GOATS, success, failure and Lionel Messi, aka “Be here now.”


The World Cup is over and now the debates begin about Messi, roiling tempests that reduce the actual winner of the tournament to a seeming afterthought.

And they are so predictable that it’s almost lazy, as if by rote the same lines are drawn by the same groups of people:

— Look at the stats. He’s the best.
— He failed on the big stage, so he isn’t the GOAT.
— Y’all need to leave him alone, he is still the GOAT.
— Etc, etc, ad infinitum.

The truth is that there is no truth. It’s all immaterial.

The obvious

What a final, and what a tournament. Germany got the better of an ultimately exhausted Argentina side via an extraordinary bit of play that culminated in a full-on golazo from Mario Gotze. Some are saying that now he will be compared to Iniesta. Nope. It’s intellectually lazy to defend it, make the comparison or suggest it. He is a very good player who scored a marvelous goal at a perfect time in an amazing match.

Some are trying to define the match by failure, that Higuain, Aguero and Palacio were festering crap. Well they were, but strikers bottle chances all the time. No reason for the moment to elevate that expectation. As we all know in football, there is no such thing as a gimme.

Both teams fought, clawed and grasped. Finally, Germany won. They should justly be being celebrated, even as a footballing world seems to going nuts about a player from the losing side, in an attempt to deal with that player and expectations.

Argentina wasn’t supposed to be in a position to win a World Cup. Not with the state that team was in. A core of players — Di Maria, Mascherano, Messi — dragged them into position. One player is never going to beat a team. Hell, that even two players came close to beating a team is worthy of celebration, rather than excoriation.

Instead, the hunting parties are out, trying to either bring down or prop up a great player, dependent upon worldview.

Black and white

Football is fundamentally a game of absolutes. The ball went in the net or it didn’t. You won or you lost. Such absolutes leave people, in the aftermath of these events, to bask in the waters of subjectivity. The objective people say that statistics make it clear that Messi is GOAT, etc, etc, but which stats? The stat that matters says that Germany won, 1-0. So then, the objective subjectivity begins.

“He had the most take-ons, most key passes, most dribbles, most this, most that,” as if any of that stuff matters to the players on the pitch. Messi won the Golden Ball, and people snarked about that. This sparked vehement defense from the pro-Messi crowd, people lining up to scoff at haters and those who would judge a great player, or deny him his moment in history, etc.

But again, reality is in the middle. Messi had a good final. Not a great one. Did he have a final befitting the player that he is and the moment? That is where wretched subjectivity enters the picture, something debated by legions who really have not much invested in the outcome except for pride, maybe some money on a bet or just the spirit of the debate. Messi will say that it wasn’t a good final because he didn’t win, which is the only measure that matters to players who contest the matches.

Sides are drawn. “You hate Messi.” “You aren’t being fair.” “Look at the statistics.” None of it matters.

Love, hate and standards

“Hate” and “haters” are thrown about a lot these days. Many say that Messi has haters. Even if there are people that blinkered, his devotees outnumber his haters by 48,000-1 or some such astonishing stat, because Messi is that perfect machine, that pure player. People love him, and they always will, just as they will always defend him from his alleged haters. That defense, however well-intentioned, however, doesn’t allow for failure for a player and his expectations that are frozen in amber.

Look at the scoring chance that Messi missed. That was his first actual shot on goal. Had he made it, he would have had a 100% finishing rate for the match. Even my appalling math skills can figure that one out. But he missed. Statistically, he has an otherworldly finishing rate hovering somewhere around 30 percent. So if he shoots 10 times, 3-4 of them will go in. Wow.

So by missing that shot, did he fail? And if so, in which sense? Or did he just meet statistical expectation? Give him a few more shots and one of them probably goes in, but Germany worked its tails off to ensure that such things didn’t happen. And that’s the problem with defining a result by failure. Messi didn’t fail because he missed that shot. Messi was part of a collective that didn’t win the match, even as they succeeded in giving their all to try to win that match. It’s the danger of defining success in absolutes, and trying to define a player by that absolute standard.

Back when I reviewed concerts, I would evaluate a band on how good the band was at being the band. Easy, right? You’d be amazed at how many bands positively suck at being themselves, that is, at meeting the standard that they have set. With Messi, he has become his own standard. But even then, which Messi? There is the sprightly one that used to run like crazy, score goals and tumble around. There is the all-conquering Messi that scored a bazillion goals, and set a record. Or is it the most recent Messi, still a great player and still influential, but no longer the truly dominant force that he was when he was scoring goals for fun.

So as people stake out space and talk about meeting expectations without knowing what that expectation is, it becomes impossible to define a standard. Supporters tend to always remember a player at his absolute best. For many of them, Messi is still the 90 goals in a calendar year dude, and don’t tell me he isn’t! But they allow leeway, that he can’t always be that player and he needs help, etc. His teammates let him down, he would be great if he didn’t have 3-4 players marking him, etc, etc.

Other folks are using the Otherworldly Messi standard and saying that he wasn’t that player, so he failed. Still others are wondering just what the hell IS going on with the Best Player Alive™, and are struggling with precisely how to evaluate him.

Still others are saying that statistically, he is wonderful. He scored 40+ goals last season, etc, etc. So shut up.

The new right now

Everyone evaluating and striving to place Messi somewhere is right, and wrong, just as it is impossible for them to be anything other than right and wrong. “He didn’t win. He failed and isn’t the GOAT.” Okay. “He is the greatest because of what he has done.” Okay. “Look at what he has done, the championships and goals.” Okay. “He isn’t GOAT because of what Maradona did.” Okay.

Players simply are what they are at the moment, the ultimate conscious beings in the “be here now” sense. If a Super Bowl-winning quarterback throws 4 interceptions, he doesn’t stop being a great QB. He is just that QB on an off day. What if Messi had played a crap Final, while Higuain played out of his mind, scored a hat trick, tracked back and dominated play. Would Messi have been GOAT because well, he won a World Cup? Good question.

So what if Messi is a great player who had one extraordinary season, as great players often do. And what if the evaluative standard that people are now holding him to — none of them, really — apply. What if to evaluate Messi what we have to do is take him for the player that he is right now, bereft of expectations or past glories, knock off the incessant ranking and GOAT stuff. Take off the beer goggles, take off the “Aha!” stuff that people who wait for wonderful things to not be wonderful become so adept at trotting out, dispense with the fundamentally worthless statistical analysis that attempts to define a player in a losing effort, a la “Messi had 8 successful dribbles in Argentina’s 2-1 loss.”

What is Messi right now.

In the endless debates about GOAT, status and greatness, it’s all pointless except as fodder for bandwidth arguments and pub debates. There is no right or wrong in subjectivity, only opinion. In one person’s opinion, Mardona is the greatest. In another person’s opinion, Messi is. Standards shift. Today he has to win a World Cup, tomorrow he doesn’t, and is still GOAT even if his teams don’t win another match. All subjective and immaterial, because for the person for whom any of this really matters, Lionel Messi, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that Germany hoisted the World Cup trophy.

All the rest is bench racing.

By Kxevin

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


  1. I think we already has this debate on our transfer policy and I don’t want to rehash the same back and forth again, but here are some points that have been made before for consideration:

    1) Real Madrid have made some excellent signings over the last 5 years and to say they didn’t is not being objective. To me, it’s the same as devaluing Ronaldo as a overrated player. He is not and his signing may have been the best since Di Stefano.

    2) The value of a signing can not be made until the player plays for a few seasons or ultimately until the player leaves the club. So to say that someone is an excellent signing or a poor one when the signing is made is usually a matter of faith. Given the unknowns and the difficulty in predicting how a player will do at Barca, I think many opinions both positive and negative about a potential or even a real signing may be valid. The club may make the wrong signing for the right reasons (Ibra, Cesc) or the right signing for the wrong reasons (Mascherano).

