Yes, Messi’s broke, aka “The rush to blame shouldn’t bypass a mirror”

messhurt

Injuries are part of athletics. The capriciousness of the human body, ergonomics, a way of movement that is just fine a million times but is NOT fine a million and one times … it’s all part of the deal. There’s never a good time for them, particularly when they involve the best player alive, Lionel Messi. But essentially, stuff happens.

And as people natter, speculate and finger point about what might or might not have been, why a great player is suddenly being let down by a stupid body part, it’s hard not to wonder, once again, what is going on with Lionel Messi.

He hasn’t really been right since pulling up lame on a Paris cow pasture, but it has always been “two weeks.” Two weeks here, two weeks there and pretty soon you’re not only talking about real time, but unavoidably, you start to wonder … what if it should be more than two weeks? And then you don’t wonder, because what supporter, what devotee of the Beautiful Game isn’t selfish? Messi does the absurd. All the time. Goals that would make a mortal player pose, rip off his shirt and retire from the game, Messi knocks off, points to the sky to say “That’s another one for you, Grandma,” and gets set to do it again.

Who doesn’t want to see that? Who doesn’t want to still the thought that maybe, just maybe, people are conspiring to kill the golden goose. Ssssh! Just give No. 10 the ball and let him play when he wants.

Only lately, it hasn’t been that easy. Only Messi could have the stats that he has, spectacular for any mortal player, and have people wondering what’s wrong. This is what it’s come to, and you wonder if in some ways it doesn’t hurt as much as his wounded hamstring. Great players are immortal. We think they are going to go on forever and ever, because why wouldn’t they? It’s easy to ignore the changes that happen in plain view as the life of a player goes from talented Masia graduate to killer talent to star to superstar to megastar to diminutive deity. But this time, let’s not.

What fascinates me more about Hamstringgate is that to my view, narratives are lagging behind sporting reality. So culers fret and worry, “We don’t have Messi, what will we do,” or “It’s going to be difficult.” And they don’t look at the fixture list, so let’s start with that:

Granada, H: A Liga gimme. And at home.
Ajax, A: A Champions League tie in a group from which Barça has already qualified.
Athletic, A: A daunting task, but this would be more troubling two seasons ago.
Cartagena, A: A Copa del Reig tie that the team should walk.
Celtic, H: Home cooking in a Champions League group stage finale.
Villarreal, H: The one worrying fixture, but Villarreal have climbed to 4th place by playing open, flowing football. Bring that open game to the Camp and see what happens.
Getafe, A: For sure, anything can happen. But this resolute Barça don’t worry me at Getafe.
Elche, H: A newly promoted side, at the Camp. It’s not in the cards for them.

That is the next eight ties. If Barça ran the table in that list, nobody would be surprised. I don’t expect that they will, but that would have been true even with Messi at the ready. But the club, barring any more injuries, is in excellent shape for what is to come.

But it’s in even better shape because despite statistics that would be gaudy for any player not named Messi, he hasn’t really been himself since the end run of last season. People can have all sorts of speculation about why, but why bother? It’s all foolishness until we hear something definitive from the player, aside from a press release that raises more questions than it answers. So the team has kinda gotten used to having a diminished Messi, strange as that sounds. And the way that Neymar, Sanchez and Fabregas are playing, coupled with the way that Martino is coaching, you have to like our chances.

fabs

The team is also riding some luck in that Sanchez is in his salad days, and we shouldn’t be facing as many parked buses set up to stop Messi, which will open up the pitch for a player like Pedro. And Cuenca probably couldn’t have picked a better time to be fit, training with the group and clamoring for a shot at being in the rotation as a right-sided can opener. Expect to see him in a CL tie and some Copa action. Any way you look at it, this team is ready.

Now, for some blasphemy

ZubiZa and the board have mostly made the right decisions in having this club ready to deal with two Messiless months. I say mostly, because Thiago would have been rather useful right now, and the physio situation was clearly boneheaded. But that is history. Present is that the Neymar purchase was immense. In signing off on the acquisition of Neymar, Pep Guardiola already understood that his tactical bandage of having Messi carry the team wasn’t a viable long-term solution. The Ibrahimovic gamble failed. Time for the next move. Then Guardiola left, and things got loopy. But Neymar has demonstrated that he is ready to step up. He has been the man for Santos, and is the man for Brazil. Barça is a step up that he’s already ready for.

Then there was the appointment of Martino, a coach who seems to have transformed this club. But more notable than his tactical changes are the psychological ones. This club isn’t really interested in even considering the notion of losing. It’s steel.

Speaking of blasphemy …

If you get a failing grade in a class, who’s fault is that? An overzealous parent might say that the teacher failed the student. The teacher might say that the home environment for the student was such that doing the work was impossible. But at the end of it all, the kid didn’t do the work.

Likewise in the rush to assign blame for the Messi injury, don’t neglect a look at the player. There is homework necessary to stay fit. I have written this before, but it’s easy to slack off when demands increase. I can’t imagine what being Messi AND being a new dad must be like. But I would bet my house that unavoidably, things weren’t done that should have been. No blame. It’s just what life does.

Messi is a grown man who knows what he has to do. When the club promoted Juanjo Brau and jettisoned Emeli Ricart, no player or person associated with the club had more weight as regards making sure the right thing was done than Messi. Is he supposed to be demanding? When his ass is on the line, yes. You bet.

