A nou season, with hope and uncertainty, 2014-15 as foretold by …

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Barcelona 2014 – 2015 as foretold by Levon

Last summer I predicted we would be trophyless at the end of the season (I was a wrongfully disallowed goal off) but that it wouldn’t matter as we would have a transition year. Which we did, until we stopped transitioning halfway through. Since enough has been said about who’s to blame, this post is about looking forward to the 60+ games to come.

It’s easy to become optimistic after a transfer kitty excavation operation that rivals our eternal enemy’s most ambitious summers. Contrary to public opinion, Zubizarreta gets things right more often than wrong. This time round I’m not so sure. For the record, I think we’re idiots for letting Alexis go so easily and for wasting money on the likes of Claudio Bravo, Vermaelen and Douglas, money that would have been better spent on quality rather than quantity. Jeremy Mathieu could have been got for less than half the price 12 months ago, so there’s that, too. I’m on the fence about Suarez, happy for Rafinha and happy with Rakitic, a player I was against coming two months ago but already looks like the guy to watch this season. Marc Andre Ter Stegen and Alen Halilovic seem like the only transfers that were planned at all. Take from that what you will, but those last two have a Z for Zubi written on their foreheads. 

The most significant transfer of course is Luis Enrique. Much has been said about Tata, who seems like such a good person it feels immoral to criticize him too harshly, but he messed up the second half of last season so much I really want to use another verb instead of “messed up.” If nothing else, Lucho inspires leadership which is something that was obviously missing last year. Whether his tactical acumen is up to par with some of his more successful predecessors remains to be seen. People love to compare this upcoming season to Guardiola’s first, but La Liga has changed since then. Every draw didn’t feel like the coming of the apocalypse and Pep didn’t yet have to compete against an Evil Empire so studded with stars you have to glint your eyes when you look at their shirts (or Gareth Bale’s teeth). Still, I’m optimistic about the Lucho era, and even more so after his first press conference and especially after the way he sent Deulofeu packing. If Luis Enrique manages to infuse a team this talented with the fire of its leader there’s no telling what they can achieve.

Of course life, and even football, is about more than just results and trophies. The first Barça match I remember watching live was the 1989 Cup Winners final against Manchester United in which Mark Hughes scored a monster of a goal to seal our loss. That was more than 20 years ago and I already supported the club before that match, but it just so happens that this is the earliest game I remember vividly – where I was, who I watched the game with, how I felt and yes, that Mark Hughes goal. Here’s the rub. I was just a boy of, I guess, nine years old. Who ran the club didn’t mean squat to me. Now this was definitely a good thing since the man in charge Josep Nuñez. As far as I was concerned, Johan Cruijff was the boss. Mes que un club? Never heard of it. Heck, at nine years old I’d never heard of Catalunya either, for that matter. I thought Barcelona was in Spain. It wasn’t until much later when I learned about our club and its history that I fully understood how special Barça really was… and still is. I like to think that I felt this before I learned it. And I like to think the club is special despite of its directors rather than because of them.

Thank God we got rid of Nuñez and Gaspart. We should really thank Laporta, Johan Cruijff and Sandro Rosell (yes, Rosell). In this case God came in the form of a blue elephant, which I guess means that in some corners of this wondrous world people can say “see, we told you so.” The Laporta administration had more than its fair share of mistakes and who knows the state our club would be in if they had continued. But Sandro and Bartro have given us Johangate, Qatargate, Guardiolagate, Neymargate and Babygate. The biggest one of all is probably the new Camp Nou renovationgate except we won’t know it as such because the corruption many suspect behind this potential scandal will never see the light of day. Anyway, the idiots even flirted with Messigate and the next time our brilliant new striker sinks his teeth in a defender’s biceps we’ll have Draculagate. The only gates that have remained firmly closed are the ones a top notch defender was supposed to walk through at some point during the last four summers. Oh well.

2016 is, after all, an election year. If we don’t win anything this season the chronies will not survive. All of the “gates” for which they are responsible will come back to haunt them. But if we win the Liga (who knows) or the Champions League (even more doubtful, but who knows) they can play their favorite “poor us the whole word is against Barça but we are such great directors we still managed to give you a winning team” card and they will be re-elected. Whatever happens, I hope those in charge will keep Luis Enrique on as our coach for the foreseeable future. Nothing good ever comes from the usual hiring and firing. Besides, I like the sound of it, the Lucho era… The Lucho Era. Let the Lucho Era begin.

Barcelona 2014-15 as foretold by Isaiah

A season we will all fondly remember as the year we finally lost our faith in everything. Or, I mean, maybe not, but that’s certainly how it feels to me, going in. Let’s start here, where we should probably always start when we’re talking about mes que un club: the official sponsors list is nothing short of a list of kind of shady corporations that do pretty much the opposite of stand for Catalan identity or the concept of morality. Nike is a global brand bent on unifying everyone under the roof of similar footwear and viral marketing videos and Qatar Airways is the state-owned airway for a small country currently accused of killing thousands of workers in an effort to turn a desert into a preening World Cup resort destination. At least La Caixa is a local-cum-national bank that has an extensive social program and non-profit status including a charitable foundation, but the overwhelming sense is that Barcelona is not a club moving towards its motto, but away from it. Luis Suarez might be an incredible player, but then again, he’s also a violent racist. A club that once proudly boasted Lilian Thuram in its ranks has gone so far as to hire a guy who would call his compatriot a racial slur and refuse to apologize about it.

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If I sound somewhat depressed about all of this, I do blame Suarez and the terrible hangover from watching that slow motion insanity develop into expensive, court-case-laden reality. It brings back memories of the Busquets “mucho morro” affair where the club dodged all responsibility for what was likely a similar situation to what Suarez perpetrated. Or maybe Busquets did use an outdated term in the middle of a heated match. And maybe Luis Suarez really does mean his racial terms affectionately. And maybe I’m stuck in the past and this is just the new Barcelona, where social agreements are that I pay money and they let me watch Messi, with no consideration for the long-term investment in youth for the sake of youth (but for marketing purposes, sure, and for transfers later, sure). It’s not that Barcelona was ever the thing it billed itself as under Laporta, but under Laporta there was at least the homage to the idea. At least UNICEF made it onto the front of the jersey. I wonder what Oleguer thinks of the club he left behind. I wonder what Thuram thinks of the club he left behind. I wonder what Abidal thinks of the club that left him on the wayside, collateral damage from world conquest.

And Lucho. I don’t know what to make of Lucho just now. He smiles in the pictures he posts on Twitter. He bikes a lot. He was a glorious captain (who also played for Real Madrid at an earlier time that we should never mention again). And he seems to have brought some energy to things, but that’s what we said about Tata as well. Maybe I just miss Tito, maybe I just miss Pep. Maybe I just miss the days when it was all so unexpected, when winning was a thing maybe we would do and then when it would happen we were thrilled. Now it feels like there’s an expectation of success that doesn’t quite mesh with the reality of what it means to watch a team play. Imagine if we lose to Elche on Sunday. It wouldn’t be the groan of “Aw man, that’s too bad,” it would be the merciless cry of crisis, of Lucho fuera, of I told you so. And then imagine if we draw the next match. Imagine. 1-0 to Numancia would be absolutely unpardonable now. Sure, I mean, Madrid aren’t carrying the dead weight of Christoph Metzelder and Royston Drenthe around, but we’re not wondering where Keirrison fits in the plans either. I mean, this preview is hardly a question of how we bloggers (if I may still call myself such) think the season will go, but ratherhow many trophies will we win.Last yearI made no particular prognostications, which was probably for the best since I would have said we would win one trophy (and I would have been wrong, just to remind you), so this year I’ll go ahead and stick my head in the frying pan:

This team is stacked. Stacked like pancakes in a lumberjack breakfast hall. But trophies? None. Whatever, call me pessimistic or call me lacking in faith, but I don’t see this team being anything but what it was last year: fantastic to watch and overburdened with the needs of its fan base. But yes I’ll be watching whenever I can and I’ll celebrate every one of our goals. Except maybe the Suarez ones. I still haven’t come to terms with that and won’t have to until much later, thankfully.

Barcelona 2014 – 2015 as foretold by Linda

  1. Post-World Cup seasons are by nature unpredictable.
  2. I don’t like predicting things.
  3. But I’m here to try anyway.

I won’t pretend I have no doubts about Luis Enrique’s brave new world. Quite the contrary. But there are also many reasons to feel optimistic. Whatever Lucho’s flaws as a manager who is still developing and learning, his appointment is a step in the right direction. He knows the club, has allies both in the club and in the local media, and seems to be convincing the players of his ideas. I hope he feels supported, and free to implement his vision, and that the fanbase as a whole is kind to him if the team start slowly.

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Many things went wrong last season. There was a total breakdown in relations between the club hierarchy and segments of the fan base, the club and several important players,  the players and the club media, and ultimately, as a consequence, between the fans and the players. (Not to mention the club’s relations with the authorities.) All this just a few years after we all glutted ourselves on unprecedented success. It’s a very Barca story, going from one extreme to another. But lost in all that is the fact that there wasn’t that much wrong with the team. The squad was too small to cope with demand and injury, and wasn’t always used in the best way, but it had a reasonably good backbone. It just needed a jolt. And it needed supplementing.

Thankfully, the people in charge of the club have seen fit to do that. As a result, I feel much happier going into this season than I did last year. There’ll be injuries, and we’ll be horribly short-handed occasionally, but there are less gaps than before. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I can’t see all the new players integrating immediately. There will be mistakes. We just have to be patient, because I think we’re going to have fun this season. And yes, win a title or two.

