Winner of the World Cup Prediction Pool Game Thing

Nope, I haven’t forgotten about this.

(Can I get a drumroll, please?)

The winner of the first BFB World Cup Predictions Game is…


Valdemar II!


The WC Champion Belt

There is your champion’s belt. Congratulations. You now get a post about the subject of your choice!

For those who are unaware, Valdemar II used the FIFA rankings to determine who would go through. I have a lot of mixed feelings about that (how can the FIFA rankings be help anyone?) but there ya go. The runaway winner.

The rest of the spots was a really close race. G6O edges out PrinceYuvi on tie break, and gets a silly post or a smaller post about the subject of their choice.

For those interested here is the top 4:

1. Valdemar II, 116 points

2. G6O 108 points on tie break

3. PrinceYuvi, 106 points.

4. Jafri, Xavi6, Inamess, 104 points.

Everyone was actually pretty boss at this game. I did the full table and it was quite impressive. Thanks to everyone who competed! Feel free to voice some ideas, anyway, I might just write a post about ’em too.

And yes, it was the first friendly game of the Lucho era. I loved Halilovic’s performance, looked like he was here for a while. Solid match from everyone, really. I hope we keep Afellay. I’m pretty resigned to him leaving, though. Lucho said he might stay, might leave, and I might go nuts from the speculation.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. Now, we don’t get to hide the women and the children anytime we concede a setpiece. Personally, I’d usually take a gulp and say a little prayer, ‘Oh Lawd, let it not go in’. Interesting Signing, he meets our defiencies in height and speed.

  2. It’s funny, if you look at the Mathieu signing and the other Enrique additions as part of a whole, seems pretty clear that he felt midfield defense, overall team pace and strength were priorities.

    It’s easy to look at players as islands, but man … the team really is stronger in key areas after the window. The era of the Wondrous Woodland Creatures has ended. The Specimens have arrived.

    1. During the golden run, woodland creatures had help of giants.
      Things are finally shaping up, again.

  3. Another fascinating thing is how we could ever have been deluded into thinking that Martino was anything more than a caretaker last season. Yikes. When you see what is going on this summer, it’s all so clear in hindsight.

    Oh, MD says look for more Munir, Halilovic and Traore with the first team, as Neymar, Messi and Suarez won’t be there for quite a while yet.

  4. RAC1 saying Barça are looking to sign 2 more players. A CB and a RB/RM.
    Good source. It’s Christmas lads 😀

    1. RAC1 generally have good sources. It’s nothing that Bartomeu didn’t imply last week anyway. Cuadrado will be the right back after Alves gets sold, that’s all but guaranteed with the amount of smoke around him.
      The centreback is always the tricky part. I really don’t know who is going to be the second signing. I suppose a lot will depend on how Lucho values Bartra. If he thinks that he can start the real big matches then expect a smaller signing, if not then we’ll have to go big.

    2. It’s no secret that the plan was 2 CBs. Bartomeu said it, ZubiZa said it, Enrique has been said to want it. The rumor popped up the other day that the club might only buy one CB, and people lost their minds.

      We just have to wait on this one. I imagine a lot depends on how quickly Alves and Song can find forever homes. That’s potentially 20m or so that would serve the club well in any defender pursuits.

    3. Barring a miracle Alves seems set to stay after P$G landed Aurier ( good signing too) and no one seems to want the Lord of Tchakap. So…yea more wait and see. Need that second CB badly.

    4. That is probably the biggest problem with our salary structure; when we want to sell anyone we have our options limited to a very select few or else let them leave on a free (or close to free) to let the suitors try to match their inflated wages.
      In most of our sales, the elimination of salary is often a bigger sum than the transfer fee we receive.

      Alex Song is worth €20m. He is at the prime of his career and has bags of experience and bags of ability. But… he is on a huge wage. No one in Italy can pay big wages, only Bayern in Germany can. PSG & Monaco in France due to oil money and tax laws. It leaves only the big teams in England.

      Alves is worth €15m. Only the same select few teams can pay his wages and almost none would be willing to spend what would be his market value considering that he has an enormous salary not befitting his current abilities.

    5. Actually I have to admit that I had lied due to not checking the source when I said Song had a huge salary(that is, if you’re bssing your post on my info).

      According to an article in, the spanish edition, Song’s salary is right smack between Adriano’s and Tello’s, with 2.5 million net per year. Bucket of salt and all that, since it’s, but for Barcelona standards his salary is not that high. Of course, comparing the same data, his salary is just 500 000 lower than the ones of Pedro, Alba, Adriano.

      For comparison, in Real Madrid the salaries of Isco, Illara, Khedira, Diego Lopez, Arbeloa, Coentrao are all at least 500 000 Euro lower, while Varane’s paycheck is less than half of Song’s at 1.2 million.

    6. I would imagine Song’s salary is closer to the figures cited here:

      This would have him making more than Busquets and a little but less than Mascherano. The thing about Song is that we took a risk on a player after a very solid season, and unfortunately for his sake and ours made a mistake.

      In a parallel universe, if he stayed with Arsenal I wonder what his career would have been like. I guess you can ask about some of our other Arsenal transfers.

  5. Here is an interesting article for those who want a break from some of the current CB madness and stroll down memory lane with a perceptive Ukrainian who has interesting insights about Messi, Pep, Zlatan, Xavi, Iniesta and even Kafka.

    1. Thank you for that. Good read.
      It was a shocking surprise to read about Zlatans reaction to Xavi.
      So was the warning to Chigrinky by players, about Laporta leaving.

    1. it could be that his running channels are being blocked from the midfield too. in this case its near the box and im assuming defenders are vary of cynical challenges.

