The Good, the Bad and the Suarez

This is the post I promised Valdemar II, the winner of the World Cup predictions thing who asked for:

“A post about the possible starting elevens and alternate formations for [this] season”

Well, the transfer window wasn’t closed at the time nor was the squad finalized so I thought it would be better to hold off it. Which ended up being a good call since we didn’t sign Cuadrado after all.

Now that we have a couple of games under the proverbial belt, I figured there’s enough material to work with to give a brief overview of the beginnings of the Lucho era.  That, and I’ve been slacking so I hope Kevin, blitzen, Lev and co. don’t revoke my membership.

What I find really interesting this season is the glut of (very good) tactical posts and blogs available on the ‘net these days. (That includes here, Kevin print/tvscreens for the win!). I don’t know if it’s just Barca-centric or if it extends to other teams, but it’s very impressive. As for me, that means rather than give a broad overview I’m simply going to list bullet points of the pros and cons from this growing project Lucho’s begun. A little snapshot if you will.

Also, Suarez.

Except he hasn’t played it yet so it’s really Liverpool!Suarez

Let’s start with some of the Good:

  • A healthy Neymar. I don’t think any more needs to be said. He’ll go from strength to strength, as will his connection with Messi. I fistpumped so hard after his Granada hattrick. Exciting times ahead with these two.
  • With the addition of Rakitic we have a player that opens up a lot of doors to try new things, so much so that it probably deserves its own post but that’ll come with time. His tracking back against Granada, if I recall correctly, to save a certain goal being conceded warmed my cold, cold heart. He also allows a new possibility of a Xavi on the left side of the midfield if needed and more Xavi is always welcome. Lately, we’ve seen Rakitic more on the left when Xavi’s in the lineup, though.
  • The return of competition. While I don’t agree with everything that comes with the rotation Lucho’s implemented, it’d be difficult to deny the presence of players that can leapfrog each other into starting positions is not a welcome thing. Whether or not some of these players can truly replace the players they’re challenging for a spot is a bit more questionable, though.
  • Youth. I won’t lie, I didn’t really expect Lucho to use Munir, Sandro and Samper as much as he has, but it’s a credit to them and all the hard work they’ve put in. More importantly it speaks of how well they’ve taken advantage of the chances given to them. Lucho can sit them, but they hang around because what they offer is consistent and quite useful. There’s the usual warning of restraint as with all youth players, but they’ve been fantastic so far.

The Bad has been documented mercilessly meticulously like only we cules can do, so I’ll keep it small misgivings:

  • Set pieces takes first spot, surprising absolutely no one. PSG was a good enough example of this, which Kevin has detailed here.
  • Why is Bravo starting over ter Stegen
  • Giving the ball away cheaply. Mathieu is one of the biggest offenders in this area. It leads to giving up chances that so, so avoidable. Sure, it’ll get better over time and all that jazz, but man does it make me want to beat my head against a table. Or more accurately, beat their heads against a table, but I’m afraid Pique will start bleeding.
  • I wrote a bit about positional play here. While it’s not as bad as it was under Tata, it still needs some work.
“I told you to move over there. Come on!”

Luis Suarez

Suarez is the kind of striker that thrives between channels, making runs behind or across the defense. With gaps between defenders common in England, if the Liverpool providers can thread the ball through those spaces, the chance of Suarez scoring is extremely high.

Arrows show the "channels", or gaps between defense.
Arrows show the “channels”, or gaps between defense.

The great part of watching Liverpool is when you see the influence Pep’s Barca has had on them. Brendan Rodgers is a firm believer of the total football philosophy and has integrated it into his Liverpool side (and before that, his Swansea side). You see the pressing in numbers, the triangles, the interchanging forwards… Granted the sample of games I’ve watched so far has been pretty limited to the big games, particularly the 5-1 defeat of Arsenal in February of this year, but it’s wonderful to see.

Speaking of big games, did you know Suarez spent most of his time on the right wing during them? His role was one of provider to Sturridge, who was often center, and Sterling on the left.* Does this mean his influence drops off to augment the other two? Not at all. In these games Suarez tended to be the best player on the pitch.

[*Though depending on the game Sterling drops deeper behind Sturridge and Suarez, turning into a sort of CAM, not unlike the role Messi has at the moment, which I suppose is where the comparison (though it’s more like similarity) between the two is coming from. I think Sterling is actually a fantastic player who is “unfortunate” to be English at a time where there’s a dearth of players like him in the country. thus leading the media to hype him like whoa. But anyway.]

Before this turns into ‘Let’s break down Liverpool tactics’ type thing, let me highlight specific skill sets Suarez has shown to be in his repertoire that will come in handy for us. I’ve mentioned the provider role, but let’s go more into detail with visuals.

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal: February 08, 2014

Suarez didn’t score in this game. He came close a couple of times with an audacious free kick and a volley that smacked off the crossbar but was ultimately kept off the score-sheet. He also had a hand in almost every goal Liverpool scored. After the match his role and end product was often compared to Messi’s in La Manita.

In the first half Liverpool are up 2-0 within the first quarter of an hour. Liverpool win the ball off Arsenal through pressing with the help of some lackadaisical Arsenal passing.

Liverpool players have the ball
Liverpool players: “Here, you can have the ball… Sike! It’s ours.”

The ball is lobbed forward to Suarez. He one-touches it into the path of Sturridge.

Screenshot (4)
Suarez about to volley the ball…

 

Screenshot (5)
…right into Sturridge’s path.
Screenshot (6)
An inside of the boot volley pass from a different angle.

Sturridge misses.

But two minutes later almost the exact same scenario repeats itself and this time Sterling puts it in the back of the net to make it 3-0.

Henderson wins the ball and passes to Suarez
Henderson wins the ball and passes to Suarez. Sterling calling for ball on left.
Suarez squares the ball.
Suarez squares the ball.
Sterling scores. Get outta here, Sturridge. ;p
Sterling scores. Get outta here, Sturridge.

A great day for Liverpool. But let’s not dwell too far in the past. Up next:

Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City: April 13, 2014

A pivotal game for Liverpool with regards to the title race they [spoiler alert] ultimately didn’t win. It was an exciting game to watch regardless so I’ll try to embed the video after the printscreens.

Suarez gets himself booked within the first minute for a late rash challenge on Demichelis. In the next play Liverpool win the ball, Henderson lobbing it forward.

Suarez holds off Demichelis
Suarez holds off Demichelis
Suarez shields the ball from Clichy (I)
Suarez shields the ball from Clichy (I)
Suarez  shielding the ball from Clichy (II)
Suarez shielding the ball from Clichy (II)
The winner of both battles come out in the clear
The winner of both battles come out in the clear
Suarez threads the ball through for Sterling, an inverse of their usual roles
Suarez threads the ball through for Sterling, an inverse of their usual roles
Sterling scores.
Sterling scores a fantastic goal.

So to recap: Gets booked for a rash tackle, then holds off two players and threads a perfect throughball for Sterling a minute later. Suarez in a nutshell.

Anyway, because both Clichy and Demichelis were pulled into Suarez’s proverbial orbit, as well as Javi Garcia, that allowed a large gap to open up that Suarez and Sterling take advantage of.

City come the other way. A nice passing game around the edge of the Liverpool box is ultimately hoofed up field by Liverpool fullback Flanagan. Suarez, running full tilt, back flicks the ball right to Sterling with one touch.

Ball is hoofed forward towards Suarez
Ball is hoofed forward towards Suarez

Thus the counter begins.

Sterling controls the ball from Suarez
Sterling controls the ball from Suarez

Sterling plays around with Javi Garcia for a bit before dishing the ball to Sturridge, who is now on the left.

