The job of Luis Enrique, aka “What the hell to do with these leftovers?”

(Photo by Miguel Ruiz, FC Barcelona)
(Photo by Miguel Ruiz, FC Barcelona)

An interesting quote from Sergio Busquets should, if it hasn’t already, spark some thinking among those who follow, cover and are otherwise interested in Barça.

Busquets said, simply enough, that the best Barça and Spain are never to return, that tactics and the game have caught up.

This isn’t news to anyone who has been paying attention, or reading the writings of some of us who wonder about the nostalgia, and pervasively perpetual quest for The Way. But accepting that isn’t even the biggest challenge. That hurdle is a much simpler, and rather difficult one:

Accepting THIS group of players and its coaches, and getting our minds around the reality of how this team needs to play to manage success.

What now?

Tactical whizzes can and will come up with their formations, notions and suggestions for how Enrique can best optimize what he has. I have the time, patience nor full knowledge to suggest such things. Further, I reckon Enrique already knows what he’s inherited.

What is simplest to understand is that the “best” Barça isn’t going to return because of simple cognitive reality. This isn’t “FC Barcelona, Established in 2008.” As a club, Barça has been around for decades. Its football team has had many different ways of playing, from long balls to run and gun to hitching its wagon to the tricks and flicks of a Brazilian genius.

The past hamstrings us because it forces a false reality. When Tata Martino said that he was going to play Messi on the right in the Argentina friendly against Croatia, some soiled their knickers with ire. There is this notion that Messi is best in the center, that being central and close to the box is the most effective way to return him to his glory days, when he was banging in gobs of goals, pointing to the sky and dedicating another one to the heavens.

Then you watch the home Classic from 2008, where Messi was playing on the right and you wonder if Guardiola was as clueless as people allege Martino was/is. Messi was unleashed as a false 9, and the world figured it out. For a time, Messi had the magical gifts to overcome. Then opponents just kept adding defenders, so the quest for how to let Messi make a difference has to shift, right? Let’s have him be decisive by not scoring goals, but facilitating them. And that worked, for a while, until opponent tactics shifted yet again, in ways that not only expose the diminishing skills of a still-great player, but the shortcomings of an entire team.

Almeria didn’t score that goal because Messi gave the ball away. It scored that goal because Alves was pushed up, Alba was out of position, Rafinha and Rakitic were in or near the box because Messi was playing as an attacking midfielder. Into the acres of available space flowed opportunity, and Almeria took advantage of it.

The best Messi?


I confess to being a tactical neophyte, so when I see Messi in the center of the pitch, I think “Boy, look at all those defenders. They’re hanging out around there anyhow, so why not stack 3 or 4 of them to defend Messi?” And being a dunderhead, I wonder if it would be a bit more effective to stick him on the right instead of the center, where everybody already is? And if the entire defense shifts to contain him, it should leave attacking space for others. Barça has a quality attacker or two.

And it strikes me that for many supporters, the objective is to return Messi to the goal-scoring wonder that he was, rather than returning Barça to the excellent, world-beating football team that it has been in recent history. Those two goals aren’t as compatible as they would seem. More simply, in a world in which Neymar and Suarez also exist, should the world still revolve around Messi?

Even as smart people scoff at superstar signings, it was one of those superstar signings who turned dropped points into a win against Almeria. Because Systems don’t always work. And the system shouldn’t equal Messi. My response to “Messi doesn’t touch the ball enough,” is “Who does, and what potential exists for that other someone to help the team achieve its objective?”

“Of COURSE Messi isn’t going to be excellent. He has to do everything,” is the most current mode of thinking, and you know what? He does have to do a lot on the pitch. He rolls back to midfield to get the ball, charges forward at a waiting defense, where he has to either make the right pass or try to beat 3-4 men to reach a point where he can hopefully finish. Little wonder he’s tired, and his finishing is off, he doesn’t have energy to press, etc.

So what’s the answer? Does Mascherano make a long pass to get the ball forward, to keep Messi from having to do all that work, since midfielders are preoccupied buttressing the frailties of fullbacks? That might be one possible answer.

BarcelonaFootballBlog - Time to Experiment

Does Messi move to midfield to get the ball and bring it up because of dictated tactics, or because he wants the ball, is starved of possession by an opponent taking advantage of a broken system and decides to go and get the damn thing? Dunno, but the question is worth asking. The perception of coaching and coachability is malleable in the minds of some supporters. Some players do the things they do because they want to. Others do the things that they do because the coach is stupid. It depends on the player and the coach.

Orders vs whimsy

Under coach after coach, Dani Alves pumps crosses into the box. If the player is doing it himself, it’s suspected that a coach would have said by now, “Hey, ya big dummy. Stop firing skyrockets at mushrooms.” He crossed under Guardiola, Vilanova, Martino and now Enrique.


Further, there are decisions that a player takes within a match that are his own, and he tries to take those decisions within the tactical framework of the team. But other times, he says “Wheeee! Let’s do this!” and freelances. You can look at the two Neymar situations in last year’s home Classic. The first goal was the system working. The second goal was “Wheeee!”

Tactics also change during a match, based on the players on the pitch, so the role of a player will change. So all that aside, what we do know is this: Barça is a broken team right now that has never, ever been easier to attack. It’s weak in the air, weak on set pieces, weak on flank defense, susceptible to the counter and weak in midfield defense.

Further, because ALL of those weaknesses exist at the same time, it’s even complex to think of ways that you can counter them all, like playing a game of tactical Whack-A-Mole. It’s easy to play fantasy football, and suggest buying this player or that player to resolve the complexities. But we have what we have, and it is forcing a regrettable realization:

Back when Guardiola said “We’re crap without the ball,” acknowledging that Barça wasn’t a defensive colossus, the situation that prompted his admission has gotten worse, rather than better. So as with all other coaches since Guardiola, Xavi becomes the answer. Defending through intelligent possession. Sighhhhh, right? After all this time and all these years, Xavi is STILL the answer? What the hell happened?

Board, neglect, no transfers, blablabla. Done.

But with the players that we have now, can a Barça exist that will allow the team to be competitive on the European stage? If you look at the hypothetical XI of Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mathieu, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez, Neymar, you would say yes, right? It’s only when you break that system down individually that you wonder about the possibilities.

What a mess!

Not sure if anyone has gone back lately to take a look at the roster Guardiola had for the Treble season, but it was stacked. That team could (and did) play any number of different ways. It could be quick, physical, play possession, go over the top, counter and play long ball. Its mids were Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Keita and Toure Yaya. Are you kidding me?

Today, those mids are Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha. There are more of them, but the quality of the starters has not only dropped through aging. Look at the backups. One is still developing, one nobody is at all sure about, and a fragile Alcantara Brother.

“Enrique is playing all those long balls. He’s stupid.”

Maybe. Or maybe he’s wondering about his slow, diminutive mids battling for possession with a strong, fast opposing press and losing possession in a dangerous position. Maybe he figures “Hell, you have three attackers, all of whom can hold up play and make individual magic. Get ’em the ball.”

Maybe the days of the elegant, inexorable Barça build to a logical goal have gone the way of the dodo bird, of necessity as much as tactical whim. I would LOVE to see pretty triangles, frustrated opponents and capering Sprites. Who wouldn’t?

In the real world, an opponent can attack the flanks, Alves in particular. So to prevent that, you shade Rakitic over that way, since Alves is way up the pitch, pumping in corners. By shading Rakitic to the right, essentially as a FB, you give Busquets a huge area to cover, since your other midfielder is slow and not at all physical, essentially functioning as a turnstile for an opponent counter. Or you need your mids to dash into the box as support for your attack, which means that if you lose possession, the only thing standing between you and a conceded goal is a slow, gangly non-DM and a pushed-up back line, presuming you have a human being as a keeper, and not a 9-foot-tall octopus.

In all the talk of a return to systems and a Way that is lost, it’s all theory. It is fundamentally absurd that a football team that has the money to pretty much buy almost any player, has let things get to a state in which a 35-year-old legend is the Answer. But without acknowledging the reality of how things are, it’s impossible to get to a point where they can be discussed rationally.

The Barça XI has so few players with legitimate up sides.

Messi: Changing, trending down
Xavi: Gold watch beckons
Iniesta: Trending down
Busquets: Trending down
Mascherano: In his prime, for now
Bravo: In his prime, for now
Alves: Plummeting
Alba: In his prime, for now
Neymar: Trending up, with a massive potential
Suarez: In his prime, once he gets match fit
Pique: Trending down

If you’re Luis Enrique, what the hell do you do, particularly in the context of a looming, two-window transfer ban? Dunno, but it strikes me that all the theoretical yammering about Systems and The Way misses the point, which is that we are going to war with a cadre of players who are in many ways like wooden tennis racquets in a world of space-age composites. That the bosses have known we needed to buy new racquets is neither here nor there.

