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


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.

By Kxevin

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


  1. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. “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.

    2. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

    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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  10. 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 ……

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  11. 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…

    1. 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.

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

  13. @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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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 …

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

  14. 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??!!

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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?

  15. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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?

    3. 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.

    4. 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?

    5. 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.

    6. 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.


    7. 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.

    8. @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.

      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).

      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.

    9. 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.

    10. 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.

  16. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    1. 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.

  17. \\

    Excellent background work being done!!!

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

    1. 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.

  18. 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.

    1. 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.

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

  19. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

    1. 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 😉

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

    Alba’s speed really is extraordinary sometimes.

  27. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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…..

    3. 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…

    4. 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 !

  28. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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…

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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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