    For the above reasons, Di Maria and Ozil were excellent signings in that they played well for Real and then their club made or will make a huge profit when they are sold. Cesc and Alexis were also decent signings because they made contributions to the team and were sold for about the value they were purchased for. On the other hand, David Villa and Kaka were terrible signings because of their injuries, high salaries and low resale values.

    3) Barcelona has at this point has what can be called an institutional dilemma in that we produce excellent football players at La Masia but then often don’t have room for them on our 1st team or have to reject other transfers to give those players a chance as I think we did by not signing Kroos. The problem is that our team is too good and our expectations too high to give many of our La Masia players a chance.

    It would have been great if we had a still had a place like Celta under Enrique but for now the best that can be hoped for is a successful loan and then having these players ready to make an impact when they return. Again in theory this seems like a good idea, but the results are often that these players may be left in limbo which is good neither for the club nor the player. The best thing for Bojan and Tello was to be sold instead of put on loan though I know others might disagree.

    Ironically, the Barca career of Marc Bartra is the result of our mistake of not buying a CB over the last few years. Like many Barca fans I would love to see Rafinha, Bartra, Montoya, Delofeu and many of the players currently on the B team and at the academy succeed in our first team, but I also know that it will be difficult and require a lot of patience from fans, the coach, and the club who are under tremendous pressure to win now after some poor decisions in the past.

    I love the idea of having a La Masia that in theory should produce future stars for our team, but it does make decisions at the club much more complicated particularly if decisions are being made by coaches and administrators who may be out of a job in a few years if the team does not win immediately.

    1. He apparently came to Mestalla as a free agent, so as far as transfers go Valencia make pure profit on him. Or on the other hand they recover everything they ever spent on him, plus some cool premium. His frustration is understandable.

    1. Interesting legal issues about whether you can present a signing while a player is suspended for biting or serve as Barca President while in jail. Another challenge for our board and legal team.

      Some interesting precedents from the world of organized crime:

      1) John Gotti, Boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City, did admirably despite getting beat up a few times in jail.

      2) Johnny Sack of Sopranos fame was less successful. His case demonstrates some of the difficulties particularly if in our case if it requires Zubi to speak to Bartomeu in code about team business:


    2. This is turning into a circus for the Central Plateau masses. The prosecutor’s entire case is based on the “suspicion” that Barcelona are paying under the table to Neymar – despite the fact that the Brazilian Tax Agency has stated Neymar Sr. already paid taxes on his 80 tons of silver.

      In any case, AS and MARCA are still quiet about it, and you can usually count on those to pounce on every flimsy bit of speculation about the corrupt crime syndicate ruling FC Barcelona.

    3. If Faus and Bartomeu are named, nothing will come of it, unless there are layers to the onion left to be unpeeled. But the desired effect of smearing more mud onto the club, saith conspiracy theorists, will be effective.

      And if the ulterior motive is to also drive Neymar out of town … well, that’s something culers should be a bit more concerned about than the whiter-than-white reputations of Faus and Bartomeu, because make no mistake, with every bit of slaggage that flies over the fortress wall probably makes a wee chink in the armor of Neymar’s resolve to stick all this crap out, longer-term.

      Not that I see him staying much more than another season or two, at any rate. 5-year deal, this will be his second season, maximum selling price will be attainable at the end of NEXT season. Unless something extraordinary happens, can’t see him renewing, not to continue being a secondary player at Barça. Like Sanchez, he will be chomping at the bit for more, and will probably be ready for it.

    4. By current exchange rates, 40 million Euro is 2572681 Troy Ounces of Silver, each one 0.0311034768 kilograms, for a total of 80019 kilograms or 80.02 metric tons of silver.

  2. In a quick snapshot (potentially) of culer sentiment, a Sport poll asked folks who should be captain this season. They said:

    Poll: “Who should be Barça’s first captain?” Mascherano 64% – Iniesta 28% – Messi 6% – Pique 2% (23186 votes)

  3. Meanwhile, the absurdity of the FIFA ban rears its head, as Suarez was photographed with fans, and signed Uruguay shirts. Is that considered a “football-related activity?”

    Once the transfer was allowed, the whole thing became a laughingstock.

    For the record, the ban is an ill-conceived way to allow the player to get help for a situation that he has documented trouble coping with. Is it FIFA’s role to endeavor to somehow ajudicate a player’s mental state? What a bizarre question to consider.

    The cries are growing that the ban is excessive and rather silly. To me, the draconian nature of the ban and its very excessiveness mean to send a message, a message that FIFA bottled by allowing Barça to pay 81m for his services.

    You’re either a pariah or you aren’t, in other words. If you are, you shouldn’t be allowed to join in any reindeer games, as the Christmas song goes. If you are NOT a pariah, then someone can pay 81m for your services, sit on a dais and talk about how much confidence they have that you won’t transgress again.

    Not sure what FIFA was trying to do, but it didn’t work, won’t work and can’t work.

    1. You’re giving FIFA way too much credit, I doubt they thought it through to extent you might think.

      The ban seemed to was more determined in proportion to the initial
      ‘reactions’ or ‘rage’ following the incident, Specially in the realm of social media, Knowing that all the eyes were turned toward them during that time, They decided to do a ‘swift’ action to calm the masses, But the frenzy that was caused by the bite started to die out, And the extent of the ban started to look more absurd with every day passing by.

      If we asked Chiellini seconds after he got bitten about what he thought, He would’ve said “That animal shouldn’t be allowed to play football, Ever!”, If we asked the same question the morning after, We both can agree that it wouldn’t be the same response.

      I realize there are different point of views about the ‘biting’ thing, But not allowing him to even keep himself in shape and train, Is just preposterous.

    2. The heavy ban was clearly because of the repetitive nature of the offense, and the player’s clear lack of remorse. It was designed to be a heavy penalty, whereas lesser penalties did not appear to work. Whether it was intended to for the player to seek help I don’t know.

      The allowed transfer is because the club should not be responsible for what happened with the national team, and as such, should not be unfairly penalized. If another club is stupid enough (sorry) to take that pile of trouble off the hand of Liverpool, then, feel free.

    3. FIFA gets 1% of every transfer. Do you really expect them to reject more than a million dollars? 😀

    4. Then tell me why FIFA wanted to put a 2 season transfer ban on Barca?
      They’ve got 2.6 billion $ (yes that b is not a typo) in profit out of the World Cup – surely it’s image is worth far more than just 1 mil$.

    5. Image? You’re talking about an organization that suspends pesky host nation laws like prohibition of alcohol at stadia due to increased murder rates just in order to facilitate business for its sponsor, an organization whose corruption is public secret and whose executive boardroom looks like a Sith Lord lounge:

      The only image that organization transmits is this one:

    6. I don’t say it has a GOOD image – I just say that if it want to ruin its image it has to worth more than 1 mil$.
      And for the record, do you have any proof that it gets 1% off each transfer? Never heard of that before myself.

    7. Here’s the real difference between your point and mine:
      You think FIFA would be ruining its image.
      My point is that by that action FIFA is upholding its image.

      Neymar’s transfer from Santos included about 170 000 Euro payable to FIFA, or 1% of the transfer price. It is included in the total reported transfer fee.

  4. Liverpool fans are just jealous that Barca have an ace up their sleeve to get Suarez’s ban significantly reduced. It’s called the “Right to Work Law” and we just happen to have one of the most respected international attorneys on the case:


    I’m thinking by the time this guy gets done FIFA will be apologizing to us!

    1. Jealous?
      If you use legal means to bail Suarez out of his penalty, he will think that he can act with impunity because of his undoubted talent. He will never learn that he is less than the team, and he has to act for the benefit of the team.
      Wait until he sink his teeth in another player, got slapped with seasons-long ban, and jeopardize his whole team for some nonsensical offense again.

      Edited for content

    2. Those who use “mes que en club” in an ‘ionic’ way to highlight some perceived wrongdoing of the club are hilarious.

    3. ‘ionic’? As in science fiction stuffs?
      Oh well.
      Hilarity aside,
      The team is larger than any player. The club is larger than any player. A player that let his demon get the better of him and put his team and his club in harms way does not deserve to be in such an illustrious club.
      Or does he?

