Benvingut, Alex Song, aka “The best name on the squad”

Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong. If you’re looking for a comprehensively badass moniker, look no further than our latest acquisition from Arsenal. He came over for EUR 19M straight up, which is unusual for us. Often, we see contracts such as 15+4M if the player isn’t kidnapped by aliens in the first month he is with the club.

Then again, I read somewhere that the club was trying to get away from simple, silly incentives such as those. Then again, I also read that if he didn’t get Javi Martinez, Tito Vilanova was going to hold his breath until he turned blue. Or something.

And then came this Song.

What does he do? Play midfield, usually, though Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has used hm at center back, and even said that his eventual best position would be center back. So who knows? What we do know is that he is in the mold of the typically versatile Barcelona player who can play any position on the pitch, then go sell tickets at the Camp Nou ticket window and be back in time to stop a goal. Yes, he’s that good. It must be the name.

He comes to us with gaudy statistics, such as lots of through balls, lots of assists, likes puppies and is first in the hearts of his countrymen. He also comes to us with hair that somewhat resembles the top of a cinched rucksack, or for you Aqua Teen Hunger Force devotees, the famous Frylock.

Last season, he was Arsenal’s second-best player, the first being some cranky Dutchman, who also left. Word is that Song had begun renewal talks with Arsenal, then we came calling and he said “Gotta go, yo!” There were nasty reports that he got a serious attitude problem once he decided that he wanted to come play for us, reports that have some people wondering just what in the hell we’re in for with this bloke.

ZubiZa said that the departure of Keita meant that suddenly, we needed that type of player, but not exactly that type, since exactly that type would have meant finding a way around those pesky tax laws, and not having Keitteeee! flit off to China on a free transfer. But that didn’t happen. And Song isn’t Toure Yaya, not only because he said he wasn’t, and because ZubiZa said he wasn’t. Song isn’t Toure Yaya, because Toure Yaya is already busy being Toure Yaya, And he’s pretty good at it.

Our physio, Dr. Pruna, says that Song is physical Gibraltar, that he hasn’t had a muscular injury in 8 years. That’s a lot.

ZubiZa said that we now have the team he and Vilanova have been wanting since pre-season began, which means what, exactly? That all the CB stuff was noise? Who knows. To me, NFL teams often will draft the best available athlete, figuring they can figure out what to do with the luggage once they get it home. Bound to be something.

Song is also a shrewd bit of business, particularly as he still had 3 years on his Arsenal contract. So hats off to RoSELL and the boys, particularly if the claim that Song is the player we wanted is true.

To my view, now that teams are attacking Busquets, realizing his role in the tika-taka distribution chamber, something needs to change. Some matches, it might be Song in addition to Busquets, shuffling forward and back from CB to DM to AM, as the need rises. Some might think that we need another midfielder like we need a hole in the head. Dunno. And then we bought Song.

How will he play? Dunno. But he said all the right things at the presser, even promising to learn from Catalan, which might stop the Camp Nou boo birds from coming out when Song screws up. for a period of exactly 0.0001th of a second.

But I don’t expect that Song will screw up like that, despite the periods of mental walkabout that he goes on from time to time. And now he’s here. So let’s welcome with open arms and minds, Alex Song.

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


  1. cliveee
    August 21, 2012

    (silently sit down on the first comment row)

    Welcome to Barca, Alexandre Dimitri Song Bilong. (took me so much effort) You will be a wonderful addition to us!

  2. nia
    August 21, 2012

    Welcome Alex, although i’m not 100% convinced about him, i wish him well and to be a force to be reckoned with. He looks like an easy going guy who, if he doesn’t get too huffy about play time or get an attitude like Hleb and Ibra he will be loved like the rest of the gang.

    Went to the Barca player profile of him and under achievements, the only thing he has is runners up medal from the ACN. Shame really, coz Arsenal have had good players in the last few yrs that have deserved a cup or too. Now it seems they are a feeder club or Barca’s London based La Masia.