Suarez on the left, Sterling in the middle, Sturridge on the right.
Suarez on the left, Sterling in the middle, Sturridge on the right.

Strurridge then tries to thread the ball to Suarez, but it doesn’t reach him and is deflected for a corner.

Sturridge tries to play in Suarez but it's deflected.
Sturridge tries to play in Suarez but it’s deflected.

What I liked about this move was the Suarez’s touch, the speed of the counter, the interchanging positions. When I see this, I think of Neymar on the right, Messi center, Suarez left… It’s easy to substitute and move around the players, imagine how it’d be like for us.

Now onto the final game of this soiree.

Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea: April 27, 2014 AKA The Slip

The purpose of this game is not to bring up painful memories of Liverpool fans. I wanted to watch a game where Suarez plays against a narrow, low block team. That way I could see how he does when his pace is made moot (by defending deep) and his favoured channels plugged up (by playing narrow).

It went as well as you’d expect.

Unlike Arsenal and Man City who both played open games, Chelsea had no such illusions. Liverpool as a team struggled. Sterling dropped deep but it was for naught. With no space in the middle, the ball often went to the wings where Liverpool fullbacks lobbed in cross after predictable cross to no one. Deja vu, eh?

Having said that what good chances Liverpool created usually had Suarez involved in some way. Once again in the provider role he sent in a couple of great passes into the box for Coutinho that weren’t capitalized on. Chelsea on the other hand had chances in stoppage time of both halves that they put in. Thus, 0-2.

I didn’t really enjoy watching this, probably because I see Barca flounder like this enough as it is, which is why this section is notably shorter than the others.

Conclusions

We have a hybrid RW-CF that we’ve desperately needed for some time now. He has the strength to hold off defenders, the versatility to play multiple positions, the skill to play through his teammates under pressure. The background he has as a former Ajax player, as well as playing a system similar to our own in Liverpool makes me think he’ll have an easier time adapting than usual, but that’s just conjecture, really.

Suarez coming back obviously has implications for Pedro since it’s basically a straight swap with Suarez adding much more. I don’t think he will start over Pedro right away. He’s not match fit, nor is he sharp enough, but over time he’ll take over the position.

Now this next bit will sound like some Football Manager business but please bear with me. Since the whole Cuadrado thing didn’t work out and we can’t sign players until 2016, I wonder if Lucho could convert Pedro to RB. The RB role that Lucho wants isn’t a typical one anyway. The player need to have a high workrate to keep up with the demands of bombing up and down the flank, needs to be able to take on players (possibly beat them with a dribble) and be able to combine with the right winger effectively.

Montoya is the “play-it-safe” type. You know what you get with him, and it’s not what I described above. He’s solid, reliable but not outstanding. That has its good points, too, of course, but as RB is a cornerstone of the kind of football Lucho wants Barca to play, Monty loses out. Moving on to Douglas, admittedly we only have one game to judge him by, but against Malaga we needed him to take on player. He didn’t. Could be nerves, could be that it’s simply not his game, could be that he’s simply not good enough. Either way, that’s another name tentatively crossed off the list. Bizarre, considering he’s a new signing for that position…

That leaves Dani. Unsurprisingly he’s the one with the most minutes. The problem with Alves right now is he doesn’t have the dynamism he had before. Does that mean he sucks? No, considering he’d be exactly what we need if he were a couple of years younger and a better dribbler. His crosses on the other hand... Alves is the best option out of what we’ve got, a rhombus in a square hole if you will. But he’s one player and we can’t play him every game.

So, Pedro.

C’mon… whaddya say? Huh? Huh?

I understand not wanting Munir to launch up into being the second pick for RW, and I’m not advocating that, but as it is we need to find some kind of solution for this right back problem. I’m not saying it will be a permanent conversion like with Alba but say a cup game comes around and we’re up 6-0 on aggregate…

As for Adriano and Alba: Alba’s got speed which can often compensate for his mistakes when playing against smaller teams. As seen against PSG, when playing against people as fast or faster than he is, it’s a different situation altogether. Adriano, on the other hand, combines with Neymar more, cuts inside and is generally more attack minded. Mathieu playing LB is definitely a game changer and I’d love to see him play more there in the future.

So potato, potahto.

 

 

[HT: @Emenderk for the pictures, MOTD from which I printscreen’d stuff.]

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

112 Comments

  1. October 13, 2014

    Sorry, this probably wasn’t the post you were looking for, Valdemar II but I’ll redeem myself someday. Soon. Maybe.

    *runs*

  2. PrinceYuvi
    October 13, 2014

    A kari article; Brilliant as always !

    • October 14, 2014

      A PrinceYuvi comment; kind as always. Thanks!

  3. Benj
    October 13, 2014

    Love it, love everything about it. My favourite football blog talking about my favourite team  You have, however, opened up some wounds, I still find it hard to accept that he wont be playing for LFC, in fact it kind of feels like he’s just been suspended for the start of the season for us, because we were getting used to that!

    Your analysis of the way that last year’s LFC played, with direct links to Pep’s Barca is spot on. We weren’t Pep’s Barca, but god did we want to be. The attacking 3 of SSS was just brilliant in the way that it dovetailed and overlapped, whether they lined up with the 3 up front or with Sterling just behind, it just worked.

    Towards the end of the season, our best formations were a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-2-1-2(diamond) that operated fairly similarly to each other. In the 4-3-3, you have 1 holding/distributing, 1 pressing/distributing and 1 attacking/pressing midfielder, which was usually a combo of Gerrard, Henderson, Allen and/or Coutinho. This would feed up to the 3 up front which lined up with Studge as the focal point and the other two swapping wings as they see fit. Sterling is fairly right footed, but Suarez didn’t care which he used, it was going in the net regardless.

    The diamond was essentially the same thing (I’m one of these people who doesn’t really see the difference between a lot of formations, as they will always naturally evolve on the pitch), it was just laid out a bit more rigid. Sterling operates more centrally and relies on Suarez and Studge to open up that centre by making runs and drawing defenders. Sterling then uses his incredible acceleration to burst through the middle and create opportunities.

    I could see the diamond working for Barca, if they ever chose to use 2 up front. Ignoring the defence for the moment, Busi holds at the base of midfield, with Rakitic and Iniesta providing the pressing and ball movement, Messi as the focus in the CAM/10/Treq role, with Ney and Luis in front of him, making runs, drawing defenders and leaving big gaps for the best player in history to run into, it really could be devastating.

    Honestly culers, enjoy this season, you have got 3 of the 5 best players in the world at the moment (IMO) playing in your front three. M*drid need to watch out because it could be another manita.

    PS: Don’t ever bring up that Chelsea game again. It solidified every ill feeling I’ve ever had for both Chelsea and Mourinho. I have no problem with teams playing defensively if it is based on discipline and having a solid defensive unit. When your manager is holding the ball when it goes out to waste time in the first few minutes, that isn’t football, it is acting like a petulant child. I’ve never been so disgusted at a managers antics as I was in that game. I’ve just broken a pen just thinking about it.

    Good luck for the season guys, and best of luck with El Pistolero. I look forward to watching the highlights!

    Peace, YNWA

    • October 14, 2014

      Oh man, thank you so much for this comment, Benj. I`m so glad this holds up when read by Liverpool fans as well.

      The triumvirate of Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge was special to watch, especially when they clicked (thankfully often). Now that you`ve broken down their mid, it does seem like something Lucho can experiment with. Busi`s passes from deep are incredible, low on the ground and precise, an usual ability for most holding midfielders. So with Iniesta on the left, Rakitic on the right, Messi in front, this sort of diamond could work. Concerns of how we`d defend as a unit but those are always there with Barca, haha.

