Gracies, Equip, aka “Thank you so much for being superhuman”


These are tough times. Poor babies that we are, we have to suffer through a team that finished second in the Liga, in it until the final match, made the Copa final and Champions League quarterfinals. In a sport in which a two-year cycle is extraordinary, our team has been at or near the top since 2008. Six years.

The club has been, and is under assault from every direction from media to its own supporters and people who have been lined up, waiting for Barça to fall as “I told you so” rings throughout the halls of the Camp Nou, shrieks from the fronts of newspapers and websites, a conga line of people who are lining up to kick dirt on the face of the prom king.

So this post is going to start and end saying what I think every last culer needs to say, right here and right now: Gracies, equip. Thank you for the fun, the joy and tears, taking kicks and various fouls, scoring goals and making the effort to do the colors that we love proud. Thank you for everything.

Not winning sucks. But it’s part of life, and it’s part of football, even if we culers aren’t all that experienced with it for these past wonderful seasons. And maybe, just maybe it explains the ugliness, the taking after players on the team and club that we love so much.

In an effort to sum up this season for me, it comes in one word: heartache.

From the Iniesta family sadness to the death of our Mister to great players deciding, for one reason or another, to leave the club it has been a heavy season for anyone who loves this team.

It has also been a tough season for anyone who loves this club as vile men consumed by power and money, have brought us a team that has been neglected for so long, that falls just short of the ultimate prize. Do they care, or are they counting the bonuses and incentives that will not have to paid as part of the bottom line, for the next presser in which a board member crows about record profits.

And is that even a fair question, we must also ask. The neglect that appalls us, the Pollyanna in me, has to have a root. The stadium, or more than that? If these men who are tasked with seeking the best for the club love the team as much as so many of us followers do, then what happened? Why didn’t our crown jewel get the baubles it deserved and needed so desperately?

Now comes the even more difficult part, where people unsheath knives to take after players, clamoring for sales, loans and various jettisoning. Pique this, Fabregas that, Mascherano the other, Song just because.

That isn’t going to happen here.

What is going to happen is my very simple view of what went “wrong” this season, something that comes in one phrase: everything all at once.

It is impossible to point fingers because from top to bottom the entire club came up short, from the board that runs it to the players on the pitch. The collective performance added up to a season without major silver, something predicted by many before the year even began.

It all started when Tito Vilanova had to step down because of a recurrence of the cancer that would eventually claim his life. Names flew hither and yon before the arrow settled on Gerardo “Tata” Martino, a man who had to take over a team in which he had no say, didn’t really know any of the players except from watching them on TV, and shoulder the task of fashioning them into a force that would meet the standards of a demanding global fan base.

He also had to figure out how to integrate a player that much of that fan base deemed unnecessary, a Brazilian show pony named Neymar.

Things started out brilliantly as a swashbuckling Barça began tearing up the Liga, battling for the top of the table, winning its Champions League group and looking like it was off to the races. Then things began to happen and suddenly, everything was different.

Rumors flew, accusations surfaced that people either defended or figured were probably true, depending upon which individual or group was tagged with the allegation. The team soldiered on, beating over two legs a Manchester City side that was supposed to be its Armageddon, but things weren’t the same.

Then came Atletico Madrid, a group of players who were everything that we weren’t: a team that believed. And they dispatched us in Champions League, helped by an away wonder goal then creating a noise-augmented buzzsaw at home. They took the lead in the Liga as we began to falter until another, our final chance, reared its head in the final match of the season. Win and we are champions. Lose, and they hoist the crown. There, they did what they do as did we all too often from March on in this season, and that was that.


We should get our minds around the notion of failure, as opposed to having a very good season in which a team came short of the ultimate prize. There are piles of teams and hordes of fans who would kill for what we call failure. But Barça is supposed to win everything in sight, right? It happened once, and it is supposed to happen again and again and again, because it feels wonderful and is our birthright.

This is, of course, the profoundest nonsense. Matches don’t happen in a vacuum. Ever since that one year when the team won everything under the sun, teams have been trying to figure out ways to stop our team from ever doing that again. They came up with various ways, even calling upon a volcano eruption. And while we didn’t win everything under the sun, major silver was the norm until the last season of Annus Guardiolus, in which “only” the Copa was won.

Such is the standard set by the memory of a glorious season, in which mere excellence becomes failure.

Of boards and neglect

If you want to keep something great going in a competitive environment, you have to keep figuring out ways to keep hitting the refresh button. But that is also very difficult, because things are going really well, so what’s the problem?

In the visionary world of talented leaders, the good ones understand the need to kick things in the pants. Guardiola wanted changes. Vilanova wanted changes. Martino didn’t have time to know WHAT he wanted. Those changes weren’t made. Versatility was lost, mental and physical fatigue worsened and suddenly, that really good thing that was doing great was a stagnant thing that people — not all of the people, but the ones at the very top of the tree — could get their minds around and stop.

In came a new coach, a caretaker as it turns out, who had to figure out how to win races with a car that has been needing a tuneup for four years, and was misfiring on a couple of cylinders. And it worked until it didn’t, because when that coach looked down his bench for a solution, a diversification, a way to change things up, it wasn’t there. Staring back at him were auto-promotions and role players, and things got worse.

Often in the case of sports, the most expensive buy is the one that you don’t make. The board failed this team, this collection of home-grown superstars, a once-in-a-lifetime collection of talent that deserved better than men so focused on the setting for the diamond that they allowed the diamond to become chipped and dirty.

I am sure that they have their reasons, even as whatever the reasons are I probably wouldn’t agree with. Tell me it’s the building, and I will say the Camp is good for another few years. This irreplacable batch of players isn’t, that brilliance has a shelf life defined by age, opponents and fatigue.

And who shall lead them


The party line is that Martino was in over his head. It’s a conclusion that was borne out by results. It’s also a conclusion that, like the stories about training intensity, blablabla, were NOT rearing their heads when the club was kicking ass. It’s a malleable conclusion that fits a narrative.

What happened? Dunno. From this questioning outsider’s view, Martino backed off. I have no idea why or for what reasons, but he backed off. The Barça from the start of the season until February wasn’t the Barça that shuddered to a stop at the end of the season. Whatever happened, Martino is culpable as he, for whatever reason, turned turtle. If you are going to go down, at least go down with your own ideas, fighting your way, rather than being damned for the wrong reasons.

Possession-based, attacking football degenerated into some bastard form of something alleged to be tika taka but was really something of a mess, with players forced to hold the ball too long while under assault from pressing opponents, poor passing angles and immobile players. Counters came from turnovers and attackers ran at our defense, a group designed to pluck and knock balls away after they leaked through a press, not play Katie Bar the Door. And opponents scored. Not at the rate approaching the previous season, but they scored.

More painfully, they scored from set pieces.

During matches, changes have to be made that can turn the tide of the match, tactical or player shifts that are capable of altering the outcome. Too often, Martino didn’t make those shifts and changes. Looking down a bench that too often didn’t have a match changer sitting on it isn’t an excuse. Assuredly, there were many times that he had no options as he watched things fall apart but ultimately, the coach came up short of extracting the maximum from his charges, for reasons that only he and the players know.

And now, like so many people this season from presidents to Masia administrators and team legends, Martino is leaving, doomed to be thought of as a bad coach, rather than someone who we really have no idea WHAT kind of coach he was. He is a good man who got a crap deal. He is being replaced by Luis Enrique, a man who, if he doesn’t get HIS signings and the full backing of the board, will find himself in the same boat as Martino, with eventually the same results.

We get some intimation of that support with the announcement that “the club agreed to accept the recommendation of Andoni Zubizarreta that Luis Enrique …” In other words, it’s your ass if it doesn’t work, ZubiZa, not ours.


Blame touches everyone

When we look at our team of hyper-talented players, these are players who know what they have to do. They didn’t have a manager who smacked them on the butt and said “Okay, go get ’em!” They had a plan, a system, a notion for how to approach a match, and they fell short of executing those ideas.

Barça football is “pass and receive, pass and receive,” even in its possession-based sense. Keep the ball, move the ball. Players have to be aware of passing angles and moving to present options for teammates, as drawing board becomes real world. Reality became a stagnant mess of an attack that relied upon individual magic. That works against other teams not as talented, or teams that also rely upon individual magic, such as RM. Against a locked-in team willing to run until its legs fall off, individual feats almost always fall prey to collective endeavor.

On set pieces, there is a plan, notions that too often went awry as opponents went unaccounted for and did damage. Even in a match with the Liga championship on the line, Atleti equalized via a bit of truly shambolic defending.

You can’t blame the board or Martino for that. Passes weren’t being completed, balls were being lost and opponents weren’t marked. You can’t blame the board or Martino for that. Too many times in too many matches, the team was a mess, a group of geniuses who didn’t know how to come in out of the rain, so to speak. Then they would discard the system and team for a shot at individual magic, which played right into the hands of opponents. You can’t blame the board or Martino for that, even as the years of sporting neglect created fatigued, fried players.

You can go on and on, through every player on the roster and you will find moments where he came up short, moments that make singling out any one player an exercise in time wasting.

From top to bottom, everyone came up short this season. And even at that, the team was close enough to glory to be able to taste it. A goal here, a goal there. A little more focus here, a bit more there. A winter signing that wasn’t made, a summer signing that should have been augmented, a coach who stopped doing the right things for players who fell short of even doing what they know. Top to bottom as everyone instead searches for the contention that will absolve certain players as others are tagged with marks of scorn.

Tag one, tag all.

That the bar is so astronomically high for this club says something not only about the expectations of its players, but the history of the organization. Close isn’t good enough, even as the team had an excellent season. Key players are moving on or retiring, others will be sold. A new coach and a new starting goal keeper will be arriving along with a pair of loaned sons. There will also be other squad additions as finally, a board does what it should have been doing all along. And people will talk about possibilities, and how everything is better and more promising, etc, and then the matches will be played as the players do their jobs. And the cycle will repeat itself. There will be signings who aren’t good enough for culers, new unfavored players and more malleable narratives. Because that too, is how it goes.

Yet in looking back at this season of court proceedings, injuries, tragedy and sadness, I can’t be mad at anyone. They tried, even as they came up short. Did they try their best? In my worldview, encapsulated in the notion that no matter what you did, you tried your best in the very conditional notion of that thought, yes. And they got close, ultimately undone by a confluence of things, everything all at once.

For the struggle, the joy, the great moments and hope, all that I am left with is to say, as should we all, “Gracies, equip.”


By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Please no Decima, please….

    Arda Turan out, Costa in. Please don’t re-injure yourself again.

  2. Good to see that this game is going more like the EE-Atleti games in la Liga rather than la Copa!

    What the heck was Casillas doing for that goal anyway? Pretty rookie mistake from the captain.

  3. If only Bartra brought down Bale the same way Raul Garcia brought down Di Maria and took the yellow…

  4. I wish I could say that I’m happy for them but I can’t.
    Atletico deserved it in normal time but once it went to extra time it was always going to be Real Madrid’s cup.
    Di Maria was the difference time and time again. He’s their most dangerous player regardless of Ronaldo or Bale.

    1. Idk how you can say Atletico deserved it, when RM dominated most of the match. I thought Atletico showed too much respect in the second half and could have put more into attack. RM had a lot of chances to equalize and were by far the better team.

    2. They created very little.
      Atletico executed their game plan better and without their two best attacking players they were a couple of mins from winning. That’s my opinion

    3. ciaran is right in the respect that for normal time, Atletico did ENOUGH just to clinch the title. Real had several half chances.

      After that it was one way traffic.

    4. The difference between almost every other good team and us is that they can score and defend set pieces and aerial balls and we couldn’t this year.

