Barça 5, Sevilla 1, aka “Congratulations, Messi”


Today was an extraordinary day at the Camp Nou, a day on which a truly remarkable thing happened as a 27-year-old player … no, phenom, broke the Liga goalscoring record with a remarkable 253 goals. He accomplished the feat at home, in front of Barça supporters, via hat trick, at the end of a truly absurd week in which people lined up to defy logic in discussing the possibility that Lionel Messi might leave FC Barcelona.

And as fools like me suggested that Messi didn’t give two rampaging shits about what people were saying, that all he wanted to do was take to the football pitch and do what he does better than anyone else alive, it seemed fitting today that Messi did precisely that. Exorcism? Maybe. Statement? Possibly. Extraordinary match by an extraordinary player? Hell yes.

And that last is the point, the point that screams to be made as from week to week players are done, then “Back, how dare anyone doubt” and all points in between, is that each week, each match is different and proves absolutely nothing. Just as some days you go charging out of bed, full of energy and ready to take on the day and other days you roll over and hit the snooze button, what the hell makes us think that footballers are any different?

THAT Messi, this player, today

When Messi ran like a bolt of lightning to dispossess a Sevilla player, then turn to lead the break on the other end, it was a Messi that we really haven’t seen since the beginning of the season, when he was fresh and ready to go after a European pre-season and a nice vacation. And it was as brilliant then as it is now. His finishing was exceptional today, which doesn’t mean that his finishing wasn’t off prior to today. Because something happened doesn’t disprove that previous things happened.

Instead it demonstrates that today is today, and yesterday was yesterday.

But in the meteoric pendulum swings attendant to being a supporter and a fan of a player, even the greatest one of all time, from week to weak the dead die then rise again. And their proponents or detractors scoff or exult, dependent upon the situation and the final result. Then both sides retreat to their corners to await the next opportunity to do battle.

Is Pique back, or was today’s match just a one-off display of excellence before our handsome, pop star-loving, wealthy, poker-playing playboy returns to be the crap player that will reassure some and vex others? Does anyone care that Luis Suarez is, right now, the most expensive assists provider in the history of football?

Individual greatness serving the whole

I absolutely love what Lionel Messi does, because it helps the club that I love have success. And I bet you that Messi feels the same way, that a better day would be Barça winning with him held scoreless than Barça losing and him with a hat trick.

So while the record is a remarkable thing, yet not even as remarkable as the player who put it to bed, I am more excited by the the fact that Barça kicked the crap out of a very good Sevilla side, a team on excellent form, 5-1. Further, their goal was a Jordi Alba own goal. They were allowed to put exactly zero shots on Claudio Bravo’s net.


In the blizzard of praise for a record-setting accomplishment, that fact shouldn’t get lost. This Sevilla team had so many worried. This match had so many worried, for reasons that none could adequately put a voice to, except for the pressing, soul-crushing doubt that stalks this team.

I came across an article headlined “The 7 Habits of Unhappy People,” read it and found that it described Barça supporters almost to a T. There is a singular joylessness right now, a malaise even in the face of good results. A goal is scored, but it wasn’t scored the right way. The team is playing well, but where Messi is positioned isn’t right. It was a 5-1 win, but the opponent played like crap.

Yet all I could do was smile as I was watching Barça, a team that is still coming together under a new coach/staff, 8 new players and a new system of attack, begin to show signs that were impressive. Its first two goals were from set pieces. It also scored off a counter, off open play and off the kind of passing naysayers insisted was absent, as The Way was long gone. It scored different ways, in order to take advantage of an opponent who tried different things to keep Barça from scoring. I like how that works, just as I did when Guardiola had the reins.

Beauty in many ways

But what’s funny is that this Barça has in recent seasons been capable of that adaptability, even as people have clamored for the One True Way even as such a thing is simply not possible, because opponents aren’t practice dummies but flesh-and-blood beings with talent, hell-bent on using that talent to thwart ambition. A team is pressing, so you release a runner behind the defense. It sits back, so you try to pass it around them. It fouls, and you make it pay with set piece goals. Today, Barça not only did what a football team is supposed to do, but what teams that many culers say they wish Barça played like are doing.

I love that, even as those who cheer results are scoffed at, as if somehow misguided, or incapable of seeing the whole picture. “If all you want to do is win, well okay …”

Yeah, that IS all I want to do. Ugly goals count as much as pretty ones. 1-0 wins are the same number of points in the standings as manitas or 4-3 comebacks. A win is a win. Focussing on and lauding results isn’t bad, just as there isn’t anything wrong with saying “We won, but …” Both are valid, but neither is to the exclusion of the other. “Yay! We won! But I wish we could solve the Alves problem,” or “An impressive win, but there were moments when pre-existing problems reemerged, such as …” Every coin has two sides, but the value of results is worth consideration, as base as such a notion might seem.

Instead, a team, an extraordinary team stocked with talent has its supporters ripping and tearing at each other like adversaries. If you don’t praise Messi enough you hate him. If you observe something, you are criticizing as people join hands to shield a player from the criticism that many claim he doesn’t even care about, alleged scoffing that if it was put on a teeter-totter opposite Messi’s praise, would be catapulted into Earth orbit. If people don’t believe he is like unto oxygen, they are stupid and somehow blind, and the most distressing part is that it all conspires to take away the beauty of something that should, really, be an almost continual delight to watch. We will never again have the chance to watch a collection of players like this, doing what they do.

Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Suarez, Neymar …. It’s like some kid was given an unlimited budget in FIFA ’15 and used every penny of it.

Take THIS!


It’s also why observers can be forgiven for thinking that the free kick that notched Barça and Messi’s first goal was struck with a wee bit more venom that usual, kicking out the crap of a week that began with honest statements to an interviewer, statements taken out of context by a cadre willing to believe anything about anyone, including that a player who has said time and again that he loves his club and would stay forever if he had his way, was ready to leave that very club.

Everyone is different, but for me it shouldn’t be like that. We have the rare occasion to witness a number of remarkable things happen, from a potentially great team stocked with talent coming together, to a legend going out in style, to competition forging a potential powerhouse of a back line to the man who is for many the greatest player in the history of the game, finding new ways to amaze and astonish us.

That team won 5-1 today, pretty much dismantling a team that last season, talent losses from then to now notwithstanding, won the Europa League. It’s a team that, coming into this match, many claimed was playing better than it was last season, when it had so much success. And the team that we love destroyed them, as the best player on that talent-stacked potential colossus slathered himself in glory, like so much stardust.

Call me silly, but I think that — ALL of it — is really, really cool.

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. Quite right, Kxevin. For me, it was one of those rare matches where the overall was actually better than the sum of its parts , if you see what I mean. You couldn’t look at that and not see the start of something.

    So lucky to be watching this team and three amazing different goals, all top drawer, from the best player in history. Couldn’t believe the speed Messi got on that FK yet still had the swerve and there was no space for his third until Neymar made the quick dart which allowed the give and go in the heart of a crowded defence.

  2. I’ll have to watch it again and again to be able to appreciate it, but this was an excellent performance against an otherwise very good opponent.

    Luis Enrique said the defence was impeccable. I haven’t had the time for anything but this:

    It left me speechless. Look at the constant rearranging of the ranks of the four in defence, the way they shift around as the ball moves from left to right, and then just as the ball is about to reach Beto all four move to the centerline, leaving the Sevilla trio in offside position. Boss.
    Oh, and Busquets is a one-man pressing monster, if we’re to judge from that clip. 😀

    1. oh and thanks kxevin for the quick, satisfying lineup.

      is it me, or does this board seem much quieter after a brilliant performance from our team and from Messi? smh. 🙂

    2. If we could liken last night´s performance to making love(and I think we can), then we’re still in the phase of having gone to sleep after cuddling. Give it time, when we wake up we will start the whole “I’ve had better”. Or not.

      Still, give it time.

  3. But but I thought you were a Messi hater 🙂

    Jokes aside. I actually took my eyes off the tv screen before Messi took that FK. His FK’s has been pretty poor of late so I didn’t expect much especially since it was so close to the goal. And what do you know he scores an amazing curler.

