News of the Day: January 21, 2010

I don’t like self-criticism. I like criticizing, but only if it’s aimed at someone who isn’t me. You see, I demand love and affection from all, including myself. Some say it’s egotism or being thin-skinned, but I prefer sensitive. There’s just too much negativity out there and I prefer not to listen to it. Others, however, should totally listen to me when I berate them for sucking. It’s just how the world should work.

Do I look like I'm worried about your opinions?

-One guy who doesn’t give a rat’s ass for your baby-like sentiments and expressions of self-worth is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is man enough to tell the cameras that he’s been playing like dog-breath for the last few weeks. He’s quoted in both Sport and MD as saying, “I’m a realist and when I play badly, I say it. It’s true that I haven’t been good in the last few matches.” (“Soy una persona realista y cuando juego mal lo digo. Es cierto que en los últimos partidos no he estado bien”) Look for massive improvements from him as he tries to wrest the pichichi crown from Lionel Messi. Ibra has 11 goals in 15 matches while Messi has 14 in 15.

-Kevin mentioned this yesterday in passing, but the UEFA Team of 2009 has been announced and not only are six of the players currently clad in blaugrana (Dani Alves, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Messi, and Ibra), but the team’s captain was Puyol and the coach of the year was Pep Guardiola, for obvious treble-winning reasons. Obviously Ibra’s place in the squad was earned during his time at Inter, but hopefully he can make it back to those heights this year when clad exclusively in blaugrana.

-Now that Guardiola has renewed his contract in principle, we’re set on the managerial front, meaning all we have left to do is play some football wait for the absurdity of the presidential election cycle to get going full-tilt and we’ll get to talk about who Guardiola will re-sign for or if the new president (in office July 1) will agree to the terms Laporta and Guardiola agreed to. I can’t imagine anyone not doing so, but hey, I’m not an egomaniacal lawyer with power and money to burn. Well, I’m not a lawyer with power and money to burn, anyway. Apparently Pep is such a crazy workhorse that he didn’t even tell his family about his plans and they had to hear it on the radio. Also, they apparently listen to the radio, which isn’t something I’ve done in years.

Seydou Keita returned to the squad today after Mali was bounced from the African Cup of Nations and could start on Saturday against Valladolid thanks to Busi’s suspension for yellow card accumulation. He was welcomed back to the squad with a round of applause, probably for his ridiculous freekick against Malawi and for being around to save our collective bacon if need be.

Txiki Begiristain, our GM, has refused to make a clear decision about his future, at least for the moment. His contract runs out at the end of this season (June 30), but he could sign up again if the right candidate is elected. I, for one, would like to see him continue.

Let’s hear your thoughts on all these things in the comments.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Catalanblood
    January 21, 2010

    I hate politics and I hope it doesn’t distract the players or ruin the environment that the team and the club has. But it’s all part of the business, I guess.

    Anyway, I’m not very familiar with the organizational structure of football clubs so I wanna ask what does Txiki or a general manager of a football club really do? I play football manager but the only thing I learn from that is that I have to answer to a board of directors. Lol.

    About Ibra. I like how he’s so damn straight to the point. No need to sugarcoat or “euphemize” unlike how Ranieri was during his tenure at Juventus. The first step to improvement is admission right?

    I’m not sure if this has been linked before but there’s this 30 minute video of Ibrahimovic that talks about how he is as a person and what he does. It’s a good watch if you’re not too busy.

    • January 21, 2010

      CB, a GM generally makes personnel decisions in conjunction with the manager/coach. They are usually the ones with the most complete knowledge within an organization, meaning they speak to the managerial staff from a player’s perspective and the board of directors from a business perspective and attempt to find the best common ground or to make things work when they need fixing.

      In American sports, GMs generally are the ones who have the final say in personnel decisions, but I’m not sure if that’s totally true in the footballing world.

      Wikipedia describes it thus: “…the general manager is a team executive responsible for acquiring the rights to player personnel, negotiating their contracts, and reassigning or dismissing players no longer desired on the team”

      A guy like Theo Epstein for the Red Sox probably has a lot more day-to-day input than a lot of other GMs, but I sort of think that Txiki is along those lines. A guy like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys (owner and GM) is proof to me that you need more than just money and that ability to wield it in the trade/transfer market to be build a successful team. I think Txiki is able to find the differences between the board and the managerial staff and smooth things out.

      The only question that remains for me is whether or not Guardiola wants more control from Txiki (more direct input in things like “buy me this player” and it must be done) or whether they’ve got a really solid working relationship that is already completely smooth and only requires set in the stone of a contract to be irrevocable by the new president–like Jerry Jones, Núñez and Gaspart before Laporta were supposedly over-involved in the finding of talent in the transfer market and demanding managers incorporate their signings into the squad (a la Florentino Perez).

