Today is the first day of the rest of now, aka “These are pretty amazing times”


Today is the day. The first day that our new coach, Gerardo Martino, will be in charge of our first team. It is also the first day of many, that I have to wrestle with not being in any way, shape or form mature enough to deal with a coach nicknamed Tata.

A lot has gone on this summer, and a lot will go on this year. We will discuss, harangue, vex and turn inside out many things that are going to happen in this season, things that didn’t, things that “if only.” We already have, right? Cules are seeing doom, and a defense that is certainly going to concede 47 goals per match, while its new coach is staring at the roster, staring at it again, smacking himself upside the head, staring at the roster again, and wondering what magic has placed him where he is.

“(PINCH!) Wow. Still here …. ”

And were I a genie who could grant wishes, my fondest wish for many cules would be contextual freedom.

Buddhist types have a saying, which is “be here now.” What does that mean, exactly? It’s more than a notion of being in the moment. It’s an aspiration that encompasses a view of life, an ability to say, for example, “This is the most wonderful hot fudge sundae that I have ever had.” Because it is. Might you have had better ones in the past? Maybe. But how can you be sure? In full mindfulness, you have what you have.

And so it is with our club. I think that we often consider players who are among the best of all time, or the best at their position, consider replacements and find them wanting. Duh. We look at an incredible lightning bolt of a season, and compare subsequent seasons to it, only to find them wanting. I struggle with this, which almost certainly explains my incessant, annoying “But looka what we just did,” like a child tugging at dad’s jacket hem and pointing.

We wonder why supporters of other teams consider cules to be a big ol’ passel of buttheads as we carp and moan about ONLY winning a Liga. But they’re kinda right. They would kill for something that we take for granted. A friend, who is a lifelong Chicago Blackhawks supporter, said to me the night that the Hawks won the Stanley Cup, “So this is how you feel all the time?” And it really, really made me think of how amazing our team is.

There is no Puyol replacement. There is no Abidal replacement. There is no Xavi replacement. So as we evaluate players and compare someone to say, the greatest controlling midfielder in a generation, anyone is going to come up short. We look at a defender prospect, then consider that unfathomable ball of hair, heart and desire that is our Capita, and say “Nope.” Yes, that is what supporters do, particularly when blessed with a collection of legends such as we have in our first team.

But this is even true of unproven legends, as Sergi Roberto is tossed into the smith’s forge named Thiago and deemed to be only worthy of pot metal rather than the finest sword. Neymar, for some cules, already isn’t good enough and he hasn’t played a minute with the first team yet, by a standard that is impossible to live up to.

I was watching that Confederations Cup final and highlights of Neymar’s tournament, and thinking about when the last time was that this club was able to sign a player like that, and I couldn’t. Those players usually go to other clubs. A cule who works in the cafeteria at my office, said that to him, Neymar was more like an RM player. And I knew what he meant. It’s a lightning bolt kind of player that usually goes for tons of money, who explodes onto the scene and doesn’t often consider our collection of PlayStation loving, mushroom farming, goat tending, grounded lot to be very much fun at parties. And I think “Wow, we got one.” I can’t really compare him to anything that we have or had, in part because of ignorance — we don’t know how he will be — but in part because he is what he is.

When Messi exploded onto the scene, he was just … Messi. Imagine if people had compared him to Ronaldinho, saying “Well, he’s a little fella and does pretty well, but look at what …”

We don’t get players such as we have but once in a lifetime, if we’re lucky. This moment, this crazy, unfathomable moment, has somehow been extended into years. This is remarkable, verging on absurd. In looking back at the Treble season, the year of a bazillion copes, the luck, timing, good fortune and all sorts of remarkable things that came together in the exact right way at the exact right time makes that year an unrepeatable wonder, instead of the template for which all successive seasons should be measured, and found wanting.

Bayern is experiencing that right now. They came across one of the best teams in history in the Champions League, at a perfect time, when it was hobbled and emotionally spent. Then its rival in the Final had a key injury, and another player whose head was turned by the thought of greener pastures. Remarkable.

Think back to those early chances that Ronaldo had in that first United CL final, ones that he usually converts, and how different that match, that season might have been had he converted those chances, had Eto’o not found that sliver of space to poke a ball past Edwin Van der Sar in a remarkable, match-turning sequence. That is easy to forget.

Last year’s team won a record-setting Liga, “but that stupid 100 points cost us Thiago, and Bayern beat us in CL. Compared to the Treble year ….”

For me, that doesn’t wash. It’s like a 50 year-old wishing he was 22 again, and comparing how he feels to that time. That comparison is always going to suffer. There is no Xavi replacement. There can’t be. What an absolutely astounding player. When Xavi leaves, the team will have to adapt to the skill set of the person who is playing that position. Likewise with Messi, Iniesta, etc.

There will not be another Messi. Not Neymar, not some kid toiling away in the Masia playground, not nobody. There can’t be. You get one of those a generation. Magic is magic because of the difficult to define state of wonder that it spawns.

So Neymar is Neymar. Sergi Roberto is Sergi Roberto. Cesc Fabregas is Cesc Fabregas. The real question becomes not what a player can do in the context of a colossus of the game, but what a player can do in his own context and how that ability and context fits the team’s requirements.

We have a remarkable battery of talent not only at the B level right now, but from what I can tell, at every level of the club, right down to those adorable little cutthroat Benjamins. Some of that talent won’t be deemed first team quality, some will leave because at a player’s given position, there is just too much talent standing between him and the brass ring.

As we continue on our journey as cules, it’s worth remembering that this collection of (somewhat, in some cases) home-grown talent is remarkable. At no other time in the club’s history has it been able to boast so many first team players, players among the best in the world, that have “Handcrafted with pride in La Masia” on their backs. We should be shooting off streamers and letting our chests puff out with pride.

Not every player that comes from La Masia is good enough to make it, despite the sparkling current production. Let them be what they are going to be, rather than looking at them for what we would like them to be, enjoy them if and when we get them, and have fun with this football club.

Success is a rare, glorious state of being. I think that is worth remembering as we embark upon another new season of joy, heartache, success and inevitable failure.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

204 Responses to “Today is the first day of the rest of now, aka “These are pretty amazing times””

  1. fotobirajesh says:

    There is a photo in FCB site, which has Messi, Iniesta, Neymar, Alves and Cesc together. Oh…. even watching them like that gave me a very different feeling. Dont they make together, the world’s best attacking group. Dont know if all of them will be on the field at the same time – especially Iniesta and Cesc, but still…

  2. DianaKristinne says:

    Thank you for this article.
    We’re always looking at other teams and seeing players and going on and on about how they could possibly replace one of our aging warriors. But they can’t, none of them can. Because you can’t replace players that are unique due to their skill set…

  3. Ooz says:

    Hi all, been a silent member of the blog for quite some time now. Thanks for the wonderful content over the years. And thank you for this post, you just made me feel very special Kxevin :’)

  4. Messiah10 says:

    Thanks for the article Kxevin. I think most cules look at the last 2 years as titles lost not titles gained. I’m not sure where I stand. My frustration sets in when I think of the injuries and the obvious need for another talented CB that our President, our Directors, and our Coach, for whatever reason, continue to neglect. We had a chance to get Silva last summer and we balked at the money that was being asked. Then we pony up for Neymar. Now, I’m on the Neymar bus and I can’t wait for the season to start so we can see him destroy defenses with Messi, but we still need a CB. Where is he? Who will he be? Will we even bother? If not, we are an injury away from a very good season to a bad one. EE have not been idle. They knew they had to bring in some players and they have. We need more than Neymar. We need to shore up the back.

  5. Ultraculé says:

    Timely post for some timely perspective.

    I think someone commented some time back that Cules would be happier and more hopeful fans if they moved on from viewing Pep and his time as a comparison for everyone and everything. I think this pretty much nails it.

    I think we just have to make a choice. Do we want to be frustrated cynical fans not able to enjoy a game or a play simply because we have seen better in the good old days? Or do we look at what we have and enjoy it for what it is? I don’t know, but to have the latter attitude seems like a no brainer to me. Why? Simply because it offers joy and enjoyment.

    Good post.

    On another note, Why am i seeing Barcastuff tweeting that Cesc has agreed to move to UTD? Any shred of truth to this? Are we planning to make our midfield as thin as our defense?

    • Kxevin says:

      I am as convinced that Fabregas is not leaving as I was convinced that Thiago was leaving. So many of those stories are fabrications. No personal terms agreed, no meetings between United officials and us. Nothing.

      Barcastuff is reporting media pieces. Careful of the vetting.

    • Jim says:

      If its the one I’m thinking of, it’s from the Daily Express. ‘Nuff said.

      You need to understand the mindset of the English tabloid press for this. Man U have decided they want Cesc therefore it is only a matter of time before he comes and there is no point in Barca saying they won’t sell or indeed Cesc saying he won’t go because they know better. They have a source …

  6. CuleToon says:

    Nice piece, Kxev. I feel very confident of our current team, even optimistic. And, in the football domain, I’m very, very happy to have been blessed with the opportunity to witness those players in my lifetime. I feel privileged.

    Often, though, I also feel a bit of sadness because many people that I loved, specially those who nurtured my love for Barça since my childhood, couldn’t make it to share with me these wonderful years. How many times I’ve wished they were with me, sharing all those heres and nows, all those wonders. But so is life!

