Is the “black hand” at Barça wearing blaugrana?

It’s the “black hand.” When in doubt, calling upon a conspiracy can be effective.

Conspiracies are quite useful because they can’t be disproved. Even if nothing happened, believers can still say “Well, we just don’t know that something didn’t happen.” It’s what makes them so effective. Conspiracy theories have something for everyone, and everyone will ultimately believe what they choose to believe. Beliefs give us comfort. It’s their principal virtue.

Look at the recent social media storm when Marca said that RM was looking to sign Seung-Woo Lee, the bright, shining star of La Masia and the player allegedly at the root of the transfer ban when envy from another club made someone rat on Barça. That certainly might have happened, but had the club’s business been correct the snitch could have squealed to the heavens, to no avail. Anyhow.

People went nuts in social media, claiming that there was a sniff of veracity to the rumor, citing a couple of allegedly solid sources, etc. The board is that stupid, after all they sold Thiago, blablabla. People like me said, essentially, “Y’all cray. It’s illogical.” Then the player came out and said through his representatives that he isn’t going anywhere. And people breathed a sigh of relief that something that was never going to happen, didn’t happen.

In the latest instance of this, after being tapped by a judge in relation to the Neymar transfer, aka the gift that keeps on giving, Bartomeu has again cited the “black hand” as having an influence. He has even gone so far as to indirectly indict RM by suggesting that a club vexed by the fact that Barça got Neymar might be influencing the ongoing ruckus, and that there is a correlation between Neymar playing well and more tax stuff coming up.

First off, Neymar didn’t play all that well against Villarreal, so the timing of the mysterious black hand has gone awry. Second, the Bartomeu strategy is brilliant for so many reasons:

— Culers love conspiracy theories. Penalties, fouls, Ballon d’Ors; persecution is the meat and potatoes of a fanbase.
— The alleged allegations are impossible to disprove, as when a transfer rumor is denied. “What else would they say?”
— As the Independence struggle roils on, it’s easy to say “They hate us because we represent you. Visca Catalunya!”
— It obscures the reality that there could, in fact, BE something going on.
— It’s the ultimate “us against them” scenario.

And to be clear, even as I support the right of any soci to ask any question about the club he wants, this Neymar business is bonkers, spinning quickly out of control from when Jordi Cases initiated legal proceedings in an effort to force full transparency on a deal destined to be as transparent as a mud bog. People snuffle in distaste at the deal while having absolutely zero idea if any of the other dozens and dozens of deals out there are just as, if not more skeezy. There isn’t someone forcing anyone to reveal details, after all. Secret payments? A little person riding an oiled llama? No idea. The Neymar deal is unprecedented in its level of detail and scrutiny. It’s like an onion in many ways, in which people can overlay pretty much anything they want because like any good conspiracy theory, who the hell knows?

Neymar cost 17m … no, 57m … no, 92m … no eleventy bazillion Euros … no … What is salary, what isn’t salary, declared and undeclared, in or out of Brazil. It’s all a morass that people are churning to suit their own purposes, from Cases on down.

But this uncertainty is one of the many reasons that Bartomeu’s “black hand” talk is so much nonsense. This deal is like a field of crap for many, a field day of litigation. There has to be something there, right? And it doesn’t even matter if there is, because the search was made possible not only by Cases’ action but by the deal itself. That other deals might be as scurrilous doesn’t matter. Because it is this deal that offers ammunition. On Twitter, in the midst of winter transfer frenzy, someone wondered, in looking at the comings and goings in the Premier League, if supporters will ever in fact know the real cost of a transfer. The answer, or course, is “No.”

And is it really any of our business?

Be that as it may, the club has defended the Neymar deal as legal, transparent and “impeccable.” Even in the context of the oft-seeming kangaroo courts in Spain, if there is nothing to sniff around, there is nothing to smell. Judges can say “Hey, that looks funky. Let’s have a gander at that,” and headlines result. Is that a “black hand,” or an organization that doesn’t have its act as impeccable as it suggests? Valid question.

No Barça president has been an angel. None. Laporta wasn’t, Gaspart wasn’t, Nunez wasn’t, Rosell wasn’t, Bartomeu isn’t. The president essentially has one job: Do no harm.

