A Chain’s Strength is Determined by its Weakest Link

With the Summer Transfer period now over, let’s summarise how FC Barcelona performed when it came to handling player transfers.

As a club that is not known for stellar negotiations when it comes to buying and selling, how did we do this season?

Out of a buying budget set at €40 million, Barça splashed out €33 – €14 for Jordi Alba and €19 for Alex Song. (Rosell will be pleased – €7 million left in the kitty for colour copies or as a contribution towards Neymar’s purchase.)

So, how did we do on the selling side?

Here’s who left the club:

First Team
Keirrison to Coritiba:  Released from contract
Henrique to Palmeiras:  Free
Seydou Keita to Dalian Aerbin:  Free
Ibrahim Afellay to Schalke 04:  Loan

B Team
Marti Riverola to Bologna FC:  Free
Rubén Miño to RCD Mallorca:  Free
Armando Lozano to Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz:  Free
Oriol Rosell to Sporting Kansas City:  Free
Saúl Berjón to Real Murcia:  Free
Rodri Ríos to Sheffield Wednesday:  Loan
Sergio Ayala to Deportivo Alavés:  Loan

For the first time, since 2003, FCB has not made any money on players transferred out of the club.

Contrast this** to Real Madrid who spent circa €35 million on Luka Modrić, borrowed Michael Essien and sold:

First Team
Esteban Granero to QPR:  €8.0 million  (+ €4 mill)
Fernando Gago to Valencia:  €5.0 million (- €5 mill)
Sergio Canales to Valencia:  €5.0 million  (+ €0.5 mill)
Hamit Altintop to Galatsaray:  €3.5 million (0)

RM Castilla
Daniel Carvajal to Leverkusen:  €5.0 million
Joselu to Hoffenheim:  €6.0 million

Now, one may rightly argue that the Madrid sales of their First Team members ran out at a loss overall, in comparison to what was spent when purchasing these players, but it was only €0.5 million, and now these players are off their books. Granero and Canales were both sold for profit, Altintop broke even and Gago (who had come to RM in a double player purchase with Higuain) lost the club €5 million off his buying price, if you evenly split the €20 million that RM paid for both players. (All figures quoted are taken from the best online sources that I could find for this information. If anyone – Bassam? Ramzi? – has more solid info on the figures, please share it.)

The biggest point in the above RM transactions is that Madrid made good money on the sales of their 2 B team players – Carvajal and Joselu – both of whom are very good players. The latter wanted to return to his birth country, so was sold to Hoffenheim.  Carvajal was courted by Leverkusen, and was allowed to leave for a healthy sum, with RM executing a scaled buy-back option which is not stupidly over-inflated.

Bottom-line:  FC Barcelona’s buying and selling negotiations are not ideal – especially for a club of its stature. Alba and Song may turn out to be great buys, but when it comes to letting players leave, the track record is not good.

Not only does the club lose money on the departures of top players, but they also lose out on selling players who come through La Masia. Not only do they lose out on selling La Masia players, but they have also become hamstrung (no more hamstrings, please!) by internally promoting players who then refuse to leave.

Case in point:  Jonathan Dos Santos.

You can’t blame the guy – he’s seen what’s happened to other Barça players who have left the club. Most don’t come back – his brother included, at the time of writing. The few who do return (Piqué, Cesc and Alba out of the current team), have become world-class in their own right and have elsewhere proven themselves in top flight teams and, of those 3, only Alba was told that he was not wanted by the club.

To his credit, JDS eschewed the opportunity to play for Mexico in the Olympics (missing out on a Gold medal), to take part in the Barça pre-season games. At the time, I thought that this was a good move on his behalf – it showed maturity and a willingness by the player to work for his future. However, it didn’t go to plan: JDS didn’t impress, and the club indicated that it would like him to gain experience elsewhere. He, as is his right, refused. Despite anyone’s viewpoint on Dos Santos’ stance, it is his right, because that’s how his contract was drawn up in the first place.

So – here he is – stuck in the football version of a no man’s land. Wanting to stay, yet not wanted right now. Holding onto the hope that he’ll be selected ahead of Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Song and Thiago. Perhaps he’ll be sitting in the stands as he watches Sergi Roberto and Rafinha also get First team playing time over him.  That’s got to be hard to swallow after 10 years at the club.

It’s not entirely his fault. The club has to accept some responsibility for his situation. They promoted him to the First Team in a situation that, I believe, is asynchronous between the player and the club. Dos Santos has huge dreams of playing for Barça while the club wants a sale, or at least a loan deal for him.

Here’s what I believe is happening to place the players and the club into these situations.

The more talented younger players are attracting the services of agents. Often it’s a family member, like the father. At other times it’s an independent bottom-dwelling slug who sees huge benefits in living off the proceeds of other people’s talents. Sometimes these 2 scenarios will collide and become the same person – a slug relative. This third variety of agent is often the worst to deal with – they have € signs in their eyes and a parent’s over-inflated perception of how well their offspring actually plays while often still unproven in top leagues.

The agents’ purpose is to sell their clients. They do this by promoting their players to as many clubs as they can. They allege that they have received offers from “several clubs” for the services of their clients and they use reputable media outlets such as goaldotcom to help spread these rumours. They then use this information during their negotiation processes with Barça. It goes something like this: “if you don’t promote my client, he will go to Arsenal/Man U/Insert-any-other-big-club’s-name-here.”

