Humanity, love and a club, aka “The burden of expectations”

abipresser

So there I was the other evening, watching “The Way We Were” (again), never suspecting that there would be any parallel whatsoever between a cheesy-but-effective love story and the football club that I love. But if you think about stuff …

The characters portrayed by Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford are having an argument, and he asks her why she keeps making waves, why she keeps pushing so hard, and she says:

“I’ll keep making them until you’re everything you should be and will be. You’ll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much as I do or to love you as much.”

Which, in a nutshell, is loving a football club. And not just Barça. Roma, Milan, RM, Liverpool, Arsenal, United, Galatasaray …. any football club that is truly loved by its supporters must wrestle with the challenge of being every great, wonderful, shining thing that its supporters believe that it can, and must be.

That so few of them ever do is the tragedy of being a football supporter.

With Barça, however, it is even more tragic, because for a glorious season, our club did exactly that: it was absolutely everything that we wanted it to be, that we expected it to be. It won all the trophies, it beat all the opponents, it was beautiful, and fun. And atop all of that, it was human. From its coach to its flawed superstars who wouldn’t get picked by the big kids for a game of kickabout at the park, it was innately, wonderfully human.

But in life as in football, time and reality change things, and complexities arise.

I can’t count the number of times that this club has made me cry in the time that I have been a supporter, tears of joy, rage, frustration and sadness. And if you really look at emotion, it usually has its roots in expectation. Something didn’t happen that we wanted/needed it to, and it sparks an emotion. People who are supposed to be brilliant, wonderful and live happily ever after get cancer, and a person who we don’t know at all and will never meet breaks our heart. Why?

Because that person has become part of the fabric of a club that we love.

When we love people, we expect so much from them, clubs included. I think that this gets at the core of our summer of discontent, and the intense reaction to recent events. After that spectacular year in which the club was everything that every supporter of any football club anywhere could ever dare hope that their club could be, reality set in.

Dirty dishes, leaving the cap off the toothpaste, put your damned dirty clothes IN the hamper …. all that stuff that crops up as relationships wear in, and we get to see what the REST of the deal is. And then we set about the task of loving someone for exactly what it is, and struggling with not having reality diminish that feeling.

This season, love has been challenged. The Relationship Face is off. It’s almost certainly worse for newer supporters, who haven’t had to wrestle with the Gaspart era, but it hurts everyone, because everyone wants good times to go on forever, and is saddened when they don’t.

When the club had the presser to say goodbye to an unwilling warrior, I ranted about it. Time went on, and I began to wonder if something was lurking in his medical report, a time bomb that made the club decide that it wasn’t worth the risk. I looked for reasons to justify the behavior of my beloved. More thinking, a sigh, and the realization hit me that it kinda doesn’t matter. It does in the sense that it gives us something to discuss and get inflamed about, but the club is going to do what it is going to do with its employees. It can hire, fire, shift and use them as it sees fit, and it doesn’t care what we think.

Should it? Good question. As we talk about public relations gaffes, and how it should have handled the Abidal situation better, etc., I wonder if the way that Eric Abidal, who is as much of an icon as any Barça player in recent memory, was shoved out of the door has cost the club a single supporter — a single potential shirt buyer or match attendee. I would wager not.

And yet, because of those expectations of our beloved, we ask questions because we want so much from that thing we love, we want it to be great, to not do stuff like this. We don’t want to see the recriminations that we saw yesterday from Abidal, in the form of damning quotes in which he said he was angry at the club:

“I do not understand. I’ve fought for them. I’m in great shape. I feel better than two years ago.”

“They gave me no reason. Told me it was a professional decision.”

“Inevitably, it calls into question my ability to continue playing football. I am the first person to judge my form.”

“First of all, I will not put my life at stake. That is why I’m a little upset with the club’s decision.”

“Either way, this is football.”

I discussed those quotes in private and in public, tried to get behind the meaning of them and what they meant in a broader sense as regards the way that the club is being governed, the seeming lack of humanity and other things that we have been seeing, and arrived at a very different conclusion than I expected.

Because we don’t know the whole story, and even if we did, what would it matter? The football club that we devote so much to, in all of its mes que-ness, is a business. Business is cold. Business doesn’t have a heart. Precious little differentiates FC Barcelona from Microsoft or Apple, and it’s doubtful anyone wept at pressers in which longtime employees were cut loose.

