Your superstar and you, aka “Managing up”

“Was this trip really necessary,” muses the driver, gazing at the wrecked Ferrari after a trip to the local 24-hour grocery store for some chips became something much worse. Had chips at home, but wanted a certain kind, didn’t have to mash the throttle so hard, could have taken the Ford, dammit, dammit, dammit!

Here we all are, breathing an immense sigh of relief after the knowledge that our best player is going to be okay, and might even be fit enough to play on Sunday. But, for about an hour, from when he took the shot and crumpled to the pitch, everyone was thinking, This Is It.

What’s funny is all during the match, watching with a friend, I was ranting about how Messi shouldn’t play, how there was no point to his playing, etc, etc. Cold night in Barcelona, Benfical NEEDS a win while we’re playing out the string. They’re also feeling pretty cranky anyhow about Messi’s comments that he’d like Celtic to go through, so he got some extra kicks and extra hard fouls from the Benfica players. All’s fair, right? And then there he was, laying on the pitch and all I could think was, “You don’t drive the Ferrari unless you need to.”

I was also thinking that this is the time for Tito Vilanova to grab the reins of this horse that is Lionel Messi, and get him to understand who is the coach. Because nobody does what they want, no player plays when he likes. We hear the rationalizations, that Messi thrives on playing, that he needs to play, that it’s his life blood. It’s an almost childlike joy that he takes from the game. So he plays. And plays. And plays some more. And he gets that thousand-yard stare, and the beard comes, and he starts walking/standing around as if he’s waiting for the bus. “But he needs to play, he loves to play, let him play.”

Then we see him after some time off and marvel at the difference, how fast and smart he plays, as if his powers of speed and telepathy are enhanced by being fresh, even as we never, ever consider a starting lineup that doesn’t have Messi in it.

It’s unthinkable. Our superstar wants to play. He just loves the game so much. You can’t make him angry by not letting him play when he wants to. To this I say, why the hell not? Vilanova is the coach. Messi is the player who the coach is in charge of. What the coach says, goes. As my late Grams would say, “You’re mad? Scratch your ass and get glad!”

In many ways, it is an odd sort of unassailable tyranny that Messi perpetrates. He loves the game, and wants to play all the time. How can anybody argue with that? It isn’t even about playing time, as it is with other players. It’s just about wanting to do something at which he is extraordinary, as often as he can. Do you want to be the one who shackles Messi, the one who got him angry about not playing, to the point where he’s sulky and less productive?

Be for real. You can’t squash a player like Messi’s love of the game by not letting him play as much as he wants. Further, Messi is a consummate professional. Can anyone really see him not giving of his best because he doesn’t get his way all of the time? Again, be for real. At management training school, we learned the art of managing up, dealing with your boss and managing that person in a way that helps you get the results that you need. In an odd way, that’s the position that Vilanova is in, with his superstar.

As we all know, Messi is chasing a record that was assumed would never be caught, much less broken. He played against Benfica for no reason other than he wanted to play …. and then there’s that record business. Everyone can puff out their vicarious chests and say “Our Leo Messi is the greatest scorer in the history of the game. The objective stats say so.” Then we start the engine of the Ferrari ….

But there is absolutely no blame to be had in this near miss. Who among us wants to take candy from a baby, in this case playing time away from the world’s best player? But I say that Vilanova has to, because this isn’t about Messi, or the Muller record. It’s about FC Barcelona and the collective success of the team, a success that a damaged superstar can derail, simply because a coach doesn’t have the heart to say “You don’t play today.”

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Written by:

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. December 6, 2012

    If I’m going to blame anybody, I’m going to blame the rest of the team for not being able to score. If we’re up 2-0 or something, I don’t think Messi comes in at all.

  2. December 6, 2012

    Okay, show of hands. Please raise your hands up if you wanted Messi to play yesterday just because of that ‘record’.

    Also, think hard about whether this was really good for the team – short term (Betis is no cake walk) or long term..

    • bhed
      December 6, 2012

      I did. Between the record and a long break coming in a couple of weeks, I don’t think it was crazy. Reasonable people could disagree, but it wasn’t a no-brainer. When you’re lucky enough to have a player chasing history…that’s part of the overall picture.

    • Messiah10
      December 6, 2012

      I didn’t. There’s plenty of time to break “that” record. Yesterday’s game had no bearing on the end result. It’s not like times running out. The result didn’t matter. We already finished top of the group and he shouldn’t have played. I think Tito felt pressure to play him because Messi mentioned he’d like to break the record at the Camp Nou. It would be a special moment for him and cule’s to share together, but it’s not so important that you forsake a meaningless game and perfect time to rest for it.

