Barça 2, Betis 0, aka “Back to the basics”

In times of crisis, everything is a crisis. It’s only logical. The team and its manager talked of dispensing with the mental detritus of the glorified Community Shield in the SuperCopa and the destruction by Real Madrid, to get the season started right and begin the process of building a team.

That process began Sunday, with a visit from Betis, a team that on paper, Barça shouldn’t have had too much trouble with.

The complexity, of course is that in times of crisis everyone wants to extract what they can from the situation. So there were people saying that Betis was a banana peel, with a smart coach, some smart transfers in and a good system. There were also people saying that Barça was a crapshow of mediocrity, a damaged team that would begin its decline against this Andalucian upstart.

Hardly anyone knew how to manage what transpired, which was a workmanlike dispatching of a lesser team, a task that last season was fraught with complexity. Barça didn’t lose La Liga by dropping points to big teams. It lost via the Alaveses and Betises, mental lapses that turned what should be another day at the office to a clunkfest. This all made what happened at the Camp Nou significant because there was nothing to see here. Barça wasn’t at its best, but it isn’t supposed to be. It was, however supposed to do exactly what it did, which was to beat a team solidly destined for the lower half of the table.

This is all good. What is also good are the signs that Valverde understands what is needed, which is to simplify. Keep the ball, play compact triangles, pass it around and put things in the hands of the folks who understand how to play Barça football. This means men with Masia pedigree in Sergi Roberto and Messi, the drivers of the train. The former was omnipresent, answering the “What is everyone’s problem with Andre Gomes?” question by being everything that the Portuguese midfielder isn’t: quick in every way — brain, feet, decisions, actions. He was physical, omnipresent and even scored a goal.


Messi, reprising his vaunted false 9 role, had a hat trick of posts, and was exemplary as Barça returned to attacking and defending with eleven. The result was that when possession was turned, Betis was always advancing into equal or superior numbers. The one time that they didn’t, Mascherano did what Mascherano does in taking the Betis attacker’s soul. In the ensuing melee Barça notched its second goal, then went into preservation mode.

Deulofeu, once he got the early craps out of his system, was another highlight. He was (almost) smart on the ball and unselfish. He was also tracking back on defense, playing like a man who understands that this is his last shot at a big club. And Nelson Semedo. Wow. The bargain of the transfer window at 30m? Given the state of things, he would be 60 right now. There was a nasty rumor being floated on via Twitter that some “Barça heavy hitters” said that he was worse than Douglas. The Tweet was subsequently deleted, as it should have been. Semedo has pace, intelligence and is already fitting into the pass-and-move Barça system because he doesn’t dwell on the ball.

In the second half, Valverde experimented with Vidal and Semedo on the right, an interesting notion that also brought something Barça hasn’t had of late — pace. On the pitch at the same time were Jordi Alba, Semedo, Vidal, Umtiti and Deulofeu. We saw on more more than one occasion a potential Betis attack thwarted by someone running it down enough to slow things down and let the press do its work.

The match wasn’t fantastic. But it didn’t need to be. It needed to be effective. That it was is worthy of note. There are those who will downplay what happened because of their needs. There are those who will overblow it because of their needs. The reality is that the team was exactly what it needed to be — no more, no less. At this time of distractions and complexities, that in itself is laudable.

Windows sliding shut

Iniesta said, sign some people. Busquets said, sign some people. Valverde said, as clearly and directly as any of them, SIGN SOME PEOPLE!

Hours …

The new joke is, of course, that X or Y player becoming official is only a matter of hours. Or days. Pick your chronological measuring stick. There are eleven days left in the transfer window and Barça, being the equivalent of the sailor whose pockets are stuffed with money while on shore leave, has a problem. Everybody knows you have money, so there are no bargains to be had. Semedo would cost 60m for the club now. Efforts are being made for players such as Coutinho (still, despite arbitrary deadlines that have come and gone), Dembele (a matter of hours. Hours.) and Jean Seri, who seems the most likely actual addition at this point.

Amid all of the scoffing and snarling about how everything sucks, it seems important to reiterate that the club is run by the president and his board, and the team is part of the club. You can love the club, detest the board, want the president gone and support the hell out of the team. Life offers us shades of grey that we so often strive to make into black and while. Loving the club doesn’t make anyone a board supporter. It makes them a culer. Supporting the team and wanting nothing to do with the politics doesn’t make anyone less of a devotee. It just means they have less crap in their life.

There was a time when loving the club was precisely that: embracing the totality of the entity that is FC Barcleona. But recent events and behavior forces the more devoted culers to parse, to take some of this, leave some of that, spit on the other.

It’s also important to not let any animus color a worldview. Just because you think the board sucks doesn’t mean they aren’t working to make additions to the team. They are, after all, trying to save their asses not only with signings, but in making the moves that will help bring about the sporting success that might stave off a soci mutiny. Agusti Benedito is working on assembling signatures in support of forcing early elections via censure motion. He needs 15 percent of socis to support him with signature, which is a massive nut to crack. But the membership has never been more disgruntled from the sound of things, even as there are members who believe that as long as the balance sheet is strong, the board is doing well. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. Both can be true.

The reason any of this matters, and the reason the Betis victory was just business, even as it was nice to see it be just business, is that the team isn’t the same as it is going to be two weeks from now. Players will be coming, and players will be going. Valverde understands this, and is coaching the team like a mobile phone user who has to reboot a device in safe mode. It’s the basic functions, stripped of all excess and adornment. And the phone works, just like the team worked. For now. But it’s a temporary state. You use safe mode to solve problems, just as Valverde used basic mode to make his team function and solve problems presented by an absence of ultimate talent and creativity in key positions. This is where tech support comes in. Let’s see what happens.

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. Excellent write-up kxevin. I also read a good analysis of Velverde’s game plan from
    As I have written before, we may score less this year but we can make up for it with a tighter defense. We lost La Liga and got eliminated in the CL last year because of goals given up, to lesser teams in the former.
    We just seem more organized defensively and thus also more conservative this year. It is actually amazing the effectiveness of Valverde given the short time he has had and the instability handed to him. The trick is to turn that into explosiveness in offense but focus on fundamentals first.
    His strategy and tactics also seem well suited to the fact that our key players are all on the 30ish side of things. All the talk, noise and hype maybe about the new signings and young players but Messi, Luis, Busquets, Pique, Alba and Rakitic are the spine of the team and will determine where we end up. Yet, Roberto, Deulofeu Semedo and Umtiti bring along the energy of youth with suitability to the system. I think that’s our gala eleven right there with Ini being brought in at key moments but still leaves us with uncertainty over squad depth. I think we might just end up with Dembele, Coutinho and Seri after all the Euros have been hoovered away from our pockets and the usual posturing and gamesmanhip to extract the money comes to a merciful end with the transfer deadline. Our coach will then have have an embarassment of riches – a good problem to have. Though the negative is it might hamper the development of our Masia players like Roberto and Delofeu with the big money arrivals.

  2. Just to add, what’s happening with our center back situation? Right now we only have Pique, Mache and Umtiti – much too thin for three season long competitions. Velverde seems determined to show the managers that he does not want Vermaelen and Marlon and we have not heard a thing about the Martinez situation nor have any other names even been rumored.

    1. Not sure he doesn’t want Marlon, but is content with one CB on the bench, perhaps. It seems the deal for the young Colombian Yerri Mina is done, and he’ll arrive in January at the latest.

      I just read Iniesta’s comments again. Shiiiiit… sounds like Dani Alves! So, Abidal, Alves and now Iniesta, all feel disrespected. I come back to Kxevin’s notion regarding managing people, a few posts ago – seems even more apt now.

    2. Re: Iniesta comments – are you talking about those linked in the Catalan Edition on twitter, or something else? I’m curious…

      As for the game, someone on here summed it up nicely – not a team of world beaters, but a TEAM. Everyone covering for each other, hunting in packs, combining well in midfield (less so in attack).

      If Sergi Roberto continues like this, I can imagine much worse things than an Iniesta – Busquets – Roberto midfield. Busquets higher up the pitch (many times as AM) while Rakitic covered for him also seemed effective.

      Paco – what can you say. He’s hard-working, but that match definitely didn’t do him any good. Not surprising that he can’t get the job done playing on the wing. Maybe Vidal as a winger really is the answer here?

    3. Leaking 5 goals in 2 games shows how prudent is our defense.
      The mighty Betis did not score us a goal, therefore, our defence is as resilient as it gets.

  3. Yeah, got the job done sums it up well and that was important. Most noticeable for me was that the press was back , we had a bit of energy about us and probably Celta were a little less aggressive than I expected.

