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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selfie barça 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. Blau-Grenade
    January 14, 2013

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

    Simply Brilliant.

    Loved your review. Look forward to more.

    • Bill
      January 14, 2013

      What a line Lev. A paradigm shifting type of quote. I love it.

    • K_legit in Oz
      January 14, 2013

      That’s del Bosque’s words I think

    • January 15, 2013

      Some time back, somewhere on the net, a guy mentioned this as words by his wife – When you watch Barcelona you dont see Busquets, but when you watch Busquets, you can see Barcelona. He got a lot of likes for that comment, then too.

      Its really true.
      Busquests, players other than Messi, can compete for our best player.

    • ian_percival
      January 15, 2013

      That shampoo fernandez referee really madrid today

  2. January 14, 2013

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

    This. Right here. Perfect.

  3. January 14, 2013

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

    Is that you Mr. Cruyff? 😛

  4. 505
    January 14, 2013

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

    I don’t see myself getting over this quote for a very long time. Busi completes my life.

  5. January 14, 2013

    Like those above me, I logged in just to express my appreciation of the quote regarding Busquets.

  6. dean
    January 14, 2013

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

    Profound.

  7. replayed
    January 14, 2013

    I thought that line rang a bell.

    Nice review.

  8. January 14, 2013

    Thank for the review 🙂

    So who came with up that quote about Busquet originally? Lev? del Bosque? the author’s wife from the link provided by replayed above? I’m confused.

    • selfie barça
      January 15, 2013

      Ha! It is a brilliant line, isn’t it? To be honest I don’t rightly know myself where I got it from, either.

      Del Bosque once famously said that if he were a player he would like to be Busquets. Which is a beautiful compliment but I suspect it is a bit of a lie, lol.

      I have never met the author’s wife nor had I read the article before replayed posted it (thoroughly enjoyed it, though – thanks!)

      I think – but I am not sure – that either Van Gaal or Cruijff said it about another player in one of the many games they analyzed on Dutch TV when I was young.

  9. nia
    January 15, 2013

    You forgot to mention Demichelis’s quote:

    “Honestly, in the second half, Barcelona made me wanna applaud them”.

    What greater reward for a Cule to hear these words about their team? *sniff sniff* 🙂

    • selfie barça
      January 15, 2013

      Thank you for posting that, Nia! Would you believe that I originally wanted to finish the review with that quote, but then later I forgot about it and I decided to go with Tito? lol

    • K_legit in Oz
      January 15, 2013

      Didn’t stop him from poleaxing Messi! -_-

  10. Gogah
    January 15, 2013

    The superiority Barcelona displayed in this game can only be better understood when you see what a great game Malaga played. They were but punished for just one error. I have nothing but the biggest respect for Pellegrini, who, for me, is nothing short of one of the finest coaches in the world.

  11. January 15, 2013

    For me the best moment in this game was the rondo in the second half. That was so bloody brilliant. I hope they do that in CL game, so that the whole world will take note of it.

  12. Reto
    January 15, 2013

    Yay, just got confirmation for my trip to Milan to witness the Champions League first leg on February the 20th in the San Siro.

    Can’t wait to see the team live perform some similar stuff to what they did against Malaga two days ago. Everytime I feel like this group of players must have reached its peak now surely, they come up with another even more stellar performance.

    There are just so many unique people in and around the squad, won’t name any in particular after what this collective got us to enjoy once more on Sunday.

    • barca96
      January 15, 2013

      Grrr. Lucky you! Enjoy. Are you going to record the match while in the stands? I notice that some people do that on tv. I personally wouldn’t do that as I won’t want to take my eyes of the action.

      • Reto
        January 15, 2013

        Don’t think I’ll do so. Never did so far either.

        Just wanna enjoy another great Barça display as I did when I watched them live last time which was about a year ago in the 5:1 league win against Valencia. They set the bar pretty high back then but I keep being optimistic especially after having seen the team’s latest performances.

        • barca96
          January 15, 2013

          Let’s hope they will still be in an amazing form come February. It kinda looks like they’re peaking too early.

        • Sheena
          January 15, 2013

          What a coincidence, I was there for the 5-1 too. Haha.

  13. barca96
    January 15, 2013

    I still seriously don’t understand how Camacho or any other players for that fact don’t get booked for simulation outside the penalty area. But when it’s done in the penalty area, it will be a yellow card offense.

    Camacho was guilty of it twice. And the worst one was when Pique brushed his hair and he fell clutching his head as if he’s been hit by a hammer.

    • selfie barça
      January 15, 2013

      “Camacho was guilty of it twice. And the worst one was when Pique brushed his hair and he fell clutching his head as if he’s been hit by a hammer.”

      That wasn’t because of Piqué, but because he just remembered the pass he gave to Messi!

      • barca96
        January 15, 2013

        No that incident with Pique was in the 2nd half in our half when Pique stole the ball from him. They showed the replay. It was so comical.

        He was also lucky not to get booked for pulling or tackling Messi and he kinda thanked Messi for not going down.

  14. January 15, 2013

    Barca is playing at a simply remarkable level. This is likely the best we’ve seen this project play since that magical run in the fall of 2010 that was highlighted by the Manita.

    What the team is able to do as a collective now is just so impressive. This set up with Iniesta as a wide creator at LW & Cesc operating in the CAM to play the L channel with Alba behind is just amazing. Couple this with the dynamism of Pedro & Alves/Adriano on the R-it creates very difficult flank dyanmics for the defense.

    In turn that makes it even more difficult to over-commit defensively to the center of the pitch. On the L Iniesta supported by Cesc & Alba is able to break down the R flank defense of the opposition over & over-almost by will. That breaks the defenses shape. Once that happens they lose control of space & Barca is able to play it’s game with penetration & danger.

    This is all buttressed by Busquets growth this year into a better player. As much I admired Busquets prior-I felt that he wasn’t pushing himself hard enought to get better-particualrly at his age. He was limiting himself of that “circulation” role too much. It was clear there was more there-that his game had other dimensions.

    This season we’re seeing that expansion in his game. He’s more aggressive with his passing-more willing to take a risk with a dangerous ball (pass to Pedro vs Espanyol-great example). He’s added verticality from deep positions which has been important to Barca gaining value from Cesc’s game.

    He’s always had great touch-but didn’t use it to it’s fullest as his game was so radically one touch. Now he’s using the ball & his great touch to add variation & changes in tempo to the game. By executing a roulette or a step back via dribbling he adds a kind of “pausa” to the game which adds unpredictability to the template. Phenomenal stuff. Whether or not people know it-he’s clearly one of the 10 best players in the world.

    Another point I think is worth considering. One of the points that’s been made frequently this season is that if you play on the forward line you have to score. It’s nice that you may contribute to the collective via defensive work or movement, etc – but ultimately if you play on the most advanced line if you don’t score you aren’t doing your job.

    That’s a statement that makes a point on principle. As such it’s a principle that should be applied broadly, regardless of the player.

    And by that measuring stick one would have to say Iniesta has been playing unsatisfactorily or even badly on the LW. He hasn’t scored. Over the past 2 games he’s squandered 3 easy chances to score that should have been put away. Just because he’s Iniesta doesn’t mean that he’s above this principle-if you play on the forward line you have to score. Otherwise we suffer from “messidependencia.”

    But there’s simply no way to legitimately say Iniesta hasn’t been anything but brilliant at LW-despite not scoring. This is some of the best football he’s played over an extended period of time in his career. And more importantly-with him at LW the collective is achieving remarkable potency. The team is becoming even more difficult to defend.

    I bring this up because it points out what I think is a serious flaw in the original principle that’s been so extensively discussed-if you play on the forward line you have to score. I don’t think that’s the case, particularly with this team. In fact what I think Pep prior & Tito now are trying to do is create a more distributed model of danger. One where scoring can come from any of the 3 lines & any of the vertical channels.

    And when you look at the distribution of scoring this season-that’s exactly what’s happening.

    • selfie barça
      January 15, 2013

      You are right. It is not important where the goals come from, as long as they are scored.

      I am one of those who repeatedly critize Pedro and Alexis (and Villa before them) for not scoring. It’s not the lack of scoring that is the problem, because as you so eloquently stated their contributions lead to goals from others.

      What I find problematic is their low conversation rate. I think it a serious problem for an attacking player (and especially a forward) to miss as many one-on-ones as Alexis has this season. If he had scored half my guesstimation is that he would be well in double digits by now.

      The team as a whole create scoring opportunities. At the business end of the season those opportunities tend to be kind of rare and the big games are won by taking advantage of them. Our inability to convert them (as a team) led to our ridiculous loss against Chelsea last season.

      I appreciate the things they do (very) well, and I agree wholeheartedly with the excellent point you made above. That does not negate the point that Alexis (and Pedro) have been extremely wasteful in front of the goal, which is an aspect of their game they must definitely improve.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 15, 2013

      Lovely analysis of the current state of play. We would love a review soon from you.

  15. barca96
    January 15, 2013

    Confederations Cup is usually being played in the summer before the World Cup.

    What if during the Confederations Cup the players complain of the heat and perhaps some have great difficulties such as dehydration, faint?

    I visited my Dad in Dubai in May. It was really hot!! We hardly spent time out in the sun. Always indoors. My friend told me the people there hardly go under the sun. They’re always in an airconditioned place.

    So if their own people hardly go outdoors during the day, how is FIFA expecting the players to put up a show?

    And my friend who was staying in Dubai said it will gets worse in June and July.

    Now I know that Dubai is not Qatar but it seems that Qatar’s temperature is similar to Dubai. I’m getting conflicting results but must of them suggest that Qatar has a higher average temperature.

    NZM, you’ve lived in Dubai right? Does the football season go through the summer or it follows the European calendar?

    I know the WC matches are usually in the late afternoon or evening and it is indeed much cooler especially when there is wind but how are the players supposed to train during the day?

    And even when they play at night, it is still quite hot. The point is, the players are unable to perform 100%.

    Damn! I just remembered that Qatar is going to have an airconditioned stadiums. After going through all the weather websites and writing this only it comes to me, after an hour.

    I remember seeing players having difficulties too in the 94 USA World Cup. What were the measures taken back then?

    • G6O
      January 16, 2013

      Doha is slightly hotter than Dubai. Not as hot as Kuwait or Southern Iraq where it regularly hits 50C in the summer but still very very hot. If they play the games during the night, it can be manageable. The average daily high in June is 40-41C, which is clearly impossible to play in, but it drops down to 30 in the night. The problem is that in the group stage, they play 3 games a day and that usually occupies a stretch of 8 hours, which have been traditionally played at something like 15:30, 18:00, 21:00, or some other similar combination of times. Now in Qatar 21:00 would be the earliest at least somewhat playable time and what does that mean for the other games – they play them at midnight and 2:30am??

