Look back in joy, a.k.a. “10 best of the season” (so far)

We are living in a rare and glorious time, one in which cules who have suffered through lean years, various funkiness and close but no cigar kinds of seasons, can bask in the amazing glow of 6, count ’em six trophies in less than 12 months.

Staggering. But even in that time, there have been highlights. Here are my Top Ten:

grinder 10. Grinderball. Last season was all about flash, dash and champagne football gaudy scorelines and giggles all ’round. This year, we are getting every team’s best match, and we’ve learned to just win, baby. Because sometimes, this game is about the strategy, the not letting the other side score and working out some way, any way, to get a goal. Last season, it was pretty easy to coach. Just turn the horses loose. This year is hard. And still, we win.

keitazara 9. Keiteeee!. When we signed the Mali international from Sevilla at roughly the same time that we signed Dani Alves, there was a lot of head scratching, because at the time we had a jam-packed midfield. And the man who I nicknamed “Huh? What?” for the perpetually startled expression on his face, didn’t really do a ton to alleviate the itchy noggins. But this year, he has become the box-to-box destroyer, the dude who pops up in the oddest places, even grabbing a hat trick this season, and scoring key goals. Our midfield became less busy, and players such as Aleksaner Hleb and Eidur Gudjohnsen said farewell to the Camp Nou. And people wondered about our depth, wondered where the goals would come from, forgetting that Monument and Hlebster weren’t exactly pouring them in. Keita has made his name this season, and become the player that now makes it very clear, usually every time that he plays, precisely why we signed him.

supercup 8. Heigh ho, silver!. We ground out a hard-fought win against a determined Shakhtar Donetsk, in a UEFA SuperCup final that showed what we would be facing all season: A club that dug in to defend, ready to take counterattacking chances whenever it could, clogging up the midfield and making rushes up the wings. Still, we persevered, and grabbed our second piece of significant silverware of the season.

spancup 7. Barca conquers Spain. I actually rate the Spanish SuperCup a position higher than the UEFA SuperCup, not because it was a foregone conclusion that we were going to defeat Athletic Bilbao (we did). But it was the way in which we did it, a performance that showed grit, determination and the kind of willingness to go to war for what we wanted. Bilbao didn’t have to roll over, and they didn’t. But none of that mattered, as we took care of business in a very workmanlike way. The deciding leg was defined by The Walk, as Bojan Krkic rounded the Bilbao keeper and, cheeky grin in place, strolled the ball into the Bilbao net. The two legs were a bit more difficult than the final scorelines let on, and because there were doubts about our club and how it was going to play, it made this first award of the season all the more delightful to grab. It was a sign of things to come, and a clear answer to those who doubted this club’s resolve to pick up where it left off.

xavisc 6. The full flower of Xavi. We saw signs of it last season, and over the summer’s Confederation Cup, a tournament that, though it didn’t result in the expected victory for Spain, solidified the position of Xavi as, for many, the best player in the world. This season, he’s had it more difficult than ever, as teams have decided that the way to defeat us is to control Xavi. He’s been man marked, double teamed, fouled, and had players just stand in front of him, to not only cut off passing angles, but deny their very existence. Through it all, he’s been the glue that has held the incessant, inexorable attack together, with slide rule balls that find the feet of those who worship at the altar of Tika-Taka. He’s had off matches, and hasn’t been as dominant as he was last season. But even without Iniesta in full flower, he’s played like the man who many believed should have been world player of the year.

messithumb 5. Messi became a leader. Talk about Messidependence all you like, but when Guardiola threw down a gauntlet, saying to our Petit General “This is your club, now what are you going to do with it,” he responded by returning early, ready to roll, and throwing down. He gets fouled more than any other player in the Liga, and usually gets up and keeps on going, because that’s the only way that he knows how to play. He’s essentially a little thug, who bullies with grace, control, balance and a desire to beat you, any way that he can, even headers, or a chested ball.

pdrjoy 4. The emergence of Pedro!. That exclamation point ain’t for fun, kids. In a season in which Henry has been plagued with the shits, we needed a difference maker, someone to take advantage of the space created by the spearhead of our attack. Not only has Pedro! done that, but he has scored a goal in every major competition in which we’ve played, and HUGE ones. He had the winner in the UEFA SuperCup, and the match tying goal in the Club World Championship. P! is magic.

msicwc 3. Club World Champions. We were two minutes away from going down to a determined, hard-fighting Estudiantes, and then a lucky bounce and a Pedro! lofted header later, it was tied. Then, toward the end of the second extra time period, a perfect Alves long pass found the chest of Messi, and it was jubilation. We wept with Pep Guardiola, and celebrated this club’s spot in history as one of the greatest of all time. 6 major trophies. His chest?? No way.

