Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, aka “The bogeyman cometh.”

There is some interesting speculation and commentary at the bottom of the Valencia post in the comments, all related to the spectre of Pep Guardiola raiding FC Barcelona of talent as he builds his next unstoppable footballing juggernaut at Manchester City.

To be sure, it’s an attractive proposition. The best coach in the game, at a club that is set up for success, with a nigh-bottomless pocketbook, the token restraints of FFP notwithstanding.

The timing of the move was made even more interesting by a Sergi Busquets interview, which got a great translation over at Grup 14. Pulled out of context by many outlets was a telling quote:

“Guardiola can get me to leave Barça. Working with him again would be an honor for me.”

In context, however, the Busquets quote said nothing at all. It isn’t a negotiation ploy, as the player has said that he wants nothing more than to stay at Barça. It isn’t anything except a player responding honestly to a question. If you read the entirety of the Busquets comments, it is clear that he isn’t going anywhere, and that money isn’t the issue for him. When his contract is renewed, he will slot into the third salary tier on the club, just below the one that includes Pique and Iniesta. (This is even as I would argue that he should be in that second tier.) All the rest is press nonsense and speculation. The two most pertinent comments, related to not only his departure but the potential departure of any other player, are excerpted here from the translation at Grup14.com:

“Hopefully when I finish my career here at Barça I can go down in history not only as a good player who won titles and helped the team, but also as one of the players who have the most games played for this club.

I’ve always said that there are only two people who can get me to change my club: my girlfriend, who is from here and a Barça fan so it’s not a problem from a personal point of view, and from a professional point of view, the other person would be Guardiola. It’s obvious that I owe him a lot and working with him again would be an honor for me. But he knows that this is my club, this is also his club and he knows that the best thing for me and for the club is that I stay here so I doubt he’d ask me to leave.”

His meaning is clear. “When I finish my career here at Barça” is most telling. He isn’t going anywhere, and doesn’t plan to go anywhere. It’s also clear that he is discussing the Guardiola situation as something theoretical, that would never happen. It’s like when you see press reports that X or Y team is willing to pay Neymar’s buyout. Well, I’m willing to buy P.J. Harvey dinner, as long as we’re speculating about stuff that won’t be happening anytime soon. There is another Busquets quote that is particularly interesting, as well:

“It’s clear that there’s the example of Thiago some years ago, but if a player wants to leave it doesn’t matter if it’s to this team or that team, if it’s with Pep or not, a player plays where he wants.”

Again, this is very clear. If a player wants to go, he will leave. Thiago left because he wanted to leave. It just so happened that Guardiola wanted him, so that made his situation perfect, and a no-brainer. The Valencia post commenters were also concerned about Sergi Samper, who is an interesting case. There is precisely zero reason for anyone to think that he would leave Barça, culer paranoia notwithstanding. The only reason he would leave would be if he wasn’t good enough to take his spot in the first team. In that case, good luck at your new forever home. But what if Guardiola came calling? Thiago was a player who was first-team quality, and ready to play at any club in the world. The only reason he wasn’t playing more at Barça was because he had two giants of the game and club legends in front of him. Fabregas was easy. Had it been even Fabregas and Iniesta, Thiago would probably have stayed.

Samper, on the other hand, is the captain of the B team. He hasn’t been promoted yet, even though he will be for next season. His situation couldn’t be more different than that of Thiago. It still isn’t clear that he will be able to crack the XI at Barça, let alone any team in the world. Samper has a spot waiting for him in the Barça first team, and the progression is clear. There is a reason that he has been silent about his future, and not agitating for this or that. Samper is the player I am least worried about leaving, not that I worry at all about any player leaving the club. The only question is whether Samper is good enough, after the necessary grooming and playing time-based improvement. If he is, he has a spot. If he isn’t, that’s another story. This is true even as his most logical position is presently occupied by the best player in the game at that role, who has at least another 5 years.

Busquets, however, can’t and shouldn’t play all the time. Samper is a perfect choice for to sub for him if his game reaches a level sufficient for that to occur. He would get plenty of playing time, and present Luis Enrique with a more fluent, fluid option than Mascherano at DM. Samper just has to get there. There is nothing Guardiola could offer him that would induce him to leave. A starting slot? That isn’t going to happen. Money? Nope. Then his agent would be calling China.

FC Barcelona is, right now, the most desirable destination in the world for a player. Arda Turan, one of the best midfielders in the world, sat for six months to wait for the opportunity to play there. It’s the most desirable destination because it’s also best team in the world. A player would leave if he wasn’t getting playing time in keeping with his view of his place in the world. Pedro is an example, and look how that turned out for him. A player might also leave because for whatever reason he isn’t happy. In that case, good riddance. Players can also leave because their position is too crowded, a la Thiago, or Samper if he gets tossed into the general midfield mix. Sergi Roberto will be doing some math experiments once Rafinha returns to the lineup, as one example. But all that Samper has to be to take his spot in the first team is good enough at the Busquets job to be a reliable slot-in against lower-tier Liga sides and in Cup competitions. He will also have to be willing to learn, and capable of improvement. This last is the only issue in question.

