Categorized | Barcelona

Myth vs Reality

Disappointed by the season? Ready to kick some internet ass and spray your opinions throughout the four corners of the cyberworld? You gotta do what you gotta do. But first, let’s separate the bull from the crap, the pimp from his hoes and hit the judge with its own hammer. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, with no further ado…

 

Myth: We had a bad season.

Reality: Any culer worth its salt knows we didn’t. You don’t even have to be that old. Only seven seasons ago we ended third in the Liga with a whopping 18 points below Real M*drid. That was pretty bad and guess what? We still reached the semi-finals of the Champion’s League, a competition we didn’t even participate in five years prior. In the Gaspart years the club spent boatloads of money to be only equaled by an incredible amount of frustration felt by its followers. As a fan of F.C. Barcelona since Cruijff took over, I’m not even an old-timer. The old guys don’t remember the bad seasons as much as they remember the occasional league championship every decade or so. To sum it up, the only way this season qualifies as “bad” is when we compare it to the most successful period any club, not just ours, but any club in the world has gone through in the last forty years of the game.

Myth: Pinto sucks.

Reality: He’s our backup goalkeeper. Let me repeat. Backup!!! How many squads have had such a good backup keeper over the last five years? Really, people need to wake the hell up before they judge. Even the newly crowned champions of Europe almost lost out on their décima because of a horrible mistake made by their backup goalkeeper. When I think of how Pinto has played since Valdes’ injury, I don’t remember him costing us even one goal. He has induced the occasional heart attack, for sure, but he has not cost us. To a lot of fans he has been our most entertaining player of the season. Culers giggle and laugh in bars throughout the city whenever he goes on one of his crazy dribbles. Give that man a one-year contract. Let him be the third goalkeeper and tutor a young Marc-André ter Stegen and Jordi Masip. Not only because he deserves it, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

Myth: Neymar and Messi can’t play together.

Reality: The truth is we haven’t got the faintest idea. While true that they rarely looked good together, that can almost be said for the team as a whole. Besides, Leo was injured for two months and when he came back Neymar got injured. When Neymar came back, the team collectively slumped and our coach seemingly gave up on coaching his squad. I say seemingly because we don’t know that either. What I do suspect is that the team will be better off with Messi as a no. 10 and a selfless striker who moves around a lot and doesn’t need the ball at his feet. Higuiain would be perfect in that regard. Mandzukic intrigues as well. Time will tell, and whatever the technical team decides, it’s up to our new manager to make it work.

Myth: Tata was given a raw deal.

Reality: He knew what he was coming into. We had a bad board then and we have a bad board now. You’re gonna tell me he was unaware that SPORT and MD print their dailies with poison instead of ink? Without any European experience, Gerardo Martino was given the chance to lead an extraordinary group of players who had won it all and then some. That was precisely the challenge: how the heck are you going to keep them winning. He failed, and I don’t blame him. Without a proper pre-season, no reinforcements, and the drama of replacing a manager who fell out with cancer, this was a damn near impossible task. But let’s not kid ourselves. A lot of coaches would have signed up for that deal, regardless of the circumstances. Heck, they dream of that chance to come along. And the majority would have won squat, just like Gerardo Martino. It doesn’t make him a bad coach. But it definitely does not make the board wrong for replacing him with Luis Enrique.

Myth: If Lucho chooses to play a vertical game, Cesc will flourish.

Reality: It’s true that Fàbregas plays better when we play more vertically, but he has only ever really flourished at Arsenal. Why? Because he was the best player on a team that was built around him. A squad that features Messi, Iniesta and Neymar will never be built around a less godly talent such as Cesc. And if he doesn’t have the freedom to go where he wants on the pitch and do what he wants, the attributes that made him such a great player are severely compromised. Has he ever looked anywhere close to great in a big game? He has been back at F.C. Barcelona for three years now, and has had plenty of opportunities to shine. We all know he can. Just not at his boyhood club.

Myth: We should abandon our style.

Reality: We play a formation of 4-3-3 (of which 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1 are merely variations). We´ll never hoof it up the field or sit back and lure on the break. Our game has always been based on technique and passing, possession and offense. That’s what makes us us, from the Masía to the B-team and all the way up to the first team. A bad season or two (or three, or thirteen) changes not a thing. Football goes through cycles… Period. During those cycles, Barça will always be Barça and should always play like Barça. A closely related myth is that Martino betrayed our style. All because we actually scored some counter goals and even had less than 50% possession once on a potato field ploughed through by the caretakers of Rayo Vallecano, press and fans were aghast at what they considered “counter attack” football. Never mind the fact that during that same first half of the season that this particular criticism was continuously uttered, Barça actually maintained possession of the ball for 67%.

Myth: Dani Alves can’t cross.

Reality: Ok. How do you explain that during our last two games against Atletico Madrid, an awesome defensive team featuring a goliath duo of Godín and Miranda, Dani found the heads of little Messi, Xavi, Neymar, Pedro and Alexis? Not to mention the fact that our season winning and wrongly called offside goal came off of his cross also. Claiming that Dani Alves can’t cross because he sometimes mistakes the corner flag for a head is like saying la Pulga can’t score because he sometimes shoots straight at the keeper. You can argue that he shouldn’t play as many crosses because our players aren’t the most naturally endowed physical specimen to knock in header after header, but you are very much mistaken if you think he’s not a good crosser of the ball.

Myth: Our players didn’t try hard enough.

Reality: Get real. A sports team can’t just keep winning forever. Impossible. And neither can Messi. The same fans who proclaim him celestial for a standard of play that saw him pick up a historic four balons d`or in a row (and let’s not forget, saw our team haul in a historic number of prizes in the process) are dragging him through the mud now that he has “only” scored 46 goals this year and co-led the team in assists. If his winner in the last match of the season had stood? Our God and savior. But it didn’t, so let’s treat him like crap and doubt his heart. Another travesty is the comparison being drawn in some quarters between this group of players and Frank Rijkaard’s guys in their mister’s final year. Are our stars out getting bent four nights per week? Do they skip training en masse? Did they… get fat? No. They fought for the league title until the last minute of the last game. So what if they didn’t win. They made this culer proud, and I’m convinced they will do so next season as well. Visca Barça!

 

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236 Responses to “Myth vs Reality”

  1. Inamess says:

    Levon, great thought provoking opinions! I think you will get a lot of push back on this page so prepare a vigorous defense.
    Three thoughts:

    1) I am very concerned that our club has no consensus about what to do about Fabregas. Whether he stays or goes is a decision that will either be one of our smartest move since getting rid of Ronaldinho or our dumbest since getting rid of Eto’o. My fear is that the club will let the market decide: 40 mil and he walks, otherwise he stays and we try to build a team to accommodate him. If this is true, then it is not a good way to make football decisions.

    2) The whole debate of our style I think has been a red herring to bludgeon fans disappointed fans who are thought to be ignorant about the “Barcelona way”. As I understand it, the Barcelona style is possession-based attacking football and has seen many incarnations over the last 25 years.

    The difference depends on which players you favor and how to tweak it. For example, Pep’s 2008-9 and 2010-11 CL winning teams were quite different. I personally would like to see us aspire to be more like the former because I think we can no longer be that successful if we continue to try to be the latter.

    3) Here’s an interesting bit of gossip for those looking for comparisons between our past and future and supports your optimism about the Messi/ Neymar partnership:
    http://hereisthecity.com/en-gb/2013/10/16/ex-chelsea-man-etoo-and-ronaldinho-were-jealous-of-each-other/page/1-2/

  2. Jafri says:

    Myth: This was a transitional year, they couldn’t keep it up forever etc etc.

    Reality: I think a lot of frustration stems from the fact that we weren’t off by much. One non-transfer, one freak injury, one match in which the team let its concentration slip and we’re standing empty handed while they celebrate raucously in the Capital. This golden, once-in-a-lifetime generation is fading, and what could have been a magnificent swansong for some and renewed glory for others is now… nothing.

    And whether it was the players not giving a hundred percent when they could have, or Tata getting his tactics wrong or bowing to pressure, or the board not signing because they didn’t want to, perhaps not signing because they couldn’t, or that horrible series of injuries throughout the season, the fact is that there are no trophies. And I can’t speak as to how Barcelona were before, but looking at this supremely talented group of players, that just seems like such a waste.

    • Inamess says:

      Jafri, yours is the best summary of our season that I have seen yet. It seems like the our club after our 7-0 drubbing to Bayern had to make a choice. Get sufficient reinforcement and go all in or make some unpopular decisions about personnel and go in a different direction.

      After thinking and debating and making marketing decisions with our new sponsors in Qatar, our board made the bold move to roll up its sleeves and . . . . partially wager our season on Puyol’s questionable fitness and launch a bold clandestine operation to bring in Neymar a year early.

      Real, on the other hand, got rid of two popular players in Ozil and Higuain, but their fans moved on because they eventually saw that these decisions made the future of their team better.

      We, on the other hand, decided to postpone our big decisions until next year, and now because of one of the worst transfer markets maybe ever and impending FIFA sanctions, another two.

      “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”

      • Levon says:

        Actually, one of the “tragedies” as I see it was that this was SUPPOSED to be a transition year. I certainly predicted us to be trophyless before the start of the season. But because of all the off-field bull crap, the transition year might be next year (if were lucky). Let’s hope people are a bit more patient with Lucho and all the new guys coming in.

    • Levon says:

      We weren’t off by much, which is basically why I am saying it was not a bad year. This amazing group of players was again competitive.

  3. KEVINO17 says:

    LEVON – Agree with all everything except the stuff about Alves’ crossing. Just compare him with Alexis (who, of course, has a fantastic right foot). Alexis always looks up, picks his target and usually goes close to hitting it. Dani, on the other hand, is a lot more hit and miss. Sometimes good and often bad. There is a reason why teams are prepared to give him a lot of space on the flank. Considering how much space he gets, his percentage of good crosses should be higher. Hopefully, next season, if Alexis stays, he will hang around on the wing and drill in those crosses rather than continually sliding into CF, where I think he’s wasted.

    • Levon says:

      Interesting point. I’d say that what Alexis does (very well) is cut-backs. Even his high crosses are basically cutbacks waiting for the defense to settle before picking out a player round the edge of the penalty area.

      For Dani Alves to consistently cross accurately enough for one of our midgets to head the ball goalwards means he can, in fact, cross the ball. I’m not saying it’s a goo tactic or that he’s the best crosser in the world. I’m just calling “myth” on the theory that he can’t.

  4. IamXavi6 says:

    A simple, easy to digest article that is 100% accurate on all fronts. Well articulated sir.

  5. morph73 says:

    Very interesting article and to the point description of all the points.
    Maybe this will help fellow culers and fans to simmer down a bit and think on a broader perspective.

  6. morph73 says:

    True or false I don’t know but I read on ESPN transfer blog that Josep Maria Bartomeu has denied that Alexis will be sold. He also stated that he is an important part of the squad and there is no contact with Juve…
    If true I will be glad for sure… He has improved a lot and would be sad to see him go…

  7. ciaran says:

    The touch on your points…
    We had a bad season – To me we did.
    Depending what you take into consideration you will have different expectations but we still had a good enough squad to win the league. It’s 6 seasons since we got less league points. Any of our last 4 league totals would have won us the league. So yes, for me, this was a bad season. I predicted at the start of the season that we wouldn’t do well in Europe but would still win the league.
    We had a lot of issues but we also had a lot of players underperform and tactically we went backyards throughout the season.

    Pinto sucks – Again I believe he does.
    Pinpointing exactly which goals are his fault or not is difficult and not wholly accurate. What is true though is that he conceded more goals than Valdes does per game. The only game he kept a clean sheet in was against Elche who had 2 shots on target.
    He was a good goalkeeper a few years ago but he is definitely past it and the club obviously feel the same and are moving him on. I agree with the decision and whoever they bring in will most likely be an improvement.

    Neymar and Messi – I think that this season we’ll get our answer and it will be a positive one.
    Great players can always play together, especially ones who are good team players and both, while individually very skillful, are good at link up and interplay.

    Tata – He knew what he was coming into but took the job and failed.
    He looked very promising but at the end of the season had made no progress on pretty much any front in my opinion. Tactically he regressed, in developing talent he achieved very little except for Bartra’s performances. He managed rotation very poorly and won nothing.

    Cesc – I believe that he has been significantly better than people give him credit for. To say that he has failed in big matches is to make a lot of assumptions over what he was supposed to do. He has been played out of position in virtually every big match with us and because of this we don’t know exactly what was asked or expected of him. But don’t you think that if he was not doing his job that he wouldn’t have played every big match of the past three seasons?

    We should abandon our style? – We have to evolve it. Xavi at 34 is never going to be the Xavi of 3-5 years ago. No one else can do what he does at his level so how can anyone expect us to play in the exact same way with the right results? It’s not feasible.
    Barcelona aren’t ever going to be anything other than what we are, an attacking team. Real Madrid or any other club don’t have the same expectations as we do but that is part of what makes us great.

    Dani Alves can’t cross – He’s not great with all respect to him.
    Look, if you throw the ball into the box as often as he does you’ll find a forward every now and then. Yes at times he does but the ball in accurately but having 31 out of 160 accurate crosses is an complete waste of possession.

    Players nearly always try their best and I believe that we did this year too. Messi didn’t look himself but the littlest part of him must have been concerned about the past year’s worth of injuries. I hope he has a good world cup and comes back fit and firing.

    • Davour says:

      Perhaps it’s the framing of the season as either “good” or “bad” that is slightly problematic. We did not have successful season – it was, as cieran points out – below the potential of the team. However, being a wrongly disallowed goal away form winning the league, losing the CdR final… at least it was not an awful season. But it was a season which emphasized the decline of the current squad, already evident last season, and perhaps that is why we view it in a more negative light than it deserves. And the the way the narrative played out: that we lost initiative and had to depend too much on others’ results might also add to feeling this was alack-luster season.

      And whether Alves can or can’t cross… isn’t the very idea of him crossing a sign that our overall game plan did not work very well? And that is the problem.

      Regarding Cesc, I believe Levon is spot on; he has some good stats, and is obviously a gifted player, but I think we must admit he has not flourished at Barca. Playing him out of position so often is, to me, a sign of hierarchy in the squad that does not consider what is best for the team on the pitch, but persists in using big names. Here, Alexis was the victim, as Iniesta was moved to the wing (where he did not like it, and thus moved back to the middle which become crowded).

    • Levon says:

      @ciaron
      thank you for your comment.

      Real quick:
      – bad season
      like Davour says, a question of framing.

      – Pinto
      we’ll have to agree to disagree.

      – Neymar and Messi
      the problem as I see it is that we have too many players who need the ball at their feet. Hence my suggestion of moving Messi back to the no.10 spot and get a mobile and selfless 9 who makes runs and creates space.

      – Tata
      looks to me like we agree on that one.

      – Cesc
      I get what you are saying, but they don’t address my main point. To get the most out of Cesc he needs to be the man. He has not brought what was expected and I very much doubt he will in the future.

      Compare his case to Alexis who, despite being played out of position always (not half the time, like Cesc) has in his third season adapted very well to what we need of him from the wing.

      If Fàbregas stays, and I expect he will, I’d be happy if he proves me wrong. As it stands, my decision would be to sell him.

      – Dani Alves
      considering our height disadvantage and the manner in which he covers the whole flank, his accuracy rate is really, really good. We are in full agreement that crossing the ball as much as he does is not a good team tactic for us.

      – Our style
      Of course we should evolve it. That goes without saying, really.

      • ciaran says:

        I don’t know Levon, Alexis has always been a right winger except for a run of games in the second half of his last season with Udinese. He performed well playing centrally with Udinese because there was acres of space to play in and everything went through him. With Udinese, Chile and even with River Plate he was a right winger.

        Between Xavi, Busquets & Iniesta we have three fantastic players who were integral to our most successful team in history. This past season they managed 7 goals and 10 assists between all three of them though. They are being harried and hustled and with all of that they have become possession retainers and little else. I love all three of them, and all three of them have a future with our team but all three together mean that we don’t produce enough goals.

        Cesc, for all his faults, is an offensive player. We are a more dangerous team with him in it. You don’t have to agree but throughout his three seasons he has produced more than any other midfielder and when the business end of the season came, Tata started him over Xavi and he produced vs Bilbao, Villarreal, Getafe and was involved in the goal vs Atletico.

        I don’t think that Cesc is as good a player as Xavi or Iniesta but he is much more productive which is why I wonder why no one complains that Iniesta or Xavi had a bad season when they both did.

        • ciaran says:

          Sorry I worded that badly, Tata started him vs Altetico but he produced off the bench in place of Xavi vs Bilbao, Villarreal & Getafe.

          • Kxevin says:

            I don’t think that Cesc is as good a player as Xavi or Iniesta but he is much more productive which is why I wonder why no one complains that Iniesta or Xavi had a bad season when they both did.

            See, this is why you have been appointed my official spokesman.

        • Levon says:

          Well, Xavi is at the end of his career and most people are quite clear that he does not perform as well as before.

          As for Iniesta, I was really not comparing their season but when I look at what he can bring to our team versus what Cesc can bring and well… I definitely think Andrés is the better player. There is also the fact that he is so much part of this club that nobody wants to see him sold.

          Ciaran’s right to point out that Lexus played on the right in Argentina and at Udinese, but I think the Argentinian league is not a good comparison due to its lesser quality and at Udinese he really didn’t play all that well until they moved him to the middle. If memory serves our readers well, I have always been confident he would adapt to the position at Barça.

          My confidence in Cesc is wavering, which is not necessarily a reflection on him as a player but him as a player for our club. At Arsenal he was elite. Not good, not excellent, but elite. At Barcelona he’s been good during the first half of every season. Big difference. I think the money we would be able to get for him would serve us better than keeping him and that’s regardless of whether we play more vertically or not.

          • ciaran says:

            For me, it is not what Iniesta ‘can’ bring to the team, it is what he ‘does’ bring to the team. He is one of the most talented players in the world and his output this season was awful in comparison to what he should be doing.
            3 goals and 7 assists in 35 matches isn’t good enough for a player of his calibre, considering he got 3 goals and 16 assists in 31 matches last season.

            Again, Iniesta is a great player but that doesn’t mean that Cesc is a bad player. If Masch is moved to midfield, I’d buy Rakitic and manage minutes between all of them, if Masch is sold then I’d buy Vidal instead and it would probably be a better midfield.

          • Jim says:

            Not sure it’s as simple as is being suggested. First of all, I would like to see Xavi and Iniesta get ahead of the forwards more often. However, having said that what they faced this year was teams playing both deep and narrow against us. That diminishes the chances of a telling through ball or run. It was exacerbated by the fact that with nobody playing ahead of Messi the two CBs could stay tight together and had the play in front of them most of the time. This meant that our mids were only really left with the ball out wide and that is why we can’t afford Alves to be the one who gets the time and the one on one / cross as he’s just not accurate enough often enough.

            Not sure I want to spend money only to find that this wasn’t the problem. We need to stretch defences and given the way teams play against us we’re gonna face big numbers no matter how quickly we attack. Frankly, to me it’s a waste offering up Messi as our CF or even false CF as he’s still directly attacking the area occupied by two CBs with nothing else on their minds.

            I think Neymar will be a large part of the answer to this but can anyone really not see us facing the same problem next year and having to ping the ball from side to side quickly to try to create something. That’s not going away. However, if we can tighten up at the back against the counter we can try more dangerous passes.

