Trust, taint, transfers and your summer

It is almost transfer season. And this is true even as transfer season really never ends in football as whispers become rumors become concrete things or not, become shirt swaps and joful/sad/puzzled fans.

A high-quality Twitter account that is more than worth your time, @santapelota, wrote a piece on Griezmann that contained a great deal of useful thoughts in general. The second paragraph is masterful:

First, that the outlay matching or improving on Antoine Griezmann’s buy0ut clause directs resources away from areas of the team, namely midfield, that need addresssing in the form of restoration, an unavoidably ideology-laden preoccupation at a club like FC Barcelona.

With a elegantly assembled collection of words, the writer summed up so much that is complicating matters in this transfer window. My less elegant summation is that people know what they know and what they think is best. The problems arise when they place that above what the club needs, complicated by the fact that we really have no freakin’ idea what the club needs.

Let’s take, for example, a midfielder. You have to look at now, the B team, who is in the pipeline and how they are progressing at Juvenil level, the odds that person will become an issue down the road, as well as price of the transfer in the context of club relationships, other squad needs and fiscal complexities such as new stadiums, potential new sponsors and global branding.

Mes que un midfielder, right?

Many supporters have a way they want the club to play, and players who they think will support that way of playing. As a consequence, we becone wedded to the idea of those players and that way of playing, at the exclusion of everything else.

In addition to being a bon vivant and an example of how to always live your best life, Paulinho should have taught us quite a lot about what we want, and squad needs. The 29-year-old midfielder came to Barça from China in a deal that will rile people up decades from now, for EUR40m. Leaving aside that 40 is the new 15 in today’s market, it was the idea of him that vexed and still vexes. This idea existed in layers.

— Age
— Price
— Skills
— Philosophical necessities

Valverde wanted him because he watched him in China and with Brazil, and understood that in his notion of an idealized Messi structure, you needed a player who would facilitate the Argentine’s dreams of winning and scoring bags of goals. This means you needed a husky, physical player who could help press to turn possession close to the opponent’s box, withOUT having the entire team press like demons because structure at the back was also important, given that two of the team’s attackers weren’t going to be making defensive contributions, as they did when Guardiola unleashed hell on world football.

That conception also needed a player who would keep the ball moving, who wasn’t going to take a pass, caress it, note how many laces there are per inch in the sphere at his feet, then send it along. Wall passes. Pam. Messi takes, runs, feeds to that player and keeps running because he knows the player is just a human backboard that will give him the ball right back. That was Paulinho. And that is all that Paulinho was.

Removing all of the ideological stuff from the equation, and also revealing a future post, Paulinho was the transfer of the summer for Barça, while also being a reviled player because of the reality of his necessity. He was a player who was good for the team, even if he wasn’t good for anyone’s notion of their ideals of what their version of the best team needed. But the best team is defined by available personnel and tactical realities.

Sure, you can set up a team of capering sprites, but if all that group sees is low blocks, what does it need then?

Transfer season is about idealism. “Let’s get Eriksen, and Thiago, and Pjanic, and Alaba, then De Jong and De Ligt. Perfect.” Considering what the team really needs isn’t any fun, really, because we don’t know. So it reduces us to intellectual inaction in many ways because … well … dunno.

The best Barça team was the one that had Paulinho in the midfield. Overall performance declined when he suffered the foot fracture, then the fatigue-based form fracture. That team, for various reasons, never returned. Had you said that to someone in July when Paulinho was offered up as an option, you would have been run out of town on a rail. But that was what happened. Was it a perfect solution? Nope. But it worked.

Ideas of transfers become ideas that supporters embrace as extensions of themselves. To dispute the player is a direct attack, rather than just a piece of theory. “Brown shoes or black?” It’s that kind of a question, rather than any sort of a direct attack on our notions of what we know about football and our ideals of the team. Because we don’t know until the player comes, and we know.

Thiago Alcantara is the name on most lips. If he were to return to the club, everyone would be giddy because of what he represents as much as the skills that he brings to the side. On Twitter the other day, someone suggested that Pjanic was a better Thiago than Thiago as well as being more durable. You would have thought they said that Martians are on Earth right now. Because of ideas and ideals.

Both are fantastic players. Both aren’t the only player, or the only solution to a midfield dilemma that just got a bit more complicated thanks to a ruptured set of muscle fibers on Carles Alena. Their potential effect, as well as those of a bunch of other folks, is worth discussing. But the biggest value of transfer season is that it gives supporters something to do. It’s like fantasy football for NFL fans. Wheeee! That’s all it is, which is worth keeping in mind amid the blizzard of rumors about this or that player being available. Theory works best as such, rather than ideology.

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

103 Comments

  1. mvarfi
    June 9, 2018

    Agreed.
    Here’s to hoping that this World Cup will provide some respite from the barrage of transfer hopes and rumors. I’m just waiting on Griezmann’s decision, then I’ll unplug from all things Barca for a whole month, until the end of the WC, that is. It’ll be a mental and emotional fasting.

  2. PPos
    June 15, 2018

    well Bartomeu proves his ineptitude AGAIN! Griezmann is gonna stay at Atletico. This board is pathetic. They can’t even get a transfer done right! It’s ridiculous. I wish Messi would use his influence to call for a vote against the board.

  3. PPos
    June 15, 2018

    well Bartomeu proves his ineptitude AGAIN! Griezmann is gonna stay at Atletico. This board is pathetic. They can’t even get a transfer done right! It’s ridiculous. I wish Messi would use his influence to call for a vote against the board. ..

  4. squeen
    June 15, 2018

    You can say that again!

    (just kidding)

  5. Jim
    June 15, 2018

    Woah, how does this show ineptitude on anyone’s part ? We go after a player, player decides to stay where he is end of story. How can this turn into ( yet another) incompetent board story ? Why do you think that ? Do you think he didn’t offer enough ( there was a release clause amount I’m guessing) , do you think he didn’t sell Barca as a team ? Give us a clue.

    For what it’s worth, it’s doesn’t bother me much. I’m not sure Griesman, although a great player, would thrive in the lack of space with us. He also isn’t a winger, plays his best off the front and that’s where Messi plays. He’d be good for rotation but if he doesn’t want to come there’s a reason so good luck to him. He’ll not win La Liga with Atleti.

    I’m MUCH more concerned that we do some business in the midfield. Folk will know that I’m a huge admirer of Thiago’s play and I’d buy him in a minute. I said earlier this year that I met a diehard Bayern fan in a Bavarian pub in Vegas who told me that Bayern would let him go as he split the fans. Folks didn’t think so but it seems he might have been right. Injuries are a worry but I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone else enough to persuade me that they can improve our midfield.

    He’s not playing tonight which I can understand as they have Iniesta and Busi so they need a runner in Koke ( who I’m not really impressed by) but he will be used and it’ll be interesting to see if he steps up. I watched him give a masterclass in the last warmup but one and he’s the only one who can give us back something of what we’ve lost with Iniesta.

    If we don’t buy a really good technical creative mid I fear for us.

  6. PPos
    June 15, 2018

    Let me tell you Jim, if it was Joan Laporta doing the transfers, Griezmann would have been wrapped up before the World Cup. Let’s see who Bartomeu has bought, Douglas, Deulofeu, Turan, Aleix Vidal, Halilovic, Alex Song, Gomes, Digne, Alcacer, not exactly world beaters. The reason we haven’t gotten past of the CL quarterfinals is weak leadership leading to a poor transfer policy.

    I agree with you on Thiago. He’s class. He’s Barca made. He’s kind of injury prone but with the right physios and maybe Messi’s italian dietitian things could change on that front. I guess Griezmann isn’t really a priority for we have a good forward line, but giving Suarez proper competition i think is necessary. Griezmann would have helped on that front. It’s just embarrassing that the guy decided to stay. I think bartomeu didn’t do his job well enough. Laporta got transfers done, through and through.

  7. luisthebeast
    June 15, 2018

    Be ready for a difficult season cules.
    Board and players are lucky that there is Valverde and he would take the blame if a bad season comes.
    Watching Pique Suarez and Busquets today made me feel what i will watch if they will be starters next season.
    The other top clubs try to sign young fast players and we will have the same 30+ slow grandpas start every game.

    • Víctor
      June 16, 2018

      Busquets was great yesterday. He made the two passes that led to Costa’s goals. Pique was OK. He made a foul against Cristiano that led to Portugal’s equaliser, but it wasn’t that of a silly foul for me.

      Suarez, man, he was just crap. I was hoping that we would see a better Suarez with his NT, but seems that his form is forever gone. Even when he isn’t that old…

      Umtiti’s handball today was the silly one for me. Even if it was a small contact, you don’t go raising your arms like that in a FK, Dembele was decent…

  8. ULTRACULÉ
    June 16, 2018

    Ok..so,
    if the last 3 years is anything to go by,
    we can safely assume that Portugal is winning the world cup right?
    Ugh.

    • Víctor
      June 16, 2018

      Meh, Portugal is gonna reach quarterfinals at best… they rely so much on Cristiano, but he can do so much… they should be worried about their future, though… Cristiano hasn’t many years left at that level and they don’t seem to have a proper squad to make up for his departure…

  9. TITO
    June 16, 2018

    Ok, so you have 8 defenders who cant defend and 3 forwards who cant do much on their own.
    That was Sampaoli’s game plan?

