Real Sociedad 3, Barça 1, aka “A question of balance”


It was the best of teams, it was the worst of teams, this group of players that we gather to support whenever they strap on their boots. From the heights of joy on Tuesday to the depths of despair on Saturday. And on a day when the ancient Vikings predicted the end of the world, maybe they were wrong … maybe they were just predicting what was going to happen in culer land.

Because La Real kicked some Blaugrana ass today.

The last time Barça got full points away to La Real was in the 2006-07 season, under Frank Rijkaard. Didn’t get silver, but beat Real Sociedad. So I reckon that’s something. The sense of history is absent, probably because so many believe as I do, that history’s bunk. Or maybe people just forget. They beat Guardiola, beat Vilanova, beat Martino. That wonderful 2011 Barça team that won Champions League? Drew at La Real. Last year’s record-setting Liga champions? Lost at La Real.

Bogey team? Snakebit? Dunno, but what was apparent was that La Real came out with intent. Someone in this space said they expected the bus to be parked. That didn’t happen. The opponent came out with every intention of playing football and winning the match. It was a young team with not as much to lose as its storied opponent, flying around and playing as if this were the final match any of its players was ever going to play.


Athletic Bilbao did that, and beat us. Ajax did that, and beat us. La Real was the latest opponent, this time with the advantage of facing a team that was stuffed fat with its press clippings as it had just come off of the victory at the majestic Etihad, where Manchester City not only wins, but destroys.

Iniesta said “We didn’t interpret the game correctly, and we paid for it.”

Martino said “It was probably a mistake not to make changes when it was 1-1. … I didn’t prepare the game well.”

And there is a seeming glee by some at the team falling, and falling badly, a joy that allows all of the people who have been saying the team was flawed, the team screwed up in squad building, the team is headed for a fall, the opportunity to gloat “SEE. I TOLD you so! See? Do ya see? I was RIGHT!”

But the reality is that only a myopic idiot couldn’t see that this wasn’t the squad that Martino wanted, just as it wasn’t the squad that Vilanova wanted, or the squad that Guardiola wanted. It’s a squad that hasn’t been right for years, a squad that needs significant additions and to take some hard decisions, a squad that needs to jettison some player weight in the form of Masia graduates who are never going to cut it, bargain purchases and other folks. this has been true for some time, but here’s the thing:

You can be bummed when the team that you love loses. It isn’t anything to celebrate or be smug about as some seem to be. Being right isn’t more precious than our pint-sized warriors dropping 3 points today in a stadium that has been hell for this team.

“Yeah, but we can analyze! No law says we can’t analyze!”

Nope. Not at all. But I’m a fan of balance. A team can’t be the best ever on Tuesday and the worst ever on Saturday. In both cases, it is a flawed team that is managing, sometimes to the good, other times to the bad. And make no mistake, it is a team.

And just as there are negative “what ifs,” there are also positive ones. What if that lovely interplay between Iniesta and Pedro resulted in a goal, as it often does? What if Bartra hadn’t tried to make a play on a ball going over his head, what if Adriano had decided to actually defend, instead of studying Canales’ technique with his next offensive foray in mind. What if, what if, what if.

What if culers understood how freakin’ HARD it is to week after week, stay on top, play every opponent who wants to make their season by dancing on your skulls. The shoves, the fouls, the stomps, the aggression, the crap that just wears you down. Players read papers, visit social media, see what people have to say. They will read that they kinda sucked today, and they will agree.

And some will probably say that they wished folks understood how difficult it all is. I don’t. I am an athlete who has competed and failed, who has been a favorite and failed, who has been an underdog and succeeded. I am still completely clueless as to how our players do it, week after week, and succeed far more often than they fail.


As usual, I popped in to Twitter just before halftime, and you’d have thought that Alex Song had grabbed Messi, bent his head back and quaffed from his severed jugular, such was the scorn. I missed the first half, but was able to watch the full match, because I was curious. And then I watched again. Then I went back down my Twitter timeline because again, I was curious.

The passes, the interventions, the defensive plays that helped the club were greeted with silence. I know, right? If we cheered every pass a Barça player made, we’d be hoarse with bloody hands. Maybe. But boy, that own goal that put Barça down 10-0 was appalling, right? The embodiment of everything wrong with Alex Song.

Song didn’t cover himself with glory, but up to and after that own goal, until the second half when the entire team decided to slide from sleepwalking to crappy, headless chickens, he was having a solid match. And there were players doing worse, who received not a mention. Adriano was a turnstile. Pique almost gifted La Real a goal by leaving a ball perfectly set up for Carlos Vela to strike, then laying out the turnover that resulted in the break that led to a La Real goal. Montoya made Alves’ day by being mediocre again, and I wonder if that taxi Messi was waiting for ever showed up? And that doesn’t cover everyone.

“But Song, man … dayum!”

Someone whose opinion I respect said of Song, “He is a fine player now in completely alien surroundings.”

Richard Whittall posted a wonderful breakdown of the exact sequence of circumstances that led to the Demichaelis sending off in the Champions League match. The point wasn’t to assess culpability, but rather to understand that an event is really a series of occurrences that culminate in one thing happening.

So for the Song own goal, it’s easy to ignore how easy La Real slid the ball around, how nonexistent the marking was on the Canales pass, how lucky the bad bounce was that took the perfectly placed pass from La Real attacker’s head to Song’s chest and past Valdes. Yes, it was an own goal, by a player who really couldn’t have done a lot to not have that be an own goal.

I was expecting some sort of silly kick at the ball, some direct headed clearance that fooled his own keeper, something to justify the derision. I watched him play, expecting to see a miasma of shame.

Didn’t happen.

He apparently sucked on another goal, where a long ball from La Real was perfectly headed by Bartra directly into the path of a La Real attacker, who the defense was playing offside until the header turned an offside player into a danger already behind the high back line. Song raced back to track down the man with the ball, but nobody else thought that playing defense was that great an idea. So the hurried pass fell to a running Antoine Griezmann, who banged it home.

There was also a third goal, again a long pass over the top off a Pique turnover, that Song had the opportunity to head clear, falling down as he made the effort. Nonetheless he pushed the ball over to the sidelines, where La Real had to reset. Again, an opposing attacker was given the time and space to lace in a perfectly curled pass that fell directly to the feet of an onrushing attacker, who bounced it off Valdes for the third goal. Moroccan Argan Oil.

Now back when Valdes still was considered something of a prat, people would have wondered why he hesitated before coming out to attack the ball, suggesting that had he done so, it would have been a catch or hoofed clearance, rather than a goal against. But Valdes is on the good list now, so he couldn’t have done anything about that goal.

Ah, some Twitterverse denizens say, but Song could have. He messed up the headed clearance, a race to culpability that ignores the pass being allowed to happen, nobody marking a loose player who began his run almost from midfield, and a keeper who hesitated, and was lost.

“Damn. Song did it again.”

The point isn’t to defend Song. The point is that pretty much everybody sucked in that second half, except for Iniesta. And even he went into Beautiful Failure mode, rather than the recent Nou Iniesta. But he had to, because somebody, anybody had to get into the box. Messi, wasn’t, Neymar was reverting to ineffectual whiner. The Busquets as Xavi experiment was a flop, everything was a full-on mess, made so by an opponent who had an immense quantity of want.

We played poorly, and lost. We have played poorly and won this season as well, but today, the risks necessary for this team to get results didn’t pan out.

“Why didn’t Martino play Xavi? What a mistake that was.”

Xavi is, as we all know, one of a kind. Play him, and it’s “Martino should rest Xavi more.” Don’t play him and it’s “Martino knows the team needs Xavi. He should have played him.” The third annex is, “The board is stupid for selling the one player who could have played the Xavi role this year,” the retrospect approach that eschews direct culpability for even more futile blame.

Something bad happened, whose fault is it? “Everyone” is too facile. It’s also dangerous because it incorporates favorites, not just punching bags. “Whose fault was it?”

But it all relates to a team that isn’t perfect. If you were to sit Martino down and give him truth serum, he would probably say what we already know, which is that he wishes we had a player who could give Xavi rest, that he wishes Messi were more involved and engaged in the team that is making him a multi-multi millionaire, that Neymar isn’t fit yet and why does he keep raising his shirt to show off that little pooch he has?

And no, my defenders aren’t the ones that I want, and guys like Dos Santos, Cuenca, Afellay, Tello and Sergi Roberto are just drawing a paycheck and costing airfare. I can’t play them in big matches, so that big squad on paper really isn’t all that big. I wish I had the squad that I really want.

Because he doesn’t, he has to rotate, and take risks, such as he did today. No coach ever knows when his team is going to be poor, but he can see it when it is happening, hence the Martino remarks that he should have made the changes at 1-1, coming out of the locker room. But again, risk. The team didn’t play all that bad in the first half, and it can turn it on at any time, right? And who knew that La Real would have so MUCH energy, and keep running, and diving, and fouling and defending and finding ways to get around a suddenly laconic group of players.

Today, the opponents resurrected a past tactic of going over the top with long balls, to get directly at our non-defender defenders, and it worked. So. Three goals later, there is a rush to blame, a race to say that this team really isn’t all that good. Some even say that City was crap, which was the only way that such a poor team could have beaten them.

Make no mistake, Barça was poor today. Not as poor as many would have you believe, but more than poor enough, particularly in the second half, to get a butt-kicking from a committed, energetic opponent. A risky rotation lineup created risks that were exploited and by the time that the match was out of hand, we didn’t have to players to insert to chase the darned thing.

You don’t have to be blind to see that Neymar isn’t match fit, that the team isn’t playing as well as it was when Messi was recovering in Argentina, that it needs defenders and an attacker or two, that it needs some way to replicate the control that Xavi exerts on a match, that it needs somebody to be able to make Pique play with the kind of focus that he evinces in big matches, all the time.

This team has needs.

But for right now it has what it is going to have. From week to week, there is the potential for a match such as this one, because of the crazy high-wire act necessary to work magic with an aging team that had done it all already, and is running out of magical ways to pull out yet another match.

What this means is that it will be erratic, so it will win a Classic, beat a Manchester City, then lose to a Valencia. Its coach will take risks as he sits there hoping, wishing he had a lineup filled with players that he could confidently play in big matches.


Meanwhile, in the here and now, the players that Martino CAN confidently play in big matches come from a finite list. We will watch those players, cheer for them and be disappointed when they lose. And some of us will hope for balance and understanding. You can’t defend a performance such as today’s, even as you can understand how it happens as you watch individual and collective failure. Because just as individual brilliance can bring collective success, individual failure can bring collective failure.

“The team has to rely on individual brilliance to score.” Duh. Thankfully, we have Messi, and other brilliant individuals. “Yay, what a goal, only Messi can do that!” Exactly. Individual brilliance.

Barça failed today, as individuals and a collective. From top to bottom. It happens, and will probably happen again.

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Written by:

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. ooga aga
    February 22, 2014

    Amen kxevin. Thanks for the good words, I enjoyed reading it.

    Just watched the game delayed — downloaded it. Watched the first half, and beginning of the 2nd….after the 3-1 goal I started skipping ahead in the game. I never do this. I always will watch the full game thinking we can get back into it. Today, somehow I knew we couldnt pull it out. There was a cloud over the team. That cloud will go away.

    We still control our destiny in Liga and I can assure you the other two still have points they will lose. What matters is what happens in the games to come, not so worried about today.

    Martino was kicked out of the game by the ref. He refused to comment on it in the postgame presser. I think he was mouthing off near the end of the 1st half? dunno.

  2. flyzowee
    February 22, 2014

    Nice Post Kxevin. Regarding Pique all I have to say is that the days of sucking Puyols titties are over. The guy should be chewing bones by now. I mean he is 27yrs and unlikely to improve significantly in any area of his game. To be fair I must also note his recent run of good form and also the fact that hes played the most minutes for us this season and probably in need of a rest. That being said hes just doesnt inspire confidence in me the way a top CB should. ( cant put a finger on it) Mascherano if you ask me should be the one deserving of a more consistent partner in defence.

    • BA
      February 23, 2014

      Pique is a fantastic player, and almost certainly should eventually be team captain. but in addition to be forced by the inadequacies in our squad to play so many more minutes, i would say he’s also been guilty of complacency by the same problem; he never has any competition for his spot and he’s always the first name on the teamsheet, so why should he work to improve?

      i think that if Pique was healthy, but if we had another 2 real center-backs keeping him out of the team due to FORM, we’d see a marked improvement when he did play. and that’s healthy for the team as a whole.