      Atleti and Real both played well enough to win because both have excellent squads that can score and defend aerial balls and set pieces. Every great team must do this or wait 200 years for another Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi to come along and play together at their otherworldly best and win a different way.

  5. Congratulations to Real and Atletico Madrid. You have worked hard to build two great teams over the last few years.

    Congratulations to the Barca board too. You have run an extremely successful publicity campaign this past week.

    1. Nothing left for them to do really, but now they have to up it with defensive signings in order to stop the howling of the embarrassed culerada.

      In true “every cloud has a silver lining fashion”* now the culers may give Ter Stegen a chance since Courtois it turns out it vincible, despite brilliantly punching away a dirty Ronaldo free kick.

      You may think me insane for saying this, but despite all the heaps of bad luck, tragedies and deliberate attacks on the club, I look back at some moments and I know Barcelona can rise again bigger faster and stronger. Look at the two Liga Clasicos, look at what was supposed to be the end of Barcelona(Citeh), look at the game vs Sevilla in the driving rainstorm, look at the first half of the Atletico game and you will see.

      This is what I wish for next season: motivation, unity, drive and a proper pre-season. Oh well, and a good left-footed CB if it could be arranged. 😀

    2. Peter, I am excited about next season, but let’s recognize today for what everybody knows it is–a very bad moment for everyone who loves our club.

    3. True. Still. At least now there will be/has to be real will to reform and revitalize. Silly season ahoy!

  6. I did not watch the match,I choosed not to,worst season ever! Seeing EE win,I hope zubizeretta gets his act together and sign us players to challenge next season. I heard luiz is going PSG,they always snatch our targets from us,who is our top two targets in defence now since luiz is gone?

    1. I have a serious question: Would you pay 52 million for David Luis? Yes, I know Barcelona need to reinforce the defence, but honestly, would you pay 52 million for David Luis or would you sign Garay/Benatia/Marquinhos/Hummels/Laporte for 50-60% of that sum?

  7. Dear Barcelona Fans,

    I just finished watching the CL Final and it was very exciting. However, afterwards it occurred to me that I have not had a chance to really thank you for an unforgettable season with your club. We shared some unforgettable moments together in what has indeed been a season of amazing ups and heart-wrenching downs.

    Too bad any historical trace of our recent history together has been thoroughly erased by your club’s website. Also, anyone with a promotional club photograph of me in my pistachio polo shirt should save it, as it is now a collector’s item since the board immediately burned over 500,000 pictures of me in the first 30 minutes after our unfortunate draw against Atleti .

    I personally warned the entire team to watch for Godin on a set piece, and begged the board numerous times to get Balanta in the winter transfer window, but let’s let bygones be bygones.

    I look forward to telling you more of my side of the story, but I know I must be careful because my personal safety is now at great risk. I am currently living in an undisclosed location in an small town in the United States and support myself by doing some house painting and odd-jobs for the nice people in my new community.

    Do not feel sorry for me because compared to what I went through this year, I am now living a dream. Hell would be like Club Med as long as I no longer have to do any more press conferences at the Camp Nou again.

    Regards and best of Luck for next year!

    I would sign my name but I think it is best that this letter remain untraceable.

    For now, let me just call myself Jerry the Fix-it Guy who likes to sing cantatas and eat frittatas.

    Enough said for now.

    1. Dear unknown,

      Don’t wait up for the ” Thank you” card , there’s nothing to thank you for.No one will remember you in the annals of FCB history. You’re just beating a dead talking point. Let it go. Truth hurts. Enjoy middle of the road club or international management,
      Ta- Ta if you will.

    2. Tatar- and the team- came up short but that’s not a very classy reaction to his tenure. He was brought in last minute, got us to one home match from the title in a season where the competition in Spain was pretty hot. Of course, he made mistakes and maybe he had to go but he seems a decent person and gave it a good shot. He’s been denied that second season we automatically offer players who come to us to adapt. Maybe there’s more to come out from the players that would change my mind but at the moment he was our manager and has my thanks. Don’t want to end up like another Spanish club and disrespecting as well as changing our manager every season.

  8. spot on kxevin, this is beautiful.

    gracies equip! it is unbelievable and inspirational what you guys do, even when there is no silverware.

    and thank you kxevin and soccermom for the beauty of your prose.

    and congrats Atleti for making this a fantastic, memorable season.

    hard to swallow Real, Pepe and Ronaldo winning anything. That was a highly entertaining match, in a way, but I wouldnt call it the best advertisement for the beautiful game. Alas….

  9. Here is my prediction. I am going on record that on Monday FC Barcelona will announce the signing of Mehdi Benatia and it will be for over 36 million.

  10. I heard about claudio Bravo too,real sociedad GK being in negociation with us

  11. – seems we will be doing ucl preliminary tour! sometimes such games can be tricky, even if highly unlikely for us.

    – really boring game, until 92 min. i think we had better chances against atletico in their home then rm. this is to show how close we were even if for some it seems we are very far.

    – Cristiano is one shallow dude. I HAVEN#T SEEN SOMETHING SO PATHETIC IN SPORTS…

    – i can’t say real played better then us, had more imagination or speed then us vs atletico. my theory is that we are lacking in physic and that makes us easy to battle, to push off the pitch.

    – some rumors there say that juve are willing to pay 15 mil for sanchez. if we do again some of our usually poor business and sell him for less then 30 mil i promise to ….

  12. The only silver lining I can see in this is that now Cristiano is hot favorite for the Ballon d’Or. Hopefully that will finally wake Messi up from his sleep next season.

    1. I hope he doesn’t win. He was anonymous in the final only to show his body at the end. He celebrated more for his penalty that didn’t even matter than when his team mates score the more important goals. A really strange character.

      Besides this match, there’s just no magic from him. Di Maria is more instrumental to the team and Modric too. Ronaldo just bangs in the goals.
      But yeah, with the amount of goals he has scored, he’s almost certainly going win it.

    2. I think what these last weeks have shown is that no player is worth 200 million dollars. Athelti took Cristiano out of the game because despite his talent he was a non factor against a team that was willing to collectively defend and risk life and limb to win yesterday.

      Real, despite a poor collective effort, showed that some of their players can get the job done even against a physical team with no “world class” players that gave every ounce of energy that they had and came up just 2 minutes short.

      Di Maria, Modric, Isco , Ramos, and Varane: they are the type of players I wish our team signed, and the problem is they will still be around for a while.

  13. After EE winning the CL-final, I couldn’t help but to compare the situations of Ancelotti and Tata. Ancelotti had freedom to impose his tactical ideas, and had 5-6 new players and – apparently – the benefit of a doubt during the shaky start of the season. Tata, on the other hand, had no signings to his name and Neymar was both asset and challenge; he (Tata) was heavily criticized despite a very successful opening of the season and, apparently, had to wear an ideological straight-jacket, stating: “here’s the answer; what was the question?”. Hopefully, Tata’s sacrifice was not for nothing, if it gives Enrique slightly more room to try-and-fail.

    That said, one must admire Ancelotti’s achievements (and timing in taking over the squad): he is one hell of a coach, despite a weak opening and ending of the liga campaign. Also, must (reluctantly) hand it to Ronaldo: 17 goals in 11(?) games in the most competitive competition on club level. That will be hard to ever beat.

  14. Atletico were just a couple of minutes away from winning the CL. It must’ve hurt them really badly. Such a cruel way to lose out, in the injury time.

    That said, it wasn’t really a surprise that Madrid scored in the end. Atletico weren’t able to do anything after the hour mark. They were gassed out.

    They were still able to hold on to it except for a dead ball situation. That separates us from Madrid. They were no better than us against Atletico. It’s just that they have 1-2 dead ball specialists as in headers of the ball who can score while we don’t have anyone.

    Once a team like Atletico or Chelsea set out to defend, there is a 0.1% chance to score so you need to make use of the corners and free kicks. Unfortunately we don’t have a weapon for that.

    I’ve always hated when Marcelo plays against us as I find him so good (offensively!) and I knew he was going to be key for them. Marcelo and di Maria. They were the only ones who played well from Madrid.

    Gabi really impressed me but like the rest of his team mates, he faded in the 2nd half.

    Simeone made a stupid and costly gamble to start with Costa imo. He could’ve used that sub later in the game when they were running out of steam.

    ps. Usually I never cared how Ronaldo celebrates his goals but his celebration last night was really distasteful to me. He hasn’t done anything for the whole match + extra time and he scores a penalty in the last kick of the match and go and celebrate like he scored a decider and runs off alone shirtless instead of celebrating with the team.

  15. Oh and how on earth did they give 5 mins extra time? It should’ve been 3 minutes at most. And did anyone notice how late they announced the injury time. It was well over the 1 minute mark when they announced the injury time. Really bizarre.

    Madrid score before the 3rd mark but still, why was there 5 minutes given in the first place??!!

  16. Barca Website Reads the Tea Leaves and They all Look Good!

    Good to see an enlightening article about our new coach on our Official Website. Excellent signs that we are moving full steam ahead. Our future has now been assured by the club’s excellent astrologers who have now assured fans that things are now on course and looking up.

    Luis Enrique: History Repeats Itself

    Let us examine now the great coincidences that have been astutely noted between our past and future greatness and provide comment on the astounding similarities:

    “There are many similarities between Luis Enrique the player and Luis Enrique the manager. What the manager is experiencing now is oddly similar to his experience, at least in small ways, back in 1996 when he signed for Barça from Real Madrid.

    1996: Luis Enrique joins Barça just a few days after Atlético Madrid claim the league title.

    2014 Luis Enrique joins Barça just a few days after Atlético Madrid claim the league title.”

    Comment: Wow, no way! Nice sly reference to Real there, but despite the lack of mention of this on our club website, Los Blancos may be in the news today for other reasons too.

    The article goes on:
    “This year it was Barça who pushed Atletico till the last game, in 1996 it was Valencia – with a certain Andoni Zubizarreta in goal.

    1995/96 – After winning four of the previous six league titles (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994), Barça fail to win the league, the Cup or the Champions League. Johan Cruyff and Carles Rexach are replaced by Bobby Robson

    2013/14 – After winning four of the previous six league titles (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013), Barça fail to win the league, the Cup or the Champions League. Tata Martino is replaced by Luis Enrique.”

    Comment: I feel so much better now that decisions are going to be made by Barca legends rather than a incompetent foreigner who messed up our club.

    Oh, and thanks for reminding me that our team has been great in the past. I almost forgot because I thought I was suffering from amnesia since I completely forgot all the painful events surrounding our club this year since they can no longer be mentioned in polite company.

    Also, I am so glad that we had the strength to force the run away favorite in La Liga this year to a show down on the last day of the season just like Valencia was lucky enough to do in 1996.

    Finally, one last coincidence is noted:
    “David Villa, the last Asturian to play for the team, was presented on May 21. Just like Luis Enrique.”

    Comment: Cool! Great shout out for El Guaje who we bought for 40 and sold to a great Atletico team for 2 million. At least I am glad his name can be mentioned now because he didn’t put one past Pinto last week and is the closest thing to a Barca player in a Champions League Final this year.

    Conclusion: Our astrologers believe that given the above amazing set of coincidences along with the fact that mars is now in retrograde we are destined for greatness next year. Just don’t gloat about it to your Madrista friends because it is only fair for them to enjoy their delusional bit of bragging this week even though we know that the future belongs to us again really soon.

    Again, my purpose is not to be “negative”, I am actually quite positive about our future. However, a great club should not insult its fan’s intelligence nor hide its current reality.

    How about we “officially” congratulate Real and move on. Fans will stick with our club even if not given candy canes and other sweets to distract them. There was more to the Roman Empire than just bread and circuses.

