Ones that got away, aka “I love him so much! How can he DO that to me!?”

Thiagopep

Just had an interesting discussion on Twitter that, of course, became the seed for a post, on the ones that got away and the reactions of supporters.

These days, no word can spark a spirited discussion like “Thiago.” Culers are never on the fence with this one, be it that Vilanova and the board cast him to the waves in a little papyrus basket, or he’s a little ingrate. After all the club did for him … .

There are many ways to look at the situation, but let’s take a broader view, for all the exes out there.

Let’s start with a question: Does anyone care about Gai Assulin?

I know … who? People with good memories will recall that he was “the next Messi,” a winger/mid of astounding talent, etc, etc, who wanted promotion and first-team status. Threats were made, he got some playing time, and suddenly he was sold for a pittance, to Spurs. He’s now playing with Hercules in Segunda. Not sure how he feels about seeing the Barça B shirts these days.

Here’s another question: Bojan Krkic? The “Boy of a Thousand Goals” and his entourage snitted it up until the hand of the club and its coach, Frank Rijkaard, were forced, and he was promoted. He did some good, did some bad, ultimately regressed and was then sloaned (heh … see what I did there?) to Roma before working his way to Milan, and now Ajax. Word is that he isn’t coming back to Barça.

Third question:

What’s the difference between Assulin, Krkic and Thiago Alcantara? Let’s have a look, to be sure before we make any calls.

All three are Masia products, who wanted more playing time and first-team status. All three were hugely talented and much-lauded. All three got playing time with the first team, with good and bad results. Only Assulin was clearly not ready. All three left the club for a more promising future with a different club.

So. Now what? The biggest difference, for me, is talent and up side. Culers get so bothered about Thiago because he’s the real deal, rather than a Never Was or a Probably Will Never Be. But I wonder about other levels of that anger.

To recap, Thiago Alcantara had a clause in his contract, put there and agreed to by the sporting negotiatiors, that if he didn’t play a specified time amount in 60% of the first-team matches, his buyout clause would activate and he could leave for a seeming fraction of his true worth. He didn’t meet the specified standard, the buyout clause was activated and Bayern Munich swooped in.

And damn him, he’s playing well at Bayern. How dare he rub our faces in his quality?

And because questions are all the rage, these days, would anyone be at all mad at him had he gone to Bayern and flopped? Anyone who says “Yes,” should plumb their souls for the rage at Assulin and Krkic and compare the quantities.

Further riling culers is an alleged Thiago quote that he would rather be in a German hospital than sitting on a Catalan bench. Oh, boy! It’s like he talked about Xavi’s mama, or something. But let’s assume for a moment that the quote isn’t fabricated, as so many inflammatory quotes such as that one are. You can construe it a couple of ways:

1. That little weasel is slagging the club that did so much for him. He needs to shut up. Shame!
2. Even at Bayern, recovering from injury, he has a spot and the playing time he wants, rather than a bench role at Barça.

And now for the wild card round: Why aren’t people mad at Pep Guardiola, who left the club for a rival European giant that, if the they have their way, would stomp us, then grind our bones to make Bayern bread. What is the difference?

No, not suggesting that anyone have any animus toward Guardiola. Not at all. Culers will say, “He gave us so much that we can’t be mad at him.” But you know what? So did Thiago. And here’s another thing: Both are employees, who have the right to leave, seek a better situation, steal pens and pee in the water cooler on their last day. Makes sense to me.

A modern footballer is no different than any of us. If, in your current job, a competitor found you and offered you more money, status and responsibilities, who wouldn’t leap at the chance? That’s what Thiago Alcantara did. It’s as simple as that. He owes Barça nothing. The club gave him his start, fostered his talent, built him as a player and in exchange, the club got goals, passes, victories and reaped the fruits of his labors. Done. Fair trade.

During the protracted “will he or won’t he?” process, stories were planted in Barça-centric media that made him out to be a spoiled, greedy little shit, rather than an athlete looking out for his own best interest, as all athletes should. Vexing for him? Almost certainly. Did he say anything about it at the time? Nope. If that quote is in fact reality, is that a little bit of that rancor coming out? Probably, and why shouldn’t it?

Further, it shouldn’t matter how he left. He’s still gone. Even if board members skulked over to his house, spray-painted slogans on his garage, rang his doorbell and ran, so what? Still gone. Real reasons, rationales, none of it matters in the face of the reality that dude is gone.

And why should it matter? He’s a Bayern player now. If he said “And the water in Barcelona tastes like turds compared to the water in Munich,” it wouldn’t matter a whit to me. Because he’s a Bayern player. Further, he’s an ex-employee who made what was, for him, the best decision about his future. Of course he is happier there. He has playing time and status, and he isn’t looking at Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, wondering where the hell his playing time is going to come from. He isn’t looking at the Neymar purchase, and wondering about his possibilities for raising hell on left wing. Duh. Only a fool wouldn’t be happier.

Should ex-players say stuff like, “I’m starting, supermodels are feeding me ice cream and I have a new Ferrari, but I will always have Barça in my heart.” Sheeeit! Come on now, people. Does it say anything bad about their former employer when a player says that he is happy at his new club, and it was the best decision he could have made? Only if you construe it that way, as you sleep with rancor. For the player, it’s true. It doesn’t mean, in Thiago’s case, “Barça sucks and Bayern rules,” but simply that he made the right call for him, and is very happy about it. Done.

So when you think about Thiago and some statement, some pass he made, goal he scored, something or other and you start getting all riled up, think about yourself. There you are on TV, and someone asks you if you are happier at your new job. Are you going to decline to answer, mouth platitudes or sit there with ice cream-smeared lips, grin and say, directly or indirectly, “Duh!” Most likely the latter. And it doesn’t matter to your former employer, because you’re gone and have moved on. And they should have moved on.

Why should it be any different for football clubs and their supporters, in this modern game in these modern times?

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125 Responses to “Ones that got away, aka “I love him so much! How can he DO that to me!?””

  1. njwv says:

    Love this post. I wrote something similar when everyone was killing Victor Valdes for “only” fulfilling his contract.

    http://njwv.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/head-vs-heart/

    I can see how forcing a transfer and breaking a contract is worth being upset. But if done within the structure of the contract? No way.

  2. K-cule says:

    This is an excellent argument, and kxevin gives us good reasons we should not give a whit about Thiago. Except there’s something called diplomacy. Assuming the quote is true, he could have made his point clear by just saying he made the best decision for his career without bringing in hospitals and catalans. You’re surmised that Thiago got a better job and took a shot at it. True, but the parallels with regular job offers and athletes somewhat end at that. An athlete has fans, and their profession is dependent to a large extent on loyalty, love from the fans etc. Barca can always buy another set of skills similar to Thiago’s, and per your argument, shouldn’t give a crap. But when someone takes a chance on you, some faith that you will somewhat give back to the club in the future, you don’t say negative things about them once your relationship is terminated.As an individual fan, i don’t care about Thiago, but generally speaking, what he said was uncalled for – if it isn’t a fabrication. Not classy at all.

    • K-cule says:

      To illustrate the importance of fan love, think about L. Suarez. He’s an excellent player, but would you rather buy a ticket to watch him or Benzema – assuming you’re neutral to either club but you love the game? Fans buy tickets, bring in income that pays for the salaries etc. I am not saying a club with arrogant players can’t make money, but jersey sales, ticket sales etc are influenced by the affection players get from fans. Thiago’s move shouldn’t affect us in a rational world, but what we have for the club is love, and when one of ours leaves us and says nasty things, we’re bound to be emotional, coz it’s all about love, not just business. The club promotes its own, and loyalty is a big deal for Barca more than, say RM. If you’re not loyal, at least be as classy and humble as Villa. He was pure quality and might have lost his place at barca but you never heard him say anything bad about us. That’s the least we should expect from Thiago.

