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Farewell, Capita, aka “The lion roars no more”

I will be fighting until the end of the season to help the team achieve its objectives for the season.

Capita.

When you see that single word and are a supporter of FC Barcelona, there is only one image that comes to mind …

puyol

Today, Carles Puyol announced that at the end of the season, he will be leaving the ranks of FC Barcelona. He didn’t take any questions, for what questions can there be, really, of a man who has given absolutely everything for the club that he loves. Why? What made you decide? Did you consult with the coaching staff? Like one of his unstinting tackles, in less than two minutes, the hammer came down. That’s it. No questions. Thank you.

Nor should there be questions, because none of it matters to a man whose very presence, for me more than Lionel Messi, brings something intangible to the side. From the moment of his debut in 1999 when he ran onto the pitch as if he was on fire to his most recent appearance, when he ran onto the pitch as if he was on fire, half-measures have never had anything to do with this indomitable player.

Mundo Deportivo once ran a graphic that contained all of the body parts that Puyol has broken or damaged over the course of his career. It was astounding. He would come back from injury, roar full speed ahead, and break something else. He would break things while he was rehabbing other broken things. And for most players, we would say, “Hey, a little circumspection probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Not for Carles Puyol. Not only is that lack of restraint one of his most endearing qualities, but it is also one of his most essential. Always on, and demanding that everyone around him is always on. Screaming at Pique, for no other reason to make sure his centerback partner was paying attention and fully focused. Throwing up his arms in exasperation at errors by teammates, then pulling them aside to explain exactly what they did and didn’t do, and how to correct it.

No quarter given and none asked is a cliché, except when it isn’t. No player embodies what this club stands for as far as I am concerned, more than Carles Puyol. Fire and class on the pitch, hard work to prepare for being on the pitch in between appearances. When teammates undertook a shimmy to celebrate a goal, Puyol charged in to say “Break that crap up. Act like you’ve done it before and show some class.”

It speaks volumes about Puyol and the way that he plays that it’s so surprising that he is only 5’10”. Nobody ever complained about short CBs when he was on the pitch, nobody ever said as they do now that Barça could use a stronger, taller CB. He has had 392 appearances for Barça to date, and can expect a few more in the run-down of this season where suddenly, every match is a final.

And we will celebrate those appearances. And there will be times where he defies everything to look like That Puyol, our Capita, and some will say that his decision was premature, that he should stay. But deep down they will know, just as Puyol knows.

Age is nasty, and life is cruel. Second by second, minute by minute, we are no longer what we once were, even those of us who don’t test our limits to discover precisely how inexorable that diminution is. Children want to become grownups, grownups age and want to be young again. The one thing that everyone does is age. The other thing that everyone does is rail against that aging in one way or another.

Sport is that way in which, 90 minutes at a time, the world stops. The fervent supporter pulls out that shirt that he bought 15 years ago and tells himself it still fits the same. He makes that excited sprint up the steps to his seat and tells himself that it doesn’t feel any different. This also makes it easy to deny what is happening to the athletes who make up the teams that we champion. As long as they don’t age, fail and become less than they were, neither do we. It’s part of the bond that draws us to sport in some ways.

So when a lionheart such as Puyol decides to hang it up, we resist, because how do you extricate yourself from the players that you love? And if they are getting old, what’s happening to me? Moreover, it’s the quality of a great player that makes us want that quality forever. Don’t stop. Ever. Friends tell you that you’re fine. Some pundits watch you play and say you’re fine. But the player knows. And if he is honest, he knows what he must do.

Puyol has lost a step, maybe two. He can’t leap as high. There are times that you watch him play and you know that he sees, understands, has already anticipated what the next move by an attacker will be. But these days, he is sometimes a step behind, falling short at the intersection of knowledge and capability. We have seen it, everyone has talked about it, so it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that Puyol too has seen it, and decided that this is it. That if he can’t help, to the fullest of his abilities, the club that he loves, he should stop. Further, if he can’t perform to the standard that he himself would demand of an FC Barcelona defender, he should stop.

I have been proud of our Capita on many an occasion, but it’s hard to think of a time that I am more proud of him than right now, for taking what must have been an exceptionally difficult decision. He loves the game, he loves his club. In that karmic coin toss this decision makes clear which one he loves more.

Adeu, Capita.

carles

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132 Responses to “Farewell, Capita, aka “The lion roars no more””

  1. barca96 says:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

    • barca96 says:

      I just don’t get it. Like I said when the rumors first came out, there is no need for him to leave (I assume he is leaving, not retiring as he can definitely play a couple more years).

      He is in my eyes still good enough to play once a week. Sol Capmbell who was a rock back in the days, used to play once a week to because of his knee issues.

      We have many weeks where we only have one match a week, I’d play him over Mascherano. When we do have mid week matches, then of course rotate him.

      So in 2 seasons we lost 2 of our best defenders in Puyol and Abidal. Will we ever be as good defensively as when these 2 were still playing? I really doubt it.

      Now that Puyol is leaving, we will need to sign 2 CB’s. How much money will the club have to spend this summer as we also need a striker and another midfielder.

      Thank you for everything Puyol. I am glad to have watched you play from the beginning of your career when you were a young reckless and quite wild but very talented RB to the best CB the club has had for the past decade. Thank you and good luck!

      • njwv says:

        Well, to be fair, we needed to sign two CBs when Puyi and Abi got injured/sick the first time in 2011. That it’s been 3 summers since and we’ve signed no one has been negligence on our par.

      • njwv says:

        Puyol’s onfield leadership as the heart and soul and driving force of the team speaks for itself. It’s what he did for Abidal and Roqué which I’ll remember more though.

        • barca96 says:

          Don’t forget last season when he called Tito over to celebrate with the trophy. Whenever I think of that, I can’t help but think of the Song :lol:

  2. BA says:

    farewell, Capita.

    the very essence of what a captain should be: selfless, commanding, encouraging, always putting his body on the line for his team. i’m sad to say we won’t see his like again for a long, long time. (btw, the 392 appearances you cite are only for the League; his full appearance count for Barça in all competitions is 593)

    and let’s not forget he was also a really outstanding footballer: 6 league titles and counting, 3 European Cups, a World Cup, a European championship, and numerous other trophies attest to that. those weren’t won on grit and commitment alone.

    he was at his best when we needed him most:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRW29AK8Syw&index=25

  3. Peter says:

    Not yet… Not yet.

