The Magnificent Eleven, aka “Barça is closer than you realize”

Once upon a time, there was a happy, tranquil village. Silver flowed from the mines and confetti rained from the sky as talented woodland creatures heralded a bounty of pleasure.

Culerville was a wonderful place where year after year, prosperity was the norm.

Then, suddenly, there was a rumble in the land at the power of another regional army — the iron-fisted reign of a white-shirted, jackbooted tyrant, hair gel slicked down as evil settled in for a long winter’s reign.

And there was panic in Culerville as denizens yearned for a return to the tranquil, prosperous days of yore.

“Whither our sprites, whither the magic,” cried the villagers. “Why can’t we be like them, where are our new heroes. Let’s go and recruit some swordsmen, to save us from the evil warlord.”

And thus began the quest for the Magnificent Eleven, two sets of perfect, glorious swordsmen who would hold the assailants from Galactico City at bay and keep Culerville safe. But Culerville already had magnificent swordsmen. So each and every time the villagers would approach a fellow talented at scything down opponents, he would say, “But you use your swordsmen all the time. What is there for me to do for you? You pay me by the kill, but I must get in the fight in order to be paid.”

And the quest continued.

Sam Marsden wrote an excellent piece that lays out the transfer dilemmas that Barça faces. Players such as Kevin Gameiro said, in effect, “What am I going to do at Barça? Watch Messi play?”

The roster of players cited by supporters as people the club can’t attract missees an important point, which is — well — reality. There were clamors for Kroos, but what was he going to do for Barça, when Xavi and Iniesta were still present and Rakitic was more useful in the Luis Enrique tactical context? He could go to Real Madrid and start. Gabriel Jesus was rumored to be in the Barça orbit, but with MSN up front, what was he going to do? Play solitaire like Pedro did as the Trident laid waste?

Ah, but Real Madrid can attract those types of players, that kind of enviable depth that makes Culerville residents quake in fear. But how legitimately deep was that team? Zidane rotated Ronaldo and Benzema, helped by an injury to the latter. Bale being injured was great luck, as it gave Isco the opportunity to show what he could do. Asensio is on the rise as well. Culers said the same things about the Bayern Munich side that Barça dispatched, and the same thing was true, that those teams are a much tighter sine wave of talent than the peaks and valleys present at Barça. The best players at Barça are so good that there aren’t useable subs.

Who can come into the Barça XI and maintain the level set by an incumbent? That short list of players is short-to-nonexistent. So now what? The club buys someone who is willing to come. They play and because they aren’t at the required level set by an icon, they are a wasted transfer, the board is stupid, the coach a dummy, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

The reputation of Ronaldo aside, an argument could be made that Real Madrid are almost as effective when he’s out because of his role on the team, which is to score goals. Remove Messi, Suarez or Neymar from the Barça XI and what happens. The machine is diminished. So supporters want the big three to play all the time, or the coach is an idiot for rotating. But the club also sucks because it can’t attract the kinds of players who can capably sub for the three best attackers in the game, one of them the best player in history.

We can’t have it both ways. If you want Messi to play all the time, if you want Suarez to play all the time, accept that Paco Alcacer, who doesn’t exactly suck, is going to be the apogee of your transfer quality reach. Not Suarez, but not terrible, either. Neymar? What left winger in world football can do what he does in attack, possession and defense? We snarl about the chances that Suarez misses, but he’s still the best 9 in the game. Who replaces him?

Real Madrid got lucky with injuries this season, as key players such as Modric remained mostly intact. The years that Modric had injury troubles RM struggled because they, too, have some irreplaceable players. Modric is one. Ramos is another.

When they wrecked Juventus in the Champions League final, there were screams about how easy it looked, about why couldn’t Barça be like that against Juventus, cries coming from many of the same people who also resist the adaptations that give Barça multiple ways of attacking. You want a deliberate style based in midfield control? Okay. So does Juventus, as it makes it so easy to defend. “Let them pass it around, deal with it when they get too close for comfort.” It’s illogical to admire the way that Real Madrid played against Juventus, wonder why your team can’t do that then complain when a coach tries to get it to do that.

Real Madrid is rolling in Champions League clover, and people are freaking out. But the difference is a few goals here or there, in Champions League and Liga. A quality Twitter account, Church of Soccer, sent an interesting stat my way. In the last four years, Barça and RM both have 362 total points. A win becoming a loss would have changed the final result in all four seasons. In Champions League, RM drew Atleti, Barça drew Juventus, the one team in the draw perfectly set up to defend what Barça does. If Barça draws a different opponent, they almost certainly advance. Or if Barça plays to form. An advocacy of transfer calm isn’t out of line because overreaction to the Barça dominance is what Real Madrid did, and it left them flailing. “Buy him! No! Him! Him, too!”

The biggest transfer Barça can pull off is a coach willing to tell the big three, “We need you for the key times. We shouldn’t need you for the minnows. Rest and get strong for when we do need you.” That same coach will commit to rotation, to give those players the time that builds confidence that makes them useful. And the knife-sharpening entorno has to be able let that happen without Twitter rants, or rumors of fallings out between that coach and key players, or panics when rotation comes — basically, everything that accompanied any changes this season past. Barça is a lot closer to being right back in the driver’s seat than its supporter base is to accepting that reality.

The second biggest transfer Barça can pull off is an entorno that understands the notion of history. Guardiola unleashed a Barça that was right coach, right players, right time. You can’t go back to that. Not now, not ever. It isn’t as simple as buying a Xavi replacement, an Iniesta type, stroking the ball around midfield and watching trophies come again. The game adapted, the game moved on. Guardiola did the lovely triangles to massive success. His next innovation was Messi as a devastating false 9. The game adapted again, because other teams and coaches don’t exactly suck. Football is always a moving target. Adapt or get left behind. We have to accept that it isn’t 2009. We don’t have prime Xaviniesta, or Abidal, or Puyol or Alves. We don’t have a game stunned by what Barça unleashed. How can we look forward when we’re so busy looking back?

Those times were glamorous, and wonderful. Barça football was celebrated, American newsmagazines were doing shows on La Masia and everything was right in the world. Nostalgia is history, bathed in a rose-colored glow. It leads to band reunions, unfortunate dalliances with past mates and perpetual football supporter disillusionment. It also leads to panic, and the idea that a return to the past will bring about the same success as it did in the past. It also leads to an inflation of an opponent’s success, and a misunderstanding of the natural cycles of football.