    Just ten years ago, no one expected that Barça would reach such heights. Sometimes I fear that young socis and fans have been somewhat «spoiled» by these years of excellence, but I’m sure they’ll live many more. Since I’m not so sure of that for myself, I’ll treasure whatever little football gem Barça still offers to me. Paraphrasing Kxevin, that’s what I would say to those young socis, fans and followers: Treasure all those memories of these last years, but don’t let them prevent you from fully enjoying whatever Barça has to give us from now on. Pity that one only heeds this kind of «advice» when he discovers its truth for himself; when, usually, it’s a little too late!

    Whatever. The thing is that I wish a really nice season to us all!

  7. CuleToon says:

    Video from BarçaTV about the first contact of Tata and the players:

  8. PrinceYuvi says:

    Dashing Article, Kx !

  9. Kxevin says:

    So, there is no next Xavi, I believe. But when I look at players with that same way of thinking about and approaching the game, many say that Sergi Samper is one of those players. Here’s a video of his touches in the recent friendly, and you can certainly see why people would say that.

    • CuleToon says:

      Samper plays as DM, or at least he plays in the «4» position, but he’s far more similar to traditional Barça «4’s» like Pep and young Xavi than to the modern, more defensive version incarnated in Busi. So, I see him more in Xavi’s role that in the role of Busi. Anyway, I’m not very concerned about the so-called «problem of replacing Xavi». As I said, this kind of players is the hallmark of La Masia. They just need some playing time and I feel that Tata will see to it.

      • Ultraculé says:

        Speaking of, I hope Xavi does a Giggs and plays at a good level for another 5 years. Especially since his game doesn’t rely on speed or strength.

        • mohit says:

          I wish the same too, but it’s very unlikely. Xavi may not rely on speed, yet he runs the most than any player in every game, which takes a toll on his tendons. Moreover, given the level of expectations at Barca, I doubt if Xavi would want to continue once he realizes he’s not up to the level required. But then, I don’t know Xavi personally.

          • Don’t count on it. It would be similar to the calculation done by AC Milan when they decided Pirlo was more or less finished. I am pretty sure they are still looking at what went wrong. Players career extension will depend on what is their primary role and primary strength. I will not be surprised if Xavi ends up playing till 40, I think he can. I have heard many times people saying he should retire and take up a job at the club. None of them does like that. Always remember, he is a Legendary player and that’s why he is a club legend; not the other way around. They will bow out on their own term and Xavi does not look like bowing out any time soon. Don’t get surprised if he continues his National team career even after world cup.

        • Even I agree with you. Xavi can extend his playing time as his game is not set on speed. But he needs some rest as of now. People points that he is slowing down and refuse to look into the fact that he is playing with a serious injury for past two seasons for our sake. This season he needs to be rotated out regularly especially considering there is a World Cup at the end of it. We need Xavi in the most important matches.

      • Nik says:

        He reminds me more of a Pirlo than a Xavi atm. We’ll see if he can play higher up the pitch.

  10. Nick says:

    Just watched a few videos of Thiago in Bayern. He is miles more confident now but we still shouldn’t have sold him. Very poor decision.

    • blitzen says:

      It’s easy to be confident when you know your coach believes in you. And Thiago has shown he is ready to play with the big boys. I’m happy for him, but I will always think of him as the one who got away. Moving on…

      • Kxevin says:

        I’ll just say that if the club had its way, it wouldn’t have sold him. And that is leaving aside all the ifs, whys, wherefores, so and so didn’t trust him, etc, etc. Prima facie, the club didn’t want to sell him, and took the decision because the player wanted to leave.

    • mohit says:

      Our coach Tito left, we got a new coach Tata, we played a couple of friendlies, our players are back from holidays, we’ve got a full team (except for a CB), while Thiago is already taking lessons in German. Why’re we still moaning about his departure?

  11. CuleToon says:

    U-19 Euro semifinal, France-Spain, starts now. No Sandro and no Adama. Only an ex-Barça now at Arsenal: Bellerín.

  12. dl says:

    On the topic of a coach named Tata, my wife is a portena and she said it is something akin to ‘Papa’ or ‘Pops’, if that helps.

  13. Ultraculé says:

    Oh just btw,
    A David Luiz acquisition would please me. Very much.

  14. Levon says:

    For Spanish speakers among us, an excellent case made for Mangala:

    • CuleToon says:

      Excelent profile. According to it, he’s a kind of young Abi. Some of you talked about him here, some weeks ago. But you barely hear or read anything about him in the Catalan press. Perhaps Barça doesn’t even consider to sign him, or perhaps he’s the «tapado», as it is said in Spanish (Do you know the equivalent in English of «tapado», Levon?).

      • Levon says:

        Hahahaha well in Venezuela we say tapado when somebody is dumb, as in, nothing enters into the brain LOL.

        I think though, what you are looking for, is the “dark horse candidate”. Either way, if he is what the article says he is, I’d prefer him above any of the remaining options.

  15. Jim says:

    Nice that we’re sending Neymar to Poland to make up for pulling out before.

  16. mom4 says:

    Nice one, Kxevin.

    We certainly are living in privileged times with this current crop of players.

    I guess that is what concerns me most. We only have a couple of years left of the privilege of watching some very key icons/destined to be legends and I’d hate to waste the few years left of those legends by not getting the best out of everyone for want of a few well thought out acquisitions. And although I have a tendency to get attached to the players, it’s the waste that bothers me most.

    So lets sign a CB or two, quickly enough for them to integrate into the squad before the start of the league. And visca Barca!

  17. ciaran says:

    Considering that we might not even end up buying one centreback I think that we should almost consider buying two.
    I like la masia graduates but I dont trust Bartra 100% and who really expects Puyol to play a lot of games again this season?
    I like some of the names being linked to the club but the only one we seemed to want was Thiago Silva and he just renewed with PSG.
    Pique and Masch are our obvious first choice pairing at the minute. Bartra, who looked bad against Bayern, played 8 league matches last year and Puyol only played 13 league games.
    if we were to sign an automatic starter then I understand and Masch would be an able deputy but if we are signing someone like Daniel Agger then it would be questionable as to who are starters should be an I’d definitely contemplate adding a young defender to our roster

    • Ultraculé says:

      Yes. 2 CBs would be nice, but unnecessary if people are healthy.
      After 2 years of waiting desperately for a real CB, For me, If Barca can manage to acquire any one of Mangala, Luiz, Garay, Agger, Vergini, Vertonghen, Rami I’d be supremely happy. People say there are no CBs out there in the market for Barca, but these names look capable of playing in our team to me. Looking by default to the Cantera is fine if we are sprouting with defenders. But if you look at the recent past, most of the defenders who have done well for us have all been bought. Marquez, Van bronchorst, Abidal, Alves, Masch, alba. It is in this context that Puyol should also be considered as gift of a generation like messi, xavi, iniesta. La Masia simply doesn’t produce the Puyol breed.

      • BA says:

        the standard squad for top teams contains 5 center-backs (usually 4 “orthodox” center-backs and a player or 2 who can slot in from another position). we have Pique, and Mascherano (a converted midfielder). Bartra did not have the confidence of the coaching staff last season, so we can’t count on him any more than we can count on a Puyol who’s injuries keep knocking him around. we need serious investment in that area, and it has to be this summer.

        despite the Neymar hype, if we don’t buy some quality center-back cover this transfer season has to be considered a loss. you can’t be competitive, in multiple competitions, without a defense. it just doesn’t happen.

      • Messiah10 says:

        Agree, but lets not forget that Puyi was originally a offensive player and was moved to that position in his later development. Why can’t we do the same for a very sure footed, tough tackling offensive mid or even forward? There has to be a few youngsters with enough raw athletic ability and determination to cut it in the back. If I were a younster at la Masia and a forward or mid, I’d have a second thought about my desired or preferred position

  18. Doug says:

    Very very nice Kevin. Enjoyed it. You definitely know your way around a keyboard.

  19. Nik says:

    Please no Luiz at CB. That’s all I ask.

  20. SoccerMom says:

    Recent BFB posts by Levon, Kari and Kxevin make me as happy as seeing Messi, Neymar and Xavi in the picture.

    Kxevin, thanks for reminding me of what really is important in the present moment. Which is that I need a hot fudge sundae.

    I never thought I’d get over the loss of Deco. Xavi Hernandez just seemed so … green. So little. Like an elf. I thought trading a devilish imp for a green elf was a big bad. Oh, well … my bad.

    I’ve read here and elsewhere that cules ought to accept that FCB isn’t the “elite team” it once was. I think that’s making the same mistake as demanding a “new” or “next” or “younger” whomever. It’s assuming that there is only ONE elite team or ONE top player for a given position. Of course, this seems to apply only to FCB. The EE could contract Fulano de Tal for a bizillion euros and everyone would say, “Oh, god, we missed our chance for Fulano de Tal!” Chelsea fails to qualify for Champions, yet no one says “Well, there goes Chelsea. No longer an elite squad.” There’s always more than one of everything.

    Like … hot fudge sundaes.

    I can’t write “[coach’s name here]” without starting a limerick so I’ll refrain. But the old dude stays in the picture!


  21. Roberto Senyera says:

    Well written piece and I share your optimism for the upcoming season, Kxevin.

    “I was watching that Confederations Cup final and highlights of Neymar’s tournament, and thinking about when the last time was that this club was able to sign a player like that, and I couldn’t. Those players usually go to other clubs.”

    For me, the last time we got a mouth watering attacking player on the market like Neymar was when we got Ronnie from PSG. I know they are two different players and that no two players are exactly alike. But I see a lot of similarities between these two also: both Brasilian superstars, both play on the left cutting in on to their best foot, both have defense destabilizing pace and control, and both can score consistently as a LW.

