Categorized | Analysis, Thoughts

The (private) war for FC Barcelona

rosell

As many of you already know, the founding and spiritual father of this space, Isaiah, is gone. Real life beckons. But he sent me this, which he calls a “draft,” but which is actually an extraordinary bit of writing, and an example of more of what we are planning, hopefully, for the space this season. This piece is a bit of history, from back when a few of us were muttering things about a soon-to-be club president.

The interest now is first and foremost, as a lovely piece of writing. But I also expect it to have resonance when Joan Laporta officially begins his quest to once again, become president of FC Barcelona.

The victory parade runs for 5 miles through the heart of the city, snaking its way through crowded streets from the airport. Crowds line the streets leading to the colossal stadium, the largest in Europe, while the players ride in an open-topped bus. Flags are waved, trophies hoisted aloft, and bottles of cava are sprayed into the cheering masses. It’s May 2008 and Fútbol Club Barcelona, or Barça as it is known, has just won the European Champions League for the third time in the team’s history. The crowd and players, joyous and unrestrained, scream out “Visca el Barça i visca Catalunya!” “Long live Barça and long live Catalunya!”

Things could not be better on the field, but behind-the-scenes, the club’s history has taken a turn for the more dramatic. It is the classic tale of two men waging a private war using a public institution. One is a politician from the top of his perfectly coiffed head to the soles of his shiny shoes. He laughs for reporters, winks at fans, and has a penchant for expensive cava and cigars.

The other looks like an overgrown child; his ears stick out and he’s got a bucktooth grin that would win over any grandmother. He never looks truly comfortable in a suit, as if he can’t stop fidgeting with his jacket buttons.

For a while these two men, Joan Laporta and Sandro Rosell, ran FC Barcelona together as President and Vice President respectively. A fallout in 2003 resulting from disagreements on how the club should be run turned personal and sent slowly expanding ripples through Barcelona and Catalunya. Despite massive success, Barça is in the midst of a crisis of its own making that threatens to tear the club apart both financially and politically.

Most sports teams are owned by businessmen or investment companies, but Barça is owned by its more than 170,000 members. These socios pay a yearly fee and each is given the right to vote in Barcelona’s presidential elections, which take place every 7 years, and at the yearly General Assembly that governs the actions of the club. The institution is one of just 4 such sports clubs in Spain; the United States has just one similarly modeled team: the Green Bay Packers, who are owned by shareholders that act as voting members. Like the Packers and their Green Bay Packers Foundation, FC Barcelona has a foundation to which it donates 0.7% of its annual revenue, the percentage suggested by the UN Millennium Project. In 2010, that amounted to €2.5 million ($3.5 million).

When Laporta, a wealthy lawyer and the co-founder of Catalunya’s Party for Independence, took over the club in 2003, he promised to rectify the club’s woeful financial situation—€40 million in losses for the 2002-2003 season—and bring sporting success as well. He and Rosell, a young businessman associated primarily with Nike in Brazil, quickly turned the books around. They changed coaches and brought in new players in an effort to improve and expand the club’s brand and, thanks in part to the team’s on-field successes, the club was almost in the black by the end of the 2003-2004 season.

Image courtesy of webdelcule.com

Image courtesy of webdelcule.com

Laporta’s business model was based on growing the club’s brand internationally, gleaning more money from running the club as much like a corporation as possible, including television and image rights deals. The club struck a TV contract worth nearly $1billion with Spanish media company Mediaproduccion SL and then launched a successful membership drive designed to pull in thousands of casual fans and bring foreign-based fans into the club in a way that had not previously occurred.

Unlike in American sports, each team in Spain has the right to negotiate its own TV deal independently of all other teams. Because of this, Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two biggest teams in the country, control approximately 60% of the total TV revenue. This is fantastic if you’re a fan of either of those two teams, but if you follow minnows Levante or even the moderately sized Sevilla, you’re not guaranteed to see your team play on TV and your team is not guaranteed a steady revenue stream year-to-year.

The Barça brand became an international powerhouse with lucrative sponsorship deals from Nike, Audi, and Spanish beer giant Estrella Damm. Yet there was still a strong connection with the club’s motto, més que un club (More Than a Club), through a unique agreement with the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF, in which the club paid the organization for the right to put their logo on the team’s shirt in lieu of a paying sponsor. Laporta also ratcheted up the Catalan sentiment within the club and region. The senyera, the red and yellow striped Catalan flag, began to appear more frequently on the player’s jerseys and even on club press releases and documents.

