Málaga 1 – Barça 3, as we increased our odds

Last week I saw a movie called 50/50. One of the few things that have remained affordable in a country with a ballooning inflation rate of 35% per year are pirated DVD’s. They can be found anywhere, from street corners to bus terminals to shopping malls. Hell, there’s a downtown market with at least a hundred stalls of ‘movie bootleggers’ that would give Harvey Weinstein many a sleepless night if only he knew how much money he is missing out on. The prices range from the very consumer friendly 8, to the bit steeper 15 bolivares per disc (averaging bout a buck fifty). Blue-rays cost more. Since I don’t like to waste my hard-earned cash on DVD’s that are barely watchable*, I usually get mine from a select group of vendors I have come to trust over time. Ever the movie lovers, my girlfriend and I buy about a dozen flicks every couple of weeks or so, which brings me to…

50/50. We bought it months ago and it had been lying untouched on the shelf ever since. Even as I wanted to see it I was afraid to watch it, because the subject of the movie, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me. Starring star du jour Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the ever lovable (or loathable, depending on who you ask)  Seth Rogen**, it is about a young man who finds out he has cancer and has a 50% chance of survival. Suffice to say that the movie is both funny and touching, and definitely scary.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a match review to get to.

1/3. For the first of our three January skirmishes with Málaga football club, strongman Tito entered Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Piqué, Masche, Alba, Busi, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro, Messi and Iniesta into the fray, against adversaries that are skilled, battle-hardened and fully expected to take the fight to us. Nevertheless I anticipated some serious butt-whupping. I don’t know if this speaks more about the state of La Liga or the form of our team. Probably a bit of both.

It only took seven minutes for a pass to bungle through the legs of Weligton that put Leo Messi eye to eye with fellow countryman Willy Caballero. Alone with the keeper the newly crowned record-breaking four-time balon d’or winner was sure to silence remaining naysayers, namely Cristiano Ronaldo and Edison do Nascimiento. Alas, with an excellent intervention Bill Gentleman*** stopped Golden Balls from dribbling around him for the easy goal.

Barça soon settled into its game, passing the ball around the park and leaving Málaga no option but to look for the break whenever they could get at the ball. They kept us at bay for almost fifteen minutes until Fábregas came knocking: first by shooting well over and wide from outside of the box, and then by setting up Iniesta who shot the ball straight at the keeper.

You go left, I go right...
You go left, I go right…

It was in the 27th minute when Pellegrini’s brilliant plot of confusing La Pulga by dressing his players in Leo’s beloved Albiceleste  spectacularly backfired. Camacho, under no pressure whatsoever, picked out the Argentine for another one-on-one with Caballero. This time Messi, in a stroke of genius, completely faked out the keeper by dribbling towards the left before cutting back and calmly slotting the ball into the open goal.

62/38. The possession stats at half time. I must admit I am not a big follower of Málaga – in fact I can count the complete games I have seen of them this season with one finger – but I would bet that same finger that they are not used to spending so much time without the ball. They sit 5th in the league****. Topped their CL group with relative ease. Recently beat a €500 million team by three goals to two. And they were just made to look ordinary for 45 minutes by a Barcelona that only sporadically got out of second gear.

In the second half we revved up the engine. Pretty soon Leo shook a pass out of the peachtree that Cesc gobbled up whole. A work of art, according to some. Another day at the office, according to Messi.

Boyz to Men
Leo and Cesc: From boys to men

Over the next half hour we steadily turned the Rosaleda into an octagon, as we held down their club in one long triangle chokehold. Barça is often accused of playing boring football by endlessly passing the ball around without creating any danger. True enough, during those thirty minutes we did not generate any clear scoring opportunities. But rarely do teams dominate games in such a beautiful fashion. There was nothing boring about how Xavi sets the tempo, Don Andrés escapes from defenders like Houdini and Busquets performs Zidanesque roulettes. Dani Alves never stopped running up and down (and sending crosses into Row Z). Cesc and Jordi look fully integrated, making our left flank more dangerous than ever. Perhaps most impressively, Mascherano cleared a corner with his head.

Soon Málaga players were fouling us in desperation. No malicious, mean-spirited kicks to the ankles by brutes out to hurt another professional, but weary fouls of players that were tired and simply wanted no more of it. And just when they had enough, in what almost looked like a role reversal Thiago played a quick one-two with Messi on the edge of the area and scored the third goal with his left boot.