      I don’t see how they can pull it off without moving it to another time of the year> The idea of air-conditioned stadiums strikes me as absurd – that will consume gigantic amounts of energy

  16. barca96
    January 15, 2013

    Solari was a guest on my broadcast. Sweet left foot! Back in his era there were a few players with a sweet left foot like Recoba, Rivaldo. I know there’s a fee more but I just can’t get it in my head.

    Now RvP and Ozil are the only ones I can think of. I don’t count Messi as it’s just an extension of his left leg as Maradona said it 🙂

  17. Jafri
    January 15, 2013

    This is a comment from the Guardian website; referring to CL teams and Barcelona’s style of play under Tito:

    “Tito’s actually trying to mix tiki-taka along with the option of exploiting the space on the wings and its not working out, often ending up in losing possession with a wild shot at the goal. Iniestas up to the task and Fabregas is slowly getting in the groove but both Pedro and Alves are appalling with their blind alley running, reckless passing and movement, needless playacting are nullifying Barcelona’s attacking threat on the right.

    The current tactic also needs Messi to operate as tequartista in an Italian way, keeping him away from surging ahead and pulling the strings from behind.

    Its time Tito drifts in Villa and Sanchez more often and rotating Messi on the flanks, allowing him to explode often else a team like Juventus can stuff them fair and square with a 4-3-1-2, like it happened to the galaticos version one against the Italian teams. Dortmund will also be a banana skin, with a spread out attack Barcelona’s pressing in the opponent half ain’t working as it was last season.”

    Thoughts? I know Juve and BVB are supposed to be our greatest threats but is the tactical analysis given sound? And if so, what should we do to give ourselves a better chance against them?

    • selfie barça
      January 15, 2013

      Contrary to popular opinion I think Dani Alves has been fine lately. I would like him to cross the ball less. Not that he is such a bad crosser, but we don’t really have the players to latch on to them.

      Also right now Milan is our biggest threat in the CL because that is the team we are playing. After that EE is still the team I would worry most about. All their bad results become irrelevant the moment they play us.

      • Bill
        January 15, 2013

        He IS a bad crosser. Some of those crosses are atrocious, not even close to their target. Once in a while he hits a beauty, but most of the time they are just horrible.

        • Messiah10
          January 16, 2013

          Bill, I completely agree that he’s been horrible the last 2 seasons. So, that begs the question. What happened? In 08/09, 09/10 he was putting inch perfect balls for Messi, Eto’o, and Henry to latch onto. I mean some of the balls he swung into Messi were absolutely Genius! It led to Ray-Ray stating he’s the best RB in the World. Ray-Ray constantly applauded him and his ability to find Messi. Their partnership was extremely important if not the most important in the team during the 08/09 season and much of 09/10. Is it age? Injuries? His roll on the team changing? Although, the latter still doesn’t account for his poor balls. I don’t know but it’s frustrating because I know how great he was at putting a ball in.

      • bhed
        January 15, 2013

        His crossing is terrible, but even worse, he is responsible for FAR too many giveaways and lax defending (Ronaldo’s 1st goal in the last classico – Alves didn’t even try to stick his leg out!). He was great against Malaga, but his form has been poor for most of 2012.

        • selfie barça
          January 15, 2013

          Well. he’s not a good crosser, I’ll give you guys that.

          He started poorly this season but has been fine since the CL game in Moscow. imo.

    • January 15, 2013

      “Tito’s actually trying to mix tiki-taka along with the option of exploiting the space on the wings and its not working out, often ending up in losing possession with a wild shot at the goal.”

      The way this quote you posted started out makes me question the tactical intelligence of the poster, especially in context of what comes next. It is in fact, working out very well, and as an evolution of the team’s play it is helping against the way teams try to play us. Euler above gives a nice example of how the play of Iniesta, Cesc, and Alba break down the shape of defenses overplaying the middle. Earlier in the season when Dani was hurt, or off form coming back, Adriano was very dynamic on the right flank. Dani Alves is coming back into form on that flank as well. Pedro and Dani/Adriano have not been quite as able to stretch and break defenses like our left flank have, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they have been ineffectual.

      Where the post says the current tactic requires Messi to play as a trequarista and not get forward, they are again misreading things. Messi moves as he always has, in the way to pull the defense out of shape, or to evade defenders. When he drifts deep, if another player makes a run he will try to find him. This year we are being more dynamic making certain types of runs instead of only trying to give him one-twos to navigate through that packed defense. And to his credit he is finding those runners when he can instead of ’tilting at windmills’ as it was described at one point last year.

      Putting Messi out to the flanks is one way to exploit what we are being given. In effect, when Iniesta dribbles in from the left into the box, it is something like Messi breaking in from the right in the past. But the beauty is that we have many ways to exploit what we are given, which is a bit of space on the flanks conceded to overplay the middle. This is not a static system, but continuous nuances and dimensions being added to our tiki-taka. And I’m sure Tito will have plenty of tactics ready for Juve or Dortmund if do end up playing them. Do people assume we don’t prepare for each opponent?

  18. replayed
    January 15, 2013

    Tito smacking down a foolish journo:

    “What if Barcelona were 18 points behind Madrid? If that was the case, I wouldn’t be replying to this question right now.”

    Love it.

    • 505
      January 15, 2013

      was this a dig on mourinho? like if we were 18 points behind, jordi roura would be doing the pressers? i have this image in my head that tito is a mild-mannered guy capable of serious sarcasm and wit

      • selfie barça
        January 15, 2013

        he is saying that if we were 18 points behind he would have already been fired, hehe

    • G6O
      January 16, 2013

      What is the most points one of the two teams has been behind the other after half a season?

      I would not be surprised if this is a record

  19. Barcaleya
    January 15, 2013

    Lev, you write extremely well.

    I have enjoyed all your reviews and they somehow keep getting better.

  20. Bill
    January 15, 2013

    Very good reviews Lev. I enjoy them. There was even a UFC reference! Keep them coming.

    That was a challenging game. The team came through with flying colors, especially in the second half. Malaga really tried but they just didn’t get space to breathe and start building on their plays.

    Fabregas does help with his all-round plays, especially pressing, assists and making runs. Like mentioned above, he has very good understanding with both Iniesta and Alba. I still don’t like his lackadaisacal passing. It creates unnecessary turnovers or puts a teammate in bad spots.

    Xavi has been very quietely efficient and consistent for a while now. I see he tends to be forgotten lately but he has been exceptional.

    Alexis is really not a striker. He overthinks or tries to over elaborate a little too much. No reason why he tries to round the keeper when he receives the ball soo far away. He has enough time to create an angle and get the keeper falling to one side. Bojan would eat those up!

    I wouldn’t put Pedro in the same category as Alexis because I believe he is a much better striker. He just doesn’t get himself in enough good goal scoring positions.

    Xavi and Iniesta have one unfortunate trait in common. They exhibit bad shooting form. I have wished for a long time that someone could point it out to them. Everytime those two keep an upright stance(maybe even lean forward a little), aim in the general direction and hit the ball with the top of their feet nice and firm with good follow through, good things happen. But all too often, both guys hit with the side of the big toe while falling away(great shot for long distance passing). Those shots are either too weak or a little off if hit too strongly.

    There is also something a little off with Messi lately. It’s actually been going on for a while. He can’t dribble in a phonebooth. Don’t get me wrong, he can still dribble. Just not inches away from a defenders’ feet like he used to. These days, when he tries, the defender/goallie reaches in and pokes it away. His needle threading passes are also not as successful. His consistent scoring has hidden this issue. Last year, he struggled with his explosiveness but he got that back, lets hope he get’s this ability back too.

    I love Alba. That guy is perfect on the left flank. Hope he keeps on getting better.

    • selfie barça
      January 15, 2013

      interesting comments…

      Cesc might not have the passing rate of Xavi or Busquets but I think he is leading us in assists so there’s a definite trade-off there (though i could be wrong)

      One of the most amazing things about the game was how Messi passed him the ball from about 3, 4 yards while Cesc was on the ground – he still managed to get up in time and pass it on without letting one of the Malaga players around him get to it.

      I love how he and Iniesta play, switching between left wing and midfield. Add Alba and it becomes even more amazing.

      I think Messi’s through passes have been less successful this season because defenders are more aware of that particular danger.

      thank you and all the others for the compliments. I am a long-time fan of this website and its writers, so really it’s just a privilege to contribute.

      • January 15, 2013

        According to whoscored.com in Liga matches Cesc and Iniesta are both just a bit below 90% at 88.7% and 89.8% respectively in passing percentage. Xavi and Busi are otherworldly in retention at 95.3% and 91.9% respectively. However this just represents a different risk-reward mix as Cesc and Iniesta have 7 goals and 20 assists between them, while Xavi and Busi have 6 goals and 6 assists. Looking at the statistics, and comparing them to the reality of matches, it tells a story of simply different roles, not of lackadaisical passing from some others.

        Narratives play a huge role in what you remember from a match. That’s why it’s important to compare what you remember with statistics, as part of a greater understanding. Yes they can be misinterpreted, and they don’t tell a complete story on their own, but they are impartial. And they tell a slightly different story of Thiago (93.7% btw) and Cesc’s passing than what you hear around here sometimes.

        • Bill
          January 16, 2013

          Swam, good points, but it’s not about the statistics of passing, it’s more than that. It’s the art of passing itself. Thats why statistics miss the story sometimes. And it’s not about the high risk passing to create a goal scoring opportunity either. It’s the simple tiki taka in midfield where I see other players struggle a little to contol his passes because he sent a careless pass to them.

          A pass from Xavi or Busquets are delivered in such a way that you can take it into your stride and do something with the ball. One touch passing is made possible/easier depending on the quality of the pass you receive. If someone sends you an accurate pass, perfectly weighted right to your feet, it’s easier to the re-direct it. But if someone sends a hard/bouncy ball a little off your path, then you have to pause and try to control it. Did the pass reach it’s target? Yes. But it also took away that small opportunity you had to take advantage of a gap.

          This link here shows a successful pass from Fabregas to Iniesta. Luckily, Iniesta was able to do something with it. But watch how Iniesta struggles to control it because it was a bad pass.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ioa1BGP8P3M

          If this was the only time it has happened, I wouldn’t mention it, but for a La Masia guy, he does it as much as Villa and Alves.

  21. Blau-Grenade
    January 16, 2013

    *https://twitter.com/barcastuff/status/291543023052017665
    Guardiola and Bayern Munich are on the verge of signing a deal for next season. An official announcement could follow today. [gazzetta]

    • Choba
      January 16, 2013

      Good read, thanks for sharing, for me Busquets is one of the best player out there, this late years I always tell people how Busquets is underrated as a player, and how everyone remember just some rare dives of him and forget the best part.