    Captain. Legend. D10S.

  4. Messi’s parents should be proud. what a great kid. he doesnt just say the right things, you really get the feeling he means it.

    “I was only able to achieve this because of the support I have had from so many people during my time here and I would like to dedicate this achievement to you all.

    “Thanks for always being with me. I would also like to dedicate this to the people who are no longer with us any more. I will never forget you. Thank you everyone for standing with me!”

    1. Well put. A very old head on young shoulders already ridiculously overburdened. That’s what stands out for me about the tweets – they almost all mention the person as well as the player. Don’t remember the last time I saw such genuine joy on faces as when they were throwing him up.

    1. Haha. I was about to post exactly the same thing! So many comments on here when we do badly but play as well as we did last night and resounding silence. Maybe because there are no “excuses” this time as well? We didn’t beat some crap team 5-1, we didn’t score lucky goals or take advantage against a team that wasn’t defending well. We completely demolished a quality team, a team that a lot of people thought would beat us (WHAT?). They did not register a single shot on target the whole 90 minutes. Think about that. A counter attacking team with pace, with height on set pieces, with aggressive and physical players did not register a single shot.

      We were brilliant. Not sure what it means, or if it means anything, beyond 3 points and the fact that this team IS capable of absolute footballing brilliance. Not quite in the same way as the 09-10 team, but it shouldn’t need to be, in fact it has to be different because the teams we are playing are different.

      Things seem to be coming together a bit now. The players seem to be understanding what is being asked of them a bit more. The Neymar and Messi combination is starting to look absolutely out of this world and once Suarez gets his shooting boots on (it wont take long), this front 3 is going to be scoring a truckload of goals.

      Still early days, but I am very excited to see how this team progresses.

    2. There is a lot to more to discuss when things aren’t right than when they are. It’s simple as that.

    3. Politely disagree. Just as worth to say something positive as negative.

      It’s also a matter of the contextualization of comments. The fact is that if one thing goes wrong, it gets magnified and blown up, and taken as a sign of much larger problems. (example, the 0-1 against celta, where we played quite well.) When we play great and win, the reaction is minimized.

      Yes this has become a topic unto itself, and rightly so. I believe if you put positive energy and hope into world, it actually translates into something real, vs. putting negativity and pessimism, which also translates into something real. [yeah its just futbol, but still/…]

      Great win. Best defense in the league folks, despite the occasional wobble.

  5. I haven’t had much time to write here with a new job but I’m a checking in and reading.
    Last night’s game was incredible. We controlled practically every minute of the match and scored some great goals.

    The Messi Neymar combination is spectacular as has been mentioned above and it looks to be getting better by the week. Suarez is doing most things right but just needs to get a goal to get him on track.

    A thought I had once Messi scored that freekick was that the rest of the league would want to start saying their prayers now because once he got that goal he has nothing held over his head. He is free to play as only he can and sure enough, he scored another couple. I would be surprised if he went on one of his incredible scoring streaks now.

    It was great to see Neymar winning possession a couple of times and tracking back. The boy has gobs of talent.

    I also reckon that Jordi Alba was immense last night. He shut down almost everything that came down his wing and was very dangerous in the final third. The goal was pure bad luck but Pique and Bravo both should have done better so I don’t blame him.

    Busquets was better than he has been most of the season and Rakitic and Xavi were better balanced alongside him than Iniesta in my opinion.

    All in all it was a very enjoyable experience.

    1. Agreed on Alba, Ciaran. I thought he was spot on last night and one of the few defenders blameless in their goal. For me it started with Dani’s sloppy attempt to shut down his man, Pique came out to cover the man on the overlap but when the original guy took it he was facing the wrong way so again sloppy to him. After that Busi had his angle to cut out the (very poor) cross wrong, Mathieu possibly even more so, Bravo needs to win that ball if he comes for it and poor Alba ends up sucking up the og.

      Has to be said, though. I’ve been saying that this defence has improved. I thought they were awesome last night, Pique and Mathieu are already working well together and Alba is aware of his covering responsibilities and using his speed well. Now, and here’s looking at you LE, you need to try Masche at DM in rotation with Busi to see if he can handle it. If he does, we are cooking !

      Btw, fed up saying it but what about the calm Xavi brings to our play ? Why could I not have played like that ? It looks so easy. Also, great delivery at set pieces from that side and the quick through ball to Messi was a delight and something we will see more of with the improved movement of the forwards. Just don’t tie him down to a defensive role out wide. He runs enough as it is. Having said all that he should really be rested for midweek if we want to keep getting the best out of him. Would I be brave enough to do that away from home? Don’t know, but we need to start expecting others to keep control if he’s not there. I’m fed up with things going to pot when he’s not on the pitch.

      Anyway, even after a second watch this is the happiest I’ve been with a whole performance, not just the goals, since LE arrived. Now, does he take the lessons …

  6. Coming to ‘Barca supporters are unhappy’. I’m pretty sure the mods(who see tactical part of the game) will be unhappy too if Messi continues to score hattrick week-in week-out. Yes, the probability of Messidependencia post is directly proportional to number of goals he scores 😉

    1. Can’t speak for “the mods” as a collective, but I would be unhappy if Messi notched hat tricks week after week, yes, because of what it symbolized in a macro sense for the team’s attack.

      My ideal Barça win would have goals coming in many ways, from many different sources. If this team needs its best player to don his superman cape to win, something is wrong. The Messi hat trick yesterday was an organic one. Pedro could have put away that second goal as easily as Messi. More importantly, they came from the flow of play.

      This team isn’t about Messi, even as only a fool would fail to acknowledge that Messi is its best player. Diversity of scoring sources means an opponent doesn’t know where the attack is going to come from, and that’s good.

      So to be sure, I (vs “the mods”) will always want to see a diversified attack from Barça.

  7. The space is quieter after excellent wins for the same reason that those Consumer Reports quality rankings for appliances are skewed. If you don’t have any trouble with your appliance, what is there to say?

    As I note above, that was an extraordinary match that showed very positive signs. But if this team continues to improve, and actually begins to show signs of a system, a tactical approach and starts beating more folks, it will also be sad, because a lot of people who have lots invested in such things NOT being the case, won’t know what to do.

    The team isn’t perfect yet, and never will be. Perfection is a state that is never attained. But there are signs of life, direction and a system coming together. And that’s cool.

    1. an excellent game, one marked by clear changes to the system Lucho has tried to employ since the start of the season. Messi in particular was totally comprehensive: playing balls out of the center circle, connecting play, and finishing. Neymar also beginning to show his promise and Jordi Alba was a clapping monkey that had been fully wound up.

      there are still a couple of larger systemic worries though, namely that we still have no replacement for Xavi Hernandez. his calming, structural influence in midfield as an organizing CM was so crucial to this win, but equally insufficient against more vigorous sides as we saw against Real Madrid. he can’t play every game and we’ll need a serious run of games to suss out a more resilient, forward-looking system before we can get a sense of what Lucho has in store for a successful post-Xavi era.

    2. First half against Madrid was fine. We controlled it and they made no headway and created almost nothing. Only really bad period apart from the horrendous individual mistakes came when Xavi left the pitch, not when he was on it.

      It’s more about our structure for me. There seemed to be less of the crazy mids defending wide at the weekend which meant Busi and Xavi could do the jobs they wanted. FBs seemed to have at least been talked to about constantly bombing up the park regardless resulting in Alba being available to mop up more at the back with his speed and the front three are starting to move well.

      Still, it’s only one game. Big thing for me is what LE has learned from it.

  8. Iniesta and Vermaelen will be out of the APOEL squad list. Iniesta still not passed fit and Vermaelen has another hamstring injury. Yikes.

    — On another note, after just coming back, Reus out until January after damaging ankle ligaments due to a ridiculous tackle. Yellow, not a red, which astonishes me after having seen the play.