  3. February 23, 2014

    Well, this is not the end, and we just followed our tradition to not win at Anoeta.
    What surprised me was Sociedad. They have given a blueprint (not a new one, but) for other teams to try against us. I am surprised, no one has mentioned about this. They mostly used long balls, completely avoiding or surpassing our midfield, taking it directly to our defence, who were in Panic mode, especially the 2 CB and LB.

    May be it was not a good idea to start Song and Sergi together, first time, in such a tough away match. I am not talking about Xavi, but may be Cesc should have been there. Song was fine until that self goal.
    And Sociedad defended brilliantly.
    The whole team was poor in second half. Well, sometimes such losses are needed..

  4. G6O
    February 23, 2014

    Whatever the tradition at Anoeta, the fact remains we are in big big trouble now – if I remember my history well, we have lost more titles due to falling behind after leading the league at the half than we have won after coming from behind.

    We have lost any margin of error we had after today.

    • Roger Evans
      February 23, 2014

      “if I remember my history well, we have lost more titles due to falling behind after leading the league at the half than we have won after coming from behind.”

      We lost titles by being behind in points at the end of the season? Now that’s a statistic no one can argue with!

  5. IamXavi6
    February 23, 2014

    Martimo just didnt get his lineup right. Last post I commented that this was NOT the time to field anything but our best 11 possible….for once Martino just didn’t get it and understated the seriousness of this game.

    Still….all to play for! Time to focus on next week people!

  6. IamXavi6
    February 23, 2014

    Just one thing that has me curious. Can you please elaborate more on this Kxevin.

    It’s a squad that hasn’t been right for years, a squad that needs significant additions and to take some hard decisions, a squad that needs to jettison some player weight in the form of Masia graduates who are never going to cut it, bargain purchases and other folks. this has been true for some time

    Specificlly…what are the hard decisions, and who to Jettison?….who wont cut it?…Not that I disagree, but I dont think it’s as bleak as you paint it there (i.e not right for years…it’s been pretty bloody good!) What we need is another quality centre back first and foremost…. Hummels, anyone?.. beyond that…possibly another quality midfield wrecking ball (ala the YAYA)…

    • Peter
      February 23, 2014

      This is my personal opinion – Dos Santos, Cuenca, Affelay and maybe even Tello can’t cut it in the present circumstances. That’s not a lot, when you think about it, but if you really think about it, it’s huge. I do admire the decision of the board to keep the injured men and set them right, but… Try as I might, I think we may see a hunt for someone like David Luis come summer – which will marginalize Montoya.
      I can see Rafinha coming back if Dos Santos is let go. I am not sure about Deulofeu as of right now. However, the main point is to sign players who will be talented AND motivated. The motivation that makes you go the extra pace, the extra second of sprinting.

      P.S. It was a collective mistake in the last goal. The defense left a boulevard smack straight in front of goal – but Valdes could’ve gone just a fraction of a second earlier and claimed it. Maybe it was doubt about his defenders’ ability to secure the other Real Sociedad players. I don’t know.

    • IamXavi6
      February 23, 2014

      I agree with you Peter on Santos, Cuenca and Affelay. They would all be good squad (depth) players for majority of teams but Barca has to be above that level. Tello is also close…

      I’m surprised Luiz wasn’t pursuited harder (depends on who you believe as for how hard we pushed this transfer window).

      Rafinha is a quality talent as so is Deulofeu (who probably needs another year on loan at Everton).

      I’m not sure if things are ‘stale’..Barca is the greatest football team to play for..that should be enough motivation..however I do suspect we need to have a bit of a culture sweep (similar to a Chelsea) and usher in some new talent. Sadly, Barca’s achilles heel is also it’s greatest attribute… too many talented players vying for very few spots… (Thiago leaving for this reason).

      I am also tired of Pedro. He has been surviving on a good game followed by 4-5 sub par games for every other good game. This does not cut it. I realise he may be VERY easy to target (and I was a HUGE Pedro!!! fan)…but for me his value to this team needs to be serious reassessed.

      On the whole, this isn’t a time for knee jerk reactions, however bitterly dissapointed I am. We all were singing praises <- 6 days ago. Martino made his first grave mistake this season… how is it you expect Iniesta to follow up from a CL game and start but a younger and in form Cesc doesn't start!

    • February 23, 2014

      Someone asked above what I would do about overhauling the squad. A complex question, but: Dos Santos, Afellay, Cuenca, Tello, Sergi Roberto, Song are all out. Puyol retires, and I have a talk with Xavi about stepping back and helping to adequately train his successor.

      I bring Rafinha home, and in addition I buy an attacker, two CBs and a hybrid who can play FB or CB. I leave Deulofeu on loan for another season, because he desperately needs it.

      I know that people love Gundogan, but I can’t see him being worth the money, given what we have. With him, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas and Rafinha, there are 5 players for two spots, and all are full-time starter quality. Can’t see that ending well, but what do I know?

      Attackers are complex in our system, because they have to be able to press and defend as well as attack. A player such as Jackson Martinez is much-lauded, but will be expensive. I’d be that Mandzukic would be available in the summer, and the price might be right, as well.

      In the back line, I would start by testing Valencia’s resolve in keeping Mathieu, then add Vergini and Balanta. Price is right on both of them, and the quality is clearly there. Then you have real competition for back line spots, also with the option of Mascherano giving Busquets much-needed rest and rotation.

      I figure if the team does this right, they could probably get away with doing everything that needs to be done for about 80-90m. Factor in the money from sales, and if that 50m transfer budget is in fact a reality, the business should be very manageable.

      But, the board is going to be desperate, so look for some stupid crap. Wouldn’t shock me if Mascherano is sold, and another attacker, either Pedro or Sanchez, and some high-profile player brought in to show intent, even if that player might not be the right one. Desperate men do desperate things.

      — Oh. Looks like the club is going to pay the 9m penalty to make all this Neymar business go away, according to La Vanguardia. It will be an operation in the “Here’s your money, we don’t admit guilt, now leave us alone” thing that we last saw when Messi was tapped for not paying taxes. And on it goes.

      (The rumors that a percentage of the 9m will go to Neymar Sr. are false.)

  7. Xavi6
    February 23, 2014

    You said what I was afraid of saying , Kxevin : this squad need to be overhauled.

    Martino was awful in managing the team . left Song and Busquets combination for an hour . and God , I missed Abi . this is his type of matches .

    If it were up to me : we need to cut players like Puyol , but with grace as he is a part of the history of the club . Xavi is obviously past it and the next season maybe his last . and An orchestrator is a first priority now (eg Gundogan).

    Players like Tello , Montoya , S.Roberto , Afellay , Dos Santos , Cuenca must be cut off the squad . I think an experienced striker like Klose would have been a good addition to the squad .

    And I still think the most important player we need is a CM not a CB . the way we lost the MF in yesterday’s match was awful .

  8. Jafri
    February 23, 2014

    Any thoughts on how Busquets played in his non-CDM role?

    • IamXavi6
      February 23, 2014

      God awful. For all of Busi’s talents in being a road block in a CDM role… he cannot be put anywhere else. This is where he comes up significantly short against YAYA and other such players.

  9. KEVINO17
    February 23, 2014

    Blaming Song for the first goal is nuts. He actually did extremely well. The failure was letting Real whip in a deadly cross to a pomo. Song tracked his man, got his body on him and forced him to head wide. Then lady luck turned up.

  10. KEVINO17
    February 23, 2014

    The big mistake was starting Neymar. He became the extra passenger who sunk the boat.

  11. Dar_vincy
    February 23, 2014

    Flyzowee, you couldn”t have said it any better. The talk of always pairing someone with Pique offers the impression that Pique is an irreplacable fiqure in our backline.
    If anything, his weaknesses is something we shouldn’t be putting up with.
    If other teams reasonably defend well without possession, how hard is it for us to do same?
    Everyone in the world knows our weakness lies in that dreadful and errabund defence of ours. How we can’t rectify it is beyond logic.
    And if we are relying on the likes of bartra (a better version of Fontas) to be the custodian and successors of the incumbent elements of our defence- and Pique as the commander- then we are in for several calamitious defensive performances.

    • IamXavi6
      February 23, 2014

      I agree, and everyone sees we need a quality CB to ‘partner’ Pique for about 3 seasons now (as above I mentioned Hummels).

      Just on the market though…who is on the list that you want there? is there such a player that would fit AND be available for a ‘REASONABLE’ price?

      The only other player I think we had a sniff around and maybe still are is David Luiz. Hopefully he comes in with Ter Stegen at some stage.

      For all of Ney’s amazing ability as a young wonderkid…having that x factor forward really shouldn’t have been our priority during last off season.

      All to play for!

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      David luiz is even worse than pique! No wonder a 57 year old john terry and gary cahill are the starting Cbs and lavid luiz is the back up

    • Huckleberry
      February 23, 2014

      Piqué is out for 14 days. Good luck, Barça!

  12. gaspersm
    February 23, 2014

    And when i talk about a complete team overhaul people here crush my opinions viciously. The coach needs to have players he can rely to start versus different teams, but No, the board gave him dos santos, cuenca, afellay, tello, montoya, etc players who are good enough for midtable la liga teams. What nonsense to not buy a new Cb, now pique is injured and we are in trouble. Bayern werent in trouble when badstubber got injured, or madrid when varane got injured. This has come in a time when bartra has lost so much confidence after being sent to watch the game from the stands so often. Masch and bartra will have to play together and the last time they did, philip lahm scored a header from a cross.

    This incompetent board is hurting us now

    • Dar_vincy
      February 23, 2014

      Iamxavi and Gaspersm, i’m with you on this.
      The major reason Pique gets to play often is the hight adv he possesses and offers.
      The reason perhaps his several weaknesses wasn’t quite pronounced and exposed was because of the disciplined presence of Puyol and Abi.
      This however is not to beliitle his past contributions or ignore his recent decent performances but i want to believe a club like Barca deserves much better i make bold to say.
      D.Luiz is a good def- fast, aggressive, effervescent and quite zealous when on the field but quite happy-go-lucky, a bit indiscipline and impulsive. But over-all his strengths outweighs his flaws. His unpredictable game will ensure that he might and might not excel here.
      Does anyone here knows much about Eliaquim Mangala?
      Getting a good defender should not be limited to popular names.
      The likes of Vidic, T.Silva and Kompany were relatively unknown talents before bursting to limelight.
      Our scouts can do well to look for defs with speed, strength, aggression, one who can aid cohesiveness, discipline, etc, etc.
      For the so called mediocre back-ups we have, i think their continued presence could be down to the La masia sentiment we’ve so much obsessed ourselves with.
      As much success as it has brought us, if we can’t subject it to adaptabilty and flexibility, we might continue to self-destruct.

    • ooga aga
      February 23, 2014

      i love it — we lose, and then it’s “get rid of pique” and “who can we buy?”, Football Manager style. have fun with that.

      pique is going nowhere, so get used to him.

    • Jim
      February 23, 2014


    • Jim
      February 23, 2014

      I’m loving the comparing Pique to David Luiz.

      Would you care to elaborate on Pique’s several weaknesses? Is it his forward passing? If so, we could easily change it from him who is trusted with the ball forward to Masche…. Oh, wait. Maybe it’s his weakness in the air ? Well, we might get a chance to see how much better the others are now that he is out. At least we’ll get someone who can recover the ball. What’s that you say? Pique is way ahead of anyone else in that regard ? Recovered 21 balls against City and didn’t lose any ? Ah, it must be that he doesn’t dash out of position to make a tackle he has no chance of winning? You’ve got me there.

      Sorry, I’ve missed who your suggestions play for. Is it the world and Euro champions? Does Pique play for Spain because there are no tall defenders?

      Apologies for the sarcasm . You’re entitled to your opinion but we don’t get any further forward if it’s just a feeling with nothing to back it up. At least cite a couple of instances from last night’s game and we could agree on them.

  13. Jim
    February 23, 2014

    So many points made . . . . So little time to answer!