If Real Madrid was that fantastic, they wouldn’t have drawn and lost against Barça this season. That team rode luck and supreme self confidence to a double as the coach convinced them that they had to worry more about beating everyone else than beating Barça. So they did. Next year? What happens if it’s their turn in the injury barrel, if Modric goes down with knee injuries or Marcelo gets taken out through a horror tackle. What then? What if they underperform at key times, as Barça did this season? Then their fanbase is panicking, and ours is crowing. Margins are that slim.

Real Madrid had a great season. But a great team, with massive depth and ready to become a juggernaut? That’s a difficult thing to swallow primarily because of how close a damaged, inconsistent, often out of form Barça came to them. Yes, Barça has problems to solve. But they’re along the lines of buying a couple of new chairs, rather than a gut rehab.

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. Good article, Kxevin, it puts a better light on the current status of the Barcelona squad; however, I do not agree with it at all.

    Yes, it is true that Barcelona is still a top football club. So things aren’t as catastrophic as many make it seem to be. However, there are some important issues with the squad and the team overall.

    Why do I say this? Because while it’s true that Barcelona was just a few goals (and a little bit of luck) away from winning another trophy, it is also true that Barcelona was also a goal (and some luck) away from getting eliminated earlier on the UCL (we literally needed a miracle to get past PSG) and from getting kicked off at the CDR semifinal. Hell, Atletico had Barca cornered for a while at the return leg.

    Yes, I get that it is illogical and unreasonable to expect the team to always do top performances in every frigging match. Eventual declines in performance and some shitty games are to be expected through the season. That’s completely normal and acceptable, every top team has shock defeats here and there during their season.

    The thing is: Barcelona’s bad performances this season were serious and more frequent. A 4-0 loss to PSG and then a 3-0 to Juve, not to mention the way those games were played (Barça was also lucky to not get more goals against in those two games) is a sign that something needs to be done. The team needs to check what happened in those games… why they performed so poor on those key matches and prevent that from happening again. Of course, easier said than done.

    In a nutshell; Barcelona is still an awesome team, but there are issues that need to be addressed to have a better chance of having a great next season. Not catastrophic, but still important.

  2. @Victor
    I agree. I also think that those issues, if not addressed properly this summer, will lead to a severely weakened Barça (I say “severely because I consider any further weakening of our team severe).

    Bar a brilliant generation from its academy, no club can expect to have two largely mediocre transfer summers and maintain its level, and that is precisely what we’ve had, two mediocre transfer summers. Take into account as well that most transfers three summers ago were for short to medium term (Rakitic will turn 30, Suarez 31, Mathieu 67)

    Back to the last two summers. Out of Arda, Vidal, Digne, D. Suarez, Gomes, Alcacer, Cilessen and Umtiti only the last player is good enough to regularly start for us. Are there reasons that make it difficult to attract better players? Yes, and Kevin does a good job of explaining those in his article.

    But a player like Isco (who was culé!) still chose RM despite the lack of a clear path to the gala 11. Theo Hernandez just chose RM over Barcelona even though Marcelo (just turned 29) is arguably the best left back in the world and one of RM’s most important players.

    Lacking players with top quality or potential, Barça should have chosen to trust the academy and favor a big money transfer either last summer or this one. Those 75M + salaries it spent on a Paco Alcacer and André Gomes who were both terrible for most of the season would have been >75M more that we could spend this season (and we might have even won the league).

    Not having that money now really handicaps us going forward unless we make the difficult but imo necessary opinion to sell various players.

    I’d argue that RM is dangerously close to becoming a juggernaut. Their depth is such that their B team often plays better than their A team. They lucked out against Bayern but won the CL semi finals and final comfortably, against top opposition. Sure, some of their bench players will leave for lack of playing time, but they will be sold for so much money that their depth will easily be replaced.

    I don’t think M*drid needs to worry about injuries next season, as they have already proven this season that they can do without important players such as Bale, Pepe, Carvajal for key stretches of the season. In comparison the only injuries we suffered were of rotation players.

    I agree Barça does not need a gut rehab, but replacing designer furniture with IKEA chairs will not do. Sell some of the IKEA chairs we bought and buy some designer furniture now before even more years of Messi’s prime are wasted.

  3. “The thing is: Barcelona’s bad performances this season were serious and more frequent. A 4-0 loss to PSG and then a 3-0 to Juve, not to mention the way those games were played (Barça was also lucky to not get more goals against in those two games) is a sign that something needs to be done. The team needs to check what happened in those games… why they performed so poor on those key matches and prevent that from happening again. Of course, easier said than done.”

    This is a summary of a part of my greatest problem with barcas exit from CL. This is not the first time barca will be exiting CL. Of all CL exists since starting from peps final season to date, this is the most talked about and the one that angered culers the most why because of VICTOR’S summary above. The manner of barca’s exit rather than the exits itself.

    If there’s one thing I grew to dislike about Luis Enrique, it his inability to learn from mistakes and which is one great trait of Guardiola that I love. Like the coach LE played under at barca (LVG), LE is also a stuborn coach that refuse to learn from mistakes or from past or records. This is same reason he chose to rest Ney, Suarez, Messi in 2015 against a R.Sociedad team that has beaten barca at anoeta since 2008. Even if Barca would be lost to R.S let it be that Barca did everything they could by playing their best players.

    Barca lost by 4 goals to PSG needed miracle to overcome in second leg. The same coach now went to ship 3 avoidable goals to a Juventus team that has only let in 2 goals all games to that level. A team, like KXEVIN said, That was built to stop barca’s system.

    On the issue of barca’s transfer, That a Rakitic was prefered over a Xavi like player is a testament to the fact that the board was in on the change of Barca style from build up play to a more direct Premiership/English style of football that has let them down all these years. It also shows that barca could’ve gone for a Xavi like kind of player if they wanted to but they actually chose to go with a more direct player. This nullifies KXEVIN’s theory that the presence of Xavi and iniesta in the midfield is the reason why we couldn’t get a Xavi replacement.