    There are no guarantees that Neymar will excel at FCB. But I surely wouldn’t wager against it. An ancient Chinese proverb states, “May you live in interesting times.”

    One thing for certain is that this upcoming season will be interesting. Bring it on.

    And get a CB, please.

  22. socrates says:

    Another great primer, Kxevin, thank you, and so glad you are back on form. Very much looking forward to the upcoming season, with the new Messi/Neymar dynamic to enjoy on the pitch, and now –mirroring this new killer partnership– we have Kxevin/CuleToon at BfB. If Messi takes to Neymar up front as well as Kxevin has taken to CuleToon, all will be golden.

    Like Soccer Mom said above, the return of BfB commentators on top of their game makes us as happy as seeing our team likewise. Thanks also of course to Levon, Blitzen, Kari, Jim and all the other midfield stars.

    Pre-season news from here, Mexico. Down at the local Fußballladen where we watched the Bayern game not all are Barca fans, and the others are giving us a really hard time… Something about the new shirts resembling old McDonalds uniforms? Ronald MacBarca, holy puke. Anyhow thought I would add my halfpence to the penny: The senyera flag-shirt is right-on, but the orange shorts? Really?

    Foot-ball wise, if I may channel the opinion of our Southern Mexico Caxlan Culés supporters club, we like the cut of yer man Santiago Vergini from Newell’s as a CB prospect. His aerial power would allow us all to rest a lot easier for incoming corners and free kicks. An uncut diamond? His name hasn’t been mentioned here of late, so maybe people are not as enamoured as us?

    Oh yeah, one more question for mero-maestro CuleToon – how do you pronounce ‘caxlan’ in Catalan? Ah no, only joking.

    • CuleToon says:

      :D Your words are much appreciated socrates! But they are also so wrong! Kxevin is like a Zeus surrounded by others of his ilk like Levon or blitzen, as well as many others that nowadays have decided —temporarily I hope— not to leave Mount Olympus to mix with us mere mortals in some flesh and blood form. They are those that created and keep alive the BfB universe, investing a lot of time to write thoughtful and documented pieces so that we can comment on them. To each his own.

      (I thought initially to liken Kevin, Levon, blitzen and the others to Rosell and the members of his board, and to liken most of us to Barça and Barça B players. But the idea of being striken by a bolt out of the blue deterred me!).


      I agree with you: The senyera shirt looks nice to me, but I dislike those socks even more than the orange shorts!

      As for Santiago Vergini, his signing looked like a good idea: I don’t know if he’s that good, but he’s young and, as far as I know, right now he is a free agent. But, somehow, the press dismissed him very early, and it seems that Tata, or at least Zubi, don’t count on him. According to today’s EMD and As, our new CB (or CBs) will come from the PL: they talk of David Luiz, Agger, Vertonghen, Kompany, Vermaelen or Koscielny.

  23. nia says:

    OT: I was looking for this vid for the longest especially after people made a big deal of Pep smacking Thiago. Even Messi was not immune to it.

  24. CuleToon says:

    Talking of Koscielny. Will any of you give some info on him to those that, like myself, don’t know him?

    • ciaran says:

      Arsene Wenger likes him but I don’t. He has played with Arsenal for 3 seasons I think and is first choice for them, displacing Thomas Vermaelen who is a fan favorite. He is calm on the ball but I’ve always seen him as error prone and I’ve never considered him to be world class so I don’t think he should be our purchase.
      I suppose he’s quick enough but nothing special and is reasonably good in the air.
      Hope that helps

      • CuleToon says:

        Thanks, ciaran.

        • ciaran says:

          In my opinion my preferences would be:
          David Luiz although not for the €40 million that was spoken about this week with the Bayern talk.
          Jan Vertonghen but we would want to make the deal before Spurs potentially sell bale.
          Vincent Kompany but I couldn’t see him leaving city.
          Mamadou Sakho if PSG would sell him considering that they now have T.Silva, Alex, Marquinhos and Diego Lugano, physically he’s a beast and he is left footed.
          Daniel Agger, I really really like but he has such a bad history with injuries that I wouldn’t be happy with him alone.
          Adil Rami, I don’t understand why we haven’t bought him regardless of what is happening. He would cost no more than €10-12 million due to Valencia’s finance and their lack of CL football. Surely he would be an obvious purchase and potentially loan Bartra to Valencia in return

          • CuleToon says:

            Yes, Rami. And, for that matter, even adding Mathieu for a low price. I can’t understand what’s going on on Zubi’s head. Perhaps Tito was too stubborn demanding T. Silva or nobody else. Anyway, now Zubi will have to decide because I doubt that Tata knows those European candidates enough to have a say in the final decision.

            And would’t it be sensible to bring in Vergini for free, just in case? Or do they fear that bringing a Tata ex-player would disturb the locker room?


          • ciaran says:

            I thought that Mathieu renewed his contract after our early links with him. I might be wrong.
            I also forgot to include Ezequiel Garay of Benfica. He’s a qualitycentre who is big, strong, quick, great on the ball and experienced. The downside is that Madrid would still get 50% of the reported €20 million fee it would take to get him

          • lyd says:

            Really don’t want to see anybody from PL.

            I’m up for, a) loaning out Bartra to somewhere safe where he can develop strength and play regularly of course, and b) signing Vergini and Mangala. Vergini as it would be easier for Martino to deal with in his first season, compared to Bartra. And Mangala, as he directly fits Abidal’s profile. Although I’m in no position to evaluate Mangala but I’m willing to trust Euler’s take on him. If we have to pay a large fee for a CB, why not use that on someone who has the potential to immediately solve important issues (Abidal absence, Alba’s presence) and in the long run as well. Mangala unproven in the biggest stage? Yes but this is Barca we are talking about, a place “where wings take dream” :D

          • CuleToon says:

            You’re right, ciaran: Mathieu renewed with Valencia. And Garay was transferred to ManU abut two weeks ago, so let’s forget him (IIRC, Txiki was already interested in him some years ago, when he was at Racing de Santander, but he discarded him, and then Garay went to RM, although he barely played there and soon was transferred to Benfica).

          • CuleToon says:

            @lyd: I think many of us here agree with you. But, as I said, Vergini appears to be totally discarded and nobody —not even the press— talks about Mangala any more, so he’s been discarded too, or else he’s «the» dark horse candidate. Let’s hope so.

            (Let’s remember that Abi took a couple of seasons to bloom and become one of our best).

          • lyd says:

            CuleToon, I’m also hoping that PL candidates are some sort of smokescreen to help us get the right candidate. Wise to bet big on an unpolished gem than go all in on an injury prone/overrated/aged candidate.

            And about media/press, I’ve consciously groomed myself over the years to take it as lightly as possible. :) If Vergini was discarded for sporting reasons by Martino, I’d take that. However, having one your former player as a manager is a good thing isn’t it, especially if he’s young/promising.

          • CuleToon says:

            Yes, as you say, the fact that a manager brings one of his most trusted players with him is, and has been, very common. But Tata’s case is very special indeed.

    • Messiah10 says:

      I watch a fair amount of PL and have never been overly impressed w/him. He doesn’t seem to have a great sense of positioning for me. Gets caught out a lot and isn’t fantastic in tha air to me. I really hope it’s just a rumour b/c I would not be overjoyed by his acquistion.

  25. Ultraculé says:

    Initially I wanted Barca to acquire a top class CB and a cheap reliable defender and loan out Bartra. But considering the time it takes for a foreigner to get accustomed to the Barca way, which Bartra already has, I think it might be a good idea to purchase Vergini for free and loan him out in La Liga / wherever to get some valuable European experience, so that we have time to groom Bartra and decide if Vergini is good enough for us.

  26. psalmuel says:

    how about selling alexis to napoli (I read Benitez wants him) and using the funds to cash in on Aguero? And why is it taking forever to signing a CB?

    • lyd says:

      It’d be crime to sell Alexis at this stage.

      With Alexis, Pedro > RW, Neymar, Tello > LW, Messi and Cesc > False9, and if we add Dongou to the mix, in case we want a 9 with Messi/Cesc in the 10/hole, then the front 3/4 looks “pretty” lethal, psalmuel.

    • ciaran says:

      I would prefer to sell Pedro than Alexis. Alexis is far more effective going forward now and works equally hard in defense.
      I believe that if Pedro wasn’t homegrown then he’d be sold.

      • lyd says:

        ciaran, since we play 50 odd games every season, two tactically disciplined forwards is a necessity, in case one’s injured, so Pedro stayed, stays on that regard, purely for sporting reasons. Hope he can recover some scoring form and the team fixes pressing, transition-defense issues, then all will be rosy again. Then Alexis_Messi_Neymar trio should be good enough against big guns + buses. So I don’t see valid reasons to offload Pedro now for a high profile signing, someone who might not be comfortable with lack of playing time/rotation.

        The only problem could be the absence of Messi in big games, then a intelligent 9 would be needed as a plan B. Hope for the best!

    • Cause as usual we are stuck at a target which is quite impossible to sign. Earlier it was Thiago Silva and now it’s David Luiz. Have anyone seen Chelsea squad? Does they really afford to lose Luiz?

  27. Ultraculé says:

    I actually love the picture you’ve posted in the article Kevin.
    Each of their expressions and body language say so much to those that are willing to read it.

    Messi, has a playful grin that usually follows a fun game and a victoy. He knows he is good but refuses to know that he is the greatest. Just another day at the office / park for him. Collecting top honours of the tournament.