    2. Oh come on, thats pushing it. He could so do that now. I dont think its physical ability as much as its a mental evolution for him. He does not seem as liberated or relaxed playing.

  6. The MD and Sport articles are full of the usual dogs barking up the tree about stupid Zubi not going for 60 million Benatia and whatnot.

    Like Kxevin said, Puyol was 31 when he was kissing the captain’s band after smashing home past Casillas. He was 32 when he scored vs Germany to send Spain on to the final.

    Mathieu costs 20 million, or actually 10 million+2*5 million. For those with memory lapses, here are some other awesome signings of the prophets of transfers, Txiki and Pep, hallowed be their names:

    Keirrison 14 million, never crushed a grass stalk at Camp Nou in a competitive game
    Caceres 16.5 million
    Hleb 11.8 million
    Henrique 8 million.
    Chygrinskiy 25 million

    Fun fact 1: At 1.92 Mathieu is higher than anyone on the Real team except for Diego Lopez.
    Fun Fact 2: He scored three goals last season in La Liga, all headers. Two of those were vs Real, both from corners. His markers were Ramos in one case, Varane in the other.

    When Puyol announced his retirement, Zubi said Capi had told him to sign “someone fast” for CB. Today when Rafinha was asked about Mathieu, whom he met on the right wing during his time at Celta Vigo, his description was “A great player, with incredible velocity and great positional play”. So maybe Zubi has followed Capi’s lead?

    Personally I’m allowing myself some guarded optimism. Practically everybody around the web is talking how incredibly inept is the board for signing a defender who is both tall, good header, strong and fast, how incredibly inept the board is for signing the winner of the European Golden Boot, how incredibly stupid and useless the board is for signing the leader and engine of the winner of the Europa League… Expectations could hardly be lower for some reason.
    Now Barcelona have three functioning CBs and Mascherano. Last season it was mostly two, due to Capi never really managing to recover, so rotation will be possible, especially with Bartra evolving. Rotation will keep them fresh and hungry and hopefully reduce their injury rate due to exhaustion.

    1. Love the second last paragraph of your post! One more centerback would make me a very happy man though!

    2. Always liked your posts, They’re always very Detailed.

      It’s unfortunate that many cules are allowing themselves to be taken up the Galacticos mentality (Yeah quite ironic), Now a singing can only be truly perfect if it’s of a ‘resonance’ name, “A world class’ (God i hate this word), It’s something EE have been doing for more than a decade, Can someone please remind how many trophies they won in this time period, compared to i don’t know, Us for example!.

      B.Dortumnd is a club everyone loves to praise, yet most of it’s players weren’t known before, They weren’t ‘world class’, Some of them were ridiculously cheap, But they still played great football and became one of the best sides in Europe, So why some barca fans still pray for and chase glamorous signings over cohesion and team work.

    3. I think that people are just frustrated over the poor transfer decisions and inaction over the course of several seasons and that now we have to get all our rebuilding done in a difficult transfer window.

      Still the team and the coach look promising so let’s hope the club makes good moves concerning our remaining transfer decisions.

      Real no doubt have spent a lot more than us over the last few years but most of their signings have been good ones. They seem to now favor signing promising or proven younger players.
      If you buy a player who is very promising at 23 or 24 years old, then the player still has 7 or more good years left. They can give three good years to the club and then be sold or kept depending on the team’s objectives. It’s like Barca B on steroids and playing at a high stakes table.

      What they plan to do with all their midfield talent is anyone’s guess.

  7. Some questions that linger:

    ~ What is the deal with Suarez’s ban? Will the appeal to CAS help in alleviating the severity of the ban? Will our lawyers be able to get Dracula to atleast train with the squad?

    ~ What is the likely outcome of the FIFA transfer ban that has been slapped on Barca? Everybody seems to say that we won’t be able to do any business for the next one and a half years? Is this for sure? Again, as above, will our appeals succeed in reducing the transfer ban so that it becomes a non factor?

    ~ Will the club sign another defender? If the transfer ban looms over our head, then surely we need another defender no? Who are the most likely candidates to fill in this position? Bartra + Pique + Mathieu + ?

    ~ Why is it assumed that if Alves stays he will leave on a free next year? How many times have we seen clubs renew players only for the sake of having an upper hand in negotiations and fetching a better sum on the sale of said player? Why can’t we do the same with Dani?

    ~ What is the most ideal formation for Barca next season? The way I see it, The team ought to lineup in a 4-3-1-2 / 4-1-3-2 formation with..

    Ter Stegen / Claudio Bravo
    Alves – Pique – Hummels? – Mathieu/Alba
    Busquets / Mascherano
    Ivan Rakitic – Iniesta
    Lionel Messi
    Suarez – Neymar

  8. There’s a story in that according to a source in CAS, the ban can be reduced as long as his playing for the club is concerned, so automatically he could be available since the season kicks of.
    But on international level the ban will remain.

    1. It’s the same journalist from the Spanish edition who wrote the article about Mathieu being signed on Monday for the correct sum, so that would give her a bit more credibility. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however. The decision will be reached just before mid-August, but the fact that CAS has admitted it for express resolution could be viewed with a hint of optimism.

  9. Hopefully.
    The punishment was excessive and while i’m all for some sort of treatment, keeping him away from playing football is not the solution.
    I just hope he starts training, getting in touch with his new team-mates and is on our disposal by the end of August.

  10. First Clasico at Santiago Bernabeu, weekend of 26th of October.
    The return at Camp Nou on the 22nd of March

    Penultimate match of the season will be at Vicente Calderon vs Atletico.