  10. Víctor
    June 16, 2018

    Can’t really blame Sampaoli for that tie. Iceland’s goal came through a serious blunder from Argentina’s GK and poor defending…

    Also, it’s not like Iceland is a crap team. They qualified by winning their UEFA group, even ahead of Croatia. They also made a decent/good performance at UEFA Euro 2016, even knocking out England. Granted, England wasn’t the best of teams back them, but still…

    Finally, Argentina looked quite good at the second half… sure, sure, that was helped because Iceland just sat back waiting for a counter or the game to end, but their players created a few good chances… still bummed because Messi missed that PK…

    The only teams looking good so far are Spain and, to a lesser extent Portugal (and mostly because of Cristiano) and Argentina looked like if they focus a lil’ bit better and connect better they can do great things… France’s victory was a shoddy one…

    • Grindelwald
      June 16, 2018

      If this match taught us anything, it’s that it’ll take a miracle for Argies to even reach the quarterfinals, I wonder where there would be without Messi!
      Messi had an horrendous game, its understandable as he’s under extraordinary pressure, the likes which Ronaldo never had to contend with in his national team colours, which makes him make unusual decisions today. It’ll help if Messi relaxes in the next game and finds a suitable playmate, also there defences is pure shit; Masche should be brought back to the defense to partner Otamendi, while Rojo should play as LB atleast there’ll be a semblance of coherency.
      Let’s wait and see what Germany and Brazil comes up with cause all the big teams have fell flat so far.

      • G6O
        June 16, 2018

        Well, that’s the thing.

        Cristiano doesn’t have more talent around him than Messi, but Portugal is not of the same statute internationally as Argentina, and it has not endured a 25-year old trophy drought.

        And they got that fluky win at the last Euro to further take the pressure off.

        I in fact don’t quite see what pressure Cristiano is under at the moment at all.

        • Víctor
          June 16, 2018

          Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugal NT are, indeed, under pressure. Not as much as Argentina obviously; but given their group, is expected for them to advance. Portugal failed to make it past group stage at Brazil 2014 and was a big dissapointment, it is not expected for them to not advance again.

          If they advance, their most likely rivals are gonna be either Russia, Uruguay or Egypt… Portugal’s fans would certainly expect their team to advance through… so yes, they are indeed under some pressure. Making it to the Round of 16 will be considered barely fair enough for them, making it to Quarter Finals will be OK, at least.

          And yes, while I reckon Argentina having lots of more status in the football world, I’d also say that it is also fair to say that they have been overrated in the last 10 or so years… Argentina isn’t, right now, the football giants they used to be. They aren’t living up to their “usual standard”.

          I do think they have a decent chance of making it past group stage, though… just watched Croatia vs Nigeria and both teams were kinda dissapointing, mostly Nigeria.

  11. Grindelwald
    June 16, 2018

    Crashing out with a whimper at this WC can break Messi forever and tarnish his image considerably, giving Ronaldo an edge over future debates. So sad to see the best players surrounded by useless casts.

  12. Víctor
    June 16, 2018

    By the way, not to shit on Messi or anything like that… but I do get kinda annoyed at the “he has a lot of pressure” over him statements to kinda “justify” his shortcomings… I mean, by this moment he should know how to handle it… or at least somewhat…

    Since the moment it was announced he was going to take that PK against Iceland, most of us ‘knew’ that he was going to miss it… we should be able to admit that PKs aren’t Messi’s thing… even if it means admitting that Ronaldo is better than him on that regard… but hey, people like to get themselves in the Cristiano vs Messi debate and aren’t able to recognize that there might be some things that Ronaldo is better at, while Messi is better at other ones.

    • hereiam
      June 17, 2018

      Personally I don’t think so, no.
      So much of Argentina’s hope rests squarely on his shoulders, and he knows he doesn’t have that much time left. He went so close before, so close, yet the only thing he has to show for it for his national team is the Olympic medal. CR7 doesn’t have that kind of national hope on his back, and it is liberating for him. But more than most, I think Messi feels as if he owes his nation something, and he is really really truly desperate to pay it back.
      If only he had won one Copa or two, it would have been so much different. It was as if fate conspires against him.

      As a side note, sure CR7 is better at penalties, he wasn’t named “Penaldo” for no reason.

  13. luisthebeast
    June 16, 2018

    Best game by a Barca player in WC until now by Rakitic.
    Our best MF right now.
    If Thiago or Pjanic comes i would like to see Raki more time at DM
    Dembele was like a kid today who must learn how to play football,i still cant believe we paid 140m but we cant wait i guess.
    Argentina must beat Croatia,one of the best teams for me in this WC.Sampaoli must stop be stupid playing Macherano and Biglia.

  14. luisthebeast
    June 16, 2018

    And more watching our players in WC,more i see that Valverde was nt a coward at Rome but a pragmatic man who see the reality and made an amazing job winning double with this squad.

  15. Jim
    June 17, 2018

    A lot been happening to fill the dull close season and some interesting thoughts.

    First, PPOS,, I’m still not sure how Laporta could have bought Griesman if he didn’t want to come ? I’d agree most on your list haven’t worked for us but there are also several who have which weren’t on the list, including us spending over 200m just last season on two popular forwards. We don’t have money to waste on someone who mucks us about.

    Thiago is class, knows our system so there’s not the season adjustment and fits our style of play perfectly.

    Ronaldo ! Just have to say from my POV he won a penalty from dangling the usual leg against the defender but Nacho also sees this every week so that was a stupid challenge. His second was laughable – and not the first howler from de Gea in the last month. Don’t like him. He’s a nervy keeper. The third was again a very soft FK. I think Pique got a little close to him but there was nothing there. The FK however, was superb, given the context.

    Again, for me, De Gea’s positioning was shocking. From that position he needed to favour the side the ball went to rather than his choice of 3/4 of the way to the other post. If Ronaldo was going to put the ball in that corner he’d have to start it close De Gea swinging away, which is more easily dealt with. The side it went to it was never stoppable until it swerved inside the post, much harder for a keeper.

    Luis, I’m not sure where you got the idea that Pique and Busi were poor. I thought both were excellent. Also, the idea that we need to replace them and leave Rakitic is weird on many levels. I agree with you that we need more pace in the team. We could start that with Thiago replacing Iniesta but the real problem is Rakitic. You do know he’s the slowest player in the squad (from a year ago) ? Btw, have a look at Pique and Busi. Just in passing. Pique is deceptive. His weakness is nippy forwards one on one turning him yet folks here constantly talk about him being slow. Both of their reading of the game is also more important than folks think.

    https://www.90min.com/posts/4828503-revealed-the-fastest-and-slowest-barcelona-players-so-far-this-season

    I didn’t see the Croatia game so can’t comment but we have continually lowered our expectations for him from when he arrived as a box yo box player who will score goals from long range to he’s busy covering for someone at RB when nobody mentioned the LB was the one who went forward until last season to where he was reduced to a job share with Busquets. I shudder to think is out him in Busi’s role on his own. He’s slow, can’t keep up with play and doesn’t have the technical skills to keep the ball under pressure, for me. He’s the one who needs to go to make way for a pacier mid. I’ve nothing against him. He gives his all every game and he’s actually a better forward passer than he has shown us but not good enough to be a regular starter.

    Lastly, Messi. I didn’t think he had a bad game at all but he will struggle in this side. First thing both Argentina and Barca need to do is remove the penalty taking from him. He doesn’t need that pressure along with everything else. He’s the best player ever, in my opinion ( and Im old enough to have actually watched Pele, Maradonna, Best, Cruyff, etc) and just happens to not be a great penalty taker. I think part of the problem is that he has so many ways to beat a keeper that, having the time to think, choosing one is difficult !

    Btw, I’m seeing the name Pjanic from Juve come up a lot. I’ve watched Juventus a few times this year and he’s never imposed himself on my consciousness . Can’t remember him at all. Reminds me a little of Dybala who we made look good then he disappeared.

    Anyway, need to check on Germany and then Brazil later on , plus catch the last round of the US Open. Busy day of nothingness.

    Just sayin ‘

  16. Jim
    June 17, 2018

    Btw, I meant to say I thought Masche had a great game yesterday at DM and nobody would accuse me of being his biggest fan !

  17. Jim
    June 17, 2018

    Ok, last thought. Just watching the camera pan along the German team and thinking how many would I play in ours . Answer for me is frighteningly few, if any. How do they do it time and again ?

  18. Víctor
    June 17, 2018

    Not to toot our own horn… but Mexico has done, easily, the best performance so far. Even better than Spain, Portugal and Argentina.

    • Víctor
      June 17, 2018

      Of course, I don’t discard the possibility the team may fuck up against South Korea and/or Sweden and end up in 2nd place… but still, Osorio made a great game plan, Mexico should have scored 1 or 2 goals more…

  19. PPos
    June 17, 2018

    No, Victor, you’re totally right. Mexico was very impressive against Germany. They made Kroos and Khedira look like they hadn’t won 5 Champions Leagues between them. It was amazing. They should have had more goals to be honest, Germany remind me of Spain at the 2014 World Cup. Out of their depth, old, and uninspired. I hope they get knocked out to be honest.