  3. December 6, 2012

    Tito’s comments have answers for most your accusations (I am not saying it in a negative way, cant find a suitable word though)

    And we also watched how our team all of a sudden got an attacking intent with the stepping in of our little man. Even Benfica seemed to recollect their fouling lessons.

    “I took a shot because I was in pain,” Messi said Thursday. “I thought it might be the last time I kicked a ball in a long time.” These words of Messi, for me, proves his love for playing.

    Read More from Lowe:

    I have one more question too – Would we be all reacting so cooly, had Benfica scored 2/3/4 in the first half. A lot of Barca fans would have been angry with Tito, isnt it.

  4. Blau-Grenade
    December 6, 2012

    Relax everybody. Messi is protected. Image courtesy barcastuff.

  5. December 6, 2012

    “You don’t drive the Ferrari unless you need to.”

    If I had a Ferrari I would drive it every opportunity I had.

    Also, I’m going to take an unpopular position and say that in context, keeping Messi happy by letting him play half a match and try to break Gerd Muller’s record was more important than getting him another half of rest.

    If I could go back to before the game, I’d still support him coming on as a sub in the second half. Even though the desire to argue from hindsight (knowing he got the knock) is great.

    • December 6, 2012

      Also, let’s not forget that Messi had 90 minutes of rest a week ago.

    • bhed
      December 6, 2012

      Agreed. History, emotion, personality IS a part of the game for the players, coaches, and fans. This is a game for humans, not Vulcans (Mr. Spock from Star Trek, for the less-geeky among us).

      • mom4
        December 6, 2012

        Fear not. The geek quotient is alarmingly high here. 🙂 Should have been here for some of the LotR soccer related discussions.

    • Nik
      December 6, 2012

      Yeah, I don’t blame Tito either. There’s a reason he’s the manager of Barça, while the rest of us are just observers from our couches. If he says he felt it was best for Messi’s fitness plan for him to play, then I give Tito the benefit of the doubt. He’s got access to more information about Messi and the team than I do.

      Besides, he rested Messi last week, while also keeping him out of yesterday’s game until after the second half had gotten underway. It’s not like he’s afraid to stop Messi from playing.

  6. December 6, 2012

    Tito Vilanova:

    “Messi playing 30 minutes was talked through, it was part of his physical training programme. You can also get injured in training. I gave him the last 30 minutes because it was a good workout and he loves competing. I would do it again.”

    • Messiah10
      December 6, 2012

      I love Tito! He’s so direct and to the point. He doesn’t beat around the bush and hold punches. I like his conviction too. “..I would do it again.” Basically, shut the F up. “I’m the coach, I know better because I’m informed by specialists, trainers, Messi, etc.” Second guessing is easy with hind sight. I still wouldn’t have played him, but I’m not the manager of FCB. Tito is. Thank god!

  7. Jim
    December 6, 2012

    It’d be great to think we could rest Messi more regularly. I’m still not sure where the goals are coming from though. Take Messi’s goals away and that’s a lot of goals from a whole set of players who don’t score double figures. Leaves us with Pedro who can’t buy a goal and Villa ( who I thought wasn’t poor but was anonymous. The only person who was going to deliver a suitable ball for him was Messi. )

    Glad we’re all being a bit more realistic about our second stringers now. We don’t have another golden generation in that team. We may get two or three at most who will make the firsts. However, for me, Thiago is one worth waiting for. He has all the skills and, as someone said, has added work rate. I didn’t think he could adapt in that way. The rest in terms of when to pass and cutting out the showboating can be learned.

    Won’t argue against Messi coming on. I was all for it and he made a difference. He is so close to a historic record and has done so much for the club he deserves the chance to beat it.

    • December 6, 2012

      Thiago is definitely worth waiting for. For Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu and Raifinha it is too soon to judge. Deulo and Raifinha could be part of a “golden generation”. Or not.

      This is the biggest reason I would like to get Neymar next season. He might be the only one in his age group who has the potential to be a “one-time-in-a-generation” type player

  8. mom4
    December 6, 2012

    If he comes in for 30 minutes after Benfica is tired out, scores that historic goal, leaves the game healthy, then there’s no complaining. Tito looks like a genius. He sat the flea for the Copa game. He sat him for the majority of this game and put him in fresh against a tired team. Record or no record everyone’s happy: those who wanted rest for him and those who wanted him to play.

    But stuff happened.
    Because stuff happens. Stuff could have happened in training. He could trip over Thiago’s teddy bear at home. So do we keep him in bubble wrap only to be brought out at the safest and most important times like that set of china I got for a wedding gift and only used twice in 24 years of marriage.