The question is, what are we going to do right now, at this moment, with this group of players?

With all the weaknesses, the biggest strength of Barça is that it has the best front line in football. Period. It’s getting the ball to that attack that is the problem. As detestable as lumping it forward is, might that be a viable option? It was for Guardiola, when he had Rafa Marquez slinging long diagonals to the feet of Eto’o or Thierry Henry. So why not Mascherano and Neymar or Suarez?

Why not, as a question, always works. Add me to the list of people saying that Enrique needs time. But rather than saying he needs time to implement his system, maybe he just needs time to try to figure out how in the hell he can be strong, when there is so much around him that is weak.


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. Ter Stegen: Trending up, with massive potential
    Douglas: Unknown quantity
    Bartra: Trending up, but up to what level? Pique in his prime level?
    Grimaldo: Trending up, with massive potential
    Samper: Trending up, with massive potential
    Halilovic: Trending up, with massive potential
    Denis Suarez: Trending up, with massive potential
    Munir: Trending up, with massive potential
    Sandro: Trending up, with massive potential
    Deulofeu: Trending up, with massive potential
    Adama: Trending up, with massive potential

    Perhaps, we really should just keep all the in their prime or trending up list of Kxevin and my list, and jettison all the trending downs, except Messi of course. That’s what a management consultant would say. 2 year transfer ban-bah.

    1. All of the above: Trending up, with massive potential – IF given playing time. Clubs like Atletico are far more likely to give chances to potential kids since they have far less to lose.
      At Barca playing time for potential kids is next to nil, with fans everywhere ready to castrate the next guy responsible for a stupid loss (or even a draw).

  2. Even though it scares me, this take on things rings true. The transfer ban complicates these problems immensely.

    A couple of things to consider –

    Can the young ‘uns improve their quality through a change in coaching /training/minutes, or are they as coached up as they’re going to get, and what you see is basically what you’re going to get?

    If we’re not going to win silverware anyways (for the reasons enumerated in this post), should we say “screw it” and try to play with a philosophy, such as possession, or would a devotion to a certain tactical style just make things worse? Could this also make it more entertaining to watch every week, or just more frustrating?

    Should we recommit to the press and rotate accordingly, even if that means we don’t have our best 11 on the field very often?

    How much of this is a result of bad management (at the top), and is there any hope of improving the situation with the next election, or is the club always destined to have either semi-corrupt or semi-inept leadership since you can’t trust amateurs (Socios) to make these kind of decisions?

  3. If I was a board member, I would be banging my fist on the table and saying. “Let us sell Iniesta, Busquets, Alves, Pique, Pedro and Xavi in the winter transfer window, and make bazillions (ok, maybe a few millions).” Raid Eusebio’s team for Grimaldo, Samper, Halilovic and Sandro. Lay out the welcome back mat for Denis and Deu next summer. We may not win anything this year, maybe win the Copa next year and the sextuplet in 2017.

    1. I wouldn’t go as far, but I’m also surprised by the above comment. It might make more sense if it stated why exactly these players should be sold. Sure, giving young players with huge potential playing opportunity sounds good, but there are ways to do that gradually. Putting all these young players, plus all the players who are new at Barca (with the exception of Messi and Alba I guess) together might not make for a very cohesive system, not even mentioning the fact that Iniesta and Xavi are still (as of now) better at what they’re doing than Rakitic or Rafinha. In effect, you want to develop the future potential of young players while wasting the huge potential of current players.

  4. OK, this was fairly brilliant.

    So if we as fans can curb our preconceived notions and grow a little patience, it could be just as fun to watch the team evolve as it is to watch them collect silver trinkets.

    “firing skyrockets at mushrooms” Perfect. Giggled so hard! .

  5. Hard choices. The powers that be know more than we do for sure, but it is disconcerting. I think Enrique has until December to figure out a strategy, and then the rest of the year to see if it works. If things start to click in the winter, we may be in for a trophy. If we have a February like the last two, we are in for some harsh Arsenal reality, in which case, we ought to raid BarcaB next year and see if some new blood can create the hunger again.

    Iniesta’s form is really worrying though. This is two years in a row. Funny though. I was pretty for selling Cesc, but I regret it now. Cesc, Rakitic, and Masch is a pretty nice midfield for what we need to do now. It’s gotta be Xavi now though, with instructions to try as many through balls as possible as quickly as possible and a defense that plays defense. As it is, we can still play the ball out of the back better than most teams and with our front line, you gotta like our chances. Barca needs to learn how to play a different game before it goes back to it’s roots. The lack of physicality in midfield is killing us, and the irony is that we have two excellent physical midfields, one of which is forced to play out of position so that we can continue 2011’s winning strategy that hasn’t worked since 2012 (and then, not so well).

  6. We may see another great team, if we only stop trying to compare it to the old one looking through nostalgia-lined walls. And that team didn’t just appear one day, it was in some cases eight years in the making. Xavi, Iniesta, Valdes, Puyol, they learned on the job in the trophyless seasons when nobody expected goals after twenty passes or Treble seasons every second year.

    Xavi is not really the answer, Xavi is the sword that tips the scales. Who is the answer? Damfino.

    Ino that the midfield needs more muscle, but what it needs most of all is cohesion, synergy and knowledge. Knowledge that when I’m here, he will be there, while Busquets is over there, so that I won´t have to lose half a second to get my bearings. The knowledge that comes from practising with that player day in and day out, knowing where he will be, knowing where exactly to pass the ball so that it gets to his better foot. That´s learning, and learning takes time.

    Yes, Guardiola’s team in 2008/09 was stacked, in part due to the fact that the team featured Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol, Messi, Valdes, players in top form(Iniesta was 24! He was as old as Sergi Roberto, think about that fact! I know I hadn’t.), players who cost zero in transfer fees, zero in signing bonuses. Now those replacements cannot be found in La Masia, or more precisely they cannot jump to the first team due to the enormous pressure of public, press, opponents that will burn them. This is why Deulofeu and Denis Suarez will be at Camp Nou trying to make life difficult for Barcelona come next weekend.

    Personally I think the system right now or the beginnings of the plan are due to opponents parking buses. Lucho is going for a brute force approach, using numbers in order to overwhelm the opposition from having too many targets. Of course, for that he will need a cohesive team, that knows how to execute seemingly chaotic movement that converges all of them on a single spot at a single moment.

    Counterpoint: Set pieces, especially corners. If Barcelona starts to be able to score from those, it will force teams to unpark the bus and look for other solutions. Of course, this also means constant practice and time spent on the task, time which the coach may consider best used for other purposes.

    Why do teams park the bus against Barcelona?

    1. They know that playing from the back against Barcelona will invite pressing, passing and positional play, the one thing an in-form Barcelona does best.
    2. Closing down lanes makes it impossible for Barcelona to pass effectively, thus equalizing the playing field.
    3. Attack-minded Barcelona tries to overcome the bus by having more passing nodes close by, which means huge tracts of land in the back, facilitating counters.
    4. Barcelona’s Achilles heel is perceived to be inability to defend set pieces and corners, which gives the opponent a potential way to score a goal and force Barcelona’s hand.

    For me it’s absolutely certain that Barcelona needs to start scoring goals from corners, vital goals that brick the bus, because this is what creates the perception that a parked bus won’t work.
    Which is why I pray every day that Vermaelen recovers as soon as possible, and that he and Mathieu remain injury-free, and most of all, that Luis Enrique creates plays and finds a way to incorporate effectively Pique, Vermaelen and Mathieu on the pitch.

    In the end everything has to do with the hearts and minds:

    If the opponents know in their hearts and minds that Barcelona will score from corners, they will try to stop conceding corners, and they will have to stop parking the bus.

    If the team knows in its collective heart and mind that it will score from a corner, it will play more patiently, more freely, without the mental pressure of trying to bypass the bus because it’s the only option available.

    (Not so) Fun stat: Barcelona lead La Liga in corners in favor. Not one goal has been scored from a corner.

    1. Really, corners? I think a coach should play to his squad’s strengths, and I don’t see a lot of our players with a natural ability of heading corner balls into the net.

      Piqué is great at defensive headers but he sucks at offensive ones. Bartra has a magnet for the ball, but it almost never goes in.

      Play to our strengths, I say. With Messi, Suarez and Neymar we should have the type of forwards who can break down a bus.

    2. Really corners. The coach should play to his squad’s strengths, but not be blinded by them. Our players right now cannot play to their strengths, because that requires to opponent to come out and play. Few opponents do that nowadays.

      The number of players capable of heading corner balls in the Barcelona team:
      Pique, Vermaelen, Bartra, Mathieu, Rakitic, Suarez. But I’m not talking about headers and winning the first ball. Headers can be used to bring the ball down or change the trajectory. Hell, corners shouldn’t be obligatory for headers(Barcelona – Sevilla Koke goal)

      Like I said, it’s about beginning to score goals from corners. Once opponents know that Barcelona’s corners present a danger they will think twice before conceding corners. This generates doubt, generates time on the ball, which can be used to press the ball-carrier. It also generates space, because defences cannot afford to play narrow and concede corner after corner.

