Sergi Roberto and Thiago Alcantara: two trains, two stories

It isn’t often that the world provides a weird kind of symmetry with two unrelated-yet-symbiotic stories blowing up the world of Barça fandom. But today, there it was:

— Sergi Roberto named an FC Barcelona captain
— Thiago Alcantara reaches terms with Real Madrid

Sergi Roberto came to the Barça system in 2006 from Gimnastic, was Masia raised and learned to play football in a way defined by the club and its history. He was promoted to first team in 2010, and nobody had much to say about him, and certainly nothing good. His lustrous mop of tresses earned him the nickname from me of Vidal Sassoon, and people had no idea what to expect of him. He was unheralded and the only thing culers were talking about was, when they considered him at all, when he was going to leave for a place where he would be able to play regular football.

Thiago Alcantara was a year ahead of Sergi Roberto in every way. He came to La Masia in 2005 from Flamengo, and debuted with the first team in 2009. People had everything to say about him. “Next Xavi,” “genius,” “Masia gem,” were but a few of the sobriquets that fell like rose petals to cushion the elegant strides of a player who was going to be the next great FC Barcelona midfielder.

Sergi Roberto was hardly ever seen, while Thiago Alcantara featured in match after match, under coach after coach. Their paths diverged, essentially, when Pep Guardiola chose Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal. Nobody thought about Sergi Roberto, because he wasn’t playing, wasn’t anything. Everyone thought of Thiago, and predicted that this would be the stone that eventually broke the camel’s back, that the signing was short-sighted, etc.

We didn’t get many opportunities to watch Sergi Roberto. When we did, it was usually greeted with the reserve of something you didn’t really want, but someone gives to you. “Well. That was … nice.” We got many opportunities to watch Thiago Alcantara, and they were always greeted with the huzzahs of a talent coming into shape before our very eyes. Few talked about how chaotic things became when he subbed on for Xavi, or how he didn’t quite have what it took to sub on for Iniesta. But those players were geniuses, once-in-a-lifetime giants.

As Fabregas did his box-to-box thing, popping up to score goals, make key passes and play as an agent in a system that Guardiola was adapting to meet the new demands of how football was playing Barça, things were happening behind the scenes. Then, when Guardiola left for Bayern Munich and Tito Vilanova took over, that next season was difficult as the legendary Guardiola assistant got the team’s reins, and began to continue what Guardiola started. That team was dynamic and vertical while also playing like a Barça team, and then tragedy struck.

Amid the chaos of that season, it came to light that there was a clause in Thiago’s contract that linked his buyout clause to playing time. When Guardiola landed at Bayern and beckoned, saying it was Thiago or nothing, the player moved for 25m, choosing to activate a clause that would have been 60m had a certain number of minutes happened that season. Who knows why he didn’t get those minutes. Maybe the coaches didn’t think he was quite up to the task yet. Maybe somebody screwed up. Conspiracy theorists say the evil board wanted him gone for some unclear reason. Either way, Thiago was gone, something that is still being discussed in the Barça world.

Meanwhile, Sergi Roberto just eked out scraps where he could, devoted to his club. Even when rumors came about him possibly leaving, nobody took them seriously because few took Sergi Roberto seriously. He languished under the sadness of the Vilanova tenure, was unmoored during the Tata Martino caretaker season. Then came Luis Enrique, who saw something in the player, possibly something of himself, and set about making Sergi Roberto into something.

Sergi Roberto played. Left back, right back, interior, in the hole, attacking mid, winger — he played almost everywhere except keeper as Luis Enrique took every opportunity that he could to capitalize on his intelligence on and off the ball and innate sense of right action with the ball at his feet. And when Sergi Roberto could have left, he stayed. He stayed to become the starting right back, stayed to become captain during this summer’s U.S. tour matches and is now fourth captain.

The converging and diverging stories of two players isn’t as simple as one left and one stayed. Even now, people are short-selling Sergi Roberto, saying things like, “He doesn’t have the personality for it,” or “Well, they need a captain for dead rubbers or early-round Copa matches,” about a player whose career was defined by doubt. This is happening even as many of the same voices are saying that Thiago Alcantara will be exactly the tool that Real Madrid need to achieve glory.

It’s weird, and remarkable in many ways. Two things happened to two Masia products on the same day, but only one is dominating discussion in Barça social media. Thiago Alcantara is the one that got away for some odd reason, when he is in fact the one who left. He left for a better job, left to seek the future that bright talent dictates, but he left by his own decision.

Sergi Roberto stayed. Perhaps had he had the talent, the adulatory roar of Thiago, he too might have left the club for greener pastures. We will never know. But in the now, while one player was at Bayern, eventually becoming surplus to requirements as the team looked in a different midfield direction, the other has become something amazing at his chosen club, as architect and executor of two of the most iconic goals in the club’s history.