    We can argue about playing our best in a game that means nothing to us against an opponent for whom the game means everything. My only issue is that a few more of our better players should have been in there controlling that game if it were known that Messi would indeed be called off the bench. Injuries happening to our starters because they are covering for/ picking up the slack of lesser(developing) players is what worried me the most. Put in just a few kids with a lot of the experienced guys, or put in only the kids if you truly don’t care about the result.

    The record may be of secondary importance but let’s not pretend that it is meaningless. It’s in the human nature to strive to break records, to better the last achievement, to dare things that others can’t dream of. We’ve been to the moon. Was it necessary? No. Was it dangerous? Yes. We did it because we could. Messi does this because he can. We enjoy it because he’s ours.

    Not worried about Thiago. Dude needs nore games. He’s not fully back yet. More alarming to me was Villa performance.

    • December 6, 2012

      Agreed on everything. Especially your thoughts on Thiago and Villa.

      • December 6, 2012

        Why was Villa’s performance alarming? He had at least 50 games like that during the previous 2 seasons :p

        (running for frantically for cover from the onslaught of angry commenters)

        • December 6, 2012

          I’ll give you last season, but I thought Villa was generally straight fire in ’10-’11.

        • mom4
          December 6, 2012

          Oh dear! Now you’ve done it! Enjoy your exile. 🙂

          • Jim
            December 6, 2012

            Not sure everyone has been looking at Villa’ s scoring record recently….. I’ll say it now. If he is still with us at the end of the season he’ll be our second top goal scorer.

  9. simple_barcafan
    December 6, 2012

    You were saying Tito was not bold enough to rest him…If Pep was still our coach, he would have most likely played him the entire 90 min and probably the CDR match last week also…

    I feel Tito is more cold than Pep..And I agree with Calvin on this one..I would have driven a Ferrari every time, everywhere if I had one 😛

    • Messiah10
      December 6, 2012

      What makes Ferrari’s so expensive is not only the cost of purchasing one, but the maintenance required to maintain it. To have it maintained the mechanic’s have to completely disassemble the engine and then rebuild it. Oil Changes are in the thousands of dollars. So, if you drove the Ferrari every day you would run the risk of costly repairs rather than letting it sit in the garage every once in a while. 🙂

      • December 6, 2012

        Yeah but I wouldn’t buy a Ferrari unless I had the money to blow fixing it!

        Actually, I probably wouldn’t buy one anyways, but I’m not really into cars.

        • Art is a blast
          December 7, 2012

          screw the ferrari i’d rather buy a horse

    • Barcaleya
      December 6, 2012

      Exactly. If I had a Ferrari, I would drive it as often as need be.

      I loathe people who buy stuff just to display them. Buy a Ferrari and park it in the garage and invite people to their house to gawk at it.

      Messi is not someone to be kept at home and displayed.

      His value is his skill at play. At play. Not on the bench.

      Just like everyone else, he shouldn’t be ran ragged and kicked and abused. But with proper rest, he is best when he gets to play often (without overdoing it of course). It’s when he plays that he gets to solve all the puzzles in his mind of how to open up defense, score goals in this and that situation. He’s an intelligent player. And thankfully, he’s also built sturdily.

      Happy he wasn’t injured badly yesterday. But to compare him to a Ferrari and say that a Ferrari should only be driven when needed to is….absurd.

      When does one NEED to drive a Ferrari? Any other car will provide as much utility. If it were for racing, all the more it will have to be driven. Or how else will it win the race? That question is posed by someone who is 1) not a race car driver 2) who really cannot afford a Ferrari 3) and only has one for bragging. In that case, the answer is NEVER. And can you really afford to never play Messi?

  10. December 6, 2012

    My preference order for our potential CL opponents and reasons:

    Shakhtar – The only team I really hope we draw. They play a very entertaining brand of football, and while this tie has the potential to be a stern test, it’s almost guaranteed to provide some attacking, entertaining football.

    Milan – Having one of their worst years, possibly the worst, of the Berlusconi reign. Still, they have a lot of history in Europe and have been starting to find a bit of form. Interested to see how El Shaarawy performs against our backline.

    Galatasaray – Don’t really have an opinion on them one way or another.

    Porto – Perennially a tough team in the CL, and the Estadio Dragao is one of the most unforgiving stadiums in Europe. Would prefer to save them for a later round.

    Arsenal – if we play Arsenal this early my brother will likely whine for the next 6 months about how Barcelona is too good and Messi is unfair. The other scenario is even worse – he gloats for 6 months. I’d like to avoid that.

    • December 6, 2012

      I want Arsenal. A Champion’s League run somehow feels incomplete without them. Also they get worse every year.