Thanks in part to the Mediapro deal, ever-expanding membership ranks, and sponsorship deals, Barcelona’s long-term financial success appeared assured. In June 2010, however, Mediapro filed for bankruptcy and the effect on revenue threatened to be colossal. Still, with Laporta’s administration claiming large profits despite hefty transfer fees paid for players like Dani Alves and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there seemed to be no threat to Barcelona’s position as the selfproclaimed world’s greatest team. Barça’s membership smiled glibly and held their heads high as reports came in of other clubs looking at record debt levels while failing to win trophies.

FC Barcelona holds presidential elections every 7 years and in June 2010, the same month that Mediapro was sending a stinging reminder of the financial insecurity upon which the club had wagered its future, an election was held. Barcelona presidents are limited to just one seven-year term, forcing Laporta to run a successor in his stead while he himself turned to greater political aspirations. It was no secret that he planned to run for elected office in the Catalan Parliament and turn his sporting success into something more.

Into this mix stepped Sandro Rosell. Critical of Laporta whenever there was a slip up at the club and demurely silent during times of success, Rosell had become a vocal thorn in the administration’s side. He had overseen the beginning of the resurrection of the club and he ran for president on a platform of transparency and solid business ethics. Yet what had been an undertone of Catalan identity politics in previous years became the overarching theme connecting the 2010 political campaigns.

Former VP Marc Ingla ran on a motto of més català que mai (More Catalan Than Ever) while Rosell, speaking on Radio Marca during the campaign, suggested African players were taking youth academy spots from “our boys.”

The undoing of Laporta’s administration was swift and decisive. The election itself was held on June 13, 2010 and Sandro Rosell walked out with over 61% of the vote. Laporta’s hand-picked successor, Jaume Ferrer, came in dead last out of 4 with just 10.8% of the vote.

Backed by his enormous electoral victory, Rosell swiftly fired a broadside at Laporta when he declared, only days after taking office on July 1st, that Laporta had been cooking the books and what had been reported as an €11 million surplus for the year was really a €70 million loss.

The Laporta administration was accused of various indulgences with the club’s budget, including overuse of private planes, some €20,000 a game on catering to the presidential box, and almost €2 million in private investigations into players, coaches, and board members. Laporta’s treasurer, Xavier Sala-i-Martin, a professor of economics at Columbia University in New York, wrote a screed attacking Rosell’s numbers that he posted to Facebook, accusing the new administration of appropriating economic successes for their own budget and moving costs to Laporta’s prior budget.

The revelations that the books may have different “real” figures than the ones released earlier is no surprise, but it’s what has happened because of that discrepancy that is chilling. The annual members’ assembly in October 2010 held Laporta personally accountable for what was finally figured as a €48 million loss. It passed by just 29 votes, 468 to 439 with 113 abstentions.

Rosell presented the vote, but then abstained, drawing rolled eyes from some and attacks on his character from others, including respected Spanish journalist Santiago Segurola.

Rosell’s administration then promised that on November 2, 2011, they would release all the documents proving conclusively that Laporta had, indeed, cooked the books. It was a move billed as part of their open and transparent approach, but when the date arrived, only a short summary was released. It included no new information and was shown only to those who could personally show up at the members’ office in Barcelona.

A fundamental shift in the club’s approach to the outside world has occurred as well, with the Rosell administration introducing membership restrictions. The Laporta administration made a show of being open and welcoming to fans from around the globe through their massive membership drive, but now only current members, former members, direct relatives of current members, and those under 14 are allowed to be members. While not a particularly draconian set of membership requirements — anyone with a relative under the age of 14 can become a member, it just costs twice as much since you have to enroll them for a year—it is a fundamental shift in the club’s approach.

Despite these personal setbacks, Laporta managed to lead the Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència (Catalan Solidarity for Independence) party to minor parliamentary victory. He and three other politicians won seats in the 135-member house. He also turned his attention to defending himself in open letters, huffily calling the charges against him lies and suggesting that Rosell is in cahoots with Barcelona’s hooligan group, the Boixos Nois, who once threatened Laporta’s life for banning them from the stadium and went so far as to personally confront him in front of his house in 2004.

Fans can be fickle beings, of course, and whether or not Rosell’s attempts to “catalanize” and politically isolate the club succeed could come down to trophies won on the field, much as Laporta was banking on the team’s success to catapult him to regional office. If legacies are their aim, they would both do well to remember Josep Lluís Núñez, Barcelona’s president between 1978 and 2003. Despite his tally of 18 major trophies under his watch, Núñez is not a man well remembered by the Barça faithful thanks to political and financial troubles.

Given that Laporta managed 8 such trophies and Rosell has just 2 to his name so far, causing further uproar within the club could easily backfire on them, especially the current president.