When this happens with an exceptionally talented La Masia player (i.e. one who plays better than the others in his age group), it’s usually when the player is about 16 years old. Under Spanish law, he’s too young to sign a professional contract, however he’s ripe for the picking for EPL clubs who can sign players of that age. The lure of making some seriously good money (at 16 years old) is enough for some of these kids to leave, especially if they are “encouraged” by their parent agents who can finally see some financial reward for all those years that they’ve spent driving to games and practices, and standing on the sidelines of some cold, blustery field in the middle of nowhere to cheer on their budding superstar offspring.

The club is proverbially between a rock and a hard place. After all the effort, money and time invested into the player, they don’t want him to leave because he could potentially be the next Xavi/Iniesta/Puyol. However, although the player may show exceptional talent, he’s yet to be proven in a first league where consistency, mentality, skills and continuity all play a huge part in making good players into great ones. It’s a gamble, either way.

So, how does a Spanish club retain its younger talent, if there is the threat that they can leave for professional contracts before they can sign them? They either offer them incentives to stay (promotion to First Team promises etc) or they play hardball.

Playing hardball means that the club backs itself and says, “That’s fine, Mr Agent. We would love your player to stay, as we believe that one day he’ll be a top player, but we cannot offer your client any promises. If he stays and continues to improve, the least that we can offer will be a higher value on your player when it comes to being purchased by another club. Your client has to decide whether his heart is at Barça, and whether he wants to remain and possibly be selected to play in one of the world’s best teams. If not, then he has to choose to leave.”

Incentives mean that the club offers the player some future dividends. Train hard; keep up the standard and we’ll promote you into the First Team after you’ve done your stint with the B team. If a player has shown unbelievable skills, such as Messi, he’ll come into the First Team before he’s out of his teens and he’ll have the management wanting to renew his contract so that he retires at the club.

For most of the others who have talent, have shone in the lower ranks and show some promise, they’re kept in the B Team until they’re about 20/21 years old. Take a look at the First Team’s La Masia-trained players’ ages when they were promoted and you will see that the majority of them fall into this age group. Up until then, they’ve only played some cameo performances in the First Team when, naturally, they do all that they can to shine like little diamonds so that they can be promoted.

Those who are not promoted either choose to stay in the B team or leave to go elsewhere – more often for free, rather than be sold.

It’s nice that the club can allow so many players to leave for free, but to me it also indicates that they haven’t really got a proper plan in place for handling all the players coming through La Masia. Not all of them can be promoted, and not all of them will be players of the quality required for the First Team, nor for the B Team.

However, surely they have some value as players for other clubs? This is, after all, La Masia – the holy grail of football schools. Talent scouts should be lining up at the front door to recruit players for their clubs.

I realise that it’s a fine line between handling the players as humans, or treating them as thoroughbred racehorses to be bought, sold or loaned out at whim but, let’s face it, the reality is that most players are shuffled from club to club like household chattels.  It’s only the crème de la crème who have absolute say in where they will go and for which club they will play – and that’s only if their favoured clubs are actually interested in these players to begin with, can afford to buy them and have a playing strategy which will help the player to succeed, as well as keep the club in winning form or improve their results.

At the age of 21, Dos Santos was of the age when most players from La Masia are promoted into the First Team. If there is some sort of agreement between the club and these players that they will be promoted when they reach this age, then I believe that the transitioning of the La Masia players between the ages of 16-21 is not being properly in the best way. Promising players should not be guaranteed First Team promotion as a given right when they reach around 20 years of age.

If the club persists with their La Masia philosophy and wanting to promote home-grown players, the club (and its fans) must expect that there will be years in which success cannot be measured by the amount of silverware, but by the speed at which the newly promoted La Masia First Teamers adapt and play at the top level.

The best ones will stay for a few seasons. The excellent ones will make their homes at Camp Nou – à la Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol. The players who fail to adapt will be sold outright or loaned out (although hopefully not all in ridiculous deals like Bojan’s), or most probably allowed to leave for free given the club’s track record.

I can see this situation as possibly presenting a conundrum over the next few seasons. We have to realise that the environment has changed in top level football. More than ever before, it is now all about the money and profits. Having a team that either wins or is full of star players (preferably both) pretty much guarantees that there will be a huge amount of merchandising sold, as well as attracting some big-money sponsors and healthy ticket sales. If Barça fails to perform (and that means that they have to win in the sponsors’ eyes, and this also applies to a lot of the club’s “fans”), the club’s income and marketability status is threatened.

For President Rosell to achieve his proclaimed financial recovery (and to also abide by whatever fiscal requirements may be placed on clubs by UEFA), the club has to make money and show profit. For the club to make money, it has to win silverware, fill the stadium by selling tickets and merchandise, plus attract top level companies as marketing and advertising partners.

For the Manager of Barça it will, at times, be frustrating to have 4-5 places taken up by newly promoted B-teamers who are relatively inexperienced at the top pro level, and not counted among the first-pick players to play in must-win Primera, Champions League and Copa del Rey matches. It means that, with a full complement of 25 players, 20 will have the onus of carrying the team through all the major games and, of those 20, the top 11 fittest, best players will pretty much be chosen (if uninjured) for every critical game, because there are no substitutes of comparative quality to step into all the required positions.