      • nzm
        January 16, 2013

        Yeah – just look at some of the comments under that article!

  22. Messiah10
    January 16, 2013

    Levon,

    Thanks for the review. 🙂 Great stuff. 50/50 is one of my favorites of last year. Amazingly written and acted. Based on true life experiences of Seth Rogan and his friend who wrote the script. I highly recommend to anyone who likes independent movies. Angelica Huston is phenomenal as usual. If you like her in Wes Anderson’s movies, you’ll get much of the same! In my mind she’s up there with Meryl Streep and Bette Davis.

  23. samarth-culé
    January 16, 2013

    YES!!!!!!
    Pep to Bayern
    awesome (y)

    • samarth-culé
      January 16, 2013

      A surprising thing is that his contract runs through 3 years, until 2016! :O

      • barca96
        January 16, 2013

        -Is 2016 when Rosell’s term comes to an end?

        Anyways, he said his dream is to go to England so I don’t think he will come back to Barca anytime soon.

        -But why Bayern? I think it’s a great club with great history but their 3 big ex player’s have a big influence. They might clash with Pep.

        And if it was Bundesliga I would’ve preferred Pep to take over Dortmund. Great young squad, owners that are not meddlesome.

        And just yesterday he said he wants to go to England.

        -Not that I’m complaining that he’s gone now but how come he can sign a long term contract with Bayern but not with us?

        • Tank
          January 16, 2013

          Because at Bayern he can be a coach and a coach only. With Barca he was a coach and a cule. He works for Bayern, but he lives for Barcelona.

          Barca was much more emotionally exhausting for him thany any other coaching job can be.

          • January 16, 2013

            Perfectly put. In fact I am stealing this and posting it on twitter (with credit, of course).

        • samarth-culé
          January 16, 2013

          -Maybe SAF is staying for 3 more years at United… But ya, you are right. It won’t be anytime soon he comes back home Catalonia.

          -Sensible choice if you look at some good opinions:
          @Zonal_Marking-
          “Bayern second to Barca in terms of possession and pass completion – in very basic terms, Guardiola a good match”

          @blitzen13-
          “Does anyone else think Pep might have chosen Bayern over EPL teams because Mourinho will definitely be in England next year?”
          “NOT because he is afraid of him. But he loathes the media circus, constant moaning & publicity stunts that Mou pulls.”

          And Dortmund have a great coach in Klopp… But he maybe… maybe headed to RM next year… Who knows!

          -And as I haid said, that part was a huge surprise for me!

          • selfie barça
            January 16, 2013

            It is pretty much a given that Pep does not like to deal with Mourinho (who would, really?) but I think the reason he is not going to England is that he prefers to wait for the Manchester Utd job.

  24. samarth-culé
    January 16, 2013

    A quick translation through google trranslate as the official english site doesn’t site the news yet…

    On Wednesday, 16 January 2013 was, as agreed will be a conversation between Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Jupp Heynckes.

    Jupp Heynckes, the Chairman of the Board of FC Bayern München AG before Christmas telling his tendency, he extended his contract with Bayern on 30/06/2013 except by ending probably his career as a coach would have, so at the present day is now officially also communicated.

    “For this decision, we need as a club, as well as friends of Jupp Heynckes show understanding,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, “we have to accept it and respect it. In this very personal conversation with Jupp Heynckes, but we were also assured each other, everything – and now even more so everything – to do that both the FC Bayern, and Jupp Heynckes a successful second round of play 20012/13 and the German championship after want to get in Munich. ”

    As successor to Jupp Heynckes, FC Bayern München commit one of the most prolific and successful coaches in world football: Pep Guardiola (41). The former coach of FC Barcelona and FC Bayern have agreed to collaborate in the coming season 2013/14. Guardiola has already 30th in the German record champions a three-year contract to Signed in June 2016.

    “We are very pleased that we have succeeded, the football expert Pep Guardiola, who was courted by many famous clubs and contacts to win for Bayern,” said CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful coaches in the world and we are sure that he can not just Bayern, but the German football give lots of shine. We look forward to continuing to work from July 2013. ”

    Uli Hoeness, chairman of Bayern Munich: “Following the decision of Jupp Heynckes, which we are extremely grateful for his work, we would be very happy if the team would give this great coach earned glorious farewell. As an adequate replacement for Jupp Heynckes was only one of the caliber of coach Pep Guardiola into question.”

  25. January 16, 2013

    He could teach them how to win a Champions League Final, provided we don’t reach the final at the same time.

  26. Colby
    January 16, 2013

    The irony: doesn’t Pep speak 5 or 6 languages, but not German?

  27. selfie barça
    January 16, 2013

    Excellent choice! A team with a great history and tradition who consistently beat Madrid. Couldn’t ask for more, really 🙂

  28. Blau-Grenade
    January 16, 2013

    Germany is my favorite places to live and vacation in Europe. Munich is one of the finest cities in the world. Pep and his family will have a blast in Munich.

    Most German teams play open attacking football. The match attendances in Germany are one of the highest in Europe. Pep will be very successful in managing the club, and making Bayern the powerhouse it used to be.

  29. January 16, 2013

    To me Bayern is the team that makes the most sense.

    Of all the English teams, only Chelsea are really building a project with players that would have fit Pep’s style – and that has only been in the last two years with the addition of Mata, Oscar, Hazard, etc. Of course, with Abramovich and his trigger finger at the helm it isn’t a club where a coach can go and feel he has the support to build a project for a couple years.

    Manchester City has been highly touted as a possibility with several ex-Barca administrators, but the players at the club don’t exactly fit in Pep’s style. The midfield would have to be almost completely revamped (and Toure would have to be moved back to the pivot). Meanwhile there are troublemakers like Balotelli, Tevez, and Nasri – not something Pep likes.

    Manchester United was an option, but Ferguson won’t finish for a couple more years. Even so – while United has some excellent players and emerging youth, their team is not built for Pep’s style at all. United has been built to emphasize wing play and again lacks the type of midfielders Pep covets.

    All around a good decision for Pep. Good luck to Bayern, except when they play Barcelona.

  30. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Ugh – tear me apart.

    For the German non-Bayern supporters, if FCB and RM played in Bundesliga, this would be akin to Pep going to Madrid. 😀

    It’s going to be interesting watching the Bayern evolution, and whether the current players are up to it. It means that half the Deutsche Mannschaft will be learning tika takka skills!

    But it is a good match up, and to stay away from EPL for a while is a good thing, I feel.

    Viel Glück, Pep – and watch out for Uli Hoeneß. Rosell is a pussy compared to that one!

  31. Gogah
    January 16, 2013

    Champions league final 2013.
    FCB Vs FCB

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      That’s what I thought might happen 3 CLs ago at the Bernabeu.

      But that became Inter vs. Bayern…

  32. simple_barcafan
    January 16, 2013

    I thought Pep didn’t want to sign long term contracts..I mean even in Barca he insisted term by term right?

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      A three year contract is more like a 2 year contract. Most people in the soccer world negotiate their next contract with one year left on their current contract.

  33. alpinegroove
    January 16, 2013

    Starting 11 are official. What’s more interesting in Barca’s case is the bench: Valdes, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro.

    Not too bad.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      barcastuff:

      Barcelona line-up (official):

      Pinto
      Montoya Mascherano Puyol Adriano
      Iniesta Song Thiago
      Alexis Messi Tello

    • mom4
      January 16, 2013

      You could build a fairly decent team around that bench! 🙂

  34. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Somehow I missed this, being in Germany and all.

    Michel has gone from Sevilla and Unai Emery has replaced him.

    On TV a minute ago, I saw him on the sidelines of the CdR Zaragoza vs. Sevilla match. My first thought was, “Hang on, Valencia isn’t playing!”

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      lol, I did not know that until you wrote it here.

  35. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Boys are warming up, looking serious.

    Only 2 are in short sleeves, and they play together in the back-line. 😀

    • mom4
      January 16, 2013

      I’m guessing a certain caveman and sMasche. No away goals get past those two! They mean business!

      Now I’m off to work. Catch y’all later. Visca Barca!

  36. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Awesome clip being shown on the Camp Nou big screens at the moment with all Messi highlights.

    The 4 Ballons D’Or are on stands on the pitch!

  37. nia
    January 16, 2013

    does anyone have a skysports stream? if so pls share, thanks

  38. Ben
    January 16, 2013

    Barca counterattacking at speed! I like it even if it comes to naught.

  39. Ben
    January 16, 2013

    Alexis picks up a yellow for diving.

  40. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    And now Alexis gets a yellow for diving. Just stop it man, and play.

  41. Carter
    January 16, 2013

    How does Abidal fit back into the club when he is healthy again?
    He’s a great player and sures up our defense for sure. But he is more defensive than any other of our wide defenders (except maybe Montoya). With our increased flank play, where does him line up and who with?

  42. Ben
    January 16, 2013

    Nice run by Messi from left to right (!) and a right footed (!) shot from just outside the box doesn’t miss by much

  43. Ben
    January 16, 2013

    Thiago is dispossessed and it leads to an easy Malaga goal – completely against the run of play which has been all Barca so far.

  44. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Not sure why Pinto sent it to Thiago when Puyol was free, but Thiago should have done better with that.

  45. Rivaldo
    January 16, 2013

    Match played at a real pedestrian pace here. It needs a goal. Thiago with confidence today as he gets to run the show and be the reference point. Song continues to improve so far… nice decision making and with his play.

  46. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Now that, my friends, is a genuine playmaker.

    Messi.

    That is all.

  47. Jim
    January 16, 2013

    Really, what would we do without Messi?

  48. Ben
    January 16, 2013

    That header was ridiculous, he was heading away from goal and still managed to loop it in there.

  49. Ben
    January 16, 2013

    Messi is looking firey today. Just picked up a yellow for dissent

  50. Ben
    January 16, 2013

    Oh, Iniesta. you don’t need to dribble the ball into the net

  51. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    So good to see this aggressive running into the box. It’s a thing of beauty. If Ini’s cross had been successful, both Messi and Alexis were there for it.

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      It wasn’t that easy to control but he should have done better.

      Camp Nou crowd chanting his name – they still have the faith! Did wonders for Pedro too when he was out of form.

  52. Rivaldo
    January 16, 2013

    seems my feed is almost 8mins behind

  53. chop
    January 16, 2013

    Is Alexis the worst #9 in Barcelona history?

    • nia
      January 16, 2013

      He’s not exactly an out and out num 9. He’s a winger who wears the num 9.

    • FalseNine
      January 16, 2013

      Not even the worst in the last two years!