    Xavi looks sharp. He knows his role and just oozes dignity and regality.

    Neymar in the middle is funny. Almost seems as if he feels awkward / sheepish to be standing next to total stalwarts of the game. Although he is no slouch himself.

  28. CuleToon says:

    EMD confirms that Messi and Neymar will not play thogether today. Their «première» together will be at the Gamper Trophy, as expected.

    • morph73 says:

      Damn!!! I wanted to see them play together today at least for a few minutes…
      I guess by mentioning EMD you meant El Mundo Deportivo… If yes, I still do have a sliver of hope :D

  29. Agger, Kompany, Vertonghen and Vermaelen MD says these are the alternatives once David Luiz pursuit fails. Are you kidding me! What is Vermaelen considered for – adding job to our over worked medical staffs.

  30. Rami says:

    That’s the price of success, Last long enough, And Eventually it’ll be taken for granted.
    I hadn’t realized how many cules have become spoiled until the end of last season, Where instead of enjoying a 100 points la liga title, An accomplishment, That we may never witness anything like it again, Many spent their time whining and complaining about thiago’s, Montoya’s playing time, The game against bayern, And comparing everything to the treble and double season, And when you notice that the ‘bad’ is focused more than the ‘good’, You know your spoiled:

    • lyd says:

      I guess getting spoiled is a genuine fragment of the whole Cule experience. :)

    • 86ed says:

      It’s too facile to argue culés have become spoiled. Maybe, you know, some of us hold the club to a higher standard, and winning just one of our last 6 games in the Cl hardly matches that standard. Winning as poor a league as the Spanish League in which 17 teams out of 20 hardly are barely afloat doesn’t impress me; it’s disturbing to me at least that we coulnd’t beat our closest competitors. The less said about the Bayern games the better.
      A few here have also mentioned our Dark Ages, how we should enjoy what we have now. I say BS to that. I will treat each era separately regardless of before or after. 2012-13 was a victorious year, sure, but it was also disappointing because the club did not attempt to fix the problems evident the previous season.

      • mohit says:

        The only reason we hold them to a higher standard is because we’ve seen them achieve six cups in a season. Hence, every season after that where we haven’t won all six, is bound to disappoint.

        When the 08-09 season started, I didn’t expect them to win it all. And now I do. That, I think, is being spoiled.

        • 86ed says:

          That’s not quite it though is it. You’re going a bit straw man by saying we expect 6 trophies a season every season and so we’re spoiled. Nobody with any experience of the game does. Is it spoiled not to rejoice winning a mediocre league in February/March while flunking almost every big game in the CL? I mean c’mon, man, how are we to rejoice after the 7-0? When 12/13 started I didn’t expect to win it all, far from it. How is it spoiled of me then to groan in anger when Bayern and Real rifled goal after goal in our net? Am I to say, “Well our level is the Liga, the CL opponents and Real are too strong for us,” and be happy with 100 meaningless points? That I will never do. I expect the best of Barca regardless of what players we have.

  31. psalmuel says:

    lets sell messi and sign thong boy. Lol! Hey! Am just joking!

  32. jmiddy05 says:

    anyone have any idea what time (australian time) the pre-season game in Poland today is? and if there are any streams for it?! thanks guys

  33. CuleToon says:

    Antoni Ramallets, the legendary goalkeeper of the legendary «Barça de les Cinc Copes», has died today at 89.

    Antoni, you will never be forgotten. RIP.

  34. stefan2k says:

    Well … at least it’s entertaining

  35. first post, though i’ve been reading quite awhile.

    bartra’s crosses during the first half of this friendly are ridiculous. we really need to loan him out and sign a defender.

  36. stefan2k says:

    Sergi Roberto shows some amazing football tonight

  37. Huckleberry says:

    What’s the idea of letting Neymar travel but not play?

  38. norden says:

    What’s so funny/unbearable about the nickname Tata?

    In my language (Czech) it means “dad” – that’s ok for a coach.

    Btw, the funniest football nickname for me is Kaká, which means “he’s pooping” around here :) And I got used to that as well.

    • i think k(c)ak(c)a is an ubiquitous word for pooping. i’m sure there will be a discussion about vowel stresses though.

    • Roberto Senyera says:

      Tata means dad or pops in Hungarian too (as in his native Argentina). But as a North American, as Kxevin says, it’s slang for a proper set of breasts on a lady. When you combine the two meanings you get a daddy with a fine set of breasts … not exactly a wonderful sight.

      From Tito to Tata. Where’s Latoya and Michael??

  39. Dani_el says:

    I saw this and I think it was awesome:

    Pep, Messi, Puyol, Cruyff.
    Polish people showing Rosell and his crew that some matter more than politicians in our club. I’m missing Xavi, Iniesta a some others there. Defenders of our philosophy and our style.

  40. psalmuel says:

    bartra is not it (yet?) but for varane’s age bartra needs to do much better. And Sergi Roberto? He’s the real deal

  41. Kxevin says:

    As I suspected, there is a growing buzz building that Martino has decided that Dos Santos will stay. Apparently some discussions are going to happen today.

    If he does stay, my hat’s off to him. That is a degree of belief and patience that few players have. I also think that Martino is suddenly placing a high value on depth and bodies. Dos Santos has showed quite well this preseason, vastly better than Song, who it strikes me needs a wake-up call, or a transfer.

    • andrecito says: needs a transfer? i’m surprised to hear you say always stood up for him..i:ve only seen half of each friendly so far..has he been so bad?

    • Roberto Senyera says:

      How about Song out on loan?

      Just kidding ;)

      • Roberto Senyera says:

        Since I’m from the camp that thought it was a waste of our scarce transfer dollars ever to have purchased Song in the first place. He didn’t do much last year and I don’t see that changing much in the future. He’s proven to me that he’s no Keita. The funds spent on Song could’ve gone on a proper CB (even if we sat on those funds for a year) — that’s the opportunity cost of Song. The funds from buying Song plus the funds received from the sale of Thiago could get you any CB in the world. At least if the other club is willing to sell, that is.

        • ciaran says:

          I dont agree regarding Song. Firstly, he was not a defensive midfielder at Arsenal nor with Cameroon but he is big, strong and African so we thought of him as a replacement for Yaya.
          Secondly he had a decent first season and it takes everyone time to adapt to our system but is there some reason that we are not giving him this opportunity?
          Blaming Song for the team not buying a centre back should not be how he is rated. He was bought as a back up midfielder and in my opinion done well.
          I expect much more from him in this season and I also believe that there should be times that he and Busquets be used in the same matches as in front of Busquets he has the passing range to be effective further forward as evidenced by his 14 assists in his last season with Arsenal.

          JDS deserves his shot in the team too as back up in different roles too because tactically he can be more disciplined than a combination of lets say Sergi Roberto and Cesc.

          Again I was not at all impressed by Bartra. It seems like hd is now trying too hard because he is afraid to make mistakes

          • Roberto Senyera says:

            Arsenal is my favourite English team so I’ve seen most of their games during Song’s time there. Song was the deepest lying MF. That’s how Wenger asked him to play and intended to deploy him. Therefore, by definition, he was a DMF. The only problem was that Song went on walkabouts far too often. Therefore, he lacks tactical/positional discipline. His assist totals are a direct result of this wandering about and not playing the position asked of him. He far too often left his back four unprotected and was a major reason why Arsenal leaked so many goals.

            The club brought him in as some sort of Swiss Army knife DMF/CB combo. We all know that the CB part of that combo knife wasn’t very sharp and didn’t work so well. You might think his first season was decent but you’re being very generous, imo.

            I’m not blaming Song for us not getting a CB. I’m blaming the board and coaching staff.

            I’m not big on the double pivot. It’s not our way. At least not to start matches, that is. I’ve no problems with a double pivot when we want to secure a tight match in the late stages (as Pep used to do on occasion).

            I agree with you on JDS and Bartra. JDS would be a decent squad utility player and we could have used him during some portions of last season. I don’t know about Bartra. He’s never impressed and I fear he is the next Fontas.

          • Roberto Senyera says:

            I forgot to mention that I’m still flabbergasted that Song wears an FCB jersey. Before he signed I told friends that Haiti would land a man on the moon before Song played for Barça. So much for that prediction, eh? Maybe there’s a Haitian flag on the far side of the moon that the world doesn’t yet know about.

          • Kxevin says:

            Agree with ciaran on Song, who was really rounding into it last season. It is early days, but he seems to have regressed.

            Song was, as many players are, a roll of the dice. Last season was adaptation. This season is the one to show what he has. It’s as simple as that. So far, he hasn’t. But to say after two friendlies that Song is crap strikes me as too early to make a call. It’s like saying that the Sanchez we are seeing now will be the one we see the rest of the season.

            Song has skills. But for whatever reason he has looked awful. Bad timing, as a new coach is making important decisions right now.

            The CB matter is completely unrelated to Song, but I fear that for too many cules, he will always be the guy we bought instead of a CB.

            The club didn’t buy a CB because it figured that with Puyol, Pique, Mascherano and Bartra, things would be okay. An unusual spate of injuries killed that notion.

            This club has the money to buy any CB it likes. That it chose not to isn’t the fault of any player. And even in the here and now I would buy an Abidal clone ahead of any CB alive. That absence is the real root of much of our defensive frailties. Alba isn’t that player, and never will be. So I reserve a healthy dose of scorn for the problems he caused our defense last season.

