Renewals, aka “Renewing vows and taking stock of a longtime love”

Photo: Miguel Ruiz, FC Barcelona
Photo: Miguel Ruiz, FC Barcelona

Every year when my new soci card arrives in the mail, it always feel like hitting the reset button for my love of this club. This year there is a particularly strong resonance, as a lot has happened recently to underscore notions of renewals and fresh starts. As I’m not all that fond of lengthy preambles, let’s dive right in.

Messi is back

It has been 58 days since the Best Player Alive™ has been stomping on the terra for Barça. In many ways it hasn’t seemed all that long as the club has cruised along, growing into a force that finds several players with double-digit goal totals and Alexis Sanchez the latest attacker to notch a hat trick. Messi is in the squad for the Copa match vs Getafe, and interestingly enough, his return poses a number of questions best explained by a journalist who, at the Tuesday presser, asked Martino whether Messi would upset the team’s balance.

Prima facie, it’s an absurd question, but if you look at the root of it, it’s pretty logical. These next few matches and the Messi re-integration are going to tell us exactly what kind of coach Tata Martino is, and what kind of a team he has fashioned.

We all recall the days when the team couldn’t even go to the loo without Messi, much less compete and win matches easily. The injuries began last season, and the club struggled mightily, needing his presence to turn the trick against PSG, getting poleaxed by Bayern as the offense, without a focus, just became a series of midfield passing drills. He returned, and it was business as usual, which wasn’t all that good, really, even as it was successful in the results column, because it reinforced Messidependencia. “I have to pee really bad. Is Messi around? Can’t go without him.”

When he reinjured himself, the club gradually began to learn. Different players stepped forward. Pedro’s confidence started coming back. Sanchez started playing as he did for Chile, all speed, guile and “Wheeee!” Fabregas became more of a force, and you could see the club growing. This season, Neymar was added, and under a new coach, the growth continued. Speculation was that Messi would benefit from the Second Superstar factor, but the first part of the season proved to be unsettled for the Little Giant.

Then came the new injury, 58 days, more than 8 weeks, without the offensive linchpin. I remember the dire predictions, hand wringing and rending of garments at the time. Some folks said that if there was ever a fixture list that could deal with him being knocked, this is it. And so it was, with the only two blemishes coming at Ajax, where the team was mentally unprepared to play a match that didn’t matter a lot; Athletic, where early dominance led to a loss of concentration and a 1-0 loss. And even those two matches taught the team something, judging by the Celtic hammering and the Liga performances after the Athletic loss. The focus is greater, the killer instinct growing.

And now, Messi is back. As many of us have said, it would be a 24-karat, stone cold bummer if the team returned to passing the ball to Messi and moving out of the way. It would also be a significant regression. So when the journalist asked whether Messi would upset that balance, that is what he meant. This team is rolling. Ideally, adding Messi to that mix should make it significantly more dangerous. If it does, then we will know that Martino rocked it. If it doesn’t, we will know that he isn’t working the system properly, that he hasn’t prepared his team for the return of its best player, because here’s the thing: It it still FC Barcelona, rather than FC Messi. Our titan plays for the team. Far too often, the team was playing for him, which hamstrung it when it mattered.

Martino is doing the right thing, planning to give Messi some minutes in a Copa tie. That is brilliant. Low-pressure match, (hopefully) don’t start him, establish that this is a team that doesn’t need him to rock and roll. “I’m back!” “Excellent! We missed you. Now go work in with those guys, and let’s add you to the mix.”

The player seems renewed, his teammates have already seemed renewed. Martino is more relaxed on and off the pitch, as journos note his more laid-back demeanor during pressers. He seems happier, even outside of that massive grin after the Sanchez free kick goal vs Elche. For me, I wonder if part of the reason for that improved demeanor is that it is his team now. Not Guardiola’s remnants, not Vilanova’s, but his. He is no longer a caretaker but the Mister, as the team has bought into what he is trying to do, and working hard at it.

We will learn a lot from how Messi returns, and it all starts Wednesday.

Second half of the season

Yeah, not technically, blablablabla. Barça is where it has been for seeming perpetuity — top of the table. But this time it is only on goal differential, as the club is in a points draw with second-place Atleti.

In many ways, we and Atleti are two clubs in very different situations. As Martino rightly said in a presser today, the work being done by Simeone with his squad is more impressive than what is being done by Martino and the squad that he has. In many ways, you almost wonder if Simeone would do as well with such a star-studded squad. That Atleti team is a mirror image of its black-clad boss. There is a massive chip is on their shoulder as they play with cohesion, like a fist ready to punch you in the face. I like that team a lot, and love that a third team is chomping at the bit. Here’s hoping that Valencia deal happens, and we can add a fourth team to the mix.

But our situation is that we are in need of a revamp, really, which makes us different from Atleti. Martino came in with a squad that he probably wouldn’t have picked were he starting from scratch. There are aging warriors, legacy promotions, squad players, geniuses, superstars and whatever Jonathan Dos Santos is. From that group that he had to get to know on the fly, decide how to deploy and then get them to work on those notions, he has made a remarkable team.