    4. Excuse my mobile phone typing.

      Also, mes que un club doesn’t mean what you think it does.

    5. Ok, then tell me, to a non-barca fan, what does “mes que en club” means? Other than historically?

    6. It refers to the club being a symbol of Catalan independence, and not to some moral code of conduct.

    7. Ahhh, then how can you explain this to its fan around the world? Remember that Barca’s fans are not just Catalan. Mes que un club means absolutely nothing to people other than Catalan. Is it not? Well it should have made it clear it its adverts to foreign fans should they?

    8. You should be more respectful to others opinions, And definitely start watching your language more.

    9. I feel like terms like ‘jealous’ is not respectful at all, and should not be included in discussion between adult. And my comment reflected that in a frank way.
      If you somehow think that my comment is being disrespectful, please do point out which part – if it is true I will gladly stand corrected.

    10. Somehow I’m not able to reply to hereiam’s comment but im sure saying “mes que un club my arse” is pretty disrespectful. And calling people kids is, well juvenile. I wonder who the kid is.

    11. Yeah, “jealous” is not respectful at all and shouldn’t be used in conversation between adults. On the other hand, belittling the opponent, questioning his maturity or age is the highlight of debate and a pinnacle of respect. So is deliberately misunderstanding typos in order to mock the other side.

    12. Is it strange that when a Barca fan insult other fans, no one came up, and when I object to his insult, people tell me that I should watch my language?

      That ‘mes que un club’ comment is too strong, and I regretted it. But that reflect the feeling of anyone who is not a Barca fan over this kind of deal, if indeed Barca is trying to get Suarez to play despite of the ban. Doing whatever to win, disregarding the law of the game if necessary. For whatever it worth, even though FIFA is corrupt, the decision to ban Suarez is a correct one.

      Is it all just about winning?

    13. Oh and “deliberately misunderstanding typos” is quite a funny term.
      What I mock is the “mes que un club” thing.
      One have to respect oneself before demanding others to respect him. Doing whatever to win, including using your vast resources to earn unfair advantages through legal means, bypass the rules of the game, is not what I would call respecting yourself. You, as the fan, has the responsibility of forcing the club to act straight, and to win with dignity. Respect yourself first.
      If Barca do this, and still have to gut to say “mes que un club” with pride, I would be ashamed to be a Barca fan.

    14. It is a Barcelona forum. It’s their on the masthead itself. You think you can use borderline offensive language and get away with it? And where was your outrage, your anger when your club bought suarez, who had bitten a psv player already. And as far as your comments about mes que un club goes . The people wrongly assume that it is some sort of a “holier than thou ” statement. It’s not. It just mean that we aren’t a mere catalan club, rather a catalan institution. We stand for whole of cataalonia.

    15. You’ve got it wrong there, I am not a Liverpool fan, far from it. I don’t even know who is Suarez before he came to the EPL, and indeed, before he made headlines, for both good and bad reasons.

      But first, at PSV, it was the first offense – I believe people should always be given a second chance. Now it has been the third offense already.

      Its not like his penalty was unfairly slapped on him. He had even said it was an accident, before eventually apologize to his victim, in the hope of reducing his sentence. Just like always, he never own up. And absolutely no remorse.

      Second, Barca fans appeared to advocate Barca to try to bail the player out of serving his penalty. If that doesn’t mean disrespecting football, I don’t know what else.

      Third, about ‘mes que un club’
      This is taken from Barcelona’s website:

      The slogan “more than a club” expresses the commitment that Futbol Club Barcelona has maintained and still maintains beyond what belongs in the realm of sport. […]
      Barça also became symbolic of democracy and anti-centralism. […]
      When democracy returned after the death of Franco, the club maintained its social commitment and new ways of supporting charitable causes emerged, which would later be encompassed by the creation of the club’s Foundation. Now in times of globalisation, Barça has extended its social commitment to the rest of the planet, with a specially significant event being the signing of an agreement with Unicef in 2006, which was a way of saying that a sports club should not be marginal to problems going on in society, […]


      Now Unicef became Quatar Airway, and winning should be at all cost, and can be bought with money.
      I thought that Barca stand up for what’s right, no matter the cost. Just like back in the day it was defying the dictatorship to stand for its citizen. I was wrong.

    16. My rebuttal.
      1 what he did at another club was of absolutely no concern to the pool fans before he joined them . The reason given by them ? It was his first offence and he should be given a second chance. But where was their honour when he racially abused patrice evra? Now if you say it was his first racial abuse, you would be technically right but you’re standing on thin ground. Now what about the ivanovic biting incident, how do you defend him now? Your defence is now hollow.
      And regarding barca appealing, even convicted mass murderers get to appeal decisions in a higher court why shouldn’t barca appeal for a player they just spent 80 odd million. ? It’s about their legal right.How you got it in your head that it is a moral issue I’d never know. Do you get outraged when clubs appeal against their players getting yellow cards? I don’t get how barca appealing agains the ban is any different than that.

    17. If you look carefully the unicef logo is still there . I don’t have the numbers but barca has actually increased the amount it gives to unicef. So yeah barca is continuing it’s social endeavour.

    18. When I say he is deplorable, I was referring to two things: his racist side, and his amazing lack of remorse. He never own up, even when he is caught on TV in a world cup. Amazing.

      When he racially abused Evra, he served his sentence, and paid his fine. Period. The guy even refused to shake Evra’s hand their next match. As if he is the victim. Unbelievable.

      He hand ball. Ok, even Messi hand balled before. So, whatever.

      Ok. So that is the player. Where does Barca fit in this?
      Everyone agree: he needs help. Both for himself and his club. How can he get help? By getting off the field. How can he get professional help if he is not punished? How can he learn that the action he committed is absolutely unacceptable? Transfer to the top club in the world, getting a far better contract, and even get his penalty eliminated, is not a punishment in my dictionary. It is Barca doing whatever to win, even when it harm its player in the long run, as a human being.

      Yes, even a murderer get an appeal. But not when his murderous act was caught on live TV in front of the whole world. And certainly not by an organization that pride itself in sponsoring UNICEF charity. The murderer can only appeal by himself, which Suarez promptly did right after getting banned, further indicates his clear lack of remorse.

      Barca has no standing to appeal on Suarez’s behalf: he is not their player when he committed his offense. No one put a gun in Barca’s head to force it to buy Suarez. It has only done so because it has lost its trust in Messi, Neymar, Alexis and Pedro. It has only done so to win, at all cost, no matter what.

      The right thing to do is to allow Suarez the time he need to get professional help, to learn to be a good human being first, and then, being a good player.

    19. It’s gotta be the money is it? Its not like UNICEF lack donor. The whole idea of sponsoring UNICEF is about awareness, not money. Being on the shirt of Barca is like being watched by billions of people, week in, week out. That is why it is so invaluable. It is a shame to put value into it.

      I say it again, I don’t have to defend Liverpool, because I am not its fan. To indulge him is of course unacceptable. But it is understandable. Liverpool is a medium club, with small reputation and small resource. Suarez is it’s only hope. It has to depend on him to survive, even when it knows better. But Barca already have Messi, the best player in the world. Some say he is the GOAT. You even have the second best in Neymar. So why do you need Suarez? Why need Suarez when Messi can score 90 goals per season? Why do you do whatever just to win?

    20. Lots of people here don’t agree with the Suarez signing, along with very good arguments for why it’s not that bad (read the previous post). Not sure why you want us fans to answer for the actions of the boards though, seeing as we don’t exactly make the decisions.

      Love the comparison between murdering and biting people though, very apt.

    21. Its not the signing that I am arguing about, Barca can sign whatever player it see fit. It’s its tendency to do whatever to win that I have a problem with. Trying to bail Suarez out of his punishment, and play him when he clearly needs time to get help to sort out his various mental problem, is one of it.

      And about the comparison with murder, you can see that its Mano who made the comparison – I just try to follow up.

