Qué será, será …

dorisHow one feels after a match has nothing to do with what happens during the match and everything to do with what one thought before the match. Say three guys are sitting in a bar aprés loss:

“I never thought we could win silver,” says the first. “But I’m grateful for the run.”

“I didn’t know if we would win,” says the second. “But I’m bummed we lost.”

“I was sure we were going to win,” says the third. “Now I’m having an existential crisis.”

A lot of cules appear to be suffering from an existential crisis these days. Odd, given that “these days” include a thrilling end to a roller coaster of a season with two titles as yet unclaimed, an international mash-up of football stars and styles, and a gaggle of coaches as colorful as any Shakespearean cast. But since the crisis is existential, it has little do with actual existence. Instead, we ruminate upon “those days,” back in the Spring of 2013, or dread “days yet to come,” such as upcoming transfer windows, or Wednesday. People thought what ought to come about. And now people are freaking the @*&^$# out.

During a freak out, it is helpful to know someone in Colorado who runs a pharmacy. But if you do not live in Colorado, you can always try Buddhism. Now, there are many varieties of Buddhism all around the world. Even here in the US of A, there are different kinds of Buddhists! You have your Venerable Greys, who deeply contemplate the ingredients list of a bag of granola at Whole Foods. Boy Scout Buddhists seek enlightenment by scaling mountains with little more than thousands of dollars’ worth of REI gear. And then you have the Oprahians, who spend the afternoon with their girlfriends dribbling chardonnay over dog-eared copies of Seat of the Soul. I happen to like food and not like heights, so I guess I am an Oprahian (Don’t you touch that DVR! She’s got Deepak on at 4!)

It’s easy to be an American Buddhist. All you need is a yearning for inner peace and access to the Internet. Once on the Internet, you can Google the word “koan”. Koans are little stories that don’t make any sense, but if you think about them long enough, you find inner peace, either because you finally get it or you give up and go do something else. There are hundreds of Internet koans, and I have gleaned a few that seem particularly relevant to our club and the current season in hopes of bringing all of you some inner peace.

 The Best Player

A sports journalist with writer’s block approached a monk. “Master,” he said. “Who is the greater player: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?”

“Yes,” replied the monk.

“Master, I don’t understand,” said the sports journalist. “Do you mean that Lionel Messi is the greater player?”

“No,” said the monk.

“So, Cristiano is the greater player?”

“Who?” asked the monk.

“I see,” said the sports journalist. Having received his answer, he left to file his article.

The New Stadium

Once a club president visited the monk. “Master,” he said. “Our board of directors is in disharmony over a stadium. A new stadium would bring revenues and offer better concessions, but some are still attached to the old stadium. I seek your counsel.”

“Go out to the stadium,” said the monk, “and count every blade of grass. When you reach the final blade, you will have your answer.”

The club president thanked the monk and went to the stadium, where he got on his hands and knees and began to count each blade of grass. After a while, he noticed the old monk, on his hands and knees, counting just beside him.

“Master,” said the club president. “It is difficult for me to keep track of the blades of grass with you right there counting too.”

The monk raised a finger to his lips and smiled. “Shhh,” he said.

prinzmonkThe Nature of Beauty

Three superstar players argued about the nature of beauty and decided to consult the monk.

“Master,” the first said. “Behold my Chinese tattoo. I don’t know what it says, but is it not beautiful?”

The master peered at the tattoo. “That is not Beauty,” he replied.

“Master,” the second said. “Look at my two-tone Bugatti Veyron. Is it not beautiful?”

The master stared at the car. “That is not Beauty,” he replied.

“Master,” the third said. “Here comes my Colombian girlfriend. Is she not beautiful?”

The master turned around. “Yeah, all right,” he said.

The Way to Play

A coach who didn’t know how to guide his players visited the monk. “Master,” he said, “my team plays an enlightened form of football which requires concentration and patience. But other teams disrupt our tranquility by placing more of their players in the midfield.”

“Then move everyone to the midfield,” replied the monk.

“Ah, because then we will have more players in the midfield?” said the coach. “But Master, if everyone plays in the midfield, we will have no striker up front. Who will score our goals?”

“Then keep everyone out of the midfield,” replied the monk.

“But Master, if no one plays in the midfield, our goalkeeper will not be able to move the ball out of our area. How will he pass the ball to the other players?”

The monk threw his hands in the air. “Well, what do you want me to tell you?” he cried. “Geesh.”


So … peace out, yo!

Categorized as Barcelona

By SoccerMom

SoccerMom obsesses over FCB and this blog instead of grading papers, burning dinner and/or raising her small children. She blames a Spanish husband and easy access to Hispanic-targeted cable sports channels for her football addiction and consequent failure as a professor, housekeeper and mother.