  11. Here’s the complete list of the season:

    1st half:
    Elche home,
    Villareal away,
    Athletic home,
    Levante away,
    Malaga away,
    Granada home,
    Rayo away,
    Eibar home(just before the Clasico),
    Real Madrid away,
    Celta home,
    Almeria away,
    Sevilla home,
    Valencia away,
    Espanyol home,
    Getafe away,
    Cordoba home,
    Real Sociedad away,
    Atletico home,
    Deportivo La Coruña away.

    Season ends at Camp Nou vs Depor.

  12. Well, except the Sevilla, Valencia and Espanyol games in row, it doesn’t look hard t handle.
    It looks like quite a balanced schedule for us. I like it.

  13. What a coincidence that the ban on Suarez is up on the 25th of October…with the clasico being the 26th. Hope it get reduced, that it will be seems to be the prevailing hope online.

    So excited for next season. I was initially a little ” down” on the Mathieu signing ( THAT is the first CB we sign after Chygrynskiy ? Underwhelming). But I realized our Defense last year wasn’t really as bad as everyone accuses, and a far bigger problem was scoring goals. Thus a physical presences like Mathieu, who took a pay cut to join us ( instant respect generator) is a great addition now for me. I do hope they add another CB, but in the end our defense will thrive or not based on Lucho’s tactics.

    Just my opinion on something discussed above. I am fond of the term ” world class” because it (mostly) clearly delineates between the top players in the world and the rest. This does NOT mean that everyone not deemed “WC” is garbage or useless, for me it just means that one players raw talent+intangibles> than most any others.

    That’s a long winded way of saying :don’t get it twisted, Benatia is easily top 3 in Europe and has all the tools we’d need. He’s in his absolute prime. Of course Mathieu can still give us solid outings, but for me Benatia at (27) is worth the money vs. “settling” for Mathieu (30, 31 in October). All that is moot though^ since we have one and not the other. Hoping for the best (another CB soon) !

    1. “But I realized our Defense last year wasn’t really as bad as everyone accuses”

      Have we already forgotten? How many clean sheets did we have in 14 combined league games against the top 8 teams? I count only one. That means that of the 33 goals we allowed, 21 of them were against the top 8, 63.6% of total. It may not have cost us a whole lot in points (13 pts total lost vs the top teams out of 27), but it is surely indicative of the general defensive malaise.

      If we are no longer a pressing team (we haven’t been for nigh on 3 years now; some of us here still haven’t come to term with it and scapegoat Messi by saying he isn’t pressin), meaning we cannot defend from the front, then we needs must defend with, you know, actual defenders. We lack good defenders (I can’t remember the last time anyone considered Pique a good defender), so we have to sign them. I hope Mathieu is the first of many.

    2. Just for the record I consider him an excellent defender – probably much better now he won’t have to cover for converted midfielders beside him. However, feel free to give examples of where you consider him to be lacking in particular matches. Otherwise it’s just the same old have a go at Pique with nothing to back it up.

    3. The team allowed 15 or so fewer goals than last season. That’s better. The attack, however, failed to score 7 times. In the context of 5 goals meaning the difference between no silver and a real shot at a Treble, that’s significant.

      To say that “we lack good defenders” is an overstatement. Alves is very good, Pique is still a very good defender and Mascherano is a fiend. Alba was showing increasingly strong defensive abilities once he stopped acting like a wing back.

      Defense, in a team where everyone defends and attacks, is complex. The biggest complexity with our defense is that our midfield defense was nonexistent. Iniesta was usually caught too far forward, Xavi was a turnstile and Busquets was being attacked directly by opponents.

      This means that attackers were able to get at our defense much more directly. When this happens, that defense will be stressed, and it better have an excellent keeper. We did, in Valdes. I take a wholistic approach to defense, rather than looking exclusively at the back line.

      That said, this summer’s squad additions have made the defense stronger because midfield defense will improve with the Rakitic and Rafinha additions. So there is that.

      As far as “scapegoating Messi,” I don’t think it unfair to observe that Messi used to recover almost 2 balls per match, which is huge for a team’s best attacker. And because he is so far forward, he is usually best equipped to nip a counter in the bud. He or one of the other forwards. It’s why Sanchez is a loss at the defensive end of things.

      But in looking at past Messi performances, and how he used to accelerate to try to get the ball back, where now he just shrugs and watches opponents run at our defense, you can’t help but notice. Whether that is part of the grand design or not, it means that a team used to defending with 11, is now defending with 10. So it isn’t a question of scapegoating Messi as much as it is noting that a player who was once an important part of the press, is now playing differently.

      Our press used to be Messi/Henry/Eto’o and if you got past them, Xavi/Iniesta/Busquets-Toure Yaya. Usually that meant that our defenders dealt with any stray balls that leaked through, and marked set pieces.

      So perhaps the best way to describe your desire is that we need more traditional defenders, which is a bit more complex, unless Enrique is planning a different approach to things from what we have become accustomed to.

    4. Just because I’m just a little bit miffed with all that “settling” and “old” talk, Jeremy Mathieu will be 31 years old in October just after the first Clasico. Here are some other players for comparison:

      Toure Yaya: 31 years, 5 months older than Mathieu
      Xabi Alonso: 33 in November
      Alvaro Arbeloa: 32 in January
      Pepe: 31
      Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 33 in October
      Thiago Silva: 30 in September
      Cristiano Ronaldo: 30 in February
      Vidic: will be 33 when Mathieu turns 31
      Pirlo: 35
      Martin Demichelis: 34 by the end of the year
      Frank Lampard: 36, won the Champions League days before his 34th birthday
      John Terry: will be 34 in December
      Tiago Mendes: 33
      Gabi: 31 already
      Maxwell: 33 in August
      Eric Abidal: lifted the Champions Cup aged 31 years and 259 days.