In one, he was at the terminus of an amazing remuntada against Paris St.-Germain, making the smart run to be in the right spot to volley home a babymaker of a goal. In the other, he made a run, The Run against Real Madrid, a run that should have been stopped, that saw him being chased by seemingly every opposing player, a run that was everything that defines him — smart, indefatigable — and resulted in Messi’s match-winning goal.

One part of you, the poetic part, might have wondered if Thiago watched what Sergi Roberto has become, wondered what would have happened had he stayed and fought for his spot as Sergi Roberto did. Maybe he would have been the one to make Sergi Roberto, a midfielder, surplus to requirements. In the fiction piece, you might write those twists into the tale. Reality is who knows. Bayern won leagues and league cups with Thiago in the XI, even if Champions League has still eluded him at that club.

Barça players, Masia products, don’t go to Real Madrid. As of this writing, it is only transfer rumor, reported by Catalan sources, that Thiago has reached agreement with Real Madrid. Maybe nothing will come of those rumors. But for a player who has spent his career seeking the best possible job, and with the English transfer window being closed, there aren’t many places to go from Bayern Munich. FC Barcelona is one, but the club made its decision in choosing his teammate, Arturo Vidal, and Arthur, from Gremio. And then there is Sergi Roberto, once again. And in a particularly literary twist there is also Riqui Puig, the new Thiago, gem of La Masia and genius midfielder.

Sergi Roberto is a captain, Thiago Alcantara is on the market, looking for a better job, probably destined to land at Real Madrid. And won’t it be a great story if that happens, if in the next Classic their paths cross in midfield, and people will watch and draw conclusions from the outcome when all they should really do, as with all of this, is shrug and say, “That’s football.” Sometimes it’s crazy, and beautiful, and weird and presents stories that dovetail amazingly. But even during all of that, still and always, that’s football.

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. Alcantara never left on his own will, he was frustratingly let go by the board. Same board that has for some reasons ignored the fact that he happens to be one of the best central midfielders as of today. Today a time when barca is in dire need of a central midfielder to marshal the center of the park.

    If Sergi Roberto had been as good as Thiago was at the time, he most likely would’ve moved on too.

    Congrats to Sergi

    1. This is what he said in the link provided above by kxevin
      The creative midfielder, 22, came through the ranks of the Barca youth academy, but opted to leave the club last summer after failing to secure regular first-team action and he feels he does not owe his former team anything.
      “I am grateful to Barcelona, but I do not owe them anything anymore,” the midfielder told El Pais.
      “I would have left Barcelona for any team, just so I would no longer be warming the bench.
      “It was my own decision to leave Barcelona. Nobody put a gun to my head and forced me to go. I didn’t get the feeling the club believed in me. That’s why I moved on.
      “I left Barcelona because I wanted to be happy again and play football on a regular basis. I found exactly what I was looking for here at Bayern.”
      Thiago has made 12 Bundesliga appearances so far for Bayern, scoring twice in the process.

    2. You cannot take the words of a 22 year old kid too seriously. Those are the words of an angry and disappointed boy.
      To me Sergi lacks the conviction of Thiago. Warming the bench for 5 years. His 8th seasons is as uncertain as it was 2 yeats ago.
      Sergi would do anything to play foe the first team, even if it hurts the team. There are times you have to say “no”.
      On the other hand; we can hardly compare Thiago and Sergi. One is a world class CM ans the other is a very goos player. The former can start in any team in the world while the latter will most likely be a bench piece

    3. A 22-year-old is a grownup. Not a kid. An athlete is particularly mature as he has been functioning in the world as a professional already for years. If people want to give him a pass that’s fine, but those are his words.

      “Sergi Roberto would do anything to play for the first team, even if it hurts the team?” Come on. First of all, it’s the coach’s decision. Second of all, he has been an exceptional addition to the first team now that he has come into his own. My heavens, are we really so enamored of another player that we are ready to savage a player who has been a warrior for the club that we love?

      Fandom makes us do odd things. It’s why I resist being a fan of a player. But be careful of the “bench piece” discarding of Sergi Roberto, a player who has come through the wars, fought and has a place at the club of his dreams. Thiago will have a difficult time displacing Isco or Modric, assuming any truth to the Real Madrid rumors.

      The other question nobody is asking is why hasn’t anyone, like Barça or City, gone for Thiago? I don’t have the answer myself, but there is a lot of presumption in that regard. Guardiola knew he was available, could have bought him. Same with Barça. And Bayern isn’t making him available on the market against their will.

      So what’s going on? It’s worth an honest, agenda-free exploration.