    22. Nav I was not comparing the two acts. Barely pointing out that both Barcelona and suarez are entitled to an appeal ina higher court. And of course barca can do whatever it can to win. Isn’t that the whole point of the sport?. Wen other teams do it it is called competitiveness and dogged spirit and what not. And when we do it it’s suddenly being called immoral and unfair. Huh. There’s a sayying in hindi “tum karo to chamatkar hum karein to balatkar” which roughly translates to when you do it it’s hailed as a miracle but when I do it it’s an assault.

    23. Doing whatever it can to win is certainly not the goal of the sport. Doing whatever in a fair and sporting way to win is. If you are fine with doing “whatever” to win, what do you think about the historical 11-1 win of Franco’s Real Madrid over Barca? Real certainly did “whatever” to win.

    24. Hereiam if you’re gonna compare signing a player albeit a troublesome player to what franco did in the build up to THAT match I’m not sure I’d like to have a sane rational discussion with you. Franco was not a part of real madrid in any official capacity as far as I know. But whatever man, you want to think that barca has sold its soul or that it has become the new ee you’re free to do so.

    25. As I have said I am not comparing the signing of Suarez – if you can trace back to the post that started it all, it is the act of trying to bail Suarez out of his punishment that I am having a problem with.
      It is you who is trying to argue for “doing whatever to win”. Where will it stop? Of course I used an extreme example, but it is a perfect (extreme) example of “doing whatever to win”.
      The fans, as a whole, is the only thing that can stop the club from doing shady businesses. When the fans start to think its ok to do “whatever to win”, then nothing will stop the club from doing exactly that.

    26. The punishment is all about repeating offenses and lack of remorse… Ok, it seems like whatever I say I will never convince a real Barca fan.*sigh*

      To conclude this, I have to say, look around. Atletico won the La Liga with a team that costs 36 million euros to assemble. And almost win the Champion’s League too. Amazing. I am sure Barca can learn a thing or two from its rivals. Do Barca really have to do “whatever to win”, to win? Throwing money at every problem is not the best solution, you know? And certainly will not earn anyone’s respect.

      I sure do hope that Barca and its fan do not become so addicted to winning that they start acting exactly like addicts do.

      (If you don’t believe me this is the source https://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/early-doors/atletico-entire-team-cost-20m-less-fernando-torres-112603689.html)

    27. Wait. Doesn’t your club, too, have a motto? Is isn’t it something like, You’ll Never Walk Alone? Did it mean something historically.

      Edited for content.

    28. Again, the unspoken rules of this space:

      Keep it respectful

      This means NOT labeling another club’s slogan “cheesy” in a fit of pique. It also means not belittling or personally attacking another commenter. Our words are our words, but our words are not us. The most effective way to MAKE our words us is to attack someone personally.

      This space has moderators, so if a comment pops up that violates the boundaries of these “rules,” rest assured that it will be edited or deleted. If the latter occurs, your response will be caught up in the housecleaning, which is unavoidable given the way WordPress structures its comments sections.

      hereiam makes some very good points, and I like this back and forth. But please, let’s keep it respectful.

      P.S. Some editing has occurred with the space’s standards in mind.

    29. Yes, I immediately regretted the comment after pressing the submit button.
      Thanks for editing it out Kxevin!

    30. Just a suggestion because this will happen again. Please refer fans of other teams who dislike the club’s signing of Suarez to this fine post with comments:


      Don’t think people on the site should have to rehash pro and con arguments about Suarez again and again for every visitors amusement nor do we have to defend every action of the club or board.

      If critics have a problem with the signing, they can go to Camp Nou and complain not indulge in schadenfreude at the expense of fans of a team who have no say in the team’s moves and have already debated the issue to death.

      As for an interesting application of Poe’s law, I didn’t know that self-parody and the movie My Cousin Vinny was worthy of a personal attack unless the commenter is merely trolling.

      Anyway, critics should feel free to do read comments in the above link for varied opinions from commenters on this site on the Suarez signings. If concerns about the Suarez signing are not addressed there then further concerns should be welcomed. Thanks!

  5. I don’t get the heavy criticism on Sergi Roberto these days. He hardly plays under Tata. He used to get high praise before, even when Thiago is around, as Mascherano answered in an interview regarding who’s the most exciting talent coming from Masia (or some sort, can’t quite remember the exact question), and he answers Sergi Roberto.

    I supposed he’s stuck in an infinite loop of “can’t play because lack of match experience, lack of match experience cos didn’t play”. I, for one is happy with the decision to keep him for the moment. Let him prove himself and we’ll see how it goes.

    1. Well, according to MD Roberto was heavily sought after this summer, but all offers were immediately rejected…

    2. I’ve never had any doubts about the quality and potential in sergi roberto, When talking about his current situation, I like to compare him to bartra.

      Bartra after officially becoming a first team member with tito vilanova as a head coach at that time, He had many appearances, But failed to really impress (Go rewatch some of the matches to be sure), He wasn’t bad, But he wasn’t very good, And there were doubts (me included) if he is a barca material or can ever be one, It was only after the very end of that season that thing started to ‘click’ with him so to speak, And by the time the next season came, You could feel he has really grown as player and striking transformation happened with him, No longer that shaky kid from last season, He became and confident, And started to put quality ‘stamps’ with his appearances.
      Becoming a first team member and training with the best is a very different environment, Needs time to be adjusted to.

      For me, I’ve always been more excited with sergi than with rafinha, Not to take anything away from the latter, But if anyone watched rafinha with the B team, He can see that he is a very direct-forward minded midfielder, His quality shows best in the final third of the pitch, A true box to box midfielder, His individual qualities doesn’t really suit what all culers have been looking for for the past 2 seasons, Which is of that of a center midfielder, An heir to xavi, Sergi has a much higher chance than rafinha to become a CM for Barca, But there are no guarantees of that, It will depend of his development as a player, We’ll wait and see, And the fact that luis enrique is now the head coach, Is definitely a good news for him

    1. Yes – the movement, oh the movement… could still miss a sitter back then, though! 🙂

    2. The most appalling thing to me is actually how much Busquets has declined, not Messi. Today’s Busquets is slower, more cumbersome. He makes so many mistakes in position and control. He always missed easy chances, so I won’t fault him for that. But yes. We all talk of Messi and Xavi’s decline, but really Busquets’ decline has had the most devastating effect on our team. He is the fulcrum, the centre of the pitch.
      We should have either removed him or paired him to a stronger player (Martinez would have been perfect, but that ship has long sailed and arrived to port). Hopefully Enrique sees some sense and voids the obsolete three men in midfield led by Busquets in the centre.

    3. Actually Busquets is just tasked with more and more. It used to be he stood around the center of the pitch, ready to close down and make an interception, next to Xavi who capered about in his zone, next to Iniesta flowing around and in front of three defenders.

      At this point, his task has become the following – slot between the two wide CBs, take the ball, carry it forward and distribute it, cover the zone of Alba and Dani Alves, half the zone of Xavi and often the whole zone of Iniesta, as well as stay in the center, be an all-direction passing node as well as making interceptions and running back when the imminent counter starts.

      Busquets is simply requiered to do too much running for too long and too often. He’s not fast, it’s just that his intelligence compensates in the first meters. The problem is when he’s required to run twenty more meters, that’s when his body starts betraying him and his energy reserves are depleted at a faster rate.

      Luis Enrique would either have to pair him with another pivote like Mascherano, who is more about running, or return to when all three strikers pressed and all three midfielders pressed in unison, or the defense has three people at the back at any given moment, one of whom can carry the ball to the center of the pitch.

    4. Agree with Peter – to my mind, Busquets was brilliant during the first half of last season, then followed the general decline. He did not have a great WC, but hey, which Spanish player did…

      Like most players, Messi and Busquets need a functioning team around them to excel.

    5. Imo the one who seriously declined is Piquè, which is surprising considering his age. He looked good next to Puyol, but once he had to step up he’s disappointed and I just can’t bring myself to lavish him in praise like many are doing here. He was way more fit when he was younger, he’s 26 and he looks clumsier than Demichelis… I really don’t think he should be guaranteed a starting spot.