      Now that’s settled, here’s something to think about. Say 33 is the optimal age at which a player is no longer top level for Barcelona. If Benatia is signed, there are two outcomes:
      1. He flops, which would mean Barcelona threw 60 million on the wind.
      2. He doesn’t flop, he soars and is top form for the next five years. Marc Bartra starts looking for another club. Ie, Bagnack, Diagne would have to be released, due to not being good enough for the first team, and the B team can use only under-23 players.

      Benatia for me was never a target. He is good, but Bartra already has better stats than him, except for clearances, due to the way Barcelona play. Bartra wins as many aerial duels as Benatia, and wins a higher percentage, despite Benatia being much stronger and some 6 cm taller.

    5. Couldn’t possibly disagree with you more,. Your stats are based on Comparing the two and seeing Bartra beats Benatia by 4% on aerial fuels? Just look at how much higher Benatia is:

      Signing him doesn’t automatically mean Marc and our B team defenders with suddenly have no place and would no place. Depth, rotation all things to be considered. Heck, Marc and the B teamers may not pan out themselves . What then?

      Youre obviously entitled to your opinion but You’re not ever going to sell me on the idea that buying one of the best three defenders in the world in his prime is a bad idea. Benatia is most definitely that good.

    6. Peter, I like Bartra as much as anyone and always prefer to have graduates but you can’t just use stats to favourably compare him to Benatia. Currently, Benatia is better at everything than Bartra. He is better in every department and is physically fully developed.
      If you have watched Roma, you will have seen how good Benatia is and how good he makes the whole defense. In one-on-ones he is almost unbeatable too which is just about the most important thing for one of our defenders.

      I don’t understand at all why he isn’t considered to be our top target because he has been probably the best defender in Europe for the past two seasons and can play football too.

    7. A signing like Benatia/Marquinhos/whomever makes sense in the context of Mathieu being a short-timer, so in 2-3 years we know about Diagne/Ie/Bagnack. Mathieu leaves, the best B teamer progresses and off we go.

      As to whether Benatia is better than Bartra or not, the real question is whether it is worth 60m to find out, because that’s probably the number that will prise him loose. 40 won’t do it, 50 might, 60 would be a slam dunk.

      But if Benatia IS part of the club’s thinking, they’d better do it before Roma lock him down on a new deal.

    8. My guess is that the reason is two-fold: 1st, he’s too expensive, and second, the board believe in the potential of Bartra.

      I am not saying that Benatia is bad. I am saying he’s not 60 million Euro better than Bartra. Second, if he’s Europe’s best defender, then how come big spenders City passed on him and signed Mangala for 15 million less? How come PSG decided to splash the same sum on David Luiz?

  14. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no way Benatia sells for €60m. Roma are a selling club and Benatia is a very sellable asset. Lamela, Osvaldo, Vucinic etc, it’s the same every year. They always say a scary figure to weed out pointless bids and drive the price up but normally sell for reasonable bids.
    They bought him for €13m last year and only pay him €2m or so a year. He isn’t happy there so if he really pushes then they’ll sell.

    I can’t give reasons why other teams haven’t signed him. PSG want big names for the most part, David Luiz is the biggest example of that. Man City signed Mangala as he is younger and the ability to play out from the back isn’t nearly as important for them as it is for us.

    1. Roma are adamant not to sell players. They threw out the 60m price tag to ward off people. They’re making a real push for the scudetto, building off their second place finish last year, and with Juve uncertain and the Milan’s in tatters. He’s their best defender. They don’t HAVE to sell anyone, their Sports Director Sabatini is an absolute boss, he has been conducting great, frugal business.

      I honestly can’t believe I’m having to defend who has become one of the top CB’s in the world. Just look up the interest in him. Everyone wanted him, not everyone wanted (or needed) to pay 60m to land him. I don’t think he’s coming at all but he’s rivaled only by Silva and Hummels imo. He’s miles ahead of Bartra, that’s not a knock on Marc at all. It’s just indisputable.

    2. I really like Hummels but he is inconsistent. At times he has been excellent but at others, especially in the first part of last season he was only average.
      I think he could be a very good signing nonetheless.

      I don’t really know what to expect but seeing as Mathieu was given the no. 24 jersey and not the 5 it suggests that the other signing would be given a starters jersey. For the record, Bartra kept his 15 in the forest friendly so I assume that will stay the same this season.

    3. Roma are not selling. Both the director Rudi Garcia and the player commented that he’s staying in Roma.

      Like I said earlier, City paid 45 million Euro for Mangala, which means Roma rejected that offer as too low. PSG didn’t even try, they went straight ahead with David Luiz. David Luiz, who was stardust-sprinkled awesome until rumors suggested Zubi is going for him, he became a headless chicken overnight, until PSG bought him and the dogs started barking that Zubi should’ve signed that awesome defender, only to shut up in the aftermath of the semifinal Lederhosen dance routine, and to start showing up again once Mathieu was signed.

      I’m sorry, but from everything I have seen, Benatia is not worth 40 million, far less the minimum of 50 that Roma must have demanded for him.

    4. I’ve always been anti-Luiz, he’s got no discipline and no football intelligence. I have said so hundreds of times.
      In regards to Roma, I suppose we’ll see. As I said, they are a selling club and even with their new investors they have continued along the same lines. Posturing is not the same as being a big club.
      In terms of Benatia’s abilities, my only point is that anyone who watched Roma, and I’m not talking about YouTube, knows the quality that Benatia has. That Roma team was probably the best defensively in Europe last season and when Benatia was missing they were terrible.