Spain Soccer Barcelona Ibrahimovic 2. The signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The debate in this space was vehement and at times, vicious. We sent Samuel Eto’o and a pigpile of Euro notes to Milan, for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Oodles of goals for scads of potential. And for the record, I am a non-violent Buddhist, but I will take anybody on in a cage match over my contention that this was a good deal. His talent staggers, as a strong, flexible giant with ball control and passing skills like a midfielder. He’s already done some absurd tricks, made some astounding plays and scored some key goals. And he’s just finding his way. Any cule in his right mind who doesn’t love and respect what Eto’o did for the club is not in his right mind. But Ibrahimovic is, for my money, a completely different animal, because his talent and creativity match those of our attacking brain trust. And the impossible isn’t any longer.

ibrareal 1. El Clasic, 29 November, 2009. And not just because I was there. The Evil Empire went out and purchased an array of talent, spending north of 300 million to secure a team that would upset us. And with a strike that you could hear throughout the stadium, and a man-style performance from our defense, we tore up that limitless line of credit, and scattered it to the Catalan winds. A perfect pass met a perfect strike, then we closed out the match with a note. “Next time, spend a bit more money.”

So there you have it, my Top 10 things of the season so far. Will there be more? I’m betting on it, as there are more trophies to be won, more legends to be had. Now let’s hear it from you, folks. It’s Go Time.

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Written by:

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


  1. Spencer
    December 29, 2009

    -10. The imminent loss of the Yaya.

    -100. Sergio Busquets.

    Just kidding.

    Sort of…

    • December 29, 2009

      minus infinity —-> Pep’s possible refusal to extend contract

  2. Jnice
    December 29, 2009

    Very nice, Kxevin. I don’t have a list, but I can really appreciate all of those, especially Ibra’s signing because I, like you, tried to tell people it would a good signing. Now my friends are seeing what I was trying to say.

  3. Muhammad
    December 29, 2009

    We made a great deal getting Ibrahimovic for sure, no amount of money is worth what he provides us with.
    We got rid of Gudjohnsen and Hleb which is positive too. I made Caceres to them as well.
    But on the other hand, all the other transfers, Maxwell, the guy loaned to Benfica(?) and Chygrynysky, weren’t as good as I expected.

  4. Catalanblood
    December 29, 2009

    Demolition of Inter – Not just because I like Juventus, but also because it showed that we are really on a different level. And maybe you can sprinkle my dislike towards Mourinho as well. There is no doubt who the “Special One” really is.

    Laporta getting drunk – You can always see him trying to stop himself from smiling too much as a sign of respect to the other club president (Hmmm… Let’s say, Perez?) sitting beside him. But in the end, he couldn’t help but rejoice and get drunk like shit after the win in the El Clasico. I hate his politics but you can’t deny that he did what all would’ve done after the game if not for responsibilities in life.

    Ibra’s ninja shit – Wow. Just wow.

  5. Kxevin
    December 29, 2009

    There were so many great moments from this season, that I could have done a Top 20. Laporta getting drunk (awesome picture) would have been No. 11, for sure. Hilarity. What a club we have.

    A few minor news notes:

    –Dani Alves said “Screw that” to extra vacation time, and will be training today with his mates. Word is also to expect playing time for Milito, maybe against Villarreal but for sure in the Copa. I just realized that his pinpoint passes have been behind so many of our important goals this season, particularly in the CWC and Clasic.

    –We’re going to fill out the squad with Thiago, Dos Santos, Assulin and Victor Vasquez. If they make the grade in practice, don’t be surprised to see them getting some pitch time.

  6. BA
    December 29, 2009

    i certainly hope to see the likes of little dos Santos and Assulin, who are the 2 most promising. still worry about us perhaps not bringing in any new people during the January window, but hopefully the youngsters are able to pick up the slack with aplomb.

    incidentally, on the Madrid mockery-bait front:


    apparently the sheikhs over in Manchester thought they’d upgrade to a better model that didn’t require so much maintenance. you can just see Perez licking his lips at the numbers being bandied about, but you can also see the club membership behind him ready to turn him into the ugliest dinner centerpiece ever. is it wrong to chuckle at Madrid’s embarrassment?