Some say we won’t know how they really are until deep into Champions League, but I call nonsense on that one. I already know. This team is absolutely wonderful to watch, an improved model from last season not just because of the addition of Neymar. I really do wonder if Tito Vilanova would not have evolved this group into something similar to what Martino has — a vibrant cadre of versatility that can score with two passes or 30, one that scoffs at purists as it goes about its merry way. And yes, I find it interesting that the essentially same squad under Vilanova was going every bit as vertical, and nobody was lecturing him about abandoning the team’s style, etc, etc, but that’s a notion for another day.

Martino and Simeone are both making a fist, but in their own way as each team capitalizes on adversity of a sort. Atleti is “no respect,” as people doubt they are going to be in for the long haul, just as they doubted that they would still be around at mid-season. At this point, the expectation was that it would be business as usual, but the wrong team from the capitol city is staring at a 5-point deficit and Atleti is chugging along. With every match, they want to prove the doubters wrong, want to rub faces in it. They are a nasty bunch, built exactly as needed.

Barça has its own adversity, its own “us against the world,” a world that also doubts. It doubts them, saying they are on the way out, that Bayern stamped the expiration date on some Catalan asses, that everybody is aging, not physical enough and have been found out. The coach is betraying The Way. Off the pitch, the crap has flown fast and furious, and it has all worked magic. The picture and videos from the training sessions show a mood not really seen since Guardiola, a lightness and confidence, a camaraderie that defines a team all pulling in the same direction. Our warriors have as much to prove as Atleti. Whether you are trying get to the top, or prove that you still deserve to be there, the chip on the shoulder is roughly the same size and weight.

Looka that board!

Everyone has the capacity to learn, even a set of moneygrubbing, bespectacled trolls. Our board, famous for saying the wrong thing with a steel-toed vigor that is almost admirable for its persistence, got a smack upside the dome from The Flea that Roared.

Cruijff, Guardiola, Abidal, Valdes have all left or will be leaving. Iniesta, during his negotiations, spoke of a missing “feeling.” Still, things went on, foot in mouth. Then Faus went a bit too far, and boom! Let him have it with all barrels, young squire, and a number of things happened: Faus went quiet; Rosell spoke out in support of Messi and his family; other board members did as well; the club stepped up with a renewal offer, unprompted; the Trolls have been silent.

Time will tell whether the silence is because they have been sharpening their pencils as they prepare to storm the ramparts of culer outrage with yet another assault. But the part of me that friends call Pollyanna likes to believe that they have learned something … how to manage a team of sensitive superstars that are NOT just employees, but culers and socis who love their club with the same passion, MORE passion, than any supporter could possibly muster.

Mes que un club. It is for the players at the core, the Masia graduates, the faces who, when anyone mentions modern-day Barça, come to mind almost as if part of the crest — from Xavi’s spiky, gelled dome to Iniesta’s translucent one, from Puyol’s craggy aerie to Pedro’s windmills. When Rosell was running for office, he proudly would have his soci number as part of his backdrop during pre-election presentations. But for a long time he didn’t act like a soci or culer. He acted like a nasty little man with a vendetta. Of late, he has been increasingly presidential, and it’s a good thing.

Yes, there is much going on that I do not like. That goes without saying. But in this prattle about renewal, I would be remiss in not giving full credit to the men who run our club. The gold star for “most improved board” is in the mail. Now don’t do anything to make me take it back.

November is just around the corner, sorta

There is a referendum coming that you might have heard just a little something about, as in 10 months, a people will get the chance to decide whether they are to become a nation again. At present, Catalunya has two national teams, Barça and the Catalunya NT. It used to be that really it only had one but the mood, the feeling, strikes me as different now.

A lot will happen between now and November, and I leave the speculation about that to the politicians and pundits. Some have wondered where Barça will play after November’s referendum, though why, I have no idea, just as I have no doubt that La Liga will welcome our beloved club with open arms. Look at Monaco and Ligue 1. No, there isn’t any rancor in that case, true. Politics is politics, but money is money. Only a blinkered fool would let one of the richest clubs in the world leave the nest, even if a couple of clubs from the capitol city probably wouldn’t mind.

By Kxevin

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.


  1. Brilliant article, kx ! Many thanks.
    There’s not a single point I dont agree with.
    Thanks to Tata. He managed to keep hold of Bartra and Montoya. Both are staying.

  2. The Flea that Roared
    lol. brilliant.

    Only a blinkered fool would let one of the richest clubs in the world leave the nest, even if a couple of clubs from the capitol city probably wouldn’t mind.
    I have always felt that if Catalunya seceded, Real M*drid would be our biggest supporter. We can’t really exist without each other, can we?

    1. Just don’t let any vikings hear you. They are licking their chops at the idea of not facing Barcelona as welll as Barcelona losing its financial parity without the incredible TV contract and playing Sabadell, Hospitaliet and other local clubs. Nobody talks about Espanyol or the rest of the smaller teams, of course. Typical EE señorio.