      Call it a butterfly effect if you will, but the ability to score from set pieces and corners is very, very important.

      What’s even more important is the perception that the team can score those goals, because, like I said, it’s all about perception.

      I have spent more than a fair share of nights thinking about a simple fact: most teams don’t park the bus against Real Madrid, to their detriment and seemingly illogically, because Benzema, Bale, Ronaldo, these players need space; lack of space is suffocating for them even more so than for Barcelona. So if we can see that, then why don’t the coaches see it?

      Because the perception is that Real Madrid will score, even if the team parks the bus – Real will score, through a penalty or a set piece. And when that perception roots in, it’s difficult for it not to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because teams try to attack in order to keep the ball away from their area, in an attempt to score before the inevitable happens – and they open up, leave space, maybe even score a goal, but then the inevitable happens.

    3. I gotta agree with Levon here. Do I think and hope we improve on set pieces ? Of course. Do I think, simply because we suddenly have height that it’s going to happen with any haste? Nope. Call it a feeling. With all the ?’s around this squad at the moment I would be shocked if LEO was able to dedicate enough time to making us not only better at, but actually formidable at set pieces.
      I admire the positivity though, especially when it includes pique and Vermaelen being key cogs in this proposition.
      Also, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the other top squads in Europe don’t already know how to defend and attack much better than we do from set pieces..
      I forget the game but I recall recently an opposing GK let the ball go out for a corner rather than picking it up, says it all really.

    4. We can certainly improve on corners but I don’t think that is going to be a determining factor in our season. I’ll say again. What is Puyol doing in the front office when our defence could be benefitting ?

    5. My point is not that corners will be the determining factor in the season, but that improvement in both boxes is needed, to create the perception that Barcelona is dangerous from corners, because currently opposing teams perceive corners as time-outs and permissions to waste time and refocus.
      They should be… dissuaded from that notion. 😉

    6. The fact that Puyol is not on the training pitch every day barking instructions at the defense…blows my mind. He’s scouting? Flabbergasted.

    7. Our players right now cannot play to their strengths, because that requires to opponent to come out and play. Few opponents do that nowadays.

      I distinctly remember PSG and RM coming out to play, and then outplaying us…

    8. There are common elements here. RM were outplayed by us in the first half but came onto a better game in the second. The only times we were outplayed at all were the first half to two thirds of PSG where we played far too open a game but finished strongly and were unlucky not to get the equaliser after selling two goals. Common element ? Xavi. If we don’t have control we immediately leave ourselves at the mercy of the opposition. Second common element, we lost needless set piece goals in both due to bad marking and lack of height. Third, we made a stupid individual mistake in each match. ‘Nuff said.

    9. I have been a silent spectator for a long time as i enjoy reading rather than just jumping in the mid. Peter made a very good point about Barca’s problem with set pieces and corners. I agreed to it. This is something i have in my mind for the past years and still unsolved and that i really want LE to solve sooner than later. We can count the number of goals made by barca from set pieces and corners from the past 3 years. I am also sure that if ATM were not good in set pieces and corners, laliga 2013/14 was ours.

    10. @peter

      Do you mean something like this:

      Instead of Messi taking the corner, he could just wait around the box for any balls scraping from the defence..if he doesn’t shoot, he is in a perfect position to make a through ball or a lob over the defence.

      And if Messi is there, I assume there will be players marking him either from the defence (less players defending the corner) or attackers (decreases risk of counter).

      That’s one of my favorite goals from Messi btw.

    11. Yes, but there are countless other examples (these are all youtube extensions):

      BDIXBYlpSWw Coke goal vs Barcelona. The Sevilla players create a diversion running towards the near post, and even though one Sevilla player jumps for it, it’s actually for Coke, who is completely unmarked.

      6uKrkUAzDsY Wesley Schnijder equalizer vs Mexico, World Cup. Before that the Dutch had failed in their corners and crosses going for direct headers. This was different. You can see how the movement of the Dutch separates the Mexico defence and at the same time draws them away and not looking at the onrushing Schnijder, who for his part has all the time in the world to place his shot.

      4KG_ezaLahY The other day Sevilla did this to Standard Liege. The diversion to the near post draws two Standard players, whereas the key three Sevilla players lose their markers with terrific precision. The result is self-evident, but here’s one other thing to note – there were two Sevilla players in perfect position to take advantage of that deflected header pass. That’s redundancy, player concentration in the critical zone.

      Barcelona and La Roja had similar techniques for corners, with Pique being the stationary target man, whereas Puyol was the “back row” attacker. Watch Ramos’s first goal vs Bayern, that’s a classic back-row attack.

      I think Barcelona should really go for “back row” shots, be they headers or volleys, because that way the shorter players can take part in the play instead of just loitering about. Another plus is the diminished presence of the keeper, who by default has the greatest reach.

      P.S. Chelsea had a routine a few years back, for long-range free kicks. It was a flat-ish high-velocity kick, which aimed for the far corner, but was attacked by the Chelsea men in the box in a way which allowed multiple attempts at the ball as it crossed the area. The kick would normally be too far for the keeper to come out and claim, and he also had to guard his far corner, which meant that a header towards the near post would generally catch him moving in the other direction. Chelsea scored quite a few vital goals in that way. Ramos’s second goal vs Bayern is very similar.

  7. If we haven’t learnt anything from the Galacticos it is that system prevails over names. To get to the core of any squad and mine gold it is imperative to have some coherence in play. That front three is mouth watering and has massive potential but alone it wont make it.

    Maybe its a refusal to let go of the past or sheer pig headedness but in my book we need to sort the midfield first for the big games.

    Also age wise Busquets and, Pique and Messi are still fine. They have time to turn around their fortunes. Im cautiously optmistic because they seem model pro’s except Pique maybe. So all may not be lost there. Look at Robben. Two years ago he was written off but he came back. Strongly.
    Is Barca suffering from teething problems? Would a more experienced coach have helped? Above all Barca need to be consistent. The type of Barcelona’s play wins us games 9.5/ 10 times. The addition of Suarez should have added some firepower. LE should just marshall the resources well. The Barca of 1000 passes may have gone but that of 600 passes should still suffice

  8. Hilarious how I wrote a separate article that’s completely different but comes to the exact same conclusion.

    To be posted…

  9. Just to lighten the mood a bit, takeouts from Suarez´s interview/presser:

    About his weight:
    “Luis Enrique said that if my weight is so important, they could give me a liposuction.”
    “The guys in the national team had a field day: ‘Fatso, don’t eat so much!'”

    About not being the center of plays:
    “I knew I was going in a team where there are players like Messi, Neymar and Iniesta. I know my role and have no problem doing it. There are people saying Messi starts the play, I lose my marker and he doesn’t give me the ball. But I myself told Messi and Neymar “I’ll draw the centers away, you get in the middle and take advantage from that.”

    About his situation:
    “I do receive professional help. Psychological help to be precise. Barça is always at my disposition, but respecting my decisions, always helping me for everything.”
    “There is no ‘forgiveness clause’. Barcelona never demanded that I ask for forgiveness and pardon.” I did it myself, because at that point Barcelona was a possibility, but there was nothing concrete.”

    1. As so often before, he says all the right things. Let’s hope that good feeling of having him in our team won’t blow up in our faces.

    2. Gonna try to keep this short ( I know, for a change ).

      At the start of the season we went for a decent time without losing a goal. Luck? No. We had numbers back and didn’t kill ourselves with mistakes. Think about the last time a team scored a good goal against us where we have to hold our hands up and say too good. No, really, think.

      So what happened? We lost our discipline resulting in the situation for the last goal. When we have numbers back we don’t lose many goals. Our defence was actually improving at the start of the season, the honourable exception being set pieces. Dani does nothing offensively so we don’t make him the focal point of the attack. We also reinstate Pique who is our best CB. Him sitting in the stands doesn’t help. Luckily I doubt Shakira fancies Manchester or he’d be on his way.

      Part of your midfield problem is solved if your FBs aren’t both up raiding at once. That means you don’t need the ludicrous system of your two CM/ AMs playing forty yards apart. Leave Xavi out of the equation if you like but don’t keep peddling the opposition running past our old midfield story when it blatantly isn’t happening. If it is where was the goal you want to cite ?

      Xavi, or Iniesta, ( can’t believe the way everyone is writing off Ini who by common consent in Europe was one of the top five mids as late as last season) give us the control we need to not have situations like we have in the last three matches when a supposedly physically better midfield hardly touched ball or man until Xavi came on to calm things. We haven’t even tried Masche as DM yet. What’s that about ?