  8. PrinceYuvi says:

    Thanks, lev.

  9. PrinceYuvi says:

    Lets move away from

    1. Two attacking fullbacks,
    Rampaging Alba dishing out Low crosses is good enough.

    2. Strikerless formation,
    Messi on his own drifts deeper and deeper,
    loathes to be cut off from all the midfield anarchy.
    Just give him a ST to play behind.
    (Remember his quote after the milan match anyone ?)

    3. Disdain of Set pieces.
    We refuse to use all those jackpots, Idk why.
    Messi, Ini, Xavi, Ney can send in accurate fks and corner kicks,
    such a waste.
    ……

    One of the earliest bandwagoner of Mathieu, Vidal, De rossi.
    But still, I’d like to ask,
    Isn’t Vidal a better version of Song ?
    A Box to Box CM.
    Can he fit in ?
    Song could not.

    LW, AM/ST, LCM, DM, LB are untouchables & midgets or semi-midgets.

    That leaves us with RCM, RB, LCB to inject Muscle & Height. RW is Lex.

    • Levon says:

      I agree with most of what you say here, except for the set pieces part. It’s nice to have a player or two who like Puyol can score from them, but when I look at our needs for this transfer window I think that would be a bonus rather than a must.

      Also, I don’t think Song did not fit in but neither do I share the opinion that he is so great as some make him out to be. He’s a solid back up in my book. I wouldn’t mind if he stayed, but depending on which direction we’re going I wouldn’t mind if we sold him either.

  10. Kxevin says:

    1. We didn’t have a bad season. We had a messy, disappointing season. The team met the expectations of many by not winning major silver, even as it came tantalizingly close, only to be let down at key times by key players. It explains the “bad season” feeling. We see some of it in the frustration of not really being able to blame the right people, so squabbles transpire about people who really didn’t have much to do with anything. Like Song.

    2. Pinto doesn’t suck. Pinto is different from Valdes, but in the culer logic that lets the incumbent define the position, he isn’t Valdes, therefore he sucks. He is a reflex keeper and more traditional shot stopper, something to think about for those who crave a traditional shot stopper such as Courtois or Navas.

    3. Neymar and Messi will play together fine, when Messi moves his ass. The reason Sanchez looks so good with Neymar is because Sanchez moves constantly along with Neymar, so when he’s ready to make one of those side flicks, voila. And Neymar has to stop coming to a halt with the ball. That’s fine when you’re the man, and carrying Santos on your back. But you’re at Barça now. Stop it.

    4. Martino is a good man who came into a crap job, and he almost certainly knew it was a crap job. That he knew it was a crap job and he was, ultimately, a caretaker, doesn’t make his treatment any less shameful. If you kick an adult in the balls you can say, “Hey, you’re a grown man. Take it.” It still doesn’t make that kick any less painful. We forget that those people are human, too.

    5. There is middle ground for Fabregas between “he’s brilliant” and “he is a waste of money.” With a more vertical system, his skill set will be more in keeping with the demands of the team. Simple as that.

    6. Style vs tactics. People confuse the two. You abandon a tactic, but you abandon a style only when you no longer have the players that suit that style.

    7. People say Alves can’t cross because in the world of extremes, a player is either brilliant or crap. There’s no room for any middle ground. Every cross won’t find the head of a Barça player, just as every cross won’t find the first row of the stands.

    8. People say they didn’t try hard enough because of how close the group came to major silver. So it’s easy to say “Had so and so tried a little harder.” There were many inexplicable moments this season, from every player on the team. But doing your best is situational, and fluctuates with a player’s form.

    • Jafri says:

      Never had a problem with Pinto and saving the ball – I think he was actually a better pure shot stopper than Valdes before this season. But I don’t think any man alive could defend what he did with the ball at his feet.

      • Levon says:

        I think he is better with the ball at his feet than many give him credit for. Put 90% of the world’s goalkeepers in the Camp Nou and we’ll see how they look. I keep coming back to the fact that followers of the game (not just culers) for some reason keep comparing Pinto to other starting goalkeepers, the goalkeepers they tend to know even, which are those of Europe’s leading clubs. Maybe it’s because we play him in the Copa games. As a backup goalkeeper he has done a great job, and that includes this season. We’d be lucky to have him as a third keeper next year.

        • ciaran says:

          Well we won’t have him so it doesn’t really matter. Claudio Bravo looks very close to signing and he is a very good keeper. He will certainly be challenging ter Stegen for a starting spot but is good backup anyway.
          He’s very good with the ball at his feet, is a good shot stopper and has plenty of experience in the league.
          Safe to assume then that Masip will be our 3rd keeper which looks solid for a good number of years.

        • Inamess says:

          A few points with the Pinto debate:

          1) Like many debates about players I think that people factor sonority and likability into the equation. If Pinto was a in his first year with the team and was not a cool guy I don’t see us even having this discussion. If people still think he is a good second option for our team then they should be upset that the club no longer wants him in this role.

          2) Going into this season there were several players this year who, if they became injured would significantly make us a worse team. Those players were Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Busquets, Pique and Valdes. Every team can be hurt by injuries, except most top teams did not have such vulnerabilities this year.

          Going into this season we prepared for these possibilities this way:

          A) Messi injury: Neymar, Sanchez, or Fabregas takes his role. Good backup for an irreplaceable player.

          B) Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc, Busquets Injury: Sergi Roberto, Alex Song back up. not bad, but by losing Thiago last season we are asking Sergi or Song to take their place without a top class expensive replacement like Isco=30 mil

          C) Pique Injury : without a healthy Puyol this requires a 40+ mil signing which we have so far avoided for three seasons because no one wants to pay inflated prices for a really good CB.

          D) Valdes Injury: Pinto = Disaster He is a great guy who is good for team morale and a fan favorite. The problem is that he changes the way we play so significantly that a Valdes injury literally cuts our chances of winning La Liga in half and the Champions league by 3/4s.

          Pinto is fine to play in the Copa Del Rey if you don’t mind our club not winning, but anyone who thinks that he didn’t in large part cost us this trophy did not watch this Final.

          If you want to argue that he is our Copa keeper anyway that is fine. But the discrepancy between our team with Valdes in goal vs Pinto is huge, and I would argue much larger than many other back up goalie options that would have not cost us that much in Euros or trophies.

          We knew we needed a good second keeper anyway with Ter Stegen coming. Too bad we didn’t get him a year earlier. Why didn’t we? Again, because Pinto is a great guy, been here for a long time, and is a popular player.

          Perhaps most importantly, however, a certain player who will be playing for Argentina in the World Cup this summer may have been really, really pissed. Too bad this superstar has to now write open letters to fans because we didn’t win any trophies this year.

          • kosby says:

            So somewhat related to your points but not so much. What I dont understand (and maybe some of you can help dispel my ignorance) is why aren’t the people who actually played the games that we lost being held responsible. And not just one or two, all of them. And I am not saying we need a whole new team.

            But my point is this – Tello, Affelay, Dos Santos, Song etc did not play games, which implies we don’t trust them enough for whatever reason to play for us when it matters, so we get rid of them. Ok Fair enough. But that does not explain why we lost the games we did. We lost the games because the players that actually played or rather the TEAM that actually played wasn’t “good enough” (in quotes because I don’t think it is realistic to demand a title every season). Now what are we doing to address this ? I know Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets are sacred, but they certainly contributed to the defeats more than Tello did (since Tello hardly played anything). Question is what are we doing to address this issue. We did change the manager, but that implies these players weren’t culpable towards the results we had….using the same logic why do we want players like Pedro and Fabregas out ? Why don’t they get the same reprieve ?

          • Kxevin says:

            And that, kosby, is the question I have been asking, either directly or indirectly, for years. It’s gotten me branded a hater, supporter of this or that player, etc, etc.

            But the fact is that there are sacred cows, untouchables who will always be exempt. As I noted above, that Song enters into any discussions about the complexities of this season is tantamount to calling the natural gas company because your electricity went out. You can vent, but it doesn’t examine the root issue.

            Thank you for that spot-on observation, and not just because it hews to my worldview.

            — As far as Pinto, Imamess sums up the general worldview of that keeper with Pinto=disaster. Nobody was saying that when he was stopping penalties, or making great reflex saves, however. The difficulty with memory, especially as it relates to an unfavored player, is that it is selective.

            he changes the way we play so significantly that a Valdes injury literally cuts our chances of winning La Liga in half and the Champions league by 3/4s. is an unsupportable supposition.

            When our team is defending as it should, the keeper knits doilies, and deals with the occasional long shot that leaks through. We haven’t defended like that for years, so Valdes has been more vulnerable as well as Pinto.

            Calling Pinto a “disaster” means that he was culpable for the goals that he conceded, which is the problem with evaluating keepers. A great keeper can have a crap defense, and leak goals like a sieve. We beat La Real 4-1 and you might say that Bravo sucks. Many people are. But that match could have been 10-1. Dude was absurd.

            Pinto isn’t great with his feet. No argument there. But calling him a “disaster” is, for me, hyperbolic. I watched every match in which he played (obviously, right?) and never said to myself, “What a bonehead.” Though I did say “Pinto is trying to kill me,” during that misplaced pass/tackle/run.

            The team, with a fit Valdes for the entire season, conceded 70 goals last season, and 48 this season. Does that mean that Valdes was a dramatically better keeper this season, or that the defense improved?

            It makes evaluating players so complex. It’s why when I did in-depth reviews, I would watch a match 3 times. If a player loses the ball in midfield, is it because he had to hold it too long because a runner wasn’t where he should have been, or did he just screw up? It’s that kind of stuff that lends nuance to player evaluations, and makes assigning culpability to a player, particularly a keeper, tough.

            Look at the Atleti header that equalized in the last match. Pinto was screwed by his defense, and had just about zero chance of stopping that header. People will say that he did, but those same people will champion Courtois as this brilliant keeper, yet Courtois got smoked by that Ramos header. Because like Pinto, he got screwed by his defense.

            People will never, ever stop blaming players for stuff that isn’t entirely their fault, or over-assigning culpability. Part of why I did such extensive match reviews was in an effort to get folks thinking about everything that goes into a match performance.

            Recall the one-stroke Neymar goal against Atleti. Because many still dislike him, the reason for the goal was the perfect pass from Iniesta. But in evaluating that goal, it took a perfect pass AND a perfect shot. A less-perfect pass doesn’t set up as well, just as a less-perfect shot doesn’t beat Courtois.

            That’s what makes it all so crazy, and makes player judgments often little more than popularity contests. People dislike Song, so it won’t matter what he does. People for a long time disliked Sanchez, so it didn’t matter what he did. Keita had the same problem.

            Is Pinto a starter? No. But if a team with a keeper who plays as much as Valdes buys a starter-quality No. 2 keeper to sit and watch Valdes play, how long will it be before that keeper starts causing problems?

            Further, do we have backups of like quality for EVERY player? Nope. Messi is nonpareil. No sub for Iniesta of like quality, etc, etc. Does that make those subs a “disaster,” or just not at the same level of the incumbent?

            Valdes was an excellent, world-class keeper. Those are rare. And when it comes to subs, that is the problem with Barça’s XI at almost every position.

            I know the “Pinto sucks” won’t stop because of these words. Someone will bang out an equally long comment about why he does indeed suck, and good riddance to him. But the point about evaluating players stands. It’s very, very difficult to do, and next to impossible to do in a completely objective fashion.

          • Inamess says:

            Kxevin, I agree that people often blame players unfairly and I am sure that I am guilty of this myself too. I also, know that we disagree on whether it is OK to blame players and I am fine with that too.

            However, in this case, I believe you may have misunderstood some of what I have written for the following reasons:

            1) You summed up my position as (Pinto=disaster). This is just not the case in that I summarized my position as (Valdes Injury: Pinto = Disaster). In doing so, it is almost like taking a statement like 2 +3 =5 and then summarizing that statement as 3=5. It is just not accurate.

            2) I went our of my way in my original comments and below in saying that I did not personally “blame” Pinto and but rather those who chose to retain him and those in management that often take other considerations other than ability or recent performance into consideration.

            3) If someone believes that Pinto is indeed an able keeper then they would have had little reason to be upset when Valdes got injured other than personally feeling bad for Victor for getting a terrible injury and hurting his career. On the other hand, I believe many fans were bothered by the implications of Victor’s injury in that we now would have Pinto in goal instead for crucial matches. If others were not really concerned about that reality or maybe wished we had a different back up keeper, then maybe I am alone.

            However, if fans were not bothered by Victor’s
            absence then I believe that they are incorrect because he has been one of the most undervalued players in all of world football in terms of what he brings to the team in terms as a keeper sweeper and in how he lets set keep possession, and set up our offense by building from the back. With Pinto in goal those important abilities, which are partly responsible for the success of the Guardiola and Post-Guardiola era, were taken away.

        • Inamess says:

          Kosby, I agree and am OK with blaming people because in my opinion that just goes along with being a sports fan.

          The other side of feeling ecstasy when your team wins is getting pissed when it doesn’t. It may not always be fair, but we want to understand why things did not go our way. Athletes, coaches, and management make a lot of money to sometimes take unfair criticism as Levon suggests.

          When a player does not play well, it may be the fault of one or more of 5 possibilities:

          1) The player for not playing well.
          2) The manager for playing them or playing them out of position or not bringing in a substitute
          3) Management who decided to get the player rather than someone else or not get rid of him for a substitute player.
          4) Bad luck (e.g. injuries, victim of circumstances,)
          5) $=team didn’t or couldn’t buy a better player

          In Pintos case, I think it is a case of 3 or 4.
          In Bartra’s case for the Bale goal in CDR Final: 4 or 5
          In Cesc’s case in CL QF against Athleti: 2
          In Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta’s case in several games this season: 1, 2, or 4
          If Pedro is on the team next year 3 or 5

  11. norden says:

    Nice article, Levon!

    I don’t have much to add what hasn’t been already said. I think Barca was one goal from a good season (considering the disasters the club went through). One goal from good doesn’t equal bad, in my math.

    Also, they finished La Liga ahead of Real, which in normal case equals title. By some cruel accident, some other team had an incredibly good season.

    • Inamess says:

      Amazing performance by one of the most important players on the greatest national team ever. Whoever coached the Paraguay side that almost beat Spain in that match must be one hell of a coach.

  12. What if myths are reality?

    The whole idea of sports is mythological and one ends up supporting archetypes not players. Thus a person develops their own ideas of which player will fit a role, so on and so forth. The problem is no player is ever the same. Every game is different and it is really hard to objectively isolate variables. I trust the team, who watches the film over and over again, can do a better job, but even they can’t be sure.

    On a different note. I’d like to reiterate something several people have been saying, namely that we need a striker in front of Messi. If anything because it’s been two years of similar play and it’s getting a bit tiresome. Other teams force us wide and nothing at all comes of it. We can, as far as I can see, work on this problem in two ways: 1. get some height that can attack or 2. create move movement, which really is going to require using Messi differently.

    • Inamess says:

      Deerwithwing’s Theory of Surplus Value of Player=

      (Mythological/Marketing Value of Player)-(Real Value of Player’s Contribution on Pitch)

  13. ciaran says:

    To respond to both kosby & Kxevin.
    A couple of months ago someone commented on how much they wanted to keep Mascherano and (I think) Pedro due to the amount of work they put in to playing for the club even if they aren’t the best players and then in the next paragraph suggested that Cesc & (I think) Alexis should be sold because they weren’t playing well or good enough.
    My issue at the time is the same as now, why cut some players slack for one reason and not do the same for another?

    I am a little more attached to players than Kxevin is but I still look at the sport in a fairly analytical way, what can someone bring to the team and what they do bring to the team.
    I look at someone like Alex Song and just think that they are in the wrong club. He is a very talented footballer but isn’t the footballer that the club thought/said that he was. It was like they sold a few big black African midfielders and looked for the most famous big black African midfielder and bought him expecting him to fill the same role because of his physique.

    I also look at some of our players and think that they will only fill their potential in a different team. Imagine Pedro playing in a team where he would get space in a counter attack… he would be devastating but I don’t think he should be kept with us as he doesn’t add enough to us.

    I’m not going to say that we should sell a player just because I don’t like them or because they aren’t the same as someone else we have.

    My biggest hopes for next year are simple, that we have a more competitive squad i.e. a smaller difference between the quality of our starters and subs and that we have tactical versatility in our squad i.e. not just slightly lesser versions of starters on the bench.

    • “My biggest hopes for next year are simple, that we have a more competitive squad i.e. a smaller difference between the quality of our starters and subs and that we have tactical versatility in our squad i.e. not just slightly lesser versions of starters on the bench.”

      I’ll take this however you color it!

    • Kxevin says:

      Agree with you on Song. Defo the wrong player for us, for the reasons I’ve laid out earlier. He isn’t the player that we thought he was, and we don’t need another AM. Also agree with everything else you’ve said, which is proper, I reckon, given that you’re my spokesman.

      The quality gap between starters and subs is an immense problem.

      • ciaran says:

        We used to have a bit of diversity in our squad too but now we have very little.
        Sergi Roberto is just a worse version of Cesc & Iniesta. Tello a worse version of Pedro & Alexis.

        I think we need very different players in all areas of the pitch. People complain that Cuadrado isn’t the best defender but he has a completely different set of skills to Montoya and Montoya is a very good defender.
        The rumours that we will sign Marquinhos & Mathieu for rotation in defense are great but I also think how cool would it be if we were able to line up with Marquinhos – Pique – Bartra – Mathieu in a CL semi final when we are a couple of goals up from the first leg or line up with Cuadrado – Pique – Marquinhos – Alba in a match where we know we will dominate but need to score goals.

        I suggested the possibility of signing Rakitic if we keep Masch because in some matches we could play Rakitic – Busquets – Iniesta when matches are going to be tight or Cesc – Rakitic – Iniesta in matches where we have to break down a team.

        It’s about having viable options for a starting spot and people who can change a match on the bench.

        • Which is also why I want to keep Xavi (not that he’s going anywhere). He could be a super-sub for midfield control.

          Another positive aspect of a good bench is that we can rotate more and therefore press harder. Press is key to our game. Absolutely key.

          • ciaran says:

            TotalBarça quoted a stat that 14 outfield players shared over 85% of the minutes and that 16 shared 95%
            Given 10 starters and 6 subs for any given match these players shared all but 5% of the minutes throughout the whole season meaning that there was no squad rotation whatsoever this season and very little team rotation.

            I prefer small squads but that is negligent, by the coach and the technical team.
            There should be around 18 high quality players sharing the majority of the minutes with youth getting much more in cup competitions.

          • Inamess says:

            That is another reason our squad should value good players who can play multiple positions. I know Adriano is not one of the top 10 players in the world at any position, but the fact that he can play so many positions is really valuable because he provides able backup for several of our starters and we only have to pay one salary.

            If we go forward with the Marquinhos signing is this player promising at RB as well as CB?

          • ciaran says:

            He started his career at right back but isn’t a right back now. He could easily fill in there given his ability on the ball, his pace and his fitness but he is a centre back.
            Juan Cuadrado will most likely be signed to fight with Montoya for the right back position but at least we’ll have more options

      • Levon says:

        I’m sorry, but where on earth did this idea that Song is an attacking midfielder come from? Besides not having the skill set, he played as a CB early on in his career and as a CB, DM and CM for Arsenal.