    1. A lot of homework done. Great stuff.

      Ahh 1996, the year I officially became fan. When Ronaldo joined after making kids in Holland fighting to ‘be him’ as the player whom we want to represent when we played football 😆

      So childish when I think back. But man, Ronaldo was an eye opener to football for me at PSV.

      Villa who I thought was going to be their weak link, was actually their top 3 player. I couldn’t believe my eyes the way he hustled. Simeone did that to him.

    2. I was amazed by Villa too! Simeone must have made a pact with the devil to get what he does out of his players.

  17. I find it somewhat amusing that the general consensus is that we failed this season because the board failed to buy some centrebacks.

    We managed to lose 8 games this season which is a lot, especially for us; but only in two of those 8 games did we concede 3 goals, @ Soceidad & at home to Valencia.
    We managed to lose 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao, Valladolid, Atletico & Granada as well as having 0-0 draws with Atletico, Osasuna & Elche.

    To me, our attack cost us more than our defense did. If we had taken our chances in some of those smaller matches their we’d have been league champions.
    We only managed 1 goal in two CL matches against Atletico too which is the problem, not conceding two goals. At the start of the season if you were to suggest that we would play Atletico 6 times and concede 4 goals you’d expect us to have won at least 3 or 4 of those matches but we didn’t win a single one.

    A centre back or two will help us next season but we need more goals when it matters most. We got 7 v Levante but all in 1 game so dropped 2 points; 4 against Elche but again in 1 game so dropped another 2 points.
    For me, Pedro is the forward who should be sold and replaced with a genuine striker. I don’t know if it can happen but we should go all out to sign Luis Suarez. He is the closest thing to Samuel Eto’o of 7-8 years ago in terms of attitude and skills and would be perfect in a rotation with Neymar, Alexis, Messi & Deulofeu for the 3 forward slots and we can let all of our midfielders actually play in midfield.

    1. A very interesting comparison of Cristiano Ronaldo & Luis Suarez’s 31 goals this season 1v1.
      I personally prefer Suarez’s goals in terms of diversity. A lot of Ronaldo’s are tap-ins, deflected freekicks or penalties.

    2. AGREE!

      I’ve been harping on this point for the last week. Our offense was fairly mundane for most of the second half of the season – especially after Valdes got hurt.

  18. I think both ends were a problem, Ciaran. Too many games where we started brightly only to lose a goal and end up playing against a super motivated defence while in others we killed ourselves with suicidal defending. It’s a difficult one. If what we’re looking for is defending ability in our forwards for me we have something wrong. We need forwards who can beat a man so that if we move the ball about we can find a one on one. Also a false nine, if we insist on calling it that, can’t just mean there’s nobody in the box.

    At the back I think we made some strides this year but I don’t think any of our last three coaches have really understood how to coach the defensive line., even given that we insist on playing midfielders there. I think the board might have felt burned by Caceres and Chiggy and were reluctant to spend big on another.

    For me, it’s a close call who to sell between Alexis and Pedro. I’ve been very disappointed in the way Pedro has not kicked on from the Guardiola times and I’m not quite sure what Alexis is. I have a gut instinct that the way to get the best out of Messi and Neymar is to separate them onto the two wings with a genuine back to goal striker ( not a giant) in the middle but I don’t really know any more. What I do know is that if Messi and Neymar got the one on one situations that Pedro, Alexis, Tello and Alves have had they would do better with them.

    1. I would love to agree with you in terms of Messi & Neymar but I can’t see Messi playing on the right wing any more. I think Messi has developed into the no.10 that many expected him to and is no longer a false 9. I’d love to see Neymar as what you’d call the second striker and Suarez as a no.9.

      For me Alexis is now better at every facet of the game than Pedro. He is a better scorer & gets more assists. He is better defensively and and better in the air. I don’t see a single thing that Pedro has as an advantage and it would be a shame if he is kept and Alexis sold.
      Pedro had an improved season over the past two but did absolutely nothing in any big match and finished the season with 1 goal in his last 12 games. Alexis scored against both Atletico & Real Madrid and finished the season stronger.

      Defensively we need 2 defenders and if we get rid of both Alex Song & Masch we’ll need a DM too. I wasn’t saying that we don’t need defenders but our forwards failed too when the chips were down.

    2. So, a 4-3-1-2 tactic? Perhaps if Messi drops a little, there would be room for two attacking wing backs, after all. I also dreamed about Neymar and Messi creating havoc on one flank each, stretching the defense and making it harder to cram the areas. But I agree with the point on Messi: he is no winger anymore (if he ever really was) and needs to be in the hub of things.

      Regarding which failed more, attack or defense, I think it’s hard to separate the two. But it’s interesting that the defense seemed rather solid in the early parts of the season; in the final stretch, it was back to being shaky (even with Valdes).

    3. There were numerous failings with our season, in all areas.
      Pinto is a disaster and when Valdes got injured I assumed that our season was over. Not only is he not good enough as a shot stopper, he is terrible with the ball at his feet so our entire team has to change its game. That’s why, even though Keylor Navas is a better shot stopper than Reina or Bravo I’d prefer the latter two for their ball playing ability as a backup to ter Stegen.

      The defense failed but individually most of them played well enough. Masch’s failings were in the air but he isn’t a central defender and done his best. Bartra improved massively, Pique got his form back and the fullbacks were all reasonably good in general.

      The midfield was disappointing. Busquets was left doing all the defensive work but still, he hasn’t added attacking play to his skill set and isn’t a hugely better player than he was 3 seasons ago. Xavi & Iniesta disappointed me. Song wasn’t given the opportunity to impress and didn’t exactly light the world on fire when he did play. Cesc didn’t finish the season strongly and Sergi Roberto barely played.

      As I’ve suggested, up front I’d sell Pedro and Tello and replace with Suarez & Deulofeu. If needed promote Munir & Adama in Copa games next year but keep the midfielders playing midfield, not pushing Cesc & Iniesta into the forward line.

      A 4-3-1-2 is probably the only way to get the most out of more of our squad. We always have attacking fullbacks and there’s very little good defensive ones available. We need to have numbers in midfield but we also need a presence in the opposition box, occupying defenders.

    4. I’d like to appoint ciaran as my spokesperson. His observations about “CBs being the fault” is exactly the point I have been trying to make for some time.

      So many problems in attack, based on stagnant players, and the unvoidable(?) complexity that the two players who have the ball the MOST, are LEAST likely to score (Xavi and Iniesta). So if movement isn’t happening, no goals will be forthcoming.

      The point about Messi sliding inexorably to the position that matches his number is an excellent one, as well.

    5. Not sure what you mean by a natural 10, Kxevin. Are you talking of behind a front three and taking up a midfield position or something else ?

      Agreed on the lack of movement up front. It’d also be good to see Xavi and Iniesta go past the forwards at times but I think part of that is fear of the counter. If we can sort ourselves defensively they might be more inclined. I’ll say again- Iniesta’s long shooting has improved dramatically this season.

    6. Jim, I wouldn’t mind seeing a midfield of Messi/Busquets/Iniesta, to see how that feels. Messi does more of the Iniesta stuff, Iniesta makes like Xavi, complete with a more aggro Busquets, particularly if Mascherano stays. I’d like to see him as a rover type in front of a back 3. So:

      Ter Stegen
      ??? Pique Alba
      Busquets Messi Iniesta
      Sanchez Neymar ??? (Pedro? Deulofeu?)

    7. To me we have to stick with Kxevin’s point that everyone on the team is an offensive and defensive player. For this reason, I still don’t know how our offense ever gets fixed without being able to be a threat on corners and set pieces.

      If teams respected us as a threat on these, then I believe we would face fewer buses to begin with.
      If you give up 10 set pieces or corners to any other top team, then there is a very high probability that you will concede one or more of these.

      No, I am not saying to sell the team and buy all tall guy,s but at least 3 of our players must be a serious threat in the air to limit the “bus” tactics.

      If we picked up two players like Benatia and Martinez, it would significantly change how other teams defend us because they would know that we would be a threat on set pieces and not as vulnerable to theirs.

      As things stood this year, playing relentless defense against us and hoping for a shot on one or two set pieces worked pretty well for teams too numerous to mention.

    8. There’s one serious problem with Messi being moved to midfield – unless this is accompanied by him changing his game and beginning to seriously play defense again, we will be even more exposed to counters that way. Hopefully the front three will be pressing hard and that will allow him to mop up the forced turnovers behind them the way Xavi and Iniesta did back in the days. But if is just standing around as he has for most of this season, even this will not happen and we will be worse off.

    9. Ciaran’s point is borne out by the fact, previously mentioned by kxevin, that we conceded far fewer goals this year than last, but also scored many fewer. We weren’t as dynamic in offense. Could also be a case of our seeing more and more buses every year.

  19. Not that this is anti-Pedro day but he came out today and said he doesn’t know if he’ll stay next season. He said that he was happy with his contribution. That he helped the team a lot when he played.
    I have a slight issue what that statement.
    He played in 44 games this season and scored or assisted 24 goals (16 & 8). That all looks very promising but I looked into these further.
    He scored or assisted in only 15 different games of the 44. So in 15 games he produced 24 goals.
    Of those 15 games though, in only 2 of them did his goals affect the outcome, Getafe & Athletic Bilbao. In the rest he added goals to matches that would have been won anyway; 2 goals in 7 and 3 in 4 etc.

    That isn’t good enough when you are playing that much for a team of our quality and expectations.

    1. If we choose to always dissect the stats in this fashion, It wouldn’t be difficult to make any winger look bad, Here is me doing it:
      “Alexis only managed to score 2 goals away from home in all his la liga appearances this season!, One was a blatant offside, And the other one wouldn’t made a difference, And since most of the points lost were away from home, This is very concerning for a barca winger”

      I’m not saying this to undermine alexis or to defend perdo, I actually would pick alexis over pedro any day, But my point is, That stats may give a little bit more perspective, And are usually fun, But that’s the extent of it, Using them for anything more than that, Isn’t productive in my opinion.

    2. Clearly you don’t work in the world of finance. Numbers and statistics and all there is.
      Opinions may change, but numbers never do. Only our interpretation of the numbers changes. Numbers will always give you a better representation of what goes on on the pitch than opinions unpacked by evidence.

    3. Clearly you don’t work in the world of finance if you subscribe to the maxim that numbers and statistics don’t change. Not a single number or statistic means anything without context, and since I determine the context, I can change the truth of any number. Which therefore means I can make the statistics lie and obscure the true representation of what happened on the pitch, thus giving you a much worse understanding of the issue. Numbers only have truth in pure mathematics, of which finance is decidedly not, and neither is football statistics.

    4. I was talking about the general value of stats and numbers in the world of FOOTBALL, Not finance, How did you manage to relate them?

    5. Because I was responding to 86ed disagreeing with you by using finance as the basis for stating that numbers don’t change and thus statistical analysis was superior to an opinion not using statistics.

      So, basically, I agree with you to a degree.

  20. What a difference a goal makes. Had Ramos not scored Bale would have been called a waste of €100m. But Ramos did score and all those misses of Bale’s have been completely forgotten. Now Bale, who had no preseason, with huge pressure on his shoulders, has two goals in two finals in his first year in Spain. Having players who are good at set pieces is really quite handy, isn’t it, Rosell? It was essentially (as someone above has pointed out already) the marker for our losing to Atletico in the CL. It’s a game of inches, as Kxevin said last year after our home loss or Real. Sadly we lack those inches that could make the difference. And it’s of our own making, this lack of inches.

    Nine of the last ten CL winners have been physical teams. I could probably go further but ten is a nice round number. This includes two of our three wins. We have forgotten I think how physically imposing Barca was during Guardiola’s first season. In the final alone all but three players were 1,8m or taller, even with Abidal out with suspension.