      We have never had a better time to use our possession football then now because this front three will make chances against any parked bus and if we can get it forward quicker, great. If you have Messi starting at RW how many markers do you allocate? Wait a minute, you can’t leave Suarez on his own with just one CB so that’s them occupied. Are you happy leaving Neymar one on one with Alba occasionally bombing past him ( see last goal)? Wait a minute, how many do we have left to cope with our mids crashing the box ( ok, that still needs work but won’t happen while they’re busy playing a double RB.)

      Things are not nearly as dire as is being made out ( not by Kxevin, I would add who is only playing devil’s advocate). Our problem at the moment is LE had a decent defensive structure but has let it slip, sees that we are much better using possession but insists on his wide mids and doesn’t yet trust his front three who anyone can see are going to be great. Btw, stick Messi on the wing you get pressing back as he’s not having to carry thirty yards so you can insist he does.

      Sorry, was meant to be short. Damn !

    3. I agree, especially about Iniesta. He didn’t even have a bad start into the season, just a few bad games in a row now. And if you do want control of a game (and you want that against quite a few teams) then Iniesta/Xavi are, as of now, better than Rakitic/Rafinha in supplying it.

    1. Can’t blame him wanting to play on as long as he can. Nothing as good after that. Suppose we’ll just have to see what transpires. Damn, that was our feel good story in dire times …

      What I would say, Kxevin, is that if he does and isn’t offered a job I’ll be holding a “Sack the board” placard next to you come the elections. ( as good a reason to visit the city as any) .

    2. Personally I didn’t believe the writings that he was going to retire in December, that’s just BS. He has a contract until June with Olympiakos and he will see out the end of his contract. The way things are looking right now Olympiakos would either reach the Knock-out rounds in either the Champions League or Europa League, so I think his experience will be needed.

    1. I’m not exactly a montoya fan but my word that is troubling. We are left with only douglas next year for rb?? With how much emphasis LE is putting on attacking FB’s… Oh dear. What terrible planning and foresight

    2. left with Who? who is Douglas?

      the idea that we’re going to play in any kind of fluid offensive system with just Jordi Alba as an acceptable wing-back getting minutes is absurd. i don’t know what corridor of the Camp Nou they lost Adriano in, but he could come in handy right now as an offensive wing-back option.

      look: we CAN play with flying wing-backs IF we radically alter our longstanding formation and IF we can solidify the triangle at the center of our defense between our 2 CBs and the DM. THIS IS WHY buying a fast, world-class center-back last summer was so critical. our problem is that even with Mascherano at his best position in DM (where, given Busquets’ form of late, he HAS to start playing) consolidating the tip of that defensive triangle, who do we put in behind him? Mathieu on the left, okay, that might work. and who? Pique is undergoing a crisis of confidence and does not have the pace to play that system, Barta likewise and isn’t stepping up to the required level, and Vermaelen we haven’t even seen because we purchased a broken player.

      due to *terrible management of our transfers over the summer*, there’s nobody left. vital pieces of the system are missing, and so our play is disjointed and sloppy, dependent on players past their prime, round players in square holes, and reliant on players who aren’t performing because they have no reliable backup in that position. it’s a total clusterfuck, and it comes down to bad decisions made by the administration over this previous summers’ transfers, when we knew we were faced with a looming 18-month transfer ban. the sooner the BFB community accepts that, the more this whole project’s direction is going to make sense to them.

      i think its reached the point where i can safely predict we’re going to have another trophyless season.

    3. Some of us already predicted that we were going to have a trophyless season.

      I don’t think “the BFB community” has any complexities with acknowledging the board neglect, etc, etc. This very post does, as do past ones.

      The difference for me is that anybody expecting this to be anything other than hitting the reset button and maybe getting lucky enough to cadge a Copa or something isn’t looking at this team with a clear view.

      It isn’t this summer, it’s the four summers previous, and trying to fix all of that in one window. Bravo is a good transfer, so is Mathieu. Rakitic will cone into his own along with the system, and Ter Stegen is a world-class keeper.

      Douglas and Vermaelen are the only question marks, but to let those two decisions define the entire transfer window as some are doing, doesn’t take into account the entire picture.

      The biggest error that a fanbase can make, and one that leads to perpetual dissatisfaction is expecting to win. Winning is rare, and special. It’s an extraordinary event when it happens. There is quality in our XI, even depth at a couple of positions. But there isn’t the quality depth across the board that will be necessary to run deep into hotly contested competitions in three phases, Liga, Champions League and Copa.

      As with Guardiola’s team, this year’s group will have to get some incredible luck, and the right breaks at the right time.

      This season should be fun to watch, instead of this grim slog toward doom. The team is in something of a holding pattern as it tries to rebuild. The problem is the two-window ban, and the problems that will create.

      So next summer we should see the returns of Deulofeu and Denis Suarez, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Samper was promoted. If Rafinha can stay fit long enough to bed in, he will become an effective player. But it’s a long view that is worth taking with this team, and the project that Enrique is undertaking.

    4. Well said. I think we could all agree that it’s a tragedy how post 2010 UCL win we didn’t at least land one more and wasted the last prime years of “beast”, Iniesta, Dani,Xavi,VV.. Ah well

    5. “The biggest error that a fanbase can make, and one that leads to perpetual dissatisfaction is expecting to win. Winning is rare, and special. It’s an extraordinary event when it happens.”


    6. The biggest error that a fanbase can make, and one that leads to perpetual dissatisfaction is expecting to win. Winning is rare, and special. It’s an extraordinary event when it happens

      This is true in principle, but it was a lot more valid 15 years ago than it is right now. In the era of the superclubs, it is a very different for those few superclubs.

      Atletico won the league last season, but that was a miracle that is unlikely to happen again any time soon, so it’s basically two teams battling for the title. Therefore anything less than a win every other year means failure, and not of the imagined, but of the very real kind.

      It’s a bit more competitive in the CL, but not by much – it’s largely the same 4-5 teams at most who have realistic chances to win it every year, plus the occasional surprise here and there. So if you’re not winning it once every 5 years at minimum, you’re once again not doing a very good job.

  10. I watch abidal every week here in greece.He must retire the summer cause he is a bad CB even in our league.About lucho the club pay him a lot of money to do the best so no excuses because the players we have only bayern or FM have.About suarez tell me whatever u want but i love the guy he is a family man with tremendous passion.But people when a player change girls every week is ok.Sexism is ok but if u say the word negro in the heat of the moment we dont want u at barca.I wish neymar had the passion of luis,i hope in the future.

    1. I have a substantial issue with you excusing the racist remark that Suarez was found guilty of by his FA as some little “heat of the moment thing.” It wasn’t anything approaching that, nor was it some term of endearment, whispered to Evra like a delicate blandishment.

      It was a word meant to hurt, meant to take a player’s humanity in a vile way, and that is detestable. And to this day, he hasn’t shown an iota of remorse.

      You can feel any way you like, but for me, the Suarez/Evra incident was disgusting, and to bring up sexism is a case of false equivalence that doesn’t fly for me.

      I can assume from your screen name that you are a fan of Suarez, and that’s fine. I am not, and believe that he should not have been signed by the club that I love. But he’s here, and some of us will have to hold our noses and deal with it. But the Evra incident can not, to my view, be dismissed as okay in any way, shape or form, nor can it be diminished as something said in the heat of the moment.

      He could have called Evra any number of names having nothing to do with his race. Epithets suitable for verbal jousts abound. But racist words sit in the closet like luggage, ready to be pulled out when someone needs to hurt someone.

      And that isn’t acceptable to me.

    2. Having lived in all three of South America, North America and Europe for many years I can testify that there are huge cultural differences of how to interpret the word “negro” and how people use it.

      Did Suarez mean it in a nice way? No.

      Did he know he was getting under Evra’s skin? Possibly. If Evra’s version of what happened is true and he said it 10 times, definitely. If Suarez’s version is true than definitely not. Neither one of them strike me as being particularly truthful so who knows.

      Did he at any moment mean to kick up a race row, or did he even realize that using the word would be construed the way it has been in England? Unlikely to the extreme.

      Complicating matters is that the French version of the word, nègre, is not the equivalent of “negro” but of “n—–.” Then again, Evra engaged Luis Suarez in Spanish, so you gonna speak in another tongue then understand how that tongue behaves, imo.

    3. The truly racist people do not use those words with the intention to hurt, they use them because in their view they accurately describe the natural order of things, where the people labelled with them are really a lower category of human being and should therefore see nothing wrong in their use. With some digging, I can probably pull out some youtube videos of crazy southern pastors or politicians talking in exactly that spirit.

      I highly doubt Suarez is sincerely a racist, especially given that in all likelihood he would not be classified as “white” if this was 1850 and not 2014.

    4. I don’t know whether someone who is very racist is more truly racist than someone who’s a bit racist.

      Very few people aren’t racist/prejudiced AT ALL, even if it’s on a subconscious level. This includes myself and pretty much everybody I know from all the countries I’ve lived in multiplied by all the cultures I’ve been fortunate to get to know.