But only if all of us – fans, media, club hierarchy, Lucho himself – refrain from turning every draw or defeat into a crisis. Otherwise, we might be out of a manager by Christmas.

Kxevin says …

We raise the curtain on yet another season of uncertainty. It seems like it has been a very long time since things have NOT been uncertain, so you’d think we would be used to it. Instead, besotted on a wondrous season of excellence, the ghosts of the past have become the burdens of the future, and everything is the “next” something … next Messi, next Puyol, next Treble. And culers turn on someone, anyone. It’s Martino’s fault, it’s the board’s fault, it’s Song’s fault, as if any one of those things was the complexity instead of all of them, and an additional set of circumstances to boot.

So people crack jokes about Song, who didn’t play all that much, instead of riding the folks who DID play all the time and who, as Dani Alves said in his Friday presser, didn’t meet standards. Because that’s easy, and who wants to kick the golden goose, even though the only player who was consistently at standard when it counted, and even he had a crappy first part of the season, was Iniesta. Last season was a mess.

It’s worth noting again that the natural state of a footballing club is to not win. Even the best sides don’t win everything, all of the time. Tito Vilanova stepped in after Pep Guardiola, who failed to meet his own lofty standards as the team started to slide downhill. Vilanova picked them up a bit, then fell prey to that awful thing called Life. Then Tata Martino came in to work his minor miracle of getting a damaged, mentally and physically hammered team to somehow, within 5 goals of being in with a shot at the Treble.

Martino’s feat last season speaks to the quality of the core of this team, an astonishingly talented nucleus that, like that flawless cut of steak, needs only the right garnishment and a well-chosen wine to be perfect. So the board, terrified at losing those posh seats in that wood-paneled office and facing the specter of a two-window FIFA transfer ban, went hog wild in the market this summer, adding (yet another) new coach and plenty of side dishes to accompany that tasty main course.

Which all means, of course, more uncertainty.

This club, and this culer, have a love/hate affair with uncertainty. Only a madman would predict championships galore at a club with a new coach and eight (count ’em, EIGHT) new squad additions. I am a crank, but not a madman. Let’s look at what has the potential to upset the apple cart, shall we?

Enrique: What does he want? How will he get at it? How will his charges react to his high-energy, high-effort style? He put the hammer down on Deulofeu, sending him off to Sevilla for the crime of not impressing and needing more time. That move also sent a very clear message to the squad. The pressure on him is immense, and it’s difficult to think of a hotter hot seat in world football.

Vermaelen/Mathieu: A broken-down has been and a chain-smoking derelict, right?. THESE are the players those idiots signed to fill our centerback slots? Fools all of them, right? Well, maybe. Mathieu has been very, very good this pre-season and a healthy, on-form Thomas Vermaelen is an excellent center back. Or they could suck, leak goals and the Liga will be lost by December.

What’s funny is that for all of the whining about inadequate center back signings that should have been somebody else, the real complexities with Barça defense have to do with a short, easily bullied midfield and more importantly, still no replacement for Eric Abidal, who was the key to that back line. He made Pique better, he made us all forget the times that Puyol was off being fireman and caught out of position. He saved Alves, saved Valdes, working beautifully as a human eraser. Forget about CBs. I want me an Abidal.

abi

Messi: We still don’t know which Messi we are going to get, the sulking dude out for a weekend stroll or the rapacious battler who reared his head some during the Gamper. This is Messi’s team. As he goes, so it will go, despite the steps taken to end Messidependencia. If he is on — not goals, necessarily — with committed, fully involved play and he stays healthy, look out.

Neymar: The Brazilian legal complexity is fit, stronger, more mature and based on the little we have seen this season, ready to be an even better and more effective part of this team, unless, driven to star cravings in the presence of Messi and Suarez he reverts to the occasional ball-hogging, attack stopping logjam that he was at times last season.

Suarez: The club paid 81m for a player who won’t be able to kick a ball in anger, or even moderate vexation, until the end of October. He misses not only pre-season, but match fitness, on-pitch sync and other complexities. We might not even get the opportunity to really see what the club has paid for until late in the season. Will it be too late? In four months away from the competitive side of things, you can train and train, but match fitness will be many, many weeks away when Suarez can finally play for Barça.

Reasons for optimism

Weaknesses have been addressed: Team speed is up, team height is up, strength in midfield is up and the press is back. Everything that caused complexities last season are, at least on paper, improved.

Iniesta: Swagger, style and a more than capable slot into the playmaker role are all the reasons that anyone needs to worry about getting your ass kicked by the team led by Iniesta.

Great players: On paper, a 3-man attack of Neymar, Messi and Suarez is devastating.

And so?

Despite all of that, I think that Barça will be out of the running for major silver this season, marking two seasons in a row in which that has occurred. It isn’t that they don’t have the talent — far from it, as this team is STACKED. But I think that with so much new, and a key signing not being able to play with the club until November essentially means that performances will be erratic, and the front three will have a difficult time gelling.

But, we will see some entertaining, at times remarkable football, and as with last season, the team will come oh, so close to something big.

blitzen weighs in:

So here we are again. Seems like we have been waiting forever, but finally in a few hours a whole new season begins. We have a new coach, a new captain, and practically a whole new team. This has been a summer of slash and burn, and although it has been painful at times, it had to be done for the good of the team. Our legendary captain Carles Puyol was finally forced to admit his own mortality and retired with honour. Victor Valdes was halfway out the door in search of pastures new when a devastating injury threw him out the window instead. Cesc was seduced by the Dark Side, while Alexis Sanchez went to fulfil his destiny at Arsenal, much to the regret of many. The club cut out some dead weight and loaned or sold players like Tello, Cuenca (dammit), Afellay (DAMMIT!), Bojan, JDS (OMG finally!), & Oier (you forgot about Oier, didn’t you?), and even our resident madman Pinto was let go (BOO!). For some reason we still have Song.

In terms of signings, the most important one is our new coach Luis Enrique. It’s no secret around here that I am a huge fan of Lucho, not just as a player, but also from the days when he was coaching the B team to a 3rd place finish in the Segunda for the first time in their history. I wanted him to be appointed as coach when Pep quit, and I knew it would happen sooner rather than later. People have doubts about his lack of coaching experience at a high level, but to me that doesn’t matter. Pep only had only been coaching the B team for a year when he was appointed. Lucho has the drive and personality to take this team to the top. He demands everything from his players, and I believe he will help this team recover the intensity they lost over the last 2 seasons.

As for the incoming players, I am happy with all of them except for Suarez. My objections to him are longstanding and I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that I think he is unnecessary, overpriced, and in need of psychological help. I am encouraged that in his last presser Suarez mentioned that he is working with professionals in that regard. I hope it is true and that we see no recurrence of his reprehensible behaviour. So far the best signings seem to be Rakitic, who looks like he has been playing at Barça for decades, and Mathieu, who hasn’t put a foot wrong in his appearances so far. Ter Stegen is nerveless, and Rafinha is an absolute monster. Bravo needs a little time to calm himself, and Vermaelen is still unproven, but personally I think he will fit in well. We may also still have a “surprise” signing to come, considering that we will very likely not be able to purchase any new players until January 2016. I’m giving this transfer window an 8/10. Well done, Zubi!

To my delight, most of the top top top pundits have already written off Barça’s title chances for this season. This makes us underdogs for the first time in many years, and it’s really quite refreshing. I am coming into this season with no inflated expectations. It would be crazy to expect a team with this many new players, that has lost so many key components of their past success, to win trophies or even be really competitive for the major ones. And yet…I can’t help but be excited after watching how this team has come together in the preseason and how they are all working so hard for Lucho. I have an overwhelming feeling that I am really going to enjoy watching Barcelona play this season, which to be honest I didn’t most of last season. We may not win any trophies, but I am sure we will play attractive attacking possession-based football, and that is all I really ask.


My predictions:
I think we will come second in the league to a Madrid-based team, but it may not be the one you expect. 😛 But I think it will be very close again, like last year. I think we may very well win the Copa del Rey, but that will likely be our only trophy. I don’t think we will be anywhere near winning the CL this year–I predict a quarterfinal exit, with honour.

Player to watch? How about players, plural? This is going to be the year when Barça goes back to basics and draws on the cantera a great deal. We already know from the preseason that Lucho counts on the youth and is happy to give them first team opportunities as long as they work hard. With Suarez banned until the end of October and various other injuries bound to happen, players like Munir, Adama, Samper & Grimaldo are certain to get ample first team minutes, and I expect them to excel. Even Lucho’s most vocal critics have to admit that he has a special way of inspiring youth players to give everything for him, and this batch of B teamers are more than ready to meet the challenge. I believe that Munir and Samper especially will make their marks this season.

By Levon

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

299 comments

  1. Hello to allllll the people in here. Ive been lurking for about 2 years and Ive finally decided to become a little bit more vocal now.

    I just wanted to say that Im very optimistic, and like blitzen, I feel refreshed. It seems like a cloud has been looming over the team ever since Pep left, even though his last season wasn’t great everyone had trust in him that he would turn things around, and now things feel a little different. All of the kicking our and bringing in seems to have changed the atmosphere for me.

    Im happy with our new signings and I have high hopes for Rafinha, please be another Thiago. I just want this to be a good moment and for everyone to remember that this season will have its ups and its downs but this is our team, and we should take care of it since its given us more than our share of happiness.

