The News, Friday edition, or “Who the heck is Rafinha?”


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.

Here’s hoping.

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?

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. Me thinkith Rafinha is worth every penny. Certainly 10m would not be overpaying for a young, quality RB. Very very good backup for Alves. Me liketh this one!

    With regards to squad depth, i thought we had a thin squad last year, so im not gona lie and say it doesnt worry me. That being said, i trust Pep and if he isnt desperate to add players and believes in our youngsters then so do i dammit!! Also that game against City really did show that some of youngsters can handle supporting roles this season. Certianly i would rather have Dos Santos or Thiago on the bench then Hleb or even the Monument (poor recently). Also Keita IMO has really stepped us his game so that is another player we can depend on consistently, whereas last year, especially at the beginning he was a bit more iffy. Plus I expect big things from Pedro!!

    One thing though, it seems that Pep REALLY wants him some Chygrynskiy (i had to copy/paste that), so dammit give the man what he wants. I have never even seen him play so i cannot say i know anything about him, but if Pep wants him then so do i and so should every Barca fan.

  2. i really don’t know much about Chygrynskiy so I’m not going to jump into that can of worms.
    I’m a worried about our depth this year. Particularly with injuries, we were very fortunate last year and it would be a miracle if our injuries were about the same level. I counted about the same amount of players available for the first team, anyone look at Suarez(suppose to be the next Romario) from ajax as a back up to Ibra? I just don’t trust Bojan yet : /

  3. Well, I gotta agree. Of all the transfer rumours mentioned above, I definitely prefer Rafinha. But I think we could get him for 8 mio, Schalke is having some financial issues…
    He’s been rock solid for Schalke since about 2 years but the club doesn’t show him the respect. As far as I remember, when he left for Beijing, he even showed his middle finger to the public out of his car.
    It’s ridiculous to pay 25 mio for Chygrynskiy when you can get Rafinha about 10 mio, I barely see a difference in their quality, but Rafinha is possibly more versatile. And now that Rafinha knows about our interest, I hope he exerts some pressure on his current club.

    About squad depth: If we get Rafinha, it’s okay.

    On there’s an article saying that we are ~200 mio € in debt. I thought we are fluid since this season…?!?

  4. Even though Rafinha signing for us sounds VERY good, I’d prefer to have César Azpilicueta. The guy can play instead of Xavi or Iniesta in CDR to ease a bit of strain off the wizards. He’s like VicSan, only made younger & improvised. He has 2 years of top-flight La Liga football experience. A player for future already to be our second fiddle 🙂
    I’d go for César Azpilicueta, Chyhrynskiy(since Pep is so f**king desperate for the dude, he must have seen the quality in him. I’d add I’m not that impressed with his last 2 performances but that might be because he might have been unsettled with all the speculation) & Arda Turan. We will be so complete with this squad that with these signings I’d just say BRING ON MADRID!

  5. In the present market I can see only Iniesta to back-up Xavi if God forbid he’s not available. So I’ d prefer Arda or Afellay to Suarez because they can play Iniesta’s role & Suarez is only a striker/Winger. Also Suarez prefers to cut in from right, more comfortable as a RW than a LW & I guess that position is reserved in our squad for like 10 more years? I hope so 🙂

  6. Curiously, I’ve watched Rafinha alot (specially for the past 2 years) and I must say he is worth every single penny. Even 10 is a good price for him. And he’s been linked with us in the past but the deal never materialized.

    However Magath is no fool, the season has already started, Schalke are doing well and it would be a huge blow to lose such an important player. I really, really hope that this deal happens but it would be tough.

  7. Rafinha is a player I followed since a while. He is quality. The problem is: Can we find him 15 games per season to start (Putting the cup aside of course). Alves do not like to be rotated that often. Thats why the primary strategy was to get CB and use Puyol on the RB when needed. I dont want another hleb for next season. will he be welling to be a back up (risking his international Career)?

    If we were a team that play a 4-4-2, then we can think of giving them more opportunities as right midfielders. But with the system we apply, and specially having Jeff, Bojan, and specially perdo, thats not an option. Midfield? Where?

    Again, he is quality. But still not so sure he will come.

    The squad depth is an issue, no doubt. After Mascherano attempt failed (who was again Plan (A) for pep, things turned complicated. We cant buy a quality midfielder (he will collapse -hleb way- under the quality of Xavi/iniesta).