Pep Guardiola isn’t a lure sufficient to take players away from the best club in the world, unless they already want to go. Then they should leave. But at present the team is stronger, every player has improved under Luis Enrique and there are many more titles to be won. Guardiola’s actions and processes at City will be interesting to watch from this chair, but not from a context of what players he might take from Barça. Luis Enrique, as is often the case, says it best. When asked if he was worried about Guardiola taking Barça players, he said, simply enough, “No.”

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Written by:

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.

73 Comments

  1. MSN
    February 10, 2016

    Great article. People love to fall for baits. The english press will go wild in the summer, and they’ll profit from all the stupid headlines. That’s what they do, because people are gullible. And Busi, Messi, Suarez, Neymar, Pique, etc, will still be at Barça. Rinse and repeat the next transfer window.

  2. georgjorge
    February 10, 2016

    Thank you for shedding light on the Busquets interview, for someone like me who didn’t read anything but the one quote from it before. You’re probably right that Guardiola on his own won’t draw many (or even any at all) players into the arms of Man City (though the Premier League in general seems to be a dream of many a player, and not just for the money).

    I don’t know anything about Samper’s motivations, but I think it’s not entirely as straightforward as “if he’s good enough he’ll play, if he’s not good enough we don’t need him anyway”. It’s a good point to start from. But his true quality can only be shown by putting him alongside the best players on the team in a real match, not a training session. And not just once, but several times, so he can develop an understanding with them. A thousand training sessions, or a hundred games alongside lesser players, can only show so much. So a coach has to take the risk of putting out an unknown quantity in games where he needs the points, and in a team like Barca which wants to win La Liga, the Cup and the CL every season that’s not easy to do. Unless that takes place, we won’t know too much about him as a player (now that I think of it, it reminds me a bit of Schrödinger’s Cat).

  3. Inamess
    February 10, 2016

    If I were Samper, I’d already be booking a flight to Manchester for the summer. What can City offer that Barca can’t? How about tripling his salary, giving him much more playing time, a fantastic coach/mentor in Guardiola, fame, and worldwide exposure on the Premier League’s glossy productions. Samper sees his friend Bellerin getting all these things at Arsenal, and it would be naive to think that he does not want the same for himself. Deloufeu is treated like a prince at Everton and Bojan is beloved at Stoke. What’s not to like?
    Is he good enough to be the next Busquets? Probably not but Premier league teams have the money to take a shot on the next youth player who might come good. They paid our a fortune for players like Luke Shaw, Marital and Sterling. Why not take a chance on Samper?

    • Jim
      February 10, 2016

      Some good comments and an interesting discussion. I think I’d agree that Busi is in no hurry to leave and would rather. Finish his career with us. However, maybe not if he is only third tier. Why on earth would he settle for that? He is the best in the world at his position, possibly the most crucial position for our style of play and he has been very patient up to now. I see his comments as being aware of the difficulty of deciding where to place him. More money might not be important because it is more money but because of what it says about the esteem in which he is held.

      I’m intrigued that the article suggests Samper will be willing to spend half his career as a backup. I wouldn’t be. I think the essential difference in views is in that opinion. I think Samper is no less ready to start than Busi was when he was brought in. I remember his first few games which weren’t great until he got the rhythm of playing with and against better players. Samper would be well advised not to accept the odd Copa game or he won’t become the player I think he could be. He has the additional problem that Yaya with us was always only a kick in the teeth away from being a lazy player, something which gradually became obvious when he went to the EPL. Samper would have Busi ahead of him, a world class, hard working, if not pacy player who as is suggested has a good five years at least at his peak to go.

      I’m also not sure Thiago wanted to go. I think Thiago wanted to play more and moved solely for that reason. Samper has been great till now but it’s asking a lot for him to give up the attractions mentioned here. The jury has to still be out on him because he hasn’t had much chance to show one way or the other. But as has also been said that won’t happen playing with and against second strings or poorer la Liga teams. He needs a run in the team as Busquets got. For me, given our financial situation, we should be tying him up as a cheap backup and looking at some of the bigger salaries to see if we can do without them.

    • February 10, 2016

      If Thiago didn’t want to go, then he would have stayed. It’s as simple as that. He wanted to leave for playing time, which means he wanted to leave.

      Catching a bit of the Valencia match. Samper isn’t good enough yet. Sorry. He will get better, maybe even take off like Sergi Roberto. He can learn the game, learn to play the position. Career backup? Maybe that’s all he has. But if he isn’t going to be good enough to compete at Barça, why would he be good enough for City? Guardiola isn’t going to let his standards lapse because of La Masia roots.

      As for Busquets, he has been quoted as saying that money will not be an issue with his Barça renewal. We can assume from that statement that he’s happy in the third tier. He wants to stay at Barça. If he didn’t, he would be gone. Barça wouldn’t be able to offer him the money that a club such as United or City could. Leaving would be easy for him, if money was the object. But the player has said that it isn’t, so we have to take him at his word.