Pep Guardiola said that he preferred a smaller squad. Whether he actually meant it, or whether he was forced to maintain a smaller team because of budget restraints, we’ll probably never know – unless he writes a tell-all book which is highly unlikely, unless he has enough dirt to usurp the current board in the next election. Especially over the past season, I believe that we saw the fallout of having a small squad, where there were too few top-level players and there wasn’t the high quality back-up for a lot of the positions, especially when there were so many injuries and the key players didn’t get to rest as much as they should have done.***

This places added stresses on key players in the team who will sometimes play 3 games per week when all of the games are must-win scenarios. Look at how often we get nervous or are surprised when the fielded team does not contain our fittest first 11. Madrid has at least 3 different combinations of effective attacking fields and at least 2 variations of defensive back-lines – all of which are very strong. Over a long and tough competitive season where upwards of 70 games can be played, this depth in a squad has huge significance.

My question to you is this:  in today’s environment where every game is virtually a must-win, does the Barça Primer Equip have the liberty to have up to 5 players in its squad that aren’t yet ready for top league play?

My answer to that would be no.  I wholly support the La Masia concept and believe in the homegrown philosophy, but I also believe that it shouldn’t allow the First Team to become diluted. At most, we should have 2 to 3 of the best talented staying at the club, in positions where their skillsets are needed.

If FCB has to make promises to retain players, then it should be with the contractual clause to say that the players have no guaranteed place in the First Team unless there is an absolute fit for their talents within the squad – otherwise it will be expected that they will be sent out on loan to gain further experience, or sold if they are surplus to requirements.

What say you?


I don’t like to compare Barça with other clubs as I prefer to judge our club based on its stand-alone merits.  However, when it comes to player negotiations, Barça could do well to go back to school and do some learning.

 ***All that aside, though, I think that it’s incredible that the team managed to achieve what they did.  The week of 2 games vs. Chelsea and 1 game vs. Real Madrid was a hurdle too big jump over at that time of the season – exhaustion has set into the players who were still fit to play and, mentally, the players just weren’t there.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Posts

Written by:


  1. September 10, 2012

    Is it even possible to have a middle ground between guaranteed or not-guaranteed promotions?

    The only real improvement I’d say we need to do is not promote so many all at once. We had a lot of promotions this off-season. I don’t like bringing in that many new, somewhat unproven players.

    That said though, it’s not like our record with big transfers is 100% either. In some ways, I’d rather have a player like Thiago who understands that he’ll have to fight for his place than Cesc who comes in with a ton of expectations and a hefty price tag.

  2. G6O
    September 10, 2012

    Looking at the ages of the players in the first team squad and what is coming from La Masia, it seems like there will be a lot of conflict situations over the next few years. The only one who is old in the midfield is Xavi (and how we’re going to replace him is a huge headache but let’s not go into that now) so if I am midfielder in La Masia and I’m older than 15, I would be very very worried about my prospects for ever getting any playing time. The situation is the same with the attack – Messi is 25, Alexis is 24, Pedro is 25, Cuenca was promoted and he’s 21, looks like Tello will be promoted too, he’s 21; if we get Neymar, he is 20 now. If I am Deulofeu, I would be looking at that and wondering when would I ever get any playing time except as a substitute and if I am Dongou my only hope would be that Messi will not a false 9 for the rest of his career because otherwise there would be no place for me in the team.

    Also, it has to be noted that of the players who succeeded after leaving La Masia, the majority did so when they were 16-18, pretty much nobody who left at 20 became a superstar.

    The club definitely must develop some plan for properly dealing with the surplus players, a plan that does not ruin most of them while maximizing their contribution to the first team and its success. Because we’re getting into the weird situation in which we have so many good young players that we don’t know what to do with them and we’re hurting the first team by trying to solve that problem…

  3. Barcathegreatestever
    September 10, 2012

    Barca won’t win trophies forever but La Masia can attract top young players for a long long time. If that means giving some away free so be it. Making money on the youth seems like a bad business model.

    • genesfut
      September 12, 2012

      actually the argument here would be that la masia is the surest way to make money. If they set to have atleast 4 players leave at the end of each year for 5m that would be 20m per season easy. and the talent is there

  4. Blau-Grenade
    September 10, 2012

    Dear M, I am in full agreement that the club is in need of a much better policy for dealing with transfers and promotions of La Masia players.

  5. lyd
    September 10, 2012

    This JDS conundrum is indeed an interesting one for the club.

    From the player’s perspective, being a defensive/central midfielder, i feel this was the right move, i.e to stay further. For one more season at least. To train with world class players, especially midfielders, in a controlled environment is better than being somewhere where there is less competition but still no certainty of optimum playing time. Not that other clubs rotate players well with fewer choices! His age issue isn’t that big of a concern. Look at Iniesta, who broke through at 22-23 after playing a series of cameos, and who is a prime example how a midfielder can convert the lack of first team action into something truly fruitful like observational skills and intelligence. This approach does not apply well with strict forwards and defenders who needs genuine playing time to enhance their growth process (eg Affellay, Bojan). And besides, JDS has national team action and Copa Del Rey. Im hoping Tito would take CDR lightly and not start any of the core players.

    From Tito’s perspective, if he is comfortable with medium-large squad, then it is better to have midfielders as understudy. Proven defenders can be brought from elsewhere if needed and forwards/attacking midfielders are there in the bottle necked pipeline, i,e la masia. Besides, it’s not wise to have more than 15-17 top players in a squad of 20-22.

