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

messi

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.

280 comments

  1. Excellent article as usual.

    Messi was neither great nor terrible in the final. He looked pretty much the same as he did the majority of this year i.e. not running like crazy and not the goal scoring machine of years past but still a very talented player who can change a game in an instant.

    However, there seems to be the conclusion that the reason he didn’t play like the Messi of old is because he didn’t want to win the World Cup badly enough. But if you look at his reactions throughout the World Cup (the scream after he scored against Bosnia, his taking off the second place medal in the final), it looked to me like he wanted to win VERY badly.

    1. …people are really saying that Messi didn’t want to win badly enough? Ridiculous. I know he doesn’t talk to the press that much, but all I’ve ever heard from him is that the World Cup is his dream. And what player at the World Cup doesn’t want to win very badly? There were some great pictures taken of Messi after the ARG-NED penalty shootout, and if that wasn’t joy, I don’t know what is.

  2. Truly a great article Kxevin… It feels so serene reading this after going through a sh*tload of articles on the internet blaming Messi in Argentina’s loss…
    The strange thing is though that this is the first time that I’ve seen lesser articles about the WC winners and more about an individual on the loosing team…
    Kudos btw…

  3. Pretty much every GOAT discussion misses one important distinction: there ability and greatness are not the same things, i.e. the best player of all time need not be the greatest and vice versa, as greatness as conventionally understood is primarily defined by achievements.

    I’d personally be more than happy to be the best player ever even if I was not the one with the most WCs won.

  4. Thanks for the great article. I particularly agree with this question: 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?

    For me, the objective truth about Messi is that every time he touches the ball, I believe that magic can happen. Not that it will happen, or that it has to, but that it simply can, and that’s a mark of greatness that he has earned. Argentina’s last-minute free kick: I really did not expect it to go in. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had, because it was Messi taking it, and part of me really thinks that when Messi plays, all other bets are off.

  5. Oh, one other point. I’m not sure I understand what you mean about how Goetze shouldn’t be compared to Iniesta… is that because they played different roles on their winning teams? Because they have different personalities? Because they have different histories at their club teams? Because they were goals of different natures, in games of different types?

    That’s all true, I guess, but they HAVE both scored World Cup-winning goals. Maybe this is reducing the issue to the lowest common denominator (and therefore is intellectually lazy) but that kind of IS the most important factor and the factor that will be remembered the longest. Goetze and Iniesta may not have much in common outside of their WC final goals, but that’s a big, big thing to have in common.

    1. Spain had never won a World Cup and Iniesta scored the goal to win them their first. Germany have won three previously and this is their fourth. It’s never going to be remembered in the same way. It’s not Gotze’s fault or anything it just is that way.

    2. Good point, I hadn’t considered that angle – Germany already has World Cup heroes to speak of.

    3. Oh but it was Germany’s first World Cup win! Their past 3 were as West Germany. O:)

  6. .
    Lord Eddard Stark said it here at BfB yesterday. I said it at The Guardian a year or so ago. Surely, others have said it elsewhere. But it hasn’t been said enough times:

    For those looking down on Messi for his supposed lack of pedigree at the international level (conveniently forgetting his Sub-21 World Cup and his Olympic Gold Medal with Argentina), it bears to repeat that had Messi chosen to play for Spain instead of Argentina, as he was entitled to do given his Spanish/Argentinian double nationality, he should have won at least one World Cup and two Euro Cups at 25.

    I’m sixty already, and I’ve seen a lot of great players. Messi is the GOAT for me!

    (No one reproached DiStefano for not winning a single World Cup playing for Argentina and Spain. The same with Cruyff: no World Cup. But they are counted among the greatest).

    1. If Messi played for Spain, we’d be speaking about the historical Total Hegemony of Spanish football.

      Spain with Puyol, Pique, Ramos and Capdevilla in defence, Busquets, Xabi Alonso as pivotes, and Iniesta/Pedro, Messi and Xavi playing just behind a point striker like Villa. It would’ve been magical.

    2. I do too. I just wish that Argentina had a good playmaker so that Messi could go forward. Right now the only one that somewhat fulfills those functions is Di Maria, and he’s more of a winger.

      To tell you the truth, to me Argentina looked much better in the end of the World Cup than in the beginning. If they keep it up next Copa America may be quite interesting.

    3. Messi is already without any question on the same level as Cruyff and Di Stefano.

      It’s the comparison with Pele and Maradona that is contentious

  7. Is nobody else concerned about the form Messi is currently in?

    He might be better than a lot/most players right now, but I haven’t seen Messi play at HIS best for a long time. There are a lot of valid possible on and off the field excuses for his dip in form (injury, aging, fatherhood, tax issues, etc) and I don’t think a fair minded person would expect him to shred defenders and score 91 goals every year.

    I don’t care about people who brand him a goat because haters will be haters no matter what he does. But I do worry about the amount of culés I know who seem genuinely scared to consider the fact that Messi might not be enough anymore. I’m not saying that’s the case, but it shouldn’t be considered treason to bring it up as a subject of conversation (maybe this is happening just in my circle of friends?).

    Last year we lost a copa, the league, and were eliminated from champions league by very thin margins. One goal margins I believe. This is where the signing of Luis Suarez makes sense to me. Initially, I would have thought a world class CB or two (for depth) might have been a better way to go, but apparently firepower is something Luis Enrique wants.

    I dont wish to turn this into a Suarez vs. Messi debate. Messi’s our legend. If he does nothing else for FC Barcelona I will always be grateful for what he’s done for us. However, I am glad we’re hedging our bets with another goalscorer. PS- I still want a new CB.

    1. I have re-calibrated my expectations from Messi. The Messi that was, was “impossible”. The Messi we have is amazing nonetheless. Its been 5 years since 2008. No-one has been as consistently so far away (performance wise) from the rest of the group for so long. As the entire squad has aged, so has Messi, even though he is 26 now. Those muscles have a lot of mileage on them. In my opinion it will be extremely hard for him to reach those heights on a consistent basis. And to reiterate, what he is right now, is still awesome.

    2. You’re right. The question shouldn’t be “will we ever see the impossible Messi again?” but rather “how do we get the best out of this fundamentally different Messi?”

  8. The shame about the Messi GOAT discussion is that, as usual, people only want to put it in terms of black and white.

    Nobody – I repeat, nobody(!)- has won a World Cup single-handedly like Maradona has done. To see something like that happen again is simply unimaginable, and not because “they played a different football” back then. If anything the football of that time makes Maradona’s achievement even more astounding. The man played with two differently sized shoes because one of his ankles was so swollen. But they were only seven games.

    On the other hand, and this is not to underestimate Maradona’s club career, nobody has done what Messi has done, either. So how do you choose between them? Of course, we don’t have to.

    For me at least, and I would think that for many culers, it’s a pity Messi did not kill that debate yesterday. It speaks well of Messi that he seemed more sad for not winning the title with his team than concerned about “his place in history.” For non-Argentinians, such matters of the heart do not concern us. His GOAT status, however, provides us with endless debate.

  9. What a difference a goal (or lack thereof) makes.

    Goetse who up to yesterday had been relegated to the bench by his coach, is now better than Messi. Messi missed his chance, and therefore not worthy of GOAT. A game played by XXII men filtered to a single goal. I find this appalling.