      Look, no one knows who we will sign our of we will sign someone else. If it were me I’d have a serious chat with Roma and Dortmund and see what money is needed but it’s up to Zubi and Lucho.

      Mathieu is a reasonably good signing, especially if he took the pay cut that is being talked about. If he didn’t and we spent €15m on him no one would care. As I see it we are in the same position.

  15. Before Benatia’s pursuit started:

    City:Kompany, Nastastic, Demichelis, heck even Javi Garcia at CB

    PSG:Silva, Marquinhos, Camara before signing Luiz .
    RE Luiz: if I’m to believe some Serie A journos I follow, Silva asked for Luiz, wants a defender who speaks portuguese next to him ( makes sense since Alex was his CB partner at PSG and Alex is nothing special)

    Barca: Pique, Masche ( a DM), and Bartra

    Also remember FFP looms as well in regards to City and PSGs, they can’t just flat out spend 60m with ease anymore.

    IMO we have/had more of a pressing need to sign a top CB than those above us especially when you take into account the possible transfer ban, and the added bonus of not having to worry about FFP.

    All this to say that I’m not just blinding saying “SIGN BENATIA”, I believe he would be worth it, and it’s also not at all as simple as ” Well the big money teams didnt sign him so how good can he be”

  16. Why was Mathieu allocated the number 24 and not 5? Is that number reserved for a new defender or maybe Barta might be given that number( he is currently given #15)..

    1. Legend sayeth that the man who will wear the 5 will be the man strong and brave enough to take it from puyols clenched jaw.

  17. I actually think Matthieu is a top notch player. But why so few French call-ups? Was he caught with his thumb in the soup?

  18. Maybe, with Puyol gone (and Xavi possibly leaving) Barca has also decided they need a strong personality in the team rather than a younger player. Matthieu seems to fit that bill.

  19. However amazing Benatia is, I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable with an attack centric club like Barca paying upwards of 55M for a pure defender.

    As for signing a young defender, I definitely do not get the hype on Marquinhos. If I were to splash 35M+, I’d do so on Aymeric Laporte who has really impressed me every time I have seen him.

    My most preferred signing would be Mats Hummels. A real leader at the back and a beast statistically. Plus with the upswing Germany is enjoying right now, Barca would do well to get a piece of that.

    I don’t know why Barca is not considering other cheaper options. What is the verdict on acquiring players like Ezequiel Garay, Jan Vertonghen, Marcos Rojo or Diego Godin?

    1. ‘I would not spend This much amount of money on This.

      I’d rather have that one, the one who is not willing to leave his club.

      Ooh, Or I’d rather buy the one who is deemed unsellable by a non-selling club.’

      It seems we’re talking about Candies, and not players.

    2. I love how people pick and choose stuff from comments.

      Of course this is based on my opinion. I cannot get into the heads of zubi and the staff.

      for example, you chose to ignore whether its prudent for an attacking club to splash so much money on a defender, but chose to focus on I would not…

      Also usually people pick candies based purely on like. thats it. I have gone on to discuss the strategic benefits and specific skill sets of hummels, which again you chose to conveniently ignore.

      also, unsellable is always dependent on timing and price. Alexis was deemed unsellable by the club not so long ago. what happened?

      then after that, I have put forth some other players (not candy :D) who I think could be viable options, but then again, you didn’t want to address them.

    3. Some moderation has occurred. Please keep it civil, gentlemen. I understand that things can get a bit salty at times as we hold forth about who or who might not be a viable option, etc. Thank you.

    4. 😀
      damn, i wanted to know what the prince said to my comment.. its been taken off?
      ah, well..

      always up for keeping it civil.

  20. Am just laughing at all of you talking about Benatia as if anyone can hear you. ”Benatia this” ”Benatia that”,barca are not even after him,Zubi doesn’t know about him possibly, here is the only place that he is being talked about as a target. Thomas Vermalean is the player barca has turned their attention to ATM. Benatia is History

    1. Just speculation and discussion. There is a real reason, sporting or fiscal, that Benatia isn’t in the frame. I’m pretty sure the club knows about every CB that is out there with something approaching the right stuff.

      But nattering about is all good, even in the face of logic, which is that indeed, in the here and now, Benatia isn’t coming to Barça.

    1. While I agree that 4-3-1-2 should be the way to go next season, Argentina was hardly a model of fluency 😀

      Luckily, Barcelona has a much much better midfield which should allow this tactic to work niceely 🙂

  21. I know I won’t convince anybody, but before Benatia was an internet sensation and answer to all problems, he played in Udinese. People say “statistic don’t show the whole picture”, true, but they show a tendency.
    People wonder why Zubi wants Marqunhos and not Benatia or why Benatia wasn’t considered a target.

    Here’s some context:
    Marquinhos came to Roma not knowing a word in Italian except possibly “Ciao, bella” and “pizza” and “espresso”. He was 19 years-old, or as FIFA is wont to tell us, just out of football high-school.
    Mehdi Benatia, on the other hand was 26 when he joined Roma in 2013. He is 6 cm taller and outmasses Marquinhos by ~8 kilograms. He had been playing in Serie A for three years before signing for Roma.
    With that context, here are the statistics of those two in their respective seasons in Roma. The statistics include complete defensive stats, as well as complete duel stats, as well as headed goals stat and passing stats:
    These are not totals, but per-90 minutes averages, due to the fact that Benatia played close to 770 minutes more.