  2. majatt
    January 21, 2010

    Txiki renewing could be good, he has alot of experience in the spot but I can’t help but wonder how may more Henriques and Kierissons we will get. Where the techinical director sees potential in players and the coach seem to not have plans for them.

    I’ve read the natterings that part of Guardiola’s issue is a lack of control in purchasing, which he would presumably get at an english club…if they have any money.

    Pep not telling his family? That says one of two things two me:

    1. This ‘agreement’ really doesn’t mean that much to Pep.
    2. He went straight to the conf from the meeting and his family happened to hear it before he could tell them.

  3. January 21, 2010

    Txiki Begiristain: I would like to see him continue. Though unlikely, especially if Sandro ruled the house.

    • January 21, 2010

      Agreed on both points and I think we’ll end up hearing a lot of “if you elect Rosell, you lose Txiki and Pep” kind of talk.

  4. January 21, 2010

    Ibra would come back to scoring goals sooner than later…
    …n that keita free kick was astoundingly awesome…y doenst he take free kicks for barca….

  5. Bill
    January 21, 2010

    What does Txiki really do? Well, here’s but a few players he has signed (along with Rijkaard). Abidal, Henry, Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto’o, Yaya, Pique, Gudjohnsen, Giuly, Alves, Keita, Silvinho, Zambrotta…and other insignificant ones. Has he had misses in the past? Yes. But he has also unearthed some diamonds in the rough.

    I just read the previous post about Guardiola. While I appreciate all the love he is getting, I’m not convinced YET, that he is the soccer God that some are ellevating him to be.

    Now, before the knives come out, let me point out that he is a very good coach who came to the right team at the right time. Was he solely responsible for all the success barcelona achieved last season? No.

    Lets start with Rijkaard and Txiki. These two guys were primarily responsible for the building of last seasons great team. It’s in their Era that guys like Abidal, Gudjohnsen, Silvinho,the Yaya, Henry & Eto’o were signed. Now, I don’t presume to know the inner workings of Barcelona, so I don’t really know who was responsible for signing them, but these two guys, and Laporta to some extent, were responsible. Alves and Keita were signed in Guardiola’s era, but according to Txiki, those plans were already in place based on the teams needs in the 2007/2008 season. Keita’s deal is iffy to me, he may have been Guardiola’s guy. But Guardiola was still a puppy whose bark didn’t really have that much of a bite as he was still a rookie. Without a doubt, this seasons signings are wholy his. Ibrahimovic, Txigrinsky and Maxwell. The Jury is still out on these guys.

    Ok, lets look at the style of play. Has Guardiola improved on some technical and positional nuances from the Rijkaard Era? Now, I must admit this one is probably over my head a little, we will have to consult with Hector. But from what I have witnessed, he most definately has. Having said that, we have to remember that it was Rijkaard who was responsible in re-installing this type of play and identity to the team, and was very successful with it to some level.

    Now, lets talk about player imput. Now, it turns out that the expulsion of Ronaldinho and Deco from the team was a stroke of genius based on the results, but you also have to ask yourself, what if Eto’o had rolled over and left as was intended? 31 goals in the league and a very crucial goal in the champions league final that turned the game upside down and deflated manchester united, who would have replaced that? Ronaldinho’s exit was not damaging simply because Henry stepped into that role beautifully, contributing crucial goals and assists plus a willingness to play defense that was beneath Ronaldinho. Ditto Deco because Iniesta is just better.

    Lets no forget the emergence of Yaya and Abidal, who got comfortable in their second year in the team and became a tour de force. Alves was also very crucial. But, having witnessed some defensive debacles this season, I can’t emphasize enough about how much Pique’s influence in defence has improved our fortunes. Pique and Puyol in defense works beautifully. Marquez and anyone else there brings back that feeling I had in 2007…we may have scored, but the other team(any team) will definatelly score a couple.

    Finally, luck. There were very little injury influences to out team last season, atleast not to the most essential players we have. Yes, different training regimens can reduce risk of SOME injuries like muscle pulls and strains, but nothing can prevent a players foot landing awkwardly, a foot getting caught in the grass while sliding or broken legs caused by rough play, knee injuries, ankles injuries, broken hands and many more injuries. Now, what if we had injuries to players such as Eto’o and Messi at crucial stages of last season as we did in 2006/2007 & 2007/2008 seasons? Would we have won it all?

    So, yes, Guardiola was a good coach at the right time. But he wasn’t the only person solely responsible for what happened last year. Even he himself will be the first to tell anybody who listens, that the players who were there are the ones who did the heavy lifting. Is he a very good coach? Yes. Is he Alex Ferguson great? Hell no. ATleast not yet. Ferguson has torn down atleast 5 teams only to build bigger and better teams that kept on winning. Guardiola won alot in ones season. Come back to me in about 5 or 6 years from now, and we can talk about his greatness. Let him sign or build up a few great players, and improve on his subbing issues, then we will talk.