  3. nzm says:

    Before we go all out on that “hospital quote” of Thiago’s, it appears to be untrue.

    The tweeter, who originally posted it, has been taken to task by some Catalan tweeters who are asking him to verify it. He responded to some tweeters that I follow that Thiago gave this reply when asked.

    But, so far, no other source has quoted Thiago saying this.

    The original tweeter is an idiot if he made this up: https://twitter.com/Lennycccp/status/410024501850537984

  4. blitzen says:

    *clap clap clap*

    Well, said, Kxevin! (and the quote is fake. The only hit I got oj it from Google is one guy on twitter who linked to a story in Sport…that does *not* contain the quote.)

    I’m happy to see Thiago doing well & enjoying his situation at his new club. I still wish he had stayed, but he’s right: it was the right decision for him. I wish him every success.

  5. nekhet says:

    The reason I’m mad at both Thiago AND Guardiola is they they left. I want them at the club. The fact that they both flourish at a different club (the same club that stomped our asses in last season) is like a personal slap in the face every time Bayern play. I wanted to follow them this season, but I just can’t. Half a year later and I’m still bitter.

  6. K-cule says:

    What makes Thiago’s case more special than any other exit? We’ve previously lost better quality through sales such as Eto’o, Ibra, Ronaldinho, Chiggy etc. The response was that no one is bigger than the club, that those players were thorns (except chiggy). Yet we were OK with those exits, regardless of them being world beaters. We survived when The Yaya left. We tend to go for Sanchez’ head when things go wrong, despite his huge potential. Why must we cry for Thiago more than ibra’s loss? Imagine Chiggy living to his potential and pairing Pique now. I am OK with Thiago leaving, but not for the reasons listed by kxevin above.Still, what makes this bitter? It’s obvious the club didn’t want him, else they would have played him more or given him a better pay. Cesc, with much better quality than Thiago gets less love, yet he’s earning way below his potential. Is it because he’s the one that got away?

  7. Jen Evelyn says:

    Naturally, it hurts to lose a talent like Thiago. But when it comes down to it, he’s a professional with ambition. He has to make the choices that he feels are the best for him, for his professional career. It’s hard for me to blame someone for having ambition. You look at the other side of the spectrum, and there’s JDS. As much as I like him and respect his loyalty, I can only wonder where his ambition is. So which is worse, after all? In the end, I think being a professional athlete is a selfish job, you have to build yourself a network that supports you and your career in the best possible way. You get offered a great deal, you take it.

    Thiago is a fabulous player and lucky enough to be in a position where he can pick the best from a pile of offers. There’s nothing about it to be bitter for, not for me at least.
    So thanks for this post, and for saying what needs to be said.

  8. ciaran says:

    I am always torn on the Thiago issue.
    I loved that guy. He was brave & talented and he was ours.
    If I were him I’d have stayed because I love the club. I don’t expect everyone to feel the same though.
    I don’t blame him for what he did. If he wanted to succeed in Barcelona he would have, eventually. If he just wanted to succeed in football then moving to Bayern now made sense.

    It would have been a lot worse if had left on a free, or left for buttons at 16 like some players did.

    All in all, I was OK with the deal but sad that he left.

  9. Vj says:

    I’m starting a fund to help Kevin fulfil his lifelong dream of getting fed ice cream by supermodels. Who wants to pitch in?

  10. G6O says:

    A minor correction – Assulin went to Manchester City, not to Spurs (not that it matters much)

    The thing with Thiago is that he simply did not want to wait while history shows that if you want to run Barca’s midfield, you have to wait. Xavi, and especially Iniesta spent a lot of time on the bench in their early 20s, but they waited patiently to take over. Playing in midfield for us is so complex that very few players can be expected to be fully ready for the job when they’re 20, and if anything as time passes, it becomes even more complex because the most thought about thing by coaches around Europe over the last years has been how to disable Barca’s midfield.

    Thiago wasn’t ready despite his talent. Ironically, we could use him right now, and if he had stayed, he would have likely gotten a lot more playing time this year, probably in the neighborhood of what Cesc is getting, and that’s what one can reasonably ask for.

    • Kxevin says:

      Well, patience is difficult when, as noted above, you are in a pot with Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and if you seek succor on the left wing, Neymar. Ooof! Bayern was a squad where there was only one Thiago, with coach who wanted him. Why be patient, particularly as Bayern is a squad still on the up, and fresh off a Treble. No brainer for him.

      I can only imagine what might have happened had a similar situation existed for Xavi or Iniesta. Hell, Fabregas didn’t even get as far along as Thiago, right? Imagine had small, technically gifted mids been all the rage back then, and Xavi had someone saying to him “Sign with us, you will be in the starting XI, no waiting.”

      But when he and Iniesta were mids-in-waiting, there wasn’t really a place for those kinds of players in football. So not to sound cynical, but they didn’t have the same range of options as Thiago. Can you imagine a Premiership side signing Santi Cazorla 5 years ago, as another example.

      Patience also has circumstances at its root.

      • G6O says:

        It’s absolutely true in the mid-00s midfield was reserved for physically imposing players so they had to wait.

        But even then the other points I made remain – first, you need a lot of learning to do if you want to run Barca’s midfield, which requires patience (and, as has been extensively discussed here, his only weakness that kept him on the bench was decisions-making, which is precisely the thing that takes a long time to perfect), and he would have gotten the playing time this seasons anyway. We could really use him right at this moment and it was not difficult to see that we would come to this well in advance.

      • mom4 says:

        Rare is the man in his early twenties who has patience?

  11. BA says:

    “Further, it shouldn’t matter how he left”

    would you say the same thing about Eric Abidal? or does the manner of a player’s leaving the club necessarily reflect on the governance of the club itself? the bitterness at the Thiago parting doesn’t focus on Thiago; as a young, ambitious, incredibly talented player i don’t see how anyone can blame him for going where he’ll actually be able to play most often; but rather on that WAY in which he was allowed to leave, namely that….

    A. the administration didn’t put any effort into sweetening his contract OR, more importantly…
    B. by ensuring the contract he had was fulfilled in the relevant sense, i.e. the clause about his appearances.

    many cules are rightly angry about the Thiago situation moreso than your other examples because Thiago is not only more talented, was not only better integrated into the team, and not only plays in a position that is the lifeblood of our playstyle, but because he didn’t HAVE to go. Bojan had his shot and never really impressed, Gai Assulin didn’t even make it that far. Pep felt he needed to leave, took a year off, and got another job; he didn’t leave our club for Bayern and it would be churlish to say he can never coach football again after us. Thiago COULD have stayed, with a few meaningless concessions from an administration that seems to enjoy the idea that it “plays hardball” on player contracts. and so, for the first time in many years a real-deal, Masia-raised young talent decided Barça wasn’t working for HIM, rather than the other way around. many of us simply believe that the club could have convinced him otherwise, and didn’t. and that’s the bitterness.

    • Kxevin says:

      Well, that’s my point. The only thing that makes the Thiago situation so volatile is that he had talent. Had he failed, nobody would care. Sleeping dogs would be snoring.