  4. fotobirajesh says:

    A legend who has won it all that is there to be won. A real lions heart.

    I like to compare him with Jackie Chan as far as his injuries are concerned. Both dont seem to have any body part left, without going under knife.

    sorry for this off topic – but felt very happy reading this.
    http://www.totalbarca.com/2014/interviews/spain-secretary-of-sport-cardenal-weighs-in/

    • barca96 says:

      Oh yes, you are 100% spot on with the comparison with Jackie Chan. Amazing guy! Too bad I never met him while living in HK. I am not a big fan of his style of fighting although he clearly can fight and fights this way because he wants to be different but I really admire him. And he does a lot for charity. Did you know he won’t leave his son (only child) a single cent?? Everything will go to charity.

      • fotobirajesh says:

        Forgive me for saying this – for me he is the only real action star, almost everything on screen, he does by himself (of course Bruce lee did fight himself, but there is a huge difference to the kind of risk involved in what JChan does, not just in fighting, but even other action on screen- this man even has a real hole in his skull, from a fall during shooting). And he even take care of all those injured stunt men, a very good human being.

        • barca96 says:

          Yeah. I’ve been following him since I moved to HK. He’s such a great guy. Did you know that he doesn’t flush the toilet? Well he does but only after 5 times of doing number 1. When he is on a set, he only flushes after 5 people (him + crew) have used it. It’s his way of giving back to the environment after harming it for his movies with explosions and all.

  5. njwv says:

    Oh. So who gets the 5 shirt next year?

    • Jafri says:

      I might be getting emotional, but I’d want them to retire the number.

      • barca96 says:

        I don’t really like the idea of retiring a number in football.

        It’s not like American sports where the players have a choice of a number from 1-99. In football, the starters usually have the number 1-11. Some have bigger like Zidane (21).

      • njwv says:

        Not possible in Spain. 1st-team rosters are limited to 25 and you have to use numbers 1-25 for that. It can be vacant if the team is smaller than 25. But that also risks a random winter signing (if needed) getting it.

      • G6O says:

        I am strongly against doing that in football.

        It’s a stupid idea in American sports too – apparently they either don’t plan on having the same teams 200 years from now or nobody ever thought about it that way. For example, the Celtics have 20 retired numbers, in 60 years. At that rate they will be forced to use triple-digit numbers around 2200.

        I happen to think there is close to 0 chance that there will be an NBA at that time, but I’d prefer if the people making these decisions wanted it to last that long

  6. Ultraculé says:

    For someone like me, this is the worst possible Barca related news, even as I knew it was inevitable at some point. Of all the Barca shirts I own, 70% of them have the name Puyol. This, in a lot of ways is a much sadder day than the ones in which Pep G had to announce his departure.

    We will simply never have a Capita like Carles Puyol again. Always, All in, all the time. I can’t think of another player who has put so much of his heart and body (literally) on the line for his team. Like the writer says, the fact that he never half measured things or showed any restraint is his most endearing quality. Who will wear the #5 next season? someone asked. I say nobody deserves to wear it until they can come close to displaying the kind of heart and commitment our captain has showed in all of the 593 games he has played for this club. The shirt must be retired, and a statue erected outside our grounds to honor and remember the greatest captain this club has ever had.

    So many images are fleeting through my mind on this sad sad day. The way he forced himself back from a long absence and played through injury during the Quadro Clasico Marathon to safeguard his team from a vile and tense atmosphere. And after he did his duties in the SFs, the way he relinquished his spot to play in the CF final to Masch. The way he gave up one of the most glorious moments for any sportsman to let Abidal wear the armband and lift the CL trophy. The way he completely owned Figo in his first return in that 2-0 win at the Camp Nou. The way he rose to punch the air in the bernabeu after his trademark rocket header goals in the 2-6 and 1-2 wins under Pep. The crucial one at the World cup Semi finals against Germany. His Badassness on full display in one CL game when the entire bench was wrapped in blankets except for Puyol. Or the way he calmly closed a cut in his face by stapling his head during a game, all the while anxious to return to the pitch as soon as possible.

    This team is never going to be the same without you Puyi and you were, by far, the best defender in the world in the last decade. You are irreplaceable and will be sorely missed and I look forward to enjoying every second I can get of you on the pitch in our colors.
    Visca Puyol.

    You are. Legend.

  7. Jafri says:

    The band is breaking up… Farewell, Capita.

  8. Xavi6 says:

    Proud of being able to see Puyol playing in a Barca shirt .

    Will never forget when he gave Abidal the arm band in 2011 . this is the most beautiful barca moment I experienced .

    Puyol embodied commitment , loyalty , courage , persistance . and he had that burning passion for the beautiful game . and Above all , he was a true leader and loved Barca from the heart .

    Words can’t give him his worth . I already tweeted to his account to thank him , and would love to do any thing to thank him for every thing he gave football in general , and barca fans in particular .

    Thanks Capita , you will always be remembered .

  9. Xavi6 says:

    It’s quite painful to see Abidal leaving in 2013 , and Puyol and Valdes leaving in 2014 .

    The next season is extremely important for Barca .

  10. barca96 says:

    If he indeed still wants to continue playing, I hope he goes to AC Milan. He’s at the right age to go to Milan.

  11. Seyi38 says:

    Pep Guardiola, Abidal, Valdes, Puyol and who’s next Xavi? I knew this day would come but it’s come too soon. Pep, Cryuff, Puyol and someday Xavi and Messi all deserve to have a statue erected in their memory. Another cycle is ending and ushering in a new generation of talents with Iniesta, Messi, Pique and co at the helm. I’m deeply saddened by his decision to leave but at the same time it’s inevitable so I’ve decided to be grateful and appreciate all he’s given this club and it’s supporters. I doubt there’ll ever be a better love story than Puyol’s and Barcelona. Visca Puyol!!!

    Btw anybody noticed how Puyol was the only person that attacked the ball in the corner we conceeded against Almeria? That’s part of what we’re missing, maybe more imported than height. Look at the South Korean NT, they don’t go about conceding set pieces because they lack height.