    Chyhrynskiy, as a player who can click as a CB and as a DM, he can prove a big boost for the squad. He solve the CB depth, create more depth on the RB (where Puyol could be used), and as a DM can offer us the chance to use Yaya in a more advanced position.

    During ACN we will have Busquets, JDS, and Guddy if he stayed to cover iniesta or Xavi abcense in the midfield. Messi can play there as well.

    Noting that, we may have Keita back earlier than Yaya. It depend how far their national teams will go in the competition.

  8. Ramzi, Rafinha is behind both Maicon and Alves for Brazil so I don’t think that’s a concern. It’s true Alves doesn’t like being rotated but it’s in his best interest. Also we have to secure against injuries.

    Also Suarez can only be a bench player now. And he’s really more of a supporting striker or wing forward. Plus he’d cost around 20 million.

    BTW either of Marquez or Pique can play as DM if ever need be. As Ramzi said, Keita shouldn’t be away too long.

    Plus there is always the option to buy in the winter market. Which is likely to have much lower prices than what we have now.

    I think, if we don’t lose Guddy then we can still manage with the current depth till January. We can rely on youth players more and hopefully the preventive measures taken against injuries will work this season as well.

  9. Regarding the squad being too thin, I think that signing a right back like Rafinha should solve the squad size problem.
    For centre backs we will then have: Capt. Cave Man, Piquenbauer, Marquez, Milito, Abidal(can play here), Munesia.
    for holding mid fielders: The Destroyer(Yaya), Busi 2.0, Johnny 2 Time, Keita
    for attacking midfielders: Xavi, Ghostface, Johnny 2 Time, Keita,
    For forwards: Henry, Messiah, BAS, Pedro(I cant understand some peoples fixation with him, I think he is just ok), Jeffren, Gai Assulin, and of course the little bean pole Bojan(he should really be played as a winger where he made a mark under the final season as Rijkard as the coach.

    I think Ive said it all.

  10. All I know is if Hurricane Bill somehow keeps me from watching the SuperCopa I am going to go to town on Global Warming. It is not acceptable to have a hurricane in New York City. Not acceptable.

    Just thought you should know that.

  11. Comment that got erased and I now had to write over:

    So far our 1st team squad looks like this: (22)
    Valdes, Pinto, Jorquera (3)
    Alves, Piqué, Marquez, Puyol, Milito, Abidal, Maxwell, Henrique (8)
    Xavi, Gudjohsen, iniesta, Keita, Yaya, Busquets (6)
    Messi, Pedro, Ibrahimovic, Bojan, Henry (5)

    Youth players that played in friendlies: (13)
    Montoya, Dalmau, Fontas, Muniesa, Bartra, Espasandin (6)
    Jonathan, Rueda, Thiago (3)
    Jeffren, Rochina, Edu Oriol, Gai (4)

    Of those youth players the most reliable ones are:
    Fontas, Muniesa
    Jonathan, Thiago

    Possible positions of all players (excluding gks)
    RB: Alves, Puyol, Henrique, (Montoya, Dalmau) (5)
    CB: Piqué, Marquez, Puyol, Yaya, Abidal, Henrique, Milito, (Muniesa, Fontas, Bartra) (10)
    LB: Abidal, Maxwell, Puyol, Henrique, (Muniesa, Espasandin) (6)
    DM: Yaya, Keita Busquets, Piqué, Marrquez (5)
    “4”: Xavi, Iniesta, Yaya, (Jonathan, Thaigo) (5)
    3rd midfielder: Iniesta, keita, Busquets, Gudjohnsen (Jonathan, Thiago) (6)
    RW: Messi, Pedro, Iniesta, Bojan (Jeffren, Edu Oriol) (6)
    ST: Ibrahimovic, Bojan, Henry (Rochina) (4)
    LW: Henry, Iniesta, Pedro, Bojan (Jeffren, Gai, Edu Oriol) (7)

    The reliable first team players at their reliable position: (15)
    RB; Alves, Puyol (2)
    CB: Piqué, Marquez, Puyol, Yaya (4)
    LB: Abidal, Maxwell, Puyol (3)
    DM: Yaya, Keita, Busquets (3)
    “4”: Xavi, Iniesta (2)
    3rd midfielder: Iniesta, Keita, Busquets (3)
    RW: Messi, Iniesta, Pedro (3)
    ST: Ibrahimovic, Henry (2)
    LW: Henry, Iniesta, Pedro (3)