    This also goes to show that barca board could’ve gotten better players than the likes of Gomes, Paco Alcacer, Lucas digne, Injured and injury prone Vermaleen, a misfit Arda Turan. It all goes to show a board that lacks a real sporting project, focus and direction. The Same reasons players have avoided signing for barca. The Same reason Theo Hernandez gave, the same reason vinicious allegedly gave. It shows that the few ones that fit the system were the lucky picks of the gambles.

  4. I’m not sure why you say the Barca board. I confess I’m not up on the way it works in Spain but over here the coaching staff ( manager ? ) identify the targets and the chairman or his rep see if they can make it happen. As a board you might get upset if your manager wants to spend a fortune on a player but if the manager you trust wants to buy lesser players ( as we did last summer) I’m not sure you’d intervene. As I said before I’m more upset Barto didn’t intervene to stop La Masia’s best prospect being sent off to the salt mines because of the image that projects of the club.

    As far as the article is concerned I’d agree with the point we aren’t far away and that some are making too much of a perceived overall lack of quality but I’m also guessing my priority wouldn’t be Kxevin’s. I agree that we have a big problem persuading any top attackers to come because of the front three. Whether Paco is the best we can manage I’m not sure yet. However, we need to be prepared to pay ( big) for a young midfielder who has the necessary technical skills and can pass the boots off his opponents.

    For me, probably speaking as a mere “villager”, Im not sure it’s completely helpful to continually poke fun at those who said this would happen through word choice and such analogies. It’d be more useful for us to look calmly at what did happen and learn from it. No, we weren’t far away but could easily have been further and if we compare the outcome with the optimism of some at the start of the season about the quality of the new purchases and squad there is an undeniable disconnect. In passing, no I don’t think this RM side is great but they are very effective and we are the only ones capable of stopping them – if we have a great, consistent side.

    For me, the number of times this season Suarez was left isolated in the box because our midfield couldn’t play the ball around at the necessary speed or create anything themselves was depressing and in some ways reminiscent of Guardiola’s last season. How many chances do you remember Rakitic and co creating or even going past someone and opening things up ? Can/ should we even ask Iniesta and Rakitic to cover for the FBs and still regularly break into the box ? We do need to wake up or a reasonable sized problem will become a huge one once Ini goes. No, we can’t get Xavi but I’m not seeing any sign that we are busting a gut trying to get the nearest thing we can find to him. It may be, as Ciaran says, that we need to look seriously at four in the middle. If that frees up Ini from too much defensive work then great as a short term measure. You just can’t play Messi in a three man midfield .

    That’s where I think I diverge most from the viewpoint of this ( and many other) articles. The way we’re talking you’d think Xavi and Iniesta never played a quick through ball. As they faced packed defences and lack of movement up front it just became more difficult to choose the quick option. We had a depressing lack of movement up front and an even more depressing lack of bodies in their box to dislocate the defence ( which is why I wasn’t a great fan of the false 9) . You need to be able to play quickly if appropriate or ping the ball around till the openings happen and they will with our current quality up front.

    Whatever your point of view though, this is building to be an interesting close season. Key points for me which will tell me a lot :

    Does Samper come back ?
    How many go ?
    Who do we spend big on ? Midfield, RB or up front ?
    Does Iniesta renew ?
    What formation do we start the season with ?

    1. The difference in la liga is that the manager is not the Alfa and omega of transfers. That is why I wrote on the manager separately and the board separately. It is a joint thing. There are some players that are basically bought by the board examples are Neymar, Suarez to name a few. Sometimes the board looks for players that meet their long term sporting project and buy and other time, the manager asks for specific players that he feels can improve his team. Basically the board buys are usually the players that form the spine of the clubs long term footballing project while the managers but are usually to apply some tweaks and twist to the squad.

      Zidane recommended Varane for Madrid as part of the boards buy. I don’t think Zidane has specifically requested for any player to be bought since he came on board. He is working on the board project that he helped built when he was the football director.

      The barca board as it is, is not even clear on the kind of project they want to build. Is it to buy and buy or to combine buying with home grown cos at present there is no real homegrown talent coming out and the buys they are making are poor on the average.

      The present barca board is operating like the Madrid of past where home grown talents are shipped out and the buys are either disjointed or are bunch of misfits.

  5. We should just hire one of the scouts from Athletico Madrid and we should be set in the transfer department :D. Torres Aguero Costa Falcao Griezmann De Gea.. their transfers Along with Simeone have really been what allowed them to compete with the big two in La Liga with half of the budget.

    On a side note, all the Enrique hate is getting old now, the improvement from when Tata Martino was our manager was so profound its almost night and day! I remember how bad we used to be against things like corners and other set pieces where giving a corner was as good as giving away a penalty then.. Things like those were clearly fields where the coaches have the most impact whereas things like the goals we conceded to Dybala were more based on the defence not reacting and closing him down in time which I doubt the coach can be blamed for. While I’m not saying LE was faultless I feel we need to cut him some slack just based on the results he got especially when we compare it to the results we had and the aimless way we played under Tata

    “Guardiola unleashed a Barça that was right coach, right players, right time. You can’t go back to that. Not now, not ever.” well Kxevin, looking at the way Valverde is focussing on our midfield with a 3-4-3 reminds me a lot of how Pep did it with a 3-4-3 with busquets slotting into a back 3 of Pique and Puyol when we were developing the ball.. the biggest task for our new coach may well be tactically outplaying teams that like to defend deep and change our mindset when it comes to defending in away games in the CL

    “Real Madrid had a great season. But a great team, with massive depth and ready to become a juggernaut?” Hmm I have the feeling they already are one .. Maybe not as completely dominating as Pep’s Barca but a very strong team nonetheless.. besides its a team that has won 3 CL in the past 4 years which is clearly not just luck. If that doesn’t classify as a juggernaut I’m not sure what does! 🙂

    We do seem to have some serious issues defensively.. MSN has been carrying our team and while they have been shining brightly it may be hiding a few dark spots in other areas which seem to be growing …whether they are systemic or something a few transfers here and there could solve we’ll have to find out.

  6. I have mostly made these points before, but stay with me…

    For me the focus long term has to refocus on the system/our style of play and bringing our own players through. I still believe that is the best approach, I’ll probably always think it is the best approach. The best way to achieve that fluidity and ease of play is to have players totally immersed and educated in a style of play their whole lives.

