Silly Season dawns, aka “Can’t tell the defenders without a scorecard”

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

U.S. political figure Donald Rumsfeld could have been talking about transfer season when he uttered those words, as they describe exactly what is going on …. actually …. sorta.

Here’s what we know:

— We have Neymar
— We need one, preferably two defenders
— We would like a keeper

If I had my way, we would sign a sanely-priced veteran, and a very talented young player to groom in the system. Bartra’s feelings might be hurt, not that such a thing would bother me in the least. “Wanna stay? Earn your spot.”

We are looking at, or not looking at, various players. We have talked to, or haven’t talked to, various players. Rumors abound, along with plenty of knowns, unknowns and speculative hooey. Here’s some mini-profiles of the players who are known to be rumored to be in our orbit, and because exactly one of you have missed the KRS (Kxevin Rating System), I will rate, from 1-10, my joy at having the rumored defender in our ranks. Let’s call it the KDR, or Kxevin Defender Rating. Let’s go.

Mats Hummels

"Hello, ladies!"
“Hello, ladies!”

Mats Hummels is a 24-year-old defender for Dortmund. He is 6’4″.

Strengths: Positioning, foot skills, very solid in the air, can move out from goal.

Weaknesses: Pace, physicality.

Mats Hummels has been linked to us for about as long as he is old (kidding!). He is a Pique analog, and for that reason alone, many rule him out, saying “We already have one of those.” Those who watched him in the CL final should know that he was hampered. He is more fleet afoot than that, and less mastodon-like. The rumor mill has cooled on him, since the rumor that we don’t like him now because he is too much like Pique. Long injury list, particularly last season, so he would fit right in at Barça in that regard.

Likelihood of arrival: Moderate. He IS too much like Pique, even as he has all of the skills to play in our back line with style. Price is steep, almost certainly north of 20m, for something we already have. He’s in the 6 million range, salary-wise, which is something else to consider.

KDR: 5



Marcoa Aoas Correa is a 19-yaer-old defender for Roma. He is 5’11” tall, and weighs 174 pounds. Last season, he made EUR800,000.

Strengths: Pace, hops, age, versatility (has played CB and FB, rocking the house at both)

Weaknesses: If you believe MD, he’s short, though taller than Puyol and Mascherano. Sure tackler, excellent balance.

He is Brazilian. So he has foot skills. He won more aerial duels than any Roma defender last season. In the “wot a bargain” category, Roma bought him from Corinthians for 3 or 4m, depending upon who or what you believe. As of right now, they have about zero intention of selling him. But they also have zero intention, if you believe the club bosses and their quotes, of renegotiating his contract, in light of the attention being paid to him by big clubs.

Rumors of 20m+ bids being turned down have come from us and Them. Ultimately, who knows? He has said that he is staying at Roma, but they all say that until they leave. Recall that Neymar said he was staying at Santos, until he left. So don’t put a ton of stock in player declarations.

Most interestingly, he has had three injuries last season (kinda like our Correia, as in Adriano), a week in each instance, which is UNlike our Adriano.

Likelihood of arrival: Unlikely. High price, and he’s under contract until 2017, so Roma can sit tight and play hardball. 30m for a 19-yaer-old defender? People still reeling from 57m for Neymar, would probably poop cinderblocks.

KDR: 7

Vincent Kompany

Like Stonehenge, only can defend.
Like Stonehenge, only can defend.

Vincent Kompany is a 27-year-old defender for Manchester City. He is 6’4″. Last season he made a staggering 10.4 million pounds, or more than 12 million Euros.

Strengths: Very strong, good in the air, physical. And he has the greatest head in the world, potentially completing the Easter Island matched set with Jordi Roura. Kompany is also capable of playing DM, with solid foot skills. Sure tackler, sound positionally. Pace is good.

Weaknesses: Foot skills, in the FCB system, would leave something to be desired. Can be bamboozled by small, quick attackers. But there aren’t any of those in La Liga, right, so we should be safe there. Rash challenges.

Kompany’s name won’t leave the frame, much to the chagrin of some. He, too, has said that he is not leaving Citeh. I think that a lot will depend on new coach Pellegrini, and what he has planned. When he gets injured, they are doozies. Abductor tear, toe injury, etc. All of his knocks have meant long layoff spells.

Likelihood of arrival: Slim to none. Big, giant money in transfer fee and salary. If the Barça tier system is not to be blown to bits, having a defender coming in who makes Messi money would be absurd.

KDR: 4

David Luiz

"Over there! I wanna go over there!"
“Over there! I wanna go over there!”

David Luiz is a 26-year-old defender for Chelsea. He is 6’2″.

Strengths: Strong in the air, good foot skills, good on the ball. Can play DM in a pinch, scores goals.

Weaknesses: Can go on mental walkabout, rash challenges, lack of discipline (vastly improved here). During a Premiership match broadcast, Gary Neville famously likened Luiz and his movements to being ‘controlled by a 10-year-old on a PlayStation’.

Very solid injury history, with a fractured foot in ’08, then nothing more until last season. He is under contract to Chelsea until 2017, but is rumored to be on the block when new coach Mourinho arrives, along with Branislav Ivanovic. Luiz is another whose name won’t leave the frame. One MD report said that he was ruled out for sporting and financial reasons, probably meaning he’s cray AND makes a lot of money. Luiz wouldn’t be a cheap transfer, either.

Likelihood of arrival: Almost nonexistent. Though he has the skill set to play at Barça, that is a lot of money for a player widely considered to be a spazz on the pitch. Because like Kompany, big fee, big salary.

KDR: 4

Jeremy Mathieu

"I can outrun Xavi, so shut up!"
“I can outrun Xavi, so shut up!”

Jeremy Mathieu is a 29-year-old defender for Valencia. He is 6’4″.

Strengths: Pace, strong in the air, versatile, can play CB, DM, FB though has most recently been playing CB. Good on attack, strong foot skills. Durable, with no injuries in the past two seasons.

Weaknesses: Not a real standout at any of his positions, though a confirmed starter for Valencia.

