Well, in light of the just-posted video of Guardiola getting down, you can see how he would be partial to Marcio Rafael Ferreira “Walk Like An Egyptian” de Souza, also known as Rafinha. He’s a fullback for Schalke, who has been on the outs with the club since their dispute about him playing in the Olympics. The 23-year-old wanted to play, and the club didn’t want him to play (as we did with Messi, everyone will recall). The FIFA ruling came down in favor of the U-23s, and he played, only to return to a 700,000 fine from Schalke for “breach of contract.”
And now we’ve bid on him, with an opening gambit of 3m. Schalke says 10, but that isn’t their real number. If we’re serious about him, he’s ours. In the Guardiola mold, he’s another versatile back, perfect backup for Alves. His contract expires in 2011, and he has resisted all renewal efforts. So if Schalke is going to sell, this is the time. Just think of him as a right-sided Maxwell.
For the record, I like the move. But it also shows Guardiola’s penchant for versatile defenders with excellent ball skills. Like Maxwell, the 23-year-old fullback has the skills of a midfielder. He takes corners at Schalke, and can lead the break. Let’s wait to see what transpires, as Schalke coach Felix Magath is on record as having said that he’s “not for sale.” Previous natterings had him sold to Bayern, then to Juventus. Neither one materialized, even though there ain’t a lotta love between club and player. Rafinha wants the big European stage, and who wouldn’t?
In other news:
—Victor Valdes has spawned! EMD says Dylan was born to our high-pantsed keeper and his girlfriend, Yolanda Cardona. He skipped out on practice yesterday to be with her. Congatulations!
–Officially for us, the Liga season kicks off on Aug. 31 against Sporting Gijon, at 22:00 local time. As you all might remember, we’re delayed because of the UEFA SuperCup on the 28th.
–Guardiola really wants him some Chygrynskiy. We’re said to have submitted a “final bid” of 25m for the defender. Yow!
—Sylvinho will most likely land with Corinthians, if you can believe the Brazilian press (and Google translator). Very nice landing, in front of as crazy a batch of footy-mad fans as anyone will ever witness. All the best, and much luck to the always-classy veteran who graced the Camp Nou pitch.
—Practice yesterday, speaking of, was supposed to be closed, but some press reports had it being open to the public, 1,000 of whom gathered at the gates of the Ciutat Esportiva yesterday. In a nice PR move, the club opened the gates to the fans, who got to watch the lads do their thing. Nice, very nice.
–Buzz is still that Fabregas wants out this summer, dammit! And that he is going to force his way out. Of course, Sport is the sole media outlet saying this, so who the heck knows? I know that if he is serious about the thing, he’ll hand in his transfer request, and that’s that. The danger, however, is if the clubs can’t reach a deal and he has to suffer the scorn of Gunners fans, a mighty thing that drove Adebayor away from the Emirates, if you believe Wenger and the fragile Togolese striker.
–Word is that Milito is training, pain-free for the first time, in Argentina. No timetable is yet set for his return, but that is very good news coming from the long-injured Argentine hard man.
–There will, of course, be a LiveBlog for Sunday’s home (and deciding) leg of the Spanish Super Copa. We roll in with two away goals, and are expected to hoist our first silver of the new season, some 90 minutes after the match against Athletic Bilbao kicks off.
Question of the day: Is anyone else worried about the wee squad that we are rolling into the season with? I’m counting 18 players, which will become 16 when The Yaya and Keita go sashaying off in January for the ACN. If we really are serious about trying to unload Gudjohnsen, that means a lot of Kid Time this season. Looking at that stretch, we’re home against Villarreal, away to newly-promoted Tenerife, home against Sevilla, then away to Valladolid and plucky Gijon.
Even with our reduced squad, I’m considering three of those matches a gimme. But I think that this reality is the reason that Guardiola has been giving so much time to the young’uns this pre-season. He understands the team’s situation, and knows that escaping this year as (relatively) injury-free as last will be pretty amazing. This doesn’t even take into account the much heavier player workload running into a World Cup year.
The floor is open, folks. What thinkest y’all?