  1. Nice piece. We are indeed spoiled as Barca fans of this era. I do understand the high expectations though, due to the calibre of player on our roster.

    So Sport is reporting that Thiago Silva is on our list of signings for the summer along with David Luiz, ter Stegen and Reus.
    So Zubi’s plan for the summer seems to be to spend the whole summer trying to sign someone who has dodged us for the past 3 years. He must love rejection…

    David Luiz I don’t get either to be honest, he is a good footballer but isn’t a defender. Mourinho is playing him in midfield pretty much all season and I could understand if that’s where we intended using him but he would cost €30m which is far too much for a substitute DM.

    Reus I already said in the last post is a great player but I’d try to sign a striker first. He’s a great player but so are Neymar and Iniesta so unless Pedro is going to be shipped out I don’t understand it.

    I don’t see Zubi as the man to deliver the signings needed this summer although I do hope I’m wrong.

    For me it should be a big change for the summer. I’d leave sentimentality aside and make some changes to our first XI and bigger changes to our bench. Having a huge chunk of our squad La Masia graduates is great and all but unless they can change a match I don’t want them there.

    1. He’s a great player but so are Neymar and Iniesta so unless Pedro is going to be shipped out I don’t understand it.

      How about Alexis?

    2. I’d keep Alexis regardless of who is bought. Pedro on the other hand I would sell.
      Reus plays primarily on the left and Neymar, Iniesta and Pedro have all played on the left this season.

      Alexis is better on the right and rarely starts on the left so I didn’t include him.

    3. If we have to make way for Reus, then I’d let Alexis go before Pedro but that’s just me. I prefer Pedro, more clinical and better dribbler imo. Alexis has a better vision though but we have many of those.

    4. I can’t agree with you that he is a better dribbler. He never ever beats a player because he never ever takes someone on, even when he is in a one on one he always passes it backwards.
      He used to be more clinical but isn’t any more. He also gives less assists and isn’t as good in the air.

      For me, there’s nothing that Pedro does that Alexis doesn’t do better. Statistically Alexis or performs him at everything and I think that he is more tactically diverse too as he can play centrally too.

      It will all depend on who is in charge next season. For our squad and the way things are going I’d change to a 4-3-1-2 for next season meaning that our full backs would give us the width and our forwards would be more central and direct.
      I’d let Messi stay in the whole behind a front 2 and have a few role when we are in possession. I’d let the front two have freedom to overload a wing when they want to, to create two on ones and three on twos.
      Defensively, three central midfielders with less width would have better control than with the extra width and our full backs could go forward as they currently do without the fear of being caught up field.

      For the past couple of seasons we have had the same issues and without people in the box what is the point putting in crosses? If you are not going to put in crosses then what’s the point in having wingers? Especially wingers who can’t beat a defender one on one.

      In this system, Pedro and Tello would not be necessary and I would have thought that it wouldn’t suit Reus either but seeing how he played as a central striker vs Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this week then I’m sure he would adapt just fine.

      My preference would still be Luis Suarez though

    5. Zubi *not* having control of signings is crucial to our getting out of this transfer period in a position to accept a possible 1-year ban from signing players. he’s been an utter disaster in his transfer policy, and his noted targets are baffling to the point of self-destruction, for all the reasons you note. the idea that we’re going to try to sign ANY attacking players, again, after spending 100m on Neymar, Pedro and Alexis both having a solid season, with Deloufeu and Rafinha still to come back, Adama Traore tearing up the 2nd division and Hailiovic now in the pipeline as well, is madness.

      the idea of selling Pedro, a starting Spanish international and a willing servant of the team who has performed well during a bad season, is equally shortsighted. Pedro doesn’t complain, is willing to come in as a sub yet if given a run in the team sharpens up nicely; this is the kind of player many cules were “wishing” we could have on the attacking front. i’d argue simply that he and Tello both, if people believe they have under-performed, are victims of being misused tactically by a manager who can’t control what he wants the team to do. it’s all well and good to say we could sell Pedro and buy Flavour of the Month Reus, but A. Reus doesn’t play in Pedro’s position (he plays much more centrally, in the spaces currently being occupied by Messi, Neymar, Iniesta Fabregas….), B. would be a crapshoot as to his work ethic whereas we know Pedro runs for the team and is comfortable in the system, C. takes vital time, money and energy from signing the real needs of the squad, which are all in the DEFENSIVE half of the squad.

      we should be having conversations about Hummels, Musacchio and Gundogan, but if Zubi stays on as sporting director, i have no confidence that the squad will get strengthened where it’s absolutely necessary to do; given that instead we’re talking about Thiago Silva (will never happen) and David Luiz (is not a defender, as ciaran rightly notes). fashionable players, and both Brazilian Nike players (coincidence? i think not), but deeply unproductive transfer targets.