  12. barca96 says:

    Found another video of Puyol that makes me want to stand up and applaud the man, what a MAN he is. He was slapped by an opponent and Ronnie wanted to get back at the guy but Puyol ran to stop Ronnie. Unbelievable.

    https://www.youtube.com/watchv=ElCGaP05za8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  13. simple_barcafan says:

    Sad day..sad sad day…The heart and soul of our team retires..Kxevin said he was only 5 10′…But I would say he was the tallest of them all.Symbolizes the club more than anyone else.

    When a players gives everything for the club, he is a great player..if he gives something more, he is Carles Puyol…

  14. simple_barcafan says:

    Nice article by goal.com standards…
    *http://www.goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2014/03/04/4661158/puyol-is-footballs-last-pure-defender?ICID=HP_BN_7

  15. Ultraculé says:

    I hope he gets to lift big ears one last time.
    Would be the most fitting send off.

  16. mom4 says:

    We knew it had to happen. Doesn’t make it easier to accept, though!

    Five years ago I honestly didn’t know this team existed. Chance and a friend’s insistence dragged me kicking and screaming into this love. I’m so fortunate to have found this team in time to see this legend and example.

  17. Messiah10 says:

    Ultracule, I love your post. El Capi is my favorite Barca player ever. Period. He embodies everything I love in a player. His grit, determination, work ethic, & heart won me over. Not to mention his pure class in tackling, heading, bringing the ball up field. Sad day but definitely inevitable. The way he played the game shortened his career. He didn’t know any other way. I saw comparisons with Jackie Chan. Maybe. For me. Being a Yankee. There is only one comparison. Larry Bird. Not the fastest. Couldn’t jump the highest. Gave his all. Every game. Larry was told early on to curb his diving on the floor and out of bounds for the ball because it would shorten his career. He didn’t know any other way. He didn’t care about $$$. He came from nothing. Similar to Puyol. Uncanny actually. Vista Puyol. Vista Barca. I agree that a statue should be erected. No question. I will miss him dearly. So will the club.

    • Ultraculé says:

      Thanks. its gonna be weird

    • barca96 says:

      I thought Messi was your favorite player?

      Larry Bird, an ol skool player dived? As in flopping like LeFlop James? Forgive my ignorance, I have never seen him play. Too young for that and I don’t think they even showed it at my place.

      And why would he get injured and shorten his career for chasing an out of bounds ball? From sprinting and the explosiveness? Why I am asking is because I am the only one who does that on the court. Noone else bother to chase a ball that is going out of bound. 9/10 I am able to grab and throw it to a team mate in a split second.

      Same when I’m playing futsal. Nobody wants to chase that type of ball. I always chase and back heel the ball and throw myself to the side net in the process.

      • G6O says:

        Larry Bird developed debilitating back problems which eventually forced him to retire early. Supposedly, the injury happened when he tried to lift something heavy while helping his mom build her driveway. But it’s rarely the case that these kind of injuries are caused by just one accident – you build up knocks after knock that weaken you to the point where something that in earlier years would have had no impact causes you to break down.

        In basketball there are several good ways to mess up certain parts of your body – for example, another good way to kill your back is to stand up in front of someone charging at you and have him called for an offensive foul. Which ends up with your back hitting the floor hard. Another good example is what doing a lot of powerful dunks does to your knees (see what happened to Vince Carter).

        Any type of explosive movement done repeatedly will eventually cause problems. Some people are made of more durable material than others, but on average is is true. Puyol is a perfect example. On the other hand, hopefully the way Messi is playing will help him have a long career

        P.S. Backheeling the ball when going out of bounds may not be such a good strategy – you risk losing it while you are out of play and expose your team to a counter attack at numerical disadvantage…

    • dl says:

      Larry Bird…. Yes, very good comparison. Tremendous heart, leader by example, worked harder than anyone and that was the reason he earned everyone’s respect.
      Every career ends, though. Thanks for the memories!

  18. Dar_vincy says:

    Whenever i see the way some of our defenders defend, it infuriates and irritates me alot having seen what and how this irreplacable beast (who didn’t possess the height but the will to leap as rightly pointed out by Seyi 38) gave everything.
    Whenever i see players in his ilk (Terry, T.silva, kompany, Vidic, etc), i burn with jealousy as to why we can’t have personalities like them to complement our Capita and guard that defence.
    He is fallible no doubt but his willingness to give his all over-shadows his weaknesses and mistakes.
    He would never have been inundated with this much encomium and tributes if he had little or zero concentration, sparse will and desire, or had he not solid aggression, assured organisational attribute, unflinching leadership and authority…i just could go on.
    He is everything our defence should be but isn’t- a fact elaborated by the Goal article.
    We will do well to get defs close to what he is.
    I’m tempted to get very emotional on this guy but for what he is and what he’s done, i wouldn’t mind.
    He remains a legend, our capita forever; immortalised in every cule’s heart.
    Arrivederci, Puyi.

  19. stefan2k says:

    What a captain he is…

    allas made an awesome compilation in case you have missed it:

    http://allasfcb.blogspot.co.at/2014/03/10-great-carles-puyol-moments.html

  20. Ultraculé says:

    Will be very interesting to see who that long awaited Center back signing will be, now that we have refused to do so for 4 straight years. Surely, Puyol’s retirement will force us to get one, or will the board infuriate fans further saying we don’t need one, we have the academy, blah.

    I’m hoping that we address all inadequacies and don’t fall short, because this year, we will need not one, but two central defenders. And with the departure of Puyol & Valdes, we need to replace not just numbers, but also the right temperament in the squad. God help us.

    • G6O says:

      There’s really no CB in the academy who is even remotely ready to play.

      So we are down to Pique, Bartra and Mascherano… That just mandates two signings, and it would be mind-boggling if they are not made…

  21. Bill3288 says:

    Beautiful writing on this post, Kxevin.

  22. Kxevin says:

    Puyol departure accelerates changes that really should have been more gradual as regards player acquisitions. Never an Abidal replacement, also need two CB signings. To save its asses, board might finally do the right thing this summer.

    Might also try locking up a high profile signing early to show intent.

  23. barca96 says:

    Zubizarreta (sports director): “Puyol gained the right to decide his future. He told me he want us to sign a new centre back quickly” [catr]

    I already had a feeling especially after someone mentioned it but I thought that it would just be something that belongs in a fairy tale but now it seems true that Puyol did that (leaving) to force the club to sign a CB.