      • mom4
        December 6, 2012

        Sadly, I agree. They are a shadow of their former self. Then again, so is Milan. Don’t want Shahktar. The Ukraine is still pretty cold in February. Guess I’ll go with Milan just ’cause I like Santi Cazorla too much to want to knock him out of the competition so soon.

    • December 6, 2012

      I want avoid Shaktar just because I want to avoid the travel.
      Same thing sort of goes for Galatasaray.

  11. December 6, 2012

    For me it’s not even about resting Messi or protecting him from getting injured (although those are also important considerations). What irked me about Messi playing in this match is that it made it all about him and whether he would break Muller’s record. This game was meant to be a reward for the youth and for the players who have had fewer opportunities to play. An opportunity for them to show their stuff and get valuable first-team minutes in a game where the result wouldn’t ultimately matter much. Instead it became a “will he/won’t he/should he/why did he?” drama, and I resent that.

    • December 6, 2012

      (And for the record, I was quite vocally against playing Messi before the game, so this isn’t hindsight based on his injury. He would have had (and still has) several other opportunities to break that record. It just wasn’t necessary to play him yesterday.)

    • December 6, 2012

      well brace yourself because like it or not, pretty much every game he plays this month will be about the record…

      • December 6, 2012

        And that’s fine. Nothing wrong with trying to break the record. He just didn’t need to try and do it yesterday.

    • December 6, 2012

      1. I doubt the youth players who were getting their reward resented the fact that Messi came on. In fact, as a youth player I’d think it would be a greater reward to get playing time with Messi, than to get playing time with him on the bench.

      2. Don’t think the two story lines are mutually exclusive. The press undoubtedly will focus on the Messi story line, but if #1 is correct and it isn’t bothering the youth players (and let’s be fair, as a professional football player you almost have to ignore the press) then I don’t see how there is any harm done.

      • Jim
        December 6, 2012

        I would think that given their display some would have been positively delighted to have someone take the spotlight off them 🙂

        • December 6, 2012

          hahaha harsh… For a group of kids to play 0-0 against Benfica is pretty impressive. I remember them giving our starters a hard enough time in Lisbon, well at least in the first half.

    • bhed
      December 6, 2012

      Except that the youth and the players who have had fewer opportunities were stinking up the pitch and disrespecting the colors with their execrable passing!

    • Barcaleya
      December 6, 2012

      I am sure that the youth players are happier when playing beside Messi. It is more flattering for them to be able to say that they played alongside Lionel Messi. If they played only with themselves, it’s like a regular B game/side so what’s the diff?

      How the media or the spectators make of it is not the player’s concern. I am sure that the B players would be the happiest if Messi broke the record and they could say they played with him, alongside him, and were even at THE game where he broke the record.

  12. mom4
    December 6, 2012

    It took us forever to see Ini’s baby. Nobody’s seen mini Messi or mini Valdes yet. And yet Pique has his baby pictures up even before the birth. Who do you think he looks like? Or is it more important that he play like his daddy and dance like his momma?
    from barcastuff…who else?

  13. fiazhamsath
    December 6, 2012

    Messi after all is a human(Yes, you read it here first). I would want him to be rested every time we get a chance. We go 3-0 up in a CL Final? Sub him off at 70′! Much like it. He is a Pearl for me, wrap it in sponge, cotton or whatever & preserve it as much as possible!

    As for the Ferrari comparison, I wouldn’t use my Ferrari for going to buy a fish in the near town market, but may be for a posh marriage, where I can show it off!

  14. nzm
    December 6, 2012

    If Messi had gone down in the GK’s tackle, it would have been a penalty.

    Just sayin’. 😀

    • Messiah10
      December 6, 2012

      That’s what irks me. Why does he HAVE to go down for it to be a foul or penalty? If ref’s started calling those fouls then diving would be eliminated. RayRay mentioned it against Levante I believe. Maybe another game, but same point. Messi doesn’t get enough credit for NOT going down. Ref’s don’t call it and he/we suffer as a result. Not cool.

  15. Sangoku
    December 6, 2012

    That record is a big deal. Messi, with all his humility, says otherwise but let’s not kid ourselves; he wants it, he needs it. He’s worked hard all year long, he’s come within that touching distance – and he prefers to do it with his home crowd cheering him on. What’s wrong with that? Has he not earned that right?

    Let’s not “crucify” Tito. Risking to disappoint Leo with Barça’s playing system wholly built around him is NOT good management. Sometimes you have to man up but sometimes you have to make concessions too, both for the group’s benefit. Morale plays such a huge factor, at this level especially.

    I still remember the year Pep was appointed head coach. Barça appealed to keep Leo from going to the Olympics. Even though we won that legal battle against Argentina’s NT, Pep still decided to let the boy go. He could’ve got injured there too! But he came back with that medal and then… Well the rest is history!

