Between a Rock & a Hard Place: The Abidal Dilemma

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It’s the end of the season, and the club will be making some tough decisions soon. One of the toughest of all is whether to offer Eric Abidal a new contract. Over the last three seasons we have shared his struggle with cancer. We wept for joy when he overcame it to lift the CL trophy at Wembley, then wept again when we heard he had suffered a relapse. We celebrated when a liver donor was found, and rejoiced when he stepped onto the pitch to play his first minutes in over a year. Now, finally, Abidal is fully recovered and eager to take up his position in the team. In a perfect scenario his contract would be renewed and a 100% fit Abi would play for Barcelona for at least another year or two before retiring and moving on to the next phase of his career.

Over the last couple of weeks there have been rumbles from Abidal’s agent (and maybe from Abidal himself, although I’m not sure if those quotes were confirmed) that they are disappointed that the club hasn’t yet sat down and talked about renewing his contract. According to his agent, Abidal requested a meeting with Rosell as far back as February but got no response. After these quotes came out, the reaction was immediate outrage, at least in my twitter TL. Why haven’t the club offered Abi a new contract? How could they leave him in limbo like that? Don’t they owe it to him after everything he’s been through to let him know, so he can plan his future? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and there are serious questions that need to be asked. Even if Abi had been granted the meeting he requested in February, there is nothing that Rosell or Zubi could really have confirmed at that point other than that he is important to the club and that the coaches will be the ones to make the evaluation at the end of the season.

Before the club can even consider renewing Abidal’s contract, they must be convinced of two things: 1) that he is 100% healthy and fit to play, and 2) that he can be counted on to play consistently at the high level demanded by a team of Barça’s calibre. The doctors have passed him fit, and we have no reason to think that his health is still compromised. In the four games he has appeared in this season, he has looked almost like his old self. In fact, I would currently consider him our best defender by far. His speed, positioning, reading of the game, and assurance on the ball have all been top-notch. However, he has only played a total of 175 minutes, and just one full game. The last game he started he had to be subbed off due to “thigh discomfort”, although there was also a suspicion that he just ran out of gas. There is also the fact that Abidal is 33, and will turn 34 in September. I’m not one of those who thinks a player has an automatic expiry date of 30 years, but he is certainly not getting any younger. Taking all these factors together, it is understandable that the coaches are taking their time to make a final decision. With only 25 first team places available and a clear need for new signings, can the club really afford to offer a place to a player who may not be able to rise to the challenge? Then again, can the club afford not to?

This is a very tricky situation for the club. On the one hand, we have the feel-good story of the club standing by Abidal throughout his illness, renewing his contract when there was no question of him playing, and giving him all the support he needed to come back and rejoin the team. Mes que un club, right? A happy outcome, and tons of great publicity for the club along the way. We’re the good guys. But if the coaches, or the Board, or both have decided that Abi just can’t play at the highest level anymore, or for over the course of a full season, how do they let him go without looking completely heartless? Rumours have abounded that club wants to offer him a job on the coaching staff, or as some kind of goodwill ambassador. This would obviously be a good solution for the club, as it would be seen as taking care of a family member, but Abidal has stated that he wants to continue playing for at least another year or two. If he can’t play at Barça, he will certainly look for another club. Apart from the sadness of losing a very talented and beloved player, there is the danger that if Barça lets him go and he ends up having a brilliant season somewhere else, we would look awfully foolish for parting with an excellent defender just when we are most in need of one with his exact profile.

Personally, I would love it if Abidal stays. I think that his talent, experience, and thorough knowledge of our system would compensate for him needing more rest between games or starting on the bench. He could surely play more minutes for us than Carvalho has for the last 2 season for Real Madrid. I think the club should offer him a year renewal, with an option for another year based on number of games played. If at any time his health becomes an issue the contract could be cancelled by mutual agreement. Sadly, it seems more and more unlikely that this will happen. I am afraid that we will have to bid adieu to our French greyhound at the end of this season. I very much hope that I am wrong.

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125 Responses to “Between a Rock & a Hard Place: The Abidal Dilemma”

  1. Levon says:

    Wow, Blitzen. I agree with every word.

      • Barcaman says:

        I also agree with this nice piece. Abidal, assuming he will perform at 80% his former level, will still be miles ahead of Adriano or Song at the CB position. Even as a back-up, he’s worth getting a contract renewal. If the club is very concerned with his performance, they could insert a clause that caters for their concerns.

        One another note, is it worth getting 5 million Milan is offering for Bojan? Or should we bring him back home? Is anyone else interested in buying him for anything more than 10m?

        • barca96 says:

          1+1 is the best solution to me.

          Abidal at 80% is better than our patch up CB’s indeed and I dare say that he is still the best CB at 80%.

          And I would rather have Abidal taking up 1 spot rather than Fontas or Bojan who wouldn’t be able to contribute much to the team.

  2. nia says:

    Good post. I agree as well that the club should at least offer Abi one more year to play. The way I see it is this way. They offer Puyi a player whose been injured every third game, has barely played at all for the last two years and with every knee surgery is getting slower and less mobile. I get it, Puyi is Catalan and has been at the club for many years and is club capita but lets be honest, he’ll never be as good as before and although they are almost the same age, I see Abi as a fitter player whom, had it not been for his health problem would have played till he was closer to 40 than Puyi.

    I think the club will lose many brownie points(with me especially) for letting him go after all this. I don’t think we should keep him for sentimental reasons but, I really do think he’s still a good player and has a little more footy to offer us. The club shouldn’t even come out with this crap that we are not a ‘social club’, bla bla bla, because at this moment, he’s a better player than his health issue dictates. I hope he stays and prove them all wrong and if they let him go, I hope he gets to play us and defend very well. I don’t think they realise how much we’ve lost without Abi’s defensive cover. Anyways, good luck Abi on whatever the outcome.

  3. Jared10 says:

    I don’t post often, but great read. Personally, I think we need to give Abidal a chance next year. Still has a good year or two (maybe 3) left in him at the top level. The only problem is who do we sell? With Neymar possibly coming in (and another defender please?)some players will need to go. I’d be extremely disappointed to see Abidal leave though…

  4. Jared10 says:

    And just a suggestion, but at the end of the season we should have a thread dedicated to discussing transfers. I’m interested in what all of you think :)

  5. Great post & I agree with every word!!

    Abidal merits an extension based solely on his performances after his return. There’s never any guarantee regarding playing time, but maybe they can take a medical and pass him fit to last an adequate duration of the season. I doubt he will be a starter anyway, with the club looking set to buy at least one defender. In that case, the French Greyhound would make an excellent replacement/backup.

  6. hammeronmessi says:

    good one,blitzen.

    was surprised by abidal’s impatience.as a professional he should understand the need of evaluation after the end of season,not in February.

    the rumors(if true)of having him as a goodwill ambassador is the perfect and reasonable choice for the board.on the other hand if Abi really thinks he can contribute at the level required by barca he should offer Barca a contract based on the no. of minutes he plays.

    @blitzen i really dont think he can shine brilliantly in any other team.so to let him go and the chance see him play brilliantly is quite slim.

    the optimum solution to me is to give him a 1 year contract based on playing minutes and then to make him a goodwill ambassador for the club.

    OFF TOPIC :

    1. Man,the level of expectation Barca has to endure is brutal,just look at the response of the BFBer’s after the atletico game.the usual whining is tiresome,why cant you guys enjoy something?

    2. Did anybody watch revista with Laporta?how i miss the smirk of him?the best president Barca ever had.loved the way he called “the current president”instead of Rosell.

    • barca96 says:

      Long time no see. I am really looking forward to watch that episode since Gerry Armstrong mentioned it. And Calderon (sp?), Madrid’s former president will be on the show too.