    • Kxevin says:

      It was actually a bad translation. What Puyol actually said was that the next CB signing has to be quick/fast, as in pace, as differentiated from need to sign a CB now.

      Puyol is leaving because he can’t play at the level necessary to justify a place on the first team to himself.

  24. Dar_vincy says:

    I really hope they do, man.
    Even Puyol could understand the need for us get a cb- and a fast one at that.
    Let’s win a double or treble this season and the whole complacent and laid back approach might resurface coupled with the la masia mantra. I won’t be overly shocked if they don’t make a purchase.

  25. Hilal says:

    Farewell Capita. You shall be greatly missed.

    I bet the club gets two CB’s. One big name (probably David Luiz) and then possibly a cheaper, less known, young CB.

  26. Kxevin says:

    Little kid invades the pitch at the end of the Brazil friendly, and Neymar snags him and introduces him to the team:

    https://twitter.com/FutbolMinded/status/441297040329699328/photo/1

    Then the kid gets a salute from the entire squad:

    https://twitter.com/TeleFootball/status/441305349039992832/photo/1

  27. Jim says:

    Good Spanish goal from Pedro after back heel from Ini. Not great from Buffon though.

  28. PrinceYuvi says:

    Lovely game.
    Spain NT is wondrous to watch always.

  29. PrinceYuvi says:

    Won’t say a thing about puyi.

    Getting tired of all the goodbyes, It’s getting a lil bit sad.

    Nothing could stop our Glory days XI, but Age is finally catching up.

  30. teddy says:

    Meanwhile, Messi is seen to be vomiting again on the field.

    On topic:

    As Kevin said, the retirement of Puyol will definitely speed up the process. The process to integrate new player into the team and the transition as well most likely will be done abruptly. we will definitely need at least one goalkeeper and one new defender for next season.

    Assuming they will soon be the first eleven selection, we might be looking at a back line that trying to integrate with each other, so I’m expecting the defense will be quite vulnerable next season, which is fine to me considering new player is being integrated.

    Though I think the club could have done a bit better in transitioning new player into the first team. It’s a shame that we passed on Vertonghen back in the days. I understand the sentiment at that time, our defender is kicking ass. Now all of sudden, we are losing two captains, and probably another one in another one or two seasons.

    I would like to raise concern, and open a discussion in signing a young (and promising?) centerback. How will it affects our B teamers, as well as Bartra who is currently in the squad. I don’t think we needs a CB more than we need a leader at the backline, now with Valdes and Puyol wouldn’t be in the squad anymore for next season.

    Now, lets see what’s our squad will looks like next season, bar the new addition that are going to happened in the summer. I sort this from older to younger.

    ====

    1. Pinto – 40 y.o

    2. Xavi – 35 y.o

    3. Alves – 32 y.o

    4. Mascherano – 31 y.o
    5. Adriano – 31 y.o
    6. Iniesta – 31 y.o

    7. Afellay – 29 y.o

    8. Pique – 28 y.o
    9. Fabregas – 28 y.o
    10. Song – 28 y.o
    11. Pedro – 28 y.o
    12. Messi – 28 y.o

    13. Alexis – 27 y.o
    14. Busquet – 27 y.o

    15. Alba – 26 y.o
    16. Olazabal – 26 y.o

    17. JDS – 25 y.o

    18. Montoya – 24 y.o
    19. Cuenca – 24 y.o
    20. Bartra – 24 y.o
    21. Tello – 24 y.o

    22. Neymar – 23 y.o
    23. Sergi Roberto – 23 y.o

    ===

    Depending on situations, like most of people speculated, Afellay, JDS, Cuenca and probably Tello are going to go. Based on age, we might have around 5 players over 30 years old which I consider to be gala xi. One of my concern is the players that are going to leave is our next generation, under 25 years old, where only two in my opinion (Bartra and Neymar) will get regular playing time. Granted, it’s hard replace and get a spot with our golden generation in play.

    In your guys opinion, how do you guys see our team transitioning from old player to new player.

    • barca96 says:

      Thanks for putting it up. Wanted to post a comment to thank you after you put it up but my electricity went off due to wire problems.

      We discussed this gap of quality last year or so. There will be quite a big difference in quality after the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Alves retire or leave. Our golden generation is starting to end. Thankfully, they’ve won pretty much everything there is so it is not a waste like Portugal or England’s so called golden generation or Ivory Coast.

  31. Seyi38 says:

    An off topic but I was watching a compilation of Messi’s career goals for Barcelona during the Pep era and I discovered that Martino’s only crime is that he isn’t Pep.

  32. Messiah10 says:

    Here’s some news from beINsports.

    http://www.beinsports.tv/news/title/lionel-messi-set-to-become-world-highest-paid/article/h636pw4igb8b1v1p8pdglaga4

    Looks like we will be renegotiating Messi’s contract. I hope they put a large buy out clause & give him some incentive based bonuses. Maybe this will fire him up for the remainder of the season and put to bed some of the ill feeling towards the board. No matter what the press releases are. There is something not 100% right with him. Some games he looks totally uninterested. They had a stat on a podcast La Liga Weekly i listen to. In the CL Messi is 2.5 km lower than Thong boy in distance run on the pitch. He’s far behind Costa & other back to goal fowards, but that’s to be expected. What has been missing are the numerous dynamic runs he makes. We need those to break the defense down & create holes. Granted, 8 goals in last 6 is ridiculous. La Liga Weekly argues it could be 12 in 6. I don’t care about the goals. Just effort. Maybe he’s not 100% from his injury?

    • Kxevin says:

      The club alREADY pays him absurd amounts of money.

      If he can’t be bothered, he should sit. I know it’s an unpopular and inflammatory view. But when you watch Diego Costa play, and the influence that he has a on match through movement, it’s remarkable. Then you remember how Messi used to play, when he played like he had something to prove, the difference is remarkable.

      I don’t know what his problem, if any, is. Get it resolved, or sit. But no coach is going to sit Messi.