    From RoSell’s/board perspective, sticking with JDS is a safe bet. If he continues his evolution and starts for Mexico in the world cup and puts a decent show, then there would be genuine profit up for grabs. Letting him go now (or in January) to a chaotic environment makes that prospect less likely.

    Im more worried about Cuenca, Tello and Thiago compared to JDS. But hey, best things in life/Barca arrives when one comes out of oppression with patience and dedication. However big the uncertainty, things are looking way better for these players, thanks largely to what Pep did. Imagine having to break into Rijjkard or his predecessors’ system! That would have been a daunting task.

  6. September 10, 2012

    In regards to the numbers, Gago was a very expensive signing. He was bought for something around 17 m euros. Back in the day, for those that used to follow the Argentinian league, Gago was one of the most highly rated defensive midfielders. Not to mention, low wages helped bring him over. 5 seasons with us, taking it to 3.5 euros a year. Sucks that his development took a huge dip. He was supposed to be the next Redondo. Closest he got to Redondo is the hair cut.

    Altintop came into the club for free, and was sold for, as you note, 3.5 m euros. We should thank you guys for that. Apparently making an appearance in the Clasico earns you that value.

    Lass was also sold to Anzhi for 6 m euros this transfer window, as he had one year left on his contract. The best part about the Lass transfer is that he frees up 4.5 m euros a year in salary. He was bought in the January window of the 08/09 season for a hefty 20m euros.

    RM makes a lot of money from selling Canteranos and introducing possible buy back clauses for a good value. Money investment and saved salary make it the equivalent of a loan that offers you cash flow. With that said, Getafe has no longer been trusted as the team to send youth players to in the last year or so. Manager Luis Garcia is not big on technical and young players. Would much rather play physically strong and experienced players. You can ask Sarabia, he’s rotting there. Club can get him back for 3.5 m euros, which is just 0.5 m more than what we sold him for.

    • September 10, 2012

      I should also note, the club spent around 1.5m euros getting Quini and Borja Garcia for the Castilla team. Borja being well worth the money, it seems. Had 17 goals with Cordoba last season from an attacking midfield position. Scored a goal in his first start for the club, too.

    • nzm
      September 12, 2012

      Thanks for this Bassam.

      I didn’t include Lass because I thought that his deal was a loan? At least, that’s what it said in the RM press release on the site. But I did think that 6mill for a loan was kind of strange.


      As for Getafe no longer being the go-to for development players, I wonder if that anything to do with their renewed vigour against RM this season? Be interesting to see how they play vs. Barca this week. I’m already worried. 😉

      The only news that I could find about the Gago purchase was that he came to the club in a 20 million deal which included Higuain, but seems that this is wrong, given your info. Didn’t he get badly injured? I seem to remember that he disappeared for quite some time with a serious injury, and then Oezil and Khedira came along and it was Goodbye Gago.

  7. lyd
    September 10, 2012

    Regarding player negotiations:

    Okay so the transfer budget was 40M, right? And this was NOT exceeded. Doesn’t that give us the luxury to do “bad business” for a season or two?

    “FCB has not made any money on players transferred out of the club.” – For me, this kind of adds more to the “mes que un club” charm. Say, if we become that desperate for transfer money, we can easily choose to make huge profit out of foreign players like Alexis, Song, Alvez, Adriano and even from semi-foreign Cesc. All of the mentioned players (except Alvez) are yet to reach their peak, so that means they will have a huge market value even after 2-3 seasons from now. That is why i feel we can relax a bit and observe how things unfold globally. Primary objective was, is and will be, to strengthen (minimize weakness) the squad, B team as well, which has been done well with the inclusion of Alba, Song, Edgar, Ca and Araujo. In the meantime, if we loan some players, let players go for free for the sake of getting playing time, it doesn’t feel like bad business to me. What it does imo, more like a complex investment, is that it build good, healthy relations with other/small clubs and makes players get good wages in their contract (eg Keita. A nice gesture to Pep’s “moral barometer”, isn it?), in a time of economic crisis. Its not that we are letting our babies leave to the slaughter house, i.e Chelsea, for free!

  8. mom4
    September 10, 2012

    The JDS thing is so sad. You don’t earn your way onto a team by making things difficult for your club. I don’t know whether to feel sorry for the guy or be angry with him. One thing I know is that earning your spot by proving your worth elsewhere seems a lot better than hoping to get a spot by attrition.

    In other promoted too soon, inflated self-worth news:

    How to win friends, influence people, and burn bridges-

    Bojan (Milan): “I’m not replacing him, we’re different, but Ibra is a great player, I respect him a lot, he deserved better at Barcelona.”

    Oh, and, RAVENS!

    • Messiah10
      September 11, 2012

      Bojan is definitely trying to make it hard for Barca to ever bring him back again. The kid wants out permanently. I don’t blame him, but there’s a right way to go about it. Taking pot shots through the media isn’t it.

  9. nia
    September 10, 2012

    OT: but WTH is Alves doing playing for Brasil, when he couldn’t even finish the Valencia game? He played 90 mins v SA and he’s already played 64mins v China today. I mean come on. He could have played 45mins each. Watch him play like crap this weekend against Getafe and pull up saying his leg hurts. If he plays horrible, i’ll go on his twitter and give him an earful, ;(

    • replayed
      September 10, 2012

      Isn’t that Menezes’s call?

      • nia
        September 10, 2012

        It’s a friendly!!! Menezes should use common sense and rest the players from europe a little sooner. Brasil was winning 7-0 before Alves was subbed. Dani is incredibly fit but, coming of an injury, he should have sat at least one of the games out.