A fourth was soon to come, but in the goal we least expected. Buonanotte bade us good night with a beautifully placed free kick over our one-meter wall. It might have given Pellegrini and Co. some consolation, but I doubt it. After all, even though they didn’t play badly they were badly outplayed. One can only imagine the mood in their dressing room, knowing that they will meet us another two times in the next ten days.

When you watch the game, you don't see Busquets. When you watch Busquets, you see the game
When you watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. When you watch Busquets, you see the game

55/44/37. We are halfway through the season and we are leading Atletico Madrid by 11 points and Evil Madrid by 18. Nineteen games. Eighteen wins and one draw. At the beginning of the season we got three points from games where we should have gotten less. After what felt like a trophyless year, the will to win simply did not allow us to lose points. Now we are finally hitting our stride. Are we peaking too soon? Couple the will to win with the most talented team alive clicking on all fronts and we are almost unstoppable. There is still room to improve. Imagine the possibilities if what we see now is not our team at its peak. What first seemed like a curse – missing half of our defense – turned out to be a blessing. Adversity has made us stronger and will hopefully continue to do so.

 

50/50.

KYLE

Well are you going to be okay? What are your odds?

ADAM

I don’t know, I looked it up and it said 50/50 but that’s the internet, so…

KYLE

You’ll be fine. 50/50! If you were a casino game you’d have great odds!

 

 

100. It is great to see Tito back on the bench again. I don’t know what the next month holds in store for him, but from what I understand he will undergo (more) chemo therapy. I am not going to pretend to understand how tough that is, but what I do know is that I am grateful that Tito is our coach. We cannot always decide what obstacles life throws in our path, but we can decide how to deal with them. It seems that Mr. Vilanova, like a certain roi before him, gives strength to others when he himself needs it most.

Life is not a casino game. The way we are playing right now I consider our odds at another treble about 50/50. Even the best team in history depends on luck. Not even beating a team we completely dominated yesterday is guaranteed the day after tomorrow.

But the odds that I’ll take pride in our team, its players and its coach, no matter what trophies they achieve at the end of the ride? Most definitely 100%

 

"The best treatment for me is to be out on the pitch, with a ball at my feet." Francesc Vilanova i Bayó
“The best treatment for me is to be out on the pitch, with a ball at my feet.” – Francesc Vilanova i Bayó

 

 

*If you thought Batman 3 was badly written, overlong and just plain boring, imagine watching it dubbed in Spanish and recorded from the back row of the cinema with a camcorder

** I like him because he reminds me of a friend of mine. I know some who can’t stand him because he reminds them of a friend of mine

*** Brilliant translation for which all credit goes to Isaiah.

**** They sit in 5th because we put them there, having been surpassed by Real Betis this round

 

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Written by:

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...

395 Comments

  1. K_legit in Oz
    January 17, 2013

    Guiata? Ter Stegen? Diego Alves? Neuer?
    *snicker* *evil grin* Casillas?

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      God – I’m so torn between wanting that to happen and not wanting that to happen!

  2. January 17, 2013

    There is quite a good documentary about VV and how for a long time he was not happy to be the Barcelona goalkeeper because of all the pressure that comes with the job.

    Maybe it is time for him to just go and enjoy his football somewhere else.

    I don’t know if he is world class, but we will miss him every time the new guy screws up. VV screws up too, but at least he is OURS.

    Possible replacements? I like De Gea and Neuer but very much doubt their clubs will let him go. Bayern even less, though Pep can always excuse himself by explaining he is an über-culé 🙂

    Also…how much money do we want to spend on a goalkeeper next summer? How much money would we be able to get for VV?

    Maarten Stekelenburg might be another option.

  3. barca96
    January 17, 2013

    I don’t understand why some players announce their departure long before the season is ending?

    It will put the team’s chances of winning trophies in jeapordy. Might be a problem in the dressing room too.

    Do it after at least the title is secured or better do it once the league, CL and Copa has ended.

    The club still has ample time to look for a new GK and try to sell him off between May and September if they don’t want to release him for free.

    I have hardly heard any team interested in him. I don’t think it’s because he’s a bad keeper like how he is actually judged outside Barcelona.

    Arsenal are looking for a GK. And they’re after Reina. We should act quickly and bring him back home.

    Or we could be cheeky and bid for Casillas. Hehe.

    In all seriousness I don’t think Atletico/Chelsea and Bayern will let go of their GK. So it has to be Reina or another one from a non trophy (league) winning team.