  42. Roberto Senyera says:

    Speaking of burning money, I hope Tottenham’s chairman, Daniel Levy, fleeces EE for as much as possible and uses every single day of the transfer window to raise the price on Bale and make Perez sweat. How will Thong Boy behave having a teammate who comes into the club for a higher transfer amount than his? TB has just two years left on his contract, doesn’t seem interested in signing a new contract with EE, and therefore makes this season most likely his last in the Spanish capital. Where will Bale play? He usually plays LW. So does TB. I’ve heard that Ancelotti has experimented playing TB as a CF in the preseason … but he doesn’t like playing there. Potentially, Bale’s best position for EE should be RW (as an inverted winger). The only problem with that is that he hasn’t ever played there so it’s a bit of a risk.

    Perez sure does love to spend money and bring in his galaticos. But how many trophies has that policy brought EE during his ten or so years? Maybe three or four (one of which got run over by a bus)? Very poor return. Will Bale be the next Kaka?

    I’m gonna enjoy this summer’s soap opera :)

  43. Ultraculé says:

    Don’t like to cry over spilt milk, but it would have been swashbuckling football entertainment to see Thiago and Neymar combine.

    • Jim says:

      For me not as much as Iniesta ( imagine trying to take the ball away from these two on the left) , Xavi and Messi all with an out for through balls. I’ll be interested to see if Xavi becomes a little more adventurous in his passing in the last third, knowing that he has now two targets who can both beat a man in the box.

  44. Tsivoman says:

    My 2 cents on the last three games (being pre-season and all).

    1. Pre-season means different things for different players in a squad, i.e. Messi/Iniesta don’t need to prove themselves, it’s only about physical conditioning and match fitness.
    For the likes of JDS, Bartra, Montoya and the like, it’s about physical conditioning and most importantly, convincing the coaching staff that they deserve a shot. And on this front, i must say, I’ve disappointed with Bartra so far, Montoya has proved that he can be a good replacement for Dani Alves but at present seems to still be on holiday.

    2. I know it’s pre-season and early days but i like what i’m seeing from S. Roberto. A little more playing time among the greats in our midfield and he should progress nicely.

    3. If the board does not sign a centre back this season, it will be truly criminal of the club.
    Last night’s 1st goal against us was a reminder of what’s to come from the opposition throughout the season. Though Pique and Busquests have the required height, they lack the physical presents in the air to both defend and attack corners.

    4. With regards to Neymar. I know most people are interested with his forth coming combination with Messi but i have a personal theory on the matter.
    I think that for Neymar to be a success, a lot will have to do with his understanding/connection/combination with the Great “Don” Iniesta more than the Imperious Messi as majority might seem to think. How so? If Neymar and Iniesta can develop a telepathic understanding, then the left wing will be the most deadliest within our attacking front line. Just imagine Iniesta’s pass mastery, with penetration dribbling dove-tailing with Neymar? scary me thinks!!!
    For this to happen though, Neymar will have to learn quickly the art of pass and move that so often seen between Messi and Iniesta to devastating effect.

    • Jim says:

      Not sure I’d agree about Pique. I seem to remember him last season against Bayern (and others)being a rock in the air and having to fly about covering for the vertically challenged around him. His problem, and apologies for repeating, is the lack of a regular partner and two FBs who haven’t worked out their own rotation in terms of going forward.

      However, for me it will be again our Achilles heel if we don’t sign a new CB. Was the problem Tito insisting on only TS ? Who knows but this should have been sorted long ago before PSG were even out of the blocks on their Marquinhos chase. I’m disappointed that Martino ( who must know best) seems to have decided not to bring his CB Vergini. Having watched the link Kxevin posted I was quite impressed. The first goal lost against Bayern should finally nail the thought that we can afford to play Masch, Adriano or (probably) Bartra on a regular basis.

  45. andrecito says:

    admittedly ive only seen half of each friendly…but i like bagnack..i feel confident that he won’t get stuck in the production line like fontas, munesia, bartra…i think he will certainly be pushing for a first team spot (not starting 11) this time next year. exciting considering our cb situation…

  46. ciaran says:

    I personally think that agents and press built Marquinhos up to a €35million player which he certainly isn’t yet. Will he be over the next few years? It’s impossible to know. I believe his lack of height would be a huge problem if we were to have signed him but again we will never know.
    If we were to spend €35-€40million on defenders I certainly would prefer to have 2. While I have faith in Pique’s ability to return to his best form I don’t have the same faith in Puyol’s fitness and Bartra’s quality.
    I will stick with my opinion that I think we should buy Adil Rami and another centre back like Daniel Agger or someone.

    In my opinion the reason we struggle to produce world class central defenders is that our defenders are rarely tested in our youth teams due to the quality gap between our youth teams and the ones they play. Most matches are incredibly one sided. This means that our young forwards have lots of practice breaking through packed defenses but our defenders don’t get much practice. Once they are good at recycling possession and winning quick one-on-one contests when setting up into midfield they look good like Fontas and Bartra and others before them.

    Pique was a forward and midfielder in our youth teams, as was Puyol, who we will remember started his career in the first team as a right back.

    • Jim says:

      I agree Marquinhos would have been an unknown quantity until we saw him in our side, Ciaran, but I’m not sure where the issue of his play in the air comes from. He isn’t huge but neither is Puyol and not many beat him. On the other hand I would fancy my own chances of beating Busi in the air ! It’s as much about timing and aggression, both of which he has in spades. Have a look at the first few minutes of this from YouTube against Inter. A ot of similarity to Puyol for me.

      Still, as you say, we’ll never know. What I do know is that I’ve not seen many impressive compilations of EPL defenders , especially the ones we seem to be looking for, which show aggression, pace, positioning, ability in the air, great control and solid passing. That doesn’t surprise me, watching a lot of EPL every weekend. I worry we’re now down to grabbing somebody like Chiggy ……. dangles bait for Kxevin while reaching for cloak of invisibility :)

      • Jim says:

        You know, it has just occurred to me that David Luiz has most of the qualities I mention above. I obviously forgot to mention the discriminating factor that you cannot afford to be in any way madder than mad Jack McMad !

        • ciaran says:

          Jan Vertonghen most definitely has those characteristics if you watch a lot of PL games.

          • Roberto Senyera says:

            Who we should have bought last summer instead of settling for DMF/CB (sometimes) Song. Vertonghen was the perfect candidate: left footed CB, can play LB, captain at Ajax (which plays our system), etc.

  47. flyzowee says:

    Even so I dont believe D luiz is our man, not for the numbers being quoted.

    Besides its not really the lack of height in the Cb positions that opposition teams are targeting (Pique normally has these covered). Its the lack of height in the fullback pos.
    -Teams are crossing the ball towards the far posts more.

    -Corners being played more to the far posts

    -Huge diagonal balls being played looking to overpower our Fbs

    Its a well known weakness which must be dealt with DIRECTLY.

    Possession football will not solve it. (I hope this isnt the mind set of the coaches).

    Some problems require specific skill sets to solve. No amount of tactical tweaking will do. People here talk of an Abidal clone which tells me that Im not alone in making these observations.

    What worries me is that our transfer targets do not indicate to me that the club is aware and actively seeking to address this problem.

  48. barca96 says:

    Man United is going to make a 3rd bid. If Isco was still available, I would love the club to accept the bid and buy Isco.

    If we sell Cesc, I don’t know whom to replace him with besides the unavailable Isco. Oliver Torres is too young and isn’t an AM and I don’t value Gundogan & Eriksen that highly. The only young player I wouldn’t mind having right now is Reus but he’s a winger.

    • 86ed says:

      I’m not sure how opinion veers on this page regarding Fabregas, but I for one think we ought to accept United’s offer. Fabregas has great stats but I find it painful watching him play. He’s slow and cumbersome, he tends to step in other players’ feet if not positioned as the false 9, and even as a false 9 is not as good as Messi in that position. We should cut the losses and take the money now rather than a year from now.
      Personally, I would sign Gundogan. I like him. Quick, tecknical, and not afraid to shoot. I would invest, heavily, in two, maybe even three defenders. The more time we pass doing nothing the harder it will be fortify the most crucial part of the pitch.

      • Levon says:

        The EPL is a “faster” league than ours, yet nobody in England has ever complained about Cesc being slow and cumbersome. Maybe we have gotten spoiled with Xavi and Iniesta running the midfield?

        I believe it would be a huge mistake to let Cesc go at this point and time.

        Having said that, I don’t think he has lived up to his potential over the last two years.

        • Roberto Senyera says:

          Total agree, Levon. Selling Cesc, after losing Thiago this summer, would be biblically stupid.

          Xavi isn’t what he was. He has a chronic injury and he looks slow and cumbersome when he plays too much. His passing is becoming more and more sideways and backwards and his defensive coverage is limited. When Xavi is tired he looks like a Gareth Barry clone (that’s not good, btw). A major key to the team’s success this year is to give Xavi consistent rest and to judiciously monitor his minutes so that he’s in top physical condition against the biggest opponents. Hopefully, Tata can rotate better than Tito.

          The future of our two most advanced central MFs (currently Xavi and Iniesta) is Iniesta and Cesc. I’m surprised by the amount of people on this website that dislike Cesc and want to offload him (a homegrown talent, no less) and are so quick to jump and defend Song (I’ll refer to those folks as “Song apologists”).

          • 86ed says:

            Fabregas isn’t suited to replace Xavi; I’m sorry, but that isn’t his game. He wants to play in the false 9 position, which is currently occupied.