    4. Maturity is, as you know, a matter of knowing oneself. And time or age has too little to do with it. Of course experience must be utilise but not one dimensionally. We have seen the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo acting utterly immature. He has been having tantrum all his a career. He may be the equivalent od Einstein in the world of football but for sure he lacks emotional maturity. It’s one thing to know about your body and totally diffrent to Know your body. Maradona? Immature. Pele? He too acts and an envy kid. I can talk about world class athletes who excellent in their sport but are emotionally inapt.
      Particularly this Brough up in them because these kids must leave home early and thus without stable foundation for personal development. Alex Ferguson is a perfect example of coach, manager and a father figure. He was an example of down to earth, loving father, husband and a prominent coach. He was complete. His teams largely resembled him to significant extent.
      But this rarely the case. I’m thinking of John Wooden in that regard, or Herb…

      I would like to think of myself as loyal person. To this day i have not been bought in any way.
      I would stay by my own. If i were the board I would keep Sergi for the rest of his career because he is an example of loyalty and perseverance.
      At timea though his actions are immature. And i suspect he does know how to say No. Because in the career of every person comes a moment whenbu have to say NO whilst no one understand why. That moment has not happened for Sergi.

    5. He does know how to say “No”, only not in the direction you seem to think is more important, or shows more “conviction”. Sergi Roberto has said “No” to moving away from Barca on several occasions, including last summer. I recall at least two clubs circling around him. If biding one’s time for so long doesn’t scream mental maturity and resilience to you, I don’t know what does.

  2. I wasn’t aware of Thiago to Real Madrid rumor, partly because I’m not on Twitter and partly because I look for mainly Barca news online. My initial reaction was: “Shit!”, but honestly, that’s mosty because of what I’ve read about Thiago and his time at Barca, and how most culers think of him. In other words, my reaction was not really my own. Afterall, I became a culer myself only over a year ago. Sergi Roberto, on the other hand, I have great affection for. I think he is a fine appointment as one of the new captains. His story, beautifully laid out by Kxevin, is telling of his personality, – compelling and inspiring – great qualities to have in a leader. As for Thiago, considering the high esteem most people hold him at, if he does become a Madridista, then that means better Clasicos. For me, at least.

  3. Kxevin you beauty the article really gave me goosebumps !
    Sergi Roberto is the poster child of the phrase ” Good things come to those who wait and persevere” and I am so happy for him. I am in a place in life where I can relate with Sergi “faith in the face of doubt and uncertainity.” I just got a new inspiration to hang on. Thank you.

  4. Sergi ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽
    Thiago wanted to play in 2014 world cup that’s why he left .. To play more
    Over iniesta and xavi ? Hell no
    Puyol advised him to fight for his place( Xavi & Iniesta too).. Then I read an article saying he only wanted to make his name in football not with Barcelona …
    Patience is key

  5. Meh I have never been upset about Thiago. The team comes first, always, above any player. A player either needs to work and earn their place or they can leave. Thiago obviously didn’t believe in his own ability to break into the first team and for me took the easy way out. Yes he is a very good player, but he is also very injury prone, barely playing any full seasons in his career without serious setbacks. I definitely wouldn’t have signed him now and if he ends up at Madrid just proves my point about his attitude. The barca academy made him the player he is yet he “owes” them nothing!?! Yeah ok, he can go play for Madrid then. We will see him in the next classic!

    Sergi on the other hand is not only the perfect example of how a player should act but also a much more versatile and useful player for our team imo. I wouldnt swap him for Thiago + 50m tbh.

  6. Sergi, Oh Sergi…

    I’ll never forget the Quadro Clasico April of 2011.
    Barca were at the peak of their powers and so was the hatred for EE who were doing full justice to that moniker.

    It was the champions’ league semi final 1st leg at the bernabeu. Barca had just been beaten in very ugly fashion in the Copa final. And THAT press conference happened. If my memory serves me right, Barca squad was thin and there were key injuries. We had no one to come off the bench. Mourinho, on the other hand had Kaka and other creative midfielders on the bench while opting to field PEPE & Diarra in midfield to Destroy everything.

    Late in the game, with tension at an all time high, I’ll never forget the move pep made. Make no mistake, it was a statement. A clear statement that took balls of steel to make at a time like that and in a place like that. The bernabeu was a cauldron of hate. A statement that said in effect, “we don’t have your riches or the luxury of bringing super stars off the bench. We got an academy kid or two who no one has heard of, that can play a bit of football”.

    Pep called for a substitution.

    That was the first time I saw sergi Roberto. The first time I heard of him as well. I was like “who the hell is that guy”. But boy, did I love that substitution even though I had no idea of that player, PRECISELY because of the afore-mentioned statement. Call it retrospect or whatever you want, but I’ve always prided myself on great instincts. I knew that boy, with a baby face, and blonde wavy hair was going to be special. What an effin Debut to make.