      Do you have a link for the Revista episode?

      • hammeronmessi says:

        lost the enthusiasm to comment here.so much whining,blame games,sell x sell y,sack tito etc etc.the room has lost it’s serene atmosphere.

        try this one.

        https://hotfile.com/dl/222866648/35c9a26/revista_de_la_liga_-_14-05-13.mp4.html

        • nzm says:

          Sorry that you feel that way. It has been noted by the mods and we have had several of our readers also make similar comments to us over on Twitter. We’re talking at the moment about how/if we can bring the site back on track.

        • Kxevin says:

          Absolutely agree. As nzm notes, we have indeed been discussing the matter, and rest assured that we will figure something out. Too many voices that I have gotten used to seeing I am not seeing any more. In hearing from a few of them, it is because of precisely the reasons you lay out. Obviously, we don’t think it’s a good thing, and we’d love for it to not continue.

          Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

        • BA says:

          brilliant interview. night and day difference to Rosell’s platitudes and spreadsheets. Laporta talks about *people* rather than money, and football at the end of the day is about *people*, not money.

          Laporta took risks, that almost all paid off. he constantly gives credit where it’s due (notably to Txiki B.) and maintains that the soul of our style is still held by Cruyff, a figure Rosell has gone out of his way to alienate. he trusted in Frank Rijkaard when then boardmember Rosell himself was calling for him to be ousted 6 months into his tenure as coach. just a few of so many ways in which the office of the presidency has been reduced since he left.

  7. nzm says:

    Good points on Abi, blitz.

    Renewals depend on a lot of factors, but for me there would be 2 areas of particular concern (as blitz has also noted) in Abidal’s case:

    1. VALUE: there’s no doubt that having a player like Abidal on the team is extremely valuable as a motivator and a calming influence. He obviously coaches the players and gives them assurance (witness Alexis coming over to hug Abi who had given him some advice & belief prior to that game), and he’s held in high regard. The question of his value lies in how much quality playing time he can give to the club as he takes a space in the squad, and how much money that will cost the club in return.

    2. ABILITY: we all know what Abidal has been capable of doing on the pitch. His presence in the back line is calming, solid and dependable. You won’t find him straying upfield only to be out of position when the ball is turned over because he has positional intelligence and is an excellent reader of the play. The (still unanswered) question for both parties is whether Abidal can still consistently perform at the required high level.

    For me it’s a no-brainer but I’m obviously not fully aware of all the extenuating circumstances and intricate details.

    Tito wants a squad of 22-23 players next season. This leaves 2 free spaces. Abidal could easily take up one of these if all other contractual points are satisfactorily ironed out.

    Given the amount of time and investment that the club has undertaken with Abidal to get him fit and healthy again, it just seems pointless to me if some agreement can’t be found to get him to remain.

    If Abidal is seeking an assurance that he will get so many games per season, the club cannot and should not write this into any contract as it takes the selection control away from the Manager (Tito). (I know there are players who have # of games guaranteed, but this is just wrong.)

    If Abidal is seeking to become a First Choice player, again the club cannot guarantee that in the same way that they can’t/shouldn’t make this guarantee to any other player.

    Personally, I would hate to see him leave. The club would be missing out on a person who has so much to offer both as a player and in a managerial/ambassadorial role.

    Unfortunately if the club and Abidal can’t see eye-to-eye, we should be prepared to see him leave.

    ******
    What disturbs me most about the club’s contract renewals is that they don’t appear to have a proper communication system or a standard process in place that treats all the players in equal fashion when it comes to negotiation.

    There’s huge crowing (even on the club’s website) when it’s time to talk to the likes of Xavi, Messi, Puyol or Iniesta whose negotiations begin well before their contracts expire. Talk about joint renewal signings, in front of the press, float about.

    Just imagine if the club had left VV’s contract negotiations until the end of the season, only to be told by the player’s management that he was leaving Barca?

    But when it comes to fringe players (Muniesa’s contract ends in June and the club hasn’t started talking to him yet), or (and I hate to raise it, but it simply looks this way) the foreign players, there doesn’t seem to be the same process in place.

    Some of you may recall that it took 5 months (circa Oct 2011 – Feb 2012) for Abidal and the club to come to an agreement about his present contract – and that was only for another 12 months. But at least they started talking to him well before his contract was due to expire. In this case, it appears that they have not.

    Adriano is going through a similar process at this time too.

    For a club that extols its principles of fairness and equality, it does a shoddy job of evenly applying them to their internal procedures.

    • hammeronmessi says:

      “For a club that extols its principles of fairness and equality, it does a shoddy job of evenly applying them to their internal procedures.”

      that’s the hallmark of the “era of no color copies”.

      what strikes me most that there is a communication gap between Abi camp and the management.after all he has gone through and the way the club stood beside him ,it seems quite unthinkable.yet here we are.

      i dont reside in Barcelona,based on the internet cules he is not so popular.what’s the opinion of him in Barcelona?any insights.

      He lacks the charisma of laporta,unbridled passion of barca.sometimes i think he only thinks of the era of rosell not the era of barca

      • hammeronmessi says:

        the last 2 paragraphs the he is in reference to denor ROSELL

      • nzm says:

        There are rumblings of disapproval happening. The Catalan cules are on the horns of dilemma. On one hand, they approve of the “saving money” attitude, but on the other hand they can see that it’s not doing the club any good.

        Whether there’s enough discontent to actually remove Rosell is anyone’s guess. When it comes to actually making a decision, there will be a large proportion who will vote for the status quo rather than face change. Better the devil you know…

        What galls me the most is that Rosell rode into this job on the ticket of transparency, but immediately set about doing everything but that, as well as making Laporta look like the big bad wolf when it came to the club’s finances.

        Laporta inherited a club that was in a far worse financial situation and reduced that debt to the tune of about 150-200 million Euros – Swiss Ramble has the exact figures in some excellent articles.

        I’m not saying that Laporta was the all-round good guy – very few are squeaky-clean when it comes to assuming high-position roles.

        But here’s what Laporta did manage to do:
        - he grew the club.
        - he presented a fun-loving persona that was more in the keeping of a club then the current President. I liken Laporta to Dortmund’s Klopp. The right mix of fun, business and trolling for the hell of it!
        - the club had its most successful years under Laporta – a legacy which Rosell has inherited and seemingly is now losing because he simply doesn’t have the ability, nor the financial flexibility, to do what’s best for the club, taking a wholistic (unlike Man City’s “holistic”!) approach.
        - he worked with his management team to try and give them all that they needed to be successful.
        - he lived for the club. If a player had to leave, he felt it as badly as the rest of them. It wasn’t just a financial or performance-based transaction – there were humans involved.
        - he trusted his management team to do the best for the club. He was happy to take advice from them as part of his decision-making processes, but he wouldn’t deliberately put any of his lieutenants into positions of relaying bad news if he could help it – unlike the incumbent who seemingly disappears when there’s unfavourable news to report.

        Rosell’s austerity measures are biting hard into the ethos and spirit of FCB. There was a piece in El Pais about how austerity is killing any chance of growth in countries where it has been implemented (in comparison to Iceland who said “screw you” to the bankers, convicted them and then worked to rebuild their country – 3% growth so far). There’s little reason to see why austerity wouldn’t have the same effect at a club or business level.

        Sorry to take the discussion off-topic, blitz, but at least I’m not trying to diss, sell or buy players! :lol:

  8. Huckleberry says:

    Abidal would be the first athlete to come back after a liver transplantation. That’s risky not only for Abidal but also for the club. If everything goes well, fine. But what, if Abidal gets a crisis on the pitch and dies? Who is responsible then or will be made responsible for that?
    It is also understandable if the coaches do not dare to throw him in a battle…

    • Calvin says:

      Do you mean first professional athlete? First professional soccer player?