    I also believe that this allows for better squad depth. People normally just focus on the next superstar/legend players, but you can bring players into your squad as the ‘bit part’ players too. They might not be as talented perhaps as the big money signings you could buy, but they very much could have the right qualities and attributes, having worked their way through the ranks following the same system, and so be a better fit as part of a unit (even if its only in a supporting role).

    The focus is always on Xavi, Iniesta and Messi and that it was a freak occurrence to have them all at once and we cant hope for that to happen again. Ok, that’s probably true in terms of sheer quality, but I look at what we could have had at this point, I see some decent players, and can only see some bad decisions over the last few years:

    Defence – Bartra is a better player than Matthieu or Vermaelen. Different styles, but I don’t even think there is much difference between him and Umtiti (My opinion, I doubt that will be popular though). Montoya wasn’t my favourite player, but he was better than Douglas (LOL) and I don’t rate Vidal over him either. And he’s got to be better cover than having no right back in the squad at all….. Then we have the other flank, Grimaldo bizarrely lost, and a big chunk of money signed on Digne. Again jury is out on what we have got for our money.

    Midfield – Could realistically at this point be something like Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas, Thiago, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha, Sergi Samper. Ok maybe that is being a bit greedy, but you get the picture. Could be different ages and stages – veterans, prime players, youngsters pushing for a chance – and a mix of different qualities.

    Attack – Could still have the heart and effort of Pedro. Lets quickly skip past the two promising youngsters (Munir, Sandro) jettisoned to bring in Paco as back up at a gigantic cost…..

    I will try and wrap this up now, its a long post, but really I don not know what we have been doing as a club. From those I listed above I say you would have a considerably better squad at ease and with qualities to play our brand of football and saved about a trillion pounds in the process. The raw materials to have a decent, deep squad have been there, but tossed aside as we have spent carelessly and ripped up what was successful so the pathway and talent coming through is now drying up. Some major remedial work is needed in the foundations of the club, not just in the transfer market.

    1. You see the problem with LE and our la masia graduates was the issue of system of play. LE pattern of play was a direct approach that aims to get the ball to the attackers as soon as possible and doesn’t involve much build up but our la masia graduates have been taught over the years with a 4-3-3 patient build up play known under Guardiola. I remember around the second or third year of Pep era, it was adopted that all age grade teams in barca should play the same formation and same pattern as what was being played under pep. This was to ensure smooth and seamless integration into the first team when the time comes. So with all academy team players being taught to play the same pattern only to get to the first team and find a different pattern under LE. It is what is making it quite hard for those graduates to break into the first team under LE hence the constant shipping out to loan.

      This is the reason why I always say LE was never a barca style coach. In his first season that we won the treble, barca was still playing the normal patient build up style that we were known for because of the presence of Xavi in the middle except for the counter attacks introduced. In his second and third season that Xavi was no more there, we saw the real LE team.

      Any barca coach that wants to succeed in this barca team should go and study the first seasons of both Enrique an Pep and build his team to mirror those two seasons. That was when they both played a total and balanced football with little or No weaknesses in those teams.

    2. I don’t think that was purely a Guardiola concept, the system has ran through the different age groups for some time since Cruyff. But agree with rest, Lucho wasn’t really interested in control or building a collective. It was all about the front three and games often got a bit chaotic as we rushed to feed them, and lost our positional play. Some of this is his fault, but his superiors are the guardians of the club and how we play and they tolerated it because of results

  7. We are only a few good transfers away from being in a dominant position again but potentially a few bad transfers away from wasting a bucket load of talent.
    The way I see it, in a standard 4-3-3 we have too many serious question marks and they can’t really be answered with the personnel that we have.
    Is Iniesta physically capable of covering defensively in a 3 man midfield?
    Is Messi’s defensive work rate feasible for a wide player in a front 3?
    Is Messi being wasted out wide when he is so good on the ball centrally?
    Are we forcing Neymar further and further away from goal and asking him to dribble too much?
    Is Alba good enough defensively, or Bellerin for that matter at the other side?
    Is Busquets forced to cover too much ground with the other midfielders being dragged around?

    I think that for a 4-3-3 with Messi in the frontline we’d need a really creative midfielder like Thiago who could force Messi further forward as he could bring the ball through the midfield, but he isn’t coming. A 4-3-3 with Messi in midfield would require a right winger with Pedro’s workrate and a defensive midfield partner for Busquets who would have the physicality to get around the pitch like Kante.

    I don’t see it happening.

    If I came in as Barca manager I would simply ask how to get the best out of the two best players on the planet, Messi and Neymar. For Messi, it;s getting him on the ball as much as possible, closer to the opposition goal with players capable of playing AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, thinking as quick as he does. I don’t know how many times this season I’ve noticed Barca players watching as Messi does something with seemingly only Neymar and Iniesta not standing in amazement. For Neymar, it;s getting him the ball without half the opposition team to beat and not asking him to defend as a left back.

    For this, playing Neymar as a striker alongside Suarez with Messi in behind makes the most sense. Defensively, Neymar can drop back centrally to press central defenders/defensively midfielders without having 70-80 metres to get back up the pitch, Suarez can help without being lost and Messi would be in a position to receive the ball centrally like he already does without being stranded.
    Offensively Neymar and Suarez should be on the end of more throughballs from Messi whilst the oppositing defense has more to worry about centrally.

    The issue with the normal 4-3-1-2 formation that this frontline normally heads is width. The single wide player on both sides, the wingbacks, have huge responsibilities in attack. The midfielders in this system, when Milan very succesfully ran it around a decade ago, were very physical, Seedorf and Gattuso either side of Pirlo, as well as Kaka being a very explosive attacking midfielder.

    The reason, in the previous post, that I suggested 3-4-1-2 was that we already have many pieces that would make it very workable. The players who I would question their ability in a back 4, Vidal & Alba would be perfectly at home with the added attacking and reduced defensive responsibilities.
    Umtiti is excellent in 1-on-1 situations and good out wide. Pique may not have the best pace but is very good at reading the game and with a couple of physical defenders next to him would be more free to bring the ball out.
    Busquets would be able to given a smaller area to close down and would have an extra player behind him for when he twists and turns on the ball.

    If we signed 3 or 4 players in this system I think we would be the best squad in the world again. Cost should be manageable and it would fit some of our bench pieces better too as too many our not suitable for the 4-3-3 which we nominally run.