What complicates that job is power and the necessity of holding on to it. Shortcuts get taken, self-aggrandizing decisions are made, feathers ruffled, potential scandal pops up. This is as true of Laporta as it was of all the others, but he had the great luck of being president during a glorious sporting period. So he will always be linked to the glory days. All of the other stuff has been forgotten, from the miasma of the Rijkaard end of days and narrowly avoiding censure to the Great Uzbek Adventure.

Did all of the club’s presidents violate the “do no harm” credo? To greater and lesser degrees, yes. But for me, this current board has achieved a new high as part of a four-year demolition program with roots in a board schism. When Rosell and other board members resigned from the Laporta administration, the die was cast. Friends make the best enemies, after all. So when Rosell took office, among the stated objectives was to restore the club to fiscal health and fix the stain on it made by Laporta and his cabal. In the most objective sense, that didn’t happen. We know this because they sold the shirt front (taking advantage of a prior Laporta approval to do so) to a country with a complex human rights status as viewed by some, closed (then reopened, sort of) membership, neglected the sporting project, directly caused the club to be slapped with a two-window transfer ban, signed a player via a deal that is keeping the club, its name and now its two top executives in court.

Guilt or innocence isn’t the point here. Existence is. “Black hand” or not, there shouldn’t be anything for that black hand to find. RM is under investigation for violation of Article 19 and youth transfers, facing the same potential transfer ban as Barça. But unlike Barça, when RM heard from FIFA, the club got its act together instead of continuing with business as usual, then falling back on “Look at all the good we do for these kids!”

Article 19 might be silly, a restriction of right to work, etc, etc. But as of right now, it’s the law until such time as some youth player teams with a lawyer to challenge it. And the club violated Article 19, by its own admission, citing “administrative oversight.” Whether the “black hand” in question is clad in blaugrana is a valid ask.

The Messi tax case is often cited by those claiming that there is a double standard. Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Iniesta and Pique all face the eye of the Spanish government, all for the same reason: suggestions that their image-management companies were straw men. The Messi case, as the allegations sit, is vastly more extensive. Legal nerds say that there is something different there that would warrant a deeper look, because the companies were set up with the intention to mislead by obscuring Messi’s name. There is no question that this is all a distraction to the player at inconvenient times.

Is it persecution? Legal grandstanding? Is it a government attempting to send a message and close a loophole by going after one of football’s biggest earners? Is it simply some RM supporter wearing judge’s robes deciding he will fix Barça? It all comes around to the same question of whether there is anything to look at. Nothing to look at means nothing to see.

Some will say the board is a mess and needs to go. Others will say they are doing fine and should stay. Others will issue comments in this space and elsewhere about how the system is indeed rigged, and the “black hand” is real. For me it misses the point.

If there was nothing to investigate, there would be no investigation. Dealings that were said to be “transparent and above board” are under investigation. And whether it’s because Barça is a bright, shining beacon of all things Catalan or because a judge wants to make a name for himself by tilting at a big windmill is immaterial to the fact that there is something there that is drawing attention.

If you want to believe that everything is fine and it will all come right in the wash, okay. That’s a valid worldview. It might all come right in the wash. If you want to believe that everyone in the boardroom holds hands with Satan, that is also a valid worldview. The truth is somewhere in the middle as it is with everything. And it doesn’t even matter where you stand on this board. It does come down to a very simple question: “What are YOU looking at?” If the answer is “Nothing,” then there is nothing to see.

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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.

68 Comments

  1. agar2515
    February 4, 2015

    “Some will say the board is a mess and needs to go. Others will say they are doing fine and should stay.”

    I would be terrified to meet anyone who falls in the later part of that quote^

    • kneowell
      February 5, 2015

      I will pay to see the lot of terror on your face

  2. kneowell
    February 5, 2015

    The look*

  3. Jim
    February 5, 2015

    I’m not a great believer in conspiracies but I also know that there is usually a lot more than meets the public eye in all spheres of management and finance. I would be surprised if a socio with, as far as we can see, no great amount of personal funding would take on his own club bearing in mind the likely condemnation and financial liability. I would be surprised if in the RM boardroom they hadn’t discussed how they could try to make the Neymar transfer go sour and if they have any influence over the judiciary, which I’m guessing they have – you can always find a friendly judge if you’re well connected – it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a hand in the Messi business as well. Doesn’t mean they did but it would be foolish to go through life thinking these things don’t happen regularly.