    Messi has never had the Argentine support, because they, like my dad, are still stuck in 1986, and have not paid, indeed cannot pay, attention to the game’s development since then. By god, don’t they realize that besides Maradona’s two great matches (vs England, vs Belgium) there were 6 other players who scored for them? Have they forgotten that Matthaeus pretty much nullified Maradona in 180 minutes? Had Germany gone on to defeat them in extra time in ’86, how many would still remember Maradona’s heroics? How many remember Baggio’s form prior to his penalty miss in 1994?

    A team sport dumbed down. We do love to raise people up, just so we can tear them back down, don’t we just?

    1. It’s no use belittling Maradona’s WC to two great matches. Matthaus only nullified Maradona until his game-winning assist five minutes before the whistle. Also, by all accounts, Maradona was an incredible leader who raised his team emotionally. His team didn’t suck as much as some would like us to believe, but some of his teammates actually said that it didn’t matter if they played badly. Maradona made them feel that as long as they passed him the ball he would see them through.

      Having said that, I don’t think Messi needs defending. His record-breaking career speaks for itself. But like those that now attack Messi, the ones that defend him don’t always make much sense either. It’s why I say in the comment above that there’s too much black or white. Messi had a good WC, but not a great one. Not the one we were hoping for.

    2. Agreed. Game is different now too, no one player can do it alone anymore. It was Messi alone in attack once Di Maria went down. The D and Masche and Romero performed admirably though.

    3. I don’t think a player could do it alone in Maradona’s days, either. That’s what made him so frigging amazing.

      And I think that, for all the talk about how his teammates didn’t help him, his team actually did enough to win yesterday. Messi, Higuain and Palacio should have scored at least one goal between them.

  10. There is no Messi form. Just the player we have now. Another difficult-but-valid question to ask is what IF the board had sold Messi? Many rumors to that effect. No, not advocacy, but a very fair “what if,” up for debate.

    The club sold Ronaldinho 2 seasons too late for maximum value. But is max value what you seek from such iconic players? Another good question.

    1. I asked myself that question not too long ago. In my mind there are two main differences:

      1. Ronaldinho stopped training.
      2. Messi is “ours.” You don’t look to sell the kid from the Masía who turned into perhaps the greatest footballer that ever lived. Maximum value doesn’t even come into the equation, for me at least. He has earned that much, at least.

      In this discussion as of late about morals and club values, selling Messi would for me be much worse than signing Suárez.

    2. True points. Also, so what if he’s no longer the Messi that can go “Getafe” on opposing teams? You still have a player with world class vision,passing, and dribbling ability. If he wasn’t a forward he’d be the best Attacking mid in the world for my money.
      You don’t sell a player like that.

    3. He has earned that much, however, he has also earned a status that basically guarantees that the team has to be built entirely around him.

      So what if he declines so much that building the team around him guarantees failure? He is not leaving the club on his own for the next 8 years or so…

    4. Hmmm. Not too sure I am buying this. Yeah he looked a little tired at times, but for me here are the reasons he has not performed as “expected” this WC.

      1) Every team Argentina has faced, except maybe Nigeria, have set up exclusively to stop Messi. He is not just man marked, at times he is double or even triple marked. At Barca he can use this to his advantage because he is surrounded by so much quality, but at Argentina his supporting cast was poor. So he gets the ball and is surrounded by players and has no outlets. In the article the author claims the Messi of old would have run at them and beat them. I disagree. Messi is nothng if not efficient and knows when to pick his moments. At Barca he makes space by using the players aroung him. At Argentina, the players give him the ball and it is almost as if everything stops in anticipation of what he is going to do. At one point vs Germany he received the ball relatively high up the pitch and was faced by 4 German players and not ONE Argentina player ahead of him came close to give support or made a run for him. So he did the smart thing and passed back. At Barca, he would have had at least 2, maybe 3 options. It is a team game.

      2) Link up play in the Argentina team seems to be almost non existent. The one time a player tried a one two with Messi it ended up in a goal (vs Bosnia). Messi thrvies on link up play. Many times I saw him get the ball, dribble, pass and make a run only to be ignored or the return pass to be poor.

      3) When the game started getting stretched near the end vs Germany and there was more space on the counter attack the tactic seemed to be to lob the ball up to Aguero completely bypassing Messi. That is the moment in the game where you want Messi involved the most, when the opposition are stretched and getting tired. Now, maybe it wasn’t a tactic per se and maybe they just aren’t good enough to play it out the back and find Messi, either way hoofing it up the pitch and hoping Aguero can do something on his own against Boateng/Hummels is not going to work.

      A lot of people seem to be worried about Messi. Not me. He pretty much single handedly got them to the WC final, doing what he needed at key moments in every single game he played except for the last one. This is a team sport and teams win football matches, not one player. His team let him down and not the other way around. Much like with Suarez, who could only carry Liverpool so far, eventually a good enough TEAM will win.

      Also, let’s not forget that Argentina played Germany. By far the best team in the tournament and with by far the better players. Still, as good as Germany are, they played to nullify Messi, that alone speaks volumes. On paper, Messi or not, Germany should have won the game with ease, instead Argentina missed 3 incredible chances to take the lead. A game of inches. If Messi scores that goal and Argentina win I guarantee this author writes a very different article.

    5. I agree with everything, most importantly point 2. There was only one instant when Messi got to manage a one two. Knowing that is one of his highlights, it is a pity Argentina didnt practise or try to do it for him. Most of the times when he had the ball, his friends stopped moving, this include Masche.

      I think matches like these are decided on the promptness and finesse in keeping nerves to finish your chances, physical endurance and the quality of the bench. Germany came out on top all three; Argentina had the most chances, but it was Germany who finished, Argentina was tired even before the end of first half, and when Germany brings in Goetze from the bench, it is Palacio for Argentina.

      I think, the whole world opinion is dominated and lead by the British journalists, who deep inside, hate to see another Argentine on top of the world. I watched the final with a British guy, who had come to visit me and he immediately mentioned to me that they will attack Messi in all ways and to expect all writings to be on how Messi was a failure rather than how good Germany was as a team. Even if they dont really show it these days, for most British Argentina is an enemy nation. Most of these British writers are absolute hypocrites.

    6. Both these replies prove a valuable point: no matter what someone says, a defense is constructed to meet necessary criteria.

      In other words, an event becomes seen the way an observer wants it to be seen. So a writer sees one thing. Another person sees what the writer wrote about the event and says “No, in fact this happened. It wasn’t at all like the writer sees it.”

      Constructs go up, and points are never made because people are unwilling to listen to anyone for one second longer than it takes to formulate their response about why that person is wrong.

      It’s precisely why any and all discussions about players and their qualities are meaningless. There is no point. No common ground, no potential for common ground, just people trying to explain why THEY are right, and not the other person.

      For example, I saw what the writer saw. So does that make me right or wrong? Maybe none of the above, just a person reacting to something based on an evaluative template that is different than someone else’s.

  11. These are the words from none other than our own Translator, cant believe that he has publicly stated this about Messi. – taken from Barcastuff

    “Messi sacrificed himself for the team. He wanted to win, he didn’t wanted to be topscorer or mvp, he wanted to make history.
    “Messi played in zones that are not his. He had to play so low that he had to cross 2-3 lines. Always had 2-3 players on him.
    “Messi was trying to create something out of nothing for his team. His assist to Di Maria was for example brilliant.
    If Messi wanted to be the phenomenon we all know he is, he’d just have played up front, close to Higuain, waiting for a chance.
    All my respect to Messi because he played for his team and this can’t be said of all players at this World Cup”
    “Messi deserves respect more than ever after ARG came so close. Easy to respect when he wins but when he lost, it’s not so easy.
    “He is still a historical player. He does not need to be world champion to be a historical player, especially in this last decade”

    1. When José wants, he can be very astute without being a jerk.

      The comment that stood out to me, though, was this one:

      “All my respect to Messi because he played for his team and this can’t be said of all players at this World Cup.”