  10. simple_barcafan
    September 11, 2012

    Hi NZM, Excellent article. Appreciate the wonderful insight.

    When you contrast it RM and say that RM have made smart moves, it is true…But when I question myself, it has to do with the philosophies of the two clubs is it not?

    Let us face it, even though RM have a wonderful academy. how many can dream of playing in the first team..not many i guess, even though RM fans argue there are many (Iker, Guti..). And RM are more open to selling their cantera players than Barca, as they dont have a well defined philosophy as us, so they wont mind losing one talent, as they can but the next super star and build their sytem around him. barca on the other hand cling on to their youth products HOPING they do well, since it is difficult to find some one from the outside who can integrate into the system so easily. We all know the lengths we go to see if a player can integrate into the system, more than how good the player actually is. In other words, we have to buy players, only those who can integrate into our system, whereas RM buy players and change their system to revolve around that player. huge difference…Was this always the case..hmm,,arguable…

    So if Daniel Carvajal and Joselu had been from La Masia and if the coaches thought they were good for the system, do you think Barca would sell/loan them or try to play them in the first team…I think we would definately go with the latter…This approach might seems financially bad in the short term, but long term I feel this will be more profitable..

    • simple_barcafan
      September 11, 2012

      and so to answer your question 😛 ..yes..I guess, we can take the risk to have a couple of B team members in the first team..the more faith we show in the younger talents, the more likely will they be stay, knowing that they have a realistic chance of making it to the first team…

  11. Gogah
    September 11, 2012

    I’ve wanted to write on this Masia-OD issue for a while now, will take this post as an opportunity to do so.
    It is clear that Barcelona is a buying club and rarely do we ever make sales for a profit. La Masia is touted as the finest footballing academy today but we are reluctant to cash in on it? While I respect the fact that Barca treats everyone as human beings and think of them before they think of profit, we cannot possibly mislead our youngsters and ourselves in thinking that every talented guy has a chance to play for the first team.
    The fact that we have a great academy, should be an enabler, not a disabler. the balancing act of masia and foreign players is a fine line that we have to tread but Now it seems like people are being promoted just for the sake of it and we have an overload of masia graduates in the first team. While it may be true that the club would mean more to a masia graduate than a purchase, it ultimately comes down to the individual’s competitive edge. You are absolutely right in saying that promotions must be made on the basis of necessity and role requirements, not just because someone has become 21 years old. The club can make a lot of money with player sales from the masia while finding good playing time for their development elsewhere. Frankly JDS needs to get lost, not only can we not house him just because he is paranoid about becoming his brother, but his abilities also have never impressed. If he can fetch the club some money while he leaves, great, if not, no problem. its better than him just sticking around and hogging up a slot that can be filled by much better candidates (both from inside and outside). We have to remember that this is the world’s best football team. We shouldn’t feel suffocated by the need to accommodate as many masia players as possible.
    people may take pride in the fact that so many graduates play in our team and it costs half of the cost of madrid’s squad and so on.. but the fact remains that our roster poses one of the costliest wage bills for any team in any sport! which leads us to deduce that it still takes a lot of money to have the best players stick with us. the lesser talented ones should either help the team, or bring in some revenue via a sale/loan. In my opinion Fontas and JDS dont add any depth to the world’s best team. They are a liability.

  12. To those Barca B players who are looking to do well in world of football(not necessarily at Barca), I think they need to learn from what happened to both Bojan and Giovani Dos Santos. At least I believe Gio by moving to Mallorca may have finally got the situation under control But I would not hesitate to mention that what happened to him after leaving Barca would have been mental torture. The first lesson these guys need to make sure is that they go to a club where they can guarantee playing time, regardless of whether they impress or not from the start. It won’t be a bad thing to insist on a minimum playing time in the contract. I know no big clubs will agree to that, that’s why clubs which lie in middle of table in Europe’s top league should be their priority. Yup, I know they won’t be winning any silverware or enjoying great success. But even if you win could you claim that to be yours. Just imagine Bojan and Balottelli both have won UCL for the record, but can they claim that.

    Bojan’s situation is the worst. Maybe Deulofeu and Dongou should make sure that they don’t end up like him at Barca. Camp Nou faithfuls are not been known to be kind on youngsters who take time to show their skills. Giovani Dos Santos was a prime example. How many youngsters (any club) would have been booed by his own fans in his first season? We did that because it was too difficult for us to boo the likes of Deco, Ronnie or even Eto’o. So he was the best target. As a youngster the likes of Deulofeu and Dongou may be confident that they will be able to make a huge impact. But reality may turns out to be different. So it makes sense for them to try out somewhere else, where there is less pressure. The club needs to take an initiative in making these players available on loan. The club also has to make sure that they find a club they get to play regularly.

    • Messiah10
      September 11, 2012


      I agree with your opinion of Gio and picking the wrong club to begin with, but he didn’t help matters by showing up to training late, being seen clubbing it late night, and an over all unprofessional attitude. Harry Redknapp always mentioned his lack of commitment when referring to Gio’s lack of playing time. I still think he should have been given more appearances, but we don’t know the full story. Hopefully, he can get his career back on track. He always seems to play well for Mexico

      • I don’t buy Harry’s story completely. He was never given any backing because of the simple fact of Redknapp having no idea how to deal with it. The unprofessional attitude may have been there in the first season. Funny enough every club to where Gio was loaned out, they all seemed to be happy with his attitude. I always believed Harry’s decision of not giving him a proper shot was more personal than professional.