Mathieu’s name has been circulating since Valencia didn’t make Champions League this season, and rumors of sweeping changes are afoot. His price would be right, and he would need zero assimilation to the style of play and officiating in La Liga. Versatility means that, given the complexities we had last season, he could be moved around to a necessary position.

Likelihood of arrival: Very good. When a club drops 57m on a Neymar, yet is still in austerity, it’s a numbers game. Mathieu could almost certainly be had for something in the 10m range, which would be a steal for a defender of his quality. He made almost 6m last season, so that is a concern, but if there is any player who might be willing to accept a bit less for a shot at the brass ring.

KDR: 7

Eliaquim Mangala


Eliaquim Mangala is a 22-year-old defender who plays for Porto. He is 6’2″. Made about EUR500,000 last season.

Strengths: Had to do some quick research here, but seems to be a complete package: foot skills, size, strength, athleticism, hops so he should be good in the air.

Weaknesses: Haven’t watched Porto at all, so can’t make any claims in that regard.

This name just popped up on the radar, though folks in the know such as Euler and others, have long been wondering why he wasn’t on our list of candidates. Chelsea is also rumored to have a strong interest. Opportunistic player on set pieces, who scored a brilliant goal this season.

Likelihood of arrival: Good question. He has a lot of Barça watchers very excited now that he is in the frame. Porto has been selling this summer, but are often difficult to deal with and usually get top dollar. Market value of less than 10m, but in dealing with Porto you can add a few million to that. Looks to be the complete package of skills, money and salary. Is he ready for a big club? Again, good question.

KDR: 9

Adil Rami

"Come give daddy a hug!"
“Come give daddy a hug!”

Adil Rami is a 27-year-old defender who plays for Valencia. He is 6’3″ tall.

Strengths: Pace, physicality, positioning, strength, very solid in the air. If you can imagine a Pique with pace, coupled with a non-wack Pepe, that is Rami. He has vexed us mightily when we have played Valencia.

Weaknesses: Uncertain. He has what some refer to as “lifestyle issues.” Handsome lad, who makes the ladies scream. Famously, he injured himself while dancing to “Gangnam Style” at a charity event. Can have a temper, and gave Bojan Krkic a little pop during a European match against Roma. So there’s that. Graham Hunter waxed enthusiastic about Rami a couple of years ago. Worth a read.

He’s on the margins. Rami is unsettled at Valencia, and had said that he wants out. The club is trying to tempt him into staying with more money, but in a recent interview, he referenced his low buyout (10-12m) and said we’ll see about the future, which means “come get me, big club!”

Likelihood of arrival: Difficult to say if it is bluster or not, but he is very unhappy at Valencia. He wants that next level, and if we came knocking, it would be difficult to resist. Price is right, salary is up there, in the 6m range, however.

KDR: 8

So there we go. Other names will doubtless pop up, but as of now, this is what we don’t know. No, Thiago Silva is NOT on this list. He is 29, would cost 45m+ and is under contract at a club that has absolutely zero reason to entertain offers for him. There is rumor, then there is absurdity.

By Kxevin

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. Fantastic article, though I fear Mangala would be closer to 20m, Porto have made a ton of money this summer already and have little need to sell him off. Plus competition from Chelsea.

  2. before i even read it, thanks for the post. it gives us at least a mutual reference point for these sorts of transfer season discussions.

    1. Makes sense. Glad I was able to do it. Mangala is new, and very welcome. Euler has been on about him for a while.

    1. Another year going to go to waste in the
      development department.. Haih. Couldn’t
      they promote anyone else or give Oscar
      Garcia the job?

  3. Thanks Kxevin for this. (now we can request for posts? :D) Lets go through your post, shall we?

    ~ As for the start with the known-knowns, I would add another point. In addition to the CBs and the Goalie, we know we need, I feel we need the one, but necessary CF in the team. Villa’s gone and Cesc isn’t the answer. Not there.

    ~ Just FYI, I have always loved your ratings and take some joy in the fact that they reflect my own ratings. Almost always. What I can’t understand is why your ‘hard to earn’ KDRs have been generously given to the one player you admit, falls in to your ‘known unknown’.

    ~ Still, I am glad that Mangala is finally being uttered in the same sentence as Barcelona and suddenly people are convinced we need him. I have watched the guy and he is the shit. Believe me.

    ~ So as per the kdr, the finally verdict is Rami and Mangala? While I’d take that, Rami would be a weak link for a very important position in a very important club. Why do people have such a problem with Hummels being too similar to Pique? I thought we love that breed of defender. Moroever, competition for Pique could just be the best thing for both player and club. Anyway if we are looking for the fired up type of defender, because we want to replace fire (puyol) with fire, then Subotic could also be something. But I like the Rami Mangala pair purchase, although if it were upto me, I’d pick, like I said in the last post – Mangala + Marquinhos / Subotic.

    ~ Lastly, but most importantly, I cannot stress enough the problem of our numerous talented staff leaving, being as, if not more important than the problem of our central defense. Make no mistake, This will have serious impact on the field – Shitty scouting, poor tactical (video) preparation for games, Unfit players and longer recuperation time for the ones that are injured.

    1. I think the problem with Hummels being too similar to Pique is that the best CB partnerships have two defenders whose skills complement each other, and with Hummels and Pique there would be too much overlap and not enough complement.

      One of the reasons Pique-Puyol was such a fantastic relationship is that they are so different. Pique is a ball-playing defender, while Puyol is more of a sweeper type who can clean up behind Pique.

      There is no doubt the Pique could use competition, but with Abidal dropped and Puyol aging and constantly injured the club desperately needs a sweeper type to partner Pique/Bartra/whoever long term.

      One of the problems at the club is that player skill sets for different positions are becoming extremely homogeneous. At CB we have too many ball playing defenders and almost no sweeper types. At fullback we have too many attacking fullbacks and not enough defensive minded fullbacks. In midfield the only strength and power player we have is Song, who unfortunately has been stuck in the “deputy for Busquets” role and not given any minutes in the role Keita used to play.