    2. I don’t think even RM are that stupid. Yes, they are stupid, the lat 13 years have demonstrated it beyond any doubt as they have worked very hard to destroy the foundations of their club. But not that stupid.

  3. Brilliant article Kxevin. All the possible combinations makes it so much more spicy doesnt it ?

    I know we have ManC coming up in the Champions League but I really really want us to play Bayern at some point. We definitely have a point to prove AND this year we are ready for them.

    I will be very interested to see how Tata plans on breaking down the Athletico defense. The last time we played they had extremely close defensive lines close to their own goal. It seemed they allowed us to get a little further than the half way line and then pressed like mad. Messi got it real bad and our midfielders couldn’t exactly find the space to cleave the defense. Although this did mean that there was space on the wings away from the ball, which is how Neymar scored the header off Alves’ cross. But even then that was a chance hard to come by.

    Do we expect to see more long diagonal balls ? Or do we just move the ball faster ? Tata played Messi on the wing against EE, should we expect something similar ? ah, all the possibilities ! Also probably for the first time in a long long time I am not as concerned about our defense this season. Especially with Valdes back !

    Mouth watering clash to say the least. What are everyone else’s thoughts ?

    1. Off the ball, Atleti are best. What happens if we give them the ball ?
      Better slip xavi in second half, his fresh legs against atleti’s tired ones. They block the midfield and push the ball in wide positions. Wish ney, lex/pedro have a great match. Ney’s one successful dribble can play havoc so there’ll be plenty of dirty tackles. I dont want to jinx it.
      Hope we play adriano, Alba vs costa sounds a little scary. Dead ball situations make the result quite unpredictable. But it’ll be a fun game to watch.

    2. “Off the ball, Atleti are best. What happens if we give them the ball ?” – ah, good point 🙂 I totally forgot about that.

      I dont know how plausible it is for us to give up possession, but it will be interesting to see what happens if they actually do that.

  4. Thanks Kxevin. That was a great read. I’m not going to judge Tata on how we play the next 2 games. I think reaclinmating anyone to the 1st team and starting 11 is always difficult after a long injury spell. Obviously, Messi will be fine and I believe the team will too, but he and his teammates may need a few games to get that special timing down for 1-2’s. I would prefer he start the Copa game and be taken off after 60 mins. A good hour out on the pitch would do him good. He is fully recovered, per reports. That way he has some quality time in a real game situation. The only thing I question is how you know what the reporter asking whether Messi will rock the boat meant? Did he explain it or is that what you think he meant?

  5. Has anyone gone onto vote for team of the year on Fifa or Uefa? They don’t have VV to choose from. No surprise because he’s the most underrated goal keeper in history. The shock is midfielders. No Iniesta or Xavi or Busi to choose from. C’mon. How can they be serious. Isco made the list to choose from? He had a good year last year, but better than Busi?

    1. First of all, you should be more objective. Don’t think like a culé, think like an objective Milan/Chelsea/Bayern/Arsenal/Real/Espanyol/United/City/PSG fan:
      Barcelona’s year began on the 20th of February and ended on the 1st of December, with one suspicious hole on the 12th of March. Nobody knows what happened on that day. Some doctored footage was shown after the event, but here’s what we know: all urine samples from Barcelona players from that match were “lost”. Milan has never been the same team and they’ve been hushed about it, always changing the subject and looking over their shoulders when you ask them.

      Anyway, what happened in that year?
      Barcelona lost to Milan.
      Then they lost to Real.
      Then they lost to Real’s reserves.
      Then the Goalkeeper decided he had had enough losing and said he’s going to quit.
      Then Barcelona almost lost to PSG and lost Messi, even though they said they didn’t.
      Then they fcking lost against Bayern in a manner that shall be remembered forever in the history of football, long after Barcelona are wiped from the pages of history! It was the Seven-Up, in which Bayern scored seven goals to Barcelona’s ZEEEEROOOO in a SINGLE GAME!!! Long after people forget there was a soft drink called Seven-Up, the image of the shamefur dispray of Barcelona shall endure!
      And they went and lost Messi who misjudged his dive and injured himself on the studs of Javi Martinez’s boot.
      Then Barcelona lost one of their mainstays who decided to go and play for a team with a 20 000-seat stadium funded by a fertilizer-factory. It soon became clear that wages hadn’t been paid, while that player was in hospital Barcelona refused to pay him his wages and his hospital bills.
      After so much losing Barcelona decided to buy someone, but still they lost on Gareth Bale and had to satisfy themselves with some skinny dude from South America.
      In the meantime Barcelona players went to play in the Confederations cup and again, they lost against Brazil – and it was Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta, Alba, Pique and Busquets who are to blame for a resounding loss to Brazil spearheaded by Oscar, Marcelo, Thiago Silva and David Luiz.
      And then Barcelona lost again – their coach resigned after so much losing, and the president had to sign a new coach. Problem was, nobody wanted the job, everybody had heard about the 7UP and the losing. So they had to sign a guy from South America where the news of Barcelona’s losing hadn’t been received.
      And Barcelona started their new season by losing once again – to Bayern’s reserves.