    Sorry for the grammatical mistakes and I hope I can continue putting my two cents in. Visca Barca!

    1. Welcome! Thanks for choosing to become vocal, having new voices around here is always great. (I’m curious, are you worried about grammar because English isn’t your first language? I’m a languages nerd so I’m always interested.)

      I’m optimistic too for the season! People can keep their pessimism and predictions of no trophies, but I think that this season we’re going to play attractive football and challenge for trophies. Will we win any? Well, it’s certainly a possibility, and to me that’s enough reason for happiness. I believe in this team.

      Oh, and like blitzen, I believe in Lucho. Love that guy.

    2. Ehhh kinda. I grew up speaking spanish, cause I’m Mexican, but I’ve lived in the US most of my life which means I don’t really have an excuse haha.

      Yea I wasn’t sure about Lucho because I read about how his last teams did but as soon as he was ours he made it clear he was the boss and I like the confidence he has. I like this guy.

  2. We should also add in our trading this season the Di Maria sale to MU. Too much resemblance to Makelele case some years ago. Good for us, bad for them.

  3. I really don’t like to make predictions. I have to say this, though, not predictions but facts:

    Luis Suarez. Is. Going. Nowhere. While Messi, Ronaldo, Griezmann, Mandzukic, Neymar, Bale, Benzema, James, Falcao, Diego Costa, Muller, Robben, Ibra and the rest top strikers of top teams go about the world with their respective teams, Luis Suarez and Xavi will be training under the orders of Lucho, And then he will come back at the end of October, when Real Madrid and Barcelona’s finest will have played a gruelling one-month campaign. What do I mean by that:

    13 September: Matchday 3 La Liga;
    16-17 September: Matchday 1 Champions League;
    20-21 September Matchday 4 La Liga;
    23-24 September Matchday 5 La Liga;
    28 September Matchday 6 La Liga;
    30 September – 01 October Matchday 2 Champions League;
    4-5 October Matchday 7 La Liga;
    5-14 October Euro Qualifiers+Friendlies (2 of them);
    18-19 October Matchday 8 La Liga;
    21-22 October Matchday 3 Champions League;

    All that time, almost a month and a half, Luis Suarez can dedicate to training, learning, settling down and more training and conditioning under the orders of Lucho. Unless some unseen circumstances intervene, Luis will have a more than proper pre-season – and no team in Spain or Europe will have played against him in Barcelona colours.

    The question, of course, is whether Barcelona can do without him in that time, relying only on Messi, Neymar, Pedro, Munir, Adama, Sandro and Rafinha.

    It will be difficult and so many things can go wrong it’s not even funny, but as always I am an optimist. There are options and variants in the squad. I hope Lucho stays true to his nick* and injects that attitude to the rest of the team.

    * “lucho” is the first singular of the spanish verb “luchar”, to fight

    1. *Lucho isn’t as much a nickname as a widely accepted alternative version of “Luis” just like Antonio is shortened to “Toño” and Jesus becomes “Chui”… In English the comparison would be Charles/Chuck, James/Jim, etc.

    2. Shorter/Diminutive forms of names count as nicknames. The actual english word is “Hypocorism”.

      For me it’s the meaning that matters. 😀

  4. This is a fabulous idea.
    Mods & Ex mods speaking via Lev the oracle.
    Only Euler, kari & nzm are missing.
    Excellent article.

  5. Well, I won’t be asking any of the mods for the names of their sports psychologists, anyway ! 🙂

    Every season for at least the last three the prediction is more or less no trophies. If the players thought like that we’d be as well giving this season the swerve and starting again next.

    I’d like to ask where exactly we are meant to fall down. To me the glass is more than half full and even almost drained last year we came within an ace of a couple of major pieces of silverware.

    For me on the positive side

    We have height and pace at the back for the first time in ages
    We have more pace in our midfield which looks like it will be run by Iniesta. Just watch him go in this role.
    We have a forward line that every club in the world would swap us theirs for ( yes including them)
    We have a much bigger squad in real terms and remember how much that played a part.
    We have the prospect of being able to call on a completely fresh Xavi and don’t underestimate that. Poor lad has been totally overplayed for the last five seasons. He looks refreshed already.

    Negatives
    We will still have to face packed defences. Nothing will change there. Still can’t understand why teams don’t employ that against RM as they are awful when Bale and Ronaldo are denied running space.
    We will have to wait till about November to see Suarez match fit. Can we get the early results to be in the right place at that time?

    Known unknowns (with apologies)
    Is LE really going to be any good as a man manager – I’m fairly sure he is a motivator which tbf Tata never looked like. Just stamping on people won’t work with this squad.
    Can we build a reliable CB partnership? My own pref would be Pique and Mathieu but competition is good. The only bad thing would be if we arrive in October without a recognised first pairing. You need CBs who understand each other and how to position and readjust quickly.
    Can we adjust our tactics so we are not caught short of numbers at the back? This is really a wider unknown of how astute LE is going to be at adjusting during matches.
    Will we see much of the young ones? Easy answer ? If they’re good enough. They won’t be played for the sake of it and in the last couple of seasons most haven’t been.

    For me, I’ll be surprised if we don’t lift one of the big ones. Not fussy which. I have a feeling RM are going to be tempted to play more football this year and they really aren’t set up for that.

    Anyway, not long to wait now. Bit ironic that with our enlarged squad we are struggling a bit with injuries and suspensions for the first match but nothing will be decided tonight.

    1. ^What jim said.

      Don’t compare this team with Barça 2011.
      That was once in a lifetime gig.

      Compare this team with opponents 2014/2015.

  6. I was going to write something before the season officially started but I got caught up with stuff so it’ll just be something short and to the point.
    I want to touch on players, tactics and motivation for this coming season.

    In terms of players – we’ve added physicality and true depth to a nucleus of talented players. Line by line we’ve improved in all areas.

    GKs: ter Stegen, Bravo and Masip are individually not better than Valdes but give us better competition than we’ve probably ever had. Ter Stegen could become a great keeper and the other two are very good to have around for familiarity and experience.

    DFs: Alves, Montoya, Pique, Bartra, Mathieu, Vermaelen, Alba and Adriano is a very full defensive line up. There are better players out there than our bunch but it is still very strong. The four central defenders are all over 6ft with the potential for playing defensive or attacking line ups. We have replaced Puyol with two people who are younger and fitter than he.

    MFs: Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Masch, Song and Sergi Roberto are all available currently even if it looks like Song will not be called upon. Rakitic fills the void left by Cesc and should be capable. Masch should get a lot more time in midfield than Song did last year anyway and gives Busquets genuine competition. Xavi will be rested and should be able to continue to control matches when called into action and Sergi needs time to progress so let’s hope he gets it.

    FWs: Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Rafinha and Pedro will be supplemented by the likes of Munir, Sandro and Adama. On paper it looks good but as we know Suarez is unavailable for the next couple of months and Pedro has been ineffective for the last few staid and if he weren’t a Masia graduate I can’t believe that he would still be here. Rafinha, I’d imagine, will be starting a lot of matches at right forward for the immediate future so I’m excited about that. And while I’m disappointed to lose Alexis Sanchez, Luis Suarez is a beast of a striker and should be a great addition.

    In terms of tactics – 4-3-3 has been our go to formation for years now and that doesn’t look like changing although I foresee quite a few tweaks to it.
    From the preseason friendlies the width looks to be given primarily by the fullbacks rather than the wide forwards as predicted and the forwards have a more central role with Messi more withdrawn. A more solid midfield with Busquets and Rakitic (plus Masch) gives us the platform to attack with numbers without being caught by our rampaging fullbacks.
    Our forwards are a very diverse with youngsters like Munir and Adama being completely different to all of our first team players so we can expect to see more of a change during a substitution than previously.

    In terms of motivation – Lucho is nothing if not a great motivator and when he gets his charges to train and play as he did there should be plenty to be optimistic about. The players themselves also should have plenty of motivation after the past two seasons and we’ve a lot of new players who have won nothing before.

    My predictions;
    A major trophy should be within reach of such a talented hard working bunch.
    Samper and Munir will get more minutes than expected this season.
    Suarez will have a great season as will Neymar.
    Ter Stegen will be considered a top notch keeper by the end of the season.
    Messi will be the best player in the world again but not as ridiculous of a goal scorer as he once was.
    Sergi Roberto will have another season of little to no minutes and will be passed out by Samper, Suarez and Halilovic.

  7. Eibar, the miniscule team with the miniscule stadium and the miniscule budget made history once again.

    First game ever in Primera division, against Europa League participants Real Sociedad, first win. Goal by a 12 000 Euro player, who after playing for 13 teams in Spain made his Primera Division debut – and won.

    Damn, I LOVE LA LIGA!!!

    1. The team that had to crowd source their meager budget to prevent a double relegation wins their first game? Very nice!

  8. I like Mascherano, and he is a great footballer but can we please have him in midfield so that there’s someone behind him when he makes a mistake.

    1. I can’t blame him for the red there. Busquest was at error with the backwards header to nowhere. Masch looked to be trying to avoid contact, but bad luck. Deserved red though.

    2. Ok, I don’t think he could have done much to avoid it I have to think that he should have tried harder to not bring the guy down rather than just his usual ‘I’m innocent’ routine

    3. But I don’t think he was trying to intentionally bring the guy down? That wasn’t a tackle. They were both running at full speed, ended up unfortunately crossing paths, and the attacker fell down.