    No wonder we call him legend. I welcome the captaincy for sRob, a personal favourite of mine. I would also like to see MAtS get it at some point.

  7. I dont care what Thiago will do, it s 2018 and still people debates about an ex player, he is past.
    Barca always have thar problem with the past, we have Cruyffistas Pepistas laportistas nunistas and now some Thiagistas.
    For me when someone leaves is past.
    And dont tell me that when they put that 18m clause Thiago screamed “noo put 250m” and the board said “noo we must sell u kiddo”
    If they sign Icardi i will be a little mad tbh we lost hlm for 500k.

  8. Well, not long to go now. Got my various TV packages sorted out ( I feel for some of you in the US who seem to have a problem. This cable / streaming stuff and having to pay for different packages is killing me. USPGA championship on some unknown outfit whose stream crashes on the first day and they think we’re gonna pay up for the last two? Worryingly for golf, I didn’t miss it. )

    Anyway, looking forward to tonight. My tuppenceworth on the current discussion is as follows :


    First of all he’s a valid topic for discussion. I was told when I said I fancied him to take Iniesta’s place earlier in the season that there was no way he’d come back. I said after my USA holiday that the Bayern fan I met said he thought Thiago was one of their best players but that the club was split about him because they didn’t take to his “Spanish style” whatever that is. He was now being talked about as possibly returning so it’s a valid topic for me.

    There’s no doubt for me he’s one of the top midfielders in the world. I watched Spain’s warm ups where he was obviously a favourite of Lopetegui and he was very impressive. A much better player than left us.

    I didn’t like the manner of his going with not returning our calls and playing cat and mouse but I can’t blame him for wanting to go. He was behind Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets for goodness’ sake. He knew they could go on for years and he was ambitious. Could have done without the “owing nothing to Barca ” comment but you can see how it could be said in the context of the slagging he got for daring to leave.

    This idea of player leaving so can’t come back is BS. I’d even take Neymar back if he was prepared to work harder at his game.

    Thiago fits our style of play like a glove and style of play matters a lot to me. If folk are raving about signing Arthur and he looks pretty good then Thiago is still better than him at the moment. No assimilation period, cheap as chips at €50m (and how much are folks willing to pay for Pogba? €120m to pride him away from Jose ? )

    Injuries. Yes, that’s a worry but that’s what medicals are for. If there isn’t a chronic weakness then fine. I don’t know why folk are getting upset about this. Messi was like this at the start of his career, Iniesta throughout was fragile and I’m not suggesting he play every game anyway as I want to see rotation. Take out all the Copas, the poorer Liga games now that we have a better squad and he’s playing a more sensible amount.

    What’s not to like ? I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t like and that’s Modric, Kroos, Thiago and Isco backed by Casemiro over at Madrid. That dents our chances of trophies severely. Would you honestly fancy our chances of keeping the ball against them with Rakitic, Vidal, SR, Arthur, Busquets, Rafinha, Denis, and Alena or another of the youngsters ? Come on.

    The Captaincy. I’m gonna reckon just forgot to mention how deserved it was that Pique was finally made a captain. Non more deserving. The guy has not only held our backline together for years, yes even when Puyol was there, he is also the only one of the four suited to be a captain. He will play if fit, he’s a commanding figure, he’s an intelligent footballer and he’s totally passionate about Barca. Before folks accuse me of being a Pique fan ( which I am – I love intelligence in a player) I would remind you that I touted Masche as a captain long before he was made one.

    I love Messi ( and especially loved Iniesta) but no way they are captain material , Busi is far too quiet and scared to rock boats or get onto anyone and I have no idea why SR was preferred to TS or even Rakitic ( and y’all know my thoughts there) . He won’t play much because he’s not good enough. He can’t defend, he can’t hold the ball well enough in central midfield to merit a place with us there and his technical skills aren’t of the top level. What he has is heart in abundance, young legs, the ability and energy to carry the ball quickly IN SPACE and a place in all our thoughts because of two unforgettable moments in important matches.

    Short thought about Dembele. This guy does have the talent. It’s worth giving him some love and support to see if he can harness it in a useful way for us but he looks needy and we need to drop all the comments about moving him on after not really trying him much last season. Does he really not even deserve the amount of time that homes got before we decide ?

    Looking forward to seeing some of the youngsters and newcomers you’ve all been talking about and I’ve missed so far, tonight.m

    1. Well said Jim. Je d’accord with everything about Thiago. From what I read around, its actually only Segura who is adamant that a player who left is not coming back. Isnt he foregetting that he too left, went to Liverpool failed and then came back.. anyways. I would be glad to see him back.
      SR for me has all the intelligence for a Barca player, but we still havent seen a very good game of his in the midfield.. As you said, he is excellent to carry the ball forward if he has some space.. But me thinks he is only going to grow.