  3. Dani_el
    August 22, 2012

    It was a pretty good deal. Both of them are. 14M for the best left back for Barça and 19M for a starter/second best player in Arsenal, who had 3 years left of contract. Hats off to Rosell and Zubi.

    This is an analysis of the squad from Marti Perarnau’s magazine. I’m guessing that Blitzen and NZM might enjoy it. It is for everyone with basic spanish skills to enjoy 🙂

    • nzm
      August 22, 2012

      Thanks, Dani! Good analysis – straightforward and unemotional. Interesting to see that Leon is still mentioning Agger.

  4. dean
    August 22, 2012

    Say what you want about Rosell, he has a smart prudent track record and it’s refreshing to know our finances our in good hands.

    • August 22, 2012

      OTOH, he played hardass with Keita over the tax bill, leading to his departure and the need for this purchase in the first place. In the long-term, this is still probably good business, but it’s still to be determined whether this is the best thing for the team.

      • August 22, 2012

        Agree, which means one of two things: Keita was expendable, or somebody miscalculated. I’m guessing the former. He didn’t play enough last season for very good reasons as the system evolved away from the specific needs that he met, and I just refuse to believe that the people responsible for monitoring that kind of stuff didn’t realize that he was getting into “leave on a free” activation clause range.

        Have said it before and will say it again: RoSELL and the Gnomes are good businessmen. But that isn’t the only part of running a club. Ask Arsenal supporters if they’d rather have their current balance sheet or our trophy case, right?

  5. K_legit in Oz
    August 22, 2012

    Welcome Alexandre (Hleb) Dmitri (Chygrynskiy) Song Billong

  6. Gogah
    August 22, 2012

    Was all that CB stuff just noise? This is a good point, worth lingering on for a bit. Just because a certain Bartra performed admirably in only what’s worth noting some preseason friendlies, does it immediately eliminate our desperate need for a center back? What if puyol / pique gets injured? we are then immediately onto a make shift backline. Abidal played well in CB but we can’t really count on him, atleast this year. Anyways thats that and we’ll have to make do without a center back. It just seems to me that we begin every year without planning for injuries, which may or may not be a very valid occupational hazard, considering our style of play and amount of games in a season.

    now onto the song, yes, he said all the right things and yes he has excellent youtube reels that make him out to be a yaya lite with steel and flair, but i must say that I’m not so convinced about this deal being a great one as many, including you, are making it out to be. Although i must admit it is only a feeling where this is coming from. Before every transfer there are always concerns and paranoia, like the cries of mascha being a card magnet and everything, but i was genuinely super excited at the prospect of mascha joining our team. just the thought of shenanigans aside, if this guy were to fit and be the player i love him to be, what a great addition that would be! Same with Adriano, alves, ibra, cesc and all the recent transfers. Hell, I was excited even with Chygrynskiy arriving. It’s just that there is zero excitement with Song coming.

    • August 22, 2012

      I honestly don’t think the club ever intended to buy a pure CB. I think the intention all along was to buy a player like Song (or Javi Martinez) who could operate as either DM or CB.

      We currently have 4 fully fit CBs (Pique, Puyol, Masche, Bartra), plus Fontas who may or may not be staying. Now we have Song as well. That’s enough.

      • August 22, 2012

        Agree with blitzen. I think that it’s hard to cull the real information from the blizzard of journalistic chaff that EMD and Sport throw out, which might be part of their nefarious purpose, right? Right? (Yeah I’m reaching …. so?)

        I think a straight-up CB wouldn’t be the kind of profile that this club has sought in the new era, where versatility is the key. Is Song the best choice for that kind of player? In looking around, that’s a good question. Everyone (including me) loves Etienne Capoue, but there has to be a reason that a want-away player of that quality is still at Toulouse. If we see him, ALL the big clubs see him. So put that in the “unanswered questions” file. When players on smaller clubs are quality, and seemingly mature and they don’t move, there’s usually a reason. But nobody’s saying.