    4. But the attacker had clearly gotten in front of him so he had to get out of his way. It was always going to be a red card situation once he didn’t. If the player had went through on goal and scored then the blame would be firmly at Busquets’ feet (or head as it happened) but now we’ve to play a full half with a man less and that is on Masch.
      He couldn’t prevent the situation but should have avoided the attacker.

  9. A throwback to an earlier time, with an errant Busquets header leading to a 1 on 1 vs. our keeper. I thought he had knocked those out of his system! I liked the half for the most part, especially our willingness to shoot from outside the box.

    1. It was a very common occurrence a few years ago alright. It looked like he was actually trying to head it towards goal too.

  10. It was a good half overall (winning the ball in the final third, not hesitating to shoot, that Munir situation aside, and Messi being active and aggressive as in the days of old).

    And then this happened.

    I don’t care if they scored or not, we would have still won the game. Now it will be a much less entertaining second half

    1. I was actually proven wrong this time.

      Usually when we go a man down, our game really suffers (more so that most other teams), but this time it didn’t.

  11. It official, Munir is a god to people now. I’ve read many ” Suarez Who?” tweets. What a wonderfully knee-jerk fan base we have.Let the kid develop, he still has his moments of nerves. Also, there must be something about Bartra we don’t know, this is the 3rd coach in a row who opted for Masche over him.

    1. Well even with 10 men we’ve looked safe as houses this half with Bartra in defence so I can’t see what.

      Munir is a special talent though. He isn’t just a hyped up youngster who can score in the youth teams. The variety of goals he scores is unbelievable for such a young player. He won’t get rushed with the calibre of players ahead of him but it’s natural to get excited about such a player

    2. I can’t see what would be wrong with Bartra either. It’s just something to consider.

      Re: Munir, I just don’t see the need for anyone saying such brash, clearly absurd statements such as: “Munir>Suarez” “Munir>Neymar” “What if Suarez comes back and Munir is in the way?” etc.
      Maybe this is why I usually stay off twitter.

      “He won’t get rushed with the calibre of players ahead of him ”

      That’s the key. For me he needs to grow in confidence first (see: his happy-feet pass to no one after being fed by Messi in the first half). There is no way to dispute his talent, but he’s still only 18. Gotta say I’m ecstatic as hell over this kid too, he’s shown more life and potential than Pedro and Tello have for years with us.

    3. The problem with Munir is that he is too young and not yet fully developed physically. There aren’t many players who show such goal-scoring proficiency at such an age. But there were also at least half a dozen situations in which he was easily pushed off the ball today. So the “Suarez who?” crowd should calm down.

      Give him a two or three years though, and he has the potential to be something special. That shot that hit the post was a good illustration – picked the ball, turned immediately, blasted it with no hesitation. Eto’O used to do that and we haven’t had such a striker since then. Suarez does it too, of course, and hopefully he will show it regularly when he can finally play

    1. He can tackle without hacking a guy to the ground. That’s the complete opposite of Xabi Alonso lol

    2. Not really, Rakitic i feel is a combination of both. Alonso’s defensive work with Xavi’s offensive duties.

    3. Alonso hacks people down because he’s a dirty bastard.
      Er, talking about Xabi the footballer here, not Xabi the human being.
      Somewhat similar skill set,
      he’s more physical, Defensive & dirty work if needed & those Long through balls.
      Xavi skins you alive, when he has the ball, not so much without it (recently) .
      Off the ball, we’re a better team now.
      But he’s more involved than Xabi, so I guess a bit of both.

  12. Also, while we should be very happy about Munir, we should not forget that the best news of the evening was how great Messi looked. Those were vintage goals and he pressed, recovered balls, and even got back in defense. Haven’t really seen that for more than two years…

  13. My 2 cents….

    First off, I’m optimistic about this season. Despite the doom and gloom I hear from most cules, I cannot fathom us having two trophy-less seasons in a row given the quality in our squad. The football gods surely cannot be so unjust to the players, even if its what this Board deserves… or worse.

    I give Barca’s summer business a 7/10. In Rakitic, we found a suitable replacement for an aging Xavi, who already seems to be on the same telepathic wavelength with Iniesta. In addition, his ability to shoot from long range and height fills a void.

    Vermaelen/Mathieu/Douglas* – gives us depth and physicality but not the quality I had initially hoped for. I think Mathieu is a good role player, brings height and shows the level of commitment needed. His awkward yet efficient style coupled with his ability to play as a full back gives him the” Carles-esque” feel. I can only hope Vermaelen returns to his pre-injury form. As for Douglas, I had no clue who he was two weeks ago, so I shall withhold judgement.

    Ter Stegen/Bravo/Masip – These guys are no Victor Valdes. If its one area Zubi should have an ounce of competence it should be finding goalkeepers, so lets hope the competition brings out the best in all three. So far I like Ter Stegen the best.

    Our best signing is no doubt Luis Suarez. He gives our attack that “bite” it so badly lacked in games last year when Messi was human. I think he is the perfect no.9 for us and his aggressive competitiveness will fit in well with Lucho’s high press. Happy to hear he is getting treatment, if all else fails we can get him a Bane (Batman) mask to match his menacing aggression to prevent any unsavoury issues.

    Predictions:

    I’m confident we will win at least one domestic trophy. I also think we have a better than expected chance at the Champions League…. That part will take a lot of luck, however we have seen Bayern and that other team win with less than stellar defences in the last two season.

    The MSN will gel quickly and by March, we may be unstoppable over two legs against anybody.

    I expect the pressure for a spot from Munir and Adama to propel the MSN to a combined 75 goals between them.

    Sadly I expect Pedro and Pique to become casualties of the La Masia boys who will be extra motivated by Lucho’s policies and the transfer ban. We may be saying bye to both of them and Xavi by the end of the season.

    We will enter 2015/2016 back at the top of the football pyramid without VV, Puyi, Abidal, Pique,Pedro and Xavi which will complete the Pep to Lucho painful transition period the last few years have been.

    1. Victor Valdes wasn’t Victor Valdes until he was. To dismiss Ter Stegen particularly because he isn’t isn’t giving the player a chance to play or improve. Valdes took mountains of crap from culers because he wasn’t Casillas, or Cech or (insert goalkeeper name here).

      As for defenders, solve the Abidal problem and you solve the back line problem. As I note above, Abidal made that back line look so brilliant, along with an effective press.

  14. Just some quick thoughts
    Why no Marc?
    Let Munir grow and determine his own legacy, is no need to start narratives for a kid so young.
    I’m so happy with Ivan, she just runs and runs such a wonderful addition.
    Messi looks like Messi, spraying out passes that Suarez and Neymar would have finished, and hungry to win the ball back. Beautiful.
    Curious to see how the last week of the transfer window unfolds. Have a good weekend everyone.

  15. Can someone please explain the Bartra scenario? This the third straight coach playing sMasch ahead of him.

    Beside, enjoyed the game. The toughness is back.

    — Messi. Did you see how he pressed and hacked at helpless heels? Whoa.
    — Mathieu was immerse. Will prove a lot of doomsayers WRONG.
    — Rakitic is such toughness and beauty.
    — Munir has ridiculous potential. PATIENCE.
    — Lucho’s pants and gesticulation, I like. Gaffer stuff.

    There is that, for me. To the next game, I say.

    1. Personal view:

      If you have noticed, Barcelona’s CBs play as a matched pair – one is tall and normally takes care of the high balls, whereas the other acts more like a normal pivote, going forward, covering more space, intercepting and tackling. This is what Mascherano does best. Additionally, with Rakitic and Rafinha in the team, there is more height than last season.

      Apart from that, Mascherano has been playing for three years in that spot, which is probably four times more experience than Bartra has playing as CB at Barcelona, not to mention six more years of football overall. Also, Mascherano is for the time being the leader of the defence.

      As to why did Bartra look very solid(and he was), this was at least in part due to the fact that Barcelona was a goal up and man down. Elche tried to get back in the game, went forward and opened up. This allowed Barcelona’s midfield and strikers to drop back, close up the lanes and press.

    2. Yup. Messi physically bullied defenders tonight.

      Mathieu reads the game well, fits in nicely & he’s a pacy mobile giant (his first match).

      Munir shoots or crosses without losing a breath, saves those crucial miniseconds.
      Lose those miniseconds – defence gets their act together – you become a Pedro.

      Lucho is very involved and gives us those additional set of eyes on field.
      So far so good.

  16. In brief:

    Bartra: It’s more what Mascherano is doing right than what Bartra is doing wrong. If you want to play, make it impossible NOT to play you. Bartra hasn’t done that with Vilanova, Martino or Enrique. Can’t blame them all.

    Mascherano: He was trying to avoid the attacker, but just clipped him and the attacker sold the hell out of it. I saw a “stupid Mascherano” above, but I would rather see “stupid Busquets.” He headed that ball without a care in the world of where it would land. Turned out it landed at the feet of the attacker as if Busquets were an Elche player. And he did that with Mathieu pushed up, so that Mascherano was the only player back and he was also out of position. So it would have been “stupid Puyol,” or “stupid Pique,” or any other defender who was caught out by Busquets’ moment of humanity.

    It happens. The team won 3-0.

    Munir: Patience. He has a lot of growing and improving to do. I made a joke about Suarez coming back and finding Munir in his slot and some people took it seriously. Ain’t gonna happen. To deny Munir’s talent would be as foolhardy as thinking he is ready to be a consistent starter for Barça.

    The team: It won 3-0, not even firing on all cylinders. Be happy for that. All the gloom and doom, ranting about this player or that player, and look. The team kicked ass, went down to 10 and was crazy enough to not bother playing like it was down to 10.