          • Roberto Senyera says:


            Cesc wouldn’t ‘replace’ Xavi and never could. No one could. Cesc would play the position that Xavi does but would do it differently. Xavi and Iniesta now (two of the best MFs in the world). Iniesta and Cesc soon (two of the best MFs in the world). It’s as plain as the eyebrow on Ancelotti.

            Maybe it’ll be Iniesta that plays more like Xavi does now (a bit deeper of the two). But it’ll be Iniesta & Cesc at the top of the MF triangle that currently is Xavi & Iniesta.

            Cesc only plays as a false 9 when Messi is out. And why would Cesc play as a false 9 if he is so, as you say, painfully slow? A false 9 s/b quicker than all the MFs.

        • 86ed says:

          What does it matter that nobody in England complained about how slow Fabregas is? He is painfully slow while playing for Barca, not Arsenal.
          It was a mistake signing Fabregas, it would be a mistake to keep having him here.

      • BA says:

        if we had kept Thiago, i would have no problem selling Cesc to United. even without Thiago, it’s very tempting. he’s just not shown that he’s able to keep up with the pace of thought and movement off the ball that playing in our team requires. he wants to move into the center and play cute little 3-yard passes around the edge of the box, but is useless in the kind of quick pressing game that we have found so successful and that Martino is apt to play. forgetting our side for a moment, can you imagine Cesc in, say, Dortmund’s team? he’s clearly incapable or uninterested in playing to that kind of tempo, and that way of playing is how we get back to our brilliant best.

        the only issue for me would be finding more midfield cover (i think we should buy Gundogan anyway), and the effect that our forcing him out would have on squad morale; he’s Pique’s BFF, seems to get along well with Messi and the Spanish squad members. that said, if United offered us more than €50m for him i’d bite their hand off taking it.

        • Roberto Senyera says:

          I very much like Gundogan as well. I think we should get him next summer (after getting Neymar and still needing a CB or two, this year is not the year). He’s a very versatile MF and can play in all three spots for us. In essence, he’d be taking Thiago’s old spot in the roster but as part of a proper rotation of our midfielders. He could spell Busquets more adequately than, say, Song. I’d still keep Cesc (I’ll agree to disagree with you on that subject).

          If Sergio Roberto continues to develop nicely he’d, in effect, be taking Thiago’s spot. We should still go after Gundogan next summer. Under this scenario Song becomes surplus to requirements and could be sold at our customary loss on transfers. The six in MF would be Busquets (Gundogan), Xavi (Cesc), Iniesta (SR). Gundogan was fantastic last season and just a few days ago against BM in the German SC. Expect Gundogan to be a starter for Germany in the 2014 WC.

    • ciaran says:

      I think it’s safe to say Cesc is going nowhere anytime soon. I believe that he will play with us until he’s in his thirties like Xavi is and Iniesta will. To think anything else is just believing English tabloid press which is very silly.
      Barca paid huge money to bring him here and he took a huge pay cut to come here. He is a lifelong Barca fan and his home is here. Whether another team want to buy him or not is irrelevant. If there was talk of United making 2 or 3 bids for Iniesta we wouldn’t be concerned and I don’t think it’s any different with Cesc.

      To say he is too slow is something that has been said about many world class footballers before and that hasn’t stopped them. He still is quick enough to score 29 goals in two seasons with us which is more than Pedro for example. He assisted more than Xavi. He played more football than most of our team. His game is different to Xavi and Iniesta but so what?

      People calling for us to sign Gundogan (who I really like) should really consider why United are bidding up to €50million for Cesc and not €25million that would probably buy Gundogan. He is a better player. He has been responsible for over 60 goals in less than 100 games for us. That is world class. And Isco has not shown anything near the potential that Cesc had at his age, neither has Thiago who will continue to be one of my favourite footballers even after his move.

      He’s not Xavi. He’s not Iniesta. But there is no one who is.

      • Roberto Senyera says:

        Well said ciaran. Totally agree with you on Cesc. Agree to disagree with you on Song. We all have opinions.

        And the English tabloid press & sports talk radio make my eyes/ears bleed. Why would Cesc want to leave his boyhood club that he pushed so hard to come back to and go to a fading ManU club (especially now that Moyes is the manager and not Fergie)?? FCB will be a very serious contender for every trophy for the next five years, at least (ManU, not so much. Especially Europe). Totally illogical tabloid trash.

        • ciaran says:

          Continuing the agreements and disagreements… I agree with you on the future purchase of Gundogan and slightly disagree with you regarding the timing. My issue is again with our aerial defense and having Gundogan as our DM leaves us short.
          I would replace Xavi eventually with Gundogan if he continues to progress like he has been, not Song.
          If we are to replace Song it should be someone who fits all of our requirements not just most of them.

          • Roberto Senyera says:

            Through a proper rotation policy I could see Busquets (DM) and Gundogan (Xavi role) together; or as a double pivot when needed.

            I could even see Gundogan as the sole DM when Busquets needs a rest. With another proper CB alongside Piqué the aerial issue wouldn’t be the one it is today and Gundogan at DM isn’t an issue. It’s not as if Song is some aerial master and BvB is a relatively short team.

  49. barca96 says:

    Sergio Ramos’ new style is going to be a hit on crackovia :lol:

  50. CuleToon says:

    According to Sport and EMD, Tata has decided that JDS stays.

  51. TITO says:

    If we are actually trying to sign someone from Dortmund, we should go either for Reus or for Lewandovski (or both). I’m talking about the next season.

  52. Roberto Senyera says:


    “But to say after two friendlies that Song is crap strikes me as too early to make a call. It’s like saying that the Sanchez we are seeing now will be the one we see the rest of the season.”

    I never said Song was crap after two friendlies. I never said that Song was crap, period. I said that I thought Song should never have been bought in the first place and that he’s not good enough to be a current FCB player. That doesn’t mean that I think he is a bad player. He’s a good player but not good enough for the current FCB. You speculated that he might have to be transferred after just two friendlies this year.

    I still believe in Sanchez and think that he brings a lot to the table. He will only get better in the next few years, imo.

    “The CB matter is completely unrelated to Song, but I fear that for too many cules, he will always be the guy we bought instead of a CB.

    The club didn’t buy a CB because it figured that with Puyol, Pique, Mascherano and Bartra, things would be okay. An unusual spate of injuries killed that notion.”

    I think that you’re either misremembering or are a revisionist historian. The club tried to get Thiago Silva last summer but were priced out of the market by PSG. The club should still have gotten a real CB and they were out there — they still are. Instead, the club was too clever for its own good and bought Song. The club most certainly told the fan base that Song was someone who could play CB. The club bought him with the intention of playing him as a DM and CB (if needed). In essence, we passed on a proper CB that everyone from Barcelona to Beijing knew that we needed this time last year and settled for a cheaper (or overly clever) solution to the dilemma and got Song. Hell, the club converted Masch from a DM to a CB. Why can’t we do that with Song?

    Also, this time last year everyone knew that Puyol always gets injured and that Bartra was untested. Therefore, relying on the four of Puyol, Piqué, Masch, and Bartra as your CBs was insufficient and it was foreseeable. There is no such thing as an “unusual spate of injuries” when current day Puyol is part of a set of four players for two spots. Be certain of one thing, Song most certainly was purchased as a fifth CB, if needed (but mostly as a DM). And he was needed, performed poorly as a CB, and that too was totally foreseeable since he had hardly any experience playing there. We got lucky with the Masch experiment as a CB. It’s folly to believe that that luck will always repeat itself.

    “This club has the money to buy any CB it likes. That it chose not to isn’t the fault of any player.”

    Well, yes and no. We couldn’t buy Thiago Silva last summer. The funds spent on Song, which I saw as unnecessary, could have been spent elsewhere (that’s the opportunity cost of Song). Those funds plus the funds received on the sale of Thiago would add up to a world class CB and we’d be a much more balanced team than we are now. That said, we still wouldn’t be able to get Thiago Silva since PSG aren’t a willing seller — at any price. Also, the club does have scarce resources. We can’t spend to the extent of EE and the petrol propelled FCs. It’s not the fault of Song that we didn’t get a proper CB last year, it’s the management’s fault. It’s more than high time that we get a real world class CB.

    We will just have to agree to disagree on the matter of Song. I realize that we will never see eye to eye on the subject. It’s not a personal attack. It’s a difference of opinion. No offence.

    • Kxevin says:

      For me, to say that someone isn’t good enough to play on the club that he is playing for, means that they are crap. Contextual crap perhaps, but crap nonetheless. My transfer bit was a bit of humor. I don’t use emoticons, so I can see how that might have gotten lost.

      I also think that “opportunity cost” is a misused phrase that has no applicability to this situation, for me. We could have afforded to buy Thiago Silva. But as with Javi Martinez, we shilly-shallied about while PSG came in with a cash, no-haggling offer. We tried to outsmart ourselves and got played. And Song continues to be the fall guy for a club decision.

      Song was purchased as a midfielder who could play CB in a pinch, rather than as any sort of a CB, fifth or otherwise.

      But at the time CBs were on the market, the club only had eyes for Neymar, so they slipped away. It’s safe to say that Laporta would have purchased any player that Guardiola wanted, no questions asked, but that is a different matter for a different president.

      I’m fine with agreeing to disagree. For me, the matter is more one of apportioning culpability where it should lay. Song improved quite a bit during the season, to the point where announcers, neutral observers and even (shudder!) some cules were complimentary of his play in the midfield. But he has regressed. Yes, it’s two friendlies, but he should watch that it doesn’t become a trend.