    Messi, oh my poor boy. He’s playing for a team that honestly is pretty terrible. Argentina at the back look awful. No organization. Nothing. They need some Valverde to tune them up haha. I seriously hate that Sampaoli doesn’t trust in Dybala. He could have made something happen with his trademark long range strikes. I would drop Di Maria into the midfield like Ancelloti did at Madrid with him and start Dybala.

    This World Cup is been pretty fun so far with all the “favorites” struggling. It reminds me why I love football. You can talk tactics all day long. Tout the weight of the shirt you wear and what not, but if you don’t show up when you have to. It shows. In the end, its 11 vs. 11 after all.

  20. Víctor
    June 18, 2018

    What are your opinions on VAR, people?

    Me, I think that it had been good. Not perfect and it won’t take away all controversies around games, but it has brought some justice to the games at least. France’s win was fair… yes, I know that “in terms of football” they shouldn’t have won, they weren’t good, but their two goals are totally valid.

  21. luisthebeast
    June 18, 2018

    I wonder whats going on at Barca.
    Are they sleeping?
    Same time Atletiko keeps Griezmann they sign Lemar and they renew Lucas,Barca waiting for what?To find players in WC?
    I read rumours that Paco and Digne will stay,Vidal Gomes cant find teams to pay good money and they dont know if they will bring Arthur now??
    Also as we all see in this WC football is more now about physicality and speed,not only technique.
    Cant believe we will have our grandpas after a WC starters for a season with 60 games.
    Very very bad signs.

  22. Jim
    June 19, 2018

    Just getting over England’s injury time goal. Can’t say it wasn’t deserved or coming but still a blow when it arrived. They are actually a good example of physicality and pace so it’ll be interesting to watch their progress.

    Physicality and speed have always been an important part of football but never the most important for me, or at least not in terms of the whole team. A CB who can’t read the game is useless no matter how much speed he has. They said exactly the same before the arrival of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Before the CL final against Man Utd I remember reading a piece in one of the English papers dismissing the lack of physicality in our side and that ended with Rooney throwing up his hands in despair because they couldn’t get the ball. I would echo Cesc’s comments on TV the other night which is that the most obvious feature of the WC so far is exactly the opposite, that there has been a dearth of creativity from midfields.

    I think we’ve seen enough over the past few years to know that we won’t know a lot about our transfer work till it happens. I would imagine they are working pretty hard, first of all in getting rid of the mistakes of the LE era ( and that will prove hard enough but is necessary to make way for younger players) but also in bringing in what we need. I sincerely hope that these moves are under way or else we’ll end up in the huge error of paying over the odds for someone who happens to have a decent WC.

    I’m not worried about next year but I am worried about giving Messi a midfield that takes some of the necessity of coming back and going forward so much away from him. And, yes, the new members of that area should have pace, but more importantly the ball skills, especially the ability to break the lines and get forward. I think our new purchases will tell me a lot about the philosophy of our sporting team and by extension the handle that Barto has on them.

    On the rumour front ( started by me in this instance ! ) I note the comments from Isco, a player who is growing in confidence and creative ability, regarding his admiration for Messi and the Barca defenders Pique and Alba. Hmmm, Neymar to RM, Lopetegui apparently a huge admirer of an available Thiago and Isco already on the fringes of the first team at times ? I fear for culers’ sanity if Thiago were to go there and we end up with another Gomes. As I’ve said before, it’s not that hard. There are at most three or four players around who could genuinely add something to our midfield and Isco and Thiago are two of them. Otherwise, the loss of Iniesta will be crippling.

    As far as performances in the WC are concerned I’ve still seen nobody come close to matching the football that Spain have played. Doesn’t mean they are favourites though. A lot will depend on whether they can get the goals their play deserves but Costa is off to a good start.

    VAR beginning to annoy me. Leaving aside whether it gets it right or not ( surely it will on most occasions ) It really does look intrusive as you’ve mentally moved on with the ref’s decision only to be informed that maybe that decision will be overturned in a minute. Doesn’t sit right with me I’m afraid.

    .

  23. Jim
    June 19, 2018

    I’ve obviously been ignoring my Barca related reading recently ( still enjoying great weather here in Scotland ! ) I missed the stramash surrounding Pique and his video company producing two videos of Griesman ? Now, apparently, Barto has had a word. Can someone explain exactly what he did wrong ? As far as I can see he has explained that he didn’t know of the decision until the day before and informed the club as soon as he did. Is it the fact his company accepted the work ? Jeez. Apparently Umtiti has also been getting pelters ? Not sure how I would approach those conversations without hacking off one ( or possibly two ? ) CBs. I’m calling BS on that.

  24. Hey Jim. ca va? Am sprinting to the last week of a month in France now and hence francais :)-
    Its the board who sees a problem with Pique and we all know you are not a big critic of the board :)-. Of course LE asked them for Turan instead of Gundogan etc and played a big role in us ending up with mid table level mediocre bench players (some of them we are even finding impossible to sell), but the board clearly is not looking great. Even if there is 25% truth in the repeating stories on how the dressing room dislikes the board and does not even want some of the board members in the dressing room (Segura an important figure) then is it not enough to say that not even the players are happy with the board.
    Am missing many WC matches but ran nearly 3 kms to a bar to miss only the first 5 mins of Argentina match.. and shit…. The biggest mistake made by Messi in his life is to not accept the Spanish offer.
    He has half the country against him, nearly 75% of his nations media against him, a moronic AFA that he even has to pay the wages to the training centre security staff and some mediocre players around who thinks their job is done once they pass the ball to him…. what a hell show..

  25. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    Well, at least this time Messi won’t get all the blame for this fiasco. Their goalkeeper practically killed them in this World Cup.

  26. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    It was that GKs stupid pass that made the whole difference, before that… Croatia wasn’t that better… they could have nicked a 0-0 draw, but that goal and Argentina’s desperation ended it all… especially after Modric’s goal…

    By the way, Rakitic ended up being the Man of the Match… he deserved that goal, even when it was easily conceded by Argentina…

  27. ULTRACULÉ
    June 21, 2018

    unbelievable what horrible circumstances messi has to deal with.
    that was one of the shittiest matches i have seen.

  28. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    Argentina isn’t mathematically out… but if Iceland wins tomorrow they are practically out… Croatia and Iceland would just pass the ball until the time runs out in their last game and that’s that…

    What’s the best scenario for Argentina? Nigeria win. Which seems unlikely, I doubt they may do something against Iceland’s defense and organization.

  29. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    About Sampaoli: everyone is shitting on him because of his line-ups, OK, I get it… but sadly, I don’t see that Argentina NT has potential for so much more… I don’t see too much quality from Argentinian players overall… just like Italy and Netherlands, their current generation doesn’t have too much quality…

    Besides, you can’t blame Sampaoli for that silly pass from their keeper… you can blame him, though, for that shitty defensive organization that led to Iceland’s goal…

  30. TITO
    June 21, 2018

    Difficult to blame someone, but i will take my chances with Sampaoli and his game plan, as it was with Iceland.
    You need the team to play for Messi and not around Messi. As is Portugal doing. But, what do i know.
    In other news, that guy Rakitic knows how to play football, does he? Man of the match in their two games so far. Too bad we want to sell him.

  31. Víctor
    June 21, 2018

    You can blame Sampaoli, his tactics and gameplan but… what’s a gameplan or strategy that may work well for this Argentina team? I can’t really think of any strategy other than playing a la Simeone or Mourinho that may get them some success. And even then, I’d doubt it… their defense is just horrid.

    Of course the Messi vs Cristiano in their NTs comparisons will keep on coming… and while they may prove a point about Cristiano being more successful and perhaps having more leadership… I think that we should also see that Portugal NT is pretty much a team with good/average players in every position. Other than Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s no really other player that stands out… perhaps Quaresma, but that’s mainly because it’s surprising to see him still playing there. However, the rest of Portugal’s players are good in their positions, not great or bad, but players that do their job just good enough. Their coach also plays them in a strategy the best suits them, despite the fact that it results in boring football, but brings the best of them.

    You can’t say the same for Argentina. Other than Messi, Aguero and perhaps Dybala, who stands out in that team? Higuain, Di Maria? Both are known for being chokers. Mascherano? He is very loved in Barça’s universe, but he really isn’t that player anymore. Biglia, Banega, Lo Celso? Don’t make laugh. And their defenders and GK are just awful.

    So yes, while Argentina have a decent-to-good attack with team, you also have a crappy midfield, mediocre defense and awful keepers. You can’t really expect to win an international tournament with that. Yes, I know, Barça has won a lot without having a great defense or goalkeepers, sure… but Barcelona has always had a good-to-great midfield and the defense, while not the best, is still a decent-to-good one and the keepers we have are, at least, competitive ones.