    • February 11, 2016

      I feel sorry for Samper that, he gets hardly a chance once in 2o or 30 games and then he is playing mostly with his B team mates or our regular bench warmers. If he really needs to prove his mettle, he should get a few chances with the big players, as the sole youth player. This is what Busi got in the beginning. I remember, when Pep started playing Busi, most fans were not impressed at all.

      Thiago left, simply because, he was sure he wasnt getting any kind of playing time justifiable to his talents. It is an indirect way of ‘unintentionally’ forcing a player out.

  4. gaga
    February 10, 2016

    I really enjoyed reading to start with,

    I’m with inamess you built a fantastic case for why they wouldn’t leave but not one why they would, I am a city fan and why would you leave Barcelona in a lot of players cases, you wouldn’t.

    I am Mancunian and would not leave city for any amount of money to go to Barcelona for instance, but that’s because I have an allegiance to them and would still be playing for a top club in relation to a career, problem is not every player at Barcelona will have that allegiance, to give another example me as a Mancunian playing for Chelsea big wages, trophies, good life, wouldn’t stop me joining Barcelona because I’d only be at Chelsea for my wage first and foremost because I’d have no passion for Chelsea as a club.

    Fact is Barcelona players are not untouchable Balague this week is saying they can’t afford to renew the three main players contracts and may have to sell to do so, if that’s the case whose going first Suarez, Neymar, Messi or Busquets?

    If the right money comes in I would expect Barca to sell Busquets, for what it’s worth and only in my opinion although Busquets is a good player I’m not excited by the thought of him being at city really especially not for 80 million which is being reported.

  5. gaga
    February 10, 2016

    Just to add Arda Turan one of the best midfielders in the world is a massive reach, not a chance.

  6. Jim
    February 10, 2016

    Ok, not bad so far but even given the poor stream I’m struggling to figure out what formation we’re playing. Is Barta RB? Are we playing Samper and SR as double DM ? Is Rakitic playing CF ? What a gap between him and the est of the mids. What position is Vidal playing ?

    Roll on the final so I can watch it at a decent size !

    • Davour
      February 10, 2016

      Haha, I agree. It seems almost like a 3-2-3-2, or 3-4-1-2, with Raki as AM..

    • Davour
      February 10, 2016

      Munir really needs to bulk up… and Vidal was outrun by Negredo!

  7. Davour
    February 10, 2016

    Good article, thanks. Sobering, but not certain, of course. We are all speculating – maybe we are gullible, as is suggested by MSN, but I think partly we let ourselves be because it’s great fun. I don’t think Samper will leave now because first, he seems to be a Barca-person, Busquets-like in that regard, and is groomed to succeed in that club. Why wouldn’t he give it a proper chance? Arsenal have been calling already and to no avail. He’ll stay at least another season.

    Kevin comments that SR will be doing the math when Rafinha returns, but perhaps it is rather the other way around. SR is growing to become essential to LE due to his flexibility. Perhaps if he feels he needs to play interior in the end, it might be hard, but otherwise I think Rafinha is the one more likely to leave. But not next season.

    The only real cloud is, as is suggested, our financial issues. Perhaps Busi deserves more, but everyone can’t get astronomical salaries, or it will crash. Perhaps there are intangibles to be added?

    And ouch, Samper just got nutmegged against Val (And SR is dominating!). 0-1, but they are doing well, I think.

  8. luisthebeast
    February 10, 2016

    A new record people!!!And another final!!!I read somewhere that this would be our 20th final from 2008 until now!!!Well i am dissapointed by Bartra and Mathieu.Bartra is not good enough and Mathieu seems a lot of times uninterested to run and defend.Sergi was good,Samper not so much.Munir have quality but maybe needs a loan.Sandro i hope some team will pay his buy-out.But i must admit with one game we cant really judge players that they play one game every 2 months.But for me Bartra time here is over.He have no future.

    • georgjorge
      February 11, 2016

      Bartra had to play in an akward position though, somewhere between centreback and right back. It often looked like three at the back as well.

  9. Davour
    February 11, 2016

    According to Sport, Pep and City agreed not to go for any Barca-players not on the market. How about Alves? Looking at the salary structure, he seems to be the odd one out, being the 6th highest paid player, ahead of Suarez. That would clear some space for more urgent improvements. I love Alves for all he’s done, but at his current level, this is not sustainable come next season.

    And if not Pep (which is highly unlikely), then China…

    • georgjorge
      February 11, 2016

      I agree on Alves. He’s still a very good player and I like him a lot, but the amount of money he earns might be too high in relation to his current contribution. Hopefully Vidal will develop a better understanding with the team over the next months.

      The game yesterday was very mediocre from our side, as could be expected from throwing a bunch of B-teamers who don’t even play together all that much into the fray. Some good things from the midfield but both defense and attack were lacking. Samper both did some wonderful things and made some very bad passes, also wasn’t much help in playing out of the back, but as I said we won’t know much for sure until he gets a number of chances to play with the best. What I found interesting was the contrast between Lucho against Vilanovese and Lucho yesterday. Both times he put out a B-team, but the first time he didn’t seem to care at all about the game while yesterday he seemed to care and get angry a lot despite the game mattering even less.