      Governance is a separate issue, and there are plenty of other governance issues to get riled about than a want-away player exploiting a contract clause to get a better job.

      Is the Thiago situation a symptom of that broader failure of governance? A minor one, but assuredly. But the team and the club have deeper issues that the club and its board have to get busy on, if they can stop looking at maquettes of a new Nou and drooling.

    • njwv says:

      Hating on the board for the Thiago situation is fine. Hating on the player is not.

  12. psalmuel says:

    He said he wanted out cos he wanted to play in the worldcup. Unfortunately for him, he will find same players (xavi,iniesta,cesc) that were denying him playing time. Plus,you’ll find, cazorla,silva and mata who I think are already confirmed second XI Mids. He might make it into the squad,but I don’t see him getting a sniff.

  13. ibbe says:

    What if Thiago had left for ManU? Would culers be as bitter? I for one wouldn’t. I think the fact that he left for a club that had recently battered us, and are enjoying more success (for now) than us, makes it more difficult for us to swallow.

    If we beat bayern the next time we see them, those feelings will be there no more.

    Maybe what adds more salt to the wound is that it was our ex-coach who bought our brightest talent?

    Thiago is history, we should be looking forward to the future. With guys like S.Roberto and S.Samper, there is always talents to get excited about. I have a feeling that if Roberto waits like Iniesta did, he will be a world beater..

  14. Kess says:

    I still trend thiago and every time bayern plays i have one eye pinned towards him, if he had stayed at barca we would have curtailed his style of play as many cules here had hinted that he was “casual” with possession and attempts too many fancy dribbles. No matter how you see it, thiago wasnt made for barca, he is a stand out player with flair and explosive expression. To me, he is an alpha male, a ronaldo-esque type of player that wants to boss the field of play. Before now, i just wanted to watch him PLAY and i am happy he is doing so now…

    Gai assulin never pushed for first team or pay increment, he was fire-sold(kxevin am i allowed to say this?) because he just couldnt shake off his injuries, i do watch him play and he still shows those glimpses of early messi. To me, the one that really got away was GIOVANNI DOS SANTOS…enormous talent at the time and dare i say? Slightly better than messi back then…yet again a mismatch…its really hard to get a professional contract with pay increase in barcelona you know.

    Anybody heard of Nolito???…one hell of an ego maniac.

  15. Peter says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to disagree, Kevin. You can’t compare it to a job, unless of course it’s a job that involves the firm leading you through the steps, educating you, more or less paying for your Master’s degree and then paying you a salary that would make a neurosurgeon with a decade on the job feel like he’s being paid peanuts.

    My smothered anger is not about what he did. It is about how he did it. He signed a new, improved contract, the one that raised his buy-out clause to 90m Euro. The clause about the 60% was included by his agent, who is also his current manager’s brother. The club was okay with it, because during a season there are a maximum of 60 matches and there would be time to guarantee him 36 games in which to play at least 30 minutes. And then he got injured. He was out for what, two months? Then he comes and plays in a way that doesn’t make anybody think he is ready to replace Xavi, Iniesta or Cesc. Season ends and what happens? “I’ll be in Israel and then on a holiday, if you want to reach me leave a message” and then when he finally comes back it’s “I’ve been thinking and I think you don’t value me that much. I think we should start seeing other people.”

    If you want to prove yourself in the team of your childhood dreams, you don’t hold it hostage. You don’t blackmail it with threats of filing for divorce and taking the house. You don’t ask “What have you done for me lately?”

    My anger is for something else as well. Think about the other talents, the other kids in La Masia of his age, the ones that were overlooked so that Thiago got to show the finger to the club. The ones who would’ve become the new Xavi or the new Puyol, who would’ve died to be able to become first-teamers and start proving their merit.

    Thiago was the favorite son that one day decided he deserves more and decided to blackmail the family for more money and fame. Despite his talent, despite his quality, I’d say good riddance.

    I just wish Sergi Roberto had been given those 30 or more minutes for 60% of the matches instead.

    • lala10 says:

      Nice analogy. You can compare his situation to Van Persie’s at Arsenal. Here was the captain of the team who in eight seasons had only managed to last the whole season only once- which season he had been sensational. Here he was in the flush of his career with a dozen suitors and a contract close to lapsing. Forgotten were the injury ravaged seasons, the times of off field turmoil over which the club stood by him and the possibility that during those lean years the club could easily cut its losses and said what the hell we can get a better player.

      Thiago needed a bit of patience. His case was not overly depressing as regards playing time. On the contrary he was one of the players given some minutes. To me it seems like he had already made up his mind and the 60% clause was an excuse to get away.

      We were never the club of his dreams. Its just that we were the best school around which he thought could further his career. That he spend so many years with us and ditched us the way he did speaks volumes of the love he had for the club.

      But you know what i don’t feel any anger towards him. Everyone is entitled to make decisions as regards his fate. How it pans out only He knows but who knows we may as yet find joy in a player whose path may have been blocked by Thiago.

    • Kxevin says:

      Well, there are firms that have education and mentoring programs, that bring an employee from cradle to boardroom, so to speak.

      I am deliberately staying out of the “Why” speculation, because I just don’t think it’s important any longer. I have my views (imagine THAT!). But to my view, he is still an employee who is free to do what he likes with his career, investment by the mentoring company notwithstanding.

      • Peter says:

        Yes, he’s still an employee. But the “How” is very important. Let’s face it, we are adults who pay money to watch millionaires kick a ball for 90 minutes. You can’t really expect us to be rational about it. :D

        As far as I know Dani Alves is still liked in Sevilla. He left after gaining the club the highest transfer fee in the history of the club. He left in tears thanking the club and the supporters for making a man out of him. Five years later, after spending more or less the same amount of time at Barcelona, he still pointedly refuses to celebrate his goals against Sevilla. That’s not just professionalism, that’s showing respect.

    • cliveee says:

      pop in to say, this is an excellent comment.

  16. IamXavi6 says:

    Throw in Gio Dos Santos in the mix as well. I suspect soon to be Tello and Cuenca as well.

    • ciaran says:

      I wouldn’t include Tello on that list. He had the opportunity to leave last summer for more money but chose to stay and fight for his place. He isn’t getting the opportunities this year and when he is, he isn’t doing enough to prove himself. If he leaves next summer I believe that it will be the best thing for his career.

      Montoya, I don’t believe is good enough to be a starter for us, however I do believe that he is good enough to be a consistent squad player for years to come.

      If history has taught us anything is that while we produce a high number of starters, we produce very little squad players. I don’t know if it is an arrogance that comes from coming through the best youth system in the world or what but every player that we have produced, that isn’t a starter leaves.

      I don’t believe that we can produce the best players in the world but can’t produce quality back ups to sit on our bench.

  17. BA says:

    is there going to be a post on this news in the Guardian today that we’re looking to either remodel the Camp Nou or build a new stadium, and that the board is meeting on the issue in January?

    because that seems ludicrous, on the face of it. we have the largest stadium in Europe, and we rarely fill it. besides Rosell wanting to put his name on something, why on Earth would we be in a position to entertain that idea, particularly when our financial situation is as bad as the administration claims?

    • njwv says:

      My gut says that a new stadium would have tons of luxury boxes which can be sold for way more money.

      • G6O says:

        That’s the reason commonly cited. I don’t really see the rationale though – a new stadium will cost several hundred millions. That’s decades worth of sold out luxury boxes, and I am far from certain those luxury boxes will be filled.