        The reason there is so little excitement attendant to the Song arrival, I think, is because just like when you’re on the train and nobody ever says “Yay, the ticket collector is coming,” people don’t get excited about utility players. But for my money, if Song becomes the kind of player he has the potential to be, people WILL be excited about him later.

        Everyone always says “our roster doesn’t account for injuries.” Yes, it does. Does it account for the kind of Biblical plague that we suffered last season? Nope. No roster does, or can. But as blitzen notes, we have 4 fully fit CBs, and I do think that Bartra, surrounded by grownups, can do the job until he matures fully. Add Song, and that’s 5 players who can play the position (I’m assuming Fontas is gone). If Abidal keeps his ambition/promise, that will be 6. Plenty.

        • Josep
          August 22, 2012

          ” In looking around, that’s a good question. Everyone (including me) loves Etienne Capoue, but there has to be a reason that a want-away player of that quality is still at Toulouse.”

          Just gonna throw this out there, Kevin. How often do you watch him play? Up until two-three weeks ago, I’ve never heard you mention his name, ever. And now you seem to be head of the Capoue fan club.

          • August 22, 2012

            About a dozen times, most recently in the France/Uruguay friendly, where he really was a standout. I have TV5/Monde, and when they used to show matches (thanks AGAIN, BeIN!), they seemed inordinately fond of Toulouse, and PSG. Didn’t mention him before because he wasn’t part of our orbit. Once the name came up, then it’s “Hey, yeah, dude’s got skills.”

            Montpellier also has a guy worth watching, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Still a bit raw right now, but man, what a package of potential.

            I’ve seen Song lots of times as well but again, he wasn’t in the Barca orbit, so nobody mentioned him.

          • Josep
            August 22, 2012

            Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has potential, and is EXTREMELY versatile but I think his ceiling is much lower than you predict.

  7. flyzowee
    August 22, 2012

    I dont believe zubiza one bit when he says that this is the squad they were aiming for all along.
    I think that with time running out in the transfer market, zubiza is just trying to calm any fears, doubts etc. What else do we expect him to say?

    I mean assuming that keita had not departed, is zubiza saying that the only player they were looking to buy was Alba?

    I dunno. It could be true but I doubt it. Either way theres no use complaining now is there.

  8. nzm
    August 22, 2012

    Kxevin wrote:
    To my view, now that teams are attacking Busquets, realizing his role in the tika-taka distribution chamber, something needs to change. Some matches, it might be Song in addition to Busquets, shuffling forward and back from CB to DM to AM, as the need rises.

    Ooohh – does that mean we might see the use of a double pivot? 😈

    (*runs away, laughing evilly…)

    • mom4
      August 22, 2012

      Bad girl!

      btw, looking into different air carriers…

    • Josep
      August 22, 2012

      I suggested a possible double pivot last thread as well, the options are really there. A double pivot with a back three, regular 4-2-3-1, etc. Interesting season coming up.

  9. mom4
    August 22, 2012

    Welcome Alex! Didn’t see the need for this signing but he’s here, he’s ours, his hair at the presentation looked better than some of the stuff going on with our current players hair/facial scruff, and he’s welcome.

    OT, but not really as we’re discussing midfielders and I haven’t had a fangirl moment in a long time and therefor am due . This could be my favorite Xavi vid. When he was playing hurt towards the end of last year, we kinda forgot the kind of magic he pulls off regularly. Seriously, some of this stuff should not be humanly possible:

    • August 22, 2012

      Thank you for that link. We forget. Ray Ray calls him The Inevitable Xavi. It’s that consistent quality that sometimes makes us not realize how remarkable he is. Look, for example, at some of the passes from Tello or other, newer players. The balls don’t have that weight, that absolute precision that makes the recipient’s life easier. That is the real beauty of Xavi. Usually when he passes you the ball, you don’t have to work to control it. That’s all done by the pass.