      • nzm
        January 16, 2013

        …and Ibra sends his best – from an offside position of course. 😀

  54. alpinegroove
    January 16, 2013

    Alexis is doing almost everything really well. He is actually having a great match. The main issue is with the final touch.

    • Jim
      January 16, 2013

      Not sure in what way he’s had a great match even if we dont count him missing two sitters either of which would have had us on easy street.

      • alpinegroove
        January 16, 2013

        He is making good runs to open space. He is in the right place at the right time, including defensively. And yes, he has had a couple of awful misses, the kind of which every players makes, just not this often…

        • Jim
          January 16, 2013

          Listen, pay my Monday night team €37m and they’ll give you me to run about finding open spaces and missing chances my granny could score 🙂

          • alpinegroove
            January 16, 2013

            Yes, perhaps against your Monday night rivals.
            I know you are a big supporter of Villa. I like him to. Perhaps if he could stay fit, he would be starting ahead of Sanchez.

          • nzm
            January 16, 2013

            Villa missed a better chance than that against Cordoba.

  55. chop
    January 16, 2013

    Eh, I haven’t seen Alexis do much of anything. Messi and Iniesta have been great. Thiago’s done well except for the one brainfart.

    • Ben
      January 16, 2013

      Thiago should definitely have done better, but I don’t think it was wise or particularly accurate pass from Pinto. He deserves part of the blame for the goal in my opinion.

      • Jim
        January 16, 2013

        Not gonna jump all over Thiago for that one. Pinto had the best view of what was happening and as Ardiles says on Sky (at least I think he said- still find it really hard to understand him) he’s young and won’t make that mistake again. Loved the fact he was fizzing at himself. You just know it wouldn’t have happened with Xavi or
        Iniesta though and that’s what he’ll be telling himself. Those wing mirrors are even more valuable than the dribbling skill.

  56. nia
    January 16, 2013

    Alexis needs to be tased to score 🙂 He’s doing everything else right. He’s just a bit unlucky me thinks.

  57. Jim
    January 16, 2013

    Just re watching Messi’s goal. Didn’t realise where he picked it up first time. Half way inside his own half, beats four, recovers the ball from Welligton ( Yay!) and curls a beauty.

  58. Blau-Grenade
    January 16, 2013

    That Messi goal was a thing of beauty. Taking on the whole Malaga. Haven’t seen one of those beauties in a while. Puyol header a beauty as well.

    No comments on Thiago, or Alexis. This place is becoming a battle ground for Thiago and Alexis.

  59. Jim
    January 16, 2013

    Thoroughly enjoying watching Iniesta tonight. He’s a nightmare to play against.

    • Ben
      January 16, 2013

      Agree, he’s been magisterial tonight.

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      Agreed, but perhaps a bit guilty of trying to do too much with the ball. As is Messi with some of the plays.

      Ooh – here comes Duda.

  60. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Malaga is going to score soon if Barca doesn’t pick up the concentration again.

    Time for a sub. Xavi or Busquets. The mid-field isn’t working.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      Love this game. Perfect cup game. Evenly matched. Malaga are playing very well. Love Peligrini.

  61. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Here comes Roque. Malaga looking for a ball from the wings into the big man.

  62. alpinegroove
    January 16, 2013

    Time to make some substitutions.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      Gave the ball away just when I said that.

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      To be truthful, the big man’s had to do a lot to recover from some of Thiago’s little goofs tonight, as well as some of the other possessive giveaways that have been too easily conceded.

      • nzm
        January 16, 2013

        And there we see him again, trying to recover the ball from a Xavi mis-pass. He does enough to hold up play to allow Barca to get into position.

  63. alpinegroove
    January 16, 2013

    Cesc and Pedro for Tello and Alexis

  64. Blau-Grenade
    January 16, 2013

    Red card for MONREAL!!! Clear foul by him in the replay. Great run by Pedro!!

    • alpinegroove
      January 16, 2013

      And great through ball from Cesc.

      • Blau-Grenade
        January 16, 2013

        Absolutely, I absolutely adore Cesc’s play. It took him a year to assimilate into the team and start to weave his magic.

  65. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Seems that sky balls are the in-thing tonight!

  66. chop
    January 16, 2013

    What a terrible FK. What is wrong with you Messi?

    Alexis, good riddance. Pedro has already done more in 1 minute.

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      Easy to come in fresh and do good things against a tired defence. 🙂

  67. alpinegroove
    January 16, 2013

    Xavi for Thiago. Tito wants more goals.

  68. Jim
    January 16, 2013

    We need another goal here. Good to see Xavi on.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      Absolutely Barca need another goal. With this scoreline, and the away goal, Barca will still be in a pickle when they go to Malaga next week.

  69. alpinegroove
    January 16, 2013

    Busquets for Song perhaps would have been better.

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      Nope. The decisions were the right ones. The 3 players taken off were the 3 who weren’t performing when compared to the others on the pitch.

      Tito is a mercenary like that. 🙂

  70. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Malaga is a man down. Our guys should be jumping all over that.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      Can’t believe Malaga is playing so well with a man down. Truly a great team.

  71. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    And there it is. Well, it’s going to be interesting next week!

    Barca went to sleep.

  72. nia
    January 16, 2013

    I saw this coming tbh. Barca went to sleep

  73. Blau-Grenade
    January 16, 2013

    What a game by Malaga. It is CDR though… so I am a little relaxed. But this is an absolute masterclass by Malaga.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      One of the best games I have seen in a long time. Barca tried though. And both teams fought it out. But this game shows that Malaga have earned their Champions League status.

  74. nzm
    January 16, 2013

    Well – perhaps the first time that Tito has got the starting line-up wrong this season, and didn’t make the subs as soon as he should have done.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      In his defense, he had to give some of the bench warmers the time to play.

      • nzm
        January 16, 2013

        Yes – in the 2nd leg, after we had secured this game! 😀

        • Blau-Grenade
          January 16, 2013

          We should have finished the game two goals up after that sending off. I am still not registering the 2 2 scoreline.

  75. G6O
    January 16, 2013

    I totally don’t understand what our game plan was the second half – we seemed happy with the 2-1 and didn’t show any real attacking itent. Well, that’s what you get when you get complacent..

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      Yes – especially when Malaga went a man down.

      Thiago and Tello should have come off much earlier to ramp up the attack.

  76. Xavi6
    January 16, 2013

    Unforgivable mistakes in defense and offense .
    Thiago is such a bright talent , but he likes to play everything with a swagger and that leads in some stupid mistakes . Football is simple , dude . Don’t try to do things that involve risk when you are the last man .

    Sanchez just can’t keep on wasting chances like this . 4-1 before the HT would have killed the game . I now began to remember the chances he wasted against Chelsea in the CL last year .
    If Sanchez was more clinical , the outcome of the match would have been very different .

    We need other scoring outlets other than Messi , and we need a tall ball playing CB . Barca fans have been saying this for more than a year right now .

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      Not sure why you’re wanting a tall CB. Our guys did awesomely well tonight. The CBs weren’t at fault. Can’t see where that comment is coming from when looking at this match.

      Our tall ball playing CB was on the bench and Tito would have brought him in if he was needed.

      The second Malaga goal wouldn’t have been saved by a tall CB – it was shot way away from where they would have been. Adriano fell/was pushed/tripped over and his man was left unmarked. This happens.

      • Xavi6
        January 16, 2013

        Am talking in general , our defense is very porous this season , and I barely remember a match when we had a clean sheet , don’t feel secure with our defense .

        And the defender we need must be tall (we have enough short players) , and good on the ball (today ,we had many troubles getting the ball out of the back)

        I think if we got T.Silva or Hummels , it would have done

        • nzm
          January 16, 2013

          How would a taller CB have helped to get the balls out of the back tonight? More troubles came when we had balls on the ground.

          Isn’t our centre-back defence the same as we had last season (and the season before that) when there were more clean sheets?

          How many goals have been scored, this season, that a taller CB would have saved?

          I can’t think of many high balls or freekicks that could have been saved by taller heads.

          That’s not the issue.

          The defensive problem is happening further up the pitch.

          In reference to this game, Song did great tonight – a couple of errors, but nothing horrendous.

          Thiago didn’t have the best of games and he was missing in defence, save for a couple of recoveries. He mainly played high up the pitch which left a gap that Montoya and Puyol (with Song’s help) tried to plug. Same with Adriano and Masch on Iniesta’s side.

          Iniesta is not the greatest defender at the best of times, and Adriano was behind him to recover lost balls.

          The whole back-line worked their arses off tonight, spreading themselves wide and long to plug the gaps left down the laterals by Thiago and Iniesta.

          There was also Tello where there is usually Pedro or Alexis tracking back in defence. Alexis was ok in defence tonight but wasn’t the best of games from him either.

          Lesson is, if you’re going to play Song, play Xavi beside him. If you’re going to play Thiago in a game against better opponents (because he and Song did really well together against Cordoba, but Malaga isn’t Cordoba), play Busquets beside him. That would be a better match of skillsets when playing more competent opponents.

          • Jim
            January 16, 2013

            Difficult for Tito. There are a lot of players needing time just now. He has to rotate sometime.

            Not sure the defensive problem happened further up the pitch tonight although since we reunited Puyol and Pique the defence has stabilised a lot. The goals we lost were really down to individual situations (mistakes? ) quite close to our goal. Having said that Thiago’s strength isn’t really defence. For me he was the usual mixture of great skills and looseness but he’s still the best bet we have for taking over from the twins eventually. Not sure I’d agree on Iniesta. I thought he was immense and I remember at least a couple of great recoveries of the ball. Agreed he’s not the quickest though.

            The lesson for me is pretty much what i think you suggest which is if you’re going to leave Xavi out you probably need Busi and Iniesta in.

            Ball movement just slowed down dreadfully in the second half which let them stay in the game.

          • nzm
            January 16, 2013

            Every coach has the difficult decision as to which players to play and who will miss out – most first division teams have a complement of 25 players.

            In the end, it comes down to who is the best for the job.

            Until this game, Tito has not had an issue with picking the best. (Discounting the CL Benfica game at home.) I was a tad surprised at the mid-field and front-line combinations, given his knowledge of how very good the Malaga defence is.

            I feel differently about Thiago in defence than you – I’m more of the belief that Thiago is better without the ball at his feet than he is with the ball. Without the ball, he’s doing his utmost to get it back. Tonight, however, he just wasn’t great in defence. Just before the half-time whistle, I saw him trotting casually back while all the others were scampering to contain a Malaga attack. That’s not good to see – especially from someone who needs to take every op he gets to make an impression and play at 100%.

            However, when you analyse the 2 Malaga goals – the first was opportunistic, as was Messi’s in the Liga game against Malaga last weekend.

            The second was because Adriano fell over and his man was unmarked. Unfortunately, his unmarked man was the one to whom the ball was coming.