Think about the last time you went on vacation and changed time zones. You stagger off the plane, find some food and go to bed. Imagine getting off the plane, dealing with promotional events, maybe snagging a nap and then running around on a pitch for 90 minutes. Then some post-match stuff before heading to a hotel if you’re lucky, back on the plane to the next destination if you’re not. Now do it again. And again. Stuff that you were supposed to do, well and truly meant to do, is going to fall by the wayside. Impossible for it not to.

nzm says:

There’s also another factor – first-time fathers. Messi, Cesc, Pique. All going through some sort of slump after their first kids are born. Extra duties, new focus, their own needs are de-prioritised which is bad enough if you’re a normal 9-5er, let alone a top-performance anything. And these guys look like hands-on fathers to me, as much as they can be.

I’m suspecting that a lack of recovery process has a lot to do with it but, more importantly, his dietary regime must have slipped. The blame is being channeled to Brau who has been THE consistent factor throughout this whole period. But, according to LaTDP, Brau recommended that Messi see a dietician and he’s lost 2kg since summer, so something is definitely amiss in that area.

It’s Messi. Plain and simple. He hasn’t taken care of himself and hasn’t learned to say no. Plus his obsession with playing, playing, playing and no one standing up to him hasn’t helped.

His summer program was redonkulous. Time to give the charity thing a miss and concentrate on relaxing. Saw your comment about only one who could understand what he’s going through is Cristiano. Well, even Cristiano knows that the summer is for chilling, having a good time and recharging the body. Have never known him to go off on such stupid worldwide junkets as Messi went through.

junket

I don’t care whether anyone else thinks the team was set up for Xavi – it was set up for Messi. We could function without Xavi when he was injured, but not without Messi. The whole team shape and performance went awry when Messi wasn’t on the pitch. It didn’t when Xavi couldn’t play and was replaced by Keita or Yaya. The tactics may have changed to suit Keita or Yaya, but the threat never went away. It did when Messi wasn’t on the pitch in the years after Henry & Eto’o.

I also wonder about his psyche. I think that the attention that Neymar and Alexis are now getting is playing on him, somehow. He’s not feeling as if he’s kingpin. Especially if he can’t play with an injury. And perhaps that’s also driving him to come back early because he feels the need to prove himself.

Plus, Tata now is forming teams to do without Messi – mainly to help him, but maybe he doesn’t see it that way? Perhaps he’s feeling less important?

It’s silly – we all know that. But he’s a 26yo kid who has hardly had a normal upbringing. The best thing they can do for him is have him work with a motivational coach like Bartra is doing.”

Can’t think of anything that I would change, or disagree with there.

And then …

Let’s not forget the show pony traveling cluster of a preseason that left the team in frankly, shitty shape. That’s on the board. Is the Messi injury also in part because of the evil moneygrubber running the club? You bet. All in all, a crap situation.

And anyone thinking this wouldn’t have happened if Guardiola was here, should reconsider. He set the table for Messidependencia. The board then screwed up by not realizing that the Messi reliance was a tactical reaction, not the way things are. The burden was too big. Take all of that, put it in a giant pot and it conspires to break the best player alive. And if it doesn’t change, he will break again and again.

Put another way, during the Guardiola years, Messi was durable. He was one of the team’s best defenders, and a demon on the press. As goals dried up and Messi became essentially the sole source of them, in Guardiola’s last year the Messi Rules came up as discussed by Sport and MD, in which the player was released from full-pitch duty so that he would be able to score goals. So he walked, or stood around until the ball came to him, then swung into action.

And it worked. He scored gobs of goals, even as the damage to the team on the defensive and pressing end was clear for anyone to see. “I’d rather have Messi scoring goals than pressing,” so many said. A few disagreed, but something more significant happened, for me.

When a player is said to be match fit, he has done the running in match conditions, where he has the speed and quickness, the match savvy necessary to function at the highest level, for a full match. When a player stops running, stops pressing and being a full part of the team, it will inevitably take a toll on his overall match fitness.

Stationary Messi worked for a while, but then — this is my opinion alone — match fitness started to diminish, coupled with the fact that Messi’s style is a series of abrupt, violent starts, stops and cuts. A player warms up to come into a match. If a player who was about to enter a match stood around, walked about then entered the pitch, people would think that player was crazy.

But pre-match warmup aside, that’s how Messi plays. Walk, trot, stand, explode into life, walk, trot, stand. Initially, when Messi would lose a ball, he would sprint after the player and fight to get it back. Recent Messi stands there and watches his teammates deal with it. He has a different job. But just as you warm up a car, you warm up a player. If he stands around, then suddenly sprints and makes a bunch of hard cuts, he isn’t going to stay healthy for very long.

Nerdy doctor stuff

I went nosing around to see what exercise physios have to say about recurrent hamstring injuries, and it’s interesting. One says:

“Sprinting subjects these muscles to high tension loads and sudden tears can occur.

“Chronic hamstring injuries usually arise from an improperly rehabilitated acute injury, but may occur as the result of small amounts of trauma repeated over a long period (i.e., distance running). Poor hamstring flexibility increases the likelihood of small tears, which in turn cause the muscle to shorten and get tighter. A vicious circle can become established.”