    5. Kevin, I have to be direct here, because we won’t get to the bottom of it if we’re afraid to broach the subject.

      I think you’re seeing this as an American. You bring your cultural, linguistic and other luggage with you in that discussion.
      No, I’m not doing this because Luis Suarez is a Barcelona player and I want to defend him because of that.

      I have to brandish my knowledge of Spanish, even though personally I don’t think I speak it as well as I should after so much time.
      I live in the Canary Islands, which probably have more people from South America than the rest of Spain per capita, except for the biggest cities in mainland Spain. I have colleagues who come from Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Cuba, apart from the Spanish from the Canary Islands, Valencia or Galicia, not to mention frequent contact with persons from Morocco, Western Sahara, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal.

      Here’s what I have found. In Spanish the word “negro” means black/dark/obscure. It has no racial connotations by itself. It has received some due to English-speaking influence. I have straight up asked people whether “negro” is offensive/racist and the answer is categorically no. That’s not because the Spanish are racist and xenophobes(this exists, albeit not in the way that is seen in England for example), but because the word doesn’t have that cultural luggage. The Spanish are very specific in that regard, the common offensive word used is “mono”, and its use(and the “corresponding” body movement) has seen people banned from stadiums, fired from their jobs and sent in hospital.

      I have talked to my Argentinian friend(from Buenos Aires) about the word negro and its usage, and what she has to say about it is this:
      due to the Old Continent immigration Argentina has people with complexion ranging from stereotypical “blond, blue-eyed Germans” to “Luis Suarez’s grandfather”, so a very “important” distinction had to be made: “todo que no es rubio con ojos azules – negro”, which leads to families having a “negro” side(Italian descent for example) and “blanco” side(German descent). I’m stressing this is what she told me, Argentina is a very big country, with some provinces that have almost no residents of European descent. I asked her specifically about Luis Suarez and his usage of the word and according to her “If he wanted to insult, he would’ve said something else.”

      You may want to look for an interview by Suarez’s granny after the Chiellini incident, in which she called him “mi negrito”. Something which Suarez’s wife Sofia calls him as well. You might want to check out his ancestry as well.

      And as Levon said, Evra initiated the talk, in Spanish. Evra afterwards claimed that Suarez had called him the N-bomb ten times, then retracted his statement, changing it to “called me negro five times”. In Spanish.
      In a similar incident two weeks later John Terry called Antoine Ferdinand “fucking black cunt” and was cleared in court of justice when the judge decided it hadn’t been used as an insult. The FA made its separate investigation, and gave him a four-match ban. Suarez got eight, probably because while Terry was the captain of England, Suarez was the press’s favourite target, and he was also a diver, cheater, biter and racist to boot. And he “did not speak no proper English.” so he couldn’t really defend himself.

      It’s interesting, Suarez has admitted to biting, diving, cheating to win, but he vehemently rejects that he is a racist or insulted Evra using a racist word.

      Like I said, I’m not doing this to defend Luis Suarez the Barcelona striker. I’m doing this because the only “proof” we have is Evra’s two-times changed interpretation of what Suarez told him, using his limited knowledge of Spanish. In court of justice that would’ve been laughed out of court. But then again, it’s Suarez, so guilty unless proven innocent, right?

      I know I won’t convince you, Kevin. We can agree to disagree. What I cannot agree, however, is that you think “racist words sit in the closet like luggage, ready to be pulled out when someone needs to hurt someone”, but have no problem calling him racist.

      Can we talk about football please?

    6. Suarez brought this stuff in when he was transferred, and you, Peter, continued it by dismissing my reaction as rooted in my being American. It isn’t.

      Further, I did NOT call Suarez a racist. I said that he was found guilty by his FA of using a racist word. Those are two categorically different things.

      I can understand wanting Suarez to be a normal, passionate guy who had an argument that got out of hand, and Evra is a liar. Culers need that, I reckon. I just don’t believe that after a thorough investigation, the England FA would have gone off half cocked, or that they would have persecuted Suarez just because he didn’t speak proper English, etc.

      Suarez isn’t a victim, despite the efforts of many to present him as such. He is a very talented player who scores lots of goals. If he didn’t score goals, he would be out of the game by now, as nobody would want to take a risk on him, much less pay 81m for his services.

      I have heard all of the explanations: “negro” is a term of endearment that his grandmother uses; “negro” is a term of brotherhood, as Suarez himself would be considered thus, and was using it at Evra in an attempt to calm him down, etc, etc.

      I can appreciate that I don’t have the grasp of Spanish that others have. But I can grasp this: you don’t use terms of endearment when you are in an argument. Further, Suarez had been in the game, and in England long enough to understand the potential damage from the use of that word, in that context, to a black player. If he didn’t, then he’s too stupid to be allowed out of the house by himself.

      Although he has appalling impulse control, he isn’t a child who doesn’t know what he is doing. And as I said then and will say now, if you haven’t had that word or any of its variants leveled at you in anger, it’s impossible to know what it feels like, but trust me … it isn’t something you take lightly. Having your humanity taken isn’t something that you lie about because it’s convenient.

      In this space, people often pooh-pooh, or attempt to psychoanalyze me and my views. Stop it. My words are clear, with no between the lines, or other stuff hidden. My view on this matter is also clear.

    7. I do not really want to get into this discussion because it can be very tricky and personal for people. I am an arab living in the west so I have experienced my fair share of racism, but with that said, like most things in life it is not black and white (excuse the term) but many shades of grey. This for example “you don’t use terms of endearment when you are in an argument. ” is not necessarily true, especially in different languages. In arabic for example there are plenty of words that can used as terms of endearment but can also be used in an argument. It even happens in English. Eg “You know what buddy, you can K** my A**” or something similar. “Buddy” is not a negative term but in this context it is being used as part of an insult. I do not think you can rule out the possibility that Suarez might have used the word Negrito in a similar fashion, simply not knowing what effect it would have. It happens. There are words in Arabic that I would never dream of using in English if translated fully but that I grew up hearing and using on a regular basis without it causing any insult to anyone. It is not so much a matter of language than one of culture so even if you grasp the language, as you may grasp Spanish, unless you grew up in the same environment that Suarez grew up in, with the same cultural background then I do not think it is fair to assume what he meant when he used that word.

      I also do not think you can assume that just because a player has lived in a country for a certain period of time that he begins to understand their culture or their language. Tevez lived and played in the UK for almost 5 years and when he left he barely spoke a word of English. Especially players from south america who would normally ship over their friends and family with them and will surround themselves with familiar culture and language and not really try very hard to learn anything about the english language.

      Just to be clear. I am not defending Suarez here, I wasn’t there, I didn’t hear it and I am not from that part of the world so frankly I have no idea what he meant. It could have been completely racist, but it also could have been completely benign.

    8. Yes, he was found guilty of using a racist word, which in Spanish has no racial overtones. Guilty, end of story.

      Kevin, I haven’t been insulted in racially, so yes, I have no idea what’s it like. I have been insulted for being a foreigner working in a Spanish firm, I’ve had people yell at me that I’m taking the bread of Spanish citizens, that I should be ashamed and that “all you furriners should be deported.” No, it’s not racial.

      As for the terms of endearment, in Bulgarian the “dude” equivalent is “pich”. It means “dick”. In common Bulgarian it has lost its original meaning, but for example in the capital Sofia the dude equivalent is the actual word “bastard”.

      Anyway, I don’t think I will continue this conversation because it cannot end well for anybody.

    9. ^^^This
      Often, during these kinds of issues, it is always the view point of the dominant west which will be considered the right way – I mean whether something was racist or not. So if English/Americans/Australians considers a term as insulting, thats it. It would never work in the opposite way.
      Many years back, there was such an issue in India – Australia Cricket series, and then too it took the same turn.

    10. “In Spanish the word “negro” means black/dark/obscure. It has no racial connotations by itself. It has received some due to English-speaking influence. I have straight up asked people whether “negro” is offensive/racist and the answer is categorically no.”

      Yeah, except the FA has a long section where they present evidence taken from two linguists who both say that the term is offensive/racist when used in the manner Suarez was found to have used it.

      I don’t understand why people continually parrot stale talking points without first reading the actual report/findings.

    11. For reference:

      ¶ 186.
      The experts concluded their observations on Mr Evra’s account as follows. If Mr Suarez used the words “negro” and “negros” as described by Mr Evra, this would be understood as offensive and offensive in racial terms in Uruguay and Spanish-speaking America more generally. The physical gesture of touching Mr Evra’s arm would also, in the context of the phrases used, be interpreted as racist.

    12. For further reference:

      193. As stated above, Mr Suarez’s gesture towards Mr Evra’s arm is difficult to interpret. In the
      context of the events as set out by Mr Suarez then there is nothing to indicate that the
      gesture was racially offensive.