But sport is different. Sport is emotional. We love football clubs, not the companies they are part of and owned by. And that makes us question, wonder, rage and shake our fists as we wonder why that thing we love so, can’t be every wonderful thing that we want it to be.

The simple answer is because it can’t ever be. The absolute best that we can hope for are fleeting moments of sublime joy — an Iniesta babymaking golazo, Trebles, Year of Six Cups — that make it all worth it. We celebrate them for what they are, for everything that they are, and we move on.

Eric Abidal is angry. And he feels betrayed. The club has given him so much, from making him a multi-millionaire to allowing him to play a game that he loves at the absolute highest level, to funding and supporting his battle with a disease that takes lives. And yet, he is still angry with that entity. I can only sit in my chair here and speculate that he, like a fervent supporter, expected more. That maybe, he begins to come to grips with it by saying “that is football,” I think, because football is a business that is every bit as cold-hearted as any boardroom.

We are angry with the club for not being everything that we expect it to be, forever. We rail against transfers, and rotations or lack thereof, star players being played too much and promising youngsters being played not enough. Because we want so much.

Things that we love disappoint us. Constantly. Part of life is learning to deal with those moments, and understanding that people/clubs are going to do what they are going to do. That is their right. “If you love me, you would ….”

No. Not then, not now, not ever. In many ways, that our club seems to be a mess makes my affection for it even stronger, because who doesn’t love a challenge, right? And if a treble comes next season, people will forget all the doubt, all the anger, all the recriminations. And even if some of us don’t it won’t really matter, because that’s love, and that’s football.

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Written by:

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

271 Comments

  1. Nik
    June 13, 2013

    ESPN’s claiming that Barça’s contacted Lewandowski’s reps: http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1475549/barcelona-join-lewandowski-race

    I’ll be honest: I haven’t watched enough of him to have an opinion either way on him (potentially) joining the squad. However, I hope that we’re ready to accomodate the system a little to take advantage of whoever we bring in (& Neymar).

  2. barca96
    June 13, 2013

    Isco. Isco. Golazo!!

  3. barca96
    June 13, 2013

    Look at the ones who didn’t: Dos Santos, Assulin, Krkic, Romeu. Where are they now?

    Agree with all of them except Romeu. He was starting to accumulate minutes then di Matteo got sacked and then his playing time decreased and then his injury came. I do wonder how he’s doing though. Gotta go sniff around Chelsea blogs.

  4. June 13, 2013

    Apparently Neymar didn’t want to wear a number at the presentation, because he didn’t want to many any waves, according to one of the Barça media twins. He is serious about taking whatever number is available, as well.

    — Despite MD sowing rumors about Sanchez being used as a makeweight in potential deals for Jovetic, Rooney, (insert attacker name here), club and player say he is going nowhere.

    • Roberto Senyera
      June 14, 2013

      Villa leaves this summer, 7 becomes available. Have a discussion with Thiago and convince him to wear 7 with the intention that he gets 6 once Xavi retires. This frees up 11 to be given to Neymar whose usual number is 11 and is ideal from a marketing angle.

  5. June 13, 2013

    Rosell is having a presser. It’s a shameful exercise in self-congratulation:

    –The club made 30m this season.
    –If Vilanova does well this season, the club will be happy to renew him (now THERE’S a vote of confidence!)
    –Thiago should be patient, like Xavi and Iniesta before him.
    –I am really proud that I didn’t jettison Vilanova when he was sick.
    –Once Abidal got better, we treated him just like another football player (because you know, the offer of a job when he retires and a presser is normal procedure).
    –Uh, sorry about that Grada d’Animacio business. My bad.
    –If I could sign Thiago for 18m, I probably would.
    –We won’t tell any tales on the REAL Neymar cost, but if the other folks want to break confidence, they certainly can.
    –He would LOVE a new Nou. But with all of the spirit of the original one.
    –There will be one or two more signings. Who they are will depend upon who is sold.
    –Thiago’s buyout was NEVER 90m. It was always 18m, capable of going to 90m if 60% of games was reached.
    –The change in the number of signatures required to force a vote of no confidence (from 5 to 15 percent) is not a protective measure.
    –Against Bayern, we didn’t have luck with the referees.
    –Villa will continue with the club until he tells us otherwise.