Here’s another one:

“… they are typically caused by overstretching or overcontracting fatigued muscles, and are generally considered an overuse injury. The basic causes are the following:

1. Overtraining. If you push hard every day, there is no time for muscles to rest and recover. Sprint training causes micro-trauma to the muscle fibers and is as tough as leg exercises in the gym. If you train hard every day, or even every other day, then there may not be enough time for your muscles to recover. Give your muscles time to rest, recover, and grow.

What about the past?

Anyone who says “Messi didn’t get hurt under Guardiola” is extrapolating the worldview that they want from an existing conclusion — particularly as the conditions leading to Messi’s injury were sown under Guardiola. If Guardiola were still coaching this club and the same crap was going on with the team and its star player, Messi would be just as hurt as he is now. Absence doesn’t absolve one from probability of partial culpability, because the issue is wear and tear, in addition to who was driving the car when it broke down.

To be sure, some boneheaded stuff was done last season, particularly after Messi was broken the first time, which was the time to make sure that he was properly healed. But. Take a coach feeling pressure of the ghosts of his predecessor, take a player who plays when he wants and probably isn’t above convincing physios that he feels better than he does so that he can do the thing that he loves more than anything (well, not any more, says Thiago Messi), and you get a rush back to duty at a time when the player should have been healing.

At the start of Messi’s career, he was playing football. Who the hell knows what he was eating, doing for preventive maintenance or anything. Guariola came in with a plan, and Messi stopped getting hurt because the player was being treated with a wholistic approach. But the player was also getting rest in between, because he wasn’t yet the Greatest Player Ever™. As he began to score more and more goals, become the subject of more and more highlight reels, that all changed. Rest got shorter as the load also increased. And he broke. Duh.

Take a driving trip, and what do you do when you’re hungry? “Luckily, we have a cooler filled with things we’re supposed to eat that are good for us. Let’s picnic.” Maybe. More likely, it’s “I’m hungry. What’s open around here?” And you do some kind of fast food, or something that isn’t part of any dietary plan that you might have.

Now imagine you’re Messi. Easy to see how things can get all screwy.

So, is it Messi’s fault that he is injured? Not completely. But he as as much culpability as the people who took advantage of him, riding him like a rented mule, rushing him back from injuries, setting him up to shoulder a load that he couldn’t long-term and waiting too damn long to get him the help that he needed. If Neymar wasn’t coming last year, there should have been somebody laid in to make sure that Messi didn’t have to do the Don Quixote against windmill after windmill. Yes, he scored eleventy billion goals.

But right now, who wouldn’t give a pile of those goals back to see a hale, hearty, grinning Messi, slaloming around defenders and slamming yet another improbable goal home.

Instead, you have a player who has a recovery program devised that is almost certainly longer than it needs to be. You don’t need 8 weeks to heal a hamstring. But you do need 8 weeks, liberal doses of home cooking and familiar arms to heal a hamstring and a psyche. Let’s hope it works.

Iniesta and you

Barcelona's Andres Iniesta celebrates his goal against Real Madrid during their Spanish Super Cup second-leg soccer match at the  Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona

This board is nasty. We know it’s nasty because stories came out recently that Iniesta, in his ongoing contract renewals, has deemed 12 million per year insufficient. And people wonder what is going on with a situation that should have been resolved.

The player has said that he isn’t leaving, and that money isn’t the reason for the holdup. He has spoken of a feeling, a lack of something essential that many suspect lies at the hand of Sandro Rosell, the very man who has said that he is going to take over the negotiations, to get them done. And he will look a hero when a player who has already said that he isn’t ever voluntarily going to leave Barça, stays.

So. What if the stories in the press about moneygrubbing Iniesta are plants to deflect attention from what he really wants and needs from a club that has jettisoned his favorite trainer (Ricart also nursed Abidal back to fitness), and created conditions in which his best friend will leave on a free in the summer. (Before you say “Valdes just wants a new environment,” it’s worth noting that by all accounts, he still isn’t speaking to Rosell. Further, a player who loves a club renews THEN leaves, so that the club gets something for him. They don’t leave on a free. That’s spite.) That “feeling,” that nebulous something or other, is absent.

Another story broke today, speculation is that it’s from the Iniesta camp (to offset the moneygrubber stuff) that the player is demanding the return of Ricart, who was not renewed this summer, as the real stall in negotiations. I could see that as more likely than 12m per annum not being enough. But people start talking about what Iniesta is worth, instead of the situation that is in fact making him mopey. Could the player’s talk about it not being money-related be false? Sure. And that would go against everything that Iniesta would appear to stand for.

How likely is that?

The sale you didn’t know about

nou

Boy, remember how we were caterwauling about how Rosell had better not sell naming rights to the Camp Nou, blablablabla. Too late. Package deal with the shirt, in a lovely two-fer.

Look for part two of Levon’s most excellent adventure with Phil Schoen/Ray Hudson on Saturday.

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

44 Comments

  1. lea_terzi
    November 14, 2013

    Thanks again for your fantastic work, Kevin! Will read the whole post as soon as I am able.