  9. Whoops !
    Whoa !
    Hellz yeah !

    Its a nice romance, Barca & Messi.
    Thanks for the feel good post, kx.
    Hope wondrous people of BFB are doing fabulous.

    1. it’s called an “onside kick.”

      the kicking team was hoping to recover the football. the kicking team can recover the ball after it has traveled 10 yards, even if the other team hasnt yet touched it. the receiving team had lined up most of its players on one side of the field to receive the ball, and the rabona was an attempt to catch them by surprise.

      an onside kick is a risky play because you might give the receiving team good field position. it’s really only ever tried late in a close game by the team that is losing.

      apparently someone in a college game (Rice vs Houston) did this a year ago and was successful. Yesterday’s has gotten more attention as it happened in the NFL.

    2. i meant to say that onside kicks are not that uncommon, but rabonas are very uncommon, with the one in the Rice-Houston game the only other one I know about.

    3. Thanks for the explanation, I googled the Rice-Houston play so now I get the idea.

      It sure is easier to properly do with a spherical ball 🙂

      P.S. Is the name by any chance a a leftover from the 19th century when forward passes were banned in all varieties of football?

    1. That kid sure possesses gobs of talent…which can be honed by the right coaching.
      The result though was a disappointment considering they were 2 or 3 goals up at a point.
      If you can, kindly pls post the Vid for the goal.

  10. Much as I like the positional placement of Rakitic in that game as opposed to the right-sided-ass-covering role for Alves he was occupying, it gives me no pleasure to say his passes most times were insufferable to the eyes. Still and all, was glad his performance was an upgrade since the inglorious night in PSG; and functioning closer to the attack greenlighted him to venture into goal-scoring positions…which yielded a good return eventually, coupled with the defensive shift he put to support Alba.
    That said, i expect his diminishing confidence to make a significant progression henceforth.
    As it has been well elaborated and exhausted here, the what-do-we-do-without-xavi issue is still a germane topic worth revisiting (probably a post from the mods). The intermittent value he still offers creates an angst for what the future would look like without him. To which i suggest we exploit two alternatives in the interim to prepare for the inevitable. Either try a Busquests there, consequently moving Mascherano to the dm or deploy an inexperienced but talented Samper there.

    1. I agree with the general point about needing to prepare for the future ( and largely what you say about Rakitic’s passing although I suppose he is still settling in) but where, this season, did you get the “intermittently” regarding Xavi from ? Any time the time has played well it has been because he has been at the heart of it. He began the season with LE determined not to use him and has quickly become the heart of the team again, confounding more than a few pundits both in the press and closer to home. We shouldn’t fight that, we should use him to the full, without overplaying, and in the lesser games try to find the future way which I still believe could be Iniesta in that role.

    2. You are right, Jim.
      Iniesta looks the more suitable; i have often nutured that thought.
      A poor run of form lately, however, made me inadvertently exclude him from consideration.

  11. This whole Vermaelen situation is fast becoming a recurring decimal. Since August (or is it July?), the cycle keeps regurgitating: dude injured- dude close to recovery- dude (seemingly) recovers- dude reinjures again.
    Then another round ensues.
    There would no gainsaying that someone has got to accept responsibilty for what is swiftly devolving to an unsavory farce.

  12. For my part, Im simply taking the same approach Kevin advocates after a run of bad form ” wait and see”. Yes they played well but am I to believe this to suddenly be the norm now? Week to week? I doubt it. The PSG game at home will be the barometer for me for how this team has come along so far. The less said about the Vermaelen situation the better.

    1. Agree on all. Good and bad play is temporary. It’s why I noted above the rush to judgment, good and bad. Pique is poor and it’s “See? Playboy. He sucks.” Xavi is good, and it’s “See? Just as he was.” Messi tracks back and people are saying, “Who says Messi doesn’t track back?”

      Everything is temporary, and situational.

      As for Vermaelen, it’s a bad situation. It was clearly a risk, that looks to not be panning out. The only think I take issue with, and am very happy to not be seeing it here, is the general indictment of ZubiZa because of Vermaelen.

      This is the guy who brought in Halilovic (when everybody wanted him), Rakitic, both Suarezes (one a steal at the price) and other signings. No sporting director always gets it right.

      A couple of people on Twitter were having at him for not signing this Mallorca winger, or the word that Martin Odegaard will be going to RM or United. But if you are those players, what do you do?

      A winger is looking at Neymar, Deulofeu, Adama, Pedro and thinking, “Hmmmm.” Odegaard is looking at Suarez, Halilovic, Rafinha, Iniesta, and at other youth talents lower down in the system and thinking, “Hmmmm.”

      I’m always careful not to draw global inferences based on a situation or two. Was Txiki B a clown because of Caceres, Henrique, Keirrison and Ibrahimovic, or somewhere in between because of some excellent transfer business?

  13. Beautiful win.
    Seems LE have made some changes in our play, especially in the midfield, more like how we have seen from them in the past.
    Busquests was excellent too.
    Am I the only person here who thinks Pique was poor in that moment leading to Albas own goal.

    1. Nope, and I’m his biggest defender.

      He initially came out to mark the runner not the attacker who did the damage but didn’t readjust his body for a tackle quickly enough so he should have just taken the guy down imo. However, in fairness it was Alves’ man and he did little. The attacker had at least been pushed to the byeline on his bad foot but when the worst cross I’ve seen in a long time came in Busi was caught half way between marking and cutting it out and Mathieu was even more lost position wise. Your only job in his position is to stop the ball between keeper and attacker and he didn’t. While I’m at it Bravo wasn’t great either. You come for that, you gotta get it, especially when you’re only up against a hopeful lunge from Suarez who was never getting it. In fact the only one I’d absolve from blame of some sort is Alba.

      To put the other side of the case I thought Pique was awesome along with the rest of the defence. That’s the best I’ve seen them play – and move- as a unit and cover for each other. More of this please.

    2. It’s kinda funny how much of late is coming from Alves defensive deficiencies. People always note his attacking, but rarely his defending. Enrique made changes to free up Rakitic from being something other than a de facto right back, and it brought the midfield back to life.

      If you give Xavi movement and a willing dance partner, he will be very effective.

    3. If Xavi plays like this, starts in our alternate matches only, with good rest in between, he could play with us for more seasons.
      If Pirlo is still good, Xavi can too.

    4. I too thought, Pique was excellent for the whole match, but this one, for me, was poor. Your thoughts on Alves is right, but still as the experienced CB, I wished either Pique had prevented that cross or stayed in the 6 yard ready to cover the first post / Deniz Suarez.. It was so easy for that player to go past Pique.
      We have often seen crosses made making Alves look average.

    5. Wasn’t meant as a real go at Dani. For instance, I don’t blame him at all for the RM goal where Marcello got to the touch line. Nor, btw, do I blame Pique. They were both left in a situation of Iniesta’s making – and you’ll know how it pains me to say that. It’s just that sometimes, this being one, it looks as if he thinks his work is done just by getting there and if the guy goes it’s someone else’s job. He can do the defensive work as he has often subdued CR7 down that wing.

      I’m not sure Pique had an option to stay guarding that front post. He came out because there was a runner going beyond the man with the ball and I’m sure that was who was on his mind with Dani marking the one with the ball but when he left Dani it was quick change of plan and because of that he was left facing the wrong way to turn quickly. Sometimes you can look daft just because your weight is on the wrong foot or something equally small.

      Not excusing him though. As I said he got caught facing the wrong way and still had the option to take the man down. It was outside the area albeit in a dangerous situation. Either way, Mathieu should have taken up that position at the front post when he saw Pique going. You can see him thinking about it but not quite committing whereas Alba did come across to cover for Mathieu with unfortunate results ! Can’t get at the defence though. They covered each others’ tails beautifully all night.