    With regard to the nothing to look at argument, I think it misses the point completely. The object is not to see Messi behind bars, it is to unsettle over a period of time. If you are being investigated by the might of the legal system you will worry about it. If you’re really lucky Messi would take a scunner at Spain and say stuff it I’m off. If you are Neymar you will worry about the reaction of the fans if your transfer turns out to have been illegal. No need at all for there to be any smoke and no need for a result. You just keep it going by requesting more information, asking for more clarification etc. so it’s kept in the public eye. You have achieved what you set out to do as soon as your opposition have to spend time defending themselves and worrying about it.
    Like everyone else, I have no idea if the Neymar transfer is dodgy or not but I do know that even if it’s only a case of Spain trying to recoup some extra taxes, for the Government Barcelona would be a more convenient target than RM. Do I believe in such circumstances such a conversation would go on in Government circles? Absolutely.

    Just so it’s on the record I would have no problem with us paying €100m for Neymar. It would’ve been great had we managed to get him for €60m but did anyone really think that would happen for potentially the best player in the world in a few years? With Madrid after him and able and willing to pay more than us, time was of the essence and imo he is well worth that sum of money. Would you rather pay the same amount for Bale instead ?

    • February 5, 2015

      I am with you Jim.

      Fact is, more and more people in Spain are starting to wonder about the snail-like speed of Supreme Judge Ruz in the Barcenas case, which proves corruption of the top echelon of the currently ruling conservative centralist Partido Popular, headed by the Prime Minister Rajoy, and the contrasting supersonic speed in treating the “tax fraud” case that involves Barcelona.

      The people mocking the idea of hitting Barça for being a supporter of the independence movement should really stop and look at the socio-political context.

      On the 20th of December Spain goes to elect its new parliament. The current holders Partido Popular won the previous elections, held amidst a horrible crisis, with the promises of swift recovery, lowering of taxes, etc.

      This is what has happened so far:

      1. Taxes have been lowered… for firms and corporations. The lowest earners have seen their taxes either stay at the same level or increase, due to the cut of previously-existing tax cuts that were removed.
      2. Recovery has been abysmally slow
      3. Laws that protected the workers have been struck, making it much easier for companies to fire employees(including medical leave), while cutting on the obligatory severance payments in case of a firing.
      4. Austerity measures for the social safety nets, while at the same time bailing out the banks
      5. Numerous corruption cases involving leading functionaries of PP
      6. The failed Castor Oil project, which saw the government hand over over 1300 million Euro to Florentino Perez’s construction conglomerate. The burden will be assumed by the gas users of Spain, who will be paying that money and the associated compound interest over the next 30 years. I am not making this shit up. I wish I were.
      7. The black cards of Caja Madrid
      8. Numerous changes in traffic regulations, ostentatiously made to increase revenue from traffic fines.

      That PP is probably losing the elections is no brainer, because the regime has been a major fiasco, there are new parties, which have taken a substantial piece of the vote. However, PP are trying everything in their power to minimize the losses, and they have the entire government machine to work for them.

      A word about the Catalan independence. Probably not going to happen, but the central government cannot take any risks. Catalunya is per adjusted capita the greatest contributor to the Spanish economy. Only the Metropolitan Madrid area contributes more in absolute terms, but it also has the added advantage of being the seat of numerous corporations, national companies, which receive their revenue from nation-wide Spain, government facilities and organizations, which also generate a lot of revenue. This is why the prospects of Catalan independence are so scary for the central government and this is why it cannot allow itself to not watch with eagle eyes everything that happens in Catalunya.

      Hitting at a popular image associated in the public mind with Catalunya and by extension the Left and the independence movement helps tremendously.

      First of all, it deviates society’s eyes from the political scandals that are really damaging in political context. I cannot stress this any harder. Highly visible popular figures make for eye-grabbing headlines. “Look, good boy Messi is a greedy tax-evading dictator!!! What a Disgrace!!! In other news, the government is corrupt as hell, and have cost the country hundreds of millions in contracts sold under the table. Now, back to the headline, MESSI SHOULD GO TO JAIL!!!”

      Second, it reinforces the deeply held belief that “Catalans are greedy miserly cheating scumbags and the only way to keep them in line is to have a strong central government”. If you don’t trust me, look at the comments sections in MARCA for example. In every article about “Barcelona in court”, “Barcelona player in court over tax fraud”, “Ex Barça president in jail” w/ever, you will see the prevailing spirit is “we are all Treasury department” or “fcking Catalans being their usual”, or written sarcastically in Catalan “España ens roba”(Spain is robbing us! – see adjusted GDP contributors for explanation).

