Is “mes que un club” just a slogan, aka “Multinational corps don’t have politics”

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A favorite Twitter commentator brought something to mind this morning in posting a very good editorial about the club and its stance, or lack thereof, as the September 11 pro-independence (or pro-choice, dependent upon whether you like waffles) day looms.

Many people come to Barça for the football. I would reckon that most come to the team for the football, and think of the club and team as one, rather than the former being a representative of the latter, an umbrella that encompasses everything from many other professional sporting teams to charitable/human rights efforts and other enterprises. And if all you care about IS the football, stop reading now.

Over the years, it’s safe to say that few phrases have been misunderstood, misused and misidentified more than “mes que un club.” This is what the club has to say about “mes que un club.” It isn’t sanctimony or any sort of misplaced virtuousness. Simply put, it is what the club represents to its members and in general as a Catalan institution. This identity became solidified during the difficult political times before, during and after the revolution, when the stadium became a place of open rebellion where people spoke a banned language.

1936 marks the real year of the psychological inception of the phrase, the year club president Josep Sunyol was assassinated. Politics have, until recently, been inextricable from the club, from when the Senyera was banned from the crest as a political statement to when its former coach, Pep Guardiola, spoke out at a press conference on the matter when confronted about his choice of Catalan and dealing with Catalan journalists, saying “we are a country with its own language.”

During his New York sabbatical Guardiola added via video message, “Here is one more vote for independence.”

President Josep Bartomeu will be attending an important September 11 pro-referendum rally in a personal capacity rather than as a club representative, a move that is either shrewd or bollocks, depending upon one’s view of the matter.

— He’s the president of the club. Everything that he does is done with that in mind. so the club is taking a stance simply by his attending.

— It’s a waffle by a group more concerned with keeping the money flowing but not damaging its political base. They get credit for the president attending, but don’t have to take a stand.

In 2012, the club did take a stance on Catalan language education:

“Our language, like our club, is an element of integration which permits us to identify with our country (Catalonia),” the club said. Note that the statement says “country,” rather than autonomous region, which is in and of itself a political statement, if you read it closely.

Players are another matter, and are usually averse to taking a political stance for many of the same reasons that corporations shy away from such things — might damage the brand. Notable exceptions include Oleguer and most recently Puyol. Xavi has raised eyebrows by draping himself in a Catalan flag during Spain football celebrations.

But the club has never really taken an overt stand on the matter of Catalan independence, even as the question has been brewing since the movement was in a nascent state. Logically, you can see why it wouldn’t. Nothing to gain, so much to lose. Is there a reason somebody in Asia would support an avowedly Catalan club, as Barça suddenly becomes political? How would sponsors view an entity that sits on the wrong side of the Spanish government? If there is violence or other strife as a consequence of the movement, the club becomes painted with that brush and the potential damage is immense.

Further, matches can become platforms for statements outside of and more vehement than pro-Indy chants that arise at specified times during matches. It’s very clear to see exactly, and logically why the club has to tread very, very carefully here. But you can’t wrap yourself in a senyera cloak then claim it’s because you got a chill.

In my opinion that the time has come for the club to get off the fence, and say that it is for a people’s right to choose. It’s a personal view rooted in little more than my dimwitted views as the resident Pollyanna on such matters. The support of the club is a potential tipping point that might sway some undecideds, which is also a very real danger in the club taking a stance on the matter as it would automatically be seen as a leader in the pro-independence movement, which has incorrectly become synonymous with being in favor of a people’s right to choose. The difference is, however, more than semantic.

But if FC Barcelona is a Catalan institution, how can it stand by when the future of Catalonia as an independent country is at issue? Conviction involves risk. Rosell ran on a platform rooted in Catalanisme, a cloak rather rapidly discarded after the election, when it was time to line up multinational sponsors and he had money to keep him warm. And yet it’s a valid ask whether Barça can, at this time, truly and fully be a Catalan institution AND a giant multinational.

Does a business based in Catalonia (which I have in the past asserted that Barça is becoming) have the obligation to take a stand on the right to choose? No. But that business based in Catalonia does not have the layers of meaning associated with it that FC Barcelona does, from an assassinated president and Catalan being spoken illegally at matches, to a senyera away kit. Barça is even considered by many to be the de facto Catalan national team. Catalan is the club’s language (even if not on the pitch and in meetings), the flag is on the shirt along with the slogan, “mes que un club.” How many other teams so overtly incorporate a national flag into a shirt design?

You can’t grab something without touching it, and that sometimes means getting your hands dirty. You can’t fire up the masses by saying “Visca Barça, visca Catalunya” without having some skin in the game.

For me, I think the reluctance to take a stand has a few roots:

— It could affect sponsorship, as corporations aren’t political.
— Does the club REALLY want an independent Catalonia, as suddenly the whole Liga question will be asked.
— If the bottom line is affected by taking a stand, what will that mean for the sporting and stadium projects?

Nonetheless, at an important time you have to risk getting your hands dirty. And I don’t believe that Barça, a Catalan institution that purports to fully embraces the roots of its own “mes que un club” slogan has avoidance as an option. You can’t stand on the sidelines. Because now more than ever for many Barça supporters who love the club, it is NOT just about football. Not any more.

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

284 Comments

  1. September 8, 2014

    Very nice article. I’m not sure however if big corporations like Nike or Qatar (ha…ha…ha) would leave the club over independence. I think another reason for Barça to not take too much of a stand is that as it has gotten bigger and bigger over the last 40 years it has many, many supporters within both Spain and Catalunya who are against independence and, like you suggested, to overly politicize the crowd at a football stadium does not sound like a lot of fun…

    • ciaran
      September 8, 2014

      That statement from Roma really sheds light on the type of person Benatia is. Complaining about wages is one thing but he seems to be a bad character for a dressing room and you wonder if that is why we didn’t follow up the interest that the player himself claimed that we had in him.
      It’s impossible to ignore the human side of football even if it’s not visible to fans in most cases. If it’s true, and I’m more inclined to believe the president than a begrudging player, then we are better off not having that type of player in our dressing room with the number of big personalities already present.

  2. ciaran
    September 8, 2014

    Very nice Kxevin. For me, Barca supports independence fully whether they fake trying to hide it or not. There are too many shows of support not to be considered overtly taking a stance. Slogans, jerseys and everything in between have been used to show support for independence.

    My personal opinion is that Catalans are different to Spanish people in many ways. Whether they get independence or not will probably have little impact on the football club though as I couldn’t foresee the Spanish FA excluding Barca and people are unlikely to change support of a football team based on such political motives.
    The issue of economics would be the important one, whether an independent economy of Catalonia would benefit from such independence. It’s a similar issue to that faced by Scotland in their own quest for same.

    In terms of global sponsors I couldn’t foresee any issues. Barca are too big a brand with too many big players and too many supporters. Basically there’s too much money at stake.

    • September 8, 2014

      Oh I can imagine the Spanish FA banning Barça from the Liga. Not saying they would for sure, but the hatred towards the idea of an independent Catalunya runs deep…

      • ciaran
        September 8, 2014

        I agree that the hatred runs deep but it would cripple the league. There’s plenty of precedent for Barcelona to play in La Liga even after a potential independence, from Monaco in Ligue 1 to Cardiff and Swansea in the EPL.
        It would practically end all interest in La Liga if there were no Classicos and no competition for Real Madrid for the league title.

        If you look at the considerable drop in quality, albeit from a low starting point, in the Scottish league in the couple of seasons since Rangers’ relegation you’ll see the devastating results in reduced competition. Celtic went from being a difficult team to beat top being destroyed by Legia Warszawa. Rangers have won practically every match since the relegation but when it comes to real competition they’ll have no answer.

        • Jim
          September 8, 2014

          I wouldn’t underestimate the effect of the underlying hatred Ciaran. You’ll not find many in Scotland, especially neutrals, regretting Rangers demise and many would have been happy to see them go out of business no matter the cost to the league.

          With regard to Spain I agree money will probably talk in the end but Barcelona wouldn’t be in a very strong position. Look at the attempts by a Rangers and Celtic in recent years yo join the EPL. Despite their huge travelling support and potential size of the clubs they were told they would have to work their way through the leagues, even if they were allowed to join.

          The nationalist question is a difficult one and one we are wrestling with at the moment but if we ever needed proof that our destiny isn’t in our own hands it’s the run on the pound and the fall of stocks in Scottish companies today since a weekend poll showed it a close thing. Also, the plans of some of our largest companies to move south in the event of a Yes vote.

          Celtic’s decline I would argue has as much to do with Strachan’s departure as the decline in opposition and you’ll not catch me complaining. We won the cup 🙂

          • ciaran
            September 8, 2014

            In my estimation it was very short sighted from the teams in Scotland to relegate Rangers, which I said at the time and still stand by even as an Irishman. It was always going to do more harm than good to the overall state of Scottish football. Rangers needed to be disciplined and taught a lesson but I think it was the wrong way to go about it.

            Barcelona would have no shortage of suitors I would imagine if such a thing came to pass on any case. I would think that the French league would be the first to offer them a position in Ligue 1 as a boost to their domestic game. Still, sponsors and governing bodies outside of Spain would have far too much sway to ever let it happen.

            In terms of Celtic, they have been in decline for a while, as had Rangers, but the lack of any competition was always going to show them up when it came to European football but their dismantling at the hands of the very mediocre Legia surely is a new low. Scottish football has been ruined by the influx of foreign players in my opinion. The strength of Scottish football always lay in passion and it is sorely lacking in the league now. The old firm was incredible to watch when I was young but there’s barely a Scottish man involved in those these days and it doesn’t really have the same meaning.
            Mind you, English football which didn’t have the same religious undertones hasn’t been able to cope with the influx of foreign players either and their national team now looks like a who’s who of mid table mediocrity.

  3. BA
    September 8, 2014

    in a decision between principles and money, i think we know which side this particular board is going to come down on.

    • ciaran
      September 8, 2014

      I’m not sure why you would single out this board in that regard BA. I am confident that every board would do the same. If business is ignored in search of sporting excellence then it’s definitely worse than the opposite.

      If you compare Arsenal and Leeds United nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find a similarity but a decade ago Leeds were kicking it in the Champions League with the big boys and playing the best football in England. They ignored business and chased glory and went from playing in the champions league to getting relegated consecutively and haven’t been seen in the EPL since. Arsenal have taken a very conservative approach to their finances over the same period and are now amongst the most financially successful clubs in world football. Sure they have made sacrifices but have been capable of signing €40-50m players in consecutive summers. Quite the contrast.

      I don’t know how much to believe Rosell when he presumably exaggerated the financial woes when he took over but I have no doubts that we are in a much better position now than when Laporta was in charge or if it followed the same direction. I am also one of very very few people that separate Bartomeu’s board from Rosell’s so that may make me seem a little more accepting of board decisions.

        • September 8, 2014

          Oh, you clearly have to separate Bartomeu from Rosell. The board is mostly the same people, but they certainly seem to be behaving differently. Whether through fear or the departure of Rosell is not my place to question.

          Businessmen are mostly the same in that they make their decisions based on their particular brand of avarice. Laporta liked a party. Rosell liked money, hated Laporta. Every president is different. This board (current) in interesting in that it is intact with a different president, and is manifesting different behavior even as, in its own way, it seeks survival.

      • BA
        September 9, 2014

        Ciaran,

        a much better *financial* position. but at what cost? well, the front of our shirt for starters. people may have forgotten but not long ago we were the ONLY major club without a paying sponsor shat across the front of their kit. instead, we paid UNICEF for the privilege of having their logo there. those things, believe it or not, was a great source of pride for many of us. and that’s gone.

        i suppose the fundamental question is: how far is too far in the pursuit of profit over principles? if, as this board clearly wants to do, we construct a glittering new stadium and sell the naming rights (likely to Qatari oil money), what then? suddenly our Barça is playing in the Royal Emirates Stadium with Qatar Airways on the front of their kit, but wealthier than ever and able to bring in the best players for dozens of millions more than our rivals. sporting-wise it’s a great decision because financially? it makes perfect sense. but what else will we have lost?

        many of us not born in Catalunya were attracted to Barça over all the other clubs we had even tenuous links to BECAUSE of those perceived principles. if we didn’t have a progressive coaching policy, staunchly left-of-center politics, and an institutional aversion to corporate branding over nationalist pride, i’m not sure i’d even have become a fan of FCB all those years ago. if we lose those things simply because they stop being financially expedient, what will else we have lost?

        • ciaran
          September 9, 2014

          Laporta and his board got the vote for a shirt sponsor over the line for one reason and one reason only and it had nothing to do with Unicef. You would have to be very gullible to believe that they put unicef there out of the goodness of their hearts.
          It was put there so that it would be easier to change it into a fully fledged shirt sponsor when the time came.

          If it hadn’t been for Laporta, the shirt would be free from any logos but to blame the current board is completely wrong.

          The stadium plans are another thing. Having been to a few fantastic stadiums in Europe such as the Allianz Arena and the Emirates and comparing them to the charming but neglected Camp Nou we needed an upgrade. Badly. If a different board suggested it then everyone would love it but people hate this board so say it’s terrible but we don’t generate enough money from our stadium.

          In order to stay competitive, the club has to be financially sound. Like it or not that is the case. The name or history of a club doesn’t win titles and one has to simply look at the state of AC Milan to see this.

          I’d love to hold onto the romantic ideals of no sponsors and local players filling the whole squad but we have to be somewhat realistic. We’ve already had our spending power eclipsed and footballers are more mercenary than ever, so if we want to remain competitive then the changes that were made were the right ones, at least some of them.

          • BA
            September 9, 2014

            to be clear: i’m not implying that Laporta and his board were much different, and i’m not a babe in the woods when it comes to speculation WHY Unicef was put on the shirts (as a stalking horse for a real, paying sponsor). this board, however, has come out and made finances (read: sponsorships) front and center; to the point of not having colour faxes. money is at the center of their platform.

            it’s misguided to say that we’d love to hold onto romantic ideals for this reason or that reason, but that in the end money is more important; i think that’s a false dichotomy. we won the Champions League 4x without shirt sponsorship money. the increase in stadium revenue from filling it every match (an unlikely event), from it’s average attendance now of 71,000 per match amounts to ~$10m a year, a tiny fraction of our total revenue; hardly make it or break it money. do we need to refurbish or rebuild the Camp Nou? very likely soon we will. my point is that selling the soul of the club in exchange for that rounding point negates the very reason why many of us support Barça to begin with. it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

            with the blitzkrieg of corporate branding (read: control) of *everything* in the last half century or so, including sports and football in particular, is it too much to ask that my beloved club resist as long as it is able? is the easily-overwritten “romance” that you’re talking about not exactly WHY WE WATCH FOOTBALL, and especially Barça, TO BEGIN WITH?

            rather than get into the weeds trying to guess the motivations of this board, or the previous board, THAT is my overarching point.

          • September 9, 2014

            To be clear about the shirt sponsor, Laporta’s board got approval from the Assembly as a temporary measure (they said, it must be cynically noted) to alleviate a temporary cash crunch.

            Not too long thereafter, they said the problem had been resolved, and shelved the notion. Was UNICEF training for a full paying sponsor? Dunno. Laporta was fond of the grand gesture, after all, so we are left to our own supposition about the eventual outcome of that.

            We do know that Rosell piggybacked onto that mandate, in effect bypassing the necessity to get the shirt sponsor REapproved, and voila.

            So while you can’t fully blame the current board, the gun was on the table and they chose to use it, so to speak.

          • Peter
            September 9, 2014

            BA, those calculations of yours are short-sighted, incomplete and mostly inaccurate.

            First of all, Barcelona needs a new indoor arena of at least 10 000 in order to play European basketball. These are the minimum requirements.

            Second, There’s a reason why the last time Camp Nou hosted the final of the Champions League was when the club celebrated its centenary. If you look at the stadiums that have hosted the Champions League Finals since Barcelona’s first Champions League, they ALL have one thing in common: roofs. We should add that in the latest years one of the key requirements for hosting the Champions League Final is having also a modern stadium, with all the bells and whistles. This is the stadium that hosts the most watched club sports game in the world and UEFA knows that it should present that spectacle in a corresponding package.

            Third, despite the 71 000 average attendance there are about 8 000 soci on the season ticket waiting list. What is more important, however, are the executive boxes and suites, because each seat for a single game costs more than a normal complete season ticket. Just so that you realize what we’re talking about, this is from the wiki page of the Emirates stadium:
            “Immediately above the club tier there is a small circle consisting of 150 boxes of 10, 12 and 15 seats. The total number of spectators at this level is 2,222. The high demand for tickets, as well as the relative wealth of their London fans, means revenue from premium seating and corporate boxes is nearly as high as the revenue from the entire stadium at Highbury.“. Highbury was 39 000.

            The circular logic that since the stadium is for 99 800 people but has average attendances of 71 000 means it doesn’t need renovation simply doesn’t hold water. Why? Because instead you should ask yoursef this: If seven out of ten brave rain, wind, cold, heat and burning sunshine on any given sunday to go watch the team, how many will go if they are protected by the elements? How many will go if they don’t have to navigate through the maze of stairs to reach the third level but instead can use escalators and elevators? How much money will be saved instead of using it repairs every year due to the effects of said elements?(If I recall correctly, the cited sum is about 7 million Euro per year).