    First thing to say is that Kxevin has to be right in that you don’t go from being a great time a few days ago, and that was a great performance away from home, to being rubbish. So what was the difference? The main one for me is obvious ; Xavi. The other was a lack of energy as has been noted. People have written Xavi off in ridiculous fashion but that wouldn’t have happened last night as they wouldn’t have had oodles of possession to do it with. Mistake by Martino ? Not initially as we have to rotate to keep older players fresh. Starting lineup was always going to struggle away from home with Song and Busi playing out of position. Very few played well but Song just isn’t Barca quality. It’s not so much what he does or doesn’t do for me – it’s the way he has made a habit out of nearly getting there. – the own goal is a great example. No blame to him for the bounce off his body but his man got his head to the ball in our 6 yard box before him . He’s too slow a thinker and too slow a mover. He needs to move on. Have to say Busi had a stinker as well. Felt sorry for Iniesta having to try to exert control and get the attack going. Xavi’s look from the sidelines said it all.

    Defence was poor, partly because of the type of attacks which were being launched and partly because they didn’t play well. We were back to getting caught out on numbers, something Tata had improved on. The difference last night was that Pique wasn’t any better than the rest which he has been consistently this season. Not gonna make excuses for him and there were a couple of individual errors from him but anyone thinking he’s not the class act in our defence needs to have a good look at our games. What I would say is that he’s been injured in our last two games before last night, played on, got injured again couldn’t ? be taken out and is now as a result out for two weeks. Don’t know anything about Almeria and Valladolid apart from they’re not great but you can bet your bottom dollar on two things – they’ll be practising cross balls as I write this and Puyol will be back.

    Midfield was a mistake but only really when he saw it wasn’t working. At that point it was a quick nod to Xavi to give us a whole half to get the control and provide a platform for the forwards. Cesc was never going to be the answer last night. He plays right into their game. I don’t think we learned much about the forward line as we never had control in their last third. No, Neymar isn’t match fit but if you don’t play him he won’t get match fit and we have bigger games coming up. Messi looked tired or hurt or something. It was almost as if he saw that he couldn’t lift that team which is worrying. I’ve written before about the last days of Dalglish at Celtic where a weariness eventually came over him having to carry the team. Hope this isn’t the early stage of that.

    Is it the end, no. Is it huge, yes. Another defeat and we can wave goodbye to La Liga. However, lest we forget the whole of the rest of the season because of one result – the defence is better than last year and Tata has got the FBs understanding that there are responsibilities (no they didn’t remember this last night as the number of one on ones out wide with Pique will testify), he has finally worked out that this team needs pass and control more than it needs verticalidad but that there are times when we need to speed up our play moving into attack and he has shown that he does learn from mistakes so I’m guessing we won’t make that one again.

    Only real problem for me is how and where to play Neymar and Messi but we’re still well placed in all three competitions so any reaction should bear that in mind.

    • Jim
      February 23, 2014

      * sorry, team.

    • barca96
      February 23, 2014

      Wow. When did you ever write such a lengthy comment?

      And when did mom4 ever criticize the team? When u first saw her comment in the morning, I thought her account was hacked but when I looked at it again just now at night, she talked about margarita so it must be her! 🙂

      I guess the performance last night was really bad. I decided to record it on HD cause I had a sports day to attend early in the morning and on the afternoon a football match. Couldn’t afford to wake up at 3am to watch the match.

      Is it possible to say that it’s the worst performance of the season? Or at least 2014?

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      Yes!! The worst so far this season

    • BA
      February 23, 2014

      i think it could be the end for Alex Song. he’s been AT BEST adequate in the few games he’s gotten this season, and he was dire in this one (though yes, the whole team played badly). can’t say that i’d be sorry to see him go, i never understood his acquisition in the first place. there’s a fair bit of dross in the squad, as others have mentioned, but more importantly we’re going to need to bring up or in MORE players; i.e. maintain a larger squad than we currently have if we’re going to compete in 3 competitions every season. bringing up the likes of Sergi Samper, bringing back Rafinha and Deulofeu and getting more use out of Afellay would assuage much of the strain on the squad, for very little financial cost.

      Puyol is and has been unreliably injured for 2 full seasons now, while Xavi needs increased periods of rest between his (mostly excellent this season) performances. why these OBVIOUS issues weren’t addressed in the transfer window is gross mismanagement; or perhaps we simply spent too much money on Neymar. in fact i would say that’s the most likely reason we didn’t move to acquire a defender last summer: the funds weren’t there, since we had spent nearly €90m on the Brazilian. how many outstanding defenders or versatile midfielders would that sum buy?

    • February 23, 2014

      Sergi Samper isn’t ready yet. And given his demonstrated laziness in closing down while defending, he has even more work to do than many suspect.

      Song isn’t as big a problem as where Song played yesterday. As a AM in a DM’s body, it’s a difficulty for him. All of his good matches have been farther forward in midfield. But Martino didn’t want to risk him there with Iniesta, so Busquets was put there. But that just meant not one, but two players out of the positions that best equip them to do well.

      Deulofeu would, in an ideal world (non-deperate board, Tello not being crap) be given another season at Everton. Rafinha is ready to come home.

      Neymar was expensive. I would also suggest that he, as relief for Messi, is every bit as, if not more necessary a purchase than a CB.

  14. ooga aga
    February 23, 2014

    hello fans? hmmm. we are on track to reach the champions league quarters after beating arguably the most dangerous team in england, in their house. we are in the copa del rey final. and we control our destiny in the Liga, even if we arent in 1st place.

    and we lost in anoeta — nothing new, we havent won there in forever.

    99.9% of football fans out there would die to have our problems.


    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      99% of those teams dont have the talent we have, dont have a board that is too blind to transfer targets, complacent players who have no fear of being replaced in the starting line up, Reluctant to improve the squad while the money is there.
      No comparisons neend to be made. Barca isnt just any other team in the world

    • ooga aga
      February 23, 2014

      so apparently barcelona fans have a right to act spoiled?

    • BA
      February 23, 2014

      well, yes, in part. if we hold high standards for our club (more than a club), then we have to maintain our vigilance when many others would claim the club is doing well (as Jordi Cases did), and we have to search for fault lines that might hurt the squad or the club as a whole.

      i’d contest your accusation of “acting spoiled”. i for one don’t expect us to win every game or every trophy every season; but we have one of the best and most expensive squads in world football featuring the world’s best player and probably 30% of the world’s top 20 players. with those resources, it’s PROPER to expect alot from that team.

      the Sociedad game was a symptom of larger problems, which we’re here trying to illuminate; it’s not the end of the world but it speaks to larger issues that might result in us performing badly this season, or next. we should try to be aware of them, so that our expectations aren’t OVER inflated and we understand the challenges the team has and who has created them.

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      It depends with how you decide to call it!!
      Teams with certain problems in the team try to solve them within their abilities, but we ignore them and pretend that everything is okay!!
      The complacency within the squad and the board is unbelievable

    • Jim
      February 23, 2014

      But if you could have brought in an extra player at the start of this season who would it have been, how much would we have had to pay and how long would it have taken for them to get used to our system? Cesc still hasn’t quite cracked it and goodness knows how long it would take a new CB to get used to our kamikaze defensive system. A classic tall number nine wouldn’t have survived even the Spanish winter standing waiting for time, space and the ball in the tight areas we play in.

      Tata attempted to sort the defence by ensuring numbers back ie. at least one FB at any time. And to be fair that has shown in improved defensive displays this year. However, nothing can legislate for FBs who are back just not tracking the run of their man. Yes, I am looking at you Adriano….
      Last point I would make is that I’m not aware of any of the last three managers asking for a CB and not getting it so I’m not sure that’s down to the board. Apart from Chiggy that is …..

    • BA
      February 23, 2014

      we can’t know what goes on in the boardroom or in the sports director’s office, but we can all see at this point the glaring weaknesses in the squad; foremost among them a lack of defensive options at center-back. nor do i think it’s helpful for us to say we would have brought in this player or that player (apart from Fantasy-Footballing), since the club pays people alot of money to find those kinds of players for them…. there just has to be direction from the top to go out and get them.

      honestly i’ve never understood the calls for a big No. 9, since the team doesn’t seem to be psychologically capable of playing such fundamentally different systems interchangeably. every time we’ve tried a drastically new system, we’ve had problems. but a beautiful system (quick, short passing) we already have, and it works almost every time if the parts are there and in good working order; the problem is simply that they aren’t and haven’t been.

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      Our passing is very slow nowadays!!! Slow and lethargic! The only time i have seen the team play that system well is against rayo, and they left us too much space that other teams cant afford us with.

      It’s not just about a big striker, but a big versatile and mobile striker that can make it happen

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      By that logic, we shouldnt be buying any players. The problem is that we have been buying players who werent even needed, and forced them to change their game to fit our style. Why not buy players and allow them to add something, a new dimension to our game??

  15. DumbOx
    February 23, 2014

    Thanks, Kxevin. Very nice way of putting things into perspective. There is something about our team that worries me — and I just can’t place it just yet. To be brilliant in one game and play sub-par next isn’t the kind of consistency that we need. Perhaps, there are non-game factors that do affect them (I.e. Neymargate, new leadership, etc) Who knows? What I know is despite our “enviable” status of being in the CL quarter finals, Copa del Reig finals, and still in the running for La Liga title, I am worried that this team won’t have the bandwidth to plow through and lose it all in the process. I hope to God that I’m wrong though.

  16. Víctor
    February 23, 2014

    Defense? Yes, Barcelona’s defense isn’t that good… and, if I remember correctly, this team rarely has a very good defense. Barcelona doesn’t win championships thanks to the defenders or defensive system, Barcelona wins silverware because of one thing: our attack!!

    Focus on the attackers, on the midfielders, possession, attacking style and let’s concentrate on destroying other teams’ parked buses and outplaying them… that’s more than enough to crush them.

    Barcelona’s main “defense system” is the attack… remember that! If you keep attacking, you don’t need to worry about defending.

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      So according to you puyol, marquez, gaby milito were not great defenders?
      If the team doesnt need defenders then why have we been trying to sign thiago silva?

    • Víctor
      February 23, 2014

      Gaby Milito wasn’t that great. Puyol and Marquez were good defenders, however, Marquez wasn’t there in Barca’s best seasons.

      Not saying defenders aren’t needed, but… if anything, a good defensive system (or style) is needed…

      Truth is: at this time, most teams play a defensive game against Barcelona, yes, even teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Milan. We don’t need to have “great defenders” to win against them…

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      Well all our players were good defensively back then. Everybody pressed, everybody tackled. But now we have neymar and messi who dont press, xavi, iniesta who are growing older and have less energy to press and now we need better defenders, because with the way they a
      We are playing now, defenders are called to action more often than before

      Most good teams nowadays start with a good defense. If you cant concede the worst result you can get is a draw. What is wrong with having great defenders, a wonderful midfield and a ruthless attack?
      We hardly have those either in terms of structure or personnel

  17. TITO
    February 23, 2014

    During the treble season 2008-2009 we had the same number of points at this stage. AND, it’s probably our best season ever.
    So, it’s pretty childish to call for major changes after every single game that we do not win it.
    The thing is that SOME fans have set our (their) bar so high that they expect every season to be a full of trophies one. It will NEVER be, so calm down. We can and we will criticize our performances week in week out cause that’s part of being a fan. When they play good regardless the result we will get positive reactions, when they play bad the team will be bashed, but that’s how it goes.
    The problem is not in not buying new players, the problem relies on being concentrated each and every game regardless of the significance.

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      According to many people, the team has not been playing as well as some of the scores suggested. That is why most of our defeats have not been graceful but rather saw us being outclassed. Losing is accepted but the way to lose is the problem.
      During the treble seasons teams didnt outclass us, we just couldnt score against them, but played well and took chances,
      This season, teams in la liga are weaker than the treble season. So there is no point comparing.
      But we lose convincingly!

    • ooga aga
      February 23, 2014

      man, you are insufferable.

      yes, that’s an ad hominem attack.

      “most of our defeats” — you mean at least 3 out of the 4 losses that we’ve had the entire season? ajax, sociedad, bilbao, valencia. the ajax match didnt matter much, and i wouldnt say we were outclassed by bilbao. sociedad featured far from our best 11, and a UCL hangover. valencia, well they played a fantastic match, and we werent at our best. so what?

      and what sort of evidence can you marshal to prove that the teams in liga are weaker now?

      did you watch every game in the treble season? i did. we certainly, certainly had dips. go back and watch every game and then come back to us. thanks.

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      Surprisingly we are the only team which underperformed after the UCL. Psg, bayern, man city, all fared better

    • ooga aga
      February 23, 2014

      waaah! we didnt do what other teams did! im real sad!

      guess what. real sociedad is a champions league caliber team.

      stoke and hannover 96 are not.


    • Jim
      February 23, 2014

      You do know that we have only conceded 20 goals in 25 games, have the best goal difference in La Liga and less goals conceded than the current leaders, don’t you ?