      The thing that leaves a bitter taste is how Barca has been mismanaged to the point of receiving a transfer ban, and how it`s directly affected the team. It`s been ranted about enough so I won`t bring it back up but it`s a big reason why some cules won`t truly be able to enjoy the season, unfortunately. Having said all that, Suarez, Messi, Neymar, Iniesta, Busi, Rakitic all together at the same time. As soon as they all click… yesh.

      Really sorry for bringing up the Chelsea game but it was a necessary measure to get out of the way. Lips are sealed now.

      Thanks again, Benj. Best of luck this season as well!

    • Benj
      October 14, 2014

      No, thank you for the shout out Kari. Always been a fan of your work and I’m happy to give an alternate view from what you would normally get.

      That trident was a joy to watch, I just wish we could recreate it this season, but Balo just aint Suarez… I think the diamond would look very different for Barca than what it did for LFC, Busi is much more of a DM than Gerrard ever was, however Gerrard’s strength lies in his forward thinking play and those diagonal lobbed passes to get the ball wide, which he does better than just about any player in the world IMO, but his lack of mobility and lack of focus on defense does hinder him and slightly expose our back line. Busi would provide a much more solid defensive base and wouldn’t really be the ‘quarterback’ that Gerrard is, but would be more effective in recycling possession and starting the attack from deep, also providing a shield for the back 4.

      It’s hard to compare the players, as ours are simply not up to the standard that Barca possess, but Iniestas spot is where Lallana (who is coming into some decent form) would be for us, with Henderson in Rak’s spot, both providing great workrates, Lallana having a bit more flair, Hendo having a more solid, powerful stance. Comparing Sterling, as much as I love the kid and think he will honestly be in the top 10 players in the world when he hits his prime, can’t be compared to Messi because Sterling is human and Messi is… well…. I don’t even know.

      Don’t worry too much about the transfer ban, your last window was (if you’ll allow me to quote my neice) AMAZEBALLS! Honestly you signed two amazing keepers, a faaaaantastic CB/LB, a beast of a CM, the best CF in the game (albeit slightly bitey) and managed to keep most of your best players (shame about Sanchez and Fab, but replacing with Suarez and Rak was a good deal). Oh you also got Douglas, but along with 9/10 people in the world, I have no idea who he is!

      S’gonna be a doozy of a season for all, glad to see Valencia putting in a good shift, keeping everyone honest this season. Also quite happy to see Athletico struggling just a bit, I feel they needed to be brought back to earth a little… Great performance by Ney aswell, the kid is a genius!

      Peace, YNWA

    • Kari
      October 15, 2014

      My concern comes from how the team will react if the opposition presses Busi (and some teama already so that). It risks “breaking” the formarion with Rakitic and Iniesta caught further foward, as well as the fullbacks, leaving our CBs to defend the subsequent counter. It’s all hypothetical of course, but we’re always playing a high line, if Busi gets caught out (almost never tbf) we could be in trouble.

      Thar’s basically the only caveat I have. You’ve basically highlighted the plus sides of the diamond, and taught me some stuff re Liverpool.

      Fantastic comments, Benj. Thank you!

    • October 14, 2014

      Really wish he hadn`t brought that up again… Sigh.

  4. Jim
    October 14, 2014

    Our expensive Brazilian is continuing to look like good value and starting to look cheap ! Running riot against Japan.

    • G6O
      October 14, 2014

      Could have had 5 – that was a really great free kick and it hits the post right where it meets the bar, bad luck.

    • October 14, 2014

      22 years old with 40 goals for his country…

  5. georgjorge
    October 14, 2014

    Thanks for a great article. You have to wonder though, will Suarez be able to use his talents for us for a longer period of time, or will he get upset, do something stupid on the field and receive an even longer ban? I wasn’t against his transfer for moral reasons (I won’t go into detail now) but I’m all against it for the very real risk of him spending more time in the stands than on the playing field.

    • Kari
      October 14, 2014

      Took the words right out of my mouth. All legit con!cerns. Say a Clasico comes around and Pepe’s getting all up in his face….

      We’ll just have to see. What makes Suarez great is also what makes him reckless, hoping we get much more of the former…

      Thanks for reading!

    • Benj
      October 14, 2014

      I honestly believe that it will be a while before he spits the dummy, and remember it works both ways. He is VERY good at getting dirty players sent off. I am a firm believer that he doesn’t (usually) dive, but he knows how to make the most of contact. Someone like Pepe wont last 5 minutes.

    • Kari
      October 15, 2014

      Ahhh, I didn’t mention thar poinr but yes, Suarez has shown he has the strength to stay on his feat when he wants to, against both Arsenal and Man City (where he should have gotten a penalty after Kompany manhandled him).

      He’ll thrive in Spain since he’s very familiar with the footy culture there. You’ll notice that rather than abuse the one who’s embellishing, opposition players will bereate the ref for falling for it haha. Di Maria used this to great effect.

      My guess is that now that he’s surrounded by high quality players (no offense!), most of whom have won everything, he won’t feel the pressure to do everything / carry the team.

  6. norden
    October 14, 2014

    Great article, Kari. Thanks!

    I was actually thinking about the same thing recetnly – trying Pedro on the RB. When wingers became strikers and fullbacks became wingers (most of the time), why not trying an actual winger on this spot in some matches…

    It may solve the “concerns” about the RB spot and fitting Pedro in the new system at the same time. Or it could be a disaster, who knows, but I’d like to see that 🙂

    • Kari
      October 14, 2014

      Hahaha, my thoughts exactly, norden. It might be a complete disaster but I wanna see it too. Pedro gets knocked over pretty easily and sometimes he looks like he’ll trip over his own feet but. … I believe in you, Pedro! 😀

    • Benj
      October 14, 2014

      I don’t see why this wouldn’t work for Barca to be honest… Pedro is a class player and looks like he needs something new, whether it be a few games as a #9 or maybe as a #2. I can imagine the argument would be that he isnt built to be a fullback, but neither is Alba, or Moreno, or Azpilicueta, or most of the best fullbacks in the world (apart from Ivanovic I suppose, but he’s a RB/CB). Certainly would make for a very attacking team…

    • Gekko64
      October 15, 2014

      it could work nicely with mathieu on the left…

    • Kari
      October 15, 2014

      I think it’d work or I wouldn’t have brought up the possibility haha. Bartra seems the more popular choice and I’m down with that but the upsides of having a player like Pedro there are pretty immense; at the very least we’d find a place for him where he’s not kinda redundant.

      Agree with Gekko that playing Pedro there means Mathieu should be the LB.

  7. October 14, 2014

    Top stuff from Kari, as usual. I wonder if Enrique’s reluctance to go to the “Pedro option” is because Pedro can’t beat folks off the dribble like Cuadrado can.

    • ciaran
      October 14, 2014

      I really don’t know what Pedro can do these days. Cuadrado would have been an extra dimension from out wide with his one on one ability but I suppose that ship has well and truly sailed.

    • Jim
      October 14, 2014

      It’s not even about beating the man for me, Kxevin. Just the option of hitting the byeline at pace or putting in a wicked low ball between keeper and backline would do. Still think overall Bartra would be better than Pedro. Pedro seems to have close control skills but seems to get nervous when in those situations for me – which is silly I know but that’s what it looks like. On the other hand Bartra is growing on me and I’d like to see him get a regular place which I’m not sure will be at CB.

  8. Jim
    October 14, 2014

    You know, I’m scared to say it but Scotland are actually looking rather good these days.

  9. Valdemar II
    October 15, 2014

    Thank you! Didn’t think I could be more excited about Suarez. It’s a good thing he’s able to play any offensive position, as it provides tactical versatility, and is a very good testament to his abilities.