    What you will find, is that the Benatia, surrounded by better players(Roma finished second, compared to sixth the year before) and with much more experience playing European football and Serie A football, was better than shorter and lighter and seven years younger Marquinhos in the following categories:

    Total passes; Goals headed – Marquinhos didn’t score any, so Benatia wins by default, but all three headed goals during the season were against eventually relegated Catania and Bologna(his other two were against 12th Sampdoria and 14th Genoa); Shot accuracy; Shots; Take-ons; Percentage of successful take-ons; Percentage of aerial duels won; Defensive errors; Red Cards

    Benatia was bettered by Marquinhos in the following categories:
    Key passes; Tackles won; Tackles lost; Aerial duels won; Total duels percentage; Fouls committed; Fouls suffered; Interceptions; Blocks; Clearances; yellow cards(Benatia got eight compared to zero for Marquinhos, who on the other hand got one straight red.)

    The Aerial duels won and percentage of aerial duels conflicting data is easily explained – Marquinhos fought on average 5.07 aerial duels per 90 minutes, whereas Benatia averaged 3.84.

    Again, I said before, Benatia is not a bad player, on the contrary.

    This post will be continued with a comparison of Benatia and Mathieu.

    1. I am glad there are people in the world who love statistics. They make my eyes glaze over, like talk of formations, 4-4-3, 4-3-2-1, 6-7-0-negative two … whatevs.

      All I know is that Benatia is out there, and Barça isn’t going to buy him, which is enough for me. I like the debate, though, even if at the end of the day neither Marquinhos nor Benatia is coming to Barça. Blanc is adamant about Marquinhos being the future of the PSG back line, and PSG have about 200 million reasons they don’t have to sell anyone, ever, until their bench starts looking like a rush hour train station.

      “Wire up the Qatar Tourism Authority for a larger sponsorship contract. Thanks.”

      Word on the street is that they have bought Di Maria. Couldn’t have been cheap. We’ll see what they do next, but I would reckon that Lavezzi or someone, maybe even Cavani, will be on the market if that transfer rumor is true.

      MD is floating the Vermaelen rumor. Lord knows if it’s true, but the “He isn’t good enough” has already begun.

  22. Part 2, Benatia and Mathieu.

    If we’re going to look at Benatia and Mathieu comparison, context is also important. Mathieu played in a team that reached the semi-finals of Europa League, which means it played more games on average during the season(14 games to be precise), which meant a lot more exhaustion overall. Mathieu played in a mid-table team(Valencia finished 8th) whereas Benatia played in the second-best team in Serie A. Mathieu played against the likes of Barcelona, Real, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Atletico and Athletic, whereas the best opponents of Roma were Juventus, Napoli Fiorentina, Inter and Milan.
    For some substance behind the names and blunt La Liga and Serie A comparison, from the seven Spanish teams that qualified for European competition, six reached not just the group stage, but the Last 16. There were five in the quarterfinals, four in the semi-finals and three reached the final, with both Real and Sevilla winning their respective finals. In the Champions League only Milan reached the knockout stage, with Napoli and Juventus finishing third in their groups. Only Italian Champion Juventus, which won Serie A with a 17-point lead, managed to reach the quarterfinals and the semifinals – of Europa League. Juventus lost that semi, and the victor Benfica lost the final at Juventus Stadium vs Sevilla.

    Onto the direct comparison.

    Both Mathieu and Benatia scored three headed goals each during that season, Benatia against relegated Catania and Bologna, as mentioned in a previous post, Mathieu vs Real Madrid(one in each La Liga Game) and Sevilla(in the Europa League Semi-final).
    Mathieu for me is not in Barcelona to be the leader of the defence. He is signed to provide speed, squad depth and aerial presence in both boxes, as well as transmit his experience to the youngsters. His most probable partner on the pitch would be Alba, and they made a good combination in Valencia. For me however, the most important thing is his experience. Considering two of the three keepers are new guys and young guys, as well as Bartra’s ongoing evolution, a veteran defender with domestic league knowledge is a very big plus.

    Anyway, here is the comparison between the two, again average per 90 minutes:

    Benatia is better. His statistics, however, come from Serie A. Also, for what he is signed(speed, aerial and overall defensive presence), Mathieu is comparable. In the end, you also have to factor not just performance, but price, and motivation. Mathieu is talked to have negotiated a lower salary, which for me speaks motivation. Benatia’s main gripe with Roma is the fact that they don’t offer him a good paycheck. For what he needs to do on the pitch, is Benatia’s performance worth 40 million Euro more?. For me that answer is a categorical no.

    1. I don’t argue that Benatia’s statistics are amazing but that add a defender he is one of the best in the world.
      To answer a few of your points…
      Firstly you say that before Benatia was an Internet sensation he played in Udinese, well so did Alexis Sanchez, Juan Cuadrado, Handanovic, Asamoah and Mauricio Isla. They have a great track record of producing talent. Also he isn’t really an Internet sensation, he is a very good footballer who is linked to some big clubs but isn’t the house hold name of the likes of Thiago Silva and David Luiz.

      Your point about La Liga being stronger than Serie A is very debatable. The strongest teams in Spain are stronger than the strong teams in Italy but Italy is now a very tight league. At the start of last season it was predictable that the two Milan clubs would struggle but no one expected Roma to not concede a goal in the first 9 or 10 games. Napoli were very good, Fiorentina unlucky with injuries but still good, Juventus as usual were extremely strong.
      In Spain, the top 6 are strong but the rest not as much so it is similar.