    • Davour
      February 11, 2016

      Yes, it was interesting about Lucho’s engagement. Perhaps this was a way to make it clear to the back-ups that this was not to be taken lightly, for them. He requires a certain level, simply, and will not tolerate complacency or lack of concentration at this point in the season. In other words, the game didn’t matter much, but to maintain a certain mentality does.

    • February 11, 2016

      I do visit barcastuff for Barca news, but I had never looked at its comments/whatever you call the discussion there. Oh dear, am glad am not into twitter. This makes goal.com look like a mature site.

    • georgjorge
      February 11, 2016

      This kind of stuff should come with a severe warning (health hazard).

  10. Jim
    February 11, 2016

    Yeah, not just what’s being said but how they choose to say it ! I do think over the rest of the season we will see more attempts by Pep to reduce expectations before his arrival in England, though.

    With regards to last night’s match I didn’t have the luxury of recording so it was difficult to get a good handle on what was going on. For certain LE put out a totally different formation. Not sure what the point of that was, other than to, as he said, give more f the fringe players a game. However, how you then judge them is beyond me.

    Now the result doesn’t matter a hoot but more importantly if I can’t see what formation he was trying to play ( I’ve seen various formations quoted) it’s asking a lot of the players and tbf it looked like that. I’d have rather seen us keep to our formation and give players a half each if necessary.

    With regard to their goal positional confusion was rife. Rakitic, who up till then I had assumed was something to do with midfield at least was playing centre forward so presumably doing so under instruction. We have Samper wide, probably justifiably as
    He seemed to be playing double DM with SR. However, just before the fateful long ball the position is that Mathieu has ( acc to Barca philosophy) moved up to leave two attackers offside except that they weren’t as Bartra was playing them on. Presumably again that was why he bust a gut trying to get back while the rest looked stunned. For anyone thinking Mathieu had any culpability. Have another look. For me, he correctly moves up and the rest should come with him. What he normally does with Pique is that once the ball is hit they regain depth by quickly by running backwards about ten yards. However, on this occasion our player in front of him ( I have to think SR but couldn’t make it out – if anyone has HD they might know) walks forward and away from his man gesturing to Mathieu that he now has to mark that guy. Poor, and results in the defence not gaining some depth just as the ball is hit.

    It also ruined any chance Mathieu had of keeping an eye on Negredo. That should have fallen to the man standing beside him at the start, Adriano. I’m also gonna absolve TS from any blame for this goal. He’d have had to have a ridiculously high starting point as the ball was not only well judged but curling in towards Negredo. Can you imagine the furor if TS had a starting point outside his penalty box and still couldn’t get there ? No blame for me there. I’m not sure where you got the idea that Mathieu didn’t bother running at times, Luis. To me he had a pretty good game with passing much better than even a few months ago, although it is easier from CB then LB. one of our most accurate passers on the night.

    The other main topic seems to be Samper’s performance. To start with the bad I thought he made a couple of errors, one a header back into the danger area and another time he was caught on the wrong side of his man. There was also a foul and card because he was caught off guard. I wouldn’t even begin to count the nutmeg as we regained possession because of it. No point in a nutmeg if you have to hit it so hard the opposition regain the ball.

    I’d then move on from the bad to the confusing. I couldn’t figure out where on earth he was meant to be playing defensively. If he was told and it was clear then that’s down to him but for the life of me I couldn’t work it out. Remember the chaos with Busi and Masvhe as double DM ? With one DM you’re Busi and your position is obvious ( for the goal for instance he would have been marking the guy handed over to Mathieu as whoever it was should also have been doing). You try to play centrally but go wide as required. If there are two of you that becomes difficult and you end up spending valuable seconds wondering who is picking up who. Especially if your pal at DM also has instructions to get forward wherever possible, which I thought SR did well. That confusion was down to LE mucking about with the formation and avoidable.

    For the rest Samper, for me, was exemplary in possession, holding onto the ball until ready to part with it and ( acc to Whoscored ) a 95% completion rate, our highest on the night – apart from Kaptoum who only touched it a couple of times but I loved his movement and ambition for his goal. He also made three successful tackles which nobody on our side bettered so to say this game with none of our top players, a formation we’ve never played before and had two days to perfect and nothing which caused us major bother defensively shows for definite that he isn’t ready is applying criteria to him that aren’t being used for others. ( I’m a veteran of Busi’s first half dozen games and those backwards headers to their CF !!! I remember a torrent of abuse for him here basically because he wasn’t Yaya. ) SR, who I thought played well last night misplaced a lot more passes and allowed more runs at our defence, TV looked like he was in a trance for me although again the system couldn’t have helped. Bartra didn’t have his finest hour but seemed unsure if he were RB or the wide CB. How do their minutes on the pitch compare to Samper’s ?

    I’m not saying this to show that I think he is without fault. I’ve gone over before areas where I think he needs to improve defensively ( his possession play is almost as good as any of the top team, and I mean any) but I just don’t think that improvement can come playing in the B side or with a group of fringe players in a meaningless tie with a new formation. Anyway, long enough.