    Reposting from the previous thread, since it seems relevant:
    I just re-read a chapter in Xavi’s book (Mi vida es el Barca) where he talks about considering an exit right before the force of nature that is Pep Guardiola changed everything. He talks about (in my interpretation) how when there’s discord at the club, it affects team play, and especially the mood of veteran homegrown players who are Cules through and through. How constant pressure, criticism, rumors, impatience and insults from fans and the press wears on them, until they have nothing left to give the club they love. Apparently, back then homegrown players had it tough, their quality was doubted and the crowd called for expensive signings in their place. Xavi himself was called a cancer. Victor is mentioned at length (the book was written in 2008, right before we won everything and the Legend was born). Luis Aragones and Pep Guardiola changed the mentality of Spain and Barcelona by being charismatic, inspirational figures that united the team around a common ideology and against all adversity, and most of all, by winning. I just hope this revolution lasts, and we don’t slip back into the old habits now that Pep is no longer there to right the ship.

  2. November 14, 2013

    Well structured article,but I wanna go against nzm_fcb Blasphemy on Messi.The part where you were talking of his psyche is laughable. Assumptions shouldn’t be made in sensitive piece like this.I feel Over-sensationalism did set in “For the love of god,he’s not inferior to any FCB player” however well written. Agree on 80% of the points noted.As for Rossell he’s maximizing profits for the good and financial running of the club.That’s all.

    • November 14, 2013

      Sure, go ahead, Laugh. But kudos for not taking long to be the first one to make this comment, as predicted by some!

      The physical side was questioned, why not question the mental phsyche as well?

      It’s all part of the package.

      Graham Hunter said that Messi had told him that he was struggling to cope mentally with the injury.

      8 weeks for a hamstring as Kevin points out? It’s more than that. If Messi is being given time out because he needs to recover – it’s physically and mentally.

      https://twitter.com/FCBarcelonaFl/status/401006057452867586

  3. DianaKristinne
    November 14, 2013

    I think that there is enough blame to go around. For every level of the club, the Argentina NT, the family, the management, Leo himself… The fact the he went almost 5 full season without a break made everyone somehow believe that he was unbreakable. That they can push him as much as they want (himself included) and nothing will happen. Hopefully this is the moment of awakening for everyone and past mistakes are not repeated. After his latest injury in Almeria, he came back for the Milan game and the Clasico. But it was like he was playing with fear. Not making his usual runs because in the back of his mind he knew that he could have a relapse. So, in taking care of not having a relapse on his right leg hamstring he got a tear in his left leg hamstring… I hope that this time with his family, away from the madness in Culer Town and with a “mini-preseason” done right he will come back without that fear. That he can trust his muscles not to fail him again.

    The moment in the season is not too damaging to the club. All things considered, it could have been much worse. Trust the team, trust the coach.

  4. fugacanonicax
    November 14, 2013

    Another beautiful piece from Kevin. The way the arguments were made is wonderful.

    I am not worried about the team without Leo right now. Martino will make necessary adjustments to grind out results as he sees fit. The team will miss Messi in some of the games but I am more worried about Xavi’s right now. Thankfully he hasn’t traveled with La Roja this International break and that would give him some much needed rest.

    I believe however that the burden of not having Messi doesn’t fall on Neymar along. He is a young player who can shoulder responsibility very well but doesn’t mean Its his burden to shoulder Leo’s absence. I would not like to enter the new year with two of our forwards trying to recover form injuries.

    Kxevin If i remember correctly talked about breaking the ‘golden goose’ often in his twitter. Some of us have already seen it coming. Messi was physically fit the start of this season but this conjecture overlooks the relapse that can occur from previous injuries.
    Mr. Graham hunter published a lovely article on this subject too. He talks about the holistic approach which was used to keep Leo fit. Most of us remember the number of times Messi was out injured with some kind of muscular trauma in his early years. Everything matters in this respect. Rest, diet, sleeping habits, training regime to name a few. Messi has pushed himself to the limit where no one else can claim they have pushed themselves to the same limit. However, unlike previous years there has not been as much ‘cushioning’ of the blow as there were in previous years. Messi is at fault but not as much as the club or even his national team. Messi is not 21 anymore and those injuries that used to heal after 2 nights of good sleep doesn’t heal themselves in the same way anymore.

    I don’t understand why Messi has to release a statement about Brau being promoted. Goes to show the complete level of incompetence at the board level. They never gave a clear reason for Abidal or Ricart leaving. Everything happens in the shadows and board only divulges extraordinarily important information only after after something has taken place and not in the General Assembly where people actually can have a say about the decisions. Its a whole array of snide underhand dealings mixed with the right amount of ineptitude that has made this club almost a joke.
    I see a fellow commenter @Samcenafcb say that “As for Rossell he’s maximizing profits for the good and financial running of the club.That’s all.” and I think its the funniest remark I’ve read all year.
    The club isn’t even close to being in a state of being bankrupt. Rosell feeds this information to make himself look like a saviour and at the same time make his predecessor look bad. Any club nearing bankruptcy doesn’t make a purchase of 57M priced Neymar. A club in unstable financial condition doesn’t even contemplate building a new stadium to replace ‘Camp Nou’.
    Laporta wasn’t a saint but atleast he didn’t try and destroy the sporting projects. I don’t think many culers view it that way though. I’m not even going to get into Barca B and Eusebio.

    • Jim
      November 14, 2013

      Not clear what you think is in it for Rosell if he “destroys” the sporting project.

      • fugacanonicax
        November 14, 2013

        Rosell tries to run this club like a Business entity. Barca are not just another club much less a Business company. The state of the first team is a symptom.

        • Jim
          November 15, 2013

          Yes, but you imply he wants to destroy the sporting project. Why would he? What benefit would he gain? That doesn’t make sense.