      However I cant agree that captains have to be always like Puyol. I vaguely remember learning about many types of leaders in Organisation Behaviour. Iniesta Messi et all leads by example.. But I see what you mean, Its mostly an English and Latin American way for looking at captain material :)-

      :@Gogah yes that was a statement. If my memory is right, in the copa final before that game, while we were still leading 1-0, Pep was getting ready to bring in Deulofue and then EE equalised. and he couldnt. Also remember the CWC final against Santos when we played with 11 la masias, which players including Xavi thought was among the best we played..
      Ah, that press conference is one of my favourite moments from Peps time. Thanks for reminding.

  9. Sorry , keyboard skills are still in pre season mode. At various points I meant to say “prise” away from Jose and Gomes not homes !

    Also, I forgot to mention that Cesc was maybe even a bigger factor in Thiago deciding to go. You could forgive the twins but maybe he felt he was better than Cesc. Maybe he was . . .

  10. I’ll take a wild guess and say that SR was preferred over both Racitic and Ter Stegen because he’s La Masia and has been with the club for much longer. Besides intelligence and passion, which I’ll bet my pinky on, Messi, Busquets and SR (not just Pique) have plenty of, what other attributes should a footballer have to be considered ‘captain material’? I do hope loudness and brashness are towards the end of most people’s lists.
    Regarding the reservations aimed at SR, I’ll try to respond as objectively as it’s possible for someone who has a soft spot for him.
    “He won’t play much, because he’s not good enough.”
    He will play plenty, as Valverde will rotate a lot more this year. The fact that he’s been kept in the squad by five different managers over the past decade begs to differ on the “not good enough” charge/perception.
    “He can’t defend.”
    If that were true, how is it that Barca had the second best defending record in La Liga last season? I understand, he can’t get all the credit, but he most definitely gets some of the credit.
    “He can’t hold the ball well enough in central midfield.”
    He hasn’t played nearly enough in midpark to warrant such a verdict.
    “His technical skills aren’t of the top level.”
    Do you honestly think he would have survived at Barca for as long as he has if that were the case?
    Finally, call me naïve, or Pollyannaish or whatever, but I would fancy our midfield’s chances against Real Madrid’s this season. Even with Thiago.

  11. Fair enough,Mvarfi. Although I didn’t and wouldn’t accuse Messi or Busi of lacking football intelligence and I understand entirely why the team would vote for them. I suppose we look for different things from a captain. I don’t want it to be someone quiet on the pitch or just on the basis of time served. I want a more visible captain who makes his physical presence and views clear, a bit like Puyol. I want someone who gets in Suarez’s ( or maybe now, Vidal’s) face and drags him away from trouble, who isn’t frightened to let the ref know his thoughts ( Tbf Messi does this occasionally) and who will let a player know if they should be doing better. This might be a British thing. I’m not sure continental teams place much emphasis on it at all. . I’ve played under both quiet and in your face captains and I know which got the extra ounce out of me, especially in the area of running and pressing.

    There is also the element that Messi is best player, needs to be most creative, takes all FKs and penalties and is targeted by all opposition for marking and fouling. I’m not sure we can’t spread the pressure and load a bit better around the side.

    We can agree to differ on SR and see what the season brings I’ve absolutely nothing against what he gives the club. I just don’t think he has shown he can defend properly and I think that the reason he hasn’t featured much in the midfield is lack of ability at this elite level. If Semedo can improve his delivery into the box he’d be the starter at RB for me. Still an if I suppose. We thankfully look like having more players fighting for midfield places hence my doubt that he can become a starter there. I also can’t envisage him telling any of the senior players what to do but maybe that’s just me.

    Time will tell but I’ll have no problem if he proves me wrong.

  12. What we really need and we did need all these years is a Busi corrector, cause every time he makes a mistake there is high percentage that we end up conceding a goal.

    1. Are we talking about their goal ?

      I can see Alba’s part, certainly Lenglet’s but why Busi ? Alba’s poor header put Busi 20 yards behind the play, it was Lenglet’s man and he only decided at the last minute to leave him to go to help Pique.

    2. Yes, im talking about their goal.
      Its all point of view, when you look who’s to blame. Busi tend to make at least a mistake per game. Everybody makes them.
      Just that,because of the nature of his play, his mistakes are almost always costly.

  13. I had to rewind it just to be sure, and lucky enough, i recorded the game.
    The whole play to their goal started with a wrong pass from Busi, which they intercepted it and the goal just followed the play from that mistake.
    I can give you the exact time of that pass if you want…07:51 minutes into the game.