      Then the season proper began and was it finished? No, sir, it was just beginning: Players kept getting injured, news emerged that the star player, who was constantly injured, had participated in tax evasion and fraud, had laundered drug cartel money, news emerged that kids were dying at Camp Nou, as holes emerged without notice in the derelict stadium.
      Amid those revelations, Barcelona should’ve lost quite a few matches, hadn’t it been for the corrupt Spanish refs: Sevilla, Elche, Malaga, Valencia, Sevilla, Real Madrid, Villareal, Granada, Betis were all victims of off-side goals, had goals in their favor disallowed and penalties were given against them. The most ridiculous and glaring of all was when Barcelona scored a goal after the match had ended.
      And it wasn’t just on the pitch, you know. There were quarrels among the board and the squad, board directors were fired and made to shut up, the club’s own owners decided to impreach the dictators, but were handed a lawyer-technicality curve ball in the last second. Players refused to sign new contracts because they felt something had been lost. It was a proper mayhem, and to top it off, the squad lost a whole bunch of players to injuries.
      Of course the year ended where it started, with losing. Barcelona lost back-to-back matches against the reserves of Ajax and then against a team the symbol of which is a fat guy with a barret in white and red shouting.

      So, I ask you, what are your reasons to include Xavi, Iniesta or Busquets in the best XI of the world?

      Repeat after me: “Fin de siglo!”

    2. We won the league last year right? I’m not imagining that? So, what did EE win? Oh that’s right…Nothing! Yet, Ozil, Ronaldo,& Ramos are on the list. We have Pique and Messi. Huh? I won’t list Isco because last year he didn’t play w/EE, but the UEFA site has him as a EE player and Ozil as a Arsenal player. The fact the Busi doesn’t make the list out of 10-15 midfielders is a joke. Nevermind Iniesta & Xavi. I’m not saying Iniesta & Xavi blew competition away last season. Not at all. However, we won the Leauge! Made the Semi Finals of CL. I thought we were Uefalona?

  6. This kid is utterly amazing. I’m going to go on the record and suggest we sign a 7 year old. I can’t believe what just watched!!! I coach a team of 6-7 year old boys that have only lost 3 games over the last 2 1/2 years and are really good my son being among the best. This kid is off the charts. He’s a Barca fan. You saw him here first.

    1. That video has been around for a while now – not sure where this kid is now but I saw it back when it was posted in 2010.

      Sure is talented but how many kids and videos you see like this and they never make it…in any sport. Would love to see where he is now almost 4 years later.

  7. Just a thought, if Messi’s arrival adversely affect other forwards performance, How should Martino deal with it?

    Good teams have a definite identity embedded in them, in the way they play. At the moment ours looks like a mix of everything. May be it’s too early to say as the real evolution could only be seen towards the end of the season.

    1. Good teams maybe have a definite identity. Great teams have their identity, but know better than to become stuck in their ways.
      Personally I like the fact that Barcelona can play beautiful football, direct football, and if needed – winning football.

      Against Elche the team showed alternatively periods of passing, defending and luring the opponent out followed by exploitation of space with extreme prejudice, followed by withdrawing followed by insane pressing(and that was without Busquets). If you don’t think it gets on the nerves of the opponent you must be the calmest person in the world. 😀

      The only way Messi’s return could adversely affect the performance of the striker team would be if teams return to the old tactics of crowding their own box and doubling and tripling on the guy with the ball because Messi is on the field.

      But even then Martino could just use Messi as a scarecrow and a worker(like against Real). Defences would have to honour the threat and that would leave space for Neymar, Cesc, Alexis, Pedro or Tello. When all’s said and done, this culé would rather have four different strikers with 25 Liga goals each – and twenty different goal-scorers in the team, with the team winning, and winning big – and Messi in prime form for Brazil.

  8. All four Spanish newspapers have announced that according to “El Confidencial” the judge has decided that there’s nothing wrong with Neymar’s contract.

    Yeah, even MARCA/AS posted it, (in a small rectangle in the web portal under the article announcing reduced cinema ticket prices and the article of the resurgence of padel in Spain.)

    Now, I for one would like to see dear Mr. “Socio” Cases stripped of his membership, pay the costs for the examination and maybe be ordered to pay a hefty compensation to the club for the smear campaign his actions brought.

    1. I didn’t expect that anything would be legally improper with Neymar’s contract. The question is to whom did the 40m go. That question lingers. Could the deal have been structured in a way that makes Neymar the highest-paid player on the team? Good question. I’d be curious about the answer.

      I would hope that Mr. Cases wouldn’t be stripped of his membership for asking a question that any soci has the right to ask. Had the club been as transparent about the deal as they brag about being in other things, the whole situation wouldn’t have been necessary.

      I would also hope that the club wouldn’t resort to retaliatory gestures to rid itself of questioning socis. It’s no secret that Mr. Cases is part of Go Barça, the group whose thwarted censure motion was making new some months back. So yes, he’s a darn bit more than a questioning soci. But the point stands.