    During the ANC we lose 2 reliable players instantly the list turns to: (13)
    RB; Alves, Puyol (2)
    CB: Piqué, Marquez, Puyol (3)
    LB: Abidal, Maxwell, Puyol (3)
    DM: Busquets (1)
    “4”: Xavi, Iniesta (2)
    3rd midfielder: Iniesta, Busquets (2)
    RW: Messi, Iniesta, Pedro (3)
    ST: Ibrahimovic, Henry (2)
    LW: Henry, Iniesta, Pedro (3)

    Take into account that Busquets probably can’t play 3rd midfielder as he is needed at DM as Piqué and Marquez are needed at the back and can’t play DM. Also the ANC may take a month but takes our players out for longer as there is a 2 week preparation with the team and a long recovery from conditions as well as possible injuries. That leaves us with 13 reliable players, 4 okay players (Henrique, Milito, Gudjohsen, Bojan), 3 gk, 5 reliable youth players, 8 okay youth players.
    I hope this creates a clearer picture of the squad for all of you…

  12. has Guddy already been traded? As far as I know he is still a part of the team. So add barely 1 to the team.

  13. @jnelson: 😀 LIfe is hard, ain’t it?

    I think that hardly anyone is including Monument in the squad list, because Guardiola has said that he isn’t counting on him for this season, and we are actively trying to find a deal for him.

    I think that we’ll be able to find 15 starts very easily for Rafinha this season. Alves needs to rotate. I’m convinced that his crappy stretch had a lot to do with fatigue. Even Brazilian Hummingbirds have to stop flying every now and again.

  14. Now onto my opinion:
    We should get a reliable DM so most midfield positions are covered, a CB so we don’t get a huge hole up like last years CL, but that may not be needed if Milito proves reliable so maybe we shoud wait till winter…
    Henrique should not go. I don’t care if Fontas and Muniesa prove better than him. Henrique provides cover for all 4 defense positions since he has no strong/weak foot.

  15. To be honest, I’m a little unnerved about the squad depth. I would feel more confident going into the season with an extra center-back. I like what Liverpool did by signing Kyrgiakos. He may not be amazing (I’ve never seen him play) but he adds a lot of depth I think. They had three quality centerbacks (Agger, Carragher, Skrtel), but really lacked that 4th quality guy.

    Since we are in the same position as Liverpool, and since Marquez and Puyol are both injury concerns in my mind (because of their past histories), plus unless we sign Rafinha or another RB, Puyol will be deputizing there, I think we need a 4th quality defender. I’m not sure that it’s Munesia or Fontas. And I still (as I’m sure Kevin does?) have nightmares of Abidal’s play at centerback from the last time I saw him there. (AKA France vs. Italy). Plus the 4th quality defender could add depth at holding midfielder.

    As far as the midfield, I think we need a “new Gudjohnsen” as ridiculous as that sounds. Someone who is very professional, willing to do his part for the team and not complain about playing. Hopefully this Gudjohnsen would be a little better than the Icelandic Monument. I’m not sure if this player exists (and if someone mentions the letters H,B,E, and L in a particular order I will lose Iit :))

    However, that being said, for the time besides the ACN, we should be okay without an extra midfielder if he can’t be found because of our new-found depth at winger which should mean less Iniesta-time at LW. Which means if Xavi is gone, we play Iniesta and a combination of Toure, Keita and Busquets.

    However, during the ACN, I’m not okay with saying “screw it”, and having to play something like Jonathan,Xavi and Busquets in midfield. Those points against Sevilla and Villareal are absolutely vital, and will probably decide the league, because Madrid aren’t going to roll over this time around.

  16. I still think that Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao) would be a great addition to our midfield. He is young, big, strong, quick and good in attack and defense, without being an automatic starter.
    We have a great tradition with Basque players and Txiki could surely pull that one off.

    Let’s say we did pull off Rafinha and Javi Martinez we’d have:
    Valdes | Pinto
    Alves | Rafinha
    Puyol | Marquez
    Pique | Henrique
    Abidal | Maxwell
    Yaya | Busquets
    Xavi | Javi Martinez
    Iniesta | Keita
    Messi | Pedro
    Ibrahimovic | Bojan
    Henry | Jeffren

    Not too shabby.

