Sevilla 1, Barça 2, aka “Underdogs got it done”

What a crazy match.

It could have ended 4-0, 0-4 or any permutation in between. Both teams got excellent chances (even though Barça had many more), both team scuffed excellent chances. There were errors, great plays, moments of stupidity and a pair of coaches, trying to extract the maximum from their charges.

But ultimately it came down to something of a reverse of the Manchester City match. Sevilla played Barça off the pitch in the first half, just as Barça did to City, before nicking a goal against the run of play. Then, just as City did, Barça made some adjustments, came out in the second half, had a stormer and a flawed team won.

What changed? It’s here that the City analogies end because rather than Sevilla screwing up, Lionel Messi decided to get more involved. A decisive moment in the second half was when Sergi Roberto was double-teaming a Sevilla attacker on the flank of the Barça with … Messi. At that point it was game on.

Coming into this match, almost everyone except a few fools picked Barça to lose. Sevilla was home and playing great, Barça was on the road, and not. Its key players were having form difficulties, and the structural problems attendant to a system that wants to get the ball to its best players quickly means that when it comes time to control the match, to stroke it around the midfield, Barça is, of late, deficient in that quality.

Sevilla took full advantage of that. Barça could barely complete a pass in that first half as the Sevilla players ran rampant, pressing, attacking, running and flinging themselves in a pell-mell assault on the Barça goal. They got one goal and should have had another as they were every bit the team that people expected to see, and it was brilliant to watch.

Their first goal came from an exquisite pass from a rejuvenated Samir Nasri, that found Sergi Roberto on an island, uncertain what to do. He made the wrong decision, and the player’s run terminated in a lovely finish. Hearts were in mouths as precisely what many had predicted was coming to pass. Neymar was a mess, making bad passes, having bad control and just awful. Suarez missed a couple of glorious chances but was otherwise invisible. Messi was … somewhere on the pitch.

This meant that Sevilla was functionally playing with a three-man advantage in attack. The only one of the front three tracking back, albeit half-assedly, was Neymar. Barça was a team that could do absolutely nothing right, and Sevilla had them on the ropes.

Football talks of goals being against the run of play, but it would be easier to show a video of Barça’s equalizer, a sudden, violent display of players suddenly deciding to do the right thing. Suarez Minor, Neymar and Messi combined for a counterattacking goal of the highest beauty, one that not only equalized the score but got Sevilla thinking, just as City’s late first-half goal did Barça.

The end of the first half couldn’t have come soon enough for culers, even as neutrals, entralled by the proceedings, wanted to see more football. Barça was in many ways like a boxing champion saved by the bell. And if you don’t knock out the champ …

What happened in the second half was a transformation. As with City, Sevilla came out expecting the same team that they left, but things had changed. Messi was ready to play, Neymar could control passes and make runs and Luis Suarez was pressing. Suarez Minor was suddenly the Mininiesta he has so often been billed as. Spaces closed in the midfield as tactical adjustments were made, and that which could have been found on a milk carton was now in vibrant life as Barça stroked the ball around while Sevilla chased it.

Every now and again their pressure would work the ball loose, but as has been previously noted in this space, Barça has to be playing off the front foot for its system to work. Did Busquets have this wonderful, sudden form transformation, or was his more forward position on the pitch allowing him to take the ball already facing the defense, rather than receiving it with his back turned, with a pair of pressing players waiting for him?

Suarez Minor shuttled between spaces with the ball, creating lanes and openings as Barça pressed into the Sevilla end. The defensive benefit was that with more time to assess the Sevilla attacks, which were coming from their end of the pitch instead of just past midfield, danger was more easily managed, and it was a different match as Barça was decisively on top.

Even as it’s easy to credit coaching adjustments, it isn’t that simple. It never is. You can tell someone what to do, but they have to do it. The bad stuff isn’t all one person’s fault just as the good stuff isn’t all to one person’s credit. Do Barça have issues that need to be sorted out tactically? Absolutely. It’s why the team doesn’t play as it did in the first half against City and the second half against Sevilla, all the time. There are spacing and positional dilemmas to be sorted, but not in the way that people rooted in a glorious past think. Barça will need to learn to be that effective playing the way this team needs to play to be most effective.