      The homogenization of skill sets has a very strong effect on the tactics of the team. It’s hard to create a tactical framework that has balance if there is no balance to the skill sets of the players. For that reason I’d rather not bring in a defender like Pique this summer – it will only exacerbate the problem.

    2. Disagree Buddy. Firstly those are unknown unknowns you are putting forth as a known. You say with Hummels, the team’s defense becomes homogeneous, and playing with him means there is too much overlap and non complementary skills. First of all, the team now has really only one pure ball playing CB in Pique. All of Mascha, Puyol, and Bartra even, fall into that ‘sweeper types’ as you put it. The aggressive tough tackling, no nonsense kinda defenders.
      What if Pique gets injured?
      Furthermore, Hummels is a real leader at the back. While Pique is amazing at his best, the boy does get distracted. Also Germany is rising and we may do well to have some slice of that. You then talk of skill sets and this does not complement that. We have to remember BOTH Pique and Hummels are insanely young. They are yet to really peak. Those skill sets are not etched in stone and there is much to be learned.
      Anyway this is starting to sound like an argument FOR Hummels, who is anyway not on my wishlist as mentioned above. Just wanted to point out some assumptions in your reply. Danke.

    3. Well, I disagree. Pique and Bartra are very similar, which is why they are a terrible partnership. Mascherano is a tough tackler, but because he converted from DM he doesn’t do the “sweeping” role all that well. Puyol is old and his next injury could realistically be a career ending injury, so there is need to replace him.

      I won’t deny that Hummels is a great leader, but I’m not sure how that figures into this argument at all really.

    4. Complementing skills,
      Leadership & organizing defenses,
      Replacing a Puyolic presence,

      That’s where Hummels figures in this argument.

    5. I’ll have to agree with Calvin here. Two juicy steaks don’t make for a great surf and turf dish.

  4. I love these type of posts. Funny thing is that I just read a similar one at another blog. They are on part 2 now which I still have to go through.

    I would take him as a utility player

    as a long term player.

    He is not as bad as you think he is in terms of foot skills. He’s got some skills. I just watched the an City vs Chelsea friendly 2 days ago. He was doing step overs to get the ball out of his penalty area!
    But he’s just too costly.

    Too risky and pricey too.

    I understand that he is too similar to Pique but I doubt having 2 similar CB’s is as bad as having Pique and sMasch/Adriano/Song/Busi pairing no?
    I would go for him!

    I don’t think he has what it takes to succeed in an elite club. And he looks to have a temper.

    Why can’t the club’s scouts go around Ligue 1 or Bundesliga or South America to look for talents instead of buying already established players? Rosell, give me the position!! I’d do it for as low as USD5k a month excluding allowances.

    And he has the greatest head in
    the world, potentially completing the Easter
    Island matched set with Jordi Roura.

    It’s been quite some time that you cracked a joke here. Worth the wait 🙂

    When I first saw him, he actually reminded of a song called Blue back in late 90’s. He looks like one of the characters in the music video.

  5. Another year going to go to waste in the development department.. Haih. Couldn’t they promote anyone else or give Oscar Garcia the job?

  6. Thanks for the post Kxevin! This was great.
    I’ve heard about Mangala and Marquinhos. If either of them work into our system we would have our own Varane, a long term central defender (I heard Mangala-Varane will be France’s NT centerbacks for the future). Mangala might be pricey, but he seems to be a good option for us. As long as he’s not represented by Mendes we might not have to spend +20M for him.
    Rami and Mathieu are real options for us right now. Short term based wise, though we should ask ourselves, can they prove to be starters for a CL Semifinal?

    A review of our options:

    Jérémy Mathieu
    Age: 29
    Height: 1,90
    Market value: 9.000.000 € (Could be as little as 5M).
    Contract until: 30.06.2014 Valencia FC

    Adil Rami
    Age: 27
    Height: 1,90
    Market value: 12.000.000 €
    Contract until: 30.06.2015 Valencia FC

    Eliaquim Mangala
    Age: 22
    Height: 1,88
    Market value: 8.500.000 € (As Kxevin said, being on Porto and having 3 more years of contract, we can add at least 10M to that figure).
    Contract until: 30.06.2016 Porto

    Age: 19
    Height: 1,83
    Market value: 10.000.000 € (maybe as much as 25-30M, a big risk for a 19 year old. But he might as well be the next Thiago Silva).
    Contract until: 30.06.2017 Roma

    All data according Transfer Markt UK

    I’m really sorry to hear about Eusebio. I was hoping for Oscar Garcia to come back, and Rosell to having able to let go a grudge. Silly me.

  7. Thanks Kxevin! Ha. I almost spit out my coffee when I read the Kompany/Roura Easter Island line! LMAO. I’m going to have to disagree about Kompany though. I’ve been a fan since he went to Citeh. He’s tall, a brick house, tough, & a leader thru and thru. Hmmm. Reminds me of a curly haired jungle man we may know. I’m also a fan Hummels. I understand he might have looked shaky at times recently, but he had the heart & desire we want in our team. Sometimes I wonder if Pique still does or he’s more interested in the “fabulous” life w/Shakira. I can’t see us spending that kind or money on either, so I’d settle on some unknown(to me) quantities if our scouting and coaching seem to think their worth it and the potential is there. I trust our scouts & coaches.

  8. Has anyone seen laporta’s comments from Bogota, Columbia? He said he thinks the time has come for him to be Prez again!!! Whoo whoo.

    1. My comments on twitter yesterday about this:

      If it comes to Rosell vs. Laporta (and if I wasn’t a second tier Soci and could vote), I would take Laporta

      Laporta did throw around Barca’s money, but he also brought 3 CLs because he trusted people who knew the game better than him

    2. I agree with Laporta being less austere than Rosell, but I don’t think he’s the “making it rain” villain Rosell has made him out to be. Can you imagine the election campaigns!? It will definitely get very UGLY.

    3. i’d take Laporta back in a heartbeat.

      and i think that all the focus Rosell has put on the financial status of his tenure would moderate him on that front just enough.

      don’t forget though that Laporta had a brilliant administrative staff, headed by Txiki (now at Man City) as well. he’d have to bring some of those folks back with him.