  7. JeffP
    December 29, 2009

    No mention of San Andres’ goal at Stamford Bridge? That was the most emotional moment for me.

  8. poipoi
    December 29, 2009

    that was really nice nice kxevin, but one should never go past puyol 😉

  9. Tutomate
    December 29, 2009

    The Iniestazo has to be in the top 10 of every season, not any season, but every season.

  10. lumi
    December 29, 2009

    My brother is an arsenal supporter but his second club is Barca. he said when it got to 90 mins in Stamford Bridge last season, it was like the world was about to come to an end GOD told the devil that if chelsea defeats us the world will come to an end coz he couldnt take the embarrasment of seeing a club palying football as smooth as the wind knocked out, and so all forces both in Heaven, on Earth, in the Sea and in the Underworld had to muster all thier strength for GOD not to Kindle his anger on mankind.

    • akiller
      January 5, 2010

      hahaha, nice comment. Sorry if im reading late.

  11. OhYes
    December 29, 2009

    Hey Kevin, I think allas11 saw this post because he made a Keita tribute: //http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwriIqbFPU8

  12. December 29, 2009

    The Ibra back heel to Pique (against Racing was it?) was the goal of the season for me. So outrageous.

  13. Aeneas
    December 29, 2009

    My favorite event of the season was Pique and Puyol against the EE.

  14. Catalanblood
    December 29, 2009

    I know we’re talking about this season but who can forget about Puyol kissing the captain’s armband after his goal in last season’s El Clasico. Still gives me the shivers thinking about it.

  15. Eduard
    December 29, 2009

    Iniestzo and 2-6 were last year. I agree with the 10.

  16. adal
    December 29, 2009

    Looking forward to another Iniesta moment.

  17. Kari
    December 29, 2009

    BS.com and Marca don’t agree with you on #5 Kxevin.

    According to an ‘extensive study’ by Marca, Ronaldo demonstrates more ‘leadership qualities’ than Messi. Of course, sheep being sheep, BS.com agrees.



    It’s an ‘extensive study’, Kxevin. It’s pretty hard to argue with it.


    • Kxevin
      December 29, 2009

      Riiiight. Because leaders always eschew celebrating goals with their teammates because they’re pouting, right? What could I have been thinking?

  18. JMo
    December 29, 2009

    I know he’s had moments of complete horror, but the impressive form of VV can’t be ignored.

    He’s the sole reason we got a point from our match with Valencia. And while Puyol was obviously the most important player for us against Madrid, VV kept us in the game on at least 2 occasions.

    I’d put the emergence of VV in there instead of the spanish super cup.

    • Kxevin
      December 29, 2009

      For me JMo, VV has always been my keeper, and he’s always been good. People have been going all Phil Schoen on him, ready to start carping about shit even when he wipes is butt the wrong way. But VV had a kick-ass season last year, and is having another one this year. So for all the right reasons, I’m quibbling with the idea of his “emergence.” Brotha’s been in the house for years. 😀

    • Kari
      December 29, 2009

      I don’t think I’d put VV in the list for this seaason, because, really, it’s not really an ’emergence’ of VV so much as a renaissance that started last season, and has carried on into this one.

      Remember the last Clasico in the Camp Nou last season, when he saved from Drenthe? Or the double save from Drogba in first leg in the Camp Nou?

      I think VV has been playing well for a while now, but people just remember his flop rather than his good moments. When VV is on, he’s world-class. When he’s not, well, that’s what the defense is for.

      • Kari
        December 29, 2009

        Darnit! Curse Kxevin and his faster posting ability. Fat fingers my arse! 😛

    • December 29, 2009

      If you’re a Time Warner subscriber, like myself, it does indeed mean that. I’m hoping they come to a compromise, but I’m envisioning a word where I opt instead to give no one my money because they’re just going to jack my rates and reduce what I get and I find that absurd. Inflation is one thing, but fucking everyone over is no good.

      Fox doesn’t need the money, but neither does Time Warner.

      • Miguel
        December 29, 2009

        hopefully it’s just a bunch of posturing on fox’s part. sad fact is fox does need the money. revenues from ads and newspaper sales(they own the wsj) is way down, especially now. the shittiest part of all this is that this shit wouldn’t have been a factor for me had my stupid apartment allowed me to get a satellite dish. boo!