That is a huge challenge in a season that has been, so far, beset by injuries and coming up on the second international break. Only a fool would say that Barça is playing great, but on the other side of the coin, this team isn’t a disaster, mostly because a big part of the system is getting the ball to its best players quickly, and in space. A pressing opponent leaves that space, which presents the double-edged danger of the best way to beat Barça also presenting the greatest danger for an opponent. The risk/reward factor has never, ever been more acute than it was for Sevilla’s excellent Jorge Sampaoli, who unleashed his charges today, stoked with the fire of the sun.

A writer for Goal, Ben Hayward, said simply enough, that Sevilla wasn’t going to be able to keep that up for 90 minutes. And they couldn’t. But just as crucial was Barça making the necessary adjustments to take the match back. Not only did spaces close up but players started moving, not stranding their teammates with a ball and nothing to do with it except give it back to Sevilla. One-touch football returned to create chance after chance. When a dazzling Messi run provided the setup for Luis Suarez to score the match winner, the floodgates opened and Sevilla was even more at sea than Barça was in the first half. Messi missed a couple, Neymar fluffed a couple, Suarez as well. Sevilla had their chances, but not as many and not as dangerous, except for when Ter Stegen tried to shorten all of our lives by coming out to get a corner and flapping at it like a giant sea bird dive bombing a shadow. Thanks to something or other, the open net was spurned by Sevilla and Barça resumed its task of playing like the team that many expected.

This was a great match of football, but it was also a wild, disjoined quality to it that was almost Prem like as the teams rushed from end to end, making and missing chances. It’s easy enough to ascribe the Barça win to things such as the hearts of champions, blablabla.

Yes, such things were on display. Mascherano was spectacular in the second half, as if imbued with the ghost of Carles Puyol. Umtiti spent the whole match being exceptional, except for an ill-fated run that left him with egg on his face. Players who seemed down and out were suddenly on, as if they could indeed just flip a switch.

But it’s never that simple, even as it is.

Barça has better players than Sevilla. It’s as simple as that. And if you give great players a chance to kill you, they will. Had Sevilla gotten a second goal, it would have been a different match, a different halftime, a different mood, again just as against City. But they didn’t, and the greatest player in the game decided that it was time to be decisive. That player was buttressed by teammates who seemed to be lifted by his example. Barça’s lineup is festooned with players who start for the national teams, who have won awards, trophies and individual accolades. Those players made the difference.

In the first half, great players were smacked around by a team. In the second, those great players worked as a team in a system that suited their skill sets and allowed them to be on the front foot. Seems simple. But instead of one thing, it was one of a hundred things. It’s easy to say that Barça did what it was supposed to do. But for too much of this match, the team played as though it had no idea WHAT it was supposed to do.

Because Messi, is what many will say. But that’s as facile as laying all of credit on Luis Enrique. It’s safe to say that folks got yelled at during the halftime break, even as we have no idea who was doing the yelling. But in the tunnel just before the second half, the Sevilla players were chatting, shouting among themselves and getting psyched up. The Barça players just stood there, waiting to go on, waiting to go to work.

Was that the difference?

Barça knew what it had. It just had to access it. Sevilla had to make itself believe that what it had was greater than what Barça had. Did that equalizer instill a kernel of doubt? Maybe. What is certain is the final score, that this was an amazing match of football that the best player in the game had a decisive hand in, scoring one and assisting the winner.

Football is human. We like to think it’s played by robots, that the players know what to do and why in the hell won’t they just do it? But it’s never as simple as all that, because humans have frailties, make mistakes, have moments of greatness. Of the fabric woven to create a match, something created by humans, all that we can do with their efforts is wrap ourselves in joy or sadness. This is just as true even as after the titanic battle in Sevilla, all that we are really left to say is, “What a match that was!”