  6. Just wondering, do any post-Guardiola fans read this forum? ie those who started following Barcelona after Summer 2012. I’d be curious to know how they feel about the way the team is, and if they agree with the usual gloom and doom feelings the older viewers seem to constantly experience?

    1. Good question. But I think your answer might ultimately be defined by the seeming taint of being a “bandwagoner,” which is odd, to me. Everyone has to come to a team sometime, and why not come during high times?

    2. I started seriously following Barça after the four clásico apocalypse of 2011, so I’m almost but not quite a post-Guardiola fan.

      In any case, I’m a Red Sox fan so I am quite familiar with doom and gloom :D. In reality, I believe in the on-field quality of our players (don’t think we’ll give up late leads) but I worry about basically every other aspect. For this bandwagon fan, Barça’s footballing quality is too good to doubt, but there are a thousand off the field factors that could screw us up.

  7. momo, you are exactly right. We’ve been debating that in this space for some time, and the question is always why and how has Messi changed as a player. For me, it isn’t even as much the running as the connectedness. He is engaged in this match in a way that is rare these days, and time after time, he found himself where the ball was as if magnetized to it.

    These days, a loose ball is in the box and I find myself thinking, “Man, back in the day Messi would have been right there to pounce.”

    86ed is also right about Busquets. Not sure if he has been nursing some sort of injury, but he’s definitely different. Still brilliant, just different. My guess is that Enrique has seen that as well, which is why the Mascherano renewal was prioritized. Simply put, our players play too much. The biggest value of ridding the bench of non-playing weight will be gaining REAL depth. If you have a squad of 25 players, but 8 of them aren’t good enough, how truly deep is your squad, as opposed to having a 20-player squad, but they are all quality.

    Last year’s squad carried Puyol, Sergi Roberto, Dos Santos, Afellay and Cuenca. Between injuries and quality issues, none of them played. Song played only sporadically. So that’s 6 players on the roster, in key spots, that are functionally not available. No wonder everyone looked so run down. They were. Nagging injuries don’t get a chance to heal, etc, etc.

    Not sure what the eventual fate of Song will be, but between squad additions and B team players who are closer to ready, it doesn’t look like the same complexities will plague the squad this year.

    Never forget that 5 goals separated the team from no silver and a real shot at the treble last season. 5 goals.

    1. Yeah, Kevin, but here’s something else as well – for opponents that Messi wasn’t what this Messi is. Pause for a minute at 3:01 and just look – the closest defender is something like 6-7 meters from Messi. Then unpause and look at how Barcelona’s counter-attack develops – you have Iniesta and Pedro sprinting in the box on converging courses, while Villa is wide left, rushing forward and also drifting inside. Messi gets to the edge of the Espanyol box all the while in a bubble of 5 meters free of anyone. Who would allow that to happen nowadays?

      Furthermore, there’s a lot of positional play, the ball doesn’t go to Messi all the time, his team-mates move all around him. The fact that Espanyol are attacking(a coach that allows six outfield players to stay for extended periods in Barcelona’s half would probably be fired) and leaving space, and lots of it, in the back, also helps.

    2. Peter I wholly agree with you, these days whoever has to play messi their plan’s first part is how to stop messi . Mostly this is done by one or two midfielders marking and smothering the space for messi. For the other team, scoring goals is secondary most of the times to stopping messi. Which is why I think barcaau benefit from a player like suarez .

    3. No argument about the new tactics, Peter. But there have still been plenty of times in the here and now, when Messi doesn’t seem as connected as he used to. And in these times of entire defenses set up to stop him, those poacher’s goals are a very effective way to affect an outcome without having to beat 5 players off the dribble, and other feats of heroism.

      Just an observation. It’s funny, Messi has his supporters and defenders. It makes me giggle when people reference “all” of the haters in various forums, because it strikes me that Messi has precious few haters. But I think in the black and white world of football, anything that attempts to assess certain players that might intimate that all is not excellent, is labeled as “hating.”

      No, nobody here has done it. Just a general observation. But I think that it makes real, logical, neutral discussion impossible. This is one of the rare places where Messi CAN be discussed in different ways without people saying “You just hate him.”

    4. You and Peter are both right. I think, like Peter said, teams are now setting up purely to stop Messi and at the same time Messi is less “connected”, as you put it. I do not think these are a coincidence either. It must be exceedingly frustrating for him to constantly play against teams that set up just to stop him. I am not trying to say that is an excuse, more like one of the contributing factors. That is why I think it is so important to have players like Neymar and Suarez in the team and contributing because as long as teams can set up this way it will continue to frustrate Messi, however if Suarez or Neymar can cause just as much danger then it will be very difficult to justfy setting up a team purely to nullify Messi.

      I think what makes Messi tick is his love for the game. He loves football, more than anything, you can see that when he plays full on. I suspect that the way teams have been frustrating him lately has taken the joy a bit out of what he loves the most. He just doesn’t look happy out there (whether it be with Barca or Argentina). LE needs to find a way to get him enjoying it again because I think when that happens we will get the Messi we know and love back in full swing!

    5. He just doesn’t look happy out there (whether it be with Barca or Argentina).

      And that’s the thing, Without trying to psychoanalyze a complete and total stranger, you wonder if that seeming lack of joy is contributing to his lack of connectedness.

      From the sporting side, the hope was that the Neymar transfer would remove some of the pressure from him, thus relieving some of the burden on him, but that kinda didn’t happen due to both of them never really having enough time to gel.

      My issues with the Suarez transfer are well documented, but perhaps from the sporting side, having another “big” player will help (again, it is hoped) relieve some of the psychological burden.

      I can’t imagine what it must be like to have EVERYONE looking to you for EVERYTHING.

    6. All valid points here, and the lack of happiness is a very prominent one. I would rather put it in a different way though. He seems concerned. And If I can recall it well, this happened some time during the start of the year 2013, a few more games before the PSG game.
      I think he is too much concerned about injury. He looks worried to me.
      My cousin brother, who is a pro athlete (who has been affected by a recurring hamstring injury for about 2 years now)thinks he really had a hamstring issue in the second half of the WC final.
      The fact is we do not know. We might have to wait until his retirement to know what exactly happened.

  8. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to have EVERYONE looking to you for EVERYTHING.”

    Exactly. It must get so tiring. Add to that the fact that now teams dont just double mark him, they have layers of marking! If he gets passed the first layer there are another 2 waiting for him. I think it was even worse with Argentina because so few of the supporting players contributed anything substantial. The opposition could justifiably set up just to stop Messi and not have to really worry about anyone else. I am hoping that will not be the case next season. Neymar should start to fit in better now, given it is his second season and with Suarez in there too there is no way that teams can use that tactic for very long.

    LE seems to be stressing unpredictability a lot, which I like, since we have become way to predictable the last few years. Let’s see how things play out but I for one am very excited for the upcoming season.

    On a separate note, we seem to be linked quite heavily to Blind all of a sudden. He looked good at the WC but any defender can look good when you have 5 at the back. Anyone here seen him play in a system more similar to ours? Would he be a good fit? What are his strengths/weaknesses? Any input would be great. Nothing more annoyting that being linked to a player who you know little about!

    1. Daley Blind started as a left back but transitioned into DM at Ajax last season. He performed the Busquets role extremely well last season and can play numerous roles in a system like ours. He has tonnes of energy and gets around the pitch like a mad man in any position. His father Danny was a left back before he moved into central defense and became one of Ajax’s best ever players. At 5ft 11 he’s 3 inches taller than Masch and is decent in the air without being dominant.

      If we sign Mathieu then we shouldn’t go for Blind but he is a very good alternative, I would suggest a much better buy for the fees reportedly involved.

    2. Mundo Deportivo says he’s wanted as a CB… Which is …odd. Back 3? Or more transfer ineptitude. Not sure, though he played LB quite admirably at the WC and you’re dead on about is time at Ajax. This defender business really needs to pick up steam, pre-seasons are starting everywhere.