      There really isn’t much risk that Abidal would suffer an acute crisis on the pitch and die. When I say not much risk I mean the risk is approaching 0% (never say never and all that). It just isn’t an issue with the liver like it would be with a heart defect or after a heart attack. This is not necessarily a career ender like the heart issue that young midfielder from Madrid had…

      There are lots of people who have come back after liver transplants and been exceptionally active. There are stories of people who have run marathons within a year of their liver transplant. This really is a non-issue if Abidal feels healthy enough to play and is able to get himself fit enough to play.

  9. TITO says:

    I have no opinion on Abidal’s situation, i really don’t know what is the best for us and him.
    Anyway, there’s a story on EMD regarding Thiago and the possibility of selling him in case he doesn’t get the chance next season. They value him around 25.
    I think this is even more important for us. Should we stick with Thiago and have faith on him? That he will become what we all think he will?

    • georgjorge says:

      I think Thiago has the most potential of being a regular first-teamer in the near future of all the young ones (Tello, Bartra, Montoya, Deulofeu etc.). He’s impressed me over this season’s games as well as the last one but got less playing time than I would have expected. If it’s a question of whether he can play well in a Barca midfield, I would very much want to keep him around because he has what it takes. But the real question is if Tito is willing to take the “risk” (compared to putting Iniesta – Xavi – Busquets out there) of playing him often enough to grow adequately. Personally, I would love seeing him a lot in next season’s league games, even if he made mistakes that Xavi or Iniesta wouldn’t make, even if it would make us lose games – there are always trade-offs between winning and developing young players for the future. And Barca hasn’t done so well over the last years with buying players from other clubs and forcing them into the Barca system so I’d rather they play Thiago then use the money and buy someone else.

    • blitzen says:

      I’m absolutely certain that Thiago isn’t going anywhere. He is the foundation our future midfield will be built on. The papers ran stories about the club selling him last year, and the year before that, simply because he is such an obvious talent and hasn’t yet fully realized his potential with this team. I hope Tito gives him a lot more minutes this season.

  10. cla316 says:

    I’m in complete agreement. My instincts are up the sentimental més que un club route, but we don’t even need to appeal to those to want to keep Abidal on for another year at least. Our defense needs him. Not just ‘defenders’ – him. For me this is a no-brainer, at least this year.

  11. Eklavya says:

    Eh, this whole issue probably wouldn’t even have arised, had Abidal been “Catalan”.

    • Levon says:

      Hold on. It is my understanding that Barça offered him his last contract extension KNOWING he was waiting for a liver transplant. No need to turn us into the bad guys, either.

      • nzm says:

        In some ways, I feel that Ek’s correct – it wouldn’t be such an issue this time around if Abidal was Catalan.

        Lev – can you imagine the bad press had the club kicked Abi out, knowing that he was due a liver transplant?

        At that time, they delayed a final decision by giving him a short-term contract which he signed on 3rd February 2012. The news that he required a liver transplant was released to the public on 15th March 2012.

  12. blitzen says:

    Toni Freixa:

    “We’ve made Abidal an offer. He didn’t yet reply, but he’ll meet with the president. After that, we’ll know more.”

    So now, we wait.

  13. nzm says:

    Just on Abidal’s contract, in the back of my mind, I recalled that Abi’s existing contract was for 12 months + a renewal clause, so I did some research.

    That is the case: http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/abidal-barca-is-my-second-family

    His existing contract has an extension clause until 2015, and this is what Abidal is attempting to invoke.

    Abi is feeling fit, wants to continue playing and is a valuable squad member.

    Based upon that, the board will find it difficult to find a reason not to renew without being complete arseholes about it.

    I’d say, make it a 1+1 renewal, just to be fair to both sides.

  14. mei says:

    Everybody loves Abidal. Let’s start with that to get it over with and focus on the facts :

    Abidal has not played for a year(at least)top proffesional football,is out of shape, 34 years of age and just got out of terrible terrible circumstances that could have an effect on his body permanently .

    Just the uncertainty aroused by the above points should force the technical staff to let him leave on a free transfer since it is his will to carry on playing.

    If we consider the systematic problems that combine to make our defense look so vulnerable and the roster situation that has been managed so amateurish last two seasons, it is a no brainer for me.It’s enough we have our captain half the time in the treatment table and declining, two converted defenders one of which should never play more than Song there and is also frequently injured(adriano), we don’t need another one on top of THOSE.

    We should tackle those systematic deficiencies starting with buying/promoting defenders that are actually fit and up for the challenge.

    If the decision is to renew Abidal I will be quite furious.
    It will be wrong on all fronts : player will be continued to be used as a marketing figure against his wishes(he wants to play) and footballing wise we will have a defender on cards that will seldomly play.

    Anyone suggesting Abidal can regain his powers after what he went through despite his age, and dismissing the decline he will naturely have contributed to his age and his time out should get real.

    • blitzen says:

      No one is suggesting that the club offer Abidal a renewal instead of buying a CB. Obviously we still need to make a major purchase for that position. So get down from your high horse. Abidal may be “old” and coming back from a life-changing illness, but he has made the most of the minutes he has been given and shown that he is still an excellent player. He is fast, tall, good in the air, and knows our system inside-out. If he is even fit enough to suit up for half our games next year (whether on the bench or starting), I think keeping him makes a lot of sense.

      • mei says:

        This must be a joke , me being on some high horse or something.I will repeat myself :
        We already have Puyol on the list of CBs that are constantly injured, Bartra who is young and never used,and adriano who should never be considered as a CB unless everybody is injured and by some miracle he is not too. We do not need another.

        In fact we should not have anybody who is frequently injured there ,but out of respect for the captain we let him occupy one spot. Pique,mascherano, a youth and the signing are the players that should compete for the 2 CBs spots.
        Systematic tweaks that are needed to improve demand healthy players that will learn,adapt and gel together especially for our defenders.

        • Kxevin says:

          Where does the “frequently injured” thing end? Messi has been “frequently injured” the last part of the season, and arguably cost the team an excellent shot at making the Champions League final. Is he on that list? Adriano? Xavi? Iniesta has been lucky of late, but he is usually prone to his share of knocks. Where does it stop?

          At some point you have to attribute a rash of injuries to bad luck and fatigue. We have plenty of both. Jettisoning someone simply because they are injured a lot doesn’t wash with me. Pique is healthy as a horse, and I would no more base a back line around him than sit on a red-hot griddle.

          If Abidal can play, and the club has apparently offered him a renewal so it must think that he can, he should be part of the roster. Along with Puyol, who has much to teach not only Bartra, but whomever the new CB signing might be. Abidal would be very useful not only in rotation, but as an LB sub — again, assuming he is healthy and capable of playing.

          But when Abidal played this season, he was immediately the best defender on the pitch, and a calming influence to boot. Given the headless chicken nature of our defense, this is not to be underestimated. So let’s wait and see how events play out.

          • mei says:

            concerning “frequently injured status” :
            Are you dismissing Abidal’s prolonged period out of the field(surgery,recovery,relapse etc) as a non injury(or not having an effect that has altered his physical condition affecting future shortcomings)?

            Abidal played the game against Levante 90 minutes and 45 minutes against Bilbao -at halftime he was substituted due to thigh injury-.

            These are the matches that he played some significant minutes this season.
            You can extrapolate that Abidal had been excellent when playing (meaning that 1,5 game) but I will stand on the fact that by the half of the second game, rested one week or more after his previous game he was exhausted before halftime against a semi strong team(that bilbao is this year) and injured his thigh.

            The offer that our team made him is probably to act as a club representative or to join the coaching team, that’s why he did not even answer yet. And that’s the position for him to guide young players imo.