What was merely a tiff between two rich businessmen has become a battle for the very soul of FC Barcelona. Members are aligning with one or the other, calling Laporta either a godsend or a travesty, leaving little wiggle room in between, and in the process changing the fundamental realities within the club.

A team founded by a Swiss, with an Argentine — Lionel Messi — as its star and spokesperson, its jerseys made by an American mega-company with a Qatari non profit foundation emblazoned across those shirts, has closed many of its doors to the outside world. It has chosen instead to reverse the expansion of the last several years and fight a battle on nationalist turf. This dichotomy, of being both international yet closed to that very fan base, has caused a rift in a time of massive sporting success and threatens to break Barcelona apart just as they are on the cusp of the unthinkable: being branded the greatest club of all time by everyone.

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92 Responses to “The (private) war for FC Barcelona”

  1. G6O says:

    It’s May 2008 and Fútbol Club Barcelona, or Barça as it is known, has just won the European Champions League for the third time in the team’s history

    That was in 2009

  2. providence says:

    interesting read, Great Insight

  3. Rami says:

    A good read and many new info for me, But unfortunately i have nothing to say, I don’t like engaging in the politics of the club, Sort of like a pacifist when it comes to these issues.

  4. allasFCB says:

    Too bad they started to fight with one another because they were an excellent duo back in 2003. Laporta as a president and Rosell as his deputy. Don’t forget that Rosell was the one who bring Ronaldinho to this club that basically changed the club forever. I just guess Rosell wanted more power…

    This is a very insightful documentary on Laporta’s election in 2003 and them two working together in case you haven’t seen it before for some reason.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQPnbML1WFY

  5. Ultraculé says:

    For me, both of them are pigs, even if they may have done some good things. A president for the most beautiful club in the world, the one I fell in love with, must have a president who must want to be a servant for the club, rather than those who are only interested in their individual and political agenda. It must be a people’s club if it wants to remain more than a club. The president must be like the PR team of Messi. Perceived to be invisible. Non existent. Whatever.
    Nice attempt by Isaiah in summarizing this private war for the outsider.

  6. stefan2k says:

    Lots of new insights! What do you guys think would a re-election of Laporta mean for Barca? I got the impression that Laporta is very much in favor of Rosell in regards to popularity although one cant deny Rosells accomplishments.

    On a sidenote: really curious about the Malaga game tonight.

  7. XaviFCB says:

    Remember Gaspart? Barcelona never have great presidents, but that was really the worst, worst president of all time. I don’t think that there was ever a big club so poorly being run as barcelona in that time.(maybe perez) seriously. like i said, personally i think Barcelona never had great presidents, so i just will hope that puyol will be president one day and now i just ignore all the stuff, Way to complex for me. The Rosell-Laporta couple was great in like 2003-2004 though.

  8. IamXavi6 says:

    thiago out for 2 months with ankle injury. poor bugger..

    barca to win tonight 4-1

  9. Salia says:

    7 months isn’t it

  10. Salia says:

    Oh no, you’re right 7 weeks.

  11. barcadan says:

    thanks for this – nice hearing from Isaiah from the “great beyond”. a good sum up of the history from the perspective of a disgruntled fan. i recently commented that its amazing that 2 douche-bags guided this club through its greatest moments in history. Cases like this can also be understood when you consider how power, fame and immense pressure can really twist a man’s character. not to mention scheming corporations whispering in their ear. . . democracy is often an illusion, and the priorities of our leaders are rarely our own. and yet, if you give up on that democracy (FCB is one of the few member-owned clubs) you opt out of the conversation. yes these men are flawed. are any of you goimg to mount a campaign?

  12. TITO says:

    Valdés, Adriano, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Song, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis, Cesc.

    • ciaran says:

      Interesting line up isn’t it.
      I would have liked Neymar to start but I want him for the second half. I also would like Cristian Tello to get more game time

  13. TITO says:

    Yes, kind i expected that.
    Neymar def for the second half.
    Maybe even Xavi should have been rested, or perhaps he will be substituted in the second half. Anyway, looking forward to the game.

  14. Messiah10 says:

    What is wrong with Iniesta? 3 or 4 really poor passes and has been tackled and stolen the ball from a few times. Just doesn’t look right. Vs Athletico as well.

  15. Messiah10 says:

    Thats more like it! Nice run by Iniesta there.

  16. Jafri says:

    Holy hell, Willy Caballero!

  17. Messiah10 says:

    What a shot!

  18. Messiah10 says:

    Brilliant finish! He’s saved us with a shot from outside that right side cutting in on his left so often. We need him on the field. Hopefully he stays healthy this season.