      In this instance, Go Barça screwed up again. By pressing a legality question instead of a disclosure one, they allow the board to remount its high horse and say that there was nothing improper with the Neymar deal. It would have shocked me if there was anything legally improper.

    2. Those 40m would in no way be structured as payments to the player – because they would be subject to taxes.

      I don’t agree with you in this instance. True, there are rights, and the socis have the right to ask for clarification. However, the socis also have obligations to further the cause of the club, not to endeavor to hurt it. No, I don’t think it’s in the statutes, but is the rights to bring the Club to court every time you damn well please also in the statute? I would hope not.

      I would also hope that the club does take some measures against this particular questioning soci. It’s a public secret that he’s just a figurehead, but his actions are not ones of a concerned soci. These are the actions of a man who tries to hurt the board – and bugger the repercussions for the club.
      If I remember correctly there’s a saying “One time is happenstance, two times coincidence, three times it’s enemy action.” If you talk the talk, you’d damned better be willing to walk the walk.
      So yeah, making him pay the costs of the examination and stripping him of his current membership sound good enough – but let him reapply as a new soci after a probation period.
      I don’t see why he should continue to have the same benefits and preferential status after his actions.

    3. For me, it’s retribution. And I think that if a soci wants to ask a legitimate governance question (which I think this query covers), he should be able to do so without fear of being ostracized.

      It was a deal that many had questions about, and was a fishing expedition, to be sure. But the question needed to be asked, and the club wasn’t going to be forthcoming about it otherwise.

      It’s no secret that Go Barça wants the current board out. This has happened before in the club’s history, with Elefant Blau and the Giralt effort. It will probably happen again, though it is less likely now with implementation of the 15% standard.

      As with the Blau group and Giralt, I rather imagine that Caess would say that his efforts are indeed trying to further the cause of the club, by forcing change … presuming we view the board as separate from the club.

      I think in the 40m going to the player’s group (run by his father), that’s where the questions would legitimately arise.

    4. I have to say it, for me you’re in excuse mode.
      It’s one thing to raise a question, for which there are proper channels, and another thing entirely to force the matter by lodging a denunciation at the court. Even you admit that it’s just using the pro-forma “legitimate question” in order to cause division and doubt.

      It’s no secret that Go Barça want the current board out. Why aren’t we asking the question “Why now?”
      Why are Go Barça allowed to attack with impunity the club and the board that governs it? Because it’s THIS board? Because Rosell isn’t running around asking “Is everybody happeeee?”? Don’t you find that even a little bit hypocritical?

      BTW, it wasn’t a question, it was an accusation of corruption, fraud and tax evasion. The denunciation was concerned with finding proof that Rosell had taken a part of the “missing” 40 million Euro and that Neymar is the highest paid player on the squad(at which point the presumed course of events would be a massive shitstorm about not respecting Leo or the rest of the squad followed by “Rosell dimisio!”). And the judge apparently stated that nothing of the sort is happening.

      The final result is that Barcelona got a great player who’s the envy of EE, got him cheaper than Ibra and it didn’t involve sending a player of the squad the other way. For me the added bonus of having EE spending 101 million on Bale in order to lift their ego was priceless. Especially how things turned out with Leo. Have you thought about how things would’ve been if Neymar weren’t with Barcelona when he was, and was needed?

      And FC Barcelona paid 57 million for him. Cheaper than what was paid for Cavanni, cheaper than what was paid for Falcao, much cheaper than what was paid for Bale. What about that?

    5. No “excuse mode” at all. The methods were excessive, even if the root of the question was valid.

      As for why now, why does anyone want a board out? I don’t know that their reasons are any more or less valid than Elefant Blau (“Where the money at?”) or Oriol Giralt (“We want trophies!”) There were questions about a deal for a player, and one of those questions linger. I suppose we will never know the answer.

    6. Strictly IMHO:

      The club has reduced its debt(mostly net debt, the gross debt is slightly lowered) and is generating more income than ever. The shirt has a sponsor, and that stain will forever stay with the current board. The next board can just sell to the highest bidder and the culés would rejoice. Money will be available, both from the new TV contract and the two merchandising machines of Messi and Neymar.

      The goal is to destabilize the current board, so that when elections come in 2016 a “new” friendly president can take over and start the reconstruction of the stadium, using the financial power generated. The legacy would stay with the guys who built it, not with the guys who lowered the debt so that the construction could actually take place.

  9. Happy new year everyone! (been away for a while)

    Simple question – on current form, who should be our starting CB’s?

    I vote for Pique/Bartra. I thought Masch started the season well, but not so much since he came back. Still makes too many dangerous mistakes.

    If you also think Bartra should replace Masch as the starter, what should we do with Masch? Keep him as a backup CB and 3rd string DM? Sell him? Teach him to play right back so we can offload Montoya?

    BTW, IF any of this happens, I think it should happen in the summer. I’m not suggesting any big changes in January (well, except for making Bartra the starter now).