      194. The experts concluded their observations on Mr Suarez’s account as follows. If Mr Suarez
      used the word “negro” as described by Mr Suarez, this would not be interpreted as either
      offensive or offensive in racial terms in Uruguay and Spanish-speaking America more
      generally; it is being used along the lines of paragraphs 172, 173 and 175 above.

  11. Luis was awesome for Uruguay. The defence was horrible, slept through every goal, which allowed Costa Rica to open up the score, then just after the Suarez equalizer they scored a second, and after the two Uruguayan goals Costa Rica scored the third in injury time, which meant penalties for that particular friendly. Suarez scored the first one, but in the end Costa Rica won.

    Suarez scored the equalizer, set up numerous balls for Cavani and the rest, which were wasted, got his shirt torn in one such occasion, which left Cavani alone against Keylor Navas, but the PSG striker sent it wide.

  12. Thank u peter for the information!!!I believe we must build our attacking play down to him,please dont sacrifice luis to help messi.Put messi behind or in the wing.We have the best attacker in the world.Benjema cavani or falcao maybe are better in some aspects but luis is the best.Look at LFC without him!!!!And if in the summer of 2011 we had buy him and not sanchez i believe now we would had 6 CL!!!!

  13. Just to comment on Busi’s words, in my opinion he is justified in saying what he did, but I believe he is off the mark. All throughout history there have been ‘best teams that couldn’t be bettered’ and they do. Barca alone have had Cruyff’s Dream Team in the 90’s, which would ‘never be bettered’. Rough time for a while, Dutch National team era comes and goes, then Guardiola returned, and that would ‘never be bettered’. Tata and Tito come and go rather unceremoniously (in comparison to Peps team, not when you look at them on their own merit), then Lucho comes in… Maybe it’s building up to a new dream team that can ‘never be bettered’? It could be that the likes of Suarez, Neymar, Messi, Busi, Rak, Rafinha, Alba, Bartra, Smasche, Monty and MTS could be the basis of a new ‘best ever’ as they will be able to gel over the next 2 seasons without having to worry about integrating a new player to their style. Honestly, with the comings and goings of players and readjusting to playstyles etc, this transfer ban may be a blessing in disguise, especially for Lucho. He got to spend a boatload and get in whoever he wanted, albeit whilst losing some great names, and gets to see that team play week in week out, really get to learn each other’s style of play and work out the tactics and formations that suit the team. It also gives Lucho something of an excuse when things go sour, which I’m happy with because there’s not many players in the world that I have ever been such a fan of, and I have supported him in his managerial endeavours aswell. Hopefully he can at least set the foundations for a Cruyff/Guardiola style Dream Team, as it is always good to see ex players of a club deliver at the managerial level, especially when they were so highly thought of when they were players.
    Side Note: Thanks for welcoming me into the fold guys, appreciate the responses, it’s such a fresh change from looking at espnfc comments sections, that really make you think about the maturity levels of the common football fan. You guys n gals are a welcome breath of fresh air in an otherwise stanky internet.
    Another Side Note: Mods, have you ever considered doing something of a video blog to run alongside this one? I only ask because I am an avid follower of RedmenTV, a group of LFC fans that make a video blog on all things Liverpool, which I recommend you check out. I think something similar could really help encourage good conversation amongst fans, and was just wondering if it was something you has considered?
    Peace, YNWA

    1. A video blog has never been considered, in part because it’s difficult enough to muster enough mods to generate a variety of quality content in this space, much less another time-sucker of a video blog. It’s a lovely idea in principle, that or a podcast. I just don’t see it as viable, though. Thank you for the suggestion, and the kind words.

      As far as great teams, it’s funny, last night I watched this year’s Chicago Bulls, and then there was a classic NBA match on of the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls, and the difference was astonishing. It made your point about different great teams and different eras clear.

      Some of it is that the game has changed, along with the players who play it. In every sport, athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster. Back in the 1970s, the American football Minnesota Vikings had a defensive player named Alan Page, whose playing weight was in the 220s. Today, skill players are heavier than that. It’s remarkable.

      Football is also changing. It has become more dynamic, more physical and more aggressive in a pressing and positional play sense. I reckon that the Busquets statements can be seen on many different levels, and accurate on all of them.

      That Treble team was a once-in-a-lifetime group of players, all peaking at the same time, with gobs of good fortune atop all that. Even as players diminish and you shuttle new ones in and out, those players won’t be of the quality of past greats. How can you replace a Xavi, or a Puyol?

      Sports fans in general adore the past. Every group of fans has its legendary team. Milan has its teams, we have ours, Arsenal supporters have the undefeated side, and it’s all wonderful. Reverence for the past is cool, and looking back at those matches is loads of fun.

      I just wonder if, sometimes, the reactions to and impatience with this team is rooted in an unreachable standard, which is probably also something of what Busquets meant with his statement. Barça isn’t as good, but even if it was, other teams have raised the level of their game and tactics as a direct reaction to the quality of Barça.

      In women’s tennis, the Williams sisters made the other players start hitting the gym to get stronger and fitter, as a reaction to their physical dominance. It happens in sport.

      I think that Barça will win again, and have success again. I just don’t think it will be as fast as many want, and that includes the board.

    2. When I look at games from the “Golden generation” of Bulgarian football from 20 years ago, the pace is slower, like relaxed. In free kicks keepers often guarded the side of the goal not covered by the wall, something which few would in today’s game.

      I stopped watching basketball after THE Chicago Bulls, so what has really changed?

    3. too many silly fouls (thank you lebron) and wayyyyyy to many commercial breaks. i love basketball, but the pauses have made it unwatchable in my opinion, especially the playoffs.

  14. Something else: I have seen at barcastuff on twitter the bar diagram of the birthdays of the academy players. I was shocked. Out of 212 players, 46 (21.7%) were born in January. Decreasing steadily to one single player born in December (0.5%).
    Within an age group, the older players are of course more developed than the younger ones. But they certainly are not more talented from nature. All the late born talents of a year do not get their proper chance at Barça. That’s a shame.
    Other clubs and countries have long ago adressed this problem and made sure that half of their adacemy players are born in the second half of the year, And they do that successfully.

  15. Hey all: Just wanted to give a general thumbs up to the variety and tone of the discussion on Suarez/racism etc. It is particularly refreshing to have non-U.S. viewpoints such as those of Hilal, Peter, Levon et al.

    I recall talking about this subject with my wife (who’s from Buenos Aires) and she said very much the same thing about how ‘negrito’ is not such a loaded term in Spanish as it is in American English. In that sense, the fact that the English FA determined that Suarez used a racist term reflects simply how England (and the U.S.) view the use of the word negro, but nothing about Suarez.

    To give an example of this from my own experience, I lived many years in Japan, where there is an underclass of ‘untouchables’ that is NEVER openly talked about, though everyone is very aware of them. There are no taboos about talking about them in English, but there very most certainly are in Japanese. To mention them is to be thought of as racist. To never speak of them, to pretend they do not exist, is considered correct. You can easily imagine all the various scenarios where a foreigner might ‘do/say the wrong thing’. From my point of view, Suarez faced a similar situation — compounded by the fact that he seems to be a pretty uneducated (not to say unintelligent), provincial lad. In the end he was tried and sentenced by a judge and jury that used a cultural standard he had no understanding of. Cut him some slack.

  16. If people dont want suarez because he is a racist then the same must be said about busquets who said racist things to marcelo.Or he is from academy and people will find excuses?????If i see in the street a fat woman and i say to her oh u are fat is it racism??Yes it is.We live in capitalism and racism is the way of the system to separate people in colour culture country e.t.c.I dont blame people only for racism and sexism.El capitalismo mata my friends:-)

    1. I don’t think anything good can come of continuing this discussion.

      Luis Suarez and Busquets are in the squad, so we might as well accept the fact. Personally I will judge Luis Suarez from what I see, not what others have said of and about him.

  17. Just going to add this down here:

    Peter essentially said everything about the context of “negrito” in Spanish (And, I’m sure, even though he is Bulgarian, he has heard an earful of racism directed at Romanians – a specific target in Spain). But I’d like to add my 2¢ (yet again). This discussion happened this summer, and obviously nothing was resolved because it’s not an objective issue, and, moreover, the culprit is Luis Suarez, of whom it is fairly impossible to defend due to the myriad of other actions he has taken. Anyway, it is really important that native English speakers understand the context of the word in Spanish. As I said on another thread: there are bars called Negrito in Spain, including one in Barcelona, of which the proprietors are an African couple. The word absolutely does not have the same context.

    I am vehemently opposed to racism, but I think perhaps too much was made out of the Suarez incident. That being said, this discussion occurred because comments were made dealing with the incident sarcastically, something I was myself culpable for this summer (and I don’t remember the thread). This creates a different sort of environment which belittles the horrendous treatment of a group of people to this day.