      What this does is slowly change the perception. There are 10 months until election day, and you can bet your ass the propaganda machine will keep on churning. In hungry lean times votes are often won by perception, especially in Spain. The only reason why PP is currently in power is because the previous ruling party PSOE was the party in power when the crisis really bit down to the bone, and because lots of people wanted to “screw the establishment” and “screw PSOE for not being better”. These are actual quotes by people I have talked to, and they are not the minority by far.

      PP is already trying its best to character assassinate the leader of one of the new parties, Podemos, because that party came in time for the European Parliament elections and won 8% of the vote overnight. This is why debates and appearances on government TV have taken the form of everybody in the studio ganging up on the guy, why there are rumours that his father was a member of a terrorist red cell back in the 70s, etc.

      This is Spain. Football is never just about football.

    • February 5, 2015

      Thumbs Up to both Jim and Peter for your comments.

    • Kiel
      February 5, 2015

      Brilliant comment, and very informative as to the current political situation in Spain. I can easily see how Barca, as the “poster child” of Catalunya, is going to continue to be hit with a lot of propaganda over the coming months as elections approach.

    • Kiel
      February 5, 2015

      I’d also like to add that I fully agree that the club is certainly not helping the situation by essentially giving them the ammo with which to fire.

  4. BA
    February 5, 2015

    the Persecution Card is something that the papers and many cules like to play when adversity strikes, as it has deep roots stretching back to the Franco era. but it’s disingenuous; the vast majority of the club’s current challenges are self-inflicted. we flouted the law and signed underage players against the FIFA ruling (yes, i understand that we abode by the *spirit* of the ruling, and La Masia is a brilliant place to learn, but the law is the law), and by all appearances we DID do shady backroom deals to bring Neymar here.

    Bartomeu is simply trying to deflect responsibility when he talks of some ridiculous conspiracy. it’s not a particularly new trick, but it’s one that has resonance with many cules and indeed many Catalans long distrustful of any administration coming from Madrid. it’s just a shame (but hardly a surprise) that Bartomeu is willing to use that deep-seeded mistrust to cover his own ass before the elections. let’s face it: this board and its 2 presidents has been a disaster. no amount of talk about outside influences or conspiracies can erase that fact, they can only muddy the waters; and muddy water has been, since Day 1, the sort of murk this board is most comfortable swimming in.

  5. February 5, 2015

    I think it’s a no-brainer that certain parties are interested in preventing F.C. Barcelona on top. It’s not far-fetched to think that Florentino Perez would have a lot of political clout in Madrid on the strength of his construction company alone. Add his presidency of the “Royal” club of the capital, ooooofffff…..

    FIFA vs Barça is a different story, but as far as the tax persecutions go it’s bizarre to see how Messi gets hounded but Real M*drid players strike deals and go on with normal life. I don’t think it’s a “conspiracy theory.” I just think some people are very happy to hurt our club, and those people might or might not have contacts in Real M*drid.

    I also don’t think it’s a conspiracy that referees generally give less penalties and less advantage to us. Just like some judges and prosecutors, they’re just naturally inclined to be that way.

    • Inamess
      February 5, 2015

      Thanks for everyone’s comments since I don’t know the Spanish situation nearly as well. One thing that might back up Peter’s and Lev’s perception is the below NYT article on Perez It seems that this is a man who has made his living through political connections and government projects. His firm has accumulated billions of dollars in debt, and its seems he has run RM the same way, buying players by accumulating more debt while at the same way also using the clout he gets as President to further his business interests. I wonder how Real or Perez would stand up to a full investigation by the Madrid press and tax offices but amazingly we won’t find out.

      Every organization has its dirt and in order to get Neymar the club did some shady things along with what it thought was clever accounting. But in this case FCB is at a huge disadvantage because its dealings are under more scrutiny, and the club has its own vicious political infighting and powerful adversaries in the Capital who have a vested interest in the club’s failure. The club’s situation is like being attacked by a foreign power in the midst of a civil war. As far as I know these kinds of things don’t happen at Chelsea, RM, Bayern, Man City,or PSG.