          • fugacanonicax
            November 16, 2013

            I am clearly exaggerating about ‘trying to destroy’. His actions are however doing just that. Pep left and during his last 3 years in charge he didn’t receive any protection from Sandro Rosell nor from the board.Neither did the team. Rosell only speaks out when his ‘own’ name comes up. Pep left because of Rosell’s attitude not only towards him but also Cryuff. In fact SR doesn’t have a good relationship with any of our CL winning coaches. He was one of those who wanted to sack Rijkard when the going got tough that first year. Eusebio is still in charge of Barca B bcos he has good connections with Rosell. We posess really talented players but their tactical development is a matter of concern right now.

            The first team needed replenishment after Pep left. Rosells austerity claims gives him protection. Last year our coach had cancer and this showed especially in the CL results. The first team had plenty of misfortune but is still is one of the best in the world. But, my point is it could have been so much better.

  5. G6O
    November 14, 2013

    You should add the psychological factor to the list. I can only guess what it is to feel the pressure of producing out-of-this world stuff every game. Once you make the incredible become routine, people start expecting it from you every game. There were many occasions in recent time he would score 2-3 goals, but they would not be the special Messi-type of goal where he picks up the ball, dribbles past 2-3 players and scores, and people would be like “Meh, 3 goals, but he didn’t do anything truly special”. If you are expected to produce magic every time you have the ball it creates a burden that eventually starts impacting the way you play (and also the way you approach your training and preparation).

    I don’t know if this has influenced him, but most people in his place would find it very hard to keep enjoying the game the same way as they did before under impossible to meet demands from everyone; so I would guess it has. Cristiano actually is reaping the benefits of being the second-best player in the world right now, which are that the pressure isn’t as high and it is enough to simply score a lot of goals to keep people happy with your game (plus you have the added motivation of beating the #1 guy).

    This has in fact impacted negatively other players in that situation in the past. Ronaldinho was perhaps the best example – after that disastrous summer of 2006 (when he was expected to both produce magic and lead a dysfunctional Brazil ream to the WC, and of course failed), the smile was gone and he went downhill never to recover. Maradona resorted to drugs, etc. That kind of pressure starts getting into your head eventually. Hopefully terminal decline is not going to be the case with him, because he has a support network that few players in history have enjoyed, being raised in the club and everything, but the look on his face when entering the pitch has definitely changed over the last year or two.

  6. November 14, 2013

    Haha..So little details/ fact and too many assumptions. Rosell this Rosell that. For all sins Sandro has committed and the ones imposed on him by cules.I really don’t see the TRAGEDY in refurbishing the Camp nou.In life everything good comes with tough decisions. We are being too critical of everything Rossell, (Note: Edited) a cule thinks (End edit) he’s some guy ready to sink barca a logic which is not totally true.He has his flaws YES but damn he has made credible impact one way or the other. (See his transfer signings so far)Our debt issues should be reviewed from 2006-2013 and see the difference. I ain’t saying he is good or the best for the job,but please give credit when he deserves them.The Rossell scenario allows one to remember how critical we were to Valdes some time ago,not now that we are being Hypocritical now he’s leaving.

    He’s not the best but not the poorest.We all need to be cured.I bet you no one not even Lamporta is perfect. Can’t wait for 2016 so we can all get to see how the club is being run under a new president.

    Note:Every stipulated ink in this post is my opinion,please those who wanna crucify me should not take it personal. Its an open world out there and as time goes by things change both culture, value it all change to curb the demanding challenges of the present.EVOLUTION BECKONS PEOPLE.

    • Why would you consider Rosell’s transfer signings as great. Ok, the Neymar signing looks decent. But I will wait till end of season before calling time on it. Most of his signing looks like something being forced by the management on the coach – Cesc(totally unnecessary), Alba, Song(we were looking for a defender there). So it depends. Then Abidal and Muniesa leaving for free. No signing this summer. Going after impossible targets like Luiz and Silva. I don’t think he has any idea of what he is doing in transfer market.

      As far as the financial situation. It was all vague from the beginning. He started giving the picture of we going bankrupt in the start, i doubt the same. It was his master plan of bringing in the Al-Thani’s. I mean everyone agrees that the Qatar Royal family is getting too much advertising space on Barca than any other sponsors of other clubs. The worst was the club supporting Qatari bid for world cup. How can he make such a decision? Why on earth would the club want to pick between Qatar, USA, Australia, etc. Wasn’t it better for the club to be impartial. I mean every summer we are flying the players to USA to get a better footing(financially) in there. Then wasn’t it better not to have picked a favorite? I can understand why Guardiola backed Qatar, he worked there. So that’s at least a kind of relationship.

      Also the shirt deal is something which escapes everyone. Rosell defended the selling of shirt to Qatar foundation saying that it’s a non-profit organisation and working for the welfare of people in middle-east. Now it has become very clear that it was a proxy to slowly bring in Royal family backed Qatar Airways.

      If as times go by the values needs to change, then I doubt those values were any real(it was just our glorious pretensions). Who needs values which can’t withstand the trial of time, money and power?