    6. you are right Jim. Pique could have tried shouldering there.
      anyways, we are too demanding right? we are dissecting the only poor moment in a game we won 4-1. 🙂

  14. That was a match that just lifts everyone’s spirits wasn’t it ! No matter how gloomy the outlook was before the match (Messi not happy, LE not good enough) this match turned everything 180 degrees. What was amazing to watch was how reliable our defense looked. From Alba to Mathieu (what a presence he was) to Pique (who had the odd slip up) to Alves. And I think most important was the return to form of Busquets. He was everywhere – pressing, tackling, distributing he was doing it all. And Xavi was well, Xavi. When our defense looks that reliable, our attack automatically starts to look more threatening because they no longer are afraid to lose the ball – which gives them more creative license. For me the difference between this match and the one against Celta was that we actually scored in this one. And that our defense was better.

    Our team looks brilliant when all departments click together. Now for that Suarez goal thats been eluding him.

    1. From what I could see in the video Suarez looked almost as happy, and also, how do you blame Messi for scoring from a play he directed?

      Still, that moment when there are three attakers, two defenders, and the attackers are Messi, Neymar and Suarez. That moment…

    2. haha, yes…when I was watching it real time, I was screaming for Neymar to cross it the first time to Suarez, but he took an extra touch and Messi burnt the ground to reach it and poke it in. My word, that was some goal – like Peter says, imagine Neymar, Messi and Suarez coming at you to score.. *shudder* 😀

    3. Quite an awkward moment (for me at least) I must admit.
      A part of me desperately wanted Suarez to poke the ball home badly.
      Well, the lil genius just pops up with a remarkable speed and obviously wanted it the most.

  15. A mature performance that was reassuring. Great that Messi is now past the distraction.

    Hope more of the same is served in the future. After a good match like this it had be a quible to complain of Pique’s positioning for the goal conceded.

  16. From Barcastuff : Barcelona line-up (official): TerStegen – Alves Pique Bartra Alba – Rakitic Mascherano Rafinha – Suarez Messi Pedro #fcblive

    Hmm, I’m liking this. Masche ( finally) gets his shot at DM, he’s not in the back four ! , Xavi gets his rest ( although available if needed second half ) and we start giving one of the front three a break if not needed.

    What’s not to like ?

    1. “What’s not to like?”

      Only that once again, we are shown that Luis Enrique has zero confidence in his two backup rightbacks who aren’t even in the squad – again. Can’t blame him, though it leaves us with only one highly injury-prone defender as the only trained rightback should Alves leave or get injured.

  17. Barcelona line-up (official): TerStegen – Alves Pique Bartra Alba – Rakitic Mascherano Rafinha – Suarez Messi Pedro

    Our defensively strongest midfield. Atleast it won’t be overrun. Exciting.

    1. Yeah, symbolic I suppose, but that was a fifty yard full sprint from him. Don’t want to see that very often or he’ll be sitting out a few games injured with that calf of his.

    1. The most impressive thing was the way the ball was recovered within seconds of losing it and usually in APOEL’s half. I don’t have the stats in front of me but I would guess this was 80+% possession, if not 90% at some time in the first half. Now APOEL is not exactly a great team but it was the same against Sevilla on Saturday, and it’s what I want to see every game. Hopefully it continues

  18. Two very good games in a row. The midfield was a success; it was able to cover more space than our usual choice. That’s also an aspect of match control. Great to see the lil guy score as well as he’s playing.

    1. A chunk of the credit has got to be directed towards Masche, Valdemar. You could see and savour all his attributes in full throttle- pace (which we have been lacking desperately in that department), rambunctiousness, physicality, belligerence, etc. Could go on and on waxing lyrical about his qualities; hard not to especially with the sturdy security he provides.

    2. Agreed. I think it has to be him (Masche) against PSG with Xavi and Rakitic. I know Rakitic isn’t the full product left, but he has pace, physicality, and good positional sense. He’s our Keita with a better shot.

      That was a great game offensively. I thought Rafinha had a pretty good game apart from the second yellow. It’s good to know he can be counted on when the group is all playing well. Compare this game to Ajax!

      Suarez made one of the 5 million dollar goals he needs to make this year, and boy, it was the goal of the match.

      two records in less than a week. Messi is fantastic. He could have had a few assists tonight as well.

  19. did anyone else catch a glimpse of that huge moon that hung over the stadium? i thought it looked pretty surreal. lots of positives from tonight.. cant wait til next match.

    1. I saw it once when it seemed like it was sitting on top of the stadium and thought it was some part of the roof…

    1. I saw that earlier today and was wondering why there is no outrage here.

      5 months… that means he may not play at all this season. Great signing

  20. Great results cules! I saw the highlights from both games, looking very sharp indeed. That little chipmunk looking guy seems like a half decent player… Can we pleeeeease have him back? Actually I’ve noted 2 things about Luis since he’s moved to Barca and to me they are quite interesting:

    1) If he had moved to another PL club, he would have scored 10 already. That is not a statement about difference in quality, but the fact that he would have been the absolute focus of any PL team. At Barca, he is just one of 3 attacking focal points and not the big one. Interesting, but it just means that you may not get as astronomical a return as we did, but probably more assist heavy than he was at LFC.

    2) Correct me if I’m wrong but I haven’t seen any articles coming out, slating him for costing 75m and taking this long to score. Despite his assists and overall great play, if he was in the PL and had the exact same stats, EPL fans would have turned on him by now, I have absolutely no doubt. Sad, but that’s the state of the league at the moment, especially the younger fans. Good to see it’s a bit different in (not)Spain.

    Cheers lads and ladies for providing a safe haven for friendly, intelligent and sensible football enthusiasts. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is compared with some other football blogs that are out there, especially those focusing on my beloved LFC.
    Peace, YNWA

    1. Well in fairness LFC is in a bit of a mess right now with no real solution on the horizon…besides praying the young players BR decided to buy come good..

    2. Correct me if I’m wrong but I haven’t seen any articles coming out, slating him for costing 75m and taking this long to score.

      Are you talking about here or in general? I think at this point people here are well aware that most players who join this club and have not previously been in its youth teams only start to show their full potential in their second year. So we have been generally satisfied with the way he’s playing. And even though he had not scored, he did win us the 3 points at Almeria and has been very good at breaking the bus – we have been sorely lacking someone who can receive the ball at the edge of the box, then turn around and do something with it. And he has done it on several occasions now even if others were doing the scoring. He has been wasteful in front of goal (and was wasteful today too), but overall the contribution has been positive so not that much to complain about really

    3. Benj, a few things work in his favor.

      1. As G60 said, most people right now are realizing that any player needs adaptation period. Suarez wasn’t able to even train until August, and then he had to wait until El Clasico to appear. Out of form, out of fitness, he nevertheless ran his shirt off, got the assist for Neymar, got a would-be assist for Messi, tracked back constantly and generally impressed on a night when there was little to cheer about.

      2. He cost a lot of money, but even though he hasn’t scored goals, he has provided assists and a refreshing bus-bricking attitude. You are right, in the EPL people could be furious that he doesn’t score goals, and you’re right that’s because for practically every EPL team he would be THE star striker, whereas in Barcelona that is Messi. So even if he doesn’t score, when he lets others score his presence is appreciated.

      Parked buses have always been SO FRUSTRATING for Barcelona, so it’s very helpful that when he sees one, he just rubs his hands and takes out a baseball bat and a sack of bricks.

    4. Thanks for the kind words, Benj. A space is only as good as its commenters, and we have a batch of excellent ones. Hats off to all.

      Suarez is, like Neymar, an excellent associative player. In all of the bile spewed about the Neymar purchase, as some of us discussed his footballing IQ and associative play, it’s nice to see those things coming to the fore. Suarez reminds in his movements and overall play very much of Eto’o. The goal that he scored last night was even reminiscent of goals that Eto’o used to score, based not on dribbling but simply poking the ball somewhere and moving to it.

  21. Can anyone please explain why suddenly we are playing very good football in past two matches? Is this some kind of tactical change or just players are performing better than in the past few matches. Or is it a bit of both?

    Sorry, I am a bit inept when it comes to tactics…

    1. I´ll have to plagiarize my own tweets:

      Rotation gives fresh legs and fresh minds. Fresh legs and fresh minds allow more creativity, more pressing and more running.