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      Then why do you think so many journalists and pundits keep saying that we need to reinforce our defence. Statistics and numbers dont usually show the whole picture

    • ooga aga
      February 23, 2014

      the journalists and pundits need to find something to say. a lot of it is hot air.

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      They wouldnt be making it up if it is not there to see!

    • Jim
      February 23, 2014

      So on one side we have the facts and on the other unsubstantiated opinions? We have about the second or third meanest goals per game in Europe’s top leagues!

    • gaspersm
      February 23, 2014

      It can be an issue. We all saw how bayern had to buy shaqiri, dante, javi martinez, and mandzukic which changed their season completely. These players brought competition and hunger.
      Buying players is not everything but CAN be part of it

    • flyzowee
      February 23, 2014

      I agree with gaspersm. Statistics can kiss my butt. They never show the full picture. Results wise we are doing brilliantly across three compititions but that should not make us turn a blind eye to glaring issues. This club currently does not have the fitness to consistently press in addition to having a defence that is only good for sweeping loose balls. This for me is a problem irrespective of whether we beat mancity or win a classico or whatever. It has absolutely nothing to do with knee jerk reactions. The problem is there in black and white, both in victory and defeats. What annoys me is that people then call you spoilt for pointing these out.

    • February 23, 2014

      So. The problem is tactical, rooted in how the team plays defense and the kinds of defenders that it requires to play its system. How would you solve that problem?

      La Real solved that problem by going over the top, to get directly at the non-defending defenders, and it worked thanks to poor collective play. If the team was as poor and flawed as so many suggest, it would be out of all three competitions, rather than in with a fighting chance in all three, right?

      If Adriano wasn’t a turnstile twice, if Montoya had decided to actually mark a runner, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We’d be lauding the team after having pulled out another tight win despite not being at its best.

  18. justdoit94
    February 23, 2014

    gaspersm, for the life of me i cannot figure out whether u are trolling or u are just that negative. I have never met someone who makes so much of something so little such as a defeat in a stadium that we have failed to win at for years…
    Life moves on man.

  19. Dar_vincy
    February 23, 2014

    Ooga and Jim, i do respect your opinions and really enjoyed the sarcasm sandwiched between.
    I’m not launching a scathing criticism of Pique because we lost.
    And yes, i did acknowledge some of his recent decent displays and past contributions amongst which was against Man city. But if we are going to fix our defensive conundrum, one of the steps to take is getting defenders who epitomizes what the likes of Puyol, Thiago silva, V.Kompany, Pepe (yes, Pepe-aside is proclivity to be madcap, sinisterly impulsive), Terry etc stand for.
    His lack of speed perhaps isn’t helped by his penchant to always bomb forward to be the next jan koeller thereby leaving ocean of space to which he can’t recover- not saying it’s bad but equillibrium has to be struck in a defence that both full backs are like minds.
    Hiss lack of physicality is also one. I would think it’s a defender’s thing to bully strikers and not the other way round. He doesn’t really offer this to be frank.
    Aggression. Being aggresive is crucial to anything, just ask Mourinho (whom i don’t like but appreciate this very attribute in all his defensive guards).
    Compared to the afore-mentioned defs, Pique is a bit soft for his role.
    I could think of focus (which is quite sparse). Defensive discipline, organisation comes to mind among others.
    He has his strengths though-height, good reading of the game, intelligent passing.
    And no, Masch cannot be said to be better because he isn’t a def. But he does bring intensity, aggression, physicality amongst others. This are attributes, however inconsequential you think it is, are what prevents cheap, ludicrous and avoidable goals. And yes, his performances this season hasn’t be overwhelming because most time his flaw as an ‘unnatural’ def is often well exploited and exposed.
    Just one question: if Pique wasn’t some la masia product or catalan, do you think he’d still be in barca when his performances and concentration levels were atrocious at best (esp when the shakira period was quite preponderant) considering Chygryinsky wasn’t given a second chance?
    My major concern here isn’t to lambaste him because i don’t like him but to focus on the defensive flaws that has not only bedevilled us but also make us an object of derision.

    • Jim
      February 23, 2014

      We appear to be looking for different attributes in a CB for Barca., justdoit. In the system we play you need a defender who is a great passer as quite often he will have to play a fair length of pass forward at pace because teams close down the other options. You will have noted that the one tasked in our side with that is Pique and it’s him for a reason. You can’t do that if your focus wanders. I would argue he’s not slow either, at least not when compared to Masche or Puyol. It’s easy to say that because of the long strides he takes and he isn’t the quickest over five yards I’d give you that.
      However, for me his main attributes are his reading of the game which you acknowledge and his ability to do his job while staying on his feet. Great defenders don’t go to ground unnecessarily yet he can do it when it is needed as against City and Sevilla. He has a problem in that since Puyol fell out of the team he never plays with any defenders in the back four. You just can’t do that at the top level. He ends up carrying the can for poor decisions and defending in the others. I’ve posted quite often here when someone has what I consider a superficial look at conceded goals and blame him. I’m also happy to call him out when, like last night, he makes an individual error but these are few and far between. Happy for anyone to post other occasions when he has let us down but I watch every game twice and haven’t seen many occasions at all. I genuinely believe he is one of the best five or six defenders in the world. What we need to do is find another decent one to play beside him.

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. The reason some think he is soft is that he doesn’t exude aggression. I reckon it might be an idea if we asked him to step up and captain the team. I’ve always liked a CB as captain and him having to get on others’ cases might just be what we need.

    • February 23, 2014

      Pique is a perfect Barça defender, in consideration of the skill set required to play the position. It would be a mistake to apply normal defender attributes to our defenders. Vincent Kompany, while a fine defender, isn’t a Barça defender. As much as it pains me to say it, skill set wise, David Luiz is.

      A Barça defender was well spelled out by Jim, and there aren’t many of those in the world. It’s no secret that our best defender in the past decade, Puyol, was in fact a converted attacker. It makes perfect sense in light of the skill set(s) required.

      Pace, and gobs of it, is also required, as well as range. For example, Abidal had pace and range. Alba has pace, but doesn’t have range. Adriano has pace and range.

      For me, the danger is in looking at set piece goals conceded and thinking of a defender as being someone who could prevent those kinds of goals. That means a Prem-style defender, and I don’t want a player like that anywhere near our back line, even as I respect many a defender in the Prem for the qualities they add to their teams in the Premiership.

    • Dar_vincy
      February 24, 2014

      I do appreciate the points both (Jim and Kxevin) of you made.
      No doubt Pique has the skill-sets to function effectively in this unique system of ours.
      Especially his passing ability to ensure possession is retained which also buttress the idea of defending with the ball.
      However, i’d love to think it’s not impossible for any defender in the mode I listed to adapt to our philisophy or acquire the skill-set to excel in that position.
      Conversely, what i think it’s a bit hard to learn is speed, physicality etc.
      The point here is about having personnels who are defensively assuring when defending without the ball.
      I’m not pointing fingers at Pique because we lost and cos he’s always the scape-goat any time something goes wrong; i’m looking at the bigger picture here which is having two centre halfs that exude all the necessary defensive requisites and inspire confidence in the fans anytime the opponents attack us.
      And no, our defensive frailties can’t be simply attributed to just the defenders but also other departments of our team, a point i’ve always regurgitated. And our defensive woes trascends personnels, the system and other components invoved in defending should also be factored.
      But if you feel our defence isn’t as vulnerable as few of us here are making it to be then it’s all well and good.
      Perhaps we can’t come to a common ground on this; however, i humbly respect your submissions.

  20. justdoit94
    February 23, 2014

    anyhow, atletico down 2-0 in pampolena. I want atletico to drop points n all but at the same time they play real madrid next week and i hope they can beat them

  21. SoccerMom
    February 23, 2014

    All I could think of while watching this match was the locker room scene in Bull Durham:

    Skip: You guys … You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!

    Larry: Lollygaggers!

    Skip: Lollygaggers!

  22. February 23, 2014

    3-0 to Osasuna. Atleti getting same treatment as us. After a nasty midweek CL encounter, facing an aggressive, pressing opponent of high quality. RM got lucky with Elche at home, but next week they travel to Schalke, then face an angry, rested Atleti.

    The Liga is bonkers this season, and it ain’t over yet.

    • justdoit94
      February 23, 2014

      I hate looking at the liga table now. Real madrid are actually top of table with 3 pts cushion . This is just… ugly

    • Jafri
      February 23, 2014

      I honestly had less of an issue with losing than the fact that RM went top.

  23. February 23, 2014

    Now RM travel to Schalke midweek, then face Atleti at home on the weekend. We’ll see how they do.

    Osasuna played a stonker of a match, every bit as good as La Real played against us. Was watching post-match interviews, and they worked on two different set pieces, both from having identified weaknesses in the way that Atleti defend them, leaving the runner loose every time. Worked once, almost worked twice.

    Neutrals must be having a great time with this season, which is setting up brilliantly. If Atleti beat RM next weekend, and we can take care of business at home, everything is level again. Even if Atleti do not beat RM, we can still win the Liga by taking care of business, and beating RM and Atleti.

    If it comes down to that last match of the season, however, like that scene in the movie “Scanners,” my head will explode.

    • Huckleberry
      February 23, 2014

      Schalke is no challenge for Real Madrid. Madrid won’t be tired, neither physically nor mentally, after beating them comfortably.

    • February 23, 2014

      Wait, now they are supermen, like Bayern?

      The travel and the match will have an effect. They will not be as fresh, having played midweek, as Atleti, who will not have played since today. This will be the case even if they defeat Schalke, as it is expected they will.

    • February 24, 2014

      Real Madrid are no supermen, but the advantage for them is that they have a very good attack, and they dont face the kind of determined Bus’s that we face. Add to it, you will see Schalke playing them at equal footing, which means Madrid will have enough space behind the Schalke back line to run at and score. No teams are defending Madrid the way they do to us. So, unless Schalke park it, Madrid should win it without much struggle.

  24. ooga aga
    February 23, 2014

    Hey Atletico loses 3-0. that team needs an overhaul!


  25. Peter
    February 23, 2014

    I’m not trying to sound like I’m whistling in the dark, but here’s how thing look right now:

    Barcelona have one game in the next 13 days – at home vs Almeria.

    Atletico, after losing 3-0 vs Osasuna, have six days to train for the home game vs Real. If Atletico win it, it would mean that Real Madrid can only win La Liga by points(overall goal-difference and more goals scored count only after the head-to-head points and goal difference)

    Real Madrid have to go to Germany and play against Schalke 04 on Wednesday, return to Madrid and then play Atletico Madrid on Sunday afternoon. Then they have to play Schalke at home on Tuesday and welcome Barcelona on the 22nd/23rd of March.

    And to top it all, it will be March.

  26. February 23, 2014

    The thing for me that I reference in the above piece, that is typified in commenters such as gaspersm, is a negativity that ignores the fact that we have the players we have, and they are trying.

    This is also culer to the core.

    We beat City, and “Well, we could have lost.” We lose at La Real and it’s “We have been exposed.” It isn’t being spoiled. It’s just a pessimism rooted in expectation. The problem for me is that the expectation isn’t properly directed.

    I embedded a time bomb in the piece, that I thought for sure would blow up in my face: that the team isn’t playing as well as it was when Messi was recovering in Argentina ….

    So to properly direct the discussion, here is a blasphemous suggestion: It isn’t just the fault of the unfavored players such as Pique and Song. It’s the fault of the favored ones, as well. Notice the difference that a pressing, defending Messi made against Manchester City. Compare that to the player out taking a Saturday stroll in Basque country yesterday.

    Busquets has not been himself for some time now, something that few see fit to mention. Iniesta too often relies on directionless dashing about with the ball rather that the directed kind of attacking we saw from him in the City match. Valdes was rather uncertain against City, even as he made good saves, and was also uncertainly against La Real.

    My point from above is that it isn’t just non-favorites. As gaspersm points out, Messi and Neymar don’t defend, though I would suggest that to say Neymar doesn’t defend means that you don’t watch matches closely enough, as that is one surprising attribute that he has brought to the team that I didn’t think he had in him.

    If we are going to correctly assess the state of this team when it doesn’t perform, it can’t be done by just blaming a player or two.