    4. Things were killer when the whole crew was together. Laporta handled the partying, Rosell handled the fiscal side of things. Well-oiled machine, until everybody started wanting credit for the success.

  9. spain U21 beat russia today 1-0 thru the m*adridista morata

    meanwhile, germany is trailing holland 2-1, germany’s goal scored by…my favorite new name in football…Rudy Midfield. and he is….a midfielder. wonderful.

  10. Someone asked a good question about why Inigo Martinez wasn’t included. I know that he struck a glancing blow to the rumor mill, but nothing more, so I left him out. If something more substantial comes up later, he will be added.

    1. I was just going to ask about him. The rumors are flying 🙂
      From Barcastuff: Barcelona is working on 3 centre back options now. One is Mathieu. The other two are not clear, possibly Inigo Martinez and Vermaelen. [md]
      Mathieu + Inigo Martinez, Marquinhos or Mangala would do nicely from sporting pov, but the Spanish kid would be less of a bargain because of price / Liga experience for a very good team.

    2. Less of a risk, I mean.
      Of course, I’d rather we not gut Spanish teams of talent, but if not us, then somebody else will come calling.

  11. Hello everyone. I’ve been following this blog since 2009 and found it to be one of the best footy blogs, regardless of club-leanings, here on cyberspace.

    Just wanted to give a quick shout out to, Kxevin. I can see that the past months haven’t been easy for you, but you are one of my favorite writers — this coming from a writer himself. Keep it up!

    1. Two juicy steaks don’t make for a great surf and turf dish.

      No wonder I noticed that you have a great way of writing from the comment way above and of course, this great idiom. I smiled when I first read it. What a beautiful idiom. First time I heard it. Welcome btw. What took you so long?

    2. I felt that I needed to voice my support for Kxevin and the wonderful crew here. They’ve provided me with the most insightful posts throughout the years for anything Barca-related. It would be such a shame if they decided to close down. Suffice to say that this blog is my homepage and I’m doing this for my own selfish reasons 🙂

  12. I feel that we’ve already exhausted our transfer kitty on Neymar and don’t expect another big signing to come through the gates, at least not for another year. The past few years have been hard for the Spanish economy in general and Barcelona isn’t exempt from its repercussions. With the nation and much of Europe preaching austerity, those of us who are still holding out hope for Hummels, Luiz or Silva musn’t hold our breath.

    Mathieu seems like the most sensible signing. He is versatile enough to slot into any of the area of the defence and provide cover for CB and LB (much like Abidal has done) until we can splurge on a world-class CB next year.

    1. Thanks for the shout out.

      With intelligent buys, we can get excellent defenders and still be cost-effective. Mathieu isn’t glamor, but he’s an excellent defender. And if the buzz on Rami is true, we could probably get both of them for around 20m, which would be remarkable business.

      In many ways, it’s a complexity of how the club thinks about attack vs defense. Alves was the last big-money defender we bought, and you’d think that would argue for opening up the pocket book, but … Puyol was La Masia, Pique was a bargain, Abidal was a bargain. The only part of that treble back line that cost real money was Alves.

      Txigrinski, our last high-cash CB signing, still has people gun-shy, I think. And the club values attack over defense, so Neymar is a deal at 57m, while Javi Martinez is too spendy at 40m.

      I would also suggest that tactically, given the system that was played under Guardiola, defenders simply weren’t as important as attackers, who pressed so fiercely that all the defenders had to do was sweep up loose balls, and shut down the occasional counter, which was when Abidal came loping in.

      In my ideal world, we’d get a veteran like Mathieu, and a young up and comer. But all of those will cost real money. Mangala, because of the Chelsea interest, will be north of 20m. Marquinhos, even if he wasn’t deemed too short allegedly, would be 30+, and so on. I just don’t see the club doing that, austerity or not.

      P.S. No, Laporta would NOT have let Javi Martinez or Thiago Silva go. That was part of his beauty, and part of his fiscal curse.

    2. Agreed. And the key here is, as you said, to buy intelligently and sensibly.

      In my perfect world, I’d want to see Mathieu and Inigo Martinez come in as the final purchases of the year. The former to contribute immediately; the latter to develop and become the steel to Pique’s silk, an ideal dichotomy for any world-class CB pairing.

      I personally feel Txigrinski wasn’t given a fair shake. His only fault (and it’s not even his) is that he was a former regime’s purchase. His skill set is similar to that of Pique’s and could be pushing Pique for a spot right now. Competition works wonders – Evra rediscovered his form for United this season because he knew Buttner was breathing down his neck. I feel Pique is sitting too comfortably, knowing that Bartra is some years away from challenging him for a spot.

    3. Amen on Txigrinski. And boy, did it all go downhill for him fast after he left the club. Whether those injuries would have occurred with us, who knows. But yes, he needed time.

      The big question with new players is going to be salary. I think the club would even overspend a bit on a fee to get a lower salary.

  13. Sorry for hijacking the topic but I just wanted to post this as I was trying to put down points favoring Rosell –

    I have seen a lot of Rosell bashing on this forum but I have a different take on that. I really like one principle he brings to the club, which is fiscal prudence.

    A lot people are unhappy about the austerity measures Rosell has taken. However, I believe that it takes a courageous person to take up austerity measures. Everybody loves big-hearted person. He has taken some difficult decision, at the cost of displeasing fans. Not buying an expensive CB but going for a CDM who could be (now we know that he cannot be) played into two positions and bring some muscle to the team, was not acceptable to fans. However, I believe that buying a player of Barca quality is expensive. We should look at how much Thiago Silva went for. In last 3-4 years the transfer policy is to – try to buy the best or buy a back up. I think Rosell did well, given our policy. We should not go for a 28yr old 45mn Euros priced player. Circus created in the footbaling world with Oil money is taking valuations to levels, which are neither desirable nor sustainable. Every year some new clubs with rich sponsor takes away the valuation aspect from the market. I believe that wherever possible Barca should try to keep away from this circus, which they did in case of Silva (I love the work Wenger did in last couple of years to buy quality players, but not top rated, at a decent price). I also think that we should change our policy of buying highest quality player. We are highly dependent on La Masia for filling up the squad with ‘coming-up’ players. I think we should buy couple of quality players (not top rated) and build them into quality, which we desire. We have enough top players, now is time to get some bits and pieces players to make a team. Success is its own nemesis. Barca is also facing the same curse. We expect them to win everything and to do that we need players of highest quality even for second eleven. Now is the time to take breather and start becoming more financially sound.