    • January 17, 2013

      Barcelona asked Valdes’ representatives (his agent and his father) to keep the decision quiet but they refused.

      • barca96
        January 18, 2013

        Really? Wow. That’s just shocking. It seems that he’s really frustrated with something until he’s willing to hurt his dear club. He looks like a rebel now.

        I don’t think the media or the board were over the top harsh on him this season to suggest they we’re campaigning against him. It’s just like any other seasons. So what’s the difference now?

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Thing is that everyone knew that VV’s contract was up for renewal now. Not at the end of the season, but now.

        How could they keep it quiet? Everyone would have been wanting to know if the process had been completed.

        At this point, and keeping everything transparent, anything other than an announcement of his intention to leave would have led to more speculation, rumour and the press hounding every Barca player, wanting to know the situation with VV.

        There’s no other time in which the news could come out without raising further questions.

        The club could have handled this better with a joint statement together with VV’s people, but they chose not to co-operate. Instead, they bring out “surreal meeting” comments and act all incredulous. That may have been the case, but is that a professional response?

        Methinks that the meeting went horribly wrong somewhere in the process. There has been chat for the last few weeks about the club looking at other alternatives for a GK – much the same as what went on before Pep’s resignation.

  4. barca96
    January 17, 2013

    What do you mean by that?

  5. barca96
    January 17, 2013

    Damn it.. It was supposed to be a reply to samarth cule in reference to this
    And this is the moment all of us will get to
    know who the bandwagoners are…

    • January 17, 2013

      yeah i was wondering the same thing as you, actually…

    • samarth-culé
      January 18, 2013

      A reference to all those fake morons who call themselves culés. You see facebook/twitter. Too much hate around. There are people saying “I’m a Barca fan but Valdes (insert-anything-negative).”

      VV is one of the best shot-stoppers in the world. The best in one-on-one threats. Excellent ball distribution. Good passing skills. He is a La Masia product. He knows the system and it’s been embedded into his instincts.

      He just doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

      • samarth-culé
        January 18, 2013

        I’m not against criticism. I’m against hate.

  6. Momo
    January 17, 2013

    Pepe reina would be a fantastic replacement. He’s good with his feet and is catalan at heart. Plus his locker room presence is tremendous. He is prone to the occasional WTF moment though haha

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      No. No. No.

      Much as I love Pepe Reina as a character, but no. 🙂

    • mom4
      January 18, 2013

      Love Reina! Good keeper! One of us/ La Masia material!
      NO! Major step down in quality, imho!

    • January 18, 2013

      I love Pepe Reina, but he hasn’t been in good form for ages. Although if he did come, we could be sure that David Villa would never leave!

  7. nia
    January 17, 2013

    Sad to see VV leave, i think he’s pretty good despite of what other people say about him. Anyone remember the CL final vs Arsenal. Saved our petudies more than once. Unfortunately, he’ll only be remembered for the super copa goal to Di Maria.

    That said, am i the only one really worried that Barca have a good chance of being knocked out in the next round? I mean, whatever happens, happens but, there’s a big possibility we will be knocked out on thursday. I would like to believe my team will win but, i’d just ‘die’ if EE went on to the final and do a cup double like Chelsea EEEEKKK!!!

    • barca96
      January 18, 2013

      I beg to differ. I don’t think anyone would only remember him for his blunder vs di Maria. Heck, I had to think hard what that was.

  8. Barka
    January 17, 2013

    Thank you Valdes for all you’ve done for the club. Your performance against Arsenal in the CL final will be forgotten.

  9. January 17, 2013

    Holy what!

    I really was about to come out of the woodwork to comment but VV’s decision really shook me out.

    Now I know VV has had his distracters but you only need to go through Barca’s history to realise other than Zubi and him there’s been no-one for who knows how many decades. And it’s not for the lack of getting world class keepers. We’ve had the worlds foremost come to Barca and fail, time and time again.

    But it’s not just Barca’s history that should worry us about VV leaving, it’s that he fit the team perfectly. His entire skillset fully complemented Barca’s. His 1-on-1 talent on which he was easily the best in the world, his amazing reflexes, his exceptional skill on the ball and passing but most importantly his skill of coming out of his box to shut down dangerous chances before they develop.

    His skill of coming out to advanced positions to shut down moves early, which he is able to do because of 1on1 talent, is tactically vital for us. It allows us to both to play a high line and play a narrow defense. Valdes being our insurance policy when we inevitably suffer from its downside.