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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.

31 Comments

  1. luisthebeast
    November 6, 2016

    First of all there were some rumours that Barca want NZonzie for Busi back up.I am sorry but after this game many people understand who would be a back up if both were at Barca.The game was fantastic and the result great.Leo was magic.We have a great squad but injuries and the slow adaptation of transfers because they didnt made preseason with the team costed us some points.But the team responded nice to problems.

    • Davour
      November 7, 2016

      I know you have lost faith in Busi (his second half was, however, pretty good), but remember that N’Zonzie flourishes in the Sevilla system (as did Rakitic) – it is different to dominate the possession game. He looks a very good player, but is he good enough at the ball to be the tick-tocking DM for Barca? Don’t know.

      On the game: so, Barca have now played one full, fantastic game, and one full stinker – spread out over two games. Similarity? Messi was full on (enabled by the team, or enabling the team or both). If this trend continues, it seems Leo will have the energy for one half of great football, and the team must make the most of it, and endure the other half without too much damage. OR the rest of the team will step up and be less (over) dependent on Leo’s contributions. Good to see Denis stepping up, playing like someone with a point to prove (though defensively not great, so far) and self-confidence. It is a tough race to be first back-up to Ini. Rakitic didn’t do himself any favours, but his skill set is still different. He should certainly not be untouchable, however.

      A bit worrying to see SR being under-performing for two games. Perhaps he is not yet at the top level as RB, which is understandable considering his lack of experience there (still think he can become a very good RB). A second RB seems necessary, wither way, in Jan. Also, Digne’s honey moon has passed; to me, he struggled at this level.

      But let’s hope we can build on this half – and that Suarez’ and Ney find their old feet (and solve whatever falling out that Graham Hunter speculated on?)

  2. georgjorge
    November 7, 2016

    What a great article for a great match.

    The boxing analogy is very apt here. Sevilla really had Barca hanging in the ropes in the first half, but weren’t able to finish them off…and suffered for it in the second half.

    I was really glad for Suarez to finally break his scoring drought, and with the decisive goal as well. As for Messi, the one thing that would have been the icing on the cake would have been a goal for him after the referee enraged him with the most absurd yellow card I’ve seen in some time.

    N’Zonzi and Busquets? N’Zonzi was incredibly good yesterday. But so is Busquets. I hope that Enrique can implement a system which allows the team to benefit from the incredible skill of Busquets while minimizing his weaknesses (as those weaknesses are currently exploited again and again).

  3. MSN
    November 7, 2016

    It was a great game, but Barca was very lucky not to concede a 2nd in the 1st half. Then, like the city match could had been if Barca scored the 2nd, game over. I hope the trend from last season isn’t back. The one where Barca only play well one half, usually the 2nd.

  4. luisthebeast
    November 7, 2016

    i read a stat that this is first season after 2003-04 that we won away at Bilbao Valencia and Sevilla.And the first thing that came to my mind is the player that change our season back then.Edgar Davids.What a player.What a DM.I wonder what if we could find a player like him in winter.He would fit perfect in this Barca,a team that have many similarities with the Barca of 2003-06.Well the second is that i remembered also 2007 and the fantastic four.Do u remember?Henry-Eto-Leo-Roni.Now people say that we have MSN and thats why we are good.If football was that simple.The third is that we had a very difficult schedule and except Alaves shock and Atletiko weird game we are more than ok.What amazes me about this team is that despite our problems we score in every game and we create clear chances home or away either play bad or good teams.

  5. luisthebeast
    November 7, 2016

    Btw in January of 2004 the team was in 12th place.In second round we made a 14-3-2 collecting 45 points.Imagine that Valencia won liga with 77.Well i always feel that we deserved that liga like also 2007 and 2014.We could have won 11 from last 13.

  6. Jim
    November 8, 2016

    First, Davour. What falling out are you referring to ? Must have missed that but it’s curious. I’ve been thinking to myself the last few games that the threesome aren’t seen as much together walking out or warming up. Could be coincidence but I’ve definitely had the impression that Messi and Suarez Were close as usual and Neymar a step behind always. Hope there’s nothing to it.