    • BA
      February 24, 2014

      i’d heartily agree that that sentiment. Messi scored but offered very little the rest of the game; we were sharper and more aggressive in the final 3rd without him. is Martino strong enough in his position to bench him, or even to use him the way basically every other player in world football is used, determinate on form and effort? i just don’t think so.

      attacking players is the one area where we have a wealth of options; if we can’t successfully rotate there to get the most out of our offensive potential, that is a symptom of weak coaching.

  27. IamXavi6
    February 23, 2014

    Just taking a breather from some of the stances here.

    The reality is the league is still all to play for. Atleti losing just goes to show it’s still very unpredictable. We still have to play Madrid again. But we definetely CANNOT have anymore slip ups.

    As for the gaspersm \ Ooga et al – everyones opinion is valid in their own way. If we disagree or agree, the origin of the stance is the same…we all have PASSIONfor our club. This isn’t a bad thing.

    Ratting on Pique isn’t probably the way to go about it though. Pique is a worldclass CB on the whole. He’s saved our asses time and time again.

    The overhaul comments are valid in that the team needs to have a ‘refresher’ at some point shortly to regain and refocus and ensure the next 4-5 seasons will be the same high standards and competative on all levels. This happens to all high level top flight clubs in all sporting codes around the world. Everything comes in cycles.

    Think about this for a moment though all up. What other club would have this debate and scrutiny across the world over a ‘rare’ loss. We are so spoilt that anything against normal service of a manita everyweek and it just isnt good enough.

    Good to be spoilt, no?! 🙂

    Have a good week guys.

  28. February 23, 2014

    In the “latest nonsense” front, Sport and MD are “reporting” that the players were unhappy with yesterday’s lineup, which was some of the root behind the lethargic performance.

    Further, there was apparently a meeting between the tri-captains and Martino, amid scuttlebutt that he still hasn’t won them over yet.

    If true, the summer housecleaning might need to go deeper than suspected.

    • IamXavi6
      February 23, 2014

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some truth to that. Cesc was vocal and gestured his frustrations out on hte pitch that time a short while ago after being rotated heavily.

      It’s a fine line balancing what Martino is trying to do.. maybe it has caught up, who knows. There is currently a lot of destablising events swirling around the club…this would also take its toll..even if it is down to administration and at board level.

    • February 23, 2014

      I hope it’s not serious. I, for one, really like Martino and I think he is doing a fantastic job.

  29. February 23, 2014

    I love that loss (or even mid game losing) = transfer talk. I don’t read Catalan press daily, but when I do it is much less pessimistic than the English press/message boards-and this from a part of Spain known for pessimism! Every team looses. Get used to it.

    This is not to say that we cannot be critical: There were a variety of problems Saturday that people with better sense than I have have already pointed out. I like Valdes, but he very often does not know when to come out on a set piece, and very often we are lucky (which is part of life). Adriano had his worst game of the season, as did Busi, and whenever Busi has a bad game we are in trouble. Messi did his thing that I was speaking about after the Valencia match where, as Kxevin said, he waits for his taxi. Martino got the formation wrong, etc etc. I do think that Neymar should have played that match as he needs to get back into fitness for the big games, and Sociedad was a good test.

    • February 23, 2014

      Perhaps that sounded a bit holier-than-thou! I apologize. I recognize that many here are of the same camp.

  30. February 23, 2014

    What a turn around. Real has completely turn around there season. Now they become the marquee team in the league. The excuses for us are still bsck. I mean when we had three point lead and played badly, the excuses are almost same. Have anyone have thought that we are taking this rotation thing a tad too seriously? What is iur best eleven? Had that eleven ever played together to gel and form a lethal partnership? Maybe those things are not necessary?

    • February 23, 2014

      I think that the best eleven depends on the game. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, part of what ends up hurting our squad is a lack of dynamism, and this should be addressed during the summer. For example, the squad versus City was perfect, and lo and behold, it worked. The same was true during the first Clásico.

      I would like to see Messi moved to the wing (and tracking back!) for more matches, as he was during first EE match. The real problem to me is playing a squad based on either Xavi or Cesc, both of whom play very different football, but, in my opinion can be equally effective. Cesc gets a ridiculously bad rap for someone leading the league in assists.

    • ooga aga
      February 24, 2014

      whats interesting to me is that in the presser before the Real Sociedad match, Martino said we are coming to the time (or we have come to the time) when there will be much, much less rotation. Rotation had it’s role, and now that we are at the business end of the season, dont expect it so much…and if certain players arent up to snuff, they cant expect to get minutes. i am paraphrasing here.

      and then he comes out with a lineup he hasnt played all season. busi in the xavi role? whaaaat? i felt seriously trolled.

      if he meant what he said, we will be getting an idea very soon as to the “gala 11”. i agree we need our team to begin gelling around a solid, consistent lineup, with at most a change or two from game to game — not 6 or 7 changes.

  31. ooga aga
    February 24, 2014

    Is Levon OK? I hope so.

    • February 24, 2014

      I’m good, thnx! Probably not working today as protesters have barricaded all roads out of town.

  32. Valdemar II
    February 24, 2014

    Just regained consciousness, that was a pathetic second half during the weekend. Whole team was shocking, Sociedad players could just run through the lines at will, they didn’t need to do anything special. Going 0-1 in corner goals, despite a 15-2 advantage is very poor luck though.

    The players mentioned by Kevin are certainly expendable (I’d keep Song unless 2 defenders are bought, in that case you can move Masch forward and Song is not needed). Tello Cuenca S Roberto Dos Santos – talents that were not talented enough, they are but squad bloat. Puyol, Affelay out, that’s 6 players, should fetch atleast 20 mil in a fair world. Buy a GK (10), CB (20-40), CB/FB (20), Rafinha, (Deulofeu?), if our transfer budget is +50. Our squad will be much stronger with reasonable investments.

    Not sure what’s up with this interest in Luiz, he’s looked like a donkey every time I’ve seen him. Imagine how he would perform without ‘protection’, exposed in a barca back four.

    • Valdemar II
      February 24, 2014

      BTW, I’m new to this soccer analysis thing, sticking my chin out on purpose so feel more than free to ‘correct’ me 😉

  33. Seyi38
    February 24, 2014

    I read this piece on total barca and decided to share it here
    I really loved the Barca of earlier in the season and despite the positives this year, every single defeat keeps pointing to the fact that something has changed and it has nothing to do with Martino being completely at fault or some select individuals (i.e Pique & Song) we love to blame anytime we dont win a match being poor. It’s really unfair to Martino that he doesnt get half the support Pep got from fans, Board and players and yet is expected to perform in the same vain. Its easy to say that Pep earned the support of the fans and players and as true as that is we shoouldn’t forget that it wasnt so difficult afterall especially after the club had just gone on a 2 year barren spell.

  34. Seyi38
    February 24, 2014

    BTW guys, what’s happening with Barcastuff?

    • February 24, 2014

      Things aren’t what they used to be is the best way to put it.

  35. February 24, 2014

    So I only just watched the game… A lot of this has already been discussed, but:

    1. What the HELL was Tata thinking with that line-up at the Anoeta of all places.

    2. Even though Barça were terrible as a whole, Piqué and Song stood out for repeated individual errors and Adriano for doing his best Jordi Alba impressions. It is a sad day when Martin Montoya is your best defender.

    3. He’s catching a lot of criticism but as usual, Lionel Messi was one of the few who didn’t play all that bad. Along with Andrés Iniesta.

    4. If it works, don’t fix it. AND IF IT DOESN’T WORK, FIX IT! I like Gerardo Martino, but this was his worst game this season. Should have made 1 or 2 halftime changes. If it is clear to mulititudes of amateur fans watching the game, it should be clear to the professional leading it.

    5. Just like against Levante, we stroll through the Copa games and drop points in the Liga game… Had we managed the squad, the line-ups, the concentration, the momentum and all these other intangibles better, we would be two points free on top of the table.

    • February 24, 2014

      You are right Levon. Watching again, I think even while walking around Messi is trying to break the back line. Couple of his incredible passes would have been assists another day. He has kept his level so high, that every thing else is disastrous.
      Even with our midfield failing tragically, if our defenders were not panicking, we could have had one point at the end.

      @Jim – I like Pique a lot, but am afraid, he needs some commanding partner with him always. I have seen lot of times, Masche giving instructions during set pieces, when it is Pique who should be in charge.

    • February 24, 2014

      If you’re trying to catch a bus or train and you’re late, do you run for it or walk for it? Compare Messi vs Manchester City and then La Real, is all I will say about that.

      Today, the whipping boy has shifted from Song/Pique to Martino, everywhere except where it by rights should be, which is everywhere. Folks will always find ways to exonerate players they don’t think should be part of it. But that was a team effort. Were I grading the match, the only player(s) who would get a mark higher than a 2 or 3 would be Iniesta.

      But it’s one loss. And frankly, the sporting stuff concerns me far less than the destruction being done to this club by the board.

  36. February 24, 2014

    So, the sum that the club is paying, even as it insists the Neymar deal was perfect, impeccable, legal, blablabla has gone up from 9m to 13.5m. It is said to be 25 percent of the taxable amount. My math skills suck so I won’t even try, but I am pretty sure that means more than 40m.

    The club will continue to battle, and if at the end of it all it is discovered that the club was indeed right, they get that 13.5m back. But you don’t have to be a cynical old bastard to think, “If it’s all legal and impeccable, why pay anything? You will win the battle.”

    We would be naive to think that politics, etc aren’t a part of this. But the fact remains that money is being paid because somebody didn’t have their shit together.

    • gaspersm
      February 24, 2014

      There os too much politics in this? So much fuss surrounding one player, and it is affecting his performance and team performance as a whole.
      I wonder how EE fans view us, when we were so surprised at the cost they bought bale for, not knowing that we may even be paying more for neymar

    • February 24, 2014

      No, we are not paying more for Neymar. If you apply the same standard to the Bale transfer, including all ancillary payments, fees, taxes etc, the number is north of 250m.

      The only thing affecting Neymar’s performance is not being match fit.

    • gaspersm
      February 24, 2014

      Really?? We will have to see how he pans out the next match.

    • Peter
      February 24, 2014

      It’s 25% of absolutely everything – the 40 million, plus the other almost ten million paid to N&N for marketing, scouting and whatnot.

      Since I am quite cynical about this, for me the reason is clear – the club is aware they aren’t going to get a fair ruling and are trying to mitigate the immediate consequences while trying to transfer the case to Catalunya(since this case is not an international one, like Rosell’s, but a local one). Furthermore, the club can appeal the ruling to the Supreme European Court, while not being damaged in the process.

      Let us examine this a bit in context:

      1. The prosecutor has allowed a far-right nationalistic organization(“Clean Hands”) to take part in the case – if they pay an “entrance fee” that is less than the weekly expenses of Santiago Bernabeu’s Presidential Box. Oh, and how many people will ask where that money came from? It’s not like that organization has a list of members. That same prosecutor was moved to Madrid after some less than clear cases against drugs traffickers.

      2. The judge is currently leading the case “Barcenas”, against a functionary of the currently ruling party(Partido Popular, which is more likely to start a civil war than see Catalunya independent) who was found out to have distributed monthly “donations” to the leaders of said party – including the current Prime Minister and quite a few members of the Cabinet. The case was reopened four years ago. As of this moment there has been no verdict, nobody has been found guilty, not even Barcenas(who isn’t allowed to leave the country, but is otherwise not under any limitations). That same judge had no hesitation to bring criminal charges against FC Barcelona less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court Prosecutor asked him to do so.

      3. What’s interesting in this case is that the prosecutor decided to bring up the charges without any previous consultations with the Treasury department.

      4. All this comes during some very hard negotiations between the Central Government and the Generalitat de Catalunya about the legality and reactions to the 2015 independence referendum.

      5. Last but very much not least. Tax evasion is said to be a multi-billion Euro problem in Spain. The firms accounting for more than 90% of these losses are based in Madrid. One nice example is Florentino Perez, a billionaire, philanthropist and sports aficionado extraordinaire, who apparently paid less than a thousand Euro in taxes last year. For the record, I was found to have paid 500 less than the amount due, despite being out of employment for about six months.

      From the little that has surfaced, it seems to me the club’s stance is “Take the money and try to find me guilty – or give them back with interest – and then fire the corrupts SOBs.”

    • February 24, 2014

      Nice comment, Peter. Thank you.

  37. February 24, 2014

    Oh. Rumors is that the David Luiz deal is done. As in coming this summer.

    Now before the villagers grab their torches and pitchforks to storm the castle, here’s something to think about: Luiz looks a prat because of the way Chelsea defends. As part of a high back line in which all the defenders are rushing forward and attacking, he looks less a prat. Brazil’s NT is a good example. He isn’t suddenly a better CB when playing for Brazil. His skill set simply mates more effectively with how that team defends.