      The Qatar business is is also most unfortunate for the club in that it seems we bet on the wrong horse. What could have been an lucrative deal for both parties has turned into a disaster. So while RM will get 500 mil from their sponsorship by the Emirates, we now have to find another sponsor. This is despite the fact that our club has been fiscally responsible and reduced its debt while RM has spent like a drunken sailor and accumulated enormous debt that will now be paid by their Middle East connection with less bad press.
      Here is a video in which you can see the club’s official break up with Qatar in a cringe-worthy press conference with Neymar and Pique. Starting around the 10:30 minute mark things get particularly interesting.

      http://www.qatarairways.com/global/en/offers/qatar-airways-live-stream.page

    • Jim
      February 5, 2015

      Thanks for the link, Inamess. I’m reluctant to throw brickbats at any nation state because they could be thrown at any, including my own and the USA. A lot depends on your worldview. The development of all the Middle Eastern states has been a pretty sudden one due to oil. Only a couple of generations ago some of them had a very different way of life, largely centred around a tribal life in the desert and now they are expected to have somehow embraced all our values. . They have come a long way in some respects and not very far in others to my view but I don’t like some of the things the UK has done in its history either. Not sure I would place one above the other. I think the tide has probably turned against Qatar but dont know enough to know if it’s any worse than any of the others in terms of human rights etc. and I think it’s dangerous to begin to rank them.

    • Inamess
      February 5, 2015

      Those are fair points Jim. In this case, my point was not to specifically to criticize Qatar or the clubs deal but just point out that like many things under this board what may have been a sensible or even an ambitious plan backfired. Qatar getting the World Cup certainly did not help matters given the negative publicity of corruption and exploitation of foreign workers. See the ESPN video below:

      http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11019010

    • georgjorge
      February 6, 2015

      On the contrary, I think it’s very important to rank nations and other entities in terms of human rights. Every single nation that exists nowadays had or has it’s share of human rights abuses, but if we infer from that that no-one can judge anyone else than dictators and other nutcases all over the world will be able to do whatever they please without any outside inference. And there ARE, after all, differences between, say, Qatar on the one hand and Sweden on the other hand with regards to human rights.

      What’s more, I actually don’t have a problem with foreigners calling out human rights abuses in my own country. I don’t identify myself that strongly with it that criticism against my country would be criticism of myself, and if others spot something they deem wrong, they should speak out. I think the human rights record of my country is SOMEWHAT ok right now, but in the birthland of Hitler, the past wasn’t really as rosy as national history would make us believe.

      Sorry for a post not about Barca at all in this space.

  6. luisthebeast
    February 5, 2015

    First i have to say that FIFA ban is a joke.All clubs in europe do the same thing.Then i must ask how many ligas we won from 1929 to 1990.Many journalists said that barca and madrid are the same.Soru guys go look the history of spain and shut up.La masia is the reason that we have now 22 ligas.Not the help from franco and the system.And for the people who said that we have a bad board and madrid a good board i am sory but our worst board is angels compared to franco.s team best one.

  7. deerwithwings
    February 5, 2015

    Not to much to add considering the wealth of good commentary here (and another stellar piece from Kxevin).

    However, Peter has a lot of it right, at least from my experience living in Spain. This issue, which gets reported in English doesn’t culturally translate well, and is more about local corruption then sport. Spain (like Greece, although how great was that election!) has been going to hell in a hand basket. The politics there are so abysmal that many people, including myself were forced to leave and find a life elsewhere.

    Like Peter said, the PP has a lot to answer for that it is doing its best viz-a-viz a Bushesque barrage of smoke and mirror tactics. My Spanish/Catalan friends go to monthly protests. The proletariat is not happy.

    I find it hard to accept many conspiracy theories (concerning referring for example), but Government, as a capital G institution is cancerous to the core at the moment. The dialogue is empty on all sides, and the corruption complete and utter: from jurisprudence to legislature. Spain is a “nice” petri dish of whats to come.

    Sorry for the blatant political jabber, but I can’t but see these economic ends of Sport under a larger lens.

  8. February 5, 2015

    Off-topic, but I think we need a bit of a distraction:

    Here’s another “Limited Edition” video from La Liga’s official Youtube channel, about Barcelona’s hard-fought victory in the weekend.