  13. Messiah10
    September 11, 2012

    Happy Birthday to Eric “King” Abidal! 33 years young today! Our thoughts are still with you in the remarkable recovery!!1

  14. Huckleberry
    September 11, 2012

    Doesn’t Barça get some training compensations from the new clubs, when youngsters leave for free?

    • September 11, 2012

      They are entitled to compensation, yes. Whether the clubs the players go to pay up is another matter. I believe Arsenal still owes compensation money for Toral & Bellerin.

    • nzm
      September 12, 2012

      I believe that fees are paid only if they’ve already signed a professional contract with FCB.

      E.g. when Pique left, Man U didn’t pay anything to Barca because Pique didn’t have a contract with FCB.

    • swamidigital
      September 11, 2012

      NOT a fan of the author’s equating modern coaches ribbing rivals with Santiago Bernabeu’s gloating over fascist victory in the civil war. He seems to think it was justified? Really?

      • Richzorz
        September 12, 2012

        Hard to tell, it sounds like his opinion is that it IS worse than Ferguson, Shankly, etc. though I suppose you have to “buy my book” to find out in greater depth his thoughts – still I was surprised (albeit perhaps by my own ignorance) as I’ve mostly heard people talking about how much of an amazing person and ‘not-at-all-supporter-of-Franco’ SB was… :s

  15. Jim
    September 11, 2012

    Just weighing in with my congratulations to Andy Murray. First Brit for 76 yrs to win a major. And he’s Scottish !!! Yayyyy! Go Murray. Best player in the world over this summer.

  16. mom4
    September 11, 2012

    Spain game on. Watching it on ESPN Deportes. For some reason its a dreadful feed. Terrible resolution.

    Still 0-0 10 minutes in. Georgia has touched the ball once or twice.

    Why are Silva and Soldado starting? Haven’t impressed lately, imo.

  17. September 11, 2012

    This article on Gai Assulin is two years old, but it makes for a very interesting read and a good contrast to Dos Santos’ situation. Gai was a very talented youth player who was on the B team in 2007-2008 when Guardiola was coach. He missed most of the next season due to injury, but when he came back he played several preseason & regular season games with the first team. The club offered him a 3-year renewal with the possibility of being loaned out for a year, but would not guarantee him permanent promotion to the First Team. Gai, being 19 at the time and suffering from a bad case of Bojangles Disease, listened to his advisers and decided to take his immense talent and highly-sought-after self elsewhere. He was soon snapped up by Manchester City…where they stuck him in the reserves. Where is Gai now? Playing for Racing Santander in the Spanish Segunda.


    On a side note, I never realized Assulin had such a bad relationship with Lucho. I’d be interested in hearing Lucho’s side of this—I suspect it may have something to do with not working hard enough in training. Anyone can shed some light on it?

    • That’s precisely what I said above. These youngsters come out of a good reputation from La Masia. So naturally big clubs show interest and soon snaps them up. But from there on the story is same. They rot in reserve or on bench and in a two year time “The next Wonder” to “The forgotten wonder”. At their age they all feel happy when big club come for them, without realizing the consequence. I think the club needs to put a policy in place where they could send these kids or sell these kids to places where playing time is guaranteed. After all if they turn out great, it’s easy for us to buy them from a Mallorca rather than City!

      • September 12, 2012

        I’m sure Assulin did have offers from smaller clubs as well as the one from City, but ultimately the choice has to be the player’s…and he went for cash over minutes.

  18. Josep
    September 11, 2012

    There’s little point in talking about transfer fees without also discussing the wages a player would be earning per year over the time of his contract.

  19. lea_terzi
    September 11, 2012

    Just to pip in with my take on our squad depth:
    I did a player-by player comparison of our squad with EE’s, and guess what? In terms of size, quality and experience, our squads are pretty close (except that we have the midfield magic, and they have one more experienced defender and a strikeforce who share the load). So this myth about us having a short squad is… a myth. (EPL clubs have bigger squads, but they play more games). What we do have is a short rotation (Tito is working on that) and a style that depends a lot on instinctive understanding between players, which makes rotation difficult.

    Anyways, player comparison (of course, we play different formations, so I draw parallels based on image and national team experience, rather than actual positions. + means we’re better off, – the opposite, and it’s all just an opinion):
    Valdes Casillas =
    Pinto Adan +
    Alves Arbeloa ++
    Alba Marcelo =
    Adriano Coentrao – (because of injuries)
    Montoya Albiol – (because we need +1 experienced centre back)
    Pique Ramos =
    Puyol Carvalho +
    Mascherano Pepe + (but if we’re honest, =)
    Bartra Varane =
    Fontas Nacho =
    Xavi Modric +
    Iniesta Oezil +
    Busquets Xabi +
    Cesc Kaka +
    Thiago Khedira +
    Song Essien +
    JDS Granero (gone, as JDS should be, for his own good)
    Messi Pobre Tristiano +
    Villa Higuain – (if he fully recovers, =)
    Pedro Benzema – (if he keeps scoring, = in our system)
    Alexis DiveMaria =
    Cuenca Callejon =
    Tello Morata =

    There is no Abidal (happy birthday!) and Muniesa, because they are not currently available for selection.
    It’s not a perfect squad, I wouldn’t mind another defender and a striker, but I guess it’s better to have top top players backed by youngsters who have grown up around the club, know the system and don’t mind the bench, rather than top foreign players who with adjustment problems and need for minutes. Just my 5 cents 🙂

    • A one on one comparison does not hold good for the simple fact that two teams play different styles and formation. A better way of looking would be try to replace the entire first team with players in reserve or something like that.

