fitness problems.

1st July:  Thiago Alcantara’s contract was extended until 2015, and he’s confirmed as a First Team player.

4th July:  Andreu Fontàs was officially promoted to the first team and received a contract promotion to 2013.

5th July:  Pedro’s contract was extended until 2016.

18th July:  First training for the season was attended by only 15 players because of injuries and the absence of the South Americans playing in the Copa América.

19th July:   It’s confirmed that Piqué injured his calf during the first training and will be training separately as he recovers.

22nd July:  Bojan Krkic moved to Roma in a complicated loan/sell/buy-back situation which is still not fully understood by many.

23rd July:  The team travelled to Croatia to play Hadjuk Split.  Puyol, Xavi, Pedro and Piqué remained in Barcelona to work on their injuries.  Pep fielded a team which included a lot of youth players and was fairly happy with the quality of play, even though the game finished in a 0-0 draw.

25th July:  Acquired from Udinese, Alexis Sanchez was presented to the press after signing his contract.  He immediately left Barcelona to join Chile for the Copa América.

Pre-Season Tour

25th July:  The team left Barcelona for their pre-season tour, stopping in Munich (Audi Cup) and then travelling onwards to the USA (Turkish Airlines US Tour 2011).

Missing were most of the South American players involved with their national teams for the Copa América, taking out key members Messi, Alves, Adriano and Mascherano, as well as newbie Alexis.

First Team members: Valdés, Pinto, Puyol, Piqué, Maxwell, Fontàs, Abidal, Busquets, Keita, Thiago, Iniesta, Xavi, Afellay, Jeffren, Pedro and Villa.

Pep also included 9 Barça B players to travel to the USA:  Masip, Muniesa, Balliu, Rosell, Riverola, Carmona, Dos Santos, Cuenca and Soriano.

3 further B Team players travelled to Munich, but returned to Barcelona after the Audi Cup: Ledes, Lozano and Espinosa.

Audi Cup
The pre-season tour’s first stop in Munich was to play in the Audi Cup.  Audi is the car supplier to FC Barcelona and, as part of that agreement, the club was required to play in the tournament which was of no importance, except to satisfy a sponsor’s marketing and branding requirements.

Those cars don’t come cheaply, and the team lost its first member with a major injury to B-teamer capità (and last season’s Liga Adelante Pichichi winner) Jonathan Soriano, who returned to Barcelona to begin his recovery and lost his opportunity to prove his worth to Pep for Barça First Team inclusion.  (After he regained his fitness, Soriano would soon leave the club for Red Bull Salzburg.)

Barça won the Audi Cup (2-0) in a final played against Bayern Munich.  Time was so tight to catch the plane to the USA that most of the fans (travelling with the team in the same plane) and some of the team members had to leave the stadium at half-time.  At the end of the game, the next wave of players and fans departed for the airport.  Those players and staff, who remained behind to receive the trophy, were rushed to the airport under police escort, in a scramble to arrive in time.  Luckily, they made the flight.

The USA tour was a dog-and-pony show.

The team was called upon to front up to so many photo and press events that it started to impact on what little training time Pep already had.  The called-off training run on the Mall close to the White House (because of “security issues” and poor planning) in Washington DC was the last straw, as far as Pep was concerned.

The team played friendlies in hot and humid conditions against Manchester United, Chivas Guadalajara and Club América, losing the first two and winning the last. The first signs of Villa struggling with his form (and with a cracked tibia as was later revealed) were visible, as was a downturn in Pedro’s performance, and everyone was wondering, “Who the hell is this beanpole right-wing guy, Cuenca?”

Pep simply wanted to get the team home and away from the media circus.

Link to Open Training Video

31st July: 
During the Man U game, Afellay picked up a hamstring injury which would see him miss the start of the Liga season, and remain out for 4-5 weeks.

All month:  Puyol.
Wrapped in Cotton Wool:  Xavi with calf muscle niggles, Pedro and Maxwell with general fitness issues.
19th – 31st:  Piqué injured his calf during the first training and trained separately for the remainder of the month.
31st:  Afellay injured a hamstring during the Man U game.