            We will have 5 players for 2 CB spots.
            These will be Pique,Mascherano,Puyol and a youth plus a signing.
            Would you like to have Abidal instead of someone mentioned? Or extend possible CB candidates to 6(!) people?

            *adriano is not a CB.never was , never will be and should never be used there unless everyone else is injured and he is funnily enough not.

          • Kxevin says:

            No, what I and others are saying is that yes, Abidal was away. Yes, he still needs to gain back some muscle and get some fitness. But in that, he is no different than any other player who had a long-term injury. And his quality on the field cannot be ignored.

            To my view, on a roster of 22 players (which I don’t think will happen …. more like 24) I would leave space for a fit, capable Abidal. Absolutely.

          • BA says:

            i think we should keep Abidal on, simply because if he can prove to be fit (and he didn’t look noticeably worse than any other player coming back from long-term injury in the games against Athletic and Levante) we need a center-back who can also play on the left if need be. he’s the cheapest, most readily available option in that department, but only with the provision that, as we all assume, we’re going to be in the market for at least 1 center-back this summer.

            if the notion is Abidal + no CB signing or Abidal leaving + new CB, we’d be utterly mad not to take the latter but i sincerely hope that isn’t the only possibility on the table. i’d rather be paying 25 players and have options if injuries take their toll than 22 but forced to use players wildly out of position in crucial games. hopefully Austerity Rosell’s ridiculous measures don’t take precedence in that department again.

          • Jim says:

            What’s with the anti Piqué sentiment? I understand the reaction to views expressed in a pretty forthright manner but the bottom line is it would be foolish to offer Abidal a renewal without seeing what he’s capable of in at least the last few matches. I thought Abidal looked confident and used the ball well when he played recently. However it was obvious to everyone that he was saving himself, didnt go into any tackles and found it ( understandably) very difficult physically. And these weren’t difficult matches.

            As far as Pique is concerned he is a world class defender which Abidal has never been. When he plays for the NT this is never questioned. Yet he’s seen as an easy target when Barcelona’s defence is leaking. You need an established CB pairing if you want to have a sound defence as its about positioning and knowing where the other will hold the line. He’s had more partners this season than Mick Jagger. He’s meant to be slow but wasn’t when it mattered against Bayern with his last ditch tackles.

            As for the concern over the tone of this place it probably has become a little personal at times which isn’t good imo but to have healthy discussion we need to have views challenged and freedom to hold and express opinions. Are we talking about not being able to criticise players or just the personal nature of comments ? If the former then. . “Pique is healthy as a horse, and I would no more base a back line around him than sit on a red-hot griddle.” would come under my spotlight. We surely can’t go down that route.

            If you post on an Internet site you need to expect that somebody won’t agree with you. I’ve not seen too many posters attacked in an unacceptable way. Those that make it personal need to be gently reminded of our ways.

          • Calvin says:

            @Jim

            Did you really mean it when you said Abidal has never been a world class defender?

            Because for two years prior to his cancer he was one of the top 5 left backs in the world, and for a while he was probably the best left back in the world. There was even a couple months where he was the best defender at Barcelona by a long shot

          • bhed says:

            As usual, Jim seems to be reading my mind. As I recall, some of the people complaining about “tone” were not shy about criticizing both players and other commenters quite harshly in the past. The funny thing is, the players don’t read this blog, so they don’t care, but the attacks on commenters for their footballing opinions gets pretty personal, and they read the comments. I agree with some analysis here, and disagree with others, but I just don’t understand why it’s ok to beat people up for their opinions, but not ok to voice an opinion on football matters.

          • Taps says:

            I must say you’ve amazing capacity to bring Messi into every topic, even when he is far from point the you are trying to state.

            Seriously, does Puyol, Abidal and Adriano’s frequently injuries are comparable to Messi’s. Despite your-so-called frequent injuries to Messi, he has played more games than any other players. Count number of injuries Messi had and number of minutes he played, then compare it with Abi, Puyol’s numbers.

            This berating of Messi should stopped somewhere. It’s not Messi who cost us the CL, it was ineffective Barca W/o Messi.

  15. barca96 says:

    Hmm I for one didn’t demand we sell anyone and I also see a majority, maybe only a handful do so. It is what they think is best for the club and they have the right to voice out their opinion.

    Isn’t this what this space is for? For us fans to discuss? We all can’t be on the same page!

    Seriously, most of us that I see here bring up valid points. It’s not like you see, sell X he sucks type of comments here. Even if I or any others do it, we usually bring up a point why we think so. I find that at least better.

    I do criticize a performance when it’s bad. What’s wrong with that? I’m a fan, not a blind follower.
    And I certainly don’t need to be reminded how tough it was because I’ve been a fan for nearly 20 years.

    To those that do complain about this space, please try to have a look at other forums, Facebook or YouTube and compare. I think those that complain about the atmosphere should TRY to join in to change it (for the better since they think this space is declining in quality) instead of just leaving.

    I’ve been logging into this space since 2009 and doing so multiple times a day or at least twice if I’m very busy and I comment at least 50% of my visits here. I may not add something interesting but I just do it to at least try to keep this space rolling. I hate to see the number of comments being the same the next time I log in a few hours later (hours) :) I don’t want this space to look dead.

    So instead of complaining about the commentors here, why not you (multiple people including mods) try to change it for the better instead of staying away? Can’t fix anything that way.

    • Kxevin says:

      There is no denying, irrespective of other forums, that the quality of the commentary and overall mood in this space is very different. There is also no denying that those factors are keeping people away.

      People have always discussed players, potential changes, etc. But the recent losses have put an extra edge on the proceedings. As I noted above, we are discussing it, and figuring out possible solutions.

      • BA says:

        but that’s a natural reaction to the size of the fractures beginning to occur in our squad after an unprecedentedly fruitful few years. many people who are now contributing fans of FC Barcelona in this space have never been involved in discussing the club when it WASN’T incredibly successful (07/08 was 5 years ago now, and you’d have to go further back another 5 for a real barren period). their dismay at our problems the end of this season is in that context totally understandable.

        of course BFB is great for it’s standard of discourse, but we have to keep an even hand towards ALL sides, even those that lose their heads a bit when our form falls. those who get huffy and stop contributing when a few people overreact are just as much part of the problem. patience and understanding all around, people.

        • Barcaman says:

          I agree with BA’s point, in addition to Jim’s point(above) of avoiding personal attacks. We are all bound to have different reactions under “adversity” – in this case the case that Barca was far from the ideal team we are all accustomed to seeing.It is nice to be level headed and have some perspective aka wear a gunner’s shoes, but we are cules and we demand a lot from our team. If there were no extreme reactions like this, I would be worried of our expectations for the team. And finally, with all that said, no matter how many players/staff we sell or buy in this blog, the buck stops with the club. We are just fans, while the club on the other hand is a business that makes it’s own decisions whether we like or not. They know what is good for themselves and make their decisions based on what they believe the club needs. We on the other hand can afford to sell the whole team and buy a new one on the blog, no harm no foul. You don’t have to agree with it, but as long as the comment is intelligent enough and the argument does not stink of personal attacks, then hey, why not? We cannot all have same opinions in the midst of a changing Barca.

    • Eklavya says:

      You definitively keep this place rolling man. :D

    • Bill says:

      I like the space just the way it is….

    • Jim says:

      Sorry, replying to Calvin above. No intention of hijacking your point Barca 96.

      With regard to Abidal I’ve never been convinced that he is a world class LB. To me he was a good LB who added stability to the side but had some weaknesses which were never really aired much here. Again, to me, he was always vulnerable against a winger who ran at him, wasnt a great tackler and had a habit of turning his back on a cross ball when closing down his man. I thought his positioning was decent until what I’d call the second phase where he was often slow to readjust his position and there were a lot of situations where sheer speed got him out of trouble rather than a good starting position. None of this means I don’t like or admire him. Strangely I thought he played better when moved to CB as his speed across the back line came in useful. That came as a surprise to me as I thought his positioning would have been caught out more.