    • georgjorge
      February 11, 2016

      Does it bother you that your post has 20% fewer words than the actual article? ; )

      Just kidding, great analysis!

    • Jim
      February 11, 2016

      No, I was on a run but then I started realising I was getting exercised over a match that really didn’t matter at all. 🙂

    • February 12, 2016

      Nice one Jim.
      Me too, was watching by a poor stream – for some reason I didnt get rojadirecta, and was using the stream from barcastuff- and couldnt make out between a and b. Mathieu is only second to Pique, when he plays as our CB.

  11. dl
    February 11, 2016

    Jim: Thanks! I learn a lot about the game from your comments.

    On the topic of Busi and his wages, whether he (or others) are happy at barca etc. I get the feeling with him (and others on the team) that it isn’t a completely econ0mic self-interest equation. Speaking from my own experience in jobs, once the base money needs are met, more money did not result in more happiness. It was far more important to me that my work was interesting to me, and that the people I worked with were a good team. Additionally, I found that rather than going after a title such as ‘Manager of xyz’ or ‘Director of abc’, it was much more satisfying to have the appreciation and recognition of my peers. Titles were something the outside world could digest, but I found I wasn’t really very interested in what a complete stranger thought about my title.

    We ought to allow for the possibility that even elite athletes (more so those in team sports) might feel similarly. If that is the case, a behind the scenes fixer/enabler such as Busquets might be perfectly happy to earn a ‘third tier’ barca salary, knowing that he has eternal thanks from his teammates for his work; great respect from his former coach (Guardiola), and high praise from his National Team coach. Former players, too, speak very highly of his football intelligence and abilities. If you already earn several million a year, I wouldn’t be surprised if your goals are less about money and more about something else.

    • February 12, 2016

      Excellent point DL.
      I dont think for a moment Busi will leave Barca.
      But if at all he was a different kind of person, wondering why he is not in the Bdor list or world eleven or something like that, if he starts playing in EPL, the next year he is going to get all that and even more. See how Kevin De Bruyne is within top 15 in the Guardian list. Busi would go within top 10 if at all he was playing in EPL, we all know why. Even a bit of success in EPL is exaggerated by world media.
      But am just saying. Am sure he care not even a bit for those kind of recognitions.

  12. Jim
    February 11, 2016

    Fair points all, DL, and I suppose we really don’t know hats actually going on in his mind. If he is an altruistic guy who isn’t bothered he’s in a huge minority in football and would go up in my estimation. But then I think, no that’s not fair. I’d rather see those sort of guys rewarded more than the ones who demand and get top dollar. But then I think can I hold that ethical line with Messi ? Maybe not.

    Speaking personally, I hear what you say about the satisfaction and fun of working with people you get on with. However, I suppose I had 37 years of earning, almost half in promoted positions whereas Busi has maybe ten and if you have the luck of a Valdes it could be a lot less.

    On another note, I know a few of us frequent Barcastuff. How about this as a conversation starter ?
    https://mobile.twitter.com/barcastuff/status/697658885335867392/photo/1

    • dl
      February 11, 2016

      I think Busi will earn in a year more than I will earn in a lifetime. To think he has 10+ years of that…..! It’s for that reason that I allow for the possibility of a less mercenary attitude. Perhaps.

    • Davour
      February 12, 2016

      It is baffling that this assumed attitude of Busi should be so rare. But I guess that’s the consequence of a big-money business – the players are aware of their value. Still, DL, you make a good point, on a human level. Busi makes, what, 6-8m euros a year? + bonuses and commercials etc. And after those 10 years, he is still famous and respected and get a good job at Barca or some other club, or be an pundit or whatever. Thing is, like in any business (or politics), once you’re in, you’re pretty set.

      Where would he get the same respects and success? Nowhere. Where would he get to play with better teammates? Nowhere.

      I would buy the need for a new challenge, but he seems to be of the Xavi school, a family man, striving to be part of a tradition rather than seeking individual acclaim.

  13. luisthebeast
    February 11, 2016

    I just read an article about a family of Barca fans that in 2014 at Valencia they were going to the stadium for the final and a car hit them.Luckily there were not deaths.Police said that people at the car had madrid.s flags and stuff like that.I hope it was just an accident.

  14. feeya7
    February 12, 2016

    Not to be pedantic, but Pep’s Bayern are pretty stoppable. In fact, since he’s taken over, they’ve been stopped by both Barca and RM, in pretty embarrassing fashion both times.

  15. luisthebeast
    February 12, 2016

    Lets forget for a minute racism in football.Lets see what kind of people are football players.Adam Jhonson.A young girl had him as an idol.A 15 y child.And what he did?He gave her a signed shirt and then he asked her for a thank you.What was the thank you?Sex in his car.Disgusting.Yes there is racism in football.But there is also sexism.Dont forget that.And lets people stop the shit like:But she wanted it too.No stupid.A child is a child.We must protect the childs.Not use them.Shame.