The month began with the team still in the USA, on their pre-season tour, before returning to Barcelona on 8th August.  More players left the club in the first week.  The B Team was seconded to play in the Copa Catalunya, while the First Team prepared for a busy month in which 3 trophies would be contested: the Spanish Supacopa, the Joan Gamper Memorial Trophy and the UEFA Super Cup.  The first game for the new La Liga season would be played; precious training time would be reduced by 2 International breaks and further diluted by more player injuries.

1st August:  Jeffren Suárez was given permission to leave the pre-season tour early, to fly to Portugal and sign for Sporting Lisbon.

2nd August:  2 additional B Team players joined the tour after their Spain U-19 duties in Romania were completed: Deulofeu and Gómez.

4th August:  Gabi Milito was given permission to leave the club and returned to his old home club in Argentina – Atlético Independiente.

7th August:  The team arrived back from the USA.

8th August:  The Copa Catalunya Competition kicked off. It simply wasn’t physically possible for the first team to play, so the Barça B team was used for these games.  This caused much annoyance to the other teams who thought that they deserved to play against the First Team members, as that was what had been long-arranged.  Barça B played against Girona in the semi-final (winning 2-1) and Espanyol in the final (losing 0-3).

9th August:  International Duty again, already!  10 players were called for their National Teams:  Spain, France, Chile and Brazil.

10th August:  Before their game, Xavi left the Spanish camp with a recurring injury to his right calf soleus muscle.

10th August:  Training saw Puyol, Xavi, Maxwell and Afellay working separately because of injury.

11th August:  NT reps returned, including the South American players who had a brief break after the completion of their Copa América duties. 2 players returned injured: Busquets with bruising to his ribcage, and Piqué suffered a thigh strain.

Before the official 2011-12 La Liga season kicked off, the first 2 games of 6 Clásicos (or Clàssics in Català) over the 2011/12 season were played for the Spanish Supacopa.  The matches are played between the past season’s Liga winners (Barça), and the Copa del Rey winners, (Real Madrid).

14th August:  Away vs. Real Madrid Spanish Supacopa.  2-2.
Real Madrid was held to a draw by an under-prepared Barça team which included new-comer Alexis Sanchez thrown into the deep end, as well as Thiago.

The result was a pleasant surprise to many fans because, in comparison to Barça’s horrible pre-season, Real Madrid’s tour had been very successful and the team looked to be much fitter and sharper than Barça.  During the game, Madrid had many more shots on goal and were denied by some fine backline defence and stopping by Valdés.  First half goals included the opener to Özil (12’), followed by a beauty from Villa (35’) and another from Messi (45’).  After half-time Alonso scored (53’) and the teams hung on to end the match with a draw.

Link to Match Highlights Video

15th August:  After 8 years of roaming in the cup-less wilderness that is Arsenal, local boy Cesc Fàbregas was presented to the press and 30,000 fans at Camp Nou.

17th August:  In the warm-up before the return Supacopa game, Alexis pulled a leg muscle and was ruled out of the match. 

17th August:   Home vs. Real Madrid.  Spanish Supacopa. 3-2.
The return Supacopa leg was a tense win at Camp Nou.  Iniesta opened the scoring (14’), and Cristiano countered (20’) before Messi scored (45’) just before the break.  After half-time, Benzema scored (81’) and the game looked as if it was headed for excruciating extra time.

However, Cesc was subbed on for his first club game and had an immediate impact as he was involved in the build-up to Messi’s winning (87’) goal.  Not long after this, Cesc was chopped down by a Marcelo tackle (for which the Brazilian was red-carded), and the game erupted into a sideline brawl in which Villa was also red-carded and sent from the bench.

Unfortunately, the whole evening is better remembered for Mourinho’s poke-Tito-in-the-eye incident, than for any of the on-pitch play or subsequent trophy-lifting by the Barça team.  The Blaugrana team has won 10 Supacopa trophies to Madrid’s 8, and this win made it 3 Supacopa victories in 3 consecutive years.

Link to Match Highlights Video

Two more trophies quickly followed.