    3. I wouldn’t say ineptitude in any way. Playing as a DM in most systems is very similar to playing CB with us with the obvious difference of having 40 yards of nothing in behind you. It is more about interceptions and being at the right place at the right time than normal defensive duties.
      If Blind could make the transition to CB as well as he did to DM than he could be a great signing. I previously suggested that he would make a great signing due to his versatility. Even in the world cup semi finals he played as a centre back when Janmaat was brought on and Kuyt moved to left back.

      To be honest though, I think that the starting centreback signing is the more important one. If we sign Marquinhos I’ll be very disappointed as he isn’t really an upgrade of Bartra, especially not for €40m. Hummels seems to be either staying put or going to Utd. Benatia isn’t being linked to us at all and Mathieu shouldn’t be considered a starter. Luiz is gone to PSG (thank god), Mangala to City, Kompany going nowhere and we were even linked to Thiago Silva again in what must be some form of joke.

      Unless Zubi has a rabbit up his sleeve I’m becoming very concerned.

    4. Totally see what you’re saying ,I should have been clearer. By “ineptitude” I meant buying yet another player that is not naturally a CB and thinking ” hey maybe he can slot in here.” As a second signing he is quite the capable LB/DM and he is young as well, coming from a great institution. My “ineptitude” quip was more a result of anxiety about what the final call is going to be as far as CB’s go. No need for me to restate your CB points, I agree, concern is growing in me as well.

    5. A few points that relate to the above discussion –

      – Unpredictability. We started last season playing “differently”. More long balls, more counter attacks, less possession. While several people here seemed to agree that it was required, the media raised a huge storm about how the team was moving away from the “barca way”. I wonder how this “unpredictability” is going to be portrayed by the media. I have become extremely cynical when it comes to the entourage around FC Barcelona and have come to believe that the media’s agenda destroys the club more than anything.

      – Messi. When Guardiola moved Messi from the wings to the hole in the center, it allowed him to be the creator as well as the goal scorer. But teams adapted and set up layers of defense behind the “hole”. Now if Messi has to be involved in setting up the game, he has to find his way through this entire maze. To get the ball he has to almost play as a midfielder (almost similar to how he is playing for Argentina). Playing this way there was no way he was going to score the same number of goals as he used to score before. And the media went on about how Messi was declining blah blah. And I hope everyone realises how this affects players. Constant criticism. Every day.

      Also, I think Tata recognised this and tried to move him into a position where Messi would be expected to finish moves rather than start them. Then there was a hue and cry over how Messi wasnt involved in creating goals and how we arent utilising his talent. I hope Messi doesnt give goalkeeping a shot cause if he excels at that you never know what people might expect him to do next. This also meant someone else has to take up the responsibility to set up the goals. Iniesta and Xavi are not anywhere close to the number of goals they used to set up.

      This team needed to be fixed, refreshed, tweaked, overhauled, call it what you want. Thats why I have hopes for this season. Mind its going to take some time for the newcomers to gel and bed in. Also I’d expect various different strategies from the coach. I just hope that we let him do his thing. Visa Barca.

    6. Preach, reverend, preach. Exactly right. Already people are snarking about players we have and don’t have and formations, when the team hasn’t even played a match yet.

  9. Tactical evolution is always necessary. Rijkaard brought us forward with a 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 and we improved, won titles and excited. We stopped evolving and stopped winning. Pep brought the relentless press which brought even more titles and glory. He then tried to evolve it further with the false 9 and 3-4-3. Tito didn’t ever really have the opportunity to evolve due to his illness and Jordi Roura was out of his depth. Tata tried again to make us more vertical but chickened out for whatever reason.

    Lucho has looked at our players, the indispensable ones, and modified our tactics to suit their characteristics.
    A 4-3-1-2 is the only way to get the most out of the most of our squad. Messi performs best when he has someone to play off. Neymar the same. Busquets is best when he doesn’t have to cover the entire pitch unassisted. Our wingbacks are some of the best in the game, especially if we sign Cuadrado, so are perfect for giving us the width that we lose up front.
    All in all, we would have more defensive solidity with a double pivot and more of a goal threat with more players playing centrally.

    A lot of people suggest that Pique is playing worse than before, other say Messi, more again say Busquets. Iniesta too, Xavi is past it, Dani has got to go. Basically, everyone has underperformed and people will blame the people they want to.

    Messi isn’t the player he was but if you give him space he will still destroy anyone. Busquets is asked to do too much. Pique has missed Puyol’s influence and in truth had a good enough season. Iniesta disappointed me this season even though he did add one or two things to his game.

    The Suarez signing, while it clearly divides the population on many levels, in footballing terms is a masterstroke. He is about the only player in the world (who doesn’t currently play for RM or us) who has to be double marked at all times. With Neymar, Messi and Suarez up front we have players who will occupy not only the centrebacks but the fullbacks and DMs as well. Then having Alba and Cuadrado in wide positions we have genuine goal threats in numerous positions across the width of the pitch while still having 2 centrebacks and 2 DMs defending and recycling possession. Add to that we’d still have either Iniesta or Rakitic backing up the forwards.

    I really don’t see any weaknesses, especially considering the pace and engines of Cuadrado and Alba to get up and down the pitch.

    My real issues are going to be once again our bench. Selling Alexis instead of Pedro weakens our bench significantly. We substitute Neymar and bring on Pedro or take out Suarez and put on Deulofeu? Not exactly match winning substitutions. Still, if Alexis wasn’t going to stay then we have little alternative. In other areas it’s not so bad. Picking a midfield three from Busi, Masch, Iniesta, Rakitic, Rafinha and Sergi is much better.

    1. But u forget that teams setup extremely narrow against us that spaces are so hard to find in the middle and we find them wide( the full backs). I reckon suarez wont be getting as much as space as he did in liverpool and it will be a very challenging first season for him.

    1. Very biased article, does he think calling him a cunt every two lines makes for good reading?

    2. Still, the main point of the article is that the grapes that went to Barcelona are quite sour and thank god someone else will have to eat them in about four months’ time.

      Gekko64, Vulgarity generates clicks.

    3. The point of the article isn’t the vulgarity, but rather to explain why Liverpool fans, Uruguay fans and now Barça fans are defending Suarez in the wake of his actions. The writer points out the constructs that supporters erect to, in effect, keep out the real world. So X or Y player is a huge problem, this that and the other, until a supporter’s team signs him. Then he is misunderstood, will be fine, etc, etc.

      Don’t let the use of a vulgarity obscure a timely message that relates not only to Suarez, but to many a player on many a team and many a supporter.

  10. Either Marquinhos really wants out of PSG or he just proved his ability (or lack thereof) in PSG’s friendly with RB Leipzig. He was possibly at fault for two goals and scored an own goal on top of it in a 4-2 loss. I don’t know how or why he is considered a €40m player, I really don’t. Either put our faith in Bartra or spend big on Hummels or Benatia.

    1. The fact that our club is willing to spend over €35m means that our scouts reports of him are phenomenal, And they and zubi think he can have a bright future with our club, There isn’t any other logical explanation.
      Of course, Scouting and evaluations aren’t an exact science, Risks of failure are always there, Ultimately it’s their job and responsibility.

    2. Scout reports told PSG that David Luiz was worth €62m so I don’t trust scout reports so much anymore…

    3. That boy better prove to be the second coming of Thiago Silva for that
      Money. Meanwhile compare that to Dortmund who signed 20yo Ginter for €10, who was good enough to be apart of the 23man World Cup winning squad, even if he didn’t get any minutes. Scouting.

    4. It doesn’t really matter. Barca was never going to sign any world class defenders. Not really.
      If the board had been serious about the football project, the very first business conducted would have been the defense, not Suarez. That they signed another forward, after horrors of the Neymar signing last year, is indicative where their priorities lie. If they really want success and not shirt sales, they would hav signed defenders all the way in 2012.