    Another aspect to the fiscal prudence, which I like, is that it will prepare us better for the days of collective media rights. I believe that, collective media rights is the way to go for Spanish football and might become reality sooner than we expect. 184mn Euros we generate from television revenue (sourced from ‘Swiss ramble’) would come down to 100mn Euros assuming our media rights are sold for 1bn Euros same as SerieA. Given our huge wage bill and commitment to other loss making sports, this would be detrimental for us. Supplementing this from commercial revenue has its own limits. We should put a restriction on expenses, transfer money and wages to be financially sustainable, which Rosell has done. He has hardly made any big-ticket purchases (relatively), reduced wage bill and some expenses. I am in favor of his idea of reducing debt and showing positive P&L numbers even if it comes at the cost of trophies. However, it should not come at our style of play.

    Neymar is an exception to the ‘not making big-ticket purchases’. Some people might say that buying Neymar will be against the idea of what I am proclaiming. However, from whatever I have read, everybody is saying that he is marketing magnet. He would give us the in-roads into the Brazilian market as well as he is saleable in US. Given the hype surrounding him and his age, it seems likely that he will make positive impact on our P&L. Whether he will make positive impact on pitch is yet to be seen; keeping my fingers crossed.

    Even at the cost of sounding controversial, I support Rosell’s decision (in case HIS decision) of not renewing Abidal. Nobody, especially cunning mind like Rosell, would make such a PR suicide if renewing was not significantly against their sporting or financial decisions. He did not stop Abidal from stating, in conference, that Abidal wanted to renew desperately. He made no disclosure (correct or incorrect) of what Abidal wanted or about his health, to save his face. All logical conclusion leads me to opinion that Rosell would have kept Abidal, if Abidal was fit enough to play a full season for Barca. He took a brave decision at the cost of bad PR. I believe that paying full salary to Abidal, despite not playing a single full match (at the age of 32) was sufficient to show respect for him. Anything above that would be charity.

    If we have look at the Barcelona finances on ‘Swiss Ramble’ blog, it can easily be seen that he has kept expenses in check. He has reduced other expenses by more than 20% and wages by 3% in 2012. In addition, since 2010, revenue must have gone up by 100mn Euros. Commercial revenues have increased considerably due to sponsorship. I wish Rosell had not sold our Jersey. However, given influx of oil money and unstable economy, decision seems right.

    To summarize all I think that Rosell has taken a stance, which I totally believe in today’s turbulent times. Fiscal prudence would help us in future, if attendance declines or when collective rights would come into place. Results with balancing the books matters.

    1. I think that the Rosell view in regards to austerity should also examine how some of his savings have occurred. Some have come from losing big salaries. Some have indeed come from not having to pay all those player bonuses from winning all those trophies (wages were an immense part of the bottom line during the Treble and follow-up season). And of course, he has realized additional gains from arrangements with new partners, including the controversial decision to sell the shirt.

      Personally, I disagree with your statement that P&L should be valued, even at the price of sporting success. I don’t believe that a football club is a business. A football club is a sporting enterprise that should value winning first, and fiscal prudence second, accomplishing the latter to the best of its ability while prioritizing the former. Arsene Wenger and Arsenal is a case study in that. Lovely books, dusty trophy case. My properly run club would examine what it needs to win as many titles as it can, and figure out how to pay for it.

      The truth, as I see it, is somewhere in the middle of Rosell and Laporta. As I note elsewhere in this comments skein, Laporta would not have let Martinez or Silva go if his coach wanted him. That was just how he worked. “Oh, we can deal with that later.” The consequences of his fiscal imprudence were in different areas, but not the sporting side.

      If we look at the sporting consequence of austerity, for the first time in 17 years, no Barça team can call itself a European champion. Part of that is indeed luck and injuries. But part of it is having the horses, bought and paid for, to run the race. I think that says something.

      As for Abidal, many of us have come to believe that there is something lurking in his medical report, as well as the complicity of Vilanova in the decision. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense not to give him a shot in pre-season.

      As with everything, criticism of Rosell needs balance. He isn’t responsible for everything from bathtub ring to global climate change. But he has taken some decisions that don’t sit well with me, most notably selling the shirt. Couple that with the lack of transparency, cherry-picked Assembly and push for a new Nou, and it all smacks of legacy building. And I hope nobody will honestly believe that austerity, in large part, doesn’t have a new Nou at its terminus, and that Rosell will be as spendy on that enterprise as Laporta was on players and parties.

      Make no mistake, Laporta was as concerned with his legacy as Rosell, wanting his Barça stewardship to carry him on wings into Catalan political life. But it is the Laporta way that will always sit well with cules, because it brought maximum sporting glory to the club.

      You are spot on about Neymar, as I and others have noted. Also structuring the deal as it has been was an excellent piece of business. I would be curious to know how much of his image rights he owns, vs the club.

    2. @CuleToon

      NZM is a Barcelona resident too! What a luck for us non-Spanish Barcelona fans as we have 2 fans on the streets.

    3. (More complete info on the new Nou)

      According to RAC-1, what the board has rejected is a change of location. Apparently, they’ll call a referendum for socis to decide if they want a new stadium or a remodeling of the existing one, but always in the current location (if it’s going to be new, they’ll do as Athletic de Bilbao has done: build the new Nou just beside-alongside the current one).

    4. I will try to reply to the points you raised.

      1) Football is sporting enterprise…..figure out how to pay for it.