  19. Jared10 says:

    I tuned in at the 30th minute, but I was very impressed by the team…how did they look in the opening 30?

  20. TITO says:

    Well, it’s only 45 min gone, but Pedro is an absolute waste of space at the moment. Jessica Alba as well.
    Iniesta isn’t himself this season, though is still early to foresee how it will go on.
    But Adriano, Cesc, Masch, Pique are great.

  21. stefan2k says:

    Starting to like the new Adriano! Also Song is doing good

  22. 86ed says:

    Good game so far, especially from Sanchez on the right. But again, we eat teams of Malaga’s calibre for breakfast, who lack physicality in the middle of the park. Xavi and Iniesta can run circles around these players. It’s the big guys who aren’t afraid to be bullies who intimidate them.

    • swamidigital says:

      Xavi and Iniesta have run circles around many bullies in the last five years. It’s more than just physicality when our midfield gets overpowered. It’s lack of movement which forces them to hold the ball too long against those teams.

      • 86ed says:

        In the past, certainly they have. They’ve lost two or three steps in the last two years. I propose that we play we play them together against teams like Malaga, but try something else for Atleti, like the 4-2-3-1 with Song and Busquets in the middle.

  23. ciaran says:

    Adriano has had a decent game.
    The left wing has been terrible though, Pedro and Iniesta are both playing very poor in my opinion.
    Alexis is trying things but not very successfully but Pedro hasn’t done anything of note except falling over when he was tracking back although he did sprint 50 metres to rob someone of the ball early in the half.
    I reckon substitute Iniesta and Pedro and bring on both Neymar and Tello and move Cesc to midfield or bring on Sergi Roberto and Neymar and leave Cesc where he is.
    I would like to see Tello as a 9 in some matches at some stage, he’s a good finisher and has so much acceleration at he would be really dangerous with through balls, after we get a goal in a match.

  24. Jared10 says:

    Exactly my thoughts, would have like to see song in a more physical game. I like to see that Dani is being rested, but I think Xavi should be too.

  25. swamidigital says:

    It’s been said before but if Iniesta could shoot like Adriano…

  26. Rami says:

    We were toothless, Adriano’s goal was a saving grace, An increase in tempo needs to happen, Bringing ٍٍRoberto and neymar can aid that.

  27. ciaran says:

    So Dani Alves on for Adriano at half time, he better not be injured

  28. Jared10 says:

    I spoke too soon about Dani…

  29. Jim says:

    It’s fine I suppose- We maybe need to get used to scraping by without Messi. Can’t argue with Cesc’s movement up front. It’s all that’s happening for us. Neither Pedro nor Alexis seem able to beat their man although both are working hard. If Alexis genuinely has any pace he needs to use it when he gets a yard on his man. We’re certainly using the quick diagonal long ball more to our wingers, maybe more Alexis than Pedro but that’ll be because we have a team of right footers who tend to look right first. Not sure what Alba’s done wrong so far. Song taking a slagging on Sky but I’ve not really noticed anything so far. Adriano broken again ???

  30. psalmuel says:

    and why should either of alves or alba start over adriano in a big game?

  31. stefan2k says:

    Come on Adriano WTF

  32. Jared10 says:

    Not impressed by the yellow cards for complaining…

  33. simple_barcafan says:

    If you think we can win anhything in Europe with this defense, then you gotta be joking…
    Song’s positional awareness is really not up to Barca’s level..Xavi had to come back repeatedly to help out..And I am not even convinced of his defensive capabilities…

    • Jim says:

      To be fair, Song is just the backup who doesn’t get many minutes. But I would hate Busi to get injured though.

      • simple_barcafan says:

        you get minutes if you impress, most of the time in the second half, i felt he was running like a headless chicken and was providing no defense cover..Xavi started playing deeper and deeper to help out…I dunno if he is bad or Busi is so good, But at least he could maintain his position…

        • KEVINO17 says:

          You see what you want to see. Song’s positional awareness was excellent. You actually sit down and watch the game with an open mind you will see that he repeatedly stepped forward to aggressively confront the man with the ball and that produced a hasty clearance. If only Busquets could play that well.

  34. Messiah10 says:

    Gritty win by our players playing a tough organized defense. Bern had Malaga very structured and their DM was all over the place hunting us down. 1st half we lacked anything on the left as has been said. Iniesta started to show signs of his brilliance towards the end of the half and it carried over to the 2nd. I can’t believe Adriano would’ve been subbed for anything but an injury. I can’t believe he’s pulled something again! I maybe wrong. Maybe Tato thought we needed Dani pushing further up the field? I would’ve subbed Dani for Alba if that was the case. Neymar’s sub def got us into more dangerous positions. The final balls were just lacking today. Cesc played great, but he didn’t have accuracy in the box to pick a pass. No one really did. I 2nd the call for Tello to get more minutes. Not sure what’s going on there. Surely we could’ve rested Pedro this game and started Neymar or Tello and subbing the one for the other. Overall, great win in a tough envirnoment and I’m extremely happy with the 3 points.