      Rotation gives time to injured players to recover and recuperate, so that when they play they’re free of doubts and give it their all.

      A lot roots in the midfield. The wide, the creative mids are closer, which means Busquets doesn’t have to run that much and Mascherano doesn’t have to run that much. Second, unlike the first games of the season, Messi has as partners Neymar y Suarez, and their understanding grows with each passing game; also added is the fact that Suarez gets to know the system and the rest of the team. Rakitic gets to know the team. The coach gets to know the extent of the team and the qualities of the players individually.

      In the beginning of the season the three strikers played close together, the mids did more protecting and the wingbacks were those who initiated plays. I can only guess at the reasons, but it seems to me Lucho decided to try help Messi with two other players always close by, since he didn’t have his newly-signed Suarez. That meant additional work load on both wingbacks and midfield, which made the players too far away from one another, which made passing difficult. Add to that the fact that Busquets was out of form, Rakitic and Rafinha did not have the required “automation” and the whole thing snowballed.

      Right now the team plays very well, because it mostly has rested players – Xavi, Dani Alves, Adriano just did training while the rest travelled and played during the international break, while from the rest only Mascherano played two full matches during the international break(which is why he was out of the squad for Sevilla). Moreover, Suarez is finally getting in shape in all definitions of the word, which means a striker who knows all the dirty tricks defenders use, knows where to position himself to cause the greatest damange possible, directly(GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAL@!!@@) or indirectly by drawing defenders, which both allows the striker team to stay separated but within effective support range, and stretches the opposition defence. That Messi and Suarez often interchange positions and drive the defenders cross-eyed is even better. What this means is this:

      Wingbacks don’t have to run forward as much. Midfielders don’t have to stay that far in order to cover the flanks and the backs of the wingbacks, which means they can stay closer and focus on passing, pressing and looking for openings. The defence is more solid because the wingbacks are more often in position. Messi plays better, because the movement of the strikers makes it more difficult on the opposition defence to track the threat and concentrate accordingly. Messi also plays better, because his day is not filled with “crap, how do I pass four defenders by myself”, but instead “Oh, look, just two defenders marking me! Wheeeeee!!!”

      This is the reason why the board was willing to buy Suarez, even after his ban, even after paying 81 million Euro.

    2. because his day is not filled with “crap, how do I pass four defenders by myself”, but instead “Oh, look, just two defenders marking me! Wheeeeee!!!” – excellent Peter. 🙂

    3. The team is also beginning to understand what Enrique wants, and is able to execute it thanks to fresher legs, etc, as Peter points out.

      The press has been particularly effective in the last two matches, and note how much Messi is pressing. I still say (and it’s a subjective rather than objective evaluation) that Messi tends to have his best matches when he is pressing, as it creates a higher level of involvement. He also touches the ball more, and is moving around more which makes it next to impossible to play him.

      And dare I say, freeing Rakitic to no longer be a titular right back means that the midfield is functioning like a midfield again. I have long wanted to see a midfield of Mascherano/Rakitic/Rafinha. The results were pretty much what I had hoped for.

      Granted, APOEL wasn’t interested in playing, and by the time they got interested in playing, our foot was already on the throat.

  22. I think four times I made that orgasmic – Ray Hudson style aaargh yday.
    Suarez turn and goal, Messi’s pass to Alba, and twice when Messi tried his trade mark dribbling runs.. Our little man is back to his best.
    Masche was an absolute gem yesterday. Once Busquets came in you could see him so far up , may be LE is going to try him in AM 🙂
    Also, Bartra, I think he will become the most skillfull CB in the world. This boy needs more games, please..

    1. Bartra was superb yesterday. And seems to be getting better with each game. I know it was just apoel but to be honest this team the past two matches is very refreshing to watch. Bring on PSG!!

  23. I am hoping Peter would kindly answer to this query.

    Read in a Guardian comments that Nadal and some other Madrid players too were picked for the same offence as Messi, but they all were able to pay the fine and could move on. Is this true?

    1. Would it surprise you?

      From what I remember, It’s Casillas and Xabi Alonso from Madrid at this moment, but yes, they paid the fine and the taxes and went free.

      Nadal had to pay a few millions million for the same charges as Messi. Paid and is “an ambassador of Spain”, madridista and iconic figure in Spanish sport.

      The difference? First, they’re Spanish. Second, and that’s more important, they represent Spain. Third, the Treasury department allied with Justice and launched a highly visible operation targeted at the famous people who “haven’t paid taxes”. One such case is Isabel Pantoja, an Andalusian singer. Her case was different because she has been acused and found guilty of being an accomplice in money-laundering and bribery together with her ex-bf and ex-mayor of Marbella Julian Muñoz. She is in jail right now.

      Messi’s case is a bit different, because he is accused of being an accomplice of tax evasion. Jorge Messi is the primary suspect. The prosecutor asked for Lionel Messi’s involvement in the case to be dismissed, because there is no evidence that Messi knew what was happening and the pursuing of that angle is pointless due to lack of evidence. At the same time, the Messi family is suing the ex- accounts manager precisely for channelling the money through off-shore accounts and pocketing large parts. The recommendation of the prosecutor was dismissed by the judge and the case was admitted with Messi as an additional defendant, because according to the judge Messi should have known about the management of his money.

    2. Thanks Peter.
      It didnt surprise me, as from the very beginning, I was sure there was more to it. What am surprised is about the silence in the media about these cases and no one, even in sports media, is bringing up these comparisons. I wish Messi had a good PR team around him, this would have been their job.
      You can always see Hunters and Lowes and Ballagues saying something about Messi’s tax situation. But why dont these writers say anything about the different treatment meted out for other players?

    3. Because they rely on sources in Real Madrid and AS/MARCA for their RM info. Don’t want to be the pariah without sources and have a memo sent to your editor “Send someone else, not this one if you want to participate in pressers”, do you?

    4. Iniesta, I believe, is also on that high-profile hit list of tax-dodging celebs. The Messi case is very different. Here is an excellent Forbes piece on it:

      The Alonso case, for one, is related to the change in image rights monies. The Messi case is rather different. Nadal, on the other hand, actually had things go on in Spain and England.

      Why more footballers don’t declare Monaco as their place of residence, as Formula One drivers do, is beyond me.

    5. Thanks. Have Forbes written about the different standards of law to different players. (cant read the link now, wll do later, sorry if this is mentioned in that article)

  24. As a simple retired bloke I can’t see what’s in this for the Madrid authorities. what’s the best that can happen here for them ? I can understand destabilising Barca but if Messi were to go citing harassment from Madrid, or the Catalans were suddenly to decide this was further persecution of them and it becomes linked to the Independence debate this could all blow up in their faces. Even if they find him guilty and get the money would it be more than is on offer now from the Messis ? The trick is surely in putting the pressure on, not in jailing or chasing away footballers thereby ensuring that the league loses its ability to attract the top players.

    I’m not supporting either tax avoidance or evasion here and actually in Spain’s financial state Id be quite upset if Messi or any other top player was wilfully avoiding/ evading tax ( even as I know they will be) but just can’t see what’s in it for the Madrid Government to pursue this beyond this stage. Calling Peter for detailed analysis …….

    1. This is just an opinion, personal one. I don’t think Madrid authorities have a lot to do with it. It may just be a case of a judge/lawyer wanting to make names for themselves. The question here is, as you point it out, to continue the process, because that puts pressure on Messi and his ability to play.

      Make no mistake, there is a lot going on here. A strike on Barcelona is viewed by many as a strike on Catalunya, especially in this moment. “Look at me kicking your pet. Whatcha gonna do ’bout it?”

      It also deviates the eye of the public from the real problems, the real corruption in the country. Caja Madrid

      A second reason is that for Florentino Perez it’s personal. The man is for all intents and purposes “El Puto Amo” in Madrid. His firm was compensated with 1360 million Euro for a gas project that was not done. That money will be paid by the citizens of Spain to the government with increased gas prices. This is how powerful he is.