    • Inamess says:

      I know many have said this before, but in many ways we have become a victim of our own success.

      Many of our players from the Guardiola era are indeed deemed untouchable because of their past service, fan devotion, or marketing value. These include: Messi, Iniesta, Busquets, Xavi, Pique, Puyol, and to a lesser extent Pedro, and Valdes.
      To have a core of 9 players out of 13 possible starters that the club will always feature until their retirement has been one of our biggest problems.

      It seems like in many ways our club is like a business of 13 people, 9 of whom will never leave because they are the close relatives of the owner. The others will come and go every few years without really fitting in or being appreciated, and when they go they will rarely be missed.

      • Inamess says:

        Just to pick up this point, it would not surprise me too much if the players who end up leaving the club this year will be Fabregas, Mascherano, Sanchez, and Song. Which is like Zubi hiring 4 people just to fire them a few years later. That has to tell you something.

  14. Archie says:

    Cesc, Sanchez, and Song all yearn to play a different system, but they are the next generation starting players at their positions when Xaviniesta transition to less playing time. They will all need to be replaced with players of similar age/experience. Has anyone else felt that Lucho-style favors Sanchez especially for work rate and complete skill set?

    • Inamess says:

      I am not sure which of those players will be around next year. But I do like Lucho in what he may do for our younger generation coming up through the ranks in the next few years.

      I know we will see a lot of Rafinha next yearm but I am not quite sure of Delofeu. I think he will have to show that he is willing to press and play defense before he can get significant minutes.

  15. Inamess says:

    A Toast to Barca’s Greatest Player of all Time

    Who was the best player on FC Barcelona in it’s greatest period from 2008 and 2012?

    The answer is easy, it is Leo Messi and the reason is obvious. Messi scored over 250 goals during that time and justly earned an unprecedented four Ballon D’or awards.

    No, actually the answer is not as simple as that. If you really look at Messi’s goals they were set up by the otherworldly skills of Iniesta, who even exceeds the great Messi in individual talent with the ball but does not have Messi’s great ability to put the ball in the net. Messi might score goals, but Iniesta creates them.

    The above two opinions are really short sighted. Some one may get credit for scoring goals and another for assists, but the real value of a player is the one who imposes his will on the game and orchestrates play in such a way that the opposition rarely touches the ball, while our team tires them out so much they must finally relent and admit defeat. The person who does that is Xavi.
    Such fruitless debates simplistically miss what all Barca fans now appreciate after a less than successful season. Barca’s dominance was due to the collective performance of all three players playing at the peak of their abilities over an unprecedented five year period of dominance.

    For the first time since 2008, we have finally been given conclusive proof that unless all three players are at the peak of their careers and fitness the results just can not be the same.
    What is Xavi and Iniesta without Messi: the answer is great but just not as prolific because the greatest scorer ever in the game is not at the end of their passes. So that is why Spain’s great victories were predicated on 1-0 or 2-0 masterpieces of possession and one or two moments of breakthrough.

    How about Messi without Iniesta and Xavi: well that is what we have seen from the Argentina team for the last few years although with a more mature Di Maria and Agrero that may change this summer.
    However, what has given me some concern is that this year we might have had our first look at another permutation: a still in form Iniesta and Messi without a Xavi, who is not in decline. Many have worried about the Ilusionista’s beautiful dribbles to the final third before he meets an impregnable defense that finally seizes back possession.

    So the question now is what is Iniesta’s value without his legendary co-midfielder Xavi. That is a matter for debate but it could be that Iniesta will never be able to play at his best without a worthy midfield partner who is the perfect complement for his talents.

    So who was the greatest Barcelona player in our clubs immortal years? The answer, finally, seems obvious: it was Iniesta-Xavi-Messi (Inamess for short) and this, the greatest trio in the history of all sport, will never be equaled again.

    Greatest trio of all time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LcLwmYCnIE

  16. agar2515 says:

    Was a very good read Levon. I can only temper by rapidly decreasing expectations by trying to make light of the transfer rumors, I just say #Zubilogic.
    Don’t sign a CB for 3 years?
    #Zubilogic
    Sign Song as a CB ?
    #Zubilogic
    Willing to pay 40m for D.Luiz but let Merc City snap up Benatia (today’s developing story) ?
    #Zubilogic
    Entertain Selling Alexis after his best year, for LESS than we bought him for?
    #Zubilogic
    Spend 9mil+ on a backup, C-level GK in Bravo?
    #Zubilogic
    And on and on

  17. eGo says:

    First time poster, long time lurker. Before I begin I just want to say thanks for the great work you guys do. BFB is truly one of the best football sites on the net.

    Onto the issue at hand. Sadly, I agree with Levon’s take on Fàbregas. I say sadly because I was (still am) a big Cesc fan. I was all for him coming to Barça, as long as it didn’t come at Thiagos expense – it did eventually but that’s another issue. Now with the benefit of hindsight, I’d like to delve a little deeper into why Cesc isn’t an ideal fit for Barça. Let’s explore possible line-ups for next season and Cesc’s role in them.

    Formation: Barça style 4-3-3
    Cesc’s Role: Organising Midfielder
    Casualty: Xavi

    Cesc takes over the role most people assume he was purchased for. Xavi takes a back-seat and starts the majority of games from the bench. Potential line-up.

    Ter Stegen
    New RB / Pique / New CB / Alba
    Busquets
    Cesc / Iniesta
    Alexis / Messi / Neymar

    Cesc’s limitations in this system are obvious, and I think most have been covered on here over the past few years. He simply doesn’t fit the profile of an organising midfielder for Barça. It doesn’t suit the club and it doesn’t suit him. It’s not that he necessarily lacks pace (Xavi was never the quickest), but he does lack the agility, awareness and tenacity required to play this position. Some examples of players who would fit the profile (not saying we should buy them) are Gundogan, Modrić , Thiago etc… None reach the heights of 08/12 Xavi, but from a purely technical point of view they are better fits. Defensively this midfield is also an issue. Xavi’s defensive work during his heyday is undervalued I feel. Cesc is bigger, but his lack of agility and slow speed make it extremely easy for opposing players to skip past him; couple that with Busquet’s ponderous pace and it becomes an issue. You could swap Iniesta and Cesc’s positions but it still presents the same problem, with the added negative of Iniesta having to restrain his offensive game somewhat. Interestingly, I think Cesc was a much closer fit for this role during his early years at Arsenal. He seems to have lost a degree of agility since then, whether that’s due to bulking up, or the numerous injuries he suffered at Arsenal I’m unsure.

    Formation: 4-2-3-1 / with False 9
    Cesc’s Role: Number 10
    Casualty: Iniesta

    Cesc plays as a free floating number 10, his best position in my opinion. His defensive deficiencies are negated by pairing two DMFs at the base of the midfield. Potential line-up.

    Ter Stegen
    New RB / Pique / New CB / Alba
    Busquets / Mascherano
    Cesc
    Alexis / Messi / Neymar

    The issue here becomes Cesc & Messi, and how they interrelate with each other on the pitch. On a personal level they have a good connection, but tactically the two of them playing together presents serious issues. They both like to take up exactly the same position on the pitch. Messi drops deep into the middle third of the pitch, as he is wont to do; Cesc hangs around the middle third searching for a through ball. The problem is obvious. Messi dropping back negates Cesc’s biggest strength. It vastly limits his options to play incisive passes behind the defensive line. Currently, one winger always stays wide. This leaves one through ball option (whichever one of Neymar or Alexis makes a run) who can be easily corralled by 2 of the back four who have been left with idle time on their hands by a vacant Messi. Messi wants to link-up and tap dance his way to goal. Cesc wants to plunge the knife in. This begs the question, if we still plan on playing Messi as a false 9, then Iniesta is always going to be the superior option. His link-up play is faster, cleverer, more assured, and his general proclivity to drift left of centre suits Messi more. But what if we got a true Number 9, and mixed up the playbook a bit?

    Formation: 4-2-3-1 / with ‘proper’ Number 9
    Cesc’s Role: Number 10
    Casualty: Messi?

    Cesc plays as a number 10 but with the addition of a proper number 9. Potential line-up.

    Ter Stegen
    New RB / Pique / New CB / Alba
    Busquets / Mascherano
    Cesc
    Alexis / ‘proper’ no9 / Neymar

    Finally a formation that gets the best out of Cesc. With a front three of willing runners, and strong defensive back up he… wait, what’s that I here you say… where’s Messi? Precisely the problem. Barça v2.0. The one that allows for greater verticality. The one with the addition of a tough defensive shell. The one with a Number 9 who occupies central defenders and runs his ass off to break the lines. This Barça is the same one where Cesc is going to be competing for a position with the world’s greatest player. In literally any other team Cesc would have that spot sown up, but this isn’t any other team. It’s a team that contains an alien called Lionel Messi. Hypothetically, Cesc could play as one of the two holding midfielders, but with Messi’s lack of work rate it would seem incredibly naïve to rely on only Busi and Cesc for defensive cover in the middle. The only solution would be to play Messi on the right. I think it’s fair to assume, for better or worse, that won’t be happening.

    Cesc’s biggest problem isn’t really Xavi or Iniesta. It’s Messi. It’s Messi that limits his vertical output. And in the formation that potentially allows Cesc to play his natural game, it’s Messi that would take his spot. It’s a tough break for Cesc indeed, but it comes with the territory.

    • Levon says:

      Welcome to the speaking part of the family, eGo.

      For those such as myself that are of the opinion that Messi should move to the no. 10 position, the idea of selling Cesc become even more logical. (Unless he’d be happy being a backup, then by all means stay)

      It’s not about being anti-Cesc, because he is one of the best players in the world when used right. But it’s funny how people disagree with my evaluation without addressing my original argument. For Cesc to play anywhere near his potential, he needs the freedom to roam. In a team where he is the 3rd or 4th best offensive player, that simply won’t happen.

      • Yeah, obviously I’m part of this camp. It boils down to who is better, Messi or Cesc, and that answer is obvious. I’m not anti-Cesc either. I like the player a lot, I just don’t think it’s worked out. I felt the same way last season, but I wanted to see how this one worked out before any condemnation.

  18. andrecito says:

    Great article and comments…

    I wouldnt mind seeing Bartra as a starter next season..is anyone else with me on this?

  19. Sangoku says:

    Stats are nice & fun. They give perspective. But not the whole picture.

    Relying on stats to rate, say Iniesta or Xavi, would be (in my opinion) misleading. Xavi surely is not the player he was some years ago but I don’t see him as finished yet. It’s been mentioned before, without proper movement upfront Xavi is more or less just a passenger on the team when we are behind on the scoreline. Same about Iniesta who forays his way through three players only to end up with a back pass which eventually leads to nothing. But when the team is in full swing (movement & pressing-wise), they are untenable.

    Among the things that stats don’t quantify is the way we intimidate and mentally wear down other teams when we keep possession, make those fancy flicks, one-twos etc. But again, that’s true only when the team is in its intense mode, fit and brimming with confidence. When the team as a whole is not so well, then maybe some players do not fit in anymore.

    Now, the question is: do we discard all those players or do we attempt to get back the intensity along with some fresh new faces for some real competition?

    I agree with Levon about Cesc. He is a great player. The expectations of him being like Iniesta/Xavi has held him down and he cannot flourish to his full potential if he cannot roam about. Lucho’s playing style will determine whether he’s needed or not.

    I also like the idea of Messi taking a step back to the 10 position. Or alternating positions with his current one, depending on the opponents. We have been debating about what’s the matter with Messi for some time now, whether it’s because he’s preserving himself for the World Cup or because of fitness issues. What if it’s because opponents have figured him out? I mean, people say Tello is a one-trick pony. Well, this is blasphemy, but I see Leo as, most of the time, kind of a one-trick pony too. It’s just that his trick is friggin’ mind blowing! But after watching him make his impossible runs for so many years now, rivals finally grasped the pattern maybe?

    Anyway, as Levon was saying, him taking a step back would be interesting. His vision is as good as his finishing, which is second to none. Although that would probably mean two DMs behind him.

    • Sangoku says:

      Just when I was putting emphasis on more movement upfront, here comes the rumour that we’re pushing for this immobile guy from Serie A… Thanks for contradicting me, Zubi. (I know, pathetic joke…)

  20. Ultraculé says:

    If Ciaran is Kevin’s spokesman, I think you are mine Levon, as you almost always seem to speak my mind.

    I agree that Pinto is better with his feet than most give him credit for and agree with you on Alves too. I think everything has been said already, but I’d like to add some points on Cesc and others that may (will) be controversial and disputed. But that is to be expected and is welcome.

    Here’s what I think.
    I think we should not buy ANYONE from Arsenal and every single purchase from this club has turned out to be failures. Ok, many would consider henry far from a failure, But I thought he was very average throughout his time at the club. He had ONE good season, and that was a season, in which everyone shone. And some, more brightly than him. The list goes on. Petit, Overmars, Hleb, Henry, Cesc and Song. Unfortunately Cesc and Song are in reality, damn fine players. Just not players for our club as you correctly note.

    I think we could do much better with the cash we receive for him rather than keep him and desperately try to accommodate him in our system. This is what I’d do in the summer.

    1. Sell Tello – Get a mobile, physical striker. Any CF Barca deems fit.

    2. It looks like Alves is set to leave. As sad as it is, it had to happen some day. I don’t know shit about Cuadrado, but if the club and others that KNOW think he is an able replacement, so be it.

    3. Sell Cesc and use funds to sign a physical goal scoring Midfielder along the likes of Pogba / Vidal. Sell Song too as the poor guy deserves better.

    4. Defenders: I don’t know why we haven’t made a move for Hummels. He really is an intelligent defender and would be a good leader for our backline. Marquinhos is young and does not excite me as much as someone like a Laporte. I am however, glad that the Luiz bullet has been dodged. Personally I’d be very happy with Barca buying any 2 of Hummels, Benatia, Mathieu.

    5. Keep Masch and watch our midfield gain serious steel and bite. But, sign the defenders necessary to enable this.

    6. Dispense with all the dead weight – JDS, Cuenca, Afellay, Bojan should all be sold. Even if the combined sale fetches a sum of 10M Euros, I’d be happy. Loan Sergi Roberto and Denis Suarez.

    7. Give Gerard Deulofeu another year on loan. He is not ready to command a place (in what should be a tight quality squad) in the world’s best team, just yet.

    8. I’d be happy with a backup GK signing of either Navas, Willy or Bravo. Navas would be better imo.

    9. As you might have noticed, in my squad and wishlist, Alexis Sanchez, Mascherano and Pedro all remain.

    Squad:
    – Ter Stegen, Navas / Bravo / Willy
    – Adriano, Alba, Mathieu, Cuadrado, Pique, Bartra, Hummels / Benatia, Montoya
    – Xavi, Iniesta, Rafinha, Vidal / pogba, Busquets, Mascherano
    – Alexis, Pedro, Neymar, Messi, new CF.

    Done.

  21. ciaran says:

    I’m going to end my argument on Cesc with these points…

    1, Your strongest XI doesn’t have to start every match in order for you to win titles. During our 2 most recent Champions League winning seasons, Seydou Keita played 46 & 56 games and no one would claim that he was part of our strongest XI at the expense of Iniesta but Iniesta played only 43 & 50 games in those same seasons.

    2, Tactically having more viable options makes any squad stronger, our squad is definitely a stronger squad with Cesc in it.

    3, How are we going to replace the average 30 goals per season that he is responsible for? Rafinha isn’t the answer, neither are the likes of Rakitic, Pogba or Vidal who have great stats but when you look at open play there is absolutely no comparison.

    4, Cesc isn’t Xavi, but Xavi isn’t even Xavi any more. Xavi, even in his best form never faced opposition set up to stifle us as we have in the past two seasons. I am not sure that a fully fit and firing Xavi would have been able to break down the Atletico defense this season so why do some suggest that we only need to replace Xavi to be the all conquering team that we used to be? We are never go to be the same team, even if we win everything it won’t be in the same way.

    5, The idea of a strongest XI doesn’t do justice to opponents when a particular starting XI may be better suited to play different opponents. I can think of a more than a dozen teams that Cesc is better suited to facing than Xavi or Iniesta, and vice versa.

    6, Cesc has a better connection on the field with Messi than anyone else does. He has provided more assists to Messi than anyone else in his three years with us. Remember that Xavi went over 18 months without assisting Messi. Dani Alves is the only other player who connects to Messi nearly as much. Making Messi even slight less productive is a bad idea.

    7, Lastly, the idea of replacing Cesc with whichever player suggested and expecting them to immediately settle in is fantasy. We are notorious for having the hardest system to get to grips with. Assuming that a replacement is good enough to integrate we still have to wait for them to do it and then see what impact they have on us. Looking at our transfer history it would be no more than russian roulette for a €40m or so gamble.

    • Davour says:

      A compelling argument for Cesc, no doubt. But it requires that we lose the ideological straightjacket, as I’ve indicated earlier, and stop stating: this is the answer – now adapt. Your point on Keita really shows how this ideology is built upon a fantasy of how Xaviniessi were able to play together. This cannot be emulated, but must be evolved with the players we have – as many of you have mentioned.

      But we are still left with the question of how to best make use of Cesc, and what (who) the alternative will be (“Xavi isn’t even Xavi anymore”).

    • Inamess says:

      I agree and here is why I am also willing to put my chips on Cesc:

      1 ) I don’t have any confidence that Cesc will be the next Xavi but the problem is that no one will ever be. So far the club has had two new Xavis: Thaigo and Cesc and both have been rejected by fans because they are not. With Cesc you know what you are getting and he has succeeded pretty well (statistics don’t usually lie) and he has looked promising when he is not played out of position on the pitch with Xavi this year. It is true that he has not played well for our team in the second half of the year, but I don’t know who you can say has.

      2) I am cynical enough given our recent transfer record and big signings to know that big signings almost always look good when they come in, but within a few years they often leave with a sense of bitter disappointment. More than any other position, Barcelona has trained great players in midfield. To now give the keys to the kingdom to a player who was never trained in the position most important in dictating our style seems a much bigger gamble.

      If we got a player like a 21 year old Paul Pogba, then we might as well close La Masia and sell Suarez and Sampler because there would be no point in training our best youth products for the most essential skill position on our club: the midfield.

      3) A 40 million fee for Cesc may sound like a lot, but it is significantly less than the price we payed for David Villa if we adjusted for inflation and the realities of today’s transfer market. If some believe that Pogba can be had for 40 million, I don’t think they are right. Every team knows we are desperate to get a big signing, and I think Pogba’s Price tag in this years ridiculous transfer market would be closer to 65 mil. We can pay that huge fee and it could work out, but it is just as likely to not.

      4) If we are looking to get rid of a player who is less useful to us, then I think that selling Pedro is the way to go. Cesc had sacrificed a promising career at Arsenal to get his shot in Barcelona. He, unfortunately, has not had the advantage that comes fromm playing on any of our CL iconic winning squads and thus for some reason is judged by a different standard. Cesc came back a year too late and thus has for some reason been blamed along with Sanchez for not saving our club from its decline.

      5) If an aging Xavi should stay because we are “more than a club” then I don’t see why Cesc should not stay either to get his shot if he wants to. It may or may not work out, but in the post Xavi era that is going to be true about any midfielder on our team. If we didn’t feel Thiago or Cesc was our guy last year, then we should have put our money on Isco because he was close to the player we really needed to bring in from outside because he seems to have the skills we are looking for to immediately succeed here. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed.