A new defensive strategy, called “Park the Blunderbuss”, is trialled at the Gamper Trophy Game

22nd August:   Home vs. Napoli. Joan Gamper Trophy.  5-0.
The (ceremonial and memorial) Joan Gamper Trophy (vs. an invited Napoli) was played at the end of a fun-filled gala day at Camp Nou as part of a “thank you” event to the fans.

The team featured more B-team members than First Team players, and Kiko Femenia received his maiden start.  Cesc scored his first goal (25’) for the club.  Keita scored the 2nd (31’) for the evening, Pedro the 3rd (61’), and Messi (subbed on in the 55th minute) added a brace (66’ and 77’) to complete the first manita of the season.  Keita won Man of the Match.  It was really relaxing to attend a match at Camp Nou where the result really didn’t matter.

Link to Match Highlights Video

23rd August:  During training, Piqué tore fibres in his left calf muscle and was out for 3 weeks.

25th August:  In Monaco, Messi received the 2011 UEFA European Player of the Season Award.

26th August:  Away vs. FC Porto. UEFA Super Cup.  2-0.
The UEFA Super Cup is a match played between the past season’s winners of the Champions League (Barça) vs. the winners of the Europa League (FC Porto).  The game was played on a cow paddock somewhere in Monaco.

The first goal came when Messi latched onto an errant Porto back-pass, jinked past the Porto GK and slotted home in the 39th minute.  Porto was reduced to 10 men in the 86th minute when Rolando earned his second Yellow of the night, and Cesc scored the 2nd for the Blaugrana.  Porto finished the match with 9 men on the pitch after Guarin was dismissed for a slide tackle on Mascherano in the last minute of the game.

Barça had won their second official cup for the season.

Link to Match Highlights Video

27th August:  Adriano pulled a leg muscle during the Super Cup match and would be out for a few weeks.

27th August:  A players’ strike (in support for some of the league’s players who had not been paid), delayed the official start to La Liga.  As a result, Game 1 – the away to Málaga – was postponed until January 2012.  The first game for the 2011/12 La Liga season would be played at Camp Nou.

29th August:
  Home vs. Villarreal. La Liga.  5-0.
Already we could see that there were tactical changes afoot, especially down the back. Exciting stuff when it went to plan – simply awful when it didn’t work, and Pep was often too stubborn to change tactics during games which ultimately cost points over the season.

Guardiola put out a 3-man backline.  This was, in part, because 5 defenders were unavailable:  Maxwell, Adriano, Puyol, Piqué and (suspended) Alves.  The Yellow Submariners were expected to put up a spirited fight, but the intensity and pressure initiated by Barça from the kick-off whistle left them chasing shadows for most of the game.

Newly-promoted Thiago scored the first (25’), followed by Cesc scoring his first-ever (44’) La Liga goal.  Into the second half, and the third goal came quickly, courtesy of Alexis Sanchez also scoring his first (47’) for the club.  A brace (51’ and 74’) from Messi opened his Liga account for the season, and Villarreal returned home comprehensively beaten and bewildered.  A manita for the first Liga game – not too shabby.

Link to Match Highlights Video

30th August:  Incredibly, the next International break arrived and the players dispersed to their various national teams to perform services for their countries: Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France and Mali.

31st August:  Hleb was loaned out to Wolfsburg in Germany.  Negotiations opened for the renewal of Abidal.

All month:  Puyol (knee) and Afellay (hamstring).
1st – 13th:  Piqué with calf injury.
1st – 23rd:  Maxwell with calf injury.
10th – 16th:  Xavi with calf injury injury and rested as much as possible.
11th – 18th:  Busquets with bruised ribcage sustained in Spanish NT game.
17th – 23rd:  Alexis with pulled leg muscle.
23rd – 31st:  Piqué with left calf muscle.
27th – 31st:  Adriano with hamstring injury.


In the next instalment:  More injuries; worrying away form and results; Champions League starts and Pep receives a medal.

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  1. nzm
    July 9, 2012

    Spanish Supacopa tickets to go on sale soon: Supacopa Tickets with the time and dates still to be confirmed.