            I would love to see that play again to see if Adriano was deliberately taken out as part of the set play strategy! It would make a lot of sense if it was deliberate, because all the other defenders had their heads turned in the direction of the ball, so they didn’t see that Adriano was missing.

        • nzm
          January 16, 2013

          Perhaps the better question would be:
          How many games would have been won this season if we had a taller CB?

          Or:
          How many games have been lost because we didn’t have a taller CB?

          😀

    • sd
      January 16, 2013

      “we need a tall ball playing CB” – He wears the number 3 shirt and goes by the name of Pique. Was rested tonight.

      • Xavi6
        January 16, 2013

        I meant we need reinforcements in the centre of the defense .

  77. TITO
    January 16, 2013

    That’s what you get when you think that you already won the game before even played, just because you beat them couple of days earlier. Alexis just needs to be more clinical, that’s all, the rest of his game if great.

  78. barca96
    January 16, 2013

    Really unsportsmanlike of Messi to just kick the ball to the Malaga player at the end of the game to get him booked.

    I’ve always gotten angry at Ramos or any other player for doing that but now Messi does it. Disappointing.

    • January 16, 2013

      It wasn’t unsporting at all.

      The Malaga player was intentionally time wasting by not giving the 10 yards for the free kick. Messi just tapped the ball at him as that would officially draw the yellow & stop the time wasting. If contact is made then a yellow has to be given right away rather than the ref continuing to try to bargain with the defender to move back.

      The unsporting behavior was from the defender. He knew exactly what he was doing & why he wasn’t disturbed in any way when Messi did that and he got the card.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 16, 2013

      Firstly, the player from the other team committed foul. It has been Barca’s philosophy to take the free kick as soon as possible to retain the advantage of the play during which the foul was committed, and take advantage of the inattentive players from the opposition, and to catch the opposition unawares. There is nothing unsportsmanlike in this. All soccer teams do that. Even, the pickup games that I play.

      • barca96
        January 16, 2013

        Well Messi could’ve just waited right? There’s no need to get the player booked!! I find it a cheap shot.

        • January 16, 2013

          The player was intentionally time wasting. That is unsporting. He wasn’t going to move until he got booked. Messi just accelerated the process and saved time.

          Messi did the right thing. The other player was “cheating” and was the unsporting one.

  79. January 16, 2013

    This was just one of those matches that’s inevitable during the season. The team lacked dynamism-especially in the 2nd half where they were poor as a unit.

    Barca has a challenge for the next round but they’re still in a good position to advance. Just need to be careful.

  80. Huckleberry
    January 16, 2013

    you can’t substitude 7 actual first choice players (Valdez, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro) without an impact on the game. It is also a signal to the players not to take the task seriously…

  81. January 16, 2013

    Xavi’s pass completion rate this season in La Liga is 95%. Which is ridiculous.

    What about the rest of midfield?

    Busquets – 92%

    Iniesta – 90%.

    Cesc- 89%

    Thiago? He’s “only” completing 94% of his passes.

    There’s this idea that’s somehow formed that Thiago is careless with the ball or “doesn’t keep it simple” etc. It simply isn’t true.

    He’s a 21 year old who when he takes the pitch has to play one of the most difficult decision making positions in the entire world. That’s simply not easy to do. At 21 Xavi wasn’t “Xavi” either.

    What happened today was just an inevitable part of the a young player maturing. Thiago made a mistake – one that was facilitated by his GK. Afterwards he became too cautious. He played trying not to make a mistake rather than trying to make the plays he usually does.

    This meant that he started holding the ball a pulse too long to “make sure” he didn’t make a mistake. Unfortunately that just doesn’t work in the Barca system. Circulation slows.

    It’s not a big deal. Just part of the process of maturation. The rest of his team needs to pick him up. Messi & Puyol did immediately after but the unit really wilted in the 2nd half.

    Xavi is 32. Last year one of the major reasons why Barca didn’t win the CL was Xavi’s was hurting at the end of the season. His achilles was a major problem. He tried to fight through it – but his play clearly suffered.

    One of the few negatives Barca had in the 1st half of this season was that Xavi played too many minutes. Part of that was due to Thigo being injured. While we have great depth at CAM the depth at CM is more limited. While Cesc has adapted extremely well this season to his vertical, CAM role – he still isn’t well suited to running the club. It’s interesting how infrequently Tito has even asked him to try.

    So in turn the responsibility has to fall to one of the youngest players on the squad. He’s going to make mistakes. But for the most part those mistakes aren’t because he’s careless with the ball or loose or flashy.

    Mistakes occur because at that position dozens of decisions have to be processed instantaneously. That skill requires experience to be honed. Both Xavi & Busi had to go through that process-and they too made mistakes.

    Today Thiago had to instantly recongize & decide that the ball had to be one touched to a CB because it was likely that he would be pressed from behind after Pinto played the ball to his feet. There was nothing careless or loose about that. He took an extra touch and that was it.

    That’s remarkably little room for error to play with-especially if you’re 21.

    But there’s no alternative. It’s very easy to love La Masia players once they are matured & in their prime. But the amongst hardest part of developing young players is the transition phase as they take on more responsibility/ minutes as a 1st team player. Mistakes will be made. But that’s the only way you get a player who can eventually take over for Xavi.

    But from what I’ve seen when I watch Thiago-his mistakes largely come from youth and inexperience not from being careless or flashy. I don’t see that much at all to be honest.

    That Thiago at 21 can complete passes in the 90%+ range (which he regularly did last yr as well) is simply remarkable.

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      I hear you, and understand the need to be patient and while that 90%+ pass rate is impressive, it doesn’t measure the success of the pass as far as what can be done with it once the next player receives it.

      Just because a pass has successfully reached the next player doesn’t necessarily make it a good play!

      For example, Thiago flicks off a pass to Song who’s surrounded by defence and has to quickly play the ball. Song’s pass is unsuccessful and Barca loses possession. But the stats record Thiago’s pass as successful and Song’s as a doozy, and everyone goes, “Oh no, Song is terrible.”

      Even if he was being cautious, I still saw Thiago side-kicking a high ball in the second half which didn’t find a Barca player, and suddenly Malaga had created a corner out of their attack. If they had scored, no one would have remembered that it was Thiago’s careless pass that created it.

      What he should have done was to bring the ball down and control it, but by then, he was gun-shy and wanting to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible.

      But that extra touch that Thiago takes isn’t something unusual. He does it – a lot. It’s been commented upon before. He doesn’t do it in all the rondo practices, so why is he suddenly doing it when he’s on the pitch?

      • January 16, 2013

        I think this is expecting Thiago to be a finished product at 21. I don’t see how that’s possible. Practice is just that-practice. Supposedly Alexis is great in practice.

        It’s game experience where he’s has to mature his game. And it’s just not possible for him to operate at the level of Xavi. Cesc can’t. I don’t think Iniesta could.

        And I understand that pass completion rate doesn’t tell you about how well positioned the pass is or how it sets up the construction of the move.

        But the criticism of Thiago that I specifically bring that stat up about is that he’s careless, flashy, etc with the ball. Careless is different than the pass not being in optimal position for the receiver to orchestrate his next move. Pass completion rate does speak to a player being careless or lax with how he handles passes. If you’re completing passes at a 90%+ rate you really can’t be overly blase or careless with the ball.

        Many of Cesc’s passes are still of that nature-they put the receiver in sub-optimal position to continue the orchestrated move. Cesc is great on the final, cutting ball. But in orchestration he doesn’t put the receiver in the best position. In a way it’s inevitable with him as well as he’s still adapating to system orchestration also.

        Thiago is an experiment in La Masia-on that honestly isn’t exactly “fair” to him. By natural inclination he’s a CAM – much close to the Iniesta mold than the Xavi mold. Yet the club decided to try to “reengineer” him into a CM because it’s even more difficult to find true CMs now than CAMs & that CM spot is the lifeblood of the system. We have many CAMs & fewer CMs.

        Given that even more patience is needed with Thiago. The expectations on him are too high & when he’s dismissed as “careless” or “loose” they are unrealistic IMO.

        • nzm
          January 16, 2013

          Well then, that’s where you and I differ, and I’ll take Thiago out of the equation for my reply.

          I would deem a pass, made by ANY player, to another player who isn’t in an optimal position to successfully play the ball, as being careless.

          It shows a lack of thinking about the next move, and a lack of regard for the welfare of that team-mate to whom the ball has been passed. “Hey, I made a successful pass and that’s all that matters.”

          In rugby, hospital passes usually result in more dire consequences than in football with the round ball, but the cause is the same – someone didn’t think and someone else gets pinged for it.

          Back to Thiago. No – not expecting to see a finished product in him at 21, but I did think that he would be a little more advanced than this, at this time. When I think back to how he was playing at Barca B and in the U-19s, he is pretty much at the same level that he was then.

          However, it is a pretty big jump in game quality from Barca B to the First Team, and Thiago is having to adapt and learn how to fit in.

          How quickly he learns will be the key, because with the extra pressures on the First Team nowadays, they can no longer afford any lean, unsuccessful years in which to bed in new players – given the club’s and the fans’ expectations. The last 4 seasons has set a precedent. The number of “unimportant” games in which to give newer players some game-time becomes less and less when the pressure is there to win always.

    • nzm
      January 16, 2013

      Thiago made a mistake – one that was facilitated by his GK.

      Agree with that, as I made a similar comment above when it happened. I would rather have seen Pinto throw the ball to Puyol who was free on the right.

      However, Thiago made himself available for the ball, and he needed to be ready to play it. He was where Xavi would have been to collect it. A combination of lack of awareness and a clumsy first touch turned it into a nightmare.

      • Blau-Grenade
        January 17, 2013

        One of the things is when you see Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, or Cesc in an open position in the midfield, they are always turning their head sideways, trying to get into an open space, and judging where other players are, so they can make the play when they receive the ball. This is one area where I find Thiago is different as a midfield player. He just does not look around as much. Thiago usually gets the ball, one touches it into open space, and then tries find a player to pass. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. The advantage to the second approach, or Thiago’s approach, is in the forward lying areas, he is able to get into scoring positions because of his touch. The disadvantage is what we saw happen yesterday, is that he lost the ball in a difficult position.

        For me it was completely Thiago’s fault, and not Pinto’s fault. Thiago asked for the ball, he should have been aware as a player that he was in a defensive midfield position, and he should have run towards the ball, and done a one touch pass, or received the ball with a pivot that allows him to see opposing side of the pitch, and avoid being blind sighted towards any opposing players. It does show lack of maturity on Thiago’s part.

  82. January 16, 2013

    Some quick stuff:

    –Good to “hear” Bill again. Some of us noticed your absence.