      But for me, Alba bothers me a lot more than Song, because he did a lot more damage to the club and its defense.

      • BA says:

        but if, as you say, Song was purchased “as a midfielder who COULD play CB in a pinch”, he’s still a failure because we’ve seen that he’s not capable of playing CB, in a pinch or otherwise. i would agree that having a DM who can slot in at CB is a great option, but Song simply isn’t good enough to fill the role the club said he could play for us.

        so whether or not you think he’s a worthwhile option in midfield, i think we’re ALL in agreement that he can’t play as a CB, and we need more cover at CB, so Song does nothing for us there. we therefore have to judge him on his midfield play alone, and i think that Roberto is right that as a midfielder alone, he hasn’t shown that he’s good enough to deserve a place at Barça. i mean, Afellay was a midfielder who, i think it’s safe to say, showed considerably more aptitude and quality in his limited starts for us than Song, but it’s not enough for Barça and therefore he’s on the out.

        and i have to add that nobody is picking on Song as a person; there are plenty of footballers who are fantastic people but who just aren’t good enough to play for this exceptional team.

        • Spiza7 says:

          Mind you Abidal didn’t have a very impressive first few seasons, even in Pep’s first season in charge Abidal wasn’t showing much, and it was best left forgotten when he slotted in CB back then.

          So does that mean Abidal wasn’t good enough?

  53. simple_barcafan says:

    JDS must be the happiest person in Barcelona right now…

  54. blitzen says:

    JDS tweeted:

    “I want to let you know with lots of joy that I’m staying at Barça. My dream of triumphing at Barça is now closer than ever!”

    “Thanks to the club and the coach for the trust they’re showing me. Visca el Barça!”

    (translations from @BarcaTheOffside)

    I’m honestly really happy for the kid. I have been one of the most vociferous about his foolishness in wasting a year sitting in the stands when he had clubs lining up to take him on loan–but I could never fault his cheerful attitude or hard work in training. Obviously Thiago’s departure has given him and opportunity, and his excellent performances in preseason games have impressed the new coach enough to give him a chance. I hope he grasps it with both hands and gives it his best shot.

    Carpe the crap out of this diem, Jona! Good luck!

    • Spiza7 says:

      I’m glad he is staying, but as far as we all know the amount of playing time he will be given this season will probably be very little. I’m sure he is definitely excited to stay but I hope he does not confuse trust with assurance to play.

      But Congrats to him for fighting for his spot, that’s what we all want to see. He has really impressed this pre-season, he shows a lot more assertiveness in his play which is very good to see.

    • alpinegroove says:

      What excellent performances in preseason?

      I would say, at most, that he didn’t stand out in a negative way, unlike Song.

  55. teddy says:

    This CB issue needs to be resolved asap. If my memory serves right, we still haven’t got any replacement for Valdes either, right? God knows how much we are going to be bullied by next transfer market if we need to buy both CB and GK. Don’t think we are in negotiation position either.

  56. KEVINO17 says:

    Why is everyone so critical of Song after two pre-season games. He’s been OK. Nobody is fully fit and he’s trying to organise a team that has lots of unfit players who are trying to mesh. Not an easy job for a defensive midfielder. He’ll find it a lot easier when Xavi and Iniesta are back.

  57. KEVINO17 says:

    Oh, yes, and all this Song shouldn’t have been bought stuff. He is a wonderful defensive midfielder and Busquets can’t play 60 games a year in that slot. Indeed, Busquets gets injured and buying Song for 18 mill was it, will look like an act of genius.
    Further, I hope Song will start playing in the CM slot (when Xavi isn’t available – or even when he is), where he should give our forward press a lot more solidity.

    • Spiza7 says:

      You do have a point, weighing up Song as a squad player he has been pretty good so far. It is very rare for players to have a smooth first season with us and he had a pretty decent one. We’ll wait and see how he goes this season, 3 pre-season games mean nothing.

  58. Jonathan Dos Santos, you are a hero.

    A young Xavi once almost went to Milan had it not been for his mother. Are we seeing a repeat, this time it’s JDS’ Perseverance at play.

    Am I on drugs? may be.

  59. simple_barcafan says:

    Sorry to come across as one who is beating a dead horse, but when people talk about Thiago, why isn’t his defensive frailties questioned closely?..Besides his occasional mistimed passes at dangerous positions, he never(or rarely) used to track back..and i haven’t seen him press or tackle as much as others do…Aren’t that also fundamental to Barcelona’s philosophy?..His magical feet and wonderful passing skills mask some of the lesser but essential qualities..

    anyway this topic keeps popping up, like someone who is not yet gotten over his beautiful ex who is hooked up with his best friend who split up with him a year ago..

  60. Ultraculé says:

    I don’t like that JDS is staying.
    Some may see it as patience being rewarded, others might see JDS’ and Sergi’s patience being talked up as a slap on the now departed Alcantara. But I see it as a ‘Bleh’ / ‘meh’ type of player hogging a really important position which has recently undergone a huge loss of talent. I’d like strength in depth, rather than just ‘meh’ depth.

    • Kxevin says:

      First off, I don’t believe that any position on the club has undergone a “huge” loss of talent. That would happen if Xavi or Iniesta, etc. left. Such a thing hasn’t happened. A talented substitute has left the club because he wasn’t talented enough in context to NOT be a substitute. We should understand the situation for what it is as we discuss it.

      Martino needs two things to adequately implement his system, and one of them is bodies. That’s a basic one. If you look at how the B players showed against Bayern, it’s clear that the FCB system doesn’t actually NEED superstars to work. It helps, sure, but the system is the beauty of the thing.

      Also, we don’t know how Martino wants to utilize the players that he has. It’s clear that he has a purpose for Dos Santos who, it should be said, has shown very well in preseason. We will find out in a few weeks what that purpose is.

      But for me, Thiago is gone, and that’s that. I really like what Sergi Roberto is bringing to the club defensively, and with movement. He’s also a very physical player, which is of value considering the way that teams are playing us. Dos Santos is a solid, talented possession player. That, too, is of value, and brings something of value to the club. What’s not to like about that?

      It is more than patience being rewarded for me. It is a player working his ass off to improve, and be good enough to impress a new coach and earn a spot on the team. Dos Santos isn’t being kept as a mascot, or because he’s charming. He’s being kept because the coach of the best team in the world thinks that he has a place on that team, for the purposes that he has in mind.

      Those purposes will probably be different from those of his predecessors. So now we will see what those tactics and purposes are.

      • Rami says:

        If martino is going to bring back the insane pressure we used to have, He’ll need the most amount of bodies he can get (Rotation), And young hungry ones are the most suited for that purpose.

        • KEVINO17 says:

          Kxevin – totally agree. Martino has said he’s going to do a lot of rotation, which means he’ll need lots of fresh legs to throw onto the field (mixed metaphore). The great advantage of a player like dos Santos is also that if Martino gives him a role, he will run through a brick wall trying to fulfill it. Martino won’t have have to worry about superstaritis.

    • I think you have to get over the Thiago loss as quickly as possible. It’s kind of strange, Thiago was the possible star of the future not one of the irreplaceable stars we had. Why this much grief. If Thiago goes someone else will take his place. It’s not like after Thiago there is only Armageddon.

      Why people are making a meal of JDS situation? Just imagine he was a down right outcast last year but still stayed, always said that he wanted to play at Barca and wanted to stay here. No one gave a damn about that. Now he is staying and looks like Tata has promised him serious time also. Salute the sheer guts man.

      And it’s not like JDS is an average player. He is above average. Its like the club rated Thiago higher. The club has its reasoning for it. But JDS is a good player, with a different style. Give him some time. He will do well. Also remember he is more defensively organised than Thiago. It has it’s plus and minus. Wanna see the plus, see all the goals in the German super cup. Two of BVB’s goal came after Thiago carelessly gave the ball away.

      • BA says:

        Thiago wasn’t just a possible star of the future, he was an exciting, dynamic player that many people were actually looking forward to seeing play and integrate themselves into our midfield. i for one was actively looking forward to watching him develop in our system.

        there is no such anticipation with Sergi Roberto (who i confess to knowing nothing more than the name a couple of weeks ago), or with Jonathan dos Santos who has NEVER impressed me on one single occasion. he comes in, keeps the ball ticking over, but little else; no goals, no assists. he seems like a nice lad and i applaud his commitment but how much of his patience was biding his time and how much was due to him not being good enough to force his way into the team?

        he’s certainly a downgrade from Thiago, in a very crucial position.

        as for the charge that Thiago “gives the ball away too much”, well, he’s still quite young and because he’s a dynamic player will attempt things maybe he shouldn’t. that’s to be appreciated in a young player; i’d rather have interesting, very talented players who from time to time lose a ball (Leo Messi? Neymar?) than less talented players who never lose a ball because they never try anything interesting (Jonathan dos Santos?).

        • blitzen says:

          From time to time? Messi loses the ball more than anyone else on the team. Usually when he is trying to dribble through three defenders.

        • Ultraculé says:

          Thanks BA. You’ve saved me some typing effort.

          I knew I shouldn’t have brought up Alcantara in my comment which was only suposed to be about JDS being a part of the first team because I suspected this is a sensitive subject that people love to jump on. Truth is we lost a damn good player because of a lot of stupidity. (see kari on thiago and balls of yarn) I have already moved on from his departure.