    • BA
      June 13, 2013

      what a horrible little weasel.

    • Dani_el
      June 13, 2013

      Thank you for sum up.
      “The change in the number of signatures required to force a vote of no confidence (from 5 to 15 percent) is not a protective measure.”

      So what is it for then? And why would they encourage such a reform NOW?

    • June 13, 2013

      I find it odd that the statutes allow for the board to make that change without a referendum. Where are the checks and balances?

    • June 13, 2013

      The other interesting statement was that all moves made by ZubiZa have the full approval of Vilanova. That of course answers the critics who think that evil men are pushing Abidal out against the wishes of Vilanova.

    • Nik
      June 13, 2013

      *facepalm*

    • June 13, 2013

      Thank you for the summary. I’m in the middle of the wilderness, so very out of touch. As BA said, what a horrible little weasel.

      Is Rosell actively trying to get rid of Thiago? And why?

  6. June 13, 2013

    The problem is he makes it too easy to dislike him.

  7. Archie
    June 13, 2013

    Can someone break down the cost of another club buying Thiago and why 18 million Eu is not a relatively high/good price, historically? I get that he has a lot of potential, but what is another team likely to pay? Is it low because of the Olivarch/Petro money distorting market for rare players? Is he rare? I also get that if the goal is to keep him then 90 mil gets the job done and 18 mil might not.

    • Archie
      June 13, 2013

      Also, was it 60% of games or minutes or starts? How does that work?

    • June 13, 2013

      My understanding was 60% of the matches.

      To my view, 18m is a very fair price for a performer of Thiago’s provenance, for club and purchasing club. There is no question about his talent, but lots of players have talent and fail. United would be a big risk, for club and player. Can’t see Moyes making that kind of risk in his first year after Ferguson is gone. I could see them buying him and working him into the rotation, but he can get that at Barça.

      Personally, I would be a lot more worried about Rafinha, the brother, leaving.

    • simple_barcafan
      June 13, 2013

      Rafinha better than Thiago? Blasphemy !!! 😛

    • Archie
      June 13, 2013

      Thanks! I have a gut “Nani” response to Thiago, ie, really good but in his mind he is always trying to be a similar player (CR, Messi) who is just way more complete personality and thinker.

      I am overwhelmed complexity of thinking about the variables of the squad at this moment. Who, at the club, is the brains behind short and long-term thinking?

      Does the success of La Masia/academies in general threaten to create a culture of privilege and unrealistic expectations and suppress self-knowledge and depth of personal growth (asked as a parent of an until recently homeschooled only child?) Obviously, academies are creating a lot of skilled players.

    • June 13, 2013

      Exactly. There is so much to consider. The mouthpiece, MD, threw out something today that if Thiago leaves, Song and Sergi Roberto would get more minutes. If you think about some of the midfielder roles being taken in the form of Neymar, a true winger, things suddenly get very interesting.

      Is Song/Sergi Roberto a step down from Thiago? Depends on what Vilanova is planning for his attack this season. What if BarçaBall isn’t going to be the preferred mode? After all, people know how to defend tika-taka, right. So it will have to evolve. So who knows?

      But, if I am looking for a player to continue in the tika-taka tradition, there are still folks in my line ahead of Thiago. In a future world, in which Iniesta/Fabregas are playing tika-taka, by the time they are ready to roll on, Messi, the best passer on the team, is ready to slide back into a midfield role. You also have the Busquets equation, and Masia generates plenty of mids.

      What Thiago HAS done is distracted folks from the CB question, which is a pretty neat trick.

      This all assumes that the Thiago matter isn’t already sorted, and he’s staying with the club.

    • June 13, 2013

      I thought it was 60% of the minutes, but you got me doubting…

      18M is a steal. For his age, Thiago is one of the best players of the world at his position/role. He should have been given more playing time at Barça this season. To me this is a no-brainer.

      Thing is, like Kxevin says, there are very few big clubs where a 22-year old player runs the midfield. Then again, there is perhaps no other club that has Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets taking your minutes, so he would probably get more playing time elsewhere.