      Football is a sporting enterprise, because of which there is no mandate to earn profits. This sentiment is what killing the football and making clubs make irrational decisions at the cost of solvency of the clubs. If clubs can generate revenue either through business activity (endorsements, gate receipt or media) or through charity from club fans and pay the debt then it is well and fine. This is not case with many clubs. They take debt and keep rotating it from one banker to other banker or from one investor to another investor. Clubs like Villareal and Atletico Madrid have debt five times than of their annual revenue, leave alone net income. In the cases of previous mentioned clubs, understanding, how trophies (with losses) take precedence to financial stability, is out of my depth. In my opinion, this is not acceptable. Many La liga clubs are in desperate financial situation due to mismanagement. After politics, biggest part of mismanagement is lack of responsibility towards balancing the books. They make plans without realistically thinking how they will the raise income to support that expenditure. Although it is not necessary to earn profits, however it is utmost necessary to living within the means. That is how a club becomes a responsible citizen (Mes cue un club). Clubs are also responsible to pay debt as citizens are. (Means should be computed on longer horizon)

      Figuring out how to pay for the expenditure is the hardest part. If that was not the case then many clubs would have been debt free. My ideal club would try to maximize revenue, but will also try to live within means. If by best utilizing resources, I win trophies then great, but fiscal responsibility would come first. Again, it is not year-to-year, but for a plan period. As everybody knows in case of fiscal prudence, Bundesliga is way ahead then La liga or Serie A. Their gate receipts are lower, commercial revenues are high and they live with-in their means. I support this kind of model.

      I admire Arsene Wenger and his philosophy. I did had to say some things against him but not about the principles he hold. Lack of trophies is not only because of financial problems. They had problem with mental toughness for couple of years. Things would have been different, if AW had changed his philosophy of building his team on only youth a bit earlier. He relied a lot on them. He changed his ideas in last couple of years and I have seen improvement in their play. The team looks much stronger now. I see a top two finish in next season, if he buys correctly. Another part of the problem was rich oil money. Valuations and wages of players are at unsustainable level. Figures thrown around are just absurd. Clubs are becoming toys for the rich owners. Other heritage clubs (like Arsenal) are in tremendous pressures from fans to buy trophies (through spending huge sums). I respect clubs, which have taken tough stance of not following this stupid trend.

      2) More specific to Barca now –

      Selling the shirt is also one thing, which I abhor. That was one gesture, which made us different from others. However, I sympathize with the decision, more than you do. Look at the facts – 1) We pay the highest salaries 2) Oil money has made the market unstable 3) Despite high revenue, we regularly declared losses 4) Difficult economic environment so gate receipts cannot be increased 5) Debt was above 550mn Euros.

      If shirt was not sold then the result would have been 1) Taking more debt and winning trophies 2) Restricting purchase of players and hampering chances of winning. Higher debt means higher interest costs and thereby more loss. Higher yields coupled with reluctance of banks to finance also would have increased the interest costs. I think what he did was sensible for the current times. I might have taken the same tough decision. It also takes a stupid or gutsy person to take that decision, and I think Rosell is not stupid. (However, the way he cheated with converting Qatar Foundation to Qatar Airways is so dirty).

      Regarding wages, you are right – it is more because of low bonus payments. However, achievement in reducing other expenses is commendable. I did not want to go into the admin issues with Rosell. In my post, I just wanted to contribute to the discussion on whether austerity principle Rosell has taken is correct or not. I also wanted to touch upon the issue of fiscal prudence.

    5. Excellent points, all. I said back then that I would rather have sold players than sold the shirt. Still feel that way, which is the romantic in me.

      I just don’t believe that it is possible to run a football club without debt. Not at the level that we expect Barça to perform.

      My ideal club would try to maximize revenue, but will also try to live within means. If by best utilizing resources, I win trophies then great, but fiscal responsibility would come first.

      So you’re Rosell to my Laporta? 😀

      I guess we know that Barça isn’t completely going this way, as it explains why we’re shopping for a defender(s) instead of using Bartra, recalling Fontas from loan and calling it a day.

      The problem with Arsenal is that they are always one key (read: expensive) player short. Replacing Van Persie with Giroud was never going to work. They bought Cazorla instead of Mata, etc. While fiscal prudence doesn’t cost in silver directly, it does diminish the opportunities for it, as the more affordable players don’t execute like the more expensive ones, usually.

      Yes, the other Liga clubs are taking on absurd levels of debt. But I think, in the case of our club and almost a half-billion in revenue coming in, there is a level of debt that is manageable and reasonable.

      Would TV revenues being more equitably distributed help other clubs? Absolutely. A look at Prem vs Liga distribution is appalling. The last-place Prem side still gets 20m more than the last-place Liga side. That’s a lot of money to a club whose annual budget might almost be Messi’s salary. That has to be repaired for the Liga to have solvency.

      But Liga sides will also have to accept where they are, as Prem sides do. QPR knows what it is, and that it is impossible to compete with the Chelsea and Citehs. ATM doesn’t realize that, goes into crazy debt and has a resultant problem. It’s still a question of revenue, at the end of it all.

      This discussion fascinates me, because it’s one that we rarely have in these pages. There’s also the question of sunk costs for players, vs future costs. I wonder below whether it was the right financial decision to unload Txigrinski, given what a quality CB is going to cost the club. Like selling a used car for only 10k, then finding that you can’t live without a car, and buy another one for 20k. Caceres raises the same question.

      I think ultimately we have romantic vs pragmatist worldviews. I would be the dude in the cava-soaked suit with a cigar in my mouth, I freely admit.

  14. First of all thanks for a fabulous article and thanks for the production chain which has been revitalised. Allow me my two cents’ worth.

    From my understanding central defenders are a combo. Having a pair with the same characteristics hardly helps for a fully functional unit. Thus one must be a reader of the game and the other a rugged warrior who compensates through sheer aggression and speed. At our pomp we had a fit Puyol being the rugged one and Pique the other half.

    Now a few years down the line what we have learnt is that Pique is not that good a proponent of a art of defending which relies on reading the game and intercepting danger way before it becomes clear. So in that regard we may need two defenders; someone who replaces Puyol and a back up or upgrade on Pique. Which brings me to Hummels. In my opinion he is a significant upgrade on Pique precisely because he SENSES DANGER PERFECTLY and is also a leader. I know some may disagree but bar Abidal, Mascherano is the only other defender who senses danger quicker. The main problem is that Mascherano is a converted midfielder and may fail to execute to perfection.