    His skill on the ball and his passing make him a permanent outlet to start the buildup anew, an extra man advantage that is vital for possession football. Even when considering other keepers who might be good on their feet (though there is no one quite on Valdes’ level) an important distinction is that Valdes understands the team. When highly talented outfield players have problem/take time adjusting to the system, one can only imagine how a GK will cope.

    If you asked me, I wouldn’t have any other keeper for Barca, not Casillas, Cech or Buffon in their prime. His loss is a huge blow for Barca.

    Personally, I’ve always supported him and fervently defended him when over the years. (Maybe not so much in this space, but I never felt I needed to here) One of my absolute favourite players of Barca and one I felt closer to what with him being consistently underrated.

    Goodbye Victor. Thanks for everything, this team wouldn’t be where it is without you. I have no idea what you’re doing but the best of luck to you.

    • samarth-culé
      January 18, 2013

      Perfect. You spoke everything which i was not able to express verbally.

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      Nice.

  10. January 18, 2013

    Actually if you go through Barça’s history you will find that we have had a lot of great goalkeepers.

    I think VV has had some great seasons with us, some good ones and some decent ones. Throughout the 2010-2011 he was the best keeper in the world, imo. He also single-handedly kept us in the 2006 CL final. Well…with some help from Henry, hehe.

    What I really wonder is why his camp wanted to come out with the news. Maybe his agent wants to cash in on a bidding war.

    We basically have two (and a half) options.

    1a. Wait till his contract runs out but buy another goalkeeper to compete with him and/or replace him
    1b. Wait till his contract runs out and promote a Masia GK

    2. Sell him next summer and buy another quality goalkeeper.

    What do you prefer?

    • samarth-culé
      January 18, 2013

      Looking at our finances, it would be sensible to cash in on him this summer. BUT only if Tito does not insist on keeping him till his contract runs out.

      I think the club should try to get (insert-your-fav.-young-prodigy-keeper) ASAP. Hone his skills and give him some time to understand the system. Then, graually integrate him into the team.

    • barca96
      January 18, 2013

      I don’t think that we have any quality young keepers atm. Otherwise Pinto wouldn’t have had so many minutes.

      So I’d prefer them to buy a quality goal keeper this season whether we can off load VV this summer or not.

      It would be quite risky to keep him till his contract runs out, he might not be able to perform 100% from now until 2014.

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        The next quality keeper that we have coming through the ranks is Juvenil A’s Joseph Ondoa.

        At the age of 17, he recently made his debut in the Cameroon NT squad.

        Oier may be given a try, but I don’t think that he’s impressed much. If he does get the nod, Ruben Mino may be kicking himself for not sticking it out for another season!

      • January 18, 2013

        We have a really excellent goalkeeper called Adria. He’s twelve. 😀

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Heh – a bit short at the moment! 😀

  11. samarth-culé
    January 18, 2013

    El Mundo Deportivo reports that, apparently the club is worried that Deulofeu may not renew as his agent, Gines Carvajal is the one who also represents VV.

    • January 18, 2013

      Let him go. See how he develops somewhere else. If he diesn’t want to stay, goodbye.

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Yup, him and his firing imaginary weapons into the air in celebration of his goals.

        Like any of the others before him, he can always come back if he proves himself worthy.

        It will be one less headache for the club with one less B Teamer’s agent demanding that his protege is promoted…or else.

        Could be good for Bayern, though. 😀

    • samarth-culé
      January 19, 2013

      Yep, you both are right.

  12. January 18, 2013

    Any criticism of Valdes isn’t supportable outside of the context that Barça players are supposed to be perfect in every way. So Valdes is supposed to have his 1v1 skills, footwork and playmaking capabilities, Casillas’ reflexes and Kameni’s agility, along with Javi Varas’ AND Gigi Buffon’s ability to read a play.

    Otherwise, he’s a “weak link” as someone described him above. I’m with Triplo Volanti. I will defend Valdes until the cattle come a lowin’. People say he “cost” us matches. Again, it’s the criticism beast. If Valdes cost us matches, then Messi cost us the Chelsea tie last season. He gave up the ball that led to the break that led to Chelsea’s only goal, then at home missed the penalty that would have changed that match.