    I liked:

    Semedo ( a lot) and I thought Deulofeu redeemed himself after an atrocious display against RM. he needs to realise as a forward that playing safe passes all the time won’t get a starting place. It’s his job to destabilise a defence . Neymar lost the ball all the time yet was largely doing his job . Deulofeu has gobs of pace, control and the ability to ping a pass. He needs to use it, especially over the next few weeks. Alba had another great game after his mediocre one last time as a wingback. I liked the twist of him running with the ball out of defence, sometimes even into the middle of the park where there were huge gaps as they didn’t expect that. This could be big for us this season and, as Kxevin says, more pace on view than normal. SR played the sort of game I hoped for, full of running and effort with some skill.

    Wasn’t so fond of :

    Paco. Lots of effort but he has a rare ability to disappear for large gobs of the game. Worrying. Rakitic defeats me but Ive said my piece on him seasons ago. Apart from Messi and to a small extent Deulofeu we were a team of triers. I’m cutting us slack for that as we have Iniesta and Suarez to come back plus hopefully a signing or two.

    Still hearing a lot of hate for the board but not a lot of reasons why. Anyone care to unburden this hate and give reasons ? I’ve outlined my quibbles with them in the previous article ( letting the sporting team send Samper away, sticking with LE too long or rather letting him change our direction ) but these don’t lead to hate. I love the secure financial side, the thought of improving the stadium and allowing our Masia faithfully to choose their own time and path ( Puyol, Xavi and now Iniesta). I don’t get the Barto lying about Messi’s contract bit . He said early on they were relaxed about it they had agreement and it would be signed later. Now , even I’m a bit anxious given the Neymar happenings but the bottom line is Messi isn’t going anywhere and Im not aware of Barto lying about anything. If I recall he was the one who immediately he took over clarified the ins and outs of the Neymar transfer which Rosell had tried to cover up. ( Not looking for a fight here, just calm opinions ! ) strikes me it’s easy to take an anti board stance but the reasons are usually either small, perverse or more down to the sporting team.

    Btw, is it me or does Pep appear now to have a top class lineup available to him at City ?

    1. I don’t know enough to hate the board, though I do feel they seem to be a pretty cold bunch. How do you mean letting Iniesta choose his own path? He seems quite displeased. The players, and even Valverde, speaking out seems to me a vote of no confidence. Apparently, Barto claimed Messi had signed the contract, when he indeed still haven’t = a lie.

      All in all, it seems the sporting project has not been thought through and renewed enough. Then again, it is a difficult job, considering what was to be renewed… And then of course the transfer ban and all the silly things they have said. Enough for hate? Guess it’s up to each and everyone to decide.

    2. Sorry,mDavour, I’ve maybe missed something. I meant letting Iniesta and others choose the time of their departure. Iniesta’s comments are strange but I don’t know what they are about . Do you ? I’d assumed he was talking about his body and injuries. Otherwise why say it was normal ?

      I must have missed where Valverde criticised them and also when Barto said it had been signed. Last time I heard Barto talk about this he said it had been agreed and all that was left was the signing but there was no rush. Do you have a source ? Even the coldness, what are you referring to there ? Are people seeing things then not rushing here to tell me ? 🙂

      I’ve said I’m unsure about the sporting team for the change in style and now letting Samper go ( and you could argue the board should maybe have stepped in to get rid of LE earlier ) but I can’t see that most of this is down to the board rather than the sporting team who they pretty much have to back or fire. I didn’t like the comments about Pique’s error but I thought that was one of the sporting team who said that.

      I’m not a fan of them but I just haven’t seen the evidence for the hate. The sporting project has hit a wobble certainly, primarily caused by LE’s neglect of midfield for me, but they’re not responsible for Neymar’s shoddy behaviour or the difficulty in wresting players away from clubs who can’t afford to let their best player go. These top transfers usually take a season to work out.

      With regard to Messi’s buyout €300m is just ridiculous by any normal measure but wouldn’t matter anyway because no way we would try to keep Messinagainst his will, nor should we. CR’s of €1000m is just a lawsuit waiting to happen and hasn’t because CR unlike Neymar doesn’t want to leave at the moment .

      I’m not on my high horse here, I’m just curious about what I’ve missed in this discussion.

    3. That’s fine – I was just summarising reasons people mention to explain their hate (+Paulinho, of course). As I said, I don’t have the facts. The coldness, to me, comes from handling of Abidal and partly Alves, and a general impression of not understanding people (supported by Kxevin’s recent piece on the topic). Iniesta said:

      ‘Asked whether he needed to be shown more respect by the club in order to commit his future to them, he added: “We all like to be appreciated, valued and respected.

      “I have always felt affection and respect from everyone here, but it’s also clear that at this club you can never lose respect toward people that have given their lives for these colours.

      “That should never be lost, and sometimes you get the sensation that it is.”‘

      All in all, I don’t condone the hate, but I take my cue from players dropping hints and from the notion that there is at least some fire amongst all the smoke riling up culers.

  4. I basically spent the whole game watching Semedo. His quick feet, great passing ability, physicality and intelligence with the ball were really surprising for me. If he can perform at the same level against great opposition, then I think we’ve found our replacement for Alves. I know that’s a big statement but off that performance it’s definitely possible. And delefeou was the player today I was used to watching at Everton. Since we haven’t been promoting a bunch of players to the first team it’s good to see players like that and Sergi in the team so we can work towards preserving our style of possession based football.
    I’d personally pick up Dembele and stick mascherano into midfield with busi and Sergi or iniesta. Back four of Semeda, pique, umtiti, alba, and that mid could do well to control the ball with Messi, Suarez and dembele up front. I like coutinho but he’s so injury prone and not worth the money being talked about imo. But then again I’m also looking forward to a rebuilding year and getting back to our style of play bc if we don’t I fear Messi will be trying his football out in another country.

  5. To me, we found our Abidal in Semedo, great in defense as well as ip front. Hope he continues like that.
    I actually did like Rakitic last night, he looked more determined and more calm on the ball.
    Personally, i dont like agendas on certain players regardles of how they play a certain game. When someone is good in a particular game, he’s good, when he’s bad then we can say that he didn’t had a good game.
    What i liked most was our pressing, but thats what you get when you have 10/11 players pressing instead of 7/8. You know what i mean.
    We are still a team to beat and it will be so until Messi is with us.

    1. “Personally, i dont like agendas on certain players regardles of how they play a certain game. When someone is good in a particular game, he’s good, when he’s bad then we can say that he didn’t had a good game.”

      THIS !

      Rakitic had a decent game. He also had a slightly modified role. He wasn’t stuck manning the right wing in Messi’s absence as we’re used to seeing from him. It’s really impressive how easily Rakitic slots in to whichever role he’s asked to perform. Especially when you compare him with Alcacer who really looked out of place on the wing. Rakitic’s role in the midfield also liberated Busi to play higher up to destroy attacks. Considering how its still a team in progress, I like what I see from Valverde.

  6. Thanks for the review Kxevin. I agree with everyone’s points on the team’s performance. While watching the game my eyes ended up fixed on Busi for some reason. He was also another key player in the Betis game moving the ball around quickly and keeping things simple like the old days.

    Sergi was hard working as usually but effective. Semedo looks like a potential weapon and he never seems to get tired too.

    I have to agree though that Betis weren’t challenging us enough. We’re going to have a number of tough opponents this season and we’ll need to be super clinical with the fewer chances we can create this season.

  7. Honestly watching barca play yesterday has made me to realise that barca is not really far from the top. We only need two class signings(dembele and Seri) to be able to challenge for trophy again. The remaining squad players on the bench will improve in no time.

    It just gets annoying when You read everyday about how it is only a matter of hours to complete a signing only to later discover it was never even close let alone ever going to happen. It makes you ask what the hell is going on.

    Finally Neymar has blasted the board. I always knew it was only a matter of time before neymar finally breaks his silence. The direct manner in which he did it actually made me forgive him for whatever reason he left the club. His criticism was short, direct and quite apt. No sugar quoting or over flogging it.

    1. Sorry.
      My reaction on that Neymar quote was “STFO!”.
      Truth is he left for gobs of money and to a team where he will be the man and his sprinkles will appear even more glittery in a shite league. Watch out for his name certainly being in the top 3 Bd’O list. The board may be crap, but he is just using a popular narrative to make himself look better. If he really was WITH the team (even if against the board) he would have listened to the likes of Messi and others pleading for him to stay. Neymore is simply trying to appease himself to the fans. I don’t buy any of it. When someone leaves my team, they are a rival. You can mouth as much crap as you want, but if I’m on the field with you, I’m taking your ass down!

  8. “Still hearing a lot of hate for the board but not a lot of reasons why. Anyone care to unburden this hate and give reasons ?”