      At first I thought, which players could he be talking about? Really I raked my mind because all of the big names I thought of played to win matches and not for themselves. And then it hit me.

      You know who…

    2. Very True. I think CR7 might have even put his career on the line had Portugal went further into the tournament. So Tim Howard may have saved Real Madrid just as he saved almost everything else in this tournament.

    3. For Portugal or for personal glory? To his credit, he has really matured at M*drid (the CL final a prime example, until his penalty, that is). As for the WC, I hadn’t seen him play like this since the days everybody ridiculed him for taking 20 shots per game.

  12. I have a fault in which after Barcelona (or in this case Messi loses a crucial match ie. Chelsea 2012,Copa 2011), I tend to check every major online news website for days and read every deprecating comment on the losing side.

    And the comments hurt, yet I keep reading them..

  13. Well, there’s an old saying:

    A victory has hundred (thousand) fathers, while the defeat is an orphan.

  14. To me one of the most fascinating things for this World Cup is the emotional investment that most Barca fans had in seeing Leo lead Argentina to victory. I think many fantasized that somehow we would get the old Messi back if this somehow happened. Also, many believed that a World Cup victory would settle once and for all the question of who was the greatest of all time, even if by a very arbitrary and unfair standard.

    The fact, of course, is that Messi almost did win, but I think most now recognize that even if he did that fantasy was foolish in hindsight. He has already won everything except the World Cup and now has come as close as anyone can to doing this. It would have been great if it happened particularly with this largely ordinary and injured Argentina team, but why can’t we just celebrate how close he came and how good a tournament he did have. That fans in Argentina want to vilify him is their problem, but any Barca fan who feel that Messi let him or her down is mistaken.

    Did we see the greatest player of all time from 2009-12? I think most of us know that we did even as fans of other players including Pele and Maradona have good reasons to argue differently. I think what irks most Barca fans is that whether Messi is or is not considered that GOAT is judged by what he did for another team, playing not at his best fitness and with other players who were not nearly equal in ability to the other legends on our squad or the players on the great Germany team that won.

    We think Messi belongs to us and his compatriots are merely fickle profiteers borrowing our greatest asset and then demonizing him when he did not achieve their extraordinary expectations. They may rail at how unfortunate it is for them that they never had Messi at his best to win him their World Cup. That is their misfortune and I can understand their resentment even as I know how unfair it is.

    But having already given Barca so much I don’t feel disappointed at all in Messi’s performance knowing how privileged we were to see him perform the improbable and impossible so often with our club in so many important matches.

    So do I feel sorry for Messi or Argentina? Absolutely not. Messi and his team played a great tournament and almost won it all. If that is a tragedy or something that a nation and a legendary player can’t live with then that’s their problem because success in life is not guaranteed nor is it always rewarded by great effort. Sometimes it’s just a matter of whether that shot sails inches wide or hits the post and then rebounds in.

  15. Haters will always be haters and that won’t change.

    For me thought (as a huge Messi fan, and Iniesta by the way) is this question, “Is there something wrong/going on with Messi, be it physical, mental or otherwise?

    For some of us who have followed Barca since the days of Rivaldo, we cannot help but ask the question. And asking the question has nothing to do with not being grateful or even privileged enough to have enjoyed watching Messi all these years.

    I’m asking the question because a pattern is emerging here and i could be wrong since this is my personal opinion/observation.
    1. Walking through matches: The consensus here seems to be that it’s an agreement between Messi and the medical staff that he should run less to conserve energy, though this is also just speculation.
    2. Vomiting: This happens before and during games and it happened again in the final against Germany.

    Take Iniesta for example, even when having a bad day at the office, you will never ever see him just walking around the pitch while the play just passes him by.
    No one known the mindset of the man but when you re-watch these games and concentrate solely on him just walking around. From the outside it really does seem like he’s either not “bothered or doesn’t care”, until of course the ball reaches his feet and he suddenly transforms.

    I don’t think it’s blasphemous for fans to ask this question(s) but something is definitely going on and only the man himself knows, until that happens we we will continue speculating.

  16. “Hating” and the notion of “haters” is intensely partisan. It’s difficult for me to reconcile the snark and venom that is jettisoned in the direction of Ronaldo, sparking ire is some of the same people who spat venom at a certain gel-haired Portuguese attacker.

    Ultimately if you’re a fan of Messi, everyone who doesn’t say the right things is a hater. If you are not a fan of Messi, everyone who doesn’t say the right things is a fanboy.

    Fair? Unfair? “But Messi does this, and Ronaldo can’t …” is immaterial. For every Messi fan there is an equally devoted Ronaldo fan. And that’s just how it goes.

    1. Just logic. Every club and supporter thinks they are in a vacuum, and everything is pretty much the same. The Liverpool fans are screaming about why their board sucks at negotiating, and never gets fair value for players, etc, just like culers.

      Ronaldo fans think Messi isn’t as good. Messi fans call him “Penaldo,” Ibrahimovic fans think everyone is silly, as their guy is the best striker known to man. All subjective, all perspective.

  17. I think fotobirajesh’s post from Barcastuff bears re-posting (at least part of it):

    This from Mourinho, a person very easy to ‘hate’ and demonize…

    “All my respect to Messi because he played for his team and this can’t be said of all players at this World Cup”
    “Messi deserves respect more than ever after ARG came so close. Easy to respect when he wins but when he lost, it’s not so easy.
    “He is still a historical player. He does not need to be world champion to be a historical player, especially in this last decade”

    This is significant for many reasons. First, it demonstrates very clearly that just as all our heroes have feet of clay, all our demons are equally false constructs. Mou’s assessment is very fair and accurate, I think. Messi played to win, within the team, utterly selflessly. I have no doubt that among coaches, other players, and people who understand sport in general and soccer in particular there is no question at all of his quality or skill. How could there be?

    Mou has been my favorite bad guy for years, but I have much more respect for him now.

    1. Mourinho is an exceptional coach and motivator, who has won wherever he goes. If there wasn’t respect for that before now (irrespective of like and dislike), can’t see how kind words for Messi would augment or diminish that.

    2. It does make him seem more human though. I hated Mou´s tactics before he went to Real Madrid, but after those three years, I think everyone was happy to see the back of him.

      There is nothing wrong with hating or loving certain players, like characters in a novel, but it´s equally important to know that it´s a performance. For me, it´s arbitrary-an aesthetic qualifier or lack of. Robben´s a great player, but I can´t stand him, and it makes it more fun to have ´enemies´ as well as ´friends´on the pitch. But, your point is salient, as it is fundamental that we maintain perspective.

    3. I’m not completely certain what you mean, but to explain my comment a little further, his standing as a ‘person’ (not as a successful or unsuccessful soccer coach) has risen in my eyes.

  18. There is a famous quote which rightly fits in this situation.
    “It’s human tendency to underrate the present and grossly overrate the past”. Maradona and Pele may really be great. But 95% of people who are contemplating didn’t watch either of them LIVE. They are just expressing their views, rather harshly. As Kevvwill said, fans of particular player do whatever it takes to defend that “They are right”. It’s opinion after all.Btw two years ago, Messi was the most loved player in the world. What happened recently that all hatred is flowing towards him?