    It’s clear we’ll have a trident of three forwards with complete
    skillsets; finishing, dribbling, and playmaking. This is why I was never worried about the Messi/Neymar connection, as some were. How could two geniuses without flaws fail to connect? That only applies to limited players. Diego Costa constitutes one example; elite with the right support, but a lackluster misfit for Spain.

    Pedro at RB? Curious, but it Looks like hipster coaching. Not sure if he’s much of a better dribbler than Alves, and it’s doubtful that he’d be a better defender than a professional one. Bartra should get a shot at the position. He has the speed, and some very useful height. It would be interesting to see how much offensive support he can provide, seeing he’s made some good runs from the CB position.

    Our double wingback tactics are still questionable (Alba + Cuadrado is a suicidal fantasy), why Bartra at RB or Mathieu at LB looks necessary. Perhaps a right wing of Bartra + Rakitic is too lame, but then again, our rivals played Arbelola at RB. Not very inspiring, but since Bartra is thrice the player, it could work.

    • Kari
      October 15, 2014

      You’re welcome! I kinda hijacked your post so I’m glad you liked it!

      Yeah, playing Pedro/Alba at the same time would be nuts, but Pep even played Mascherano at RB (against Valencia away even!) so I don’t think it’d be too farfetched if Mathieu plays at LB too.

  10. October 15, 2014

    Awful news for Thiago Alcantara, who, having just returned from a long injury layoff has more ligament damage and will require surgery, to be out for an unspecified period.

    Irrespective of how he left the club, he’s Masia, and needs a break like nobody since Giuseppe Rossi, another player with terrible luck and fragile joints.

    • barca96
      October 15, 2014

      Poor Thiago just can’t catch a break. I hope his career isn’t ended though I doubt he will ever reach his true potential.

    • deerwithwings
      October 15, 2014

      Of course no one wants (ought not) another player to get injured, but it does fit it your narrative of “you never know” a la two years ago we were all screaming about losing the player and he’s been injured for three seasons straight more or less. One just never knows. In hindsight, it was a good piece of business.

    • G6O
      October 15, 2014

      You have to wonder whether the club had a suspicion this will happen and that was a factor behind the decision to sell.

    • October 15, 2014

      Don’t think so, G60. The club didn’t want to sell him, but its hand was forced. I don’t think you can ever know that a player will have that kind of injury luck.

    • G6O
      October 16, 2014

      I think you can – club doctors know a lot more about player’s health than gets released to the public and based on the detailed medical medical records ad observations that they have, they can evaluate the probability of certain kinds of injuries occurring in the medium and long-term future.

      The ethical aspects of using that kind of information to inform transfer decisions are murky, of course, but I would be very surprised if it never happened. I am not saying it happened here, but I do think it happens.

      I always thought that when we sold the original Ronaldo in 1997 we did this with such considerations in mind. Because I remember hearing people with experience in sport medicine who I was watching games with during the 1996-97 people predicting that his knees would blow up based on his muscle structure and the way he ran, which was obviously putting a lot of strain on the knees. And then it eventually indeed happened. I know there were disputes about money and relationships with the board were strained but you just don’t let that kind of player go at the age of 21 if you think he is going to keep up that level for the next decade. Unfortunately both sides lost from that deal IMO (and RM won big), but it’s history at that point.

    • olbucky
      October 15, 2014

      Horrible news, he’s the player I would most like to have back. He’s the only one that I’ve seen control a midfield the way that Xavi can. Letting him go was a colossal mistake.

    • Kari
      October 15, 2014

    • norden
      October 16, 2014

      Pood kid.

    • norden
      October 16, 2014

      *Poor kid.

    • October 15, 2014

      Oh, that is SO good. Thanks for posting.

  11. hereiam
    October 15, 2014

    Only one thing to say about Neymar: the best thing that came to Brazilian football since Ronaldo.
    About Suarez: he maybe the most talented and aggressive center striker I have ever known. Heck, his aggressiveness is probably the reason why he was so successful.
    Another thing I noticed this season is that Barca’s squad is full of proven talents, and Real, except Ronaldo, is full of unproven ones (ok maybe Bale too).

    • barca96
      October 15, 2014

      Casillas, Ramos, Kroos, Khedira, Isco, Bale, Benzema are proven to be big talents.

    • Ryan
      October 16, 2014

      I can understand the others you mentioned, but Isco really only had that breakout season with Malaga, right? For the sake of the Spanish NT I hope he does continue to develop though, especially considering the problems with injuries from other starlets like Canales and Thiago.

    • hereiam
      October 17, 2014

      Casillas and Khedira are basically bench player now. Most expect them to leave sooner or later. Casillas used to be great but he is currently second rate.
      Kroos is a new player adapting to a new system, and is still struggling to produce yet. Same goes with James.
      Benzema’s form has always been so inconsistent that if Real has another striker he would probably be benched. The fact that Real was forced to loan a Man U out of form player as the second choice striker prove that they are really desperate in that option right now.
      Ramos is surely talented, but who knows when he decides to earn himself a red card and put the rest of the team at risk.
      Bale and Ronaldo are the only two players that (almost) reliably produces results at the moment.
      They used to have Di Maria but god knows why they decided to sell him. Alonso was also an essential cog in their machine but who knows why they let him go.

    • G6O
      October 16, 2014

      hereiam says:
      October 15, 2014 at 11:51 am
      Only one thing to say about Neymar: the best thing that came to Brazilian football since Ronaldo

      1. Ronaldinho came between them

      2. Unfortunately for Brazil, Neymar is still quite far from either, as much as I like him as a player.

    • Benj
      October 16, 2014

      3. IMO Ronaldinho was the best out of all three. Just my opinion but watching him play made and still makes me so happy to be a fan of this amazing sport. You can get really bummed out watching the likes of Mou’s R.M****d or Chelsea, but when you flick on the old youtube and watch Ronaldinho, you remember why you love the game. I’ve never loved watching someone play (including my idols, Gerrard and Dalglish) as I did Ronaldinho, and I doubt I ever will.

    • hereiam
      October 17, 2014

      There were Ronaldinho and Kaka. But both did little for Brazilian football before they decided to fade out into oblivion.
      Both were great at club level. Ronaldinho was good at the 2002 WC. But Ronaldo was the real drive of the team, and outshone Ronaldinho.
      At the 2006 WC both of them flopped. They peaked too soon, won everything, and declined before they made any impact to Brazilian football.
      Neymar on the other hand did not. And the team flopped so bad without him being both their inspiration and their attacking outlet (the only one, really). His influence on the team is very similar to what Ronaldo used to have.
      That is why I said that he is the best thing that came to Brazilian football since Ronaldo.

  12. zashaw
    October 15, 2014

    Can anyone recommend a place to watch the Classico on the 25th in NYC, where I’ll be traveling? Ideally somewhere where there’ll be lots of Barca fans, and where it’s possible to get lunch.

    Googling suggests that the Football Factory is good, but not sure how recent the info is, and it doesn’t seem to serve food.

    Anyway, any suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

    • October 16, 2014

      This is as good a time as any to point out the “Where To Watch” tab up top, which features spots that are good for watching matches.

    • deerwithwings
      October 16, 2014

      I’ve been to a bar in Brooklyn called Zebulon which had a great vibe. Not sure if it’s still there anymore though.

      It might just be me, but I’d find a Latino bar if I were you. There are a lot of Real Madrid and Barça fans in Latino communities, and it’s really fun to see everyone all together (almost better than being in Barcelona). That’s what I’ll be doing anyway.

  13. Ultraculé
    October 16, 2014

    Despite the fact that I criticized the club heavily for signing Dracula, I must say that I am looking forward to seeing him in the team purely in view of the sporting and tactical possibilities his inclusion will bring.