    La Remontada
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2t0wsBoJuE

  9. Laurentiu88
    February 6, 2015

    what Benzema did to Sevilla’s keeper is sad and horrific! Should have been a straight red…

    • Reaper
      February 6, 2015

      I disagree – It was a 50/50 challenge and Benzema certainly had a right to challenge for that ball. Really sad news about the Beto though…

    • G6O
      February 6, 2015

      It was in the goal area where the GK always gets the call. He had no hope of ever successfully challenging for that ball. Completely pointless

  10. February 6, 2015

    Why is our club so adamant that Alves should go to another club on a free transfer? Why cant they just give him a contract for 2 years more and then sell him right when it is possible for us to sell. Even at this age, he can fetch us some millions. Above all, until he is sold, he will be useful, than Montoya and Douglas.

    • G6O
      February 6, 2015

      I noticed that nobody here commented on the Deloitte rankings that were released recently (discussed at the end of this article).

      Now that’s a real cause for concern, and that’s after 4 years of a board whose main priority has supposedly been the financial health of the club.

      That’s a 60 million gap with Madrid, one that will eventually begin to matter on the pitch because that’s one or two superstar signings a year, while we can’t expect to be producing Messis all the time from the youth system.

      For the record, in my opinion the growth in revenue by football clubs is a complete insanity – the math of exponential growth gets ugly very quickly, so where is that going to end eventually? But such are the realities of the real world that if you don’t keep up with those who are marching ahead, you will be left behind. We could live with a 30M gap in income, but the one that is opening right now should be alarming for all who love the club.

    • Inamess
      February 6, 2015

      It’s definitely a concern G60. There can be no doubt that other clubs have just been better run over the last 5 years. In RM’s case, it comes down to Perez’s belief that the most important thing for any team is its star players. So while FCB was reducing debt, RM were continuing to spend lavishly and for the most part they have done well with their investments in players: Modric, Benzema, Ozil, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Isco, James, Bale. Their only bust, of course, was Kaka.

      All these players bring in new fans, marketing deals, and also helped the club keep its fans happy even when they were losing all the trophies to Barca. RM also were the quicker than other clubs to realize how important that FIFA Ballon d’or was for the publicity it brings to the club. The final piece of the puzzle, unfortunately, was the Ramos header in the 93rd minute, which was a huge difference maker for their club’s financial health and reputation.

      In contrast, our club has not been as fortunate in its big investments: Ibra, Villa, Cesc, Sanchez, Song, Suarez. The only exception is Neymar, whose true financial worth to a big club is almost incalculable. Had there been no FFP, I have no doubt a club like PSG would easily pay 250 mil for him.

      Yet even despite RM doing better in the transfer market and our getting better deals, there is no doubt that the Qatar deal was worth a lot more than the club ended up getting. Liverpool, for example, has just signed a deal with New Balance that pays their club 50 mil a year. Go figure.

    • Inamess
      February 6, 2015

      Yikes: *no “our”, I meant RM got better deals

  11. Cyclops
    February 6, 2015

    well yeah, if there’s something to look at, you can’t really blame anyone for taking a look, right..thing is, the way that ‘look’ is being cast is plain ridiculous
    there’s talk about if the board had kept their house in order, maybe all this wouldn’t have happened, like seriously ?? when messi was constantly being hounded with tax-fraud allegations, sure you gonna tell me he was guilty ?? he didn’t put ‘his’ house in order ??..if you searching for a ‘most holy than thou board’, then that ‘ll be a long search, you’ll probably spend your all live searching for one..things is, no ones’s free from wrongdoings, as it is, your detractors only need the smallest of mistake to clamp their hideous fangs on you..there are two ways to look at this, i think..and if you look at it, from the point of the board not putting their house in order, you might just miss it all..sure we can yap about how the board’s a mess, but i think, thats when we calling for their heads..but these, is a different case..a case of malicious investigation with- needless to say, diabolical intent, pioneered by spitefull humans (say what )..think jim said it all, you really dont need to be convicted, the mere fact that these allegations are out there, has done enough damage; bad publicity for a start, you getting all edgy trying to clear your name..so i’m looking at these, from the point of your best player being hounded with allegations of crime he never commited (i think thats malicious)..which led some scums to say, since ronaldo’s penaldo, messi’s tax-essi (whatever) see that..and meanwhile all thats unwarranted..some people are now saying FCb’s blatantly corrupt ( like their own clubs are being run by angels) but thats the point, the effect of all these..fact is, they don’t care if their own clubs are power-houses of corruption, hell, they probably will never admit it, its your case that’s out there, and they sure will take advantage, to crap about how fcb’s corrupt..
    i think this, is not a ciminal investigation anymore- but something else thats not even entirely based on facts anymore..but then again, thats what you get from a silly witch-hunt- facts mixed with cooked up stories..so me, i’m looking at these from the point of some low-lives screwing with the club..whether the boards corrupt or not, thats not the point, we’d talk about that later..now, its about someone trying to mess with everything- cause if thats the case, then its really really sinsiter, like sininster..but lol, sinister’s what we face on a regular in laliga; ronaldo commited a heinous crime and is being rewarded with a two-match ban, more like them saying: ‘son, if you’d felt like getting a three-match ban, you should maybe had tried giving your guy a black-eye or getting him cripple or something, rather than that. then just maybe we might have considered giving you a three-match ban’..well lol, if thats not sinister, i wonder what it is