            Anyway, this is another topic entirely.

  4. Inamess
    September 8, 2014

    Great discussion about the business and politics of football. My own position is that it would be best for the club to stay neutral on the Catalan independence issue, even as everyone at the club has a right to voice his or her view on Catalan independence as a matter of free speech. It is true that the club has been a symbol of the Catalan people, but declaring Catalonia as a independent nation seems a matter the club should not take a definitive view on as many Catalans don’t want independence for valid reasons.

    In a related note, I wonder what people make of Atletic Biboa’s policy of only using players of Basque descent. Seems like a similar issue as a club valuing its symbolic value for its region over the win at all costs success of its football team, even as it has a great tradition and the club is good enough to consistently be in the running for the higher positions in La Liga behind Barca, Madrid and now Atletico Madrid. Does anyone know if this club has ever officially advocated independence for the Basque people? It seems like they would have a lot less to lose.

  5. dl
    September 9, 2014

    Ciaran wrote: “…In order to stay competitive, the club has to be financially sound. Like it or not that is the case. The name or history of a club doesn’t win titles and one has to simply look at the state of AC Milan to see this.

    I’d love to hold onto the romantic ideals of no sponsors and local players filling the whole squad but we have to be somewhat realistic. We’ve already had our spending power eclipsed and footballers are more mercenary than ever, so if we want to remain competitive then the changes that were made were the right ones, at least some of them.”

    The topic is a very very sticky one. I think most people have a visceral admiration for idealism, particularly when it is an underdog and when the ideals are attractive. BUT there is always a point where the real world intrudes, and difficult choices have to be made. The example of Leeds is a great one. On a much more humble scale I had some experience with our city’s local food coop — founded some decades ago by a band of local hippies. It floundered for years, and at one point actually went bankrupt, mostly because ideals got in the way of sensible business practices. It has decent management now, and is doing very well — so well that for the very first time in its history it is able to actually do something to promote many of its principles (support local farmers, be active in educating young kids on food and nutrition, etc. etc.). None of that was possible in the years it was just trying to keep the doors open.
    Barca is an obviously different scale, with different challenges, but the core lessons are similar, I think. Without sound management it will disappear or become irrelevant. ‘Sound management’ will always be difficult to define, and depending on a person’s particular views a board may never meet the standard. But when viewed from 30,000 feet Barca seems to mostly do alright, even when individual characters seem repellant.

  6. pslio
    September 9, 2014

    That is a fine argument isn’t it? “You did so because of money!” State it or imply it, and instantly the disoriented onlookers found a moral compass to judge, in favor of the side that presented this argument of course, if the said onlookers had any self respect. Iniesta being difficult about his contract? “He wants more money!” Munir choosing ESP over MOR? “Dspicaple betryal for big money.” And the club not taking a stand on independence? “For fear of losing big sponsor money!” Of course, what other reasons can there be?

    Never mind money as a reason is no inferior than most others. Sure there are love, loyalty, and a few other nobler ones. But why is fame, success, vengence, or making a point that “I’m better / greater / hollier than you!” more acceptable as a motivation or justification?

    Never mind either that nationalism is just a sanctified racism, and a few martyrs away from religious fanaticism. Criteria of division may be different, but the underlying logic remains the same. But this is a debate for another day.

    But back to the club not taking a stance — can the club, or the board in this instance, have nobler reasons than money? Can they possibly want to keep, not just the sponsors, but players and supporters, happy, or at least not offended? When the club cut under performing local players more slacks; when they begrudge African kids La Masia spaces; when they make it nearly impossible for international supporters to become socios, not to mention the club president’s running platform… I often wondered, even if millions of fans’ (excuse me, bandwaggoners’) feelings could be ignored, how did Messi or Iniesta feel? Dani Alves may not care as he’s a hired help either way. When Bartomeu told NYT that Messi was the identity of the club, I am sure he didn’t mean his nationality.

    Catalunya has a national team, with Catalan players, and presumably getting support from Catalan citizens only. That is the more appropriate stage for expressions of Catalan nationalism. Leave Barça alone.

  7. BA
    September 9, 2014

    “Catalunya has a national team, with Catalan players, and presumably getting support from Catalan citizens only. That is the more appropriate stage for expressions of Catalan nationalism. Leave Barça alone.”

    a neat and tidy sentiment; however it also has a wholesale disregard for the history and culture of the club.

    • ciaran
      September 9, 2014

      True, and the Catalan national team serves little to no purpose in real world terms, being unable to compete in anything at all.

      • September 9, 2014

        Then Barça shouldn’t drape itself in the Senyera as a Catalan institution, shout “visca Barça y visca Catalunya,” which in effect links the team to the (correct nomenclature) autonomous region. As I say above, you can’t lay claim to that stuff then stand back and say “Oh, but we’re neutral.” Because you have, however implicitly, already taken a stand.

        Barça is a Catalan institution. The club takes every pain to position itself that way. So what would be wrong with speaking out in support of a people’s right to choose? Who could that possibly offend? Person number 12,243 on the season ticket wait list? Some Catalan who doesn’t think much of the independence movement? How much can the club really care about any of them? Sponsors? That is an educated guess/bit of speculation that yes, has money at its core. Nothing wrong with looking for money, but at some point to you have to call it what it is.

        If Barça is just another business based in Catalonia, fine. Stop with the Senyera on the shirts and all the other trappings, and truly step aside. As long as it straddles the fence, people are going to rightly ask questions.

        • September 10, 2014

          I think it’s important to note that the Senyera, the Catalan flag that features a blue triangle and a white star, represents the wish for independence. Barça simply has the colors of the Catalan flag on its shirt and not the Senyera. I also think that the act of screaming “visca Catalunya” does not necessarily mean “volem independència.”

          I do agree that Barça could advocate people’s right to choose but make no mistake, the club would cause a shit storm by taking that stand.

          My personal opinion is that people should definitely be allowed to vote, but independence should only be granted if a large majority wants it, say 75%. To make such a drastic and irrevocable change because of a 51% vs 49% vote is wrong. I’ll also say that in my neighborhood there are a lot of people wearing Barça shirts, but there are hardly any Senyeras hanging from the windows.

          • September 10, 2014

            There are actually different variants of the Senyera. The independence-themed flag is but one.

          • September 10, 2014

            the “estalada” is different from the senyera. the blue estalada was the original flag of the 20th century catalan independence movement (the one during the war), however the red estalada came about IIRC in the 70’s. in this case, red signifies a marxist state post-independence with blue signifying a democratic one.

            the senyera is the old catalan flag (i.e. historic), as well as the flag of the generalitat. so yes, Levon is partially correct. that being said, displaying a senyera outside of the basque country, valencia, the balearic islands, and, of course, catalunya, can create problems. this is from my own personal experience.

          • September 10, 2014

            Thanks for that, deerwithwings. I have always believed them all to technically be the senyera, with the “estalada” and its variants as annexes, so to speak, with their own political significance.

            Which, I reckon, is technically correct as well.

  8. dl
    September 9, 2014

    BA said: “a neat and tidy sentiment; however it also has a wholesale disregard for the history and culture of the club” regarding whether barca represents Catalunya or not….

    Sid Lowe’s recent book on the Madrid-Barca rivalry revealed a lot about how much of what we think of as barca’s history is a fantasy. The ‘real’ history, the facts, was much messier than the popular image. ‘Good’ guys and ‘bad’ guys were not so obvious; but that is generally the case with life in general, no?

  9. September 10, 2014

    Also, it’s official: Saturday the 25th for the first Classic, and as the Suarez ban ends on Friday, he will be clear to play. Can’t see him starting, but can’t imagine he won’t get some time.

    — Mathieu is pranged, and didn’t train today (ankle). No word on when he’s back, but it doesn’t sound serious.

    — Bravo bailed on that second Chile friendly to get back for training. Amazing what competition, REAL competition does, isn’t it? Pique wanted to stay and focus on the club. Other players rushed back from international duty, as well. Everybody wants to be on the train before it leaves the station. I like that.

  10. September 10, 2014

    great article/conversation. i have said before, that this space deals with barça and catalunya better than any other of the internet apart from sid lowe and graham hunter. i think catalanism is an important aspect of the club, but i do think it is worth distinguishing between being a catalan person (i.e. voter), and some, in the case of the board, who works for a company. in other words, i think members and employees of the club out to be able to split their political and work lives. i understand what kxevin is arguing, and i think it is a very thoughtful, but i have to disagree. it may may make it easier for us to understand their motivations if they publicly state their political views, but it would also complicate the issue for the people who work/play at fcbarcelona.

    many people in catalunya want independence and many do not, and i think it is important to respect their personal preferences. there is a lot of pressure, at least in my experience, when you live in catalunya to be pro-independence, and not all of it is good.

    though kxevin and others (myself included) may bemoan the fact that barça™ has become a business in catalunya, i think it is important to understand that this goes hand in hand with pretty much everything in what many scholars call post-capitalism, or the current epoch after the fall of the soviet union. i won’t get into it much here (frederic jameson has a great book about the issue) but the essential argument is that we have entered an economic age wherein everything has become commodified. obviously, sporting institutions have always needed money to continue, but i think one would find it hard to argue with the opinion that spending as well as the rise of branding (a fine example is the rise of branding as a legitimizer of an event, e.g., the tostidos bowl), has increased considerably since the 1990’s.

    from a strategic perspective (theirs), i think it makes more since for the club to continue as it has been. barça provides catalunya which a ton of press and creates scenarios such as this one, where people from all over debate/discuss catalanism.

    anyway, keep up the good work.

    @jim, i am very interested in your perspective on the debate. what’s it like in scotland these days?

    • September 10, 2014

      Excellent comment, deerwithwings, and thanks for the kind words. The political/boardroom side of things isn’t as sexy or popular as player comings, goings and evaluations, but I think it is every bit as important as we discuss this club.

      For me, even as I acknowledge the belief so many have that being in favor of the right to choose is a synonym for being pro, I don’t believe the club should come down as pro or anti Indy as much as say it supports a people’s right to choose.

      Perhaps it is that semantic complexity that keeps things on the fence. For example, the club will have a banner at the Athletic Club match, commemorating the 300th anniversary of Catalunya’s defeat in the War of Succession, but a few days after the Sept. 11 rally. Why?

      Further, are these gestures in and of themselves politicizing? And why not just say “Visca Barça” at trophy celebrations, etc? It just strikes me that the club is trying to have it both ways, even as I understand (as stated above) exactly what you’re saying.

      P.S. I haven’t been “down” about the space in a very long time, though the next time that happens, I will be able to use yours, among the many comments, to help me understand BFB’s value. So thank you.

      • September 10, 2014

        oh, yeah, i totally agree with that sentiment. it’s such a complicated issue. my wife (who is catalan) and i are constantly shifting our own opinions on the matter. one the one hand, catalunya has suffered several different bouts of violence and bigotry from the conservative governments in spain (be it carlistas or from franco). on the other hand however, in a world where multi-national corporations rule, what does it really do to change a border. furthermore, who is being manipulated. i guess, from this question follows yours, i.e., “please barça, don’t take me for a ride pretending to be catalan as a way or garnering political favor” (obviously not your quote). this is probably what i respect most about your post.

        after living there for some years, i was pretty dumbfounded at the essential trust many catalans have in the idea of a catalan government. in my mind, no government is particularly trustworthy.

        that being said, i can see their point. the crisis in particularly has changed my opinion. if catalans were in charge of their own budget, they would probably do a better job. at the very least, they deserve a right to vote. but the spanish government maintains that any vote is unconstitutional and thus, they will not allow it. what is obvious to me, is that the E.U. does not want the partition (probably because it would destroy spain). the E.U., does not even recognize catalan (with over 10 million native speakers) but they do danish (>7 million) & gaelic (ciaran can give some sort of figure better than me).

        again, this is a personal issue for me. if catalunya becomes independent then my european status changes. perhaps they won’t join the E.U. for example, and i loose the ability to stay in other E.U. countries for longer periods of time (as well as apply to work in said countries). the same goes for the thousands of catalans abroad. i don’t know how i might vote (which i cannot), but i do maintain the right for catalans to vote. strange how pro-democratic countries like the US and the EU do not get involved.

        thank you for your replies. i do enjoy this space a lot. most sporting pages are filled with the basest commentary. this is such a refreshing difference.

        • dl
          September 10, 2014

          Very nice discussion. Mods and everyone I appreciate the site.

          The move in Scotland towards independence is perhaps relevant to this discussion — it has been pointed out by Paul Krugman (Nobel winning economist) that without control over fiscal policy (without a currency of one’s own), ‘independence’ has very big downsides that are often not immediately apparent. He uses the experience of Greece and Spain within the EU during the latest depression as a cautionary tale (had they not been tied to the Euro, they could have done much more to spur growth). It is easy to vote for independence but the details of creating a monetary system are not so simple, and without that many economic challenges are difficult to overcome. How many in Catalunya have thought hard about this, I wonder?

          Regarding the role/responsibility/etc. of FCB as an institution to speak out officially one way or the other, the (presently much more conservative) U.S. Supreme Court has in the past years issued a number of very controversial rulings that give greatly expanded ‘personhood’ rights to corporations here, and the discussion of whether FCB should ‘speak up’ is in my view similar. One effect of the ‘personhood’ rulings is that corporations can donate money to political causes more or less with impunity, or at least with far fewer constraints. As you might imagine, the people/interest who are happiest about this are the ones who already have a lot of money. Speaking for myself, I am doubtful that their interests and mine overlap much.

          This isn’t an original observation, but it often happens that fans have a near religious devotion their teams, and that soccer in general (outside the U.S.) is the closest thing to a world-wide religion. I don’t intend to claim that the U.S. system as the best solution, but we have found that strict separations between church and state are useful. Historically that has not been a common system, and in Europe at any rate there have been quite a few very nasty wars that might have been avoided had similar ‘walls’ been in place.

          This is a long-winded way of saying 1) FCB speaking as an organization is perhaps a very slippery slope, and 2) the link between soccer and ‘anything’ else should be handled with great care.

        • ciaran
          September 10, 2014

          Gaelic isn’t spoken by very many (natively by maybe 5% of the country) but the issue is that it is still the official language of Ireland so it has to be recognised by the EU.

          Catalunya deserves the right to vote for itself but as I think Levon said, it sure require a large majority for independence to pass due to the profound change it would have on Catalans everywhere.
          Obviously EU status, Eurozone status and all of the hundreds of economic questions would have to be answered before someone could make an educated decision. I suppose, for those countries who became independent before the formation of the EU it was a much easier decision.
          As an Irishman I’m very glad that we have independence from the UK, at least down south so I fully understand Catalans (and Scots) desire for the same.

    • September 10, 2014

      Scotland’s upcoming vote (just a week after the catalan 11/9) is indeed a salient issue for this discussion. I am just basing this on memory, but from my understanding Scotland has had it’s own bank for some time. in fact, going back to maybe 2005, i have had many catalan friends tell me that they would be happy with the sort of autonomy scotland (or even the basque country within spain) has within the UK. i won’t pretend to have any understanding of the situation in scotland apart from what i read in the guardian(which has its own biases), but i do wonder about the economic ramifications. with catalunya however, we have one of the richer comunidades that wants more jurisdiction over their own finances, and they have a point.

      as for football as religion, i get your point, but i would reduce it one step further and call it an identifier, or, an way of creating identity within the individual. religion and nationalism operate in a similar fashion, and as jim & ciaran were talking about earlier, this was/is part of certain fan bases.

      also, i have nothing against gaelic, but it’s a hard sell to some catalans that the E.U. translates all documents into every recognized language, which, of course, includes gaelic, but will not translate into catalan. i think it’s these types of snubs that help inflame the atmosphere of victimization in catalunya.

      • September 10, 2014

        i should add that this isn’t the fault of the irish at all! i just mean that it’s an example that pops up in barcelona as a way of documenting madrid’s influence in the EU.

        • dl
          September 10, 2014

          Another thought on whether a vote in Catalunya on independence is legal (according to Spanish government, it is not), that is a case to be decided by Spanish constitutional scholars/judges. I don’t know anything about Spain’s constitution, but it may very well be illegal. In other words, the only way to secede may be that the entire country agrees on it (for example), rather than just a majority of the one state or province in question.

        • ciaran
          September 10, 2014

          Oh, don’t worry I’m not offended in any way. The Irish language is there for show and little else. I used to be fairly fluent in it when I was younger but a lack of practice has put pay to that.
          At this stage the language is used on signs and that’s about it. I would much prefer if it was spoken by everyone but sadly it’s not the case.

          For there to be so many Catalans with their own language and it not to be recognised is unsure but if they were to eventually get their independence it would surely be added. There are numerous other languages in Spain too, albeit with less native speakers than Catalan, so it is understandable that they are not all official.

          • dl
            September 10, 2014

            It is really a tragedy when languages (and cultures and species) disappear. They are all unique expressions of some aspect of the universe, and when they are gone, they are gone forever. I’ve got three under my belt, and I enjoy them all very much. In school I studied some linguistics and many of the languages we studied were native american ones. Some of the world views represented by those languages were mind-boggling. One of the southwestern ones had no verb tense, for example. What stood in its place was how true the statement was — for example ‘I am completely 100% certain that xyz’ implied you had done it or seen it, ergo past tense….. Try and wrap your head around that one!