    If the first Aug 22nd date is adhered to, this is only 2 days after Barca’s Gamper game vs. Sampdoria.

    Looks like the RFEF is going to be dis-organised, as usual, this season.

    • July 9, 2012

      So, they will not be played in China or whatever?

    • Messiah10
      July 9, 2012

      I thought they were playing this years Supacopa in Spain and then going to China for the next 5 years? Who knows. the RFEF is so unorganized and mismanaged. It will be a miracle if the teams even make it to China in the first place.

    • mom4
      July 9, 2012

      I think Madr*d and Barca pretty much vetoed that China thing.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      The China deal was to start next year, but I think that a lot of the clubs said, “hell, no” to that idea.

    • mom4
      July 9, 2012

      1. Are ya goin’?. It’s a chance to boo Mou in person, ya know!

      2. Babies can cover the Gamper with some first team cameos to be polite to Sampdoria. It is what it is.

      3. La Liga…played by geniuses, run by idiots!

      I assume the Spanish NT, being Euro winners, is going to have a rediculous dog and pony friendly schedule again ahead of WC qualifiers. Have you heard anything about it yet?

    • Megster
      July 9, 2012

      I think they’ll be playing their first friendly after the Euros in Puerto Rico on August 15. I heard Puyi’s gonna play for his 100th cap for Spain.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      If you’re talking to me:

      1. No – probably not!

      2. Babies always play the Gamper – they did for Napoli. Keita was MotM. 😀

      3. Yup.

      4. Nope.

    • nzm
      July 10, 2012

      Dates have now been officially set:

      23rd Aug: Camp Nou
      30th Aug: Bernabeu

  2. mom4
    July 9, 2012

    Wow , Michele, it’s a wonder we won anything last season. We knew things were tight while we were going through it, but seeing it all chronicled puts the success we did have into perspective.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Ya – wait until you see all the injuries over Jan/Feb! 😀

  3. hansh
    July 9, 2012

    What an incredible level of detail, thanks nzm!

    That number of injuries is completely insane.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Thanks, Hansh.

  4. July 9, 2012

    Random stuff going on in the real/unreal world:

    Reliable Twitter sources claiming that we’re going to pay the Javi Martinez buyout clause of 40m. One, @PedrithoFCB, says that we want him in the third tier of the wage structure, with Alba and Afellay. Can’t see THAT flying, right?

    –The Keita tax stuff has been reported before. As blitzen notes, that’s going to be a mess for the club and foreign players.

    –The John Terry/Anton Ferdinand trial is going on. One lip reader was shown footage, says that Terry did indeed use offensive language. That is ongoing.

    • July 9, 2012

      No way are we going to pay 40M for Javi Martinez. It’s a ridiculous amount. He’s a good player, very good, but not worth that much at this stage of his career. And I still find him somewhat unconvincing as a centre-back, which is where we would mostly want to play him.

    • Clouseau
      July 9, 2012

      Can’t see it happening paying up the buyout clause means that Barça have to pay extra money for taxes that increase the transfersum to 60-70m. It was mentioned during the Llorente to EE Saga that spanish based Clubs are obliged to do that. Clubs lost another advantages of the “lex Beckham”…

      The new tax policies changes for “la otra Liga” Clubs everything but for Barça it won’t effect that much.We’ll be fine although big money moves will be a rarity now.

    • July 9, 2012

      It affects us more than you think. I’m putting together a little primer for those who want to know what it’s all about.

    • Clouseau
      July 9, 2012

      Alright then looking forward to your post.

  5. July 9, 2012

    And Bielsa is staying. Happy to hear that cooler heads prevailed in that silly, silly situation.

  6. barca96
    July 9, 2012

    What an epic first part of a trilogy! Thanks for all the hard work. We’re so lucky that you chose to contribute here instead of at TB.

    Off topic.
    I’m so bummed that I didn’t know that Pep was in Malaysia. If I would’ve known, I would’ve gone to his hotel.

    One of the things that I would ask him is what he meant that Keita is his emotional barometer.

    What about you guys? What would you guys ask him of given a chance?