    Well, Jim, where do I start:

    1. Their treatment of Cruijff.
    2. Their insistence that Laporta cooked the books and subsequent court case against the previous board, upon which the courts cleared the previous board of wrongdoing.
    3. Their arrogance regarding foreign youth players which led to a harmful transfer ban.
    4. Two court cases regarding Neymar’s contract.
    5. Losing the crown jewel of the Masia when he was on the brink of claiming a starting role (Thiago).
    6. The firing of Zubizarreta.
    7a. Two consecutive poor transfer windows since the firing of Zubizarreta, in the second of which they spent 83M on positions that should have been covered by the Masía (Digne / Grimaldo, Gomes / Samper, Alcacer / Munir)
    7b. At least they stayed true to their mantra “La Masia no es toca.”
    8. The failure to foresee Neymar’s departure despite the fact that his father insisted on a so-called loyalty bonus of 26M to be paid in the middle of a transfer window.
    9. The low buyout clauses in general, which made the departure of Neymar possible
    10. The absurdity of blocking Zubizarreta’s move for Asensio because they insisted on paying the 4M transfer fee in installments
    11. The frankly incomprehensible if not suspiciously corrupt moves for Douglas and Paulinho
    12. The lies about Messi’s renewal (yes, Bartomeu said Messi had signed, he said this about 2-3 times)
    13. The rejection of the Foster project because of cost, only to come up with their own stadium project that costs 2-3 times as much
    14. The fact that their cronies in MD have besmirched Barça legends like Guardiola and Johan Cruyff
    15a. The appointment of Pep Segura, the man who left Barça to implement our model in Liverpool and came back to implement Liverpool’s model at Barça.
    15b. The promotion of Pep Segura.
    16. Where is our ex-president by the way? Right.

    I’m sure there’s more, but from the top of my head, I think this is enough. A whole bunch of the reasons on this list are strong enough by themselves to condemn this board and want them as far away from our club as possible, but put all these reasons together it’s amazing this is even up for debate (happy to debate it, though).

    1. Wow. Excellent it is Levon. Thanks for taking the time.
      Sorry Jim, am with you on most things on the pitch and la masia kids like Samper etc.. but…

    2. Ok, Lev. Thanks for this. How many of these were down to Rosell though ? I’ve said I didn’t have much time for him but make a distinction between him and Barto.

      In no particular order for me

      1,2, 3, 4, are largely down to Rosell.
      5 is down to Xavi, Iniesta and Thiago !
      6. Do we know this is a mistake ? See 3 above. Was he not in charge of this ?
      7. Completely down to LE and the sporting team I’m guessing. Do you really think Barto asked for these ?
      8 you’ve got me on this one. Hindsight is easy. I didn’t see it coming, neither did the players and even if they had a suspicion what would you have done differently ? Started tapping up,Coutinho ? How would that have ended differently given that you couldn’t move before Neymar told you ?
      9. They weren’t low. They are ridiculously high ! As I said to Davour above no way CR’s survives a lawsuit . 200m and 300m are ridiculous until a state is allowed to pay for it in its entirety. Anyway, how do they matter ? If Neymar has a low or no buyout and comes to us saying he wants to leave and pulls a not training or playing till you let me go what would you do differently ?
      10. Agreed but again this is hindsight for a young unproven and largely unknown player.
      11. You don’t know anything more than I do about this. Didn’t like Douglas but that’s only by the way.
      12. As I said above to Davour I just haven’t seen this. Source ? I know he gave the impression it was done and dusted . . . But it is !
      13. Was the foster project not about 2008 ? If you think project costs stand still come and run the new school project in my town which has gone up by a third in a year and a half. Besides, by anybody’s judgement we are in a better financial state to fund it now than then. ( although personally I liked the Foster idea ! )
      14. Meh, he said she said stuff. Cruyff was one of the most cantankerous people around. I’m amazed he didn’t fall out with more folk. Guardiola did make a lot of mistakes and isn’t the Saint we sometimes portray him as but this is just newspaper tittle tattle.
      15. If he was the one who made the Pique comment I’m with you 100% on this one. If the board apointed him they should now sack him. Don’t know anything about him trying to bring the Liverpool model . . .
      16. In jail ? And if so probably rightly so but has he been sentenced ? Haven’t heard. If not, is he not entitled to the same rights as everyone else or are we all living in Trumpworld now ?

      Debate on 🙂 although I’ll give in at this point because I know little detail of the financial intricacies or even the hierarchy within the club.

    3. Failed to scroll all the way down before responding, but added Inesta-quotes above, Jim, as to the lack of respect.

  9. The new joke is, of course, that X or Y player becoming official is only a matter of hours. Or days. Pick your chronological measuring stick.

    So well written Kxevin. Time and again I find solace in your generally uplifting writing. Thank you so much. And to all of u who comment on this space. It’s perhaps the only place where I like to read the comments as much as the writing. An oasis in an otherwise desert, when it comes to comments on some other website.
    Levon, thank u for pointing out the absurdities of the board. Some of them do look suspicious to say the least and I was one of the people rooting for the Foster project. The model had looked fabulous and so colourful.
    As of Neymar, he should shut the fuck up. Trying to rebuild his image with a fan base who adored him as well as whistled and abused the players who would kick the crap out of him. He left for money and I think most Barca fans do get it.
    Regarding this new story of Messi leaving. Well I’ll be exasperated if he does. But I do have a theory. The source which first mentioned it was a fake mancity source, trying to look like it’s real. The tweet has since been deleted but ppl have hopped on to that bandwagon and now every coach of every moneyed team is being asked that question. Now I for one think that it was perhaps planted by the rivals of the current board to further destabilise the situation and to expedite the number of signatures required to expel the current board and call for an early election. I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory but why not. Things r dire as they r and this may just work for those who do not like this board.
    But I do have a burning question to ask; Do u guys think Messi would be working behind the scene to take a side in this power struggle? He doesn’t come across as someone who would but I don’t kno of him well enough as some of u may do.

  10. I don’t think he can actively take a side against the current board, after all they are paying him millions so it would be tremendously disrespectful, but I bet he is thinking these idiots don’t deserve the good PR of his signature right now.

  11. I think it’s time that we bond as a community and push for the removal of this board. They’re a cancer that needs to be cut out and blasted with radiation. Apparently they pondered selling Iniesta until Valverde stopped them. They’re a bunch of crooks, good for nothing pricks who don’t take care of our players and don’t even disciple directives that come out to trash our players when they were obviously having a bad day. I’m hoping that this vote of no confidence passes and if you’re card holding soci, I urge you to vote to remove this scum. Iniesta has been with the club since childhood and now he’s considering leaving. What are we? Real Madrid?!!! Are we going to jettison our captain through the back door like they did to Casillas? NO! If it was up to me, Xavi would still be here. Our success came because we were a consolidated entity from the president down to the players to the groundskeepers. Now we are this shattered entity full of anger and resentment because our board are a bunch of arrogant assholes that think they’re above the club.

    1. Dear dear I’m fast becoming an apologist for this board, something I’d rather not be. Of all the incredible rumours, half of which are doubtless being started by no friends of ours to try to destabilise things, the idea of the board wanting to sell him with the earthquake that would cause among socios is the most ridiculous for me. Reliable source ?

      If it was up to me also, Xavi would still be here but that had sod all to do with the board and everything to do with LE not playing him because he wanted to miss out the mids. You just have to read Xavi’s latest comments to know how he felt about moving away from our style ( and I Think I remember reading something about him losing money in the Spanish housing crash and needing to make a new pile ? Not sure about that. ) However, Lets try to stick with stuff we actually know.

    2. Hey Jim,
      I read it in El Pais I think the Spanish newspaper. I think it is all true. I saw a video of the celebration of the latest copa del rey and Iniesta turned his back on Bartomeu when he tried to shake his hand. There’s some terrible blood in the club right now. in the same interview Iniesta says that for the first time he’s considering his future somewhere else. The backbone of our club is being eroded in front of our very own eyes.

  12. Apparently the board are more interested in getting payback against Neymar than actually running the club.

    1. They’re just salty because Neymar has 3 goals and 3 assists in 2 games for PSG and blasted them live on tv

  13. Another interesting analysis of on the 4-2-3-1 of Valverde. We’ve seen how opposing teams have gone after Busquets in recent times and with Busi getting older his single DM role needs more support. The dual DM supports Busi with Rakitic, Gomes and may also explain why Valverde supposedly asked for Paulinho while at the same being less demanding on the team when Busi has to be rested.
    It could also put a more important role for Luis S. which is a concern because Alcacer has not shown to be a reliable backup and there haven’t been any rumors of us looking for a backup 9 in the transfer market.
    The formation is also more conservative than the offensivley oriented 4-3-3 and places even more reliance on Messi as the conductor of the whole scheme. Probably fitting given the departure of Neymar and the ageing of our core players including Messi. It does give a chance for more mid-field control on our part even if we never find like for like replacements for a Xavi and an Iniesta who are probably once in a lifetime players anyway.
    It also gives an opportunity to our young players like Deulofeu, Roberto, Denis, Alena, Rafinha and Vidal who can score as runners from behind, from outside the box or from the wings. It also leaves the width to Alba and Semedo who I predict will turn out to be two of the best fullbacks in the world with Digne serving as backup for both sides. Dembele and Coutinho also fit in this scheme. With Messi acting as central conductor it will shorten the adjustment process.
    Seri probably fits our traditional 4-3-3 better but that is an option that always exists depending on the opponent as our players know it well. The 3 man backline is also another option that we still have thanks to LE who used it more than previous coaches though we need more CBs on the bench.
    The 4-2-3-1 does makes us really dependent on Messi and Luis for it to work offensively in spectacular fashion and a long-term injury to either one would drop us from being one of the top 3 teams in the world. Which is probably the case whatever formation Valverde plays.