      I know he is well loved in this space but just as with Masch it became almost obligatory to worship his play when it was good but no more than that. Won’t go near his attacking play. If he was world class where was his name mentioned when trophies were handed out. Was he even on the top scale at Barca ? If he was world class why not?

      As I said elsewhere I was actually really impressed by his confident return and I’m not against a renewal but it has to be for footballing reasons. Strikes me the club has a duty to ensure he is capable of playing regularly at the top and just haven’t had the chance to verify that yet. The games he has played we were well on top and he managed to keep away from physical situations. Not sure why the club are the bad ones here.

  16. barca96 says:

    I noticed that Rosell (why is it a surprise anymore) is getting most of the blame for the Abidal situation. But like Rosell mentioned, he will let the coaching staff decide as it should be. So I find it extremely unfair that Rosell is getting all the heat while no one mentions Tito.

  17. barca96 says:

    I wish they would let Abidal stay at least 1 more season. I’d rather him taking 1 spot rather than Muniesa or Fontas or Bojan.

    Adriano got the chance to renew even though he always seems to get injured, likewise for Puyol. Why not give our best or 2nd best defender the benefit of the doubt?

  18. Calvin says:

    In my mind there are a couple issues at work here. Most of them have been touched on but instead of writing 500 replies I’ll add my own thoughts:

    1. Poor communication from the board. Now, no one is saying that the board should have had a plan on whether or not to renew Abidal back in February before he even returned. However, it is a sign of respect to set aside some time to meet with the player, assure him of his importance, and just discuss possibilities. Abidal is understandably unsure of where he stands and it’s not that hard to sit down with him and say “We don’t have a definite plan at the moment. We would in principal like for you to continue with the club but your fitness will play a large role in our decision. If you are struggling with fitness we would love to have you as a club ambassador, but understand if you would like to go somewhere else. Let’s meet again in a month or a month and a half to assess where we are again.”

    Simple, no commitment, and Abidal feels in the loop and respected. Apparently too hard for the Rosell administration. The lack of ability to do this may mean Abidal leaves the club even if the coaching staff decides they would like to keep him.

    2. He looks fit enough and skilled enough to play a backup role in the team. Just judging by his two recent outings he looked like one of our best defenders of the season. Fitness is obviously going to be a struggle but he should be healthy enough to play Copa matches and the occasional Liga match, at the very least.

    3. His renewal should depend on the transfer plans of the team.

    As a brief aside, Adriano is also in strained contract negotiations with the club. I could easily see only one of Adriano or Abidal staying. If Adriano does go, Abidal really needs to be kept or else 2 new defenders will be needed in the transfer window (my personal preference is sell Adriano and renew Abidal).

    As for the transfer plans of the team, it is clear Barcelona is looking for a CB this summer. The CB who is brought in will have a big effect on the role Abidal has in the team. For example, bring in someone in their prime like Silva, and Abidal won’t have much of a place. Meanwhile, if someone like Hummels is brought in then keeping Abidal might be a good choice as he provides a different skill set than Hummels, and a skill set that is becoming extinct in the team.

    The difficulty is a decision on Abidal will have to be made before the transfer plans are done, so the club needs to have sorted out their transfer priorities soon, something I’m not sure is happening.

    4. Someone mentioned he should be given a contract based on minutes played – couldn’t agree more.

    Finally, my personal thought is that he should get a contract renewal. However that assessment is fully dependent on my other transfer preferences panning out and that is highly unlikely when you compare my transfer preferences with Barcelona’s actual transfer the last couple of summers.

    • BA says:

      no way we should sell Adriano, i’d disagree with that; simply because he IS so versatile. name another player *in Europe* who can play on the left or right wing, left or right full-back, AND center-back and keep up his end in all of those positions. i certainly can’t. Dani Alves can’t run forever, and Montoya isn’t trusted: who else plays at right-back? Jordi Alba gets injured and Abidal is needed at center-back: who else plays on the left?

      furthermore, Adriano is one of the very few players in the squad who has both the impetus and ability to threaten shots from outside the box; he’s very dangerous coming into the middle on EITHER foot; he averaged as many goals this season (6) as Xavi or Iniesta, playing at left-back and right-back and with 10+ fewer starts. we’d be crazy to sell him for those reasons alone, not even getting into the fact that our squad is already too small with too few defensive players as it stands.

      totally disagree on that point.

      • Calvin says:

        I would rather build a balanced team than play Adriano at either wing or CB. His versatility is only really a bonus because the squad is unbalanced and in the chance that the team is really injury ravaged (not like this season, where injury issues were a result of poor squad building).

        Alves can’t run as often as he has been asked to, but I would agree he should play less. Montoya should be trusted. Abidal can play backup to both left back and center back without a problem at all if we buy another CB. Abidal also provides a different, more defensive skill set at left back that could help balance the backline, Adriano doesn’t.

        Adriano is ridiculously injury prone. I will bet that at least 50% of our matches he got injured in and had to come off, or he missed because of injury. It’s not just this season either, it’s been his entire time at Barcelona.

        At 28 it’s time to decide if we should try to get back the 10 million the club spent on him or if we should keep him for a couple more years and let him go for essentially free at the end of that time.

        Adriano is a good player. But if it is between him and Abidal – Abidal is a better choice to provide a cohesive back line and Adriano can actually create some revenue.

        • BA says:

          dunno how one can claim that Adriano is a risk for being injury-prone, but Eric Abidal (out for nearly 18 months of the last 24) is not.

          i agree Adriano isn’t the sturdiest player, but i think that given the reality of our board not wanting to maintain a large squad, a player of Adriano’s versatility cannot be overlooked. his technique is up to par for our squad and his skillset, notably the ability to shoot ferociously from outside the box and that being something nobody else in the squad bar Messi and Tello seem to be willing to utilize, are valuable traits we won’t be able to simply purchase any time in the near future.

          if it comes down to squad balance, or a balanced budget, i’m going to take the former every single time. let the accountants deal with transfer expenditures, the rest of us have to focus on football.

          • Calvin says:

            There is a big difference between muscular injuries and cancer.

            I’m concerned about injuries for next season. Constant muscular injuries predict more muscular injuries in the future. Abidal has had a transplant and so it is very unlikely he will have similar problems in the future. If Abidal can get fit, it is much less likely he will be injured next year than Adriano.

            When was the last time Adriano played on the wing? I for one have no desire to see him there… ever. I also haven’t been impressed with his CB play. He is passable, but an 80% Abidal is better.

            Not sure if it was clear, but I think Abidal is a better option both for squad balance and for the budget.

          • Calvin says:

            I’ll also say that our backline has been missing a skill set like Abidal’s much more than the ability to shoot from outside the box. Our problem this year has been defensive stability. I’ll trade 6 goals for a more stable backline.

            Other than that, think we just disagree on this matter.

          • BA says:

            i know there is a big difference; cancer is WAY more likely to keep a player out for an extended period of time and slow their recovery process.

            i agree that the spate of muscular injuries towards the end of this season is worrying from the view of our physios, but i also think our disagreement is only of emphasis. i think to pro-actively sell Adriano would be foolhardy for all the reasons i’ve mentioned, but i also have posted in this very thread how i think we should also keep Abidal if at all possible due to the reasons YOU mentioned. i want to keep ALL of our defensive players (Song possibly excluded), and therefore don’t see it as a choice between Abidal or Adriano.