      • Jim
        November 15, 2013

        Don’t agree Cesc was totally unnecessary and I’m not sure why you think it was forced. Evidence? Where are the objections from Barca fans? Why isn’t there a clamour for him to be removed. I’m not sensing any hostility apart from some on this blog. Although I don’t know many , probably including me, who like the look of Rosell this is all shadow boxing. Nobody has yet laid a glove on him. I like the appointment of Tata, I like the Neymar signing, the shirt was inevitable eventually and we are still paying whacks out to UNICEF for nothing in return. The team is undefeated. Let’s have some perspective.

        • If you wanted to sell the shirt then sell the shirt. Why make up case by saying that Qatar foundation is not much different from UNICEF and so on. I think if we seriously put our shirt out there to be sold, then we would have got more from someone else. See it as business deal. Don’t sell it as an extended charity and then convert it into a business deal. Compare with almost every other shirt deal done by other clubs. We are giving too much advertising space in the name of selling the shirt. Qatar foundation is all over the place in Barca.

          Cesc signing was unnecessary at the time it was made. People were not complaining because he was a star. It took two season for him to be really a part of the team. And to make matters worse that is coming with a fall in form by Iniesta. And that is the problem, Cesc could replace two people – Messi and Iniesta. Both regular starters, unless we switch to a midfield diamond.

  7. ooga aga
    November 14, 2013

    i dont disbelieve that messi is having some serious physical issues, but i wouldnt be surprised at all if there is also some extra time being added to the estimated ‘recovery time’ this time around, as in, it would do well for messis career if he had most of a season off.

    last time he was out a few weeks, it happened right before an intl break.

    this time as well, and conveniently it is during a spot in our schedule when we dont have any massive fixtures for about 2 months.

    you couldnt have planned it any better.

    besides piques tweet, which NZM linked, other comments from zubi also indicate that Leo just needs a break.

    messi will recover.

    i am more worried about Rosell. im sorry, but you cant just credit that man with the neymar purchase and say he’s all right. it’s not all to his credit anyway. and meanwhile, there is the iniesta questions, the selling of the shirt and the stadium, and his general corruptness. man he makes my skin crawl. the Martino signing was great but im sure it wasnt rosell who masterminded it.

    • Jim
      November 14, 2013

      Couldn’t have been Rosell who masterminded it if it was a great signing could it?

      Not a great fan of club politics and don’t know enough to make any pronouncements on Rosell but it still seems to me that some of the raps he is taking are unfair.

      I’d also say that there isn’t a bigger fan of Iniesta as a player and a person than me but if he is holding the club to ransom over another employee then he is in the wrong. If Valdes is refusing to talk to Rosell that’s fine too but I’m not sure what would happen to me if I tried to pull that trick in my work.

      I’ll come back to it again. Iniesta is holding out imo because he isn’t sure Tata values the way he and Xavi play enough and isn’t convinced he won’t be seated more often than he feels he should be. All footballers have fragile psyches and I’m guessing Ini is no different. He’ll re- sign as soon as he’s sure of that.

      • November 14, 2013

        Neymar was a Rosell operation. Our president takes a lot of stick from me, but credit where credit is due, even as I wish it had happened a year sooner.

        The Ricart business is puzzling. I keep going back to the Iniesta quotes about “mood,” and “feeling.” He wants to make a point while he has the whip hand. I don’t believe the Ricart rumors any more than I believe the 12m per annum isn’t enough.

        The renewal is still allegedly on track, to be concluded in December. We will have to wait and see what happens then. But Iniesta will not leave Barça. Bet the house on it.

  8. November 14, 2013

    I’m not one to deify Guardiola, but I have a major problem with this comment:

    “Anyone who says “Messi didn’t get hurt under Guardiola” is extrapolating the worldview that they want from an existing conclusion — particularly as the conditions leading to Messi’s injury were sown under Guardiola… Absence doesn’t absolve one from probability of partial culpability, because the issue is wear and tear, in addition to who was driving the car when it broke down.”

    I take this to suggest that Messi playing as much as he did under Guardiola helped to cause the injury that Messi is suffering. This is false. “Wear and tear” from 2 years ago doesn’t cause injuries. If it did then everyone would get injured after a certain amount of wear and tear had occurred over time. This doesn’t happen. The problem with the car analogy is that the human body if treated properly can heal itself, a car can’t.

    Furthermore, Messi experienced that wear and tear for over 3 season under Guardiola and he wasn’t injured. Why not? If it is a cumulative wear and tear issue than it is clear that Messi should have been injured somewhere in that period. How do we explain that?

    Now look at the quotes used by the doctors:

    ““Chronic hamstring injuries usually arise from an improperly rehabilitated acute injury, but may occur as the result of small amounts of trauma repeated over a long period”

    “… they are typically caused by overstretching or overcontracting fatigued muscles, and are generally considered an overuse injury.”

    The key to both of these quotes is that improper care for an injury or fatigued muscles are the reasons that injuries become chronic. Normal wear and tear and fatigued muscles will heal with proper care and will not cause injuries.

    Therefore we come to the obvious conclusion on why Messi didn’t get injured under Guardiola and did later – improper care. Put the blame where you will – Messi for not managing his injuries or his body, the board for not renewing key physios, the strictness of diet or care for Messi becoming more lax while Tito was sick – all possibilities.

    What is clear is that Messi wasn’t injured under Guardiola due to the extremely strict rules Guardiola put in place to maintain his fitness, and a little (large) helping of luck. Messi has had ample time to rest in offseasons since Guardiola left and assuming he had the proper care the wear and tear from the Guardiola season should have ZERO effect on his muscles at this point. If he didn’t get adequate care during the off time then again, that has nothing to do with Guardiola

    • November 14, 2013

      Excellent comment, and good to hear from you.