    • Archie
      June 13, 2013

      On the Thiago question:
      If you are ManU, do you prefer Thiago to Cleverly; if you are Arsenal do you prefer him to Wilshire; Chelsea, Oscar/Hazard; PSG, Verratti; Juve?; Bayern, Kroos; maybe Dortmund could use him with Goetze gone. I’m trying to compare age/role equivalents on teams that might have 18 mil.

    • June 13, 2013

      I would give Thiago a serious look if my main man was Cleverley. As for all of the rest, no. Not immediately. I just don’t think that he is going to get anything except the same deal that he is getting with us: first team, and being gradually worked into the lineup.

      He is thinking of a move that will get him quality time, and possibly a World Cup shout. That isn’t going to happen in my opinion.

    • KEVINO17
      June 14, 2013

      Kxevin – I read that if Thiago goes, Barca might use Song more in the central midfield role. That would be a fantastic move because Song has more to offer than Thiago (who can be a bit flakey). Busi in the holding role and Song just ahead of him will give Barca a lot of defensive steel and attacking flair.

    • Roberto Senyera
      June 14, 2013

      I’m still trying to come to terms that Song is in the squad. Now some people want to see him become a significant part of the midfield … maybe even a starter?

      I must be living in upside down world.

      If Thiago leaves it means that those minutes will largely be taken up by Cesc playing where he should — the midfield.

      I don’t want us playing a double pivot or Song in a creative MF role. Both are blasphemous. I shudder at the thought.

    • KEVINO17
      June 14, 2013

      Why blasphemous. He’s a wonderful footballer. Energetic. Very strong on the ball. Makes great decisions. passes well. Robust tackler. You think the coaches don’t know what they are doing? I think he’s the worlds best holdin middy, and could be the worlds best CM
      Sounds like you’ve never given him a chance.

  8. BlaugranaFR
    June 13, 2013

    Thiago at 18m is a bargain. Despite being asked to fill in frequently for Xavi this season, I still feel that he is Iniesta’s natural heir. He’s had more than a few gaffes as a deep-lying midfielder, but often sparkles when pushed futher upfield. I even remember him playing on the wing a few seasons back and he did quite well.

    If I were Wenger, I’d place him in Santi’s role, above Arteta and Ramsey, and move Santi to the left. If I were Moyes, I’d pair him with Carrick in the engine room with Kagawa in front, or place him in front behind Carrick and whoever else. There are so many options for Thiago given his versatility. I’d hate to see him go for such a small fee. I’d actually just hate to see him go.

    • BlaugranaFR
      June 13, 2013

      Sorry. Meant this as a reply to Archie 🙂

  9. bhed
    June 14, 2013

    Just watched the Spain Ireland friendly, anybody else think Busi had an almost perfect game? He was… magisterial!

  10. bhed
    June 14, 2013

    Also, speaking of friendlies (this time Brazil France), why is no one mentioning Sakho as a possible CB? He sure ticks off a lot of the boxes – tall, fast, young, and versatile.

    • Roberto Senyera
      June 14, 2013

      And relatively cheap.

      He’s been on our radar before (last season).

  11. June 14, 2013

    I guess JDS will be the next Xavi, with all the patience he has.

    • June 14, 2013

      What is fascinating about that video is how immediate the consoling reactions of his teammates are. That tells you something about how they think of a player. If a player is the selfish jerk that many contend Neymar is, a miss like that and teammates just let him stew in isolation, with a “Serves you right!” look on their faces.

      That miss was almost Ramos quality.

  12. barca96
    June 14, 2013

    @ Kevin017

    First Song is better than Busi and now better Thiago too. Are you sure you’re not related to Song? 🙂

    • June 14, 2013

      Although the fact that Song has twenty-eight brothers suggests that what you are saying is not beyond the realm of possibilities, let’s do our best to stay away from personal remarks.

      Please discuss the point, not the man.

    • barca96
      June 14, 2013

      Haha no no. It’s just a joke. Hope you saw the light side of things and didn’t get offended 017. Sorry.

    • June 14, 2013

      Further, fact of the matter is that there ARE teams and tactical situations fornwhich Song will be better suited than Thiago.

      There are many things that we don’t know about how Vilanova plans to approach the season. We should wait to see how those pan out before scoffing at someone’s assessment of a player and how they might work in our system.