    Anyway, I am glad that we can have this discussion calmly. IT IS is an important issue.

    1. It is an important issue.

      To expand on the use of the word in Spanish, I’ll sometimes call my wife “mi negra” , although I’ll more often say “mi morena.” To clarify, she’s Latina and mulata (her dad’s black).

      Now, I don’t believe for a minute that Luis Suarez used the word negro as a term of endearment. The way he used it matter of is factly, “¿que pasó, negro?”

      If Evra were fat, he’d say “gordo” if Evra were skinny he’d say “flaco” and if he’d be very white he’d say whatever Uruguayans say for blond people (in Venezuela it’s “catire” and some US readers will probably know that Mexicans say “guëro”)

      However since Evra probably reacted very strongly to the word Suarez thought “Ha!” And used it repeatedly to get on him out of his game, looking at it as a weakness on the part of Evra overreacting to a word that in itself is not offensive.

      So, after writing the above I asked my wife, who knows Suarez, but not Evra, and we had the following conversation…

      – What do you think of when Suarez played in England he said “negro” to a black player?
      – You mean like “mi negro” like everybody calls so and so (as a term of endearment)?
      – No, more like “que pasó negro” like you’re upset with him, or I don’t know, “cállate (shut up) negro” or whatever.
      – Yeah, and?
      – Well, do you think it’s racist?
      – No.
      – But what do you think happened?
      – Typical, the English guy got upset, right?
      – Right, haha. Anyway, they were speaking Spanish, and I think that when Suarez saw that Evra got upset over…
      – Of course. Negro, negro, negro, negro, negro, negro, negro, negro. That’s normal.
      – And you don’t think that’s racist?
      – No. This guy (Evra) is stupid. Ridiculous.

      So there you have a South American perspective from a Latina with shared African heritage. What’s more, she doesn’t think he deserved even a second of the eight-game ban.

      All this is not to say racism doesn’t exist in Latin America. It does and it runs deep. But a lot of people are definitely judging the situation from an American / Western European perspective. This is understandable, too. Cultural “baggage” runs deep and especially if you haven’t lived in other cultures. But considering the cultural differences and the fact that they were speaking a language which Evra does not understand (culturally), judging the situation from a Western point of view is not only very unfair to Suarez but will also cause you to misunderstand what happened completely.

    2. Lev, I wish I could vote your comment. You put it more succinctly and clearly than I managed. Thanks.

    3. Except everyone involved basically said Suarez wasn’t racist, nor was he banned for “being racist” but for using racailly abusive language.

      And I’m sure your wife is a lovely person, but she understandably doesn’t have a exhaustive understanding of how race is often embedded within language. For example, if I asked some old white southerner about calling a black kid “boy”, he might say it’s a term of endearment; clearly it’s not.

      (Also, Spain’s not really on the cutting edge of race and language—see the non-verbal expression used by the Spanish national basketball team before the 2008 Olympics. No one in Spain could understand all the fuss made by “over-sensitive” Westerners then either.)

  18. OT: what a game tonight with Scotland and ROI. Atmosphere, end to end and a goal fit to win any match from Sean Maloney. We’ll be coming down the road …….

  19. Kxevin – great article, as usual. The best solution is surely to play the three best defensive midfielders (Rafinha, Masch and Rakitic) and hope that they can form a tight enough defensive unit to back-stop the devastating front three. Creativity in midfield is not a priority.
    As the risk of sounding a bore (as usual). Alex Song, where are you???? Right now, the guy would be the first midfielder picked – yet he’s playing in another league. In-san-ity.

    1. I wouldn’t say the first midfielder picked, but he’d definitely be in serious consideration.

      Still, it’s good that he went to play in West Ham. Why?
      Because sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of our eyes. Sometimes we have to stand back in order to really see. What we’re seeing now is that Barcelona has an athletic midfielder who isn’t as bad as some imagined, and who has reinvented himself in England.

      Whether he can work in the current system is for the coach to see. But even if he isn’t used, then there will be plenty of clubs in dire need of a creative midfielder with the body of a CB and valuable experience as a pivot, so something will be gained.

    2. I gotta say that, like with everything else taking place, that people should
      Exhibit a little temperance before calling for Song to return as some sort of world class savior. He’s in a different type of league and in a team full that suits his playstyle. I’m a little shocked how short people’s memories are on this topic. Hell who wouldn’t look good playing in the west ham XI after coming from underwhelming at Barça? Yes I know they’re 4th but it’s only November, Calma.

    3. Peter, you always say much wiser things than me. My point is that Barca desperately need Song’s presence in midfield right now (at CM). Apart from Masch there is nobody who can really clatter an opponent. That’s why Masch MUST play DM for the rest of the season if Barca are to have any success. It’s just too bad he won’t have any henchmen.

  20. I don’t think Song played badly for us. I think he was a good squad player and I wouldn’t mind him playing at Barça still. But like Agar says, of course he’s gonna look good at West Ham. It’s one thing being the best player on a mid-level team, quite another starting for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

    1. Well he isn’t THE best player of the team, but still, he looks much better in West Ham. Of course.

      Nobody parks the bus against West Ham. As a matter of fact last season they did just that against Mourinho, provoking a rant or par with “Por que? Por que? Por que Buzaka, por que Ovrebo, POR QUE?!” 😀

      Everybody runs, which means lots of space for through balls and passes into space, something which Song has always been good with.

      English teams are lousy passers, which makes Song seem like Xavi to them 😛

      I think Mascherano will move to midfield, but it will happen when Mathieu and/or Vermaelen are available, so that the defence has a defender who is fast, athletic and who has not problems tackling.

      Mind you, in the home Ajax game Mascherano was in midfield in front of Pique and Bartra, next to Rakitic and a fit Iniesta. Ajax was practically overrun.

  21. Hey all I was just thinking, after seeing a post on FCB’s facebook , if in this international break someone would want to write a little something on how are loanees are doing? We have been pouring over the first team for so long I think it would be cool to get some two cents from the people in here ( so good are they with in depth posts) on the Tello’s and D.Suarez’s of the world, etc. Just a thought.

    1. I could do a little thing on Denis Suarez and Deulofeu, maybe also on Alex Song, but Tello and Affelay play in Portugal and Greece, there’s practically no English-language information on the Greek Superleague or the Portuguese.

      It’s an interesting assignment, especially since it will provide a preview for Sevilla in the case of Denis Suarez and Deulofeu.

    2. I would definitely look forward to anything he be able to piece together Peter, and I don’t know why but I’m very curious as to how Tello is doing at the moment, never thought I would sorta sorta miss his speed off the bench to run at defenses, although I suppose that’s what Pedro’s for.

    1. Ah, panic over. Apparently it’s a pre-existing agreement with the coach as he is banned from the Copa America and coach wants to try new formation. Means we get him back for afull week of prep for Sevilla. Bit of a daft situation in the making here if we have two(?) of our players playing for them. What if they have stinkers ?

    2. Jim, talking to yourself ain´t a good symptom. 😛

      I can assure you that neither Deulofeu nor Denis Suarez will give anything less than their 100%. Barcelona, unlike some other teams (Chelsea, Real Madrid) does not include a “no play” clause in the loans, because the loanees are expected to perform and evolve, and the consideration is that it’s the honorable thing to do, since if you fear that player’s skill, if he’s good, then why let him go on a loan in the first place?

      Personally I find the prohibition clause corrupting, because that effectively means playing with twelve men against eighteen teams(since the loanee effectively tries to strip points of the those eighteen teams), and playing against ten when playing the team in which the loanee plays. Not to mention that the whole thing about the loanees allows teams like Chelsea to have upwards of 30 effective players on the roster, and if for some reason they turn out to be good they are farmed back at no cost whatsoever.

      In any case if Denis and Deulofeu are fit, they will feature. I´m currently writing a small piece about the two of them, and the more I look, they are becoming key pieces in Unai Emery’s formation.

    3. Sometimes it’s the only way you can get a sensible conversation, Peter. 🙂
      ( I’m afraid it might have been my wife who first uttered that sentence but never mind…

      I’m not in the slightest worried about them playing their best and if they damage us good luck to them because they are our players. I just wonder where the line would be drawn. If we needed three points to win the league and had Sevilla in the last match would RM be so sanguine about their presence ? I don’t think the loan system is bad at all. I do sometimes wonder if it’s use should be limited to different leagues. That’s all.

      Btw, well done for taking up the writing cudgel. Look forward to it. Rather than a comment why not send it to Kxevin as a short piece leading up to the match?

  22. I watch afellay nothing special.After the injury is a mediocre player.I watched porto 2 times and tello is good but i must watch more.Song is a beast for west ham.If someone know about muniesa he play in stoke i remember he was the best cb in barca b.Anyone watched barca b today;;

  23. I cant understand whats going on with joan campins and sergio juste.They are always injured and we have only patrik for the b team.He is average and eusebio never use godswill.Our cb ie bagnack i believe they will never make it to first team.