      To summarize: to an English club in this years ridiculous transfer market, Cesc is worth 55 million and Sanchez 45 million. If someone wants to pay that fine. If not, then we should value our own productive players and let Lucho decide how best to use Cesc and Sanchez if he wants to keep them. If things don’t work out, then we always have Rafinha, Suarez, Deulofeu, and Dongou ready to contribute in about two years, which is just about the adjustment time any player coming into our club from a different league needs.

    • Levon says:

      I like some of your points. I do want to say, however, that playing Messi as a 10 and getting a quality 9 like I’ve been arguing very much solves the “how do you replace the 30 goals Cesc is involved in” question you brought.

      I also think that we don’t need another midfielder, even if we do sell Cesc. Nevertheless I would love us to go for Pogba, and yes, I’m fully aware that the fruits of such an investment wouldn’t become fully evident two to three seasons from now. Much like M*drid with Modric and Isco.

      Sometimes in these discussions people (perhaps myself included) are so convinced of their arguments that they don’t address at all the arguments other commenters make.

  22. PrinceYuvi says:

    md rumour about Fazio.
    He’s like a Taller Masch.
    Hope we snatch him.
    It’s hard to believe we will get many world class players with 120 M budget.

  23. Inamess says:

    News of the Day:

    In a surprising move, Real Madrid announced today that they will immediately disband after picking up their Decima. After finally winning their tenth championship of some sort after twelve years of trying and over a billion dollars spent, club President Florentino Pérez Rodríguez announced that the club will now begin entertaining offers for its players.

    Perez explained his reasoning behind the decision:

    “I always thought 10 was such a perfect number and now that we have that I am looking to take on other challenges. The number 10, for example, is the cornerstone for metric measurement and is also the foundation of our Hindu-Arabic numeral system.”

    The Merenge President further explained the reason for his shocking action:

    “Ten is also cool in that it is like scoring 2 Manitas past Barcelona, so now the score is 2-1 Us. See we beat you. We will always be the champions. HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, you blaugrana freaks. And Take that Ahab. I got my white whale. I GOT MY WHITE WHALE you legless piece of shite.”

    Unfortunately, Perez was taken away in a straghtjacket directly after this interview, leaving the future of Los Blancos uncertain.

  24. PrinceYuvi says:

    I say we stop chasing 50M signings,
    Patch our squad with fare valued CBs & a ST
    and Stack Barca B with all the Wiz-kids out there.

    • Inamess says:

      I agree. We can’t compete with the oligarchs to get the top signings. If we offer 50 mil then they will offer 55.

      We have to trust that we can sign good players like Atletico have managed to do. 20 mil signings become 40 mil signings if the team is successful.

      The marquee players that will be in our squad will from now on have to come from our B team. It kind of sucks, but then again which team is in a better position to rely on its youth?

      • Levon says:

        Why? Nothing wrong with a marquee signing if the player can serve our club well. Youth will always be given the chance to prove themselves in our club, regardless. Deulofeu and Rafinha coming back from their loans is a proof of that.

      • ciaran says:

        We, along with Real Madrid will always have more draw for marquee players. PSG, Chelsea & Man City have money but don’t have history of nearly the number of followers we have. Also, what percentage of players grew up wanting to play for Monaco or the above teams?
        If a player wants to play for us and we want to sign him it generally happens.

  25. Kxevin says:

    Scratch that Ciro Immobile rumor. He’s going to Dortmund who, along with Atleti, have done well so far in the pre-window window.

    — CatRadio “reports” that Luis Enrique wants to keep Sergi Roberto, and that he values him. We shall see. I’m sure a tirade about how much he sucks will ensue. For me, I don’t know. I do know that I saw some interesting stuff on Twitter today, advocating real rebuilding that involves taking a shot on quality B team products, rather than going hog wild and buying/selling.

    So you recall Deulofeu and Rafinha, promote Denis Suarez, buy two CBs and probably and RB, and pretty much call it a day. You gain a DM in Mascherano (rumor is that he asked the club to extend his deal two more years), and in Rafinha and Suarez you have mids who can play anywhere along the line, who you can bring in gradually and smoothly, who have the quality and understand the system, and can score goals.

    Interesting view.

    I know that I hope Enrique will calm down the “Football Manager” worldview that seems to be (if rumors are fact) permeating the board (in addition to culer conversation).

    • Levon says:

      Sergi Roberto hardly looks like a future world beater, to be honest, but my skepticism on this player is nothing new.

      It does look like at least Mascherano will be staying. Most culers agree this is good news.

      Also, MD spent some time with Marquinhos at an under 21 tournament in Toulon. The young Brazilian definitely wants to be desired.

      • ciaran says:

        I can’t believe that Sergi will form part of the first team squad next season; unless something strange happens I feel it would be best for him and us if he is loaned out. He should take a look at Rafinha’s loan to Celta and see how it helped him leapfrog Sergi in the pecking order.

    • Inamess says:

      I am trying to look at the long term picture of our club and be optimistic. The only chance I see for us competing with the now much wealthier clubs is if our youth really come up big in the next 5 years.

      Also, now with the new FIFA rules, does that mean that no young players under 16 in Europe (other than Spain) or under 18 on other continents can come to our club or La Masia?

      Someone please tell me that my worries are misguided.

    • ciaran says:

      Everyone likes marquee signings as they are fun but quality over names is the order of the day.
      ter Stegen was a great buy and hopefully he’ll reach the heights expected of him.
      Claudio Bravo is a very good choice to challenge Marc Andre because of his quality and his experience in La Liga. Spanish is also his first language which is an advantage in the early parts of the season.
      Marquinhos looks like he’ll be one of our centre backs which means that a smaller amount would be spent on the second purchase, to me this suggests Mathieu which is good. I’d be equally happy with Benatia & a cheaper young option like Rojo or Inigo.

      The Chilean with Alexis & Bravo makes me think that Vidal could be lured here but even if he isn’t Masch, Busi, Cesc, Iniesta, Xavi & Rafinha should be good enough. I’d prefer if we made a signing but I don’t need it.

      I think that we definitely need a forward. I don’t mind if they are a strong no.9 or a pacey forward but someone should be bought. Again Aguero or Luis Suarez, the marquee signings, would be loads of fun and show intent of the board to really challenge on all fronts but even someone like Carlos Vela would make me happy.

      • Inamess says:

        I know it may not be a realistic option, but why not Higuain?

        Is there a protocol as to how long a Real Player has to be away from the club before they can come to Barcelona or is Higuain not an option because he would have not want to deal with the “traitor” issue.

        • Levon says:

          I think Higuain would be an EXCELLENT option. Moves a lot, works a lot, creates a lot of space, does not need the ball at his feet, scores goals, shows a good understanding with Messi. I would be over the moon if we got Higuain.

          Nay on Aguero or Suarez, the latter of whom I adore but I’m not convinced either one would be a good fit at Barça.

        • ciaran says:

          Higuain cost Napoli €37million so we would have to spend more than that considering his contract

          • Levon says:

            Yup. Hence why I would sell the player discussed above.

          • ciaran says:

            If we are spending that much he isn’t the player I’d buy. For €20m yes, for €30m maybe, for €40m no way.
            Let’s not forget that the reason he was never fully trusted at Real Madrid and was sold was his predisposition to missing easy chances in big matches.

          • Levon says:

            While this is true, he would still be good for 20 goals per year. He’s very complete, hardworking, makes intelligent runs and does not hog the ball. If we want a number 9 who would create space for Messi, I can’t think of anyone better.

          • ciaran says:

            True. I like him. I’d be very happy for him to take Pedro’s spot in our squad. The money side of the deal I wouldn’t agree with but either way, Napoli wouldn’t sell.

            Carlos Vela has very similar skills, and while he isn’t the out-and-out goal scorer that Higuain is, his link up play is even better. Playing in a worse team, and not the focal point of his teams attack he has produced the goods and had his second really good season in a row. He would cost probably less than half what Higuain would and is certainly more buyable.

          • Inamess says:

            It would also make Messi happy and make him more comfortable being a #10.

            All his has to do it pretend he is in an Albiceleste shirt and that Aguero had plastic surgery to make himself look more like Neymar.

    • 86ed says:

      Immobile is a smart move from Borussia. He even looks like Lewandowski.
      I wander what the entire deal cost.

      It’s too early to consider Deulofeu and Rafinha as signings. As far as we know, they may well be loaned out again in the summer.

      I shouldn’t count on B team promotions to boost our team. In the last two years promoted players have plaed fewer than 20 games total, and we haven’t had a b-teamer break into our starting XI and stay there since Pedro. I doubt Suarez, like Cuenca, Roberto, and Montoya before him, will get more than a handful of games at most.

      We have to make signings now, proper ones, otherwise we will end up like Milan, and doomed to a vicious circle.

      • Inamess says:

        Looks like we are going to go for a more traditional #9. I don’t know why people decided that we didn’t need one. It seems like we fell into a pattern after Ibra didn’t work out that assumed that Messi would score 70 goals per year. Let’s go back to looking a little more like 2008-9.

        It wasn’t our tactics and style that made our 2010-11 team great but our players. We just don’t have that kind of quality any more, though, of course, many of the names remain the same. We should stop trying to be what doesn’t work for us anymore.

        The idea that we were going to sustain immortality by replacing every Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Puyol, and Valdes every six years was certainly folly in hindsight. But I think we have to see what our youth can offer, or we will just be lagging behind Real, PSG, Chelsea, Man City, and Bayern in signing the best players over the next 8 years.

        • 86ed says:

          I would be ok with a player like Benzema up front, you know? A mobile striker, who plays ahead of Messi, not a tower like Mandzukic. I think Neymar could be that player.

      • ciaran says:

        There’s way too much spent on players that have 1 good season. Immobile may turn out to be a fine footballer but 1 good season shouldn’t be a reason for spending a lot of money on him.
        I really like Dortmund and hope that he works out for them but I don’t think that he’s the quality that is being suggested. Only time will tell.

        I think that Deulofeu and Rafinha would both potentially benefit from another season on loan.

  26. Kxevin says:

    An interesting read on our transfer activity so far, by someone who dislikes and distrusts our board even MORE than I do, which is no mean feat:

    http://lucasammr.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-importance-of-baseball-caps/

  27. agar2515 says:

    Does a fantastic job of being real and upfront. No fanboyism or timid middle ground for him.
    He’ll be the first to call out bs but he’s def right here, the window isn’t even open yet. We’re all very much on edge.

  28. ciaran says:

    http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/infographic-fc-barcelona-s-100-goal-la-liga-campaign

    To prove my point, and one that has been echoed by a few people, the above link shows the spread of our goals this season and only 6 were scored by substitutes. That is crazy out of 100 league goals that our bench had such little impact on matches.

    5 headers scored, and only 1 goal scored from a corner. I am also slightly disappointed with only 3 direct free kick goals scored considering Messi’s improvement. Dani Alves & Xavi took too many for my liking.

    • Inamess says:

      The statistics are troubling. Only one goal from a corner and it comes from one of only a handful of games Puyol was in.

      Also, goalwise Messi scored less than Alexis if you take away Messi’s penalty goals. I don’t know why people can’t admit that he just wasn’t a great goal scorer in open play this year for probably a number of reasons. In fact, the most important goals that our team had this year came from Messi’s assists, free kicks, and penalties.

    • Inamess says:

      Ciaran, are you aware of any statistic that tries to discount “meaningless” goals. Cristiano scoring 4 goals in matches his team wins 6-1 seems like he is getting a lot of meaningless goals, and the same was true with Messi in previous years.

      We have to stop this idea that Messi always has to stay on the pitch if our team is up by three goals at halftime. After a trophyless season, Messi’s winning the Pichichi is only an added bonus for our team if we get actually get some silverware.

  29. Inamess says:

    Sabermetrics: Did Valdes’ injury Cost us La Liga this year?

    Productivity Factor = (goals scored – goals conceded) per 90 minutes while the player is on the pitch
    Assumptions:

    1) The Barcelona keeper is one of the most important offensive and defensive weapons because he is called on to be a keeper sweeper to prevent quick counters, let’s us keep possession by being another skilled player with his feet, and sets up our offense by building from the back.

    2) As humans we can not accurately or objectively judge a player’s influence on a game because of the complexities of that player’s contribution. The permutations of play that occur from having one player on the pitch vs another in a particular game is about equal to the permutations of moves in a chess match including plays that others players feel comfortable making while that player is there vs. when a substitute is.

    3) The fact that the only difference between our team when Pinto was on the pitch vs. Valdes this year was the keeper’s contribution makes the Valdes vs. Pinto record a interesting real life experiment to judge each’s contribution to our team.

    *Notes on Calculations:

    The Celta Vigo home leg is discounted because both players were featured in goal that game. I have also discounted any goals that exceeded a 3 goal victory since these goals may have been scored when the game was essentially over and the opponent just wanted to see if they could nick a goal to save face. For this reason, 18 meaningless or inflationary goals were not counted for Valdes’ total scored.

    So how have our two keepers faired In La Liga this year?:

    Valdes: 59 goals scored – 23 goals conceded= 36/29 games = 1.24 goal differential per game

    Pinto: 12 goals scored – 9 goals conceded = 3 goals/8 games =
    0.37 goal differential per game

    Goal per game difference = 0.87 goals per game between keepers

    Did Valdes’ injury not cost us a League Title?

    I report, you decide.

  30. Inamess says:

    I haven’t read anyone’s opinion on this yet and am wondering what those who are in the get rid of Cesc camp would think of a outright swap of Fabregas for Mata?

    For those who have a problem with Cesc as a Barcelona midfielder, would Mata be an improvement? Cesc’s value on transfer Market is 44mil Mata at 36 mil so we might get something beyond a straight swap.

    • Levon says:

      No use swapping Cesc for a similar type of midfielder. That’s why I don’t understand all the clamor about Rakitic. Why buy a small, technical midfielder if we are already stacked with even better small, technical midfielders?

    • ciaran says:

      Cesc is a better player than Mata, his appearances with the national team will show as much. Nothing wrong with Mata but he’s probably more similar to Iniesta but wouldn’t add to our squad in my opinion.
      Rakitic is a different type of player, yes he’s still technically gifted but is more physical and is comfortable playing deep. He started quite a few matches this season in a double pivot and played almost like a quarter back.
      His pass in extra time in the Europa League final for Bacca was out of this world and deserved a goal.

      Reports today link us to Koke even more heavily. I like him but I am concerned about the impact it would have on Rafinha who had a great season with Celta and if we are to rely on a young player why not him.

      I’d much prefer if we got the two defenders signed up before spending €50m on a midfielder or forward

  31. andrecito says:

    So.. we have Pique, Masche, Bartra…then seemingly 1 world class signing and 1 semi world class signing..does this mean our board still sees Barta as 4th or 5th choice?

    • ciaran says:

      I would say that Masch is only going to be playing in midfield next season so Bartra will probably be 3rd choice.
      Still, centrebacks get more injuries and suspensions than any other players so depth is very important.
      I think that if the 4th centreback can play an additional position like RB or LB then there will be plenty of minutes to go around.

  32. andrecito says:

    really? has it already been declared that masch will be playing as dm? that would seem to be a radical change…has he played there even once for us yet?

    i agree..versatility is key..are any of the cb’s we are looking into able to play on the wing?

    • ciaran says:

      Masch played his first games for us there and then has allowed Busquets to be rested on a couple of occasions but not at any stage this year.
      I am confident in Bartra’s abilities and would love to see him get a good run of games next to Pique.

      Marquinhos can play right back and Mathieu spent the majority of his career at left back. We were linked to Rojo of Sporting who also plays left back for the Argentinian national team. There are certainly options.

      • stefan2k says:

        The number one CB duo this season was Pique and Masche for a reason. To think simply because we buy a new CB Masche will automatically lose his spot seems wrong to me. Bartra didn’t suddenly got more experienced than Masche nor has any other CB a better connection to Pique right away. I’d say don’t write him off and praise his versatility

        • ciaran says:

          We’ll have a difference of opinion on Mascherano. I love the guy and he really gives it his all but at times when it really mattered this season he came up short (no pun intended). Don’t get me wrong, he’s not the only one but I’d rather buy two centrebacks and have Masch at 5th choice to be honest.
          I don’t mind him at DM even though I’d prefer either more offensive skills or more physicality.

          In terms of Bartra, my opinion is that he has the potential to become a great player and if you want a defender to be experienced well… you have to play them.

  33. Peter says:

    I have followed the discussion and the posts for quite a while, but couldn’t yet find it to write. The way Barcelona was, well… robbed of a League it maybe shouldn’t have won and then the added blows of seeing Tata’s last presser and the way Real won la decima, Puyol’s last presser as well… A cule’s soul has only so much strength to endure pain.

    In any case that was the past, so we might as well look towards the present and future. And the future looks very, very bleak if we’re to judge to the majority of comments in the Catalan sports newspapers. But these same “culers” have been petulant since birth(in fact there was one Crackovia segment going back to the first goal of Barcelona and one fan screaming “Gampeeer, less chocolate and more football!!!” youtube.com/watch?v=Bw0HbtxQiTg ) and have shown that they don’t really know what they want. Case in point: Rumors announce that Barcelona are going for David Luis and the culerada went absolutely mad “You dumbass Zubi, you’re going to sign that headless chicken?!”. PSG announced they have signed David Luis and the culerada went “Zubi, you useless **** you let the vice-captain of Brazil escape!!!”

    Solving a problem starts with admitting there is one. Barcelona does not have a sugar daddy. Barcelona does not have an infinite amount of financial resources. Unlike PSG and City(and Chelsea) Barcelona is bound by law to show profit at the end of the season. And that’s what limits the war chest of Barcelona. Which is why I doubt that the people shouting their disgust at Barcelona’s shirts with Qatar Airways’s logo and then demanding Barcelona spend 55 000 000 Euro on a defender(and then sign another defender and a striker and a midfielder) have functioning brains. But then again, as the saying goes, “50 million is a number, 50 Euro is real money”.

    Second in this line of thought, Barcelona already has an abundance of midfielders and strikers. Currently the fad is “buy Rakitic, buy Koke”. My question is why? If Barcelona continues to play 4-3-3, this team already has Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Rafinha, Song, Sergi Roberto and probably Denis Suarez in short fighting for a total of two spots. Why on earth would you sign more smallish creative midfielders, when Barcelona already has smaller and more creative midfielders to spare? Yes, you’d scoff at putting Song and Sergi Roberto in the same sentence as Xavi and Iniesta, but every team needs squad players, not stars but dependable squad workhorses. Will Rakitic or Koke accept playing fifth fiddle in Barcelona when they can move on to another club or stay in their current one and reap the benefits of new contracts?

    Moving on to strikers, it is my firm view that Barcelona has enough of those. As a matter of fact, what Barcelona needs is more spine and physical ability in defense and midfield. Before last season started, I wrote in total Barça that in order to be more successful in attack, Barcelona needs to concentrate more on midfield and defense. The more you attack or the scarier your attack, the more the other team will bunker and wait for a lucky corner, set piece or counter.
    There´s a saying that attack is the best form of defense. Well, there´s another saying, the best attack starts with great defending. It doesn’t really matter if you have bricks for fists when you have a glass jaw, and a strong building needs a strong foundation.