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Trilogy? It’s 2 x trilogies! Thanks barca96. I was not going to contribute to TB – I only go there now to catch up on news. I doubt that most of their readers would even read something this long! 😀

      As for Pep, I’d ask, “Por que? Por que?” 😀

  7. barca96
    July 9, 2012

    -What do you guys think of the allegation by a lady called Anna that Mourinho verbally abused her? It sounds too crazy to be true.

    First the allegation that Ronaldo refused to give an autograph to a little girl because she was wearing a Barça jersey and now Mourinho verbally assaulting a lady for shouting Visca Barça.

    -Keita’s loss is immense. Who is going to come in and close out matches for us? There is no one that can do his job from the current batch of players and I still have doubts over Martinez. Instead of coughing out 30-40 million for him, why not take Romeu? sMasch really look out of sorts at DM. He doesn’t cover enough ground for me.

    I really like the suggested names though Capounne & M’villa. But not Cabaye. He is good but I don’t think that he has the physical qualities that we need in order to replace Keita.

    -Alonso’s inability to answer a question of who the better player is between Messi and Ronaldo gives me the indication that even the Madrid players admit that Messi is simply better than Ronaldo.

    Ask any Barça players the same question and they will straight away say Messi.

    -I love Antonella because she is such a natural beauty, my type of girl 😛 but why was she wearing so casually to the wedding? It looked like she was going to take a stroll at the beach 🙂

    Speaking of WAG’s, check out Kagawa’s other half. He better keep an eye on Giggs.

    • July 9, 2012

      Antonella is pregnant, remember? She wanted to wear something loose & comfortable, and it really suited her.

      As for the story about Mourinho, I’m pretty sure it is rubbish. The origin is EMD, and no reputable source is running it. Twitter seems to think that Mou hasn’t even left Cancun yet, so it couldn’t have happened. Even Mou isn’t that crazy.

  8. July 9, 2012

    Great effort and quality post.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Thank you Ramzi.

  9. Clouseau
    July 9, 2012

    Another fine Piece nzm, full of information and well researched :).

    Well that was a messy Preseason it even tops the Asiantour of the previous Year.Looking at the current Tour Club doesn’t seem to have learned much of the mistakes –>

    The first Leaguematch against Villarreal is still my favourite Game.Not because of a manita!but more of the way they executed it.Even me was seduced into that dynamic 3-4-3 Formation/System which i never rated before..
    Hard to imagine that the Injurylist increased later on.Curious to know if the constant Injury made the Club decide to change the fitness Staff and hire new ones.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Thanks, Clouseau.

      That chart for the friendlies travel is a disaster – you’d think that they would have managed to go in a circle somehow, or at least minimise the travel. Insane.

  10. July 9, 2012

    Note to all

    Barcelona Football Blog would like to announce the sale of Isaiah to Sporting Gijon. Proceeds from the transfer will be used in full to finance the permanent contract of nzm. Financial details are not being disclosed at the request of both parties.

    As many know, Isaiah was on loan to Sporting Gijon after a series of difficult matches, and making whoopee in Las Vegas with the BFB corporate card. More details to come. 😀

    –That injury roster is staggering. I lay it solely at the feet of pre-season conditioning. I don’t believe in luck. Preparation, preventive prep particularly, can prevent the majority of injuries. Note that the club’s best injury season was the year of the treble, mostly because it didn’t win feck all the season before, so there was plenty of quality rest time, and training camp could proceed completely unfettered.

    Winning more and more trophies means more and more other stuff, which accumulates fatigue. Where there is fatigue, there is injury. An exercise physiologist could explain the phenomenon more clearly than I, but basically, a tired muscle is more brittle. You see the effects of this not only in performance, but in recovery from an effort. As recovery time diminishes and lack of muscular elasticity increases, injury risk goes through the ceiling. This past off season was just the icing on the cake.

    And it isn’t just that an athlete with tired muscles is at greater injury risk. He’s at greater injury risk in part because biomechanically, he moves differently to offset the diminution of function in the affected muscle group. For a quick and dirty example, watch a Tour de France rider at the beginning of a breakaway (smooth, supple pedaling, making perfect circles, still upper body), then look at him toward the end of the break (body rocking, a pedaling style we call “stomping grapes”).