    1. I agree. Pique/Bartra for me. With Alves and Adriano on the right & left. Busi, Xavi, Iniesta & Alexis, Messi, Ney.

    1. Have we ever (in recent times) had a yellow against one of our players rescinded? I can’t think of an instance. Not suggesting a conspiracy or anything, just curious.

    2. Lovely com Tata (Barcastuff):

      Martino: “Yellow Juanfran revoked, can play on Saturday? I start to understand how the revoking system works, same happened with Ramos.”


    3. That’s awesome! I love that Tata throws it out there w/out saying anything that could get him suspended or fined. This isn’t the 1st season this has happened. Madrid has had yellows rescinded before, so their players could play against us. Ridiculous. If A ref hands out a yellow it shouldn’t matter if the call was questionable. It’s the ref’s interpretation. So, what they’re doing is questioning the refs judgement by rescinding it.

  10. Neymar cant play due to stomach problems. Xavi takes his place in the squad for the game today vs Getafe.

    That is incredible about the juanfran yellow being rescinded.

    Then again, Busquets forced a yellow in order to miss the elche match, so nobody is pure…. 🙂

    1. It’s one thing to force a fifth yellow, which Busquets and two Atletico players did. But it’s something else entirely to start a match and foul the players of the other team with the idea that if you see a yellow you’ll just appeal and have it rescinded.

  11. why are we hooking in so many crosses? the average height of our team can’t be above 5’9, but we’re trying to play so much through the air…

    1. Are you talking about crosses or diagonal passes?
      If it’s the latter, some of the reasons are:
      1. change of direction of the play
      2. much faster restart of the forward probing
      3. pressure relieve valve
      4. lure for the fullbacks
      5. prerequisite for a Kansas City shuffle

    2. I noticed the same as well. Lots of aerial crosses in the box, from Pedro and Alexis to the opposite wing.

      I am assuming that was a ploy by Tata, to try and see how we can add things to our style of play. In the box, we rarely play aerial crosses – for reasons you have already outlined. But I am assuming Tata still wants to explore our capability in that area. Even if it doesnt result in actual goals, it might wreck the shape of the opposition defense (second ball would be an added advantage).
      Moreover, I was wondering if it could be a tactic they are practicing for games with opposition like Athletico who have excellent defensive shape.

      Did you also notice Alexis was more often than not in the centre, instead of Fabregas – almost as a centre forward ? It does look like we are trying to add to our existing capabilities.

      Ofcourse I wont even pretend to understand tactics. I started learning little by little by reading discussions of Kxevin, Isaiah etc in the old days.

      Maybe others can throw more light on this.

  12. Impressed by how well the team has managed to retain possession so far, not so impressed by the offensive efforts. The young ones Sergi Roberto and Montoya are not exactly succeeding much either in furthering our offensive cause at the moment…here’s hoping for Messi to get some playing time now before Saturday, maybe even score a goal for confidence, and not get hurt.

  13. Really impressed by these 30 minutes – I have not seen him play with that much speed and aggression in the last two years.

  14. Great game today, Happy to see Messi showing some great signs. Cesc as well always delivering when needed…he’s been really impressive with his form lately.

  15. That’s the difference for me. When he picked up the ball perfectly in stride and headed full tilt towards goal I relaxed into the couch muttering “they’re in bother now”. There was never a doubt about his control ( the ball is never more than a foot away from him at full speed) , never a doubt about him beating the remaining defenders and I wouldn’t have bet anything on him missing once there. He doesn’t even look up at the target !

    There’s a wonderful certainty about him at his best.

    1. Exactly Jim! Isn’t it crazy to have that much faith & trust that he’ll go past 3-4 defenders and bury it. 99% of the time its a sure thing. Amazing. He opened the game up and made those goals possible by being on the pitch. The 1st one he got was because the defense was playing high up on him and Busi picked a pass out(lovely btw) over the top. The pass by Song was gorgeous. Happy to see him thread that through for Messi’s 2nd, but Messi did all the work after that.

  16. i used to think that Eidur Gudjohnsen was the slowest player i’d ever see in a Barça shirt… then i discovered Cesc Fabregas. 2 goals or no, he can’t start against a fierce-pressing Atleti.

    those who have been saying “we’re fine without Messi”, are only right up to a point; he doubled our goals in this game in 26 minutes. our play was often lethargic (granted this is the Copa and Getafe are a shit team), but he superimposed himself on the match in a very short amount of time, in a way that probably should have been done an hour before he stepped onto the pitch.

    also, i’m not entirely sure what the point of Sergi Roberto is. yes, he keeps the ball ticking over; but given the movement around him, I could too. he offers virtually nothing in the final third, and the idea of him being a “replacement” for Thiago is laughable. this season he’s a warm body in midfield, but with Rafinha and Afellay coming back into the team in the summer i don’t see a place for him.

    1. Yes. Messi can easily win us matches like he did today. But if we want to win titles, we need a Team.

    2. Disagree. Cesc isn’t about footspeed. His form and his stats speak for his contributions. In fierce-pressing he is EXACTLY the type of player we want with the ball at his feet with a defender up close and personal.