    Only Barca’s team of 2011 has bucked the trend of physical teams, good at set pieces, strong defensively, rapid on the counter, neglectful of sterile sideway passes ultimately carrying the day. That’s the task ahead of Barca now. To keep with the times. To go with physical players as well as technical ones. To be less dogmatic and more pragmatic. To make signings guided by reason and evidence, not passion and hype. To take more chances on unknown players who might not be able to sell jerseys but who are nevertheless crucial to all winning teams.

    1. TBH as good as we were in the 2011 final, we were immensely helped by SAF’s incompetence in choosing a Giggs Carrick midfield to combat the three best midfielders on the planet. Added to that was the fact that it was Messi’s first full season as a false nine, and that meant no one knew how to play him. Imagine what a team with physicality and hustle would have done to them, even with all the players at or near their peak. And that win made other teams evolve specifically to combat our style of play while we just… stagnated. We won’t be winning the CL again anytime soon if we keep the same tactics going into next season.

    2. I agree I agree and I think a lot of the wrong lessons were drawn from our dominance in 2011-12. After that many at our club became lazy and felt that as long as you put the same players out year after year, we would get similar results. I think the first person who saw that wasn’t going to be true was the coach himself and he really did not leave the club in as good a shape as most of us believed.

      If we compare each player on that team in 2011-12 with the very same players this year the only one who had nearly as good a season is Valdes, and unfortunately his year got cut short. The jerseys were the same but the productivity of those players this year was not even close. Whether the club and our fans acknowledged this reality or not, we still avoided change, while other teams evolved.

      As Peter pointed out above, look at how our last two transfer seasons compare to Real’s:

      Real Madrid: Morata, Essien, Nacho, Modric, Diego Lopez
      Barcelona: Alba, Song, Dos Santos, Sergi Roberto, Bartra, Montoya

      Real Madrid: Bale, Cherishev, Jese, Carbajal, Casemiro, Isco, Illaramendi.
      Barcelona: Neymar

    3. I agree, I think that at some level there is a willful ignorance that players sometimes just are not at the level they once were. If you look at the 2011 team, Barca had three of the five best players in the world. Now, they have one, and this year, I think you could argue that Messi wasn’t even in the top two. Which considering it’s been him and Ronaldo unquestionably since 2008 as gapping whomever was third (Balon d’Or results notwithstanding for many reasons) is a pretty astonishing thought. And compared to that 2011 team, where on the pitch is Barca better?—I’d argue nowhere bar in goal and that’s not a real difference anyway.

      Also, as a Manchester United supporter, that 2011 final was helped in large part by Barcelona being the worst match-up for that 2011 United team. Every player on that squad in style and preferred formation was almost perfectly picked to match terribly with the way Barca liked to play, with the exception of Ferdinand and maybe Evra. That being said, that’s the best I’ve ever seen this Barca vintage play.

    4. posthipsterpope. thanks for the great comment! So many interesting parallels between our two teams whose last great year was 2011.

      One big difference is that your great manager retired after decades of legendary service, while ours did when he felt too much stress and lost his passion for coaching our side.

    5. I still consider the first XI that started the 6-2 victory on 2 May 2009 as the best lineup ever fielded by FC Barcelona. 7/11 of that team were over 1,80 tall and athletic, and all were brilliant on the ball. After 2010 the pattern started to change. Smaller players were recruited, and Guardiola jumped ship at the first sign that things were starting to turn sour. Great coach but I do not think I will forgive him that. I wrote here at the time that he was abandoning us when we needed him the most. I suggested that a complete overhaul of personnel and style. Since then : —
      Since then, the only tall and athletic player hired was never given any trust even by the man who said “he will surprise many.”

      Money has been wasted, gentlemen, and the people who burned it are still in power spewing the same rhetoric as last year and the year before. I maintain my doubts they’ll do anything to solve our ailments. If they really cared they would have taken precautions since 2012. If they were competent, change would have happened in 2011. Instead they singed Fabregas for purely sentimental reasons.

    6. My fear is that we are going to try to fix a publicity problem similar to the one Real had after our treble instead of making smart footballing decisions.

      I would not feel bad at all if the coach and board privately decided that there was no way we can win the champions League next year and instead built our team for the future.

      As long as we get younger next year and look to improve each season then that is fine with me. The only other option is to spend a billion dollars over the next 5 years and take our chances for the golden ring each year like Real.

    7. 86ed, completely agree. The beginning of our decline was also the moment many recognized as our greatest achievement:
      playing one game consisting of all La Masia graduates.

      What made Pep’s team great was that the team had extraordinary individual talent that played amazing football for the same club and national teams.

      The idea that La Masia was going to keep perpetually renewing our superiority by putting in the next Xavi, Iniesta, and Puyol was the very fallacy of all elitism: there is no way a generation of 25 talented La Masia graduates will be able to continually compete with other teams made of the best football players from all around the world.

      Barca was able to take on the world for about 4 years but now that window is closed. If, for example, the group of very smart Harvard graduates who started Microsoft had a policy that they would only hire Harvard graduates for their executive and technology positions, then that company would get crushed in a few years.

      Our team must now embrace diversity: collecting the best talent to fit into a team that plays well together consisting of only our top La Masia players and probably the majority from a pool of other great football players from all around the world.

      The problem now for Barca is that we are not going to be able to recruit those great players from around the world until they reach 16 or 18 or whatever age the new FIFA rules will allow, which really sucks for us.

      The best thing our club could have done the minute we lost Thiago was to try to get Isco to replace him. The only reason not to have done so was if some at the club really believed that Sergio Roberto was ready to fill in for significant minutes, which I doubt many at our club did.

    8. The beginning of our decline?

      La Masia Dream Team: Barcelona field an all-homegrown side for the first time

      Most surprising sentence: “Another boy from Catalonia, Busquets was scouted from local team Unio Jabac in 2005 and immediately made an impression. He scored seven goals in 26 matches for the Juvenil A side in his second season.”

      For Barcleona 1st team: 11 goals in 284 matches

    9. Bojan, nearly a thousand goals in youth teams but only 4 goals in the Mickey Mouse league 🙂

      And Levon posted a funny reply to a person who shared a rumor that Roma is willing to buy Bojan for 24m. Like Levon said, it could be cents 😆

  21. Persistent rumor that Juve want Alexis for 15-20m. If that goes through then all the good will and hope I’ve built up for this transfer season will shrink to almost zero. What a bunch of fuckups they would be, sorry there’s just no more succinct way to put that.

    1. I completely agree with you. He is a great player who is worth twice that but seeing as we seem to be only listening to offers from Juventus we are not going to do well in the market.
      I don’t see any reasoning to sell Alexis anyway though. He has spent three seasons working hard and getting to grips with our style and system and had his best year. He is a player on the up.

    2. The irony being that in a team like Juve, with Conte’s model of play favouring open spaces, Alexis would thrive and look very much the 40 million player he is.

      Thing is, I wouldn’t be that sad to see Alexis go because in purely footballing terms his game would be enhanced at an ideal club. If he’s happy to stay at Barça, great, but we’d be forever stuck with a case of an ill-suited marriage in which neither partner gets the best out of one another.

      With Pedro, sentimentally it would be harder to see him go while knowing that he was very much a creation of ours – from nothing, we created a World Cup winner and Champions League final scoring forward, and we’d be selling him on to someone else. And to be honest, I can’t see Pedro going for crazy money.

    3. The funny and quite a bit ridiculous thing here is this: Juve has nothing to offer Alexis except a starting spot. Their president has stated they can’t offer him the salary he gets in Barcelona, nor can they give Barcelona a proper transfer price.

    4. In that case, if Alexis is to stay, then how does he fit into the team?

      Leaving aside the intricacies of formation, let’s start with the premise that Messi and Neymar are going to be the only fixtures in attack. Depending on the system, that leaves one/two spare berth(s). More than likely it will be just the one extra berth and that will probably go to a centre-forward. Even allowing for that spot to allocated to a wide attacker, that leaves Alexis basically vying for a very defined spot – either a the right-forward or a centre-forward position. And that in itself brings a series of implications:

      1) Alexis is more comfortable starting from the left, but that’s off-bounds due to Neymar now.
      2) Alexis can ‘do a job’ on the right, and even thrive, provided he is given the space. That has rarely been the case, however, under Barça’s model of play and the kind of opponents we’ve faced. It will be even less likely as Lucho seeks to return to those old principles of constant static attack.
      3) Could Lucho entertain the possiblity of a very leftfield structural move: say, converting Alexis into a right-back (assuming Dani leaves)? It’s unlikely, and on the face of it, it shouldn’t work. But he’s done some pretty unorthodox stuff at Celta .. like playing Krohn-Deli – a winger – as holding midfielder. The one certainty that would give is that Alexis would have far more space to run with the ball.

    5. 1) It has looked to me that Alexis is more comfortable from the right and center, meaning he would have to fight for a spot with Pedro/Deulofeu(and Pedro would be competing with Neymar on the left)

      2) Everybody can thrive if given the space – blatant examples include Ronaldo and Bale, who need space. However, space is not given, it is won. Atletico have the most narrow and tight defence in the League, but in the first half of the Camp Nou Liga match space was found. Furthermore, up until December the team played faster, with better and swifter transition, which meant goals. Furthermore Alexis has shown he has leadership qualities – there was a moment in the season when he had to assume the responsibility up front – and unsurprisingly he scored a hat-trick.

      3) Converting Alexis into a right-back doesn’t really make sense. If anything that’s making the defence even shorter and why would you really do that when Alba is already making it short on the other side?

    6. Peter, let me clarify:

      1) More comfortable from the left in any scenario by mere virtue of the fact that he’s cutting onto his shooting foot. Unfortunately for Alexis, the same is true for Neymar – who brings another dimension to the role anyway. I agree that Pedro, who is also better when on the left, would be competing with Neymar. If Pedro is willing to stay and fight for a place, fair enough. Problem is, I can’t see him unseating Neymar near enough for him to be happy.

      2) My point about space was not so much about how deep our opponents sat and more about what you touch upon later in your response – the way we set up. Under Tito and Tata, we spent every second game with a vertical set-up … it was that kind of context which made things more tolerable for Alexis playing along the right. But in other games where we exerted more control, soaked up more possession, attacked more intricately and stayed grouped together in very tight spaces, Alexis struggled. And my hunch is that under Luis Enrique, we’re gonna be playing a lot more games of positional-play orthodoxy irrespective of the opponent … going by what I’ve seen of Celta.
      You make the point about Alexis at CF, true; that did work in some games, but the indications are that Lucho wants a bonafide centre-forward, so the chances of building a team around Alexis as a 9 are null. Alexis as back-up CF? Maybe, but apart then we’re back to the same old question: is there any kind of role on our team that we can find for this guy to make him look like the 40 million player he is? And I don’t think there is .

      3) I don’t expect Alexis-as-RB to make sense. Nor do I think it’ll happen. There is no overriding need for such a move to come about, but I’m only opening myself to the possibility that Luis Enrique could make some very radical adjustments position/role-wise. His season at Celta is testament to that – and Celta assumed huge risks with a high-defensive line and two extremely offensive full-backs … all shielded by a Danish winger filling in the Busquets role. Obviously Lucho was on to something and saw qualities/potentiality in these players by assigning to them these roles that defied tactical orthodoxy. It could be that he felt his team would eventually harmonise and get away with these incongruous arrangements. In any case, at Barça he will feel in a better position to take on such risks with a playing staff even better versed in defending through possession.
      And by the way, your point about Alexis’ height … ditto Dani Alves .. but Alexis has quite an imperious jump.