    Now look at the slight but noticeable gait differences late in a match, or late in a match at the end of a string of matches. To my view, injuries and lots of them were unavoidable this past season. That really isn’t the fault of the physios as much as the people who didn’t allow the players to have a “normal” off and pre-season. Much of that, however, is just the success complexity.

    After three years of extra matches/travel/demands, it just wears on you. It’s a lot to do with why people say that a club’s cycle of greatness lasts 3 seasons. It’s all the extra matches, and their effect on players and their strength/ability to recover/injury susceptibility.

    • Blau-Grenade
      July 9, 2012

      That is too funny. Lol. I love both NZM and Isaiah.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Sell Isaiah – our very own BFB Hleb Laporta? Sacré bleu! Who are we then going to blame when things go wrong?

      Tell you what – I’d be happy to share some of my commission with him to keep him on. That way I’ll keep under the higher tax bracket here in Catalunya. 🙂

  11. July 9, 2012

    Talking about money makes my brain hurt, but here is a quick summary for anyone who wants to know why the tax issue was such a big deal for Keita (and Abidal, and Alves).

    Catalunya has the highest personal income tax rate in Spain: 56% for those who earn more than €600,000 a year.

    In 2004 a law was introduced whereby foreign workers could opt to pay a “non-resident” tax of only 24% instead, for up to six years. Known as “Beckham’s Law”, it was seen as a way to attract top foreign players for La Liga. David Beckham was among the first to make use of this tax loophole.

    Amidst the growing economic crisis, the Spanish government was pressured to repeal this law, and did so, effective January 1st, 2010.

    In Spain, football clubs typically pay the tax bill for their players. This means that the club’s tax bill for their foreign players has increased another 32%. So a player who earns, say, €5 million/year would actually cost the club €7.8 million.

    You can see how this would affect contract negotiations. The club would be trying to make up for their larger tax bill by freezing wages, reducing bonuses, and other lowball tactics. A player who could reasonably expect a rise in wages after several years of loyal service would run up against a wall of accountants protecting the bottom line. A big-name player like Dani Alves has some leverage for bargaining, and can be thrown a bone with a marketing deal instead of cash from the club. Someone like Keita would find things a lot more difficult.

    It is to the credit of the club that they found a solution for Abidal, regardless of (or perhaps because of) his health. I only wish they could have found a solution for Keita as well.

    • July 9, 2012

      56%! Yikes! In the U.S., people who earn approx. $400,000+
      annually pay about 35% in income tax. But even then, most of those people don’t pay that rate. Some of their incomes are categorized as earnings from investments etc…which have different(lower) tax rates and then there are exemptions which they can add.

      This 56% rate also applies to Spanish nationals too, right?

      I’ve been hearing a lot of grievances from Catalunya, complaining about their autonomous region having to contribute the highest percentage of their revenue to the central government. In effect they are helping other regions, while domestically running a huge deficit.

      On top of that, there are a lot of efforts of trying to have everything run through Madrid, e.g. every railway lines go through the capital, even if it’s not that practical, special tax break for corporations based in the capital, etc. :/

    • July 9, 2012

      Yes, the 56% applies to Spanish nationals.

      The point is, this tax change has made it much more difficult for foreign players who were signed before it kicked in to renegotiate an improved contract. Some clubs just won’t be able to afford to keep their foreign players. Barcelona can afford it, but is under pressure to be “fiscally responsible” and I guess what Keita was asking for and what the club was willing to pay were just too far apart.

    • July 10, 2012

      Thanks for clarifying! Why is the income tax so high though?

  12. Blau-Grenade
    July 9, 2012

    Dear M, Absolutely fantastic post as always. I watched every single embedded video. All the videos bring back beautiful memories.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Thank you, S! Finding the videos took a l.o.t. of time, I can tell you! And then I’d find one only for it to then be blocked by Spain’s MediaPro TV company for violating their distribution rights. Ay caramba!