    Long story short, I don’t know that he will prove to be the disaster that so many allege. Many of those same people were convinced that Neymar was just a YouTube sensation.

    And now, we await developments.

    • gaspersm
      February 24, 2014

      His frequent lapses of concentration do not necessarily happen because he plays in a deep defensive line.
      Why do we go after players just because they have glamorous names and stardom.
      There are better no-nonsence defenders out there like mehdi benatia, who are not any big names but they give their all for the clubs they play.
      For brazil, he has better defensive cover, thiago silva as a CB partner, dani doesnt attack as much for brazil, he is more reserved, hulk is defensively sound and to top it off they have a double pivot that covers them adequately in form of luiz gustavo and paulinho,
      You dont get that at barcelona with two attacking full backs and only one pivot with the rest of midfielders not so interested in defending

    • barca96
      February 24, 2014

      As with Hummels, I really am not against the transfer. Like I said at the height of Hummels rumor when many people said that he shares the same traits as Pique, I don’t really care. What’s so wrong with having 2 like for like CB’s? Why does it seem like Pique is an untouchable player?

      But I am against the transfer fee of these types of players. Luiz isn’t cheap at all! Overpriced to me. Hummels was still ok.

    • bhed
      February 24, 2014

      I was first interested in Luiz as a Puyol replacement around 3 or 4 years ago, because of the hair. Seriously though, it was after a Brazil/Argentina “friendly” where he totally shut down Messi. Very impressive performance.

      Now his performances for Chelsea since then have obviously made me question that idea, but like Kxevin noted, his Brazil NT performances have continued to impress.

      Basically, I’m skeptical and intrigued in equal measure.

    • Peter
      February 24, 2014

      Kxevin, are there links about those rumors, or is it just Тwitterverse?

    • Peter
      February 24, 2014

      It´s interesting the English version leaves out the last paragraphs. Here’s what my not-so-good Spanish has to say on the matter:

      5.- Reafirmar su convicción de que, en relación con el citado fichaje, el Club ha cumplido escrupulosamente sus obligaciones fiscales según el estado de conocimiento que en su momento tenía los contratos y negocios suscritos y de acuerdo con la buena fe contractual.
      Reiterate its utter conviction that the Club has completed scrupulously its fiscal obligations for the contracts which have been signed and approved in good faith.

      6.- En vista de la existencia de una posible divergencia interpretativa sobre el alcance de sus obligaciones fiscales derivadas de la citada contratación, para saldar cualquier posible deuda tributaria derivada de esta operación, y con tal de defender mejor el buen nombre y reputación de nuestro Club, el FC Barcelona ha procedido esta mañana a la presentación de la correspondiente autoliquidación complementaria. Esta autoliquidación complementaria tiene un importe global de 13.550.830,56 euros (trece millones quinientos cincuenta mil ochocientos treinta euros con cincuenta y seis céntimos), y tiene como objetivo dar cobertura a las eventuales interpretaciones que se puedan dar a todos los contratos firmados con motivo del fichaje del jugador Neymar, aunque estamos convencidos de la licitud del inicial cumplimiento de las obligaciones fiscales.
      In view of the existence of a possible divergent interpretation over the amount of its fiscal obligations derived from said contract, in order to cover any and all tax debts that may potentially rise from said operation, and acting in defense of the good name and reputation of our Club, FC Barcelona has presented this morning an additional complementary auto-tax form*. This form contributes a total amount of 13 550 830.56 Euro, and is to cover all eventual interpretations arising from the contracts signed for the transfer of the player Neymar, although we are convinced of the accordance of the initial fulfillment of our fiscal obligations

      7.- Que esta regularización voluntaria presentada en tiempo y forma se entiende sin perjuicio de que la conformidad a derecho de la deuda tributaria sea determinada definitivamente por la jurisdicción competente, por lo que el Club hace reserva expresa de acciones en este sentido.
      Said voluntary regularization presented on time and in due form does not prejudice the right(of the club) to have its tax obligations be determined by the competent jurisdiction, for which the Club reserves its right of action.

    • BA
      February 24, 2014

      what really drives the dagger home for me with the way the whole Neymar mess pans out is that Rosell ran for the presidency on the grounds of being a no-nonsense, competent businessman.

      yet does ANY PART of his one major signing not seem tortuously shady, confused, incompetent? what part of this deal speaks to his one self-proclaimed outstanding quality?

      the members elected him for that, and it all just ends up being a sham. what a boob.

    • Peter
      February 24, 2014

      Rosell managed to sign the best player in South America, whose rights were spread among two sport investment firms and a club, that were only for the money – and Rosell signed that player despite all that and despite the fact that Real Madrid and apparently City were also in the race.

      The real mistake was that he made Real Madrid and its billionaire president, the Madrid-based press and too many people with vested interest, look like fools. That could not be forgiven. It is a sad coincidence, but this signing has come in a moment when the Central Government could use any help available to strike at the independence move. And Barcelona has given a hand to the independence move and so is a visible, and convenient target to strike.

      Risking your ire, I’d say that it would’ve seemed much less shady, confused and incompetent had you really tried to see beyond the headlines.

      Furthermore, lest we let our culer-inherent pessimism and urge to vilify our own takes the reigns, I have to say this:

      At this point, what Barcelona does is throw the ball back in the prosecutor’s side. Up to this point Barcelona has been accused, charged and publicly sentenced in absentia. Barcelona has not had its day in court, but it will. And if it is not satisfied, it will appeal. And appeal again. This was not an admission of guilt. What now follows is not a verdict.

      On the contrary – what follows is the prosecution trying to prove that these 54.5 million are actually salary payments to Neymar Jr. Not just the 40 million – the prosecution would have to prove that Neymar Sr. was, has been and will be acting as a conduit alone, and will not perform any contract obligations in the next five years, any obligations that will merit what his firm is getting from Barcelona.

      The prosecution will have to prove that these 40 million are part of Neymar’s salary. Mere suspicions and media campaigns will not work at this point.

      Will it be short case? Probably not. That’s not in the interest of the Central Government, the Prosecutor, the Judge or the Meseta press. What is in their interest is to have as many moments in the limelight, for the press to plaster the front pages with “latest developments on the Barcelona trial” and drive the crowds’ frenzy with “Government fighting for us all against them greedy Catalans robbing us of all our money” articles, as 2015 creeps closer.

      What is certain at this point is this – FC Barcelona is putting its money where its mouth is. “Here, here’s more money that you actually accuse us of ‘stealing’. Now either prove us guilty and keep the change, or declare us innocent and pay it back – with interest.”


  38. KEVINO17
    February 24, 2014

    Since the return of Messi, Tata has had to adjust to the fact that Barca can’t press any more, which means they cant be as vertical and he has to pack the midfield. Does anyone suggest that, since his return Messi has improved the squad. No wonder Pep left.

    • gaspersm
      February 24, 2014

      MEssi has improved the squad? No way!
      As much as he is the best player in the world, the impact he brought was. Ot as positive as we thought

  39. KEVINO17
    February 24, 2014

    Or, in other word, Tata thought that with two luxury players up front he needed a double pivot. Seems wise to me.

  40. barca96
    February 24, 2014

    According to Sport, Puyol will leave because he can’t play 2 matches in a week anymore. I am one of the minority (or the only one) who thinks that Puyol still has what it takes. He is still better than Mascherano and Pique (most of the times).

    What is so wrong with playing only once a week. I remember Campbell used to play only once a week for Spurs because of his knees. Nothing wrong with that.

    • February 24, 2014

      The larger complexity for me is that Puyol’s diminished physical capabilities mean that he knows what to do, but is a step late. We have watched him as he has declined, going from the player who shut Ronaldo in the CL final and who was always ahead of the play, to the fireman who arrived in the nick to time, to the player who is running frantically to prevent the thing he knows is going to happen, but gets there a fraction too late.

      It’s time.

    • Jim
      February 24, 2014

      I wouldn’t necessarily agree without seeing him get a run of three or four games to try to regain match fitness. Then by all means assess him but we can’t judge from half a game here or there. Put him with Pique then judge.

  41. barca96
    February 24, 2014

    via Barcastuff

    Del Bosque (coach ESP): “Puyol is a special case for me, although in the end it will depend on how much he plays, same as for the others.”

    Is that why Casillas is still the no.1 and not Valdes???!!

  42. chillipod
    February 24, 2014

    As a wise man on these pages once wrote “what do you do with a problem like Messi?”.
    I am enjoying the Messi Biography by Guillem Balague (though I am reading small chunks at a time) and I also enjoyed this piece ==> and I can’t help but think that the World Cup is weighing heavily on his shoulders.
    As Kxevin has pointed out before, when he presses the ball the whole dynamic of the team shifts. He’s a leader (through actions and not words) and when he doesn’t press maybe it has a psychological effect on the other 10? Countless managers are on record as saying that a team defends from the front and we are no different. To have our beloved possession means retaining the ball when we have lost it. We are in the main phenomenal at doing that as a collective. Like any machine though, when one component isn’t functioning as designed/planned/instructed there’s an impact to the overall machine output.
    So what is it that leaves the best player on the planet looking so, well, ‘mortal/normal’ at times? The book (as far as I have got) suggests it’s his physical makeup and that the periods of relative inactivity are in fact agreed and indeed are more than that, they are a requirement. It’s the trade off for the explosive bursts that take him past 3 defenders, and it’s proved rather successful over the last 9 odd years I’d say!!!
    I guess it leaves him open to criticism when he doesn’t manage the impossible every game, he’s set the bar at a ridiculous level after all. Was it ‘genius’ as some commentators spouted last Tuesday when he received the ball after being SO far offside just moments before (seemingly doing nothing) or was it just our good fortune that the Citeh defence messed up? Somewhere in the middle? Does a fantastic goal on Saturday mean he did his bit for the team or was it just enough to scrape pass marks in an overall disappointing team effort?
    The article above and the book talk at length about Leo’s desire to be Argentinian, to prove himself to a country that – to many – see him as an almost foreigner. They seem to prefer the “rags to riches” stories (Maradona/Tevez) rather than the tale of a (very) small boy from a good home abandoning his native country in search of an opportunity to fulfil his dreams. We all know the story of the Olympics and how he ultimately got his wish. He had a difficult 2013 (on the pitch) and must be conscious that another hamstring/thigh injury could impact his best chance of World Cup glory, in Brazil of all places. A once in a lifetime opportunity to tick the last missing box on his lengthy CV. The build up hasn’t started in the media but it probably started a loooong time ago for him.
    I’m not suggesting he’s consciously saving himself for the Finals, just that it’s another pressure for him to contend with alongside the constant media of court cases, contract extensions and the little nagging doubt that if he really puts his foot down it all might just go ‘twang’ in his left leg and leave him and millions of others in tears.
    So returning to the question of what you can do with him? Well I’m kinda glad it’s someone else’s problem and not mine. The team responded magnificently to his mid season absence. Sanchez became the player we thought he could be and Pedro reclaimed his ‘!’. Leo returns and something just doesn’t seem quite right again, at least not on the consistent basis we’ve been utterly spoiled by over recent years. Do you rest him? We’re led to believe that’s the worst thing you could do, and even if you did, you can’t expect Lexus and Pedro to just turn it on immediately plus there’s not a match fit Neymar (carrying bag loads of similar issues I should add) to rely on just yet. I guess we have to hope that Tata finds the solution just as previous managers have, through a personal touch borne of watching, listening and understanding so that Barca and Leo can achieve all their targets.
    Visca Barca

    • February 24, 2014

      And that’s the problem. No coach is going to be the one who benched the Greatest Player Ever. As with Ronaldinho, Barça has become Messi. People tune in, follow matches for his goals in the same way they ooohed and aaaahed over Ronaldinho’s tricks and flair.

      When Messi returned, I and others said that the challenge would be integrating him into the team so that he is part of that high-functioning unit, rather that being a hindrance to it. It seems the latter has occurred.

      He is a dominant player at all times, even when he’s just standing around, because everybody looks for him. He isn’t just the first option, it seems that mentally he’s the only option. So the movement, the passing pace diminishes a little when he is in there, because a player always looks first to Messi before making a decision with the ball. In that second the defense resets, and any advantage is gone.

      “Barça lost, but did you see that Messi goal,” is not the phrase I want anyone saying after that weekend whipping. The vicarious life through his scoring statistics has become a need. It’s almost like a match in which he doesn’t score seems incomplete, doesn’t it?