    Will it be a sin if we fail to get Hummels or a defender of his ilk? I think so because we need a significant upgrade in that position. Just like we needed an upgrade on the left wing. In the past we have missed out on players like Ozil but that was forgivable because we had a world class Iniesta in his role and a burgeoning Thiago on the wings. Not in this case, we had be complacent if we did not move for him.

    Of course these austere times may dictate otherwise.

    1. Can’t agree and I’m not sure why we keep hating on Pique. He is actually a very good reader of the game and knows how to play CB – unlike Masch for one ( but to be fair also including Adriano).

  15. It would be not surprising, if club went for Mathieu, a wing back, to perform as centre back. From Barcstuff, that looks like the best probability.
    yesterday against Russia, Thiago, Bartra and Montoya were really good, especially Montoya, he will be even better than Alves at his prime. Only Tello looked below average. That RM lad Morata, will be a future Raul. He has a great eye for goal.
    It is a pity, we cant get enough time for Thiago, Bartra and Montoya. We can give them enough playing time, with many low rank teams in liga, but we dont.

  16. What about this notion: The club is still paying for the rash decisions on Caceres and Txigrinski. Both needed patience that the club didn’t evince, so Caceres is now kicking butt at Juventus and Txigrinski is wondering about what could have been.

    1. Caceres is actually playing in a championship team while Chiggy is playing in Eastern Europe. Both are not lighting up the football scene but if you ask me, I think we could’ve used Caceres more wisely. He could be turned into a CB like how Madrid did with Ramos.

  17. Oh. Chelsea just bought Cavani for 56m. When we think about Mangala, and a potential CB acquisition, if we are bidding against Chelsea, Mangala ain’t gonna happen. I just don’t think that we’re going to outbid them, or any of the other monied clubs (PSG, Citeh).

    1. Where did you read about Cavani to Chelsea? I am checking everywhere and I cannot find any confirmation of this..

    2. Via a couple of folks on Twitter. Trying to find confirmation myself. And the number I heard was 58 million, rather than 56.

  18. I would like to ask the Americans about Chris Broussard. He is a reporter associated with the NBA. I’ve never heard that type of slang before. Is that slang from a particular city or state?

  19. We should reign in the debt no doubt about that, lest we find ourselves “doing a Leeds” (and yes they too said it could never happen) Proper Fiscal management is a must not only for the sake of the club but to also respect the fans and all those who invest in the club. But is all debt bad debt? No. The difficulty lies in assessing the proper level of debt we can bear. if one earns 50K per annum mortgaging a 50million dollar house is foolish but the same debt for a woman earning 10million per annum is reasonable. Credit allows for growth, but it is a beast that should be kept on a very tight leash.

    This article gives some insight into how our debt compares to other big clubs (**Is Arsenal the model of austerity we assume it to be?)
    the clubs are ranked by lowest debt/value ratio.

  20. Do you guys prefer Ronaldo to leave for France (P$G or Monaco) or back to Man U? I know those who prefer a stiffer competition would prefer to have stronger competition but I view it differently.

    As La Liga gets weaker and in particular Madrid (with the loss of Mourinho and Ronaldo), we wouldn’t need to spend so much money on transfers and therefore we spend less and give more time to the La Masia players. I believe that this will benefit us in the long run and especially when there is a better money sharing scheme.

    This 100 points a season thing is not doing us any good in the long run. As Madrid gets weaker and us too because there is no need to sign grade AAA players, the league will actually benefit for it. Now it is just Barca vs Madrid. But as both of us gets weaker and the rest will benefit from us not plucking their best players, there will be a stronger competition within the league instead of just a race between us and Madrid to 100 points.

    1. I wouldn’t concern yourself with Madrid getting weaker. They seem to have a bottomless purse and by the start of the season they will have a formidable lineup.

  21. Signing Matthieu alone isn’t enough for us to improve on this season. Matthieu should be a back up to Alba and 3rd choice CB. What we need is someone who can partner Pique and at the same time give give him a competition. Up until now, Pique thinks that he is an automatic starter. That can’t happen. That is why signing Hummels is not such a bad thing. He could even be better than Pique.

    That Marquinhos or Mangala is a must for me! I don’t think that they should cost over 30 mill. Last season understandably we couldn’t get into a bidding war for Thiago Silva as it got too expensive but I believe we can win these 2 players over.

  22. Abidal raining hellfire on whoever kicked him out the front door (in his extremely classy, gentlemanly way):

    I fought for them. I’m fully fit. I feel better now than I did two years ago. They didn’t explain me anything. They are questioning my ability to continue playing. I know my physical condition. I won’t risk my life. I’m a bit upset. [RMC]

    Quotes taken from @migerucb.

    1. From a sporting perspective (or even a financial one):

      Don’t understand why the club let’s go of Abidal if they are going to buy someone like Mathieu to fill that role.

    2. Age difference. I don’t know that Mathieu is being purchased, should such a transaction happen, to fill any particular player’s role.

    3. Not much of an age difference, especially because if Mathieu is bought he should be a short term option.

      And I don’t understand what you meant at the end. All I’m saying is that Mathieu and Abidal functionally fill similar roles (LB/CB), so it doesn’t make sense for me to buy a new player who has to adapt when the team already had a player who excelled there.

    4. Oh, just that I don’t think we should think of whoever is purchased as an “Abidal role,” “Puyol role,” etc.

  23. Everyone should read this article on our club’s deal with Neymar. I do not believe it is as transparent as they would like us to believe.

    Sorry for any mistakes, being this my translation.

    There are not 20,6 but 30,6 the missing millions in the signing of Neymar

    If in Wednesday, the company ‘DIS’ who owns 40% of the Brazilian’s pass, claimed that they only received 9.4 million euros of the 57 which Barça reported to have paid for Neymar, now is Neymar’s father who says that they did not received the 10 million which the club said they paid in advanced for the player. That money could be allocated to commissions, which sports vice president Bartemeu, also publicly denied.