    –Spent some significant time with an iPad. Ick.

    –Like Eto’o at the end of his time, Sanchez is getting into position. Is is only when he is there that he gets messy. Vilanova’s comments about he and Thiago were supportive and spot on. It’s a confidence question. Also, taking the number 9 was a bad move because people think that he is one. He isn’t. Yes, those misses were staggering. And the match result certainly will draw extra attention to those errors. These next few matches will be crucial for how Vilanova handles Sanchez. He could degenerate into a mess, or emerge from this wreckage like a phoenix.

    –Thiago was badass until those two errors made him tentative. Young players will make errors. It happens. Sky is the limit for him.

    –Ball and player movement were WAY too slow in the second half, allowing Malaga to hang around. The tie coukd have been over in the first half. Now that big Ligalad comes in handy. Vilanova can use his choice in the return leg.

    Those goals weren’t about the defense. One was an error, a player slipped on the second as Puyol and Mascherano marked the same man. It happens, and they learn from the mistakes.

    –It. Was. A. Draw. In a two-legged tie. We beat them 1-3 in their house. The team is good enough to turn the trick. It just has to not be silly. Rare is the goal conceded this season that isn’t the consequence of a significant error. Barça is the best team in the world. It will play like it at Malaga.

    –I would rather have seen Busquets for Thiago. Right now he is the most important player on the roster. We’re always vulnerable when he isn’t in the side.

    • barca96
      January 16, 2013

      I too think that Busi is the most important player besides Messi. I actually think that he’s the one who controls the tempo.

    • “It. Was. A. Draw. In a two-legged tie. We beat them 1-3 in their house. ”

      It won’t be that simple. First as it stands they are going through not us. So we have to win. If they can somehow park the bus(which pelligrini may not do) we could be in trouble. Remember we only have one goal scoring outlet in the front three. I said earlier itself that it could get tricky if the opposition manages to keep Messi quiet. Then on the positive note, it is better to be in a position like this earlier in the campaign. especially with UCL coming.

  83. barca96
    January 16, 2013

    But why whenever Thiago makes an error you and some others love to produce the pass completion rate and or the fact that he’s young?

    Ok I understand that sometimes it’s needed to remind all of us but today his error costed the team a goal. There’s nothing wrong for some of them and me (in front of the tv) to complain.

    In fact he made the same type of mistake twice. The 2nd one was in the 2nd half. He got the ball at the halfway line and lost it the exact same way and a counter attack ensued.

    He needs to be aware of his surrounding before he gets the pass and once the ball is released, look around again.

    Of course this mistake was due to his inexperience but a mistake is a mistake.

    • January 16, 2013

      Don’t think anyone is saying it wasn’t a mistake, or sugar-coating it. The kid screwed up and it cost his club. How much remains to be seen. But lots of people made errors. When people point out Messi errors, it’s “but he does so much.” Xavi or Iniesta errors are sometimes attributed bad control by the recipient.

      Speaking of mistakes, Xavi made two: that silly shot that ceded possession that led to the attack that led to his needless foul that led to the set piece and equalizer.

      Everybody makes mistakes. Iniesta tried to dribble the ball into the net. Puyol and Mascherano played fire drill with a DEFENDER on the equalizer.

      Yes, Thiago screwed up. He had an excellent match until that second error. Then he got tight. With the Barça system comes freedom. Sometimes that freedom leads to errors.

    • January 16, 2013

      It’s brought up because people ironically tend to focus much more on any mistake Thiago makes than say Xavi or Iniesta make. They are less forgiving with Thiago’s mistakes than they are with the more established players.

      I’m not saying you are doing this. It’s a statement in general as was my original comment. I saw a lot of criticism of Thiago in this vein on twitter.

      In addition-a major difference is that when Thiago makes mistakes it’s often attributed to him being “careless” or “flashy” or “loose” with his game. It’s not that he simply made a mistake because he’s young. It’s that he’s been overly indulgent.

      On top of that Thiago’s mistakes are often attributed to the worst cliche’s about Brazilian football. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen something to the effect said that, “he needs to stop being so flashy with the Brazilian tricks,” etc. That’s simply not fair or accurate.

      Xavi made mistakes today & lost possession in way similar to Thiago & it created a dangerous situation. I didn’t see anyone focus on that.

      No one is perfect.

      If you or others want to just complain for complaining sake-go ahead. I’m not telling you to stop. But if you have the right to just complain others have the right to bring up statistics and discuss where he is in his development process. That’s the point of discussion.

      And I think the stats are very telling here. If you’re completing 94% of your passes – more than Busi, Cesc or Iniesta-then how many “mistakes” can you possibly be making? The stat alone is evidence that too much focus is placed on the mistakes thiago does make with the ball as he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt established players do.

      But go ahead & complain if that’s how you want to follow the club. Nowhere in my comment did I say otherwise.

  84. barca96
    January 16, 2013

    We all know that Alexis is not a striker and was not bought to be a 20 goal a season scorer. But even a winger needs to know how to score no?

    And for how long do we have to use the same excuse of “great runs, defensive work, drags defenders”? Is he even a footballer?

    One thing I like is that he keeps getting those chances so that means he knows where he should be, how to make runs. And his misses are all due to a miscalculation of the speed of the ball and the touch needed to apply. I think this is due to the fact that he’s not a natural goal scorer but he better work on it in practice.

    Then those misses will surely be a goal in the future.

    • barca96
      January 16, 2013

      I didn’t think he should’ve been booked though. He was just diving out of the way. If he stayed up he would’ve collided with the Malaga player. It’s getting out of hand really all these referees booking a player for falling. Aren’t players allowed to fall?

      And why don’t players get booked for diving or simulation elsewhere on the pitch?

  85. barca96
    January 16, 2013

    Oh haha the Brazilian tricks and Brazilian stuff must’ve come from Twitter comments. Funny but really untrue cause he doesn’t even do tricks besides his usual fake going right and drag it to the middle.

    But in any case, his mistake of not being aware of his surrounding cost the team a goal. There’s nothing wrong with us fans complaining with that.

    Even a player with a 99% pass completion rate I would’ve complained if he made an error like that because that mistake didn’t really have anything to do with passing.

    It was a basic of looking around before you offer and before you receive. And also when you get the ball like when your back is facing the opposition goal, pass the ball to the person in front of you or at the side because we don’t know what’s behind us, it’s dangerous to stops and turn.

    This is what I learned as a kid in Holland and what I pass on to the kids on Saturday mornings.

    And I don’t understand how why you brought up the pass completion rate because even if he had a 99% rate it wouldn’t mean a thing if he gave away goal, by not passing.

    Btw I know your comment wasn’t to me cause I didn’t even comment on it but yeah I get your point because some of us does complain about him too much at times.

    Kxevin, if Messi, Xavi or Iniesta lost the ball in front of our goal like that, I’m sure I’ll be complaining too. The difference is that is hasn’t happened, yet, and I hope never 🙂

    Last year when Messi lost the ball with his back to goal at the “halfway” line, not anywhere near our penalty area, I and many others complained too.

    • barca96
      January 16, 2013

      Does anyone else have this problem when replying to a comment but the comment becomes a new one? This comment was a reply to Euler and Kxevin above but appeared at the bottom instead. It happens all the time when I’m using the phone.

      I’m using Chrome on an Android.

      • barca96
        January 16, 2013

        And I’ve always preferred Thiago to be playing closer to goal as an attacking midfielder and not so deep. I thought Iniesta would be playing CM when Xavi is out.

  86. K_legit in Oz
    January 16, 2013

    Thaigo shit the bed with that give away (btw he had one more give away in the 2nd half that we didn’t pay for fortunately) but then again did Alexis by missing two open goals.
    Mistakes happen and it is only the copa and its only a draw (not a defeat)
    Cule pessimism rears up again!

    • Doug
      January 16, 2013

      I agree it’s only a draw, but they do have 2 away goals now.

  87. Chiu
    January 16, 2013

    Who will Pep try to sign next season from our club?

  88. bhed
    January 17, 2013

    Is no one here seriously disturbed by the prospect of Pep trying to knock Barca out of the Champions League at some point? I understand that he’s spreading his wings and its an inevitability, but the thought of him actively working to deny Barca that glory (not to mention the possibility of poaching players) kind of makes me feel queasy.

  89. K_legit in Oz
    January 17, 2013

    Oh and Re: Alexis, I know he is not in form and all but he’s a forward. Benching a forward is not going make his form magically return. With a forward, you play him till he regains it, no other way.

  90. replayed
    January 17, 2013

    Two interesting Alexis moments in the match. No, not the obvious ones that have already been lamented, but two moments that may be even more telling about the ticking clock over his shoulder.

    Match time 48:15. Alexis is tussling with Sergio Sanchez in Malaga’s penalty area. After some perfectly legal jockeying, Alexis is about to get away clear when Sanchez does a calculated belly flop intended solely to cut Alexis down. It’s a blatant foul and a penalty. The referee doesn’t even flinch. Yes, it’s entirely possible the penalty would have been equally denied to another player with a better reputation about staying on his feet and without an earlier yellow card for diving — after all, Liga refs aren’t known for giving PKs to Barca. But I couldn’t help but wonder about what might have been.

    Match time 56:56. Tello latches onto a brilliant through ball from Mascherano (my MotM). Alexis is motoring down on the right, directly where Tello is facing, with plenty of space to goal and a good step on his marker. The pass is obvious, inevitable. But no, Tello declines to make it, choosing to hold on to the ball until Messi catches up to the action. Of course, it’s usually a safe bet to pass the ball to Messi, and sure enough, Messi manages to elicit a save out of Kameni even though he has received the ball in a much more contested position than Alexis would have received it. Yes, it’s entirely possible Tello would have also declined to pass the early ball to another player with a better reputation for putting the ball in the net and without a couple of whopping misses earlier. But once again I couldn’t help but wonder about what might have been.

    In other news, I thought that Montoya had a very fine match after a couple of less scintillating appearances.

  91. doctor barca
    January 17, 2013

    I know we ve been doin great and have no complaints about the results so far.mistakes are what makes us humans after all .but I am excited and worried at the same time cos this team still has to show me they r a BIG MATCH team ..I am glad of the 2-2 result from the first leg cos now v ll have a glimpse of what to expect ….our biggest matches so far have been the two madrid matches and I haven’t been impressed … Pep would make us monsters for the bigger games ..with our talent and our attitude v were never beaten in any finals except the cdr once in ET…it’s a test for TITO too .the great teams would always find a way out in the knockouts lets c how our team does ..visca el barca …

  92. Jafri
    January 17, 2013

    I think too much of the blame’s been given to Thiago for that goal. He basically just touched it once to steady it, and before he knew it the ball had been taken from him… Yes, Busquets and Xavi etc would have known a guy was bearing down on them from behind, but not more than a handful of people playing professional football have that kind of spatial awareness. Too much to ask of a 21 year old, even if he’s purported to be the next big thing.