    Assuming we signed Serge Aurier and Davinson Sanchez for the backline and let Mascherano & Mathieu go, we would reduce our age, wages and increase our physicality. Draft in Marlon and Digne to cover then we’d have 6 for 3 positions. Aurier | Pique | Umtiti as starters with Davinson | Marlon | Digne in reserve we would be well covered.
    When the wide midfielder in the midfield pushes forward, the opposite would hold back and the centre backs would shuffle across for cover. If the situation calls for it, both the LCB & LM or RCB & RM could both push forward to overload that side with both Umtiti and Digne, and Aurier and Davinson being good on the ball. It the central defender, Pique, pushes forward into midfield, the LM & RM could hold back to form a back four.
    We would also have a bigger, faster and aerially improved defense.

    In midfield, the two holding players, Busquets/Samper/Roberto/Gomes and Seri/Veratti would have to be very good on the ball, which they all are. They would also have to be tactically intelligent and daring with their passing. It would require them to push their average pass numbers up to make up for 1 less midfielder but it shouldn’t be a problem with the defenders behind and Messi in front of them. One of the two midfielders would be given some license to move ahead of the ball into the box, Gomes, Roberto and Seri would all be very capable, I’d happily sell Rakitic for a top class midfielder who actually likes the ball at his feet like Veratti

    Felipe Anderson would be the final piece for me. A great dribbler, creative and not afraid to take a shot. He is probably the best winger, defensively, in the world and has a great engine on him. He is also more offensive than Alba at the other side which balances out the fact that Neymar is more likely to drift left.
    . ter Stegen
    . Aurier Pique Umtiti
    Anderson Veratti Busquets Alba
    . Messi
    . Suarez Neymar

    . Cillessen
    . Davinson Marlon Digne
    Vidal Gomes Roberto Rafinha
    . Iniesta
    . Paco Munir
    Samper and Alena to get more minutes too.

  8. Ciaran nails it. The team is a few transfers away from one thing or another, which is the crucial point. A few of the right transfers puts it right back on top. A few of the wrong transfers leaves things more of a mess.

    It’s also important to note that if the team underperforms as it did at key moments this season, it doesn’t matter who the transfers are — they aren’t going to work. Luis Enrique and the board have become the bogeymen because people are too often loath to call out a player, unless the player is an unfavored one. Blaming a coach becomes too easy, even a coach who has made many errors and says that the buck stops with him.

    As for anyone who thinks that I constantly poke fun at people, a sentiment expressed by Jim within his comment, I can’t help that, because I can’t help how anyone is going to perceive what is written here. My goal with this piece is my identical goal for any and everything I write here, which is to add some perspective and stimulate thought. People can take that many ways: they can say I’m full of shit and not helping matters by poking fun at people who don’t think as I do as a possible option.

    But anybody who thinks that doesn’t understand anything about me or what I try to do here. Another possible option is the notion that we are ALL “villagers,” we are ALL flailing around trying to figure out how to make a team do the impossible, which is to win all the time.

    I don’t have the answers any more than anyone else does. So all I can do is ask questions and, hopefully, get people thinking. My view is pretty clearly laid out. The view of someone else is different. We can all coexist in this space with our different views, but I am going to write things and use devices as a lever toward making a larger point or giving something to think about. And that isn’t going to change.

    Anybody who is or has been paying attention to my views on things will understand that making fun of anyone at any time is never my intention. It goes against everything that I stand for, everything that I think about when I sit down to write. For anyone who does think that, I can’t help it, or stop them having that notion.

    I understand that people get sick and tired of hearing the same voice all the time. I wish the site was as vibrant and busy with other voices as it used to be. But I am doing all that I can to keep things going. Being attacked used to piss me off. Now I just shrug, because it’s all that I can do.

    When I write, I try to be as clear as I possibly can. Here as well as on social media, people take those words and do with them what they want. Hell, a tweet about the absurd sum that a hypothetical Messi sale would have fetched and a list of then-in-vogue players available on the market used as an example, lives on in Twitter lore as me advocating selling Messi for Jackson Martinez. Anybody that misguided I can’t help. On Twitter, I can block them because I don’t need to interact with anyone who doesn’t understand what is going on, and it isn’t worth my time to try.

    But this is my “home base,” so to speak. Even if people don’t agree with what I write, my intent should be clear: think about the club, the team and its players. I don’t give a shit if anyone at all agrees with me, because that isn’t the point. The point is, simply enough, thought and debate — reasoned debate that becomes increasingly difficult if everything starts out being about me. It’s about the club. Nothing written here is EVER personal. I don’t have time for that kind of shit.

    It seems like every few months, I have to explain what I am trying to do, or battle some sort of accusations of bias, being condescending, etc. Perhaps fewer articles during the summer, as there isn’t a whole lot going on, will diminish the presence-based dislike. Dunno. But anyone who wants to write for the space should speak up. Becasue just like you all are tired of me, I’m getting tired of being the lone wolf and fighting for a space that I think is important to continue.

    The email is You want to write? Let’s see what you have. Submissions, either temporary or permanent as a part of mod team, are more than welcome. But I will tell you right now: it ain’t fun.

  9. I wish I was able to contribute more often because I really enjoy writing articles and interacting with readers in the comment section after posting.

    Kevin has done an amazing thing to keep Barcelona Football Blog going. In my personal experience, writing for BFB is a lot of fun so if any of you want to submit to, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so.

  10. Veratti apprently has met with PSG higher ups and stated that he wants out. Juve are obviously in the running. What about Barca?

  11. I saw the report about Veratti’s request to leave and wanted to come here and show you my naive side!

    Assuming this report and Dembele’s 90m price tag are true, how about if the club decide to have these two players in addition to Semedo?! I believe we can! If we pay 80m for Veratti (I know when it comes to the Italian the more difficult part is not necessarily the money), 90m for Dembele and 50m for Semedo, the total becomes 220m.

    Now if we can get 20-25m from Arda, 15-20 from Rafinha, and 35-40 from Rakitic(I know this will not be easy for different reasons), total will be 70m considering the lower boundary. Let’s forget, if there is any, what we can get from Vermalen, Mathiue, Tello…

    This forces us 150m net to spend. Now considering our squad and assuming all those transfers work well, we don’t need much, if we need at all(I’ll leave the Iniesta issue to tactical adjustments and to the development of Denis and Gomes), change for the next two seasons, probably except the CB position, which can be covered by Yerry Mina if we get lucky. So, can’t we spend 75m/year and have the following squad?!