    1. No need. I’m lucky enough to be able to record all our games.

      Do you mean the ( admittedly poor ) pass well into their half where they play a couple of passes before knocking it back to their CB just outside their box who stands still with the ball for two or three seconds by which time we have ten or eleven back behind the ball ? Is that not ever so slightly harsh ?

    2. Yes, that pass.
      It doesn’t matter was the pass in their half or in our own.
      It was a poor one, and it caught our defense unprepared for what was to come.
      They were all relaxed cause we had the ball, and Pique, Lenglet, Alba, never thought he will make such a pass and give them a chance for break.
      But it did.
      Personally, i don’t care if it’s Busi, Pique, Messi or whoever, when they have a great game, i will praise then, when they make a costly mistake or have a poor game, i will criticize them. That’s what fans do. And i try to be objective.

  14. I enjoyed that. Good to have Barca back. Looked to be very hard work for our guys until I remembered that most of the WC players in the EPL this weekend were on.y “able” to give 20 minutes or half an hour. Not long back in training and first competitive match for many. I thought it was asking a lot of Rakitic to even be on the pitch. They all looked done by the end and hadn’t really been playing at full pace.

    Didn’t learn a lot but I liked the look of Arthur, thought Semedo has gained a bit of confidence although he really has to learn to look up and really pleased for Dembele. Some good pace, good take ons, decent passes and a wonder goal. Still some switch off at times but that will do him good. Hopefully it will also stop the rumours of his departure. Also thought Alba had a good game.

    Clunky start for Suarez, Coutinho will have to offer more in terms of defending and Messi still contributing well while at half pace.

    Was listening to Souness today talking about the press and saying that you have to decide as a manager whether your team is prepared to press as it on.y takes one to slack and you’re skooshed ! I was also thinking back to the Pep programme where he said one of the advantages of the quick close passing was that if you lose the ball you still have players around it to win it back quickly. Can we really press enough this season ?

    Finally, never a penalty for me. After Alba’s touch TS barely changes direction at all and Vidal is going too quickly straight on to change enough to get it. Bad decision for me.

  15. Yes Alba made a mistake but Pique one more time going backwards,a faster DM maybe would had covered Sarabia,old same shit defending.
    Club must sign a RCB fast,PSG did a great job with Kehrer.

    1. You do know it was Longlet’s man not Pique’s who scored and he was much closer to Sarabia than Pique ever was ? When the header first came, other than a last man low percentage sliding tackle from well away, there was nothing Pique could do except get goal side of his man which he did. When the final pass was made Pique was marking his own man a good ten yards away. Are you suggesting he leave him a clear path to goal to run over to Sarabia ? Usain Bolt couldn’t have got with five yards !

      I’m not sure I’d blame anyone for that goal other than possibly Alba although presumably even he wouldn’t have headered the ball straight to their CF if he could have avoided it. In six weeks or so Lenglet maybe won’t feel the need to rush across. With limited numbers back we rely on each person taking care of their own man.

  16. Jim,Lenglet is new in the team,he did not played vs Roma at 3-0 vs Psg or vs Juventus,if you cant see Pique Alba Busquets doing same mistakes in games maybe i am biased, i dont know.

  17. Hi all!

    I used to be a regular poster from around 2007-2014-ish when I fell off the bandwagon, not really watching much soccer, for the past couple of years–around the time Neymar was mid-way through his tenure. After the time-off I’m looking to re-join the community, and I’m glad to see Kxevin and co. still creating content for this wonderful blog!

    Anyway, my eye for soccer isn’t quite what it used to be but here are some observations. They may be ill-informed but here they are in any case….

    –I was impressed with Dembele. Besides the goal (blistering!) I thought he was a real terror for his opponent at times. Is it just me or is he very tall for that position? I think I’ve heard rumors that between his injury in his first season and what must have been under-performance when he did play, that he might get sold…..but that seems like a lot of wasted money and I hope he makes it through the transfer deadline and has a good year.

    –Messi looks a bit like Kratos from God of War. Is it the beard, the now-being-30, or both? Very interested to seeing him as 1st captain in a post-Iniesta world. It was one thing when Puyol retired…and ANOTHER thing when Xavi left….now if you ask me he’s the last remaining magician from the Globetrotters years.

    –I wasn’t sure about Suarez. Touch like a rock, sometimes.

    –Vidal seems to be an interesting pick-up. Exciting on one hand but, in my opinion whenever we’ve picked-up a tough guy/enforcer-type, it always starts-off feeling like a change-of-pace, and ends as a square peg in a round hole.

    Anyway, excited for the rest of the season and seeing how the team’s changed. Cheers.

  18. Jim
    the goal was not Alba’s fault, it was Busi which passed the ball to the opposition. Alba was tactically engaged in advancing on the left, he was way too far to get back and save that.