    A few words about potential team reinforcements and exits:
    David Luis is gone, forget him and move on.

    Benatia looks fit, strong and fast on youtube, but Roma, as always, will go for the highest bidder – and that means FC Etihad, unless some miracle happens, or if Barcelona start a bidding war with them – and then the culers would be screaming “Useless Zubi, you spent 50m for Benatia who’s so overhyped that even Manchester City decided he’s too expensive for them you should’ve bought Laporte and Mathieu and brought Reus omghowkenyoubisostyupid!!!!” (Case in point, I’d prefer Laporte instead of Marquinhos due to left leg, more height and more experience in the best domestic league in Europe), but if the dilemma is Benatia or Marquinhos/Laporte + Mathieu, I know which I would choose in a heartbeat.

    Mascherano’s staying is very, very good news. Letting him go at whatever price would’ve been treason, because what Barcelona have is a genuine destroyer, the type of player that makes opponents decide to give him wide berth, the one player in Barcelona who could outbully Diego Costa. And Barcelona have him, and for the last three years that exemplary player has studied and perfected his defending. In essence, Barcelona would have another trained defender ready to slot into position in case the starting CBs get injured.

    I don’t know what to think about Dani Alves. On one hand I don’t want him to leave, on the other I know Barcelona needs a CB and apparently Marquinhos is one of those that Barcelona want – and PSG want Dani Alves and money in return. On his best form Dani Alves is a beast who can attack and defend – you just need to look at what he did vs Real and vs City. Of course, if I were Luis Enrique and had the option, I’d tell Dani Alves, as well as the whole team, that I’d rather have them play fewer minutes with more quality in those minutes than trudge around day-in, day-out. With the schedule of La Liga rotation and recuperation of the players is tantamount, because the organism needs to repair the mini-ruptures that appear during the game. If those aren’t repaired fully, the area gets weaker with each following exertion – with results like Messi’s 8-cm thigh tear or Diego Costa’s handful of minutes in the last month’s games. How would Lucho and his men manage to make the players play less, but with more quality, is anyone’s guess and hopefully they can find the answer to that.

    As for Fabregas or Alexis, I don’t think Luis Enrique intends to dispense with either of them. Alexis has had a fabulous season. Would you like a Hurts’ donut? There you go:
    Fabregas’s offensive stats, goals and assists, are better than Iniesta and Xavi’s combined.

    Hurts, donnit?

    P.S. Stat comparison between Benatia, Laporte, Pique, Bartra and Marquinhos in their respective domestic leagues(grain of salt, of course, Serie A is notorious for its defensive stability, meaning every defender covers a smaller zone, and Ligue 1 is… well, Ligue 1):
    squawka.com/comparison-matrix#serie_a/2013/2014/mehdi_benatia/76/76/3041/0/p|la_liga/2013/2014/aymeric_laporte/69/69/3935/0/p|la_liga/2013/2014/gerard_piqu%C3%A9/69/69/314/0/p|la_liga/2013/2014/marc_bartra/69/69/1576/0/p|ligue_1/2013/2014/marquinhos/58/58/3485/0/p#aerial_duels_won_%/aerial_duels_won/total_duels_%/defence_score/successful_take_ons_%/tackles_won#total

    • 86ed says:

      You lost me at “robbed of a League.”

    • ibbe says:

      Great comment. And awesome stat website. Bookmarked!

    • Jim says:

      Sorry, Peter but I can’t agree with your over the top praise of Mascherano. I’m on record as saying I think he is worth a shot at DM because of the qualities you mention, although I’m with Ciaran in that tor me it’s a lets have a look at his skills when under pressure there. However, if we are to genuinely strengthen our defence he’s the one who has to be moved out. Imo, he has cost us big time in the biggest matches. The latest of these being the last match against Atletico. It was nothing to do with his lack of height, which has cost us in the past. It was his awful positioning which allowed the scorer a free header. From a position of strength In being goal side, he then contrives to find himself the wrong side and unable even to nudge him off the ball. You can see him afterwards beating the ground as to be fair to him he is always honest in acknowledging his mistakes. It goes all the way back to the Chelsea CL match where we had just scored and he raced out of the middle of a three man defence (why was it still 3 man Pep when we were going through ?) to tackle Lampard, missed by a mile and we were out. There are examples every second week.

      For me, we forget about him as CB from now on. If he stays, he stays as Busi’s deputy .

      Again, for me, Alexis would be on his way. Another great trier but poor first touch, struggles to beat a man and never seems in control of his abilities. If he is world class I’m not seeing the world class teams lining up to sign him. I have to say, the call between keeping him or Pedro is much closer than I thought it would have been. However, I do think we need someone to play ahead of Messi and that means a casualty .

      Agreed on Rakitic and Koke as well as the need for realism in financial matters if we are to continue to challenge for the top prizes.

      • Inamess says:

        Jim, I am glad that I am not the only one who still has nightmares about Ramirez going through on goal.

        Still can’t get over that moment despite a few good years of therapy!

      • Kxevin says:

        Sorry, but you can watch that goal from many an angle, and find someone to go at. Alves for just shoving at the pile, which takes out two Atleti players along with Mascherano, the defenders for ball watching, nobody for picking up the Atleti attacker when Mascherano was there with two other Atleti attackers around him.

        You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVIlmMPL3_k

        At the moment the corner is taken, it’s worth pausing the image. Mascherano is already tied up with one Atleti attacker, and the goal scorer is running free, ready to meet the header. Meanwhile there are three Barça players standing around a single Atleti attacker. Nobody followed the flight of the ball, nobody tried to mark a man except for Mascherano. Alves just decided that pushing everything away would be the best policy. Voila. Goal.

        Barça has given up those kinds of loose man set piece goals for some time now, even before Mascherano was in the back line.

        It’s why I note above that any and all player evaluations are kinda pointless, and why I watched and watched, time and again, in an effort to suss out exactly what happened on a given pivotal player the the match reviews of yore.

        It didn’t matter.

        Player evaluations by supporters are, at their core, affirmation, dissent and accusations. You like X player because you disagree with my assessment of said player. You dislike X player because you disagree with my assessment of said player. “Hey, let’s be fair here.” “Shee, what are you, his mom? He’s terrible, and should be sold.”

        And round and round it goes.

        • Inamess says:

          I’ve looked at that goal quite a few times and it seems to me it was a very practiced play, almost as if Simeone knew that the title might come down to his team scoring on a set piece.

          It almost seemed like a football play in which two Atleti players acted as linemen for Godin to have space for the perfect chance for a open header. Problem for us is that it went as well in the game as it probably did on the practice field.

        • Jim says:

          Kxevin, none of those angles in that link you posted tell us much I agree. However, on the a Sky coverage of the game they showed a later replay from the reverse angle which shows it quite clearly.

          http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UtYW5Da3_1o

          If you stop this precisely at 1:24 you can see the coverage clearly before the ball comes over. Masch is quite clearly on his own marking him and is also clearly goal side of him. Now run it on and as a Barca fan weep. He manages to completely lose the flight of the ball, lose the man he is marking and ends up facing the wrong way and on the ground. That’s why he’s beating the ground after it.

          I know you think Masche gets a hard time from me among others but this sort of defending happens too often to let him stay there.

      • Peter says:

        I’m not saying that Barcelona need to keep Mascherano as a CB, on the contrary. What I am saying is that with him in DM Barcelona would have a DM with three years of experience in defence. He won’t have to learn a lot, and what he needs to learn(under the new system of Lucho I mean) would come with less difficulty – and if it’s needed, he can slot in defence for some time, for example final fifteen minutes when both CBs(say Pique and Bartra/Benatia/Laporte/Marquinhos) are in the opposing box acting as target men. Options and versatility of the squad.

        The reason why Alexis struggles to beat his men(plural) is because the build-up is too slow and allows the opponents time to track back and focus on defence. As for the poor first touch of Alexis, it may come as a surprise to you, but the majority of his goals this season have been first-touch, including the one vs Sevilla and the one vs Atletico, as well as the one vs Getafe. The problem with him seems to be when he tries to overcontrol it.

  34. Kxevin says:

    To take a turn from Football Manager and Pinto sucks look at the stats, Puyol has been appointed to ZubiZa’s staff for next season. Buzz is that he wants to become sporting director in the future.

    • ciaran says:

      They didn’t really clarify what the role would be other than an assistant to Zubi and that he would be working on projects.
      It’s a good sign though.

      I don’t see Puyol as a manager type unlike Xavi. I don’t know why because he was a great leader on the pitch. Xavi just seems so tactical in comparison. They might make a good combo at some stage like Rijkaard & ten Cate

      • Kxevin says:

        Bartomeu has proved a master at the PR game. Note how the dissenting voices have died down, except for some die-hards. But with the Enrique appointment, making transfers, recalling the Masia products and appointing Puyol, dude is handling his “Don’t recall our asses” business, I have to say.

        • ciaran says:

          Without distancing himself from Rosell he is doing everything right to get people on board. He is answering questions very well, about our players and others and bringing Luis Enrique, while expected, was the right decision for most people.

          He’s saying the right things and doing them too

        • simple_barcafan says:

          Have to agree. With all the “board sucks” mindset, Bartomeu seems to be doing the right things.
          – He has (or looks as if he has) let Zubi have a free rein and not interfere in the transfers.
          – handled Tito’s situation delicately
          – Puyol was given a nice farewell and seems to be easing him into the Barca Board (Although I have a feeling his close friend Enrique might have had a say in it)
          – Hasn’t aggressively pursued the nou camp nou in the media
          – New Messi deal
          – Went and met Blatter at Prague to sort out the FIFA ban and explain Barca’s position.
          – Doesn’t seem to be always in the spotlight (a feeling I had about Rosell)
          – Seems to say the right things in the media (Comments about Masch, Cesc feel right)

          Is it too early to judge him? Of course. Is he doing it keeping in mind the next elections? Maybe. But at least he is making the right moves and I don’t have the uneasy feeling I had when Rosell was around.

          • Inamess says:

            What makes Bartomeu interesting is that a man with that kind of personality would never have been elected President of our club.

            Maybe that is the best thing about him in that he is more unassuming and doesn’t seek the attention and the spot light, but seems to work best behind the scenes. That is a huge plus in my book.

            As for Zubi, I don’t know why every Barca legend gets a pass. If the sum total of his contributions to the team are drawing up Thiago’s contract and then buying Song, Fabregas, Mascherano, and Sanchez only to sell them this summer, then I don’t see how he can be defended.

      • Jim says:

        I think I’d rather have had him on the coaching staff charged with improving our defending.

    • Inamess says:

      Not so much Pinto sucks but rather the replacement of Valdes by Pinto this year may have been just as costly as the replacement of Messi by Fabregas last year around a the same time because of another injury.

      Do you think that is why we got Neymar for this year because we knew the team had to answer for a Messi injury? It may have worked out because we were fairly good when Messi was out and Sanchez and Neymar stepped up.

      It may have also been because the club thought that with Neymar on the team this year it allowed our core group in probably their last season together to have one more shot at some significant silverware.

      It would have been interesting to know what Tito had planned, but, of course, that is another tragedy in that we will never know.

  35. Archie says:

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

    A goal similar to ones scored against FCB during 12-13 season, at 33 seconds Ciro Immobile breezes past Inigo has to slow down because he has created so much separation, catches the 60 yard pass on his instep and chips de Gea. Quite heroic since Spain was absolutely spanking Italy at this point and in addition to his 3 goals, Thiago had made 3 Cesc-worthy through balls that should have resulted in goals in first half.

    • Archie says:

      If you want to really enjoy your blog-comment football manager, watch the under 21 and under 19 Euros/WCs which has been possible on espn3.com in the past! I have been waiting to appear knowledgable about a younger player ever since watching this game last summer. Thiago was the stand out player, but anyone who saw that Immobile goal would have been impressed.

  36. simple_barcafan says:

    With Masch hopefully staying and moving back to the DM position, it would be interesting to see how the midfield will shape up. Since the “Xavi successor” debate is raging, I am curious how will the formation look like with out him.
    – Cesc is best suited for vertical play.
    – Rafinha is too young and from what i have seen, he seems to be in the same mould as Cesc.
    -We can make Iniesta the playmaker, but it will clip his wings and limit his ghost runs.
    – Sergio Roberto? Most seem unconvinced.
    – Or Busi can be the playmaker with Masch as the DM. That seems a intriguing setup. And people who might think Masch can’t do the job as DM at Barca( as Busi is supposed to be irreplaceable there) might be surprised.

    • Inamess says:

      I don’t know why so many on this site think that the club plans to feature Masch a lot in midfield next year.

      Is this just guess work or has their been more information that suggests that that is where he might be? To me, I would be fine if we want to keep him as a 4th CB or an occasional sub for Busquets or replacement if the latter gets injured.

      • ciaran says:

        All reports suggest that we are buying 2 centrebacks so unless we plan to turn into Chelsea then they can’t all play centreback.
        Masch is a liability at CB and may not be at DM. I’m not convinced but it looks most likely. In reality there aren’t many DMs on the market and those midfielders that have been linked aren’t exactly defensive (Koke, Rakitic, Pogba & Vidal).

        The only player that has similar characteristics to Busquets is Daley Blind of Ajax but we haven’t been linked to him. Gonalons of Lyon is similar on the ball but not as aggressive in pressing as Blind. I’d be happy enough with Blind as our 4th choice centreback if necessary, his father started as a LB and made the transition to a great CB and Daley is taller than his father.

  37. ciaran says:

    Spain v Bolivia this evening, it would be nice to see Deulofeu getting 45 minutes to impress, I don’t expect him to start.
    I’m interested to see what Del Bosque & Lucho have planned for him

  38. Inamess says:

    A Tribute to a Barca Legend and Why George Harrison is My Favorite Beatle

    In a season characterized by disappointment and the pointing of fingers, there is one story that seems to fade more and more from our attention in light of our disappointing loss on our last game and our rival claiming another kind of victory a week later.

    I bet if you asked many of the players on our team and its former coach how they would summarize our season they would say something like this: “Our team did not win any major silverware because we generally underperformed and had a lot of off-field misfortune and distractions. However, the most difficult blow to our chances of winning major silverware came when our team’s best player this season was lost due to injury.”

    The player I am referring to is, of course, Victor Valdes. Valdes was having his best season in this, his last year at Barcelona before he planned to move to a new club after probably starting in goal for Spain this summer. It is not difficult to make a case that before April, Victor was our best player and at least part of the reason for our huge success before our season started to get much more complicated for so many reasons.

    Then came the home game against Celta and on a somewhat routine save from a free kick, Victor landed a little bit strangely. It was a one in a million type of injury, but he seemed to know the implications right away along with every fan in the stadium and the millions watching on their screens around the world. Victor knew right then and there that his career with his club was over and that he would have the strangest and most unsatisfying departure of anyone on this historic team.

    He certainly was not anticipating the kind of gala send off that his more popular teammate Puyol would later get, but he must have certainly expected more. It was simply not supposed to go this way. And then when a few weeks later, his great former coach passed away, it probably made his own situation almost seem trivial in comparison. Why should a famous athlete feel sorry for himself when people every day were facing life and death situations?

    Victor always had an ambiguous relationship with his club and its fans. Starting in goal at the tender age of 20, he had always been on the field but he knew the spectators’ attention was elsewhere. The only time he would get significant scrutiny was if an opposition player broke thorough and came at him on a 1 on 1. Sometimes he would make a brilliant save and sometimes he wouldn’t. Or maybe the other team would press up field and Victor would make an errant pass while trying to build possession from the back. The jeers must have been deafening to a man who fans sometimes sardonically called “Exxon Valdes”.

    But little by little things changed and according to some interviews this year, he viewed some particular moments in his career as turning points including the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal and the tenure of Pep Guardiola who told the keeper to try to have fun and be bold at a position that before he rarely seemed to enjoy. And it seemed after that, he improved every year through this year, his best season.

    In many ways Valdes was always in a no win situation because the only time he’d get serious attention is through failure and this can be particularly difficult for someone with a sometimes sensitive and shy disposition. I think that constantly being the last obstacle between the ball and the net and the fact that his performance was ultimately judged by one or two plays each game must have weighed on him. It even may have been a private demon he has been living with over his twelve years on his club’s first team during the most illustrious period in its history.

    It is perhaps foolish to speculate about the private thoughts of the players on our favorite team. Fans may believe one thing about a person, but in reality that person might be quite different. But sometimes we think about them, nonetheless, and for some bizarre reason they become important to our lives in a way for which there is no rational explanation. But I feel a certain connection to Victor Valdes and admire his courage to want to move on with his career and seek his future somewhere else despite being such an integral part of a historic team. He seemed to want to go his own way and no longer linger in the past.

    In a way, Valdes was like George Harrison, my favorite Beatle, in that he knew he was part of a legendary group, but didn’t want to spend the rest of his life being defined by it. He also knew that he wasn’t the most talented of the group nor the most popular, but in his own way his contribution was just as unique and important.

    So here’s to you Victor, you will not be forgotten.

    A player comes into his own and, in doing so, becomes a legend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4DK_kiyRpg

  39. Inamess says:

    Summary of The Today’s Transfer News:

    1)David De Guea wants every Barcelona player to join him at United.

    Question: Why didn’t the guy just didn’t demand a trade and come to us.

    2)God has spoken and his decision is that Xavi stays. So I guess we move on to another matter of discussion.

    Question: Why hasn’t he made a similar ruling on the more important matter of Fabregas? Sometimes what you don’t say can be more important than what you do.

    Contrarian Interpretation: Maybe he is just waiting to rip the board when it makes a move on any midfielder.

    http://www.footballdirectnews.com/premier-league-news/50678-barca-legend-feels-club-should-keep-xavi.php

  40. PrinceYuvi says:

    Ini-Cesc-Busi lost their teeth they say.

    Should’ve watched the friendly.

    With a defence to guard them,
    They just sat in opponent box and created chances for the fun of it.

    Iniesta side footed the ball into the net from a mile away.
    Busi crashed against the woodwork.
    Cesc almost chipped the goalkeeper.

    It’s just my opinion that Barça is criminally lopsided and
    Messi is the patchwork that keeps most loopholes hidden.

    I hope our sprites have a great World cup,
    they deserve to play in a properly shaped team.

    Rooting for Argentina this year, I tend to forget that. Spain is fun.

    • Inamess says:

      The amazing thing is that Iniesta and Puyol have about 80 professional goals combined for club and country.

      I don’t know if two players on the same teams have ever scored so few goals and yet so many important ones, including the only Semifinal and Finals goals for Spain, the Miracle at Stamford Bridge, and quite a few Classico goals as well.

      Iniesta definitely owns the top corner of the net: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7p7q6VnGVg

  41. kenny says:

    Not sure if anyone watched the Chile Egypt match but after going two goals down from quick counters in the first twenty minutes, Alexis had three assists and Chile turned the tie 3-2.

  42. barca96 says:

    Arsenal have first option on Cesc (equalling highest bid). If sold to other for more than 36M Barcelona paid, they get 50% added value. [md]

    1) Does this mean that if we sell Cesc for below 36m, we don’t need to share 50% with Arsenal?
    2) What if we do a swap + cash of say 20m + x player.

    If I understand and predicted both of the aforementioned scenarios are correctly, then Zubi or whoever negotiated the deal with Arsenal back then is a genius!

    • Inamess says:

      That is why I think we should hang on to Cesc. The money we get for selling him is no more than what we will pay to get Marquinhos.