  35. Jim says:

    The main problem for me is that’s another 90 minutes for Xavi. We can’t keep on this way. We need to find a way to put lower teams away and get him some rest.

  36. bhed says:

    Pedrito > Pedro! > Pedro > Pedro:-(

  37. nia says:

    WTF was that at the end??? Defence was at sixes and sevens. Like they just switched off or something. Thanks VV for saving the game (although some so called fans still give you a hard time because o that game in the supa copa last yr).

    Pity for Adriano and his injury problems coz, I really think he should start over Alba or Dani sometimes. Good match by ‘Lexus’ more of a threat than Pedro I must say. Helped create danger and chaos and had a few good crosses. Xavi, Ini look like they’ve played a few too many games and Masche was a beast till the last few mins.

    I dislike Elisue A LOT. He’s a dirty drama queen and what was with the head butt that went unpunished? Kudos to Ney for not reacting to that.

    • Rami says:

      They got tired at the end, Pressing is exhausting and they were free of this duty last season, They’re not physically accustomed to it yet, I’m sure this aspect will improve with time.

  38. ciaran says:

    There are pros and cons from that game for me.
    Cons:
    Iniesta is not his usual self, better in the second half but too little decisive runs and passes and no cutting edge
    Pedro was awful again, he’s a long long way from the Pedro of old and seeing the difference when he came off I think he’ll struggle unless he’s back on the right
    Full matches from Xavi Pique and Masch again
    Pros:
    Neymar really lit up the match when he came on, was fearless and decisive just unlucky that he didn’t score
    Cesc again had a good game but there want enough off the ball movement around him
    Song didn’t play badly at all, whatever the people who don’t like him say, he did well throughout and maintained composure
    Sergi Roberto got some minutes

  39. TITO says:

    I felt like we never pushed for a win, it was more like a training day.
    On the other hand, in absence of Messi, there’s no one else to stamp his authority on the field and take the burden on his/their shoulders.
    When Ney entered you could sense that hi got the ability and the will to take that burden, at least in the attack.
    These are games where Xavi or Iniesta should lead our team, and tonight, they didn’t. I don’t now why people are slagging Song when there were much worse players than him, players with much more experience.
    3 points are satisfactory so early in the season, without Messi. And Cesc is not Messi, so don’t expect him to do whatever Messi does. Cesc plays in his position when he is absent, but he gives it all with his limited abilities, and that’s more than enough for me.

  40. Gbenga_ says:

    Great game it was, not that we played really well but because at least we had some moments of tension. Funny to see pique try shoot with his back tho; great stuff from a striker….oops! Neymar is gonna be just fine this season, showing flashes of brilliance. Fair game, all important 3 points, that’s enough!

  41. ian_percival says:

    sometimes i dont understand people here,i can’t just endure the injustice towards song,its not fair,he had a very decent game today,every time people are calling for his head,i can remember the same critism towards yaya toure,even abidal during his early years at barca,let be civilized and see human beings as human beings.On the match today,our problem this season is gonna be xavi,he’s lately too slow,i think sergi should be inserted more often because xavi’s performance this has been irritating,he misplace passes and plays so unconcerned,he’s due,Madrid will surely rip us into pieces this season,there’s no stopping it,they’re extremely equipped,Bale is on his way for a stupid price,and who in our defence is capabale preventing a rout? Pique? Thats a fictional dream,we better buy a centre back ASAP or we will publicly embarrassed at home and in europe,there’s simply no other way,its only one way or we mar

    • ciaran says:

      I disagree with you on one thing, even without a centre back we are good enough to win the league.
      Madrid won’t have the consistency to beat us. I expect them to get 4 points against us in the league but we’ll still win the league. I do think that we’ll need a lot of luck to win the champions league with this squad though and unfortunately I can’t see it happening.