    I think for the first time, our MSN strike force will resemble the HEM trident in terms of all round quality. Sure Messi was more explosive and raw back then, but Neymar is that player now. The experience of Henry and Eto’o in the box is something Suarez and Leo now have in plenty. There are a lot of things to be excited about.

    Pedro at right back? While I understand where the idea is coming from (a need to find a spot where P!nomore is not redundant), he is simply not a defender. Period. Teams are going to attack him and our right side repeatedly if Barca is going to line him up as RB. Bartra on the other hand seems like a good idea. However Barca needs an attacking RB for their system. In many ways we are seeking an Alves clone. And I doubt there is one.

  14. Tata2
    October 16, 2014

    Good thing about el classico is that in theory, since barca hasn’t played a game with Suarez this term, Ancelloti will be scratching his head now about barca’s tactical possibilities with Suarez in attack

  15. eGo
    October 16, 2014

    I highly recommend everybody pick-up ‘Pep Confidential’. For those in the dark, it’s an all access account of Pep’s first season at Bayern, by El Pais journalist Marti Peranau. North Americans can purchase the iBook by switching their iTunes account to the UK version.

    It not only contains anecdotes from Pep’s time at Bayern, but also some very intriguing insight into his time at Barca. I’ll leave you with this in regards to the much debated sale of Thiago. The paragraph below is a direct lift from the book.

    Days before, just as he was about to leave Trentino, Pep had insisted: ‘Thiago oder nichs’. Thiago or nobody.

    Rummenigge had responded by making a formal offer to Barcelona. As far as the Catalan club’s management was concerned it was the perfect deal. Not only did it meet their price but it also allowed them to sell the pearl of Barca’s youth academy, the jewel of La Masia, without attracting too much flack. This way they could argue that Guardiola had stolen the player.

    Me again. The Thiago transfer is also mentioned a few pages prior. It seems like he was very much pushed out of the club. Once the board made its intentions clear, Thiago responded by saying Bayern was the only club he wanted to go to. Have to wonder what the reasoning behind this was. Did the club know something about his susceptibility to injury? Is that giving the board too much credit? Did they just want to make a quick buck to offset the extra money they had to dish out to buy Neymar a year early?

    • Peter
      October 17, 2014

      This is so bad it’s not even wrong.

      1. If the club wanted to sell him, they wouldn’t have increased his salary(very substantially) and upped his buy-out clause.

      2. The clause that lowered his buy-out clause was put in by Thiago’s agent. Thiago’s agent is also Guardiola’s brother.

      3. This lowering clause consists of the following condition: that the player plays at least 30 minutes for at least 60% of all games that the club played.

      4. Thiago played a median of 53 minutes, and played in 60% of all games that Barcelona played. That includes the 6 Liga games, four Champions League games and one CdR match in which Thiago couldn’t play because he was out with an knee injury for two months and the games when he wasn’t ready to play for a prolonged period due to recently recovered from injury.

      5. It’s the player that makes the decision. If he had wanted to stay he would’ve did what Bartra did – told his agent not to accept calls from other clubs. However, Bayern offered him more money – in fact they made him one of the best paid on the team.

      It’s the easiest thing to shoot at everybody’s favourite target – “the corrupt, inept, useless SoBs of the board”, but the lies should be at least within shouting distance of the reality. Thiago went off the radar, first with the U-21 national team, then on holiday.

      In essence, what your last paragraph says is “did the corrupt board know about his fragility, or did they just lucked out in their unscrupulous attempt to sell the crown jewels in order to finance their new toy?”

      And that, my fellow culé, is a pile of crap stacked ten feet high.

      Thiago may have been the king apparent of the Masia, but La Masia is one thing, and the first team is quite another. Pique was right at the time, good things happen to those who wait. Thiago didn’t wait. Thiago was the one who wanted the quick buck. I have to be honest, as a sport fan I wish him the best and a swift and fulsome recovery. As a culé my feelings can be summed by “So long and thanks for all the fish”.

      P.S. This is demagoguery, but consider this:
      Rakitic + Suarez (+ Samper) + the best training possible for Denis Suarez = 92 million Euro.
      Alexis(38.5-42.5m) + Fabregas(33-36m) + Thiago(25m) = between 96.5 million and 103.5 million Euro.

    • Peter
      October 17, 2014

      Sorry, 102 million for the first sum.

    • ciaran
      October 17, 2014

      I agree with you Peter. I don’t understand how people can put blame on the club for him wanting to leave.

      The only one to blame for him leaving is Thiago himself. He wanted to leave and did so. He has since had a series of bad luck which I no longer care about as he is not our player.

      If we were to sell him on the open market he wouldn’t have made much more than the €24m or whatever it was anyway, especially when he only wanted to go to Bayern.

      The fee was what it was because HE used a loophole to force a move.

    • October 17, 2014

      People put the blame on the club because it’s easy to do that, rather than accept that players are as full of avarice and self interest as anyone else. Rosell and the board are “evil,” so it’s easy to blame them for wanting to sell Thiago, conspiring to sell Messi, etc, etc.

      And nobody is pissed at Guardiola, who essentially nabbed Thiago by putting the idea in his head. Instead there’s this “serves the club right” thinking.

      The board knew the player wanted to leave. So they sold him, and certainly regretted not having a larger buyout. In that way it was bad business, even as the legend of Thiago is better than the player’s performance in the colors, as talented as he is. Of course the reality that he’s subbing for Xavi is another part of the picture. But the notion that Thiago was this babe who was ripped from his mother’s breast, still weeping into his Blaugrana binky is pretty far from reality.

      If a player doesn’t want to leave, it doesn’t matter what his buyout clause is. People cite “respect,” “playing time,” misuse by Vilanova, all the stuff that makes them feel better, and that’s fine. You can’t tell anyone what to think. Everyone has their own views, and that’s why there is debate.

      I will tell you this: It bums me out for Thiago. I hate to see players have their careers derailed by injury. The list is long and a shame, from the likes of Grant Hill or Sam Bowie in American basketball, to Michael Owen, Giuseppe Rossi in football.

      But imagine the tempest that would be roiling were Thiago still a Barça player, with the same injury history. G60 makes an excellent point about injury history and potential, caveat emptor and a club doing its homework before buying a player.

      I did a lot of looking around for studies on the idea of injury-prone players, and what makes a player injury-prone, if such a thing even exists. Didn’t find much, but the notion is interesting.

    • BA
      October 17, 2014

      the issue many of us had with the Thiago situation was the lack of oversight provided to the player’s contract and fees. if Thiago, or any footballer for that matter, wants to leave our club or any other of course there’s only so much the club can do to prevent them. HOWEVER, many of us believe that the club did not go to any such lengths to keep a really exceptional young player in a position we need.

      – this is evidenced first and foremost by the non adherence to the stipulations in his contract over playing time/games played. no, contracts shouldn’t determine a manager’s lineup; but likewise the coaching staff should be aware of the consequences of those stipulations and there was no reason to believe that Thiago couldn’t have played the handful of games required to fulfill those stipulations and thus given us at the least a better bargaining position with potential suitors.

      – second: there was no (public) effort made by the club to renew Thiago’s contract with a larger paycheck, or make him feel valued (i.e. a statement saying how much we love successful Masia players at the club, etc., which we do *all the time*) as a future star of the team. there have been innumerable articles to this point about Neymar, for instance. but Rosell wanted Neymar, and didn’t want Thiago. this, many of us think, was simply a mistake. massaging players’ egos is a fact of football but the administration just wasn’t interested in doing it, and the club suffered for it.

      – third: its my personal belief that Rosell wanted Fabregas, a players whose success he could take credit for, and Thiago played in Fabregas’ position.