    6. oh and if we’re talking about selling major players in the squad to invest in dynamic but expensive replacements, i’d sell Cesc Fabregas in a heartbeat to raise cash to meet Arturo Vidal’s buyout clause.

    7. Oh I wouldn’t mind to see Cesc go too since his value is so high and Man United wouldn’t mind coughing it up for him but he is so valuable for rotation against weaker sides for Xavi or Iniesta. He is very good against them. Just do not force him into the team and push Iniesta and Messi around against the better and more disciplined sides.

      And it was such a fairytale story the way he came back. Sad to see him go. He bleeds Barcelona and is a definite future vice captain.

    8. I’d be more than happy to be discussing Hummels and Musacchio, they are the two centre backs I’d be signing of I were sporting director. Hummels is the best ball playing centre back in the world at present. And he is 6ft 4in. Musacchio is a no nonsense Argentinian defender but can still play ball and he is fairly quick.

      Gundogan is another flavour of the month but I couldn’t gamble on a player that hasn’t kicked a ball in 12 months. It is too much of a risk. On paper he is a very good player but too much of a question mark over the back injury, considering that back injuries are notorious for reoccurring.

      Arturo Vidal is the best all around footballer in Europe but he would cost a fortune and demand to play. I don’t think it would happen.

      And finally, to touch on the selling of Cesc… I think it would be a terrible idea. Having players that continually score and assist in 70% of your matches in the season is vital to winning leagues. Yes, I agree that he doesn’t perform in the Classicos and CL deciders but don’t play him in those. We have the squad for that but if he statistically, consistently out preforms Iniesta and Xavi every season but they always out perform him in the big matches then questions should be asked as to why the other two always drop their levels in the lower games. Leagues are won as much against the Granadas and Vallecanos of the world.
      He is not better than either of them, but has skills that are better than theirs.

    9. that’s a solid point about Cesc in rotation, i’m just not sure any manager has the stones to bench him for those big games. if used in that sort of “free” (a stupid designation) vertical role against lesser teams he can be very effective… but the larger problem with the style that Cesc plays is that he invariably gets into spaces Iniesta and Messi, both superior players and players better integrated into our “Classic” style, like to inhabit. our 2 best weapons are therefore blunted by having to adjust for Cesc, particularly when Iniesta is shunted further outside left. any new manager would have to make up for that, as Martino patently has not done this season. so while i understand the value of his goals and assists against the lesser lights of La Liga, i also think his presence fundamentally complicates and compounds problems in our most dynamic and successful means of playing. so the problem isn’t Cesc per se, but rather his impact on the total system.

      i agree with you that Hummels AND Musacchio look far and away our 2 best options to attempt to bring in this summer. the prospect of Gundogan is an interesting case; yes, no first-team football due to long-term injury, but at 23 if results look positive for his recovery (understanding that he’d have all summer to get back into shape) i think we’d be silly to not try to sign him as his skill-set gives us so many options through midfield. the Barca team physio was evidently recently sent to Germany to monitor his progress, and that seems a smart move. i’d also happily acquiesce to spending 50m of our 120m on Arturo Vidal; or perhaps a bit less and a certain out-of-favour Cameroonian to help fill his spot for Juve?

      as you were advocating 4-3-1-2, either of those players could fit delightfully into that midfield 3 with Iniesta and Busquets.

      the situation in our GK spot is also going to require a bit of nuance to navigate (that i don’t have confidence Zubi can do adequately); ter Stegen looks a great prospect but we’re going to need *two* keepers. much of that depends on Valdes’ decision to stay or leave this summer.

    10. I haven’t seen many full games but he played well enough in those that I did. According to whoscored.com ratings wise he is doing well consistently too which is a good sign. I’d have him above Sergi Roberto in the pecking order next season but that doesn’t say much seeing as the latter has hardly had any opportunity.

      I find Tata’s lack of use of young players to be one of my biggest problems with him. If we are to be banned from transfers for next summer then we’ve no idea how good the younger players are. Tello has went backwards but when he got his start he got a hat trick and hasn’t been seen since. It’s astonishing really.
      Montoya was one of our best players against Granada but he hasn’t played in months so if we were to sell Dani Alves we have little idea as to whether Montoya could be a starter next year.

      The midfield definitely needs more running next year. Xavi covers more ground than everyone else but he doesn’t really run, he jogs around the midfield looking for space. Rafinha has the engine to do that but I would like to see him on loan to a much better team next year and get 40 games than sit on our bench for the year and get 20 substitute appearances.
      Same reason that I would like Deulofeu to get another season on loan, better match experience Is better than a year on the bench… Just ask JDS

    11. I know I will be howled down, but I would like to see Song in the CM position next year. He’s very happy, like Xavi, to just motor around the midfield providing a link and shuffling the ball on and he’s got much stronger legs and better defence. To me it’s a no-brainer.