    7. I don’t see why pleading poverty gets you a player but it also seemed to have worked with Milan getting Ibra for 24 million. If no one else is willing to pay at least 35 mill for Alexis then he should stay.

      I really want a 50 foot yacht, but anyone who is willing to sell it to me for cheap because I can’t really afford one is an idiot.

    8. Milan got Ibra for 24 million because Barcelona were looking for “Somebody, anybody!!!”, to offload him and his salary to(and don’t forget, it takes three signatures to make a move. At that point IIRC PSG weren’t yet the “Shut up and take my money!!!” types so it wouldn’t have been possible). I don’t really see such inclinations this year.

      The only, absolutely only reason to sell Alexis on the cheap would be if Barcelona were to contemplate a key Juventus player, but even then I wouldn’t agree. Alexis has had a great season and his bottomless energy and dedication would be key in a new high-pressing game if that’s what Lucho is thinking about. Even more importantly, if Alexis is given a vote of confidence in an year when the squad is getting new faces and money is spent to buy the best available, that would probably even increase his workrate. And that’s what is so important for Barcelona – returned workrate, running and pressing like insane. Even if a strict rotation is imposed, player strength and egos can be husbanded and channelled.

  22. Interesting article on Sport comparing some of the centrebacks we have been linked to statistically.
    It had Pique, Bartra & Masch then Laporte, Benatia, Marquinhos, Mathieu, Subotic, Hummels & David Luiz.
    It compared them on all of the major stats for a defender including passing and gave them points for their comparisons.
    Perhaps surprisingly Neven Subotic ranked first although he only played 10 or so games for Dortmund before his season-ending injury and they were doing quite well at that stage so I see that as a little misleading.
    Hummels finished second, Benatia 3rd, Mathieu 4th, Marquinhos 5th, Laporte 6th & David Luiz 7th.

    Pique got 80 points as did Subotic so statistically they were the strongest.
    Masch got 77 so finished ahead of Hummels & Benatia although did finish last in aerial duels won which is incredibly important in our side which Hummels finished first in. He finished first in a number of categories like interceptions & tackles but lowest in dispossessing opponents also.
    Bartra finished ahead of Marquinhos, Laporte & David Luiz which is about right for me. I don’t see Marquinhos or Laporte as €35million better than Bartra so I’d prefer younger signings to be further down the pecking order than Bartra. Also interesting is that Bartra & Pique didn’t finish lowest in any category.

    Benatia finished lowest in two categories long passing & fouls committed. I’m not concerned about the long passing stats as it’s not how Roma play. Fouls committed is a little bit more concerning although if Bartra had committed another foul in the Copa final we might have had a different result. It obviously doesn’t take tactical fouling into consideration. He dispossesses an opponent almost twice as often as Masch and was near the top for nearly every stat.

    David Luiz finished lowest on 4 categories, more than anyone else and didn’t finish first or second in any. The only other player who didn’t finish first or second in any category was Laporte.

    Without defending the use of statistics it obviously shows some interesting info on some of our targets and highlights why I was delighted to dodge the David Luiz bullet. Benatia & Hummels still look like the best signings for me and Mathieu looks like a great backup.
    We were linked to Marcos Rojo yesterday again who has some characteristics of Mathieu but I don’t watch Sporting Lisbon except when they play Benfica or Porto so I’m not 100% on him. Also it’s very hard to get accurate stats on the Portuguese league.

    1. Ciaran, I never really looked into statistics for defenders, but to me it seems that they might be very misleading in that CBs work as a pair and are hard to judge in isolation.

      Over the past five years our best pairing always included Pique and no other pairing worked nearly as well. I know you like Benatia so what do you think about his potential partnership with Pique. I’ve heard “rumors” that Tito did not like the idea of a Pique-Hummels CB team for the reason that both players were too similar and wouldn’t be able to complement each others weaknesses (e.g. speed and tackling ability)

      Also, our squad next year has to be able to compensate for a potential Pique injury because I do think that this player is very prone to missing weeks at a time and this could happen during a crucial time like it did this year.

    2. Benatia is very very physical. He is fast and strong, good in the air and out-muscles forwards constantly. If Pique and Hummels are similar the only Spaniard that I could compare him to would be Sergio Ramos but he obviously doesn’t make the rash tackles & get booked constantly.

      He always plays right centre back for Udinese, Morocco & now Roma. He would have to move to left centre back though. He makes simple passes as opposed to through balls or long balls but he does dribble well. He scores from set pieces too.

      I don’t subscribe to the Pique & Hummels mismatch idea. I would be confident that they would be capable of making a good partnership.

      If Pique gets injured next season I’d want Bartra to be given the opportunity to fill his boots. If we have a 4th CB like Mathieu or someone that can cover then we have a lot of options.

    3. So if Benatia is our guy then the only question that remains is whether we will be able to get him. For these kinds of questions I think betting sites are sometimes good guides since they represent the opinions of those who are risking a lot of money on these questions and may also in part be guided by “inside information”.

      Currently the two favorites to get Benatia are us and Man City. What this means is that this player will be very expensive and given what Luiz’s fee was, I assume his cost will be over 40 million.

      Benatia also might rather go to an English club where he can partner with Kompany on a team still on the rise rather than come here and take his chances with a still largely unknown new Barcelona.

      Also, the lack of success of many of our recent transfers might hinder our chances to get him as well. Hopefully he will be ambitious enough to think it is worth a shot to risk his future with us.

      I also think that it is worth picking up an experienced player at CB this year, though I have come to see most of our signings of “proven veterans” as bad risks given their lack of future transfer value if they don’t work out or their skills diminish too quickly. We will probably lose many of our veteran players such as Xavi, Alves, and Mascherano and will need some more experience in what is sure to be a much younger side.

    4. Benatia at 27 is weighing up what will be his biggest ever move. He has experience in that he has played in Serie A for a number of seasons and has looked the best defender there for at least 2 years.
      He was bought for less than €15m last season so the fee should be €30million at most which would be a good deal for all parties. The fact that he has said that he wants Roma to listen to offers from the biggest clubs will also reduce the cost.

      Maybe it’s just because of my own love for the club but I couldn’t see how anyone would choose to go to virtually any club above Barca.

      The issue in terms of experience is that we have possibly no transfers next summer so we will be gambling on getting two more years from the likes of Xavi etc. Alves I expect to move on this summer. Masch I am unsure of. Buying a 30+ year old isn’t going to happen which is why even though I’d like Mathieu it probably won’t happen.

    5. With all this speculation, aren’t we assuming that Zubi is going to furnish Lucho with two structural posibilities:
      a) the Abidal system, i.e., one all-round full-back plus one conservative full-back.
      b) two pure full-backs (and with competition for at least one of the berths)

      It’d be great if Lucho ends up having both at his disposal, but I wonder whether specifically the Abidal system might have an in-house solution: Bartra as a makeshift right-back-cum-3rd centre-back (thus liberating Jordi Alba on the other flank). If so, that would leave us in a position to buy that starting CB plus a veteran CB as back-up.

    6. You can hardly call Pique injury prone for the latest injury. It was a horrible and deliberate move by Diego Costa.

    7. Yeah I saw that stat too a few days ago or maybe it was a different stat as it compared all those aspects minus Subotic. In any case, such a comparison is really handy. I don’t think stats can be applied for football players but I think for defenders it’s alright.

      1) Marquinhos or Benatia?
      2) Make Bartra a starter CB and play him alongside Pique and buy a young CB or a veteran to be a back up or
      3) Buy a top CB to partner Pique? or
      4) Buy a CB to partner Bartra as a starter? I think it is better to buy a CB that can match both Pique and Bartra as they have similar skill sets and both play RCB.

      In any case, we need to buy a defender who is an offensive threat for dead ball situations.

    8. I like bringing in an experienced CB for the reasons I said above. I know that Masch has gotten some unfair criticism but this year, but I think many fans now realize the many problems using a short CB who has limited skills in the air creates. Giving up height at the CB position not only makes your team worse on taking and defending set pieces, but also makes other players worse on these as well.

      For example, what makes Sergio Ramos so dangerous on set pieces is that Real’s opponents must also mark Ronaldo, Pepe, Benzema and Bale. Thus the man responsible for marking Ramos may only be that team’s third or fourth best defender on set pieces.

      If we had Ramos rather than Pique on our side this year, it is unlikely that Ramos would have had as many goals on set pieces and certainly not as many in important matches against very good defensive teams like Bayern and Atleti.

  23. Talk of player swaps in tabloids is common but transfers like such are rare. We’ve only ever done it for Ibra (w/ Eto’o) & Deco (w/ Quaresma) to my knowledge but practically every day we are linked with such moves.
    There is one that is looking likely these days though, Marquinhos for Alves + €20m as reported consistently over the past few days. Apparently it’s very close but then again, Benatia’s agent is supposedly in Barcelona too.
    Benatia & Marquinhos is too much like fantasy football but it sure would be a statement of intent. Still, why would Marquinhos want to come to Barca to sit on our bench as opposed to PSG’s?

    1. Looks like we may have more definitive news in a few days. What about some of our favored youth players who I mentioned below? Any that you are really high on or think may be over-hyped?

    2. If we were to sign both him and Benatia like I said. Benatia is the better player by a distance currently. I’d imagine that he and Pique would be the starters. Marquinhos started as a right back though so that would be an interesting option

  24. I think that bringing in Marquinos or Laporte pretty much sends a signal to Ie and Bagnack that their chances of a future with the club is limited just like getting Cesc at just the time Thiago thought he was ready to make his breakthrough may have caused Thiago to defect to Bayern.

    I, for one, feel that many of our B team players may be overhyped partially, of course, because of our remarkable success with the La Masia products who dominated in Pep’s and Villanova’s team. Niether Ie nor Bagnack have been listed in any “best young defenders in the world” lists so I don’t know what to make of their prospects.

    I think that our club and fans might have to come to terms with the fact that the only La Masia products who maybe talented enough to become starters on our team in the next 5 years are Bartra, Deulofeu, Rafinha, Suarez, and Dongou.

    1. When a club decides to addresses a need in it’s squad, It always look for the best option that can meet the requirement now not later, You simply don’t take compromises because in one, two, Or three years someone from la masia might meet the need, And it makes sense, because by doing that you avoid hindering the team by leaving a ‘gap’ or trying to fill it with a low price half a solution player, Add to that there is no guarantee that ‘The Promising’ la masia player will ever rise up to the need in the future.

      When a B player head to the ranks of the 1st team, Should never expect a golden seat waiting for him, The only thing that’ll be waiting for him is a lot of competition, He can choose the easy route of leaving the club, Or choose to fight, And if he decides the latter, He either eventually trumps all his competitors, or he fails, That’s the way things work, And in my opinion, It’s the healthy way for any team.

    2. I agree in theory with what you say but here are some of my reservations:

      1) Marqjuinos is just as young as Ie and Bagnack and I don’t know if Marquinos has done anything yet to solidify his place in our current squad either other than the fact that we are currently really in need of a defender and a big signing.

      2) No B team player barring a new Messi is likely to be able to become a starting player on our team until he is 23 or so. Very few will really “earn” their place on the squad before significant experience on loan, so Barca may not want to become a full meritocracy either because we will likely just lose our future stars like Fabregas, Pique, and Thiago.

      If we don’t want to give our future stars some preference then we will become a club similar to any other of the major teams in Europe, which I guess is OK, but then why have a La Masia system in the first place.

      3)The major advantage of the La Masia system is that it supposedly trains future players to be successful on our first team at less cost than the 30 million we would otherwise have to spend in transfer fees.

      With the recent FIFA rulings our club may decide against placing such importance in La Masia players, but that is what our club must decide.