  24. It’s been mentioned before, but Pedro sure looks different when he plays for Spain. He becomes a goal threat again – just now he almost scored his second goal of the game.

  25. I said it up earlier in the thread in response to a specific post, but people really should read the actual FA report on the Luis Suarez incident before making the same tired argument that “negro” is categorically non-racial. Specifically, two independent language experts concluded that “[i]f Mr Suarez used the words ‘negro’ and ‘negros’ as described by Mr Evra, this would be understood as offensive and offensive in racial terms in Uruguay and Spanish-speaking America more generally. (¶186).

    1. Linguistical experts sure are nice and all. After working extensively with Latinos from Mexico to Argentina for over three years I spent about six yrs in South America living in three different households, two of which featured black and/or mixed heritage family members. I’ve also lived in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and France. Needless to say I’m fluent in all languages involved, including Patrice Evra’s vernacular, and having grown up amongst people of many colors, creeds and religions you could definitely say I am more aware than most about cultural nuances and differences. Ironically, I’ve only been in Spain/Catalonia for 8 months now, so I can’t comment much on the local culture and its use of Spanish.

      There are a lot of nuances here that the report doesn’t touch on and one problem is that neither Suarez or Evra have been truthful to what happened. I think it obvious that the moment Evra showed himself vulnerable to the word “negro” Suarez used it repeatedly! A conclusion any of the linguistic experts should surely make as well. The argument can indeed be made that this is racial abuse, even in South American culture, but South Americans often look at this differently and even those who would argue it is racial abuse would generally not make a big deal out of it.

      Your example of the word “boy” (not only offensive in the South of the US btw), taken from a culture that is amongst the most sensitive about racial terms only serves to highlight the huge difference between your interpretation of what happened and that of the average South American.

      Last but not least, my wife is usually the smartest person in the room, so you have literally no idea of what she does or does not understand. Would the same patronizing comment been made if she’d come from the States instead of a Third World country, I wonder. It’s why I say there are two types of people in the world, those of us that are more racist and those that are less racist, at least on a subconscious level. The trick is being aware of our own feelings of prejudice.

    2. Actually the linguistic experts were absolutely objective in their interpretation.* Yes, I still think that a 23-old well educated native Speaker(for example) is more of a linguistic expert of the nuances, socio-linguistic, cultural, religious, etc than a professor who learned it as a second language.

      * The experts looked at the statements of Evra and Luis Suarez separately and delivered the conclusions on each account alone, not a combined conclusion on the two statements. That is very important.

      Their conclusions are the following:
      1. If Patrice Evra’s account is true, then it’s probable that Suarez used the term disparagingly, since there are some people in Uruguay who resent the usage, and because the structure of the phrase was clearly intended as an insult. If Patrice Evra says the truth.
      2. If Luis Suarez’s account is true, then it’s impossible that the word used was used as a racial insult. If Luis Suarez tells the truth.

      I literally facepalmed myself while reading the report, and it’s not easy to do that while you’re lying on your side and have to extricate your arm from underneath you to do it.

      Some “awesome” translations:
      “la concha de tu hermana” apparently translates as “fucking hell”. For those who don’t speak South American Spanish, let’s say that Zidane headbutted Materazzi for a less.
      “Tues negro”(yes, written like that) apparently translates “You are black”.(FYI it actually translates as “I just think I can speak Spanish”.)

      P.S. Lev, I think posthipsterpope established very clearly his view that Latin America, Spain and apparently South-Eastern Europe are very backwater when it relates to racism and its treatment. Until delivered from our ignorance by the enlightened guidance posted above maybe we should just keep quiet on the matter?

    3. If it weren’t for the comment about my wife (I don’t think he meant anything by it) I would have called it a day.

      For the record, Latin America has huge problems with racial and social discrimination, the negative consequences of which are incomparable of those in the West, and beyond beyond what most people in the West can imagine.

    4. I cannot comment on that since I haven´t lived there, but from what I have heard from first-hand sources it’s absolutely true. Not just Latin America, mind you.

      In Spain for example the bad vibes that many Spaniards have for Bulgarians and Romanians stem from the fact that the first wave of immigrants contained a lot of pickpockets, car thieves etc, many of whom are from Roma descent(even in crime there’s discrimination, imagine that), and while many of those turn to crime due to it being the family business, many others are driven to it because of being unable to find work, due to the latent discrimination(despite affirmative action) against Roma for various relevant and irrelevant reasons. It´s a vicious circle, even though steps have been made to start rectifying it.

      And it’s a topic for another forum/blog entirely, which is why I will return to my writing about Sevilla and I will call it a day.

      I will just leave the link with the complete report of the Suarez case so that those interested can read it and make their own conclusions:

  26. the pattern of trying to excuse some pretty inexcusable behavior by a grown adult person simply because he plays for Barça i find disturbing.

    next we’ll be told that Suarez’s repeated biting of other players is just a series of “Uruguayan love-nibbles”, misunderstood by the bourgeois Westerners who don’t understand Latin cultural mores. give me a break.

    1. Actually, that wasn’t what BA did at all, Levon. He simply expressed an opinion, as others have done. In looking back over this thread, the only person whose opinion and life experience who has been dismissed is me, really, with the assertion that I don’t “get it” because I am American, and don’t speak Spanish. Which is why I had my say and left it. No further point, because it can no longer be discussed from a viewpoint of mutual respect.

      Everyone brings their own worldview to the Suarez incident, as with Busquets and those allegations, which were hashed out in this space.

      One person’s wife is another person’s linguist is another person’s Spanish-fluent lip reader. Each one makes the assertion, based on their “source,” that the other side is right or wrong. And to what end? To have the last word?

      Suarez is a Barça player. Some are perfectly fine with it, others hold their nose, still others are opposed to his presence in the colors. None of those feelings change the fact that he is a Barça player. Sport has given us many examples, from Michael Vick and Adrian Peterson, to Ched Evans and others, where people have to make their own determination about a situation and live with it.

      Offense is rooted in interpretation, both cultural and contextual. Over the years, marginalized groups have their own terms that other groups wonder why they can’t use. Whites feel like if blacks drop the n-word, why can’t they? Many hear homosexuals call each other the f-word and wonder why they can’t, as well. And no matter how much you explain the difference, they still won’t get it, unless they understand the person, the situation and the context.

      Offense is also related to understanding. As someone above noted, a Southerner calling a black man “boy” is offensive or not, dependent upon the context and cultural understanding that someone brings to the event. A Spaniard might not understand why the guy got punched in the face. A black American would understand perfectly well. And all points in between.

      The Suarez case was a simple swearing match. He said, vs he said. There again, it isn’t cut and dry, because nuance always allows wiggle room. So some will say “I am fluent in Spanish, and my wife says this.” Someone else will say “You don’t use terms of friendliness, etc in a knife fight.” Others will say the prosecution of the case was flawed.

      The argument goes on and on, and at the end of it all, Suarez is still a Barça player, and people still have their individual opinions about it.

      Making it go on and on and on and on is as pointless as any other occasion where people with diametrically opposed viewpoints try to make the other person understand. It isn’t going to happen, no matter how much bandwidth is expended.

    2. Except that by assuming people are defending Suarez because he represents our club and making sarcastic remarks about Latin American love bites he does just that, dismiss other points of view completely.

      It’s ok, though, I understand it’s a sensitive topic. I’m sincerely sorry you feel your opinion and life experience has been dismissed by anyone during this topic.

      I agree with all the rest of what you wrote. I’ll put up a new post tonight and we can consider this thread closed.

    3. “and we can consider this thread closed.”

      Amen to that.

      P.S. I’m sorry you feel your opinion has been dismissed, Kevin, because this was not my intent at all. On the contrary, it was an attempt to show that there is another way to look at what’s happened, a point of view which had been, in my view, dismissed as absurd and ridiculous when the “absurdity” lies in the fact that it’s lost in translation precisely because it roots in another language. It is my view that we simply cannot allow ourselves to dismiss and reject something just because it doesn’t fit nicely in our established views and norms.

      I am sorry that I haven’t managed to convey that as clearly as intended.

    4. Peter and Levon,

      I think everyone understands the concepts of cultural and moral relativism, we just disagree about how far they expand and the resulting ability to use them to justify certain actions.

  27. you’re right, let’s all sit around and discuss whether it’s just a cultural distinction to bite players during a game of football or wind them up by using their race.

    no, we live in modern societies in the 21st century and these things aren’t acceptable. period, end of. we know it, Suarez knows it, and the disciplinary committees that sanctioned him for doing these things know it. we bought a talented scumbag who also possibly needs to seek therapy. we should accept that for what it is and move on.

  28. New article’s up.

    If anybody feels the irrepressible need to continue the above discussion, which I suspect most of us are done with anyway, please don’t take it to the new thread.

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