    Other than that there’s also the topic of leadership. Argentina does not have a leader. Messi, sadly, isn’t fit to be a leader. It might come as a shock to many, but that’s the reality… he isn’t the one to carry a team’s mentality and spirit through… and the same kinda applies to Iniesta, by the way, no matter how much we like them, they do not have the leadership quality that players like Totti, Xavi, Puyol, and even Ramos have. Argentina just doesn’t have the mentality or a leader on the pitch to make them carry on and face adverse circumstances accordingly… since the moment Croatia scored everyone “knew” it was over for Argentina.

    Take, for example, Spain… they didn’t “fall into pieces” after the penalty scored by Ronaldo or after De Gea’s mistake… they are a team that can plow through adverse situations and that’s why it’s gonna be hard to beat them… Spain’s defect, by the way, is the opposite… it seems that they can’t handle favorable circumstances… once they are winning is like they kinda forget who they are, but that’s another topic.

    So yes, sad for Messi, I didn’t expect him or Argentina to win the WC, we all knew that it wasn’t going to happen, but I guess that I naively expected them to do a good run… perhaps reaching semifinals or quarter finals and then say… “Ok, they failed to win, but they weren’t a disaster either”… it seems that even that was expecting too much for them.

    In a nutshell: this is the chronicle of an announced disaster. Argentina barely made it to this WC and in their March friendlies they were mainly bad… we hoped they’d fix their crap somehow but well… they didn’t. And things seem darker for the coming years for them… Messi will eventually retire (or maybe he just decided to do it again) and, which players will represent them for the next years? Maybe them reaching the 2014 WC final was a fluke…

    • georgjorge
      June 22, 2018

      Great analysis, thanks!

      Sampaoli seemed like a real coach after Maradona etc. during the last few years, but it’s not much help. The second half yesterday was awful. They have a team where everything depends on Messi without having a system where Messi can really shine.

  32. Víctor
    June 22, 2018

    So, Argentina does have a small chance of making it… but I don’t see them defeating Nigeria… but let’s just hope that a miracle will happen next Tuesday… but maybe the best for AFA is to end up getting eliminated next week… if a miracle happens it’ll end up masking their mediocrity…

    • Víctor
      June 22, 2018

      LOL, used a lot of “buts” there… that’s because I can’t really decide between:

      – wanting Messi to go to next round
      – knowing that this Argentina team doesn’t deserve to go through…

  33. TITO
    June 23, 2018

    Well, a lot of other teams in previous WC or EC didnt deserved to make it through the group stages and in the end they won it.
    Not saying that Argentina can and will, just that this is football and stranger things have happened in the past.

  34. Víctor
    June 23, 2018

    Mexico looking quite good… the entire mexican media should ask Osorio for forgiveness. This team seems like a serious World Cup contender, at least so far. Will most likely avoid Brazil in R16 and facing Switzerland or Serbia in R16 looks like a pretty winnable match.

    I see Mexico making it to a World Cup QF for the first time outside of mexican soil, and that’d be an important part of mexican football history…

  35. Víctor
    June 23, 2018

    Some people (Madridistas) are saying that Toni Kroos is better than Xavi because of that goal… are you serious? Not denying that Kroos is a great player, but he has been outplayed in Germany’s two games… just because he scored a wonder last minute goal doesn’t make him better than Xavi or any other great midfielder (like Pirlo or Zidane)…

    Either way, to be fair, I don’t get why many people want Germany to lose and get eliminated… they play great football, they are fun to watch… and they deserved to win this match against Sweden…

  36. TITO
    June 24, 2018

    Ok, lets buy this colombian Quintero, ASAP!
    Absolutely brilliant control of the ball and the game so far.

  37. luisthebeast
    June 24, 2018

    Messi is the best but he is 31 now,i dont have a problem if he walk in Argentina games waiting for the ball without any movement but i hope next season he is way more fit than this.
    I watched Coutinho vs Costa Rika he was always moved to receive the ball,he tracked back to defend,he was so good.
    Argentina have their problems but lets not pretend that Messi was good.

  38. luisthebeast
    June 24, 2018

    Barca must face the reality that many starters are 30 and 30+ and start now to build for the future or else we are in deep shit.

  39. Jim
    June 25, 2018

    Hi Fotobirajesh. Hope the month in France was enjoyable. I’ve not been in here much recently, hence the late reply. Weather here is unbelievable. I haven’t seen rain for over a month, the temp has rarely been under 20 and the temp today has been into the 30s so over the last few weeks I’ve been visiting some deserted west coast beaches I haven’t seen for 30 years or so !

    I’m not sure I would say I haven’t criticised the board but I do think Barto has done a good job in difficult circumstances.. As you say, I would blame the sporting team, probably headed by LE for the wasted summer in rebuilding. I still don’t know how any of them could have seen something in those players which made them think they could hack it at Barca. I’m also in the process of getting worked up about the fact that one of them on the sporting team ( Segura?) doesn’t fancy Thiago. If so, he’d better have somebody good in mind. Unknowns will waste another year of Messi who will be getting frustrated as it is. If Thiago is on offer for around 50m I’d snap it up ( after a careful medical). No adjustment year needed and a superb ball player. In some ways I hope he doesn’t play tonight to keep the price down.

    Can I also counsel against getting excited about anyone who has a good WC ? That’s happened far too often. For me, we need a great young-ish midfielder and a pretty good promising striker. The rebuilding has already started. We have bought Coutinho and Dembele for going forward. I’d be happy with Arnaiz getting the occasional time plus another bought in. In the midfield my great worry is our possession game linked to a bit of pace. Busi is a no brainer so we need another ball player there who can run a bit and another who has pace and energy to get about the pitch. That’s not Rakitic by any stretch of the imagination although I’m happy enough to see him stay and get some rotation time as he’s a decent if too safe passer.

    At the back we already have the pace in Semedo and Alba. The CBs aren’t quick but if Umtiti can get his sensible head back on they will be good not sure what I’d do with TV. He’s a great CB and would be fine spelling in for an injury but we need someone who can push the incumbents.

    So, there’s not a lot to be done but the correct decisions are important. Can’t afford another botched job. Behind the first team we need young players who have the high technical skills under pressure that we need .

    In terms of the WC, still most impressed by Spain and Brazil and not surprised by Germany’s poor displays. However, wounding them is one thing, getting rid of them is another. Most worried by the prospect of England doing well. They have a young team unburdened by the disasters of the past and could take a scalp or two. ( Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll be relieved ). Argentina I fear are not long for this world. I’ve never seen such a poor side from that country. We’re not talking about a poor WC side here – they’d struggle in the Scottish league !

    Just watching Uruguay. Not really impressed by either them or Russia. Another good goal from Suarez though which will keep the critics quiet for about a minute or so. Stupid commentators saying he saw the gap in the wall. His head was down the whole run up, the keeper was defending that side but the pace of the ball beat him. He’s much the same as Messi. There’s not much creativity in that side so next round will be about their limit.

    Biggest worry for me in the whole shebang is Messi’s mental state. He’s not himself. That shot before the last match and his body language during it were poor. You can only carry that pressure for so long before cracking and doing something daft. Not sure Antonella isn’t worried as well. Seems she’s on her way to Russia. That should do the trick . . .

    • Hey Jim, Glad that you got a deserved summer:)- In my wife place, Pyrenees, it was raining mostly. But I got some good days in Lyon, Toulouse and Marseille were I was into some volunteering and massage jobs, a bit in Figueras too.
      I met many Catalans there and they all think its Segura the guy who wants physicality than ball players. So if we dont get Thiago you can blame him, it seems..
      There is an excellent article by Valdano in the Guardian clearly stating what is wrong with Argentinian football.
      I hope you and all readers here also enjoy this one by De Maria.. Am not a fan at all of his brain, but this article is so nice.
      https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/angel-di-maria-argentina-english?utm_source=social&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=worldcup18&utm_term=DiMaria

      • squeen
        June 28, 2018

        Such a nice article by Di MAria! Thanks for pointing it out Fotobirajesh.

        Of course I loved the lines:

        “Leo’s eyes don’t work like your eyes and my eyes work. They look side to side, like a human. But he’s also able to see the world from above, like a bird. I don’t understand how it’s possible. “

  40. Víctor
    June 25, 2018

    Jesus… what a crazy group ending… what a crazy day 1 of the last group round, to be honest… never expected Uruguay to defeat Russia and, franctly, Saudi Arabia’s win against Egypt, while pointless, it was still bonkers…

    The real show was Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Iran… a totally dramatic finish, aided by VAR, to make the two games end with a draw…

    Uruguay vs Portugal the 1st game of the R16… seems like it’s gonna be a snoozefest… I do think, however, that Uruguay has the edge here… better talent in defense and midfield… on the attack Portugal has the better player, but maybe Cavani + Suarez duo might prove decisive… it’s gonna be interesting to see the Ronaldo vs Godín and Suarez vs Pepe duels… sounds like a recipe for a shitshow… I do hope that this game has an early goal to make it interesting…

    Spain vs Russia the 3rd game of the R16… Russia today were exposed, they aren’t that bad of a team, but clearly their group was one of the weakest of this WC (if not the weakest one) and their two first games masked their deficiencies… they could have lost by 4 or more goals… meanwhile Spain looks good, but kinda fragile… their defense is shaky as fuck and while their build-up play is one of the best, they lack being a clinical team… still, the better one for this match, so I think that Spain will pass to QF without too much trouble…

  41. luisthebeast
    June 25, 2018

    Oh my my,if next season Pique and Busquets are starters,we are fucked up,Pique was a disaster,every average forward is faster than him and Busi cant score with a header from so close,whats the problem with our players,they are 30 and play like veterans,they must go to gym and work hard,they get paid millions,fuck we can go like that next season.
    And Thiago is good with the no look pass,yeah great,come on would we pay 70m for this?
    Shit we need young and fast players.