    • ooga aga
      December 6, 2012

      as in, it took 7 dudes to stop him

      • Manish
        December 6, 2012

        Only if the other Barca players had positioned themselves for the pass rather than admiring his run.. it would have been a goal..:)

        • Jim
          December 7, 2012

          Yeah, but you’ve seen the picture. Where would you have put yourself?

  16. Messiah10
    December 6, 2012

    BTW: Messi has ALREADY tied Gerd Muller’s record! Marca, have found evidence that shows 1 of Muller’s 4 goals against the Soviets was an Own Goal by their Keeper. Link to story and video footage. It’s clearly an own goal. However, Marca are still calling Messi’s an own goal so they have him 1 back. Hilarious. They went to all that trouble so they didn’t have to admit they were idiots! lol.

    • Richzorz
      December 7, 2012

      Now THAT’S an own goal!! Really was a different game back then…

  17. Art is a blast
    December 6, 2012

    It would be a great honor for messi and his talents to break the record. Records are something to be remembered by for many many years to come. Honestly, I didn’t know who Muller was if not for this and being CL’s top scorer. That said, I want Messi to be remembered by how he played on the field, what he added to the game rather than how many goals he scored because he deserves more than that.
    However, if going for the record brings out the best in him, than go for it Leo! Just don’t push yourself too hard. Remember even if you do break the record, there’ll always be someone else who’ll break it again. It is what you leave behind in people’s memory that counts.
    I want that record for him….but I want him to be fit too. What to do? I love Messi but I’m a selfish fan too….

  18. Dani_el
    December 7, 2012

    Thank you Kxevin for your insights. Though I don’t agree with them. Tito know more about his players, and he did say that his 30 minutes were planned. Not that he can’t be wrong sometimes, just that it seems obvious to me that he has information about his players that we don’t. I have a couple of interesting articles in this respect. Because of time I’m just gonna translate an extract of both of them. I truly recommend them.
    By Jorge Martinez
    “It was an unusual scene, that logically, had immediate consequences on Twitter, where we saw timely comments such as, “this happens to him because he plays when he doesn’t need to”, a phrase that we would have to look upon from various different angles to make some sense out of it, because the flea (Messi) has been around almost 5 years without serious injuries playing absolutely everything, with the exception of the 2 weeks he had to recover from Ujfalusi’s bite. The correct thing to say about this would be to make a note of, that this happens when Messi does not play as a starter” (…)

    • Dani_el
      December 7, 2012


      By Rubén Uría
      Nobody better than him knows what one has to endure because of injuries, his most feared hell. There was a time, not that long ago, when they almost ended his career.
      Tense muscles. His Achilles’ heel consisted in an excess of muscular tension that accelerated his fatigue and penalized him for making continuous efforts. His constant injuries put in risk the argentine’s stability. His legs, a copy of an athletics runner, have the explosiveness and maximum power, something that condemn him to an excessive wear, that elevates the risk of injury. In medical terms, Messi’s legs present an abundant quantity of “rapid (speed) fibers”. Some people tried to argue that he had this problem because of his growth hormones treatment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Messi was born with these fibers on his legs, and boosted them with constant training. Something entirely different is that this treatment on his youth may have something to do with his muscular problems. (…)
      Injuries history. But it is possible that this treatment sparked off some negative secondary effects on his body because, though treatment was key to help him grow, it generated an unbalance that caused more tension on his muscles than usual. Dr. Josep Borrel, ex chief of medical services in Barcelona assumed this possibility on the Público newspaper: “The treatment generated an extra muscular tension, that facilitates tears. The muscle is subjected to too much tension, the muscle is short and it is in need of complete recovery.”
      (…) There was a history on injuries that endangered his career (from February 2006 til’ march 2008). In 3 seasons, Messi spent 210 days injured, out of the team.
      Interiorize change. After a careful analysis, Barça’s medical team estimated that he should administer his efforts, limit them to protect himself from injuries and to improve his performance in order to play 50-60 games by season. Only after a deft work, of convincing him of the reasons of the problem, and making him see that he had to take care of his body, and convince him so he wouldn’t do efforts that could bring him negative consequences, he finally could fix this injury strain. His wear out in his first seasons after this, where he played more than 200 games from 2008 until 2011, pointed out that he had to demand less from himself. Or at least, measure his physical efforts more carefully, spacing them throughout the game. Something complex for Messi to interiorize, being a football player that never wants to lose a game, whether it is an important one or not, and that is stubborn accepting that he needs to take a break in order to relax. Without going to far, after the Clubs World Cup in Japan, he was ordered to rest, so he could prevent injury. If he wouldn’t have stopped, his presence on the team would have been endangered by the end of the season.
      Prevention, work and Juanjo Brau. There is a before and an after in Messi’s injuries. Before Guardiola and after him. (…) Today Messi has even changed his way of running. He’s not a force of nature that always plays on his outmost speed, tracking back and making incredible runs. Now he has learn to pace himself, and to rest a little after each sprint, and to calculate the kind of efforts he must do to keep himself on the ground. Now he plays 60 games a season. A complete change. This allows him to score more goals, to have more passes and to be always available. Statistics are there: once he changed his playing style and started working with Brau, in 4 years with Guardiola, he only had an elongation in his abductor muscle, an overload and a strain on his ankle ligament, consequence of Ujfalusi foul on Calderon Stadium.
      Being ready for a whole season. (…) During his time on Barcelona’s first team, Messi has barely had the same preparation as the rest of his teammates. Last season he played 69 games. He never played this much. Now, after 36 vacation days, he’s in full flight, after a complete pre season training. After Benfica’s false alarm, free of this muscle injuries ghosts, Messi is in perfect physical conditions. His bodywork is still intact, and he keeps on going in full flight.