  14. @Jim

    1,2,3,4 I don’t tend to differentiate all that much between two sides of the same coin, but for what it’s worth, Barto was head of football or head of sports during that whole Masia mess and the court case against Laporta’s board lasted well into Barto’s reign.

    5 The decision to not play Thiago in the remaining games of a league that was already won is one of the strangest decisions I have ever seen, especially because it was already public knowledge that this would affect his buyout clause. I am not at all convinced this decision did not come from the top, but obviously who am I to suspect such a thing.

    6 See 5. Either way Zubi was a very capable sporting director who brought us good players every summer.

    7 No, I think Barto put a technical staff in place which took us as far away from what made this club great as they possibly could.

    8 They could have planned for it. They could have made a play for Dembele in the beginning of the summer when he was available for 90 (which could be negotiated down). They could have talked to Neymar when rumors surfaced and said we’re okay with you leaving just let us handle our business. They could have told Ney we are okay with him leavin, announce that you are staying to help us handle our business. and so on and so on.

    9 The moment they renewed Ney I said with this release clause Man U will try to buy him this summer. I was wrong though, wasn’t I? Look at RM’s release clauses. Then look at ours.

    10 Culés all over Spain were cursing the board when the Asensio deal fell through. No hindsight here.

    11 There were no technical reasons to buy a 25-yr old right back from the Brazilian league, and although I don’t think Paulinho is as bad as people think he is, 40M for a 29-yr old is patently absurd.

    12 pardon my Spanish

    13 Ok, I will partly concede. You might be right, but with all t e court cases and corruption charges, this board are the last people we should trust with such a project.

    14 Nah, it was systematic, ugly and needless.

    15 yay, we agree

    16 I don’t think it’s a coincidence he’s in jail. Too many shady dealings for too long.

    17 Of course I forgot about Qatar!!!!

    10 Every culé in Spain was cursing the board when the Asensio deal fell through. No hindsight here.


    1. Ok, I’ll bite but just because Leicester game is rotten.

      I think we can agree that 1,2 and 4 were at least started by Rosell. Without knowing whether Barto agreed with the Cruyff stuff or pursuing Laporta we can’t pass judgement. As Depute Head in a large school I had to go along with a lot of stuff I didn’t necessarily agree with .
      3 would Zubi not have been involved in bringing young players as well ? It’s impossible to know who should have done what. Although it would have been good if it could have been avoided.
      5 sorry, but are the board not even good at being evil ? Can you think of a single reason anyone at the club would engineer a situation where Thiago was encouraged to go ? I think there’s no doubt that one way or another he’d have gone and that was down to the incumbents being unmoveable.
      6. Don’t know the specifics but better than Suarez, Neymar, Umtiti , TS ? Agreed that last year’s mids were a disaster but you can’t think that the president asked for them.
      7. Who did he put in specifically ? The only ones who could change things with impunity are the mangers. Tito would have been great imo, Tata wasn’t but not as bad as portrayed , so I suppose it depends on your view of LE . As I’ve said already as soon as he caused the Anoeta and then dropped Xavi who saved his ass I’d have been happy to see the back of him. I’d go along with the idea that he should have checked what LE was intending to do and maybe even got rid of him earlier.
      8. Neymar wasn’t going anywhere officially until the bonus became due. He’d have just stonewalled until then. What if Dembele’s team had said fine straight away. Did we want him as well as Neymar? Would he have come to play second fiddle to Neymar. Sounds good but not easy.
      9. Ok, good on you Lev but for the rest of us the idea that a state could get round the FP regs by paying it all wasn’t widely thought about. If Neymar was intending to leave, as now seems likely, why would he agree to a contract with a completely impossible buyout?
      10. Fair enough but I hadn’t even heard of him ! Was there any reason to think instalments wouldn’t work ? Remember, Madrid are a big club and were also after Neymar but didn’t get him. Also, btw, sounds like Douglas has a few clubs interested so maybe he’s not as bad as we all think? Ok, not going to the wall on that one.
      11. See above but also was Keita not 28/29 when we bought him for 14m in 2008 ? What would that be today ? Let’s wait and see but first impressions are that I don’t see what he can offer either.
      12. I can just about cope with that level of Spanish. Is that not just saying that he lied because of an earlier comment rather than being the comment ? If Inwere Barto and folk were trying to say Messi was being enticed away I’d want folk to know it was all settled which it is because Messi has agreed the terms. Don’t think anyone is disputing that. I didn’t assume pen had been put to paper either because no doubt that’d be live on TV! I would agree he’ll not be happy that the team has been left short by Neymar’s departure but either he knew and wasn’t bothered or didn’t so Neymar’s to blame.
      14. So why did Barto later offer to put it right with Cruyff if it was systematic but Cruyff ( probably quite rightly told them where to go). Again, different actions from Rosell. He also remember came out the first opportunity and gave chapter and verse on the details of the Neymar transfer. Almost unheard of.
      15. I’ve changed my mind ! Nah, the guy seems a weasel.
      16 that may be but as of now he’s entitled to be regarded as innocent. I don’t know and Im guessing you don’t either ? Look I don’t like Rosell either. Not defending him. Just saying he could be found innocent which is why we don’t leap to conclusions.
      17. What about Qatar ? Think we’ll stay away from this as it veers into politics . However there’s a bit of me thinks that if we hadn’t hacked them off with bad mouthing their sponsorship they might not have been so keen to sub the Neymar transfer.

      Thanks Lev. This has helped pass a rather boring game more pleasantly. Btw, I’m not thurled to this board. If Iniesta came out tomorrow and said they’d wanted to sell him I’d be on the same plane as Kxevin ready to protest against them outside the Camp Nou.

      Thanks also Davour for the comments above from Iniesta. They are strange. I can see how they could be read as anti board. I think he also said these feelings have been only over the last three years which doesn’t fit that but does fit LE’s tenure ? Iniesta is a totally humble person. Im not sure he’d come out on his own behalf and indeed he says he’s always been respected by the club but maybe if he thought someone else had been badly treated ? Don’t know.

      Anyway, enough fighting the waves of anti board sentiment. Starting to feel like Jon Snow did last night on his ice floe surrounded by the army of the dead ( no offence, chaps! ) although maybe in the distance I can hear the approaching wings of my dragons, Dembele and Seri ? Sound as if they’re only ” hours away” . . .

  15. To add, it makes the Coutinho signing even more important to get done. Coutinho is a better backup to Messi in the 4-2-3-1 than any of our current players when Lionel has to be rested or is out for any reason. I never though Coutinho was a like for like replacement for Neymar, Dembele being more suited for that role.

  16. Beginning to understand why there was a rumour that we tried to buy Insigne from Napoli – quick and great touch. Maybe we should have raided Napoli for him and Jorginho (he’s named “-inho”, dammit!) who to me looks like he would excel in the position Rakitic played last game. But I’m sure Seri is good also.

    Watched, for old times sake, a game from 2010 (when Zlatan had become the place attacks came to die). Iniesta – I had almost forgot how good he was; insane. And what struck me with Xavi was one thing more than any other – how much he ran! And if you think Messi was better then, think again – more dynamic and able to run more and faster, yes. But better? I would say he is even less challenged for world’s no 1 position these days. Goals & trophies blind people.

    1. Messi is the best all-around player of all time. It’s not just the goals, and now more than ever we’ll see him also being the conductor of the whole symphony.

    2. Agreed on Xavi, Davour. A lot of folk forget that in the first half of the season where LE decided to reduce him to sub brought on to save our backsides he also ran more than any other player on two occasions in the CL. However, he was also given free reign to go where he wanted. Because we always had, and seldom lost, the ball he was everywhere. That’s a privilege only given to Iniesta once or twice under LE who preferred to make him run back and defend. Hey, maybe that’s the lack of respect Ini was talking about ?

      In fairness to Leicester btw the game improved a lot.

      In other news Celtic are back in the group stages ! Much better team this year with bags of pace and some pretty tricky forwards. Just trying to work out if in our current state we should be worried . . . Nah.

  17. Xaviniestquets was the pinnacle of intelligent yet hard working football and will probably never be replicated. That’s why Barca has to change too.