      One player changes everything. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

  43. Peter
    February 24, 2014

    This was initially a response to BA, but it has outgrown it, and as a matter of fact I’d like to hear what some other so-called culers have to say about “the incompetent board”.

    Rosell managed to sign the best player in South America, whose rights were spread among two sport investment firms and a club, that were only for the money – and Rosell signed that player despite all that and despite the fact that Real Madrid and apparently City were also in the race. That seem like a trivial task to you?

    The real mistake was that he made Real Madrid, its billionaire president, the Madrid-based press and too many people with vested interest look like fools. What he also managed to do is sign a player that represents a valuable revenue source and looks like will make the club even more financially stable and powerful. That could not be forgiven or forgotten. It is a sad coincidence, but this signing has come in a moment when the Central Government could use any help available to strike at the independence move.

    Risking your ire, I’d say that it would’ve seemed much less shady, confused and incompetent had you really tried to see beyond the headlines.

    Furthermore, lest we let our culer-inherent pessimism and urge to vilify our own takes the reigns, I have to say this:

    At this point, what Barcelona does is throw the ball back in the prosecutor’s side. Up to this point Barcelona has been accused, charged and publicly sentenced in absentia. Barcelona has not had its day in court, but it will. And if it is not satisfied, it will appeal. And appeal again. This was not an admission of guilt. What now follows is not a verdict.

    On the contrary – what follows is the prosecution trying to prove that these 54.5 million are actually salary payments to Neymar Jr. Not just the 40 million – the prosecution would have to prove that Neymar Sr. was, has been and will be acting as a conduit alone, and will not perform any contract obligations in the next five years, any obligations that will merit what his firm is getting from Barcelona.

    The prosecution will have to prove that these 40 million are part of Neymar’s salary. Mere suspicions and media campaigns will not work at this point.

    Will it be short case? Probably not. That’s not in the interest of the Central Government, the Prosecutor, the Judge or the Meseta press. What is in their interest is to have as many moments in the limelight, for the press to plaster the front pages with “latest developments on the Barcelona trial” and drive the crowds’ frenzy with “Government fighting for us all against them greedy Catalans robbing us of all our money” articles, as 2015 creeps closer.

    What is certain at this point is this – FC Barcelona is putting its money where its mouth is. “Here, here’s more money that you actually accuse us of ‘stealing’. Now either prove us guilty and keep the change, or declare us innocent and pay it back – with interest.”


    • BA
      February 24, 2014

      when did we begin to tacitly assume that Barça, the best club on the planet over the last 10 years, cannot compete for players with City or Real, without resorting to (for lack of a better term) slippery accounting?

      our charges of incompetence against the board in this case run in the vein of previous, recent situations of actual incompetence related to our players: Thiago’s buyout blause, taunting Messi over his contract, lowballing Iniesta over his, jettisoning Abidal, signing Alex Song instead of a real center-back, etc. etc. etc..

      this is a clear pattern of frankly stupid behavior from our board, which has hurt the club. the Neymar transfer dealings fit right into that narrative, whether they’ve been validated by a court of law or not, and so it’s not unreasonable for cules to be upset at and accusatory to the board.

      personally i think it’s far MORE reasonable in this case to assume the board was incompetent than it is to assume that the whole case is a set-up by the central government and Rosell and Co. didn’t actually do anything wrong. my loyalty is to the club as a whole, not the suits who talk in the boardroom; and thus my mindset is that if they screw up, toss them all out rather than even tarnish the reputation or perception of the club.

    • February 24, 2014

      I think the point Peter is trying to make here is that there is a tendency for culers to vilify this current board before knowing the facts. None of us know what is really going on, all we know is that is reported in the press and accusations coming from parties that are certainly politically motivated. Maybe there is something to it, but maybe there isn’t. We just don’t know. I cannot say that I agree with everything Peter says but what I do agree with is that it is a bit disturbing to see how quickly fans are willing to believe anything negative that comes out about the board.

      Fact is we do not know what went on behind the scenes in order to sign Neymar and the complexity of that deal. I mean you say that we should not assume that Barca cannot compete with the likes of Madrid, City and PSG but recent events prove otherwise. In the last 2 seasons alone we have lost out on Thiago Silva, Javi Martinez and Marquinos. All of which we were chasing and all which went to clubs who simply paid more. Who knows what City and MAdrid were offering Neymar and co to land him. Fans always seem to want to assume the worst about this board, but until we see some real facts does it really serve the club to have so many of its own fans feeding the fire?

    • Jim
      February 24, 2014

      A very reasonable and reasoned response, Hilal. At some point we need to circle the wagons and give the club some support – yes, even unconditional support because at the moment we are doing our best impersonation of the decline of the Roman Empire !

      We are going through our own independence referendum shortly and to say everything has become polarised, political, exaggerated and plain made up is an understatement. I believe in the players we have, in the football they play and by extension the actions of the club until I have proof otherwise and I’ve not seen anything approaching that yet.

    • February 24, 2014

      For me (as many of you know) I wasn’t a fan of this regime even before the Neymar contract, even before the end of the election that swept them into office. So for me, the Neymar business is just another point of ire.

      What’s important to know is that nothing about this current business is pure. People who want them out interpret matters their way. People who want the club to suffer interpret things their way. People who want them to stay interpret things their way. And anybody who thinks this isn’t linked to the independence movement is whistling past the graveyard.

      For this soci, the list includes comments about African kids at La Masia, ignoring first-team player needs and the futbol base, selling the shirt and in effect selling naming rights to the Camp Nou to Qatar Airways, the Abidal situation, kicking Cruijff to the curb (no, Laporta didn’t have the right to just shove that honorary presidency along, but Rosell could have found a better way to manage that). Valdes isn’t leaving on a free because he loves everyone forever. That, to me, is on the board.

      In the “but wait, there’s more” category, they then closed membership, made (alleged) deals with the Boixos in exchange for support in the election pile atop the things that trouble me when I consider whether this board is the one for me.

      They are also skilled at creating problems to solve, a la “austerity.” There is a certain irony in their being hoist on the same “everything is debt” petard they used to bash Laporta. “No color copies” was laughable, atop it all.

      Rosell resigned, for reasons we will probably never know. But he resigned suddenly, at the end of a defiant series of comments similar to the ones being made by Bartomeu.

      Further, because socis voted for a president rather than a board, does this board have a mandate to govern? Their succession is covered in the club bylaws, so they have a legal right, by statute, to govern. A mandate is another question.

      After all of that, we get to the Neymar question, a hooraw they could have avoided by not being arrogant and dismissive toward the soci asking the question. Yes, he is allied with the folks behind the censure motion. So deal with his question, make nice and move on. Instead Freixa crapped on and threatened him, so Jordi Cases went to court. And now this.

      Was the deal legal? I don’t doubt it. Lawyers aren’t that stupid. Impeccable? Clearly not, irrespective of what eventually comes out in the wash, because an impeccable deal doesn’t give stuff like this a hook on which to hang its hat.

      If at the end of this investigation, the club gets its money back with interest, the cranks such as I will be among the first to say “Hey, my bad. It’s clean,” just as I noted in this space when Rosell was cleared of the Brazil friendly wrongdoing allegations.

      But in the meantime, I don’t trust them, I don’t like them and I don’t they are fit to run this club in the manner it deserves. It says a lot that a cava-soaked money tosser is suddenly looking like a viable alternative to many culers.

      Fans are not quick to believe anything negative about the board. Most fans could give a toss about the board. Frankly, I wish that more fans cared about the board and its actions instead of how many goals Messi scored in the last match. But I also can’t blame them for wanting to stay far away from the political crap.

      Would any of it matter? No, because the board decided, after many years of following a 5% tally to force a censure motion to, when one such motion was well along, decide that “Hey, Spanish law says it should be 15%. Not our fault, we’re just following the law.” And the motion died because that group didn’t fully have ITS shit together, either.

      On another note: Peter, I can appreciate passion. But I canNOT appreciate one member of this space suggesting that the comments of another member of this space are “shady, confused and incompetent.” Further, “so-called culers” implies that anyone who doesn’t see matters your way isn’t a proper culer. That also chafes, in addition to stifling debate. It also becomes a “more culer than thou” swearing match, as those opposed would suggest that people who defend this board are the ones who are “so-called culers.” It’s why swearing matches of this kind don’t advance matters in a respectful fashion, which makes it something that I, as a moderator of this space, do not approve of.

      We can discuss this business like people who respect each other and their opinion. If we can’t we should reconsider how and what we are doing here.

    • Peter
      February 24, 2014

      I’m sorry about that outburst. I should’ve clarified what I meant by “so-called culers”, because I’ve seen far too many people willing to trust practically everything that speaks bad of the current board, no matter where it comes from, because it’s the current board. Yes, past transgressions weigh heavily, but these past transgressions, which were an internal FC Barcelona matter MUST NOT have any bearing on the current, very much external attack on the club. This is an attack against the club as a whole, not just the board. I simply don’t understand why so many people don’t comprehend it. Am I deluded in thinking it’s an attack against the club and not just the board?

      I somehow didn’t convey what I think is the most important aspect of the current situation:

      It’s time to repel boarders, not discuss whether the captain should’ve made larboard or starboard turn and whether the captain is guilty of choosing a course that brought the pirates close by. It’s time to repel boarders.
      As Jim put it, it’s time to circle the wagons and give full support to the club, the team and the board – in that order. For bad or for worse, this is the board that will have to guide the club. When Barcelona is safe on the other side, there will be reckoning – but internal one. Yes, there should be a reckoning, but with level heads, and when the lee shore has been passed by.

      Otherwise this mighty ship may not weather this storm. And to be completely honest, I haven’t seen a storm of that caliber. Not even during Cruyff’s last years.

      Other note: I wasn’t calling the comments of another poster shady, confused and incompetent. I said that the actions of the board would seem less shady, confused and incompetent if the whole picture, with all its context – political, social, and more, was being seen – because the truth is that for the most part it’s the headlines that are being read. Most people don’t have the time or desire to look at the whole picture and trust too much in the objectivity of the written word. After all, if it’s reported, then it must be true, right?

      At no moment have I desired to insult another member of this blog. It’s not what I am here for, but maybe my frustration has shown and without wishing it, I have caused people to be insulted. If so, I apologize sincerely. But I must reiterate: Please! Please, culers, this is not the time to heat tar and stack feathers. There will be time for that. There is always time for that. Especially in Culerland. 🙂 The next board, whenever it steps in, could decide to start an Act of Responsibility against the current one. But now it’s not the time to elect a new one. Not in the middle of the hurricane. Wait until the safe haven and then deal with them.

      Kxevin, you and I don’t see eye to eye on matters of the board, even though we actually do on a lot of stuff(you will probably be mildly surprised), in a way because we both are outside of Catalunya. But in a way that makes me feel good and secure, because I know that whenever my optimism and trusting nature get the better of me, your view(and that of those like you 😛 )will provide a nice counter-balance and maybe will bring me down to earth. Stranger things have happen. I am not trying to flatter you with that tirade, and if it sounds like I’m doing nice in order to remain in your good graces and be able to continue posting here, I apologize.

      For future reference, because I know that sooner or later it will be interpreted badly, I apologize if I sound as if I am insulting anyone. I tend to bring a lot of mental luggage from other places that discuss Barcelona(Bleachers,, MD, Sport, TotalBarca, MARCA, AS), and sometimes bits and parts of that luggage come crashing. I will continue to do my utmost to keep debate as civil as possible, because for the most part it’s a blessed port of reasoning and sharp and inspired minds, and I would appreciate it if the other members give me a short shrift if/when I step over the line. Thanks.

      P.S.S. If you’re wondering why the numerous ship and sailing references, it’s mostly because of “Black Sails” 😀

    • February 24, 2014

      Thanks for the clarification, Peter.

      You are correct in that the (donning tinfoil hat here) “external forces” are at work. Those forces include the barça-centric media (Sport, MD).

      I also think that the biggest enemy of the club and its board right now IS the board. Admittedly, my viewpoint is coming from the above comment.

      People have been ripping and tearing at this club since the sprinkler incident. The glee as the club failed was global, and nasty. Since then it has only gotten worse as the praise for the team and its players has grown.

      For me, however, this board had a chance to do something extraordinary with a once in a lifetime group of players, and they pissed it away. Even if none of the other things had transpired, there is still that vexation.