      This is not a real newspaper site as far as I know, but all info is legit. The striking part is that the compound interest rate on that sum would triple it. Florentino won’t get that, but the citizens will be shafted.

      Info in English:

      More Spanish:

    3. Thanks Peter (we might have some similar political leanings I think).

      This doesn’t surprise me at all. The United States is corrupt in a very Orwellian sense (and recent events in certain suburbs saliently depict outrageous inequality in our system of jurisprudence), but Spain’s corruption is a horse of different color. The entire government is run like a TV mafia drama. This is truly appalling.

      Perhaps Perez wishes to go down the path of Berlusconi.

    4. Well I’m not Peter, but for me it is simply a high-profile shot across everyone’s bow. It’s the same reason in a potential brawl, you punch the biggest guy in the face first. You hope the rest will say “Oh, crap!” and not want to fight any more.

      Everything, even things that aren’t, are related to the struggle for Catalan independence. I think that in this case, the biggest things are to recoup some money and scare the crap out of othesr who will either consider doing something similar, or are already doing something similar.

    5. The problem here is that Messi has already paid the full amount plus interest, plus additional taxes in case . You are right, it is a shot against everyone’s bows, but for some reason some bows are less shot across.

      Anyway, for me personally it seems an opportunity for fame for the involved magistrates, and the rest is just added bonuses for all the other parties.

  25. I want to wish everyone here in the states a happy thanksgiving! I am thankful for finally getting to the Camp Nou this year. I am NOT thankful for being correct about Vermaelen breaking again, told you. Sigh. I know we disagree on this point Kevin, but with the transfer ban coming, there was no way we should have taken a chance on such an oft broken player, even if it was just for 10mil…

    1. You lucky dog! What match are you going to see? My best visit ever was the year I got to see the Classic, and Inter group stage matches in the same week.

      — I hear you on Vermaelen, I really do. Now surgery, so he’s out until the end of March, assuming he doesn’t break when he comes back from that. But if you look at the roster, we are carrying 4 functioning CBs in Pique, Mathieu, Bartra and Mascherano. That’s about as much as most top sides, and should be more than enough.

      The Vermaelen thing was a shot in the dark, and 10m really isn’t a lot of money for a big club. If it pans out, great. If not, well … many a big club has players they buy that don’t pan out. His talent was worth the risk.

      What I don’t know is if the decision was made with that potential risk in mind, as in “We have enough folks to take a chance on him.”

      Even with the transfer ban coming, none of our CBs are going anywhere, and Vermaelen would have been a 5th CB, a luxury. He comes back at the end of March, right about the time that legs are getting heavy, and will hopefully be able to be useful and effective at the time. Mathieselah will be ready for a wheelchair by then, probably.

    2. Whatever spin is put on it, Vermaelen has been a disastrous purchase. I for one don’t believe that the price tag is what determines whether a signing is a good one or not and if we had spent the same money on a promising youngster who didn’t pan out I’d be more accepting.
      Signing a player with an injury record is not by definition a bad thing but one who wasn’t fit and hadn’t proven any level of fitness for a while was incompetent.

      I support the board and Zubi more than most people but Vermaelen was a mistake. Marcos Rojo, Federico Fazio or someone else with a similar profile and price would have been less of a gamble for an extra few million.

    3. “Disastrous” is just a different kind of spin, yes? Reckon Zubi would have been assassinated had he been responsible for Caceres, Hleb, Keirrison and Henrique. Some transfers work out, some don’t. It’s part of the game. Vermaelen hasn’t yet, and that’s a mess.

      “Incompetence” and “took a bad risk” are two very different things, though spin could certainly make the former the latter. Did the potential Vermaelen up side make him worth the risk? Apparently a sporting director and head coach thought so.

      Now we just have to wait to see what happens. I just think that “incompetent,” the word often used to describe ZubiZa, is a bit extreme. A sporting director who pulled off the Denis Suarez deal, brought Halilovic, coveted by all the big clubs in Europe, Sanchez, Neymar, Raktic, Suarez, etc. is clearly not incapable of performing his job at at competent level.

      So people screw up, or take risks that don’t pan out. That’s fair.

      Meanwhile, Enrique still has two separate CB pairings that he can mess about with, and that ain’t bad.

    4. Don’t forget MATs Kxevin. If he isn’t the future Germany #1 I’ll eat my hat.

      Vermaelen to me is only a bad purchase if it took away from Cuadrado who I think we should have signed at all costs considering our lack of depth at RB in La Masia. If Pique is performing, we have a nice pair with Mathieu. and Bartra is really challenging to become a starter. Masch can also fill in, though I would like to see him rotating with Busi, with Javier allowed to start as he has been more or less flawless in that position.

    5. The problem is that we’re in the dark about the sequence of events and even who made the final decision. I’ve heard rumours that the sporting side overruled the medics ( which would be the only way Zubi carries the can for me) but do we have any hard evidence of that? Is it possible that he did actually pass two medicals in which case there isn’t really any blame? Bottom line I’d want to know is whether or not this mooted operation is one with a genuine prospect of restoring him to full fitness or whether it’s basically a fig leaf to shove the realisation he’s had it further down the line. Not good on the face of it, though.

    1. I would wonder what Barça does with the cross of St. George on its logo before I stormed the ramparts. I rather imagine that clubs do all kinds of things to not offend regional sensibilities.

      Odd story in that vein. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra made a temporary home, during a concert hall renovation, in Medinah Temple in Chicago. The mosaic tile floor featured swastika symbols, which in many faiths is a good luck symbol. The building was built in 1912, before the Nazis changed the view of the swastika forever.

      But they did have to carpet over the tiles, and did so happily. Sometimes, you change stuff to keep from offending sensibilities.

    2. The St. George is the crest of the city of Barcelona (a la St. Jordi), can’t really get rid of that!

  26. This is for sophia and fiaz, regarding the signing of Vermaelen, the question being

    But should the club have bought someone with a long injury history with the upcoming transfer ban?

    To answer simply, Yes and No. It depends. On A LOT of stuff.

    1. It depends on the budget available. I said in another twitter dispute(funny how these start), if you don’t have the money you will be stuck with second-stringers. Or you will have to prioritize. Or gamble.
    2. Depends on the performance of the player when fit
    3. A lot depends on the methods used to recover and/or the prognosis of recovery.
    4. Last but not least, some priorities are more important than others.
    5. The club will be/may be prohibited for signing players during a whole year, so if you sign you can sign top players with immediate return for the value, or you can sign for the time when you will not be able to sign.

    Yes, it’s not a simple answer, because there are lots of variables, depending on the initial position.

    The club’s transfers, in decreasing order of effective transfer sum and variables were these:
    Suarez, Rakitic, Mathieu, ter Stegen, Bravo, Vermaelen, Douglas.

    Players with immediate effect cost more, the bigger the effect the bigger the price. Obviously.
    So why that priority and not another?