        History shows that only teams in very good financial health (such as Bayern) have been able to build a new stadium and not suffer a serious drop in sporting results. Arsenal have only recovered somewhat this season and this was despite their transfer policy. Ajax lost their dominance for 15 years. And then there is the case of Valencia.

        We are not in a very good financial health.

        Add to this all the history associated with the stadium, and the only sane option would be renovation, preferably a gradual one.

        • Peter says:

          It’s not just the stadium. It’s the new Basketball arena and a new 2000-seater track. If Barcelona basket wants to play in the Euro league, the new requirements are an arena that accommodates 12 000 spectators.
          In any case it’s not just a paintjob with a ceiling on top, it’s basically a reconstruction using the existing structure of Camp Nou.

          As for why does Barcelona need a bigger stadium that is rarely filled to the brim, the reasons are quite a few:

          1. The regular non-season ticket prices are among the highest in Europe, and probably the highest if we take into account the purchasing ability of the average attendant. That’s one reason.
          2. The season ticket prices are among the cheapest in Europe, and season ticket holders regularly free up their seats in the hope that they will be bought, thus giving the soci a reasonable return for their money. In essence the empty seats are already paid for.
          3. The addition of say 4 000 regular seats and say 1500 seats in luxury seating/executive boxes will allow the addition of at least a few new season ticket holders, and also it might actually increase the attendance – because since there will be more free seats available, there will be lesser demand for freed up tickets, which will mean that the ticket holders might as well turn up and actually watch the matches.
          4. The addition of even a 1 500 seats in executive boxes will represent a real boost in the finances. The price for a single seat in a private box for a single mid-to-high-profile match is more or less equal to the price of a cheap season ticket for all matches. And yes, these expensive seats are great commodity and in high demand*. They are status symbols as well as a great opportunity to meet and greet, establish contacts and see and be seen.
          5. The maintenance of a renovated stadium, especially one that is saved from the worst of the elements, drops significantly.
          6. The new complex – 105 000-seater covered stadium, 12 000-seater indoor arena will hopefully become a great idea for concerts, exhibition matches, high-profile boxing matches, etc. That’s another stream of revenue for the owners of the venues.
          7. Since practically every ten days or so there are on average 75 000 people converging on that single hub, offices and shops in that complex will be a good investment. Yeah, it seems a bit contradictory and far-fetched, but as the Catalans taught the rest of Spain “La pela es la pela”.

          * A fun fact – the luxury seats and private boxes in Emirates Stadium ALONE generate greater revenue than the whole Arsenal Stadium in Highbury.

          • Kxevin says:

            By the by, Laporta also was exploring the idea of a new stadium. He just couldn’t get past the squabbling attendant to the idea.

            For me, the root of my aversion lies at the core of my romantic soul. I just can’t help it. The business reasons make sense. But just as I am sad that La Masia is no longer a little stone building at the edge of the Camp Nou complex, a giant, glitzy new stadium will bum out the romantic in me.

            As to whether the sporting project can be maintained with quality sufficient to match the splashy new digs, we will have to wait and see. But make no mistake, Camp Nou as we know it will, in the not very distant future, be a thing of the past.

            It’s money now. Revenue. Barça has always been a little old fashioned. As other clubs splashed gambling sponsors across the front of their shirts, the club paid UNICEF to carry the logo. It smacked of old-school values, even as we all know Laporta was, as presidents before him were as well, looking at ways to maximize the revenue streams.

            Rosell and his board are doing that, to be sure. It’s the human and governance costs that strike me as being rather expensive. I have said it before, but the smartest thing they could do would be to hire Laporta as human relations director or something, so that they have a human being in the house, to smoke big cigars and run around asking, “Is everybody happppeee?!”

          • G6O says:

            I am aware of most of these things, however:

            1) I want to see the real numbers. As in, a new stadium will cost X, and will bring Y additional revenue every year. If X/Y is on the order of 20-25, i.e. we build a new stadium for 500 million, and it only brings 20 million additional revenue a year, we have a problem.

            2) Highbury was a very small stadium. You cannot expect the same thing to hold for us.

            3) I don’t want the stadium to be used for concerts as an additional revenue stream. This how we destroy our grass, get our players injured, reduce the fluency of our game, etc. We have not talked about it here a lot, but even right now the grass is actually in a very bad condition and players are complaining

            4) Don’t even get me started on naming rights…

            5) Finally, this goes beyond the usual topics of this blog, but the global economy (and that of Spain and the rest of the EU) in the next few decades is a lot more likely to suffer more (and more severe) crashes than to boom again. The world has hit the limits to growth. This means that there is a significant chance that all this additional revenue will never materialize and we will be in the hole

          • Peter says:

            Emm, actually Laporta wanted to pay for the new stadium(renovated or new) by selling the Mini Estadi grounds. The real estate collapse in 2008 and the opposition to “selling the crown jewels” prevented it.

            Don’t get me wrong, I feel romantic about Camp Nou myself. But about 60 years ago there were probably cules debating over beer in the bar over whether there should be a new stadium and being romantic about Les Corts. :) My aversion is towards a new glitzy stadium. I prefer a reconstructed Camp Nou, so that you know that underneath the new rows of corporate seats, under the corporate sponsor logos and the next-generation smart skin of the stadium are the same tough bones of the stadium that Kubala built. The stadium that saw Cruyff play and then manage, that saw the rise of the Dream team. The stadium where Stoichkov, Laudrup, Guardiola, Koeman, Bakero, Zubi, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Xavi, Iniesta, Valdes, Puyol, Busquets and Messi first played for Barcelona. The temple of beautiful football, the place where say twenty years from now you could point to your kid and say “This is where Messi stood when he got the ball and started the most amazing run.”
            The reality of La Masia is that it has been a symbol rather than an actual dwelling place for youngsters for quite a long time. The new place of La Masia is more fitting – the youngsters can see the first teamers every day, training and working and setting an example.

            I have that image of Laporta, but he wouldn’t have accepted it. But it would’ve been nice.

            @ G60:

            1. The recostruction of Camp Nou and the rest of the structures would cost around 300 million and would generate 30 to 35 million per year. This is the supposed additional revenue. The question remains whether it will be from all the sport structures and urbanization of the existing grounds, or just the stadium. Of course, during the three years of reconstruction the club may be facing the loss of 12 000 seats “in the most critical moment”. What’s more important, however, is the way to finance the reconstruction, because the additional revenue would start coming in after all the work has been done.

            2. Highbury at the time of closing had 38 400 spectators. The fact that the total of 9361 seats in “Club level” and “Corporate box” generate revenue equal to the entire revenue of the Highbury stadium(that’s not just tickets, but tons of beer and meat pies) is telling.

            3. It’s not just the stadium, but the Basketball arena as well. Groups that can’t fill stadiums, but routinely draw crowds of more than 10 000, Boxing matches, MMA, Euro League indoor championships, these all would be sources of revenue.
            What’s even more important is the status. Having the largest and most modern dedicated football stadium in the world would increase the marketing and brand impact, and not just of the club and its sponsors.
            There’s a reason why Europe’s biggest stadium was last used for a final in the 1999 Champions League final and why smaller, but more modern and more importantly, covered stadiums have been chosen.
            4. Naming Rights: I’m suspicious about that myself, because it seems that the board is considering “trading rights”, meaning a corporate name addition to the name of the stadium. So no “Qatar Airways Stadium”, but for example “Estadi Camp Nou Samsung”, which will still smack of renaming, but will generate less money.