      On a broader note I echo Levon. The personal remark was uncalled for. We have many different views in this space. A contrary one should be allowed to exist without inferences that family links are the sole reason for such contrary notions.

    • Roberto Senyera
      June 14, 2013

      Well, one tactical situation where Song would be better suited than Thiago is eagerness to hold a trophy aloft. He wins that one hands down.

    • KEVINO17
      June 15, 2013

      Quicker than busquets, stronger than busquets ( both on the ball and in the tackle), greater defensive range than busquets, just as good a passer and a more offensive threat (Im still gobsmacked busquets only had three shots on goal last year). I’d bench Busquets for Song every game he was fit.

    • ooga aga
      June 15, 2013

      be willing to bet taht song had only that many shots himself.

    • KEVINO17
      June 16, 2013

      Yeah, well, that was an exaggeration, but he became more attacking as the season wore on.

    • Roberto Senyera
      June 16, 2013

      “Quicker than busquets, stronger than busquets ( both on the ball and in the tackle)”
      Neither necessarily make for a better footballer. Usain Bolt is quicker than Busi and Mike Tyson is stronger than Busi. Those two aren’t better footballers than Busi either.

      “greater defensive range than busquets”
      I’ll give you that one. However, Song’s mindset is less defensive than Busi’s — see below for more detail on this.

      “just as good a passer”
      Can’t agree with you at all on this one. Even Xavi admires and praises Busi’s passing ability. The day that Xavi holds Song’s passing at an equal measure to Busi’s is a thousand light years away. Meaning, we will never live to see the day. For you to make that statement is embarrassing and borders on delusional.

      “and a more offensive threat (Im still gobsmacked busquets only had three shots on goal last year).”
      I’m perfectly fine with that. This is a quality we aren’t looking for in our sole DM in our 4-3-3 system. Song was infamous for his walkabouts and his tactical indiscipline whilst at Arsenal. This brings into question Song’s footballing IQ, something I don’t think he has much of, and which is far less than Busi’s footballing IQ — especially the way we play.

      “I’d bench Busquets for Song every game he was fit.”
      Good thing you’re not making the team selection decisions at Barça then. Song isn’t long for FCB, in my opinion, and certainly not as a first choice starter. Yaya is a much better player than Song and even Yaya saw the writing on the wall, with respect to his playing time for the DM spot he was competing with Busi for, and left for financially greener pastures abroad.

  13. norden
    June 14, 2013

    Hi guys. I’ve been leeching here for a year and a half, but never had anything interesting to say 🙂

    Just wondering if anyone is planing a “tactical review of the season” type of article. I’m already growing tired of the transfer talk, so I would appreciate some change.

    Although I suspect that this season has not been very interesting tactically, it may be worth an article anyway.

  14. nia
    June 14, 2013

    Yesterday on press pass, Martin Ainstein said something very interesting regarding Messi’s tax situation. He said that there’s something fishy going on here and the fact that the government didn’t send his lawyers a letter first to rectify or give them opportunity to find out what has gone wrong. Instead, they went going straight to the media. He also said that there plenty of businesses at owe more to the gov than the alleged Messi debt and that they wanted to ‘hit’ someone big.
    If he does owe, he should pay but, I think there’s more to the story.

    • CuleToon
      June 15, 2013

      There is much more… Yes, Messi’s case acts as a warning for all taxpayers, and there have been many other spanish «celebrities» used for the same purpose in the last years and decades. The novelty in Messi’s case, though, is the treatment it receives by the anti-Barça media (which means every non-Catalan media in Spain): although the judge still has to consider if the case even merits a trial, many of those media have already judged and sentenced Mesi and just can’t wait to see him, literally, in jail! (which of course, will not happen at all) . You can find a good view on such a biased treatment at:

      http://es.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/ruben-uria/llaman-periodismo-180410598.html

      I’m sorry that I don’t have the time to translate it, and I fear that it will be a tad too difficult for Google Translate to handle. But you’ll get the idea. (By the way, Rubén Uría is one of a dozen of almost-independent voices still left in Spanish sports journalism).

      Now, let’s see what Neymar does tonight.