  10. August 22, 2012

    We bought our Song on the installment plan: 3.9M now, same every 6 months for the next two years. You math majors can tell me if that works out.

    • August 22, 2012

      Are these payments to be made in 4 or 5 installments? 12/6 x 2 = 4 installments; or 1(now)+ [(12/6) x 2] = 5 installments

      If 4 installments: 3.9 x 4 = 15.6m 19m (.5m more than what was written in the press release or maybe something to do with exchange rate fluctuation).

      • August 22, 2012

        Err…weird, WordPress ate some of my comment. Let’s try again:

        If 4 installments, the total number is 15.6mil, which less than 19m (maybe the rest is for agent fee or something)

        If 5 installments, the total is 19.5m. 0.5m more than the number released by the club, but it could be due to exchange rate fluctuation or rounding.

  11. August 22, 2012

    In other news, David Villa has been fined 3000 Euros for showing his t-shirt thanking his family after scoring last weekend.

    Mourinho’s fine for poking Tito in the eye was 600 Euros.

    • Srini
      August 22, 2012

      Competition Commission aka the Buffoonery Set.

    • nzm
      August 22, 2012

      There are a couple of ways in which he should deal with this:

      1. If he can pay in cash, have it delivered to the RFEF in 1c coins – unrolled, so they have to count them.

      2. If he has to pay into a bank account, pay 1c extra so that the RFEF has the administrative hassle of having to send him a 1c refund, in order to balance their accounts.

      (#2 is a common revenge tactic in Germany!)

      • August 23, 2012

        lol nzm. I used to work in a bank. clients paying in coins- unrolled…not fun. 😉

  12. psqd
    August 22, 2012

    Not to be reading too many tea leaves, but it may be important to read exactly what Zubi said. The quote I have seen a few times says that they have the “squad” they wanted all along.

    First, as Kxevin has pointed out a few times. They are never going to say…
    Dude was our third choice, or even…
    Give us some credit we picked him up from the Arsenal, half the price of Martinez, bin.

    Instead they say they have the “squad” they want. I read that to mean they have players who can fill the roles they want/need and/or give them the options they wanted. They didn’t say we have the players they wanted, cause obviously they were more than batting their eyes at Martinez and Thiago S. However, neither of those guys would go on a hunger strike to get moved to Barca for a price Barca would pay. So they got a guy who can do DM, box-to-box, and supposedly some CB. That fills the hole in the squad left by Keita and the DM/CB they wanted.

    So they got the LB and the DM/CB they wanted for the squad. Roles filled, complete squad.

    also, very optimistic to see what he of the monster moniker can do in the squad after settling in.

    • August 22, 2012

      Nice analysis. The real question one of assimilation. Can Song adapt? Someone seems to think that he can, so there ya go. The questions are:

      He doesn’t have blistering pace, but neither did Keita. Toure Yaya sure as hell didn’t. But a player has to know where to be and how to get there, so that he isn’t constantly in the wrong spot. Xavi is a flawless example of that. So is Busquets, who my mom could beat in a footrace.

      But as Guardiola and others have said, players don’t need to be fast at certain positions, the ball needs to be fast. That Song can do. I don’t know that we have had a similar type of player in a while. I think the Toure Yaya analogies keep coming up because that was the last time we had a similar player, a “t’aint” kind of player who fills a lot of roles: big, strong, can attack, pass and defend both forward and back, from DM to AM.

  13. Josep
    August 22, 2012

    “Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong. If you’re looking for a comprehensively badass moniker, look no further than our latest acquisition from Arsenal.”

    I will ALWAYS argue for Yaya Banana. 😀

    “He came over for EUR 19M straight up, which is unusual for us.”

    I’d be careful with the usage here. if by straight up you mean, no incentives then yes. If by straight up (where most people would take it this way) you mean fee up front, no. It’s in 6 month increments, like most deals are now.