    5. The other forward, for me, was as badly needed as the CB but you’re right it wasn’t an either or. Strikes me that the Suarez deal went through quickly because Liverpool had had enough, the player was desperate to go ( to us) and we needed someone to play in front of Messi. Not sure clubs are as happy to lose their CBs. I think Marquinhos is keen to join us and unlike Ciaran I would trust the scouts as they’ve done an okay job so far but no way would PSG leave themselves with no decent cover for Luiz (well, would you? ) so I don’t think that is worth wasting any more than another week on. After that anyone that seems available is a short term stopgap which wasn’t what we were looking for.

      However, there is another point I’d mention. The defence wasn’t bad last year. For me there were two issues – lack of numbers and Masche. He looks like he’s going to get his deserved shot at his best position ( but be aware that playing there for Barca, unless we put Busi with him which I don’t think will happen, is a completely different kettle of fish.) We know he can win balls and stop attacks but he will also have to show really quick feet, be able to keep possession under severe pressure and post staggering pass completion rates to keep the position.

      The other issue is completely solvable and it is pretty much an outrage that it hasn’t happened. We can’t afford both FBs marauding up the field at the same time. If we have numbers back we don’t lose the silly goals. With that plus the greater height at the back, whoever comes, we have a more solid defence and don’t end up chasing games after losing an early goal.

    6. Define a “world-class” defender. The club’s greatest defender was a converted attacker. The club’s most consistent defender last season was a converted DM.

      Is “world class” Thiago Silva, who looked mostly a doofus at World Cup? Or Hummels, who culers snark and rail about being too slow to play next to Pique, etc, etc.

      We know that Mathieu isn’t really any good, so we can rule him out. Daley Blind isn’t a CB at all much less a “world-class” one, so we can rule him out. The bloom is coming off the Marquinhos rose after one poor outing, so we can rule him out.

      So the “world-class” CB desire is a nebulous, malleable thing, just as “world-class” is a descriptor that is very complex to define.

      If the club signed Thiago Silva, lots of folks would be happy. I wouldn’t. I would be thinking the club signed a traditional CB who might not work in the system and is injury prone. But Silva is widely considered world class, and just about the best CB that money can buy.

      So that’s the value of perspective.

      As for Jim’s desires of Mascherano in midfield, that is essentially what he displayed at the World Cup. So we will see what happens this season, but I’m guessing there’s a reason that he was one of the first things Enrique took care of when he came on board.

      The club needs defenders for depth and competition. People get fixated on defense because the narrative is that the club had a poor defense last year, despite conceding some 20 fewer goals. Was some of that Valdes? Yes, but Valdes has been the constant, and he has been himself, making brilliant saves even when the defense was “better.”

      5 goals were the difference between a Treble and nothing. I don’t think they are wrong in chasing goals. My sole quibble is about the instrument of those goals and the fiscal excess demonstrated in chasing them.

      The biggest weakness of the defensive structure of the team, midfield, has been addressed in the renewal of Mascherano, adding Rakitic and Rafinha.

      Now we will have to see who the club gets as a CB.

    7. For me the term world class is someone being in the absolute top tier of players who play in their position, ones that you would struggle to name players who are better than them.
      Mathieu is a very good player but not in that class, at least not yet. Hummels is at that level already. Marquinhos hasn’t ever convinced me that he could be but I could be proved wrong.

      My issue I suppose is that we are contemplating spending and absolute fortune on Marquinhos when he is at best a slight upgrade on Bartra but in my opinion isn’t at all. Either bite the bullet and sign Hummels or Benatia or just sign a couple of cheaper options and give Bartra the shot full time. Signing someone with only potential is pointless when we have players with potential and experience in our system.
      Others may disagree and think Marquinhos is the next big thing and if we do sign him I’ll support him but I would rather have faith in Bartra or buy someone proven.

    8. The problem with Hummels – he plays in a system with two fullbacks and a relatively faster CB companion. In Barcelona he would be required to be the faster CB and also play with two wing-backs. Could he do it against Bale, Ronaldo, Ribery, Robben, Di Maria, Walcott, Alexis or The Zlatan at his shoulder? I’m not certain he could.
      Can Mathieu? Less not certain.

    9. I disagree Peter. I watch a lot of Dortmund and I’ve seen him beat both Ribery and Robben in one-on-ones. I’m not saying that he is faster than them, not at all but he has very good anticipation and uses his body extremely well. You have to be way clear of him to get past him as the dude is pretty huge.
      He has the reputation for being slow because of the internet. He isn’t that slow. Most defenders are slower than forwards. It’s the case in 90% of challenges with the exception of some fullbacks. If you got a list of the top 10 fastest players in the world each and every one of them plays in the attacking third.

      If, for example, Bale burst past him as he did with Bartra in the Copa final there is no doubt that Hummels would have landed Bale on his backside or even more likely have intercepted the ball.

      Benatia is a beast. A completely different type of defender. He’s more like Puyol but 6ft 3in. If we are looking for somebody to compliment our current roster of Pique & Bartra then Benatia is that man all day long but in terms of his footballing ability he isn’t at the same level as Hummels. Not bad certainly but not Hummels.

      For me, as a central defender your most important abilities are your defensive ones. Puyol wasn’t ever good with the ball at his feet regardless of his position. His passing stats were always fine because he played the simple passes but did he play long crossfield balls to change the play or 40yard through balls? No. Puyol is our best ever defender because he was our best ever defender. Koeman was better on the ball, so was Marquez, or Pique, or de Boer or a hundred others. Nadal could make a simple pass but he was anything but simple to get past.

      Sign Benatia and pickup any of Rojo, Blind or Mathieu as backup to CB & LB. I’d even sell Adriano to Italy to free up fees if absolutely necessary given that we would still have adequate cover. We have reasonable cover with Patric and Grimaldo for fullback positions and Bagnack & Ie for the centre.
      Benatia at 27 gives us 5 years of top class football by which time we will know the abilities of all of our youngsters.

  11. Rumours are that Isco may be offloaded by Real Madrid now that Kroos was signed. A shame for La Liga but I like Isco so I’d be more than happy to see him leave them. If they sell Di Maria and Isco they will be very silly but I suppose Isco is ‘so last year’.

    1. Really? Dang. Would be best for him though, his development will be key for the future of Spain’s national team. Madrid being Madrid going after the new shiny toys after the World Cup, Toni and James. I do like Isco though, I remember a few years ago he was offered to us by Malaga ( so said Graham Hunter at the time), interesting tidbit.

    2. don’t like the idea of doing deals with the Evil Empire, but i’d take Isco off their hands in a heartbeat.

    3. Same here. I love Isco. I know people might say we have Rafinha, but he only has 1 La Liga season under his belt and needs a couple more seasons to be on the same level as Isco if he could ever reach it.

    1. I just read it. Good catch, I didn’t see the article.
      It’s funny. Expectations are now Messi’s biggest enemy. Argentina fans have never appreciated Messi the way Barca fans. I’ve never really understood it and the denial of this is commonplace.
      In his first world cup, he performed very well off the bench in the opening games but in their exit match he was an unused substitute. Four years later he didn’t score. He had more shots on target than anyone in South Africa and was at times mesmerizing but those fine lines in football meant that people at this world cup used the ridiculous phrase that Messi hadn’t scored a world cup goal in 8 years.

      Individually at this world cup he was the outstanding player. He scored 4 out of 8 Argentina goals as said, and he directly assisted Di Maria in another. He also put the cross in for Rojo’s deflected header off Kolasinac. So Higuain’s snapshot and Rojo’s goal were the only goals Argentina scored that Messi wasn’t involved in.

      A fraction of an inch of a difference in where Messi strikes the shot in normal time v Germany and it goes in. Argentina possibly hold out and win the World Cup and Messi is proclaimed the best of all time. But really? I don’t believe so. Not that I don’t believe that Messi is the best of all time but I don’t think that scoring that one goal would have changed people’s minds.
      If you believe that Ronaldo (for example) is better than Messi what can Messi do to change your mind? Nothing is the answer. Some people will always believe that Maradona is the best player in history. I was one of those people until about 3 years ago. I always knew there was something special about Leo but I believed that Maradona was the best ever. Now I firmly believe that Messi was the best ever. The consistency with which he has performed has never been seen before and most likely will not be seen again. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has come close to him and that man is an exceptional athlete… a much better one than Leo.