    1. What happened is what, it seems, often happens. Nobody has yet been successful who hasn’t suffered a backlash. Italians and Argentinians are all too happy to forget the shit they gave Maradona in ’82 and after ’91 (though his coke habit had started in the late 80s), because he retired and fans only recalled the moments of brilliance.

      I think the same will happen with Messi. He’ll get shat on progressively more (it has already started even here on this lovely board) until he either permanently declines or quits. Then the same people who ridicule him will have forgotten all about it.

      It has happened to every great player to play football. Cruijff, Beckembauer, Platini, van Basten, Baggio, Zidane, all went through this.

    2. For me there are 2 reasons. We human are just sentimental. I see the same with music where people always comment that music back then doesn’t matter which year as long as it’s history, is automatically better. Although many of current songs are plain silly (fox, selfie).

      And in the past there was less focus on the matches. Fans didn’t get to watch so many full matches, with replays and the clips wouldn’t go on the internet. We don’t even need to go far back. I consistently see comments on internet like on YouTube where people would say that Ronaldinho is better than Messi. They of course don’t remember that the Ronaldinho magical stuff that you see happens once in a match. But for the rest of the match he could be ineffective. But of course people think otherwise, that he does tricks all the time. Likewise for Zidane, Ronaldo. Why I use these 3 as examples is because it was a huge fan of them and I followed them from the early stages so I can only speak of them and also since they’re legends on the internet. They are all brilliant but they too had many off days.

      So people only watch the clips on YouTube and imagine that it happens all the time.

      As for the World Cup greats, Pele and Maradona, I didn’t get to watch them of course but in pretty sure they were not lighting up every match during the World Cup. I’m pretty sure they had matches like Messi, not dominant but still provided key passes or goals.

      I can speak for Ronaldo. He was so disappointing during 1998 World Cup. He wasn’t that good in 2002 either but he did score a lot so that’s all people will remember him for. Zidane was below par too during 1998 and he did something stupid but had a good final where he scored 2 goals. Wasn’t good in 2002 but came back strong in 2006. Oh he won the Golden Ball even though he head butted Materazzi.

  19. I was out for a week on a rock festival and I was delighted see that a lot of reading material piled up here.

    Just finished reading the Suarez article and the comments below. Great stuff, thanks Kxevin! Looking forward to the other pieces.

    1. Masters of Rock (Vizovice, Czech Republic).

      And I saw Metallica in Prague two days before that. What a week for me!

  20. Here’s an article discussing whether Mascherano should be Barca’s captain in the upcoming season (and the Barca captaincy in general): http://www.insidespanishfootball.com/116569/could-mascherano-be-barcelonas-best-option-as-captain/

    FWIW, I don’t think that nuestro Jefecito should be captain next season – I think he will have a reduced role with upcoming CB signings, and the captain needs to be someone playing consistently, especially in the biggest matches. Mascherano will have the attitude of a captain, but that doesn’t require him to wear the armband (just look at how he motivates Argentina).

    I guess it’s traditionalist of me, but I believe the captain should be someone with seniority, ideally a product of La Masia.

    1. The captain should be voted on by the players. Period. Irrespective of nationality or background. The players know who their leader is, even when he isn’t wearing the armband, i.e. Argentina.

      I also think that with Puyol leaving, Mascherano most had that undefinable quality like Puyol, which was probably a factor in his renewal as well as the fact that he’s a badass.

    2. Oh, I do think that the captain should be voted on by the players, and I know that I know precisely nothing about the dynamics of the locker room. The players know each other and know who the leaders are.

      I’m just adding my two cents on what guiding principles I would use if I were voting: at any club, being a starter and have many years of experience at the club matters. At Barcelona specifically (a team that develops, values, and builds around home-grown players), being a graduate of La Masia matters.

      (Then again, Iniesta is my favorite player so don’t trust anything I say. I admit my horrible bias 😉 )

    3. You can’t appoint someone as a new captain if he’s not going to play every week though. It would undermine his position. Different with Puyol who was already a legend. However, as you say it helps if the person has the support of the players. I’m not sure who it should be. Don’t think Messi or Iniesta make good captains. With Xavi more or less gone we’re not really spoiled for choice.

  21. A few tangential updates:
    @barcastuff: Barcelona midfielder Xavi (34) will soon sign a three-year contract worth 6M a year with American team New York City FC. [sport]
    &
    @barcastuff: Valencia defender Mathieu didn’t take part in a friendly today because Barcelona informed Valencia they’re willing to pay 20M buyout. [cope]

    Sad about Xavi, especially after letting Kroos go to Madrid after being offered him. Say what you want but he had a fantastic cup and is >>>> than Roberto.

    It shows how desperate we are that we are paying 20m for a utility backup CB that’s 31 in a few months but at this point HELL YES A DEFENDER!!!!!’

    1. I don’t understand this insistence on Mathieu. You’d think he was like a less expensive version of Hummels or something. What I find is instead a more expensive version of Adriano.

      I don’t get it.

    2. He’s a pro. And a veteran. He’s also a stable presence who has all the Barça CB skills, as well as pace. If you get 2 seasons out of him, it’s worth the dosh as it gives the B team guys a chance to develop. He’s faster than Hummels, as well.

      I reckon the other CB signing will be a youngster.

    3. Why spend on a ” youngster” when we have Bartra and B team CB’s? We want to win NOW and Mathieu is the CB to do it? Not for my money. Hummels all day over him, all freaking day.

    4. I agree , solid role player but not THE answer. We could’ve had him for 10mil last year, now he’s almost 31 and we’re paying 20m. Smh. He’s also not better than Hummels no matter what people want to say. I’ll take the league winning , UCL final playing, a World Cup winning defensive leader over the 31yo
      Who has never won a title in his life.

    5. And to be clear I’m glad we are signing a defender but reading reactions you’d think he was one of the top CB’s in the world, and if you disagree well ” You dont watch La Liga enough” . Yet no other team wants him andhe can’t even get a NT call up. Again I’m very happy we have a defender but people need to stop trying to sell me Gold when it’s ,imo, bronze.

    6. Mathieu is a perfect signing for ONE of the CB slots. Don’t forget that Bartomeu said that two are coming. My guess is that the second will be a young player.

      Hummels always comes up. Mathieu has better pace, also plays FB if required. He’s a stable, veteran presence that will work well in a back line that will be working in two young CBs (Bartra, and …) Also experienced in La Liga, with Liga officials, etc.

      Absolutely nothing wrong with the signing, unless people want something to be wrong with it. Then, everything will be wrong with it in the black or white world of fandom.

    7. Agree to disagree , simply saying he has more ” pace”
      And a ” veteran” ( Hummels isn’t? He’s been to the mountain tops) doesn’t make him better. Again, where is the logic behind signing a ” youngster” when we have youngsters already? They should’ve ponied up for Benatia and trusted the B youngsters and Bartra as cover imo.

    8. So it is now, instead of buy a CB, buy a CB of whom we approve. Grading on the curve means who is ever good enough? A combo of Thiago Silva and Jesus? Ah, but that CB would be too expensive.

      Mathieu is, for me and apparently folks on the team staff who know a lot better than me, the right signing. I know. No, he isn’t, and here’s why.

      It’s why any debates about players might as well be about the shade of a blue sky. At least the sky is prettier.