    It must be nice to live outside the U.S. and have bandwidth for Barca politics. Here in Merica, our bandwidth is so totally exhausted by the politics of Trump world that paying attention to any other politics is really difficult. I spend just as much time reading and keeping up on Trump world these days as anything on Barca which is a really bad allocation of my time!

    1. Sorry, Seattlefan. Didn’t mean to ignore you or belittle your current struggles over there. Just don’t want to get too involved in politics here. Fwiw, I’m now hooked on American News channels too for that very reason !

  18. Ok, this is getting daft. Latest is that we were only interested in Seri because a board member saw his name mentioned on Twitter. If we can’t see that as deliberate misinformation then . . . ( scrap that last sentence. I’ve just realised how daft it sounds in the current climate across the pond! ) Apart from anything else, even I read Xavi’s wholehearted endorsement of Seri way back.

    However, latest rumours are that we have dropped our interest in Seri on the advice of the sporting team ? Now leaving aside issues of looking daft / short of quality that raises it kinda strengthens my belief that it is the sporting team who are clueless and have been for a few years. Yes, that also means the board should now or should have done something about it.

    On another note, Samper on year long loan to Las Palmas ! For heavens’ sake. If you’ve no intention of using the lad ( and you should have rather than Gomes) move him on and don’t ruin his career ( again ! ). Another decision of the sporting team. I suspect he’s gone partly because a loan is easy and also that nobody wants any of the rest of the mids we have hanging around. I have a recurring nightmare that we manage to get Dembele and Seri but can’t get anyone out before the end of the window.

    As I said we certainly live in daft times. Too much downtime between games. Too many stupid rumours. We need to get going.

    1. If Valverde does mainly rely on a two holding mid formation it makes the argument for keeping Samper instead of loaning him out to get more game time. There’s more playing time available and it also eases the pressure of being the only man needing to cover such a large part of the field. One can argue that Barca is actually protecting Samper and thinking of his long-term future by not putting him in a situation to fail given the current focus fans have on the mid-field problems. Samper is too young to be the solution and it would not be fair to put him in that situation.

    2. At least a better team than last time around… hopefully he can find his feet and return when things have calmed down. Though for his sake I would wish a straight sell. Or rather, keep him and sell Gomes.

      This summer has been absurd. We still lack needed signings and have way too many midfielders and right backs.

  19. I think the sporting side are right in turning down the Seri transfer. I don’t think he actually fills any gaps in our squad and would be a waste of money. Plus I’m guessing the sporting staff have Sergi Roberto in mind with this one. They wouldn’t want to allow more reasons for him to leave.

    1. Don’t know the player so can’t say but in that case why start it ? Don’t think anyone disputes that we were pretty far down that road. Interesting.

  20. All of this tells me that either we dont have a f clue what our sports management is thinking or planning or they dont have a f clue what they are doing.

  21. I really do not understand what the board is thinking. They keep bidding more and more for a player who is clearly not for sale, but haggling relentlessly for a player who has a very clear for sale price. What are they on??

    1. One conspiracy theorist answer: the Neymar money was used to pay our debt, and in reality we have no money left.
      They only bid for players to please the fans, and using their relentless haggling to provoke clubs into playing their game. When clubs actually agreed to sell, they instantly back down since they didn’t have any intention to sign in the first place.
      If we end up not spending Neymar fee within this summer I think my crazy theory is kinda vindicated.

  22. I think it’s all gamesmanship. Barca is at a big disadvantage in the transfer market right now because all the other clubs know of the Neymar money in our pockets and the desperation of the board or management to get signings. So the only thing Barca can do is the old “divide and conquer” strategy. Make one club believe that we’re dropping our big money offer for their player because we are getting some other club’s player. In effect playing the other clubs off one another so we get the players we actually want and still keep some change in our pockets. Leaks of course play a big part in this gamesmanship and the press are all too happy to run with them otherwise they just have to totally make it up! Of course everything can back fire and is hard ball negotiating rather than trying to create a win-win situation for both parties. Things get more and more exciting or stressful depending on how you look at it the closer it gets to deadline.

    1. Well, if this is what they’re doing, at least they have a strategy… I think it’s fine that prices are somewhat inflated due to the Neymar money, since it kind of unbalanced the entire market, but over 100m for Dembele is greedy (yes, I know they don’t have to sell, but man…). Despite this, I would pay the 130m and move on (since they’re not buying Jorginho & Insigne, my new hipster favourites, to add to Dembele).

      It will be some nervy final days of the transfer window.

  23. This has been the most horrible summers for Barça in recent memory. Everything is up in the air. The players hate the directives. The board is suing Ney and he’s having dinner with half the team at Messi’s house! I hope Messi doesn’t renew until they’re gone. Bartomeu is a terrible leader. Maybe Neymar wouldn’t have left if he didn’t have to deal with the people that are running the club. 🙁

    1. He would have left eitherway… seems obvious to me that money was his motivation all along… no Barça board could have stopped his departure.

      As for what’s happening, seems like every team out there agreed to not sell players to Barça… even without Neymar, Barcelona is a very powerful team. He surely wasn’t missed in that 2-3 at the Bernabeu.

  24. Yeah, Neymar has been going for a while. It’s just a pity he chose to hang on for the bonus as that leaves us screwed for time to bring about a big transfer which is always complicated. The shortage of time encourages teams to play hardball with us and the current hysteria plays into this.

    I wouldn’t read too much into the Messi dinner business. It happens every year as I recall and it’s not something the board ever attend. What it does show, though, is that the players aren’t as hacked off at Neymar as we , well at least I, am . That’s a strange one but I suppose they take the view that everyone is entitled to move on for more money and not everyone was brought up in the club’s values ?

    I know I keep saying this but Iniesta is worrying me more than the transfers. I need to know what’s going on in his mind and somebody needs to be telling him how much he is needed.

    1. I think it is quite possible that other clubs linked to Barca are in collusion. It doesn’t take more than a phone call. The other clubs know that Barca can only attempt to “divide and conquer” to get the better price so the other clubs can counter that by colluding to thwart the tactic.
      Sid Lowe has also made the point that Barca is also failing at selling players. Other clubs also know that we need to sell some players otherwise there will be unhappy players in the locker room and the bench so they are probably holding tight to demand the best possible transfer price on a Turan or a Douglas or a Vermaelen. But Barca might be holding off on the sales until they are sure who they are able to buy.

  25. Well, Dembele is finally in for ridiculous 120 + 30 mill euros. Complete madness.
    But if thats the way our dealings in the market will be, then so be it.

    1. That is going to increase pressure on Liverpool to deal. They are owned by an American private equity group who is in it solely for the money. Or Barca might just say so long suckers.

  26. Looks good to me.

    Group D: Juventus, Barcelona, Olympiakos, Sporting.

    Hmm, Celtic same group as PSG. Might try to get me a ticket for that one at Parkhead. At least I’ll be able to support Celtic properly in that one !

    1. Hope you get that ticket Jim. Cheer for Celtic and against the one team whose owners seem to have a personal vendetta against Barca.

    2. In all honesty, Seattlefan, these tickets are goldust for Celtic Park. I have a few connections but still only an outside chance. Anyway, you can be sure of one thing: Neymar will take a roasting and a half. The Celtic fans won’t forget or forgive his shenanigans in feigning injury with Scott Brown. He’ll have an interesting night.

  27. Well he may have cost a shit load, but man does this boy have some feet on him

    Clearly still very raw, but so was Neymar when we got him. Two things really stand out for me, the level of ability he has with both feet (this will be incredibly useful tactically) and his pace. Combining him & Semedo or Alba on the other side would give us an incredible amount of pace.

    A very expensive, but very exciting signing. Cannot wait to see him play. I just hope the fans realise how young he is and show him the patience he deserves regardless of his price tag. It is not his fault the market is fucked and I really hope the weight of expectation does not effect him too much. He won’t be an overnight sensation, but given a few years and some proper grooming he could become a real star from the looks of it.

    All I know is the board better slap one hell of a buyout clause on this kid!!!

  28. I’m very happy to have Dembele now given all the circumstances.


    We could have had him for 15 million last summer. And it would have made sense even if we still had Neymar. You implement a rotation system where one of Messi, Neymar or Suarez is often rested (something that was actually desperately needed) and Dembele plays instead (with Neymar or Messi moving in the middle when Suarez is rested) as he can play on either wing. Or you play all four of them with Messi in midfield.

    All of those approaches made perfect sense when you think of how our season unfolded.

    That way he wouldn’t have been unhappy about playing time (which was reportedly his concern at the time)

    Instead we spent 30M on Paco.

    And now we’ll spend 10 times by 15 million to have Dembele replace Neymar (instead of complementing him).

    So in the end this is still another great example of extreme incompetence.

    Madrid are so strong because they still have the BBC trio as before, but now each of those can be replaced by Asensio, Isco, etc. without much of a drop off in quality. This is what we should have been aiming for too and signing Dembele last year would have been the way to go. But no, we had to buy Paco.