    This would be my squad:

    GKs: Ter Stegen, Cillessen
    DFs: Pique, Mascherano, Umtiti, Marlon, Alba, Digne, Vidal, Semedo
    MDs: Busquets, Iniesta, Roberto, Denis, Gomes, Samper, Veratti
    FDs: Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Alcacer, Ousmane Dembele

    If Veratti’s deal gets complicated, we can have Seri, De Ligt from Ajax and keep Rakitic.

    1. There is no harm in dreaming 🙂

      I think it is plausible that at this point Veratti might want to leave. He is entering his prime, the trajectory of the PSG project is rather unclear, and as a player he is highly coveted. On the other hand, there is very little possibility that PSG would sell him unless forced into a corner. The player being adamant and another club triggering a release clause (if there’s one at all, I am presuming the price quoted is based on such a clause) would be a such a scenario. I am sceptical that PSG would let it get to that level. It would be my default that they won’t.

      In case a move indeed happens, my gut feeling is that Juve would be the likely destination (Italian players tend to prefer playing for Italian clubs, and Veratti is apparently a Juve fan) . But Juve try to avoid big net spending (their purchase of Higuain was financed by the Pogba sale). Also, word is that Allegri is targeting Di Maria this summer, and they already got N’Zonzi it seems. I don’t know if they want to shell out big money for Veratti, without making a big sale of their own first.

      So, bottom line, if Barca wants to make it happen, the two real challenges are 1) the price, 2) convincing the player to force a move to Barca over other options. Not easy, if not impossible.

    2. I’m becoming more positive about our chance of getting Veratti. Gabrielle Marcotti, who I believe knows his stuffs already said Juve are not interested in investing more than 40-50m in this window, and we are seeing Juve signing and pursuing different kind of players. Besides, GM said Veratti is a kind of person who is thoughtful and speaks his mind, if he has to speak! And @gerardromero said today the Italian club is not interested either, plus @DiMarzio liking the ‘…Veratti to Barca…’ tweets for the second time today. All these little things make me increasingly feeling positive about it.

      For some reason I never heard any rumor which links the Italian with Man City, which I expected. Chelsea seem to sign/prefer Bakayoko from Monaco, and United rumored to readying 100m euro for the Italian. Knowing Veratti has a special place for Iniesta, as long as we are willing to match the bids from one of the PL clubs, I believe we can get him. My biggest fear rather is, PSG might come out forcefully to smear his legacy at the club in one hand, and at the same time offer him magnificent contract extension…

    3. Correctio…
      I meant Juve are not interested in spending more than 40-50m in this window in a player, NOT in the entire transfer window.

    4. Yeah, Juve tend to be very very careful with their money, their focus is on wingers (Douglas Costa, Di Maria), they decided not to drop big bucks on Donarumma, the N’Zonzi rumors etc all make it plausible that they might not splash for Veratti this time around. Having said that, Bepe Marotta is one clever dude, difficult to say what he has up his sleeve. Veratti has been on their wish list for a long time. And they want that UCL trophy. If Veratti is on the market, I can’t believe they won’t make a play for him.

      City already got Bernerdo Silva, and they need players in lots of other positions. Rumor is they are bidding for Sanchez. United on the other hand, would be close to impossible to outbid if they are serious. Then it would boil down to convincing the player.

      But I still doubt PSG will let this happen in the first place. They know their current project is looking damaged, and losing their most high-profile player is going to damage it further. They will play hardball/softball whatever needed.

      I guess lots of sporting directors are on their phones at the moment with Veratti’s agent 😉

  12. Hey, Kxevin is right. Stop insulting one another, this is not the place for that. I’ve always loved this place for it being a center of respectful and educated discussion, not your everyday YouTube posting board. We are all friends here, so stop insulting each other, please. Anyway,

    Verratti wants to leave PSG! Woohoo! PSG is going to want 80 million for him though, that’s the main rumor. I think its time to use that new Rakuten money to invest on him. He’s 25, has amazing vision, can turn anyone with that little center of gravity of his, excellent range of passing as well, someone that likes the ball at his feet. Xavi would approve.

    Bellerin wants to come home. We are apparently going to bid about 40 million euros to start off negotiations. Arsenal will probably want 60 million or something. Arda can sweeten the deal a little bit (good riddance, thank the baby jesus, you guys know how I feel about Turan)

    Ousmane Dembele apparently is target for Valverde. I’ve seen a highlight video of his goals and assists last season and I gotta say, the boy has trickery, pace, and crossing. He could be the sub or starter on the right side of attack, if Messi drops into the midfield or needs rest, I know Messi is younger than Cristiano but we should start considering giving him rest in the less enticing games of the season, but in order to do that, we need a strong bench that can step up when the pressure is on. The Dembele transfer is attractive but he’s going to be extremely expensive, the rumor is that BVB is going to want around 90 million for him. I dont think he’s a priority if Deulofeu can come back for around 12 million.

    Andre Gomes should be given one more season to prove himself. It’s hard coming into Barca and playing. We aren’t Valencia. The pressure is way greater at FC Barcelona. I think the man has skill that he hasn’t able to show due to timidness, lack of confidence, and nerves, and over-thinking, and he’s young. He can still come through for us.

    Visca el Barca

  13. I’m becoming more positive about our chance of getting Veratti. Gabrielle Marcotti, who I believe knows his stuffs already said Juve are not interested in investing more than 40-50m in this window, and we are seeing Juve signing and pursuing different kind of players. Besides, GM said Veratti is a kind of person who is thoughtful and speaks his mind, if he has to speak! And @gerardromero said today the Italian club is not interested either, plus @DiMarzio liking the ‘…Veratti to Barca…’ tweets for the second time today. All these little things make me increasingly feeling positive about it.

    For some reason I never heard any rumor which links the Italian with Man City, which I expected. Chelsea seem to sign/prefer Bakayoko from Monaco, and United rumored to readying 100m euro for the Italian. Knowing Veratti has a special place for Iniesta, as long as we are willing to match the bids from one of the PL clubs, I believe we can get him. My biggest fear rather is, PSG might come out forcefully to smear his legacy at the club in one hand, and at the same time offer him magnificent contract extension…

  14. @ mishti

    “Bepe Marotta is one clever dude”
    He is, but he is also a dude who spent 93M on Gonzalo Higuain.