    12. I certainly don’t want Barca to sell Cesc, but I think you might be stretching the truth a bit about either scoring or assisting in 70% of Barca’s matches this season.

      Of the 50 games Cesc has played for Barca this year, he either scored or assisted (or both) in 16 of those games. He also hasn’t scored or assisted in the past 11 matches.

      Now, before I’m labeled a “Cesc hater”, I really like Cesc, and he adds a lot to our attack. However, I disagree that he “consistently outperforms Iniesta and Xavi every season”, except for the big games. IMO, just simply not true.

    13. The two comments of mine that you are quoting are slightly different.
      I said having PLAYERS that score or assist in 70% of matches… Noting that some players don’t raise their game for big matches but win the smaller ones and I was putting Cesc into that category.
      Secondly, I said statistically consistently out preforms Iniesta and Xavi. He does… Every season so far with us.

      Like I said, I don’t believe that he is better than those two but he is better than them at certain things. Scoring and assisting regularly are two of those but he is certainly a form player. I think with a slight change in our system he could be more consistent like he was for Arsenal.

    14. I have said this long time ago… The club can’t proceed unless we sack Zubi. I mean he gets paid for doing nothing. Give me that job. I love that profile – “A Steady Income for doing Absolutely Nothing”. Of course I will hold press conference everyday to profess the never so happening transfers(I also could live in my own fantasy world!).

      We should go and get the guy who recruits for Sevilla.

  2. If we cannot say that our football was a joy to watch lately, at least the resent articles are a joy to read.

    1. Playing, monster job for the second goal. Munir scored and assisted the first, also a terrific dribble.

  3. Thanks for that.
    Quality of recent articles has been sky high.
    A silver lining )
    We won Mini La Decima.

    1. How did it become a mini La Decima? I thought it was the first year of its existence. 3-0 to Benfica who thrashed Madrid 4-0 in the semi final.

  4. I still don’t believe that a tactic exists, or was developed successfully to counter tiki taka. Under Pep there was always a lot of movement. The ball circulated so quickly. Pinned around with a pace set just right to defeat being closed down quickly. Compactaty. Constant circular movements around the ball to create decoys. Pass & move. Run into a space to deceive defenders into thinking you’re gonna receive the pass & let it bypass you – ‘bypass & move’ – my own personal branding. It kept a constant chain of deception. – constant buzz. It was a perfectly practised system, & to maintain it required its practitioners to be under constant attention, to see that it is performed to its capacity. That’s where that team’s embodiment of Guardiola’s obsessive attention to detail showed in all aspects of the philosophy. All areas. They were supremely fit. They needed to be, to perform all the fundamentals of the system the way the coach wanted it. Coach? Naa. Mentor. Philosopher even? Definitely. No doubt. Artists at work, poetry in motion, an orchestra with an el loco like gestulater, mad genius, conducting his musicians to stay in tune. The perfect mixture of aggression, & subtlety, subtlety & aggression. Perfectly balanced. If Bruce Lee was alive he would’ve described this team as the perfect example of water – water can be the hardest substance, & it can be the softest – aggressive when they need to be, & subtle when they need to be. They got the required mixture right from game to game, little tweaks to defeat what the terrain presented in terms of threat. & because this system was so well maintained – the opposition was always irrelevant – busses don’t count. Setting up Camp, or camp in front of your opposition’s box for 90 mins everytime, only to be kept out SOMEHOW, by a bus, doesn’t count. That well oiled machine thrived because the maintenance of it was performed to the same standard as the play out on the pitch.
    For a system like this to function to its capacity, it needs everybody to do their job right through the bank, from the smallest to the largest detail – board included. Pep avoided being baited into spats with Mourinho for a reason. He knew it’d disturb the harmony within & surrounding the team. The team came first, not my ego or pride. Instigated verbal spats tried by Mourinho was settled on the field. Settle’s putting it mildly. 5-0 anyone? The board worked with the Coach by granting him full authority over the team. By working as a team (Laporta).
    One aspect missing & the system isn’t as potent. One side’s run like a business, that’s one area dissharmony started. Division. How can FCBarcelona still function to its capacity like this?

    Things will come right, when certain ppl come back.

    Until then, I’ll stick it out like I’ve been sticking since I was a little kid when I watched my idol cry from a defeat at the hands of West Germany (through an unjust penalty, converted by Andy Brehme) in Rome 24 years ago. Messi gave me hope in 2006, only for that pecker, Peckerman, to keep him on the bench. In a game we bettered our old foe, Germany in. That same Messi that was involved in that majestic 26 pass team goal against Serbia&Montenegro. A match in which he scored in too.