    • squeen
      July 2, 2018

      Don’t forget stupid—young, fast and stupid. The three go together.

  42. TITO
    June 26, 2018

    This Argentina side the way they play are not good enough to play in La Liga, let alone in World Cup.

    • Víctor
      June 26, 2018

      At least we saw that if Banega is there then something good for them can happen…

      The main difference, besides Banega, I saw is that the Argentina NT at least gave it all on the pitch… they ran, they didn’t give up and showed pride… and more mental stability. They didn’t go into crisis mode after Nigeria’s goal… they kept their cool, well… at least somewhat…

      And that’s also an important lesson they should learn from today, don’t go postal after things start looking bad. After Croatia’s goal the entire Argentina squad went mental… had they kept themselves calm they could, perhaps, managed to nick a draw there.

      Either way, they lack creativity and their defense is weak, good thing (for them) that France is managed by another coach with crappy ideas, they might be able to get a win.

  43. TITO
    June 27, 2018

    They lack a lot of things. Cant believe what childish mistakes they were making. Yes, they want to win, but that is making their play difficult, too much heart and less brain.
    Quite lucky that France is shit as well, and they have a fair chance to make it through. Let’s see.
    However, none of the big dogs is playing good, so maybe that’s a facilitating condition to make it all the way. Too bad for Morocco and Nigeria who deserved more than they got.

  44. Víctor
    June 27, 2018

    Seeing that Germany are out, losing to South Korea and barely winning against Sweden… I’m starting to think that Mexico also got lucky to face them in a mediocre condition… of course, Osorio’s tactics were quite right for the game, but them not being at their usual quality helped too…

    Mexico’s game today against Sweden well… leaves some doubts, if we have to face Brazil in the R16 then it’s surely over… but one can just hope that Brazil doesn’t win their group…

  45. Jim
    June 27, 2018

    I’m gonna say I called that before they’d kicked a ball. 🙂

    I’ve been thinking that this may be the most open WC in a while. Probably because there is no one team that I would call great so it has levelled out. It has been more exciting than I can remember for the group stages but also the level of general play maybe not as good. The ” poorer” teams have all learned that they can get organised, sit in and break. Giving them a shot. Most talented throughout maybe France but Im sticking with Brazil and Spain ( but a lot still depends on their finishing).

  46. Víctor
    June 27, 2018

    So… it’s Brazil vs Mexico in the knockout stage… Brazil not looking that great, but they are still a solid team… and Coutinho is delivering great performances, Paulinho is doing great as well… Neymar, he has the talent, but always want to draw the attention for himself.

    Either way, I see very few chances for Mexico, sadly. So far I see that Brazil has better defense than Germany (as surprising that may sound) and they have a good attack… Paulinho’s long distance shots are, most likely, gonna be the difference maker here… those type of shots are Ochoa’s weakness and Coutinho’s strength… Mexico will need to play perfectly to neutralize him… but Neymar is the another wandering threat that can do lots of damage if left alone… man, that’s sad… Mexico could have been facing a knockout against Switzerland instead of Brazil if they didn’t decide to play like crap today… hell, they just needed a draw…

  47. ULTRACULÉ
    June 28, 2018

    Can Argentina do a Portugal and actually win the WC seeing as it is an open tournament now.

  48. Jim
    July 1, 2018

    Aah, site is back up.

    Sadly, as we probably thought , Spain with trouble turning their possession into goals., largely because they couldn’t get players ( or passes) into the box. As Cesc correctly said they were totally risk averse and paid the price. If Hierro expected that scenario then he was nuts to leave Iniesta on the bench. He and Isco would have broken the lines often enough to create something. Instead he doesn’t see fit to change it at half time, perseveres with a double DM for most of the match and takes off Silva who is one of the few on the same football wavelength as them. To add to that he tells Iniesta to play so far up nobody can get the ball to him so he takes it into his own hands to fall deeper. For me, Asensio and Koke can’t control or move the ball quickly enough in these situations. Neither can Costa although he tried hard, made the right runs but nobody to thread the pass to him.

    I have to say I thought it was a penalty. Pique was right to argue that you need to lift your hands to jump but I reckon his were on the way down and he saw a chance to stop the header from behind him. The bigger question is why the guy wasn’t even marked at the corner and had a free run at the ball. You also have to wonder how Pique ended up with a standing jump beneath it when he is so good at judging balls into the area. If he was to mark the guy he should have been out with him then could have prevented him getting to it or put him off.

    A sad day. One less team to see England off, I’m afraid.

  49. Víctor
    July 1, 2018

    The lesson for Spain is: if you don’t have the players for it then don’t try to play Barça football. They couls have done better with a more direct attack approach. Meaningless possession all the game.

    Good for them they got Russia… Uruguay would have been too much for Spain.

    As for Argentina: we all knew they wouldn’t get that far. At least they went down giving a fight…

    England vs Croatia for semifinal… and I’d like to see Uruguay vs Belgium in the other.

  50. Víctor
    July 1, 2018

    Also, Argentina might want to learn something from Uruguay… yes, I get that Uruguay doesn’t have a lot of sympathy from football fans around the world… but they play as a proper team and have been respecting a process for more than a decade now… Tabarez has 12 years as their coach and they have done decent World Cup performances… granted, they do play dirty, but they aren’t an easy team to defeat.

    Argentina has had around 7 coaches in these years… it’s no surprise they don’t look as a properly trained team. Sampaoli has gotten a lot of hate and criticism and he surely deserves some… but the biggest issue isn’t he, nor the players.

  51. luisthebeast
    July 1, 2018

    Thoughts after WC games:Barca must sell Paulinho,he have a good WC so for 40-50m he can go.
    Pique and Busquets can also go,it s time for a change.
    Alba too.
    Overhaul with exits of Gomes,Vidal,Denis,Paco.
    So who to buy?
    Young talented players and chances to some youths from Masia.

  52. luisthebeast
    July 1, 2018

    I dont have high expectations for next season,so i believe building a young squad for the future is the best.
    I cant expect great things,Messi cant play as a false 9 anymore,more like a MF but that kills our MF,Suarez will be older,Dembele is raw and immature,Busi will be slow again and our CBs will raise their hands sametime Alba will do overlaps and nothing else.
    Better to avoid all that and watch new faces.

  53. Jim
    July 2, 2018

    Luis, I think a positivity pill might be the answer 🙂

    Russia played a horrible defensive game that is very hard to break down without the right attitude and forwards which Spain didn’t have. They deserve no credit from me. They were waiting for penalties the whole game.

    It’s a bit early for doom and gloom and it’s certainly not based on our results last year. I’d settle right now for a couple of trophies next year, although I would like one to be the CL.

    Russia played with a 39 yr old CB and they won ! The team will be just fine. No, Pique, Busi and Alba won’t be going because they are world class players and like it or not we have to challenge for major titles every year.

    Not sure why you think Pique would lift his arm again as he’s never done it before? He certainly had a better set of performances ( although not up to his Barça standard ) than Ramos and nobody is having a go at him. Spain’s downfall was set pieces- they had no organisation at all.

    You are right in that we need to get some pace into the side but you won’t find a quicker or better LB than Alba. I’m slightly disappointed that Umtiti doesn’t have more pace but he will be a very good CB if he wants to learn. Semedo has pace to burn, Dembele is quick, Coutinho reasonable so we’ve made a start. We need a quicker attacking mid who can go past people and another good forward. Other than that we can have youngsters if they are good enough to push the incumbents.

    Messi for me never was a false nine. The position itself doesn’t exist for me. It worked for a while as he was a force of nature. What I hope folks have seen is that we’ll get twice as much out of Suárez if we don’t leave him alone up front.

  54. squeen
    July 2, 2018

    So sad to see Argentina lose to Spain. The emotional gravitas of France winning is equal to a bag of rocks.

    Mbappe will be anonymous in a few years when his running speed drops off.

    • squeen
      July 3, 2018

      Oops! Should have read “and” Spain, not “to”.

  55. PPos
    July 2, 2018

    Good to see that the site is back up.
    This world cup has been a bundle of surprises to say the least. Apparently is about to wrap up the signing of Lenglet the sevilla CB meaning that Yerry Mina will probably be sold or loaned. I do agree with everyone saying that we need a revamping in our personnel and now. Iniesta is gone, Busi is almost 30 so is Alba, Pique, Messi, Suarez. It looks like the Spanish NT was really missing Xavito Hernandez and David Villa. They were like Tata’s Barca, left to right all day but not surprises or verticality. I just think this current generation of Spanish players aren’t on the level of the one that has passed.