  19. I’m not saying the goal was Alba’s fault, Andh’ol. It was his strange header backwards that unwittingly helped create a chance. He had come back but correctly moved up again to press the wide player just as the ball was hit. I’ve already said I don’t think this was really anyone’s fault, just circumstances. Not disputing it was a poor pass from Busi, just that it had anything to do with the goal ( unless we want to track every goal back to who on our side last touched it which is madness. )

    However, Busi’s “fault” this most certainly was not:

    The Sevilla player first touches the ball at 7.51 and possession is lost.
    The long ball is eventually launched forward at 8.02.
    That’s eleven (!) seconds for the team to adjust.
    This is not a quick counter attack which causes problems because of its speed. This is a reasonably slow build up and a harmless long ball at the end of it. If our whole team can’t get into decent defensive position in eleven seconds they should be playing Sunday league.

    I suppose the more interesting question is what we expect our players to do in the opponents’s third of the pitch and if something goes wrong there are they culpable. Each will have their own views and we’ve had this discussion a few years ago but mine is that the last third is where we take the chances and if Messi tries a dribble and it doesn’t come off I won’t be blaming him anytime soon. You can’t be governed by the worry of losing a ball there. The idea of risk averse forwards is, to me, ludicrous. How much time has to elapse after you lose the ball before you’re not considered at fault ?

    Anyway, it’s the first game, we won, it’s a trophy and the newer players looked decent. Sevilla looked the fitter side but they’ve already been in serious action so that’s not a surprise. Losing a goal is no big deal at this stage if we learn from it and the only lesson for me is that Lenglet and Pique need to agree to hold that high line at halfway or not ( my preferred option). I’m pretty sure Lenglet won’t be used to that yet but I’d expect Umtiti to be back for the league anyway.

  20. Vs Alaves i want

  21. I can not agree with you more, Jim, as i am of the same opinion that tracking balls in the final third is insane, however, we have a mechanism to cope with that which is quick, efficient pressing. The Achiles’ heel here? Well, there are actually two: 1. Simple passes are not missed, nobody expects that and even with plenty of time to get back, the team was literally caught on the other foot, running in the opposite direction. 2. the man who gets the ball back is most of the time Busi, especially in that area (and assuming it is not Raki or SR-Semedo the piano carrier there). There was a combination of two factors which led to the goal: nobody expects Busi to misplace that specific type of pass, it was a few meters long after all. Then, basically the opposite flank (Jordi) waits to see how things unfold (which indeed he shouldn’t, but the whole thing happened on the right and assuming we, as the dominating team, retake control of the ball, the left flank should already be developed for a quick, punishing retribution). And another thing.. our central defenders didn’t look like the strongest, most experienced couple of center backs. It is expected of Lenglet, but i worry that the quality is even lower than in the case of Yerri Mina here, as the boy is younger, stronger, has indeed worse positioning but a strong tackle and one of the best headers in the game. Is Lenglet useful? Obviously not yet. Should he have started? Obviously, in hindsight, not yet! Once again Mina stands no chance at the spot, even though he did play with Pique at least, unlike Lenglet. But this is what i was emphasizing rather, that the fault belongs to everyone, from the first one who made the mistake (Busi), then to the midfielder who didn’t get it back (Busi, Semedo, Messi?), then Lenglet (and VV for all i care, i hate his uninspired, unprepared moves and his cherry picking the veterans always) and only after all of these guys comes Alba. One more thing: 2 CBs from Barca should be enough to stop a 1.5 men attack from Sevilla, cause Ronaldo would’ve scored 3 in this game against us,

  22. How stupld will be lf they sell Marlon to Shalke after Thilo Kehrer signed for PSG, why they did not used Marlon to get Thilo,a great talented RCB now we have 3 LCB one old injury prone and Lenglet just a back up.
    Club seems to never sign a challenge for el presidente.

  23. Just today read this news that none of the tv channels will show Liga in India, but it will be done by Facebook. Am really really shocked by this news.. Its not that I dont have a facebook account or I hate to open one now, but its all about the real time internet speed in India.
    These people (who went for this decision) dont seem to have any clue about the ground reality of internet speeds in India. We have one of the poorest internet speeds in Asia on theory. On practice it is even pathetic..
    I watched the super cup by streaming. hell I missed at least 40% of the game and had to watch the game again yesterday to have a better idea of the details.

    So many things are not going good in life for me and watching liga gave me a big respite from life issues.. It looks like now even football time would be spend cursing at the internet and the low quality of images..
    Since I dont use facebook, I dont know if fb has some special way to stream low quallity uninterrupted.. If not, myself and millions of other ordinary people (not rich or u.m.class) who enjoyed liga are going to suffer…
    I detest this liga authorities for going for this stupid stupid decision. India is not only its 1% rich or those living in metros like Delhi and Bombay..