      I’m excited about Neymar though.
      I’d like to see a line up with him, Alexis and Tello too

  42. psalmuel says:

    don’t know what channel you watched the game on but on the channel I watched, song had a decent match. If I could recall clearly, he didnt concede posession bar that awful cross. He gave us that physical presence in midfield(which busi lacks) and was precised in his passing. He tracked santa cruz when smasch and pique went on vacation. IMO, he was one of our best players today. Song can never be busi so quit seeing him through the busi lense. If anyone is to be slagged, it should be pedro. He’s clearly not good enough for our tactical width system

  43. Rami says:

    My thoughts:
    I can’t be too harsh on the team, It’s an away game against one of the toughest teams in la liga, We played without our super-star, And the team is still in the process of regaining the pressuring and along with it the stamina that is needed.
    Malaga played the classical way against us, Deprived us of space and kept us rotating the ball far away from the danger zone, And it was mission accomplished for them to be honest.
    The thing is, When we’re faced with such tactics, Constant movements are need to deform the defense and open spaces, But that itself needs energy and stamina, But we’re already using a big chunk of it in pressuring process, And in a way we can’t have it both ways, Not now anyway, The team is not even near it’s peak physical condition, And until that happens, Be prepared for some tough, Close matches.
    So i’ll happily take these 3 points today and run without looking back.
    My precious, My precious 3 points.

  44. psalmuel says:

    LEAVE SONG ALONE! HE DID NO WRONG TODAY

    • KEVINO17 says:

      You’re right. But the herd see what they want to see. They didn’t want song, and he’s the back-up, so they just assume he can’t play. Song was excellent today. Lost count of how many times his pressure broke up a play. Certainly, defensively, he’s got a lot more range than Busquets.

  45. petog4realz says:

    I hope pedro rodriguez doesn’t start for the next 10 games. It pains me to say this,but pedro is shit. Tello or Neymar over him anyday

    • Kxevin says:

      Pedro isn’t shit. His goal scoring and work rate are very helpful to the club. Opponents are playing us in a way that minimizes his strengths. Nobody who is playing for FC Barcelona is shit, for the record.

      There will be matches where, with space to shoot, move and do what he does, Pedro will be a wonder. Other times, not.

  46. 86ed says:

    I liked this game considerably more than the 7-0 vs Levante. I saw things I hadn’t seen in more than a year: aggressiveness, for one. Sanchez is finally showing some balls. He’s digging in when challenged and is more willing to reach the by-line to get the cross, instead of passing the ball back. It’s only been three games, but so far so good. He does need to score though.
    What I didn’t like were the missed chances and our perpetual defensive weaknesses. Malaga could have been buried, and they could have won; they had their opportunities. S. Roberto finally made his debut. He’s a very interesting prospect. 6 points down, 108 still to go.

  47. 86ed says:

    Oh and in unrelated news, Thiago is out for two months with a fractured ankle. Didn’t something similar happen last year too?

  48. Kxevin says:

    A few quick notes:

    – People crack me up with the Song “positional awareness” stuff. He had a very good match today. Some crucial and very good interceptions, kept the ball moving, played it forward more than Busquets would. They are different players, and people should stop applying the Busquets template to Song. It isn’t going to work. Did he have some positional errors? Yep. About a tenth as many as Alba, who people aren’t saying isn’t Barça quality.

    – Speaking of, Jordi Alba isn’t good enough for me. Not even close. It isn’t that he’s a poor defender, it’s that he isn’t a defender. He will make an interception or clearance every now and again, but teams are targeting him for a reason. He is easily caught out of position, and when scrambling back, overruns the play a LOT. And don’t get me started on his tantrums.

    – Iniesta is in a purple patch. Hope he comes out of it soon.

    – Xavi needs rest/rotation, like now.

    – We have three players who the only way to stop is to foul them: Messi, Iniesta and Neymar. Free kicks and set pieces from dead balls, if they aren’t being worked on like crazy, should be. There will be lots of them this year.

    – Neymar, when he learns to play with this club, is going to be fun to watch.

    – Sanchez is just extraordinary this season so far. He is another one that people are just fouling.

    – This wasn’t a match for Pedro. Unfortunately, the matches for Pedro are going to become increasingly few. He needs space and people to draw attention away from him so that he can make runs and shots, because he can’t beat a defender straight up. Period. If Tello begins to develop at all, Martino’s decision making selections will be interesting.

    – Speaking of Martino, we still aren’t sure what kind of a coach he is, but he is definitely a boss. When questioned about the Bale comments and the Ancelotti response, he simply said that he believes what he believes, but this kind of crap shouldn’t be a press hooraw. Done. He also said that they are working with Neymar on not reacting stuff as much, and just playing football. Awesome.

    – Mascherano. Lordy.

    – Valdes. Double lordy with sprinkles on top.

    – Two matches, two wins, two clean sheets. Yes, for one we can thank the stars that a 17-yaer-old kid got the yips, and a square goalpost. But ya know what? History doesn’t record HOW, only that it happened.