          JDS is and has been hogging on a position which is hugely important for Barca’s play – The Midfield. It is a space which cannot accommodate even Mascherano in it. Its almost like suddenly JDS has become a damn good player. I love how people here have such fleeting beliefs. Poor JDS has been bearing the brunt of countless jokes, now he gets a defense thats worth envying.

          • Kxevin says:

            I don’t read that people are defending JDS as much as the idea of dismissing a player for one that, as BA notes, was also still developing. Dos Santos might blossom with more time. Sergi Roberto is blossoming faster than I think any of us anticipated, with the two best chances vs Bayern, a goal, fine control and excellent movement.

            Everyone knows Thiago. Now he’s gone. Nobody really knows Sergi Roberto and he, like JDS, should get every bit as fair a shot, even though they weren’t as heralded as Thiago. Because, depending upon what Martino has planned, they might turn out to be every bit as effective as Thiago.

            That strikes me as more the point of the Dos Santos (and to a lesser extent Sergi Roberto) points that some have made.

            I would add that Dos Santos hasn’t really been hogging a position, because he hasn’t been playing until this preseason. As for him suddenly becoming a “damn good player,” long-term, who knows? But someone who knows a whole lot more than any of us deems him worth the risk, and that’s good enough for me.

          • Levon says:

            If I am not mistaken JDS was given a shot before Thiago, but later got leapfrogged. I still remember JDS’ debut (as a starter) against Villareal 20 the ’09-’10 season and how the Camp Nou applauded his every touch on the ball… until he got subbed off at half time because the team as a whole wasn’t playing badly.

            I root for any player representing our colors to play well.

          • First of all Thiago is gone and Roberto has come in for him and did well with whatever chances he was given. The new coach believe that he need more players and ask JDS to stay. Now suddenly how is that hogging an important position? He will not play if he is not good enough in the eye of the coach. And he is staying because the coach has a purpose of him. You may prefer a guy who does fanciful stuffs and be careless. But the coach may not.

            Mascherano cannot get into the midfield because he is completely inept in doing the Busquets role. As far the jokes on JDS were concerned, it happened mainly because of his insistence to stay at the club when the club was trying to get rid of him. He may have his reason for it. Just because you don’t rate a player highly, you can’t say that he will be less successful.

        • Spiza7 says:

          I think we have enough interesting players in our squad as it is. Just because a player doesn’t do tricks or doesn’t make risky moves doesn’t mean they should be judged that way. Look at Busquets as a prime example, during the 2009 CL final he played a simple game where he made very little mistakes, it was probably his best performance that year.

          • Ultraculé says:

            1) I love Sergi Roberto. Industrious and talented. I have followed him ever since Pep introduced him in that heated 2nd leg CL semi final against EE at the Bernabeu.

            2) I just don’t rate JDS. It’s my personal opinion. I feel he adds nothing new to a midfield that has xavi, iniesta, busi, roberto and cesc – ALL from La Masia.
            I don’t like his face too. But it’s just my opinion. It has nothing to do with his talents, because I am not blind enough to not spot it, if it was there. I’d prefer some strength in depth, especially in positions like MF and Forwards. Bodies, I’d like in defense. I have made that point before too. The last time we had bodies/numbers to fill up the squad, we had bojan, jeffren and literally no one to come off the bench to strike fear into anyone. Just my personal views.

            JDS may yet prove me wrong and I’d be delighted.
            I would however hate to have to say ‘told you so’.

  61. Kxevin says:

    Neymar just had a presser, in which nothing at all happened. No interesting questions, no interesting answers, no nothing. FYI.

  62. Alex says:

    On the JDS topic, I remember reading a SPORT article saying that one of Tatas new strategy’s was going to be more efficient long shots from outside the box (who knows if Sport is making this up though). I recall JDS have a hell of a long shot, powerful and precise. If we can get a few good young midfielders (or any player for that matter) taking cannon shots from outside (Adriano anyone?), and get teams to respect those players, this would open up the passing game around the box immensely.

    • Jim says:

      I suspect JDS will find it hard to score many , even long range, from the bench.

      All Tata is doing, imo, is being cautious to make sure he has cover. He won’t see many minutes. He is a tidy enough player but isn’t going to replace any of those in front of him and I doubt if he’s a go-to player if you need a change from the bench. When(if?) the new CB comes we also have Masch who’ll be scraping about for minutes ( behind Pique, Puyol, new boy and with Bartra and Adriano to get minutes as well ) and might get them in midfield if we need to tie down a game without Xavi. If we need a game changer I’m thinking even Sergi Roberto will probably be ahead of him. If you’re small you have to have something special about you. No harm to him, though. As someone else said above, once they play in the colours we want them all to do well.

  63. mohit says:

    Tello extended his contract to 2018 and the buyout has been raised to 25mil Euros. (official)

  64. blitzen says:

    The question now is what will happen to the two assistant coaches, Jordi Roura and Rubi? Roura may not have been exactly what we needed as head-coach last season when Tito was ill, but he didn’t do a terrible job either, and he has been an invaluable assistant to both Tito and Guardiola over the last several years. The players like and respect him, and he represents some much-needed continuity. He knows the team and the training methods inside and out, and Tata would be foolish not to rely on him.

    On the other hand, Rubi was brought in at the express wish of Tito himself and had just signed a contract with the club. If Tata decides for whatever reason he is surplus to requirements (maybe Tata wants to bring in some of his own staff, for example), the club would have to buy out that contract. I admit I don’t know anything about Rubi except that he did a great job with Girona last season, and apparently there are plenty of people at FCB who rate him highly. It would be great if he could stay on. (Too bad we can’t fire Eusebio and put Rubi in charge of the B team, to be honest.)

    • Levon says:

      Yes, I am wondering about that, too.

      The terrible twins said they would announce it last Monday, but here we are, still waiting. I think Tata brought an assistant with him and a professor, err, physical preparation coach, right?

      • Kxevin says:

        Read in MD (for whatever that’s worth) that Roura is a mess, and so close to Vilanova that he’s probably going to be moving on, and Rubi will be retained. I imagine that was all part of the negotiation.

  65. andrecito says:

    psyched for the gamper!..anyone know if the spain internationals + d. alves are available?

    just read this on totalbarca…

    “As reported originally by Brazilian football publication Lance!, Barcelona has secured the right to purchase of forwards Gabriel Barbosa Almeida (16), Victor Andrade (17), and Givanildo “Giva” da Silva (20) for a combined total of €7.9 million.”

    i just youtubed givanildo since he’s the oldest…and all the videos compare him to neymar…hmmm…i wonder if he’ll be playing in the gamper..

  66. Nick says:

    Amazing new Adidas ad with Messi.

  67. CuleToon says:

    A real Gamper after so many years! Before we could watch on TV all pre-season «matches» against any fourth-division team from whatever country —specially northern— at which Barça was doing the then so-called «pre-season stage», socis watched the new team of the season in action for the first time during the Gamper Trophy, which, until 1966, was played by four teams on two consecutive days. The atmosphere in those Gampers was incredibly festive and, since Barça won it almost each season, socis always faced the new season full of an optimism that was expressed in the catchphrase, «Aquest any, sí!» (This year, yes!).

    So, after those many years we’re going to see in action, for the first time, this season’s team, specially the Messi-Neymar duo. As most of you, I can’t wait to watch it!

    Since the international players arrived just a week ago, I only expect to see a full first team in one of the halves. Anyway, we’re going to be in for a treat!

    • Rami says:

      This is the first time i’m this much psyched for gamper, Perhaps because for the last 4-5 years, there hasn’t been major changes to our team from season to season.
      Now we have the biggest ‘next’ talent in football, And a brand new ‘kind’ of coach, I can even further say, That martino has a bigger share of the excitement for me than neymar, But not by much.

    • barcadan says:

      I’ll be there too! way, waaaaay up in the stands. looking forward to seeing the dynamic duo in action!

  68. barca96 says:

    I read that a member of the boy band group One Direction was signed by a 2nd division English club. Not bad for a person who is busy singing and traveling most of the time. One thing I don’t like is that he only joins whenever he is available. That’s quite unfair to the lads who are actually looking ai it as a full time job and actually needs a salary.

  69. CuleToon says:

    Tonight, and only tonight, you’ll see a special typography for numbers and names on the shirts of Barça players. It’s a typography named «Anna», which is based on the handwriting of Anna Vives, a girl with Down syndrome aged 28.

  70. CuleToon says:

    And, today, on the shirts of all Barça goalkeepers you’ll see the name «Ramallets» in honor of the recently deceased Antoni (pronounced «Antóni») Ramallets. In «Anna» typography, of course.

  71. CuleToon says:

    Also, JDS won’t play tonight because of a small injury. So, the list of players for tonight is: Pinto, Valdés, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bagnack, Mascherano, Song, Bartra, Alba, Adriano, Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis, Neymar, Messi, Cesc, Dongou and Dani Nieto.

    No Samper… @#!

  72. ciaran says:

    So Rosell confirmed that we will be adding to the squad before the end of the month. I assume that the delay is because we are trying to sign David Luiz. If we were negotiating for someone cheaper I’d imagine that it would be done already as is normally the case.

    It’s getting to a point that I almost don’t care who the player is cos anything is better right?… not really. Our system is a complicated one and if we have to spend more than a certain player is worth but will work in our system I’d prefer it than to buy someone cheap who won’t.
    I want to see someone standing in front of our crest soon though.

  73. nia says:

    Where can I watch player presentation before the gamper game?

  74. K_legit in Oz says:

    No post/thread for the gamper?

  75. Kxevin says:

    Match comments post up.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Readers Online

Barca Shop