          • September 10, 2014

            It’s funny, I remember years and years ago being in Perpignan, and wondering what language some of the street signs in certain parts of town were in. Or Perpinya, as pursuant to this discussion.

        • September 10, 2014

          woah, that’s great dl. if you get a chance, i recommend checking out mcluhan’s study of northern canadian inuit peoples (maybe you’ve read it). lot’s of cool language theory there, even if it’s a bit dated now. many indigenous people have languages based entirely in the gerund. imagine that! no past/present/future, just a continuous now. image how that changes how the mind conceives of space!

          • dl
            September 10, 2014

            deer — very cool indeed. Not to get too metaphysical in a football blog, but the Inuit may be on to something. Does anything ever happen outside of ‘now’? Even the memory of the past or a plan for the future can only happen ‘now’.
            On the topic of the Inuit, one of my all time favorite movies is ‘The Fast Runner’.

          • September 11, 2014

            get as metaphysical as you like =) that’s my jam anyway. i’ve never seen that film, but i’ll check it out.

        • September 10, 2014

          not RBS, that’s a private bank, but the Scots do print their own “money.”

          from wikipedia:

          “While provincial banks in England and Wales lost the right to issue paper currency altogether, the practice of private banknote issue has continued in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The right of Scottish banks to issue notes is popularly attributed to the author Sir Walter Scott, who in 1826 waged a campaign to retain Scottish banknotes under the pseudonym Malachi Malagrowther. Scott feared that the limitation on private banknotes proposed with the Bankers (Scotland) Act 1826 would have adverse economic consequences if enacted in Scotland because gold and silver were scarce and Scottish commerce relied on small notes as the principal medium of circulating money. His action eventually halted the abolition of private banknotes in Scotland.[45]

          Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes are unusual, firstly because they are issued by retail banks, not central banks, and secondly, as they are technically not legal tender anywhere in the UK – not even in Scotland or Northern Ireland – they are in fact promissory notes.[17][46]

          Seven retail banks have the authority of HM Treasury to issue sterling banknotes as currency.[47] Despite this, the notes can be refused at the discretion of recipients in England and Wales, and are often not accepted by banks and exchange bureaus outside of the United Kingdom. This is particularly true in the case of the Royal Bank of Scotland £1 note, which is the only £1 note to remain in circulation within the UK.[48]”

          • September 10, 2014

            There are so many questions yet to be answered, from EU status to FIFA status to what happens as regards the French parts of Catalonia.

            I would hope that smarter people than I have thought this through a lot more thoroughly than I.

    • Jim
      September 11, 2014

      Sorry, I’ve been heading around Scotland enjoying the good weather in the first few weeks of my retirement.

      This referendum is a difficult one for me. To begin with, it is happening because the Labour Party took their heartland vote in Scotland for granted and allowed the Nationalists to gain power in The Scottish parliament. That led to them coming up with the referendum (timed to coincide with a whole summer of great national events – the Commonwealth games, Ryder cup at Gleneagles just a few miles away from me etc.) how they got it past that a bare 50% was enough to break up the UK is beyond me but it happened despite the fact that support for nationalism at that point was maybe 35% at most.

      Our problem in Scotland is that we confuse emotional aspects with rational ones. We HATE the English superior attitude, particularly obvious in football but also the public school / Oxbridge elite who tend to monopolise Government in Westminster. We are very proud of our small country and our history of caring for others and social justice which in UK terms aligns us naturally with the Labour Party.

      However, since the advent of Tony Blair, the least Labour of all Labour politicians we have become confused and the Nationalists have walked into the gap. It used to be pretty much that the only ones espousing independence were the macho elements of the a Tartan army who gain us a great reputation abroad and are genuinely some of the nicest, most caring people you could meet but aren’t particularly strong on economic matters !

      The referendum started off with a solid majority opposing independence but the momentum of two horse races in a country that supports the underdog is that the race will automatically become closer. It’s then just a matter of time till a polling company manage to come up with a poll that says the underdog is winning and it then takes on it’s own momentum.

      For me, separating my love of country from the need to be independent is quite easy but the extra factor now is that some have started believing the nationalist line that there is a fear campaign against independence which is a smart move as it allows you to brush aside anything that happens as just part of that. The major element in the debate has probably been the currency element. Will we keep the pound? The Westminster Parties all aligned and said we wouldn’t be allowed to keep it, the nationalists said you can’t stop us using it and we won’t take our share of the UK debt if you don’t let us and the debate just got stuck there rather than engaging with the thoughts like why would you want to use a currency when the Bank of are gland will be setting the financial levers according to the health of the a English economy rather than ours?

      Now, nobody is really listening open mindedly to the actual arguments and are seeing things in terms of the Better together campaign panicking so we can finish them off, give the Tories a kicking and other mindless lines of argument.

      Even in the last few days as the smart money starts moving out of Scotland and firms manoeuvre to prepare the way to move south it doesn’t affect anything as people have been conditioned to apportion blame for anything on the a better together campaign.

      Probably the strongest argument for me in favour of a Yes vote is that in Scotland, even if we vote for a slightly left of centre party we quite often get the opposite just because of the votes of middle England. However, that’s not enough to get my vote.

      How will it go? My gut feeling is that the Scottish people are sensible to their core and when they go into the booth to vote they will baulking at the uncertainties of independence but who knows.

      Are there any lessons for Catalunya? I would say it’s all very well having marches and feeling good about being against a bigger “evil” power but in the end it comes down to the economy. Ours is based around the uncertainty of oil ( where a £5 billion deficit last year would have wiped out the equivalent of our whole education budget) and the fact that had we been independent during the crash we couldn’t gave intervened to save our banking system. I don’t know how strong the Catalunyan economy is, or would be, next to a very unhappy larger partner but that is the question to be tackled. It seems like there’s a lot more support there for independence than we had at the start of ours but it’s a decision for life not just a chance for a party and give Madrid a bloody nose.

      Sorry, for the length but it’s an interesting time to be a Scot. Btw, our national team is on the up under Strachan, despite the lack of any decent players ! Watch out for us….

      • Jim
        September 11, 2014

        * Bank of England. Nah, too many typing errors to correct but you get the gist. Obviously needing to get back into posting to improve my motor skills 🙂

      • September 11, 2014

        congratulations on the retirement jim.

        this is a great post. i don’t have any scottish friends, but i’ve been there and it is a beautiful place with wonderful people. glasgow is a great place to play a show. anyway, i am really interested in what’s going on over there. it seemed to me, that being part of the UK was really only beneficial (the english even provide you all with a great enemy to make fun of). but i’m not on the ground so i can’t really have any type of informed opinion.

        the scotland debate relates to the catalan one in many ways, but the one that strikes me as the most pertinent is that, lo and behold, nationalism is STILL being abused for political purposes. it’s the same is catalunya, and it’s really hard to trust politicians these days, save a few, e.g., mujica in uruguay.

        catalunya’s economy is different from scotland’s though, and the catalans feel that they pay a disproportionate amount to the central government. the basques, the only other rich comunidad, are not a factor here because they have control over their own finances. in fact, i think many catalans would be happy with this concession alone, but madrid does not want to play ball. they need the money, very much because of massive corruption.

        • dl
          September 11, 2014

          +1 on Mujica… A humble and wise man, and such an unusual combination for a leader.
          There’s been a very interesting thread on the guardian about catalonia’s desire for a vote — actually a couple of articles so I’m no longer sure which one I was reading this morning. Anyhow one of the commentators was someone from Slovenia and had some very good comments on pros/cons. In their case it was an absolute last resort vis a vis Milosevic. Catalonia may be annoyed with Madrid, but there’s no Milosevic in sight. Also noted as Jim above that a small however wealthy country is very much at the mercy of larger ones. Can Catalonia be sure France/Spain and others will play nice? From this distance it sounds like greed, lust for power, and cynical manipulation of passions.

        • Jim
          September 12, 2014

          Thanks for the kind comment. The problem for me is that we don’t know what we don’t know about disentangling ourselves from England. Just the cost of relocating everything (eg.embassies around the world) our own size of Government, the quality of our politicians below the top tier ( Salmond although I detest his manner is sharp enough but I know some of the lower tier ones and they have no vision beyond getting independence. I was listening to a small but Illuminating example on the radio the other day – another delight that I haven’t had time for till now- and they had on a lovely guy who was withering on about the upkeep of our lighthouses ( a quick look at our coastline will tell you that this is a bigger matter than you might think). He explained that at the moment all fees for upkeep around the UK is paid for by Westminster. A fee is charged for all boats docking all over the UK and this is used for the upkeep. However, we have a lot less boats coming into Scottish harbours and a lot more lighthouses to pay for. Result? We are several millions per year down already on a subject I knew nothing about. How often will this be replicated? I am also old enough to remember the country’s move to decimalisation. Overnight it seemed that everything cost more. I have a feeling this will be similar. Supermarkets are already making warning noises about the increased costs of bringing goods up to Scotland.

          Anyway, if it does happen I’ll have to take it upon myself to increase the tourist trade by persuading all the BFBers to pay us a visit ! I’ll take you to see my hometown team and that’ll certainly give you all something to moan about 🙂

          • dl
            September 12, 2014

            Jim: Yes, who would have ever thought the lighthouse budget would bring down the nascent nation of Scotland! I am sure Catalonia would discover no end of ‘lighthouses’ of their own, and really I cannot see either France or Spain bending over backwards to make the new nation’s path easy. Why would they? Where would one draw the line? Alsace? Brittany? French Basque? Corsica?

  11. Inamess
    September 10, 2014

    I haven’t read Fear and Loathing in La Liga yet, but here is an interesting article that covers some of the interesting history of Spanish football as related to Franco’s Spain, Barca, and our Basque opponents this weekend. Part of its message is “football as the opium for the people” even as it helped fuel resistance in Catalonia and the Basque regions.

    The Politics of ‘Futbol’: http://www.historytoday.com/duncan-shaw/politics-futbol

    With Spain’s financial difficulties some of the dynamics might still hold true today as local governments are pumping money into their clubs via sweet sponsorship deals often at the expense of some essential services.

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing some good football with a sprinkle of politics this weekend.

    • September 11, 2014

      Cool article.

      I know a lot of politically active catalans (all leftists) that are pretty anti-football currently. their argument is that if one were to hypothetically consider a situation where spain had not been so successful the past several years, they there would have been a much bigger movement against the government (movements towards privatization &c). I’m not saying they’re right, but it is worth considering.

      Also, the Bilbao/Barça match is a perfect week for this discussion.

  12. dl
    September 11, 2014

    Inamess: interesting read. I didn’t know much of that, especially the difference in fan base for Espanyol. I found the characterization of Catalunya (resolutely middle class) good — I had never been able before to put my finger on it, especially since I haven’t yet visited, but there always seemed to be a stout bourgeois-ness to barca that I had never been able to define. Xavi, Iniesta, Pique all seem somehow like boys next door with very stable families, etc. etc. The fans in the stadium and how they comport themselves. It reminds me very much of Munich and Bavarians, actually. I bet Pep feels a kind of familiarity there.

    • Inamess
      September 11, 2014

      I wonder if the Espanyol matches are going to be particularly intense this year for that reason. Remember the way the Parakeets celebrated their 1-1 draw in 2012 as if they had won the Champions League. It definitely put a dent in our season after the winter break and right after a convincing 3-1 victory at Real that put us back in the hunt.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5QON3sHIUo

  13. September 11, 2014

    Lots of club representation at the march today: Xavi, Pique, Bartomeu, just that people could see. Laporta was also spotted. Not sure how anyone can accurately estimate, but 1.8 million turnout is the number that is being presented.

    Hard to get perspective unless you’ve been to Barcelona and can understand how big this pictured expanse is:

    http://instagram.com/p/s0HJXQPvgC/

  14. September 11, 2014

    The Senyera kit has been approved for use at Sunday’s home match against Athletic Club. Will be the first time in the club’s history that it will be playing at home in the Senyera. Couple that with the commemorative banner, and you’d almost think the club wanted to take a clear position on the matter of a country’s right to choose …

  15. Fabian4Barca
    September 12, 2014

    I feel that I have neither sufficient knowledge about the topic nor the English language skills to participate in this discussion in a satisfactory manner.

    But I just wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate such posts and the comments that follow. This is so different from the ordinary fan culture that I usually encounter in my country. Before BFB (or its antecessor blog respectively), I had no idea that there are so many interesting aspects about a football club apart from the games and transfers. Truly enlightening.

    And even though the beautiful football and a couple of fascinating personalities in our roster already made me a supporter for life, I just love to read about things that billionaire’s toy clubs do not have.

    • September 12, 2014

      I fully agree. It’s what hooked me at The Offside and continues to hook me now. The quality of discussion in this space, thanks to the people who visit, is unlike any space I have visited. It’s also much appreciated.

      Thanks for your kind words.

    • dl
      September 12, 2014

      Fabian4Barca (and all others whose native language is other than English): Don’t let the language get in the way! You may have something very valuable to add, and it may also be expressed in a way I’ve never thought of!

  16. September 12, 2014

    Tomorrow’s match really will be extraordinary, pursuant to this discussion, on so many levels.

    Barça will be wearing an “away” strip, and you can certain not need to look very hard for psychological significance of wearing away strip for a home match in the context of many feeling that Spain isn’t their country. Fascinating.

    Athletic Club will also be wearing an away kit that pays tribute to their flag, the Ikurrinya.

    Should be quite a day, one that I will have to catch up with, as I am covering a music festival all weekend.

    — Guardiola said yesterday that all “we” want is the chance to vote. It’s interesting that he has never said whether he is pro or anti Independence, even though he has said that Catalonia is his country.

    — Enrique says there will be a full squad for tomorrow’s match, except for Suarez. I can’t remember a time that this club started a match with every player available, with nobody knocked, pranged or experiencing “discomfort.”

    • ciaran
      September 12, 2014

      I’m looking forward to a fit Neymar getting a good run of matches under his belt. I’ve a feeling that he’s going to have an incredible year. I don’t know who the third man in our forward line will be, I assume Pedro but I’ve lost all confidence in him at present. I would probably pick Rafinha as I feel that Munir shouldn’t get too many starts this early in his career.

  17. Peter
    September 12, 2014

    First, let me start by saying that I´m not Catalan and neither am I Spanish. I am a culé, Barcelona became my club when they decided to sign a hot-tempered, foul-mouthed wing from beyond the Iron curtain. As such, my view is shaped by those conditions.

    There was a time when the only way to be able to speak Catalan was at the stadium, be it Les Corts or Camp Nou. Back then this was the only relatively safe way to show Catalan identity and protest discreetly against the dictatorship and central authority. However this is no longer the case. People don’t get arrested for speaking Catalan or for showing the flag of Catalunya of old. Every time the clock ticks 17:14 there are people in Gol Nord who start shouting “Independencia!”. Last Clasico they unfurled an enormous Senyera. But they aren´t the only people at Camp Nou. There are lots of people in the stands who don’t shout. They aren’t any less Catalans. They aren´t less culers. Being Catalan doesn’t mean being a culé(just ask the lost souls at Cornelia-El Prat).

    Second, Barcelona is and will continue to be a Catalan institution. I have to disagree with those who say that Barcelona is a business based in Catalunya. If it were, Barcelona wouldn´t be wasting millions(the often quoted figures speak of close to 30 million Euro every year) on profitless teams like basketball, futsal, handball, roller hockey, ice hockey, volleyball, rugby, athletics, figure skating, etc. Barcelona wouldn’t be taking money from the money-generating football team and giving it to the rest of the sections if it were just a business based in Catalunya. It also wouldn’t be spending 90 million on a new indoor arena and god knows how much on an ice rink and an auditorium. So, to put it shortly, FC Barcelona is and will remain a Catalan institution. However, one very important distinction must be made. Catalan does not equal Independista. Catalunya and its people, as well as Spain as a whole(if you ask Spanish Central government; madridistas disagree) have to decide for themselves. Barcelona belongs to its socis and its penyes and fans around the world. As Catalunya decides, Barcelona would have to follow.

    I find it a bit ironic that the same people who cry Independencia then insist on Barcelona taking a stand – presumably FOR the Independence. Why? What about, you know, independence? Barcelona does not belong to the independence movement. It belongs to the socis, and just as there are socis independistas there are some who don’t want independence, others who are interested in football and don’t mix it with politics, and some don’t give a damn about politics. Nobody has the right to demand that Barcelona chooses one or the other. Even so… Even so, there are lots of people, both in Catalunya and outside, who would gladly sacrifice Barcelona on the altar of independence – and there are those who would gladly sacrifice Barcelona in order to stifle the independence. When you read the comments sections of Catalan media, there are already voices that say that Barcelona is one great obstacle in the way of the independence. No, it’s not and it shouldn’t be. Most of the people who staff Barcelona are pro-independence, but they are so outside of the pitch. Why? Because sport and politics don’t mix. Once those employees are inside the premises, be they president, director, pitch maintenance crew or person-in-charge-of-dealing-with-the-dirty-socks, those men and women are there to help Futbol Club Barcelona. Not the “Independencia”, “Status Quo(tm)” or “Our Qatari Overlords”. Futbol Club Barcelona. Politics stay out of the pitch. Remember that.

    Politics stay out of the pitch.