      • Dani_el
        December 7, 2012

        Sorry for any mistakes in the translation. I hope everybody can read this, and that this helps a nice discussion about this subject! 🙂

        • Emeka
          December 7, 2012

          Thanks. Great and informative read.

      • December 7, 2012

        Thank you.

        Its no wonder that Messi goes missing in games for few minutes.
        It is easy to see that Messi not pressing, like our other players, is because of strict instructions to keep him ready and fit.

      • Richzorz
        December 7, 2012

        After all of the “Messi is only good because of growth hormones” cr*p one sees on the internet it’s refreshing to think what could have been if he hadn’t required them in the first place!!

        Anyway, I feel kinda bad just typing that…glad enough to be able to witness the only Messi in existence! 😀

      • replayed
        December 7, 2012

        Extremely enlightening. Thanks for sharing.

      • barca96
        December 7, 2012

        Thank you for always sharing these great articles and translating them!

      • Cy
        December 7, 2012

        Wonderful stuff from Ruben Uria. Thanks for sharing and translating.

  19. nia
    December 7, 2012

    El Pais describe Messi the best, “The flea is rubber” said their heading after Leo worked out in the gym this morning. 🙂

    That foul by the GK should have been a penalty. Admirable that Messi stays on his feet 99% of the time but, it always works against him. When he does go down especially in la Liga, he gets carded yet, Di Maria gets pens left and right at the slightest touch. Well i guess they figuered it won’t be fair for everyone else if Messi got awarded those as well.

    • ooga aga
      December 7, 2012

      i was in an “irish” bar in seattle, the celtic fans were supporting barca, and the one next to me was dumbfounded how messi stayed up, and tried the shot….a clear penalty.

      • barca96
        December 7, 2012

        and the one next to me was dumbfounded how messi stayed up, and tried the shot….a clear penalty.

        It is getting ridiculous now how he’s always denied a penalty just because he stayed up. It has happened 2 matches in a row now, Athletic and Benfica.

        He was tripped from the back at the weekend and tackled by the goalkeeper.

        Yes, advantage should’ve taken place as Messi had a chance to score but just like how in any other place on the field when the advantage is given didn’t work out, a foul is given.

        Why can’t the same happen in the penalty box?

  20. ooga aga
    December 7, 2012

    uefa stats after the group stage — 6 games and 540 possible minutes

    just for comparison

    5 goals, 3 assists, 482 minutes, 44027 meters covered = 91.3 meters per minute

    6 goals, 1 assist, 540 minutes, 60405 m = 112 m/min

    2 goals, 5 assists, 523 minutes, 52635 m = 101 m/min

    messi runs less than even ibra! LOL

    • ooga aga
      December 7, 2012

      of the 30 players with 200+ minutes and 3+ goals, the only player who ran less per minute was chicharito. the average of these 30 was 118 meters per minute. messi is running almost 30% less than average among top goal scorers! thats amazing!

    • nzm
      December 7, 2012

      Ronaldo helps out in defence a lot more these days.

      • Richzorz
        December 7, 2012

        Guess it says a lot about the teams faced in the group stages, Madrid certainly had a tougher time whereas even in the defeat to Celtic it isn’t too surprising that Messi didn’t have to chase up and down the pitch so much…

  21. KEVINO17
    December 7, 2012

    One of the reasons Messi hates being benched is that playing games is the most fun way to stay fit. It’s a lot more fun running around a training pitch.

  22. barca96
    December 7, 2012

    Levon, you might know this dude called Shinji Ono from the Feyenoord days. Apparently he is in the A-League now and look at how the dug out looks like over there;

    It’s strange that I didn’t notice it when watching the A-League when I was in Australia.