            5. The additional revenue will be dependent on the increased marketing, corporate partnerships, merchandising increase and the new TV contracts. The truth of the matter is that Barcelona has barely scratched the surface of corporate partnership(United are head, shoulders and torso above the rest in that perspective) and the increased penetration in the global media market will generate a lot of revenue. Having Neymar and Messi play in the same team will help as well.

            Consider this:
            a. 2016 is the year when the shirt sponsor contract expires. It can be renewed, at a much better price.
            b. 2016 is when the new La Liga contract will be signed and started, and if rumor has it right, it will be in the vicinity of 1000 million Euro per year(it’s about 750 now IIRC), with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s cut of the cake decreasing relatively, but increasing in absolute size.
            c. The LFP is finally wising up to the idea of foreign TV contracts and more normal broadcasting hours, ergo better deals.
            d. Currently the debt is being decreased at a steady rate and by 2016 it is supposed to be down to about 200 million net debt.
            e. The current statutes make it obligatory for the President and Board to compensate any new debt with new revenue. Failure to do so leads to automatic resignation of the board followed by elections.

    • Kxevin says:

      Not anytime soon, BA, for a number of reasons, but most notably:

      — Not enough information yet. Board meeting on the matter in mid-January.

      — Any time I start to write anything, my utterances are reduced to apoplectic, single-syllable sounds.

      105k seats is an interesting number for a stadium that only sells out Classics, and huge Champions League matches.

      But, presumably those almost 10k seats would be free, which means an easier time getting tickets for non socis or season ticket holders, who account for many empty seats by not going to matches, and not turning their tickets back into the Seient Lliure system.

      Now, only a cynical churl would speculate that the free seats already being dumped into the ticketing reseller that Rosell owns a chunk of, would dramatically increase with those extra 10k seats.

      Heaven forfend.

      A new Nou is twice the cost of a rehabbed Nou. But a new Nou also, according to Faus, promises twice the revenue. Note that he didn’t specify matchday revenue, because the fiscal gains would come from sponsorships and corporate boxes.

      If you ask the current board, Camp Nou is about to fall down around itself, and people have to walk on tippy toes to keep bits of concrete from falling.

      Note also that Faus says the new (rehabbed) Nou is going to be a fully-covered stadium. The board is in the process, apparently, of pulling permits for BOTH possibilities. Hmmm …

      The referendum on new vs rehabbed has been delayed yet again, by the by. Cynics are wondering if the board isn’t thinking of a way to do it without soci vote, as with the shirt sale. Can’t let anything stand in the way of the monument, after all.

      The biggest question is money. A new Nou is conservatively estimated to cost north of 600m, which probably means more like a billion, by the time it’s all said and done. Where, oh where, will that money come from, given that we are having trained monkeys transcribe documents instead of making actual copies, never mind color ones.

      Good question. Naming rights? Bite your tongue.

      P.S. Faus said that a big, giant new corporate partner will be announced on Thursday, even bigger and better known than those Qatar folks.

      • Peter says:

        That partner is apparently Intel, if we’re to believe Mundo Deportivo, and the partnership will give the club additional 5 million Euro per year for the next three years.

        Not bad.

      • BA says:

        and that last point seems to be the stalking horse here; the naming rights are the real revenue stream that would almost inevitably go with a new stadium, and given Rosell’s ties would it surprise anyone if our great club ended up playing out of the Qatar Airways Nike Center? whereas just rehabbing the existing stadium (didn’t Norman Foster have a Catalan-themed concept up a few years ago?) wouldn’t give the board the political cover to sell the naming rights.

        the thought makes me shudder. and it really shows just how disingenuous this board is: given all the emphasis on and handwringing about “cutting costs” and “servicing our massive, Laporta-generated debt”, the LAST thing we should be considering is plonking $600,000,000 on a new stadium simply to increase the seating by 15%. in Rosell’s own framing of the state of the club, that has to be madness.

  18. Clouseau says:

    What bothers me is this whole acts he put on as if the club didn’t do enough to keep him when he already precipated his decision before the u21 tournament.
    It’s been a long Time when i have seen such an uniqué and exciting Player like him. But i’m glad he chosen Bundesliga to play although i don’t like the Club he chose to play for.

  19. psalmuel says:

    If we meet bayern, are we going to get mauled again? Thats 2-0 against citeh

  20. TITO says:

    Is Bayern in crisis??!?!?!?
    PEP OUT!

  21. ibbe says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5ouxjlwMsw

    If you haven’t seen it yet, Everton fans singing for Deulofeu..I hope he stays there for another season, becomes one of the best in EPL then return to barca..

    • Clouseau says:

      Everton are quite exciting to watch this season even without Gerard participating in it. It was the best possible decision the Club could have made for him to join Roberto Martinéz. He’s making him work for his starting place and already improved his efforts for tracking back, pressing etc.

      • ibbe says:

        I remember Wigan president said 2-3 yaers ago that Martinez will one day coach barca or madrid. I guess it isn’t that far fetched is it? Wigan used to play very nice football when he was the coach (no great results, but the FA cup final vs city was the highlight of his Wigan career) and now everton are doing the same. With a bit more quality players he has transforemed Everton into a top 4 contender. I certainlany wouldn’t mind him as barca coach sometime in the future.

        About Deulofeu, according to Martinez, he wasn’t supposed to be ready to feature in the EPL till february but he exceeded all expectations. When he masters the defensive side of the game he will be a top player.

        • Clouseau says:

          Not sure about RM but Barcelona at least as its always an aspiration for a catalan coach to train. If i remember correctly Jordi Cruyff identified him as a Cruyffist trough and trough.

          Indeed what i particulary like is that he’s showing affection without overspoiling him and yet not hasitating when he needed to be criticised. Eusebio overspoiled him last year and instead of guiding let him completly depend on his – superb individual brilliance alone. Character- and Teamplaybuilding this is where ‘Bobby M. he needs the most guidings.

  22. psalmuel says:

    Wait! Bayern lost? didnt they press enough? What happened to their athletic midfielders? Didnt they pass the ball around for a billion times? Or probably they didnt have a tall big striker who can play with his back to goal

    • Momo says:

      Haha, they had a very strong line up too while city was second string. Feels good to see them stumble even though it was complacency. But like Kxevin said, no team is invincible. I am convinced with a super fit Messi and a sorted out defense we can do very well against them. They’re still terrifying when they play well though.

      • Kxevin says:

        Watched the match because I was curious. They looked to have no answer for a fast, aggressive winger. Navas raised hell. I rather imagine Neymar would do okay in that regard.

        Basically, Citeh didn’t play all that well either, and that wasn’t their first choice lineup. And the loss doesn’t matter because they still won the group. Like our Ajax loss if we can get at least a point tomorrow.

        I know they (Bayern) are an excellent football team. But so are we. Not even sure when or if we will meet them, but I am confident, if our squad is full strength.

        • fotobirajesh says:

          I was also not quite excited by the match, happy though that City won.
          Even if Bayern manage to keep possession, I think our possession was more beautiful. There is more technique and flair in our passing. Bayern’s is something else, more mechanical may be. We have to see how much will Bayern manage to pass through in the final two thirds, against a good bus.

  23. KEVINO17 says:

    Can someone tell me what Martino’s complaint was about Alex Song in the last game?
    Seems to me that Martino wants him to almost play as a false nine, occupying the CBs, often with his back to goal, because he is very strong on the ball. Tata must be pretty tired of sending Messi through the middle and seeing him get clattered (and injured). Better to put Song into the boiler-room. Song can also provide strong defence high up the pitch.
    However, he doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong header of the ball, particularly when breaking into the box.
    Is it worth continuing this experiment?