    Neymar’s father denies that he and his son charged the 10 million that Barcelona spent last year into the signing of former Santos striker. Speaking to the Brazilian press, Neymar Sr. says that the money was not meant for them, but to buy the 40% of the rights of the player who owns the company ‘DIS’.
    “That money was to buy out ‘DIS’ part of the business, which had 40% of the player’s rights, but it did not work because they did not want to sell, always putting difficulties in the negotiation. There already existed interest by Barcelona, yes, but we received nothing in advance. I do not know what happened to that money”, says Neymar’s father.
    Indeed, ‘DIS’ company ensures that they have only received 9.4 million of the 57 Barcelona paid for Neymar. This means that if there was 20.6 million, subtracting the 10 of last year’s, of which there was no record, these are now joined by the 10 paid upfront, which according to Neymar’s father, it is not known where or who has them now. In total 30.6 million.
    Mr. Neymar’s statements leave Barça in a very bad place, specially his sports VP. “We have paid in total an amount of 57 million euros in a repartition we cannot explain, but there aren’t commissions nor brokers or agents,” said Josep Maria Bartomeu. “It’s how we work. I feel bad not being able to explain everything. We have already made a payment of 10 million, the rest is in three years,” he added.
    ‘Globoesporte’ attempts to shed some light on the fate of that money and quotes the words of an anonymous source involved in the negotiations, referred by the player’s father, in which the Barcelona tried to buy the 40% ‘DIS’ owned on Neymar. According to this source, these negotiations existed and, and by DIS’ refusal to sell, Barcelona froze that money and put it in the hands of Andre Cury, man of trust of the club in South America, to later be used for expenses related to Neymar’s signing, in executives travel expenses to Brazil or broker commissions, and included in the total transaction amount.
    “Barcelona want to spend around 40 million euros,” the source says ‘Globoesporte’, “but as it was not possible to advance purchase 10 million were frozen and included within the total 57 million operation”.

    1. I can’t claim to understand all the ins and outs of this, but the allegations of shady dealing do not surprise me at all.

      That quote from Bartomeu, “I feel bad not being to explain everything.” Doesn’t the club have an obligation to be transparent in their business dealings? It’s in the Code of Ethics Rosell himself established in 2010.

      I am certain we will be hearing much, much more on this as time goes by.

    2. As I understand it, Santos had the full right to do the deal, exclusive of other “owners.” DIS was being difficult from the start, wanting absurd sums for their chunk of Neymar, without realizing that if they sour that deal, what team wouldn’t just wait until next summer and get him on a free?

      The DIS thing strikes me as someone being a poor loser.

    3. If I recall well, didn’t Laporta claim that his fallout with Sandro started when Sandro tried to convince him that there was a way to inflate Ronaldinho’s transfer fee and quietly keep the surplus to themselves? Laporta claims he refused to go down that route and their friendship chilled after that. This article smells of exactly that type of shenanigans going on. I think the team will find some serious corruption when Sandro is done.

    4. Yes, that’s the one. So I take it that it want true? But this whole Neymar deal sounds awfully similar to those accusations. And I don’t believe Chelsea would leave any trail of that offer.

    5. I’m not a fan of Rosell at all; in fact, with good reason or not, I do tend to think ill of him and his cronies… But in connection with the supposed cost of Neymar I take every information with a spoonful of salt if it comes from Madrid media (and I don’t trust that much Globoesporte either). This same week, for example, I’ve heard Marca ex-director, Eduardo Inda (the one behind all the abhorrent attacks Barça suffered during the two first seasons of the f*** One), talking, first, of 150 mill euro, then of 180, and, finally, of more than 200 mill euro, all IN THE SAME Marca-TV program (yes, they have a «national» TV station, although it seems that they’re gonna close it, thanks).

      If you look at As and, specially Marca, these last days, they are pouring more and more doubts about the official cost of Neymar given by Bertomeu (which, in principle, will be shown in the acounting books and subjected to inspection). Their other line of attack is to try to cause a rift between Messi and Neymar, either via their earnings or via anything they can think of.

      Expect a lot more of these venomous efforts in the coming months, specially if the Neymar move comes out as well as we all expect and hope.

      By the way, Bertomeu talked of a fourth party in Neymar’s deal which nobody had heard of before, some «N&N» company or whatever. This, to me, sounds a lot like «Neymar & Neymar», and I think that’s where the alleged 10 mill euro for Neymar’s father have gone. Technically, then, he can say that he’s seen nothin’ or it.

  24. I would have to disagree in regards to the comments about La Liga getting weaker. There are some fantastic young players coming up through the Spanish academies. Take a look at the U-21 roster. Kind of scary how good they are.

    I agree that the financial instability of most Spanish clubs doesn’t always allow them to retain their players. But they are just replaced with new, younger ones.

    We are seeing the decline of several traditionally strong clubs like Valencia and Sevilla but the rise of smaller teams like La Real, Betis, etc. Not to mention Atletico, who despite losing Falcao, have an opportunity to get even better with the signings of Toulalan, Baptistao and possibly Negredo/Benteke.

    Distribution of TV rights is an issue that needs to be addressed. There is no doubt about that. But as mentioned above some of these clubs really need to learn how to manage themselves better. There are other ways to strengthen finances–particular through marketing and match day revenue. Clubs don’t take advantage of that. And that is their own fault.

    In the meantime they continue to produce some extraordinary players. La Liga thrives on the excellent academies of its clubs, the foreign scouting, and just all-around natural ability that most Spanish players seem to have these days. I’m not ready to say that the league is declining. Not yet. Not with so many promising young players coming up. There are corruption allegations that worry me somewhat. And of course the general financial state of Spain. But there is talent all across the board in this league. The finances are sh*t. But the quality of play doesn’t seem to go away.

  25. 2-1 to Chile over Paraguay, and it shouldn’t have been that close, with Alexis outstanding. Will be terribly disappointed if this Chilean team doesn’t make it to the world cup, because they play fantastic football.

  26. Barca could actually use 2 CBs (Ramos & Varane), a CF (Higuain) and a Goalkeeper (Casillas). 80M Euros Ok?

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