      I think we in a way in the position of a father or mother who decides to coach their child’s youth team. He or she must choose the best players, but if he or she doesn’t give their child at least some significant minutes then what is the point of coaching in the first place.

  25. BeIN says Alves+20m for Marquinhos, which would be a pretty nice bit of business, if true. Alves 31, trending downward and in last year of his contract. Also lose his salary.

    Still a rumor, but BeIN calling it an exclusive, and don’t forget that BeIN and PSG have the same owner.

    1. It’s a good deal but he still wouldn’t be my ideal solution unless we also sign another centreback which is likely I suppose.
      Alves’ wage is huge, more than any other foreigner except Neymar so getting rid of that will be similar to the Villa deal. If we get a value of around €15m then it’s great business.

    2. I think that this is going to happen, though I thought we were going to get Benatia. I think our club feels that they have to announce a major signing soon and this deal seems to send many of the right signals in that we are exchanging one aging Brazilian defender in decline for another one supposedly with much promise.

      My concern is the question of why PSG are doing this. Certainly they don’t prize Marquinhos all that highly if they are willing to pay top dollar for Luiz and unload one of their much publicized expensive recent signings for the future.

    3. They could try to sign both. I haven’t watched Roma play all season (even vs Milan) so I have no idea if Benatia is any good. I do think Hummels, whom I have watched, would make us very solid in the air, so maybe effort should be made to sign him.

    4. This news if actually true, Means that we’re willing to pay now for Marquinhos what we weren’t willing to pay last season, So the end result is that a needed signing was delayed an entire season….hmmm.
      In a nut shell the board weren’t willing to give zubi the green light financially, It took them a trophy-less season to finally decide to sign the paychecks.

    5. Exactly right, Rami. And people are finally twigging to the fact that a technical director only makes recommendations, but the board signs the checks.

      — To Inamess, PSG could be selling Marquinhos for a number of reasons. David Luiz is No. 1, meaning they are paying a player who, as Luiz is also durable, isn’t going to play much.

      We also don’t know what the full deal was with their FFP sanction. They might have to sell to buy, and might have salary restrictions in place. In that case, selling a player you don’t really want and getting a player you do want PLUS money is a great bit of business for them, as well.

      That’s what makes the Alves swap deal make sense. Both sides win.

      Of course, the entourage of Alves is saying that no talks have happened, the player barely even knows who PSG is, etc, etc.

    6. Not really, imo. I think last year that was just the price PSG had to pay because money meant nothing and they were going to get the satisfaction of stopping us buying him. If we had offered more they might well have just topped our offer again and I think we knew that.

  26. If two defenders and a defensive midfielder are signed, will it spell the end of Mascherano altogether?
    Let’s face it. He’s too short for the defense and turns 30 in a couple of weeks anyway. If de Laurentiis is will to dish out the dough, why not cash in? Yes he can be used to great effect as a destructive central defender, but so can Song and he was hardly ever used at all. It wasn’t his fault. Our last two coaches have been obsessed with keeping the painfully slow Busquets as the only holding midfielder, where it may have been more beneficial to have had both on the pitch.

    1. I would be very surprised if Masch or Song are on our team next year, but certainly agree that we must have a DM who can challenge Busquets for some minutes or give us a different look in some important matches. The obvious solution is to get someone who like Masch who can play CB or DM but the only top players that I know who can do this are Luiz and Javi Martinez.

      Does anyone know if we might be looking at other players this summer for a CB/DM and what possible options there might be out there for us to sign?

    2. Barça are rumored to be in talks with a team for a player, a DM, who is the unchallenged starter for a World Cup favorite, and was the starter at that position for his side in the Premiership.”

      If that rumor came out, people would be woozy with the rapture. Yet now, people want to show that player the door, in favor of whom, exactly? If we want a DM that would give a different look than Busquets, who better. If we want a destroyer DM to roam the space in front of a 3-man back line, easily able to slot into CB when necessary, who is also fast, durable and one of the best tacklers in the game right now … again, who better?

      I know that the fashion is that all of our present players suck except for Messi and Iniesta, and all should be sold for “much better” options. But that strikes me as rash.

      Strikes me that we should calm down. If Mascherano isn’t on this club next season, a player whom our new coach says has that stuff of captain material, it will be because the player himself wants to leave. Were I Enrique, I would be ensuring that such a thing doesn’t happen.

      Busquets spent way too much time this season being ineffective because he was tired, and fighting off various injuries. But with the team’s best traditional DM already its starting CB, what is a coach to do? So Busquets played. Match after match after match after match.

      If the team brings in 2 CBs as it should, then Busquets gets a sub, and the team gets a different look when Mascherano is in the lineup. It also gets somebody who is a sure passer, can make runs, wins balls and can help with the team’s high press, buying time for the back line on counters.

      Why the hurry to sell such a player?

      Song is a different matter, and a more distressing one. Song is an AM in a DM’s body who people thought was a CB. That’s just a crap situation. So he is a player who is surplus to requirements because we have plenty of AMs on the roster and in the pipeline. Song can indeed play DM, but with nowhere near the effectiveness or Mascherano or Busquets.

      It’s no coincidence that his best displays have come when he is farther up the pitch, rather than defending. So Song will be most likely be sold because he isn’t the right player when you play him at his natural position, as he was at Arsenal.

      The shame is that people see a large, strong black player with passing skills and think DM. Same thing happened with Toure Yaya, who was really in the pot fighting for a position with the likes of Iniesta and Xavi, rather than Busquets. Guardiola, I suspect, knew that. The common myth that Busquets chased him out of town persisted, rather than the more likely one, which is that (in addition to Yaya’s douche of an agent) Xavi/Iniesta chased him out of town.

      Racism? Nope. Typecasting? For sure. Ibrahimovic only at PSG stopped being typecast as the “big 9” instead of what he was, I reckon more correctly a 9.5, skills we saw flashes of at Barça, skills I wish that we were still seeing at Barça. Because when people talk about an ideal 9 for us, look no farther.

    3. I would say Arturo Vidal but you were asking a rhetorical question 🙂

      If we sell Song and Masch then we should sign Pogba or Vidal. Pogba again in an AM in a DM’s body but he started as a DM and could use his skill set as a DM in our system.
      Arturo Vidal is the best midfielder in the world in terms of his all around game. His goals and assists record would make a forward jealous and then he backs it up by being the best tackler in the game. Add to that he has played CB, RB, DM, AM & RM so would be able to slot in pretty much anywhere at a close to world class level.

    4. Which is why Vidal isn’t going anywhere unless he forces a move. And if the Sanchez rumors are true, Juve would be showing serious intent. No reason to leave.

    5. I don’t necessarily disagree with you on Song, but do probably on Mascherano. I do think that Song could make a significant contribution in our future, but am not convinced that the team wants him to stay.

      Mascherano is a great player who made important contributions to our side. It is a great testament that he was able to play at a position he had little experience with great competence, but I also would rather take 18 million from Napoli for a 30 year old player who will no longer be at CB and has yet to prove himself as a great DM for our team.

      As for the “racism” issue. I do not think it can be avoided, and I think many have at least thought about it.

      No, I do not think our club is “racist”, but I think unfortunately it has put featuring Catalan players over others since 2010 as a priority and I do think this is partially a result of rising Catalan nationalism.

      “More that a club” for many in Barcelona partially means that the team is a symbol for Catalan aspirations and probably always will be, but I think some of our recent moves have been partially motivated by these concerns.

    6. As a matter of fact Mascherano has proven himself as a great normal-type DM, yes, for our team. It just takes a moment to consider what he does on the pitch and how he does it, and translate it into a midfield position. Plus in the couple of games that he was allowed to play as DM this season, he made a very decent sub for Busquets. And that’s the point I have been driving at for quite a bit this season – and I believe Kxevin thinks the same: Mascherano is not Busquets. Nobody is Busquets. On his in-form day Busquets on his own does what in Real is the job of Xabi Alonso and Khedira/Illaramendi together, what in City is done by Fernandinho and Toure Yaya(even though Yaya concentrates more on box-to-box performance).

      What Barcelona and by extension the culers need to understand that just because we have one friggin’ boss in midfield doesn’t mean we should discard everybody else as not worthy to sub him. On the contrary, we should realize that Barcelona has really great players who are misused – and then use them accordingly.

      P.S. Xabi Alonso is 32 going on 33. When he was 30 he won the Euro cup, scoring two goals vs France, and he won La Liga with Real.

    7. Yes. RAC1 said today, though as with all things in Silly Season, lord knows how they know, that Mascherano wants to stay. Given that Enrique seems to like him, we’ll have to see how that goes.

    8. Peter, again you make good points, but the truth is that Masch has been on our team for quite some time and has rarely been featured as a DM since his first season. If he would really be extremely effective in midfield then why haven’t we seen it yet.

      If you agree that our club are at least semi-competent then you have to ask why he hasn’t been featured more as a DM. You could argue that it is because he is just a great CB for our team and is much better there, but I don’t know if you could really say that either.

      I know this might sound hyperbolic, but do you think the coaches at the club have said:

      “We have the two best DMs in the world at our club. Mascherano would be an awesome alternative to Busquets at DM, but lets not feature him there at all in the next two seasons so we can always play him out of position.”

      It could also be that Masch is a world class DM and would start at DM on almost any other team, but those at Barcelona don’t favor him at this position on our squad. He had some opportunities there his first year, but since then he has acted as essentially Puyol’s replacement instead mostly because he is an excellent player and the club had more confidence in him at CB than at DM.

      I think with Pedro now it is a similar issue. He is a very good player but is now very limited in what he can do with our team against good sides. He might be able to score hat tricks at PSG or Liverpool against top domestic competition, but I think on our club with the limited space that attackers are usually given, there is only so much his particular skills can add.

      So I think Masch will be not be in our squad next year and I hope Pedro wil be elsewhere too for the reasons that most transfers go through: his particular skills will be more valued elsewhere than at Barcelona.

      If no one wants to give us good value for these players than I think it is fine if they stick around, but let’s see what happens this summer.

  27. For those really into silly season rumors, here are two other interesting items:

    1) Rumors that PSG are also interested in Chelsea’s Petr Cech, which may support the idea that they are really pushing for a CL breakthrough next year.

    2) The other item is Chelsea’s supposed interest in Fabregas. I guess if they are going to sell their whole team to PSG, then they must get some new players to replace them. Is it possible that Mourinho sold Mata to get Fab? Seems like a pretty weak rumor to me, but you never know.

    1. It’s never a good idea for the club to listen to its fans in making player decisions, but I think the board are in a position in which they feel they have to make some changes fast in order to restore fan optimism. That is why this recent poll should not be ignored for those wondering about Fab’s future:

      “Fans of the club were asked as to whether Barcelona should sell the midfielder for a £40million fee from United and responded in a convincing manner; 84 per cent of fans said he should be sold, while just 16 per cent preferred to keep him, in a poll created by Sport.”

    2. According to a true rumour Van Gaal has discarded signing Fabregas. That would leave Chelsea and Arsenal, which are the same rumours of last silly season. There was a moment when Fabregas posted an Instagram video of himself eating fish and enjoying the last days of holiday, and the rumour mill buzzed that he’s “fo’ sho'” going to England due to English voices in the background.

      This season he has been reviled – despite the fact that he has managed a very good season. As a matter of fact his assists and goals are equal to Iniesta and Xavi put together. That to me suggests the fans need a scapegoat and they just can’t make themselves find the fault with the old dogs.

      According to Transfermarkt Fabregas has logged 13 goals and 22 assists. Iniesta has 3 goals and 13 assists, Xavi 4 goals and 6 assists. Food for thought?