      Peter’s reflexive defense of the Rosell/Bartomeu boards’ every decision is deeply boring.

    • October 17, 2014

      Good points, BA. I just think the club acceded to the contract stipulation about minutes played because they never figured he would be knocked for 2 months. I would be more vexed about not having kept Thiago had he NOT been pranged for that time. But as it was …

      I think that Vilanova, like so many of us, saw the difference in when Xavi ran the show vs when Thiago ran the show, and that governed his lineup decisions at times. Conservative? Yep. But I can’t begin to imagine the pressure that he must have been under.

      I also don’t think, had the full clause kicked in when playing time was met, a team would have been willing to go much beyond the 25m that Bayern paid, which might have led to other difficulties in having a want-away player on the roster.

      Regarding the club’s renewal efforts, I thought I saw stories that they were trying. Might have been late in the process as a “Well, we tried,” excuse, but pretty sure overtures were made.

      I have huge respect for Thiago’s talent, but he isn’t Neymar, so I’m not sure that comparison holds for me. The reality was that we didn’t know what role Thiago was going to have in the team, his talent notwithstanding. Maybe the board wanted Neymar, but I don’t see how that would have made Thiago surplus to requirements, as they are very different players in different positions.

      Fabregas definitely took minutes from Thiago. Don’t think you’ll get argument from anyone on that. But I think that Xavi and Iniesta had a bigger influence on his decision to leave than Fabregas.

      As far as it hurting the team, I wonder about that. Last year’s team came up 5 goals short. Might Thiago have helped that? Maybe. All speculation, obviously. But the team bought intelligently this summer, and is exceptionally well-set with Rakitic, Rafinha, Xavi, Iniesta. There’s also Sergi Samper, Denis Suarez probably coming home this summer and Halilovic waiting in the wings.

      I think the departure of Thiago was an avoidable situation. Had Fabregas left, I am not entirely sure that Thiago would have. But I think culpability lies with both sides: the club in not locking him down, and the player in having his head turned. It happens all the time. But I do think that Thiago became such a hot button issue because of existing board animus.

      Anyhow, it’s an interesting question to consider, how the departure of a player had ripple effects and if so, what kind of effects.

      P.S. I don’t think Peter was defending the board as much as clarifying his view on the Thiago situation.

    • Peter
      October 17, 2014

      BA, while you keep on believing that the board is composed of idiots and comic villains, you will not believe that the club went to some lengths to keep Thiago Alcantara. That’s first.

      2. If the player has for example one year left on his contract and his agent puts a condition for the signing of the new contract, the club has two options: bow down to the player’s wishes, or refuse to include the condition, and then watch as the player goes away freely. Looking back and noting that Thiago signed a new contract, with that clause in it, it’s pretty clear the club did bow down. Of course, taking into account 1. that isn’t going “to any such lengths” for you, right?

      3. Apparently you didn’t understand the real meaning of the clause, BA, since you think Thiago had to play a handful of games. Thiago had to play at least 30 minutes in 60% of all matches of Barcelona during the season. Barcelona played 60 games that season, meaning Thiago had to play at least 36 games with at least 30 minutes. If he plays 90 minutes it’s one game towards the count. If he plays 29 minutes or less it’s ZERO games towards the count. If you look at the habitual moment when Tito used to make his changes(just after the strike of the hour), you will understand that what you call “a handful of games” was actually 36 games as a starter. Now think about that fact. Actually sit down and think about that: In the team of Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Busquets, World Champions and Double Euro champions each and every one of them, Thiago Alcantara demanded the starting spot as a part of his contract, “or else I file for divorce”.

      4. If you bother to look at the progression of the season and remember the peculiar Fabregas season, you will see that the time when Thiago Alcantara shined coincided with two events: Fabregas disappearing and Messi’s injury. Look at the first half of the season and you will see that while Fabregas was in form, Thiago started only three games, and played for more than one hour in just one game – against Valladolid. Fabregas was considered by many so-called culers to be a bad player, slow, inefficient and losing the ball a lot. So what does it say for Thiago Alcantara’s quality if he couldn’t even beat Fabregas for the starting spot?

      5. There was no public effort made by the club to give him a better contract because the player already had a very good contract. He hadn’t shown he deserved a better contract. And just in case you don’t know, in order to have communication you need to have two parties willing to communicate and a clear channel. When one party doesn’t bother to pick up the phone because it’s either playing in the U-21 Euro in Israel or tanning on a yacht in the Mediterranean, communication is very difficult. As a matter of fact all communication from Thiago’s side was made by his daddy, who connected his son’s name to every major club except Madrid and Barcelona – until the day Thiago announced to Barcelona “I think we should see other people” and the other people knocked on the door five minutes after that with an offer.

      6. For the first half of the season Fabregas deserved the starting spot. Thiago didn’t. President’s wishes have nothing to do with it.

      You think my “reflexive defense” of Rosell/Bartomeu is boring. I think it’s quite boTHEring that everything bad is blamed on the board, no matter whether there are grounds for the blame. I find it quite bothering that lots of people would rather play the blame game than think. I personally cannot fathom that there’s a segment of the culerada that is waiting and hoping for a loss, any loss, just so that it can launch an attack against the board and any favourite player punching bags. For me it’s troubling that anything bad is attributed to the evul overlords in the Director’s Box, because when you focus your entire attention on the Usual Suspects, there’s a probability that you’ll miss on a Kayser Sose.

      And last, but definitely not least, I’m of the firm opinion that you are innocent until proven otherwise, and that nobody should be judged in absentia. Yeah, even the apparent villains get a lawyer, because if they don’t we’re on the way to extrajudicial punishment, mob courts and vigilante justice, which is a short step from witch hunts.

  16. PrinceYuvi
    October 16, 2014

    This is a dead horse, But I bloody hate Rosell.
    I can’t fathom why people voted for him.
    Destroyed our Halo, I don’t think we’ll ever get it back.

    • ciaran
      October 17, 2014

      May I ask why we need a halo?
      Rosell made bad decisions, as did Laporta, as did Nunez, as will Bartomeu and whoever else in future.
      If this is related to the Thiago comment from above I can’t understand it’s relevance.

    • PrinceYuvi
      October 17, 2014

      Well, that’s fair.
      It’s just that I believed in Barça’s ‘Holier than thou’ image.

      The Image is crumbling.
      It turns out Gaspart, Laporta, Rosell are not as Full of Sunshine as they pretended to be
      & it makes me look like a fool.

      That’s why I’m bitter and I want to blame somebody…
      In that case, Rosell is as good as any….

    • October 17, 2014

      Agree with ciaran. Ain’t no halo. Does the club have an image? Yes. What that image is will be a matter of debate, as well as how various presidents have or have not changed that image.

      Ain’t no angels, ain’t no snow-white purity. Let’s have no illusions in that regard. Culers and socis will have differences with presidents that are philosophical, as mine are with Rosell. But they are all, in their own ways, flawed and corrupt.

      If you dislike Rosell, there are reasons to do so without suggesting that he somehow damaged this entity’s right to some sort of sanctimonious worldview.

      It’s the danger of attaching too much to something. Look at reactions to Guardiola saying, in that book, that he hates the notion of tika-taka as aimless passing for passing’s sake. But because people think that Guardiola invented that, rather than recognizing that tika-taka as many came to view it was a corrupted, dysfunctional variant, they claim that Guardiola is lying, or has somehow changed his mind now that he is with Bayern.

      If you love a club, love the club, warts and all. But don’t be under any illusions that purity stalks the hallways.