    Now who here would say that Messi cost us the Chelsea tie? Has Valdes had periods where he hasn’t been at his best? Yes. So has every player on the club. But only Valdes’ bad stretch has come to define him in toi many eyes. I remember when people were clamoring for DeGea. Have you watched United matches lately? Ferguson would do that swap in two seconds.

    Valdes is among the top 5 keepers in the world. And of that top 5, he is the one best suited for this club’s system, because he was raised in it. Did Pique, Puyol, etc make Valdes look good at times? Absolutely, just like he saved their asses countless times when they screwed up. The cule revisionism has to stop. Valdes’ quality will be missed. This is worth remembering when his replacement just hoofs the ball long yet again, fumbles a play with his feet or gets beaten on a 1v1 play that Valdes would have stopped.

    The club will have to sell hin this summer to maximize his value, as his contract ends in 2014. Not sure why he’s leaving but there is clearly sone animus, by how the announcement was handled. It will cost the club money on both ends, and was a shitty move by a player who owes the club that gave him his value.

    From a “my club tis of thee” perspective, good riddance. No player who doesn’t want to be at the club should be there. They become toxins. So yes. Get out. But if he changed his mind next month, I would be a happy cule.

    • barca96
      January 18, 2013

      How come you have so many typos these days?

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Kevin has the iPad blues. Small keys, big fingers. 😀

      • January 18, 2013

        Yeah. But my trusty GS2 is back, so all is right in the world.

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        I got the Note 2 last month. Love it.

      • mom4
        January 18, 2013

        I still don’t have my Note 2. Something lame about money, finances, cost of Spain trip…grrrrr! Hafta wait a couple of months and continue to fight with the droid ;-(

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Don’t worry. If you ask nicely, I’ll let you have a play with mine.

        Note 2, that is, no other funny ideas. 🙂

      • mom4
        January 18, 2013

        Actually, it would be good to test drive tbe note a bit to see if I really want it. Other than that, just give me Wi-Fi access occasionally so I don’t go through internet withdrawal and I will be content even with this dang droid.

      • January 18, 2013

        Huh? Kevin has an iPad? This is major news!!!

        @mom4 – you’re going to Barcelona? So that means you’ll miss Patriots/Ravens game this Sunday?
        Have fun 😀 (don’t drink too much 😛 )

      • January 18, 2013

        More correctly, Kxevin’s wife has an iPad and Kxevin is slumming. Glad to hear you like the Note2, nzm. That’s my next device. Can’t wait.

      • mom4
        January 18, 2013

        Leaving Monday morning. Will go to our friends’ house for a football (throw ball version) party the night before leaving! GO RAVENS!!!!!! Will be home in time to watch my Ravens play in the Super Bowl!!!! Please win this Sunday, Ravens…dang, but we are such underdogs!…ohmygoshthepressureandexitementandworry

  13. TITO
    January 18, 2013

    Where will he go? What’s the point of leaving at this age from the best club in the world? It’s not like everyone out there is asking for him like for Pep for instance.
    If he wants to go, so be it. I wasn’t the biggest supporter of him, though he was perfect for our system.
    Now bring Neuer no matter what.

    • barca96
      January 18, 2013

      Yes it’s really strange. He’s not really a coveted player. A GK has a much longer top level playing span and he’s just around 30. He can go on in Barca until at least 35.

      And out of the big clubs, only Arsenal and Milan need a GK.

      Unless he wants to go to Russia or PSG to get a big fat paycheck.

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      Maybe he’s getting out of it all together?

      We won’t know until he’s announced his intentions.

    • mom4
      January 18, 2013

      He’s won everything out there (minus Conf. Cup) for club and country. GK for Barca is a high stress job. Make a brilliant save one week and they’re toasting you with cava. Flub a pass that leads to an EE goal and they’re raking over the coals the next.

      Maybe the dude just wants a lower profile position. Maybe he just wants a change of scenery. Maybe he really wants to experience different cultures. Maybe he’ll love his decision or come to regret it.

      He was perfect for us. But nobody is irreplaceable…well except for Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi!

  14. barca96
    January 18, 2013

    What does a surreal meeting mean? I know what surreal means but I just don’t understand when you put those 2 together.

    Unreal meeting? Dream like meeting? Unbelievable meeting? It just doesn’t make sense when I read it like that.

    • Richzorz
      January 18, 2013

      I guess it means totally unexpected, the board presumably wouldn’t have thought the player/agent would refuse to entertain the idea of continuing or even looking at the contract/wage/etc on offer..! :s

      • barca96
        January 18, 2013

        Thanks. But it would look bad on VV if they really meant it. If it’s really true.. It just looks bad on VV and the club.