      If an outright swap or Cesc for a talented but sill unproven young Brazilian defender doesn’t make sense, then selling Cesc for that price doesn’t either.

      We don’t yet know what exactly Xavi’s status is going to be for our team next year, so as another quality midfield option Cesc’s presence on our squad is important.

  43. barca96 says:

    KI saw Deulofeu’s debut. I still don’t see what all the fuss is about with the kid. He doesn’t look up when he plays and has a low football IQ. Pass to players who are already pressured, crosses the ball straight to the keeper (could be dangerous IF there are team mates close to the GK which wasn’t the case).

    He definitely needs to spend one more year on loan.

  44. barca96 says:

    I don’t think that Pinto sucks at all. When it was announced that VV will be out for the rest of the season, I said that he is good enough for Copa and Liga matches but not CL quality matches. We need a better GK between the sticks against top quality opponents.

    But hey, which 2nd GK is good except for Madrid :lol:

    • Inamess says:

      I thought I was making an obvious point. The Valdes injury was the most costly event of our season, though now it is hardly mentioned as a reason for our poor performance at the crucial end of the season.

      It is like the South saying after the American Civil War: “We lost the war but it had nothing to do with the Battle of Gettysburg”.

  45. barca96 says:

    It seems now that the adrenaline has died down since the season is over and we forget how things were during and after matches.

    Alves is not a good crosser. How many of his crosses were actually successful?

    Now with Cesc it seems that many has forgotten about his performance and use the stats to make an argument for him.

    Cesc couldn’t hold the ball at all when pressured and when he isn’t allowed any space. He can’t dribble himself out of trouble. We need a midfielder who can do both of that.

    Cesc definitely has the better stats compared to Iniesta and Xavi but Xaviniesta is more useful for the team than Cesc even when they don’t have the stats to show for it. Awful stats.

    Ask yourself if you’re more confident starting a match with Iniesta/Xavi or Cesc…

    Mascherano was a liability for his weak positioning and his height (not his fault but it is what it is). But now many just remember his bravery which is commendable and which we need but I would not want him to be a starter again! He should be a 4th choice CB and a 2nd choice DM.

    Alexis is another one where many just seem to remember his work rate. I love players who work hard but Alexis also has a tough time holding onto the ball and beating his marker. Pedro is more or less the same as Alexis.

    I don’t mind keeping them both though. If I had to choose, I’d choose Pedro to stay not because he is a better player individually but I think Pedro has the edge over Alexis is team play and is cheaper and won’t sulk if he is a bench warmer.

    • Peter says:

      Do opponent’s unstoppable headers in their own nets count as successful crosses for Alves?

      Cesc can’t hold the ball when pressured and loses the ball when he’s not allowed space – and he loses the ball making forward passes.
      Xavi does not hold the ball under pressure – he passes. If he passes it to a defender 15m back then possession is maintained, but the danger and opportunity is lost.
      The thing I can’t accept is that you want to compare Fabregas to Xavi+Iniesta. You want him to be able to maintain possession(like Xavi) and also dribble himself out of trouble like Iniesta.
      Stats don’t show the whole picture, you know, but they show a tendency. Last season Iniesta was the top assister of the team. Last season both he and Xavi performed much better. This season their performance has dropped. Xavi for me needs to be saved up and used at best once a week, so that he can rest between matches and actually be more energetic on the pitch, because possession alone doesn’t win matches, scoring goals wins matches, and to score goals you need forward passes.
      Anyway, I understand neither the reason to hate Cesc nor the idea that selling him and buying someone else will change a lot, unless you think for some reason that he usurps the rightful spot of Xavi or Iniesta. And just like you appeal to safety and tradition, I need to ask:

      Is it possible that your not-so-veiled criticism of Cesc is caused by lack of desire to look further and assign a portion of the blame to team legends who haven’t performed as they should have? Who would you sign for the team when you sell Fabregas?

      As for Mascherano, I don’t agree with your decisions, even though I partly agree with the conclusions – he shouldn’t play as a CB unless really needed, but on the other hand he should be used to his full ability in the midfield, where he can provide much-needed toughness, which is lacking at the moment.
      Thankfully, it seems Luis Enrique and the president think the same.
      I wonder, what would a thoroughly reinvigorated team pressing and running would look like with two pivotes.

      • barca96 says:

        :lol: @Alves comment.

        I didn’t criticize Xavi and Iniesta because I know what they are capable of. Cesc on the other hand still hasn’t improved. Xavi and Iniesta has regressed but I know they are capable of performing.

        Cesc does great against smaller teams who don’t pressure much but when it comes to teams who harass our players, I would not want to see him playing. He has a very high turn over rate because he can’t protect the ball and he doesn’t have the speed of thought.

        When playing an open game, Cesc is definitely our best player but in a tight encounter, his skill sets (or lack off) hurts us.

        I compared those 3 players because they are our midfielders.

        I wouldn’t Cesc him but I’d definitely not play him or at least start him against tough teams.

      • Inamess says:

        Peter, I know this has been debated to death already, but I still don’t know why everyone is so optimistic about Mascherano in midfield. Isn’t the most important quality for a Barca midfielder to pass and maintain possession. I don’t remember Masch doing this that well when he was featured as DM in his first season.

        I still think Masch’s best position on our team was at CB and most at the club probably agreed until he proved more vulnerable there this season against top teams. If Masch stays, why are you no longer comfortable with having him at CB for mid-table and weaker opponents.

        He is very good at putting out fires with timely tackling and the best in our squad at long passes out of the back.

        • ibbe says:

          http://www.barcelonafootballblog.com/22443/nostalgia-bara-real-sociedad-12102010/

          Remember this game? Mascherano was playing as a DM. One of the best games this barca played. Except for the challenge he made in 6th minute which earned him a yellow, was he really that bad that some people are not willing to give him a chance?

          And have in mind that that was his first season in barca. Now after 3 years of playing CB and watching every move Busi made week in week out, don’t you think he might’ve picked up a thing or two?

          Don’t we all want tactical variations? Well I remember a certain pep saying that Masche is one of the most intelligent players he worked with and he loved to talk about tactics with him. So is having a player who can adapt to diffrent tactical setups (that lucho will hopefully install) really such a bad idea?

          I don’t really care in which position masche will play next season because i know everytime he plays he will leave his soul on the pitch, as he showed many times this season when most of the other players just “lost their way”..

      • Jim says:

        Not sure why you assume that anyone supporting Xavi’s contribution is caused by myopia. I also don’t know where you get the idea that Xavi also passes out of pressure. He can and does but he is equally capable of twisting and turning and losing opponents to escape pressure. The key thing for me is that you don’t lose the ball when put under pressure. The time to make a telling through ball, which Xavi does as well as anyone is when you aren’t under pressure and have time to look up like Cesc’s ball into the box for Alexis’ goal. I’m not against Cesc staying and I could see him running the midfield with Iniesta in the Xavi role but he’ll have to get better at some of the Xavi qualities to be able to do that. You are right to ask if Cesc can’t hack it who will we buy.

        I also agree that whoever we choose needs to start getting some time on the field, mainly to keep Xavi fresh but also so they can prove the team is safe in their hands. Haven’t really seen anyone do that yet ….. And time is against us.

      • Peter says:

        @barca96 You know what Xavi is capable of, and so do I. The fear in me is that it may be “what he was capable of. Well, I know what Cesc is capable of, and with more direct play, which would suit the strikers that Barcelona has to a “t”, he can be very, very good. And that’s the whole point. Slowing down the play and maintaining high possession accommodates Xavi and plays to one of the strengths of Barcelona, but cripples everything the strikers might do, because passing and possession assumes the other guys come out to play – and they don’t, they stand back around their box and wait for you. After all, time is on their side – if the game finishes 0-0 they’ve got a point off Barcelona. What Barcelona has in this moment is Messi, Neymar, Alexis, Pedro, Tello. Give them a bit of space to work and they will score – actually they do score. But they do need that space, they need speed of play, fast transition and lots of movement in order to disorganize the other team. A fit Xavi can do that, as well as exert control over the game. A Xavi after four games in two weeks though?

        Second point, which lots and lots of people(and it seems quite a few players as well) forget. A victory over a relegation team gives the same number of points as a victory in the Clasico – and Barcelona play three relegation teams, both home and away. Barcelona lost this Liga not against Real or Atletico, they lost it when they failed to win vs. Granada, Valladolid, Getafe and Elche. You need the players who score against the minnows, because sooner or later they will score against a big team as well – and what counts in the end is scoring and not conceding – and to score you need those forward passes.

        Furthermore, let’s not forget who we’re talking about: Fabregas was in La Roja for the last three major tournaments, winning every one of them – and he provided the assist for the first goal in the last two finals.

        @Inamess:

        The reason I am optimistic is because Barcelona needs at least one player who digs in and pushes back. Barcelona needs at least one real captain, like Capi. I will tell you a saying, read it and tell me which player of Barcelona it best applies to: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

        Also, Mascherano is a DM by trade. Playing as a CB in Barcelona in the last two years has been almost like playing as a traditional DM either at the centerline or just behind it. However, unlike traditional DMs, Barcelona’s CBs know that there’s nobody to back them up, nobody to correct them if they make a mistake. Furthermore, with Alves and Alba both accustomed to bombing forward, Barcelona’s two CBs often have to guard half the pitch by themselves. In such cases focus, vision and position become even more important, but they practically pale before the need to anticipate the play. In this volatile, high-risk and low-reward environment, a player either makes or breaks – and Mascherano hasn’t broken. Having said all that, what happens with Mascherano in the DM spot. Against smaller teams he can play as Busquets’ sub like Song does now. Against bigger teams he can play next to Busquets – and what happens? Here’s what:

        1. Mascherano, used to covering 1/5 to 1/4 of the whole pitch, suddenly has another DM close by, and two CBs to the back. The zone he needs to cover is much smaller, meaning he can get there sooner. I remember La Remontada vs Milan, how Masche made an interception in the final third of Milan which gave the ball to Xavi, who sent it to Villa for the third. Mere seconds before that, when the TV camera caught him for the last time, Masche was beyond the centerline – he had sprinted forward, made the interception, thereby smothering a counter before it had even started, and gifted the ball to Xavi. This is who Barcelona would get to play in midfield.

        2. Teams that just love to push around the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Alba and Neymar will find themselves in close proximity to a guy who not just knows how to respond in kind, he can repay it with interest, all the while staying within the rules, all the while begging you to give him more reason to retaliate.(if you have noticed, the majority of his cards come from late challenges when he needs to sprint out of position). There were at least three cases this season of Mascherano shoulder-checking opposing strikers in the box and leaving them to look up pleadingly to the ref, only to be told to get up and get on with the game. People think it’s because Barcelona is favoured, which is bollocks(two legal goals disallowed in the last two games of the season, both of which ended in draws), but could it be that Masche knows how much pressure to apply?

        3. Xabi Alonso was once interviewed about his view on formation of english youth footballers. He recalled seeing interviews in the pre-match programme in which the kids would answer to questions like “favourite skill” with “tackling”. Xabi had this to say “Tackling is not a skill, it’s a last-ditch option… Unless Mascherano does it. Then it’s art.”

  46. barca96 says:

    Many people symphatise with Tata, me too but like Levon said he knew what he was getting into. And I said it many times, nearly all the managers are having the same problem as him.

    How many managers has the luxury that Pep had? Backing of the board, 100% say in transfer matters, time to implement changes.

    Managers gets approached, they negotiate and obviously Tata agreed to the terms and conditions set by Rosell and Tata simply had to deliver. He showed signs in the first half of the season and failed in the 2nd half.

    I would want him to continue even if we lost the league if the performances in the 2nd half of the season were the same as in the first half. Even if we lost the league yes.

    If you can remember, I was so happy with him before X-Mas and I said numerous times that even if we don’t win the league I’d stick by him because he made changes. I was especially happy with Clasico line up. He had balls.

  47. andrecito says:

    3 monster assists by alexis today…almost a carbon copy of messi on all three…i really hope for him to have success in the world cup.

    i agree on the above comment about deulofeu…receive the ball, take on the defender, head down and go full throttle..almost the same thing every time. only thing he has going for him is that he plays on the right side where hesn have to compete with neymar…if he was a left sided player he would have no chance in our squad. im hoping he goes on loan to a la liga side..

    im a little confused by the bravo acquisition. he is 31 years old (prime age for a gk) and starter on his national team..and he is basically giving up on being a starter for the rest of his career. to come to barca. why would he want to do this? pinto came to us when he was 33 and made 31 appearances in 6 years…thats about 5 a season..

  48. Archie says:

    Watch on ESPN3. The first few times Azpi received ball Deulo turned and ran behind the LB but Azpi didn’t look for him. Azpi looked a little lost concerning the associative play expectations. Xavi gave him a talking to after a missed 1-2 opportunity. Deulo stopped running behind and came back to Azpi and received the ball surrounded by 3 defenders a couple of times and couldn’t even find a pass. Then, he started roaming and got into some better positions to receive ball. Just question of experience.

  49. Archie says:

    An essay from my morning dog-jog in which I describe an Euler-influenced Spain NT starting line up:

    GK
    Azpi-Pique-Ramos
    Koke-Busquets-Alba(injury?)/Moreno
    Iniesta
    Silva-Villa-Pedro

    Azpi stays back and uses speed to cover for Pique. Alba/Moreno and Koke are full of youthful vigor and can track back or attack but are covered behind. Koke will increase speed of attack in transition. Iniesta and Silva in close proximity devastated Bolivia. Villa and Pedro will make runs, defend and associate vigorously. No need for El Nino on the plane, sorry, and Costa needs the summer off.

    • Jim says:

      When was the last time Pique needed someone to cover for him? With Ramos beside him in the back four , as will happen, they could well have the top defensive pairing again.

  50. Peter says:

    MD is on record stating that Mascherano is staying and probably will be in midfield. Of course not the first time they’ve said something wrong, but after Luis Enrique called him “captain material” and Bartomeu called him “fundamental” I don’t think we’ll see him leave.

    And there was great gnashing of teeth. :P

  51. barca96 says:

    Would you guys rather have Mascherano or Song as the back up DM? I’m really torn. It’s physicality and muscle vs pitbull Davids style in DM.

    • Inamess says:

      That is I think my major concern. Both are fine backups for Busquets but I don’t think that either is a great option there otherwise. Remember that Tata got crucified for playing Busquets and Song together at the away leg against Real Sociedad. That is why I don’t get all the optimism about playing Masch and Busquets together, unless you think that having Masch in midfield is a better option than having Iniesta, Xavi, or Cesc.

      The Spanish team feature Alonso and Busquets together, but remember that is to beat other national teams 1-0 in knockout tournaments. So unless we wanted to be super cautious or protect a lead, I don’t see an advantage.

      • Jim says:

        Although I’m not really convinced Masche has to be worth a go there. He is a useful team member from a winning mentality point of view and has earned a chance at least.

      • Levon says:

        I think he got crucified because he played the gala team for a cup game in which we had to defend a 2-0 first leg victory and then played a weaker line-up for the crucial league encounter. The criticism was completely justified, imo.

  52. Inamess says:

    To: The BIll and Melinda Gates Foundation

    Dear SIr and Madam:

    As one of the most admirable charities in all of the world let me first congratulate your organization for the many wonderful and worthy causes you have sponsored. For example, thanks to your important work you have been able to stop the scourge of small pox and bring clean water and educational opportunity to many areas that were deprived of these basic needs which should by right be available to each and every human being.

    It is for the reason above that I now ask you to help our organization further its mission by allowing the very best underprivileged youths to come to our club to improve their abilities and show the world that you don’t have to be rich to succeed or fulfill your dreams and potential.

    Below we have randomly chosen three youth from a list of 1 billion people who have been lucky enough to be given the once in a lifetime chance to thrive in a different kind of setting in which one can truly be all you can be. We usually only make these opportunities available to our own youth products who have trained at our academy since the age of five, but this year for the first time we want to open our doors and give some older students a chance.

    Our list that has been generated completely by chance includes the following youth from several areas around the world, truly representing all of humanity in a quest for excellence and equal opportunity. After all we are, as our motto says, “More than a Club”.

    Lucky recipients of the Sandro Rosell Scholarship for Excellence Award are noted below along with their traveling expenses, which in our organization we sometimes refer to as “transfer fee”. The funds needed to fulfill the dreams and hopes of these youth are noted along side their names and nations.

    1) Sergio Leonel Agüero Del Castillo Country: Argentina; Traveling Expenses: 80 Mil Euros
    2) Paul Labile Pogba Country: France, Traveling Expenses::65 Mil Euros
    3)Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz; Country Uruguay; Traveling Expenses: 90 Mil

    Total Requested Charitable Donation: 235 Million Euros.

    Thank you for your kind consideration. We look forward to our new partnership in helping all the youth around the world succeed and have included the enclosed jerseys with thethe names Bill and Melinda on the back with the numbers 10 and 11, which are the same numbers worn by two other underprivileged youth who are currently progressing quite well in their education at our academy .

    Sincerely,
    Josep Maria Bartomeu
    President, FC Barcelona Charities and Education Foundation

  53. Inamess says:

    VDB has chosen his 23 for Brazil. The most surprising inclusion for me is David Villa. I guess he might have secured his spot by his gutsy performance in the CL Final. Omissions: Negredo and Llorente.

    What are some other interesting omissions or inclusions in the squad?

    http://www.marca.com/2014/05/31/en/football/national_teams/1401538320.html

    • Jim says:

      Not that surprising for me. He may well end up playing as well. If we assume Diego Costa isn’t fit because hammys don’t go away just because you want to play in the WC you’re left with Torres who is pretty unconvincing at best. Villa excels back to goal and looking for little gaps. Actually, that squad looks pretty impressive for the heat in Brazil, even allowing for the difficulties European teams have there.

  54. Kxevin says:

    Sky Sports “reported” that Fabregas will leave this summer. So of course everything is aTwitter.

    • kenny says:

      god i hope so. also, can anyone lend any insight to this david villa move to NYC FC? i know its just a rumour but if atletico sell, that means we get a pretty good chunk right?

    • ciaran says:

      Bartomeu said he won’t be sold.
      In fairness, with the clauses put in place when negotiating with Arsenal it always looked very very unlikely that we would sell him. It was said at the time that Arsenal had a 50% sell on fee which has been reported again recently so even if we got €40m for him we’d only get €20m to replace him. It’s ridiculous to even entertain the possibility.

  55. Inamess says:

    Three Models For winning the CL

    Looks like most of the Altheti team will be sold. I guess the best thing a small club can hope for is to get really far in the CL and then cash in on its players in order to rebuild for another chance in Europe in six years.

    This strategy can now be called the Dortmond/Athleti Model in business schools.

    Another competing model is the Real Madrid/PSG approach in which you buy the most expensive players on the planet and hope for a lucky header in stoppage time.

    A third model called the “Barca Way” seeks to gather the best players from a once in a lifetime generation and then replace each aging player with his similar replacement.

    That is why the new Xavi after Thiago and Cesc leave will be the old Xavi, until a 60 mil new Xavi is brought in for our inspection while the next new Xavi gets ready.