      Bit Harsh of Sergi but I get what you are saying. He’s still developing though and we were spoilt having Thiago before. He’s still got plenty to offer; just be paitent.

  17. Messi looked fantastic. There was a burst of speed in his play that I haven’t seen for some time. He’s Back! His vision was great. Giving Tello a few great balls. I thought are final pass was lacking the 1st half. I’m still not convinced by S. Roberto’s performances. I know it will come with games and time, but he seems to pick out the wrong pass or chooses to go the wrong direction often. I guess we know who Tata’s going with on Sat. Alexis, Mess, Neymar. I hope he goes w/Pique & Bartra. Xavi, Busi & Iniesta will be in. I wonder if he’ll go w/Alba or Adriano. Will Alves be fit for Sat or is he still not training?

  18. I hope Tata resists the temptation to start Messi on the weekend, it’s still too early to have him play 60, 75 or 90 minutes. Put it this way, if the game wasn’t Atleti, there’s no way this would even be a discussion. I think he’s strong enough to go with Neymar Alexis Pedro and then bring Messi off the bench around the same time as today.

    Also feel bad for Cesc but there’s no way he plays in front of either Xavi or Iniesta in such a big game.

    1. Agree 100%.

      And what to do about Cesc? We always assumed he’d have to bide his time a bit here. His inclusion as the emergency false 9 has seemed forced at best. But his stats are crazy now so how could Tata sit him? Too many players deserve to be in the starting XI. What a pleasant headache to have.

    2. Interesting Cesc discussion in this thread.
      Hopefully, with Messi, Neymar, Pedro and Alexis fit and firing, Cesc as a forward experiment will be put to rest. I see the point of playing him there – he’s just too incisive and productive to keep off the field (leader in through balls and assists in Europe since forever, but especially this season) – but I’d rather see him in attacking midfield alongside Xavi, Iniesta or Song in the withdrawn role. There will never be another Xavi, and our changing style is a testament to that, but the idea of Cesc and Iniesta alternatively dropping back to direct play and surging forward to destabilize defenses in their unique ways is intriguing. We’ve already seen Iniesta being asked to play more withdrawn and pull the strings in October, before Messi went down and Cesc was pushed forward.

      But now, taking into account a) our current style, with reduced possession, focus on attack and need to defend more, and b) players’ form, production, age and the need to rest and rotate all the way until May, I just think Cesc in midfield makes more sense than Xavi-Iniesta combination. Interestingly, he has played more minutes for the club than both of them this season (1907, to 1877 for Iniesta and 1728 for Xavi, via Transfermarkt).

      I think our best 11 includes Busquets, Cesc and Iniesta on current form, but there are situations that call for Xavi or Song, and plenty of minutes for everyone to go around. Who plays in the most important matches is another question altogether, one I have full trust Tata will answer depending on the opponent, matchups, tactics, situations and all those other factors coaches are paid to think about. And we have ourselves a coach who seems to be adept at responding to challenges, making tough choices and getting it done under pressure. Let’s see what he comes up with.

  19. Man, if Pedro and Alexis were just three inches taller we’d have scored an additional ten goals this season.

  20. messi! oh how i shrieked and laughed when he scored his second! what an ace.

    i havent seen him play like that in at least two months.

  21. Thong boy! Watch your back! Messi is back with an unquenchable hunger to catch up with you in the pichichi race (whether we like it or not)

  22. Whats with Messi and amazing goals against Getafe? Seemed like the mild version of the wonder goal against the same team …

  23. This flea is a frickin freak of nature is what he is.
    Above all, really happy that Sergi Roberto and Puyol got 90 minutes.
    Sergi is a work in progress and he will get there. One wonders if these are the kind of games that Puyol can participate in and show a good account of himself. Although I thought he was really good yesterday, I can’t see him being chosen to start in high pressure CL games. Pedro has certainly claimed his ‘!’ back and Alexis is showing great courage, while Cesc continues to put up great numbers.
    I cant work out what our best eleven is. Perhaps there isn’t one and that is the genius of Tata’s rotation strategy. Whats up with Alves? Is he not fit? While we haven’t really missed him, and Monty is a decent deputy, he is no Dani, especially when it comes to the short passing and dribbling. I’d certainly not want Messi to start the game against Atleti. Bring him on at the hour mark, just like yesterday. The team is looking good and so is Tata with his new suit. Thank you!

    1. I just wish Sergi Roberto had gotten those 30 min. or more for 60% of the matches instead of the other guy. He doesn’t yet “click” with the rest of them, but he’s getting better. To me he’s more like a box-to-box midfielder, less of a playmaker – but his energy and his youth can compensate for the not-so-young legs of Xavi for example.

      Dani Alves is still recovering from flu. Hopefully he’ll be fully fit for Saturday.

      Song is beginning to emerge as a very good midfielder. Perhaps he was always there and we were just being spoiled rotten with Busquets, who for me is as of this moment is the best single pivote in the world. In any case, Song has performed very well in that more direct environment, especially next to Busquets. And you can see he’s learning: his positioning is better, his passing as well. The fact that Tata is using his strength going forward doesn´t hurt one bit.