    – Adriano. If he could complete an extended stretch of matches without breaking, Alba would be watching from the bench more often. Not sure how serious his hamstring is yet. At present, the club has said “discomfort.” Sometimes that means a week, other times an amputation is required.

    – Fabregas is glorious and vexing. He reads a match so well, and is always in the right spot at the right time, usually with the ball. Then it still seems like that takes so much brain power from him, that he then makes a poor decision with the ball sometimes. Gaaah! Still, playing brilliantly this season.

    • 86ed says:

      I didn’t realize people were slagging Song until I came here. I thought he played quite well; just what we needed. He certainly is more versatile than Busquets, who is one hell of a ball distributor, but generally, in my opinion, offers very little else to the team when we aren’t in possession. He forms triangles with Xavi and Iniesta but is neither quick nor particularly strong.

      The question I ask myself is why aren’t Song and Busquets paired in front of the defense. It might mean cutting Iniesta and Xavi from the starting XI, but I think it’s worth at least a try. It might offer more variety than the same-old same-old, especially against tougher teams who are more likely to overrun our diminutive midfield. Schuster mentioned something about everyone’s knowing how Barca would play. I didn’t take it as a compliment, personally.

    • KEVINO17 says:

      KEXVIN – Agree as usual. There are actually four who can drive into the box (if you include Alexis). That is so important in a small team like barca, because once they’re into the box, ball at feet, they’re like foxs in a chicken coop.

    • Levon says:

      Agree with pretty much everything here, except that I wasn’t blown away by Masche’s performance. Not saying he was bad, but I don’t think he was great either.

      Sanchez is one key pass/decisive action per game from being a superstar. Really excited about how he is playing right now.

    • Rami says:

      You made me giggle a couple of times.
      Does it seem uncoincidental that ever since martino, Our the Argentinan coach came, mascherano’s performances has been steadily high?, It shows how important the communication between a coach and a player can be.

    • Benj says:

      Completely agree with your points Kev, but just to be a pain, I must ask: isn’t a ‘purple patch’ a good run, not a bad one?
      I know that here in oz if someone is having a purple patch, it means they are in form.
      Just being picky :)

  49. KEVINO17 says:

    There was one point where Alba tried to clear the ball three times and kept coughing it up – and there was almost a goal. Tata must have almost hard a heart attack.
    Interesting how Alexis just loves getting the ball with his back to a defender. Moment he feels contact he uses his strength and balance to spin past.

  50. KEVINO17 says:

    Does our set-piece defence look better than last year? Seems so (on limited exposure)

  51. Rami says:

    A respected spanish journalist ‘daniel campos’, Claims that barca didn’t stop the negotiations with david luiz, And the whole martino waiting for puyol is a ploy to cool down the media’s involvement.

  52. Jared10 says:

    What’s with all the negativity?? If anyone recalls how painful the Athletico game was to watch, this was 100 times better. Not our best performance.. but away against a top la liga side, I’ll gladly take 3 points.
    Visca Barca!!

  53. pr17 says:

    Hmm. i for one thought it was a bad game. not much movement from forwards. Pedro had one decent movement when cesc played a through ball but his touch was atrocious.
    I dont understand all this Sanchez and Song hype. Seems some people will defend them because they nailed their trousers onto the mast when they proclaimed the signings. Sanchez’s work rate is good but he just cant dribble past anybody or cross. I thought cuenca was better in both aspects. Damn his brittle constitution.
    Alba needs to watch some Abidal videos on defending. He is still important in attack since he can get past the defenders and send a cut back. but xavi n insiesta are ignoring that wing repeatedly. quickly get neymar on that wing and make it productive.

    Masche is a genius. Has anybody dribbled past him. He should learn to jump with weights on his ankles and become like cannavaro who was 5’10 and could outjump taller strikers.

    • Agree with you on Sanchez. I also believe people hype his work rate too much. His problem every time in box is that he wants to take an extra touch. Always he does it. May be the issue is that he is not at all a forward or a winger. I think Kxevin/Isiah earlier wrote a post of how he is actually a Number 10. I think that could be the issue. Whatever he does will look better if he plays as a number 10. But then that’s not possible for him at Barca.

  54. Temple says:

    An Unrelated News.

    BREAKING: Madrid and Spurs finally agree world record £86m Bale deal. [Daily Mirror].

    So, he’s broken dude’s record, and would push dude outta his preferred position. Wow.

    Anyhow. El Classico, now an exquisite chalice.

  55. Salia says:

    Sky sports are saying that tottenham are in negotiations with more than one club and also that they are yet to agree a deal with real madrid. Sky sports are normally very reliable too.