    As Kevin said at one point in silly season, the club failed to win because it failed to score enough goals, enough goals meaning enough to win the three points when it mattered. The team failed to score in seven games, something not heard since either 2006/07 or 2007/08, a.k.a. horror nights of darkness before the light of the The Philosopher. The defence at the same time performed quite well under the circumstances, conceding fewer goals than any season since 2010-11. The problem wasn’t really the defence, but the fact that the offensive side of the football could not breach the opposition, which meant taking bodies from the defense and sending them forward (Alba and Alves). The team did not press, which meant that every lost ball was given more time to be aimed at a rushing attacker against an outnumbered defence that tried to defend half the pitch. Anyway, I digress, but not entirely.
    Talking about budget. The more you spend, the higher you will have to spend, because everybody assumes you have money burning holes in your pockets. It would be great if all the players could have immediate effect, but most need at least some time before they adapt. It’s a law of football.
    So here is when we come to this: most of the money is spent, good players are bought, but the team still potentially faces a transfer ban for up to one year. Under a limited budget you cannot buy everything and everyone. Either you refuse to sign any more, or sign for the future, for the period when you won’t be able to sign anybody.
    This is what I think is the deal with Vermaelen and Douglas. With Mathieu Barcelona has more effective CBs than last year, with all due respect to our retired Warrior. Unless there is an actual plague of injuries, three dedicated CBs with good quality(and yes, Bartra and Mathieu are of good quality) and Mascherano are more than enough, especially if the strikers and midfielders do their part.
    So, is Vermaelen a gamble? Yes. Is it a huge gamble? From football perspective: No, not really, because his presence is not obligatory. His presence would be great and the expectations were that he would be able to recover. However, he has suffered two relapses(yes, same as Messi did). When he recovers and is ready, he will be an asset, and if you have seen him play when fit, you know he will be a real asset. Furthermore, Arsenal’s recovery is dreadful. Fabregas was made of crystal when he played for them and did not suffer a single long-term injury for Barcelona, and is now lighting up the place in Chelsea. So yes, I fully expect to see Vermaelen return to form and stay in form. From economic perspective, Barcelona has signed a player for probably one third of his real price. If his recovery is successful, it will have saved a lot of money for the club. Yes, it looks as a big IF at this point.
    Was it a risk? Yes, but an intelligent one.

    P.S. Between the two of them Vermaelen and Douglas cost less than Caceres, almost half of what Chygryngskiy cost and exactly the same what Keirrison cost. Henrique cost two times Douglas did. The difference, of course, is that those were chosen by geniuses like Laporta, Txiki and Pep, whereas these are signed by Bartomeu, Zubiza and Luis Enrique. In the end, it seems it’s the only difference that counts.

    1. Lol. Your entire point stems around lack of budget. Barça only had €10m to spend on our second CB signing. Who’s to be blamed for that? Barça board itself.

      1. We sold Cesc (our starter) for mere €33m in the current market, when the club which signed him sold 3 of their bench players (Mata, Luiz, De Bruyne) for ~€125m. If Bartomeu or Zubizarreta had the foresight to see we won’t have enough money to sign a fit world class second centre-back, they’d have at least sold better. But these guys are so inept that they won’t even do that.

      2. We signed Mathieu for €20m when he was available for €8m a year ago. If Zubizarreta had the planning of a kindergarten child, he’d have understood Barça needed a CB in the summer of 2013, after we played Adriano, Busquets, Song etc there and “signed” Puyol several times. Instead they made the fans fools by “chasing” Thiago Silva on SPORT & MD covers, and signed none. What happens? Mathieu extends his contract, Barça doesn’t even sign Thiago Silva’s hair, goes on to pay 125% more for Mathieu the very next summer? Whose mistake? Zubizarreta and co.

      So if Barça did at least this 2 things correctly (sell Cesc for €40m, sign Mathieu for €8m), we could’ve easily had €30m for our second CB (What Bayern paid for a fit Benatia, Duh!). So the entire point of “lack of budget” is stupid because, it all arose because of the ineptness of Zubizarreta and co itself. It isn’t a reason to bail them out. It is THE reason to put them in.

      The rest of your post saying “an injured, otherwise superman CB, after surgery comes back to save the world, bla bla bla”. Utterly shameful, and downright stupid to sign an injury hit player who started just 7 games the previous season. End of. A very very stupid risk to take. There is no logic in the world to explain it. In case it is the budget, Zubizarreta/Bartomeu have only himself to blame for his poor planning.

      I hope Vermaelen comes back and starts kicking asses though. Not his mistake we signed him. He deserves all our support.

    2. And if he does will you be back on here singing the praises of the board and Zubi ? In dark moments it’s easy to let fly. It’s much harder to reserve judgement and wait to see what happens in the medium term. Neither you nor I know how he got on in his medicals. Personally, I’m inclined to believe the version that he passed them or else insurance would have been a problem.

      Btw, who is this Benatia of whom you speak ? The same one who let his team down by getting sent off after only about 20 minutes and condemning them to defeat ? Take the short term view of him and he’s been a waste of money.

    3. The year before Mathieu was not Valencia’s best player. That year before Mathieu had not had the best year in his career. The year before Puyol was still reasonably fit, and a reasonably fit Puyol was better than Mathieu. So so much for that reatroactive hindsight clairvoyance.

      Who was offering 40 million for Fabregas? Name that club, please. It’s easy to conjure up numbers. Very easy. You just did. Now try better. Name.

      You can’t sell a player for an awesome price when half the the “fans” are screaming all about the internet that the guy sucks, whereas the other half is ready to sell him gift-wrapped for 20-25 million. YOU CANNOT. GEDDIT?

      Your whole “point” roots in hindsight brilliance baloney which has no base in reality. Matter of fact, the odds are you didn’t even know Mathieu had been offered to Barcelona the year before that.

    4. “That year before Mathieu had not had the best year in his career”: So it’s possible to sign Vermaelen in the worst moment of his career, but not Mathieu who was far far far better? Barça needed a centre-back after season 2010-11. Signed one in summer of 2014.

      “The year before Puyol was still reasonably fit: Puyol started 6 games in 2013/14. So much for being reasonably fit. So there are culés who defend the club who waited 5 damn years to sign a centre-back? Great to know. So is there any mistake this Barça board has ever done? People who support mediocrity happening to their beloved club right in front of their eyes. Oh lord.

      “Who was offering 40 million for Fabregas?” Nice excuse. Nobody will come and offer a lot of money in the first place, less so for Barça players because football world know we’re stupid in the transfer market. It’s all about bargaining and getting the maximum amount for players. How did Chelsea get €62.5m for David Luiz? Because PSG came and said: “See, we’d like to sign David Luiz for €62.5m”. No, it’s about bargaining. Barça need to take a whole lot of classes on that. They’ll never learn though. Between, ManUtd offered €45m for Cesc in summer of 2013, which’d have been a worthy deal. If a fit Vermaelen is worth €30-45m as you claim, how much is Cesc worth? €33m? Having a laugh here.

      “You didn’t even know Mathieu had been offered”: Mathieu had a release clause of €8m in 2013. It’s there for everyone to read on the web. It got raised once he extended his contract. If Barça triggered it in 2014, they could’ve done it in 2013 when we were in as much need of him.

      And I didn’t even go into the centre-backs who were available for €10m. Manolas, Mustafi, Schär, Doría…the list goes on.

      I rest my case. Zubizarreta is an absolute joke of a sporting director for signing Vermaelen. Barça will one day sign Abou Diaby, and some ‘optimists’ will claim the deal is a worthy one, and make whole lot of lists to counter the stupidity of the board. Don’t count me in. Good bye.

  27. I guess you could say I am cynical when I comes to this situation. I’m just so used to our bad luck over these last few years with injuries and poor runs a form from our defense. I also have to disagree on TV, I honestly can’t remember the last time he was any good. It takes a hell of a lot for someone to get the captaincy stripped from them… And Arsenal no less lol. I also don’t subscribe to this notion that he’s magically going to be all better next year because we wish it to be so. I hope I’m wrong but I really hope we don’t have any injuries in the near future because I don’t trust TV at all.
    Also, we do have for center backs at the moment so that’s good.

    And Ciaran and Kevin i think it’s possible to say someone made an “incompetent” decision without being a wholly incompetent person. Zubi pulled some fantastic deals this summer, but this is the same man who though Song could be a CB and shilled poor broken Carles as a ” new signing”. Not so black and white

    1. Again, getting ter Stegen shows Zubi prowess in some places. MATS will be one of the best keepers in the world, and we have him at 22! Imagine if he plays for us as long as Valdes. That’s a long period of stability in an important position.

      I really think the powers that be made him ‘sign’ Puyol. Moreover, no director is an oracle. Zubi has shown that he is very good in singing youth players as well.

    2. I am also very happy we wrapped up Ter-Stegen, especially as many were was calling for Thibaut at the end of the year. Ter-Stegen’s distribution at his age… it’s unmatched , he fits is perfectly

    3. I had no idea who he was until he was strongly connected to Barcelona and Kevin IIRC started saying that the guy is the real deal.