    I’ve been patient with Argentina for more than 2 decades. 2010 was supposed to be the year, & again we suffered defeat to Germany, the numbers 2010 minus 1986 equalled 24. Italy’s last triumph before ’06 was 24 years before – 1982. Brazil before winning in 1994, 24 years – 1970. Few other examples too.

    I’ve been patient with Argentina. I’ll be patient with Barca. Been there through those shit Gaspart years. Stuck, still sticking.

  5. It’s the unbearable lightness of being Barça. Love it!

    SoMa’s posts always make my day. <3

    And huge congratulations to the Juvenil A team for winning the UEFA Youth League and picking up their very own Dyson bladeless fan piece of silverware. Well done, boys!

  6. :mrgreen:

    My favourite are the blaugrana ice cream koans!

    A fan runs into a forum. “Master! There are enemies everywhere! They have come to destabilize our safeholds. They’re probably reading this as I type!”

    “Then tell them to go away.”

    “I can’t, Master. It’s impossible to see them. They can only be felt.”

    “Then tell them the forum no se toca.”

    “I can’t. They only speak English.”

    “Then log out.”

    The fan comes to a sudden realization. “By Cruyff. You’re one of them!”

  7. If Rooney, yeah Rooney, ha, yeah that’s what I did there, had not been fired by Mike, under the advisement of Don King (of snakes), Iron Mike would’ve gone 100-0. Kevin left, Tyson’s movement, positioning, slipping in & out left along with him eventually. Tyson faded in the couple of years after his departure, forgetting D’Amato’s key principles. Ferocious, & powerful as he was, coupled with his perfection of Cus’s famed peek-a-boo style, meant he couldn’t get hit, & when you missed, you got blasted into some other sphere. Or you got bum rushed until you forgot your name, & just wanted to curl up into a fetal position, & suck your thumb. To a certain point, Rossel is Don King, Barca is Tyson. Guardiola is Kevin Rooney, Cus is Cruyff. Though, Rooney wasn’t as successful as Guardiola in his respective trade. It’s the analogy that’s the point. Point, if Rossel hadn’t come along, Barca would’ve gone 100-0.

  8. Maybe Wednesday will be something like the ‘Crying Freeman’, as he weeps in sadness, he slashes his opponents to bits & shreds. Do not underestimate a wounded beast. All they have left is their honour. A wounded beast is more dangerous. On higher alert. Culers are truly a buncha spoilt rotten brats. I remember this team in its difficult years, & I was proud to support this team. What followed in ’08 & onwards was just reward for all their struggle, & patience. This team is hurt, who cares about us when things aren’t looking up? Nobody. Certainly not a buncha spoilt brats. This might just ignite back the ”More Than a Club” motto. Not that it was ever gone… Like Atletico is raging now – we came back raging, & raged, & raged. We’ll be back.

  9. I absolutely love this post. SoMa always, always puts everything into perspective for me, because here’s the thing: at some point, this all became less about winning, and more about HAVING to win. And that sucks all of the fun out of the party.

    In a very strange way, the beauty of sport is the uncertainty. It’s the mighty Duke University coming up against a No. 14 seed in a college basketball tournament and losing. It’s a midfielder from a side hovering just above the relegation zone, picking out a perfect pass to an attacker, whose focus and elevated concentration due to the opponent, enables him to bang off a delight of a goal.

    It’s that team hunkering down and fighting for its life against a passel of superstars. Pretty awesome stuff, when you think about it.

    Barça, meanwhile, is struggling to be the legend that it never was. I was thinking about the Treble season, and how close a thing it was. People forget it was an 87-point Liga, because RM was in a down cycle. People also forget that Ronaldo spurned chances he usually bangs in while sleeping in that Champions League final, chances that if he takes them, result in a very different outcome potentially.

    Sport is the living, breathing embodiment of uncertainty. It’s why the games are played, and why we should enjoy them even as we are rending our garments and ripping chunks of hair out.

    There are no real answers, only questions that get raised on match days, and sometimes answered. Thanks, SoMa for this one.

  10. I’m not a Catalan, but I think that whoever wants to sell Fabregas is a gloryhunter who has no idea of the history and meaning of Barça. That’s the approach of a Real Madrid fan….
    But it is astonishing that Tata don’t use la Masia players when short of first team players. Not even on the bentch. Does his priority on success hinders his success?

    1. Well, considering that the B team is 11 points clear of relegation and in 5th place, I think they’re okay. No?

    2. Barca B just went on a 7 match unbeaten run.

      And now is not really the time to test youngsters as we need to win all the matches.

      I do think that he should’ve played them more in the Copa.

    1. Pirlo on pre-match warm ups;

      ‘It’s nothing but masturbation for conditioning coaches.’