    For me, Pinto was far more culpable. He insists on passing the ball short, following the ‘Barca way’, past the point of all reason. There have been instances in other matches that have made me cringe, when he’d pass the ball to some poor fool with an opposition player bearing down on him.

    People have caught on to the Barca policy of playing out the back, and always make sure to press with their front three. Even Valdes has started hitting long balls because of the amount of pressure coming from up front (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it). But Pinto always passes the ball short, regardless of his teammates positioning; trying so hard to stick to the philosophy that he ends up making a parody of it.

    As for Guardioloa; would love to meet him and beat him in the CL sometime.

  93. doctor barca
    January 17, 2013

    Am new to the blog guys .A cule for about 15 years now …mithun from india …

      • barca96
        January 17, 2013

        lol

        Nah maybe he just needs to start wearing contact lens. His problem last night was a misjudgment of the speed/spin of the cross.

  94. January 17, 2013

    Guardiola Shmardiola. If we see Bayern in Europe next year we’re going to whip their asses, too. Don’t know why anyone thinks Guardiola is any more inclined to be able to control the Beast than any other coach. Knows the players better? Sure. But it still comes down to execution on the pitch, while dealing with a bunch of brilliant players who have mastered a system, but can also improvise. No worries here.

    • January 17, 2013

      Barca – Bayern would be the most anticipated Football match in 13-14 CL.

      Really cant wait.

    • nzm
      January 17, 2013

      I think that it’s going to be interesting to see how he handles the 2 divas in Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez.

      Some egos are going to come crashing down to Earth, methinks.

      • January 17, 2013

        As he did at Barça, Guardiola is going to clean house. If Gomez and Robben start the season with Bayern, I will be stunned.

    • bhed
      January 17, 2013

      It’s not so much about the results for me – I think we can handle them no matter who their coach is. It’s more of a symbolic, existential angst. The club is bigger than any player OR manager, but to me (and many others), Pep is (was) Mr. Barcelona.

    • samarth-culé
      January 17, 2013

      I’ve missed the game itself. All the stuff that surrounds it, not so much.

      It’s about having a good time and encouraging the players to try and do what you think is best for winning matches. The idea is to enjoy the game.

      The principle behind Barcelona’s style was very simple: play with the ball, do everything with it.

      And what I’ll try and do in the future is what I did when I was a player, what I believed in, and what I’ve coached for the past five years: attack as well as you possibly can, keep hold of the ball and pass it to a guy wearing the same colour shirt.

      I think that this La Liga race is pretty much over.

  95. samarth-culé
    January 17, 2013

    @barcastuff- Today exactly 45 years ago, Barcelona president Narcis de Carreras referred to Barcelona as “more than a club” in his inauguration speech.

  96. January 17, 2013

    A bit disappointed by the blame game here on Thiago and Alexis.
    My mind says Thiago is going to be even better than Xavi at 28 – 30. This is his learning curve, better he made it in a cup tie than in CL knock out. I feel sorry for Alexis, but definitely he will improve too, hopefully. Like Iniesta said, there is no perfect player, just because these are professionals its not like they can put in a perfect game. That never happens. We could nit pick and find mistakes with all other players too in this game. Iniesta tried to do too much magic, but mostly it all resulted in nothing. Messi, could have decided to play little deeper, helping Thiago, when he realised that the midfield wasnt working in the second half. I really felt like these maestros took this game a bit lightly, after going up 2-1.

    We were all sure that perfect winning streak was going to end somewhere, better that it did in a cup match. This should probably make the players more concentrated. In a worst case, even if Malaga goes ahead on away goals, I will be relaxed. I really dont want the players to have the extra pressure of facing Real Madrid twice, in between important CL matches.

  97. doctor barca
    January 17, 2013

    Read some of the amazing stuff u write Kevin …keep it up mate ……cure for sanchez???Am a doctor buddy not god 🙂

  98. alpinegroove
    January 17, 2013

    As the Barca coaching staff has been pointing out, and following common sense, it is clear that Barca can’t continue to win every single game.
    Perhaps this draw would actually be beneficial in the long run. The team must feel challenged if it is not to become complacent.

  99. selfie barça
    January 17, 2013

    Only saw like 35 minutes of the first half.

    Would like to point out that I was yelling “Nooooo” at Pinto long before Thiago received that pass. Just like I was yelling “Noooo” when Lexus booted it into the stands in front of an open goal.

    Agree with one of the commenters above that the only way to get him his confidence back is to play him as much as possible.

    • alpinegroove
      January 17, 2013

      I agree, but that didn’t seem to help Torres very much.

  100. January 17, 2013

    Wow, we really are a spoilled bunch when a draw against one of the toughest teams in the league draws such critisism. I didnt think we even played that badly, created loads of chances, we just werent particularly clinical. It happens people, thats football. It has happened before and it will happen again.

    Sanchez needs to get his shooting boots on, i definitely agree with that, but lay off Thiago. First of all it was barely his fault, no way Pinto should have put him under pressure like that. Did he not see the opposition player right behind Thiago? Much more Pinto’s fault than Thiagos. Thiago is the real deal, he is much better at 21 then either Xavi or Iniesta was. I remember when Iniesta first started people were saying he would never make it; he was too weak, he didnt have the composure, he lost the ball too much, blah blah blah. The fact that Thiago is doing what he is doing at his age is just a testament to his staggeing potential. Lets not forget how many mistakes young Sergio made when he first started breaking into the team, now he is the best in the world in that positon bar none AND he is still improving.

    We are VERY VERY lucky to have these players and nobody should ever forget that. You can bet your asses that Thiago would walk into any other team in the world and be a starter and probably one of their best players.

    • nzm
      January 17, 2013

      So..it’s ok to call out Alexis for his errors, but we should lay off Thiago when he makes one?

      What reasoning is behind your partiality?

      • January 17, 2013

        My reasoning is simple. Thiago wasn’t really to blame for the goal, it was more Pinto’s fault for giving him a ball with a player bearing down on him, anyone (including Xavi or Ini) could have lost the ball there. Sanchez on the other hand had no excuse for not taking his chances, which were put on a platter for him. So, two very different situations.

        • nzm
          January 17, 2013

          Thiago made himself available for the ball. His first touch and subsequent dallying on the ball caused the problem.

          He’s already faced to say that it was his fault.

  101. nia
    January 17, 2013

    Had a dream that in the return leg, Malaga battered us 4-0, effectively ending our hope of retaining the copa. I instantly woke up never to sleep again o-O. Hope it doesn’t become reality. Last yr had the same dream when EE beat us 2-1 at the camp nou and that one came true. Hope it’s just nerves. I want to meet EE in the next round.

  102. Jnice
    January 17, 2013

    nzm-

    Back to Thiago. No – not expecting to see a finished product in him at 21, but I did think that he would be a little more advanced than this, at this time. When I think back to how he was playing at Barca B and in the U-19s, he is pretty much at the same level that he was then.

    I’m bothered by this statement. It’s hard for me to believe you’ve actually been paying attention to Thiago’s development if you don’t think he’s improved over the last few years. He has improved in almost all aspects of his game. If he was still at that level he wouldn’t have played in 45 matches last season.

    Defensively? He was told by Pep and other coaches to completely work on his that side of his game and he has done that. Last season he was our best midfielder on the defensive side of things besides Busi.

    In possession he has improved. Completes more of his passes now. Makes better decisions with the ball (despite his mistake yesterday). Makes better runs into the box. More aggressive when around the box. Goes for goal more often.

    There is so much he has added to his game since the time you refer to. I honestly don’t understand how that isn’t acknowledged. What more do you want from the kid?

    • January 17, 2013

      I said this on twitter but it’s worth adding here too. Busquets at age 21 was making the same kinds of mistakes. Think back to 2010 and what were we killing him for? The occasional loose touch or careless backpass. The only way to fix those issues is to play through them.

      Heck, Xavi only really became Xavi after we purchased Davids to take over the defensive work in 2004 (when Xavi was 24). Yes he was good before. But he only took off once someone else took over the serious defensive work.

      • nzm
        January 17, 2013

        I never had that issue with Busquets, but I certainly didn’t like it when Pep chose to play him as a CB.

        I also didn’t like him falling over all the time. So much so, that we affectionately called him “Buckets” because when you kicked him, he fell over like one. 🙂

        Since he’s stopped this element of his play, he’s become an all-round excellent player who, I believe, is coming into his prime this season.

        Before this season began, I was predicting that we’d see further development in Busquets’ play to become a more vertical, decisive player. Delighted to see that’s happening because it was an element of his role that he was missing.

        • selfie barça
          January 17, 2013

          Sergio is a truly amazing player and the best holding mid in the world, but he still has the occasional Bad Busi moment that we complained about in 2010. Think about the second goal we conced at Sevilla this season, for example.

          Players will make mistakes, guys. No matter how good they are.

    • nzm
      January 17, 2013

      That’s fine. You can think that, and I’ll think otherwise.

      If you do check out some of my other comments above, you’ll see that I do like Thiago’s defensive play.

      And you should check out the reasoning to why I think that passing stats are over-rated, as above. Great that he has such good stats – great for him.

      Sorry that you have trouble with anything about me – certainly not my intention to cause such angst.

      • January 17, 2013

        I think that everyone is right.

        –Thiago is a first-team player. When he starts, he is subject to the same standard as everyone else. Should Pinto have made that pass? He has a right to expect a Barça midfielder to do the right thing with the ball. In that case it was, note the location of the Malaga defender and one-touch it back to Pinto, or over to someone else.

        Instead he had a loose first touch then compounded the error by dawdling on the ball.

        He is also a young player who will make mistakes. Puyol did, Xavi did, Iniesta did. Hell, Xavi did just yesterday. TWICE. Mistakes happen. Because human players play the game.

        Thiago has improved rapidly this season. It was like he came back from his injury a different player. He will be fine.

        • nzm
          January 17, 2013

          Again, it comes down to consistency of critiques when it comes to commenting on player performance.

          Praise when applicable, point out the not-so-good when it happens.

          And the same critique criteria should be applied to ALL players. No one should be off limits.

        • Jnice
          January 17, 2013

          But everyone isn’t right, Kevin. That’s the easy way out. Anyone saying Thiago hasn’t improved over the past few years isn’t right. Sorry.

          • January 17, 2013

            But nzm has said that he has improved, unless I am misreading things. Will re-read.

          • nzm
            January 17, 2013

            In the context of how Jnice has taken my paragraph and quoted it, yes, I think that Thiago hasn’t improved as much as I expected him to.