    Messi: Sorry, but anyone who stated last season that Messi was the same player should watch today’s performance until they change their minds. Completely different. Vibrant, active, electric with the ball at his feet, and 5 tackles. Tracked back like a demon, as well.

    Pressing: The team was pressing, running its tails off and stopping Elche attacks before they could get going. Rakitic and his defending were as impressive as his passing, which raises the Xavi question, right? It isn’t that Xavi is past it offensively. It’s that he’s past it defensively. So as Rakitic ran over to cover for Alves, THAT is why the back line seemed vulnerable in the past.

    I know, I know … “it was just Elche.” The same Elche that, had this team been able to score a single goal against to win that match, Barça would have won La Liga. This wasn’t a walk in the park, though people will be fast to describe it as such because as per usual, the NEXT opponent will be the big hurdle until that one is leapt. Then the NEXT opponent will be the big hurdle, in a succession of “just you waits.”

    Enjoy this football team, whether it wins or loses.

    1. Good start to the season and a welcome return to the unstoppable Messi. On Sky Ballague was saying that the senior players had said if he managed yo make Messi press the whole team would. As usual with him though I’d take what he says with a pinch of salt. Whatever, it was good to see.

      I wouldn’t particularly blame Masche for his sending off . If you’re chasing a player and he cuts across you while slowing down it’s pretty hard to avoid contact although on Sky they seemed to think it was deliberate. I’m hopeful he is also a short term stand in although that remains to be seen. What I would say is that it is yet another sign he can’t be anywhere near the back line as he doesn’t think like a CB. They were trying to hold the offside line right on the half way line. That is suicide. You watch any decent defence they will push the forwards back to their own half but just before the ball is kicked they will quickly retreat five yards or so to give themselves some room to cope with exactly what happened, especially if you’re not the one attacking the ball. The whole thing was another comedy of errors. Yes Busi shouldn’t stick his head onto such a ball and he, as has been pointed out, has previous. However, Mathieu should ( must?) have shouted so loud that Busi was scared to go near it and that didn’t happen. Alves wasn’t even holding the line in the first place and had no nose for the trouble coming his way. Masche should have been at least three or four yards deeper than he was by the time Busi headed it. That’s what I meant in an earlier post about the need for a regular pairing at CB so that they know each other’s thinking inside out.

      Kxevin, I’m not sure what the connection is with Abidal. I know you rated him a lot more highly generally than I did but in this situation he would never have been near covering unless you mean in general terms about the defence. I think the pace of this defence with at least Alba and Mathieu looks decent. This was all about a wayward header and positioning of some of the defence.

      However, let’s just be grateful it was Elche. We showed some nice touches and a lot of energy for the game. Was it a bit disappointing there was only a crowd of about 60000 at the first game of the season ? Most importantly, the season has started in earnest and the phoney war is over.

    2. I mean in general, rather than that specific situation.

      And I think if the team can continue to play like that, I don’t think there will be many opponents who will be able to contend with it. We’ll see. But the Rakitic defensive range came as quite a pleasant surprise to me.

    3. Agreed. I wasn’t sure about him as I hadn’t seen him that much but I like what I see so far. Different from Xavi but very good.

  17. Kind of disappointed how Rafinha looked a little bit lost there and not really connected with the rest.
    Not the best position for him in order to use his skills.

  18. I thought that was a great opener! Great game!

    The anti-masch comments are a bit strange to me. He did what he had to do. LE knew it too, you could read his lips saying “bien masch, bien masch”

    I actually like masch is defense, especially versus a bus. I’m not a fan of pique overall, and bartra does a great job, i think that he’ll get his due this year. Lets be patient.

    Messi is back!

    1. Good catch on the Enrique to Mascherano comments. As I say above, Mascherano brings something special to the side, and Enrique wants that on the pitch. So when Mascherano starts, I just think it’s for that reason.

    2. LE said that he’d rather concede a goal and play with 11… *https://twitter.com/barcastuff/status/503655312378064896

    3. Yeah I saw that, but that doesn’t change what he said to Mascherano during the game. It was a split second decision, but ultimately I think Mascherano did what he had to do.

    4. I agree, rather go to 10 men then be 1-1 against such a defensive team at the half. Plus: clean sheet. Was interesting what LE said is all… perhaps to show that we are a ‘no-fear attacking’ team.

  19. our defense would be much more stable with Mascherano in front of it than in the middle of it. yes it was Busquets’ error but the job of the covering CB is to, ya know, cover. and we’ve seen it over and over that that just isn’t Masch’s game. it’s a symptom, once again, of our inadequate cover at CB.

    Mathieu looked good in his Pique role, but we still lack the same player we’ve needed since Puyol/Abidal faded away: quick, good reader of the game, adept at mopping up behind his more ball-playing compatriot. Mascherano isn’t that player. Vermaelen isn’t that player. Bartra isn’t that player. Mathieu isn’t that player. Pique isn’t that player. if we’re going to play in largely the same system as we always have, in order to look comfortable we need a player who fits that profile; or we need to find a different system for our defense. my hope is for the latter, and that Lucho will see how wasteful it is to field a player of Mascherano’s caliber so far outside of his comfort zone.

    that said, i was singularly impressed by Rakitic, who looks an absolute engine in midfield, he does so much work on and off the ball and looks seamlessly integrated already. Messi looks super sharp, which is always heartening. and Munir, well what can you say? playing with a cool confidence only seen by our best Masia kids.

    1. Actually Mathieu is that player you described above. Don’t know how much of him you’ve seen or if you have been paying attention during our pre-season but Mathieu is the player.

  20. Was quite glad about the game.
    I am sad, some think Masche was stupid. Even if he meant it, its clear he did it for the team.
    Considering the fact that Rafinha was not there literally, its ok, we played with 10 both the halves.
    What I dont understand is, as the regular defender, shouldnt Mathieu take care to remain as the last person, rather than Masche.

    Munir would be brilliant addition for us. I think, he makes his final pass without looking who/what/where, but by just guess work. He should end up as a legend.

    1. It depends on where the ball is heading I think. The rule is that the non active CB should provide a bit of depth to avoid your defence being caught completely square. I’m sure Mathieu thought he was going to be the one attacking the ball till Busi’s intervention. That’s where Pique/ Puyol worked as a partnership so well. They covered really well for each other but that took time and there was no doubt who was the one in charge. That’s my only issue with Pique. Is he prepared to step up and lead the back line or is he content to let someone else do it? Unfair on Mathieu to ask him at the moment. I’d like to think that as I write this LE is talking to the four of them and forcing them to watch a replay over and over again. I have to say I’ve not felt that our defence has had the necessary coaching input over the last few years, and I include Guardiola’s time in that. The incident itself proved insignificant but to win trophies we need to be clear about roles in defence.

    2. Thanks Jim, am with you. I was hoping, to be frank, you would read and answer me.
      Pique, I dont think, will ever lead our backline. He isnt that type. Even with a makeshift back, Masche partnering him, we can see it is Masche who is giving instructions and checking. everything, not Pique. These kinds of incidents will occur again, it seems, hopefully not.

  21. Surely Messi feels like he’s a new man after the pressure of the world cup behind him. That overshadowed his whole last season

  22. Greetings all.

    Been off this blog for a bit as I wanted to take a break and also to let some of the dust settle after Tata\WC. Now the season is back on, thought it’s a nice time to come back and participate again.

    A comprehensively good solid start to the season. You can’t help but get the feeling some of the intensity and workrate is already back to our early Pep years. However, it’s only 1x game and against a rather lowly opponent all things being considered so we must be looking further for consistant performances and coaching rather than assumptions after a few friendlies and this first game.

    However, I do LOVE the professionalism and harsh calls Lucho has been making already to set the tone to the players. They either respond to his way or its (probably literally) the (pine) highway. Something that was perhaps sorely lacking last season I believe is back in Abundance.

    Lets see how the desire holds through the year.

    1. Great to see you back.
      Hopefully bhed & 86ed will be back soon too.
      Lowly opponents sure.
      But with 10 men,
      1 new forward,
      1 makeshift right wing,
      1 new b2b midfielder,
      1 new centre back,
      2nd choice goalkeeper,
      1 new coach.
      & 2 shots rattled off the crossbar.
      At times Dani was the last man in defence (!)
      At times Alba scampered to take mathieu’s position when he went wide (!) [Is there a way to make squirrel a foot taller ?]

      Teams like EE, man utd take two months or three to gel in. Our dudes are crazy.

  23. It feels good to watch Messi play again (especially a running Messi) and Barca of course. Football without Messi is dreadful.

    I don’t know what happened to him but he hasn’t looked like that since the 1st and 2nd month of last season. So active so involved. His dribbling and change of pace has never been this good since then. But his dribbling isn’t as good as pre 2013 though. Now the 2nd or 3rd marker can get a foot in as Messi is a fraction slower. But all is good. Still good enough and better than anyone else.

    Busi just shouldn’t head the ball. Many people seem to remember his other mistake 2-3 seasons ago but this has been happening every single time a ball comes in and he heads it (accidentally) backwards. It’s just that he was never punished again until last night.

    For once Mascherano didn’t commit a foul but the other player cut across his path. Reminds me of him diving when running across Ronaldo in a Clasico at Madrid a couple of seasons back. I thought Mascherano’s positioning was wrong in the 1st place last night.