  56. ciaran says:

    Just to touch on a few suggestions raised in regards to Masch.
    I’m on record as saying that I don’t think that Mascherano is an ideal option for DM but I’m expecting this to be the case.
    At CB he has been at least partly responsible for goals conceded in some big matches (2 v Benzema – Real and as pointed out by Jim the Godin goal v Atletico amongst others). He can’t help his height but if he hasn’t picked up the rest after 3 years it’s not going to change much. We can’t afford to have him at CB and hope to beat big teams.
    Now, as 4th choice centreback the argument is that he could be used against weaker teams but if we look at the history of our defense we have relied on our 4th or 5th choice centrebacks regularly at various times throughout the past seasons and seem to do it at the business end of every season. Injuries & suspensions are commonplace at the position and with the amount of matches we play invariably the backups get used (Adriano, Busquets, Abidal & Yaya have all been played out of position in big matches over the past few seasons to cover shortcomings).
    I’ve also seen nothing from Ie or Bagnack to suggest that they could step up yet so we should be buying two centrebacks to fill the squad.
    Regardless of who we sign as first choice CB (assuming Marquinhos or hopefully Benatia) the 4th choice CB has to be able to fill in at either fullback position in order to get more minutes and stay happy for the next seasons. Mathieu for the price looks perfect to me given his age profile too especially if Marquinhos is signed.

    The other thing with Masch is playing in midfield. He is a midfielder and three years playing in defense has shown that he has some absolutely great attributes to use; interceptions & tackles are probably best in our squad. I would prefer the 2nd DM to have either very similar skills to Busi or more attacking skills of which Masch has neither. Does that mean that he couldn’t do a great job? No. He can do a fine job in midfield and I fully expect that he will.
    I don’t see him and Busquets as very compatible in midfield though. Busquets has the ability to make forward passes but the past is the best indicator of future performances and while he has the ability he doesn’t use it. A midfield featuring both of them would leave us with very little creativity and wouldn’t be any better in terms of defending set pieces; granted, we should be solid enough defending counters.

    While I fully expect Masch to be kept and I have no issue with it, I do believe that it should be as a replacement for Busquets depending on opposition and to allow Busquets to rest.

    • PrinceYuvi says:

      You forgot to mention his leadership skills.

      People keep forgetting their mental states.

      Players are not cogs and screws to perform exactly how we want.

      At least I know, masch will always give 100% everytime he steps out on the pitch,
      can’t say the same for future signings.

      If he betters the performance of other players by just being there on the pitch, Wondrous.

      Darn, I miss puyol.

  57. PrinceYuvi says:

    Ability (definition) : power or capacity to do or act.

    Doesn’t mean they’ll put this Ability to good use every single time.

    Imagine we get a Pogba : Strong, Fast, Worldclass.
    Is it a guarantee that he’ll work his ass off and put those abilities to a good use 90mins * 50games ?

    Whereas, Even if they’re not very strong and tall,
    I’m pretty sure Lex, Masch will run & harry till they drop.

    I’ll shut up now.

  58. Kxevin says:

    The Sunday Times has a story that makes serious allegations about the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid, including bribery and other means of shady influence. The BBC summarizes the story here:

    http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27652181

    A number of things make you say hmmm, including whether the WC in Qatar will be allowed to happen and if so, what that means for the influence of the country, whose efforts are presumably to set the stage for their big time on the world stage. That means PSG, us and BeIN Sport, to name a few.

  59. PrinceYuvi says:

    http://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claudio_Bravo_(futbolista)

    Bravo’s wikipedia page is
    boasting off ‘FC Barcelona’ already.
    The wait must be killing him. Ha.

    Anybody with seer prowess lurking around ?

    Can’t wait to to have a glimpse at our next season’s squad.

  60. Levon says:

    What I would love to know from the “don’t sell Cesc” crowd are the following things:

    -do you think we need to buy players?
    -would you sell anybody to raise money?
    -And if so, who?

    • ciaran says:

      We obviously need to sign players but selling a productive player and receiving little isn’t the answer. Even if it is not true that Arsenal get 50% of his future transfer we would still only get €40m for Cesc and any replacement for him would cost at least the same without guaranteed results. Koke, Ander, Rakitic, Vidal, Pogba and Gundogan have all been linked but they could easily be failed experiments and if they got results like Cesc does they would be deemed a success so why gamble in the most important position in our team.

      Who would I sell… Any or all of these:
      Pedro, Masch, Song, Tello, Cuenca, JDS, Afellay, Oier, Bojan and Alves.
      I don’t buy into the need to spend €200m to make us competitive by signing Koke, Kun and everybody else like it was a video game.

      • Levon says:

        Of your list Masch is the only one I’d keep. And 40M sounds like a good deal to me for a player who, regardless of his stats, has rarely impressed. I don’t agree that other players would necessarily be deemed a success if for three straight years they still didn’t convince. Besides, for the scenario I described above, we don’t even need to replace his position (although I would love to get Pogba for the future).

        On a side note, I think that the “video games” and “football manager” references from various people in this comment section are very belittling towards those of us who would like for the club to make certain changes, but maybe that’s just me (not starting a fight here, just saying).

        • Levon says:

          Oh and I meant to say, I agree with your skepticism towards the replacements you cited. Except for Pogba. That kid is gonna be a monster, though at Barça he’d need two seasons to adapt.

        • ciaran says:

          Oh by video games I was referencing Sport’s suggestion today that we would be signing 11 players Inc Koke, Kun, Marquinhos, Cuadrado and Llorente.

          I’ve defended my stance on Cesc more than enough but what I will say is that football is a game won by only one stat, goals. It’s very easy to stand behind Iniesta and say that he does so much more but if everyone on your team did everything to Iniesta’s level and didn’t score you wouldn’t win. I’m not against Iniesta at all but every one that says we need to sell Cesc implies that Iniesta and Xavi are the answer to our problem but I disagree.

          Xavi and Iniesta done very little in big matches this season but they get a somewhat free ride. Iniesta made a great pass to Neymar vs Atletico but Neymar made the run and finish yet gets less glory because he isn’t as popular. But if we go back to the last world cup final Cesc made a great pass to Iniesta who finished it and Iniesta gets all the credit. I disagree again.

          For me he gets a raw deal, underperforming in big matches is relevant. He was involved in the first two goals in the 4-3 Classico and scored in them in the previous two seasons.

          • Levon says:

            Ok, I get that, but you sell him, move Messi to no 10 and have money to get a class forward, cb and rb.

            Also, I think I mentioned this somewhere, it’s possible Iniesta’s best days are over (not saying it’s true, just saying it’s possilbe) but selling a club legend who has been with us since he was 12 years old after one lesser season does not fly in my book.

            Anyway, I don’t think Xavi and Iniesta are the answer to our problem, but your saying that implies that although we have been discussing this for some days now, you still don’t address the “answer” to the “problem” as I have argumented in my article and many comments below.

            PS – I’m moderately depressed by Sport’s suggestions. I guess that makes two of us?

    • Davour says:

      I have to say I do not envy Zubi’s position (except that I, of course, do…) – I agree Cesc has been largely unconvincing; not concerning stats, but as a force consistently commanding games, one way or the other. But when we start discussing who actually would be a game changer, more successfully so than Cesc, it is incredibly difficult to offer names that are both good enough, would suit our style of play AND is a realistic transfer target.

      Considering the difficulties of getting a playmaker or box-to-box player (assuming Iniesta would take on the playmaking role), Xavi’s decline, Rafinha’s youth, Roberto’s unconvincing performances so far… perhaps keeping Cesc is the best option at this moment? And I say this reluctantly.

      I have not seen enough of the suggested players to offer a fully informed opinion. But from what I have seen, I would say Vidal is the only player who would make a real difference (though Pogba looks amazingly promising) – especially if we get a forward and pull Messi back a little. I believe Messi, Neymar and Iniesta would offer enough pure creativity, while Vidal would add force and still would have the technical ability to complement the magicians. And perhaps his addition would inspire Alexis even further?

      What about Toni Kroos? Any thoughts on him?

      • Levon says:

        If we sell Cesc, why would we need to buy another midfielder? We got Messi and Masche.

        • Davour says:

          Well, of course it all depends on the system Enrique chooses to use, but assuming 4-3-3, I see neither Masche nor Messi as midfielders in a starting 11. This leaves us with an aging Xavi and a still unproven Rafinha, and perhaps a Roberto (and, less likely, Song?), whom I do not think will be up to the task. I think Vidal could breathe life into the midfield.

          However, considering a 4-2-3-1 system, or 4-3-1-2, or some other system that would give Messi a playmaking position, perhaps we can manage. It will be interesting to see Masche in a midfield position during the WC. I can hardly remember.

          • Levon says:

            Why not? Bergkamp and Litmanen played 10 for Ajax with a striker in front of them. Our system is not that different.

        • petog4realz says:

          We got Messi and Masche? So we are just gonna revert Messi as a full time 10,huh? Who will play as the centre forward? The fact is the team needs CESC.

          • Davour says:

            Messi as nr 10, I think, presumes signing a centre forward. At least to me.

          • Levon says:

            Cesc’s transfer fee would go towards a forward. If the team’s “need” for Cesc were an established fact, as you put it, his sale would not be up for discussion among so many culers.

    • Peter says:

      1. Absolutely. Two CBs, my preferences being one veteran(Mathieu) with knowledge of La Liga and Europe and one youngster, Laporte or Marquinhos, whoever of the two is faster and has better vision. The reasons why I’m not entirely convinced by Benatia are that he seems the leader of the defence in Roma(would he be cool with playing second-fiddle to Pique?), his age, his age again, his age, the fact that he plays in Italy, very importantly his price and… his age. If Barcelona can get two players for the same price or slightly above, I know what I will choose. Of course, negotiations would continue, but mostly to bring down the price of the guys I want to buy.

      I listed Benatia’s age four times for four reasons:
      1. Compared to Laporte and Marquinhos, Benatia has had seven more years of polishing his trade, accumulating experience and knowledge. It’s not easy to start learning things anew, especially at Barcelona.
      2. Younger players have more potential to become better, especially with the right tutoring, and especially in the environment of great players who can teach them a lot.
      3. Young players are cheaper in the long run. More specifically, a 27-year old player with a five-year contract that costs 35m in transfer would be 32 at the end of that contract, with probably very low resale value and amortisation costs of 7m per year, apart from a high-end salary and signing bonuses. A 19-year old player that costs 35m in transfer on a five year contract could have his contract prolonged for five more years – meaning amortisation of 3.5m per year over ten years, at which point he would be 29, still at the peak of his prime, giving the club a much greater resale value, with correspondingly lower initial salaries and signing bonuses, which could then be raised to both tie the player to the club and raise his value. Of course, that’s a gamble for the future, but overall a younger player is cheaper in the long run.
      4. Signing a young defender like Marquinhos or Laporte would effectively mean the second spot on the CB pair is up for grabs. I’d imagine both Marquinhos/Laporte and Bartra would strive to gain that spot, each one driving the other forward, especially given the competitive and driving nature of Luis Enrique. Furthermore, a younger player is much less likely to expect “what’s due to him” than an older one, and more likely to accept rotational benching and not getting the starting spot in order to give the other young guy more minutes.

      2.If someone is to be sold, I’d sell the so-called dead wood, if it can be sold: Tello, Affelay, Dos Santos. Cuenca has been advised apparently that he won’t be getting a new contract. If I have to be brutally pragmatic, I’d sell also Song to the highest bidder. From what I hear he gets a higher salary than Busquets and there are clubs in England who would pay very good money for him – hell, United paid 27m GBP for the afro of Fellaini!
      Consider also this from financial aspect: If Tello, Affelay, Dos Santos, Cuenca and Song’s salaries are removed from the account books, that money would be added to the savings from the missing salaries of Valdes, Pinto and Puyol, which becomes quite the slice. Since the salary costs for next year already have that slice in place, the invisible funds can be used at least partially for the signing chest at no additional burden for the account books. Coupled with the emerging talent from the B team, Rafinha coming back and possible the idea of spending quite a bit of the next summer’s budget this summer, in case FIFA upholds the ban, I believe Barcelona can come up with the funds needed without resorting to selling organs.

      • Levon says:

        I like Marquinhos, but I am nervous about him being our CB replacement, because his weakness is the same as Masche’s, aerial duels.

        I’d buy him for the RB position to give Jordi Alba license to roam forward. Cuadrado certainly looks amazing, but we’d be left with an even more vulnerable defense. Dani Alves will be sold to avoid the risk of him leaving on a free and not being able to replace him during next summer’s potential transfer ban.

        It would still leave us with a CB to fill. Matthieu would have been a very good move for free last summer, especially when compared to the defenders we actually bought (cough, cough). To now buy off his new contract? Pfff…..

        • Levon says:

          Oh, and good points about the salaries we’re cutting! I didn’t know Song made more than Busi. Wow…

        • petog4realz says:

          What weakness? Have you ever took the time to like watch him play at all? Trust me,if the boy got any weakness,it ain’t height problem

          • Levon says:

            I’ve watched a bit of him, yes.

            Whoscored.com calculates players’ strengths and weaknesses based on statistics, meaning that if they list “aerial duels” as a weakness it’s because he simply lost too many of them.

            I’d suggest that the issue is not a lack of height (I think he’s 183cm), but a lack of bulk. He’s very light for a defender, which is a problem when jostling for position – especially at set pieces.

            I’m not saying we shouldn’t go for Marquinhos but that, like I argued last year also, we should get him and play him as a RB mostly until he’s ready to move to the middle.

        • Jim says:

          Maybe I haven’t seen enough of Marquinhos, Lev. Only YouTube clips and occasional game for PSG but I’ve not noticed any great weakness in the air. He’s certainly taller than Masche (3 1/2 inches ) and Puyol (2in) although Puyol belied his height with his ability and determination. I kinda see that in Marquinhos. The guy looks a winner to me. I wouldn’t be upset if we bought a better known CB as well and played him at RB. It would give him time to learn our system but make no mistake playing at the back for Barca is as hard as it gets and anyone will take at least half a season to bed in.

          • Levon says:

            Another thing to keep in mind (Jim, Peter) is that a defender who is weak in the air won’t get picked out as much by his opponents if overall his team is strong in the air. When you defend set pieces with the likes of Thiago Silva, Alex, Matuiti (or whatever his name is) and Ibrahomivic, you’re gonna be allright.

            However when Piqué is the only person on the team who can hold his own, Marquinhos does not look like the solution for that particular problem…

        • Peter says:

          Good point about Dani Alves going out on free and potentially not being able to sign anybody next summer, I had forgotten about that. On the other hand getting Marquinhos for RB is a neat trick. However, I’m not sure about it, given the connection between Dani, Messi and often Neymar. My reluctance to selling him is precisely due to that.

          The evaluation of Marquinhos would take a lot of work, because there’s a lot of context that influences the picture:

          Relative aerial threat/strength of the League. Relative position of the player on the team. Tasks on the field.

          Here’s a comparison of the four main suspects and Pique for comparison’s sake:
          *www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#la_liga/2013/2014/jeremy_mathieu/69/69/1945/0/p|serie_a/2013/2014/mehdi_benatia/76/76/3041/0/p|la_liga/2013/2014/aymeric_laporte/69/69/3935/0/p|la_liga/2013/2014/gerard_piqu%C3%A9/69/69/314/0/p|ligue_1/2013/2014/marquinhos/58/58/3485/0/p#aerial_duels_won/aerial_duels_won_%/interceptions/blocks#90

          What it shows is that Marquinhos wins quite fewer aerial duels per 90 min in Ligue1 than Benatia in Serie A. However, he wins a slightly higher percentage of his duels, ergo he goes for fewer duels overall. We should not forget that Marquinhos was used to sub for Thiago Silva, which left Alex(who is a whole lot bigger and experienced) to be the main aerial “safety”. Marquinhos is also as tall as Sergio Ramos ;) If we briefly examine the Champions League stats of Alex, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, all three have played a much similar number of minutes(UCL stats of Pique and Mascherano for for comparison) and it turns out that Marquinhos has done quite well and that his average is much closer to Benatia’s(it’s still dwarfed by Pique’s contribution, for absolutely logical reasons).
          *www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#champions_league/2013/2014/alex/81/81/1312/0/p|champions_league/2013/2014/marquinhos/81/81/3485/0/p|champions_league/2013/2014/thiago_silva/81/81/1314/0/p|champions_league/2013/2014/gerard_piqu%C3%A9/81/81/314/0/p|champions_league/2013/2014/javier_mascherano/81/81/1579/0/p#aerial_duels_won/aerial_duels_won_%/tackles_won/interceptions#90

          And now we need to look a bit deeper: Aerial capability and aerial interventions are generally handled by the taller players of the defence and the more experienced ones. Marquinhos is neither in PSG, so I would suggest that his numbers are quite impressive. On the other hand Benatia is both the tallest and strongest defender of Roma.

          • Levon says:

            Nice comment and what a fantastic website! Ok, so it calms me a little bit. I’d still like him to bulk up, though, were he to play at CB, and I still think that in the next two years he would be a very good choice for our RB, seeing as how Dani Alves and Jordi Alba on the same pitch has not really worked out all that well.

            I understand your reason for Dani Alves to stay (another good reason would be that he is one of, if not the best right back in the game, but the risk of not being able to replace him when he leaves is just too great. I’ll be the first to say that he has caught a lot of unwarranted criticism these last three seasons, though.

            Btw, Mascherano only won 53% of his aerial duels, which, for his position is about as bad as it gets. No surprises there, though.

          • Kxevin says:

            Now look at tackles and interceptions for Mascherano, which is best on that list, as a rebuttal to the aerial duels. Full picture.

          • Peter says:

            Lev, while I’d like Marquinhos to bulk up a bit more if he joins, his weight and his height are the same as Sergio Ramos, who isn’t skinny at all. Sure, two or three kilos of muscle would do him great, especially if his jumping height increases, but there’s time for that.

            Kxevin, this is why I think selling Mascherano would be criminal negligence. When you look at the Champions League stats, the picture becomes even more clear.

          • Levon says:

            I fail to see how that is a rebuttal to anything. Nobody has ever questioned his tackling, to my knowledge. His ability to intercept low passes is excellent also, although I have started to lose count of the amount of times he has misread balls that are played through the air. You might think it is an acceptable weaknesses, but the truth is we have been punished again and again by opponents who have exploited this soft spot.

            Mascherano can’t win a header against a guillotine victim. As much as I like him as a football player, he should not be a first option CB for this club because we don’t have the players to compensate for his deficiencies at that position.

            What remains to be seen is how our team would function with Masche at DM. Will his defensive skills make up for his lack of offense? I’d really like to find out. I’d love for him to remain at the club and I think that if given time to adapt, he’d do very well as a defensive mid.

          • Kxevin says:

            Of course you don’t. But you pick out Mascherano’s poor balls won in the air stat and make a contention based on that stat, while ignoring a stat that is equally, if not more important for a defender, which is tackles and balls won. That is my sole point.

  61. KEVINO17 says:

    Is Sanchez going because management don’t think he’s the right player or because he’s had enough and management don’t want an unhappy player. I suspect the later.
    But can someone tell me whether Aguero will track back to cover the right-back like Sanchez did.

  62. barca96 says:

    Levon, are you by any chance a fan of Sparta (Rotterdam) or better put, which Rotterdam club can you tolerate?

    • Levon says:

      I think Feyenoord is a beautiful club and I liked going to the Kuip, but I’ve never supported them. I went to Sparta a couple of times, too (again, not as a supporter).