    I think we could do a lot worse than sign Verratti for 80M, but here are some other things I think:

    1. He’ll cost more than 80M. Pogba was 100M + 25M for his agent and that was with Juventus WILLING to sell him. Verratti is under contract until 2021.

    2. Is Verratti worth 100M-125M? For that money I would still prefer to go with Dembélé + Keita for reasons discussed here

    3. Will PSG sell let him go? Doubtful, to say the least. An article in what I think was L’Equipe was quoted as that Verratti has requested to leave and the same article valued him at 80M. The part no-one cared to translate was that the article ended with that he will most likely stay at PSG even if his heart is not in it. Why? Because PSG do not sell players they want to keep.

    We are talking about a minister in a government of a country that steals passports from immigrant construction workers so that they cannot leave their jobs. My guess is that he will not be overtly sympathetic to the wishes of a 24-year old millionaire who not too long ago signed a contract extension to stay at the club until 2021.

    4. Add to this the fact that PSG and their owners seem to have taken previous attempts to sign Thiago Silva and Marquinhos personally, I would not be surprised if they refuse to sell Verratti to us no matter how much we offer and sell Verratti for less money to another club. I would not be surprised…

    5 Having said all the above, despite this not being how I would spend the transfer budget, I like 100-125M for Verratti a LOT more than 35-50M for a guy like Seri. If money is an issue, I’d be in favor of selling another midfielder who does not come close to possessing the kind of quality Verratti represents to make this happen.

    6. This means that if Verratti and his agents genuinely tell us that they want to force a move to Barça, we should pursue this. Hopefully the fact that Braida discovered means they would respect us (him) enough not to play us.

    At the same time, the club should not pursue it blindly. Throwing all of our eggs in the Verratti basket to come up empty-handed when he is sold to Real M*drid on August 31 would be an unmitigated disaster.

    1. While I can see what points #3 and #4 are all about, this is happening in Europe, not in Africa (am from there) or certain Middle East country. Not easy to do certain things and go away without short and long term consequences. Key is player’s determination to leave.

    2. @Levon

      Ha ha, fair point about Higuain, although he had just smashed a 60 year old Serie A scoring record, and if we are realistic, other strikers with that kind of numbers (35 league goals) would come even more expensive in today’s market. And they also managed to weaken one of their bitter rivals in the process 😉 Be that as it may, what I meant to say about Marotta is that we are unlikely to know whether or not he is actually pursuing Veratti. No one had a clue about the Higuain deal till it actually happened.

      I agree with you in that that I see a a real need for another world class playmaker in our midfield. I am a bit puzzled about the Seri rumors, just don’t see him being that kind of a difference maker. I too think Keita has a high ceiling, but don’t you think he’d take a couple of seasons to pan out at Barca level, if he indeed does so?

      Unfortunately, I also agree that Veratti will be much costlier that 80m, and it is highly unlikely PSG will sell him amicably. I just wish we don’t spend another 50 odd million on some midfielder that will end up leaving us scratching our head at the end of the season. Spend that on getting a quality RW, RB and shoring up our central defence instead.

    3. Also, in case we don’t manage to add a high quality playmaker in our midfield, then I agree with Ciaran that playing in the hole behind two strikers in Ney and Luis is the way to go, either in a 4-3-1-2 or as he suggests, in a 3-4-1-2. In that case wingers and defenders are the key pieces we need to add.

  15. //

    visiting here or barca internet after a loong time, mostly due to the puke worthy events that have transpired and the way the season ended. so now EE is actually good? juve, a team that conceded 2 throughout the WHOLE CL campaign shipped 4 goals in the final? What the double F? anyways..

    that messi performance in the bernabeu. Godamn! how awesome was that. And that celebration! sheeeit! That was Boss AF!

    Now onto silly season agenda…
    First off, i have a few things that i badly want to get off my chest.
    1) Why the hell does barca have the biggest wage bill in the world? and for consecutive years now?
    2) Isn’t barca a club that is special? A club that people WANT to play for? A club that is prudent with it’s expenditure?
    3) all of the above seems to have been thrown out the window. We are another whore club now it seems.
    4) why is it that big (and ex ballon d’or winners mind you) are happy to go to EE and warm the bench but i constantly see this narrative here that why would someone want to come to barca and watch MSN from the bench. well if folks, (even barcelona fans) are happy to go to EE and watch BBC from the bench.
    5) it is obvious. EE seems to have that aura. As THAT special club which is prestigious and what not puke worthy things to play for.
    6) We aren’t.
    7) We shouldn’t even consider paying above 80M for verratti. Even as i type 80M the mind boggles.
    8)when we bought Luis suarez for over 80, I said at that time, that even though i didnt like the transfer, I said That “this guy is going to win us the champions league”
    9) even though he missed a third of the season, how well he started firing on all cylinders? remember those goals against Man city , PSG, Juve and winner against madrid.. he was value for money for THAT season alone. He made goals out of nothing. by himself. not to mention serving bucketloads of goals on a plate for neymar to bang in 40 goals that season.
    10) thats value for money. not verratti for over 80 especially if we do not address our other glaring deficiencies.
    11) Right back is priority. You just lost a legend and possibly the greatest BARCA RB EVER! fill that hole first you knuckleheads (i mean the barca execs)
    12) Of course midfield is of equal priority. BUT WE ARE BARCA FFS! we are a club that specialises in midfielders right? now you want to splash over 100 M on an imported ITALIAN!!?? are u crazy?
    13) he is good. But he is certainly not 100m-must-have-else-we-are-doomed-for-eternity Good!
    14) Aaaah, now i feel better.
    15) buy a quality CB.. i like some names mentioned here before even if i KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THEM.. guys like that ajax defender, guys like this seri dude and lemos and dembele etc etc.
    16) Lets keep calm and visca!
    17) Madrid’s recent conquests and run of luck disgusts me to the core.
    18) what we shouldn’t do is to be knee-jerky and react to this by splashing the cash on a big name without considering things like we always do.

    Last, but not the least.

    19) 20) 21) and 22) We Are Barca.
    Lets do things our way. We are not like the others.
    We are mes que un club ( i know this motto is cringe worthy to some of yall ) but i have my own interpretation and i continue to believe in it.