    Munir’s positioning is excellent. However he needs to be stronger on the ball. Was so happy that he was confident to blast the ball instead of crossing it but later on decided to cross instead of shooting. He’ll learn from this.But he gets brushed off too easily. That said, he impressed me more in one match than Deulofeu ever did since 2010 in many appearances with Barca or Everton. And he didn’t even get any minutes for Sevilla. What must be going through his mind? I hope this serves him a lesson and it’ll make sure he improves.

    Matthieu was solid. The board/Tata should’ve just bought him last season. Solid defender that we’ve been missing since Abidal. I’m afraid this will be another case of a season too late as with Villa.

    The only thing I was disappointed with last night was Mascherano getting the nod over Bartra. Kid might not be so aggressive and have the leadership skill but he is a fine defender, a better defender. Didn’t put a foot wrong last night. Attacking at the right times as usual.

    Can’t wait for the next match.

    1. Too many people don’t rate Deulofeu. He is one of the best youngsters in world football and is still very young. I love Munir so don’t get me wrong but he is no closer to the finished article than Deulofeu is.
      Deulofeu is physically much stronger, has a great shot, is fantastic on the ball and has been at a high level for a couple of seasons.

      The Everton loan was a good one for him because it toughened him up and let him know that he wouldn’t have it as easy as he had with the Best team. Don’t read too much into his not getting minutes with Sevilla the other night as they had a goalkeeper injury in the first half and two midfielders get injured in the second. He’ll get plenty of game time there and it will be up to him to take his chance. I fully expect him to.

      His decision making isn’t great but with the exception of Messi, no other kid was at his age either. He is a true winger, one who takes on and beats players and he done it numerous times with Everton and changed matches for them.

    2. Mascherano’s position was “wrong” because he wasn’t expecting his own teammate to launch a springboard break for the opponent. Though maybe he should have seen Busquets about the head the ball and said, “Oh, crap …”

      — I think that everyone rates Deulofeu as an attacker. But he doesn’t track back, has a poor overall work rate and suspect decision making on the ball. If he improves those aspects of his game, he will be back and welcome. If he doesn’t, he’d better be renting in Barcelona, if you get my meaning.

    3. He might be closer to a finished article but I don’t think that his ceiling is high. That’s all you’re going to get from him. He’s of course better than Jeffren and Tello but in the same category as Quaresma and Ronaldo CR7 in his early days. Just dribble whenever he has the ball. He doesn’t offer anything else. He can’t play striker. He is limited to a winger. Pedro might not be a better dribbler but he at least has the intelligence to run behind the lines and pull defenders out and of course offers phenomenal work rate. I watched at least a handful of Everton matches last season but he is the exact same player when he first break through B team.

      He won’t cut it here. He will do well at a 2nd tier club where he can try to be the man.

      You’re right about the Sevilla match though but he still wasn’t guaranteed to come on.

    4. He was stripped and ready for a break in play to come on as a sub before the third injury so there was no doubt that he would have, I would even imagine that he would have gotten longer if not for the goalkeeper injury.

      I find it funny that in the same post you say that he is about the same as CR7 in his early years and later that he doesn’t have a high ceiling. He is very similar to Ronaldo in many many ways with virtually the same flaws and we all know how Ronaldo turned out. If Deulofeu works as hard he could become a very similar player.

  24. Simeone just got an 8-match ban, 4 for patting the ref on the head, 2 protesting, 1 for the red and 1 for watching from the stands.

    1. And what did Ramos get for his punch on Mandzukic and Ronaldo’s double punch on Godin? And if we go a couple of seasons back Mourinho’s poke?

      What is going on with the Spanish FA? Why do they turn a blind eye on some matters but are harsh on some? I know they won’t review an incident if the referee didn’t see and report it but c’mon don’t they have internet over there to see what Ramos and Ronaldo did? That is serious to me. Imagine if it was Suarez was the one who threw the punches. I can imagine it’ll be a huge issue and it’ll definitely be picked up by the English media.

      It seems that the Spanish FA is giving the players a pass to cheat. As long as the referee doesn’t see you commit the foul you’re safe.

    2. Seems to me that the Spanish FA doesn’t really care what you do unless it involves their referees. And then they bring the hammer down.

    3. Even without taking the punch/es into consideration, that is a ridiculously harsh punishment. Give Simeone a red card/1 match suspension and be done with it.

  25. Anybody watching City vs Liverpool ?
    They look out of sorts without Suarez there.
    City got way too may strikers. Aguero scores with first two touches. Bummed he signed that extension.

  26. Atletico don’t look the same without Simeone. Rayo do look like a much complete team than last year.

    About three weeks until the first Madrid derby – and Atletico will be looking for some reckoning. Cristiano better hope his knee is okay, I think it’s going to be tested.

  27. The 8 match ban is excessive, I see a black hand behind this decision(E E). Simeone was stupid in fairness,

    About our match, I notice a lot of develompent this season specially some key areas

    #1iniesta and rakitic covering the space behind the fulbacks when attacking

    #2 rakitic droping deep to collect the ball and moving it foward
    #3 besquet droping centraly forming a 3 man defence with masche and matheu
    #4 messi pressing and tackling like never before
    #5 lucho brings back the 5 secounds rule in guardiola’s era, if we didn’t win the ball back in 5 secounds we drop back and form a shield
    #6 our fullbacks brings an artificial width while our wingers are more central
    #7 tactical fouling from our forwads to prevent counter attack I e athletico
    #8 lucho never seats we missed such kind of a couch who stand on the line. And shout to the players to make them awake,

    Intresting season coming up let’s enjoy it, (not good grammatically sorry)

  28. So Benatia is off to Munich for peanuts.
    Alright, better go somewhere else to vent my feelings.

  29. He wanted to leave,Roma thought they could get him to stay and raised his price to try and help aid in that. They were wrong and they didn’t want to keep an unhappy player. Again, for so long no one NEEDED to pay upwards of 60m for him, now Roma’s need to sell+ Bayern being patient= a steal of a deal. Maybe now that he’s good enough for giants like Bayern people can start to give him respect and stop asking ” well why hasn’t anyone signed him if he’s so good??”

    1. The “fun” thing is that Bayern only “pushed” for him after Javi’s injury.
      Jury is still out.

      We were crazy for not signing Marquinhos and then crazy for wanting to sign him. Same with Luiz. We’ll see what he brings to the table though.

      But somehow it matters not to me. i have a team to back and I’m excited about that.

      Barca Barca Barca!!!!

    2. He’s good for Bayern because Javi Martinez is out for the season. While he was healthy they were nowhere near Benatia.

      He wanted to leave for more money, Roma thought they could get more money, that’s why they blew up his price – and when nobody came forward to pay the price(probably with the fresh David Luiz example in mind), Roma board sent out letters to the shareholders saying “We need to sell someone”. When you set a price so high everybody passes and buys something/someone else and a moment comes when you realize you have to sell at any price, you will sell cheap.

      Supply and demand.

  30. Ah, Benatia. The unicorn/white elephant has found a home, at Bayern. Rumors that linked us to almost every CB on the planet hardly linked us to him. No idea why. Did the coaching staff not ask for him? Why not? All good questions.

    But a club willing to spend 81m for a striker who isn’t going to play until November would very well have been able to buy Benatia, had the coaching staff asked for him.

    I also saw an interesting analysis of Roma’s goals conceded/defense with and without Benatia. The point of the analysis was to ask, after Marquinhos and now Benatia went for premium prices in consecutive seasons, whether the system wasn’t as much to credit for Roma being thought of as a CB finishing school as the players themselves.

    It was interesting to read.

    Ultimately people are going to think what they want about Benatia. I don’t think anything of him, but I have nothing invested in his purchase. I don’t think the board/technical/coaching staff is stupid or incompetent, or let one get away.

    I also think if you buy Benatia, you might as well sell Bartra, because if he can’t even play in front of an, according to some, crap-ass CB as Mascherano, however would he get a shot to play in front of the Best CB In Creation, in Mehdi Benatia?

    So as usual, we wait to see what events and on-pitch performance bring us.

  31. I legitimately think this space is the only one I’ve seen that is so dismissive of
    And snarky about Benatia. No idea why.

    1. I wouldn’t say “dismissive of and snarky.” I would say thoughtful and questioning. The biggest question remains. Even Bayern wasn’t in for him until Javi Martinez went down with his serious injury.

      And he went for less than 30m. That’s less than Marquinhos, who we were willing to pay 40m for. So again … why.

      I think that social media is overreacting to Benatia and our club’s decision to not even pursue him. I also think that to react with emotions verging on rage to Barça not signing a player doesn’t make a lot of logical sense to me.

      But I do understand the atmosphere around the club, and I am sure that is contributing to it.

    2. I think that people are reacting as they should. Bayern are getting a top European CB in his prime for 30m, yet there are people making excuses for Zubi and co. as to why we didn’t even come close to getting him.
      This convo sums it up for Me: https://twitter.com/migerucb/status/504359618710364160

      Same thing with the Douglas though in the other direction, everywhere else it seems as though people are being rightly thoughtful and questioning his signing, yet here it’s ” give them the benefit of the doubt” and “wait and see”. Just some food for thought.

      https://twitter.com/RafaelH117/status/504280851166003202
      https://twitter.com/RafaelH117/status/504282078754926594

    3. I gotta agree with Kev here, the fellers (and fellettes) that have been ‘dismissive and snarky’ of Benatia are just being realistic, whereas every other space seems to be in panic mode, blaming whoever and whatever for missing out on the greatest defender in history. It happens with fans of every club, when a player signs for another club, ‘why didnt we get him’ ‘our director of football/manager/owner/kitman are useless’.
      These knee jerk FIFA manager reactions dont take into account anything other than the price. Just because player X signs for Club A for E20m, it does not mean that Club B, had they offered the same E20m, would have successfully signed him. Sorry to constantly make my comments about my own club, but look at Liverpool’s persuit of the likes of Van Der Vaart, Siggurdson, Konoplyanka, Dempsey, Barry, and many others (none of which I would have in my team now!), these players all went to clubs other than Liverpool despite us being linked constantly with them and the fan reaction is that the manager and director are incompetent. More recently, with the case of Alexis Sanchez, apparently all wrapped up and ready to come to Anfield, but at the last minute he chose Arsenal. Myth: Ian Ayre stuffed it up by not offering enough. Reality: He simply wanted to go to Arsenal.