    “There were nasty reports that he got a serious attitude problem once he decided that he wanted to come play for us, reports that have some people wondering just what in the hell we’re in for with this bloke.”

    These were vehemently denied by Song’s crew, I forget who but someone wrote a little piece on these. I think YoungCules did on Sulia.

    “since exactly that type would have meant finding a way around those pesky tax laws, and not having Keitteeee! flit off to China on a free transfer”

    His way out was a stupid mistake by FC Barcelona, not pesky tax laws. It was the pesky tax laws that made him not want to stay; it was our low appearance number that let him opt out.

    I won’t know how I feel about this signing until a year or two from now. Ideally, you want your fringiest of fringe players to be from the cantera. Low cost, low salary, point to prove. They get promoted, or they get sold.

    For this reason Song will clearly feature a lot. a 19m insurance policy? Who knows, I’m very intrigued but would’ve liked to have promoted from within. Then again, that’s just the financial guilt of Barcelona over the rest of the league weighing in on me.

    • August 22, 2012

      I just can’t believe that somebody on a staff of the quality of Guardiola’s, wasn’t keeping track of Keita’s minutes precisely so the player wouldn’t be able to activate that contract clause. Because that was my first thought, and I kept saying to myself “Really? No freakin’ way! Really?! Aw, HELL no!”

      The tax laws were the biggest impediment to his renewal, with the much higher rate that kicks in for foreign players. Certainly the club could have made up that difference, and would have for a player that it truly wanted to keep.

      I, too, think the “attitude” stuff is revisionist history. And every player has “attitude” problems when it’s time to go. Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto’o, Ibrahimovic. Doesn’t take much for a happy camper to become unhappy, if there’s a shard of truth in such things.

      If Song couldn’t come from La Masia, Arsenal is the next best place, I reckon. The biggest thing will be can he pick up on the speed of thought necessary to play for us? We don’t really have fast players, but they’re all really fast with the ball. One of the slowest with the ball, Fabregas, will need to improve that part of his game. He’s showing signs of improvement.

      Much is made of Song’s lack of pace. But I just don’t think you need sheer pace, unless you have a jailbreak counter, in which case you’re probably screwed anyhow, barring a Usain Bolt to chase an attacker down. I think Song will be better than his price, and probably meet expectations.

      • Josep
        August 22, 2012

        “The tax laws were the biggest impediment to his renewal, with the much higher rate that kicks in for foreign players. Certainly the club could have made up that difference, and would have for a player that it truly wanted to keep.”

        I have to disagree, though. The club’s alternative was to spend 19m on transfer, and x amount on fees over keeping Keita. it leads me to believe Keita wanted to move, rather than stay. I’m sure the club would’ve bumped his salary a bit but Keita had decided to move on. Besides, that China paycheck is no joke.

        “If Song couldn’t come from La Masia, Arsenal is the next best place, I reckon.”

        Probably, if we’re looking for similar players. But then again, in that cast I’d rather have La Masia or a “something different” option like Mascherano. I hope he meets expectations, I think he’s two footed as well but I could be mistaken.

        • August 22, 2012

          Keita has specifically said that it was the tax issue that forced him to leave. He said he had received offers from China for 5 times what he was making in Barcelona but still would have preferred to stay. The quotes are from the radio interview he gave when he wanted to denounce those fake “anti-Pep” quotes that came out.

          • Josep
            August 22, 2012

            He leaves because of the taxes, which means he won’t take home as much.
            He gets offered more in China.
            Claims he would to love stay in Barca, but didn’t because…?

            Cash, right? Hmm.. why don’t we consider him a money-grubbing footballer like anyone sold to City, then?

          • August 22, 2012

            Keita is 32, he had achieved everything he could have at Barcelona, and he deserved a massive payday before he retired.

          • August 22, 2012

            Ultimately, had the club been interested in keeping Keita, something could have been worked out. The Vilanova entrance was the chance to resolve issues such as that. It’s also easier to let a player do what he wants (as a farewell present from Guardiola) if somebody “screws up) the playing time calculator.