            Adriano isn’t a center-back, nor is he (really) a winger; though he was used on the wing in some of Pep’s interesting REactive tactical variations against the likes of Sevilla and Real Madrid if i recall, so we can’t expect him to consistently play those positions. what he DOES offer from a defensive standpoint, setting aside his outside shooting, is solid and similarly attacking cover for both wing-back positions simultaneously. we won’t get effect alone from any other player in Europe for $10m this summer (Philip Lahm? is the only other player i can think of that is instantly our quality, but he’d never move and would cost vastly more anyway).

            just to be clear, i’m in the “keep them all” camp when it comes to our current defensive players, including Abidal AND Adriano. ideally i’d want another 2 defensive players, then maybe NEXT summer we can talk about departures from our defense.

          • Calvin says:

            You make a great point – this whole conversation is based on my gut instinct that both players won’t stay.

            I’m with you – I hope I’m wrong!

  19. Vj says:

    Yes, who wouldn’t talk about football amongst a bunch of entitled people with unrealistic expectations. Who criticize the team all. the. time. Even after they won a league. Even to the manager who committed the mistake of relapsing in the middle of the season. Yes, great incentive to post here innit?

    You, yes *you* broke it. You fix it or you deal with it.

  20. simple_barcafan says:

    For the mods, the “extra edge” is an expected outcome. As the club has been growing in popularity, the number of fans continue to grow. And the ones who are not accustomed to the club’s struggles of the past will give knee jerk reactions when the club loses, given the high standards it has set. (As some say, a victim of its own success). So we have to let it pass, thinking it is an aberration rather than a norm. As barca96 notes, contribute rather than criticize..

    When you branched out from Offside, you just had a few regular contributors who gave excellent analysis of what was going on. But just like the club, BFB has grown in size and the dilution in quality is to be expected..But this blog easily rates above the rest, both in content and comments.

    • Eklavya says:

      Twitter might not be a “blog” per se, but it has definitively surpassed this space in terms of quality and comments, IMO. A big reason is because you can mute out all the people who speak nonsense.

      • blitzen says:

        Twitter has its own limitations, though. 140 characters is not enough to fully develop a theme, and if you break your thoughts up into smaller parcels & tweet too many times in a row, people will get annoyed and stop reading. I could never have gotten all my thoughts on Abidal’s situation out on twitter. And of course people on twitter talk about all sorts of topics, not just football, so you have to filter through to get the content you want.

  21. KEVINO17 says:

    Nobody seems to mention that the club has paid Abidal huge sums ofmomey while he sat on the sidelines, recovering. Isn’t that enough. Should Abidal really demand more?
    You tell me.

    • Kxevin says:

      I don’t think it’s a question of Abidal demanding more. He just wants to play. For us or someone else. The club was paying his contract while he recovered from a long-term situation, same as any other player. If Puyol or anyone else had a long-term injury (heck, he’s been injured more than he’s played this season), it’s doubtful anyone would begrudge them their contract.

      Like any other player with an injury, Abidal has been working his butt off to get back to full fitness so that he can help this club. I don’t know that cancer is any different, as regards recovery and efforts to return, as a major knee surgery or any other career-altering physical complexity.

      I think what he would like is an answer, so that he can plan to continue in Barcelona, or put himself on the market. I think that is fair. They had a meeting with the club today, and apparently some resolution was reached. His agent and Abidal will discuss the details later.

  22. Levon says:

    Both barça96 and simple_barçafan are making some valid points.

    Of course this space exists to discuss our club and all it entails and as such we will praise and criticize and agree and disagree accordingly.

    And I think it is not necessarily the occasional rant every now and then that get people down but the sheer volume of negativity has been astounding. In my Barça – Bayern review I blasted the team in three opening paragraphs constructed completely from phrases I copy-pasted from the comment thread the night before and nobody bat an eyelid.

    We simply cannot ignore that various long-time readers have expressed their disappointment about how the mood in the comment section has changed as of late.

    Part of the it is undoubtedly due to some bad results after an unprecedented period of all-out world domination.

    But the biggest part of it is us, BfB team, commenters, readers and how we choose to use this space.

    Like Kxevin and NZM mentioned we are discussing how to turn the tide – I think that a thoughtful piece like Blitzen’s here is definitely a step in the right direction.

    I also hope that the people who no longer feel as comfortable as before will try to be part of the solution by commenting more rather than less.

    • BA says:

      “I also hope that the people who no longer feel as comfortable as before will try to be part of the solution by commenting more rather than less.”

      ^^ this.

      part of me wants to say that those who are complaining about the “tone” of the comments are themselves part of the problem. moderation in a public space is only achieved through a group effort, you dilute the truly crazy through even-handedness and calm contributions, not by whining about it.

      • Taps says:

        Absolute in agreement in what you said.

        To put things in context just want to mention that – I have only once contributed here but I have been reader of this blog from last 2-3 years.I love the content mods put as well as the discussions. I’ve learned a lot here.

        Coming back to the point – I am not averse to the negativity in footballing paralance. However what disappoints me here are people beating the same point again and again, like they have an agenda. Common themes like – Messi doesn’t work his ass off OR We have biases towards players from academy OR Rossell is evil are done to death. Rational footballing discussions have become limited. I also miss the Euler here and his lengthy review posts. Those posts were so informative and enriching.

    • simple_barcafan says:

      You too make some valid points. But while some might attribute the negativity to the oft-used term “band-wagon fans”, commentators can counter argue that its their deep passion for the club that makes them become hysterical when the club which has achieved so much, can suffer losses of “colossal”(??) magnitude like they did against Bayern. And I got the feeling after reading most of the comments that it was not the defeat but the way in which we raised the white flag and gave up that irked the cules. I would find it hard to defend the team against that…

      I have been a long time reader..But I have noticed the mood change too..

      - The blog I feel has lost some of its humor that lightened the mood and provide some comic relief when the team was down in the dumps. An example were those funny dialogues between players that Kari used to post. Isaiah, whose posts had a certain wit and humor in them have dried up

      - The rarity of technical posts (by Euler) these days and the decision by Ramzi to stop commenting on this blog also “might”have contributed as there is no spark or lead for commentators to follow, which usually leads to a meaningful discussion

      - Kxevin usually posts a inspirational posts once our team is in distress. Thats really commendable. Though many have this notion that he is against player x and player y.

      - The unique and rare case of morality vs pure reason debate that has arisen due to Abi and Tito illness has caused some friction as these are issues that we don’t usually discuss when we are a footbaling blog

      - And for those who don’t want to comment because the mood is too negative…well, All I can say is better to light a candle than curse the darkness…

      • Kxevin says:

        The question becomes interpretation of statements and the like, and that can often send things off on a tangent. And I think that those, too, can lead to positive discussion. For example, I wouldn’t say that the team raised the white flag. I just think they got spanked, good and hard by a superior opponent. Just as in the past, when we just didn’t LET people play their game, Bayern did the same to us. Rondos in the midfield were fine, but when we entered the danger zone, they shut us down or stole the ball. Done.

        Content is indeed another issue. I stepped back from writing, Isaiah has a very different life to deal with, Euler’s job is insane, in addition to his feeling the complexities that are sparking some of this introspection. Speaking only for me, it’s quite the sock in the gut to spend time crafting a piece, only to have people dismiss because “Well, his bias is laughable, as we all know that he loves/hates x or y player.” I wish I was above saying “What’s the point.” But I am not, which sucks to have to admit.

        In many ways, everyone is culpable, just as everyone can help. I feel bad about my decision to step back, even as I revel in just watching matches then having a nap, hanging with my wife or riding my bike. It’s weird that I have been at this since 2007 back in The Offside days. For a while it was just Isaiah and I. And that is a long time.

        I like the lighting a candle part of that comment. I also like that a lot of new voices have been speaking up, and adding to the discussion. I think that we will get this sussed out.