      • lea_terzi
        September 12, 2012

        Not too sure about their reserves, but it’s the same story:
        Alves Pique Mascherano Alba
        Xavi Iniesta
        Pedro Messi Villa

        Montoya Puyol Bartra Adriano
        Thiago Cesc
        Cuenca Alexis Tello

        Arbeloa Ramos Pepe Marcelo
        Xabi Khedira
        DiveMaria Oezil Tristiano

        ? Albiol Carvalho/Varane Coentrao
        Modric Essien
        Callejon Kaka ?

        They have Modric, Kaka (if Mou plays him), Benzema and Coentrao on the bench. We have Cesc, Alexis, Thiago and Song. Our only real need is a scoring forward who could play with Messi. Re: the Neymar hype.

      • lea_terzi
        September 12, 2012

        This is only about squad depth: who is available in case of game overload and/or injuries, who can provide an extra punch from the bench, who can be started in a Classico. Not so much about comparing players.

        At a fist glance, it seems that, like Michele says, “Madrid has at least 3 different combinations of effective attacking fields and at least 2 variations of defensive back-lines – all of which are very strong.” But if you look at the actual squads, the difference is not so dramatic.

        • nzm
          September 13, 2012

          So you think that it would be equal putting up

          Pedro – Messi – Villa against Arbeloa – Carvalho – Varane – Coentrao


          Di Maria – Higuain – Cristiano against Montoya – Puyol – Bartra – Adriano?

          Even with Puyol, I’d have my doubts that the back line could hold against the Madrid front line!

          I’d question Coentrao as a second pick too – it seems that he’s getting more play time than Marcelo right now. He’s certainly the danger man in the Portugal team.

  20. nia
    September 11, 2012

    Did anyone see Welbecks dive for England? Yet they don’t think the British dive, only Busquets does it. 🙁

  21. simple_barcafan
    September 11, 2012

    I still feel Soldado deserves to start ahead of Torres for Spain. He really has earned it.

  22. nia
    September 11, 2012

    Very hostile environment in Peru. Argentina are lucky to be even.

  23. Srini
    September 12, 2012

    A million and a half people (according to local police) marched for Independence for Catalunya in Barcelona yesterday. Whew!

    A pressure tactic to remind the central government that they deserved more than their present state of economic affairs and a large bailout relative to their contribution to the Spanish economy?

    Or something more geopolitically serious?

    • simple_barcafan
      September 12, 2012

      Forgive my ignorance..but do they want a separate country or just a more independent province which is still part of Spain, but has its own political system?
      If they want a separate country then, then in the current financial situation Spain is facing, it seems a major turmoil awaits the ppl of Spain..

      • Srini
        September 12, 2012

        Well, this mobilisation seems to indeed demand an independent nation, separate from Spain and going beyond maximum autonomy which even the ruling party in Catalonia prefers.

        But Michelle would be best placed to answer this. Nzm, please.

        • nzm
          September 13, 2012

          Andrew’s given a great answer below.

          The march in July 2010 was attended by 4 million people as it was a specially organised march calling for independence.

          This Independence Day March was the biggest attendance for this day.

          What I’ve noticed in the 2 years since 2010 is that there are a lot more people getting involved in calling for independence – particularly the professional workers. Before it was left to blue collar workers, students and the elderly (the latter remember the Franco days) to protest, but now they’ve been joined in bigger numbers by the professionals.

          We live in an area of Barcelona where there are a lot of working professional people. We have noticed a much bigger number of protest flags and banners appearing on the balconies around us over the past week.

          Artur Mas is meeting with Rajoy on September 20th. Spain’s not going to let go of Catalunya without a fight!

          The first thing that the region has called for is more say in how the money that the region gives to Spain is spent – much like the Basque agreement. If that’s not forthcoming, then independence is the next step.

          There’s a long long way to go before that happens. For starters, they have to decide where the borders are going to be. One presentation that I saw included French Catalunya all the way down to Valencia and the Balearics. I’m not sure that the French will be happy about that. There’ll be massive arguments over where the borders will be, I’ll guarantee!

          • September 13, 2012

            Um, the July 2010 march was a lot smaller – even the organizers were only claiming 1 million+, it was probably a good deal less (I was at both).

            This kind of Greater Catalunya with Valencia, Occitania, Balearics etc is really not taken seriously by anybody serious IMO and certainly not what people are marching for – Catalans pride themselves on their “seny” which roughly translates as “level-headed, practical, common-sensical”, and that means Catalunya as a country in the borders of the current Spanish autonomous region.

            Obviously, unification by plebiscite with some future Valencian state would be welcome because they would (with good reason) assert _cultural_ continuity with these other Catalan-speaking regions.

          • nzm
            September 13, 2012

            Oops – sorry – slip of the finger on the numeric keyboard! 1 million was the intended figure, not 4!

            Official police count from the photos taken by the helicopters hovering overhead put that march at somewhere around 1.1 million. We were stuck in Carrer de Valencia nowhere near the action!