    3. When we were playing a more direct game, Cesc was our best midfielder. With good movement up front he is our most decisive passer except for Messi.
      I think selling him is crazy and I also think it won’t happen. I would like if they just renewed his contract and ended the speculation.

    4. Problem with Fabregas … well two, actually, are his price tag and the second-half tailspin. This last season was more of the same, with him kicking ass and taking names in the first half of the season, then petering out in the second.

      I have no explanation for it, even as I have a ready explanation(s) for why he is reviled.

      I do think, however, that if the team is going to retain the short-passing, triangle based style that people seem to crave, Fabregas isn’t the best fit for this club. If Enrique wants to go vertical, that’s a different story.

    5. You had to use that word, didn’t ya… 😛

      Could it be that he just can’t last 90 minutes every three days? I’m looking at his greatest contributions in the 12-13 season, and they came during the autumn drive under Tito, when Thiago was injured. If you look at it, he seems to have been forcing himself and then he picked an injury – and his goals and assists dried up. But of course that was the season when there was as little rotation as possible and at some point he just couldn’t do more. Personal opinion, of course.

      This season he hasn’t really been given the chance. To me he seems to be suffocating in the pure possession play that has been imposed. And unfortunately I have to say it, he’s not been helped by the other creative midfielders in defensive duty, making him spend his limited energy reserve on trying to put out too many fires. Look at his yellow cards(even though at least three of them are completely undeserved – the one vs Celtic, he got it for a clean challenge in the final third), he’s in the same league as Busquets and Smascherano. What does that tell you?

  28. A Proper Tallish defence can get us Set piece goals,
    that will offer all kinds of plan B’s to our attack.

    With a Proper defence in place our mids don’t have to indulge in too much possession.
    It’s a win win.

    Anybody happy Klopp didn’t come ?
    His High tempo playstyle is not sustainable for 50 + 15 NT games per season.
    Dortmund even slow down after 60 mins.
    They played the final of german cup on empty tank.

    Need a big squad & a Strong bench.
    I wish our sprites would learn when to switch gears.

  29. I know that defense is the bogeyman, but I have yet to hear any suggestions about how this team is going to score the goals that it needs.

    Conceding some 20 fewer goals is impressive. Scoring 16 or so fewer is not.

    Signing CBs is important for depth and competition. But without addressing attack, nothing will have been done. My hope is that something happens to make sacred cows uncomfortable. We will see. Nothing makes a player put out like knowing his position is in jeopardy.

    1. I made a suggestion. It’s a certain Uruguayan who has been probably the best player in the world this season.
      We are never going to be a throw the ball into the box kind of team so with all due respect to the likes of Llorente who I think is a very good footballer I would back Suarez to get tonnes of goals alongside Neymar, Messi, Alexis or whoever else.

    2. He’s already said that he’s staying with Liverpool. It would also surprise me at any rate if he would come, given the presence of the players we already have.

      The Sanchez rumors are flying fast and furious now, latest being that he has agreed a deal with Juventus, who is now talking to us. First bid of 15 was laughed at, and it is expected that 25m would take him, or 20m and some talking about Llorente, Pogba or … Vidal. Probably only the first is a viable possibility, even in the fantasyland that is Silly Season.

      It will be interesting to see what Deulofeu brings to the side, for sure. And if Sanchez goes, replacing those goals and work rate will be a challenge.

      I don’t think that we will be able to make any inferences from how Celta attacked opponents this season, because the quality of players that we have changes everything.

      Hypothetical: What if Juventus said “Iniesta for Vidal?”

    3. If it was football manager I’d say thanks and start printing Vidal no.23 jerseys.

    4. How about in real life? Interesting notion, given what so many think of Vidal.

      Seems to me the team is going to have to find some way to get goals from midfield. Right now, it’s control the forwards, let Iniesta make his runs to nowhere, then either take the ball or foul him, don’t worry about Xavi or Busquets.

      Not sure what the solution is.

    5. Maybe a bit of perspective here? I don’t watch the Italian league but it is in a poor state, their top team of last year beaten home and away in the last 16 of the CL and Juve won in a canter this year so let’s have a look in the WC but at the moment not sure how he stacks up against a WC, Euro, CL winner.

      Would he be effective in passing balls through the eye of a needle or dribbling through serried ranks of defenders at the top level ? Maybe, but we don’t know that at the moment. He’s 27 so he’s as good as he’s gonna get. This WC will make interesting , if boring, viewing for us , especially if the recent results for teams sitting back have been digested.

    6. Here I have to disagree slightly, Kxevin. 🙂 Signing CBs and generally raising the height and physicality of the team helps not just for depth and competition. It would shift the paradigm of play of opponents as well. If Barcelona become better at not conceding from set pieces, teams would have to find another way to score. Second, these same CBs who supposedly would help conceding less would be almost as good on the other side of the pitch. Currently teams tend to play narrow vs Barcelona and concede corners left and right. An even slight increase of goals scored from set pieces and corners would force these same teams to play wider, which would stretch the opponent’s defence and open paths(hopefully).

      For me the goals are there, but they have to be unearthed from the slow build-up. It is the slow and static build-up that allows the other team to track back, configure and adopt defensive posture – and then close up the space that the strikers need in order to get in the box. The lack of movement of the midfield also put the stress on the strikers – both the pressure to score goals as well as the pressure on those same strikers from the opposing defence. When there are fewer threats, the defence can focus better on the remaining ones, with predictable results.

      Just as a reminder, according to Transfermarkt Xavi scored a total of 3 La Liga goals this season – one vs Levante in the first game, one vs Valladolid in the 8th and one vs Almeria in the 26th round. Iniesta scored a total of 3 goals – Granada, Osasuna and Real Madrid.

    7. We had 7 matches in which we didn’t score this season.

      — Last season, we had exactly none.
      — season before that, we had 2, both 0-0 draws
      — season before that, again 2
      — 2009-10 we had four, again all 0-0
      — 2008-09 we had 2

      The last time we had more matches that we didn’t score than this season was Rijkaard’s last season. No major silver then, either.

      Something is going on with our attack, irrespective of CBs. When you give up 20 fewer goals than a year in which you won the Liga and don’t grab any major silver, it’s time to look at the folks whose job it is to put the ball in the net.

      But to argue with myself, with proper CBs, maybe we don’t concede against Atleti. Maybe those 1-0 losses are 0-0 draws. Maybe.

    8. Last season Messi scored 46 goals. This season he scored 28.
      Last season Alexis scored 8 goals, this season 19.
      Last season Cesc scored 11 goals, this season 9.
      Last season Pedro scored 7 goals, this seasons 15.
      Last season Tello scored 7, this season 1.

      Last season Xavi scored 5 and 9 assists, this season 3 and 2
      Last season Adriano scored 5, this season 3
      Last season Thiago scored 2.
      Last season Jordi Alba scored 2
      Last season Iniesta scored 3 and 16 assists, this season 3 and 9

      Pretty much confirms some of the suspicions.

    9. Totally agree. If Atleti concede a corner with a one goal lead near the end of a game to us, then no Athleti fan is really that worried.

      Do the same to Real, however, it is a different story and particularly for Atleti and Barca fans this year not a pretty sight.

    10. Kxevin, the other possibility is that teams have played us differently this year in that they have employed defensive fortresses to win games by keeping us from scoring and then winning or drawing on the one or two set pieces or counters we gave up. Even Real used that tactic in the Copa Final which is saying a lot given their offensive power.

      I was thinking of this season as similar to Pep’s last year in that something was tried to stop teams from using buses but was later discarded as a failure. Remember Pep used the 3 at the back approach, but it lead to so many successful counters that it was later abandoned.

      This year we tried Tata’s way at first, but then after we gave that up we just tried to win our old way but given our lack of ability to defend and take set pieces ended up having a lot of 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, or 1-1 games.

      I am not saying that 2 CBs who are good in the air solves all of our problems, but it has to be at least part of the solution.

    11. If we have more shutouts due to a better defence then I’d say we should sign someone like Klose who can core sloppy goals of any kind. Personally, I’d bring Eto’o back.
      You’re right in saying that more goals have to come from midfield. That’s not going to come from Busquets or Xavi, who’s only happy to pass the ball sideways anyway.

    12. players don’t score goals, systems do.

      i think it would be unfair and inaccurate to assume that our attacking players are going to perform the same for different coaches in different systems. last season we scored 100 goals in the league, with a GD of +67. that’s 23 *more* goals than Atleti and only 4 behind los Blancos. if you look at our attacking players on paper: Messi, Neymar, Pedro, Alexis, Cesc… those are all very near the absolute top players in their positions. they CAN score goals (even Messi, who even while looking bored got 41 goals in 46 apps). the bigger issue to me than just personnel is management of that personnel, the cohesion of the system we choose to play and the readiness to the players to accept it mentally. in the latter half of last season we had, essentially, none of that. most of this is Martino’s (the manager’s) fault, though the tumultuous nature of last year no doubt also took it’s toll.

      the idea that we would attempt to strengthen our attacking options (how much would Luis Suarez cost? 50m? 65m?), instead of revamping our midfield and overhauling our defense (we aren’t PSG or City and aren’t made of money) seems deeply misplaced.

      a new, more elastic system with a solid base of defense and more space provided by the midfield will ensure that we get the most out of the attackers we do have, who happen to be very very good. our tactical options in this regard, allowing opponents to stretch the game out, has been crippled for years now due to our poor defense and the decline of our forward pressing, but it’s the system that has been the root of our issues. so in this case, a better defense (in a different system) may very well result in a more prolific attack. buying more attacking players, given the squad that we have, is the least useful attempt at a solution.

  30. A player is either good or bad.

    The fact that someone paid 50 M doesn’t make him a bad player,

    Or a 8 M deal doesn’t make him a good player.

    The market is inflated, cheap bargains are hard to find.
    New players are going to arrive soon,
    lets not trash them because of their price tags.

    1. Players should never be held responsible for what their clubs pay for them, just those at the club who approved the transfer.

  31. Barca 2013-14: A season of Some Great Highs and Lows

    Worst matches of the season for me:

    Real Sociedad 1-3

    Celta Vigo 3-0

    Atleti 1-1 CL QF

    Sometimes a regular season loss is much more than a loss, and a win or a draw can be also be worse than a loss too.

    Most Satisfying Matches:

    Real Madrid 2-1

    Man City 2-0

    Villarreal: 3-2

    Totally interested in what others think!

    1. It would be interesting if we had a Messi-less season. Not saying I would want it to happen but as an experiment in an parallel universe it would be something to see.

      If it did really happen, however, Neymar and Sanchez would totally be different players, and I bet each could have close to Ballon d’or nominee performances. It is just a matter of who would be the best player to take Messi’s place.

      Maybe we can freeze Messi for a year and then bring him back and show him what our team can actually do without him and that he doesn’t always have to be “the man”.

  32. Apparently the Benatia price has risen to 40m so we’re out, saith the rumor mill.

    — Bartomeu said yesterday that Sanchez isn’t on the market, and is part of our plans for next season. Direct quote, apparently.

    1. A lot is going to be told by the quality of out-fielder that we sign first. The quality of goalkeepers is good with ter Stegen signed up and any of the backups being linked but the defenders etc will tell us a lot more.
      Rumours yesterday of replacing Cesc with Ander Herrera which must be some kind of joke. Even Koke who is a great young talent isn’t of similar stature to our no.4.
      If we are to be serious about improving then we must improve both tactics and personnel. Yes Atletico achieved great things without great players but that’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Does anyone actually think that Atletico will win the league next season? I don’t.

      Once we start signing players I suppose we’ll get a good understanding of where we will be going next season. Marquinhos, twelve months later and at the same price as last summer, seems to make little sense unless the deal includes Dani Alves.
      We have been priced out of a move for practically every defensive target of the past 3 or 4 seasons but they must eventually sign the right player.