    As far as the game is concerned it certainly grabbed my attention ! Poor first half ( again) and could have lost three or four but to be fair they came at us with a vengeance.b still not sure why we weren’t doing the same. After just five minutes Suarez runs to close someone down just inside their half then throws his arms in the air as nobody else has bothered. Strange.

    Much better second half. But I’m still not sure why. It looked to me like we raised our game, in particular the ball , and player, movement but they sat back unlike e first half. Whereas they started with seven men up pressing they started the second with seven back behind the ball and giving us the space to play out. Tired ? That early in the second ? Don’t think so. I read somewhere that LE said he had moved SR into midfield to help so I’ve just sat and watched the second half again and I’m not seeing it. Maybe once. He was certainly a little more central in defence when they had the ball which maybe allowed Masche to attack the ball a little more but it didn’t seem to me to be any reason for the difference.b

    What we did have was Messi and Suarez on fire for whatever reason. Suarez started the second half amazingly and Messi just switched on the afterburners and away we went. After that the space was just there . . .

    Thought Umtiti was good first half when things were shaky, Busi for me had a good game throughout and, no I wouldn’t swap him at all for N’zonzi who finished the game looking like he had. Run a marathon and yet we ran through his position at will. I’m gonna say he should have had more help from his midfield but hey that’s what I’ve been saying about Busi so no sympathy. Good second halves from Masche and Denis who showed exactly what I’ve been asking for in carrying the ball past the midfield lines . He’s pretty slow but tricky enough and well done to him . First time I’ve seen him pull his weight, even if only for a half. More of that please.

    I think they’ll feel they should have got more out of it but no cigar. We need to even out our performances. We could , as someone has saiid, have been out of it first half and even right at the death it wasn’t the greatest idea for Umtiti to grab and hold the guy’s arm in injury time , especially as he’d got wrong side .

    However, Ini is back running and Pique is back training, although I’d be amazed if he were close to coming back . The video I saw he was certainly not putting much weight on the ankle and there was a grimace too often for my liking which didn’t look like just hard work. Still, international break so hopefully he’ll be back after it. Sorely missed. Loved the fact that Ini texted Denis to congratulate him on a good display and that Xavi has been taking an interest in his progress. All good signs the club ethos is intact. There has been more than one occasion over the last few matches where I reckon we’d have paid Xavi’s fare to come back and do a half hour stint for us ! I was also struck, however, by the comment I read somewhere that Messi had now taken on Xavi’s role as well as his own and that it was too much. Kinda agree.

    Anyway, on to what would normally be a boring week but with our American cousins making a kinda important decision today ( I may even stay up until I decide Armageddon is avoided now I’m retired ) and Scotland playing England on Friday it could be thrills all the way.

    • Davour
      November 8, 2016

      Don’t really know anything further about “the fallout” – only stumbled upon a comment by Hunter, and some people pointing to the clip where Suarez kick the ball away from under Neymar’s foot, as he is tying his shoe. Ney and Messi shared a plane to SA, though, so if there is something, he is surely not involved. Let’s hope they kiss and make up!

      For now, yes, we are dependent upon Messi to find his zen. At times, when thing are not clicking overall, it feels he is not only doing his own and Xavi’s work, but also Iniesta’s (destabilising the defence); though when the team is functioning, Ney does that, and Suarez does take on the attacking duties. Then there is space and he (Leo) can do real damage. Still waiting for more consistency from the other two, though, to balance the half of brilliance that Messi has the stamina to offer.

  7. November 8, 2016

    A comment above that Barça was lucky not to concede a second. Sevilla was also lucky not to concede a first, after Suarez shat the bed. Luck is generally perceived one way, but it usually goes both ways. It’s like the view that Sevilla could have scored four or five, but that presumes a 100 percent chance conversion rate. By that metric, Messi would have had a hat trick, Suarez and Neymar and brace.