    Don’t think Beckham would be impressed with it 🙂

    Ono was a pretty decent player, similar to Park Ji Sung, don’t know what went wrong. If I’m not mistaken he had a big injury and never looked the same.

    • December 7, 2012

      Ono was decent, but very different to Park Ji Sung though. More technical, more creative.

      Then again, the Eredivisie makes decent players look like world beaters, these days…

  23. Fans usually freaks out when their favorite players get injured and looks for someone to blame. People should always remember that freakish injuries cannot be prevented and has to be seen in a different way. If Vilanova knew that Messi was carrying a knock and still played him, there is some point in blaming him. But the truth was he was absolutely fit. So it made sense to give Messi the last 30 minute. It keeps him match ready , also if he scored that 85th and 86th goal then he could play more freely against the likes of Atletico, Betis. I would say he should be rested against Betis, but release him in Copa del rey.

    Freakish injury happens. The likes of injury which happened to Pique, Puyol, Messi etc cannot be prevented at all. If it is meant to happen then it will happen. One can blame the coaching staff if they knew there was trouble with the player and still risked him. Or something like rushing a player from injury. But our boys don’t do that. They didn’t allow Pique to be rushed in time for Clasico.

  24. mei
    December 7, 2012

    History is important.

    Placing a strong lineup in a CL match even if you are qualified is also important.

    Ensuring team progress and success by inserting youth talents alongside accomplished and experienced champions is crucial.

    So many people criticising the coach for playing messi in the last 30 minutes of a CL game, when he was fit, rested in the copa match and on the verge of making history.

    Mind boggling.

  25. barca96
    December 7, 2012

    Whoa I brought Jnice back?!!! Even when I called for the numbers during the hurricane Sandy, you didn’t come out.

    Yes, I downloaded more than a handful of B matches from 2009 to watch the youngsters like JDS, Thiago, Fontas, Muniesa and Bartra because according to Pep’s old blog, they were the future. Thiago is the one that caught my eye. So stylish although too casual at times but I thought he would get that out of his system as he matures especially with the first team.

    I seriously think that he hasn’t improved much. If this goes on until next season, I am afraid he will be another JDS.

    Part of why I think Thiago is not progressing much is due to the lack of playing time. It is not his fault. It is just the way it is.

    Yes he did have good games here and there. The one that springs to my mind is the match vs. Santos. He played as a LW in that match and ever since that, I’ve always wanted to see him there more often. When he is there, there is less risk when he loses the ball.

    When I first saw him he did looked lightweight but he never loses the ball unless there was a shove or a really strong challenge. He was so impressive!

    • Jim
      December 7, 2012

      Yeah, proud of them even although the stadium was almost empty by then. Now, what I’d really like to see is Barcelona reciprocating by playing “You’ll never walk alone” before the next home CL match in the Camp Nou. 🙂

      You would genuinely never have a more emotional experience in your sporting life than singing that in a crowd of 90000. Would we be fired up after that or what ?

  26. December 7, 2012

    Thoughts on our possible rivals for the next CL round:

    Galatasaray—my personal choice, only because I have never seen Barça play them and I will be interested to see what they bring to the game. Plus I look forward to a detailed preview on this team from Isaiah. Also, who doesn’t want to play against Hamit Altintop? 😀

    Porto—I don’t follow Portuguese football, so I know nothing about their squad beyond that they don’t have Hulk anymore (apparently he is not enjoying his time in Russia and is threatening to leave). From what I recall of the UEFA Super Cup, they have very large players and not very many actual Portuguese. They are currently first in their league without having lost a game. I suspect they would be our toughest opponent of the choices available, so I would prefer not to meet them in this round.

    Shaktar—As fun as it to play this Ukrainian/Brazilian team, and as nice as it would be to see Chygrynskiy again, I would prefer not to, only for travel reasons. Although I have nice memories of their crazy bare-chested fans!

    Milan—Milan is no fun anymore now that Seedorf has retired and Zlatan has taken his craziness to France. I know some people would love to see Bojan again, but I’d be afraid he might try to steal a shirt and slip back into our lineup. And wait, Nigel de Jong plays for Milan now? When did that happen? UGH. Although I think this is probably our easiest match-up, it’s something I would look forward to.

    Arsenal—Well, it would be traditional. And it would be lovely to see Santi Cazorla playing against his NT teammates, plus all the pre- and post-game hugging that would ensue. In football terms I’m pretty sure we would systematically take them apart. But would it be worth enduring the weeks and weeks of Gooner trolling and the inevitable angst from Cesc when we knock them out? I’m so over Arsenal.