    2. Looks like we have been forced to buy really inflated time in the market as many teams are going all in to take advantage to what they have and add a little more to go for the CL trophy before FFP hits them all.

      Despite our club being torn apart this year over it, I guess its still good that we got Neymar because if he has a good WC then who knows what he would have went for.

      What do people know about Marquinhos year at PSG at season? I know that things didn’t quite work out. Was it that he thought he would get more minutes and then the team decided that he wasn’t as promising as they thought or more a Thiago thing in which the player feels like he wasn’t going to be given his chance soon enough.

      Also, how about your favorite game this season? I listed some of mine above, but if I had to chose 1 it would be 2-0 Man City.

    3. Looks like the club is in an impossible position in that it has to make the fans happy but can’t buy the players that it needs to. Maybe we should just admit that we won’t win the CL next year and just build for the future.

      1) If Marquinhos is good we buy him.
      2) Hope that Rafinha can also give us significant MF minutes
      3) Sell Pedro for a different striker option
      4) Keep Song

    4. I saw Bartomeu’s quotes in mundo deportivo.
      It is certainly more positive and shows him that he is wanted.
      Even if it is just PR at the very very least should mean that we are going to get a better fee than if we were to let everyone know that we didn’t want him.

      I’d love if we have Alexis Messi Neymar Deulofeu and 1 more forward who isn’t Pedro next season.

    5. Actually to make that more clear, if Deulofeu is going to be with the first team next season then I would want Pedro to be the one to make way.

    6. I think he can be had for 35m. I heard he only wants to come to us so that’s a way to reduce the price.

      And we can always do another player + cash deal. JDS + Tello.

      If we do get him then Bartra will only be the 3rd choice CB. With Marco, I think he and Bartra can slug it out for the CB spot to partner Pique.

  33. The sports market is inflated. We have to get used to it I think (or have our respective governments employ more just tax policy for the 1%). 40 million is yesterday’s 20. Kind of reminds me of the art market. Just a few weeks ago, Christies (an art auction house in NYC) sold a record $745 million dollars worth of paintings. Arbitrary value = reflection of the growing discrepancy between the rich and poor.

    Silva aside, it’s not the players/clubs uniquely that are to blame, but rather the market, which is not isolated. The effect of oil money is obvious, but it does not answer (for me) what motivates oil barons. In a way, the structure of Barça reflects a more democratic approach to company ownership, which in turn is loosing out (money-wise) to a (literal) aristocracy, e.g., Real Madrid and the various oil barons.

    I won’t force feed you all anymore marxist readings of post-capitalist theory.

    1. Your explanation is a more accurate reading of what’s really going on than what you are going to read in most of the sports pages of your newspaper.

      The scenario I see is that some really rich oligarch has unfortunately come down with an illness so he has one year to win the CL before he meets his maker. That would be OK, I guess like Real for the last 15 years.

      The problem is what if 4 oligarchs have the same disease = insane transfer window.

      Maybe its good that Real got their Decima because it could hav been even worse.

    2. We have a number of complexities affecting how much we can spend on transfers, not least of which is our rather immense wage bill. We didn’t have to buy many of them, but 10-12m per season per player is still is a heavy load. And Messi is now making 20-22m per annum. Whoa.

      Couple that with having a different ownership structure and it means that the sugar daddy teams are going to always have the whip hand when it comes to transfers. We bid 40 for Benatia and Chelsea bid 42 while City bid 44. Then suddenly, Benatia is a 50m CB.

      Can anyone here countenance spending 50m for a CB? Exactly.

      And it isn’t as simple as rolling up with a wad of cash and rolling away with a CB. Someone on Twitter said that we could have bought Benatia for 25m without negotiating a couple of weeks ago. No way, no how. Of course a selling team is going to test the market, and because a few teams need CBs, the prices are going to be high. The simple question becomes what are we willing to pay.

      But at present, we are damned for NOT buying a player, and damned for spending too much for a player, right? Any time we spend more than 25m for a player, there is hand wringing, rending of garments and demands that the player PROVE he is worth all that money right away, or he sucks forever.

      Imagine a 50m CB and the first mistake that he makes …

    3. As well as a salary cap there should be a maximum value of a transfer related to the player’s salary or something.
      It has gotten totally out of hand and it’s only getting worse.
      FFP has been totally ignored by PSG and the fine is pointless.
      There will always be loopholes that accountants exploit but currently there’s nothing stopping a team asking for €200m for a player and another team paying it meaning that the rich stay successful.

      The only hope a small team has is to unearth a player that a big team wants

    4. I totally agree with both of you. My commentary was more about the market in general as well, as in, football’s transfer market is not part of a vacuum. It reflects the global economy which has been moving down this type of road for quite some time. Moreover, it is inherently a luxury market. Contemporary owners show off their respective teams like one might a new car.

      It’s definitely not good for sport, but the cynic in me says that more regulation is probably not on the radar.

  34. I was thinking that if we buy Benatia and Marcos, we can play 3-4-3. I certainly enjoyed those times.

    Marcos – Pique – Benatia/Matthieu

    Or if we can only get Marcos;

    Bartra – Pique – Marcos/Matthieu

    1. Looks like we are going to miss out on Benatia, but what do you think of Marcos?

      Also BA made an interesting comment above in that maybe most of our recent problems arethe result of what many consider our strength: the midfield.

      In that sense may be the best “new” player on our squad next year could be Rafinha. Do you think he can have a breakthrough?

      Also if Xavi goes what are our options?

  35. I’m all for Benatia and Marcos, but I doubt they’ll do it. We need to spend for two transfer windows and lack of depth in the back has hurt us before.

    I’d like to echo the sentiment of keeping Masch. As others have said, he is a fantastic player and would provide us with a very different type of midfield for various, more physical games. This coupled with a CB better in the air, and I like our defense a lot.

    We were not bad defensively this season, it was offensively, and I think our lack of firepower in the air hampered our play. Look at Saturday’s final. Both regulation time goals were off of corners.

    We need a better press as well, and that means rotation, but also, and here I am repeating myself and others, a different midfield set up, one which might include Messi with a striker up front.

    1. If we keep Masch then in two years he will not be worth too much. Why not get 20 mil for him while we can.

      I don’t know why more of us aren’t supporting what I think is the better option: keeping Song. He is a good all purpose midfielder and with Rafinha coming and Xavi possibly going could also get his chance.

      If Rafinha deserves to get some good minutes next year because he may surprise us, why not give Song the same opportunity. Otherwise he leaves after basically being a tourist in Barcelona for two years without us really giving him enough of a chance to see what he can do.

      The only problem I think is that fans blame him for not being the Javi Martinez signing we should have made and he doesn’t have anyone to advocate for him to stay.

    2. I’m not against Alex Song at all but he isn’t a defensive player. He has pretended to be with some success but he would be great in a different team and I’m happy for him to go get that elsewhere. He and Sergi Roberto should by right be competing with Rafinha and on this season’s form I fancy Rafinha kicking on and becoming a really good player.
      At Arsenal, when Song found his niche he was a great central midfielder, creating numerous chances for his attackers while helping with the defensive duties. What we are asking him to be is the sole defensive player in midfield and that isn’t right. It’s not that he is a bad player, he just isn’t the player we need.

      I’m also not for Masch in midfield as I have concerns about his height if playing instead of Busquets, and before anyone says that Busquets isn’t great in the air he’s a hell of a lot better than Masch and we should be looking for players who are better not worse. He also isn’t as quick with the ball at his feet as Busquets and offers even less in an attacking sense. I believe that we need an alternative at DM that can either shoot from range or win headers in the box like Keita.
      My ideal transfer window sees both leave and replaced by 1 better player.

    3. Yeah, the ball at his feet and quickness of movement is something I’d like to see before settling on him as Busi’s rotation partner. However, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the guy has earned a shot at the role by playing out of position for us without squealing about it. He has also owned up in pressers when he has made mistakes and you could see in in that last match against Atletico when was caught the wrong side of the man he was marking how much he beat himself up about it.

      If he wants to go, fine, but let’s have a look at his speed of foot in the WC before thinking about jettisoning him. His selling price won’t go down over a WC and may go up considerably if Messi pulls of a magic act. As I remarked before he has a winner’s mentality which is useful in our side when it doesn’t tip over into impulsive action.

  36. Apparently, (according to Rac1) Marquinhos is now openly stating he wants to play at Barca next season, NOT at PSG, and Mundo claims his entourage says a deal is close.

    1. I read that. It certainly looks like he’ll be signed up. I assume Alves is moving in the other direction and would be more than happy to do it.
      With Alves – Silva – Luiz – Maxwell they’ll have a full Brazilian backline which is funny.

      Assuming this deal gets done I’d expect it to be followed up by the signing of Cuadrado at right back once the spot frees up. Like I said, the first signing will show us a lot.

    2. Looks like Marcos may be the Thiago of Brazilian defenders. Good to know that youth impatience can work in our favor too.

    3. Yeah, and now he rejects this as false himself! Someone supposedly manipulated his voice. Ah, silly, silly…

  37. News of the Day:

    In a bold move for the club, Paris Saint-Germain has announced that is has now bought the rights to over three million Brazilian boys ranging in age from 3 to 16.

    A spokesman of for the team explained the move:

    ” At PSG we don’t just look at ourselves as going for it all today, but also building for our future. Barca’s La Masia system is one way of doing it. We just think we can do it better.”

    Asked about whether he is worried about any FIFA retaliation, the spokesman explained his club’s reasoning:

    “If FIFA wants to fine us and give us a one year transfer ban, then that is OK. We have very good lawyers and are still in pretty good shape for now.”

    1. Oh, it gets even better …

      RAC1 said they called the hotel and asked for Marcos. They were connected with him, but it was the keeper, rather than the defender. And you can see a U21, giggling with rapture as he has on the Barcelona radio station. Probably even had a laugh with the defender Marcos about it later.

      RAC1 has apologized, and explained the mix-up.

  38. News of the Day

    In a move to take on the rich teams in Europe, FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have announced a surprising merger. The new club will now be called “Atleticona” and will play one half of its home games in each of Spain’s largest cities.

    Details are still coming out for how the club will be run,but not surprisingly Diego Simeone has been named as the team’s manager and Lucho as one of his deputies.

    As for the executive decisions, all transfer moves will now be made by Athleti personnel, but Barca’s Andoni Zubizarreta will still be responsible for designing and choosing colors for the team’s logo and kit. The colors expected will be red, white, and blue.

    The new team also plans to take advantage of the many future stars that will come from its revamped youth academy now called “La Masia Con Cojones”.

    When asked how he plans to handle his talented fellow countryman,
    Simeone explained:

    “I am very excited to now be the coach of the best player in the world.”

    And how does Simeone expect to get the most out of this player:

    “I plan to visit Leo before the finals of the World Cup and make him an offer he can’t refuse. Fans can expect to see a lot more running and pressing next year.”

  39. Our former player Keita would be the ideal midfielder for us for next season..

    Does no one here deem Afellay capable of playing as striker next season? I feel bad for the kid.

    1. Afellay will surely move back to the Dutch league and find himself again. He was a very good player.

      Keita was never appreciated when he was here, except maybe by Kxevin. He was a super solid player who never made errors. He was humble and a great worker.

      The midfield is a conundrum really. We have Busquets, Masch, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc & Rafinha all left even if we sell Song and loan Sergi. Xavi has two years left on his contract too but it’s possible that he may only stay one more year and we may have a ban next summer.
      Sergi Samper and Denis Suarez are waiting on the wings also but you can’t rely on a youngster’s development. That’s why I’d be tempted to sign someone

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