        • December 29, 2009

          The thing is, take a look at your bill now and then tell me if your rates go up, whenever they come to an agreement, by more than the agreement is worth. If they agree to $1, expect a $3 hike by TWC, proving that neither Fox nor TWC is the least bit interested in keeping costs down, as they claim.

          Obviously they’re not, but it’s important to keep that in mind. Both Fox and TWC make massive profits off of this sort of thing. Short-term “losses” (lower profit margins) in lean years do not equal actual losses or reasons to increase rates, but basic collusion works and the misdirection play in the media by both companies is, as always, going to work perfectly.

          I want my CL, so I’ll have to pay that 300% monthly rate increase over the actual cost increase. Or I’ll have to become better friends with some of you that love the CL as much as I do.

          • Tyler
            December 30, 2009

            or if ya’ll just switched to direct tv you could watch all champions league games in hd. welcome to my world : )

          • December 30, 2009

            Unfortunately I don’t believe that’s an option in my building, which is tied in to TWC, as is typical of many major city apartment buildings.

          • Tyler
            December 30, 2009

            Isaiah, it might cost you more, but unless the building won’t allow dishes to be added to your unit you should still be allowed.

          • Miguel
            December 30, 2009

            i’m pretty sure my building is in cahoots w/time warner. on top of that satellite dishes are considered eyesores. oh the pains of living in the big city. to the pub for the champions’ i guess.

  19. Keano
    December 29, 2009

    Whats peoples opinion of the ukrainian sweeper so far?

    • majatt
      December 29, 2009

      Started great, got injured, lost a bit of pep. His passing is still ace but his movement and the timing of his tackles seemed a bit meh since he came back from injury. I don’t think he was worth the money but hopefully he will prove me wrong in the coming years. I think that money coulda been spent on a 2nd RB.

      I really hate to see him and Pique on the pitch at the same time MAXIMUM slowness.

      • Keano
        December 30, 2009

        Good honest response,cheers majatt.

        • Kxevin
          December 30, 2009

          I like, I like. He has starter material, but hasn’t been the same since his injury, which must have been more severe than anyone let on. He isn’t pacey, but I would argue that our CBs don’t need pace as much as a strong posutional sense and excellent passing skills. And I would say that when Txigrinski is in there, he is our best attack starter from the back.

          Give him time. I think that in the second half of the season, now that he’s healthy again, we’ll begin to see why Guardiola wanted him so much. And as they say in basketball, you can’t coach height.

          He’s also young. And speaking of, Botia is going to be another fine Barca CB. Suddenly, we have a towering back line for the future.

          • Keano
            December 30, 2009

            I do think he’ll improve. If anyone reads the guardian johnathan wilson has written an excellent article on the possible return of the libero(with lots of barca praise!)
            Whats this Thiago like?

          • December 30, 2009

            Thiago is quick, but very unrefined, a diamond in the rough, for sure. He’s got loads of potential, but, in my mind, has a 50% chance of making it big and a 50% chance of being a bust.

            And 100% chance of being a canterano…

  20. stephen
    December 30, 2009

    Loved the article, and I agree with it all.

    ps: did everyone see the Gayness of Crinaldo in the cover of Marca? wtf

  21. SoccerMom
    December 30, 2009

    SoccerMama´s Spanish SoccerStar Sightings

    1. Barajas. 27 December. 11 a.m. (local). Felipe Calderon pushes wayward baggage cart, searching desperately for men´s room. Take: Less presidente, more Provent.

    2. Manises. 27 December. 2 p.m. (local). Mata waits next to SoccerMama for baggage from overseas flight. Take: Little guy. Pug nose. Scruffy.

    Life Lesson: Do not despair, BarcaBabies. Deep down, every one of us, ´razzi flash or sans cash, celebrity or nonentity, really hates the &%$·” airport.

    • Kxevin
      December 30, 2009

      Nice! But the private jet crowd probably likes the airport juat fine, right?

    • Tyler
      December 30, 2009

      i can beat this. this summer on my way to san lucar, stuck in barajas waiting for my gate to show up on the board. I look over and say to myself, “man that looks a lot like Fernando Torres. and that guy looks a lot like Guiza. and that guy has to be Cesc Fabregas”

      Within moments the entire National Selection Squad is standing in front of me. They were catching their flight to South Africa for Confederations cup. Was about 6 inches from all of them!