    Galatasaray it is! I hope.

    • December 7, 2012

      Seeing how Galatasaray is from one of the most beautiful cities in the world inhabited by some of the most hospitable people in the world… I don’t want Barça to eliminate them just yet. Besides, Turkish footballers are liable to break somebody’s leg on that most well-intentioned of days, lol

      Arsenal, for me.

      • yassir
        December 7, 2012

        Me 2 , Arsenal all the way, up the Arsenal i say.
        Also, again, i want to see if Cesc will do a Henry.

  27. Josep
    December 7, 2012

    “As we all know, Messi is chasing a record that was assumed would never be caught, much less broken.”
    Before the season, I think about 1% of people even knew of the record, let alone gave it any merit. Until he passed Pele no one talked about it, so don’t pretend they did.

    If he gets injured in a CL final do you write this article?
    He wanted to play, coach wanted him to play, he wanted to maintain match fitness. He played, he got hurt, it was unfortunate, could happen anytime.

    I wanted him to start and be subbed out, not subbed in, but whatever. Anyways, what I gathered from this article, is this is somehow Tito’s fault. Whereas Pep would’ve probably played him 90 minutes.And why does Messi need rest all of a sudden, in December? Right before winter break?

    And Blitzen

    “For me it’s not even about resting Messi or protecting him from getting injured (although those are also important considerations). What irked me about Messi playing in this match is that it made it all about him and whether he would break Muller’s record. This game was meant to be a reward for the youth and for the players who have had fewer opportunities to play. An opportunity for them to show their stuff and get valuable first-team minutes in a game where the result wouldn’t ultimately matter much. Instead it became a “will he/won’t he/should he/why did he?” drama, and I resent that.”

    Isn’t almost every game about Messi and what he’ll do? And how is the A team’s hard effort and work a reward to the B team? Hmm. If anything the reward should be playing with Messi, something they’ll have to do if they break into the first team. Exactly who did he keep off the pitch anyways? Would that 30 minutes have made Rafinha that much better of a player?

  28. December 7, 2012

    I’ve seen a lot of people saying Thiago is too “loose” with the ball, whatever the hell that means. I’m assuming it means he misplaces passes too often, or that he gives the ball away too often.

    Last season Thiago consistently recorded better than 90% completion rates. He had the best completion rate in the final third in La Liga. I don’t understand how this translates into people thinking he is too “loose” with the ball.

    To me, Thiago has improved tremendously, specifically in his movement, vision, and tactical nous. \

    It seems to me people formed opinions of him early in his career and he can’t shake them – very rarely he looks too casual on the ball these days.

    If I was to criticize him, it would be for being inefficient with his touches – he often takes a touch or two more than he needs to.

    • December 7, 2012

      Thiago also had the highest pass completion rate in Wednesday’s game, according to the official site.

      People see what they want to see.

    • December 7, 2012

      Exactly. He’s a good passer, but sometimes he loses the ball when it is at his feet.

      I think people say that he is loose with the ball because they have gotten used to Xaviniesta in their absolute prime. They are exceptional, and we are very lucky to have Thiago because he might prove to be just as exceptional in the future.

    • nzm
      December 7, 2012

      Well – I haven’t said that he’s loose – it’s that he’s lax, especially when it comes to thinking about what happens to the ball after he’s passed it to the next player.

      He completes passes but he often doesn’t think about the consequences for the player to whom he’s passing the ball.

      When a team-mate already has 2 opposition players around him, what’s the point of passing to him and placing him under pressure to either:
      a) do something effective with the ball, or
      b) simply keep the ball in Barca’s possession?

      He may be effective when it comes to his own stats, but it’s the consequences of his passing which need to be addressed.

      So he isn’t the one who lost the ball, but that doesn’t exonerate him – it just makes his passing stats look better if another player then loses the ball or has to play it quickly at the risk of an intercept.

      In rugby, that’s called a suicide pass, because the player who suddenly gets the ball is flattened to the ground under 4-5 opposition players, and stripped of the ball before he can do anything about it.

      If he could maintain the control and quality that he showed against Al Sadd in the CWC, he would be solid.

      • ooga aga
        December 7, 2012

        it’s called a hospital ball in football

        • nzm
          December 7, 2012

          Actually – that’s what it is in rugby too – I misnamed it!

          It’s called a hospital pass – not a suicide pass! d’oh!

  29. nzm
    December 7, 2012

    The Espanyol – Sevilla game is disintegrating into carnage.

    Going into halftime, and it’s 1-1 – both penalties.

    Mr Brylcreem, Muñiz Fernández, just sent off Reyes (2Y/R) for taking a freekick before his whistle, even though he hadn’t shown the whistle.

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