            However, if you read my comments on his defence, I do like how he plays there. Credit where credit is due, and vice versa.

            Right or wrong in others’ eyes, that’s my viewpoint right now. YMMV and I’m not trying to persuade anyone else to think otherwise. I’ll be only too happy to adjust my mindset on Thiago when I see him perform more consistently.

            Apparently that may take many years, given his youth according to others commenting here, but until then I think what I think. 🙂

    • Jim
      January 17, 2013

      Brilliant response. I said at the time he would learn from this and he seems to have. No messing – his fault. Even though it wasn’t entirely. He’s gone up in my estimation.

  103. January 17, 2013

    Rumors coming out of Barcelona that Valdes has told the club that he doesn’t want to renew his contract, which expires in 2014. That means sell this summer, or take a loss.

    • January 17, 2013

      Apparently Valdes’ agents have released a statement about his “irrevocable” decision not to renew. Bayern?

      • samarth-culé
        January 17, 2013

        I don’t think the people at Bayern will let go off Neuer so easily! He is class. Already a top goalie…

        • nzm
          January 17, 2013

          He had a rocky start though. Bayern fans disliked him intensely as a generalisation.

  104. bhed
    January 17, 2013

    On Thiago – before his brain fart in front of goal, I thought he was having a sublime match, just gorgeous play. I was more disappointed in his inability to mentally bounce back from his mistake than I was with the mistake itself. He became tentative after that, and his effectiveness dropped off significantly. Still, he is young, and when he’s feeling it, he’s an incredible player. He’s just got to learn selective amnesia.

  105. doctor barca
    January 17, 2013

    Bayern might have pep but they also have neuer ….valdez is confusing the shit out of me …is he pullin out a Rooney ????

  106. samarth-culé
    January 17, 2013

    Oh My GOD!

    Official: Valdes’ agents release a statement saying the goalkeeper doesn’t want to renew his contract that expires in 2014 [via efe]

    Official statement: “The agents of Victor Valdes have informed FC Barcelona today about the irrevocable decision not to renew his contract.”

    • samarth-culé
      January 17, 2013

      And this is the moment all of us will get to know who the bandwagoners are…

  107. samarth-culé
    January 17, 2013

    So target set Bundesliga prodigy: Ter Stegen?

    • nzm
      January 17, 2013

      He’s awesome. Young, aggressive, organises his back-line like someone with more years than he has.

  108. TITO
    January 17, 2013

    They can have him for free if we get Neuer in return.

    • Choba
      January 17, 2013

      I think we should give VV and pay to get Neuer.

  109. Xavi6
    January 17, 2013

    Can’t do nothing but to thank Victor , he is a loyal servant for FC Barcelona and was kind enough to announce his decision early enough to allow the club to look for a replacement .

    Courtois is a good bet too .

    am I the only one annoyed that Pep signed 3 years contract with Bayern while he always refused to sign an extended contract at Barca ?

    • January 17, 2013

      Probably. Always the rumor he hated RoSELL. Whether he did a ong-termndeal or not, he still stayed for the time he was going to.

  110. Huckleberry
    January 17, 2013

    Hope, that’s not the beginning of “wanderlust” in Barça’s team. That killed the Ajax-team.

  111. January 17, 2013

    WTF Valdes?!?! A “surrealist” meeting according to Barcastuff.

      • January 17, 2013

        Hey, I just cracken on Twitter about melting clocks, horse heads and snipping his tea honey off with scissors.

        • nzm
          January 17, 2013

          Ha! Did you see what Isaiah got when he put my Dali painting title into Google Image Search the other day? Weird, but not as weird as Dali. 😀

        • nzm
          January 17, 2013

          Remember when the Barca board tripped all the way up to Figueres to hold one of their board meetings in the Dali Museum?

          It’s coming back to bite them!

      • mom4
        January 17, 2013

        Or Miro? Like Miro better. Hey, do ya wanna hit the museum with us?

          • nzm
            January 17, 2013

            No, me when mom4 is in Barthelona next week!

            Miro ain’t a surrealist, but I love his museum. Yup, will go.

          • January 17, 2013

            Speaking of, the Dali retrospective at the Pompidou is brilliant.

          • nzm
            January 17, 2013

            If you get back this way, Kevin, you have to take a trip up the coast to Port Lligat to tour his house. That was the best part of the Dali experience for me. It’s amazing.

  112. alpinegroove
    January 17, 2013

    Depending on where he ends up going, this could really endanger his becoming the first goalie for the national team when Casillas steps down, which he said would happen after the WC in Brazil.

    • Ryan
      January 17, 2013

      Is that really true though? Reina’s been #2 or #3 keeper for Spain for years despite Liverpool doing quite mediocre.

  113. mom4
    January 17, 2013

    First and foremost: Thanks, Victor, for the great years.

    Second: Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. Only want those who want to be here.

    Third: Best buddy, Iniesta, better not be thinking of following.

    Dude’s won everything out there for club and country(minus the Confederations Cup). Maybe he’ll take up modeling full-time? 😉

    • January 17, 2013

      Ha! I will miss his smoldering eyes and gorgeous jaw line 🙁
      Our squad’s hotness factor will be reduced by half with his departure.

      • mom4
        January 18, 2013

        Reduced by half? Yep, probably. We don’t have much of a hotness factor. That’s kinda what I like about our, homely sport geeks ;-). Then again, I’m old, all I need is Xavi on the squad to keep me happy , happily married, and supposedly too respectable (no comment here, nzm) to worry about the hotness factor…hmmmmm….where is that link to VV’s modeling thing….
        jk, geez, guys!

        • nzm
          January 18, 2013

          I think that we need to go after Roque Santa Cruz now to bring up the hotness factor again. 🙂

          mom4 – I’m told that it’s ok if I look but don’t touch. 😆

          • nzm
            January 18, 2013

            What? I’ve never thought of Cavani in that way!

  114. nzm
    January 17, 2013

    Holy crap – you should have just seen Courtois saving immensely against Betis just now – about 4 shots in the same movement of which he parried away 2 that were on target. Amazing play!

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 17, 2013

      I think he recently got inspired by Valdes’ theatrics off the pitch.

  115. Blau-Grenade
    January 17, 2013

    Wow!!!

    Barcelona directors were “very disappointed” after the “surrealist” meeting with Valdes’ agents today but club accepts his decision.

    May the surrealism live long… All hail Salvador Dali.

  116. IamXavi6
    January 17, 2013

    Thanks VV- now get outta here and quit being our weak link!

    The only thing I’m worried about is how this will affect internal relationships and factions within the squad.

  117. Momo
    January 17, 2013

    Thank you for everything Victor valdes, He’s had his ups and downs here at the club, but any cule that isn’t grateful to him for his service should re-evaluate their loyalty to the club.

    Like many of you had said there are plenty of quality keepers out there, sentimentally he will be missed, ability wise he’s easily replaceable. Most top keepers now have adequate footwork and passing. Arguably the only non-world class player in the barca starting XI.

  118. Momo
    January 17, 2013

    I’m honestly not sure why Pep joined bayern. They’re comfortably dominating the bundesliga, and have ben in the CL final twice in the past 4 years. I always assumed he would join a team that needed a boost not one that was already on top.

    • IamXavi6
      January 17, 2013

      Oh momo, Momo Momo Momo….you just answered your own question my friend.

      e picked a team that is a GENUINE challenger for UCL and league title (thus keeping his record clean)
      Not a cheque book manager but a trophy manager, thus keeping his profile high
      Team plays very closely to Barca style.
      No outwards BS to deal with that club – ie no pushy chairman, no $h!tty culture etc
      Worldclass players.

      Smartest move he could’ve made has been done after his break.

      • nzm
        January 17, 2013

        No outwards BS to deal with that club – ie no pushy chairman, no $h!tty culture etc

        Do you follow Bayern?

        If Pep survives that madman President Uli Hoeness, it will be a miracle.

        Added to Hoeness, there are Rummenigge and Sammer – not to mention Der Kaiser Beckenbauer.

        The club management is hugely demanding of its players and staff. Yes, they get treated and compensated well, but the expectations are high.

        The only difference will be that it’s not Catalunya, so Pep won’t have the weight of patriotism on his shoulders.

        • Momo
          January 17, 2013

          Agreed on the chairman. He doesn’t seem to be the easiest to deal with, but then again that’s the case with most chairmen.

    • barca96
      January 17, 2013

      I would’ve preferred him to go to Dortmund. I have never heard their chairman or directors making noise in public.

      And they have probably the best young squad.

      And now neutral fans can say that he’s the same as Pep in only managing a top 2 team.

      • nzm
        January 18, 2013

        Dortmund is a publicly traded company listed on the German stockmarket. Its B.o.D. is run professionally.

        Dortmund don’t need Pep as long as they have Klopp, although he may look at going elsewhere if Dortmund can’t retain players and keep a solid team together.

  119. January 17, 2013

    Also yes. Thank you VV. Thank you for leading us out of the wilderness of the post-Zubi years. Thank you for having the balls to play out of the back even when things went wrong. Thank you for saving our bacon repeatedly with stone-cold 1v1 saves. Thank you for being an 11th field player and the reset button for the defense. Thank you for putting up with the insane pressure. Thank you for putting up with being the “weak link” (you’re not) or “not world class” (you are).

    • Jim
      January 17, 2013

      Forced to agree with the sentiments above. I think we’ll miss him. One of the best 1 on 1 keepers around with the rare skill of keeping his focus with virtually nothing to do. Hope he isn’t leaving because of recent criticism.

  120. Dani_el
    January 17, 2013

    Victor Valdes deserves our thanks for his job over this 10 years.
    What I don’t get is why did he had to do this now?
    Couldn’t he have waited until the season was over? Now if he makes one mistake he will get much more undeserve pressure, he and the whole team. And if he would have stay quite til june or july we might have got a replacement quietly, how much do you figure a rival club will charge us for his replacement now that they now we do need a keeper! I think he was selfish and he should have waited. Now we’ll see. Most of us have said on one time or the other that it is really hard to find a keeper for Barça, and Valdes was almost perfect for us and has stand for much criticisms on the past. I really hope it all works out for the better, and that with this he doesn’t create negative pressure from bad press and fans.

  121. 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!

  122. selfie barça
    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.

  123. 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.

    • selfie barça
      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.

  124. 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…

    • 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.

  125. 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!

  126. 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.

  127. 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.

  128. 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.

  129. selfie barça
    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! 😀

  130. 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. 😀

  131. 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. 😀

          • 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

  132. 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!

  133. 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.

  134. 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.

  135. 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.

  136. 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! 😀

  137. 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.

  138. 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.

  139. 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.

  140. selfie barça
    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!”

  141. 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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