      You also mention that Benatia was surrounded by better players because they finished higher in the league but the players that left were Marquinhos, Lamela and Osvaldo to be replaced by Benatia, Strootman, Gervinho and Ljalic. Strootman was very good but injured for a lot of the season, Gervinho got similar results to Osvaldo, Ljalic not as good as Lamela which just leaves Benatia as an upgrade to Marquinhos but you don’t give any credit to Benatia?

      Benatia wasn’t the only reason that Roma finished second but without him they would’nt have. At Udinese he was every bit as good in his last season with them and got in whoscored’s team of the season if I remember correctly as well as’s.

      I assume by the tone of your posts that you haven’t watched much if any of his games and so looking at stats is almost irrelevant. If Benatia does get dolls then we can talk about the difference in price between him and whoever else is bought but claiming that he is a €60m player because of one comment isn’t factual.

      To reply to your last question… For what he needs to do on the pitch is Benatia’s performance worth €40m more? Well that depends on what you determine to be value. Can we win the league or even CL without Benatia? Yes but he would increase our chances of it. Same with Suarez and his €80m. The best thing about all of the hypotheticals is that unless he signs we’ll never know.

      If you consider the price alone then a €20m transfer that can only be amortised over 4 years vs the 7 years that you could do so with Benatia’s theoretical transfer would give him a price of €35m before you consider any footballing differences. Add to that any potential resale value if the transfer didn’t work out as planned or if Bartra becomes first choice then Benatia at €35m would be much better business.

      In my opinion, if Benatia is involved in a transfer this season it will be for €35-45m. Will we be involved? Most likely not but I would love to see him with us next season. The next potential transfer of a defender will be reliant of Alex Song’s sale so we will be waiting I suspect.

    2. Kudos to you ciaran for maintaining level headedness. This whole ” I will prove to you Benatia isn’t that good or worth the money!” Has been headache inducing for me .

    3. First of all, transfer fee is not all, as Neymar’s documents revealed. Agent’s fee is 5% of the negotiated transfer fee, you get a signing bonus as well. Then you have salary and its associated costs like 51% tax which the club takes care of. Benatia’s transfer would demand a signing bonus and also a substantially higher salary and its tax than Mathieu, so it’s not the difference between 20 million and 35 million, it’s much more – for much longer.

      Second, if we talk just transfer price, there’s no way in hell Benatia sells for 35 million. City had agreed personal terms with him, but Roma rejected the offer. Now City TV has leaked that Mangala has passed medical revision arriving in a private jet – and the reported/rumored transfer is 45 million Euro there’s no reason to think Roma hadn’t been offered that sum – which they rejected.

      Third, resale value… We are talking about Barcelona reselling a defender that doesn’t work out. Which club would be able to afford his salary, unless it’s accompanied with a substandard transfer fee and massive losses?

      Fourth, which is hypothetical as hell, of course, but there’s an idea of putting at least 50 million eggs in one basket instead of two smaller baskets.

      Fifth, which considers statistics at least in part. When you get at least comparable performance in the are you are looking to reinforce, why pay triple for a bit better and some additional performance that is not vital, when the minimum that you spend gives you a significant boost.

      More statistics, of course, but high balls accounted for a scary amount of key goals conceded, either on the counter or from corners and set pieces. With the addition of Rakitic, Suarez, Rafinha and Deulofeu, none of whom measure less than 1.8m, and with the addition of another Pique-sized player who is faster and more accustomed to tackling, don’t you think that those key conceded corner goals would get fewer? What about goals scored in the opposing box, from one of the myriad corners that teams facing Barcelona concede?

      You can say that Benatia would be an even better addition than Mathieu and you would be right. However, for that additional price Barcelona can sign one more player that can provide squad depth and versatility. Cuadrado for example, or Rojo (and yes, these will have their own salaries). Barcelona are not PSG who can sign a player for a ton of money and if that doesn’t work out, send a message back to Doha “Sire, we have depleted our funds. Kindly send another 100 million Euro immediately, as we are in dire straits.” I think it’s high time culers realized that.

    4. I don’t know Peter, we are talking about signing a lesser player for the sake of saving money when we just spent €160m on 2 strikers. I would say that there isn’t a better defender for us than Benatia even though I would be happy for us to sign Hummels too.

      We have the money undoubtedly and already have saved on salaries etc. If you want to improve the squad then you sign the best players that you can afford and I don’t think Mathieu is that player. Mathieu is a very good player and will perform admirably I’m sure but he doesn’t exactly take us to the next level.
      There isn’t a world of difference between having Bartra and Mathieu in our team in terms of quality. Hummels and Benatia are a step up from that.

      I’d rather buy a player with potential to become a top top player like Rojo or else one who is already there…

    5. If you want to improve the squad then you sign the best players that you can afford
      I don’t agree with that. Not entirely at least. You shouldn’t just sign the best players, but rather those who will add up most to the team, both the current and the future one. Sometimes those are not the same thing.

      It’s good that we agree about Rojo. As for Hummels, Klopp promised to eat a broomstick if Reus or Hummels leave Dortmund, so I’d forget about him.

    1. Is Iniesta the new captain? for good?
      did the team vote for him? or was he selected by the coach?
      however slight, i was secretly hoping that the squad + some seniors had voted for el Smash. You know, to evoke #5.

    2. There was some talk of that possibility but ultimately, as I and others said, no way that was happening with the tenured Masia grads hanging around. I was figuring either Iniesta or Pique.

      Note how it wasn’t Xavi …

    3. im sure xavi is still going to be a leader in the clubhouse but you have to imagine they want a captain who will be playing almost every game, which xavi probably wont be.

      zubi said in last interview xavi is staying, and we are still trying to figure out “solutions” for afellay and song.