    • September 12, 2014

      Actually, those “people,” if I can presume, as the author that I am the one being singled out in your comment, are saying that yes, we (royal “we,” or I) think that it is time for the club to get off the fence.

      I (eschewing the royal “we”) believe that it is impossible for a club with the political background of FC Barcelona to keep politics off the pitch. Politics is part of the club’s history and soul. And as I note in the post above, and go into further depth in a comment, if the club doesn’t want politics on the pitch, then it shouldn’t wrap itself in political trappings.

      Yet on Saturday it will be playing in a Senyera kit, and will feature a banner in commemoration of the very thing (in part) that was also being honored in that immense event that took place on Thursday. Easy enough to play in the regular home kits and forego the banners, particularly at such a charged time when those two actions could very clearly be construed as being pro something or other. If the club belongs to the socis, it certainly didn’t ask them how they feel about such a pair of gestures.

      And “people” are saying that the club is becoming, rather than IS a business based in Catalonia. I reiterate that thought above. I respect everyone’s views on this matter, and wish that mine could be respected without being attacked.

      Nobody is suggesting that being Catalan means being pro. As with any matter such as this, there are different sides. Jim’s comment was quite eloquent in dissecting the complexities of the Scotland situation, one that is being watched by many, many people in Spain as well as that autonomous region called Catalunya.

      I take great pains to make it very clear that being pro-choice DOES NOT IN FACT mean being pro-independence. The #volemvotar hashtag popped up and grew because some people simply want to be able to vote. That a great majority of those people who are pro-choice are also pro-independence doesn’t alter the fact that the two positions are in fact separate and distinct.

      Spending millions of dollars on the other sporting programs doesn’t make Barça any more or less Catalan. Someone has made the decision that to be more than a football club, it is important that these other sports be allowed to continue and supported. That’s fine.

      If Barça as an institution wants to straddle the fence, that is certainly its right. But it is also my right to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it is time for that institution to get off the fence. We should remember that, as well.

  18. barca96
    September 13, 2014

    I just found out about the squad for today’s match and Bartra isn’t even in the squad. Lucho has been excellent so far with the youngsters except when it comes to Bartra. He never set any foot wrong when given a chance. What more does he need to do?

    • barca96
      September 13, 2014

      If I was the kid, this will be my last season if the situation continues like this. Even Madrid who are not known to play youngsters give Varane more chances than we do to Bartra and Bartra is older.

    • kosby
      September 13, 2014

      He is consistently not being considered first choice by a lot of coaches – Vilanova, Martino and now Enrique. Sadly I dont understand a lot of intricacies of playing defense but maybe all of them see something thats keeping it out.

      • agar2515
        September 13, 2014

        Exactly, I posted this earlier ( not sure why it didn’t show up) that it sure seems silly when some people began decrying buying new CB’s because it would somehow hurt Marc’s growth. There’s something to this him not being wholly trusted by coach after coach…

  19. ciaran
    September 13, 2014

    Lineup:
    Bravo
    Montoya Masch Mathieu Alba
    Rakitic Busquets Iniesta
    Pedro Messi Munir

    • Ryan
      September 13, 2014

      There’s Munir yet again. Hopefully he does well, but I also hope he doesn’t get played too much too quickly this season.

      And there’s the kickoff!

  20. ciaran
    September 13, 2014

    Once again, Mascherano very lucky not to give away a penalty for holding Aduriz.
    He gets away with it but every match there are situations similar. Hopefully that’s his error for this match.

  21. ilie
    September 13, 2014

    Mathieu’s anticipation on Muniain’s run was amazing

  22. ciaran
    September 13, 2014

    For a split second it looked like Neymar had delayed too long but that was a really nice goal. Nice run, perfect pass and a cool finish.

  23. ciaran
    September 13, 2014

    Messi held the ball way too long, should have been 2-0

  24. ciaran
    September 13, 2014

    Now that was brilliant. Great play between Busquets and Rakitic then a really great run from Messi, followed by another really calm finish from Neymar. Those two are going to be phenomenal this season.

  25. Ryan
    September 13, 2014

    Good, hard fought win. Busi and Rakitic in midfield really gives us protection. No surprise that Neymar changed the game – I can’t wait to see how the Messi-Neymar partnership develops this season!

  26. ilie
    September 13, 2014

    We also haven’t allowed a goal yet

    • Ryan
      September 13, 2014

      And it was after the FIFA break, which is traditionally when we drop points!

  27. TITO
    September 13, 2014

    The only negative thing that i can draw from the match and the season so far is Pedro.
    Everything else was great.

    • Spiza7
      September 13, 2014

      I Disagree. Hard work gets you in the starting line-up. Minutes before he was going to be subbed off he was still running from halfway to pressure Bilbao’s keeper.

      • Davour
        September 13, 2014

        Yes, definitely a step forward for Pedro compared to the last game he played. He’s lacking some edge, but then again, he is 4th or 5th in the pecking order now (when Suarez is ready). Good enough for a back-up, I reckon.

        And a great game, to my mind. Some wonderful sequences where the passing really clicked. Also, the variation between more direct plays toward a front man (preparing for Suarez arrival, no doubt) and Messi’s runs from deep in the pitch, and adding the good old fashioned possession… could be a fun ride, this. Mathieu also did really well; obvious improvement from last game, where he was a little shaky. Shows character and purpose.

        • TITO
          September 13, 2014

          That’s the thing. Until a season or two he was a safe starter in our line-up, and now we are considering him as good enough back-up.
          Yes, he runs a lot, but he isn’t a threat to opponents. That’s the worrying thing for me.

          • ciaran
            September 13, 2014

            Pedro is a worker and nothing more. When he plays with Spain he has confidence, scores goals, makes runs and is important for his team for not just his defensive contribution.
            For us, he never gets in good positions, always ALWAYS plays the ball backwards and never takes a player on. It’s really disappointing.
            A winger with absolutely no confidence might as well be a ball boy. He needs a move in my opinion. With the right team he could be a really dangerous footballer but now he is getting passed out by a bunch of 19yr olds.
            Munir looked dangerous on tons of occasions and with time he could be a very good player. Sandro has very good workrate and he is a goal threat.
            On top of that Neymar is looking imperious and a certain Mr Suarez is only weeks away from putting on the jersey for real.

          • September 13, 2014

            I totally agree with Tito and Ciaran here. I like Pedro a lot, but I am kind of hoping we get rid of him next season to make room for Munir/Sandro and perhaps Deulofeu.

  28. Dar_vincy
    September 13, 2014

    @barcastuff Luis Enrique: “Messi is not only the best player in the world for the goals he scores, but also for the assists he gives.”

    Priceless line.

  29. georgjorge
    September 13, 2014

    Wow, what a game! One of the best I’ve watched from Barca over the last years. Creative in offense, solid in defense, relentless in pressing…all against a Champions League team, a team that defended very well and was dangerous in occasional counterattacks. Very happy to see the team hungry for success and clicking well, and can’t wait until Neymar can go for the full ninety again.

  30. September 13, 2014

    Great match. Messi and Neymar are combining really well this season. Cruyff might have to make a retraction of certain earlier commentary.

    It hasn’t been this fun to watch Barça play since Pep. I don’t know why Bartra isn’t playing either, but on the bright side, Montoya got a full match in and played great. Munir showed well. Pedro works hard and is a great squad player, but he really hasn’t found his scoring boots since 2011/12.

    And, our midfield kills it right now for so many reasons.

    And, I loved the canal+ snip it of Suarez watching the game with such emotion. I really can’t wait till he’s on the field.

    Anyway, that was a solid win against a very very good Bilbao team. Last year, when we hadn’t scored before the 70″, I assumed a draw was inevitable. This year however….

  31. ciaran
    September 14, 2014

    Watching a football match when you know the final score is always easy and lets you analyse a lot more than get involved. Anyhoo, I am just finished watching the Real v Atletico match from last night. There’s lots of interesting thoughts to come from it.

    It was yet another disjointed match from EE; the wrong formation, the wrong players, the wrong transfers. Everything seems wrong for them. Ancellotti spent the first half of last year trying to play 4-2-3-1, unsuccessfully, but then switched to 4-3-3 and everything improved. By the end of the season they had won their decima and looked more balanced and dangerous than over the past few seasons. Fast forward a couple of months and he seems to have forgotten every lesson that his first season taught him. They are back to 4-2-3-1 with players even worse suited to it than last season.
    Kroos and Modric are practically the same player. Both have virtually the exact same strengths and weaknesses and tactically they seem incompatible. James is a downgrade on Di Maria in every aspect but marketing. They are seriously missing the tactical knowledge of Alonso. Their frontline doesn’t work hard enough and Benzema isn’t good enough. Bale and Ronaldo are great athletes but too similar again.
    Ancellotti clearly felt that Diego Lopez is better than Casillas last season. Keylor Navas, after a great season and, perhaps more importantly, a good world cup was signed for €15million and Diego Lopez was paid out his contract and sent packing on a free transfer. Now Casillas is the no.1 so it seems that they’ve spent upwards to €15million to downgrade from Diego Lopez to Casillas.

    Atletico, by contrast, lost some of their most important players by need rather than want. Courtois went back to Chelsea who threw a bucketload of cash at Atletico for star forward Diego Costa and Filipe Luis. Instead of letting that get them down, they spent quick and fast and got themselves an even better squad than last year. They used the Costa cash to sign both Mandzukic and Griezmann and replaced Filipe & Courtois with Siqueira & Moya. They also added some extra padding with Jimenez, Ansaldi and Oblak.
    They have kept the same core, are playing the same football and getting the same types of results.

    Atletico bullied Real last night. They outfought them, over powered them and always seemed to control Real. The funniest stat so far this season is that Real Madrid have the worst defense in La Liga after 3 matches.

    • Gekko64
      September 14, 2014

      “[…]Real Madrid have the worst defense in La Liga after 3 matches.”

      Not unsurprisingly, since they’re playing without a DMF. If Ancelotti is wise he’ll bench James and play Khedira instead…

      • barca96
        September 14, 2014

        Khedira just underwent an operation a few days ago. He’ll be out for a couple of weeks so they only have Illaramendi who’s rotting over there. Well same can be said about our own Bartra.

        • ciaran
          September 14, 2014

          There’s a few differences. Firstly, they spent €30m on Illarra and he’s not getting a game. Secondly, they have no one else to play his position whereas we are actually quite deep at centreback.

          I’d love for Bartra to be getting more game time but I suppose he’s not proving himself in training

  32. September 14, 2014

    Mathieu was brilliant yesterday. And people can hate on Neymar all they like, but he was a decisive player last season, and is proving to be a decisive player this season. The Messi assists were spectacular, but it is also worth noting that Neymar created the conditions that made those plays possible.

    The thing about him is that if you look at how Athletic were playing Munir, as with Tello they didn’t really worry about him until he got the ball. And because he is a forward of a different type than Neymar, he will damage you with movement and the way he uses space and finishes, but he isn’t going to get the ball in a space that unbalances the defense.

    (This, aside from the fact that Munir should have had a goal and at least one penalty.)

    But a team has to account for Neymar all the time, because even if he gets the ball around midfield, he’s one of those “Oh, shit …” players. So for yet another match, his entry sped up play and created playing space for Messi. His two finishes were also not as easy as he made them look.

    Neymar will always have the burden of being Rosell’s Bauble, and the attendant legal examination that continues, even as Bartomeu and Faus have been exempted from the case. But if you look at the player and what he does as well as how he does it, it was a hell of a deal at 57m.

    — Discipline is the main trait of this Enrique side so far. The team has match control again, but in a way different than the tika-taka sides. It takes the ball and keeps it, switching play so that someone almost always has the ball in relatively unmolested space. Strikes me that the team is using more long diagonals to create space, movement and imbalance. That’s all good.

    — Montoya had a good match, and Alba’s discipline (that word again) this season is impressing very much.

    • Jim
      September 14, 2014

      I’m not sure where you’re seeing all the Neymar hate, Kxevin. I don’t think there was that much even last year, at least not here, maybe apart from the hoohah surrounding the amount. There’s still a lot more to come from him as well. I’m looking forward to his link up with Alba who is maturing game by game. My only quibble is that he’s still not using his speed in offence. Quite often when he gets the ball on the left wing there is a lot of space behind the FB who is ambling across because he knows Alba will usually play it back. I’d like to see him hit it into space ahead of him with his first touch and blast down the wing occasionally.

      Enjoyed the game. The close up on Messi’s feet as he went on the run for the second was unbelievable. Pressing is good and we’re keeping a pretty high backline. Only works if the CBs are aware enough to cover for each other though. I’ll be interested to see the CL lineup midweek.

      • Jim
        September 14, 2014

        Sorry, talking about Alba and speed, not Neymar.

      • September 14, 2014

        I think the Neymar-hate is more prevalent in Barcelona, Jim. Plenty of people here are saying Neymar needs to seriously step up this season if he doesn’t want to turn our like another Robinho, a lazy and inaccurate description if ever there was one because so far in his young career Neymar has outshone his Santos idol in goals, assists and attitude.

  33. barca96
    September 14, 2014

    Lee Seung-Woo scored a brace against arch enemy Japan.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObQ3SGrJJ00

    1st goal was all the guy who did the elastico. I wonder what his name is. Didn’t really like Seung Woo’s celebration tbf.
    2nd one was all his goal though, Messi style.

    • G6O
      September 14, 2014

      That wasn’t exactly an elastico (barely any amplitude) but the solo goal was really really impressive. Hopefully they will get his situation fixed soon and he will be able to play, there really hasn’t been such a promising player in the youth system since Messi himself.

  34. barca96
    September 14, 2014

    Hopefull Montoya will get to start more matches this season. He has proved once again that he can be a 1st team player. Now if only Lucho can give Bartra a chance, it’ll be A+ for me so far.

    • Jim
      September 14, 2014

      Still has to work on delivery for me if he wants to hold down a space but he deserves some time before judging him.

      • September 14, 2014

        Working on delivery sounds like a euphemism. The kid is like our attack’s black hole, I which any ball that gets too close just gets sucked into to forever disappear. If at least he’d compensate for his lack offensive skills with some jaw-dropping defense, but I just don’t see it.

    • stefan2k
      September 14, 2014

      His more conservative style enables Alba to run up and down all game long which is nice. Nevertheless it also weakens our right side which was missing Danis coolness and buildup play at times (especially in the first half). At the moment I’d still prefer an experienced and highly motivated Alves over Monty

    • bhed
      September 14, 2014

      We must be watching different games – he’s poor in defense and poor on offense. This summer I was talking with a guy from Madrid, with the Barca crest tattooed on his leg (talk about putting your money where your mouth is!), and he agreed – Montoya would be a decent second stringer for a mid-table team, or maybe a starter for a bottom-table team, but is nowhere near good enough to be playing for Barca. It gives me no joy to say this, but I guarantee we will suffer for not having upgraded the right back position this summer.

      Still, he looked better than Pedro…

      • norden
        September 15, 2014

        If I remember, Barca bought a RB this summer. Maybe he will be an upgrade, but it’s hard to say without seeing him play.

        • bhed
          September 15, 2014

          Oh yeah, the Brazilian kid. I forgot about him. Well, if he can seriously challenge for the position, I’ll gladly retract my original statement.

  35. Jim
    September 14, 2014

    Ok, QPR are defending like a Sunday league team but this United side will be a danger by next year. A whole lot of very good players now and capable of moving the ball very quickly. Maybe still need a hard figure in midfield for the EPL ?

  36. KEVINO17
    September 15, 2014

    I see that Alexis is off and running with Arsenal (with a spectacular goal on the weekend). Arsenal has a lot of attacking weapons this year (particularly if Ramsey comes back soon). The big question will be defence. But if Diaby is over his injury problems (big if) they could be quite formidable.

    Wilshere giving a good example of how to be “strong on the ball”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIHaIIx0f48

    • mom4
      September 15, 2014

      It was a spectacular goal celebration! The goal was great, too! 😀

      • mom4
        September 15, 2014

        That being said, four yellows from now that goal celebration is gonna come back to bite him!

        • Nav
          September 15, 2014

          Never got the point of these shirtless celebrations… the yellows just don’t seem worth it.

          • KEVINO17
            September 16, 2014

            Very interesting this desire, after scoring a big goal, to get primal and throw off clothes. Dr Freud, your 3 o’clock is here!

  37. September 15, 2014

    So apparently match fitness is a question for Vermaelen, and overall fitness for Douglas. There are a couple of easier Liga fixtures that would have been tailor-made for their team debuts, were they both sufficiently fit.

    Plenty of time, I reckon.

  38. Jim
    September 16, 2014

    Great presser from Pique ( Barcastuff)

    Pique: “I can improve a lot of things, you’ll know that if you read the papers… (smiles) I try to give my all and to do the best I can.”

    Guy has a brain. Wonder what is wrong with his hip? It has been a while now.

    • Sangoku
      September 16, 2014

      His hips are apparently too upright……….

    • BA
      September 16, 2014

      whatever is wrong with his hips, with that wife at home i’m sure they don’t lie.

  39. September 16, 2014

    Lots going on in the world today:

    — Vermaelen should get the green light for this weekend, and Douglas is available, according to Sport and Enrique at his presser.

    — Enrique reiterated that the team attacks AND defends with 11. You need only watch Messi setting an example to understand that. He also pointed out that one of the goals came from Sandro applying high, early pressure. Yup.