            Just me speculating. Then the club doesn’t have to try to sell a 32-year-old player. Keita as a free transfer is significantly more easy to deal with. We only paid 14m for him. I’d say we got value for the purchase. So why not?

    • Just a fan
      August 22, 2012

      Hahaha next time against Chelsea we must try this trick !

    • Ryan
      August 22, 2012

      That was a very clever video – who knew they could make an empty stadium actually be useful?

  14. andres ito
    August 22, 2012

    the way i see it.. will raise his game to a new level, morph into different kind of player than what he is now..and everyone will love him…you can bet smasch will be a big influence…

    30 hrs to superclasico…anyone else pumped??

    • Josep
      August 22, 2012

      Disappointed at the KO time, 3:30 here. Will stay late at work just to watch 😀

  15. Just a fan
    August 22, 2012

    I hope Song can play the center-half (CB+DM) role of Busi, he’s faster than Busi and will help us play better with a back of 3 but the problem is positioning, Busi is perfect in this regard but Machete and Song(?) are far from being perfect.
    In contrary to many cules I still believe our ideal formation consists a back of 3 !

  16. hansh
    August 22, 2012

    You know, what? We may all have our doubts about Song, but he’s ours now and that means that we will defend him 😀 (At least from fans of other teams. Internally, we will inevitably lambaste him at a moment’s notice.)

    This is not related at all, but I’m curious: are there other teenagers in the BFB family? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one…

    • AJ_10
      August 22, 2012

      Ha. Always thought I was the only one as well.

      Not that I comment much.

        • mom4
          August 22, 2012

          Good grief! I have socks older than you two!
          Now go clean you rooms, study your math, and for heaven’s sake, eat all your veggies! 🙂

          I suspect you two aren’t the only youngsters. There’s all kinds and ages supporting Barca.

    • mega_tajh
      August 22, 2012

      I’m a recently turned 19yo. Been following this blog team from the offside days since I was 15!!

      • August 22, 2012

        Nice to hear from an “old timer.” I still wonder what happened to Genis. Went to visit him in Barcelona, spent an awesome day, then nothing …. sent some e-mails that didn’t come back, but weren’t answered, either. Who knows? Probably hangin’ with Hector.

      • Colby
        August 22, 2012

        mega_tajh: Me too! I’m actually 20, but same thing. When I started following Barca when I was 14/15 I found The Offside and have been reading ever since.
        Josep: Maybe we can start a Kinda-Sorta Teenagers Club.

      • hansh
        August 22, 2012

        Sorry Josep, you can’t join our Super Secret Teenagers’ Club until your next birthday!

      • K_legit in Oz
        August 22, 2012

        I don’t doubt that at all!

  17. August 22, 2012

    Welcome Alex Song! Looking forward to seeing what he can contribute to this team.

  18. August 22, 2012

    Um …. WOOT!!!! A Tweet from BeInSportUSA:

    Good news for Xfinity/Comcast customers. Stay tuned for more updates, & as always we appreciate your patience.

    I guess that vile imprecations, voodoo chants and general rabble rousing by hundreds to thousands of people might have worked. That, and Comcast realizing that when people switch providers, they rarely switch back. So every customer lost to DirecTV, in a market that is contracting anyhow as people switch to online content providers as they realize they don’t watch all THAT much TV, is potentially one lost forEVER to Comcast.

    Sept. 3 was looming as a mass switching day, in which an “uprising” (who knows how large) was going to switch to DirecTV, en masse. Dayum! I love my Barca, but I also love not having a big, ugly dish on my roof, and having TV even when it snows or rains heavily. So satellite isn’t an option for me, at any rate.

    More to come, but things sound promising.

    • swamidigital
      August 22, 2012

      I really desperately hope this happens!

      • swamidigital
        August 22, 2012

        oops meant as a reply to the comcast post above.

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