  32. This Douglas deal that won’t go away is going to turn into a disaster for the club.

    The guy is 25 and commonly thought of as not good enough by the fans at his own club. How does he possibly fit at Barca? He can’t be good enough for the first team and he is too old for the B-team – a younger player with more potential would be cheaper.

    The only way to make sense of the transfer is to remember that Traffic owns a large portion of his rights, so he will be another Henrique/Kierrison transfer for Barcelona. Pad those pockets with the clubs money people!

    Also let’s continue suing the former administration for misuse of funds… the irony!

    1. Banged out a post about Douglas, transfers and uncertainty that I think still stands. For Benatia as well, for that matter. Just have to wait and see.

  33. Man, people do need to relax. We have some of the greatest players on the planet and still we need more. Someone mentioned above that everyone else rates Benatia incredibly high except for this space. I think that a lot of people here wanted Benatia, but there is also a certain level of thoughtfulness (dare I say maturity) present here that 1. realizes that this is a game, and 2. that we know very little about what is going on behind closed doors.

    I would have been quite happy with his signing, but I am also happy with Mathieu. I think we have a fantastic squad, a great coach, and a real chance at the CL. Buying every single star does not make a team win.

  34. I feel an ‘I told you so’ coming along with the Benatia to Bayern for €30m deal. I had arguments with Kxevin & Peter with regards to his fee if he were to be sold this summer. I remember suggesting that he wouldn’t be sold for more than €35m on a few occasions and having that good ol’ €60m shoved back at me.

    Funny that he is good enough for Bayern but wasn’t for us…

    Kxevin, your suggestion ‘Even Bayern wasn’t in for him until Javi Martinez went down with his serious injury’ doesn’t make sense when we lost Puyol permanently. We had as big if not a bigger a void in our squad with the retiring of Puyol as they had with the long term injury to Martinez. As for footballing philosophies they couldn’t be more similar to us if they tried (which they are) and they have deemed a €30m purchase the right move for them.

    I’d rather have a sure thing €30m defender in Benatia than a question mark over Vermaelen’s injury record and €20m. I’m sure the extra funds could have come from selling Song & Alves/Adriano at reduced fees and have Mathieu as Alba’s backup.

    1. I guess it’s just too obvious of a good signing for there not be some reason right? I mean, I don’t think Zubi is incompetent. He’s not perfect, but he’s not incompetent. Maybe Bayern held out till the right time? Can you imagine what it would be like if we held out on a CB signing till the last week, impending ban looming?

      Also, this summer we witnessed two CB’s break signing records. Thus, it’s not too crazy for Kxevin and Peter to have thought that the signing would break the bank.

      And, furthermore, we don’t have all the details.

    2. Without knowing the details, who knows? What I do know is that we didn’t get him, and there was clearly a reason, one that we will never know and can only speculate about.

    3. Roma were acting tough and were trying to get the best price possible for Benatia, until reports surfaced that they must sell someone if they want to evade Champions League sanctions due to not fulfilling FFP regulations. When that happened Roma realized three things:

      1. Their bluff had been called
      2. Clubs willing to pay premium(PSG, City, Chelsea, Barcelona) had already finished purchasing, and had done so somewhere else.
      3. They had to sell, and sell (relatively) big.

      This is when Bayern strolled in, waving casually a wad of cash.

      In any case, Barcelona have paid 20 million up front for Mathieu and Vermaelen, and will have to pay 19 million more in the next four years – 5 million per year over the next two years for Mathieu, and 5 million in variables for Vermaelen, as well as 3.8 million if Barcelona wins the Champions League two times in that period. For the moment, however, the cost is 20 million. For two players. One of them is Mathieu. Funny how the screaming and mockery have transformed to the sound of crickets.

      @Ciaran
      Selling Alves and Song sounds awesome on paper, until you realize that few clubs can meet their salary demands AND offer a suitable transfer fee at the same time. It sounds even less awesome when you realize few of those clubs want to buy Song and Alves with those salary demands and transfer fee demands.

    4. I don’t have any issue with the transfer of Mathieu although his fee was too high, regardless of rumours about the installments reducing the up front portion.
      I do have an issue with the fact that we weren’t willing to spend more in the department that needed it most. Mathieu is a very good defender and if things go well we should get maybe 3 years from him. Vermaelen is a gamble and I would be willing to make it if we had less change this summer but with with things as they stand I’d much prefer a surer thing.

      We just played Masch in defense this weekend and while the result was a great one things could easily have went wrong. The idea of Benatia impeding Bartra doesn’t fly with me considering that we just started Masch ahead of him.

      All in all we’ve had a good summer but I don’t believe that anyone can honestly say that if they were given the names of Mathieu and Vermaelen at the start of the summer that they would have been happy with them.

      I’ll finish with one final point, If Vermaelen gets back to his old self then he could be our best defender with his natural leadership and tactical knowledge.

    5. Yes you were right. I have no qualms admitting you were right. I also do think that there was a lot of pressure on Zubi to get the defender signing secured before the league starts so that the players have a chance to get acclimatized. I think thats why they signed Mathiue (who luckily seems alright till now). I would absolutely have loved if Cuadrado were to be signed as well, but I am not unhappy about our current squad. Visca Barca !

    6. I agree with you Ciaran. I find it strange how ok everyone is with this after we wasted 3 years chasing Silva and two with Marq.ONE summer of finally doing their jobs isn’t > the years of nothing, especially as they got us BANNED FOR A YEAR from transferring players.
      This transfer window must’ve really calmed people in here down. It’s gone from “board out” to suddenly giving them the benefit of the doubt on everything and not questioning any of their moves this summer. Only in here though for whatever reason. There are plenty of people still fed up with this board.

      Im also laughing at everyone shoving ONE game from Mathieu in people’s faces. Like someone said a thread or so ago, we have a fanbase really prone to ” HAHAHAH! I TOLD YOU SO! Idiot cynical cule!” for whatever reason. I’m glad he did well but gosh people calm down.

    7. Nobody is shoving one game from Mathieu in people’s faces. Rather, the loudest screamers against his signing have gone to ground when it turned he actually can complete 90 minutes and is not the cruth-walking senior citizen-slash-industrial chimney that he was made to be.

      As for the fanbase, the real fanbase of Barcelona is really prone to foretelling disasters for everyone and everything, while depreciating the value of anything positive. While some call it objectivity, I prefer to call it misanthropic pessimism, which it normally is.

      I suppose we should calm, down, it’s just Elche, right?
      On the other hand, I personally am not ecstatic for the same reason I wasn’t screaming for Zubi’s head before. Time will tell whether the transfers are good. One game, especially against Elche(who were saved from relegation on the last day, mind you) does not show whether the player is good. However, and this is important, one game is infinitely better for judging the player than NONE GAMES, which is what the majority of culers criticizing him and the board that signed him used for their judgement.

      I’d also really appreciate if you refrain from putting words in people’s mouths, especially insults. This is not goal.com, nor totalbarca.com – and thank god for that.

  35. To steal the analogy from an older discussion… Stop being jealous about others’ shiny toys and let’s play with the toys we have. Might turn out to be fun, actually 🙂

  36. Vermaelen, Neymar and Ter Stegen are training again. Apart from the rest, but training on the pitch.

    I’m not sure, but have they been called up for their respective Euro qualifications/International friendlies? If they haven’t that would give them time until the 14 of September to return to fitness without any distractions, with just the Villareal away match this Sunday, which both Vermaelen and Ter Stegen would miss, but their absence won’t be felt with the presence of Bravo, Masip, Bartra, Pique and Mathieu. Neymar is another question mark, but personally I’d rather have him not rush back just for that game if Munir, Rafinha and Pedro can cover for him.

    Villareal had to work for their 2-0 win vs Levante the other day, but still they remain a tough opponent. They will have to play on Thursday vs a Kazakh outfit for the Europa League group spot, but the game is at El Madrigal and Villareal won the away leg 0-3. The consequences will probably be a mostly rested Villareal team and an awful pitch come Sunday.

  37. Belated match comments that might – might – not have been mentioned before:

    – Alba played like a man. Lots of interceptions, plenty of fire.
    – Interceptions? Sport claimed Rakitic had 12 of them. 12!!!
    – I really liked Munir’s first touch that created the space for that 1st half missile on the post.
    – Messsssssi!!!
    – last season’s opening game against Levante had us all enthusiastic because of? Yes, our intense pressing of the opponent when we did not have the ball.

    Last but not least, a big welcome to new member of the family, Tardigrater. Always good to see new voices here!

  38. FC Barcelona’s page confirms Douglas has been signed and will sign for five years:

    4 million Euro fixed transfer
    1.5 million depending on games played.