    9. Beggin your pardon, Kevin, but isn’t what we’re saying.

      I am glad the board has finally recognized the need to sign two good defenders. It’s just that this feels like a repeat of 2012 to me. They’d rather spend 20m on Mathieu (or Song, in 2012) than 40m on T. Silva or Martinez or Hummels.

      The defence is what will make this club’s season. The absence of pressing guarantees that a strong defence is needed absolutely.

      The signing of Suarez is to me a disgrace. Neymar’s signing last year too was a disgrace. The board splurged almost 150m euros on two strikers, one a biter, the other the most overrated player of this generation. That’s worth almost 4 top quality central defenders. We have the money, but not the will.

    10. Yeah, but if we are goingto sign two defenders mathieu makes good sense. He’s versatile, experienced, etc. we need to replace masch at the back, but we dont want to hamper bartras development either.

    11. Mathieu might prove himself a better signing than some care to believe, but it’s hard to get excited about paying 20M for a 31-year old defender with zero caps to his name.

      @86ed Neymar, the most overrated player of this generation? I think he did quite well his first season at our club.

    12. Still overrated, Levon. Doing well does not warrant so much hype; certainly it does not warrant so much money.

      The away match vs Athletic epitomizes Neymar for me. He’d rather go down than take advantage of a fortuitous position. 80m euros, a presidency, and our reputation ruined, all for a kid who’s likely to fake being blown over by a breeze. Overrated. 2 defenders could could and should have been signed instead.

    13. That’s extreme, though, you are underrating him severely. The kid’s only what, 22, and he has already scored more goals for Brazil than many legends who wore the shirt. Besides, we paid that money for talent and potential. I’ve always maintained we shouldn’t expect the real Neymar after two seasons, maybe three. I just hope culers won’t ruin him before then.

  22. Man United finished out of the top 4 so no CL football but yet Adidas can offer them such a large contract. So amazing. And Chevrolet is also paying them a lot of money, the highest too I believe. On top of that Chevvy had to pay AIG to cut their sponsorship short. Man United is pretty lucky even though on the pitch performance has taken a tumble and will take a few years to get back up, they can still rely on mega sponsorship deals.

  23. The other fascinating tale to come out of today is the buzz about the NY Times stories on Aspire academy, and how sleazy it all seems.

    I, of course, churl that I am, wonder how different the Aspire academy is from La Masia: both get young African players, both give them an education and the opportunity to play professional football, escaping a different life, both jettison the ones who aren’t good enough to make it.

    Thoughts?

    1. Both are probably are net goods for the youngsters given the chance, even the ones that don’t make it. Both could probably easily do more good if they took a greater responsibility and continued to provide an education and life skills to those that weren’t going to make it, but that’s wildly idealistic for two programs whose sole purpose is to create footballers to make money for the investors.

      Difference between the two? Branding. See e.g. “Aspire academy” versus “La Masia”.

  24. From Barcastuff vis Twitter:

    Nuno (coach Valencia): “What happens with Mathieu is not a secret. There’s a big club willing to pay his buyout fee. We should be ready.”

    Nuno (coach Valencia): “Jeremy is a great professional, a guy we like a lot, one of the world’s best centre backs, but these things happen.”

  25. Losing both Fabregas and Xavi in one transfer window scares me. Thats a hell of a lot of quality. Who is going to orchestrate from deep? Or maybe luis enrique is shaping us not to need that ‘Organising Mid’. Intersting times ahead.

  26. Bojan practiced with the first team today. Word is that he might be giving Suarez a run for a spot in the starting lineup.

    1. Wouldn’t it be nice if Bojan followed Dos Santos to Villarreal or another similar team? Maybe the Yellow Submarines will remember his classy goal vs. them 4 years ago and that’ll convince them to take Bojan off our hands. 🙂

  27. Mathieu, even if he is arriving late, for 20M would still be better than most signings at his position in Barca. Benatia + Hummels would have been my preferred signings. But it looks like the board is reluctant to splash the cash on defenders.

  28. I would love either benatia or hummels, but regardless, mathieu is a good signing. Except that we could have had him last yearbon a free. I hope a cb comes soon!

  29. Everybody, MATHIEU IS A SIDE BACK NOT A CENTRE BACK. he’s a replaceament for Abidal, a more defensive alternative to Alba.

    1. Mathieu played the entire season at centre back. Previous to this past season he had been a left back as you say. Because of this flexibility I assume that he would be able to get minutes at both positions which would keep him happier as he should be our fourth choice centreback.

      At centreback for Valencia he was one of their best players last season but for anyone to consider him ‘one of the best in the world’ is wishful thinking. Yes he is a good solid player and should be happy to accept a role with us that reflects his abilities.

      Asking a player to come to the club and sit on the bench for the season isn’t easy. For those wishing for two world class defenders you have to ask who to sacrifice on matchday because we have invested heavily in Pique and regardless of form he is still the right defender for us and Bartra has lots of potential even if right now he isn’t one of the best.
      Signing both Hummels and Benatia is impossible as both would demand to be starters and justified or not Pique is still going to start. It would also end Bartra’s career at the club.

      I suggested before the world cup that a long look should be given to Rojo as fourth choice centreback and alternative left back because of his physicality, potential and price and after seeing him consistently I would be more than happy to have him arrive instead of Mathieu but I don’t know if he would be happy with the role.

      Benatia has to be first choice for us though and even though I expected us to sign Hummels, Benatia is the best fit for what we need. He doesn’t have the name that this board normally look for but has every characteristic.

      Bartomeu said that 2 or 3 defenders will be arriving suggesting that if we have a buyer for Dani then Cuadrado would be bought in my opinion. If we can get Benatia and Rojo along with Cuadrado then I would be like a giggling school girl.

    2. And if we end up with Marquinhos ahead of Benatia or Hummels I will be very very disappointed.

    3. So will I.
      Don’t understand this obsession with Marquinhos.

    4. €20m for a 30-year-old with 1 full season of playing CB seems like some bad math to me. at most he’s got 2 seasons of top performance left. Hummels, for instance, is 5 years younger.

    5. I don’t argue that at all. We could have got him for half that amount last season and he would’ve obviously been a year younger.
      I wouldn’t sign Mathieu at all but as I said, we can’t sign two top class defenders and keep all four centrebacks happy.
      Maybe the advantage of Mathieu is that he accepts being fourth choice.

      For me, Benatia or Hummels should be first choice and Rojo or even Daley Blind should be the second one but I don’t expect those purchases.

      If Hummels comes, he is starting alongside Pique. Same for Benatia.

    6. we have 1 full-time CB spot completely open, and certainly need another outstanding player for that position. Hummels and Pique are far too alike in my opinion to function well together; but Hummels and X or Pique and X are what we’re REALLY looking for.

      Hummels and Marquinos are my ideal targets, as they have complimentary qualities, with Dani (wonderful servant though he’s been) heading out to Paris as a makeweight for the latter. who knows if we have the money to prise Marquinos from PSG, but they did just spend €50m on David Luiz to partner with Thiago Silva and he has to be unsettled. perhaps if we’d thrown some of our Suarez money at them to recoup their investment we’d find the process easier, but hey the club already fielding Neymar and Messi needed a €70m striker instead of one of the world’s most promising young defenders right? maybe we can outscore teams 8-7.

      sadly i’m not sure Benatia is even on the club’s radar.

    7. Alba has been largely excellent though, and he’s better at getting forward than he is defending. if anything, we need a defensive replacement for Dani Alves, and shift our attacking FB notice to the left. but we have no idea if he’s leaving or staying.