      My father, who I often talk about, is a devout Liverpool fan but always maintains that Georgie Best was the best of all time. He played, drank, smoked and womanized, then played, drank, smoked and womanized so more. Best was finished by 27 or 28 but when he got the ball it was magical by all accounts. I have only ever seen clips of Best but I don’t trust clips (if you want an explanation youtube Ricardo Quaresma of Porto).
      I watched Maradona more obviously and he was truly great. He won 3 league titles in his career. He won the World Cup ‘all on his own’… in an Argentina squad that scored 14 goals to this year’s 8. That Argentina team had no great individuals except for Maradona and the entire team played to his strengths. This Argentina has better individuals but their play was terrible. Higuain 1, Di Maria 1, Aguero 0, Lavezzi 0, Palacio 0. These are the other forward players goals throughout the tournament.

      Messi is incredible. The best player I have ever seen. In likelihood I won’t ever believe that someone will better him. Even if someone outscores him eventually people will say ‘but it was different in my day’.

    2. Very nice post, ciaran. Actually, if I remember correctly, Messi set up Di Maria nicely before Higuain’s goal, so even there he was behind the move…

      And sometimes I think that the 2006 WC was Messi’s greatest chance to win it – that Argentina team was amazing (still remember them dominating). I cannot forgive Pekerman for introducing Cruz instead of Messi to try and unsettle and break Germany’s defense. Absolute madness.

  12. Right now I’m thinking about that if Barcelona is to put more and bigger bodies in the back, then either Alba or Alves wouldn’t have guaranteed starting spots – and Masche may become a starting fixture. If Alba is on the field and with what Mascherano has shown then a 3-4-3 may be in order:
    It looks crazy, I know.
    Alba can do his forward runs in order to help Neymar and Iniesta in overloading the left side, and his pace would allow him to come back in a hurry.
    Bartra/Mathieu and Pique are split wide to cover the position of Alba whenever he ventures forward. The key here is Mascherano: he starts as a pure disruptor, but he would also be available to carry the ball from the back, something which Busquets has to do currently. His position would also let him cover less space in order to clamp down on an opponent striker waiting for a high ball. He can also provide assistance to either CB should they need it. That would also give time to Alba, Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic to track back and press.
    Busquets stays in his center zone where he can use all his eight legs.

    One serious deficiency in this scenario is that Messi and Suarez would need Rakitic/Iniesta to be quite active in order not to disappear, something which Alves does at currently. Another problem may arise from the fact that the pace of Alves on the right will be missed, especially if Barcelona have to play against a combined Ronaldo+Di Maria+Marcelo on the left. And of course, one third problem may arise from Busquets and Mascherano playing not side-by-side, but one in front of the other, meaning their zones would be quite wide, but very shallow. 🙂


    Dont look now, but our first friendly of the preseason begins in the next few hours. i am not sure what time it starts, i think 20:45 local time.

    we are playing at recreativo huelva.

    called up:
    Ter Stegen, Masip, Montoya, Bartra, Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu, Afellay, Patric, Bagnack, Edgar Ié, Lucas, Grimaldo, Samper, Diagne, Halilovic, Babunski, Cámara, Munir, Sandro, Dani Nieto, Juan Román, Dongou y Adama

    BOJAN was left out for “technical” reasons

    1. Bojan left out for technical reasons… I couldn’t sworn I saw him up on ebay.

    2. Oddly there was only a ” Loan now” option next to his name. Great points up there re: CB’s especially how yes ” world class” does exist , there are most definitely “tiers” at every position , and that Hummels is indeed not the tortoise the internet has made him out to be. Any pace he lacks he makes up for with intelligence in his positioning and marking.

      People seem to be looking solely at attributes ( Mathieu has pace! Hummels is too slow!) without taking a second and thinking that just maybe our coaching staff will, you know, coach and attempt to get the best out of what is available to them, all while taking certain physical ” deficiencies” into account. All this to say that one must also look at the real intangibles before completely writing off any player ex/the IQ at the back of Hummels and the Leaderahip of a Puyol or a T.Silva .

    3. starting lineup:

      25 Masip
      2 Montoya
      14 Edgar Ié
      24 Bagnack
      11 Grimaldo
      12 Babunski
      20 Sergi Roberto
      8 Halilovic
      27 Adama Traoré
      17 Munir
      18 Dani Nieto

  14. He will never learn, will he!?!
    I’m talking about Delofeou.
    Almost always making the wrong decisions, same mistakes over and over. And i thought he learned something through these couple of years of senior football.
    And no, this is not based solely on this unimportant game. But if wants to have a go, he’ll have to change the way he plays. He thinks he’s the second coming after Messi, and that is not letting him be what he can truly be.

    1. To look for silver lining in Deulofeu, he has a very similar personality to Cristiano Ronaldo and if he keeps up the work rate he can be great.
      He has never been a team player. If he can continue to improve his defensive contribution then he can be a real asset.

      The worst thing that could happen to Deulofeu is that he becomes Pedro and plays the ‘safe’ game at every single opportunity. To be a great winger you have to be willing to take risks, take on players and score goals. I want him to become a better player but we have to allow him to become that player, not scold him every time he loses the ball.

  15. Well, if he has never been a team player, he better learn to be one, cause the odds will be against him.
    He wont be an asset if he continues like this. He will just warm the bench, and i’m more than convinced in this.
    What he needs to learn is very simple: raise you head, think a little bit and act. When you need to pass the ball, pass it, when you need to dribble, do it, when you need to take a shot, take a shot.
    The problem is that he just can’t figure it out which one he should do when it matters.

    1. I’m not blindly supporting Deulofeu by any means but how many times in every game does Messi make the wrong decision? Neymar? It takes a lot more courage to take on the responsibility of beating a player than to pass back to midfield and avoid it.
      If there is a player that makes the right decision every time I haven’t seen them.

  16. You can’t compare him to Messi or Ney, or what that matter any of our forwards, simply because he has a very long path to walk before he reaches that status. And then he can be forgiven for some foolishness.
    For the moment, he’s just a kid who want to prove something, and IMO he’s far from it.
    He has the talent, has the brain, he just lacks maturity which i hope will come in time.
    What worries me is that he’s making the same mistakes from few years back. By now he should have learned a thing or two about a team play.

    1. My point was more to compare him to Cristiano Ronaldo. He has so much in common with CR and very little with Neymar and Messi.
      Everyone comes off weak when compared to Messi and Neymar is a very different player too.

      Cristiano at Deulofeu’s age was all step overs and very little end product. He had to work on his team work and his defending. He worked harder than virtually any player in the world and became a phenomenal footballer.
      Deulofeu has the potential to be that good and maybe he makes it and maybe he doesn’t but I want him to do it being an exciting footballer.

    2. The more he becomes a team player, The more he helps in defending, The more he learns to pass, The higher the chance he’ll get picked up by the coach, If he does the opposite, His chances decreases.
      It’s a feedback system that makes sure he develops into a better player, So under the right coaches there is no doubt he can overcome his flaws.
      There is no perfect young player, While Delofeou has ball hogging and attempting to dribble too much issues, Like ciaran said, Others player have flaws that are the opposite of these, So let’s give him time, He’s still very young.

  17. “The only thing that matters is that Germany hoisted the World Cup trophy.”

    In 1954, Germany hoisted the World Cup trophy.

    In 1974, Germany hoisted the World Cup trophy.

    Germany has hoisted the World Cup trophy four times.

    Yet none of those four teams has had the impact on football that Hungary and the Netherlands, the losers of the ’54 and ’74 finals. Those teams’ influence revolutionized football though they never won the big game. They matter far more, in terms of football longevity, than the team that won in those years.

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