  24. psalmuel says:

    Kevin017… Seem you like Song alot. I didnt watch that match but anything is possible with Tata. It would be a fun thing to try that experiment out although I have been clamouring for Pique to be used instead. Song will give that physical presence but does he have an eye for goals?

  25. norden says:

    Nice article, Kxevin.

    One more point can be that Barca fans are not used to players leave the club for something “better”. As if such a place existed. What an insult to the club! :)

  26. Ultraculé says:

    Been away for a while, but Kxevin, want to add that I just read your review of Lowe’s book and I am Encouraged to buy it especially since you assure that the book will not reduce the hatred we have for EE even if some common misconceptions that gave us comfort in supporting our club are debunked. Good one!

    Now onto Thiago. I simply do not care. I was a massive fan and was extremely pissed when the club decided to get rid of him so cheaply. BUT.. now that he dons other colors, I find it very hard to give a shit. TA did what was best for him and one must not hate him for that. If you must hate on someone, hate the staff that refused him minutes even when the league was won, chasing some stupid number. Hate on the management that allowed bullshit clauses to be written into the contract. Hate on the saint Guardiola who convinced the gem of our cantera to leave the club inspite of assuring folks that he will not go after Barca players. Still..he’s not ours now and I wonder why there is a post dedicated to him. As far as I am concerned, Bayern is an enemy and the guys coaching them and running their midfield is an enemy and I prefer to look at ourselves and what we are doing instead of swooning over a delicious lob or a spectacular dribble that TA made. As a football fan, enjoy these movements by all means, but be wary of the manner in which you enjoy them. Let there not be an aota of envy, hate or regret.

    Visca!

    P.S > again a note to Tata. Puleezz, for the love of god, do NOT play cesc in that CF/F9 role. We have Neymars and Lexuses who are a much better fit there.

  27. andrecito says:

    ultracule…you said my feelings exactly..every sentence..

  28. ciaran says:

    Having been to Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium, Bayern’s Alliance Arena and to our own Camp Nou, we are obviously behind them in terms of our stadium’s facilities.

    Both remodeling the Camp Nou and building a new stadium would both result in a capacity increase to 105k, maintaining our status as having Europe’s biggest stadium.

    So, build a new stadium at a cost of €600m and sell the rights for €250m a year or upgrade the Camp Nou at a cost of €300m and sell half naming rights for €100m a year both seem like financially viable options.

    The Camp Nou has a charm about it though so I’m torn.

    • Peter says:

      Except it’s not 250/100 million euro per year. That’s over the whole period.

      BTW, from what I’m seeing/reading, it seems as though a reconstructed Camp Nou will be the best option overall – cheaper, using already available resources and space, and staying close to its roots so to say. The City hall is working on the new underground station called “Camp Nou” which will facilitate the traffic of spectators, the University is completely against selling its grounds, which would mean swapping terrain with FC Barcelona, which would mean a loss for the club – if you want to create a social hub, not just a stadium, but a social hub, you don’t put it in the fringe of the city.

  29. fotobirajesh says:

    Sorry, this has nothing to do with Barca. But it is a nice story about an Italian player who turned down lots of money for keeping his sport clean.
    http://blogs.thescore.com/counterattack/2013/12/11/horncastle-the-story-of-the-italian-player-who-turned-down-e200000-and-became-a-hero/

  30. Kxevin says:

    So, in the crazy, “anything can happen” world of our beloved club, this happened:

    http://talksport.com/football/hunter-rosell-trying-force-messi-out-barcelona-13121171454

    • ciaran says:

      I dunno. Everyone knows that Sandro is tied very closely with Nike and Neymar is his golden child but he’s not going to sell Messi, at least not until after the 2016 elections.

      Now, if someone came up with the €250million buyout clause I would say that Sandro would put Messi on the plane himself.

      • Kxevin says:

        Exactly. For my money, Messi loses a step and becomes the best 10 in history. Easy peasy. But don’t forget that if Rosell is re-elected, Messi would be 28, around the same age Ronaldinho was when we sold him.

        Granted, the he was a mess who was at that point partying more than he was training …

        • ciaran says:

          Where does a traditional no.10 play in our system though?
          If Neymar develops like everyone thinks he will and Alexis continues to evolve into a goal scorer then 4-3-3 of some sort would still suit us.

          I watched the UEFA Youth League game v Celtic and Elohor Godswill looks like he could become a good right back, a right footed Abidal but with more of a threat going forward.
          If someone like that is still solid defensively, then a 4-3-3 with Messi – Busquets – XXXXX would still provide enough cover if our fullbacks are more intelligent with their forward runs and our 3 forwards work as hard as Alexis does already.

          Getting a central striker that will work as hard as a box to box midfielder is going to be the problem but it surely has to be our next evolution. There is no space for a false 9 anymore…

      • Peter says:

        Apparently it’s not 250 million, Rosell himself announced this a while ago.
        Basically, when a club is said to have paid the release clause of a player, it’s usually a transfer, to evade the ruinous taxes(54% if I remember correctly). But what Rosell said was that if a club wants to buy Messi, they’d need to fork over about 538 million in total – 250 for Messi to give to Barcelona and the rest are taxes. That’s what it takes to make Messi a free agent. The club won’t help one bit.

    • Peter says:

      Oh well, it’s Graham Hunter. If Rosell were on fire, Hunter would use him to light a cigarette. :D

  31. dl says:

    Anyone know of any places online for the celtic game? the ‘straight red’ doesn’t seem to be helpful anymore…

  32. G6O says:

    How many passes was that third goal?

  33. simple_barcafan says:

    Martino “Neymar need to score more..”

    Neymar: 3 goals in 14 min…

  34. Ultraculé says:

    uninspired display from celtic, but happy that neymar gets his hattrick. could have very well equaled messi’s 5 in one cl game.

    zenit through inspite of winning just 1 game and collecting 6 points from 6 games.

    Napoli out in spite of winning 4 games and collecting 12 points.

    The CL knockouts would have been much better with teams like juventus, Napoli, etc. But good to see dortmund still alive. i have a feeling we’re going to draw either arsenal or schalke.

  35. psalmuel says:

    So, I intentionally skip a barca game this season and ney does what? Scores a hat-trick? Oh! Ney! Now you’ve gotta do it all again against the yellow submarines cos I didnt catch this one. And what happened to our tall,big striker who can play with his back to goal? Did he play? And cesc, yes cesc! Has Tata finally called it quits with the cesc at false 9 experiment? How about sergi? did he fair well?

    • simple_barcafan says:

      Cesc was suspended for this game.

    • Peter says:

      Cesc was suspended for cards. Our tall big striker who can play with his back to goal scored the first goal. Sergi fared very well. Tello came back and scored a beautiful goal as well.

      There are about three matches left before the winter break – home vs Villareal on Saturday, home vs Cartajena on Tuesday and away at Getafe on the 22nd. Then comes the winter break, two weeks during which there will be no actual Barcelona matches and the team can rest and train, actually train and learn tactics.

  36. simple_barcafan says:

    Possible opponents:

    Man City
    Arsenal
    Leverkusen
    Galatasarey
    Olympikos
    Zenit
    Schalke

  37. ciaran says:

    City, Arsenal, Leverkusen, Schalke, Galatasaray, Olympiacos & Zenit potential opponents.
    I’d be happy with anyone other than Man City. Arsenal are doing very well in the premiership but I still think that they are weak enough. Man City have great individual players but I’d still fancy us vs them.