    Calm.

    Sevilla sat back for the same reason they would have had Barça played the same way in the first half — they didn’t have the ball and couldn’t get it. It was two different Barça teams from half to half. What that means will depend, as usual, on your view. If you think Barça is doomed and waiting to topple, it will be bad. If you think otherwise, it will be good. And all points in between.

    The team pulled out a crazy hard game, coming back from hanging. All I can do is celebrate the hell out of that. In Tokyo, my wife and I got lost and found this amazing owl cafe. Did we stand around and bitch about getting lost, or celebrate our good fortune to have found such a cool place? The latter, because life’s too short for anything else.

    We want success, but in the right ways, otherwise it’s a cause for worry, or is somehow tainted. That match was the heart of a champion. So many are saying that Messi was the cause. Messi scored the goals. He didn’t stop them from being scored. It was a team win. Messi shone, but everybody contributed. Celebrate.

  8. TITO
    November 10, 2016

    In another good news, Umtiti is out for 3 weeks.

    • georgjorge
      November 10, 2016

      For real? That’s bad!

      But with 3 out of 4 starters in defense out injured, it really goes to show the importance of a deep squad, which we have for the first time in a few years. Roberto – Mascherano – Mathieu – Digne is not the best defense we have but it’s still a lot better than having to throw two B-team players in there.

  9. luisthebeast
    November 10, 2016

    Uruguay is amazing.What a football NT story.7 years without a defeat at home.Such a small country with so big soul.It s a shame that they dont have the financial power to host a WC.I am sure they would won it.I watch a lot of their games,they have so passion,the fighting spirit,the mentality.Well the other NT are lucky that this country is small.

  10. luisthebeast
    November 10, 2016

    Also how different is Suarez in their system.So better.I always thought that the 4-3-3 dont suit to him.If we played a 4-4-2 he would be so better.Suarez sacrifices a lot to play in our system.In LFC he was the star,more free role,more shoot outside the box,here he came in a different world.But still the best by far number 9

  11. raj
    November 11, 2016

    Now we know why Messi had to take back his retirement. If there was a time Argentina NT needed a hero, it is now.

    To not participate in the NT was one thing, but it hurts to watch the team you played for fail so utterly, even when they don’t deserve you. People think Messi was wrong to un-retire because of these failures. But he had to come back to specifically stop the embarrassment of a generation.

    With Messi on it, it is a matter on time before Argentina get to some into form and survive this scare. Or so you hope.

    • November 11, 2016

      Remarkably, folks in the world of social media are still trying to blame Tata Martino.

  12. Femflexi
    November 12, 2016

    been a regular on this blog for a long time now but not commenting I just love the play of words by kxevin u are blessing , looking forward to our next write-up

    • November 13, 2016

      Thank you for the kind words, and welcome to the speaking part of the family.

  13. Messiah10
    November 12, 2016

    Argentina’s left and right backs have been a issue for a long time. They need Masch in DM position so he can’t help out at CB either. However, to me, the biggest disappointment is Higuin. I think the pressure of wearing the Albacelste is to much for him. Each final he’s played in that Messi has single handedly taken them to he has found a way to fluff magnificent chances to get the go ahead goal. He had a chance to continue his run in the first half and a beautiful ball was whipped in from the left and he had held up his run. I was disappointed there was no back post run on that either, but where is the strikers instinct and passion to play for your country? The current state of Argentinian football sums up the NT problems in a nut shell

  14. Jim
    November 12, 2016

    Just watched the Spain game. Not a classic and only Macedonia although easy enough. However, I couldn’t take my eyes off Thiago every time he was on the ball. He has matured big time. Same effortless style when taking in the ball and passing, loses it less, keeps it simpler, shows all the time for the ball and way improved in defensive qualities. He is also amazingly mobile, carrying it effortlessly past their midfield lines. Definitely contributed to Busi having a much better game. Does anyone know how he’s getting on at Bayern since Pep left ?