  17. True, Cesc Pistol. But I dont think he will give up on that. Not when he is 23 years old anyway. Beside, Maicon can play as a LB as well.

    I still believe the priority is a CB, not a RB who cant add a lot to our depth quality and will cause some selection headaches. At least not as vital as a CB.

  18. Hmm if what Ramzi says (the part about Chygrynskiy as CB and DM) is true then I’d definitely get him regardless if we can’t play him in CL until the knockout rounds as that hits 2 birds with one stone. On the RB cover I’m starting to think that even if Puyol was more of a cover for Alves, I don’t think it would work out if Alves was out for say 3 months (hopefully that doesn’t even happen) as Puyol could not possibly cover for him that long, because he might get a suspension or a knock for a game or two…but then again we could put our trust in Henrique at RB or Montoya if that ever happens. But I don’t think Chygrynskiy will come and for that matter I don’t know if he would fit in the system, but if Pep buys him and he works out then I think we’re covered except in some sort of bizarre, ridiculous, and unlucky situation where we have multiple problems. Also when everyone says we have 6 competitions to play it really is 3 competitions and 5 extra games plus a few league games moved. 2 games in world cup for clubs, 2 legs of Super Copa, and 1 game for the Uefa Super Cup and 3 of those extra games are in August and 1 is already done with. Also don’t forget that last season had a bizarre schedule when we played the top teams in a row, which we don’t have this year. The only worry probably is the extra fatigue from a few extra midweek games.

  19. I think two things…I think clearly Txiki and Pep are trying to reinforce the squad, at the last minute (Why?)…The other is that there are youth players to reinforce, both in defense (Fontas & Muniesa), midfield (JDS & Jeffren) and striker (Rochina).

    I think they’ll be fine…Plus, for the first time, it appears the Winter transfer window may actually see some activity

  20. yes worried about our small squad number as well, but i’m slightly at ease knowing we have youngsters who are ready for an emergency on-call in almost every position. but i’m mostly concerned with zlatan, we were very lucky to have eto’o fit all last season but if zlatan goes out then we have no true centerforward and will have to work bojan in there again, which was ok for preseason but we might not be as lucky in the league

    oh and i’m here with my daily photo

  21. Corrine, we don’t have to play bojan if Ibrahimovic is out…
    We could play a frontline of:
    RW: Pedro RW: Messi
    ST: Messi or ST: Henry
    LW: Henry LW: Pedro

    For me Bojan’s best position is playing LW the way Henry does. In fact if we needed a “Henry” for a match that Henry is not available I’d rather start Bojan over Iniesta, Pedro, or Jeffren.

  22. some might be forgetting we’re competing for 6 trophies did this year. that’s well over 60 games a season. even our back-ups will have ample playing time with Pep’s savvy rotation policy.

  23. FC Barca, even though we can rely on our youth players in some games, there are no youth players that are ready for the DM position and they probably can’t handle a big game against Sevilla or Valencia just yet. Either way if Pep wanted to rely on them as backup he would’ve promoted them already instead of being sent back to Atletic. This means that they cannot play more than 10 games this season or else they would be promoted.

  24. True about Krkic and his being better on the wing. And the “new Gudjohnsen” comment is spot on. I almost think of Keita in that role, but not, because he tends to roam, rather than playing that area near/in front of Xavi, as Monument does.

    What worries me most about our squad depth is rolling into a World Cup year, the guys are going to have a lot of matches in their legs. Tired legs are injured legs. You want as big a squad as possible, precisely for platooning. Players who return from the ACN almost invariably come back tired/injured. And does anyone feel comfortable with Busquets as the DM for a whole month?

    So do we improvise?

    Colby, I need to sleep tonight. Please don’t mention Abidal at center back again. 😀 (shudder)

  25. And would it really be the worst thing in the world if we kept Monument? Just asking. I know that many of us think that he’s a horrorshow of late, but he does have value if played in that midfield facilitator’s role, rather than as an attacker.

    Am I crazy?

  26. Nice one, jordi. I have to apologize to him for not noticing him that much in the match “review.” I’m in love!

    Anyone? I know that somebody had big praise for him in the match comments/review post. Good eyes!