    • Inamess
      February 6, 2015

      I think these are all fair comments. The Ronaldo 2 match ban was very curious. I don’t follow that many other teams, but I thought a three match ban is pretty standard for this kind of thing. Even last year, he got 3 games for a much less grievous offense, but then again RM didn’t have to play Atletico at the time.

  12. Neel
    February 7, 2015

    OT: I have always found it amusing how do the players decide to line up when walking in for the opening of a match. I mean when they go to line up and shake hands. The captain always is in the first position. But how do the others decide their respective positions. It always seems like the most influential player usually takes the last position. Is it an official mandate the way players line up or is it something which the sponsors enforce or is it just the players forcing their way in.

    • February 7, 2015

      No idea. But since arrival of Suarez, he is the person at the end for us. So..

  13. February 7, 2015

    Atletico 4 – 0 EE

    • ooga aga
      February 7, 2015

      EE looked completely toothless even with BBC fit and in the front line. had no solution for the team we beat 3 times and outscored 7-2. we now control our destiny in the league…starting with a very difficult trip to the san mames tomorrow. 3 points by no means guaranteed. but even a draw for us would mean we control our own destiny.

  14. TITO
    February 7, 2015

    Wow.
    That doesn’t happen so often.
    I think they actually had no shots on the goal.

  15. PrinceYuvi
    February 7, 2015

    Lol.
    Thank god for only two match ban.

    • Inamess
      February 7, 2015

      The club should appeal to extend the voting on the 2014 FIFA Ballon d’or or at least a recall election!

  16. Valdemar II
    February 7, 2015

    If Douglas ever played like Cristiano did today…

  17. Laurentiu88
    February 7, 2015

    seems that the loss of Luka Modric was far bigger than they expected.

    physically they aren’t at a good moment, a fact which I assume contributed to some of the injuries of their players. they may get in a better shape until the end of March, but i hope they willl drop some points until they get to play us, as they play villareal at home, and bilbao away.

  18. February 7, 2015

    Have seen a couple of apologies for political or human rights posts. Not necessary. Football is of the world, and sometimes that broader world is a part of the game that we love. The only rule in this comments space is respect, it is worth noting.

    Thanks, everyone for some insightful commentary.

  19. Tata2
    February 7, 2015

    That loss at Soceidad still hurts, we would have been frigging 2points clear by tomorrow. Wait, wasn’t that the team we beat 3times 7-3 on agg. without a midfield? Sometimes you have to throw tiki taka outta the window and just do what is needed to win. Rewatch our first goal in the copa 2nd leg, Atletico are busy tiki takaing and doing an keepy-uppy to the cheers of the fans at the edge of our box and guess what? Boom! In the next 12secs they are picking the ball out of their own net, yes and that was achieved in 2 passes from our own 18yard box. If we meet Madrid even with their gala XI, we aren’t losing 3-1 again. It also goals to show how mediocre of a player Ronaldo is, take away modric and James plus Ramos and he is exposed. Talking about Messi, who are you going to take away to expose him?

  20. agar2515
    February 7, 2015

    CR vs. Atletico
    0 goals
    0 shots on target
    0 take ons
    0 chances
    0 crosses

    hahahahahahahahahaa, typical big game CR ghost performance. Can’t create anything on his own without the service or without a PK. Leo is laughing somewhere.

  21. luisthebeast
    February 7, 2015

    What a perfomance by atletico!!After the game ronaldo said that they are a lot better team than atletiko!!After 6 games i believe we know who is better!!And simeone is so right when he said that leo is more dangerous than the 3 forwards of madrid;-)Oh a win tommorow and we are the favourites!!Can someone tell me what was the last time we lost by 4 goals in spain!?