  29. If he has been signed and if he is as good as most seem to think then it’s good to have him. It’s another sign that we shouldn’t listen to rumours because nobody really knows what’s going on inside the club. I’ll start by saying I got sucked in as well !

    I’ve not really been impressed by Paco from the start but he was prepared to come knowing he wouldn’t get many minutes at a time when I wasn’t hearing many other realistic names quoted. I’m not completely convinced G60’s rotation idea, while it has merit, would’ve worked. Firstly, there’s no way anybody is hauling Messi off. Plenty have tried it. My favourite was Pep begging him to come off a few years ago. Classic ! Ain’t happening so we’re down to two.

    Secondly, Neymar felt he was being hauled off too much, something borne out by Suarez’ minutes. For me, quite rightly as we needed both Messi and Suarez as much as they could play, not so much Neymar. So I’m not sure Neymar would’ve gone for even less time, given Dembele is only really a sub for him rather than the other two. If Dembele had any sense he would’ve seen that. He’s young. No need to go to Barca at that point. Was at a decent team and was ( is? ) largely unproven.

    The thing that has really screwed us in a number of ways was the influx of average players last summer ( maybe include Arda and Vidal earlier as well ) . None of them ( Umtiti apart) were starters and that was fairly obvious early on. However, then and now we’re stuck with them blocking spaces and having to give them minutes. If Paco and Gomes cost around 30/40 m each and we hadn’t gone for them there’s space and money for Seri, just as an example. I’m pretty sure I’d take Xavi’s opinion about what would work in the Barca midfield above pretty much anyone else on planet earth. I’m afraid for me this is an LE induced problem.

    Anyway, if it’s true we should be pleased tonight not complaining, at least for a little while. Was a Neymar who didn’t want to be here 70/80m better than a Dembele keen to make a name for himself ? Don’t know.

    1. Just a small reminder Jim, Xavi did also annoint Denis Suarez as his successor not so long time ago.

    2. Didn’t see that Mishti, so thanks for that but tbh it surprises me because if there’s any part of Denis’ game weaker than the rest for me it’s the consistency, particularly control, passing and keeping possession. I actually quite like other parts of his game but overall he’s not gonna be able to hold down a spot with us. I reckon Xavi’s recommendation is always worth a punt but I suppose Denis has had his.

  30. One thing worth thinking about, guys, is if 3 months ago someone would have asked you if you would take:

    A) Neymar
    B) Dembele +70M

    What would you choose?

    1. Three months ago , Neymar, but if I’d known he didn’t want to be here ? No contest, Lev.

    2. We didn’t have a choice on A. I would rather choose C) Dembele +120M but B) was the choice made for us. Or I would rather D) Griezman +70M or E) Hazard +70M.
      I would not blame Dembele though and wish him all the success in the world and like Hilal said we need to be patient with him. With all the competition, Deulofeu might even kick it up a notch and he is older than Ousman.

  31. Wondering what the best 11 would be as things stand.
    This Dembele chap seems to be best suited for a right wing role. Suddenly we seem to have a lot of options on the right and back to having very little on the left. Essentially just Alba. Even deulofeu has done his best work on the right. Neymar s void on the left still remains. We have all of Vidal, Dembele, semedo, deulofeu and Messi who are right sided players. Messi may be more central but still. Sergi Roberto too who is a player that must be squeezed into the squad operates best from the right.

  32. As I see it, based on form and reliability, our best 11 to me, from a personnel and tactical perspective fits in to a 4-2-3-1 shape.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ter Stegen ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~ Semedo ~~ Pique ~ Umtiti ~~ Alba ~~
    ~~~~ S.Roberto/Rakitic ~ Busquets ~~~~
    ~~~ Dembele ~~~ Messi ~~~ Iniesta ~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~ Luis Suarez ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I’d go to war with that lineup. A.Gomes to replace Busquets in Copa & easy Liga games. Deulofeu / D.Suarez coming in for Iniesta. Mascherano coming in for any of CB / DM positions.


    1. I would go with that except I would not rely on Iniesta playing 90 every week. I would wrap him in cotton but just keep him warm enough and heat him up to be at his best at the end of the season. I would play Roberto in his spot, and use Paulinho or Rakitic to play alongside Busi or Gomes. If Coutinho comes which I think will happen just before deadline then he’ll play in the Iniesta position or backup Messi as even Messi has to rest sometimes, something which every coach has had a problem getting him to do. I would make Deulofeu and Dembele compete for that right wing but they can also play on the left. Masch would be first off the bench for the CBs but I would get at least one more or two if Valverde just doesn’t think Marlon or Vermaelen are suitable. Digne, Denis, Vidal and Alcacer to be the rest of the squad players. Munir to be loaned out. Alena to make guest appearances as he learns the ropes in B team. Turan to be sold but time is running out to get decent money for him.

    2. Forgot about Rafinha because unfortunately he’s been too easy to forget about due to injuries and he is the sort of utility player who is very useful but is not particularly outstanding at anything. Sergi Roberto and Denis S. are better at reading the game and anticipating the gaps and the use of space. I would give him another year as he is Masia and to be honest we do give more chances to Masia than to non.

  33. I was going to answer Jim yesterday, but I suppose I would have to do it now, and include the circumstances:

    I understand the players not being angry with Ney. It’s a nomadic profession in its core nowadays. PSG were willing to give him more than double the salary he was getting – and his off-the-pitch income is not subject to “richness tax” for the first five years, meaning his yearly income would pretty much triple. More importantly, PSG give him total football freedom and surround him with a bunch of Brazilians – most of them already colleagues in the National team. All this in the year just before the World Cup, which means Neymar &Co. will most likely be able to:
    1. Show his ability. Ligue of farmers, who don’t even know how to mark him, but what will count for advertisers, fans, clicks, and ultimately money will be that :”OMG NEYMAR DRIBBLED TWICE THE WHOLE DEFENCE INSIDE THE BOX AND THEN NUTMEGGED THE REF AND THE KEEPER!!!”
    2. Have an easier time than in La Liga
    3. Fewer kicks, fewer knocks, fewer days spent in physio, allowing him to conserve his fitness and PREPARE for the trophy end of the season.
    And then the World Cup.

    This is a real bet – if he manages to improve his performance, if the team presented to him by PSG lets him win the Champion League and if then he leads the core of the Brazilian National team to a World Cup (This Brazil is not the Brazil that lost 7-1 against Germany without Neymar, that Neymar wasn’t THIS Neymar),
    then he will get the Balon d’Or. Sure as taxes.

    But that’s not just one If, that’s three of them. It may fail spectacularly. along the way.

    I’m not saying I support it. On the contrary. Just trying to be logical about it. And that also explains why Pique, Messi, Suarez, Rakitic and Douglas may be okay with it.. He’s a friend and goes for a great job opportunity which will let him become even greater. He has no real ties with the club. Not like Figo, who went to THE ENEMY after being THE star of the team, THE captain and leader.

    Now, about Dembele and his transfer fee:
    First of all, Barcelona could in theory have him for 5 million – One year and six months ago. In other words, when he was 18, during his breakout season with Rennes. However, he CHOSE to go to Borussia Dortmund precisely because he knew he would not have the minutes to develop as the player that he is NOW. He needed the relative complete lack of pressure he was guaranteed in Borussia – and a coach who would have the liberty and lack of pressure to develop him.
    In Borussia he signed a five-year contract, which would immediately, immediately increase his value at least twice.
    Second, as the great Graham Hunter said, there are many Infantil stars who don’t manage the transfer to the juveniles at 14. Some actually become better in the Juveniles, but fail the transfer to the 18-year category. And then, afterwards, many who are awesome at 18 fail the test when they become 21.. Anybody of you remember Gai Asulin? What about Adama Traore? Hell, Graham Hunter himself said that Jean-Marie Dongou was the greatest youth talent he had seen since Messi himself. – now he’s playing for Gimnastic de Tarragona in Segunda division (That’s third tier), after playing for six months for Real Zaragoza (Segunda divisioón as well) and being released.

    Dembele has managed to handle the stress, the demands and the requirements to become better and better. Four months ago just when the season ended, Barcelona would’ve possibly gotten him for 50 million. without much hassle. However, that was when the craziest summer transfer season of known history hadn’t yet begun.

    Since then, PSG and the EPL showed that transfer fees are more or less just numbers. Potential counts as much, probably more, than actual shown ability. Both EPL and PSG can basically throw money at the problem, because that money will be there next year. There’s no real need to be miserly. So in that market, Dembele would’ve probably gone for 70 million or so. But then…

    Then Neymar delivered a cheque for 222 million at the club’s front office, Barcelona suspended the payment of 26 million (plus the added taxes on it) to him and his father and suddenly the club had 250 million, on top of the transfer purse, which is already inflated by the Rakuten deal and the new Nike contract and the increased TV deal. Barcelona suddenly had A LOT of money and at the same time, a glaring hole in the team, which needed filling.
    And a market that was already going crazy, became absurd. With less than seven days left in the transfer window, Barcelona is paying reported 105 million plus reported 35-40 million in variables.
    In my best Peter Marlow impression:
    “Not bad. Not bad at all.”