    Argentina need a massive rebuild. I dont know if Sampaoli is the man to do that. Again sticking with Pavon, Enzo Perez, and Meza, while he had Dybala on the bench, Pastore at home, and younger players waiting in the wings. Well fools die a fool’s death. I’m not expecting much from next season tbh, unless we make some smart signings. I think that aging legs will catch up to us.

  56. Jim
    July 3, 2018

    Well, the carpet will never be the same again, I’ve lost the last dregs of the wine glass but oh boy, that was good. I know it won’t last and I’ve no idea how two such average teams are still in at this stage with an easy route to the semis but I’ll savour the moment and especially with only a couple of injury time minutes left !

  57. TITO
    July 3, 2018

    Well, funny enough, our best players so far have been Rakitic and Mina, wirh Mina as our best scorer.

  58. Jim
    July 3, 2018

    Not knocking Mina , although I’m not sure I’d give him a pen – I have visions of him trying a dink down the middle. Interesting thought. Does the law of averages operate in a penalty situation? If they never win one are they due ?

  59. khaddafi
    July 3, 2018

    Can someone please tell me why Barca is after a 29year old inconsistent midfielder who’s play pattern does not fit Spanish football let alone Barca pattern?

    I’m talking about Willian.

    • G6O
      July 3, 2018

      This is absolutely absurd if it’s true

      Meanwhile I am not hearing much about bringing Thiago back…

  60. leomessi
    July 4, 2018

    This is crazy if indeed true..
    “Reports surfacing that Lineker is brokering a transfer or swap deal involving Harry Kane and Barcelona.”

  61. Half and Half
    July 4, 2018

    Mixed bag for our players at the World Cup.

    Lets start with the bad:

    Leo caught in a dysfunctional team that struggled to get him the ball, and probably guilty of trying too hard when he did get it. Pique and Busi looked slow and clunky. Jordi Alba has possibly had the worst tournament of anyone, struggling to complete a pass at times. Dembele still a headless chicken.

    Good:

    Coutinho and Suarez have looked sharp. Umtiti has been pretty solid. Yerry Mina has got noticed and scored some goals. Might boost his transfer value if we are looking to sell?

    Indifferent:

    Vermaelen reminded everyone he still existed. Paulinho has been Paulinho, and plodded around the pitch until he senses a goal chance.

  62. luisthebeast
    July 4, 2018

    Cules are so weird.Club interested in Willian but what to do with a 30y old,he is old and all that.
    Same time if you say that Pique and Busquets are fucking slow and Alba is good only to do overlaps,lets not talk about who will press next season with Messi,Suarez upfront.
    Mina scoring goals and he is nt a bad CB but lets sell him,we have el presidente that any decent forward can destroy him.
    And yeah we have for RW super Dembele,a guy who plays like a 10y old at times.
    And Denis Suarez,the gold cute boy,who i cant understand how he is a Barca player.
    But i guess if Paulinho,Andre and Mina sold everything will be fine and our aging starters will be young again.

    • georgjorge
      July 5, 2018

      I really don’t want to start a fight, but from your comments I don’t understand what you are arguing for.

      You want fast players, but not Alba and Démbele (who are among the fastest in the game). You want technically skilled players, but not Busquets (who is among the most skilled in the game).

      You seem to want players who are excellent at everything: fast, technically excellent, and strong. In short, a team of Messis. This won’t happen.

      Out of curiosity: Could you name more than three players out of our present squad of twenty-five that you are actually satisfied with? Who are they?

  63. luisthebeast
    July 4, 2018

    I know that nothing magic will happen,i am ready for a new season when i will see same things,Pique starter,Busi starter with 1 good game and 5 bad,Alba trying to find Messi and all that until a night game away at CL,in March when we will concede 3 goals and we will be out again.

    • Rivaldo
      July 5, 2018

      Luis…
      I understand what you are saying… And essentially I agree that we have not been good at transitioning as a club or fan base. They are those who still think Xavi should be with the club… And also those who can see no fault in the players they so love and adore; some people still think that Messi is the same player and that his “SMART PRESSING” (essentially not giving a damn to press or track back until he feels like) is a great thing… I wonder if all our players did that every game how they would feel. Cant be playing 11 vs 10 or even 9 every match. (I believe that even Neymar was fed up with that… I was a player myself and hated to see that from my teammates, we would shout at that guy)

      We need pace and agility in our team, we also need a midfielder with great balance and who can dictate the pace of a game. We need pace at the back along with some muscle (some Puyol rough house style included) tired of opposing attackers being shepherded into our box. We need a pacey, clinical Striker who can play Left Forward as well… If he can have a bit of an ariel threat that would be a plus (mini Harry Kane anyone). Suarez isn’t dead but I do not believe we cannot ignore what the eye test has shown…

      I honestly believe we shouldn’t cast aside what we have seen with our eye test entirely and subject failures to mere blips but address key areas. WE haven’t been great by any stretch of the imagination. Our defense was great because of our system last year, and individually there is much to be done.

      I think Roberto can sub for both Busquets and Rakitic, while a signing like Rabiot would offer useful height (something Busquets doesn’t offer…) and keep the guile in the midfield. A Thiago and an Arthur signing gives us opportunity to utilize possession better as both can dictate but more importantly PENETRATE on their own. Willian maybe old but has pace and isn’t as inconsistent as many claim. He actually is Chelsea’s most consistent attacker which is why he wants to leave and ManU want him – he never really got to play. He can offer us maturity on the right wing or capable of filling in as the LF. People are screaming for Lenglet… I don’t know why – maybe because he is CHEAP and young; a non-injured Vermalen option maybe? I prefer a player like Upamecano actually and not de Ligt either as a PRIMARY option. de Light offers passing and seems good at reading the game and will only get better. But Upamecano offers the same but with loads of pace and physicality at the same age!

      Or we could keep Busquets, Pique, Messi, bring bacg Xavi and all the fan favourites for the next 10 years and hope for the best. LA Masia right!

  64. Jim
    July 5, 2018

    Well, sign me up for your last paragraph right now !

    I’ve no argument with the notion that we need more pace. However, it’s clear the club have recognised that and are attempting to remedy it. That’s why Semedo was brought in and from what I’ve seen he should be good this season. The two CBs aren’t quick but are seldom caught out by pace alone. You have to remember it must be hell playing that position for our club ( or Spain). Your FBs are gone raiding for most of the game so you are gonna get pulled wide which is never comfortable, you are expected to pass with 100% accuracy against a press because if you make an error it’s a goal , your positional sense has to be top notch as there is no cover ( Busi on occasions maybe) and you have a great season defensively and it’s put down to the system.

    With Alba at LB, (one of ? ) also the quickest in the game you’re fine and anyway not gonna get a huge amount of pace plus the necessary quality . Are we really counting his great assists to Messi as a negative feature ? It is also worth noting that Pique is not slow. His weakness is turning quickly. If we are talking slow and needing pace why is nobody mentioning Rakitic, the slowest player in the squad ?

    If we look at the midfield for me Busi is a shoe-in because of his quality in a tight situation. He could have his pick of top teams if he left. If you’d rather play Rakitic there instead good luck to you against the press but I’ll be watching from behind the couch. That leaves ( for me) two places up for grabs now that Ini has gone. That’s where you need pace, passing and ability to carry the ball through the lines. I know nothing about Arthur but a lot of folks are telling me he’s great. He may be but I’d want to see him play first. Been caught too often like that before with Sanchez, Rakitic, the legion of journeymen brought in a couple of seasons ago with Gomes at their head. He will need, at least, a season to learn our ways but if as described would be a good asset.

    That leaves a space for Coutinho, genuine quality but can he play in a three man midfield ? He has pace with the ball but I’m not sure he has the stamina or physique for that at the moment, despite a great showing in the WC. The answer is staring us in the face but not sure the sporting team agree. Someone with a bit of pace, great passing, control, tested at the very top level and knows our ways inside out . . . The Bayern fan I mentioned I met in the Bavarian pub in Vegas put it better than me. He said that Thiago was a Barca player running around in a Bayern shirt. He added he’d be devastated to lose him but he’d be off and he seems to have been right about that.

    That leaves Messi, Suarez and Dembele up front. Sounds pretty good to me, although we need somebody of sufficient quality coming off the bench. I’m now hearing Arnaiz is off which is a pity. Think he was worth a tryout as sub. As for Messi and Suarez they don’t need me to defend them ( if I were lucky enough in Messi’s team the only shouting I’d do is to thank my lucky stars and the only eye I’d use for Suarez if I were going to would be the one that looks at the goals and assists columns. If I did look at the games I’d only become distressed at how poor our bodies in the box count was and how often Suarez was left on his own.

    For the last ten years we haven’t had a whack of pace or physicality in the side and we’ve done okay. Im all for it but I’m more concerned with quality. Still, we can have a close look at our ” failures” next season as we fail to win a trophy. Is that what folks are saying ? Will I see that reflected in our customary season’s predictions article in a mere few weeks from now?