  15. Gogah
    January 18, 2013

    Wow, quite a lot has transpired in the past few days.

    ON PEP TO BAYERN:
    A Clever yet convenient move by Guardiola although somewhat surprising, given that EPL teams were wetting themselves at the thought of having him. His stock will only increase as Bayern will play great football and win multiple titles. As they always have.

    ON THE MESSI GOAL:
    The goal against Malaga reminded me of his first goal against Arsenal in the 4-1 win. It was almost like the conceded goal pissed him off to the extent that he took it all on his shoulders and showed great determination to get his team back in the game. A true coast to coast goal and a true Messi goal that we’ve missed offlate ever since he has taken on specialised responsibilities.

    ON THE SUPPOSED THIAGO GAFFE:
    I thought Thiago played a splendid game, way beyond his age.

    ON VALDES’ IMMINENT EXIT:
    This is truly worrying. Not only the vice captain and a mainstay for many years, the void he will leave in terms of skill sets will be extremely difficult to replace. For me, he is the best 1 on 1 keeper in the world in addition to his skills with the ball at his feet. If outfield players like Cesc, Ibra, Sanchez, Villa have found it difficult to adapt to the Barca system, you can bet your bollocks that a new GK is going to get psyched. From his perspective, I don’t get it one bit.

  16. Srini
    January 18, 2013

    Late to the debate –

    *** Thiago ***

    The kid’s worth is best reflected in the fact that the Spain U-21 faltered badly in the Olympics despite fielding virtually the same squad except Thiago and which won the Euro U-21s and a host of other such U-20, U-21 tournaments quite easily with the young Brazilian-Spaniard doing the Xavi role with total ease.

    Thiago, IMO, is the best young player that Barca has and is a most important one at that, in the sense that I see Thiago as the eventual Xavi-replacement more than anyone else, even Cesc.

    And thus far, his development and play has been on track to achieve that role quickly enough.

    *** Victor Valdes ***

    More surprised at Valdes’ decision to not renew his contract than Pep Guardiola leaving last year, to be honest. Everything fits for Valdes at Barca – legacy, match of skills and style of play, camaraderie etc. It doesn’t make sense at all that Valdes would not want to finish his career in the club that nurtured him and got the best out of him. I don’t think Valdes will get a better squad to display his skills elsewhere.

    Sad that there hasn’t been a competent replacement in the making in the otherwise fecund Masia quarry. And that actually suggests to the worth of Valdes (whose skills have been described very accurately by Triple Volanti earlier).

    The logical decision would be to sell him after the end of this season, but I believe that the club will actually let him leave on a free; after all he has given close to a dozen years and it would seem more like a semi-retirement for him rather than a transfer elsewhere per se when/if he leaves in 2014.

    I think Barca could be well advised to find a replacement for Pinto next season and hone the other goalkeeper in the Copas and Valdes’ off days next season by playing the Pinto role. Considering Pinto is close to 37, I don’t think it is a bad decision to let him leave at the end of the season.

    Spain seems to have a number of good goal keepers and Guaita of Valencia is not a incapable youngster who can be looked at.

  17. January 18, 2013

    I’m not worried about Valdes or Deulofeu or Thiago or particularly, Sanchez.

    –Valdes: ZubiZa is being all class. I like that. All club can do is wish him well. The club has options already in place and in mind. If preliminary contacts haven’t already been made, they will be soon. I would guess that all those names such as Courtois, Neuer, etc can be crossed off peoples’ lists already. The club will go for some young blazer who only the inside baseballers know. And he will be the right choice. Yep.

    –Deulofeu: Love the talent, hate the attitude. The WORST thing would be for him to leave the club right now, unless he wants to cash in right now. I don’t presume to know his situation. But he could develop into one of the world’s best young wingers. On the other hand if the Neymar stuff is true, Deulofeu would know this, and start getting antsy. Sanchez is here for a while, so is Pedro. With Neymar being new and young, Deulofeu would be low man on that totem pole. So it would make sense for him not to renew.

    –Thiago. Sheeeitttt!

    –Sanchez: Dude isn’t struggling with bad overall play. He’s struggling with finishing. That’s an easy fix. Finish. It’s like a bouncy ball (for blitzen) shooter who is in a slump. He starts by making some free throws, and gradually works his way out. It’s a bigger problem than if Sanchez wasn’t in position to miss those sitters (gah, what misses those were! Lordy be!)