  56. Ultraculé says:

    – Unimpressive game but I’ll take the 3 points happily.
    – We need to show a similar away form like last year’s to take this year’s Liga.
    – Messi’s injuries are a cause for concern. How is it the guy managed to stay fit for all of Pep’s 4 years?
    – How can we ensure Adriano has better durability?
    – Valdes was huge yesterday. Saved our asses.
    – Is there any chance of us still buying a CB before the window closes?
    – Is it just me, or has Xavi become way more conservative? He is not looking confident receiving and dribbling the ball in tight spaces and looking for the killer through ball that came naturally to him before? In other words, he has become less attacking.
    – Whats up with the funk Iniesta is in? It’s of paramount importance that he reproduce last year’s form and magic, now that our deputy MF magician in thiago has left.
    – I thought Song was decent. Different to Busquets, but effective.
    – I very much liked Neymar’s cameo this time. Impressed me the most in our colors yet, in this game.
    – I think Neymar should start taking atleast 50% (if not more) of the freekicks Xavi feels entitled to take. Same for corners.
    – I like that EE feels compelled to spend 100M + on their #11 to compete with our #11. Lets hope its a disastrous gamble for them and a rewarding one for us.

    Visca. We need to win more games like this one for silverware hopes, be it in spain or europe.

    • norden says:

      To the “How is it the guy managed to stay fit for all of Pep’s 4 years?” … Some say that Guardiola changed Messi’s diet and that made him more injury resistant.

      Here’s an article about it:

      http://www.givemesport.com/372197-lionel-messi-the-barcelona-star-and-his-injury-problems

      Does not say whether Messi has a different diet now, though.

      • htMillBay says:

        There’s such a thing as cumulative mileage on an athlete’s body. Drive that thing like a taxi and it won’t last as long as your personal car. Pep and Tito rode Messi like a cab-88% of available minutes.

        • norden says:

          Actually, your explanation makes more sense. I don’t believe that after Guardiola left, Messi went back to steaks, coke and sweets.

          • Kxevin says:

            Yes, yes, thank you, yes, yes, YES!

            If you buy a car, and drive it like you stole it for four years, then you hand the keys to someone else, and they drive it like they stole it for a year, then you get it and it doesn’t run so good, some might say “Hey, what did you do to the car?”

            Others would say it’s a wonder the car didn’t break down sooner.

  57. Jafri says:

    Bale’s at Madrid. Now how about we buy that new CB?

  58. y2k156 says:

    Good win, tough match. Tougher than i expected it to be.

    Specifically want to say about Alba. Was ambivalent about him when we signed him and have gone off him. He is a good player but not a right fit for us. Also, he is not a defender.

    Football, at the end of the day, is a physical game and we need some height. With Alves on one side and Alba on other, we will be weak defensively.

    We need a bigger left back or right back to compensate for lack of height.

    • htMillBay says:

      I think Alba is a long-term plan to replace the Alvez act. Our attack will be more left-sided with Iniesta and Neymar on that flank, as the right flank becomes more defensive. It’s natural when Montoya starts to get more minutes. Right now, Alvez still has a few miles left and is invaluable in intangibles serving as Neymar’s tour guide and paisano. Masch is one of my favorite players but we need to sign a taller, pacy converted DM type to partner Pique. Perhaps Bagnack can be the answer as early as next year, this year is a tight rope for fans unless Zubi can pull a rabbit out of the hat or Puyi drinks from the fountain of youth (ain’t gonna happen).

      • norden says:

        I would rather buy a big defensive full back than a center back at the moment, so that Barca does not have to play Alba and Alvez together.

        Someone like younger Abidal would be perfect.

        • htMillBay says:

          Or the old Abidal.
          The Yaya was reported as saying Barca is still the club of his heart. I say hire him back as the new CB signing and pay him whatever Citeh does. Or switch to a 3-4-3 system with two DMs. Right now, the opposition has been pressing the heck out of our midfield as they sense it has lost a step.

  59. psalmuel says:

    yestaday’s match was just as expected. For the past 4 or 5 seasons, we’ve not learnt to win without messi: every tactical tweak was made to suit messi. What happens if is not there? The team lacks direction in attack. I just hope, messi doesn’t get to play, or atleast, start every match, so the team can learn to play without him. Personally, come wednesday, I’d be drooling over a line up of ney/tello,cesc and tello in attack, ini,busi,song (its gonna be physical) in mid and *adriano(hoping he’ll be fit), smasch,pique and alves in defence

  60. psalmuel says:

    *ney/tello,cesc,lexus

  61. Levon says:

    New post is up. No, it is not a review.

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