      There is absolutely zero question that he is a magnificent player, when he decides to play. When he decides to walk around like he lost a contact lens, he isn’t a magnificent player. He’s a player who is not only easy to defend, but leaves the 3-4 players assigned to mark him standing around with him, gumming up the middle so that not much ELSE can happen.

      I recognize that this is veering into something of a rant here, but the club gave him his mid-season preseason so that he could return, healthy and raring to go for the club that helped him to become the player that he is.

      Instead, we read stories about how he is peaking for the World Cup, etc, etc. Those stories make my hackles raise. It’s well known that I am club over player. ANY player. Puyol is leaving because he understands that he can’t help the club do what it does at the level at which he can play the game.

      Money isn’t going to fire up someone who is already getting untold millions. I don’t know what will, but something needs to happen. There was the (admittedly silly) rumor that City was prepared to pay 200m for Messi, and I was thinking “Hmmm, Reus, Aguero, Gundogan, Jackson Martinez … and there’s a bit of change left.”

      That shouldn’t be.

      Not sure what his problem is. No press rumors, no nothing. It’s like nobody notices that too often, he’s walking about as if he could care less. I do, and have for some time. Look at this Messi, from 2011, in the Manita match:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMNPNpfsw-s

      I want that dude back.

      P.S. We can have an interesting discussion about this, but please don’t start with the “You hate Messi stuff.” It’s tired and untrue.

      • Jim says:

        Don’t have a lot of insight on this one other than to say that imo Messi couldn’t if he tried be a lazy player – he loves playing and especially scoring too much for that. He would not be walking about without a reason, whatever it is. The other thing is that unless his scoring rate disintegrates quite a bit, you’re right, there’s not a coach would bench him. He is still by a long way the best (only?) player on our side who can create and score on a regular basis against anybody.

        • Kxevin says:

          That’s the thing. It isn’t “lazy.” “Disinterested” might be the better word, almost like it’s boring if he doesn’t have the ball, and that boredom manifests itself in lethargy? No clue.

          But he is definitely, as Messiah10 notes, moving differently.

          For me, the larger issue is the effect that it seems to be having on the team, which isn’t as free-flowing as it was when he was gone, and everyone was a scoring threat. I know … how do you NOT defer to the best player alive?

          • fotobirajesh says:

            I think its something else, he was the same with Argentina too, against Romania, especially in the first half when his only contribution was a superb ‘la pausa’ to DeMaria. He tried better in the last 30 minutes or so of the second half, creating, but having forced to play from the deep didnt have even one shot.
            My crazy guess is that he is worried Argentina dont have a decent central midfielder, which will force him to play in the midfield more, denying him scoring, but also denying him assists. Unless Aguero, Higuain and DeMaria are really sharp in front of the goal, Messi in midfield is not going to help Argentina. I think he is worried about his NT. WC seems to be his only interest.

      • Gary says:

        Dunno, to me it seems more like he is saving ‘it’ for the big games….but that’s just my view…

      • G6O says:

        Agree 100% with everything you said.

        Even worse, when he came back, in the very first game he played as a sub, he did play with the needed aggression. But that was for 25 minutes, and since then it has been back to what it was before the injury…

        And the team is paying a price for it because the only ways we have of breaking the bus are through A) a lot of movement when we have the ball, and B) aggressive pressing in the opponent’s half when they get the ball so that we can catch in that second or two when they might have lost defensive shape. None of these works with the CF just standing in place

  33. bhed says:

    A bit of a late comment here, but having watched the Spain Italy friendly yesterday – Pedro!!! Whoa! And I’m not even talking about the goal. Especially in the first half, he was everywhere doing everything.

    Cesc was terrible up front, but I still think he’s been having a good overall season. It was cool watching Thiago play. He looked like the Barca player I remember – some incredible displays of skill combined with some silly giveaways. Iniesta was sublime as usual. Alba was pretty good. His hustle saved a goal for sure.

    Costa may have blown his big chance to impress – a big paperweight up front. Would have liked to see if Negredo could have done something. And why did we pass on Javi Martinez again? How much CB work has he been doing for Bayern this season anyway? Also, the right back Azpilicueta looked quite good. Too bad he’s with Chelsea, I’m sure they’ll hold on to him. I mention this because while Dani has been playing very well lately, I don’t know how long it will last, and I don’t even rate Montoya as a back up anymore.

    Anyone watch the game? Anyone care? What do you think about Espanya this year?

    • Jim says:

      Thought Spain actually looked pretty good, especially with Xavi and Pique to come back. Xavi would have a ball in that setup with about four or five midfielders and there would be a lot of chasing the ball for other teams in the Brazilian sun. Having said that it was a hell of a defensive setup.

      Agree with your assessment of. Diego Costa. He was out of his depth in terms of first touch and quickness of feet without a lot of space to work in. Pedro as you say looked pretty impressive and is it just me or has he rediscovered how to beat a man ?

      Despite all the wise money I wouldn’t be betting against them this year again. Who is going to be able to take the ball off them ? Could be quite a few low scoring games though.

    • PrinceYuvi says:

      Spain, such a balanced squad & unreal depth.

      No Messi, No reference point, bad things happen to opposition everywhere on the pitch.

      Pedro takes on defenders as he doesn’t need to worry about misplaced passes.

      Alba transforms into a little beast as there are people on pitch to look after him if gets bullied.

      Our lineup looks a little too much Lopsided after watching Spain friendlies.

      Spain’s chances at WC are as good as anyone. They can’t help it, they’re just too damn good.

      We always talk about Fifalona virus, but we do get to watch our players play with freedom in different set-ups.

      • bhed says:

        Yes! I particularly like your last point. It’s cool to see their talents in a different system. You could say the same for Neymar with Brazil, and of course Alexis with Chile.

  34. Kxevin says:

    Latest rumor is that the club will “overhaul” this summer, including selling 1 or 2 “important” players. Craziness.

  35. dl says:

    Regarding Messi and his walking around this season: It looks to me like he has his eye on the champions league and on Brazil. In many cases the interests of players and of clubs coincide, but on occasion they don’t, completely, and I think this is one. FCB has three possible wins: League, Copa and CL. Messi (and all the other players) have four: League, Copa, CL and WC. For many players, WC looms large. It is obviously the one cup left that he hasn’t won, and this year is perhaps his best chance. Maybe he gets another chance, but maybe not… if you look at it from the point of game theory as played by Messi, he is making a rational choice.