    • September 12, 2012

      Most definitely more serious on the Catalan side – huge difference in turnout and emphasis from the previous giant march of July 2010. That march was a mix of calls for independence together with a fairly typical sort of bourgeois-catalan exasperation with the relationship to Spain. This march was solidly, over-whelmingly asserting independence and a “new state within Europe”. The political leadership is way behind the people on this and the constitutional situation is non-obvious but the game is on now in a serious way for constituting a new Catalan state.
      ps. million and a half people and police reported no violent incidents whatsoever, which is pretty striking. If you’re interested i posted just some fotos here: http://andrewcondon.com/#/Essays/11S2012/1

      • September 12, 2012

        Nice pictures! Thanks for posting. I don’t follow this story closely, so not sure what to think of it, but I heard there was a video of Pep shown on screen supporting the independence cause.

      • September 13, 2012

        What’s the difference between the Catalan flag with the blue star and the one with the yellow star?

        • September 13, 2012

          nzm probably knows more, but factions within the movement have their own flags.

        • September 13, 2012

          Blue triangle / white star is the original – red star was/is a leftist variation, and for a long time it was really only leftist parties who were independentist.

          Now that 23-year former President Jordi Pujol of the center-right party Convergencia i Unió has announced that he no longer believes that federalism can work and that he is pro-independence the original blue is probably the banner under which everyone can agree.

          Re: Pep was in NYC and he said (paraphrasing) “you can count on my vote for independence”. Much, much more surprising to me was that Del Bosque (!!) defended Guardiola’s statement and noted that “The Catalans are within their rights to demand their independence”.


          • Srini
            September 14, 2012

            I am not very surprised by Del Bosque’s comment. Being a Marquis apart – his interview with Jimmy Burns (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/sep/07/vicente-del-bosque-spain?newsfeed=true) suggests that Del Bosque remains a supporter of the Spanish Republic. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that he endorses Catalan separatism, it makes sense that he is sympathetic to their anti-centrism.

            Unrelatedly, for all its image as a Centrist, formerly pro-People Party/Fascist sympathising leadership based sports institution, Real Madrid’s conversion into a socio based club was initiated by a communist who was executed by Franco’s army.

        • nzm
          September 13, 2012

          Yup – as per Andrew’s comment.

          The blue triangle/white star was the original which emulates the Cuban flag.

          The parties in Catalunya are definitely more aligned than ever before. Everyone is hanging out for the Sept 20th meeting between Artur Mas and Rajoy. Not sure what they expect, but you can guarantee that it won’t move as fast as everyone would like. Spain ain’t gonna let go of one of its more affluent regions in a hurry.

          As for Del Bosque, it is surprising that he would make such a statement, but without the Catalunyan players, in one way it would make his life easier as Spain’s coach because he would have to play politician in balancing the team, but without the Catalunyan players, Spain has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning anything.

          • Srini
            September 14, 2012

            Thanks, Michele. It is so helpful to get a perspective in English from a resident in the area.

          • Srini
            September 14, 2012

            And thanks, Andrew as well. Great Photos.

  24. barca96
    September 12, 2012

    So iPhone 5 will be released soon.

    Hopefully it will really have at least a 4inch screen? Only thing stopping me from getting an iPhone is the small screen and the lack of SwiftKey app.

    Sick and tired of Android.
    If it didn’t have a massive screen and a cool keyboard app (SwiftKey) I would’ve switched a long time ago.

    • September 12, 2012

      I like my Samsung s3 – the screen is bigger and it’s thinner. I have the opposite problem; so sick of Apple. I just had bad experiences with their products.

      • September 12, 2012

        Been ranting about the Apple “Hallelujahs!” on Twitter. It’s bigger, but still not as big as my GS2, specs are finally in the ballpark, etc, etc. Oh, it has a new connecting pin that won’t work with anything right now, but just you wait. If Google did that with a new Android phone, Appleheads would laugh their asses off.

        Anyone with even a Galaxy S2, never mind an S3 as messifan has, must be saying “You can keep your perfection.”

  25. September 12, 2012

    Finally got to read this article. Thanks nzm! The only thing I can add to this discussion is the reputation aspect.

    There’s an issue in economics called the “Lemon Problem,” which deals with asymmetric information where sellers have more information and consumers know less, and eventually this problem creates uncertainty and distrust. As a result, buyers will look for signs of warranty and assurance before they purchase something. I think potential buyers look at La Masia players making the first team as a sign of quality; anyone who doesn’t make it signals to buyers that he is of lesser talent or skills. Buyers subconsciously think of this because they know that FCB first priority is to promote from within, so with this assurance, potential buyers are going to be more interested in youngsters from the first team. Hence, we don’t make much profit from the academy. Just a thought and it makes sense in my head.

    p.s. What’s the meaning behind the above picture? And this international break sucks! Yay, club football is back this weekend 😀

  26. Gogah
    September 12, 2012

    good question, Seriously though what is that picture?
    Sorry to be so anal, but it is so random, Not only is there no chain or any depiction of strength (title), ironically on this day when a million people marched for catalan independence, you have chosen an emblem from the franco years where the initials are written in spanish and the senyera bastardized.
    ..aren’t you a photographer? in Barcelona?

    • nzm
      September 12, 2012

      This is a photo of a stained glass window that is in the Camp Nou Barca Museum.

      Got a problem with it? Take it up with the club that displays it.

    • nzm
      September 12, 2012

      And what’s it got to do with me being a photographer?

Leave a Reply