    • June 15, 2013

      Going to the media first has made this case look strange. Even if Messi has evaded or not.
      It is also interesting that Laporta has done a better job at supporting Messi, than Rossell, saying clearly Messi and father do not have much idea about such things and never wanted to act against law.
      My wife just showed me this too – http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2013/06/13/did-spanish-taxing-authorities-target-messi-to-send-a-message-to-the-world/

      dont think this will turn like a Maradona situation.

    • June 15, 2013

      This whole case is incredible and although the prosecution is acting very unethically, as a culé I hope Messi is innocent.

      My personal opinion is that whether legally within his rights to do so or not, there is something morally wrong about moving millions of euros to accounts in tax-havens like Luxembourg or Switzerland or where-ever. To do so while living in a country that is in a crisis (Spain) while proudly hailing from another country that suffers structural poverty (Argentina) arguably makes it worse.

    • June 16, 2013

      I agree with everything you said.

      But at the same time, as regards tax, I think people, especially the ones who find it difficult to understand the complexities of the laws and calculations, can be easily mislead too. I say this from my own experience.

      I earn hardly 750 dollars a month. By Indian standards, that is an ok salary to live by the lower levels of middle class strata, even if I cant even dream of an own house or things like that. But I can live. For the last 15 or so years I am under the tax purview and initially couple of years I tried to submit all papers myselves and ended up making stupid mistakes, and wasted more money in fines. Finally went for a consultant to submit my papers. Here it is quite cheap to pay a guy to just submit your tax papers once in a year, especially when your income is nothing. In India, we can reduce our tax bills by way of insurance bills and few other things. This guy advised me to go for certain private insurance policy – which was actually sold by his own wife – promising me tax savings. Well, only when I got notice from the tax department did I realise that the particular policy didnt cover 100% of the premium for savings, but only a small part. I ended up paying a fine. I had to continue with this stupid policy for another 3 years more to be able to cancell it and get back the money I paid and during all these years had to suffer with extra tax and fine too. Only good thing was I changed to a different consultant, a retired govt. officer, who take care of things honestly. In spite of that, I get notices every second/third year saying I paid Rs.119 less, or rs.255 less etc. But its ok. Now one could always say I was foolish and all, but there are lots of people who have this.

      I am just saying, its very easy to be mislead by tax consultants, if one completely trust these guys. The more you are rich, either you are more shrewd or more foolish.
      A pity Messi have such a black episode.

    • June 16, 2013

      Switzerland is à tax-haven? 😯

  15. Jim
    June 15, 2013

    Just been listening to Thiago on Sky. Very impressed. Speaks fluent English, picks his words carefully, understands that at Barca it’s not all about him. Interesting hearing him comparing Brazilian and Spanish football – no doubt he’d rather be playing the Brazilian kind but its that imaginative mentality that causes him at times to play difficult passes !

    He certainly didnt take the chance to put himself in the window though. Hope he stays.

    • June 15, 2013

      Apparently he speaks Portuguese, Italian and Catalan too.

  16. ciaran
    June 15, 2013

    If there are any teams interested in buying Dani Alves i hope that they are not watching the Brazil v Japan match because he looks like the worst player in the world. He has not crossed once on target and his only successful passes are 5 yards.
    all this while Montoya has been tearing it up for the under 21s by all accounts

    • nia
      June 15, 2013

      To be fair, all of Dani’s final crosses are poor for both club and country. He only seems to find Messi in the box. That said, he’s had a decent match. His crosses are the norm, I’m sure he’ll find a good one before the match is up.

    • Jim
      June 16, 2013

      Managed to wach the Brazil highlights this morning. They are darting to look a bit better although the midfield isn’t right yet imo. You have to be excited by the Neymar goal. Stunning technique and a willingness to shoot on sight.

    • Jim
      June 16, 2013

      Starting *

  17. barca96
    June 15, 2013

    Isco is an elite player in the making. Not a fan of stats such as this but he has a 98% pass completion rate and his passes are not the Xavi or Busi type of passes.

    • CuleToon
      June 16, 2013

      A fine player that Isco, yes. And on the telly, Koke looks exactly like Xavi, even in some of his play (the pass for Morata’s goal, for example).

    • June 16, 2013

      Isco will be a legend. I think Morata too.

    • June 16, 2013

      I’d hate to see him go to Madrid and it’d be sad to lose such a talent to England. He is the real deal.