    1. Read it last night. I agree with some but it seems that the author is trying to say that it is okay for Messi to conserve himself so that he can win the WC. Hello, who pays his mammoth salary and we are supposed to be Barca fans first and foremost.

    2. I’m not sure the notion that Messi could or would willingly risk losing with Barca by not running is something he could stomach so I am inclined to believe the instructions from on high bit. I’m also not a doctor but there must be some payback for taking growth hormones and maybe this is it.

      However, as was also said in the article it is about time we had someone who stepped up to the plate in terms of creating decent chances and finishing occasionally something they have created. If we had that Messi could maybe sit out occasionally. That’s the problem we currently have in midfield with Xavi. Still waiting to see Tata catch on to the idea of Ini being asked to play the Xavi role properly.

    3. I don’t know what to think. I do know that his effort levels from match to match are dramatically different. As someone Tweeted during the Granada match, after Neymar boondoggle a few defenders and plunked in a pass, “Messi didn’t even try to get that ball.”

      I had the exact same thought as I watched the play, and my mind flashed back to his voracious goalscorer days, when he would have outrun light to reach that ball and slot it home. And I wonder.

      Antic is saying, echoing a few other brave souls, that he is in a bit of a pout at being played on the wing vs Atleti. I can’t believe that, but at the same time I can offer no rational explanation to his frankly, difficult to swallow effort levels in that match.

      So ultimately, I dunno. Something is up, despite people saying that “Nothing is up.” He can’t be tired. He had a two-month break at midseason, so should be daisy fresh.

      When Messi was out, Fabregas, Sanchez and Pedro were playing exceptionally well, and the team seemed MORE dangerous because suddenly everyone was a threat. For some reason, those two months were defined by the losses to Ajax and Athletic rather than the excellent football that defined much of that time.

      As for sitting Messi, I doubt there is a coach alive who has the stones to regularly sit a healthy Messi. But man, would I like to see a front line of Neymar central, flanked by Pedro and Sanchez, with a Fabregas/Iniesta/Busquets midfield.

      Agree with Jim on Iniesta. The few times he has dabbled in that Xavi role, he has been wonderful.

    4. A point of opinion Kevin:

      Whenever Messi wasn’t on the pitch, Pedro, Cesc, Alexis &Co. played better not just because they had to ante up, but also because opponents didn’t close up that much. Teams played a higher line, played wider, their CFs didn’t track back and defend as much. All that meant space, space which Pedro, Alexis, Neymar and Iniesta need.

      But yes, it’s also true that with Messi playing more statically, there is one less presser on the field. The opponent can anchor two CBs to him which incidently means a double roadblock in the box. Because these two may not be enough, the fullbacks play closer to the centrals, and the DMs further back, with the strikers doubling as midfield pressers.

      The result is a compact defence which impedes Messi, but more importantly, closes up the space. It works, because Barcelona has the lightest and shortest team in La Liga, a team which can be forced off the ball, and a victory over that team gives you the title of “giant slayer”.

      When Sevilla drew vs Atletico at the Cauldron, Simeone and his team saw it both as a symbol of pride and distress that “teams play us like they play Barcelona”. Well, not all, and not yet. But they will, increasingly.

      But this has nothing to do with the fact that Messi doesn’t run and press like he used to. If you can, watch the 5-0 at Camp Nou against Real, with English subtitles. Watch how in the 5th minute the ball is deep in the Real Madrid half, Di Maria is chased by Messi and Messi wins the ball at the goal-line and tries to drive towards the goal. The Sky Sports commentator says “Di Maria clearly takes the ball out of play. Tenacious as ever, Messi wins it back, the ball is glued to his foot, Carvalho comes to the rescue for Real Madrid.”
      Will that guy come back? Will the roaring Camp Nou, the one that later in that season made RVP scream that he couldn’t hear the ref’s whistle, will it come back, not just at the 17:14 minute mark, but for the whole game? Questions, questions…

      P.S. In that same 5-0, in the beginning of the game the commentators stated that Real Madrid were starting the game ahead of Barcelona for third time in a row. That means 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Back then apparently it wasn’t as important to be the first in the table from start to finish. Success wasn’t expected and demanded, and losses weren’t that much of a tragedy, when they happened. Anyway… Clasico tomorrow.

    5. Well, I don’t know, Peter, that the reason for the result is as important as the result. All of the things you mention that are a consequence of a less dynamic Messi also directly influence play. I would suggest that they had to play more open precisely because of the diversity of threats. But defo interesting to contemplate.

      And to be clear, there are people who suggest that Messi running less is somehow “bad.” I don’t believe that, as much as I think that it has an interesting effect on the team dynamic. As Iniesta said in his presser today, everyone defends, or we have problems. Not sure he meant what some are inferring from that statement, but there it is.