  30. Tello to Porto is official. Two year loan with option to purchase which can be stopped by barca after the first season.
    I don’t know the figures involved but it is a good deal for Tello as the Portuguese league is a good place for wingers and attacking football. I hope he becomes the player that it looked like he would.

    1. Porto has been really active this summer signing young players. Janmaat is another one. I can’t remember the other young talent.

  31. What are the odds that Adriano gets injured in the pre pre pre pre pre pre pre pre -season first warm up?

    1. Read this in one of the comments in BarcaBlaugranes
      @barcastuff: Official: Barcelona full back Adriano is out for 4 to 6 weeks with a heart rhythm problem #fcblive

      Sad 🙁

    2. Right. He didn’t get injured. He failed the pre-season medical tests. He should be right as rain after the operation.

    3. My bad.
      I didn’t read the information till the end, i just assumed that he got injured again.

  32. Zubi announced that the provisional squad for next season will be *smaller* than the 25 players who featured last season. somewhere between 21 and 23.

    not sure how i feel about this; our squad is still very fragmented and there are doubtless a number of players who will be fatigued or not up to full form: Messi and Neymar most importantly. Suarez, in our infinite wisdom, isn’t available til October at the earliest. Tello was just shipped to Porto. so our fit, in-form forwards for a significant portion of our season consist of Pedro and Deulofeu.

    Xavi is likely gone to New York or Dubai; Cesc to London. Rakitic was a good signing but Rafinha while promising is still a young player with a learning curve. we might be able to get by with a less structured midfield if Masch plays there and shows the kind of form he showed during the World Cup. no idea what sort of shape Iniesta and Busquets are in though they’ve had a nice long, much-needed, break. haven’t heard any movement all summer about Alex Song, though he’s obviously dead weight (even moreso after his stupidity on the big stage against Croatia). Ibrahim Afellay evidently was aboard Flight 370 because nobody has spoken about (or to?) him in months.

    still no movement on serious cover at center-back. Mathieu, who turns 31 in October, would be a stop-gap not a fix and isn’t a natural CB anyway (he plays on the left, where Jordi Alba and Adriano currently have on lock). frankly puzzled why we’re even looking at him for the price (about 20m) being talked about. Pique and Bartra remain our only orthodox CBs, and the latter i still put in the same camp as Rafinha: talented, but learning. little further word on Dani Alves’ future, but he would require a significant replacement. oh yeah, and we have 2 new goalkeepers who will need some time to acclimatize to their defenders, and no further word no the future of Victor Valdes either.

    in short, the state of the squad at this point in the transfer window is: clusterfuck. given this status, i don’t understand how the sporting director could say one way or the other how big the squad is going to be.

    1. A smaller squad is certainly a benefit if it is more competitive. Did JDS, Cuenca, Afellay or Oier impact our season last year. Even Montoya and Tello had very little impact. I don’t argue the logic of the smaller squad but merely its execution.

      In goal we have three competitive goalkeepers if none are quite world class. ter Stegen looks to be on his way to be our first choice but for now I expect some rotation. This should increase the levels of all of them.
      ter Stegen | Bravo | Masip

      In defense should we sign 2 centrebacks as has been stated by Zubi and Bartmoeu along with replacing Dani with Cuadrado then we will have 8 competitive defenders with quite diverse skill sets giving us the versatility of let’s say Cuadrado-Pique-Hummels-Alba or Montoya-Pique-Hummels-Mathieu for different opponents.
      Cuadrado | Montoya | Pique | Bartra | Hummels | Mathieu | Alba | Adriano

      Midfield is a slightly bigger concern. I have said on many occasions that I wouldn’t have sold Cesc but he’s gone and Xavi could well be following him. In theory Song will be following him out the door and JDS has gone on a family reunion. Rafinha and Rakitic give us different skills but are very energetic while Mascherano had a great world cup in midfield and should give Busquets plenty of competition with many thinking that he has the upper hand on current form. Lucho also seems to have more faith in Sergi Roberto than I do.
      Masch | Busquets | Rakitic | Iniesta | Rafinha | Sergi

      Up front on paper at least we are stacked with 3 of the top 5 forwards in world football all ready to join up. Add to that Deulofeu will get games at the start of the season to see where he is at ability-wise. Pedro is there too, much to my disappointment but is still a guarantee of a reasonable amount of goals against the weaker oppositions in the early part of the season. The other thing to count on is that up front is where we have potential for promotions from our B team. Adama and Munir have had great seasons and will possibly get looked at throughout the season. For that matter, Cuadrado isn’t that bad in the final third if we do sign him he can easily move forward two lines and could be considered one of the best wingers in the game.
      Messi | Neymar | Suarez | Pedro | Deulofeu

      It’s not that bad a squad if we make the signings that are rumoured.

    2. Love the positive comment! I agree, we are to defenders away from a solid squad. I also think the squad will be smaller to give b players a chance to get in games.

    3. ciaran is spot on. Don’t forget that Guardiola also liked a small squad, but with everyone being useful. Last season’s squad featured quite a bit of dead weight or moderately effective players long-term, such as Song.

      I’d rather have a 21 or 22-player squad than 26, but 7-8 of them never see any time.

    4. the #1 issue with a small squad is fatigue, a problem we’ve underestimated in previous seasons. this problem becomes apparent in the spring when players’ energy and concentration levels start dropping off (we tied the last 3 games last season when a win would have sealed the league for us, for instance). this fatigue already looks to be a factor in the performances of Messi, still our most important player, during the World Cup. that goes double if Lucho decides to reinstate our pressing game.

      ideally, while there is no necessary connection between squad size and performances on the pitch (as you rightly note), a large squad full of quality players *is better* than a small squad of quality players, due to it’s ability to absorb fatigue and injuries. i’m not sure that a small squad including a handful of untested youngsters (Sergi, Deulofeu, Barta, Masip, Rafinha), leaving maybe 16 peak professionals, of whom we can assume an average of about 2 out with injury, leaving us with 14 real options for 11 places at any given time. that’s a tougher margin to work with than, say, the 17 available to a larger squad. our way means less competition for spots, more fatigue and fewer chances to rotate tactically (proactively) rather than reactively.

      another reason why i think the Suarez transfer was a problem for us: that €75m could have potentially bought 2-3 outstanding squad players to alleviate some of the risks associated with keeping a smaller squad.

    5. Having a competitive squad is much more important than a big squad as we had last year. That’s why I wanted to keep Alexis and Cesc. The problem with this is that top quality players like those don’t want to accept a role on the bench for big matches. In reality you can’t have 4 world class central defenders and keep them a happy, just like you can’t have 6 world class central midfielders and do the same.

      In my opinion Bartra and Montoya both proved in their minutes last season that they are more than capable of forming part of a winning team against the majority of Liga opposition. Rafinha definitely did the same in his season at Celta. Deulofeu is definitely worth a look against the same calibre opponents. This gives us more than enough time to rest the biggest names of which there are some who won’t really accept much rotation.

      Defensively I will wait until I see the players smiling next to the crest before making my judgements but there certainly are some top quality players available for me to remain optimistic.

      Spending the €75m Suarez money on two or three extra players is a good idea in fairness but you can still only pick 11. Second choice seems to have been Higuain and with all due respect to him he’s not in the same league as Suarez at all. The only way I would have been happy with him is if we kept Alexis and that didn’t look like happening.

      Squad depth and squad versatility are not the same thing but this year’s squad is shaping up like a good mix of both. As I’ve said if the right players are brought in to the defensive line then we will have the best of both worlds.