    • Roberto Senyera
      June 16, 2013

      Isco is like a young Iniesta. It looks like he’s following his Chilean Malaga coach to Man City. I’d rather he be there than M*drid.

      Man City should be fun to watch next season now that they have a proper, fully competent new manager. It’s becoming a Spanish enclave in England with David Silva, Navas, and Isco.

    • CuleToon
      June 16, 2013

      They don’t rest, not even on Sundays. Here’s another nasty little piece against Laporta, pro-Rosell, and pro-Núñez, from «La Vanguardia», the Catalan general paper with the widest circulation (Grup Godó, of course). To cap it all, the author, a regular sports contributor to this paper, is married to Rosell’s media relations director (the link points to another page that reproduces it, since the original is readable only by subscription):

      http://www.periodistasanonimos.com/2013/06/haz-ruido-que-algo-queda-por-dagoberto.html

  18. June 16, 2013

    I have little sympathy for the anti-Laporta campaign, but all the espionage he performed on his employees (which he denies) do leave me a bit uneasy…

    Also, what is the beef between Pep and Tito?

    • G6O
      June 16, 2013

      Beef between Pep and Tito? Where did you read about that?

  19. BlaugranaFR
    June 17, 2013

    Latest on the rumour mill is that Arsenal’s Koscielny is in our crosshairs. I know it’s silly season but this pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel. And even if his form has been in the toilet all season long, I’d rather have Vermaelen riding the pine behind Pique and Masch next season.

    Kxevin, still looking forward to that Inigo Martinez piece you’re cooking up for us.

  20. barca96
    June 17, 2013

    lol @ the bottom of the barrel.

    But I thought he was pretty good whenever we played Arsenal.

    • BlaugranaFR
      June 17, 2013

      He does have some qualities — good pace and sense of positioning — and had a pretty good year for Arsenal. But I feel that the dearth of options is brought about by a complicated CB market this year. The best ones are either too expensive or their mother clubs make negotiations too unwieldy for interested teams to manage. And this is why we’re looking at players such as Mathieu to reinforce the backline until we can land a big name next year.

  21. Jim
    June 17, 2013

    Spain a delight to watch for me last night. Also, pressing like demons in the first half. Did I hear right after about 15 minutes Spain had had 92% possession???

    Interesting that the midfield wobbled a little when Xavi went off. Wasn’t impressed by either Martinez or Mata.

    • stefan2k
      June 18, 2013

      In fact one can observe the same at Barca… Xavi offers an invaluable amount of midfield stability which neither Cesc nor Thiago can provide at the moment

  22. Judas Pissed
    June 18, 2013

    The headline in today’s ‘Sport’ is ‘Thiago wants to leave’. It says that he wants to play more to force himself into Spain’s World Cup squad, and Tito can’t promise that at Barca next year.

    • lea_terzi
      June 18, 2013

      That’s faulty thinking, if true. Apart from Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets (and to a lesser extent, Xabi Alonso), who are not going anywhere before the World Cup, there are Cesc, David Silva, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Javi Martinez, Isco etc. who can be deployed in various midfield roles and are all, at the moment, more reliable than Thiago against the highest level of competition. Besides, Spanish NT as currently constituted relies heavily on La Liga for personnel and style. So the surest way into Spain squad for Thiago is to prove he’s a legit piece of Barca midfield. Of course, the coaching staff has to cooperate by managing Xavi’s minutes and rethinking division of labour in midfield with Cesc and/or Thiago in mind.

    • June 18, 2013

      “Cesc, David Silva, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Javi Martinez, Isco”

      Only Martinez, and MAYBE Cazorla play in the position Thiago does. Everyone else on the list (and I would include Cazorla) plays more advanced than Thiago

    • G6O
      June 18, 2013

      Still, what makes him think that if he goes to another club, he will get in the squad for the WC? You see the squad for the Confederations Cup.

    • June 18, 2013

      Take out Cazorla and Silva, put in Isco and Thiago. Both upgrades in my opinion.

      The other thing is that Spain really only has Xavi as a midfield orchestrator, and could use a backup for him instead of having 6 center attacking mids.