      Messi is complex. He can stand there like statue the entire match, then explode into action, score 3 goals in 2 minutes and effectively end the match. So a coach is terrified to rest him. I almost certainly would be too, as a coach.

    6. Actually it’s true that if all the players are pressing then the opponent would have to make faster decisions and consequently make mistakes. But the thing is that Barcelona at this point lacks the team to be able to press and counter-press. It’s the lack of physicality, the lack of fitness(in quite a few cases due to age) and the huge number of games that the team needs to play.

      If the ban is lifted for a bit so that a few vital transfers are made before the beginning of the next season, then if the board and club/staff/coaches have their heads in the right place, the team can enjoy say three weeks of holidays after the World Cup and then pack up the whole caravan, head to some fresh-air resort and start training and conditioning. No tours(as much as I like the idea of spreading the brand Barcelona), just building up fitness, cohesion and understanding among the players. I remember back in 2010-11 when Berbatov became the EPL joint-top goalscorer(with Tevez). He was asked about his top form, and he said it had been quite simple – during the summer he watched the World Cup on TV and after each game he would go for a run.

      Also, rotation and spot competition with the new guys and lots of B team player participation, so that Tata(hopefully staying) will get to know them, what are their quirks, strengths and weaknesses. If there is political and football will enough, it can be done. The program for the whole season will be known by then, even potential dates, so that the coach can have a good idea what to expect down the line and prepare. Barcelona would have to make hay, and lots of it, in the weeks when the team is fresh and the few weeks when there are no more than one game per week.

      I’m still under the influence of listening to what Diego Simeone had to say on the radio last night, while driving. He recalled an Italian journalist telling him Atletico look absolutely united. “From the ordinary club employees to the ordinary supporters in the stands, everybody seems to know what his job is.”

      This is why I take Camp Nou’s silence and lack of spirit like a personal blow. Culers weren’t like that a couple of years back. Maybe I’m glossing over the past, but what I remember from 2010-2011 Camp Nou was the roar and vented fury. I do remember “El Dia Despues” after that Clasico and they were talking about the noise levels – afer Xavi scored the instruments had measured 116 Db.

      sorry for the rambling response.

    1. I’m surprised to see Bulls on that list. Only have 1 superstar who’s hardly played for 2 seasons. Such a pity. My favorite player after Kobe.

      I’m surprise by Arsenal too. They’re such a young squad with nobody who actually won medals. Strange that they are so highly paid. The rest on that list are understandable.

    2. My jaw is bruised from bouncing off the floor at seeing the Bulls on that list. Not surprised to see City on that list, and suspect that soon, PSG will make that list as well.

  11. Great article here but what I really want to share is the “money spent” section. So scroll down. It’s data from the period of 2009 until now.


    Our expenditure in transfers is 307 million pound. Bayern on the other hand only spent 241 mill. City and Madrid spent 530 mill each. Chelsea 443 mill. At least Chelsea won a trophy in that period of time.

    We reached 4 straight semi finals since 2009 whereas Bayern reached 3 finals and won once.

  12. Kxevin posted a link of the video where the so called fans shouted abuse to the players. Mascherano actually stopped to have a chat with them “Arry style. Pretty nice of Mascherano. I thought he was gonna get down and beat the hell out of them. He should’ve.
    Can anyone who understands Spanish tell me what they were they talking about?


    1. I asked the same thing. They expressed a desire for the team to win on Wednesday, and demanded a meeting with the three team captains (not counting Valdes I assume as he is out long-term).

      In the earlier part of the video they specifically hurled abuse at Pinto and told him to “fuck off out of the club”, and of course you noticed the racial abuse aimed at Neymar. Just lovely.

    2. You don’t really want to know what they were saying in the beginning of the video. In the second part with the players driving out and Masche stopping to respond, as far as I could hear the hinchas were telling him to talk to the captains and on Wednesday face* the rival, “just like we do for you”.

      * “dar la cara” has different connotations, basically it means to face, but both figuratively and literally. In this context it was about facing the opponent, standing up, not turning their backs and tucking tail.

  13. Thanks Blitzen and Pedro.

    I am still hoping that those weren’t racist monkey chants directed at Neymar. It can’t be. He’s our player. Why would they want to racially taunt and hurt our very own player. And it doesn’t really sound like monkeys at all.

    I feel really really sad for Pinto and Neymar. They both looked back. They were clearly affected. What did they do to deserve abuse from our own fans??!!

    I hope the club will ban those idiots from the stadium. I’m sure they have cctv around the stadium. I would print out their photos and put it around the stadium to shame them. Calling themselves fans.

    Mascherano really got balls to stop and talk with those thugs. Mad respect to him.

    Who are they to request to talk to the captains? We’re still in the hunt for 2 trophies. It’s not like we’re out of CL position.