    • Peter
      February 24, 2014

      Barcelona cannot compete for signings with clubs like City and PSG when you come down to it. That is the hard truth. Barcelona does not have billionaire owners that have their other companies sign 200-million per year sponsorship deals. Barcelona are obliged by Spanish law to present profit every year. Barcelona actually rely on the financial strength of the club, not on the owner. Nobody really knows how much PSG have to pay their players, but as things stand of this moment, City have the highest wages in the football world. It was Barcelona. That first.

      Second, as for Thiago. Read carefully, because I will write this only once:

      Thiago wanted to leave. He was offered more than twice the money he was getting in Barcelona. Thiago signed a new contract with the new release only if the clause would go low if he didn’t play – and then he got injured and didn’t play. And when he came back, he didn’t deserve his the minutes he was getting. In spite of that, he got the minutes his contract stipulated – but he and his agent, Pep Guardiola’s brother, went for the technicality in the clause. Yeah, it’s hard to admit that one of the jewels turned his back on the club, isn’t it? It’s easier to shut our eyes and believe it was the bad men with the suits that don’t really like Barcelona that drove him out.

      Song wasn’t signed instead of a CB. He was signed to cover for Keita – and was then misused by Tito and made to play as a CB when Puyol got injured repeatedly(and no, that wasn’t easy to predict, unless you have one of those crystal balls).

      The board wasn’t lowballing Iniesta on his contract – they just didn’t want to sign him until 2018 outright(Iniesta will be 34 going on 35 by then). But the suits caved in.


      It’s true that the Neymar deal fits right into the narrative of the stupid incompetent board. The problem with it is precisely this: it’s a narrative. A story. A tale a lot of cules tell themselves to give themselves a false sense of superiority and to find someone to blame for their failed high expectations.

    • BA
      February 24, 2014

      i think we compete for players on the basis of the strength of our squad, the engaging system we play, Barcelona the city itself, and yes ALSO one of the largest wage bills in the world. i don’t think we should automatically assume that big-name players (especially more established players) are always going to pick the mega-millions at PSG or City, because if that’s the case then in the long term we’re screwed.

      narratives are important, WHETHER they’re true or false. and since as Hilal rightly points out, we don’t know the facts of the case (and maybe never will), we’re really talking about the PERCEPTION of the board’s activities and how cules interpret what we do know. but as Kxevin then pretty comprehensively elucidated, we are entirely justified to suspect bad behavior by this particular board, particularly as it regards transfers and finances. all i’m saying is your idea that cules should twiddle our thumbs and hope for the best, because of this excuse or that loophole and because our board are really innocent angels unfairly persecuted by some nefarious outside scheming, doesn’t hold up to many cules’ PERCEPTION of the board’s activities, which has formed into the narrative that they are incompetent and not acting in the best interests of the club.

    • February 24, 2014

      All very fair points that you make, especially the bit about Thiago. That is on him, not the board and I get pretty annoyed when i hear people saying over and over again that him leaving is somehow the fault of the board. He wanted to leave and frankly even if the clause had not been in there I would have let him leave. Last thing we want or need are players on our team that would rather be elsewhere or think that they have a right for a first team spot without earning it.

      I get why some fans dislike this board, i really do, but I think A LOT of the things that get thrown about are blown way out of proportion and I also think a lot of the things that are looked at negatively (shirt sponsorship, selling club name, etc) are actually positive things. Yes there is a romantic side of me that believes we are better than that, but this is the real world and in the real world if we are going to try and compete with the likes of PSG, City and Madrid in signing top players then we need to do exactly the things that this current board are doing. We need the money to sign the sorts of players that everyone is demanding and you simply cannot have it both ways. A lot of fans seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. They want the club to stay true to its “Mas Que Un Club” values and at the same time spend hand over fist to sign the players that will ensure this team continues to win trophies season after season. Unfortunately that is not going to work, if we want to spend money we need to make money and to do that we need to sign sponsorship deals, sell stadium rights, and whatever else needs to be done to bring in enough revenue that we can start signing the players we want to sign. You want players like Thiago Silva? Well you are not going to get them in today’s market without spending shitloads of money and we do not have a billionaire owner signing blank checks so we have to do it the hard way. Sure, it kinds sucks, but you know what, if it means we can sign the players we need then so be it.

      In some ways I actually think this board is pretty brave. They must have known the ire they were going to get in doing a lot of the things they have done, but they also know that if they club is going to continue to succeed it needs to compete financially with the other big clubs and to do that sacrifices need to be made.

    • Peter
      February 24, 2014

      Mind you, the closed membership, the past references to “not our kids”(right now the some of the best prospects of La Masia are “not our kids” Denis Suarez, Bagnack, Adama, Dongou), the season tickets and the Seient Llure, the lax stance on the low attendances and illegal sale of tickets, the overlooking of the “futbol base” and much more are weighing heavily on my mind. But I don’t have the right to complain(for now) about those injustices.

      But I agree with you that a lot of what the board did was brave. Someone must make the hard decisions and nobody likes the hand that offers the bitter medicine. It would’ve been much easier to continue signing superstars, not sully the shirt and instead increase the debt, but this would ensure the short-term success and the long-term failure to take care of the club. Maybe it was all in order to lay the foundations for Espai Barçá. Unless we are present in the meetings, we are separated at least one degree and we can only guess at their motivation, but the fact remains that for good or bad reasons these guys chose the hard road, the road few would choose.

    • February 24, 2014

      But a few hard decisions about the team and its chess pieces were the truly difficult ones. Cynical old bastard that I am, I just don’t know that this board has the sporting project in mind right now.

      I don’t count the rumors for folks such as Marquinhos, etc. But the board had two chances to take a shot at a quality CB. I wouldn’t have splashed for Thiago Silva, but don’t forget that his price from Milan wasn’t all that high. It is only now that he is a 40m+ player.

      The other one, Javi Martinez, was what the club needed … could spell Busquets in midfield, play CB, pass, had ball skills. Just pony up 40m instead of clinging to notions of austerity. Or more likely, saving pennies for Neymar.

      Hard decisions include Masia dead weight such as Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto. It was clear that he wasn’t going to make it during the preseason, but instead of sending him out on loan, he was counted as a body to make a “big” squad even though it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to compete at the necessary level.

      Hard decisions don’t just include sponsorships.

      Hard decisions also include the futbol base, one of the things at the core of what the team does. It was clear that Eusebio wasn’t the proper coach to lead the B team, yet he was renewed. Why? Excellent question.

      Difficult decisions that appear so are not, for me, really. Selling sponsorship chunks of a club as popular as ours should be easy. The only real challenge is how much and how hard to sell. Shirt, various chunks of the shirt, other sponsorships, Qatar Airways branding all ’round the stadium and painted on the seats …

      Next up will be the “surname” of the new stadium. Those decisions are all pretty easy in the hands of a (clearly) marketing-centric board.

      But this group ran on a platform of trust and transparency, and wanting to do what is best for the club. I don’t see that happening.

      Again, my long-term view of this board is admittedly jaundiced by its inability to perform what should be its most basic task: make sure the crown jewel is the best that it can be. Laporta had his faults and sleaze, lord knows, but he took care of the team, and it showed.

      Does this club have the money to sign the players that it needs to sign? You bet. But sometimes you just have to pay up. So while we are hemming and hawing and trying to negotiate, Bayern or PSG walk in with a check and say “Here’s a plane ticket. Send him to this address.”

      Meanwhile, we call an aging CB with more injuries than entire squads a “signing.” It’s a failure on the part of the board. There are only a few players in the market every season with the quality to compete at our level, and everyone knows who they are. We are great at signing players who already want to come (Sanchez, Mascherano, Fabregas, Neymar).

      For players who aren’t pre-sold, nothing talks like money. We have austerity, yet we pay Neymar Sr. 40m+. We have austerity, yet we have a stadium project that will cost 600m (right now), and we will pay for it ourselves, without incurring any new bank debt.

      I confess that I don’t trust this board. In my world, a football team would show a bit of profit at the end of the season, and not incur too much debt. Done. When a board crows about record profits, I think to myself, “Those record profits could have bought a CB.”

      The club was pulling in close to a half-billion per annum in revenue even before the sponsorships began flooding in. Surely it can scrape some dough together to buy a player that is needed.

      I think that you can support the club AND question the board, just as you can love the team and question the performance of some of the players on that team, as we do after every match. I will defend the club in any way that I can, but I will not stand idly and silently by when I think that someone is doing harm to that club, whether it is a newspaper with disgusting innuendo about the Messi family and drug money, or a board that isn’t doing its level best to support the team.

      P.S. Exactly right on Thiago. Never has such a clear-cut case been so contentious. You are correct in that the board takes stick for things it is not responsible for. That is one of them.

  44. ooga aga
    February 24, 2014

    what a spectacle! please wait until i go get some popcorn, i will be back! 🙂

  45. ooga aga
    February 24, 2014

    anyone have the feeling that pique is not actually injured and this is just one of those 2-week “injuries” that seem to crop up when international duty is on the horizon? he’ll miss one Liga match but then he can avoid playing with Spain in the friendly. he needs a rest before the run-in to the end of the season.

    • Jim
      February 25, 2014

      He has pulled up in the last two games then played on. Given that and his lack of rest this was always on the cards. But you’re right. Couldn’t have come at a better time given the relatively straightforward next two fixtures and the international. Might even see if Puyol is as hopeless as people seem to think or if class is actually permanent !

    • February 25, 2014

      I don’t know that anyone has characterized Puyol as “hopeless.” It’s no shame or sin to admit that a player with his injury history and age has lost the crucial step that makes him a starting CB.

      Puyol has been left out of the squad twice this season “for technical reasons.” He can’t want that, and anyone who respects and admires what he did for the club can’t want that.

    • Jim
      February 25, 2014

      I’m not sure how we know he has lost a vital step though. He hasn’t had three or four games to try to get match fitness back. It’s easy to say that about an older player but the only bad game I’ve seen him play – almost ever – is the one he played at right back which wasn’t a sensible place to play him.

  46. KEVINO17
    February 24, 2014

    This must be doing Tata’s head in. For the first time in his career he can’t just pick the best team rather than the most politically prudent team.
    Wonder if they will ship out Messi at the end of the year. I assume they don’t have the balls.

    • Nik
      February 25, 2014

      Wonder if they will ship out Messi at the end of the year. I assume they don’t have the balls.

      …wait, what?!

    • February 25, 2014

      Messi is good and loyal enough to be able to have an off year, an off year that is better statically than anyone really.

    • Jafri
      February 25, 2014

      Or maybe they just have brains?

    • February 25, 2014

      It isn’t as much a question of testicular capacity as it is common sense. The last time Barça sold an icon in Ronaldinho, it was in fact a year past that time, but it was difficult. He was still playing well enough that it would have been considered a crazy decision. A few late nights, a little bit of weight gain, less magic and suddenly the notion was conceivable.

      Lionel Messi isn’t at the peak of his powers, even as there is something going on with him. What, I couldn’t tell you but he is far, far from being on the “for sale” block.

      What people should not do is excuse Messi for not being at his best or putting in his fullest effort, as I see with too much regularity. He is another player on the roster, is my view. Martino has a hell of a job on his hands, because he has to figure out how to get that spark back. It might well be a question of making him part of the rotation, rather than an automatic part of the XI whenever he can walk without crutches.


      But when people talk about hard decisions, as we were in some above comments, things like that come into play.

    • KEVINO17
      February 25, 2014

      I think the Messi problem makes Barca a far more potent force in the CL than La Liga. Messi expects to play (and walk around) in every La Liga game. However, he can still motivate himself for the CL games. For that reason, winning La Liga is going to be very hard this year.

    • mom4
      February 25, 2014

      That was easy! Next problem, please!

  47. Valdemar II
    February 25, 2014

    2-0, United are depressing. Last coach was a magician to make these mediocre players perform well. Reckon Arsenal will collapse in a similar manner, whenever Arsene W leaves.

    • georgjorge
      February 25, 2014

      Wow, unbelievable. And I can’t quite imagine what the verdict on Barcelona would be if they had fallen behind 0-2 against a team from a mediocre league instead of having beaten one of the best teams in a very strong league 2-0.

    • February 25, 2014

      Particularly given what the verdict already is on Barcelona by many, even in light of that 2-0 victory over City.

    • georgjorge
      February 25, 2014

      Yes, that’s what I was hinting at. Couldn’t help but think of the introduction to one of your recent articles about the differences between the fans of Manchester United and culés.

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