Words, seny and superstars

Seny, the Catalan word for a certain grounded quality, is difficult to translate into English. It’s more than common sense, deeper than logic. In one sense of the word, the giant heads on Easter Island would have seny, rooted into the ground, with all the time in the world to make everything make sense, with calmness and great deliberation.

That word came to mind a lot in the wake of a couple of recent firestorms on almost consecutive days, both at the hands of FC Barcelona board members, both regarding the ongoing contract renewal efforts of Messi.

As well you all can imagine, Barça Twitter is in quite the tizzy, as some people are like guard dogs, constantly alert to the possibility of anyone saying anything at all untoward about Messi.

First, Grau:

“Barcelona has to analyse this situation with a cold head and common sense. Barca can’t exceed 70 per cent of its budget on wages, and therefore, we have to make the numbers add up. The club wants the best player in the world to stay at Barca. I would like to ease the concerns of club members and supporters but we have to use common sense.”

That quote pulsates with the notion of seny. What people are reacting to, of course, is its clunky wording, which makes it sound like the club would like to renew Messi, but has to use common sense. The sentinels went crazy, and people reacted to the sound bite without understanding what it meant, which is this:

“Duh, we freakin’ want to renew Messi. We just have to figure out the numbers, because dude is expensive. But no way it doesn’t get done, so calm down.”

But the words everyone focused on were “common sense,” used by Grau in the seny context, but misconstrued by too many as being used in the way a parent justifies not buying a child an expensive bicycle. “We’d love to buy you that, but you have to understand … ”

Pacing and punctuation are also important. Think about how differently the reaction would have been if the key sentence read like this: “I would like to ease the concerns of club members and supporters. But we have to have common sense.”

Then it comes off as most likely intended, which is as stated above. “Be calm, it will get done. We just have to figure it out.”

Then came comments today, from Pere Gratacos, who said:

“Leo is one of the most important people in the team, but it’s not just about him. He would not be as good without Iniesta, Neymar and company, but Messi is the best.”

What the Sentinels heard was, “Barça board member says Messi isn’t good.” And they created a campaign tasked with driving Messi out of Barcelona. But here’s the thing: Grau was right, and so was Gratacos. The latter wasn’t questioning Messi’s greatness. Note the words, “Messi is the best.” You have to ignore those to create something dramatic. Luis Enrique, at his presser, said as much with his words that he wasn’t interested in that nonsense. Gratacos said Messi was the best, and that’s that.

The point Gratacos was hamhandedly trying to make was that Messi needs his teammates to excel, rather than questioning the Argentine’s quality. And people know this. But because of the craziness that is this team’s fanbase right now, nothing makes sense. You don’t think that Gratacos is right? Here’s the roster for the Chicago Bulls, the year before they made the draft picks that began to build a championship team:

Brad Sellers, Granville Waiters, Dave Corzine, Mike Brown, Charles Oakley, Earl Cureton, Elston Turner, Pete Myers, Darren Daye, Michael Jordan, Gene Banks, Steve Colter, John Paxson, Doug Collins (head coach).

Granville Waiters. Are you kidding me? Starting center was Dave Corzine, who had what we used to call the “sheet of paper” vertical, where when he jumped while standing on a piece of paper, just just had time to yank the sheet away. Brad Sellers? Sheeeeit! The Bulls finished the season two games under .500 and were swatted from the playoffs in the first round by the Boston Celtics. Was Michael Jordan an astounding player? Yep. But, and this is the NBA, where the presence of a single player is much more outsized compared to the eleven men on a football side. The very next season, the Bulls got Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen, and the Bulls made the conference finals. A great player gets quality playmates.

Roll Messi out with the Barça B roster, and what do you think will happen? Same thing that happened with Michael Jordan, lining up with Dave Corzine, Charles Oakley, Brad Sellers and Pete Myers. Everybody ignores the other players to focus on the only one who can kill them. What’s more, is that Messi knows that Gratacos is right. It’s the reason he was so happy to have Suarez and Neymar on the team, the reason he was so happy to play with folks such as Xavi, Iniesta, Henry and David Villa. Messi understands the value of teammates, of being a complete player who makes everyone around him better. But first you have to have someone who can be made better.

So back off, and calm down.

Both sets of comments were hamhanded. Grau could have just as easily said, “Renewing Messi is our job one, and it will get done. Be calm.” Granatos could have said, “Messi is our jewel, and we are lucky to have him. He and his teammates make our team great, which we love.”

But they said what they said, and Bartomeu probably said to them, “Jackass. You know what you meant, but look at what is happening now.”

Words matter. Messi isn’t going anywhere. He loves Barça, has said more than once that he wants nothing more than to stay at the club. The club president as well as Messi’s father have said that the renewal will get done. This doesn’t even take into account the realities of FFP and fiscal constraints. A Messi transfer would be at LEAST 400m in total. Figure on 200+ in fee, not to mention an annual salary that would probably approach 30m per season. Yes, there are teams with the financial might to do that. Precisely two: PSG and Manchester City. No, not Manchester United. Not with the salaries of Rooney and Pogba on the books, not to mention Martial and Lingard is due to make real money now that he is the real thing. So. Two clubs. Does anyone honestly think that if Messi isn’t happy at Barça with the roster that club has, he would be happy at City or PSG? You think Messi wants to live in Manchester?

Words are words, and are subject to misinterpretation. But seny is necessary here. Look at what was said, but understand its meaning. Then everything is perfectly clear.

UPDATE: Gratacos has been sacked from his board role, for “having publicly expressed a personal opinion that does not coincide with that of the club.” People will cheer this move, but it’s stupid and heavy handed. Just pull him aside and say, “Hey jackass, watch your tone with Messi. Think before you speak.”

Oh, NO! Not the Anoeta!

Barça drew La Real is the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, as everyone knew that they would. And the first leg is at Anoeta, just like everyone knew it would be. Calculate the tie that would bring maximum drama to the situation, and that will always be the draw that Barça gets. But don’t worry. This time they will break the Anoeta curse, and advance. You read it here first.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. The first comment, though off colour, is excusable. The second comment is one would in a Goal comment board. Idiotic and a sure fireway to cause controversy. One had think the person making those sentiments in such a manner is a Madridsta.

  2. Seems like Enrique is rotating heavily today (at least I hope it’s not due to injuries). No Pique (not even on bench), no Neymar, no Sergi Roberto, no Iniesta. I hope Gomes and Rafinha especially will bring their best game today!

  3. I think it’s not only the Las Palmas players wondering what the hell just happened. Did I just see my team, which has been in an off form the last two months, leave its three best non-Messi players out of the starting squad – and then go on to absolutely demolish a good La Liga side (they drew against RM)? With players like Vidal, Turan or Rafinha, who weren’t even allowed much time on the pitch this season so far? This was a great game.

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