    • Jim
      February 12, 2016

      I suppose you get the whole spectrum in football as anywhere else, Luis. Remember you also have the Xavi, Iniesta, maybe given his looks especially Pique who seem to be in stable long term relationships despite what I’m sure must be a variety of temptations. The GOAT himself. ( again, seems) to be just about the perfect role model for youngsters growing up. Still with partner he’s known from the age of five, still in on his day off training on his own despite knowing that he won’t be dropped if he doesn’t and spending hours on his own in hospitals with sick kids while asking that nobody makes it public.

      We are so lucky with this group of players, which is why we should never forget the extras that La Masia tries to instill into them.

  16. February 12, 2016

    Am so glad Xavi said this about Pogba..
    “There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala. They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.
    “[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

    • Jim
      February 12, 2016

      Exactly! Well said, hero. Must have a look at those two. Is Verratti the one with PSG with the flaky temper ?

      In a couple of years time, after the WC if he gets fed up of the desert, we should be hiring Xavi part time to scout for us – as the one who just views final candidates and makes the say on who will fit in, both game and temperament wise. And who won’t. Could fit it in with a coaching job wherever he goes to get experience.

    • February 12, 2016

      Jim, PSG also has another young player who I really like – Rabiot. He looks excellent to me. Was good against us and against RM too, even he played only for some minutes, if I recollect well.

    • dl
      February 12, 2016

      Interesting comments from Xavi. If a player catches his eye, I’m sure there is something there. I like watching Verratti alot — he does seem to be a little rash sometimes, but sort of in the way of of Turan. But he has great ball skills and seems to be very very intelligent in his playing.
      I have always enjoyed Modric, too — I would love to hear Xavi explain why he doesn’t think Modric is in the same category.
      Thinking out loud, maybe we could convince Xavi to do a Q&A on the blog!

  17. Cyclops
    February 12, 2016

    yeah, the Busi comments was basically an Honest reply given to some(possibly useless) question..an honest reply that you’d break your head to find these days, simple..

    Disclaimer: If Busi runs off to Man city at the slightest nudge by Pep tomorrow, i never said the Above comment…

    I say, Thaigo wanted to leave, i put it to anyone..
    Okay, seriously now, wanted leave here means, he didnt care about staying…
    That he wanted to play, so he moved Solely for that reason, still says the same thing.. Thiago was a player, who sort of wanted fame and all- so to say, probably wasnt really interested where he gets to get it, as long as he gets it..I think, while at barca he didnt really care about staying, if the right situation exist in other places, and the Grass seems greener there, he wouldnt mind moving over as he did…Some people are just like that, and the right situation reveals who they truly are, and for Thiago, that’d be the Euros preceding(i think) that season..Kinda gave him leverage and lee way, to exercise his most creepiest of Ambitions..You say ‘you lie, he wanted to play at the world cup’, well whatever, he never got to play there afterall, did he? Poetic Justice..
    As the Article puts it, if he never wanted to go, scrap playing time and all( for crying out he was just a very young player who hadnt spend much time in the first team(filled with Xavi & co’s) and there’s talk needing playing Time?) he’d have stayed, if he had even the tiniest love for the club and was willing to work his way up like Samper..

    Talking about Samper, indeed his place is there for him, he just has to get there..He just has to improve enough, and he’d be deputising for Busi, its as certain as that
    I reall dont think, Pep would want to offer him a Starting slot in his team, i honestly doubt that(inamess trying to get your post..if you mean what i think you mean, right now im like “you kiddin”..? when did all that became a criteria for deciding to stay or not stay at a club, atleast for a barca player? Those things seems pretty superficial to me, and any player that’d put that as a top criteria for choosing their club choice, can only be a Thiago, or maybe Luis Figo) For Samper its as simple as just improving, and talking about improving, as has been talked ad neausum here, he can only improve when played alongside quality players. These one or two appearances in dead rubber games wont do much, and i say, thats where the Problem is, if there is any…I almost share the sentiment that if thats to be his lot in the nearest future, he’d do well not to accept it- but then thats until i remember Sergi Roberto

    Anyway, apparently Aymeric Laporte had said he’d reject a chance to play for barca and the world literal rock on its foundation at such Noble and Brave decision-thats until he retracted his statement couple days later, saying he was misquoted, and then proceding to Right-Quoting himself in a way that i’d say boredered on the Comical…

    My weirdo of the week…!

  18. Cyclops
    February 12, 2016

    Ooopsa, sorry, not exactly the Euros…i meant the Euro U-21(?) championship…

  19. Davour
    February 13, 2016

    Watching RM Athletic, 3-1, a bit undeserved, but it seems RM are getting into winning without playing well, too. I am often struck when watching teams like Athletic against RM – it seems they reserve their main intensity when facing us, or is it Barca that invites such display? They play rather well now, and should’ve scored 1 or 2 more, but in defence they seem less “on”. Perhaps it me who can’t escape my own bias, but it’s not the first time I’ve noticed this.

  20. Tommy11
    February 13, 2016

    When people talk about Barca winning Liga matches because of rubbish defending from d smaller teams, what do we make of Newcastle conceding 3 goals in less than 20 minutes against chelsea in the “best league in the world”? I make bold to say that Newcastle defending is worse than Espanyol’s.