    Neymar was brilliant tonight, obviously, but I was impressed with Sergi Roberto also. He didn’t do anything spectacular but played the 3rd midfielder very well with no fuss.
    Neymar in the centre of the pitch is very interesting. If Messi were able to play centrally with Neymar it would be very exciting.

    • ibbe says:

      Honestly I would love it if we drew ManC. By the time our top players return, city shouldn’t be that much of a challenge. As long as hlebuary doesn’t apply to Tata’s barca that is..

  38. Peter says:

    Just talked to an Arsenal fan and apparently Barcelona stand as the preferred opponent, since “Barcelona are weaker than the others”, these others being PSG, Real, Bayern and Atletico.

    IIRC City coach Pellegrini stated exactly the opposite, he wants anybody but Barcelona.

    The way things have been looking, Barcelona will probably draw Arsenal. After all, it’s not like these two have met or something…

  39. Jafri says:

    The ‘two teams from the same country can’t play each other’ rule still applies at this stage of the draw, right?

  40. Peter says:

    According to Mundo Deportivo the current total price of the real estate project is as follows:

    500 to 600 million in case of a reconstructed Camp Nou, with the work to be done in four years. This includes building a new indoors arena for up to 15 000 seats, a new 2000-seat auditorium(the new Espai Barça) and urbanization of the rest of the terrains. The cost is huge, much higher than that of the Santiago Bernabeu renovation, but that’s because it includes the construction of two new facilities, and possibly the construction of a number of buildings in the existing grounds*, including parking space for 6 000 cars.

    What’s really staggering is the cost of a new stadium in the vicinity of the University of Barcelona: up to 1 200 million Euro. What makes it so expensive? The ground for the new sport complex(Stadium, Palau Blaugrana, Espai Barca) will have to be bought, because the university, at least for the time being, is not willing to negotiate an exchange. Second, the stadium being right next to an existing road will make it obligatory to build the roads to avoid the resulting chokepoint at the entrance of the city proper.

    In any case it will be really what the Spanish call “obra faraonica”(Pharaonic project).

    * – Existing grounds may include Mini Estadi. I read a while ago that Barcelona are going to build a new 10 000-seat stadium in the current Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, which will make Mini Estadi redundant. In any case, the ground will continue to belong to FC Barcelona.

  41. psalmuel says:

    Did anyone catch the 5man blatant offside goal allowed in the schalke vs basel game? Plus, I think Demba ba might have fouled the player for that goal in the chelsea game.

  42. Temple says:

    Here, Spanish football expert — Lee Roden, provides a very insightful take on Messi’s imminent ?departure.

    http://talksport.com/football/why-lionel-messi-being-sold-barcelona-possible-13121271481

    Getting as interesting as a museum about a sausage would be. With RoSell, nothing is “impossible!”

    • Levon says:

      While I agree with most, if not all, of what the author is saying in this article, his conclusion is a stretch, at least according to the argument he builds.

      Rosell minus (Cruijff + Laporta + Guardiola) = minus Messi ??

      Sorry, I don’t see how any of it relates to Messi’s “imminent departure”.

      What is troublesome however (and mostly unmentioned in the above article) is all the noise and opinion articles about Messi that appear in Sport and EMD, ranging from “wtf is he doing in Argentina while he should be recovering right here in Barcelona” to Faus’ comment that “there is no reason to improve Messi’s contract every 6 months”….

      • Jim says:

        Poorest article I’ve read in a while. Nothing to a upport his contention and a clearly subjective angle . Nothing really to see here.

        I’ve said it before. Rosell may be many things but he’s not daft in the PR stakes. The task of persuading the fans that any sale of Messi is justified would be way above his ability. Totally high risk and for what? So the team plays worse?

        Interesting what you say about the papers though, Lev. I also kinda agree with Faust if he said that. Messi has a contract and we need to guard against getting caught in an upward spiral every time a player goes for big money.

        • Levon says:

          I agree with Faust that we should not renew Messi’s contract every six months. I do not agree with him making these comments in public. There are forces at work that would love nothing more than to unsettle Messi. Why stir the pot?

    • Peter says:

      Seriously, expert?

      What exactly is the “insightful” bit? I might as well claim that Laporta has been turned into a vampire since his resignation – he is almost never seen in daylight, when he smiles(rarely) he hides his teeth/fangs and his complexion resembles sour cream.

      Levon, I have to say I haven’t seen articles about “wtf is Messi doing in Argentina”, on the contrary, I’ve seen articles that state exactly why he is in Argentina – to stay away from football and the team and to use the undivided attention of the best doctors and physios of the AFA.

      As for Faus, it’s a legitimate opinion. It would’ve mattered if he was involved in contract talks. Alas, he’s the guy who’s in charge of finding the money, not deciding what to do with them. He’s supposed to be as frugal as possible with spending, and as resourceful as possible with generating revenue. And he is doing a great job.

      In other news, Sandro Rosell explicitly stated today that “While I’m president we’ll do the possible and impossible so that Messi continues to play in FC Barcelona. And we’ll do it Intel-igently.”

    • blitzen says:

      I follow Lee on Twitter, but I wouldn’t consider him an “expert” on Spanish football any more I consider myself one. Not a diss, his opinions are generally interesting and thoughtful. But they don’t carry any more weight than anyone else’s.

      • Temple says:

        Maybe, I was in a sloth of superlatives when I posted it. Patently, the “expert” shouldn’t have appeared in that line. But I also was peeved there was no “edit” button.
        Beside, the RoSell statement is everything now. So no Messi out, okay. Time for bed.

  43. Ultraculé says:

    It will be pretty awesome if Chelsea meet Madrid in the QFs. That said, it’d be equally awesome if arsenal draw EE right now and Ozil hands them a loss. That would be such poetic justice wouldn’t it. So would dortmund or us eliminating bayern at some point.

    Anyways assuming that the good and likable teams remaining in the competition is a better thing (for the spectacle), My preferred draw for the knockouts and results would be…

    FC Barcelona Vs Olympiakos > FC Barcelona
    Chelsea Vs Galatasaray > Galatasaray :D
    Bayern Munich Vs Arsenal > Arsenal FC :D (but this won’t happen)
    Real Madrid Vs Manchester City > Manchester City :D
    Manchester United Vs AC Milan > Manchester United
    Atletico Madrid Vs Bayer Leverkusen > Atletico Madrid
    Paris St.Germain Vs FC Schalke 04 > Paris St. Germain
    Borussia Dortmund Vs Zenit St.Petersburg > Borussia Dortmund

    This would leave the Quarter finals with Barca, Galata, Arsenal, City, United, Atletico, PSG & Dortmund with EE and the other FCB eliminated.

    /dream.

  44. kosby says:

    with regards to yesterday’s game, I am surprised there arent more comments ! I think it was one of the most complete games we played this season. There was a period in the first half and 5 minutes of the 2nd half which could have been less sloppy, but overall I loved the intensity.

    No dilly dallying on the ball, fast one touch passes. One interesting thing I noticed which Martino acknowledged in the conference was Sanchez’s performance. Even though he didnt score, he wasnt merely passing back from the wings to midfield, he was actually looking to create chances (Montoya pass that lead to Neymar’s goal). Pedro was his confident alter ego, only blemish being where he and Neymar got into each others’ way. He was dribbling, showing off his close control skills. Its just amazing how much difference a manager’s confidence in a player can make (ref: Pedro and Alexis).