    • January 18, 2013

      bouncy ball (for blitzen) shooter

      I prefer the Canadian spelling, “bouncie ball”, actually. 😀

    • mom4
      January 18, 2013

      Most important thing—he’s ours until he isn’t—we still cheer for him!

      Then, good luck, good bye, and we move on to supporting whomever the club puts between the sticks!

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        So we’ll be shouting “Veektor, Veektor, Veektor” next Sunday? 😀

    • mom4
      January 18, 2013

      ZubiZa must have one of the hardest jobs in the club. I love how he handles things.

    • January 18, 2013

      I’m not sure what to think of this news to be honest. Angry and sad at the same time. Really want to know his thinking behind this decision T___T

      Somehow this reminds me of a time when he was a kid; started out at La Masia; didn’t like playing goalie, so he stopped and went with his family to Tenerife. A few years later, he came back and stays till now.

      Quoting this excerpt from Brian Phillips’ article on Pep last year-

      Throughout his early life he’d been consumed, Valdés had, by the fear of failure and compulsive perfectionism that tend to haunt top goalkeepers. “The mere thought of next Sunday’s game horrified me,” he has said. And: “Playing in goal was, to put it mildly, a special kind of suffering.”

      One day Guardiola took him aside, coach-like, and said, “Victor, if you go on like this, eventually your career will be over and you won’t have enjoyed this wonderful job for a single day because you’re always tense, because success is the only thing you want. Watch some soccer on TV, try to understand the game.” And that, as Valdés tells it, was that.

      http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7886779/barcelona-manager-pep-guardiola-steps-down

      With Pep gone, goalkeeping coach changes, behind the scene politics, I’m guessing he doesn’t have fun playing that position anymore.

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        With Pep gone, goalkeeping coach changes, behind the scene politics, I’m guessing he doesn’t have fun playing that position anymore.

        The goalkeeping coach change was made for Valdes. He didn’t get on with the previous coach – can’t remember his name right now.

        But it caused furore. Busquets’ father went back to Barca B at about the same time.

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Yep – thanks. Couldn’t remember as I was writing it, and couldn’t be arsed searching for it! 😀

  18. January 18, 2013

    Thoughts on Valdes’s departure: After sleeping on it I fully understand why he wants to leave. He is a young man with a young family & an adventurous spirit. He wants to experience new cultures the same way Pep did when he left Barça (the first time). He could stay another 10 years at Barça & become a club legend, but he has already won everything there is to win here, & wants a new challenge. He may be afraid that staying put would make him complacent & lazy. He may just be bored doing nothing for 95% of every game while our boys ping the ball around. Maybe he will take a year off & indulge some of his other passions (windsurfing, boats, motorcycles). Maybe he will go play in Japan (or Toronto? Please?). Whatever he does & wherever he ends up I can only thank him for all the years of service he has given to the club & wish him the very best for the future. The Catalan press is already turning on him. I won’t.

    • January 18, 2013

      A couple of Sport columnists are being particularly snarky. Sac shots for all!

      • barca96
        January 18, 2013

        Really? But he’s an academy player and Catalan. It’s not like he’s having a blunder but he just doesn’t want to renew which is his right. It’s totally different than having a run of poor form.

      • January 18, 2013

        This is the same press that referred to Xavi as “a cancer” back in the day, so…

      • barca96
        January 18, 2013

        Oh and I think it’s highly unlikely that he will take a sabbatical. A coach can do that but not a sportsman unless you go by the name of Jordan.

        Although a goal keeper could do that since they’re not so reliant on stamina and strength. I don’t know.

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Until now, he’s been a bit of an Untouchable, so it’s no-holds-barred now that he’s going.

        Which is a huge travesty, because if the guy’s going to stick out his contract, it means that he has to endure another 1 and a half seasons of crap from the press.

        It may be enough for him to get someone to buy out his last season and then leave in summer.

        For all his outward toughness, Victor is a delicate flower. Things haven’t been right between him and Pinto for a while. They hardly talk to each other and train separately.

        When it looked as though Pinto was leaving, Messi upped the pressure to get him signed for another year.

        This may be one of the best seasons, but there are underlying things happening which may cause the wheels to fall off. The next few weeks are critical to the team staying together and focused on what needs to be done.

      • January 18, 2013

        Care to elaborate on the “bad blood” between Valdes and Pinto? Is this based on any particular incident, or just your impressions of their body language?