  34. Yup, I concur with all of this except the number of kicks he is likely to take. You are remembering he will have to go to Celtic Park ? I think he will find Scott Brown doesn’t forget and knows how to do a hell of a lot more than tap your ankle. 🙂

    Always good to hear your thoughts on finances ( and other things ! ) Peter. Makes sense of financial matters for a simpleton like myself. Don’t suppose you have any insight into the withholding of the bonus ? I hope this isn’t just irritation at his comments leading to a rash decision although I’m more than happy with it if we have a good case. Does it just revolve around intent ? ie. Neymar intended to leave and just hung about to reach that date therefore didn’t meet the requirements ?

    1. I haven’t been able to research it that much, but the gist (yes, what follows is the gist) is this:

      Barcelona had offered a higher release clause and higher wages. The Neymars declined and accepted lower wages in return for a lower release clause. In retrospect that should’ve rung quite a few bells, but here’s the thing – at the time of initial contact and initial talks, those 222m would’ve meant effectively 450 million – because a player getting money from another club in order to pay his release clause would be liable to pay 54% of taxes first.
      However, in October last year, the Spanish court decided that just like clubs are more or less exempt of paying taxes on transfers, so must players be exempt. And so 222m became actually 222 million, more or less when the ink was still drying on the papers.

      In the renewal, Barcelona stipulated a few clauses:

      1. Barcelona would pay Neymar Sr a 26 million bonus due to the renewal of the contract, a loyalty fee due to the new multi-year contract. That was the second part of the payment. It was due to be paid, provided that:
      A) The Player does not negotiate with another club in the month previous to the payment
      B) The player publicly announces his desire and decision to fulfill the complete duration of the contract;
      C) The payment be made on the closure of the transfer window 1st of September
      Actually the club deposited the cheque with the 26 million to a notary, but when the Neymars delivered the 222 million cheque, Barcelona recovered the cheque and are going to sue the Neymars for the already paid part of the renewal bonus plus damages, plus interest.

      Barcelona for me have a very strong case – they can allege negotiation in bad faith, i.e one side signs the contract without intention to fulfill it.
      1. Nothing changed between the signing of the renewal contract and Neymar signing secretly a pre-contract agreement with P$G. Remember, the initial story came out at the end of June. According to the Brazilian journalist who broke the story and whom none believed at the time, the Neymars approached P$G, not the other way round. He later said that according to his sources Neymar had signed a pre-contract agreement with P$G in May – about six months after signing the five-year renewal.
      That means that Neymar cannot allege that the way the club treated him had become a reason for him to look for a way out.
      Furthermore, Barcelona can show the numerous declarations of players, that Neymar had decided to go elsewhere long before the end of the season. T.Silva said that back in the summer of 2016 he told Neymar to come to P$G and Neymar told him to sit back and watch what he’d do next summer (i.e. 2017).
      Dani Alves said that Neymar had told him to accept a deal with P$G, who swooped in and took Dani Alves just when everybody, everybody on the outside knew City would take him.
      Pique said in a public declaration that the players present for Messi’s wedding found out then (30th of June) that Ney was going to P$G.
      In other words, bad faith in negotiating can be proven.

      Second in this gist:
      Neymar used a unilateral manner to end his contract This is for legal specialist, but I’d say that the clause that stipulates rescinding of the contract takes precedence and nullifies additional clauses that stem from completion of the contract. In other words , if you quit you don’t get your bonus, no matter what the other lesser clauses say (and according to the club they were not fulfilled either).

      That’s the gist of it.

    2. Thanks, Peter, again, much appreciated. As you say it sounds like the club have a pretty strong case.

    3. Great summary, Peter, thanks a lot. Even without knowing the details, my sense was that there ought to be a good case on Barca’s side, as it is unlikely that a sum of money would be designated as a ‘loyalty’ bonus without some proper strings attached to it.

  35. Looks like the Dembele Deal is official.. 105+45 mn in bonuses.. I wonder what the bonus clauses are?
    Anyways excited to see him in action !!!

    Did anyone read the reports on Seri being so distraught from the Barca negotiations breaking down that he actually took a game off ? Feel sad for him and hope that isn’t true!

    1. Barcelona came and offered 30 million. Hearing that, PSG called Nice and said they’d offer 50 million. The Nice president called Barcelona and said “Another club’s offering 50 mill, Can I hear more?”
      Barcelona said “no deal” and hearing that Barcelona has gone back, PSG told the Nice president “Nah, bruh, just kidding, lol.”

      Sad about Seri in any case, Nobody likes to be told he’s a pawn in the game of thrones, and I’m pretty sure he would be giving everything he has. Still, Barcelona’s midfield has so many midfielders, it’s getting hard to breathe. Right now I’m more concerned about Aleña and the minutes he´d be getting.

    2. Ugh.. that sure is horrible to hear. I read rumors (not really sure if it’s even half true) but supposedly, the barca scouting team was watching him in the last game (I think it was vs Napoli, not sure though) and he had a bad game, so they veto’d the deal based on that one game… Hope that’s not the case, it would be both funny and sad if that was true though .. Though the incompetence level on that is so high that I’m probably leaning towards it being a flat out lie.

  36. I don’t understand the optimism in these comments. We just paid €100m + variables for a less tested, less talented, less marketable Neymar. I would immediately add this to the depressingly long, tortured list of abysmal dealings in the transfer market approved or instigated by this board: Arda, Paco, Gomes, Paulinho are all €30m plus players in cost, €15m players in value. We’ve just tripled our mistake. Calling it the fault of the market only works as long as you assume we’re not capable of making buys as savvy as those of *our biggest rivals* the Madrid clubs. We could have folded the Neymar windfall away, in another transfer window everyone would have forgotten about it. Yes the team needs ground-up rebuilding, but reckless, shortsighted spending when we know clubs are going to hold us over a barrel was the worst possible outcome. Now the squad remains lackluster or unproven and we’re broke. Imagine how much this kid is going to have to grow to meet the figure we just paid. Madness. This board has to be removed. The rot began with Rosell, let it end with this signing.

  37. Two questionable signings. One because of the player’s procedence and the other for the cost the team paid for him.

    However, let’s think… what if the board didn’t do any of the two signings? What would be the reaction? My guess would be: “stupid board, having lots of money and yet they don’t bring anyone”, “we need reinforcements and the board are just there sitting in their asses, giving a crap about the team”, “how are we supposed to compete in all three championships without doing something about Neymar’s departure?”

    Now, what if the board decided to go for low-key and lower cost players? Ny guess the reactions would be: “What? Why are they bringing ‘nobodies’ from around the world?”, “Fuc%=*! cheap asses, they are just toying around with the supporters.”

    Seriously, I can see why the signings are questionable and dubious. However, I can also see the pressure the club has thanks to the extreme demand culers do everyday: win the Treble every year. Which is a very absurd demand. Supporters need to embrace more down-to-earth demands and appreciate that even if the team wins “just La Liga” in a season it is still a good season; they also need to realize that even if there’s a trophyless season it isn’t necessarily a reason to panic.

    Soooo, let’s calm down a little and see what happens. Many didn’t have faith in Neymar and he proved to be vital for the team. Suarez’s signing was also questioned and he turned out to be a fine addition to the team. So let’s see what do Dembele and Paulinho bring to the team. Give them the benefit of doubt.

  38. dembele is ours now, welcome dembele

    i always think that our “school boy” environment within the Barca team is the best place to nurture talented youngsters. Dembele is so lucky now to have messi and iniesta as his mentor. I wish the best for him and hopefully the can quickly adapt and be a succesfull transfer. visca Barca

  39. Whats also important is to play smart and sell all the dead weight in our team asap.
    Douglas, Verm, Arda, Gomes and maybe even Munir, Paco and Rafinha if a good ofer comes for either of them.

  40. Why Semedo hasn’t started no idea? Valverde needs to blood him into Liga & team & first 2 games against weaker opponents presented perfect opportunity. A bit conservative when we need sparks

  41. Back to the basics i say.
    Less spectacular but more organized and keep it simple plays which for now looks quite ok.

    1. I was actually fairly happy with the midfield play, we circulated the ball well and kept control of the game.

      The problem is that with only Messi out there there simply isn’t enough quality in the final third. It’s like watching Argentina against, for example, Brazil’s packed defense.