      And yes, Tata continues to gain my respect. Maybe it’s just the fact that he’s present, something Tito(Animo, Tito!) wasn’t able to do, but he seems to be getting the best of his players to show up.

  24. Felt joy when Messi came on. Then he scored, twice, a real delight.

    On another note, have we scored a single corner this season? 0 in 150+ is not a good stat.

    1. I don’t think we’ve scored from a corner since Puyol scored against Real Sociedad in the first La Liga match of last season. At least that’s the last one I can remember.

  25. What i find very interesting about Tata is how he has disrupted hierachies on the playing field and empowered players. On the field there seem to be two main manifestations of that: every player has a duty to pass the ball forward when possible and every player has a duty to dribble forward into space when defenders drop off. Song is a good example of that. He usually takes a passive role of defending and then shuffling the ball to a creative (senior) midfielder (usually Xavi). However, Tata has clearly told him he wants more creativity. Indeed, against Elche, Xavi was running well past Song to take passes and several times Song dribbled into space (which is not usually his thing). Playing song as an attacking middie is another way of forcing him to be more creative. But its not just Song. Busquets also seems more direct in his passing and Adriano seems to have been told to shoot on sight.
    Of course, the big test will come with Messi back.

    1. Song looks better farther up the pitch because that is his natural habitat. He isn’t a DM, nor is he a CB, though he can play both those roles. As I have noted before, Song is no more a DM than Toure Yaya was.

      As with Martino’s liberation of Sanchez, he seems to be making a similar effort with Song. It’s really his best shot of staying at the club. That whole DM thing brings inevitable comparisons with Busquets, and those won’t go well for any player, because they are all being compared to an archetype, playing in the role designed to suit his skill set.

  26. Football is that much more exciting when Messi is playing.

    Previously, only Ronaldo, Zidane and Ronaldinho did it for me. Messi just does it constantly. Amazing. I will shed tears the day he retires.

  27. And Sanabria is gone to Roma. Bummer! I hope there is a 1st option on that kid.

    Sanabria is rated highly and already is a senior member of the Paraguay NT. Which other B-team player is already a member of their respective NT?

    1. Babunski, Dongou and I think maybe Bagnack.

      There won’t be a first option on him, given that Roma have paid his 3 million buy-out clause.

    2. Sanabria wasn’t patient. Good riddance. Given the talent we have in the pipeline, the departure of one impatient B teamer doesn’t worry me at all. Shorter term we have Dongou and Traore. Longer term, there are some wonders coming through the pipeline.

      Too much talent to keep ’em all down on the farm. Roma is buying him then loaning him out, which tells you about his readiness to play at the top level with an in-contention squad. He wanted guarantees of promotion, playing time, etc. No freakin’ way. Krkic has taught this club a lot about that stuff.

    3. My sentiments exactly. Good riddance. The club and coach showed very well their opinion when Adama and Dongou were called up (and Dongou scored a goal. Against Cartagena, but it’s still a goal).

      Sanabria should’ve found out sooner that at Barcelona you don’t demand promotion and playing time. If you’re good enough, the club will promote you and give you the playing time.

      I don’t know how much chances there are for new strikers, Neymar is (almost)22, Alexis 25, Tello 22, Messi and Pedro 26. In any case, the club awards loyalty, consistency and hard work. Petulance is not among the qualities that FC Barcelona look for in the academy.

  28. Tito looked like he just went through chemo. Yet, he wanted to attend a match. What a man!

    Btw, what was he doing there behind the camera man? There were plenty of seats and I would assume that he would get to sit in the VIP box.

  29. Some quick thoughts:

    *It is certainly nice to have seen him play a couple of games this season to actually be able to judge him, but I have to agree with those above who are underwhelmed by Sergi Roberto so far. I’m not saying he is a bad player, but I think it is a safe bet he will never reach the admittedly sky-high level expected of a Barcelona starting midfielder.

    *A shame Sanabria is off to Rome, but the competition for Barça forward players is murder. As it stands, assuming Messi and O Ney will start for the next couple of years, it is entirely possible we will lose Deulofeu also, who will have to compete with Pedro and Lexus for minutes. Gerard might very well be the more naturally talented of those three, but the shared characteristics of P! and Lexus complement Messi and Ney a lot better.

    1. Seeing the way Deulofeu is doing in Everton under Martinez makes me think that some of the best and brightest may be sent there under an exchange program for a season or two. Supposing they manage to survive the English terrains with the rain, slipping and Stoke scything, they would have valuable first-team performance under a coach that actually knows what he’s doing(Q tal, Eusebio?). And their experience would be against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, United, City, Liverpool and Tottenham, not Sabadell, Alcordon, Girona and Mirandes.

      Even better, with Everton in fine form they would have potential experience in the Europa League. As you said, the competition for starting spots in the Barcelona frontal three is bloody murderous, with a World/Euro Champion and a National Team captain fighting for one single spot.

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