    • IamXavi6
      February 7, 2015

      Not sure about Spain but I would say 4-0 last would’ve been against Bayern in CL?

  22. February 8, 2015

    Wow. Atletico stomped on weak white stuff like an elephant in a Danish daycare center.

    Back to the black hand, none other than the Madrid sports daily AS is reporting that Pablo Ruz, the judge presiding over the Neymar case, is a RM socio. Interesting, huh? Who on earth would’ve thought…?

  23. BarcaSon
    February 8, 2015

    Lineup
    Bravo
    Alves Piqué Mathieu Alba
    Rakitić Busquets Xavi
    MSN.
    Good to see our Captain again..
    Visca Xavi!

  24. ooga aga
    February 8, 2015

    great to see suarez and messi link up in that second goal. beautiful!

  25. ooga aga
    February 8, 2015

    man, gettin the job done in San Mames. a couple of close calls, theyve come close to scoring, but weve also gone super close. id say a deserved lead and i dont see Bilbao getting back in the game. we’ll see.

  26. deerwithwings
    February 8, 2015

    Not to be overly smug, but maybe, after all, we were supposed to peak later in the season this year?

    The past couple of games have been absolutely brilliant entertainment.

    • G6O
      February 8, 2015

      LE said that the team will play much better in the second half of the season on multiple occasions. So far it has been true

      Today was beautiful to watch

  27. georgjorge
    February 8, 2015

    Good game!

    Athletic managed to push us back and put pressure on us – for fifteen minutes in the first and ten in the second half. But even with some sketchy defending from us, that’s not enough to win against this Barca. Xavi didn’t really manage to control this game, but I think that has to do as much with the game plan of Barca as with the pressing from Athletic. Strong performances from Piqué, Rakitic, Busquets!

    I also quite like a game in which Messi doesn’t play all that well and Neymar wastes chances left and right…and the team still scores five. Even though Messi did have a hand in most goals, maybe this team can finally perform well the times when he doesn’t.

  28. ooga aga
    February 8, 2015

    shaka hislop will have to have us #1 in next weeks ratings LOL 🙂 🙂

  29. BarcaSon
    February 8, 2015

    If all these is because of the Anoeta curse, I would accept it as a blessing in disguise.
    Really good game. Really deserved 3 points.
    Love it when our opponent fans applaud us even tgey are a couple of goals down.
    Visca Barca!

  30. IamXavi6
    February 8, 2015

    Lucho not so bad after all? 2 months is a long time on football 🙂

  31. PrinceYuvi
    February 8, 2015

    It’d be fun to watch Messi marshalling counters vs Pep’s team 😀

  32. February 8, 2015

    God I love this team! That front 3!?!? Are you kidding me?? It doesn’t even seen fair. Don’t know if we are going to win anything this season but I know one thing, it’s going to be one hell of a fun ride!

    This is the most dynamic, effective and varied barca I have seen in years. Teams, very good teams, have tried to beat us in a variety of ways, from defending extremely well to pressing like mad dogs and we have beaten all of them. What athletico did to Madrid yesterday should show just how good this team is and really how undeserving all of the criticism towards Lucho has been.

    God I love this team!

    • IamXavi6
      February 8, 2015

      A happy Cule….frame this!

    • geraldpep
      February 9, 2015

      Framed! We have peaked just at the right moment. Hlebruary jinx finally broken?

    • G6O
      February 9, 2015

      The “right moment” is April/May 😉

      Let’s hope we maintain this level until then

  33. stefan2k
    February 9, 2015

    Downright ridiculous display of our team 😀 I was applauding all game long!
    A W E S O M E

    Anybody has statistics about how many chances Messi created? Created for Neymar, created for Suarez, created for Xavi… inhuman!

    • TITO
      February 9, 2015

      Was thinking about Messi and how much he has evolved, leaving behind Iniesta and Xavi. He was part of the group back then, but wow, sometimes i think he can do whatever he wants, if he wants.
      Someone probably made a gif of that fourth goal when half of Bilbao team chased him, prior to the pass to Busi.

  34. raj
    February 9, 2015

    Can someone provide a link to the extended highlights of the match (not just the goals). Missed the action.

    • Dar_vincy
      February 9, 2015

      Grateful for his time with us, but you can help but feel a better job could have been done. And the way and manner Barca B’s form has been sharply nose-diving, his service severance was really inevitable.
      It is only unfortunate Oscar Garcia was circumvented for the job.

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