    No, I’m hopeful our club knows what it’s doing and will come up with the right answers. I do think Messi’s first bit of business on arrival back in Barcelona would have been a quick call to Barto to make sure something was happening, though !

    Did I mention no way Willian ( or anyone else who suddenly has a good WC ? )

    • squeen
      July 6, 2018

      Jim, I am 100% with you. This desire for youth, pace and physicality is exactly what absolutely every single manager of every other team in every other league is looking for. Barca distinguishes itself (and calls to me as a fan) by being the exception to that rule—we favor smart, skilled, nimble, and (most importantly) team-oriented players.

      We started the LE era with a team that the majority of which couldn’t complete 3 consecutive passes together in tight spaces. Last year (and NOT the treble year), they started to look organized again. Time to dump everyone and start fresh with a bunch of wild young stallions? Whee! Off to the races!

      Impatient Foolishness.

      (…and as Kxevin once pointed out, slow, aging Iniesta OWNED Modric in each and every Classico.)

      • Rivaldo
        July 6, 2018

        Did you guys actually read what I have said?

        Why as everything I have commented on been reduced to youth and speed? (which we do need) Is it because of the previous commentator Luis or is this a general response to everything which asks us for some pace in our team.

        I asked if you guys were willing to keep Busquets, Pique, Messi at Barca for the next 10 years and also bring back Xavi to play for those years. If you answer is yes ten good luck to you but you haven’t quite gotten a grip on reality. You always need a succession plan.

        And why does agile and quick correlate to being “dumb” in football terms for most Barca fans? A side that had the real Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Abidal, Dani Alves, has Messi, Alba, etc.

        I made suggestions as well – Thiago is quicker than what we had/have. I suggested Upamecano (watch some German football and you’ll see why unless he regresses), etc.

        I also discussed how disgusted I am with Messi’s lack of press, etc and gave a full context – Let’s discuss that.

        • squeen
          July 6, 2018

          Your post was thoughtful and well support. Sorry if you thought I had an issue with it.

          However, I have grown tired of the constant refrain for “speed”. It’s the same old same old of those screaming all last year for Dembele and Semedo to get more playing time (over Roberto or Courtinho). IMHO its a simplistic and naive panacea—the first thing the support of any and every club calls for—nothing special, not particularly Barca, and frankly boring—that’s my only point.

          God I hope that France loses soon. All they’ve got is long balls and fast young legs. I’ll give up watching football if that’s what the game morphs into for the next 4 years.

  65. luisthebeast
    July 5, 2018

    The word i try to find Jim is physicality.Cules listen that word and are mad,thinking that means a brainless player,just fast and strong.
    But watch Modric.A 33 y old,short,who run at the field,win duels,jump for headers,pass the ball around,make assists and scores.
    That i mean physicality.The guy it s clear that he did A LOT work with his fitness all that years.
    If then look at some of our high paid 30y old players you cant see that.
    I dont have problem with legends or players that served the club well.
    But yeah i would paid to have a LB like Lucas Hernandez or a CB like Gimenez or a DM like Casemiro.
    Like it or not we are nt in 2008 anymore,football are changing and to win CL you need both technique and speed.

  66. Víctor
    July 6, 2018

    Really poor game from Uruguay today. While surely they missed Cavani I don’t think he would have made that much of a difference.

    People are gonna take a dig at Suarez for that loss, but they midfield was outplayed today… and they constantly tried to generate chances through high balls where most of the time they lost the duels… not a good game plan.

    Muslera’s mistake was big, but even if it didn’t happen it seems that France would have gone through without too much trouble to be honest…

  67. ugo nze
    July 7, 2018

    pls Barcelona boards. bring me Douglas Costa.. that guy is a G guy..

  68. Víctor
    July 7, 2018

    Really think that Brazil got unlucky yesterday. Yes, Belgium had the better tactics, but even then, Brazil managed to create several chances that went wasted because lack of precision. Belgium is not that good at defending and it showed…

    Of course, Belgium also wasted a few chances, but still…

    By the way, people were commenting about how quick counters are the way to defeat Brazil and how Mexico didn’t use that… thing is: Mexico did employ that same tactic against Brazil, just like they did against Germany… but there were two differences:

    1) Tite knew Mexico would try that and therefore had Brazil’s FBs not go very high on the pitch
    2) Filipe Luis played instead of Marcelo (because the latter was injured) and Luis is a more defensive minded full back

    Take for example Brazil’s CKs against Mexico, they just sent 4 players into Mexico’s box, they had men ready in case Mexico got the ball and tried to break on the counter.

    Brazil probably tried this with Belgium too, but they were unfortunate with that own goal (hey, amazing player there) and had to switch to a more offensive tactic that led to deadly Belgium counters…

  69. Víctor
    July 7, 2018

    I also hate how people always blame the manager for a loss, even when it wasn’t on him. Tite is not the one guilty for Brazil’s defeat… he made the correct adjustments when going down 2-0 and, even so, Brazil trailing the game wasn’t his fault… it was a complete mistake… Belgium didn’t force that own goal. Before that first Belgium goal, Brazil had a very clear chance to take the lead…

    Tite managed to train a very reliable Brazil side, they just got unlucky last night. The chances for a remontada were there…

  70. Jim
    July 7, 2018

    It’s been an exciting WC but also a disappointing one for me. We’re not going to get a great winner because there are no great teams in it ( and certainly none left!)

    Germany didn’t look great from the start, Spain attempted suicide several times ( sacking manger, appointing Hierro, playing with no courage) and finally achieved it by leaving out Iniesta and Thiago when their game was crying out for creativity. Argentina deservedly went out.

    Uruguay and Brazil I think were for me a little unlucky. France’s first goal was a complete one in a hundred fluke and the second even more unlikely while Brazil to me were the better side but with the usual defensive frailties. They had loads of chances. Always sad to see them going out but no great sympathy for Neymar.

    I remember saying that I was worried about Neymar when he tootled off to celebrate his sister’s birthday and I took a little flack for saying that I didn’t like his play acting ( I still remember the Scott Brown incident) didn’t think he had improved at all since he arrived at Barca and that he was in danger of being a show pony. Well, I’m afraid that’s all he was at this WC and an embarrassing one at that. If he wants to be the best ( and he still could be ) he has to learn from the best and he was in the best place to do it. Now he’s in a cul de sac, needing to leave PSG but unable to force it. Having said all that I’d take him back if he showed some humility .

    So, on to the most important point. I need somebody to beat England, not fussy who. If they win it they will be the worst ever winners for me. Their games are deadly dull but there has arisen a horrible inevitability about them beating poor sides. I was about to say they could go all the way only playing one decent side, Belgium, and being beaten by them but as I write Croatia have thankfully equalised. Be in no doubt. If England win we will all suffer for at least the next 50 years ! Can’t believe Neville pontificating about the Croatian keeper’s ” error” for the goal. He was maybe a yard or two further out but that was just a great shot.

    Luis, I’ve nothing against physicality. I just don’t rate it or speed as highly as quality. You need some, but It’s certainly not needed in every position. I would argue that it’s useful up front and I’d rather have a pacy CB everything else being equal but as long as the ball moves faster than the player it’s not huge. ( I think Modric is a great player but not been as impressed as you by his performance in this WC), although I need him to play well to beat England !) what we do need is the ability to press other teams for spells. Without that we will suffer. Don’t know if we don’t spend enough time at the moment or not on that.

    For me, the main reason we get into bother is through how high we play our FBs . That leaves precious little cover for emergencies. I’ve said before I think we could work out a one goes so one stays situation. We’ve seen that this year a little with Jordi Alba using his speed to cover for the CBs but he’s not always there. However, I’m confident EV is aware of the issue. With more firepower up front hopefully it will be easier to work on it.

    Had a chance to look at Arthur on YouTube ( I know). Strikes me as a tough little mid with decent passing ability who likes to go past people. Not so sure about technical ability. Seems to me a little head down at his feet and last minute adjustments to beat opponents but certainly more impressive than any of the mids we’ve bought recently. Yes, count me (provisionally ) excited but I’ll be more so when we realise we need Thiago.

    • Víctor
      July 7, 2018

      I can’t really blame Hierro, though… he was appointed two days before the tournament started… he accepted the challengue and, logically, failed… he was in a very complicated position to be honest: had Spain won the World Cup the credit would have to the players and Lopetegui; if Spain failed he would get all the blame, as we are seeing.

      Yes, not starting Iniesta against Russia calls for questioning… but maybe it wasn’t that bad of an idea, the opponent was Russia, FFS, not a very strong NT… in theory Spain should be able to defeat them without playing at full power… and, even so, once Iniesta entered the field he didn’t make that much of a difference… sure thing, Spain improved, but not that much…

      And totally agree on Brazil. I mean, I like to see them going out (never liked the Brazilian NT) but they got unlucky yesterday. These types of tournaments also show what many of us know but are kinda afraid to admit: luck and circumstances can also play an important factor in the results. A stupid mistake, a moment of genious, an injury or suspension, a wrong strategy, a ref’s mistake, etc… can change the result in an important matter.

