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!


Categorized as Barcelona

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. 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. 😛

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

  3. 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 .

    Josep Maria Bartomeu
    President, FC Barcelona Charities and Education Foundation

    1. 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.

    1. 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?

    2. I think it will probably be a free transfer to get rid of Villa’s salary, which is sort of what it was for us.

    3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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:

    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.

  8. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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).

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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?

    6. 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?

    7. 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.

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

    9. 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.

    10. 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.

    11. 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.

    12. 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…..

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

    14. 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

    15. I’ve watched a bit of him, yes. 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.

    16. 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.

    17. 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…

    18. 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:

      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).

      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.

    19. 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.

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

    21. 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.

    22. 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.

    23. 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.

  9. 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.

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

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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:
      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)

      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?

  12. 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”.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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:

      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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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 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.

  13. 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.

    1. 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?

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

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

  14. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. good post, just had to add that i still maintain Alexis could play that “10” position in Messi’s absence or for more tactical variation.

    4. 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.

    5. I agree. The dude should be a villain in the next James Bond movie. A rich and powerful evil menace who wants to take over the world.

    6. Perez: “I have not problem if Gonzalo plays for the Blaugrana next season. I just hope that his plane ride to Barcelona will be a safe one.”

  15. 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

    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!

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

Comments are closed.