    Here is yet another way Messi MAY be thinking: FCB has failed to make some significant personnel decisions over the past 2-3 years that have resulted in a team with serious weaknesses. He MIGHT, with very great effort, help the team to surmount these such that they win the league, CL etc. On the other hand, they might not, and yet that enormous effort would very likely reduce his ability to go all out at the WC. If he sees this as his last, best chance at the WC, why would he kill himself to redeem an inept club management if it means losing his chance with Argentina? From that point of view it is a rational decision.

  36. Peter says:

    I actually don’t want to sound like I’m defending Messi, because I don’t like his current lack of activity on the pitch, but here it goes:

    Without Messi on the pitch the rest of the team looks more flowing, because there was an extended passing node in the form of the false false nine Fabregas. Teams didn’t defend that deep and so concentrated vs Barcelona when Messi wasn’t playing. You know, it takes two to tango and with Messi on the pitch most opposing teams plain didn’t want to come out and play. The team suddenly looks much slower and lethargic not just because Messi is on the field and moonwalking, but because the jackrabbit trio of Neymar, Alexis and Pedro have nowhere to run – there isn’t really any sense to run, because once you get in the box you suddenly encounter double-markers.

    I may be just whistling in the dark, but it seems to me Barcelona, and Messi, are trying to scrape by the victory. After all, the most effective season would be +38 goal difference and 114 points. That’s not possible, of course, and the other teams, whichever it is, wants to win as much as Barcelona does. However, it seems to me the whole team is in a way saving itself for what comes next.

    This is what comes next:

    08.03. Valladolid away
    12.03. Manchester City at Camp Nou
    16.03. Osasuna at Camp Nou
    23.03. Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu
    26.03. Celta Vigo at Camp Nou
    29.03. Espanyol away

    In case Barcelona manage to go to the QF of the Champions League:
    01-02.04 First Leg QF Champions League
    04-06.04. – Betis at Camp Nou
    07-08.04 Second Leg QF Champions League
    11-13.04 Granada away
    16.04. Copa del Rey Final vs Real Madrid

  37. TITO says:

    I don’t know how many of you watched the game Romania – Argentina. It was a copy paste of his games for us. Totally non interested in the game. He was only involved when he had the ball on his feet, and the moment he loses the ball, he don’t care much about retrieving it. Something is wrong, nobody knows what.
    In the first 5 minutes he even vomited. According to him it’s normal, and it has happened before.
    He is our best player, but with such an attitude (i don’t have to run) i want to see him benched from time to time – if that results with anything.

  38. acquit says:

    “The Sky guys spoke in length about Messi’s lackadaisical evening. He wasn’t pressing much, and did a fair bit of walking while others passed away from him. This isn’t out of laziness. Guillem Ballague’s new Messi biography provides great insight into a player who has been instructed for years and years by the Barça staff to learn to pick his moments. As a younger player, Messi was going at 110% all the time; whether game time, practice or tennis football in the locker room. It resulted in injury. Because of his growth issues, it was found Messi’s muscles are shorter than what would be ideal, particularly those used when accelerating. Messi is being cautious with his body, something we should all be grateful for. Barça want Messi pushing himself against Man City and Real Madrid, not during a kick-about against Almería. In any case, when the moments presented themselves, he was in the midst of most danger.” Good thing will be TATA Benching Messi against small teams no need to play him week in week out. Messi has learnt to pick his moments and he is only concentrating on WC. Will any coach bench Messi ? I don’t think so

    • fotobirajesh says:

      Your comment could be right.
      Is Ballague’s book good?, please

    • G6O says:

      This is a sensible strategy and one I generally agree with. However, it should immediately end when we’re in real danger of losing points, and this has not been the case – in quite a few recent games when we dropped points, including ones in which we were down, you did not see him switch on when the game demanded it, he just kept walking lethargically as before. There is definitely some sort of problem here, hopefully it gets sorted out…

  39. Ultraculé says:

    Speaking of the radical overhaul and two key players leaving is deeply unsettling for me. I sincerely hope it will not be Mascherano and Dani Alves. After Puyol’s departure, the only defender we have who comes closest to his qualities is Masch. I’d be really sad to see him go. I think he is so important, he also deserves, in my book to be a candidate for Barca captain. Dani Alves, apart from his sporing qualities would be a huge loss too, to the dressing room and to Messi and Neymar.

  40. Seyi38 says:

    Despite the great player he can become, its now official that I hate Thiago Alcantara. He’s taken too many digs at us recently and its no longer funny. I no longer consider him part of Barca as i do with Pep, Toure, Eto, Deco & co. I tried to blame the board on his behalf (which the board and Tito are partly to be blamed) but in real sense the clause in his contract was used to blackmail Barca considering that he was played regularly early in the season until he was injured so there was just no way Tito could have played him for 60% of our matches. There were just only very few games he didn’t play and i thought he should have. And unlike Fabregas this season, he didn’t even make it difficult for him to be dropped/benched, hardly played like he had anything to prove and thats a problem with most of out youth products this season. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, Busquets and co had a star studded team with the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco, Marquez and recently Toure to contend with and they had to fight for a place but it seems like these days we tend to want to clear the path to the first team for any youngster coming in, we already assume their roles in the first team without them having to fight and show us which role they’ll be best suitable in. The truth is we should never blame the board for any competition the youngsters have to face in the first team because thats only how we can know their strength of character. If they love this club and they want to stay they’ll stay and if not the door is wide open for them. Some of them stayed and succeeded ( Xavi & co), others have gone and well (Giovanni and co)……

    • Xavi6 says:

      Agree with the first two lines in particular .

    • Kxevin says:

      I wouldn’t waste time hating Thiago or any other player. He is an athlete who took the best decision for his career, same as any other. His departure was a series of decisions that led to the result, from the negotiating team agreeing to the clause to keep the contract costs low, to the player deciding to take advantage of it.

      Guardiola called him and said he would start for Bayern, and I imagine that looking at Fabregas, Xavi and Iniesta, it didn’t take long to reach the decision to leave. Were it not a World Cup year he might have stayed, but that’s another story for a different day.

      Your comments about the board are spot on. People are blaming them for everything from sunspots to bathtub ring. And ZubiZa is a crap sporting director because of the Thiago business, and because the board wouldn’t let him sign a CB.