      People say that Messi had been a big flop with Argentina, but man, I also remember that Argentina was so close to scoring against Germany 4 years ago. Had any one of those chances been a goal then the narrative would have been waaaaaaaay different. Same goes for Spain, by the way, in the 2010 final Netherlands had a very important chance in a counter… a Robben shot that Casillas managed to save…

      That’s why I favor VAR a lot… it isn’t perfect and it surely isn’t being used in a way to analize every ref’s decision, but at least it’s gonna help in most of the crucial ones… at least VAR is gonna help in making that ref’s decisions do not affect results as much…

  71. Víctor
    July 7, 2018

    Rakitic should take Barcelona’s PK. He scored Croatia’s decisive penalty… twice! Barça twitter doesn’t value him enough.

    It’s kinda strange, Rakitic isn’t appreciated because he isn’t Xavi. Yet, when someone compares other players to Xavi (Kroos, Modric, De Bruyne, etc.) Barcelona twitter comes instantly to Xavi’s defense, saying how he was/is the best midfielder ever and it will take ages to see someone like him again… yet, at the same time, undermines Rakitic because he isn’t Xavi.

    Besides, I haven’t seen a bad Rakitic game in Croatia’s NT so far… he’s legit, dudes, he should stay.

    • Víctor
      July 7, 2018

      Not to mention that Modric almost fucked up his penalty… doesn’t change the fact that he is also a great midfielder, though… despite that he plays for our eternal rivals.

  72. TITO
    July 7, 2018

    Well, some like him, some not.
    We, who like him, like him because of who he is.
    Those who don’t like him, don’t like him because of who they want him to be.
    That’s the difference.

    Anyway, he was and always will be a great Penalty taker.
    And, among 5 oustanding players of this WC so far for me.

  73. luisthebeast
    July 7, 2018

    If board wants to sell Paulinho for 50m and use that money to buy Willian for 80m then that would be more stupid than buying Paulinho for 40m last summer.

  74. luisthebeast
    July 7, 2018

    I think cules underestimate the difficulty the team are now.From Pep era there are only Pique Busquets Messi and from Enrique era Suarez Alba Rakitic.
    Most of them are at their 30.
    Semedo did nt had a great start and Umtiti it s months now that he is nt at great form.
    Dembele needs time and Coutinho to adapt.
    Going to new season where team will play around 60 games and having a bench of Paco Denis Roberto Digne Alena would you be optimist?
    I mean that team have no a Suarez back up,no DM back up,no LB solid back up,no RW back up,no LW.
    And even if we try to be optimists,do you trust Denis Paco Digne e.t.c to be much much better than what we saw in 2 seasons?
    Doubt it.

  75. Half and Half
    July 8, 2018

    Paulinho gone:
    a) that’s good.
    b) definitely nothing suspicious about his deal(s). Oh no. Nothing whatsoever. Nothing to see here….

    • georgjorge
      July 9, 2018

      Could you elaborate a bit in what direction you are thinking here?

      I agree that Paulinho being recruited by Barca (including the token “a dream has come true” comments from him, see also https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/dec/21/paulinho-barcelona-clasico-tottenham-china) and then going back to a far inferior team for a higher price after a promising season sounds not entirely right. But I don’t quite know which suspicion to have here ; )

      In other news, Luis Enrique is Spain’s new national coach. After his period at Barcelona, I’m interested in seeing how he manages a team which is in some ways very different, i.e. no world-beaters upfront to structure the entire team around but a LOT of quality on all the other positions. If he can bring Spain to a high level again, very well done.

    • July 10, 2018

      Paulinho gets to be the star of his new old team, will be getting 14 million per year
      – almost triple of what he gets in Barça right now – and a four-year contract. These will probably be the last years of his career, this is the last paycheck.

      I´m not sure I like his leaving that much – according to the press he was very liked in the team and the players didn´t really want him to leave. His physical presence may very well be missed.

  76. PPos
    July 9, 2018

    I think the Paulinho sale was a smart one. He was never our typical Barcelona player and he is probably in the decline of his career. What worries me is why Andre Gomes, Vidal and Douglas are still doing here.
    The signing of Arthur Melo has become official. I hope he can perform like in his highlight reels. He has good ball skills, and passing range and moves, and youth and energy which is what our midfield needs and has been lacking.
    Seeing a move for Thiago would make my summer. Maybe we can make a deal with Bayern and give them Gomes? That would be cool. What does anybody think of the potential sale of CR7 to Juventus? I think it’s good for us since it will weaken Madrid and possibly end their CL domination. They’re probably going to push hard for Mbappe.

  77. georgjorge
    July 10, 2018

    The Spanish Super Cup will be held in August between Sevilla and Barcelona. The “intention for the game is to be held in Tangier” (according to officials). League officials have been more vocal in supporting league games abroad over the last years because a bigger TV audience means more money. Is this the second step after synchronising the starting time of the Clásico with the Asian market?

  78. ugo nze
    July 10, 2018

    Cristiano Ronaldo: ” these years in Real Madrid, and in
    this city of Madrid, have been possibly the happiest of
    my life.
    I only have feelings of huge thanks for this club, for
    this hobby and for this city. I can only thank all of
    them for the affection and affection I have received.
    However, I think the time has come to open a new
    stage in my life, and that’s why I asked the club to
    accept me. I am so sorry and I ask everyone, and
    especially our followers, please understand me.
    It’s been 9 years absolutely wonderful. It’s been 9
    unique years. It has been for me an exciting time, full
    of consideration but also hard because real madrid is
    of a very high demand, but I know very well that I can
    never forget that here I have enjoyed football in a
    unique way.
    I’ve had in the field and in wardrobe to some fabulous
    companions, I’ve felt the heat of an amazing hobby
    and together we have won 3 Champions in a row and 4
    CHAMPIONS IN 5 years. And next to them, on an
    individual level, I am pleased to have won 4 GOLD
    BALLS AND 3 Gold boots. Everything during my stage
    in this huge and extraordinary club.
    Real Madrid has won my heart, and that of my family,
    and for that more than ever I want to say thank you:
    thanks to the club, to the president, to managers, to
    my colleagues, to all technicians, doctors, physiology
    and amazing workers That make everything work and
    that they are pending every detail tirelessly.
    Thanks infinite once again to our followers and thanks
    also to Spanish football. During These 9 years exciting
    I’ve been in front of great players. My respect and my
    recognition for all of them.
    I have thought a lot and I know the time has come for
    a new cycle. I’m leaving but this t-shirt, this shield and
    Santiago Bernabéu I’ll keep feeling always like
    something mine is where I am.
    Thank you all and, of course, as I said that first time in
    our stadium 9 years ago: Hala Madrid!”
    https://facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2FCartaCristiano&h=AT0IXTdrnGqKpb1Kf2XKP3um2MPhRHLNcb6C9ZWNxZpxOFvAkFd8m-YQXZf_rV9jqX-lXD7V_Vn9ZlebPb6it_ZPljCiDUWJof-amLgOZnNgxtOoCVbpKmm42sdVisWKZuGg08hgNxpUIpkCookj8u8nRsTRzbm8q6FcHls3ZT_ItrwnnoMitsq_7FTRHxVobkehaZbYaKKhyNzdzvqQSMxVZbC9gSV_-vosp0a41RpbnlaWD_vLvU9XWaEr1rjB6OBTgtvxcrbI0FXQDtVN4XKstjcBmIdwa9UZVH0IOVxzOstiJXOfFIidl5XfV82uy2w-IhR9NFPRVlGMdfmv7QWEo_AUChKUCd5zaIn_9fswuYr7iQMWm6oFyrTqkxzYjmHF7RLiT-7I9Bg8NCiUqKUvrn4M3EfemRIk3X_8EHK9gA5DjPU_MBw6ZXPxYUMHTv3VhDnpcdYTsHvJ8Omx-2bShqQ2agzi4ug2QNRJadTCADhKeD8aoQLqdy3eWMGl0Y-4N-efKReW0Hm94arVVxQHtnJu7dt8QHMw8favIm-49vOxoqeypdkf7c2htVGjP_DYy1H_-sVeE_qy9fQ7Lmyv6EbyIK_BMN-C704X2FeMbPyslPzE1Uhj4ZdLCJ4ryVEzys6lVAn_V9WrBXLVDCePrHQs4JXB7fWIx1N3kPD4UPw9ntoprn57QKdGlhCjgujk_Ptgob9Xvl_33ZlDus9uEsyw25-3ROmR94EKNjVz4XZJVL___1A13likqRedY9Da9RDTLurjYShihLN3IB_k9xz6EmL5OYEh0KPctE8valqUWXGAH4njc8FIRiAN8vNLlVb0n_U_UgaIKz6xRfbYNcGec1CN80ykPXRKdtC0LTJ9xvnat44ldyP4gRGI2J4p_GXVNuidZa4OJWSMdOr34WySsF5_2tR2QfeYCXBD43vY1sVD9koeC3MFkW8Mkwp2ORRCQx3sbAs3F-pdpDGTSKj_mCqONC3k4xZW_JQ2EL7XTHm0gASU4KB1efOI8CdWEpKs86_COKWFXBFnjFQbpt6uSUaGX5nlOHeOGPM85WYwaj9wiXgQtT_F5IrY

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