    Well, at least he isn’t expensive. We’ll see whether he’s good later. Or not. Try as I might, I remember the real deal Keirrison, who the club just finished paying for(he had signed until 2014). Hopefully this one will be better.

    1. Later this week a big club will sign cuadrado for peanuts and culers will be crying for everyone’s head.
      Jk
      Don’t know who he is but maybe he can give Dani some competition as I’m not completely convinced by Montoya.

    2. I believe this may have come as a result of Adriano’s discovered arrhythmia. An insurance of sorts.

      The transfer is actually cheap in absolute terms. A lot will depend on whether he can settle down rapidly and whether he has what Lucho needs. The truth is that the total transfer of that player can be amortized in one single opportune moment, especially in the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

    3. It’s impossible that this deal can be worse or even be equal in shoulders with the Keirrison and henrique deals, Cause those two cost the club 8 and 14 million euros respectively.

      The fact that they chose to go through with such a transfer, Knowing our unpleasant past experience with those previous two, Tells me that the club must in some form or shape have a much better confidence in the success of this transfer, But that’s just speculation from my part.

  39. Shades of grey. There are very few things in life that are black and white, and sport is one of them.

    The board is, for me, filled with fiends whose hearts are fueled by avarice. They will say and do anything to keep power, and I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them. From neglecting the sporting project to youth transfer ineptitude that will paralyze the club for some as yet unspecified period are the most recent of the ways in which they have damaged this club.

    So that stuff happened. They also loosened the purse strings, and allowed our sporting director and technical staff to finally do its job. The result is a squad that is significantly strengthened. It is the best squad we have had going into a season since the first year of Guardiola, really, in which almost all of the significant weaknesses have been addressed, except for right back.

    So they kicked our puppy, then gave us a thousand dollars, and we are still mad at them for kicking our puppy. That’s fair, but it doesn’t negate the fact that they gave us a thousand dollars.

    But instead of enjoying the team, culers are bickering over players who weren’t signed, as I predicted. Benatia is a Bayern player. He was never a real target for Barça. Why? Dunno.

    I do know that the mistrust and cynicism that permeate everything that so many culers bring to the table when it comes to this club is, while not surprising, makes me wonder when people are going to have fun. If, after winning the Champions League, people say “Jackasses. We would have won it by a bigger margin had they bought Benatia.”

    The past is the past. Mistakes were made. The future is the future, as yet unknown. All we know is that the club won its home opener 3-0 with a very impressive display from a team that isn’t anything like full strength. “It was only Elche.” But you can only play the opponent you face. So yes, it was only Elche. Should the team just play RM and Atleti, and let the other teams draw lots for 4-22 in the table? Or should be admit that this same Elche who we couldn’t score against last season was dispatched with significantly more ease this time.

    Depends on what is the state of your glass.

    And now Douglas, another unknown. There is no soothsaying, no real way to see into the future. “Douglas is crap,” say the people who purport to “know.” Okay. So when he is in fact crap, we can all say “Hmph. They were right.” But if he isn’t crap, will the people who asserted that he was admit their error? Doubtful, as all we get are the sound of crickets from the “Rakitic instead of Kroos is stupid. Stupid board!” crowd.

    We’re still waiting to see what happens. And while we are waiting, we might as well actually enjoy this team and how it plays.

  40. Every time i see someone raving about a certain player, Speaking with utter confidence and demanding him, The first thing that pops into my head, Is what will he do when this player of his turn out to be sub par or flat out fails, And it’s usually along this line:

    “What a shame, I had great expectation about this one, But yeah what you’re gonna do, Spilled milk is spilled milk, You know what, While we’re at this subject there is another player that i think will be perfect to replace this one….”

    And that’s that, And what did you really expect, That he’ll pour gasoline on himself and become a human torch, Or go on a hunger strike and live in Tibet..
    The above can be also be applied about some one hating and raging about a transfer.

    Anything can be easy peasy when you don’t have to live the consequences, And that’s us, The fans.
    “I want that one, And that one, And that one, But definitely not that one, And i want this, This and this out of the squad”

    To us, It’s all point and shoot, We’re not the ones responsible for the tens millions of euros that will be at stake, We don’t have large media outlets following our every move, Or the gazes of the millions and millions of fans all around the world.

  41. As usual I agree with @lucasammr about this, “@lucasammr: Only an imbecile would WISH any signing we make fails. But being blind about their actual abilities is pure lunacy.@lucasammr: The fact you, for some reason, think “welcoming Douglas and wishing he thrives” is gonna improve him overnight, time to rethink life.” Etc. Really, if harsh ( truth hurts) good string of tweets here.

    1. And I’m enjoying the heck out of this team, I’m delirious I finally
      Get to see them in a month, but I can enjoy them and disagree with management moves at the same time.

  42. – who the hell is this douglas?
    – Munir!
    – Di maria off to utd for twice sanchez’s fee. wonder what bfbers think. do y’all rate him better than lexus? How is it that we are able to sell marketable high profile players like cesc and lexus for such pittance compared to other sales?

    1. Di Maria did not “fail” at RM the way Alexis and Cesc were perceived to have with us. He is coming off a season where he was the best player in the CL final. Big difference.

      Of course, RM have always been much better than us at selling players so that’s a factor too, but not the major one in this case

    2. Oh yes, Di Maria is a much better player than Alexis. But then it is Real Madrid, who know how to sell and buy. See what they paid for Kroos, and what they got from Di Maria. Seems good business for me.

      Unfortunately, for us, we would sell a world famous Villa for , you know what, and buy a Douglas for ….
      I just hope this wont be another Kierrison, and he will be at least give some competition to Montoya and Adriano.

    3. They get paid better for their sales, but they also overpay in their purchases. Their Welsh kick-and-run artist is the most expensive player in transfer history, and Haymes Who? Rodriguez cost 80m.

    4. I agree. But at the same time, we also seem to have paid the same or even more for Neymar. The Welsh player, helped them get the Copa somehow.
      They bought the Columbian for 80, and we bought Suarez too for somewhere around the same figures. Imagine the punch by Ramos or Ronaldo was done by Suarez, what would have been the repercussions?

    5. If you were to consider the total cost of any transfer as people did with Neymar, those costs would rise considerably. The actual transfer fee paid for Neymar was and still is 57m. The other costs were in addition to the transfer fee. There isn’t a transfer fee in history that doesn’t have those similar additional costs.

      MD did a calculation from somewhere that Bale, using the Neymar “total cost” formula, would be something approaching 200m. Ultimately, who knows?

      My fondest wish is that people would stop believing the ever-escalating Neymar transfer cost, a number that varies based on the agenda of the person “reporting” it. As far as anyone knows, his actual transfer fee was 57m.

      As for transfers and value, etc, Alexis Sanchez is a brilliant player, but he isn’t Di Maria. A Di Maria analog for us would be Iniesta, who would fetch significantly more than 65m.

      Douglas is, like any transfer, a risk. More thoughts on him below.

    6. Well, that isn’t true. Assuming the club was going to sell one of its best players, which it would never do, it would be for as close to his stratospheric buyout as possible.

    7. Iniesta is 30 and while magnificent with the ball, quite slow in terms of linear speed, which means he will not play anywhere as well as he is for us for any other team. Hard to see him going for more than 40 at the moment.

    8. I agree, right now there is nothing to separate us from EE in terms of moneys spent or profiles of players chased. Atleast they are unapologetic and open about it – in their quest to sign the ‘best’ players. We used to have a way of doing things. Not anymore. We spend just as much money as EE does. Only we have a better academy and they are a much better functioning business.

  43. Noted some excellent thoughts on Douglas this morning on Twitter:

    What if the player isn’t a joke, disaster or Ponzi scheme, but rather some forward thinking on a punt by the board. You spend 4m for a raw talent with gobs of pace (the thing you can’t teach) and spend a season with him under Alves/Enrique tutelage, so that he can learn positioning and how to be a Barça RB. Then you see.

    If it doesn’t work, you’re only out 4m, which is in effect no money to Barça. If it works, you got yourself a kick-ass RB.

    1. Yes exactly, it’s a risk on an unknown player who may or may not end up any good, but at 4m it is barely a risk. Similar to the risk Roma took on Marquinos, who when he went to Roma was hardly lighting the world on fire but had the raw talent. I have not seen any of Douglas aside from youtube clips, but I am assuming he must have at least some talent to go with his obvious pace.

      It’s funny cos fans complain that we never unearth talents like Marquinos but then when we try they complain that we are signing crap, unknown players. I guarantee it would have been the same had we signed Marquinos from Brazil ahead of Roma.

    2. I also don’t mind taking a risk from Brazil but the thought of him coming from Traffic (Henrique, Keirrison who never even set foot on Camp Nou, etc.) is giving me the creeps. In any case I’d prefer Montoya to get the nod over him.

    3. If it was a position in which we had absolutely no cover then I would be a bit wary about signing someone not used to this kind of football. But since we’re got Alves and Montoya already, it seems we’re in a good position to take this “risk”. Like Kxevin said, if it works out awesome and if it doesnt..meh..we tried..

    4. This makes sense if he is 20. Not 25. Very few players make significant changes to their skills and trajectory at that age. The exceptions are exceptional players, which Douglas isn’t

    1. Never trust YouTube highlights. Slightly more useful are the complete match ones that show every touch a player makes.

      It’s funny that people are so against the signing, many of the same people who scream about how the club never takes a punt on a potential diamond in the rough for a low fee. He’s 24, which is quite young, and should be teachable as heck. And he cost 4m, which isn’t much more than was paid for Afellay.

      I just don’t see a down side.

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