    • PrinceYuvi
      October 17, 2014

      I’m working on it 🙂

    • deerwithwings
      October 17, 2014

      Yuvi, the eternal brotherhood/sisterhood of cynics and skeptics (E.B.C.S.) is taking memberships fees if you are looking for a new holier than thou group =). we meet every morning when reading the newspaper.

    • BA
      October 17, 2014

      Barça has never been perfect. but the blithe dismissal of our special (unique) status in club football as recently as a few seasons ago disgusts me for its rank cynicism. have we so quickly forgotten?

      we WERE special, first and foremost as the *only* major club in world football without a sponsor on the front of its shirt. that in and of itself was a halo. a black eye in the face of the marketeers and oligarchs and, crucially, perhaps some small symbolic bulwark against the pervasive creep of money-hungry capitalism.

      we also used to be renowned for treating our players properly. perhaps not unique, but certainly a defining factor of the club was that we didn’t leave our loyal players by the wayside. part of the supporters’ collective fury at Luis Figo was that he was seen to have broken that bond of commitment between fans and players; particularly long-standing or homegrown players. think of how long we persisted with Oleguer…

      we used to be, while always a Catalan institution, a very inclusive and welcoming club; one of the first clubs to seek to bring its values to the broader world audience. not for money, though of course we need money to survive, but because we *believed* in that inclusiveness as an extension of our sociopolitical philosophy.

      Rosell, as a creature possessed by money and revenues, didn’t understand any of that. he didn’t see any issue, therefore, in selling the shirt to be a billboard for an oppressive regime or curtly cutting loose a player in the form of Eric Abidal who was beloved by fans and teammates and who was quite capable of assisting the team, or shutting out the possibility of socis from outside of Catalonia from participating in club elections or referendums. THIS WAS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE, and i would argue it is vital that we as fans remember it.

      that some of our fans would simply shrug at the loss of these things makes me wonder why they started supporting Barcelona at all? if you don’t care about them, why not Chelsea?

    • October 17, 2014

      BA, those are the philosophical differences that I reference. Philosophy and purity are very different things. My stances on closing down membership and selling the shirt are well known, as well as my stances on many other things that Rosell has done.

      I am also under no illusion that a great many people who watch Barça do so for the football, and barely even know who the president of the club is. The Assembly meeting tomorrow will draw about as much attention as a Jonathan Dos Santos poetry reading.

      So I think that many things about the club are misconstrued. The club had kept the front of its shirt clean. Cynics say it was simply because the right offer hadn’t come in. Don’t forget that the club did sell the shirt to Japan Airlines (IIRC) for a match or two in the past, and Laporta sought (and got) Assembly approval for selling the front before finances improved and he deemed it no longer necessary.

      The things that make me proud of Barça: member ownership, history, tradition, it’s role as “more than a club,” all resonate with me. Those remain, no matter who the president is. Its soul isn’t any blacker now than it was under Gaspart.

      That’s what I think people mean (I certainly do) when I suggest that things have been ever thus at FCB.

    • deerwithwings
      October 17, 2014

      I’ve written on this here extensively, but I really think that if one wants a role model, one ought to look outside of athletics. Apart from the rigors of training, there are a bunch of millionaires here playing a game in order to partially sedate the masses, myself included.

      Sure, there is a scale of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ within sports.

      Sure, Jackie Robinson was pretty damn important in his own right.

      But, all I need do is point to the outrageous homophobia, misogyny, and classicism.

      Role models are to be found, most likely it’s some guy or lady that lives a few houses down from you.

    • deerwithwings
      October 17, 2014

      opps! classism!

  17. PrinceYuvi
    October 17, 2014

    Excellent comment from BA.
    I might have ruffled some feathers there.
    I can’t fathom whether deerwithwigs is laughing at me or with me 🙂

    I’m not trashing the halo altogether, just toning it down with a reality check.
    In the past ?
    I love the past. I wish there was a way to go right back.

    Why not Chelsea ?
    If someone mentions Chelsea, my mind shuts down and starts spewing out bucketload of Swear-words,
    so It’s impossible for me come up with a rational answer for that query.

    • deerwithwings
      October 17, 2014

      with you Yuvi!

    • PrinceYuvi
      October 18, 2014

      Thanks 🙂

    • BA
      October 17, 2014

      no club is going to be totally free from scandals or monied self-interest. i for one accept that. but we as a club fought to maintain a higher standard of decency and eschew blatant corporate whoring for decades before, finally, Rosell’s board with its technocratic Nike-exec mentality ended that. it’s becoming ever more difficult to make the case that we’re substantially different from any other big club, but it was THAT DIFFERENCE that drew many of us to Barça to begin with. not the trophies, or the great players, or the profit margins. football is arguably the most tribal and romantic of all sports, and removal of the things that make it easy to fall in love with Barça is a deeper hurt to not just FCB itself but the heart of football as a whole. at least that’s how i see it.

      that’s the difference between the money managers charging €100 per ticket at the Emirates (“Emirates” Stadium, remember) and $9 for a beer at Busch Stadium (“Busch” Stadium, remember), the people who see sport only as an opportunity to make money; and the people who LOVE sport for the sport, for the passions it inspires and the things it represents. so in my mind, Rosell’s decision to sell the shirt, and the proposal to sell naming rights to our stadium, are *direct assaults* by the former against the latter. and we can’t let the money men win, or we’ll defile sport into a soulless, exploitative, joyless endeavor. i became a Barça fan because i’m a sports romantic, but Rosell and others of the same mindset took a big part of that romance away from me. that’s why i hate the bastard, and his ilk.

    • ciaran
      October 17, 2014

      I understand your feelings but I don’t understand that you lay all the blame on Rosell. It doesn’t really make sense.
      Laporta was the one that got the approval of the people in order to sell the shirt. The fact that he didn’t in the end is immaterial, if he hadn’t then it wouldn’t have happened.

      Also, to think that the unicef deal was anything other than a spoonful of sugar to help culers accept a real sponsor is just plain naive.

      My belief is that Rosell took over a club with its financials in tatters and he believed that the best course of action was to steady the ship. It was the sensible thing to do even though it wasn’t as fun as a Laporta party.

      I know, I know, Rosell is Satan. Everything was perfect with the world until he showed up with his board. I’ve supported this club for a long long time and I’ve seen different boards and all of them were very very flawed.

    • Jim
      October 17, 2014

      From my point of view we were always going to face a financial quandary when our golden generation from La Masia came of age, became best in world at their positions and required a suitable salary to keep them happy. The club ( and stadium) needed modernising and that doesn’t come cheaply. It could be argued that the board did well to set us up for FFP. I can’t get worked up, as I’ve said before about the name on the shirt (UNICEF is still there and we are still paying them remember), Abidal’s departure ( his time had come to move on and he still has the promise of a job at the club) and the transfer of Neymar ( when you read of the attempts made by RM and the money thrown at it).

      Even Rosell, whom we were assured was only a matter of weeks from feeling the long arm of the law looks remarkably free at the moment. For a power mad dictator he really didn’t make a huge effort to stay in post and has kept a pretty low profile since. However, I’m more impressed by Bartomeu more than Rosell, I liked the way he immediately made public the details of Neymar’s transfer, his tweet thanking Leo for the service he has given the club – it’d be good if he did that on a regular basis for all good servants who leave and I’ve no problems with the club’s stance on Thiago who actually struck me as being a bit more full of himself than his performances on the field warranted although there was undoubtedly potential there. As has been said, he made himself unavailable then left the club despite the club making a pretty good stab at meeting the playing conditions, given his injury. Just different ways of looking at it I suppose.

    • October 17, 2014

      The club’s financials were only as tattered as Rosell wanted them to be. But to the winner goes the spoils, so Laporta’s surplus becomes Rosell’s “Oh, lawd!”