    Lets support the new guy.
    I think this is a shrewd hire. Even a kind of a no brainer.
    He will be good. You know why? because he is not spectacular. or Sexy.
    Go figure.

    Visca Valverde.
    Visca Barca i visca Catalunya.

    Madrid, win all you want. But you have no class. No grace. Sorry.
    Enjoy this while it lasts. Cos we are gonna eat you. Just like we always have.
    (like in the past 7-8 years) 😀


    1. what is even more cringe worthy than EE’s conquests is the terrible grammar and other errors in my comment. I usually write better. As is obvious, I just wanted to get some things off my chest really quickly without worrying about presentation.
      My apologies.

  16. I love Veratti and the way he reads the game, but, these prices are more than ririculous. 100 is what 50 was 5 years ago, crazy times.
    Anyway, i watched Spain last night, and if we are willing to spend some money, i wonder how much would Isco cost? Of course, if RM would sell and he wants to come to us.

  17. I disagree that Barca just need 2-3 players and we will be ok.If you dont look at future now when the future come you will be like “oh shit,now what?”
    People dont get younger.Pique is 30 Iniesta 34 Busi 29 Alba 29 Rakitic 29 Suarez 30 and soon we will need replacements.
    What we have now?Marlon maybe for Pique?Digne?Samper?Paco?
    Some of them,Rakitic,Suarez,Alba in 2 seasons what value will have?Same like Turan now?How much money we will get from them?
    We need to be brave and risky now,to sell and bring young talents who can be starters,the project of keeping them and maybe they will be great next season dont convince me.
    So i am for to get rid off Turan,Rakitic,Mathieu,Vermaelen,Macherano and if we need some big extra money Alba and Suarez.

  18. I just hope the board doesn’t make this Verrati transfer a long drawn out transfer saga a la Fabregas.. If PSG plainly state they won’t sell him no matter what, , we should just move on and find alternatives rather than dwelling on him for the next 2-3 seasons like we keep doing with other PSG targets like Thiago Silva Marquinos etc where we spent multiple years trying to get them..
    I’ve heard rumors of Hazard being unsettled at Chelsea and Madrid bid on him already. if he is valued at basically the same we might pay for Veratti, wouldn’t it make more sense to go for someone who has been the best player in the EPL and no doubt one of the best MF in the world atm ?

  19. The only thing I regret during the Pep era was not winning the CL 3 or 4 times in row, which should have happened.
    In 2010, Barca were clearly superior to Inter at San Siro, but complacency after Pedro’s goal and bus travel tiredness put a halt to a consecutive CL glory. Van Gaal’s Bayern at the Bernabeu would have been the ideal opponent for Barca to toy with.
    In 2012, 2-0 up against 10 men Chelsea and already thinking about the final against Heynckes Bayern, But as in Barca’s tradition, suicidal defending from a defender with AttentionDeficitDisorder and conceding a stupid goal from a random average player.

    Real Madrid have their little brother Athletico to thank for their recent UCL successes. Simeone team always give 200% and play like pitbulls on steroid against Barca and Pep’s Bayern. Against Real, players like Juanfran, Gabi and Felipe Luis don’t care at all, and Oblak is happy attempting a diving save after the ball is in the back of the net.

    As for Juventus, they won the Barca tie thanks to Buffon, Matthieu, Pique and Suarez. They were never an impressive side and the defending frailties of Bonucci-Chiellini were masked by Buffon’s saves and the opponents (Porto, Monaco) failing to convert many golden chances. Bonucci-Chielini-Barzagli are good, but not as good as Nesta-Canavarro-Maldini or Baresi-Costacurta-Maldini.

    Changes are needed in 2017-18. Bellerin looks like he’s coming. Heard of Coutinho also.

  20. The transfer conudrum barca is in presently is a result of what people like me has been shouting all this while that LE was actually destroying barca (with the help of the board). I can’t blame the board too much cos they know little about football. They are bunch of business men and lawyers who’d never kicked a ball in their life.

    Presently barca has one of the oldest teams in Europe with the average age of it’s top performers between 27 and 29. This is as a result of over the years neglect as the players get older.

    The money that we should’ve spent in the past solve our present problem is now not enough. Even more than double of it will still not be enough.

    Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, David Luis could have been a barca player for Mac 50m before going on to be a PSG “Prisoners” but barca were reluctant to pay up to that for world class defenders.

    Verrati could have been convinced to sign for barca last season for much cheaper price but he was let go to sign a new 5years (prison sentence) contract that has increased his value tremendously.

    You have a board that knows nothing about football or football development and you throw in the mist a coach that doesn’t really know what he want but says give whatever you have, I will play with it. Even if what you have can’t win you a Nigerian league trophy.

    Honestly I am trying not optimistic with our chances of signing a great midfielder for 2 reasons.

    1. I don’t trust the board to be able to land a quality midfielder or anyother quality squad player.

    2. Even if they do, barca’s problems is beyond a single great midfielder rather we have a group of outfield players(except for a few) that no one can guarantee the consistency or even longevity of their performance.

    Suarez is 30years and his performance can fall off anytime soon.

    Busquets performance is already wearing out due to the enormous number of games he plays without replacement.

    Rakitic performance is now a disappearing act. That which is aside the fact that he lacks the creativity traditional barca or top laliga midfielders are required to posses.

    Jordi alba at 28 is having a Russian roullete form.

    Still no quality rightback

    Iniesta’s case, is an open secret so is our central defence.

    Lets keep in mind that these are members of the first eleven not the reserves. The reserve is another story entirely.

    Can someone look at all this problems and tell me if 200m can solve all this keeping in mind that the board already blew 125m last summer to achieve nothing.

    At this point I expect to have heard about 2 to 3 different or new names been thrown around in the press at the request of the new coach but no I’ve not. I don’t even think the board has called the new manager to request for the players he feels his team needs to be able to compete on all fronts.

    If we continue like this, we would find ourselves beating the top teams while Madrid keeps winning the tittles.

    I am going to repeat this and I’m not apologetic about it. As time goes on, fans will see the damage LE did to this team/club with help from the board. Unless things change drastically at the board level, I fear barca could sink deeper than we could think of.

    1. Another thing that could change the barca tragetory is if valverde knows what he wants and not a “Give me what you have” kind of coach.

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