  21. mr.undercover
    February 13, 2016

    Xavi’s comments serves as an illumination for those who are fond of pogba coming to barca, I would take verrati over pogba any day any time, xavi has the vision and I don’t want to take away a credit from him but I can still recall him praising koke by saying that he is his natural heir whom I literally can’t see any compatibility between the two. So wired tbh.

  22. Jim
    February 14, 2016

    Just watching a cracking game – Arsenal Leicester. Totally impressed by the Frenchman Kante at both ends of the pitch. Oodles of pace, tackles brilliantly and can even go past men. Never really noticed him as much before.

    • Jim
      February 14, 2016

      In all the talk about whether or not Leicester deserved their penalty a supreme example from Monreal of what I keep banging on about in staying on your feet. No need to tackle Vardy – you have cover inside, you have pace, show him to the byeline. You stick your leg out like that and don’t get the ball? Game over. Also, largely made by the desire of Kante. Wenger should be in the Leicester dressing room now, chequebook in hand.

    • Jim
      February 14, 2016

      Nooooooo ! Utter stupidity. At least two yards too deep for the free kick and they decide to move up just before he takes the kick and they’re at sixes and sevens. Shame for Leicester but I hope for Simpson’ s sake he’s showered and out of the changing rooms before his team mates get back in.

    • Davour
      February 14, 2016

      But in the end, Arsenal wins. Could give them some dangerous momentum… I hope we put a stop to that. But yes, Kanté is really very good. Picks pockets and initiates plays. A gem. Have to hand to Wenger, however: two subs score to bring in the win. Show the importance of having someone to come off the bench to make a difference.

      We are of course massive favourites in CL, but should not underestimate them. Giroud’s head-passes are amazing. Heads up, Piqué…

  23. Tata2
    February 14, 2016

    Can’t wait for our game against Arsenal

  24. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    Oh well, Arsenal did go on to win the game afterall…
    Much needed win there, they had a lot of statements to make; Tactically, credentially, Points-wise and all..
    But talking about Saying Things, we all ‘say things’ about football from whatever point we find ourselves; why A should have done this instead, and B should have done that instead..maybe thats why its deservedly called Armchair Talk, because out there on the pitch, Players just seems to be clueless and fumble with making the right decision, even in obvious circumstance- some seemingly intelligent players even included…You’ve just got a simple rule; dont make rash Tacklse in the Box, yet its seems to be too Ambigious for certain humans…I’ll just never understand why Players get to screw their thinking up as soon as they take to the Pitch….

    Came across some Stats; Pedro apparently has gotten less Game time in Chelsea compared to his Time at Barca last season..considering he left for more Playing time..one word; weird….

    Another Stat, comparing Pep’s 28 match unbeaten Team to Lucho’s 29 match unbeaten Team, meh, the present Team seemed to Best the Pep team in almost every Department..its somewhat suprising, so much for all the encomiums poured on that team, the current team can seemingly go Toe-Toe with them, if not go one better..The way Reality gets to be coloured at times, is just what it is; Confusing…
    Or maybe, its just the Usual Empty Stats(?) again….

    • Davour
      February 14, 2016

      Too bad for Pedro, but the logic is still clear: at Barca, there would be zero chance of breaking into the gala 11, while at Chelsea, there is a theoretical possibility. Only he does not seem to have grabbed it (still think Man U would have been a much better fit for him). For me, he is welcome back to yet again assume the role as a back-up!

  25. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    Stories flying around about Pep (probably) getting the sack before his tenure ends..maybe just stories, but jeex, it looks really messed up IMO..I’m talking about all the Talk about his going to City- maybe bayern fans wouldnt feel same way, but i sure like hell will feel that way if its was my team

    I mean, a coach is still coaching a respectable european Club, and people are already going on and on about what players he’d need at City, if he’d like the Size of their pitch, would he changed the colour of the Goal-Net to maybe Red? bla bla bla..and one ridiculous one i saw; After playing was it Newcastle now, they won alright, but next thing, stories came out about Which Players impressed Pep in the win..really now?!? gosh, the guy’s got a job to do with another team- contractually, can you respect that? thank you

    I’d feel really pissed if i was a Bayern fan seriously, i’m thinking what the hell, Going to Man city or not, its should have been kept secret till the end of the season before being revealed
    Bayern would be considered as one of the European Bigclubs, and the way the its now being sorta belittled, is appaling- dosnt matter if i dont like them, just saying it as it is…You see stories claiming City are preparing to Raid Bayern for players..like really! Since when did City have that footballing clout?!?…
    Its sucks…very very messed up i’d say….

  26. horlahlehk
    February 14, 2016

    Wow!…barca B picking up another win…#morale boosting….after next weekend, it is sort of a run of nightmare fixtures for them; considering they are facing the teams above them in there next five fixtures or so, I wouldn’t put it past them picking close to 10-12points in those matches, tho…..bravo Samper and co. (Thumbs up to the new signings, too) seems to have re-invigorate the whole squad!….Visca Barca!!!