  23. mom4 says:

    2 cents:

    1. Abi should stay. So what if we have 23 instead of 22 players!

    2. Yes, it has all become depressingly, and predictably more negative lately. Commented to nzm on FB that I haven’t been feeling very “bloggy” lately for those reasons.

    3. Seems that most have jumped over to twitter.

    4. Nope, don’t have a solution.

  24. Sangoku says:

    I just have to say something: I love coming in here even though there’s the “negativity” that some of us are talking about. Just do like I do, skip to the meaningful comments..! The rants will always be there as long as Barça don’t meet those stratospheric standards they’ve set for themselves. Also, it’s a sign that the Blog is having a broader readership.

    There’s no denying that there have been some pretty silly comments recently, but I haven’t really seen anyone being disrespectful, like on virtually every other site. I may be wrong but for me these comments are just that: silly. They can be discarded with just…a scroll of the mouse.

    I hope you won’t use the facebook login, I think it’ll kill the comments section. Anyway, keep up the great work guys. True, I’m a lurker – but a very appreciative one! ;)

  25. TITO says:

    And there you have Chelsea with their heavenly luck again.
    I can’t believe that they did it again with more or less the same approach. Unbelievable.

    • Kxevin says:

      At some point, it isn’t luck. That Cahill clearance was massive, I understand, and Cech came up huge. Kinda sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And if Bayern win the CL final and Chelsea do what is expected and hire Mourinho, won’t the UEFA SuperCup be interesting? Guardiola and Mourinho, again, for silver.

      Benitez is quite the pragmatist. Note that they played the same way and did the same thing under two different coaches, both of whom figured out how to play with the raw material the club had. They do have some talent there. And man, Ivanovic ….

      Only question will be which one comes to RM, Ancelotti or Benitez.

      • Levon says:

        Could be male cow dung, but I read that PSG letting Ancelotti go to RM is contingent on RM letting CR go to PSG, lol

        I’m just glad that Jupp Heynckes is retiring, I wouldn’t want to see him in charge at the Bernabeu.

  26. Kxevin says:

    Some news on Abidal:

    http://www.rmcsport.fr/editorial/379870/barca-abidal-pres-de-la-sortie/

    Apparently Abidal thinks that he’s good to go, but the club doesn’t want to take the risk of having him on a roster spot, etc. He will have a presser with his surgeon, probably to assure potential shoppers, then leave the club.

  27. blitzen says:

    What the commenters who don’t seem to feel there is a problem are not understanding is that this is not a message board, it is a blog. With content provided by us, the moderators & writers. And if we, the moderators & writers, all feel that this space has become too negative and disrespectful, then we will feel less motivated to provide that content. And then there won’t be anything for people to post their opinions on, whether respectfully or not.

    I would just like everyone to remember what it was that brought them to this space in the first place, and continue our discussions in that vein. This is the best place I have found to talk about the best football club in the world. Let’s enjoy it.

    And thank you to everyone for actually reading my post on Abidal and for the good discussion. I hope Kxevin is wrong about the outcome of today’s meeting. :(

    • barca96 says:

      But you were negative too above, to Mei. It was unnecessary. He made good points even though I didn’t agree with him/her.

      • fotobirajesh says:

        thats right. There are comments from almost everybody, which has looked aggressive or negative or sarcastically aimed at others.

        Whatever, this is the best place to discuss Barca, on the web world. I simply hope in the name of moderation, a facebook/twitter login wont be required. I am not into any of these social spaces, too old minded may be, means I would end up as a reader.

        No society can be made up of good people alone. If any society thinks so, then that society is definitely made of hypocrites.

  28. andrecito says:

    mostly lurker..sometimes commentor..i’d comment more, but most of the mods and regulars seem to excellently and concisely write exactly what i’m thinking most of the time..this blog has been the first on my favorites list for several years..its the first site i check in morning…

    completely off topic..el nino torres is currently the reigning world cup, european cup, champions league, and europa league champion…now that i think about it..juan mata must be too…pretty impressive..

  29. ciaran says:

    Well I’ve been in or around this place since The Offside too and for my own reasons I don’t get to post as often as I’d like.
    The tone has changed slightly which is a shame but is inevitable. Posts used to get 20-30 comments and now get hundreds.
    Just keep things impersonal and everything will be fine.

    Now, here’s my take on the shape of our squad for the coming season:
    Goalkeepers:
    Valdes seems like he is 100% gone and at least if he goes now we should get enough money to replace him.
    Pinto is staying and will be important to help the new keeper settle in to our system.
    Marc Andre Ter Stegen has been learning Spanish so says his agent and this transfer looks wrapped up for around €10million which seems cheap (Utd bought De Gea for €25million approx). He is an incredible shot stopper and all around great keeper whose only question mark should be on his ball playing

    Defenders:
    Right backs – Alves looks like he’ll be staying and you imagine that Montoya will be given more minutes next season. Between the two we should be fine
    Centre backs – Pique, Mascherano, Puyol & Bartra all look to be staying but we are going to sign a starting centre back. Thiago Silva seems to be Tito’s choice and I suppose that is obvious seeing as he is arguably the best defender in the world. If he signs, then he could play next to any of our current defenders and improve the team. Mats Hummels looks like our second choice but for me looks more likely to sign given Thiago Silva’s price tag/wages. I love both choices and if it is either of these then I’ll be happy. Both Hummels, Pique & Mascherano all good english so communication should be fine.
    Left backs – Alba is our starting left back and has had a good year in my opinion. Adriano is extremely versatile and I think he should be renewed as he sell on value would not buy an adequate replacement unless Jeremy Mathieu which is not really an upgrade. I also think that Abidal should get a renewal heavily weighted on games played.

    Midfield:
    I don’t think a single thing needs to be done with our 6 current midfielders.
    Busquets, Song, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago & Cesc although I think that Thiago will get a lot of minutes next season ahead of Xavi. Sergi Roberto will probably be promoted and JDS will be sold

    Forwards:
    Villa looks like he is finished with us. Spurs are looking a likely destination but Atletico also are a possibility. He hasn’t been the same since his long injury. I don’t think it will happen but I’m all for selling Pedro this summer. He has had 2 bad years and seems like his own contributions nowadays are making us better defensively. Apparently PSG want him in some Thiago Silva deal and I’d jump at it although it would potentially leave us needing another forward. I am totally against selling Alexis Sanchez as his recent run of form has proven his quality and ability to play in our system.
    Tello has become our 3rd best attacker and is very difficult for teams to defend against as he always needs a second marker for his pace alone. You imagine that Deulofeu will start getting more games with the senior squad too.
    The Neymar deal looks like happening this summer instead of next with Spanish press thinking it will be wrapped up in a few days.
    I also think that we don’t have enough minutes for all of our forwards if we just replace Villa with Neymar. Add to that, Cesc and Iniesta can fill in further forward very well.

    This would be my 24man squad:
    Ter Stegen | Pinto
    Alves | Montoya
    Pique | Thiago Silva | Mascherano | Puyol | Bartra
    Alba | Adriano | Abidal
    Busquets | Song
    Xavi | Thiago | Iniesta | Cesc | Sergi Roberto
    Alexis | Messi | Tello | Neymar | Deulofeu

    • Roberto Senyera says:

      Well said. I agree with just about all that you said.

      However, I would keep faith in Pedro and would keep him. He does work for the team, presses well, has pace, and has been known to score goals in big matches (attributes that Alexis has also). True, he hasn’t played as well as we’d hoped for the past two seasons and hasn’t scored enough goals (same can be said for Alexis here too). But I’d keep them both and extend faith in them. Your squad only has five forwards in it. Keeping Pedro would give us the six forwards (for three spots) I’d rather have to cover for a long season while being able to properly pursue all three major competitions knowing that injuries are inevitable (this is Barça, after all).