  13. providence
    July 9, 2012

    The Good works of NZM….I…..
    you guys are real.writers especially Kxevin, r u Journalist by profession? or u jux do it by heart?

    hey u forgot to add when KARI left…lol

    Providence writing from GHANA

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Thanks providence. As far as I’m aware, Kxevin is the only real journalist in our merry band of writers. The rest of us are just wannabes!

      I think Kari didn’t leave until the beginning of this year, but I’d have to check!

  14. July 9, 2012

    Wonderful review nzm! Great work as always. I think the Rexach quote at the top of the piece really summarizes much of Pep’s thinking and focus on dynamism and change – even when it an unpopular decision.

    With Keita unfortunately leaving the squad’s strength along the central axis is further diminished. This is a small squad at baseline and it’s lost another key player.

    Depth has to be rebuilt-and that depth cannot come from versatility alone.

    When you look at the injuries the club has had – Villa & Thiago both with stress fractures and recurring hamstring strains – these are injuries that are influenced by excess workload. The stress fractures in particular.

    The team is too small and there have been so many games that this core of players has had to play. It’s creating a toll on them.

    The club needs to act. Not just talk about the problem or chalk it up to bad luck. They need to rebuild depth in the squad. And that has to start with the defensive base.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Thanks Euler. Yes, I was rapt when I found that article which quoted Rexach – it was totally on the nose.

      At the moment, the team is actually at its full complement of 25 – the first time in a long time.

      Of course, that includes the newly-promoted B-team members, most of whom are nowhere near cooked enough to step onto the pitch and assume the high standard that is required. I’d say that Montoya would be the most advanced at this stage.

      It also includes some players who will most likely leave before the season properly starts. I can’t see Fontas staying if another CB is bought. Feel sorry for the guy because he’s now a year behind where he should be in terms of experience and skills.

      Personally, I’m pretty concerned at the state of the club right now, and I hope that they fix it soon:
      1. No big money to spend on purchasing players.
      2. The redonkulous tax situation which means that retention of players after the 4th season becomes almost impossible, and before then is a burden on the club to pay the players’ taxes.
      3. The “forced” signings of B-team members to the First Team, under the veiled threats from their agents that they will otherwise leave. I think that if an agent comes to the table saying this, then the club should sell the player and be done with him. They would only have to make an example out of a couple of players in this way, and I bet that it wouldn’t take long for the others to pull their heads in if they really wanted to stay with the club.
      4. The apparent lack of anyone in the club who can negotiate effective player sales out of the club. FCB lets a hell of a lot of players leave for free or on loan, and that’s worrying, unless there’s a way of writing off the losses on their books that we’re not aware of. But this is an area which needs to be addressed, pronto.

      All of this adds up into an unhealthy environment for player handling, selling and buying.

  15. July 9, 2012

    Thanks for the write-up, NZM! From reading your posts, I’m guessing that you are a very organized person 😀

    One minor question, I thought Espinosa came to the U.S. with the rest? He replaced someone(Soriano?) who was injured in Germany. I remembered watching his mini-cameo against United. He was brilliant, and hopefully Tito will include him this pre-season.

    Dani will be suspended again for the first liga game because of that red card against Betis. Deja vu! I’m little worried about Dani; I hope his personal life and transfer drama won’t affect his performance next season. I miss seeing him tweeting cheerful messages.

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      Thanks messifan. As for being organised, some people would say that I’m borderline OCD – but not in all aspects of my life. 😀

      If you can remember Espinosa playing in the US, then it’s probable that he travelled on from Munich to replace Soriano – I can’t remember! It’s likely because Soriano would have needed a seat on the plane to return to Barcelona, so they just swapped players.

      Yeah – Dani and his last season’s game red cards – he’s a terror! Hope that he’s pulling it all together for himself – he did go a little off the rails towards the end of the season. We need him back and focussed.

  16. July 9, 2012

    “Park the Blunderbuss”, btw, was extremely awesome! 😀

    • nzm
      July 9, 2012

      😀 I needed to think of something special to match your crest height caption in your Jordi Alba piece.