  27. I noticed Thiago 🙂

    Although Dos Santos did stand out more, probably because he is more flashy on the ball. Also that shot he had was quite ridiculous, wish that went in!!!

    So apparently now we are very close to signing Jonas Guitierez from Newcastle….not sure about that one. I havent seen him much tbh. Anybody know anything about him?

  28. I’ll ask my Newcastle buddy. He’s as crazed about them (crying in his beer, even now) as we are about Barca.

    @Thelonious (nice screen name! After Sphere Monk, I presume?): Bummer. What can you do except say “Hey, talk to me and defend your position.” I expected it sooner, frankly. Yes, I can be a pain in the ass sometimes. It’s what humans do.

  29. That might have been me 😀 . His passing range is extraordinary. That’s why I have been raving about him for a whole year. Awesomeness, Great find Jordi!

  30. I remember noticing one cross field pass that was quite simply sublime. He put it right on Alves’ toe, was amazing. He is definitely one for the future. It really makes you think, do we need to pay 40m for Cesc? We dont really need him yet anyways, Xavi has a few more years left in him and Iniesta is just reaching his prime now. Why pay all that money when we have two players who could grow to become just as good as Cesc but wouldnt cost us anywhere near as much.

    As for the offside, as soon as Kxevin and Isaiah left the rifraf started arriving. Starting to look a lot like Peps place now.

  31. No offense to Pep of course who does a bang up job of keeping us updated with all the wonderful rumors that light up our lives, but some of the commenting on that site…..shocking. I dont even bother saying anything anymore.

  32. I’ve seen him play for newcastle a lot , and argentina too. He definitely has quality. At least enough to provide some midfield cover for the African Cup of NAtions period. I’d feel good about that signing (versus none at all)

  33. Thanks for that, UAI. I’ve sent an e-mail to my Newcastle dude, who will almost certainly second your emotions. Lord knows Newcastle could use the bucks, right?

  34. Agree with Hilal. You can do as good of a job as you want to running a blog, but the quality of the commenters depends upon so much, but more importantly the template set by the blog’s originator (Isaiah) and the current group of commenters (all of you).

    And that’s my daily “Thanks to all of you, it works,” gush. 😀

  35. yes, kxevin, but you’re our pain in the ass… 😉

    i hvnt read the comment yet, but rest assured that the work that Isaiah and yourself do are is huge part of many people’s lives. (probably to an unhealthy extent)

    btw, if you as a journalist don’t have critics, than you are just not doing your job right.

    not that you need any validation from me, but i had to throw my $0.02 in

  36. I love Thiago, been waiting to see him get his chance in the 1st team for years. I heard his father say in an interview that his younger brother rafa is more complete them him, but i havent seen much of him,we’ll have to see in a few years. A JDS- thiago partnership could do well in the copa this year.

  37. i have no problem with Guddy staying on another season for us. But maybe as an experiment, Pep can tie a string around his waist and tie the other end around Dani’s. Just for one practice.

  38. i’m a huge fan of jonas gutierrez… but my only concern is his hair. Carles has total claim on the hair products in the locker room. don’t see our captain sharing, sorry.

  39. Thanks, Jason. The validation helps. Isaiah and I figure that if we sucked, people would just stop coming, but it’s always nice to hear, outside of the vociferous acclamation that people finding and posting on the site provides. 😀

    I think that Monument is at his most effective as a human backboard. That is, he gets the ball and at his best, he already knows where it’s going to go. If he even dribbles, I would fine him. Because when he’s on, he keeps the ball moving like crazy, making everyone’s lives easier. He also makes those late runs into the box.

    Jesus, jordi, Thiago has an even better little brother? I met some of the Masia kids my last trip to Barcelona (or the two that spoke French, anyhow). Very mature.

  40. True, Flippy…But, I’d say that Pique can assume the DM position in addition to Biscuit

  41. Kxevin, wouldn’t worry too much about those “haters”. Although I do not always agree with all of your statements/reviews on players/games, you always back it up with evidence and present a thourough argument.

    You cannot please everyone all the time. What is great about coming here is that we can have civil discussions without getting personal. I like that, and it is pretty evident that lots of people like that because ya’ll have a great following.

    So keep up the good work- 🙂

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