      Preferably, I’d rather keep both Iniesta and Cesc exclusively as midfielders. Cesc needs a position to call his own, within a proper rotation framework, rather than trying to be a jack of all trades that he’s been asked to be these past two years. This has stunted Cesc’s adaption to our team and once he starts to just focus on being a midfielder I believe he’ll be very successful.

      Also, as you said, I doubt that the team will let Pedro go. His role will change and he’ll get less minutes. But he doesn’t strike me as a guy that will create a big fuss if he’s not a starter.

      The summer will be both interesting and vital for this team going forward. I’d be very optimistic about that squad above plus Pedro. Very optimistic indeed. End of an era? Ridiculous.

    • fotobirajesh says:

      Agree with everything, except selling Pedro.
      Hes our man.

  30. Barcaman says:

    I agree with everything you said, although I would go for Jeremy Mathieu and sell Adriano. Despite everything he brings to the table, he has proven to be too brittle, only if he were less injury prone.

    • barca96 says:

      Why not try to have 2 utility man? I wouldn’t mind a bit keeping Adriano and buying Matthieu. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind being a back up for LB and win trophies.

  31. stefan2k says:

    Besides BFB I frequently visit 3 more barcelona blogs and none of those come close to BFB in terms of comment quality, poster maturity and of course articles! So… definitely no cause for complaint on my part

    ^ I do like the 24man squad ciaran posted although I suppose it’s impossible to buy Neymar and Silva in one tranfers window. It’s an insane amount of money anyway

  32. Clouseau says:

    It would have been fine to not renew with Abidal were it not for Bartemaus statement regarding an immidiate extension the moment he enters the pitch. All of this now leaves a bad taste to me and speaks volume of the people running this club..
    Personally i’d keep him as i believe he still a valueable asset for the Team on and off the pitch.
    But i really want him to keep for at least one last tango aka reclaiming la copa!
    Would be cool seeing him, Puyi and Pinto once again outshining everyone in CDR and afterwards calling it a day :-)

    Anyway looking forward hearing decision in the upcoming days.

  33. Kxevin says:

    Apparently our man with the plan, Raul Sanelhi, is in Brazi to shut the door on Operation La Neymarrrr. Again, believe it when you see an announcement from Santos, or the player is in the Camp, kissing the crest.

    The keep/dump thing is fascinating. So is a 22-player roster. That is going to be very complex, but here’s how I see it, rather than what I would do:

    GKs: Ter Stegen, Pinto
    Defenders: Pique, Adriano, Mascherano, Alves, Bartra, Puyol, Alba, Montoya, Hummels/Marquinhos (depending on who you believe)
    Mids: Song, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Fabregas, Busquets
    Forwards: Messi, Pedro, La Neymarrrr, Sanchez, Tello, Deulofeu

    That’s 22 players, two complete squads of 11 that can play anywhere, anytime. I think that is the goal of the 22-player squad, rather than 28 players, a bunch of whom you don’t trust. The falloff from Top XI to the Others shouldn’t be as large as it was this season.

    • Calvin says:

      Looks pretty believable to me. Only things I’m not sure about are who we will bring in at GK, and I think Thiago Silva is still in the picture for CB along with the two you mention.

      I would be pretty happy heading into next season with that squad. The only real problem is the gaping hole left by having no actual striker, but while I think that’s a team need I don’t think the club sees it that way

      • Levon says:

        I wouldn’t mind Thiago Silva AND Marquinhos tbh…

        • Roberto Senyera says:

          Nor would I. Both have the pace we need at CB and that, for me, is the one KPI we should be looking for from CBs we bring in during this window. Hummels is a very good CB but is too similar to Piqué (another tall, slow, ball playing CB). Piqué needs a CB partner that has pace. Another plus with getting both Thiago Silva and Marquinhos is that one is a world class veteran while the other is a promising youngster so this pair makes sense from a continuity perspective also.

          The obvious constraint, of course, is cost and we may not be able to bring in two CBs this window.

      • Momo says:

        Agreed, the striker issue really is worrying. We’ve seen how predictable the false 9 formation has become in the biggest games against organized defenses. The club needs a mobile physical CF (ala etoo) option more than it needs Neymar IMO. Too bad the clubs already made its mind up in that regard though.

    • Roberto Senyera says:

      That would be a 23 man squad … if my addition is correct ;-)

  34. xdxm says:

    I don’t mean to simplify things, but I think Abidal’s future depends not just on the club’s evaluation of his own abilities, but on another player entirely–Marc Bartra. If they think Bartra is the long-term answer, and want to keep him, it would probably be at the expense of Abi. The problem is I don’t think the club knows yet.

    The easiest solution would be to just send Bartra out on loan and bring Abidal back, but in terms of evaluating Bartra I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it. Very few loanees come back to be regular first teamers. I’m sure Bartra would do fine somewhere else. But we all know the kind of high risk defending Barcelona count on. It takes tremendous intelligence, physical ability, and positional awareness. It’s impossible to evaluate a young player’s ability to play in that system unless he is indeed playing in that system.

    Basically it is my belief it comes down to Bartra vs. Abidal. I don’t think the club doubts Abi’s health and fitness at all to be honest. And they would absolutely love to have him back. But it would be at the expense of one of their young players. Who even if he stayed, probably doesn’t get a lot of minutes. But I think to some extent that’s the real dilemma.

  35. Archie says:

    A front “three” of Neymar and Jackson M. With Messi roaming behind JM would be terrifying if hard on Alexis and Pedro. Messi would have 50 assists and ???? Goals.

  36. Archie says:

    A short time ago, Jackson Martinez was playing in Mexico. Is there no creative alternative to HummelSilva the two most obvious and expensive options at CB a year after Barça code Song over Verthongen?

    • ciaran says:

      The Verthongen transfer was such a waste. He would have been such a good piece of business

      • Kxevin says:

        I don’t believe that we chose Song over Verthongen. I believe that we chose a player with the potential to play CB, and the certainty to provide eventual relief for Busquets. Verthongen wasn’t really accessible to us from what I remember. Spurs had him locked up very early in the process.

        It’s funny how people look at Song as a CB purchase, which he wasn’t. He is/was a midfielder who could, in a pinch, play CB. Should the club have purchased a traditional CB? Easy to say yes in hindsight, with all of the injuries, etc.

        • Roberto Senyera says:

          But, to be fair, Song was sold to the fan base as some sort of 2 for 1 gadget man that could play both DM & CB. Had we gone after Verthongen with greater zeal it would be hard to imagine that he’d choose Tottenh*m over Barça (I believe they got him for less than what we paid to get Song). Also, everybody and their hockey loving grandmothers knew that we’ve needed shoring up at CB for the last two years. At least that’s the way I saw it. No offence, just sayin’.

          • Kxevin says:

            Agree, but that CB thing was always going to be an experiment. I think people ran with that because we “needed” a CB, so voila.

            I also don’t think that the transfer worked out to anyone’s satisfaction. Even Song will, in all candor, admit that. But it’s also a work in progress, like every first-year transfer. Patience will be required. Look at the first seasons of Henry and Abidal, to name a couple, compared to how they shaped up in the system.

            Verthongen, on the other hand, would have been a CB. Period. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, until Busquets picks up a knock, or is just dog tired, as he was late in this season. It’s a weird one.

      • Roberto Senyera says:

        And now he’s in the black hole that is Tottenh*m and Daniel Levy. It would be more enjoyable having a root canal than dealing with Levy and trying to pry him away from there.

  37. xdxm says:

    In regards to cheaper CB options Inigo Martinez would be a fantastic signing. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Illaramendi wearing the Barcelona colors but it would be at the expense of Thiago I think.

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