      I can’t stand Feyenoord fans, though. They are among the most biased fans in the world, and there are too many with whom you can’t have a decent discussion about Dutch football or Dutch football players, because of their hatred towards anything that is related to Ajax.

  63. Gekko64 says:

    It’s official, Villa is now a NYC player. Good luck Guaje :)

  64. ciaran says:

    Comparing Marquinhos and Benatia I’d like to weigh in with my two cents.
    Peter, you mention age as Benatia’s biggest weakness but at 27 there is little to no risk that he will regress as younger players do. For the next 5 seasons Benati’a performance should be around level with where it has been for the past two – his physical attributes will eventually lessen while his experience will improve. He is currently probably the best pure defender on the market. He is quite some distance ahead of the others mentioned.
    Marquinhos has potential but Chygrynskiy, Caceres & Henrique all had potential. I would say that Marquinhos is a worse purchase now than he was 1 year ago because he has played so much less. He was 3rd choice at PSG, behind Thiago Silva understandably but Alex? Buying younger players is a huge risk because of their potential to regress. Anyone remember Kerlon?

    People talk about a bedding in period too which is always necessary but having the rather immense defensive skills Benatia has, added to his ability to play with the ball his bedding in period should be a lot shorter than any of the others mentioned.

    • Peter says:

      I mentioned his age not as weakness, but as reasons why I think his signing for Barcelona now should be examined more thoroughly. The risk is not short-term but mid- and long-term. If Benatia is signed, especially for a great deal of money, there will be immense pressure both on him and the coach to start him and have him deliver and impress. What if/when he doesn’t?

      What about Bartra? If Benatia is signed, he’d be automatic first-choice, wouldn’t he?

      As for Marquinhos vs Benatia, I found myself playing with the stats, and here’s what I found:
      *www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#serie_a/2013/2014/mehdi_benatia/6/76/3041/0/p|ligue_1/2013/2014/marquinhos/58/58/3485/0/p|serie_a/2012/2013/marquinhos/6/6/3485/0/p#aerial_duels_won/aerial_duels_won_%/tackles_won/tackles_lost/interceptions/clearances/successful_take_ons_%#90
      In short, in his first year in Europe, in his first year in Serie A, 19-year old Marquinhos who was also 5cm shorter and 13 kilograms lighter surpasses Benatia in the following categories: Clearances, Interceptions, Tackles won, Tackles lost(meaning unsuccessful tackles leading to a foul), Aerial duels and Blocks. At the same time that kid loses out to Benatia in Aerial duels percentage(Marquinhos won 60 of his 118 duels, Benatia 76 of his 122) and take-ons.
      More interestingly, If we look at the Aerial duel percentage of Marquinhos this year, it’s better than Benatia’s – both in Ligue 1 and the Champions League(where I might add, his defensive stats are impressive, considering he’s compared to veterans Thiago Silva and Alex)
      *www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#champions_league/2013/2014/alex/81/81/1312/0/p|champions_league/2013/2014/marquinhos/81/81/3485/0/p|champions_league/2013/2014/thiago_silva/81/81/1314/0/p#aerial_duels_won/aerial_duels_won_%/tackles_won/tackles_lost/interceptions/clearances/successful_take_ons_%/blocks#90

      Mehdi Benatia is the safer choice, but I ask myself whether he’s really worth the 61 million Euro Roma want for him. If Barcelona can sign both Mathieu and Laporte/Marquinhos(without sending Dani Alves over) and still having spent 20-25 million Euro less, which could be used to sign a tall power-sub for example, why even consider Benatia?

  65. ian_percival says:

    The problem with us is sentiment,the less we start being less sentimental the better.I really hate EE,i hate them to the extent that i couldn’t stand watching the CL finals.but one thing i admire about them is their ruthlessness.People write voluminous comments here all the time about what should be done or not, ”reality and myth” aside. Pinto is not great no matter how much he’s loved amongst cules,if you think otherwise,ask people from other teams,Cesc fabregas is simply not performing to our expectations,he scores against mediocre teams,thats not why we bought him,he disappoints in big clashes.It will be right to sell him,take a look at Modric and what he has become,he’s very aggressive towards perfomance unlike his ist season,as for Alexis,its a blessing to have that guy.I can proudly tell you that Alexis is better than ronaldo,if we stupidly sell him,I will be crying cos in the next four seasons he will clinch balon d’or if he was playing for another team,he has the ability but he is not given the freedom here in barca. As for Delofeu,we are being sentimental on him.Am using EE as reference again,they don’t go about hyping the hell out of a youngster cos he scored against Arsenal during his loan spell,if you wanna play for the first team in EE you gotta perform a miracle in a very small playing time you get.if Jese,morata and callejon where here people will be calling them the next ”messi”. Am not saying EE is better than us or that they promote youngsters more than us or they’re better at nursing players,all i admire is their ruthlessness,” screw your chance and your spot get screwed”.

    • Levon says:

      I like the point you make about Morata, Jese and Callejon.

    • Inamess says:

      Totally agree with your comments! Barca’s greatest flaw is the belief that the future will be like the past. This is hardly ever true but is the greatest fallacy of the human brain.

      Being part of a CL winning team does not prove you are still great. Fond memories should not secure a player’s place on the squad.

      Alexis Sanchez’s problem was that Godin scored a header against us in our last game. Otherwise Sanchez may have also entered the Pantheon of the Untouchables.

      Also, having Messi Iniesta and Xavi come out of La Masia does not mean that Deulofeu, Rafinha and Suarez will become the next Immortals. But we will see.

      • Inamess says:

        Just to pick up on this point, part of Iniesta’s reputation rest on the fact that 2 of the 62 goals he has scored for club and country over an 11 year career happened to be among the most iconic in modern football.

    • Peter says:

      If Cesc is not performing to expectations, is it the fault of the player or the fans, who have unreasonably high expectations?

      This is the last stat comparison I will show today, Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi. Fabregas stats are for the last two seasons, Iniesta’s as well, Xavi’s are just for this season(last season stats can be shown very quickly). You can make your own conclusions:
      *www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#la_liga/2013/2014/francesc_f%C3%A1bregas/69/69/306/0/p|la_liga/2012/2013/francesc_f%C3%A1bregas/69/4/306/0/p|la_liga/2013/2014/andr%C3%A9s_iniesta/69/69/307/0/p|la_liga/2013/2014/xavi/69/69/300/0/p|la_liga/2012/2013/andr%C3%A9s_iniesta/69/4/307/0/p#key_passes/assists/chances_created/total_backward_passes/goals_scored/total_forward_passes#90

      Last point:
      Fabregas may score and assist against mediocre teams(like Celta or Granada, or Getafe), but a victory against a mediocre team still brings 3 points, the same as the victory vs. Real. And scoring against mediocre teams is still more than what Xavi did this season.Furthermore, if you look at the first half of the season when the team played more directly, you can see just how huge Fabregas’s contribution is – in the first half of the season(19 games) he scored 7 goals and contributed with 10 assists(which more than two times as many goals and five times as many assists than what Xavi managed during the whole season). I am saying this not to belittle Xavi or Iniesta, but to show the sheer hypocrisy of those who whistle and boo Cesc.

      • Levon says:

        I don’t see why it’s hypocritical that Cesc gets booed. It’s been three years now and fans are frustrated with him. Hence, the boos. Unlike Xavi (who everybody understands is near the end of his career anyway) and Iniesta, he hasn’t built up a whole lot of credit with the fans. They don’t remember the marvelous seasons he has had before, because he hasn’t had any. It’s not hypocritical it’s just that people’s patience is running thin.

        His stats don’t paint the whole picture. It would be interesting to see, for example, how many goals/assist came at moments the match was already decided, and how many goals/assists came in bundles (for example 2 assists in a match, or a goal and an assist). I say this because the feeling is that when Cesc does not contribute directly to a goal, his does not contribute much else. His overall play is either lacking or out of synch. I’m exaggerating a bit, but what is clear is that he’s not indispensable. Far from it.

        • Peter says:

          Yes, stats don’t paint the whole picture, even when they do.

          Levante: a total of six key passes, including the assist for the first goal, the key intervention for the second goal, the assist for the third goal and single-handedly making possible the last goal.

          Valencia – Barcelona: two assists by Fabregas for the first two goals, plus the pass to Neymar for the third goal by Messi.

          Sevilla – just a few minutes after subbing on Messi passes on to Cesc for an identical scheme as in the third Valencia goal. 2-0 Barcelona

          Celta Vigo 0 – 3 Barcelona. Man of the match performance by Fabregas – Robs the ball to create the first goal, scores two afterwards.

          Betis – Barcelona 1-4 According to Whoscored.com a Man of the Match performance by Fabregas, with an assist for the first goal, followed by two goals for 0-3 and 0-4.

          Getafe – assist for the first goal by Pedro, plus two goals for 2-4 and 2-5

          Six matches in which Cesc’s contribution is vital. I could add his asist for the winning goal vs Villareal, or the goal vs Celtic, but that’s not needed. These six games are more games than Xavi had goals+assists for the whole seeason: 3+2

          Stats, like hips, don’t lie.

  66. Jim says:

    It all depends on your point of view, Ciaran. I can’t talk about Benatia as I’ve really not seen him at all so I’d have to take your word on him being far ahead of a Marquinhos at the moment. Is he potential captain material?

    You are right that he will have more experience. Whether or not that is worth much in our system which makes different demands I don’t know. As someone else mentioned, is it easier to mould someone who is younger ? If Marquinhos works then we could have him for the next twelve years by your reckoning, much better than Benatia. Just as Pique is entering his dotage Marquinhos would be coming into his prime. However, you are right to point out young players can regress. Not a great comparison to use Chiggy who was obviously too slow and actually a poor tackler for a Barcelona CB. Caceres never got over his nerves and I don’t think I ever saw Henriques !

    Time will tell but from what I’ saw last year when we thought we’d be getting him and trawled through loads of videos on him I think he could be a good buy. No point in worrying about cost as we’re gonna get fleeced no matter who we buy from.

    • Levon says:

      I haven’t seen much of Benatia either, but 27 does not spell too old for me. Abidal wasn’t that much younger when he arrived at our club.

      The question then becomes, is he better than Marquinhos, how much better, and is he worth the 61M fee Roma is reportedly asking?

      • Inamess says:

        I don’t necessarily agree and am with Peter on this one. Buying a player at his peak (27 years old) usually means that you will only get a few more years of quality from this player.

        We found this out when we bought Villa and Henry. If we bought each when they were 23, then we may have had quite a few more Champions League trophies.

        • ciaran says:

          It’s too easy to say that, Inamess. Younger players are more of a risk than older players in every position. We like to remember the successful ones but more often than not when you sign younger players with promise they don’t fulfil that promise. Buying a proven talent is the ideal. If they are world class at 23 that’s really an exception not a rule. Xavi and Iniesta weren’t world class at that age.

          • Doug says:

            I’ve been following this thread for a few days now, and while I agree with a number of your posts, to suggest Iniesta was not world class 6-7 years ago is totally false.

          • ciaran says:

            Well Doug, Deco and Xavi were undisputed starters at that stage and while Iniesta was a very promising and talented player he wasn’t world class.
            My point was more general than focused on those two but using them as an example.

            Messi’s success at such a young age has led a lot of people to think that 22-24 is where a player should be at his peak but it’s not the case.

            The point in buying a 20 year old because they will be world class for longer is what this comment was about and it just isn’t that simple.

          • Levon says:

            Ciaran’s right. Iniesta at 23-24 was an incredible talent, on the verge of becoming a world class player.

  67. ciaran says:

    Lev, you asked me for my solution, it’s long winded but here you go.

    As an offensive team with some of the best attacking players on the planet the trick for Lucho will be to devise a system where he can get the most out of the highest percentage of these players. To me the most important of these players are Neymar and Messi.
    Messi performs best when playing centrally but with enough space to look up when in possession. Whether he achieves this by coming deep or drifting slightly wide he has his most success when there are players ahead of him, either running from deep or starting ahead.
    Neymar has been at his best in what used to be called the inside left channel. With Brazil he has a central striker as a reference but isn’t required to stay wide left so has a lot of freedom tactically.

    My ideal line up would have Neymar as the second striker with Messi lined up behind them. This would mean quite a number of changes tactically like a change of the designated player for closing down opposition and more being asked of the fullbacks for width.
    This would mean that our ‘wingers’ would either have to play centrally, leave the club or be kept for tactical variations. I’ve seen little from Deulofeu to suggest his ability to play centrally so he could be either loaned again or kept for tactical variations. Pedro I would then sell. Alexis has performed well centrally on quite a few occasions so I would keep him.
    The selling of Pedro would allow for the striker purchase to get quite a few minutes, not just the last 15mins of big matches. Mobility and tactical versatility are really important for me when I look for a striker to complement both Neymar and Messi. Aguero is a great player but isn’t very versatile and scores similar goals to what Messi does and work ethic would be an issue. Higuain is more versatile and still very mobile. While I don’t agree with his price tag, he certainly fits the profile and works very hard. Luis Suarez would be perfect for me but a price tag of €80m or whatever is excessive. If he has some release clause worked into his new contract I would be very interested. His strike partner at Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge, would be an interesting one but it’s not going to happen. I don’t like the idea of Mandzukic or Llorente as much due to mobility and versatility.

    In midfield, with Messi playing probably 10 yards further back so the three midfielders would really be a 4; 1 DM & 2 CMs with Messi in front. For these positions, out of our current squad, I would keep Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc with Messi & Rafinha rotating the no.10 position. Song would get sold, along with all the deadweight and Sergi Roberto to benefit from a loan similar to Rafinha’s and hopefully take over a spot from Xavi the following season assuming that this is his last season.
    That would mean that there would be a spot open for a DM/CM. Currently that spot looks to be given to Masch but it is this position that I would free up. I believe that for us to be our most successful a variant on Busquets with more attacking abilities would be best. In the biggest matches, having 3 playmakers (Messi, Iniesta & Xavi or Cesc) is too many. I would place this player next to Busquets and Iniesta in these matches and I don’t believe that Masch is that player.
    Looking at the skill set that I would want, Arturo Vidal is the most complete player so I would do everything possible to sign him. He would be able to rotate with all of the midfielders to get the required minutes without impacting on the growth of the likes of Rafinha.

    Defensively, all of Pique, Bartra, Montoya, Alba & Adriano would be kept. I would sign 3 more to bring the total number to 8. Benatia is a beast and would be a more guaranteed starter than the others mentioned. It would mean that our two first choice centrebacks would be 27 and would be the spine of the team for a few seasons if Bartra doesn’t turn out to be the player expected. The 4th choice centreback has to be able to pick up minutes from another position so if Marquinhos is that player so be it but Mathieu would be my choice.
    At right back, I’d sell Alves and spend the €25m expected to be enough to sign Cuadrado. Yes, he is more attacking than Alves but I also believe that Montoya is better defensively than Alves in terms of consistency than both could find a good balance, especially with Adriano’s versatility with Mathieu on board.

    ter Stegen is the present and future of our goalkeeping position but competition is never a bad thing. Claudio Bravo is a good keeper so if he’s signed and Masip continues in the B team I’d be happy enough. I just don’t want us to sign a GK who isn’t great with his feet like Courtois or Navas.

    In terms of transfers, if we have €100m to spend (the board suggested anything up to €120m) and sell all of Alves, Masch, Song, Pedro, Tello, Afellay, JDS, Cuenca and Bojan we should raise at least €80m more. Rather than spend a little on a lot of players I’d spend a lot on a few.
    Between ter Stegen & Bravo that’s around €25m spent.
    If we had acted early we could have got Benatia for less than €30m but now it would look more like €35m. Mathieu wouuld cost around €15m now even though it would have been less last year due to the new owners. This still represents good business. Cuadrado would cost €25m but due to his age, skill and versatility it would be money well spent. These 3 add €75 million to the €25m from keepers so around €80 or so left.
    Arturo Vidal would cost the full €40m if Juventus are willing to sell. It looks like they are more willing to sell Vidal than Pogba due to discussions with the Frenchman on a new contract. Rumours are that Vidal could cost up to €50m but similar numbers were bandied about for Sanchez and we signed him for €26+11m.
    Up front, while I’d prefer Suarez over any other striker, the figures are not realistic for our long list of needs so that rules him out. Higuain makes sense in terms of abilities if not price tag but there’s no one available for similar money with more skills or for less money with similar skills. They bought him for €37m and a slight improvement on that deal should be enough to bring him back to Spain.

    So my squad would look something like
    ter Stegen | Bravo
    Montoya | Cuadrado / Pique | Bartra / Benatia | Mathieu / Alba | Adriano
    Busquets | Vidal / Cesc | Xavi / Iniesta
    Messi | Rafinha
    Alexis | Neymar | Higuain | Deulofeu

    It’s only 21 players but the likes of Munir, Samper, Suarez, Adama and Halilovic are all available from Barca B.

    Lots of tactical variations in all lines with defensive options like Montoya-Pique-Benatia-Mathieu or Cuadrado-Pique-Benatia-Alba for attacking games. Cesc-Vidal-Iniesta is a very different line up too than Vidal-Busquets-Xavi. Up front Messi in behind Neymar & Alexis or Higuain with Deulofeu able to change things to a more traditional 4-3-3 off the bench.

    • Inamess says:

      I agree and I think that tactical Variation for our team is key in that we have had very little over the last 4 years. Having a player like Higuain and Vidal could significantly change the possibilities of what our team can do on the pitch.

      For Real the same is true for having the choice of bringing in Marcelo and Isco.

      It is better to have a squad of 17 players all of whom can be used than a squad of 23 of which only 14 can be trusted.

    • Jamal102 says:

      For some reason, I get the feeling that Higuain would be willing to join us despite his EE past.

      His connection with Messi for Argentina is simply amazing.

    • ibbe says:

      I agree that Higuain would be a game changer but I highly doubt he would be available. I’m sure Florentio included something in the deal with Napoli so that he cannot move to barca. Yes, he is That paranoid.

  68. Inamess says:

    Courses I am Taking this Summer

    Econ 227: Microeconomic Theory

    Key Concept: Opportunity cost = the value of the best alternative forgone, in a situation in which a choice needs to be made between several mutually exclusive alternatives given limited resources.

    Possible Content:

    Buying and then Selling Ibra: -42 mil; Tenure 0.5 years of good results
    Buying and Selling Villa: -38 Mil; Tenure 3 years – 1.8 recovering from injury =1.2 good years
    Cost of our CB purchase last year: 0 Mil ; Opportunity Cost= Incalculable

    Question: Are we getting better?

    History 320: The Rise and Fall of Great Civilizations
    Syllabus:

    1) Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Author: Gibbon; Price: 12 Euros

    Pertinent Quote:”History is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortune of mankind.”

    2) The History of the Peloponnesian War; Author: Thucydides; Price: 10 Euros

    Pertinent Quote:“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

    Which to send to the Management of FC Barcelona?

    Conclusion: Both sound good!

  69. PrinceYuvi says:

    Song is having a helluva game against Germany.

    • Kxevin says:

      That is impossible. It has been determined that Song is crap. We plan to trade him for a box of xocolata mix and a replica shirt.

      • BA says:

        i don’t think many of us are saying that Song is a terrible player. he isn’t. he’s worked hard and we wish him well. he just isn’t either the player that we were promised (a defensive midfielder who can fill in at CB) or that we need. in the right team he could be really outstanding; that team just isn’t Barça.

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