    — Pique also gave good presser, speaking out against clickbait headlines, saying that his hip still isn’t 100 percent but he can play “normally,” and coming out in support of Catalans’ right to vote (which, of course, will be construed as being pro-Indy.)

    He also said that he spoke to Bartra about things, but would not reveal what they discussed.

    — In the ongoing action by the current board against Laporta and his board, it can best be summed up by “Don’t know, ask Faus.” And apparently the penalties for perjury in Spain aren’t at all significant as Rosell said that he doesn’t have any animosity toward Laporta.

    — The club has an official Vine account.

  40. September 16, 2014

    This video and analysis from Gary Neville explains perfectly what the problems were with Fabregas at Barça:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjP9KVWA91U

    The Chelsea system can manage them more effectively than ours can, and the presence of Rakitic would have made those sins easier to deal with. Anyhow, 3 minutes of top-class breakdown.

    • September 16, 2014

      I totally agree. I like Cesc a lot as a player, but his positional sense/lack of pace made him such a liability in our system. There is a reason Tito and Tata persisted at using him as a false 9. As much as I hate to say it, he’s a perfect fit at Chelsea and in the EPL in general (although as the video suggests, there are still the same problems). To be honest, I don’t mind the Chelsea squad that much. They have to be in the top 3 favorites to win the UCL this year, and top 3 means the same odds for everyone really.

      Anyway, I’m happy Cesc is doing ‘well,’ but I am much happier that we have Rakitic.

    • BA
      September 16, 2014

      i think this is a good example of the “headless-chickenism” Fabregas was accused of by many cules; all of which of course is exacerbated by his total lack of pace. it’s all well and good wanting to hunt the ball or make runs or play little balls into the box, but positional discipline is so key in modern systems-based sides that you can only afford to have 1 or 2 players maximum in a free role before dangerous gaps start to appear in the team.

      Gary Neville, much to my surprise, is actually an outstanding pundit and his focus on tactics is really refreshing.

      • September 16, 2014

        +1 to BA. This is precisely why I always said that the problem wasn’t Cesc per se but rather that he’s not one of the most talented 1-2 players on our team. He needs the offense to be built around him and to a large degree, Mou seems to be doing so. This would never have been possible at Barça.

    • norden
      September 16, 2014

      Nice analysis! Thanks for sharing.

  41. September 16, 2014

    Just going to through out a worm here, but any thoughts on seeing Masch in a CB role still?

    I love the player, and I actually don’t think he’s a bad CB, but it is pretty amusing that with all the new CB signings, Masch is still there.

    I would like to see him slot in for Sergio one of these days. Busi’s form has been pretty incredible so far, but I am very curious to how it would work.

    • norden
      September 16, 2014

      I’m not surprised, I have to say. Pique and Vermalen are recovering from injury, so that gives Mathieu, Mascherano and Bartra. Lucho just picked the two with the better form (or skill), I think.

      Anyway, I’d like to see Mascherano in midfield from time to time, whether instead of Busquets or alongside him. Could be fun. And the rotation should be useful, too.

      • September 16, 2014

        Nope. There is only one player who gives you that bottle, for lack of a better word, that Mascherano gives you. And that’s Mascherano. One of the first things Enrique had the club do was lock him down on a renewal. There’s a reason.

        If people continue to hold Mascherano to traditional CB standards, he will always be found wanting. I think of him as a DM who drifts back into the line.

        Mascherano has two liabilities that his detractors harp on: he doesn’t position himself and read plays like a CB, and he’s short. Positioning and improve, but height is what it is. People aren’t slagging Messi because he’s too short to deal with headers properly, right?

        I rather imagine Enrique said if there is one player he could choose to be the last man between an attacker and our goal, it would be Mascherano. Which I think is why he still starts at CB. Enrique wants to have him on the pitch.

    • ciaran
      September 16, 2014

      I find it a little bit of a conundrum. I want Masch on the pitch for obvious reasons; tenacity, leadership and tackling etc. I also want him to not be the last line of defense.
      I also think that in the most important matches that Busquets is vital to our success.

      Does that mean a double pivot? I’m not sure. In some cases it will be very helpful, but not in every case. Rakitic can do a lot of the defensive and offensive duties in midfield. Iniesta generally raises his game for big matches too.

      If Vermaelen gets his fitness, Pique gets his form or Bartra progresses then in most cases Masch won’t be starting in defense in my opinion.

      • BA
        September 16, 2014

        for some games this season i feel like Mascherano + Busquets in a double pivot would be a serious possibility. Rakitic has been brilliant thus far and on the basis of his performances deserves a spot in the midfield, but a midfield triangle with those 2 and with Iniesta at the tip might be a very stable option. permit Busquets a bit more freedom to roam forward and make the penetrating pass and Mascherano is certainly capable of holding down the base of the midfield 3.

        or, if we wanted to get REALLY radical, we could play all 4 with Rakitic closer to the right and Iniesta to the left, with Neymar and Messi leading the line; width provided by the fullbacks. what i like about Enrique, relative to Tito and Tata, is that MIGHT JUST be a possibility under him; he’s much more apt to try something new that will work. and we’ve desperately needed that functional versatility in our tactics since Pep left.

    • September 16, 2014

      Just to clarify, I meant this comment to open up discussion. Like I said, I think Javier does a great job at CB no matter what people say. Everyone is going to make errors. I think that Pique has been the weaker link more often than not, even though he’s still excellent as well.

      • Jim
        September 17, 2014

        My thoughts on this are well known- and documented. We’ve been here for the last few seasons. People talk about Pique but I wait in vain for them to back it up with actual incidents from matches where it has cost us whereas we’ve all seen quite a few incidents which were largely down to Masch in the last couple of seasons whether down to lack of height which is important if not alter able to lack of thinking as a CB.

        Mascherano is a great player and demonstrates exactly the fighting spirit we need but we shouldn’t rate two footed tackles, dashing out of position on impulse or failing to readjust as a move is developing over players who are quieter but go about their business in a much more effective way. In most lower level dressing rooms that I’ve been in the loudest and most aggressive players were usually the liabilities. The whole point of being a defender is to stay on your feet where you can through good positioning and cover from your other CB.

        As I’ve said before I’d be happy to give him a go in his better position of DM , although he’ll have to go some to displace Busi, imo but if LE thinks an aggressive attitude is the most important aspect in who to play I despair. He has the team working hard and well already. To those who don’t agree we can debate this as the season develops 🙂

        • bhed
          September 17, 2014

          Exactly correct. I don’t understand why you have to keep explaining this obvious fact.

  42. ciaran
    September 16, 2014

    I may be wrong but I think Per Mertesacker might just be an Ent. He’s very tall, moves really slowly and wanders around the grass looking like he’s looking for something but doesn’t remember what it looks like anymore.

  43. September 16, 2014

    I think Klopp makes his players drink blood before a match. Dortmund has been great to watch for a couple of years now.

    • KEVINO17
      September 17, 2014

      That truly was an awesome display of football. They ran 11 kilometres more than Arsenal.
      Proved once again that if you have:
      (a) A good side absolutely committed to the press (no reservations); and
      (b) A good side committed to playing out from the back,

      a) will usually beat (b).

      We saw that when Barca went to the Bernabeu near the end of Mourinho’s regime and he had them running around like storm-troopers for the first 30 minutes creating havoc.

      If Barca play Klopp’s boys in German, surely the best tactic would be to park the bus and fire long balls to the flanks while they tire themselves out. Got to be patient.

  44. Peter
    September 17, 2014

    Luis Enrique has announced the call-up:

    Ter Stegen, C. Bravo, Piqué, Rakitic, Xavi, A. Iniesta, Messi, Neymar, Rafinha, Bartra, Douglas, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Dani Alves, Mathieu, Samper, Sandro y Munir.

    No first-team pivote, both Busquets and Mascherano are out to coach’s decision. Samper, Rakitic, and Xavi in midfield? It also seems that both Sandro and Munir will play, since Pedro is out, and at least one sub of Luis Enrique seems to be to introduce another striker in the last half an hour.

    Still, Busquets and Masche out, not even on the bench… Ballsy.

    • September 17, 2014

      You just beat me Peter. I was just about to comment about this.
      No Masche and Busi – really, thats some balls.

      • September 17, 2014

        If Samper starts (or plays) tonight, he will be the first Barça youth player to debut at every level, never having played for any other club. Joined at age 6 and has been with the club every step of the way.

        — 14 years ago today, some kid named Messi signed a napkin and came to the club. Whoa.

        — The Laporta action by the current board is worth following. Some fascinating stuff in there. Also appalling, but that’s another matter altogether.

        — Douglas is in the squad, and Montoya isn’t. Interesting. Hope he gets some playing time, so that we can see if he is as stunted and horrific as narrative says. Also, if Bartra doesn’t get any time tonight …

        Vermaelen is expected to get the medical all clear in time for the weekend. ‘Bout time to get Mathieu some rotation time.

        — Tonight, I would love to see a Neymar/Munir/Sandro front 3

  45. dl
    September 17, 2014

    Well it’s still early days, but Enrique is certainly bossing the bench, so to speak. I really like it — the coach must absolutely be in charge and have the leeway to use or rest players as the technical team sees fit. That means standing up to senior players who may pout when they don’t get to play. It also means having the boludos to bench for non-performance, and from the looks of it we finally (!) have real competition for first team places in every position. That hasn’t happened for quite some time. Keep ’em lean and hungry.

  46. ciaran
    September 17, 2014

    I’d love to see something along the lines of
    Ter Stegen
    Douglas Pique Bartra Adriano
    Xavi Samper Roberto
    Munir Sandro Neymar

    Almost a complete change but we really need to take a look at some of the players.
    I’ll miss the match live but it should be a walk in the park anyway, especially at home.

    • BA
      September 17, 2014

      i’m not sure i could ever say that i’d “love” to see Sergi Roberto in a starting line-up. that said Lucho’s showing an inclination towards rotation that i DO love, and i’m glad he’s taking risks for games where (let’s face it) we should be able to take risks. though i bet Rakitic will start, i’d love to see Rafinha play through the actual midfield, and Sergi Samper holding is a very neat idea; his performances for Barca Babies have earned him a shot.

  47. barca96
    September 17, 2014

    This is the best time to rest Messi.
    Absolutely no need to tire and risk him in a match like this. Neymar, Pedro, Munir and Sandro can handle it.

    No team in La Liga is as weak as Apoel so this is really the chance to not play Messi and rotate. We have a strong bench this season so I hope Lucho will make use of it by rotating and resting key players.

    I would like Busquets to get a rest too. 2nd best player so far.
    And finally play Mascherano at DM and Bartra at CB. Bartra has to play this match otherwise he must’ve not been putting in 100% during training which is strange as he always plays good and with 100% effort.

    Montoya again at RB but unfortunately he’s been left out all together after playing his only minutes in the last match in which he did well. Really mind boggling. It’s not like Montoya played all matches + internationals that he needed a break.

    I’d go with;
    Ter Stegen
    Adriano-Bartra-Pique-Matthieu
    Rafinha-Samper/S.Roberto-Xavi
    Munir-Neymar-Sandro

    Why play Matthieu in his natural position? Let him learn to play that position in our system as he might need to play there if Alba is injured. No offence to Adriano but I think Matthieu is an upgrade.

    Perhaps sub Matthieu with Douglas and then switch Adriano to LB.

    Or this could be a good time to experiment 3-4-3 which I hope will happen, it would be a dream as I was a fan of it and I think we have the personnel to make it happen now.

    Ter Stegen
    Bartra-Pique-Matthieu
    Rafinha-Samper-Xavi-S.Roberto
    Munir-Neymar-Sandro

  48. pslio
    September 17, 2014

    O you bunch of Messi haters! He will start tonight. He can rest this Saturday, and be sub-ed out tonight if the game is secured early. Even if APOEL is weaker than all la liga teams (which i doubt) they are still an unknown team and such games carry inherent risks. Plus the significance of the first CL game cannot be over stressed. APOEL will park the bus and the youngsters just aren’t creative enough yet to pick them apart.

    Plus Leo can reach his total goals and CL goals records with one game.

    • barca96
      September 17, 2014

      I’m assuming that you were joking with the Messi hater comment. The reason why I want Messi to be rotated is because Messi is our key player, our best player. We need him, for our more important fixtures. Neymar and co. can handle Apoel. If not, then they are not as good as we thought they were.

      Apoel at home is the only fixture in CL where I am confident that we can do well even without Messi, so why risk him. Our fixture;
      21 Sep – Levante away. Never easy. We need the 3 points.
      24 Sep – Malaga away. Again never easy.
      27 Sep – Granada home. Ok.
      30 Sep – PSG away. Very tough.

      Ideally I would like Messi to be rested for Apoel and only play some part against Granada to keep him fresh for P$G.

      Btw, Messi’s records will come. What matters most is the team. We want to be victorious in the business end of the season and not score manitas in the 1st month and run out of steam by Spring.

      • September 17, 2014

        I’d like to see Messi in the first half. Ideally, we can score a few and then he can rest for the second half. I don’t care about records, but I also think that goal difference might be a factor in winning the group.

      • BA
        September 17, 2014

        hear hear. i want Messi rested and hungry for when we need him to step it up; not blown out or (god forbid) injured playing against Apoel when we have them at home. his records are irrelevant at this point in the season, Lucho has to do what’s best for the team altogether. Munir/Sandro/Neymar should be plenty of firepower up front; Messi on the bench, covered in bubblewrap and behind glass with a clear sign that says “BREAK ONLY IN EVENT OF EMERGENCY” is just fine with me.

        • September 17, 2014

          Points are vastly more precious in Liga than they will be in our Champions League group, where only a catastrophe of epic proportions wouldn’t see us at absolute worst, finishing second in the group. At home against the weakest team in the group is precisely the time for a “risk,” though if you look at that lineup, it isn’t as though it sucks.

          You’re in the Barça first team. That means you’re pretty darned good. People can’t whine about Messidependencia, then expect him to play every match.

          The Liga is going to be a dogfight. Rest and rotation are going to be crucial. This team should not need Messi to win matches. The constant desire to see Messi score goals is unfathomable to me. I don’t care about him except in as much as he can help the team succeed. I reckon he would say the same.

  49. September 17, 2014

    Ciaran’s lineup only missed Alves (Douglas) and Messi (Sandro). Cool!

  50. Jim
    September 17, 2014

    Hmm, interesting lineup. Not a great side we’re playing but an unknown one. I remember Cillian Sheridan on loan from Celtic at my hometown team, St Johnstone and he had the ability to score great goals from nowhere. Not sure the midfield is strong enough but hey, as long as we’re prepared to shove Ini in if we need it I suppose a half at home shouldn’t matter.

  51. September 17, 2014

    Claudio Bravo won’t be No. 1 standing for long. Ter Stegen, man …

    Fourth clean sheet in a row. Samper kicked ass, Xavi didn’t. And you can’t say he wasn’t rested. And Messi played the entire match, not all that well, a match that was decided off a Pique set piece goal.

    • stefan2k
      September 18, 2014

      Fully agree. Ter Stegen exudes confidence and is focused until the final whistle.

      Not sure about Luchos keeper rotation though. Are there other high-level teams who successfully rotate their keepers throughout the season? Sure we had Pintocalypse play the cup but it was always clear that Victor was the man.

  52. dl
    September 17, 2014

    Well, they slogged through that. We had chances but the smooth clicking wasn’t there, and I’m not surprised really (too early in the season to expect that). Also, lots of new kids in the team. Messi missed a good chance, as did Neymar; Messi created and the recipients also missed. Positive result, and still much room for improvement.

    • September 17, 2014

      The match was played against an opponent with 10 behind the ball, and who fouled when defending didn’t work. It was never going to be a work of art today.

      • dl
        September 17, 2014

        Yeah. I guess that’s a different way of saying what I said.

  53. pslio
    September 17, 2014

    Obviously I said in jest when I called you bunch of Messi haters. But wow, you don’t care about him except what he can do for the team? And stated with such conviction like you are on some moral high ground too!

    I care about the player more than the team.

    To me the team helps the player (not just Messi) to showcase his talent that is the God’s gift to mankind. I enjoy the playing part far more than the final scores. Can’t fathom the desire to see Messi scoring goals? But the desire to see Barca winning games and titles has deeper meanings in life?!

    Our difference is I reckon we are both entitled to our opinions, one is not necessarily more virtuous than the other. But just out of curiosity, how do you reconcile your conviction of ‘team over individuals’ with your other conviction of ‘the people has the right to choose’? Surely ‘free will’ or ‘interest’ has to be more meaningful on individual person’s level. If even that can be ignored in the name of a team, why can’t a people’s collective will or interest, which inevitably will have already trampled down quite a few individuals’, be swept aside in the name of a bigger group? Fathom that.

    • dl
      September 17, 2014

      “I care about the player more than the team.

      To me the team helps the player (not just Messi) to showcase his talent that is the God’s gift to mankind. I enjoy the playing part far more than the final scores.”

      Fair enough. There’s room for just about every approach to enjoying the game, as far as I can see. I’m not convinced it has to be an either-or proposition, though.

      • September 17, 2014

        Simple. I love FC Barcelona football club. It is, to me, bigger than any player, any board member, any thing that might come along to endeavor to disrupt or damage it.