      As I was taking these photos, I was laughing so hard because all I could think about was them parking the blunderbuss. But I couldn’t share it with anyone around me, because no one else knew what a blunderbuss was, and it didn’t translate that well, either! 😀

    • July 10, 2012

      And also, it’s fun to say “blunderbuss.”

  17. Xingxian
    July 9, 2012

    Thank you so much for your writing 🙂

    • nzm
      July 10, 2012


  18. Barcaleya
    July 10, 2012

    Great review, Michelle! Thank you!

    Clicked on the videos and re-watched the Villa goal in the first Supercopa leg.

    Amazing. I’ve almost forgotten how good Villa is.

    I don’t think we’ve scored goals from that angle and distance since he’s been injured. The team really missed him. We would surely have won the Liga if he were around.

    I’m so excited to have him back. And excited for this season.

    Now if we can only solve our defensive/defender dilemmas….

    • nzm
      July 10, 2012

      Thanks, Barcaleya.

      It’s good news that Vilanova has included Villa in his plans, from all accounts. I look forward to seeing him return – he’ll be out to prove himself and be well-rested now. All he needs is match fitness which should hopefully start for him in the preseason games if he’s cleared to play.

  19. Gogah
    July 10, 2012

    Great article M.

    The injuries we’ve suffered last year is downright ridiculous and its crazy to think that inspite of all that, we were still competing for all 6 titles until the very last minute.

    Necessity is the mother of invention, and circumstance and injuries pushed guardiola to invent and design with the resources at his disposal. While the seasons, 08-09 and 10-11 will be remembered, I do think that 11-12 contained some of the best football we’ve played under Pep. One can only wonder how the team would have looked and fared if everyone was fit and healthy.
    I’m convinced that after all the crazy obstacles, injuries and insinuations that were thrown at Pep, he dealt with it all beautifully and Surely no coaching task anywhere is going to be too much for him. this guy can handle anything!

    • nzm
      July 10, 2012

      Thanks Gogah.

      Yes – Pep and Tito were sure in the thick of things last season with all the injuries. It did make it difficult, but I also think that Pep’s stubbornness did cause more problems than there should have been. As Manel Estiarte said in one of his interviews, Pep did get the starting team line-up very wrong on more than a couple of occasions, and then he seemed stuck/reluctant to change things when it didn’t go well.

      He was like that as a player too. Barca TV has been showing a lot of re-runs of games in which Guardiola played. He was very stubborn and, from what I’ve been seeing, he also lost a hell of a lot of possession! 😀

  20. nzm
    July 10, 2012

    From barcastuff:

    Dates for the Supacopa have now been officially set:

    23rd Aug: Camp Nou
    30th Aug: Bernabeu

    The next season’s La Liga calendar is here:

    However, all these dates are Sundays, and final dates and times won’t be confirmed until 2-4 weeks beforehand. Unbelievable that the RFEF can be so disorganised.

    Finally, Barca gets a homegame for the last game of the season again – vs. Malaga.

    • nzm
      July 10, 2012

      You can download a pdf of the calendar here:

    • July 10, 2012

      And of course, Oct. 7 and March 3 for the Clasics. But again, both on Sundays, so I wouldn’t go making any travel plans around ANY of those dates. We know RFEF, right?

  21. July 10, 2012

    This is the dude who apparently has the answers regarding the availability of La Liga in the U.S. market, as his beINSportUSA channel now owns the rights, after outbidding GolTV. I shot him a note about the channel, and to see if he wants to talk for the blog, will do a Q&A with him.

  22. providence
    July 10, 2012

    I looked at fixtures carefully and realised that their(EE) opponents are our next two opponents. As in, if say they play mallorca this week ,Barca will play Mallorca in our next two games

    Day 1: EE vs Valencia
    Day 3: Barca vs valencia

    we need depth in squad and I hope affellay n Adriano stay.

  23. barca96
    July 10, 2012

    Whatever happened to Bill Dick & Harry? I thought he was going to continue commenting but instead he totally left this space.

    Nanda, did you get to meet Pep or Cesc?

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