  27. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    Thoeretical Possibility?? Hmmmm…
    I would say a Practical Possibility..If i were the(chelsea’s) coach, i’d put him in my Gala XI, without batting an eyelid
    so yeah, i see your point, but in my books he’s a Starter at Chelsea(Pity Guus Hiddink thinks thats just speaking Latin)….

  28. Jim
    February 14, 2016

    Ah, 40″ HD ….. Welcome back Sky ! I can now pass comment on who has shaved and who hasn’t .

  29. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    Mess!!! stunning Freekick!
    Its was coming, i could smell it from where i was
    Perfect time to get a FK goal, that Alvarez seemed to want to continue from where he stopped last time, perfect goal to set the cat among the pigeons for Celta(and that dervish GK of theirs) and give Barca the Momentum…

    Somebody just remind me why Bravo wasn’t shortlisted for the FIFA Top Five GK’s?????

  30. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    Oh My, the scores is tied already.. Celta just werent gonna make it easy now where they?
    Regardless, there’re going down…!!!

  31. Davour
    February 14, 2016

    Wonderful free kick, but not a good game so far. Surprisingly sloppy by Neymar, at times Ini (though fighting well) and Alves. I beginning to feel a worryingly large proportion of goals conceded have something to do with Alba, these days. To weak or nonchalant – not in the best of form.

    Hoping for a whopping 2nd half, though. Suarez seems to be on, and Messi has that FK to build on. And both Ini and Ney can only get better. Go!

  32. Tommy11
    February 14, 2016

    I don’t know too much about tactics, but I am disappointed in Alba and Alves tonight. Alves have misplaced passes like he is putting his tongue out. What was Alba thinking on that equalizing penalty?? What’s the use of the day off in midweek. We make scoring against us look too easy.

  33. Davour
    February 14, 2016

    Fantastic goal! Sublime by Messi, and Suarez just seems to manage those balls. Wonderful.

  34. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    2-1..YaY!!
    Now thats how good the team can play when celta has touched a Nerve…

    Meanwhile, Ronaldo sorry eh, but you’ve got nothing on Suarez…
    LS9 for the Pichichi!!!!

  35. Tata2
    February 14, 2016

    Still can’t understand why Bravo isn’t in top 5 gks in the world up till now

  36. Tata2
    February 14, 2016

    What the hell did Messi do on that Pk? Would Ronaldo do that for Bale or Benzema?

  37. Davour
    February 14, 2016

    Cruyff tribute! And trying, perhaps, to push Suarez’s pichichi-chances…

    • Davour
      February 14, 2016

      3 goals and 2 assists for Suarez. He is having a fabulous season. Not a bad game from Messi either – that fk, that dribble for a penalty, that assist… and; Ney certainly improved in the 2nd half, just ridiculous, this team when they’re like this. But Celta had some good chances at 2-1 (cheers Bravo); still, they were too tired and yellow-carded, we had it.

  38. georgjorge
    February 14, 2016

    Did they just win 6-1 against a rather good La Liga side?

    It seems to me that this Barca plays better in the second half a lot of the time…

    But I really found the team rather good in the first half already. Not perfect of course, a bit shaky in defending (though give credit to Celta as well) but still good. During the first fifteen minutes I thought “great, another one of these games where Messi looks rather ordinary but still scores/assists four”. Then they really turned it on in the second half…

    The second goal (Messi – Suarez) was absurd, showing once again why Messi has outgrown being measured only in goals scored. Then he did it again for Neymar on the third goal. By then it was effectively over.

    • Davour
      February 14, 2016

      Agree – especially on Messi. Above I shared an article on his effectiveness, or pragmatism, and that became evident again today. He just does what needs to be done. Even the dribble drawing the penalty was simply the best option. Let Neymar do the showboating (and he does indeed).

      Who scored has Messi stats 4 dribbles and 4 key passes; Ney 8 dribbles and 1 key pass. Reflects pretty well. (Suarez MoM)

  39. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    Okay, that was some revenge…
    The rest of the (footballing)world can go to sleep already, our Frontline is just ridiculously good, its not close

    Its one of those night were everything panned out as planned; i’d been agitating for Neymar to get on that freaking scoresheet like yesterday, and Bam, before you know it he Chipped away at Alvarez, and its 6-1…
    So sometimes, things do go perfectly afterall..a Match for the Ages…..!!

  40. Cyclops
    February 14, 2016

    “Hoping for a Whopping 2nd half”…

    Got it…!

    • Davour
      February 14, 2016

      Yup!

  41. Tommy11
    February 14, 2016

    I had my mouth open for close to a minute and I was on my feet for the rest of the match after Messi turned a penalty into an assist. I doubt there’s a better fromt three I football history not because of effectiveness or productivity but evident friendship, they are unequaled compliments of one another, it’s mind blowing!!!!

  42. Tata2
    February 14, 2016

    Gosh! the dude needed a goal to notch up 300 la liga goals and dude had the opportunity to do just that but dude decided to pass it up so that Suarez could score a hat trick and boost his pichichi chances. Who does that?

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