    He’d be my choice for our midfield by a mile if he wanted to come back.

    • ciaran
      November 13, 2016

      Rakitic was a solution to a problem and did incredibly well in solving it. That problem was providing balance to Dani Alves on the right side of the pitch. Now what we need most in midfield is someone to control the game like Xavi did. Someone who will make 80+ passes a match like Xavi did and someone who can move our entire team 10 yards further up the pitch.
      Our possession statistics are false at present. We are dominating possession without dominating matches because we have 60-70% possession but the players with the most passes are most often Umtiti or Mascherano not our midfielders.
      Thiago would give us tremendous balance between attack and defense, predictable passing and the ability to beat a player.

      A midfield trio of Thiago, Busquets and Gomes would be incredible, with Denis, Samper, Alena and maybe Rafinha if he isn’t playing further forward.
      Would I sacrifice Rakitic’s workrate for that? Probably.

      • Jim
        November 13, 2016

        Absolutely, Ciaran.

  15. Jim
    November 13, 2016

    Hmmm, slow day for football. Might be reduced to watching the Brazilian GP.

    Hey, lots of love for Pique, though, from the football writers on Sunday Supplement today.! “One of the best players of his generation ” “very unusual for a CB to be so good from a very early age” etc etc. How they’ve changed their tune. I remember them before an early CL tie against English opposition certain that his lack of pace would be badly exposed.

    A far cry from the days of the fairness committee I was forced to start. Just hope Umtiti learns from him as well as he did from Puyol. Come to think of it, maybe it’s time we brought Puyol back in to have a look at the defence ! Contrary to the belief of some, Puyol was the master of positioning and staying on his feet unless necessary. He used to scream at the young Pique to move up. I also remember a Clasico when he chased CR7 to a corner flag and kept pretending he was going to crunch him while he had his back to him. cR7 was so spooked he poked the ball out of play !

    On another related CB note anyone still think Stones is up to it after watching his display against Scotland ? He needs to learn quickly under Pep before potential becomes can’t hack it. England were lucky that the vagaries of fate have left Scotland with at least three of the worst four CBs in international football. Come to think of it, is football in general suffering from a real dearth of top quality CBs ?

    • Jim
      November 13, 2016

      Well, just my luck. Decided to watch the GP and now it’s red flagged. Btw, these drivers are superhuman. How they can avoid crashes they can’t even see ahead of them is beyond me. If you’re near a TV have a look at it . . .

  16. luisthebeast
    November 13, 2016

    Thiago is great and amazing and all that.But i must say that in big games..well i was dissapointed by him.I mean CL SF.Btw how can people say that Andres Gomes is not good for Barca?He is starter and one of the best players of best europe NT.He only needs time and a specific role.He is world class MF.

  17. luisthebeast
    November 13, 2016

    Jim i watched Brazil GP and Max was like Messi,dribbling cars in the rain.It was amazing a 18y boy to dance like that the same time the olders couldnt stay in the race.

  18. November 13, 2016

    A number of things:

    — Argentina has good players, but aren’t a good team. That Neymar goal just before halftime was a great example. It’s like there is no real coherence. Seemed like they shut down, waiting for the whistle. Brazil wasn’t interested in doing that.

    Argentina has its next four matches against teams in the top half of the table. There is the very real possibility that they might miss out on the World Cup, which would be absurd to contemplate. But they looked quite good against Brazil until that second goal, which seemed to suck the life from them.

    Maybe the problem wasn’t Tata Martino after all?

    — There wasn’t much in Barça social media about it, but Neymar was fantastic against Argentina. It really is getting to the point where the only way to stop him is to foul him. I do hope that he stays at Barça to reach his full potential, but doubt that such a thing will happen.

    — I can’t muster up the same “Thiago as savior” love as others. He left of his own volition and took advantage of the club in doing so. It will take a while for me to stop being salty about that. He’s happy at Bayern, and I’m fine with him staying there. He has improved as a player, for sure, and by all accounts looked great on the weekend. But it was Macedonia.