        There are people who follow a club for a certain player. Barça had many fans who jumped ship when Ronaldinho was sold. I understand that fondness for a player, even if I can never share in that. Players come and go, but a football club is forever, for me.

        There are people who even switch club allegiances, depending on where their favorite player goes. Again, not for me.

        There is no real reconciling, or necessity to. We watch millionaires in shorts frolic on a mown field every chance we get. It’s sport. Simple as that. Whether you choose a club or a player is up to you.

        I can respect someone’s beliefs, but I keep my faith and my sport separate. As for a player, his talents go to help the team that is part of the club that I support. It isn’t a question of any moral high ground. It’s simply what I believe.

        As for meaning in life, there is precious little in sport, only joy or heartache. The quantities of each that you feel are leavened by your passion for a team or player. To some, it’s a good day if Messi scores 4 but Barça lose. Not to me. To me, it’s a good day when Barça wins, irrespective of what any player does.

  54. bhed
    September 17, 2014

    Well, Samper looked quite impressive, Sergi Roberto, not so much. Frankly, he’s never impressed. Both CB’s and Ter Stegen impressed, but didn’t have too much to do. I hope Bartra gets more chances, he’s been consistently solid for a while now. I don’t get it, he must be terrible in practice to not get more playing time.

    I continue to worry A LOT about our right back situation. Dani is done, full stop. If you don’t see it, well, it’s not just a river in Egypt. Montoya is worse. And Douglas? Who the hell knows? I wouldn’t bet your savings on him having a breakout year though. Are we allowed to buy this winter?

    I still like our chances. That English team in blue with the Russian billionaire owner, and the execrable manager is looking pretty scary at the moment though. Dammit.

  55. BA
    September 17, 2014

    if we don’t win the Champions League this season. i want Dortmund to win it. there, i said it. after watching them annihilate Arsenal, even missing half a dozen starting players, they’re just a brilliant side. of course at the end of the day i want us to win it, but man it’d be nice to see Klopp and his ferocious little side go all the way; they deserve the vindication.

    • Inamess
      September 18, 2014

      There is little not to like about Dortmund: great fans, coach, and a David competing with a Goliath in Bayern. Amazing parallels with Atleti especially considering the fates of the Champions league finals in 2013 Bayern-Dortmund and 2014 Real-Atleti. Both heartbreaking loses in the last minutes of those finals too.

      Barca are a big club like Bayern, so we don’t have reason to complain, but at least Simeone’s best players go to another League rather than becoming his competitors, and Lewandowski on a free no less–that must be really galling.

  56. Inamess
    September 18, 2014

    I just came across another great video of Gary Neville & Jamie Carragher, this time tactically analyzing last year’s Liverpool 0 Chelsea 2 This might be particularly apt for Barca this year since we will continue to face our share or buses and frustrating defenses.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdmxV-7QvJ8

    I am glad we took the important steps to make ourselves much better at facing these kinds of tactics:

    1) More height and muscle taking and defending set pieces
    2) Better shooting from outside the box
    3) Better at defending against the counter attack and pressing when we lose the ball.

    Still you have to wonder whether the most important weapon is going to be the Suarez factor. The guy knows how to score in the box and defending Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Iniesta, and Rakitic will be a formidable challenge. Hopefully a lot of our future games will look like Barca vs Milan 4-0 where we relentlessly press and give our opponents more than they can handle.

  57. September 18, 2014

    I know most here are rational, but a quick peruse about this internet will inform you that three out of five fans think that was a terrible game because we didnt score fove goals. A win is a win.
    It wasnt a beautiful game, but it was a perfect time to rest the squad so we can press the hell out of teams in la liga. That was mostly a b squad we saw there apart from the keeper ( who killed it) and two top strickers.

    • September 18, 2014

      The standard that this team has to live up to continually astonishes me. No team can.

      Saw a recent interview with Tata Martino where one of the things he said was, “That year cost me a lot.”

      It’s brutal. And there is so much attached to Enrique and his presence, that I think expectations are going to be dashed almost no matter what he does.

      4 matches, 4 wins, 4 clean sheets. Nothing more the team can do at this point.

      • September 18, 2014

        There is such a lack of historical (and unfortunately last weekend is ancient history). Last weekend we were going to win the treble, today madrid is the best team in spain. It’s hilarious how one game to the next many people can change their opinions so much.

  58. Jim
    September 18, 2014

    Well guys, big day here in Scotland. I confess I’m not sure what’s gonna happen so a little nervous. What I don’t like is the ugly face of nationalism which has reared its head over the last couple of weeks. That’s not what we’re about.

    Find out soon I suppose ……

      • September 18, 2014

        What ciaran said. Such a thing is not to be undertaken lightly. Whatever the outcome, hope it works out for you.

    • dl
      September 18, 2014

      It’s odd, though. The referendum is about nothing other than nationalism. I don’t see how you can have one (a referendum on indpendence) without the other (passions and irrationality). Everyone who is distressed by the ugly hyrda would to well to remember the adage ‘Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.’

      When I say ‘you’ I don’t necessarily mean [Jim], of course.

      • Jim
        September 18, 2014

        No offence taken, DL 🙂

        What I meant was that up till a couple of weeks ago there was some pretty good discussion going on and there was a lot of listening to the arguments but then it seemed to change almost overnight and people started getting shouted down and, at least on the Nat side, the answer to everything became they’re trying to scare us. After that no debate was possible.

        Also, for me at least, this is not about nationalism. I’m Scottish and feel no less a Scottish as part of the UK. It’s entirely about the economy. If I felt that Scotland on its own would prosper better Id seriously think about it but ( sadly ?) we live in a world where investors, banks, big corporations and money men can make or break your economy. Worse than that, our lender of last resort will be a bank in a foreign country and they will control our interest rates. Not a great platform.

  59. pslio
    September 18, 2014

    A few most likely redundant lines:

    – I am not religious. When I said ‘God’s gift’ I meant in a pantheistic manner. Didn’t expect my expression to be taken so “faith-fully”.

    – No moral high ground? Glad we cleared that up. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but there are so many instances here where I see a declaration about ‘team over players’, or a rhetoric question like ‘what is more important, the player or the team?’ during a debate, I can’t help but feel the arrogance and self-righteousness of the speaker. It bothered me so much so that I registered in order to protest my dissent.

    – Not surprised that you don’t find it necessary to reconcile ‘team over player’ and ‘region over nation’ convictions. Most people (myself included) find it much easier to accept what the media / orators are pandering to us than exercising one’s own critical reasoning. O well. We’ll know the result of Scottish vote soon enough. A part of me (the very selfish part) don’t mind a ‘yes’ result, as it will be at least very interesting…

    • September 18, 2014

      But if it can be argued that “team over players” is arrogant and self-righteous, can the reverse not also be true? It’s why it’s important to avoid such labels, and simply say “This is my view on things.”

      No one is more or less pure.

  60. pslio
    September 18, 2014

    No, I didn’t say the opinion of ‘team over players’ is arrogant. I said this opinion is so often stated with arrogance. I made sure when I confess that I support player over the team, it is only my opinion and I do not feel morally superior or inferior than anyone.

    Obviously the arrogance and self-righteousness is only my perception, and I could be wrong, which is why I said I’m glad you acknowledged that there was no moral high ground involved.

    • September 18, 2014

      But can you semantically separate the speaker from the words in such a situation? If a sentiment is spoken with what is perceived as arrogance, does it not follow that the person uttering those words is the vessel, so to speak, for that sentiment?

      Everything is our opinion. The only objective truth is the final scoreline. Everything else, including a player’s performance, is subjective. By example, Messi can make a run at the defense and lose the ball at the last man. One culer will say, “What a run! So close!” while another culer would say “Why did he ignore X player, who was standing there wide open?”

      Two different reactions to the exact same event.

      As you can tell, I love these sorts of debates, because they get at the core of not only subjective evaluations of footballers, etc, but in my day job it also speaks very eloquently to just what precisely is the role of an arts critic these days, in our self-curated world of user-generated reviews?

      “I know what I like,” as an adage, has never been more apt.

        • September 18, 2014

          deerwithwings, I am an arts editor at the Chicago Tribune. I run our weekend entertainment section, and manage the music and visual arts coverage, from assigning stories and editing them to doing the occasional bit of writing myself.

          Still can’t believe they pay me to do this.

          • September 18, 2014

            I knew you were a journalist, but it was always vague to me as to what you wrote about specifically.

            As an artist, that’s good to know though. Which, not that I get paid much/often, I still can’t believe it seemed like a career path either.

            Lot’s of folk from there have ended up down in New Orleans these days. I hear it’s a good scene. I’ve always been a big fan of the comics out of Chicago myself.

          • September 18, 2014

            Creating beauty is a noble achievement, even if the rewards aren’t always financial.

      • pslio
        September 18, 2014

        I wouldn’t call ‘everything’ as opinion. There are objective truths besides the score line. Take your example, it’d be an opinion to call the run ‘brilliant’ or ‘selfish and wasteful’. But it would be to state a fact to say that ‘his run eluded 4 defenders before crashing into a 5th’. No less objective than the score.

        Again it’s my perception but I feel you are trying to say that since score line is the only objective truth therefore it matters more or settles for all in the arguments of a player’s performance (or worth or importance in history etc). If this is indeed your opinion, I have to disagree. A player’s performance can be described objectively, as I demonstrated above. There will be subjective interpretations of it, of course, but so can there be subjective interpretations of the score line in term of its indication of a team’s performance. 1-0 win against APOEL is a fact. ‘A good win’ and ‘a disgraceful result‘ are both possible subjective interpretations.

        It is my definition that a ‘fact’ crosses over to become an ‘opinion’ when we incorporate our assumptions, i.e. things that didn’t happen. You have in the past criticised many of Leo’s runs as wasteful that would’ve been better off passing to another player. But that’s not a fact as he didn’t make the pass therefore the ‘better off’ scenario did not happen – it’s only your assumption. Perhaps if we had a good probability model we can have a pretty accurate assumption, a model to compare the success rates (defined in probability of a goal resulted) between all his ‘selfish’ runs and passings-off, adjusting for the starting position, available support, number of opponents on the path, and discounting no-goal-but-no-loss-of-ball-either post passing-off as half success. In short, I hope the 538 folks are listening. Without such a model, I just have to believe that the best player on the pitch can choose better than you and I. This is a belief that even you would have to agree. After all, as you stated above, Leo himself always declared that he cares more about team success than personal glory.

        • September 18, 2014

          No, not at all. It helps not to read things into what I written. I am saying simply that: the scoreline is the objective truth of a match. No other layers.

          A player’s worth is subjective. His place in history is subjective. Almost everything is subjective, right down to number of goals. Own goals vs deflections, for example. Someone’s subjective opinion defines disputed goals.

          Even when you say a player eluded 5 defenders, what if one stumbled and another got in another player’s way? Then did he elude 3 or 5? It depends on the subjective tale the teller wants to weave.

          And yes, my subjective evaluation of some Messi runs is that a better set of available options could be obtained by passing the ball. Probability models aside, if a single player is running at 4 defenders as another stands there in the box, open, I’d suggest that you wouldn’t need a very extended set of equations to define a success probability, even when the player is Messi.

          But even that is part of a subjective narrative. A Robben or Tello run at a pile of defenders is “wasteful” or “selfish.” A Messi run is “brilliant,” or “what a dribble!” But will the best player on the pitch, having an ego, always believe that he is the best option, all else being equal?

          And even with great players, situational awareness fails them, or the “red mist” takes over and a run continues when it should have been abated. We saw quite a few of those yesterday.

          This still leaves us with the objective fact that Barça won 1-0. Everything else, even things such as the play of Samper, which has people crowing, is subjective. He had the most fouls (4), two of which almost certainly would have been yellows (again, subjective) in La Liga. He trotted on one play that resulted in an APOEL chance when a hard run would have served the situation better (again, subjective. Perhaps he evaluated his own pace and the pace of the attacker and figured he would never catch him, so chose to save his energy. Interesting question.)

          Facts can never become opinions. The delineation between the two is abundantly clear, even as some can perceive statements of opinion as “fact,” which is in error.

          • pslio
            September 18, 2014

            I’ll make one correction, and one counter-argument. But really I think we are on the same page re fact vs. opinion. We just differ in out opinions.

            The correction: instead of ‘elude’ which does imply some subjective judgement, I’ll use ‘run past’ instead. Does my statement qualify as objective truth now?

            The counter-argument: yes great players faced with the choice can judge wrong, so can spectators in front of a tv – in fact more so because of the dimished data of the actual situation received via tv. As for player’s ego as a skewing factor, it’s more than offset by your, um, Messi-hating stance. (O don’t be mad. I know no one in the Barca camp can be Messi-hater in the usual sense. But I do feel you’d be happier to have Barca win games without Messi’s brilliance than with. Am I wrong?) So after all these washouts, I still don’t believe in second guessing the best player on the pitch.

          • September 18, 2014

            I don’t care HOW Barça win matches. Messi hat trick, three set piece goals … only that they win.

            My stance on players is neutral. They are agents. I am not a fan or “hater” of ANY player, despite assertions to the contrary, usually by fans of those players. The list of players I love or hate is long. And not a season passes during which I am accused of hating Messi. But I would have to care about him to hate him.

            Put another way, Messi is no different than Mathieu or Iniesta or Mascherano. They all perform their tasks in helping the team win.

            People have always and will always wrestle with my notions of neutrality. I accept that it is odd. But it is my view of things.

          • pslio
            September 19, 2014

            Well, it’s always interesting to discuss someone’s stance, evidenced by his actions and expressions, and in spite of his claims. But perhaps another time.

            I believe the best players in most sports are there because of their intelligence in addition to, if not more than, any physical attributes. Even with considerations to all factors that may induce them to choose wrong, as they are after all humman beings, on balance they will always be better judges than us the mere spectators. We can certainly question their options, lament or berate. It’s all part of the fun. But it pays to remember we are just expressing our opinions, probably not universally or even widely accepted.

  61. September 18, 2014

    @pslio

    This is not meant to be inflammatory, but when one uses a capitalized, and singular (as in God, not the gods or the Gods) then one certainly does not invoke any sort of pantheon. I’m happy you don’t think Messi is God’s gift to mankind in the actual sense, which I read as the Judeo-Christian-Muslim gift. Anyway, you wrote “the God’s” where you should have written the Gods’. It’s funny how a small grammar change alters the entire feeling of a sentence.

    As to individuals v. the team, I don’t care one way or the other. My pleasure is entirely subjective as is yours, but people, especially in this place, will certainly respond negatively to the type of comment you made originally. No one here is a “Messi-hater,” that was rather hyperbolic. You have to be careful with your rhetoric. For example, you will probably not enjoy this paragraph because I am being pedantic.

    Anyway, keep commenting, just maybe lower the angry undertone to your prose, or, at least don’t be surprised if people respond in kind.

    • pslio
      September 18, 2014

      Umm, I believe Einstein said ‘God does not play dice’.

        • pslio
          September 18, 2014

          i meant einstein referred to a pantheistic god in a capitalized and singular form.

          • September 18, 2014

            How does one infer that Einstein’s God is a multiplicity? For all I know Albert is referencing the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god. Especially considering his own denomination.

  62. Peter
    September 18, 2014

    I seriously don’t understand what are you arguing about 🙂

    • September 18, 2014

      I thought that Allas had an excellent breakdown (on Twitter only) on Samper and the defensive complexities that many, including me, have been pointing out.

      He says that he reveres Busquets, and watches him for hours. That is a good thing, because Busquets is the master of doing more with less, as in physicality and pace. He isn’t fast, yet is usually in the right place at the right time. He isn’t physical, yet he can influence play defensively.

      Samper has quite a lot to learn in that regard, even as he is a pretty wonderful player to watch develop. He even bailed Sergi Roberto (renewed to make selling easier?) out a few times.

      Also, have a look at that link that I posted above. It’s an excellent breakdown of the system, and the complexities of last year as regards midfield defending and the (speculation) steps that Enrique took to solve them.

      It’s funny, many are saying that yesterday’s match was boring, but I don’t think it was at all. Maybe that’s because I pretty much figured APOEL was going to set up to prevent anything from happening, and the challenge would be to make something happen.

      A set piece goal. This team won a match with its only goal coming from a set piece. We ain’t Atleti by a long stretch, but that really knocked me out. Last year, we probably do the 0-0 draw and talk about how the team can’t attack an opponent set up to defend.

      This season is going to be very interesting. I still have zero idea what or how much the team is going to win overall, but I am excited to watch the team develop.

      And Ter Stegen, man …

      • ciaran
        September 18, 2014

        I feel almost ashamed after your response that the first thing I want to touch on is Sergi Roberto’s renewal. I really want to like him and to be honest he has never done anything really wrong but he doesn’t do much right either. I thought it strange that there wasn’t more mentioned here about it but he doesn’t look too have a future with us and all of a sudden he signs a new contract.
        I assume it’s so that we don’t lose him on a free transfer next summer but 5 years is a hell of a long contract for someone who has done so little.

        Samper is a really interesting story. He joined Barca at 6 and has never been out on loan or anything becoming the first player in our history to have played for every youth team and make it to the first team without representing any other team. You just have to hope that someone like that ends up spending his entire career here and breaks all sorts of appearance records.
        As well as that, the boy is talented and really cool in possession. He seems very humble and has the right role models.