  23. True that all the Benatia talk is for naught, though I find the adamant way in which some people are against assigning quite absurd in my opinion. Honestly it’s not like we are the only people saying this about him. And talk to some legitimate Serie Ajournalists are bloggers and see how they react to all you just said about him and their league. I swear Jesus himself could come and play CB and someone somewhere would have a problem with it. This all fits into the point Kevin read iterates constantly that we fans always find something to complain about. Also I am not a big fan of using statistics to compare players in this sport, the game is about so much more than numbers.

    I only hope the Vermalean talk is a smokescreen. You’re going to tell me in the ENTIRE world only He, Marquinhos, and Vertonghen are ” Barça profile” . Nope, I’m never buying that.

  24. I will try to be as quick and concise as possible, the following being stayed only because I feel it is important to keep in mind.

    Football is, I feel, the sport least conducive to statistical analysis.
    I will point to a few years ago when ozil was argued as being better than our very own Iniesta.
    The numbers, assists, goals all backed up this claim. People wondered how can Andres be better as a CAM if ozil dwarves him in such key statistical categories.
    I think you see where I’m going with this?
    Remember the famous lines of Xavi and Iniesta that each knows where the other is going to be without looking? There is no statistical way to measure that, but it is those such qualities that make the real difference on the pitch.

    Now using statistics to compare CB’s. First, of course team play style and league play style comes into play. However, much like Xavi and Iniesta’s borderline telepathy would translate to any pitch, anywhere, so to would a CB’s intangibles.

    The ability to cut out passing lanes, to fill space as soon as it opens, to Marshall your compatriots ahead and behind you, to exude a power and confidence over area, etc.
    THOSE are the such qualities that I feel elevate a good CB to that of a higher class. There is no statistical gauge for these such intangibles.

    As beneficial as sites like Whoscored and Squawka can be I don’t think i’d have to do much convincing for people to understand that they do not always tell the whole story . So I urge caution before people compare stats of players ( strikers/ forwards I can better empathize with) that’s all.

    If my tone in any post was rude or offensive in any way I apologize, this whole topic is a bit of a pet peeve. Will do better to keep and even tone king forward if I failed to do so today.

    1. As the adage goes, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” Xavi had an astonishing number of completed passes in the Bayern shellacking. Lovely. But to where? Barça had x percent possession vs Bayern. Okay, cool.

      X or Y player had more dribbles or take ons. So? Stats are, in this day and age, becoming a substitute for real analysis and a crutch to prop up a player who isn’t cutting it, form-wise. Stats can lie, in other words.

      Even when folks like me cite, as a suggestion that our defense isn’t as bad as people suggest, I realize that if Valdes’ save vs attempts totals rose, then perhaps his quality was the reason.

      Statistical arguments can be made for most any player. Recall that the team had a 100% record when Song played. Which means what, exactly.

      For me stats can be part of a picturs. But at some point, the game is played, and inferences can be gleaned from the raw data of, “How is x or y player playing?”

    2. Your tone is all right by me, and I know that I look like I rely too much on statistics. However, there’s a system to the madness, or so I’d like to believe.

      It’s not that Benatia is not a good player for me. He’s great. He’s just too damned expensive for what he would bring to Barcelona. What Barcelona needs is presence in the air and control of its own box and a threat in the opposing box. On his own Mathieu does not provide that, but together with the rest of the squad the situation is much, much better. It is my view that Benatia will not tip the scales enough to justify spending what is an exorbitant sum by anyone’s standards.

      There is one more thing to add. Signing Benatia for 50 or 60 millions is for me the embodiment of Galactico policy, but without the added benefits of lots of merchandising. I’d rather not go there any more often than strictly obligatory.

    3. To put it in perspective, in the last couple of seasons we’ve bought Ibra, Villa, Neymar and now Suarez. Not much left in terms of moral high ground compared to Galacticos.
      If you remember, the supposed Galactico era started by being called the Zidanes and Pavons, Real Madrid wanting to have a mix of the world’s biggest stars mixed with home grown talent. Sound familiar?

  25. Ah gotcha, see what you mean totally Peter. It’s always a good idea to mix in homegrown, talented youngsters with Wiley veterans, I think our signing of Jeremy is along those lines.

  26. I’m wondering if anyone knows when tickets for the season will go on sale? I am finally making the pilgrimage around 28 September, we play Granada. I am absolutely delirious with excitement 🙂

  27. The same shop that started selling Suarez 9 jerseys before his sale was confirmed is now selling Hummels 5 Barca jerseys. Some inside info or just a marketing ploy based on guesswork? I don’t know but it’s a funny move.

    We have had an incredible transfer window, unprecedented in terms of the numbers involved in both bodies and money. I still expect two more signings, Cuadrado and a centreback, and a few more sales like Alves, Song and Afellay.
    In fairness to Zubi, he has acted quickly on virtually every front.

    1. Not often does a manager admit that one of his players may be sold.
      People read too much into what is said during the transfer window. Papers say we are buying everyone and every club says they are selling no one, something has to give.

  28. And now we’re hearing that di Maria is being sold to PSG for 60m to fund a Falcao move? That’s… that’s not good.

  29. Watching the Guinness ICC on TV , Roma v. United, so as to continue to daydream over Benatia. It’s reminding me how much I miss Keita’s physical presence in the middle.
    Those UCL first leg away games… Locked them down. I really hope to see Masch deployed when we need a defensive lineup, with Mathieu at LB as well… Good luck scoring. We so sorely need that second CB, two fullbacks bombing forward AGAIN this season ? Ugh

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