      That ZubiZa is a bad sporting director is a narrative that can only persist if people choose NOT to look at the transfers under him. The latest are Ter Stegen and Alen Halilovic. Should the club have signed a CB? Absolutely. For that I do blame the board, rather than ZubiZa. But it’s another symptom of “THEY did it!”

      Thiago is an excellent player who is exactly what Bayern needed. He was never going to be the next Xavi, despite all the assertions to the contrary. And Martino barely finds enough time for Fabregas, much less adding Thiago to the mix.

      So he’s gone, and to a European rival. Okay. But that’s no reason to hate. He’s just another gone player, who left for his own reasons.

      But there is so much attached to that transfer because people have so many hooks to hang hats on: ZubiZa, the board, Vilanova, Rosell, everything except circumstance and ambition. He wanted to start, and have a shot at making the World Cup squad. The former wasn’t going to happen at Barça, and probably not the latter either, as he wouldn’t have gotten as much playing time as he is getting at Bayern.

      And that’s that. People should move on from him, even as they probably never will.

      • Seyi38 says:

        I agree with you and perhaps I shouldn’t hate anyone but why has he been taking digs at the club? Read a comment about how he doesn’t owe barca anything and all…

      • Serena Andre says:

        He was pretty much raised at Barca, the least he can do is show some respect and keep his mouth shut.
        It’s his constant yapping that bothers me. I don’t like anyone taking digs at my club, let alone a La Masia graduate.

        • Jafri says:

          Agreed. I’m pretty sure it’s the media that keeps asking him about Barca, and it could be that he’s just answering their questions, but a classier player wouldn’t give such statements. A lot of the resentment people have towards him is cause he seems to pop up in the news every other week saying he owes Barca nothing etc.

  41. barca96 says:

    What do you guys think of Nike Magista?

    I find it looking rather strange especially for football boots. It looks more like boxing shoes. Nike is experimenting the same style on their latest top of the range basketball shoes, Kobe 9 Elite.

    I play football and basketball. While I think it’ll might work for basketball as most of the shoes are high cut anyways but not for football though. For football we want minimum.

    And especially the Flyknit. How will it work? I understand it being on a running shoe or basketball shoe but that material is thick and won’t be durable for kicking the ball with, I think.

    I don’t know that much of the shoes yet though. I haven’t read the descriptions on the shoes yet. Just seen the pictures a couple of days ago and found this photo just now so I thought I’ll ask here.

    • Kxevin says:

      Good question. I think that football shoes have lagged behind other sports as regards technical specificity. Cycling and XC skiing are my two sports, and the shoes and boots of that discipline have evolved over the years toward lightness and performance that helps the athlete.

      Not entirely sure how you do that with football boots, but as with high-ankled XC ski boots, the theory seems to be a closer fit and better support. I’m sure they have been wrung out by a host of testers and athlete groups before hitting the market.

      Here is an example of a high-end XC race boot, with the current design desires of enhancing performance through stiffness at the forefoot and ankle:

      http://www.fischersports.com/us/Nordic/Products/Boots/Race-Skating/4571-RCS-Carbonlite-Skate

      Here is my favorite cycling shoe. Here again, light weight, stiffness and stack height (to keep the foot closer to the pedal) are paramount.

      http://www.bont.com/cycling/products/road/vaypor/index.html

      It strikes me that with a football shoe, you want some ankle support for the twisting and turning, but not so much that it’s stiff. You also probably want a shoe that is as close to barefoot as you can get, while still protecting the foot from the kicks and stuff that players get.

      Whether the shoe is marketing hype or a real advancement remains to be seen. I know that a lighter performance shoe is HUGE.

      • G6O says:

        Barefoot is impossible for 11-a-side because you need to kick the ball hard.

        The main problem with football shoes is the toes. The demands of playing 11-a-side on grass are such that the shoes are designed to deliver maximum shot power, but this is to the detriment of being able to control the ball, because there is just too much space and fabric between your toes and the ball. I have grown up playing 5- to 7-a-side on hard surface playgrounds with soft-fabric shoes that provide much more immediate contact with the ball, and in addition to that I’ve spent countless hours practicing dribbling with just socks on in various indoor settings. And this may sound strange, but as a result I’ve learned to do a lot with subtle movements of the toes when dribbling. So I have ended up absolutely abhorring playing on grass with cleets – I bought the latest and greatest, I can kick the ball much harder and farther with them, but I just feel like I’m playing with hiking boots – it’s just such a drop in the level of control. I am sure that’s not an issue for professional players who have been playing with such shoes for decades, but it remains true even for them that you can control the ball much better if there was more direct contact between it and your feet rather a centimeter or two of air and plastic. But there is no obvious way to achieve that without sacrificing shooting power and if you are not walking the ball into the net as in futsal, that’s what matters the most

        The other trade off comes with studs – long studs force you to move in a certain way (because you need to put more separation between the bottom of the shoe and the grass), change the way you feel the ball with the sole of the shoe and increase the risk of getting stuck in the ground and suffering horrific ankle injuries (and also limit the extent of sudden turns and changes of direction you are capable of). But if the studs are too short, you will end up slipping all the time, especially on the professional level where the grass is always moist. There is no perfect solution here either…

  42. Kxevin says:

    Many of you might have heard that Iniesta isn’t playing the Valladolid match because of personal reasons. Turns out that the child he and Anna were expecting has died. So obviously, football isn’t on his mind.

    Condolences at this terrible time.

  43. kenny says:

    i hope the players put in a good game tomorrow. a lot of off the field drama has been surfacing about players leaving, overhauling, martino exiting, puyi retiring, and now iniesta. interesting times up ahead.

  44. Jim says:

    Just horrible news. The club certainly hasn’t had its troubles to seek since the year we won everything.

  45. Ryan says:

    Yikes, 2 unlucky bounces led to that goal. No matter, 1-0 to them. Vamos chicos!

  46. Laurentiu88 says:

    pff its a horror story …painful to watch really…

  47. stefan2k says:

    Why is the ball wobbling like that? Worst pitch ever??

    This game aint over … vamos!!