      Improper care, as you conclude, is just one plank of the wholistic view to a broken Messi that is outlined above. And yes, also as we discuss above, the rules fell by the wayside.

      But as the demands on the player have grown, with WC qualis and the matches he plays for club and private foundation, to my view the toll builds, short and long-term. And yes, as I note above, the different way of playing that began under Guardiola is part of my involvement speculation. It isn’t one thing, but all of them, all at once.

      As you also mention, there is an immense amount of luck involved in a player staying injury-free. It’s almost like last year’s team got ALL the bad luck that the Treble side avoided. I don’t want to jinx him, but look at Alexis Sanchez this season, who is as hale and healthy as he has been. To my knowledge, there has been no specific program of care, and he certainly has as big a WC load as Messi.

      But he doesn’t have as big a load in the private sector, nor for Barça, which we can only speculate is a contributing factor. Ditto for Adriano, who isn’t as glass-like this season (so far). He has been working, with a preventive mindset, with club physios, and it’s paying off, thankfully.

      Ultimately, the real answer is unknown. All we can do is discuss, and speculate. Thanks again for the excellent comment.

  9. mom4
    November 14, 2013

    Scary! It’s all scary!

    Lots of symptoms…that 800 lb. gorilla in the room is becoming more noticeable. Can people open there eyes and see it before it’s too late?

  10. You got it spot on with Iniesta and Valdes situation.

    We fans are more or less crazy. remember some guys(not here) questioning Valdes commitment when he announced the decision. I have a feeling Iniesta situation also will end up the same way. If you look at the squad there is serious resentment against the board. Many are speaking openly mainly via social media or platform.

    If Iniesta decides to move away from the club, we need to respect that. I doubt it will happen. In the end the players have a short earning career and their peak earning period remains for really short term. So they will try to make the maximum out of that. I seriously doubt Iniesta’s case is this one. He looks angry at the Board.

    The simple fact is this. Would I switch jobs looking for a higher salary or a better perks or to get deserved respect? Yes I would. Then these players also could do that. In the end it’s just a job they are doing.

    • November 15, 2013

      Nice to know that you are in Bangalore. I am from Kochi, but comes often to Bangalore as my wife is working there. Hoping to see you sometime.

  11. TITO
    November 15, 2013

    It’s strange that nobody is mentioning the Ronaldo effect on Messi, especially when he rushes back to the football field.
    Regardless do we want to acknowledge or not, there’s a “war” between these 2 remarkable players, mostly on the pitch.
    I would have felt the same way as Messi is probably feeling if my main competitor is taking all the headlines.
    Anyway, we need him, recuperated, hungry, happy…

  12. stefan2k
    November 15, 2013

    Nowadays BFB is really taking it up a notch. Two great Kxevin pieces, the quite exciting Phil & Ray interview in between… I’m delighted!

    Very much agree with nzm and his assessment of the situation. Furthermore Tata really seems to come through to the players and motivate them (he wants the Alexis of Chile and the Fabregas of Arsenal..) which might be a bit more difficult with Leo, given the status he already has, than with the rest of the team.

  13. psalmuel
    November 15, 2013

    Seem like the ballon d’or is all about Penaldo has score 24goals so far this season and hence, deserves to win it. I’d rather its given to Ribery with Messi as runner up.

  14. November 15, 2013

    I agree with almost all points here and also by some of our friends.

    I am finding it difficult to understand just one thing. An injury prone genius is kept injury free by a professional, who is following him every where and keeps him fit for more than 4 years. Now which management will give a promotion to this professional, so that he no more has time to take care of this genius. If I guess it right, this must have been done at the end of last season or in the summer, after Messi got injured.
    We are talking about a football club who dream to get back to its best club ever status. In such a club, will a football crazy management every do such a job. I dont get it. Business and legacies seem more important than football. For some time I have this feeling that players are not quite happy with the board.

    • Jim
      November 15, 2013

      If he has done a great job does he not deserve promotion ? Is that not a more humane and caring action than deliberately keeping him in his present job and denying him promotion for our own selfish needs? It’s reward for the great job he did, is it not?

      • November 16, 2013

        I am sure he would have been happy with a better pay check too, and may be a different job/post name as well. Are we talking about regular office job here, no right? He is a physio.

    • stefan2k
      November 15, 2013

      Deuloshow fits perfectly! Amazing player…

      Tello could use a little loan too 😉

    • November 15, 2013

      He is maturing very nicely. I think the time away and not being the star of his team is doing him a lot of good. I have had my doubts about his attitude before, but if he keeps this up I definitely see him taking Tello’s place in the team, whether next year or the following one.

      • Jim
        November 15, 2013

        Agreed. He has been working really hard for Everton chasing back in the games I’ve seen.

  15. barca96
    November 15, 2013

    Some Zlatan gold;

    Nik Postinger @nikpostinger
    TV4 reporter—”Who’ll win the qualifier?” Ibrahimović—”Only God knows” Reporter—”It’s kinda hard to ask him” Ibra—”You’re talking to him now”

    *http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/soccer-dirty-tackle/zlatan-ibrahimovic-plays-xbox-satin-pajamas-embroidered-theone-210541918–sow.html

    *http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/soccer-dirty-tackle/zlatan-ibrahimovic-hopes-improve-swedish-stamps-zlatan-stamp-205111517–sow.html

    I find him more interesting off the field than on the field 🙂

    • lea_terzi
      November 15, 2013

      On the field, both he and Crissy have done little but complain so far. Still 20 minutes to play, though.