  24. I was talking about this earlier in relation to the golf PGA championship, Fotobirajesh. We’re still fine here but everything is getting more fragmented, more expensive and quality of the viewing is going down. I find myself looking back here fondly on the days when Sky owned everything and I never thought I would say that.

    1. Of course Jim. While reading you I was wondering when would India become like this.. And they took it to another level.
      The only people who would benefit from this is facebook. They will have desparate fans, anti social media ones, joining fb because the love for this game supersedes anything…Am already cursing a lot..
      Amitbarca the last season we didnt had any takers for liga in India, I think was 09/10….But then rojadirecta was accessible and it had many low quality links…
      What a bloody development. Fuck facebook…..

  25. I agree with you Fotobirajesh I am also from India and this is stupidity on the part of La Liga if they think they will gain more viewers only through Facebook without knowing the ground realities I mean they could have struck a deal with Facebook without abandoning the TV viewership. But what can you expect from Madrid supporting scum like Tebas. Guess we have to be content with watching highlights in Youtube another shit thing to happen this year. Give me my la liga back Tebas !

  26. Well, that’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. No, not the Barca game. It wasn’t on any of my channels so I watched Madrid vs AM. And what a hoot it was. RM lost 4-2 aet. But that wasn’t what pleased me. It was the sheer chaos of RM’s defence. Ramos and Varane were a nightmare. Any Barca fans wanting to sling mud at our defence should catch these goals on YouTube.

    In general, RM have big problems,m aim one being they’ve nobody who likes being in the centre of the box to score goals. Both Bale and Benzema come short and go wide quite well but neither is gonna score nearly enough goals to make up for Ronaldo. Watch out for one or two huge panic buys next week. If I were Modric I wouldn’t be holding my breath for an exit pass anytime soon.

    Atleti were decent and they look stronger than last season but not Liga winning strong for me. They played quite an open game tonight but if they do that in La Liga they’ll be throwing away their strong suit and will come a cropper to often. Especially, Costa. He was great tonight but could have been sent off about three times.

    Anyway, how were we ? I saw the goals but not much of the play. Malcolm’s looked like a goalkeeping howler but good to see him get off the mark so early, Messi got a fortunate bounce but that finish . . .. How can he hold the flick of the foot so long before he chips the keeper ? Great composed goal from Rafinha and an outstanding return ball from the hopeless one.

  27. Atletiko is very strong,balanced and quality squad, winning la liga will be very tough for Barca.

  28. As tempting as it is, I hesitate to feel too gleeful about Real Madrid’s defeat. I caught most of the second half and all of the extra time. I can’t make up my mind on the final result owing more to RM being poor or Atletico being really good. It’s doesn’t really matter. We can’t read too much into this game anyway. Remember when everybody laughed at and/or felt sorry for us after our defeat to RM last summer? Did that game hint even a little bit at our almost undefeated season? Atletico may have looked strong, but RM has just started working with a new coach, so I’ll write off their defeat mostly to that fact.

  29. 3 of the best of 5 teams in Europe are in la liga,winning PL is a joke compering the two competitions.
    If those 3 teams were in England they would finish top 3 last season and new season.

  30. If Barca had signed Benzema and not Ibra in 2009 and Suares and not Sanchez in 2011 should had 2 more CL.
    Maybe Dembele and not Mbappe is the same script.

  31. I just read about La Liga’s decision to start playing some first flight matches in United States and Canada. It might bring a little controversy, because I believe not all teams will want to forfeit their home advantage.

    As for top teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid, I think it’s a win-win situation because of their popularity.

    In my opinion Barça will always have a larger proportion of the crowd there as long as it’s not a Classico.

    PS: This is my first time commenting on this blog, I have really been following it for almost a year and half (not that long). The posts are extremely nice here.

  32. Nice to hear from you, Obalaz. Welcome !

    I’m not sure how this will work at all. How will gate receipts work out, who decides which home games you forfeit, could that affect a close Liga, how will Sky feel about Europe unlikely to watch live assuming an early evening kick off, does that affect Sky package rights. the teams can’t be happy about their players undergoing needless transatlantic flights, building in time to adjust before and after and subsequent fatigue for midweek games etc, etc. I can see La Liga running into bother over this.

    The EPL doesn’t have to do any of this so it’s a real ( maybe justified?) sign of inferiority complex for me. I’d rather La Liga got the basic competences right of a definite schedule of when games will be played, transfer window dates, buyout clauses etc.

    Having said all that it must be good news for those hear who live in the USA and can’t travel for games so I’m pleased for them although I’m not sure they wouldn’t rather have a reliable broadcaster package judging by some of the goings on.

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