    2. I agree Tito. Keep it compact, hold the lines, stay organized, be conservative, just keep the ball, and play triangles, 1-2s, 1-2-3s. Not a bad formula under a new coach, new signings still to be integrated, new formations. weak opponents for the first 2 games who will just stay in their half and try to counter.
      We did miss the speed of Semedo and Vidal continues to disappoint. Sergi Roberto was actually the one tasked with keeping the width on the right side, mirroring Alba on the left while Delofeu and Vidal played closer to Messi and switched sides at times. It’s really amazing how much better as a side we are at keeping the ball when Iniesta plays and him and Messi orchestrated the patient build-ups. I never saw Seri play but I don’t think Coutinho will be able to play Iniesta’s role. Paulinho looked lost and a bit nervous. Understandable but also demonstrates why Dembele and a possible Coutinho will take time to integrate and we probably won’t see many 4-0s and manitas this season but if we can keep clean sheets we’ll be in there. That’s probably the whole philosophy of Valverde’s first season.
      One worry is that Messidependencia is back. Hopefully when Luis is back and the new star signings are integrated, the dependencia will decrease but it is obvious the young players would rather pass to Messi than attempt shots on goal.

    3. I fully agree on Messidepencia and the need for patience. This team somehow feels very “young”, as if there are just too many players who still need to learn a lot about playing in a Barcelona midfield or attack: Alcacer, Vidal, Semedo, Deulofeu. Sergi Roberto, who has been seriously involved in the first team for three years, seems like one of the veterans!

      Messi dropping back so deep against a team where we really needed men forward is definitely not a good sign. And if he hadn’t done it, it is very possible that the team wouldn’t have done much offensively the whole game (though of course that is also down to most players looking to pass to Messi too much). Too little movement from our offensive players, and Rakitic becoming braver and more creative but still nowhere near enough. I have great hopes for effective attacks down the wings though – Roberto + Semedo as well as Alba + Dembele sounds like a lot of fun – but it is becoming very clear we need a target man in the box for that. Maybe that’s what Paulinho can do when Suarez isn’t available?

  42. – happy with the 3 points. good start to la liga so far. less fancy Barca, just basic as someone said above, but enough to secure the win. with the new coach still adapting, I have no problem with it, we need the consistency to win the games first before we win beautifully. that beautiful game ala Barca would come soon.

    – Iniesta and messi are now carrying the team, as suarez is still injured for the next few weeks. hope dembele could integrate soon. wishing coutinho and seri deal could be finalised before 31 aug and we would be so competitive again,

    – There were rumours last month about CB inigo martinez, but nothing happen so far. probably another reason the club bought Paulinho is to make him an ad hoc CB if needed ?

    visca barca

  43. Dembele is a spectacular talent. He is also 20 years old. But even at that, his stats and abilities are mind-boggling. His initial price was 90m. The market went crazy and it became 150. That’s life. Barça had to buy to replace Neymar. Dortmund did well in the negotiations because reality was that they had to sell. Dembele wasn’t playing for them again.

    The difficulity with the market now is that you have to buy potential because prices for established talent are too high. If Dembele were to have had another great season at Dortmund and a great World Cup, his price would have been what Neymar’s was. Because that’s the reality of the market now.

    — The Seri case sounds like a shambles. The Nice president is saying that he is going to have some choice words after the window closes. Everyone assumes they are going to be directed at Barça, but I wouldn’t be so sure. If rumor is true. PSG behaved reprehensibly in this matter.

    As for the technical staff watching him and pulling the plug, that is entirely likely. He runs like an old man and is defensively suspect. If Napoli turned him inside out like that, what will even a mid-table Liga side do, with all those quick, talented dribblers? Fair question.

    That said, the human side of the transfer business is laid bare in this awful situation. He had his dream move lined up, then it all fell apart.

    1. Seri cannot hold thr ball. He is also afraid to do it. His idea of football is heavily relied upon other finding him as soon as he releases the ball. Always Underpressure he turns his back and passes the ball back.
      His movement off the ball is at best “terrible”. Always thought Xavi is somewhat naive in his statements. Maturity in the pitch does not always translate equally outside of it. Seri is not a player of Barca calibre. Not even close. A better player in an avarage team. Bellow avarage in a Great team.

      Dembele is special character. Self-trusting and Confident. He has mental capacity expanding far beyond what Neymar is capable. He also makes clear choses, faces the consequences, and sticks to what he has decided.
      A wonderful story reveals his thrust for learning. He allegedly refused to stay at Rennes for there wasn’t much to learn. Went in a strike demanding to leave. As he should. If you know yourself why accept the little?
      The fact that he handles pressure so well, without allowing parents and agents to player roles; good cops an dad cops, the guilty and the innocent. He seems to be comfortable with what is taking place. This shows me what he will be like on thr pitch. That his talents are not going to be hindered by lack of self belief.
      He has sad his favourite players are Messi and Neymar. So was it just a whim, a disgruntled player not willing to play for BVB? I think not.
      It became quickly clear that he is the most talented player there. Someone who is world class in many aspects of the game. So if a player had previously refused to stay because there is no one to learn from anymore why would not he do it again? Reus is injured all the time. Auba is great striker but very limited in what he can do. The team becomes dependent on Dembele to deliver a lot of the whole attacking threat. And he delivers. Then why stay? He should not stay.
      I have my own self worth. As an ex-player is duty to myself to do whatever I can and play with Messi. BIf you truly love yourself and the game then would want to take things further, take more responsibility, acknowledge The Great Man.
      Dembele is Ambipedal. That means that when it comes to scoring he doesn’t need to set himself up on foot. No. Boys. Take a look at him. See what you gain. Neymar wasted 50 chances because he would ways try to set himself up on hi stronger foot. Dembele does not have that. He also generates more power than Neymar. He is much faster in making the final decision as well. Most of all Dembele is thrusty to learn. So much so he will perform, do whatever it takes to satisfy himself and Messi.

  44. Happy for the win! To me, this game was less promising than last week, though, despite some good possession (which happens when Iniesta is back, as noted above,despite him looking rusty). The team did not move and did not function well as a unit. It is obvious that Vidal and Deulofeu are not good enough to be starting, long term, and could not fill the gap left by Messi dropping. This will never work against stronger opposition, as they will close off the false-9-Messi easily. Messi’s game has changed and is no longer adapted to this role, as he has turned into a playmaker. It looked better when Alcacer was subbed on, but that could also have to do with Alaves opening up, leaving more space to use.

    At the moment, this is basically the same team as last year, but without Neymar (and for now, Suarez). Dembele is an exciting signing, but primarily long term, though he will surely give us more than either winger from yesterday.

    It is still early, but if we want to challenge this year, at least one more signing is necessary. Seri won’t come, and frankly I don’t think he should, from what I have seen (Jorginho looked better to me, though his team was of course better functioning ´). The latest name to be thrown around is Schalke’s talent Leon Goretzka (and, less likely, Naby Keita), but he is box-to-box, so no controller there. I have no opinion on him, as I have rarely seen him play, but it begs the question of what type of player is needed. Is it a controller? There does not seem to be anyone good enough available. Should we rather look for mobile mids (like the aforementioned Leon G) to support the playmaking of Messi, Iniesta (when available) and Busquets with runs and options? Semedo is that kind of WB, SR is that kind of player, Alba too. SR’s runs against Betis were useful. To my mind, a good idea would be to decrease the need for Messi to run, and instead create movements around him and Busquets (who stepped further up against Betis).

    There are options, but right now it is way too much up to Messi to do it all, and even if he does often manage, it will not do to burn him to the ground. But let’s finish with a positive: Umtiti.

  45. Well, I’ll take this chance to be first to welcome, Coutinho. No he hasn’t signed but Liverpool would be off their heads not to let him go after this performance today.

    Am I right in thinking they still have Sturridge, Milner, Wijnaldum and Lallana ( just off the top of my head) still to come in ? That’s a lot of players with a not dissimilar position to Coutinho. They also have to strengthen their defence which although not tested doesn’t look great and money would be good to get that done quickly.

    It’s a no brainer !

  46. Yeah Wijnaldum had a great game. There was a moment in the game when he juked an Arsenal defender and made him fall. It was awesome!
    Did anyone see how atrocious Bellerin was at defending today? Salah burned him.
    Anyway back to Barça. I agree on the Messidependencia we can’t rely on that. The man is 30 not 25 anymore. We are going to burn him out and injure him and then we are toast because Deulofeu and Denis Suarez don’t have goals in them like Leo Messi.
    I don’t know why coaches keep bothering with Vidal. He’s a defensive black hole although the did play as a winger this last game. I think Sergi Roberto as RB is a waste of his talents. I think he is the controller that we need but he needs consistency in that position. Xavi wouldn’t be Xavi if he was playing RB every other game. If I was Sergi, I would have told Luis Enrique to righteously fuck off about playing me in that position. Now he has that label on him and I don’t like it.

    I hope Coutihno arrives and the way Liverpool is playing without him shows that he’s not that important for that team. They should take the money and buy actual defenders because Lovren and Matic are penalties waiting to happen,

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