    • adal
      January 21, 2010

      I share the same opinion. Never forgot Rijkaard who build the foundation of this team and put the club back on track when he faced some great pressure during the first half of his first season as head coach. And also he is the one who took Messi to first team.

      • adal
        January 21, 2010

        In Messi’s case, we probably should also thank Dinho. Without him taking on Messi as his protégé, we probably won’t see the Messi we see today.

      • Bill
        January 21, 2010

        And Iniesta + Bojan. Is it telling that Bojan performed more confidently under him than Guardiola? Mhhhhhhhh

        • Kxevin
          January 21, 2010

          Another good question. Or is it that the overall level was lower? I’m sure that pressure also has something to do with it. It’s one thing to come into a struggling side (yes, admittedly in our stratospheric context). It’s quite another to come into a side that is annhiliating everything before it, with the expectations to meet that level.

          Also, I would hope that knives wouldn’t come out. The points that you make are very good. Here’s another question: Would Eto’o have had the season that he had if he weren’t so determined to prove that they were wrong for wanting to sell him? Spite is a powerful goad for an athlete. I once finished a bicycle race that I had no business finishing, because a guy and some spectators were betting on what lap my big ass was going to drop out. 😀

    • Kxevin
      January 21, 2010

      Bill, you make good points. And I think that the renewal will be a good start toward him building the kind of track record that you reference in the Sir Alex Ferguson mention. But I do think that Guardiola’s instant success with the B squad showed something of his team molding skill set.

      But yes, luck is always a part of this game. We had some luck with injuries, but I think we also had some bad luck with injuries and suspensions, in that Abidal was out for 2 months at a key time, then he and Alves couldn’t play the final. And Guardiola found a way to put those pieces together.

      Rijkaard had the players, but he didn’t have the locker room, something I think we’ll all agree on. So Guardiola getting that back was his first step toward creating the right kind of squad. Implementing modern training techniques was the second, from a special diet for the players, to the kinds of preventive and recuperative techniques that even mid-tier college football teams in the U.S. take for granted. I think it’s a lot of the reason that when we have injuries now, the player almost always comes back ahead of schedule.

      My quibbles with Guardiola are different than yours. Like Phil Jackson of NBA fame, he prefers to let the players work their way out of trouble, with as little intervention as possible. This usually works, but it’s difficult for him to intervene when he has to, when it isn’t working. There are also the substitution issues, dictated in part I think by some underperforming players. I’m sure he’d be quicker to sub in Krkic, for example, if he were ripping it up.

      I also wish he weren’t so stubborn. Keirrison might be good, but I don’t imagine that he’ll get a fair hearing with Guardiola at the helm, because Guardiola didn’t want him.

      Now I do think that tactically, Guardiola has moved the side closer to the Cruijff ideal, and implemented the “Messi as wild card” factor. But you could also argue that Guardiola got lucky in that the maturation of the Argentine was fortuitously timed, and who’s to say that Rijkaard wouldn’t have gotten the same results.
      I don’t think that Guardiola will be coaching for as long as Ferguson, though. His style is too intense. Hell, not even two seasons, and look at the difference in his physical appearance.
      But like the aforementioned Phil Jackson, people said that he got lucky, and got a good group of players at the right time, which was why other coaches couldn’t win with those players. Then he went to L.A. and did the same thing, and people stopped talking about his luck. Guardiola still has a lot to prove, but he’s off to one heck of a start.

    • January 22, 2010

      Bill has a point, but its just one side of the story. Regarding Txiki, I am a fan.

      I cant say Frank contributed more or Pep was more successfull. Frank was a good coach, but he wasnt really the tactical genius himself. In fact, the same as we can say that luck played a role with Pep, it did the same the same for Frank. With Ronaldinho at his peak, any team would have won titles. In fact he is the only player after Maradona 1986 who was “A TEAM in a man”. Never thought it will happen again, and I dont think it will (After Roni). We had rooted tactical bugs that in his whole presence as a coach, frank failed to solve (even though it was hurting us again and again). Defense weakness was not just lack of resources but mostly lack of ideas. The only time Frank tried to do something different was trying a 3-4-3. We all know how it ended up blowing our title hopes perminantly. But we were able to outscore the opponent most of the time during the good days, not the other way arround.

      That doesnt take anything away from Frank though. He came in a very bad period recommended by Cruyff (and his football methodology) and supported by the board (Beside Sandro and co). He reshaped a team and through his smooth personality he kept them going by getting advantage of their hunger for titles. When they felt full, it was the end.