        • Tyler
          December 30, 2009

          All I can say is Pique is huge!!! And all of them wear a lot of hair gel hahaha.

      • eklavya
        December 31, 2009

        holycrap!! Crazy!! Did you take some pics? Did you talk to anyone? Wow!

  22. Kxevin
    December 30, 2009

    In a classy touch, we have invited Eto’o, Jorquera, Sylvinho and Gudjohnsen to take part in Sunday’s celebration of the six cups, before the Villarreal match.

    • Kari
      December 30, 2009

      For the love of God! Someone stop Kxevin, he’s reading my mind and posting what I was going to say! 😛


    December 30, 2009

    GOAL.COM has started a best player of the decate vote…Sammy Hyppia is second to ronaldo..!.Leo and Xavi are far behind…
    I say we all go and vote Hyppia so we can discredit the dreadful goal.com forever 🙂

  24. Gilmango
    December 30, 2009

    I posted this on big soccer before we won #6, will update and edit it down a bit here TOP TEN REASONS BARCA can get BETTER THIS SEASON

    Why I think we can improve upon our already record setting pace in 2009/2010, which has already seen us: improve upon last season’s torrid start in La Liga; set a record for undefeated games in a row in La Liga; lose only one match total that counted; win three more trophies; witness the emergence of Pedro and his historic goal scoring in six different competitions; witness the magic of Ibracadabra, our leading assist man and our leading goal scorer in La Liga; and finish top of our group in UCL despite the Rubin fiascos.

    1. Henry has only 2 goals and no assists, he will improve upon that so long as he stays healthy. Getting a better understanding with Ibra will only help matters. I am not in the camp that believes we need to sign a left winger in January.

    2. Iniesta too has been far below his best between his bad leg injury and the virus he got this summer, while never a big goal scorer, he has no goals and only a couple assists. He will get better as his health and fitness improves. Fortunately Keita has been on fire which has helped.

    3. Marquez, who was a good and valued STARTER last season until injuries and the emergence/improvement of Pique, has been injured and often dreadful this season, but he will get better as his health and fitness improves and will be a great reserve to have now that Pique is firmly a starter.

    4. Chiggy, who joined our squad late, will get more integrated and develop a better sense of how to play with each of his prospective partners on D. He missed our entire preseason.

    5. Milito might come back and give us something after 1.5 years. He was a starter on the Argentine NT and formed a great 3 man rotation with Puyol and Marquez. After his injury we shelled out over 60 million on central defenders: Pique a steal; Henrique and Caceres already deemed failures by Pep for our Total Football system; and Chiggy, the costliest of all, who Pep trusts – thank god, and who we fans are still generally uncertain about.

    6. Pep will sort out a better rotation system with Yaya and Sergi, perhaps playing both at once more (it would not hurt for Xavi to give himself a bit more rest). Or at least Yaya’s manager (and Yaya) will stfu about PT and prospective transfers, and we fans will just trust that Sergi brings more to the plate than just assists for the other team.

    7. Ibra will only develop better rapport with Pep and what Pep wants and expects and with the whole team and especially the other forwards and attacking midfielders, and the idea of him improving is scary.

    8. Pedro, Bojan, Jonathan, Muiesa, Fontas, Jeffren, Thiago all get older and better and have a chance to prove themselves. Maxwell too will get more integrated just like Ibra and Chiggy mentioned above

    9. Election drama will end and, more importantly, Pep will ink a new deal!

    10. 6 titles in one calendar year is amazing and never before done. But 6 in one season would be even more amazing (we are 3 away there). If we can repeat in the UCL that would be a first for any team since UCL began, and to do it in Madrid so much more so.

      • Tyler
        December 30, 2009

        Good list, but I’m not too sure about #1. I think time has finally taken a toll on his Henry’s knees and he’s never going to return to that amazing run of form he had last year. I’m eager to see Jeffren and Pedro slowly fill that winger position and become deadly like Henry was.

  25. Blow-Granite
    December 30, 2009

    The number 1 is Iniesta getting upset at Crynaldo when he came over to intervene when Iniesta was fouled in the classico. I have never seen him get upset.

  26. December 31, 2009

    Genoa is reportedly innarested in Marquez. I’d do that deal in about two seconds.

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