        Set piece goals should be much more common for a number of reasons this season. We have Rakitic and Messi taking them instead of Xavi. I always felt that Xavi never put in a fast enough dead ball to cause real problems. We have some really tall players who are good in the air. We also have a coach who is going to work on dead balls in training rather and put balls into the box rather than instantly taking a quick freekick and continuing tiki taka.

        Ter Stegen could become a really great keeper. He has everything going for him and it always looked like it was only a question of time before he became first choice. Incidentally, I’m still unsure who will start in goal at the weekend.

        • September 18, 2014

          Ter Stegen is my No. 1. His accuracy and assurance in playing the ball out did so remind me of Valdes. There was even the one play where he threw it to Adriano because he sensed the possibility of an attack forming well if he could get the ball out fast, and that was the fastest way.

          It’s funny, because for me, being a keeper for us isn’t about saves. Pretty much most keepers can make 90+ percent of the saves that a keeper needs to make. It’s about how effectively he can help the team build play from the back. But when Bravo hoofs the ball long like he does so often, it creates problems and often leads to turned possession, which is a problem. Oddly enough he will hoof it even when there is an outlet available to play to feet. Surprising.

          Sergi Roberto is a weird case. It’s almost like he’s regressing, as he showed much better when he first came up, with sharp runs and movement, and good defending in midfield. Now he just seems an adequate player, and I just don’t think there is room for adequacy. But as you note, ciaran, the club doesn’t want to have any hassles, or lose him on a free. So it makes sense to renew him.

          It was never more clear than yesterday that Xavi needs movement in front of him to be effective. One problem with our forwards this season has been that they get rather static, and that renders Xavi helpless as the run dictates the pass, especially with him. I hate to say it, but I don’t see him staying past the January window.

          As Messi and Neymar get more time together, expect more of a chemistry to develop, but we’re already seeing the benefits of a full off-season, with both players healthy.

          Some are saying that when Suarez comes online, tracking back from the forwards is going to be a problem. I hear that Suarez has an excellent work rate, I just don’t know how that relates to tracking back. Neymar is getting better at it, but still not where he needs to be. And when Messi does it, he’s excellent at it. But yesterday was a little too much of last season’s Messi for me. Hoping it was an aberration, as he has been electric in the Liga matches.

          • September 19, 2014

            I like Ter Stegen a lot, too. A whole lot more than Claudio Bravo. I hope Luis Enrique will help him become our number 1 for years to come. I can’t say LE inspires me with a whole lot of confidence when it comes to goalkeepers.

            I’ve said enough about Sergi Roberto, a player who has never impressed me continues to live up to the expectations I have of him. I’m sure he’ll have a fine career as a professional footballer, but not at a top club.

            Oh, and I don’t see Xavi leaving us halfway through the season. No way.

          • norden
            September 19, 2014

            With the current transfer ban, it means that Xavi can either stay or retre, right?

            If those are the only options, I think he stays.

          • September 19, 2014

            My understanding is the club is only banned from registering new players, not from selling or loaning out players.

          • georgjorge
            September 19, 2014

            Two years ago, Sergi Roberto impressed because he was solid – hard-working in defense and good, if not impressive, with his passes. As of now, he still has these qualities but hasn’t added the creativity needed for a Barca midfielder to them. In some ways, he reminds me a bit of Pedro – very solid, understanding the system and hard-working in defense, but seldom creating danger on his own. I much prefer to see Rafinha in midfield who makes a bit more mistakes but on the other hand has the ability to make a decisive pass or dribble.

  63. barca96
    September 19, 2014

    Song (on loan at West Ham): “It was more important to come back to the Premier League than to play for another club in the Champions League

    Say whaaaattt??!!

    • September 19, 2014

      Translation: “APOEL Nicosia offered me 35,000 € per year but I declined.”

  64. Jim
    September 19, 2014

    Well, we dodged a bullet there. . . . . .

      • Jim
        September 19, 2014

        Let’s just say the last bottle of Tempranillo from my previous visit to Barcelona, which has been on standby for the last year will finally get the message tonight, Lev.

    • ciaran
      September 19, 2014

      On one side I really wanted Scotland to get its independence but I understand the vote. Scotland, economically, isn’t ready for independence. Hopefully someday it will be in a better, less dependant position and will get the chance to vote again but until then congratulations on what was the sensible decision.

      • September 19, 2014

        I got the sense, from interviews I saw with voters, that “No” meant “Not right now.”

        Either way, glad they got the chance to vote.

        • Jim
          September 19, 2014

          Certainly true that it was the oldies like myself who swung the vote ( 75/25) against so it might not be the same next time but it won’t be for the next 15/20 years. Salmond, the leader of the Nats has already resigned and, as I feared, things have turned ugly in Glasgow with Unionists ( read Rangers’ fans) taunting Nats ( maybe some of whom will be Celtic fans) in the streets tonight.

          • pslio
            September 20, 2014

            Good riddance to Salmond. The divisive seeds he sowed probably will do more damage to Scotland than the rest of UK. As to the attitude of ‘not now but let’s try again when we’re financially better off’, it reminds me of a friend of mine a few years ago whose then boyfriend told her their relationship would end in exact 6 month — at the time of his next (expected) promotion. He reasoned that with that promotion he would get a big raise and be able to afford a better house and therefore a new girlfriend. But until then he wanted my friend to remain his girlfriend. Guess what my friend did?

  65. ciaran
    September 19, 2014

    Gerard Deulofeu divides opinion more than any youngster in my memory. To some he is full of potential and with the right guidance he could be a true world beater. To others he is an overhyped showboating waste of time.
    If you fall into the second category I suggest that you don’t watch his performance for Sevilla vs Feyenoord last night. He provided two assists and nearly scored a great goal of his own.
    3 matches into the season and he hadn’t featured much but Unai Emery gave him the start and boy did he take his chance. Managing his ego is as important as managing his abilities but Emery is a really great coach so I’m very optimistic about the season ahead for him.

    Some will say that it was only dead ball situations but those were lethal freekicksand practically impossible to defend against a reasonable team.

    • September 19, 2014

      I am in the middle on Deulofeu. Gobs of talent, often a crap attitude, and it seems that for him, there are dragons on the home side of the halfway line, as in those ancient maps of the world.

      For him to become a complete, Barça quality player rather than the next Tello, he will have to learn to play with his head up, know when to pass and track the hell back with effectiveness.

      Sevilla is the perfect place for that. Emery said after the match, in effect, this is good, but he still has to get better. Which is accurate. Will he get good enough to succeed when he returns to Barça? Good question.

      • pslio
        September 20, 2014

        Pehaps it has been discussed here already, but why does he have to be a ‘head-bowing school boy’ in order to be a successful footballer? I mean sure he won’t make it at Barca with a CR-style attitude or Zlatan-sized ego, but it ain’t that bad to be those two. Can’t we let the boy be who he is, and sell him to RM or some EPL team?

        • ciaran
          September 20, 2014

          For me the goal of developing players, certainly ones as talented as Deulofeu, must be to get them into your first team not that of your biggest rival. If a player isn’t good enough for your team then, and only then, should he be sold.
          He should be well capable of progressing to the point where he is considered non transferable, he has all the right characteristics. I’d rather he have the confidence to try to beat players as a winger than to be the type of winger who only passes back into midfield like Pedro.

          • pslio
            September 20, 2014

            Yeah that’s reasonable and perfectly natural from your ‘club first’ stance. Number one priority is not to benefit your opponents. Don’t get me wrong I’m pro-Barca too. The 2-8 scoreline makes me ill. But from my ‘individual first’ stance, I just feel bad for the boy, even though I instinctively dislike his type. How about we sell him to the Americans?

          • ciaran
            September 20, 2014

            Pslio, it has nothing whatsoever to do with any club first stance. Let’s face it, Deulofeu hasn’t been kicking the ball against a wall at the back of his parents house for the past decade, he has been trained by the best football academy in the world since he was 9. Yes the player has to get some credit but the club has invested countless hours into his development and a significant amount of money too.
            It’s also generally accepted that Barcelona circumvented the contract laws of Spain with the help of their sponsors Nike to tie him to the club in order to hold off interest and offers from the EPL.

            That being said, La Masia doesn’t produce the perfect squad of players for the club. If you are to be critical you could say that it produces too many similar players and very often the best forwards are individualistic.

            I am a huge fan of Deulofeu, or at least I have a lot of faith in his potential. I have never criticised his natural play nor said that it was a bad thing that he is more like Cristiano Ronaldo than any Barca player. You need all types of players to form a successful squad.

            You shouldn’t assume any stance from someone who you don’t know and doesn’t imply one in a statement.

        • Peter
          September 20, 2014

          He doesn’t. He just hasn’t yet deserved the right to have the ego. The Zlatan’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s egos are backed up by what they do on the pitch.

          Zlatan is capable of amazing feats of flexibility and his situational awareness is very, very good(which is what allows him to score eyebrow-raising goals).

          Cristiano Ronaldo is very fast, a finely tuned athlete with a very powerful shot.

          Deulofeu?

          • September 20, 2014

            Peter and ciaran are exactly right. Deulofeu doesn’t have to be a “head-bowing schoolboy.” He does, however, have to earn a place in the Barça XI. As it stands, he isn’t good enough to, and will NOT be until he fixes his game as well as his attitude. You can’t have a superstar attitude when instead of graduating from La Masia to the first team, you have to go to finishing school via Loan University.

            He plays with his head down too much (something starting to affect Adama Traore as well, by the by), and you would say that he defends for crap if he actually bothered trying to defend. He plays for Deulofeu, rather than the team. At Barcelona, that is just not going to work. Knowing when to pass and when to shoot is very important in a system that is all about intelligent football.

            His talent is without question. But he still has to develop. His coaches at every level have said that. Enrique said it, Roberto Martinez said it, now Unai Emery is saying it. The question is what does the player do with those coaches’ opinions.

            Samuel Eto’o wasn’t a head-bowing schoolboy, but he knew how to play the game at a level that made him have an automatic spot in the first team. Ibrahimovic started off playing the right way, then went rogue. He can couch it all he likes as being a “renegade.” No player who plays for himself is going to succeed at Barça, where team football is the goal.

            So yeah, Deulofeu has some work to do.

        • pslio
          September 21, 2014

          @ciaran:
          Clubs invest in young players not for charity but as a business. The return can be realized by either getting a player they want, or selling him for a profit (or at least recoup some of the investment). I didn’t suggest giving him away for free. While many players feel or at lease expressed their gratitudes to their clubs, I don’t think the players owe the clubs anything. While club loyalty is frequently romanticised, the club certainly doesn’t reciprocate the sentiment. Just look at how they let Abidal go.

          Deulofeu is twenty. Fundamental changes in personality / character can hardly be expected now except in some very exceptional circumstances. A couple of more years in loan exile, his dream of becoming a star footballer may very well be over. Some will argue it’ll be his own fault. Sure. Aren’t there enough talented people fail in life because of their ego / arrogance / or otherwise dislikeable personalities? I don’t even know why I care about this one in particular. May be because the existence of CR and Zlatan painted a very clear picture of an alternative, a ‘what if’.

          You are objecting to letting him go elsewhere, even if that’d be more suitable to his growth (my hypothesis, you didn’t object to), for the consideration of the club’s interest (something you stated). But this does not imply your stance? OK.

          @Peter:
          No, Deulofeu is nowhere near CR or Zlatan atm. And there is no guarantee he will be. If the point here was that Deulofeu did not work as hard as those two because of his attitude, therefore deserved to be demoted, I would’ve completely agreed. But seeing the point raised here is that he’s too showy, too arrogant to cut back and defend — I mean there are clubs that allow their strikers all the luxury of waiting to be served (whether he can cut it for them is a different story).

          @Kxevin:
          Well, you’ve managed to say (almost) everything I agree with, yet missed the entire point I raised, which is to let him develop in another club where ego is more tolerated may be better for him, and for football. He may never turn out Barca quality, but he can still become a football star elsewhere, if given a chance, with his own hard work, and a bit of luck.

          • ciaran
            September 21, 2014

            I have to disagree and I’ll try to explain why.
            You say that players don’t owe their clubs anything but they do, they sign a contract. What both parties do during the duration of this contract means that they both owe each other for this duration, the club to provide the right environment, pay opportunities etc and from the player the performance, development etc.
            Neither party can end the agreement without the others consent so both need to do what’s best for both for this time.

            In regards to Deulofeu himself, I have not objected to letting Deulofeu go but I don’t think it is the right thing to do for both parties. He is a rarely talented footballer and, as I said in my reply to you, one whose type is not often produced by our Masia. We normally buy players like Deulofeu and I couldn’t see why we would want to let him go.

            From the players point of view, where he wants to play and what level he reaches are solely up to him. For all we know he has no loyalty like Thiago Alcantara or wants to be a one club man but doesn’t want to adversely affect his progression. Either way it doesn’t make him a bad person or any less of a player.

            To imply a ‘club-first stance’ from the fact that I suggest his contractual obligations is incorrect whether you like it or not. Mauro Icardi made the decision to leave Barca and has become a very good player. He may have never become the player he is now or may become if he had never left Barca. This doesn’t mean that I like him any less, he is still one of my favourite players regardless of the fact the he is undoubtedly an asshole. Quaresma is another one of my favourite players and again he didn’t make it at Barca but I’ve followed his career for a decade.

            I love this club but I also love football. I watch plenty of teams for how they play and watch plenty of teams just to watch a particular player.

            And not to be pointing out the blatantly obvious, this site is ‘barcelonafootballblog’ not ‘deulofeufootballblog’ or ‘messifootballblog’; It is assumed that you are here to discuss the team before a player.

          • September 21, 2014

            Deulofeu’s ego is getting in the way of his full development, I don’t care WHERE he’s playing. If that kind of “ego,” in the team-detrimental, individual-boosting sense is to be tolerated anywhere, I don’t see it being tolerated at Barça, nor should it.

            This isn’t a question of ego. It’s a simple question of having the footballing skills necessary to compete for a spot at FC Barcelona. Deulofeu doesn’t, and THAT is the point that stands above all. He is an incomplete footballer, who has a season to endeavor to fix his flaws.

            To focus any of this on ego is erroneous, even as his ego is part of his difficulty. It’s a skills question.

  66. barca96
    September 20, 2014

    What the hell has happened to Riazor? From playing CL Semi final matches to getting merked and buried 8 goals on them. Unbelievable.

    Why don’t other teams double up on Ronaldo. I know he isn’t as good as Messi but he is Madrid’s main threat. So man mark and double mark him. Jesus.

    • September 20, 2014

      Its unbelievable the amount of space that they give real madrid players. After going a few goals down you’d think they’d throw some bodies back. Very very poor from deportivo.

      • Peter
        September 20, 2014

        I believe the reason is two-fold:

        1. Real transmit a false weakness, which makes teams go forward and leave lots of space. Real have really fast strikers, so that helps them a lot. Both Bale and Ronaldo run a lot, which makes marking them with multiple players difficult.

        2. Real are good on high balls since they have more than their fair share of tall players – Benzema, Varane, Ramos, Pepe, Khedira, Bale, Ronaldo, Arbeloa and Kroos have a median height of 1.857 meters, so trenching and bus-parking doesn’t help as much as it helps against Barcelona.

    • September 20, 2014

      I KNOW. I was watching live, and in real time at first you couldn’t really tell what happened. Then I saw the replay and my reaction was guttural sounds and a shriek, rather than any language known to mankind. Really a stupefying bit of skill.

      Defender and keeper did everything right, too. You just can’t account for crazy.

  67. HisR0yalFlyness
    September 21, 2014

    \\http://www.sl10.ng/news/articles/teams/barcelona/luis-suarez-scores-brace-in-friendly-against-fc-barcelona-b/175959

    Excellent background work being done!!!

    Can’t wait to see the impact Suarez has on our attack.

  68. PrinceYuvi
    September 21, 2014

    I thought Premier league teams are supposed to be really good at defending. What an implosion!

    • Jamal103
      September 21, 2014

      Most if not all premier league teams, have poor defenses because they have no systematic style of defending or playing for that matter.

      This allows games to be more open and more exciting, and lower league teams to pull off incredible wins. These wins are usually put on the “competition” of the English league but I reckon it’s down to the indiscipline when attacking and leaving spaces at the back.

  69. barca96
    September 21, 2014

    There are 2 things that I don’t agree with Lucho;
    1) constantly over looking Bartra and Montoya. Bartra has a stronger case since he is a better player.
    2) not resting Messi last Wednesday.

    • Serena Andre
      September 21, 2014

      Lucho is the third coach in a row that doesn’t seem to trust them. So either our coaches are all idiots or maybe, just maybe, the players aren’t doing what is required of them. It’s not like Lucho is reluctant to trust youth players either. There’s so much that goes on in training that we don’t get to see, I’m sure Lucho has his reasons for not playing them.

      • September 21, 2014

        Spot on, Serena Andre. We’ll see if Bartra plays, partnering Pique, in midweek.

  70. ciaran
    September 21, 2014

    Line up confirmed
    Bravo
    Alves Masch Mathieu Alba
    Rakitic Busquets Iniesta
    Pedro Messi Neymar

    • ciaran
      September 21, 2014

      Ter Stegen, Montoya, Pique, Xavi, Roberto, Munir and Sandro on the bench. Douglas dropped from the squad

  71. bhed
    September 21, 2014

    Alves – needless giveaway after needless giveaway. Very frustrating.