      Pep inherited a better squad from Frank than the one we had in 2003. But he also did a tremendous job that couldnt be underrated saying that “he was just lucky”. There are tactical customizations almost per game (something we didnt have before). The team is more balanced offense/defense wise and it has more to do with tactics than labour. For example we had a Van bommel to do the Keita job before, but we didnt use him (And I blew my throat out asking for it). We had Marquez (who WAS not less qualified than Pique now)and we had Turam, Puyol, edmilson, And even Oleguer but still we couldnt create the balance needed in defense helping Zambrotta to be the Alves we know now. I can keep going forever. Thats where Pep changed and he get the full credit for that.

      Are we lucky that we are not having lot of injuries? Partially, but not as far as people may think. First, because we actully suffered injuries last season, big time! Iniesta injury at the beginning of the season when we played all the big teams in the Liga including RM, Villarreal, sevila, valencia. Henry Injury, abidal, Messi, then the CL tale. But we were able to overcome as we were systematic enough not to be dependent on any player (That was another Upgrade). Add that to the fact that we changed the niutrition programs, Phisios, training programs that became a bit more physical than before (ask Abidal), all that has an impact on the injury rate as its scientifically proved. We made our luck.

      I agree that Pep is getting more credit and hailed as being much better than he is for real (he did and does lot of mistakes). I am even terrified that he may take Txiki responsibilities next season and do the buying decessions himself (I trust Txiki more in this). But we must not underestimate his role in everything the team achieved this season, which is unmatched by the contribution of anyone else (talking about last season achievements). Those are Pep babies, he is the dady and the mom.

  6. sirius
    January 22, 2010

    can someone explain ramzi’s comment about how if sandro is elected it may cause problems with pep?? does pep not like sandro??? does sandro not want pep???

    • January 22, 2010

      Sirius, that’s one answer no one will know except for the ones in the Barcelona chambers while Rosell was still around. I suggested earlier that one might get a brief insight about what the might have transpired politically in the documentary about FCB called Barcelona: The Inside story from Storyville by BBC.

      After watching it, my perception of Rosell has changed a lot cos it appears that Rosell was infact the main guy when Laporta was elected president and the president went to Sandro for even the smallest piece of advice. Perhaps it had something to do with ego or a sense that he may be losing the confidence of his peers in office which led to Rosell’s departure.

      Rosell seems like a better more pragmatic version of Laporta and our club would probably be a lot more profitable with him in charge. It’s funny how a majority of people don’t think much of him though based on hearsay..

      • January 22, 2010

        Sandro will not have Txiki in his position, sirius. No doubt about that. Thats a shame as Txiki was the corner stone in everything this team achieved in the last decade.

        As for Pep, I dont think he will sack him. He cant do it even if he want anyway. Sandro does not have Laporta patience nor ability to handle pressure, so I am not sure how far Pep will stay in position if things went wrong. But for the short term, he will be the manager who starts next season, especially if he had a good season this year.

        Reagan, my saying about Sandro is briefed in an article I wrote a while ago while discussing Barcelona following elections. You can find it here:


        • Kxevin
          January 22, 2010

          The perception that Rosell’s victory will cause problems for Guardiola has been expressed before. It’s a view of mine, and I think a view of almost anyone following the race.

          Tacitly or not, Rosell does have links to the Giralt wing, aka the crew behind the censure vote that Laporta survived. Prima facie, with Guardiola being Laporta’s choice (and deemed a rather risky one at the time), it only goes to follow that under Rosell, Guardiola’s leash would go from nonexistent, to rather tight. No coach wants to work under those conditions.

          It’s why Laporta’s unctuously grinning handshake with Guardiola was genius. If Guardiola, after the election, says “I can’t work with these jackasses” and skedaddles, Laporta, when reached for comment, will say “We did our part, and if the Continuity candidate had been elected….”

          That’s the very simple view. On another level, Rosell, like any president (and irrespective of what he says during Twitter chats, for those of you who were able to pop in for that one), has views on who and who shouldn’t be doing what. That means players, etc. He, like any president, has ties to certain agents, etc, and notions of how he’d like his club to look on the pitch. No shame in that.

          But recall that Laporta and Rosell were bosom buddies, until 2005, when the shite hit the fan over who Laporta wanted to listen to, Cruijff or Rosell. In 2007, Eto’o made some then rather intense allegations over a dressing-room war between the Rosell players (Ronaldinho, Deco) and the Laporta players (pretty much everybody else, except for a notable few).

          Finally, the Rosell candidacy is also linked to the future of Txiki B., who, as it is well-known, is disliked by Rosell. So it isn’t difficult to imagine the guy whose job it has been to go out and get the players desired by the president and the coach, to see his neck on the chopping block.

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