    Defense was solid, Mascherano not committing any blunders (yay !), Pique wanting to score more than Pedro/Alexis. Sergi played well, although nothing flashy, but kept the ball moving.

    Just one thought thats been pricking at me, is it a coincidence that we see faster passing when there’s no Fabregas in F9 and Xavi/Iniesta in midfield ? I know its sacrilege to complain about Xavi Iniesta but I have had a feeling that against more athletic teams, those two get shut out and pressed and harried. I know people blame lack of movement upfront for this, but I am beginning to feel its because they’re probably slower/less physical/less fit than they used to be. Although I know both are changing their playing style/role this season with the new manager. *fingers crossed*

    Looking forward to when Messi comes back for the Champions League next. As for the league, hoping to see a similar fast paced game once again.

  45. simple_barcafan says:

    Any thoughts/comments/details about the aponsor deal with intel?

    • simple_barcafan says:

      *Sponsorship

      • Jim says:

        Pretty hard to argue with someone paying to be on the inside of your shirt I would have thought but then the Board must have some ulterior motive, surely?

        • Peter says:

          You should change “ulterior” to “sinister” so that people agree with you. :D

          In any case the deal seems awesome: Intel paying 5 million USD per year for five years to be official technology partner, and establishing a tech lab, as well a massive WiFi network that should be capable of handling say 20 000 people simultaneously uploading images and videos.

          Imagine the “propaganda” value, when you can see from ten different angles Messi, Neymar, Pedro or Alexis scoring a goal or the video processing ability that could give a little bit of an edge in preparation or analysis. When the coach can see what a player does or does not, and show it to him, or show the team “this is what they tried to do, this is how you reacted and here’s what you should do”, it becomes much easier to transmit what he wants from them. Hell, why stop there, you could have simulators, you could have the players carry tiny sensors when you rehearse tactics and plays and not just assume what the opponent’s response will be, but play it out.

        • simple_barcafan says:

          There was a rumor that the players might need to show the intel logo during goal celebrations..

    • Clouseau says:

      It’s a ridicilously good deal considering there is an included installing wi-fi techn. inside camp nou and la masia facilities.

  46. chillipod says:

    I took receipt of “Messi” by Guillem Balague yesterday. It’s a hefty piece, 628 pages cover to cover, so not finished it yet!
    The afterword by Rosell may make some of you feel better as regards the likelihood of La Pulga being moved on, as some media sources have suggested in the last few weeks, because it’s clear there is a lot of respect for Leo, plus that he feels Barca has allowed him to reach the levels he has done and that he recognises that Leo is happy.
    On the other hand, it makes no reference to him staying forever and does manage to squeeze in some self congratulatory reference to how important Ronaldinho was in Messi’s success. (None of you would have expected anything less!)
    Happy reading.
    Força Barça

    • Kxevin says:

      628 pages??!! As Senator Clay Davis would say, “Sheeeiiiittt!”

      • chillipod says:

        Hahaha, yes indeed, a real “stocking filler” alright.
        One or two good photos inside too, one of a distraught Leo post CDR loss to Sevilla, and another of Pep taking time out in a (seemingly) empty changing room to get some point or other across.
        Last spoiler: The final quote on the back cover is from Raul, perhaps you’ve seen it before, it reads “I saw one of his games: he was running with the ball at one hundred per cent full speed, I don’t know how many touches he took, maybe 5 or 6, but the ball was glued to his foot. It’s practically impossible!” Classy.

      • Messiah10 says:

        Clay Davis was one of my favorite characters. Bunk was great too. He’s also good on Treme.

  47. Kxevin says:

    There is no truth to the rumor that the players will be required to lift their shirts after scoring goals.

    — Iniesta has, on his own time/dime, been working with Ricart.

    — ZubiZa will be flying to Argentina with club physios, ostensibly to “see how Messi is doing.” You could be forgiven for thinking that the biggest part of that trip will be a hug and some reassurance.

    — Impressed that Rosell proactively said “Messi is going nowhere as long as I am president.” Not so impressed that he used an Iniesta renewal question to hype the new wi-fi at the Camp Nou.

    — Hard to complain about the Intel deal, unless you are a romantic luddite. Even works with the sponsor’s slogan “Intel inside.” 5 mil per is nothing to sneeze at.

    — Apparently the board is now said to favor the rehabbed Camp Nou, because it would be “only” 600m, rather than the 1+bn for a Nou Nou. There is also the question of that pesky university, deciding not to sell the land.

    — In personnel stuff, Alba starts tomorrow, as Adriano is carded. Speaking of cards, Neymar needs to shut up, play football and stop that silly retaliation crap. He is one card away from suspension. He can take it when Messi comes back in a few weeks.

    — Xavi! Give a legend rest, and that’s what you get. He hasn’t moved like he was moving against Celtic in quite some time.

    — Neymar! For me, the goals weren’t as impressive as the footwork, which was stupefying, particularly on that third goal. The cross for the Pedro goal, with the stop/start, was just crazy. My only wish is that the deal wasn’t fraught with so much “WUT!”-inducing questions, like considerations, where the 40m really went, etc.

    • simple_barcafan says:

      With regards to your last comment, I must mention Alexis footwork was stupefying too. There was a similar stop/start pass to Neymar by Alexis.

      Also the contrast between him and Pedro on opposite flanks made me admire his footwork even more..Not that Pedro was bad, but his back passes and running into open spaces vs Alexis taking on defenders and pushing forward with magical feet was as i said, a nice contrast.

      • Kxevin says:

        Yup. As I noted on Twitter during the match, Sanchez to me seems like he is running along and saying “Wheeeeee!” as he plays.

        I think sometimes he doesn’t have a clue in hell what he’s going to do when he gets the ball. But neither does the defense. He and Neymar are like gazelles.

        Pedro is more like a howitzer. Space. Ball. Net. Boom.

        • Levon says:

          Well… Neymar uses his footwork and dribbling to cause defenses trouble, while Lexus often uses his footwork and trickery to get out of trouble. Big difference, and not a slight on Lexus at all, btw.

          • blitzen says:

            Having recently seen Alexis play live and having paid *ahem* close attention to him for the entire game, I can tell you he also often uses his tricksy feet to take defenders on directly. However, I suspect he does that a lot more with Chile where he is very obviously THE MAN leading the attack, than he does with Barça where he takes on more of a supporting role (as much as it frustrates us!).

            It’s funny, because Alexis is so very tiny when you see him up close, but the other Chilean players are very deferential towards him.

          • Levon says:

            Not just because he is the MAN for Chile, but also because of the position he plays for his national team and the way opponents defend him.

            When he is all over the place (especially when he comes from deep) defenders take him on and he can get past him.

            But when he plays on the wing for Barcelona defenders nullify the threat his dribbling poses by simply standing back. O Ney is a different story, though.

          • simple_barcafan says:

            One more thing about Alexis is that his first touch is not good as the Messi, Ney or Iniesta..The ball moves away from his feet on the first touch and it seems he has to use his trickery to compensate for that slight error..

  48. psalmuel says:

    Tata puleeez! No cesc at false 9 today! In God’s name I plead.

  49. ciaran says:

    Osasuna just held Madrid to a 2-2 draw. Awesome

  50. psalmuel says:

    Yaay! Now lets go get those 3pts

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