  72. bhed
    September 21, 2014

    Are we starting to see the evolution of Messi into more of a provider, or is it just the way it’s worked out so far this season?

    • G6O
      September 21, 2014

      Let’s wait until Christmas, after we have seen Suarez play for some time too and have a large enough sample of games.

      He can still score a lot of goals though, but missing penalties is not going to help him.

    • Peter
      September 21, 2014

      Two goals and five assists. I don’t think it’s about his evolution, but actually about the fact that he’s so closely marked by multiple players every time he gets close to the box in direction of the goal that’s it allows him to drop back a bit and create space for the others.

      • Peter
        September 21, 2014

        Look at Neymar’s goal – at the moment of Messi’s pass there are five Levante players in two lines looking at Messi and the ball. Only one, Neymar’s marker, is paying attention to his immediate vicinity.

    • ciaran
      September 21, 2014

      By the law of averages you’d imagine at some stage that Dani Alves would find a teammate with a cross but he doesn’t. It really is a statistical marvel.

      • Jim
        September 21, 2014

        I’d suggest he shuts his eyes if I thought there’d be an improvement but it’s becoming a luxury we can’t really afford.

  73. September 21, 2014

    Rakitic has saved at both ends, stopping a potential Levante goal (and demonstrating the difference between he and Fabregas in but a few short seconds), then that rocket blast of a hit to provide the cushion. Is there anyone left who believes he should have been Kroos?

    Neymar has been absolutely electric. There are more ways to break a bus than throwing a 9 at it. You can also break a fast player in behind it. Perfect pass from Messi, and even if Neymar cocked up the first touch, he got it done. He has been dynamite at both ends of the pitch.

    Mathieu started out stanky, but came into the match. Rumor is that Pedro started, but I can’t for the life of me ascertain whether such a thing has transpired.

    Messi’s passing has been far, far better than his penalty taking today.

  74. HisR0yalFlyness
    September 21, 2014

    Rakitic with a bullet from outside!!! Excellent purchase proving his worth every game. Just another dimension to our attack, we can kill you from anywhere on the field.

  75. georgjorge
    September 21, 2014

    Respect to Levante for not just sitting back but taking the fight to the Barca defense. I’m not sure what the red card was for though, I think that just for the foul on Messi it was very harsh.

    Messi has now been involved in almost every goal the team has scored so far this season. If his contribution to the offense and his pressing continue like this, he can miss all the penalties he likes.

    Also, what’s up with Rakitic? He can head the ball well, play lethal through-balls AND score from outside the box? His transfer might well be the steal of the season. He probably can’t do elaborate combination plays in very tight spaces (or can he?), but we already got some other players to do that, so he seems like the perfect fit.

    • September 21, 2014

      The red was for extreme dissent, I think. Every ref has that “magic word,” and Vyntra must have used it.

      • Jim
        September 21, 2014

        Preventing a clear goal scoring opportunity as last man back ? Not sure.

  76. September 21, 2014

    Not sure if anyone watched the United match this morning, but what a mess they were at the back. Up 3-1, you could see Van Gaal thinking this one was all set. But from the silly Rafael penalty to allowing break after break, United were clearly in a very charitable mood today.

    The City/Chelsea match was also fascinating, and what a plot twist at the end for the 10-man City.

    Good weekend of football.

    • bhed
      September 21, 2014

      Yeah, Lampard’s goal was right out of the writers’ room.

      As for Rakitic vs Cesc, he might be a slight upgrade, and even more so in LE’s system, but while he’s MUCH better defensively, Rakitic hasn’t provided many good through balls/assists. Essentially, we’ve traded an offensive threat for defensive solidity – not a bad trade considering the balance of our previous strengths and weaknesses.

      • georgjorge
        September 21, 2014

        Oh, I think he’s more than capable of these through balls (look at Munir’s goal against Bilbao for example). But he seems to play in a less offensive position than Cesc did (or more correctly, seems to keep to his position with more discipline). I think that if he gets the freedom to provide, he will.

        • bhed
          September 21, 2014

          Perhaps, but I’ve seen a lot of misplaced passes in the final 3rd, not to say he might not improve in that area.

  77. ciaran
    September 21, 2014

    By the law of averages you’d imagine at some stage that Dani Alves would find a teammate with a cross but he doesn’t. It really is a statistical marvel.

  78. bhed
    September 21, 2014

    Pedro is still invisible, while the kid scores within 5 minutes (who thinks Pedro would have skied it over the goal had it come to him?). And ANOTHER great assist from Messi!

    • georgjorge
      September 21, 2014

      I think Messi just figured out that making an assist from midfield is a lot less work than running over the whole field to beat the entire defense before slotting it in himself 😉

  79. bhed
    September 21, 2014

    Ok, I take it back. I’ll lay off Pedrito for a while.

    Alba’s speed really is extraordinary sometimes.

    • Peter
      September 21, 2014

      And if we’re to believe rumors from the training ground, Mathieu is faster.

      • Jim
        September 21, 2014

        Source ? That is unbelievable. Alba is frighteningly quick.

  80. ciaran
    September 21, 2014

    A few thoughts after a really controlled match.
    Firstly, in the Rakitic vs Cesc category, a few have pointed out that Rakitic’s wonderful goal-saving tackle is a difference between he and Cesc but there’s no way that Xavi, Iniesta or Sergi Roberto make that tackle either. No point in making a comparison, just be happy that we have Rakitic now.
    Rakitic’s goal was great and his shooting from outside the box was always going to be a huge bonus for this season.

    Bravo had another easy game but dealt with the ball better than in the previous matches. Hard to argue with him getting the start with 4 clean sheets in 4 matches.

    Masch had his most solid but unspectacular match in a while. Credit where it’s due even if I don’t like him in defense. Mathieu made a few errors but either by luck or good cover it didn’t cost us.

    Dani Alves put 12 crosses into the box according to whoscored. I am very confident that not a single one, not even by accident, found a Barca player. At most stages we had a few players in the box when it went out wide to him, I find it absolutely incredible that not a single one found any of our players. How good does Douglas have to be to be worth giving a shot to?

    We seem to have made 4 substitutions this evening, Xavi, Sergi, Sandro & Pedro all came on for a while in the second half. Seriously though, Pedro was anonymous for very long periods again. Sandro impressed as has Munir this season. Surely Pedro can’t get much game time at the business end of this season without a miraculous improvement in form.

    Neymar looked fantastic again and it looks like his substitution was merely a precaution that he wasn’t happy with. He’s a really exciting player and becoming very very effective.

    Messi with a couple of really nice assists again. Not surprising that he isn’t scoring the number of goals that he used to but if he can keep winning us matches then who cares.

    Xavi looks out of his depth this year. It is a drastic drop in form over the course of 6-9 months. I don’t know if it is a confidence thing or an issue with the pace of the game but he isn’t the controlling force he used to be. Sergi Roberto isn’t exactly taking the reins but a different Sergi just might.

    • G6O
      September 21, 2014

      When I watched it, I had a thought that the Neymar substitution might be a pedagogical exercise – he definitely wasn’t hurt as bad as he made it look, so maybe LE decided “OK, if you claim you’re hurt, you get subbed”. Neymar tried to protest but it was too late.

    • Jim
      September 21, 2014

      Can you give some examples of Xavi’s poor form in the match, Ciaran, because I didn’t see it ? Was it poor passing, lack of control? I did see Rakitic misplace a number of passes, I did see Xavi put a beautiful pass onto Mathieu’s head which should have resulted in a goal and I didn’t see him losing possession much at all. I did see him halt a promising move when the recipient decided to move inside the full back and offside so he pulled the pass and turned. We were a couple of injuries down, no need to risk anything and playing out time essentially unless anything good cropped up.

      I’m curious…..

      • ciaran
        September 21, 2014

        I’m lying in bed Jim so I am not going to quote minutes and seconds to look back on exactly but he wasn’t quick in the release of the pass in that counterattack that you mention. He really had little impact though. Normally when Xavi comes off the bench he exerts control and just moves the entire team across the pitch like a pendulum but it didn’t happen tonight. In the midweek match he also didn’t exert enough control compared to how he would have previously.

        I love Xavi and I’d love to get the old Xavi back I’m just concerned that it’s not really happening for him at the minute.

        Xavi is always going to be capable of making jaw dropping passes so I’m not surprised by his lovely pass to Mathieu. You never lose that ability but as with Stevie G, a few yards of pace in football can make a huge difference. At the end of the day, 30 minutes in a match already won versus a bad Levante team isn’t going to make or break anyone’s season.

        Do you see him starting any serious matches barring injuries this season? I don’t unfortunately…

        • Jim
          September 21, 2014

          I thought that was exactly what he did do when he came on but in the last two games we have seen examples of two really packed defences. We’re just not gonna walk through the middle of these defences. A good example was Pedro’s goal. There were 17/18 passes strung together from side to side with Xavi playing three of them. Eventually they got lazy when the ball went to the left and were light on numbers. Unlike the right hand side where attacks go to die we had a ball played quickly to Sandro who produced a back flick into the path of a RUNNING Alba who cut back and easy finish. That’s the way we need to operate against narrow defences.

          In the move we talked about in the 70th minute Xavi takes the ball and advances across halfway, looks up and sees Sandro in the right wing position starting a run wide of the left hand defender. If he keeps on going Xavi can slot the ball in front of him and with any pace he has a run on goal. However, rather than keeping the width from that defender, just as Xavi is pulling the trigger Sandro accelerates and runs diagonally central behind the defender putting himself offside immediately. Xavi, imo, correctly pulls the pass and looks for another alternative. He slips a short pass to Messi and crashes the box for the return but Messi’s return ball is far too short and is cut off. Nothing wrong there for me.

          I’m not saying Xavi is in his prime and to answer your question, no I don’t think LE will start him in many games this season until the injuries start but I don’t think it is fair to continue the narrative that he has somehow lost his powers when in a lot longer than he had Rakatic and Iniesta didn’t manage any better through balls than he did, and I say that as a huge Iniesta fan. You are not going to get many brilliant through balls that take out a whole defence against 10 men in the box.
          The same,btw, is true of Pique. There is a narrative still going the rounds that somehow he is lazy or lacking form. Anyone watching the last game should have seen him not putting a foot wrong.

          Bring back the fairness committees I say. 🙂

          Anyway, good result and still to concede a goal which is great for confidence. Great defensive clearance by Rakatic and unbelievable skills by Messi as well as best moment being when Gerry Armstrong announced that the introduction of Sandro Rosell in the second half had brought a new dimension to their play !

  81. bhed
    September 21, 2014

    While it is right and proper to celebrate the mauling of a 10-man team at the bottom of the table, I’m going to be that guy who pees in the self-congratulatory Jacuzzi.

    People, our right back situation is dire. Dani is so far past his sell-by date, if he were cheese, he’d be covered in green fuzz. He hasn’t defended effectively since spring of 2010, and he’s completed more passes to opposing players than he has to our guys. He hasn’t been a scoring threat, or a foil for killer combinations with Messi since I don’t know when. I used to love the guy, I still like him as a person/character, but it’s time to face facts. If you think I’m being overly harsh, please explain why Brazil benched him halfway through the World Cup in favor of a geriatric Maicon, and it was an immediate and noticeable improvement.

    His back-up, Montoya, while a very nice boy who helps old ladies cross the street, unfortunately plays like those old ladies. He’s regularly beaten on defense by guys who are not particularly fast or skillful. He couldn’t dribble past a bunch of orange cones, and when he does get near the opponents goal/touch line, apparently he’s under orders to count to ten before attempting to make an assist. Sorry, but there’s no way he’s good enough to be in the first team at this level.

    Then there’s Douglas. I’ve heard that name before. I think it’s the name of Luis Enrique’s niece’s cat, or maybe the name of a cocktail. I’m not sure which, but if he had a shot at challenging for a spot, I figure we’d have seen him for at least a few minutes by now.

    So what should we do about this? Well, if we are somehow allowed to deal this winter, we need to throw serious money at someone who might have a chance of being a decent right back – preferable somebody defensive minded and tall who can cover when Alba bombs up the left.

    Barring that, if we’re stuck with our present personnel, I have a crazy idea. Adriano as our starting right back with Alves as the backup. The incentive of a lucrative contract with another team might goad Dani into playing better when Adriano inevitably gets hurt. Montoya can then be a backup for Alba, whom we’ll lock in a lucite case in between games. Douglas can be in charge of watching the lucite case. It’s so crazy it might just work.

    What say you Cules?

    • Peter
      September 21, 2014

      You know where blue cheese, Brie and Camembert get their flavor and color from? Yes, mold.

      Dani Alves’s crosses are numerous and suck, except when they don’t. Yes, it’s easy and fashionable to blame him, but what would you do? His alternatives are pass the ball back and give more seconds to the defence to react, or try to dribble past two and a half opposing players and then cross. Sure, it’s a turnover, but it’s a turnover in the opposing box, and headers by defenders aren’t that accurate – and then you have the whole defence scrambling around, because it suddenly has the ball and the blaugrana shirts(eye-watering pink orange tonight) are homing in like a pack of hounds tasting blood, because it’s in that moment of transition when the defence is vulnerable, when it suddenly needs to go forward and opens space.

      • September 21, 2014

        Hah! He had a better game than Mathieu today. 5-0. Sure there are kinks, but it was a slaughter.

      • Jim
        September 21, 2014

        Not really, Peter. I re watched the game from when Xavi came on to answer Ciaran’s point about Xavi above and it brought it home to me even more forcefully how wasteful he is. If you’re lucky enough to be able to have taped it watch from Xavi’s entrance around the 61st minute to around the 70th. He gets the ball in a great position about six or seven times in those ten minutes and you don’t want to see what he does with it. On at least three of those occasions there is only a single defender against him. He’s either not aiming at anything or else very poor at delivery. If he’d even hit it hard and low between keeper and defence we might get something coming back off the GK but it’s not happening. As Bhed correctly says above, there was a time when he linked really well with Messi and he still looks for him all the time ( there was a good back heel during those ten minutes which led to Messi’s dribble into the box and Armstrong’s assertion that there was nothing wrong with the pile driver from the side which upended Messi with the ball nowhere in sight), but he is the end point of our attack and lands up with all the space we have worked so hard to obtain so we can’t have such a poor reward from it so regularly. Contrast that with Alba’s clever and very good work on the other wing.

    • September 21, 2014

      I say that apart from his crosses, Dani Alves played well. Obviously not his best game this season. That vast improvement of Brazil after Maicon took his place that you are speaking of I think I must have overlooked it when Germany blitzkrieged them to death… Dani Alves is still one of the best right backs in the world.

      Mostly agree with you on Montoya, though…

      • bhed
        September 21, 2014

        While I’m obviously overstating his suckiness to make a point, but he’s just more ineffective on both sides of the the ball than he used to be. If those crosses are low percentage (and they are), fine, defend and let Alba send in more dangerous balls from the touchline.

        • September 21, 2014

          You play the opponent that the schedule calls for. And Levante defended excellently until undone by Messi and Neymar, late in the first half. As for the penalty, nobody told them to hack Messi, or Vyntra to say whatever he said to the ref.

          I just don’t buy devaluing a match by saying “Well, the opponent was so-and-so.” That’s what the calendar called for. If Levante had pulled off an upset, it would have been “This team sucks. Lost to bottom-dwelling Levante.”

          Good teams win, and they’re supposed to, so who cares. If they lose, they suck because they can’t beat a weak team. Barça banged out another key goal against a team set up with two rows of 5 behind the ball. Again. Devalue it or not, it’s something that the team couldn’t do last year.

          As for Alves, it’s difficult to think of a RB playing football right now better than him. It’s a difficult position, and not only at Barça. It’s easy to say that Alves isn’t doing this or that, but then you realize how few attacks originate on his side, so I reckon he’s doing something right.

          He will leave next summer, and his successors will roll up, do something that makes culers unhappy and kick off the Dani Alves nostalgia experience.

          Meanwhile, Guardiola, Vilanova, Martino and Enrique keep making him an automatic starter. Montoya is competent, though we don’t really know how he would be with consistent playing time, and we know nothing about Douglas, though I rather imagine we will find out this season.

          I know it’s fashionable to beat up on Alves. I just don’t see his crosses as being justification for it. If the coaches didn’t want it, he wouldn’t do it.

          • September 22, 2014

            Well said. Besides, bottom-dwelling Levante usually makes us suffer at their ground. I’m very happy with such a convincing win.

            What impresses me most is our defense. Once again, we almost didn’t give any opportunities to our opponents. Also, without Rakitic in the side, we probably go down 1-0 and face an uphill better to come back into the game.

  82. TITO
    September 22, 2014

    5 games into the season, and 0 goals conceded.
    I really don’t remember the last time we did this.

    • Peter
      September 22, 2014

      If I’m not mistaken, six games without a goal from the start of La Liga is the current record, set years before the Dream Team.

      The last time the club did something like that it was Zubi, three Liga games without conceding from the start, in 1993-1994.

      • Peter
        September 22, 2014

        Correction, apparently the record of games without conceding from the start of the season belonged to Atletico Madrid, set in 1991-92. I use past tense, because Barcelona equaled that record last night.

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