    I would also like to see Luis Enrique’s system given a chance to pan out. Between injuries and international breaks, things have been disjointed, to say the least. We’ve seen hints of it in the first half against City, and the second half against Sevilla. I’d like to see more of it.

    Every top team is a mess. Atleti is off to its worst start in years, RM look like a trunk of junk, but they manage to scape out wins via talent. None of the teams are playing as they should because there hasn’t been any time for anything to come together.

    — Luis Enrique will soon have to make a renewal decision. Why anyone would want to stay and continue to have shit thrown at them by the entorno is beyond me. Being Barça coach is savage. It is aging him just like it aged Guardiola. This is his third season, and can’t see him going much beyond that. Then it will be up to the next person, who will have about twelve seconds in the job before he, too, will be deemed inadequate because he isn’t someone else. And the cycle will continue.

    — Max Verstappen was electric at the Brazilian GP. His team asked him if he could get into the points if they put him back on wets, and he said, “Sure.” Then he pitted, and went wild. This was a driver who almost crashed, then made a bad tire choice. He went from mid-pack to podium in about 15 absurd minutes. I haven’t seen the like in a very, very long time.

    • ciaran
      November 14, 2016

      To be fair, it’s nothing to do with Thiago love or seeing him as a saviour. It’s analysing our biggest weakness and seeing a solution to it.
      I didn’t like how he left but to put it in a way that you’ve used before he left to find a better job and it’s really no different from Pique leaving when he was younger or Cesc doing the same. You could say that he had a clearer path to the first team but he still had a prime Iniesta and an integral Xavi ahead of him. Meanwhile he had Pep Guardiola whispering sweet nothings in his ear with more money and an instant place in the first team.
      He had improved as a player, immensely, and a good or even a bad match versus Macedonia had nothing to do with his ability or suitability to our team. He is a genuinely world class midfielder who at present is probably the best controlling midfielder in the world at his position (definitely more penetrative than either Kroos or Veratti).
      If he wasn’t an ex Blaugrana we’d probably be waxing lyrical about his abilities and I see no reason why we shouldn’t pursue him as a key cog in our future midfield.

  19. raj
    November 14, 2016

    “Why anyone would want to stay and continue to have shit thrown at them by the entorno is beyond me.”
    Well, you know, it pays well. Not to mention that coaching Barca is slightly better than coaching Celta in terms of quality.

    From the comments above, bringing back Thiago looks tempting, notwithstanding all the nostalgia. We do need someone to take it over after Ini and I am not sure the current players have the quality.

    Anyways, thanks for the great contributions Kevin.

  20. dl
    November 14, 2016

    The Thiago story has something of the ‘jilted lover’ to it. It is as if a player leaving is taken as a personal insult, but of course sport is among other things very much a business. We love to think of barca as being different, mes que un club and all that, but there is always a constant back and forth with the economics of the game. Players are subject to the same pressures, and I am sure that nobody rises to the top of that profession without being intensely (INTENSELY) competitive. Part of being competitive in that way is you are always looking for a challenge., and in Thiago’s case the next challenge was to be a starting midfielder on a top class team and the path was clearer and shorter at bayern. There were a lot of other advantages, too — guardiola, more money, another country to experience, etc. I can’t begrudge him any of it, and I’d also be happy as a clam if he and the club decided to reunite.

  21. Jim
    November 15, 2016

    WHAT a GOAL Messi has just scored for Argentina from a free kick. I’m sitting here thinking it might be the best I’ve ever seen! Just my luck I’m going out early tomorrow and can’t stay up . . . . 🙁

  22. Dar_vincy
    November 16, 2016

    Really glad the Coutinho story is gaining traction and momentum. Was gutted we ignored him for Gomez. Should serve as the consummate succedaneum for Iniesta. With his performance
    this season, there isn’t a shred of doubt that we would pay more should we decide to make a bid. As it has been said in this space, the team possess quantity in the midfield position with little quality. And his purchase would be a massive addition and upgrade in that department.

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