      Euler has been making great points about this in his timeline: @euleri

    • lea_terzi
      June 19, 2013

      There was some debate on what is Thiago’s natural position, and whether he’s closer in style and mindset to Xavi or Iniesta. If he can play in Xavi’s position consistently (not replace or imitate him, but be a force in central midfield in his own right), then he has real chances to break into Spain squad, which is thin at that particular spot. If he’s deployed in CM, but plays as an attacking mid (losing balls in dangerous situations, trying for the adventurous pass every time instead of recirculating possession, being nonchalant on the ball), then he is basically competing with all those other attacking mids on the list. Of course, there are many factors. Does Del Bosque play the double pivot or Barca-like midfield trio? Where does Thiago end up playing at his (possible) new club? Which sides of his game evolve in the coming year? Calvin, you’re right, it’s not that simple, but I still think if he can’t succeed with Barca, making the national side will be a challenge.

    • lea_terzi
      June 19, 2013

      Of course, if ManU or Bayern go far in the Champions League with him as the primary midfield orchestrator, all bets are off. But I don’t thin he’s quite there yet.

  23. psalmuel
    June 18, 2013

    That Tahiti vs Nigeria match should have ended 1-12, nigeria so wasteful and Tahiti,how did they make it to this tornee?

    • G6O
      June 18, 2013

      New Zealand lost to New Caledonia in the SF of the Oceania cup. Then Tahiti won the final.

      Outside of NZ, everyone else in Oceania is expected to record double-digit losses in a Confederations Cup or a World Cup.

      It’s not going to happen in the WC because to get there, there is a more extended qualification tournament plus a play-off against a team from another confederation, but in knock out games, it can happen that one of the stronger teams in Oceania beats NZ and plays in the Confederations Cup. Like Tahiti.

      And then the comedy begins. No disrespect to Tahiti, it’s just the reality of the situation. Let’s see whether they can hold it to single-digits against Spain…

  24. barca96
    June 18, 2013

    Hoping for some Isco magic tonight. Please don’t go to Madrid. Go to England for a few years and then come to us once Xavi retires and Iniesta moves into Xavi’s slot.

    It’s about time Tello put in a consistent performance for Spain. He keeps on drifting in and out.

    It has been smooth sailing so far for Spain u21. However the favorites don’t always win, especially not against a tactically sound team like Italy.

    Likewise for the senior team. It’s nice against open teams but they will be in trouble once they come up against Italy (this time for sure it won’t be another walk over) or basically any teams with double deckers.

    • mazimi
      June 18, 2013

      Well, we are seeing the Thiago magic and it looks like another “walk over”

  25. Judas Pissed
    June 18, 2013

    Thiago 1st half hat trick. Barca must be stark raving mad to even consider letting this lad go!

  26. barca96
    June 18, 2013

    Thiago with a first half hattrick!

  27. barca96
    June 18, 2013

    Hopefully Tito is watching the match and understands that Thiago deserves more playing time. And we could do with an Isco 🙂

  28. June 18, 2013

    Oh Thiago!
    If only you had chosen Brazil instead.

  29. BA
    June 18, 2013

    we’d have to be nuts to let Thiago go. manage his minutes better and give him a raise if that’s what he wants; the kid is brilliant, and he’s only 21. neither Xavi nor Iniesta were this good this young. Isco has been outstanding as well, and if we can pry him from Malaga for a reasonable fee that would be amazing, but Thiago is the one controlling games at a level consistent for his age group.

    is there anyone here who wouldn’t trade Fabregas to keep Thiago and acquire Isco? anyone?

    • June 18, 2013

      I’d make that deal any day of the week with my eyes closed.
      But it ain’t happening. Just fantasy talk.

    • G6O
      June 18, 2013

      It will not necessarily work out that well.

      If you have noticed, Cesc always looks much better playing for Spain. There’s no guarantee that if you insert Isco in our squad he will play better than Cesc does.

    • Messiah10
      June 18, 2013

      I would’ve made that deal last week!

    • BlaugranaFR
      June 18, 2013

      Even without Isco, I’d rather have Thiago stay over Cesc.

  30. Messiah10
    June 18, 2013

    I just watched the U21 WC Final. What a sublime game Thiago had. Montoya played great as well. Tello was a bit off. Lost his footing on more than one occasion and just a bit off w/his touch and moves. Isco was wonderful and Morrata had some wonderful 1st half moves to break away from his defenders.

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