    1. Nazi? I don’t know, especially since the photo was taken while the whole group seems to be singing. It’s a very convenient photo in any case.

    2. Yes, one guy making a clear nazi salute with his mouth open while everybody else is singing and waving their arms in tact with the music.

      As someone who has been used as an example of “skin head neo-nazi culture at football games”, all you need is a high-speed camera. You can take two dozen shots in the space of a second, if one of them has what you need you’re golden. That’s how “wardrobe malfunctions” and “juicy shots” of celebrities get on the front page.

      Are there football fans with Nazi leanings in Barcelona. You bet your ass.

      The probability of such an ultra fan who just has to do a nazi salute(Mein Fuhrer! I can valk!!!) on an official photo with the candidates for president, while everybody else is apparently singing/chanting(apparently candidate included) and waving their arms in a very similar, but definitely non-Nazi-salute motion? Don’t bet your ass. Well, unless you’re into that sort of thing. 😛

    3. Dude. I’m not an idiot. I’ve dealt with enough skinheads & neonazis in my life to recognize a Nazi salute when I see one. You may have been mistaken for one, I’ve been in fights with them.

    4. Actually my name is Peter(well, Петър, but the pronunciation is quite similar). I called Pedro my namesake, because the Spanish have been trying to espanyalize me since day one. 😀

      Oh, these were racist monkey chants all right. Still, I find it a bit strange that supposedly Catalans are shouting abuse at the players at their arrival in Barcelona, and doing it in Spanish from what I could hear.

  14. I don’t have any data but even if Rose earns similar to what LeBron and Kobe are earning, who contributes the rest of the high team salary?
    You are quite knowledgeable with injuries, do you think Rose will ever be the same again? Do you even think he will be back?

    He is an explosive player, I think it’s really hard.

    1. Well, I don’t know anything more than anyone else, but for me, no. Never. He wasn’t the same after the first injury. The second one is devastating, mentally more than physically.

      It’s a shame, because he is a brilliant player.

  15. This is as good a time as any to remind people that in cases of trolling, etc, don’t respond. We will tend to it, and don’t want any other comments caught up in the tidying. Thanks.

  16. Thanks for detrolling kxev.

    Looks like ronaldo will not play the final. Martino insinuated that poyi bartra or pique could play.

    1. Pique definitely out. Bartra most likely. Puyol strikes me as a last resort. He doesn’t even have medical clearance yet.

  17. hi soma omg have you seen the movie shaolin soccer it is like my favorite soccer related kung fu movie ever. watch the subtitled not the crappy overdubbed version you are this blog’s “mighty steel leg” sing okay bye

  18. Hi guys.

    Please don’t feed the trolls.

    We’ll deal with them in the usual ways, but it’s not worth your time to respond, nor get upset on the blog’s behalf.

    Take time to contribute to the worthwhile conversations!


  19. According to AS, Bartra wont be fit in time for tonight and Adriano is expected at CB. May the Gods of setpieces and corners have mercy on our little guys.
    Hard to believe that the only tall player in such squad would be Busi.. Dear god that’s scary

  20. Rumours are that Tata is going to field Alexis, Messi & Neymar up front. I don’t know if that is due to peer pressure or his own tactical decision. Either way he’s kinda screwed. If it comes off, it will be because the media forced him to change. If it doesn’t then he changed due to peer pressure and isn’t up to the job.
    Poor guy.

    I’m always equal parts confident and nervous ahead of Clasico’s. Even when we were winning everything these games are unique.
    I hope the back line isn’t what it was vs Granada because I feel Busquets is too important in midfield against Madrid.
    I also can’t see us keeping a clean sheet with the form of our defense at present so I’m hoping for a 2-1 victory.

    In other news, Gundogan has agreed a contract extension with Dortmund to put an end to that speculation. I hope he gets his fitness back and becomes an even better player.

    Some Spanish radio station reported that we are going to try to use the emergency signing option to replace Valdes with the uncertainty over the transfer ban. Willy Caballero of Malaga has been linked, as has Keylor Navas of Levante. I wouldn’t mind either as both are good shot stopper. Willy’s probably better with his feet from what I’ve seen but then again, I only see Levante when they are playing against the big teams.

  21. Pinto in goal, a backline of Alves Adriano Masch Alba is just ridiculous… Should play Song as a sweeper, lol.

    To analyze the rumors. The Madrid coach says he wants to win the possession battle. This means an open game, and we will score goals. Welsh kick-and-run, Benz’ and Isco on the pitch should mean defensive slacking (right?), we will score goals. Their usual questionable CBs, plus joke full backs means we should score a lot of goals. I wonder how many we can concede though?

    I am confident in this game, because of opponents ‘performance’ in their test against BVB, our two past wins, and our players’ high motivation for this final.

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