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Not sure how bad it is, but I know that when they used to warm up together before a match, there were exchanges between them and they would help each other with the routines.

        That’s all over, and they now train as far away as possible from each other as the half-pitch that they have will allow. No eye contact – very serious stuff.

        VV hasn’t really been happy this entire season. Again, it may be a personal thing with him, but he doesn’t have that vitality about him that’s been there before. It’s like he’s going through the routines, will do the job, but has other places he’d rather be.

        That’s not to say that he isn’t being professional, nor saying that he’s not giving his utmost.

  19. January 18, 2013

    ZubiZa says Valdes will be a Barça player until the last day of his contract, in 2014. So as many suspected, it’s like a retirement of sorts, then probably the big cash-out somewhere. He will be 32, with still a couple good years left if not at the toppity-top level, still in the top flight.

    • Srini
      January 18, 2013

      I like that. That is the best homage to Victor and in his best interests, if his aim is to look for newer challenges outside Barca, as blitzen mentions.

      2014 will be a great swansong year for Victor and 2013 will be a great growing up year for Pinto’s replacement.

    • barca96
      January 18, 2013

      Haven’t read it yet but it sounds like Brooks got the idea from the NFL player.

  20. January 18, 2013

    In his press conference, Tito emphasized that Valdes told them he doesn’t want to leave the club, just that he doesn’t want to renew his contract. Meaning, I assume, that he is not unhappy with the club or demanding to be sold because he has a better offer. It seems pretty clear that this is a personal decision on Victor’s part and something that he has made up his mind to do for his own reasons.

  21. January 18, 2013

    I didn’t know VV and Pinto disliked each other. So much is always made about the camaraderie between our players.

    To all saying “Thank you Valdes for everything you have done for us” I got two things:

    1. He is not gone yet. Let’s hope he will have another great 6-18 months defending our colors.

    2. VV has gone about this the wrong way. Zubi and Co. requested his team (agent & dad) to keep things quiet. I am not sure what his reasons are for announcing the world he won’t renew in the summer of 2014(!), but I am disappointed with his attitude.

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      Hopefully you’re not getting that impression from what I said above, because I didn’t say that they disliked each other, but something has changed.

      It may just be VV changing that has also altered the relationship between them.

      The club went all out to accommodate VV at the end of last season when it came out that he had disagreements with Unzue and his methods. Unzue left the club, Busquets Snr. went back to Barca B and in came de la Fuente.

      That left VV with a point to prove.

      Then came the Supacopa and the Di Maria goal. Oops.

      VV lost his confidence, started booting the ball out (and he’s not good at it) and looked glummer and glummer.

      The confidence is coming back, and man what a lot of great saves he’s made, but watch his face after he makes them. He used to be really fired up, but I don’t often see him pumped up and responding as he used to.

      Then, a few weeks ago, little comments started coming out about the club looking for possible GK replacements. Did this happen because VV had already said something, or was the club posturing? (Remember the same behaviour from the club before Pep’s departure.)

      If VV had already indicated that he was not going to renew, perhaps the club thought that he wasn’t serious, or perhaps they started putting it out there that they were looking for replacements to position themselves in the renewal talks with VV.

      Whatever happened, it possibly back-fired on the club when VV decided not to renew. End of conversation.

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      As for your Point #2, Lev, see my above comment in response to barca96 writing the same.

      They couldn’t keep it quiet. It was known that VV’s contract was up for renewal now, not at the end of the season.

      Anything other than a renewal announcement within the next few weeks would have opened up a lot more speculation.

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      That’s what Messi said when he watched some of the little ones play the other day – “They play like us!”

  22. January 18, 2013

    Abidal and Cuenca trained WITH THE GROUP today ….

    • Ryan
      January 18, 2013

      Great news!

  23. nzm
    January 18, 2013

    Rubén Miño has just replaced Aouate as Mallorca’s GK in the game against Espanyol in Barcelona.

    This is Miño’s first game for Mallorca.

    Aouate had to leave the pitch with a knee injury.

    With 30 mins to go, Mallorca is leading Espanyol 1-2. Gio scored the first goal for the visitors.

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      And now with an incredibly soft penalty, Espanyol has levelled at 2-2.

    • nzm
      January 18, 2013

      Woeful refereeing gave the game to Espanyol 3-2. Mallorca had a man sent off when Garcia dived. It was truly sad.

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