  16. November 15, 2013

    Sanchez scores against England in one of earliest goals they have ever conceded. Chile’s “everybody, thataway” approach is working.

    Alves picked up a small knock, but is expected to be fine for the Chile match next week.

    • IamXavi6
      November 15, 2013

      2 great goals for Alexis. He really is in top not form lately. Can only bode well for Barca while Leo is recovering.

  17. November 15, 2013

    Just had a lovely chat with a colleague who has gotten hooked on the Premiership, because it is being shown on the main NBC channel. Wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience. I think it’s really cool, and figured that new fans would be a happy side effect of the NBC Sports acquisition of the Prem rights. Glad to see it coming to pass, at least on my micro level. Wonder about macro.

    Interestingly, she said that her biggest wish was that they would make some concession to the newbies, which is interesting. Because she’s right. NBC essentially does what Fox Soccer did last season: here’s the match. There will be a pre-match for big ones, but not all of them. ESPN generally had a more useful pre-match than NBC, though.

  18. November 15, 2013

    sacrebleu, or, the French people who care about football (not all that many, really) will probably scream putain de merde (the ones who really care will yell enfoiré) now that the Ukraine has put France in a 2-0 hole.

    What do y’all think… a World Cup without les bleus?

    • mom4
      November 15, 2013

      Sad for Abi.

      Happy that Benz and the over-hyped Ribery are found wanting.

  19. IamXavi6
    November 15, 2013

    It’ll be a miss if they do not qualify. Having said that, I guess the results stand and the reality is despite their pedigree France have been poor for quite some time now. Feel for Abi.

  20. November 16, 2013

    while tuning into statistics is heavily reliant and remotely accurate, it can be argued that it takes all the elements of being human(propensity to be flawed) and the glamour of self-prejudice away from a discussion. yet aagain, a brilliant post and one that covers all areas of institutional scope ranging from the top most hierachy to the person-person probe, leaving no stone unturned. However(i bet u could sense that coming),in order for true independence of thoughts i’m going to try and create real-life scenarios as opposed to what “i” percieve as a statistical bias towards all matters tackled.

    firstly, the messi case, as stated, hamstring injuries have over 60% of recurring even when the most extreme measures are being taken, or maybe its just one of those injuries that can spring up at anytime, to anyone and he just happens to be that someone -human.
    messi’s injury was due to his astronomical amount of games played over the years even pre tito and lack of rest there of, due to unending post matchday commitments, or due to lack of person to person attention of his favorite medical watchdog(brau) – statistics

    rosell, iniesta and valdes, yes yes yes and yes! valdes is leaving because he wants to enjoy other cultures and is rebellous towards the barca hierachy making his best friend iniesta slightly unhappy and quite under-appreciated and severely seeking total uncharacteristic financial solace- statistics.
    valdes just wants to prove himself elsewhere and experience new cultures in a firm bid to get desired respect and recognition amongst fellow pros while leaving barca on a bosman in order to leave a standing memory of serving the club he loves till he couldnt anymore, ini is unhappy because neymar is now the number two man at barca and feels under-rated and almost certain to be sold in the coming summer if things remain as they are, rosell actually cares about our football and wants to make sure ini is tied and not hanged on the bosman noose waiting to kick his wishy stool-humangocredit

  21. November 16, 2013

    while tuning into statistics is heavily reliant and remotely accurate, it can be argued that it takes all the elements of being human(propensity to be flawed) and the glamour of self-prejudice away from a discussion. yet aagain, a brilliant post and one that covers all areas of institutional scope ranging from the top most hierachy to the person-person probe, leaving no stone unturned. However(i bet u could sense that coming),in order for true independence of thoughts i’m going to try and create real-life scenarios as opposed to what “i” percieve as a statistical bias towards all matters tackled.

    firstly, the messi case, as stated, hamstring injuries have over 60% of recurring even when the most extreme measures are being taken, or maybe its just one of those injuries that can spring up at anytime, to anyone and he just happens to be that someone -human.
    messi’s injury was due to his astronomical amount of games played over the years even pre tito and lack of rest there of, due to unending post matchday commitments, or due to lack of person to person attention of his favorite medical watchdog(brau) – statistics

    rosell, iniesta and valdes, yes yes yes and yes! valdes is leaving because he wants to enjoy other cultures and is rebellous towards the barca hierachy making his best friend iniesta slightly unhappy and quite under-appreciated and severely seeking total uncharacteristic financial solace- statistics.
    valdes just wants to prove himself elsewhere and experience new cultures in a firm bid to get desired respect and recognition amongst fellow pros while leaving barca on a bosman in order to leave a standing memory of serving the club he loves till he couldnt anymore, ini is unhappy because neymar is now the number two man at barca and feels under-rated and almost certain to be sold in the coming summer if things remain as they are, rosell actually cares about our football and wants to make sure ini is tied and not hanged on the bosman noose waiting to kick his wishy stool-human

    with this, u can see that the argument is weighed on a more neutral ground. without being remotely swayed by fore logic of any kind.

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