  48. justdoit94 says:

    as much as it pains me to say it, we are in complete chaos … pitch is horrible which definitely helped …

  49. ibbe says:

    Didn’t think there’d come a time where we lose midfield battles like this..horrible to watch. Now the team’s mentality has to change if we are to come back from this..

  50. Laurentiu88 says:

    it’s not the first bad pitch they play on… i suppose i must accept how things are now… still hoping we can change all this

    • barca96 says:

      I don’t like blaming on the pitch. Like you said, this isn’t their first time. You just gotta adapt to it like how we used to applaud Tata for being pragmatic, which he isn’t now.

      2 weeks ago when I had a match with the Barca fan club and we lost. My team mates blamed it on the pitch. I find it such a lame excuse as the other team had to walk and run on the same pitch too. It’s not like they’re flying over the pitch.

      • G6O says:

        The pitch is not an excuse for today’s performance. But it does affect some teams more than others. If you are a technically skilled team that relies on ball control and accurate passing, it can really disrupt your game, to a much greater extent than your opponent, because the frustration from all the failed passes and dribbles due to unpredictable bounces builds up.

        Again, that alone cannot be an excuse for today. But it would be a mistake to dismiss it with the “it’s the same for both teams” arguments. Yes, it’s the same, but it does not affect them equally.

  51. Ryan says:

    Excellent, they’re defending deeper. Good signs that we’ll score if they keep defending like this.

  52. Ahsan says:

    Goodbye title. CL and Copa still in play depending on the draw and form.

    • G6O says:

      Yes, after this game, it can be said it’s over. It’s still possible to make up for it, and if it was an isolated game, it could have been excused with the break, etc., but the fact remains that since the new year started, we’re losing points every other game and there are no signs anything is changing for the better :(

  53. Ryan says:

    Hopefully it’s just a precaution with Pique. An injury to him is the last thing we! About 20 minutes left to turn this thing around…

  54. Ahsan says:

    This is a flat out horrible performance. Just awful.

  55. Hilal says:

    Watching this is making me physically sick. Cannot remember the last time I saw a game this bad. Pitch or no pitch, there are no excuses. If a team with the likes of Xavi, Messi, Neymar and Pedro in it cannot score a single goal against a team like Valladolid there is something very, very wrong.

    Obviously it is not over till it is mathematically impossible but I have a feeling we just gave up the league.

  56. G6O says:

    Also, for the record, today Bayern went down 1-0 in their away game, in the 17th minute (exact same minute Valladolid scored). It ended up 1-6…

  57. justdoit94 says:

    i think NOW is the time to bring out the knives.. this is just flat out unacceptable… i can see us being absolutely hammered in the bernebau

  58. Laurentiu88 says:

    team did a very very poor job…weren’t connected to the game at all in the first half. i dont know with what excuses we will come up to make us feel better. i hope neymar jr wins his world cup and manages tos core from 6 m, i hope messi wins his wc and passes to a team mate after pressing an opposing player, i hope spain wins it by playing tiki taka and pedro or cesc score…and then everybody get to celebrate how amazing players they are, but right now i feel just awful because my team and the players i came to idolise seem not to be connected to their team anymore. sorry. i suppose it happens. it is for them to analyze and see where they did wrong. i for now have no idea why the team fell like that in the last weeks…

    anyway, visca barca. just tell us too not to bother too much…

  59. barca96 says:

    So much for the “every match is like a final”.

  60. TITO says:

    Some issues need to be addressed rather than trying to find some positives into this game, the second half of the season and the team in general.
    It’s obvious, the team played in different mood before the new year, don’t know the reasons. Maybe it’s Rossell, Puyol, Messi, Valdes or some other story around and in the club but is definitely affecting us. We are unrecognizable. We look like a mid table team in most of the games, the others are bringing their game to us, not afraid to play us, and it’s pretty shameful, considering the amount of “talent” and experience that we have.
    Don’t want to think about City or RM, maybe we will raise our game, but as far as La Liga counts, it’s almost over, if not impossible. And i don’t want to bring maths into this opinion.

  61. barca96 says:

    This match I’ll put some of the blame on the FIFA break.

    • barca96 says:

      It’s understandable that the players are fatigued after long flights. But therefore Tata shouldn’t have played the likes of Neymar and Alves and Messi (who wasn’t 100%).

      • mazimi says:

        He did rest some players against Sociedad, it went wrong and people were all over him. Maybe that’s why he played his first XI (minus the unavailable Iniesta).

  62. fotobirajesh says:

    In the first half, it looked like the Argentina midfield. All three midfielders were poor, but the shocking one was really Busquets. What has happened to him. The fact is when he is not on, the whole team is suffering. And all talk about Xavi and control, when a team plays their heart out, we lose our midfield battle right away.
    Xavi cant take part anymore in our fast one two’s. He should only do a deeper role.
    I know some will not like this – but I have to say, last season all were wondering how to stop messidependencia. But inspite of depending on 1 player, even against the terrible Bus’s, we were able to create really good chances and we won mostly.
    Now there is no dependencia, but we dont even create good chances, we are not even a threat to the goal keeper.
    I still dont want to blame Tata. If it was Xavi who insisted Barca should play one way, in Dec, and we start losing points from Jan onwards, then what is Tata to do. He should bench Xavi.

  63. barca96 says:

    Oh and please Barca board, enough with the pay raise for Messi.

    He doesn’t deserve another raise to me. Yes, he’s still hte best player but since last year, he hasn’t been consistent. Ok last year due to injuries but this year no. Everybody needs to earn their raise right, not because a competitor has a new increment.

    • mazimi says:

      I guess you are right. As Kxevin pointed out above, he is already getting millions and raising pay won’t have any effect on it.

      There should be something wrong with Messi and the team as a whole. We were playing so well before Christmas break, but all of a sudden the team is poor.

      Real has some tough away matches and hopefully they drop points… and even if they do, we should be at our best if we have any chance of retaining La Liga.

  64. mazimi says:

    God, that was awful. I don’t know how much, but the pitch had a big say on this match. We don’t want to make excuses, but honestly it wasn’t playable at all. Messi & Xavi weren’t able to control ball and simple balls were going wayward and lopping all the time.

    Anyways, even considering all these, we should’ve played better. The team should’ve played better. This was just an unacceptable result and this might be it for the league. Very disappointed.

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