  33. For the record, if someone here suggests that we sign Ron f–king Vlaar after he had a handful of reasonable games for Netherlands at the world cup I’ll go mad.
    He plays at Aston Villa and isn’t exactly lighting the EPL up with his performances. My brother who supports Villa and watches them every match would be more than happy to let him go.
    Playing in a back 5 with De Jong in front of you makes it easy not to concede many goals but he is no where near the calibre of player needed for our club but in any other website I visit there’s scores of people saying that he should be considered.

    Now, I understand that some people only know the footballers that are in the news and follow like sheep the calls for signing any defender but not him. He’s utterly useless.

    1. lol well stated :p . Fully agree on the Mathieu points, finally some sense and temperance. He’s solid, not a world beater , but will accept the role asked of him.

    2. hear hear to that. doesn’t fit our game at all. Mathieu would have been a great signing 4 seasons ago.

  34. Btw, on a lighter node – how did the World Cup prediction game end?

    I think I’ve finally read all the comments that came up since I was out, but don’t remember seeing any results.

    1. On an even lighter note, there are some delightful predictions on that thread about Spain beating Brazil in the final 😀

  35. Assuming we play with a back 4, who starts alongside piqué in our quest to regain the liga and UCL titles? Bartra isn’t fully ready ( bags of potential ), Marqhuinos is still too young and will have to adjust to a new league and team ( wasn’t playing too much at PSG ), so that leaves Mathieu?
    And yes I realize it will be a meritocracy under Lucho that I’m talking just on paper who would earn that spot next to Gerard, who is one of the best in the world on his day.

    Last thing on Mathieu from me: If after all these years of not signing defenders, of relinquishing the league and champions league titles, you came to me and said ” OK the answer to our defensive woes is … Mathieu (btw he’s 31 and we’re paying 20m. Tee hee) !” I know exactly what my reaction would be…

    I think some people are kidding themselves into believing that this is the signing they wanted all along, shows how desperate we are, and what “Song” signings have done to us. Ciaran has laid it all out in more detail above.

    Btw I don’t want to start an argument that will go nowhere, about Mathieu, it’s just my opinion, I simply hope the second center back is of a higher class.

    1. For every Adriano, there is an Alves. For every Pique, a Mathieu. Teams need both types of player.

      Nobody is convincing themselves that Mathieu is anything other than what he is. The problem instead is that people aren’t understanding how a process works, and being unrelenting.

      90% of the clubs in Europe are looking for a top CB. That makes them expensive, and rare when they move at all. PSG paid 50m for David Luiz. And didn’t even blink. THAT is the CB market.

      Enrique said in today’s presser that Mascherano would play midfield or CB, as needed. It’s nice to have that flexibility. Both Bartomeu and ZubiZa have said that there will be more than one CB acquired this summer.

      So best to wait and see what happens.

    2. Exactly. The Mathieu signing is an excellent piece of business for what it is. The club is buying an experienced, versatile player who fits the profile of what the team needs. Not sure how they are doing any wrong here. There is another CB signing to come, lets see who it ends up being. I have a feeling it wont be Marquinos, who I was never a huge fan of anyways. Other names being thrown around are Vertonghen, Benatia and Hummels. All worthy CBs so not sure what all the fuss is about, especially since there is still plenty of time to sign players.

      Its sad really. Barca fans never, ever seem happy with signings. No matter who it is, there is always some complaint.

    3. It’s not ” sad” when the issues raised are legitimate . I don’t see why we should let the actions of new money, P$G in the Luiz purchase ( widely panned and called absurd) dictate the entirety of the global CB market. Where the heck is the scouting?? You’re telling me in these years without a defender all they can come up with is Mathieu and a 19yo? Come on now. These are legit issues I am NOT being ungrateful, anyone is better than nothing.

      Btw here’s an article with actual quotes of Mathieu saying he is fed up of playing left back:http://www.superdeporte.es/valencia/2013/08/20/mathieu-quiero-jugar-lateral/204364.html

      And in all 42 apps (according to whoscored.com) last year he played LB… ONCE

      But hey I’m just complaining to complain right?

    4. No, the point Hilal is making is that people clamored for some transfer market action, particularly as it relates to defenders. The club made a move, but it isn’t the right move. So “any” action becomes, once it is made, not the “right” action.

      In the game we call Culer Retrospect, nothing is ever good enough. So Xavi is past it. When he leaves, the club is letting a legend go. Puyol deserves respect. Then he breaks, and the club should have known he was broken and not trusted him. It’s always something.

      Mathieu played mostly CB last season, and did so very well. He has a nice set of attributes. PSG paid 50m for a David Luiz, a player that everyone in the free world thinks is crap. THAT is the state of the global CB market.

      “Scouting” is stuff that people throw around as another reason to slag the board. Other teams can take risks on unproven defenders at low prices. For every Benatia, who pans out, there are 5 players who don’t. But we never hear about those.

      You, yourself scoff at a “19-year-old.” Marquinhos is a risk, as any young player is. Should the club spend 40m on a risk? Good question, assuming the rumored interest in the player is real, something still not proven.

      Barça is not the kind of team that brings players into the first team on a risk. Roma can afford that. Other teams can afford that. But look at their trophy cases over the past seasons, then look at ours. Roma can bring a player in, give him first-team minutes to develop and maybe become a 40m player. That is a luxury we can’t afford, mostly because there isn’t room on the B team but also because that risk-taking is the job of the B team. (Which has signed 2 defenders, one a highly-rated CB, this summer.)

      This is a club that has to win and win now, and can’t have potential in the first team. It’s why the non-performer fire sale is going on this summer, to get that stuff out, and off the bench.

      Scouting is for B prospects. Ie and Bagnack are still developing, and the two quality seasons that the club gets out of Mathieu will be more than sufficient to assess their ultimate quality. Both show promise. So any purchase also has to take into account what is happening not only at the B team level, but at the next TWO levels of the system, as those players are also in the first-team pipeline.

      It’s a lot more complex to consider, I reckon.

    5. Solid points, Shame that Guy who wrote this article responded in his usual all knowing lecturing tone . He didnt even address the article you linked or the legit stats. Just went On his usual ” THIS IS HOW IT IS” diatribe.
      Meanwhile he acts like a raving preacher when talking about Suárez. Hilarious.
      What an absolute hypocritcal monkey of a man

    6. What a horrible reply Dreamteam. I hope a mod deletes it and bans you. Try offering something to the conversation instead of useless insults.

  36. DiMarzio says that Chelsea is interested in Benatia. Not sure if we are at all, but Big Money has entered the frame.

    1. I can’t imagine that Benatia would choose Chelsea over us even if the rumour is true. Chelsea have the Cahill – Terry partnership with Ivanovic as back up and the young but very impressive Kurt Zouma having already signed up. Mourinho also likes Kalas the other young defender on their books so I couldn’t see them signing another centreback.
      If he chooses Barca he is guaranteed a first team position and some trophies. It would make sense and we should be more than capable of paying €40m for him which should do the trick.

      Rumours tonight also link us to Daley Blind as an alternative to Mathieu which is a great idea.

    2. I am fairly confident that we will get a quality CB for no other reason than that the club has promised us one and must now deliver or face a fan mutiny. Like many I don’t like the idea of spending 20 mil for a 31 year old but realize that we might as an act of desperation.