      That said, ciaran is right in that they are all moneygrubbers. That Laporta wanted to spend his on parties doesn’t make him any better.

      The romance for me is in the tradition, the championships, the psychological extras that go with supporting a team. Boards come and go. What they take or leave behind also dissipates with time.

      As I said to someone, for me it is symbolic that this board’s two biggest signings are a legal and financial quagmire and a serial biter who stands guilty of racist action. Win big silver, and nobody will care, just as a Treble made people forget that Laporta narrowly escaped a censure vote.

    • BA
      October 18, 2014

      i know that these were problems that had been creeping up on us for a while through multiple administrations; it wasn’t all done in a whirlwind during Rosell’s first week in office. but he WAS the president who hammered home the final nail on the sponsorship, and the president who dismissed Abidal so casually, and the president who, let’s not forget, *stepped down* due to allegations of illegal transfer payments.

      those, coupled with other actions of his administration, makes him a relatively convenient target don’t you think?

  18. Peter
    October 18, 2014

    Rakitic, Busquets, Montoya, Vermaelen, Masip and Douglas out.

    Xavi, Rafinha and Mascherano in midfield? Interesting.

    • October 18, 2014

      My thoughts exactly. Also wouldn’t mind seeing Adriano instead of Alba. And of course Alves, as the only RB in the team, will be starting.

    • Jim
      October 18, 2014

      Yeah, good chance to see Masche in his best position…….. And no, I don’t want to see him fail. I’ve been advocating he’s given a chance there for two seasons. It’d be good to put some pressure on Busi.

      I’d also like to see a fit and fresh Xavi free from the NT appearances.

    • October 18, 2014

      I want to see Rafinha more than Xavi. Better focus on the future than the past. And Iniesta has to break this slump he has been in, which I am hoping is form and not systemic, even as he struggled with the fast pace of Martino last season, which many might have forgotten.

    • Jim
      October 18, 2014

      Iniesta hasn’t played very well so far but this year I reckon it’s a learning curve as to what LE wants. Last year Tata just plain missed out the midfield half the time. If I were LE I would seat Ini next to myself at today’s match and talk him through what he’s looking for.

      Tbh, I’m not bothered about Xavi starting today but I don’t want Rafinha starting in the CL.

    • October 18, 2014

      Not against Ajax. Give him a runout today, and let’s see what he can do. Reckon we will see Rakitic/Busquets/Iniesta against Ajax.

      I would also love for Messi to get some rest. Champions League midweek, the Classic on weekend.

  19. October 18, 2014

    Volume of buzz that Alves has already agreed a deal with Manchester United on the increase. Roots in the BritPress, Inside Spanish Football advancing it.

  20. Peter
    October 18, 2014

    Tidbits from the Assembly:

    “BEKO is paying between three and four times what TV3 was paying, but due to confidentiality clauses we cannot declare the sum.”
    “Oh yes,TV3 was paying for the sleeve badge. TV3 was paying 2.5 million per year… but sorry, we cannot disclose the BEKO numbers.” 😀

    A SERIOUS increase in the salary and amortization costs is envisioned in the 2014-15 budget, with a previewed profit of 18 million after costs, taxes and deductions.

    • October 18, 2014

      Note that they added that Beko was paying 4x what TV3 was. So that puts the sponsorship in the 10-11m range.

  21. barca96
    October 18, 2014

    On one hand I would like Messi to sit this one out as we have an important match in midweek and then el Clasico but on the other hand, I would like Messi to try and tie the record so that he will be at ease last week and not tense as he was last time around.

    What has Montoya done to Lucho? Is he really that poor in training until he can’t even be in the match squad. Weird thing is that whenever given the chance he has done good enough.

    Douglas needs time even though it looks like he needs a hell lot of time. Alves will leave and is still the same player, so why not develop Montoya??!!

    • October 18, 2014

      Messi plays for the team. His individual records are secondary to the team needs. Messi is only one of two players who have played ALL available minutes this season. That is a distressing trend.

    • barca96
      October 18, 2014

      You don’t need to tell me which is more important. Of course individual records are secondary. But Messi is the key to our success whether you like it or not.

      Messi is human too. He gets excited and tense at the thought of getting the record.
      Would you rather have him try to break a record in a less tough match at home or next week in Madrid? Im always wishing here for Messi to be subbed off. Under normal circumstances I would want Messi to rest but I think having a mentally ready and at ease Messi vs Madrid is more important. Perhaps he can rest 30mins tonight and another 30mins vs Ajax.

  22. October 18, 2014

    @FCBarcelona: Barça line up vs Eibar
    13. Bravo
    3. Piqué
    6. Xavi
    7. Pedro
    10. Messi
    11. Neymar
    14. Mascherano
    18. Alba
    20. S. Roberto
    22. Alves
    24. Mathieu

  23. Peter
    October 18, 2014

    Line-up confirmed:

    Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu Alba; Xavi, Mascherano, Sergi Roberto; Pedro, Messi, Neymar.

    One reason to watch the General Assembly of Barcelona: watch Soci Nr. 31 present himself and talk. Soci Nr.31. Damn.

  24. deerwithwings
    October 18, 2014

    I really hope that Messi and Neymar get taken off if we are two goals up, but this is a clear statement about prioritizing la liga.

    • ciaran
      October 18, 2014

      Pedro makes me miss Hleb

    • ciaran
      October 18, 2014

      In fairness, I don’t like belittling players. I apologise for insulting Hleb.
      I know we have a transfer ban but maybe we could swap Pedro for someone. I’m thinking Jonathan Walters from Stoke or maybe Niklas Bendtner.

  25. Ryan
    October 18, 2014

    We are really, really trying to make something happen on the right side. Would be nice to see some action more on the left with Neymar, who is coming from a game where he scored 4 goals..

  26. lala10
    October 18, 2014

    wat a poor match we are having. No intensity whatsoever. Need to up it a bit in the second half.

    • barca96
      October 18, 2014

      I see a lot of intensity just a lack of final pass and shot.

  27. TITO
    October 18, 2014

    What a fuck was Dani thinking at the end?????
    He just let his player run free!!!!!

  28. barca96
    October 18, 2014

    Alves is going to Man United 2 years too late. He should’ve gone there when Moyes was in charge. He can cross all day

  29. deerwithwings
    October 18, 2014

    We have had a few good chances actually, the goal will come.

  30. Ryan
    October 18, 2014

    Great time for Xavi to open his account for the season!

  31. Jamal103
    October 18, 2014

    Pedro is finished.

  32. ciaran
    October 18, 2014

    Neymar is a special special player. Great finish and a great cross from Dani it must be said.

    • ciaran
      October 18, 2014

      And great is nothing surprising from Messi. Nice one two with Neymar and a clinical finish from the great man.

    • Ryan
      October 18, 2014

      Great one-two punch with Neymar and Messi. Now let’s keep a clean sheet and call it a day!

  33. lala10
    October 18, 2014

    will we play with the required intensity on Tuesday and to a greater extent Saturday?

  34. Peter
    October 18, 2014

    My fellow culers, I have been called a reflexive defender of this board, I have been called a Barça fanatic by some deluded madridistas. When I talked to Barcelona and said “we”, I was corrected that I was not a part of Barcelona. After twenty-four years of supporting Barcelona I have finally the possibility to put my money where my mouth is.

    I’m making the pilgrimage on Monday. 😀

    • Peter
      October 18, 2014

      I talked about Barcelona. Damn you Estrella Damm.

  35. barca96
    October 18, 2014

    Messi is so unlucky today. He could’ve had 2 goals which would be played in many of his highlights reel. How can people even compare with with any other player. No player makes people so excited multiple times in a match doing something so unimaginable.

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