      Having watched him now (Live! 😀 ) I can say he really looks like the real deal. He still looks like a kamikaze 40m away from his goal whenever the team is in the opposite half, and that does funny things to my heart rate, but ever since the 71th minute of the PSG match (that’s when I saw him first) he’s grown on me. Most keepers just hoof it. He pick his target and that target normally has no opposing players close by. First time in a long while since I’ve applauded a goal keeper when it doesn’t have anything to do with saves.

    4. Not sure what you’re knowledge of Puyol’s medical problems is or was. Personally, I’d go with the club medics and Puyol himself who has stated that he thought he’d be able to make a full recovery. Puyol doesn’t mislead this team by saying one thing and believing another. If he had made it back he would without doubt have been the best signing we could have made. Didn’t happen but that’s life and not everything in life is someone’s fault.

  28. There are always nuances in virtually everything that happens everyday. But Barcelona’s buying and selling record is poor and that poorness is not restricted to Zubiza’s period. What appals me is the fact there appears to be no learning.

    EE and Chelsea are examples of clubs who hitherto were clownish in their deals but have wisened. Maybe our club is filled with men without selling and negotiating skills.

    From a distance Mathieu’s deal stinks. If something you wanted to buy has increased price that much you would a positive improvement in quality of nearly the same degree. Yet there we were shelling that much for a 29 year old. Whatever way we may look at it i dont think a man of 28 had too much room for improvement that warranted further scouting reports. We dithered and paid the price.

    As for TV its not too clear who is responsible as there is not enough info. Taking a punt on an injured player? Fair game to me if you there is a big upside. Bad part of it is age. Heard Ferguson bought Ruud while he was in hospital with his leg in cast or something to that effect.

    All in all our dealing need to considerably improve. Like the commercial side was improved in the early noughties

  29. Every time I log in I think, “cool, Kevin’s written the APOEL review.”

    Then I realize that the ‘AKA Congratulations, Leo” title refers not to his CL record, but to his Liga record. Only Lionel Messi.

    We’re lucky.

    1. Nothing to really say about APOEL, except to comment on the social media complexity of them being yet another opponent who Barça kicked the crap out of for reasons other than the team played really well. The usual trend.

      This space really is a breath of fresh air.

  30. So, about that rule that a team can sign another player if a roster player is going to be out for longer than 5 months, as is the case with Vermaelen, I am suspicious/the board is genius.

    — Vermaelen was originally supposed to be out until March. Now it is the end of May so essentially, the entire season.

    — AS English is buzzing that we are about to hijack the RM deal (rumored) for this Mallorca winger, Asensio.

    — Now comes yet another rumor that we are going to ask if the transfer ban rule means that we can’t sign a replacement for Vermaelen.

    So. You sign a player you know is broken and built to stay that way, so that you can get around the transfer ban. Note the Mathieu story today, that quotes him saying the squad is “1 player away) from being complete.

    Hmmmm ….

    1. Haha. That is quite the theory Kxevin! Not sure they are that smart but who knows!

      Not sure why we would go after Asensio? Surely we have enough wingers as it is! What we need really is a full back to take over from Alves. A lot of people going on about CB but the way I see it we have 4 CBs who I would be comfortable with playing pretty much any game. Bartra is really starting to grow into a player who can become a regular starter one day soon and the rest have proven themselves at the highest level. We have depth everywhere except for right back, although that might be a little unfair to Douglas who we have not really had the chance to see yet. You would think if he was any good we would have seen more of him by now and clearly Montoya is not part of LE’s plans. The RB position is the one spot that makes me really uncomfortable. I still think it might be worth throwing Pedro in there to see how he copes!

  31. So many discussion to try and catch up on, It’s overwhelming, So i’ll just stick to a few points.

    – Marc has again put up a fantastic performance, His passing accuracy and ball distribution is jaw dropping, Coupled with great confidence and shot stopping skills.
    Yet at the same time i’m not trying to campaign for him for a starter spot in la liga, Bravo himself has been excellent and worthy of the minutes he’s been getting, All i’m trying to say is that marc is on the right path toward that 1st spot, When will that happen, Don’t know, But what’s certain is the GK spot is not something to worry about.
    Regardless of the messy talks surrounding zubi, Which i don’t feel like getting involved in, I knew that the job of replacing of valdes will be in the best hands possible, It’s his area of expertise, And he did not disappoint us with marc, Good job!

    -The whole thing about vermaelen, Since it’s hard to get any factual info and facts, And my tendency to stay away from any supposed ‘secret info’ from any news paper, I’ll i’m left with is my own speculation and possible interpretations of what happened.
    We know vermaelen was suffering from his world cup injury when we signed him, And immediately underwent physiotherapy with us, If his supposed operation is to the same injury of the world cup, Then it’s possible that the club knew that there was some chance that it won’t be cured by physiotherapy alone and might need surgery, Or a more gloomy scenario is that no one knew the real extent of his problem and were hit by his sudden need of the surgery, Perhaps it was a failed gamble by the club somewhat justified by the low price of vermaelen, But it’s a failure nonetheless.

    But i don’t believe any of these absurd rumors that the club already knew before singing him that he needed surgery and the medical staff begged the board not to sign him, Or the most absurd of all is that zubi decided to interfere with the decisions of the medical staff and after deducing that he is the better doctor, He refused the surgery option months ago, None of these rumors make any sense, And their of chances of being true are almost none.

    1. Well, the surgeon himself said that Barcelona opting for (repeated) physiotherapy was a good decision.

      Operations and invasive procedures are the last option, first because they require a period of complete downtime and lack of movement. This generally weakens the body because of lack of exercise, which could mean other injuries suffered during recovery.

      Second, operations can have complications, too long a list to post here.

      Third, operations can fail and in doing that can terminate a player’s career. Sports medicine has learned a lot, through trial and error and studying, but the risk still remains.

      That’s why it’s always the last option.

    2. Rami, I’m with you on the rumors nonsense. But again, people believe what they want to believe. But for ZubiZa to have overruled everyone and signed Vermaelen, you would have to believe that he made the doctors lie about the two physicals that the player had to pass, in light of his injury history and further, that he had full and complete control of the checkbook as well.

      It just doesn’t track, but it’s necessary to believe that stuff if you want to believe that a man who is paid tons of money to do a job, can’t do it any better than some person sitting in front of a keyboard at home.

      It’s why my favorite football writer is Sid Lowe. He doesn’t do tactics, doesn’t do retrospect stuff, doesn’t rant about this decision or that decision. He puts the game that we love into human terms, and conveys that beauty with words.

      I think, as Peter notes, the club thought that perhaps therapy, etc, might get him ready and barring that, opted for surgery.

      I still find all the outrage absurd, but it fits the general mood around the club these days, in which everything is wrong, etc. It’s one thing taking a risk on Vermaelen if we don’t have Pique, Bartra, Mathieu and Mascherano. But we do. And if the surgery works, and he returns to the player that he was, 10m ain’t bad for a guy who can do you well for a couple of seasons.

    3. Signing a fit Vermaelen and hoping he gets his form and sharpness back is different to signing an unfit Vermaelen, hoping he gets back to fitness, hoping he gets over injuries, hoping he doesn’t get reoccurrences of those injuries or pick up new ones in the process and then the form and sharpness.

      What you are suggesting Kxevin, is that signing the Vermaelen of 3 seasons agowith a few extra years in his legs for €10m is a bargain and I agree but there are far too many ifs.

      The question that I ask is that if at the start of this past summer someone offered you Thomas Vermaelen for up to €15m would you be happy and for me that’s a categorical no.
      He’s here more though so I will support him as I do every other one of our players.

      I don’t really know of any footballer that missed a full season and became the player that they once were, let alone a player that is very close to 30.

      Just one final thought… What happens when he takes the usual 12 months or so to settle in to our playing style even assuming he gets full fitness and form and everything else? Where in the pecking order do we expect to see him?

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