      If Mathieu were to go to any other club except Barca, Real, PSG, Bayern or EPL, Valencia would have been more than happy to sell him for much less than 20 mil. They have a right to see if they can get their premium price from Barca and he will be there at the end of the transfer window at that same price so I don’t why we are considering him just yet.

    3. They’ll recall Koeman and call it a brilliant “the bestest most qualitiest centre back in our history of football ever.” They said the same thing with Puyol.

    4. Agree. Im just going to stop trying to reason with the people who rate Mathieu and find no fault in his signing. Same as if they were trying to convince me that Suarez being signed means we’re selling our souls or whatever moral argument they want to levy.

    5. Again, agar2515, these sorts of comments are NOT in keeping with the spirit of debate in this space. Levon has brought this to your attention once, and I have seconded him.

      I am doing so again here.

      There is absolutely no reason that opposite opinions can’t exist in this space without snide remarks and innuendo. If you differ with something stated by someone here, make your views clear withOUT any “I won’t reason with those idiots” tone.

      That not only doesn’t foster debate, but it actually stifles it.

    6. I’m sorry but what was I saying that was out of bounds? I did no name calling, I stated a fact that some people are in agreement with his signing and I am not so I might as well stop trying to discuss it with them. Same can be said with Suarez or anything, some people cannot be convinced of anything other than what they believe.

      I don’t appreciate how your responses read as though what I am saying is off base and that you’re theories or “read” on the situation is what I should go by.

      I don’t know why you have to be so defensive when someone doesnt appreciate your tone or disagrees with you.
      Again, I did no name calling, Levon checked me on that and I stopped, simple.

  37. If the market demands you spend $50m on Hummels, then you should, perhaps, spend that money on Hummels.

    Everyone and their mothers knows we need world class defenders. Bloody well splurge on them already. What’s the point of buying a 55″ TV if your basement is flooding and your bathroom is aflame?

  38. wow…just saw the german players “gaucho” dance at their celebration back in berlin..so you have 6 of the highest regarded players on the team dancing and singing a racist song..with the entire crowd singing along..disgusting, tasteless, and a complete lack of respect to their opponent. is there any other way that this can be seen besides completely racist?

    1. It just seems to me that these players will have to do a lot of explaining for a stupid idea that strikes me as the behavior one might expect from drunken fraternity boys.

    2. When asked how he felt about not winning the Golden Boot, Muller told the journalist “I don’t care about this shit, we are World Champions, you can stick the Golden Boot up your ass!”

      Drunken frat boys sums it about right.

    3. who would have thought that 20-something male millionaires celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime victory wouldn’t show the proper amount of restraint….

    4. that’ not exactly what Muller said, he used much less vulgar words. something like “I don’t care about that stuff, you can have the golden boot ( literally “you can put the golden boot behind your ear” ) .

      also the celebration is not racist, it IS disrespectful towards the losers but it’s a common chant in german football.

    5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W87rCQ594fI

      Apparently this song is very common in Germany, and in this video, Bayern was on the receiving end of this after losing in the Bavarian derby. It does not mean anything other than the loser walk sad and bent over, and the winner walk tall and high.

      So it is not racist at all.

  39. Some interesting ironies for those following the rumors in the press about Tony Kroos. Not sure about all the details but here is some speculations about the matter:

    1) Thiago leaves Barca because of competition from Cesc

    2) Kroos leaves Bayern because of competition with Thiago

    3) Barca reject Kroos transfer because they don’t want to lose Rafinha.

    4) Kroos goes to Real Madrid

    5) Cesc goes to Chelsea

    6) Barca have in the end traded Thiago for Rafinha and given Kroos to Real Madrid.

    1. 1. Thiago leaves because of competition from Cesc and more money, after getting more money.
      2. Kroos leaves Bayern because of competition with Thiago and more money.
      3. Barcelona reject Kroos because they’d rather have Rafinha for no money – and according to Thiago Rafa is the more talented of the two.
      4. Cesc goes to Chelsea for more money and due to being used as the scapegoat of the culerada.
      5. Rakitic goes to Barcelona.
      5. Kroos goes to Real Madrid.

      In the end Barcelona have traded Thiago for Rafinha, Cesc for Rakitic, loaned out a brilliant Denis Suarez to Sevilla in order for him to gain experience in Primera Division and European competitions under a very good coach, gained 40 million Euro along the way and have had Real pay 30 million for Kroos – which means guys like Illaramendi, Isco and even Di Maria would be looking at even more extended sessions of bench-riding.

    2. Rafinha may be more talented but I think at the moment Thiago is a lot more proven than him, hopefully he’ll show what he’s worth in the next seasons 🙂

    3. My point was more a statement of the role of chance and unintended consequences than a judgment about whether our club made the right or wrong decisions. It about knocking over one domino (i.e. Thiago’s release clause) and noticing all the consequences–the “butterfly effect” applied to football.

  40. Did this last year but it’s always fun to have an updated list:

    Midfielders Madrid have bought over the last few years to combat the Barcelona Xavi-Iniesta-Busquets Trinity:

    2009: Kaka, Xabi Alonso
    2010: Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, Sami Khedira
    2011: Nuri Sahin, Hamit Altintop
    2012: Luka Modric
    2013: Isco, Illaramendi
    2014: Toni Kroos

    As you’ll notice, they consistently go after the ‘flavor of the year’ midfielder, the one who’s popular at that moment in time. And more often than not find a way to ruin his potential. I hope this year is no different but with Thiago and Cesc gone and Xavi retiring I’m a little wary…

  41. I would urge us all to think long-term with transfers. Football is about cycles of success and non-success. No team wins everything, all the time. In looking at a transfer such as Kroos, it’s worth noting not only what we have, but what we are going to have.

    Better football minds than any of ours have thought about this stuff, and what is coming down the pipeline via B team and La Masia. So the moaning and snarling as we buy, say, Kroos for 25, keep him for two seasons then have him sitting there with a big salary, unsellable as a surging Sergi Samper is ready to move into the side, is worth considering.

    Ie, Bagnack are cooking and should be ready for a full examination in a season or two. There’s also Grimaldo, Samper, Suarez on loan, Adama and Munir has been promoted this season, as well. All of these players are, as they are with any team that has a strong academy, part of a long-term strategy plan of investment.

    It’s easy to panic and buy players in search of winning now, now, NOW. Some of that has gone on with a player like Suarez. But the other buys have been precisely in that “long view” vein, that set the club up in places where there isn’t a potentially excellent player (keeper), or make a quality positional addition in a place where there will soon be an excellent player (Rakitic).

    There is hand-wringing over this player or that player, why and how the club is or isn’t stupid for grabbing him, etc. Rumors come up about X or Y player being offered to the club in the past, but without ascertaining the veracity of said rumor and considering the time that the club was offered the player, as well as players that the club has either in the team or in the pipeline, it’s impossible to get in an uproar over what is in effect, vaporware.

    So yeah, this is something of a call for a different view on transfer proceedings, in this summer and beyond. Contrary to popular belief, I think that ZubiZa knows what he is doing, and we now have a coach who isn’t a caretaker, and who knows and understands the B team.

    As Enrique said in June when he was leaving hospital, the window runs until the end of August, and I am calm.

    I’m following that advice.

  42. Kroos said that his “only option” was RM. So take that for what it’s worth. It could me many things:

    — A BS call on the “he was offered to Barça”
    — Proof that he was offered to Barça, as only RM was left after that”
    — The nonsense that players spout at all such events
    — Fiction made up by a Madrid-based newspaper

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