News (and thoughts) of the day, May 11 (UPDATE!)

Is success good? More specifically, is dominance good?

We are now seeing the stories, questioning whether the outright dominance of the Liga this season by us and EE is a good thing. That plucky, hard-working sides should have a chance to succeed as well, and shame on us for being as excellent as we are.

Statistics don’t lie. The second-place team this season will, at the end of it all, would have had a record-setting points haul, were it not for the winning team.

But anybody who says such a thing is boring, hasn’t been watching La Liga this season.

If you look at all of the national leagues, you just don’t see anything being that much different, La Liga included. This season, the Bundesliga champion in Bayern. (snore! That’s never happened before.) In the Premiership, the champion is Chelsea, with United in second place. In Ligue 1, Marseille notLyonyoubigdummy has done it again. In Italy, it’s Inter once again (or will be after this weekend). In the Liga, it’s our turn (yes. It will be.) to hoist the cup, and be feted by hordes of screaming cules.

So is success boring? People point to the distance of the third-place side as evidence that the Liga has become lopsided, and that such a thing is boring. And yet, the matches are played. Ask the Almerias or Gijons, who sell out the stadium when the glamor boys come to town, if that’s boring. Or the fans who sit and watch, in the hopes that this will be the week that dog-ass striker of theirs puts one away, or their defense isn’t being a sieve, and holds the mighty Barcelona to a draw and if we’re luckyluckyluckylucky, might even cop a win.

Leagues need a death star. Would as many fans come to El Madrigal to watch Villarreal play us if we were in, say, 5th place? Lie if you want, but the answer is no. Because people want to see the giant fall. Irrespective of what anyone does, all national leagues are the big-city teams, and the regional ones. No matter what anyone does, Gijon and Almeria will always be Gijon and Almeria. Will David Villa or Franck Ribery ever say “Well, I know that Chelsea is calling, but my dream job would be to play for Deportivo. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen. Those kinds of players would still rather risk coming to a 4th-place Barca or EE to be the guy who helped turn it around, than plugging away for Zaragoza or Malaga.

And yet, the gap to Valencia is still sticking out like a sore thumb, right? But is that a problem with us, or a problem with Valencia, who have been erratic at best this season? Is Atletico Madrid’s inability to (once again) meet expectations and play up to the level of its talent a problem with us, or with them? Valencia, with more consistent play, could be right up there with the leaders. Same with Sevilla. So why the big points gaps?

I contend that it is because the Liga is as intensely competitive as any major league in the world, even in light of the immense gap to the top two. How many matches this season have we had to work like dogs to secure the points, or that EE have had to stage late comebacks to pull out? If anything, last season was more boring, because when we rolled into town, the only question was how our Murderers’ Row of Henry, Eto’o, Messi and Xavi were going to kill you. This season, however, has been jam-packed with suspense, and will go right down to the last match.

So I think that people who are saying that the top two teams’ dominance is boring, need to pay closer attention to the Liga, and the matches therein, to the television ratings for El Clasic, to the drumming, horn playing and chanting of fans in Mallorca, or Getafe, who root and believe, right up until that moment when belief is snatched away.

Then tell me dominance is boring.

–So there has been talk of the top teams separating from the general Liga, and forming a sort of SuperLiga, sort of like playing with like. Some have wondered about this. Wonder no more. It has about as much chance of happening as I have of getting a pedicure from Bjork. The debate and discussion over television revenues has been roiling for some time. The smaller clubs want a more equitable distribution, while the bigger clubs are saying “Look, nobody would watch you if you weren’t playing us, so shut up.”

We and EE have our own TV deals, that are a significant source of revenue. The smaller clubs want a piece of that pie, saying that more money would make them more competitive, etc, etc, etc, etc. But would it really? Probably not, because all the money in the world still can’t build a winner without the right management. Just ask Citeh.

More to the point, are the big teams going to split off and do their own thing? No. It’s a simple negotiating ploy that nobody, even the people who are writing the stories about it, believe will come to pass. The hurdles are immense: UEFA acceptance, a revenue sharing system, points system, TV contract, etc, etc. So relax. We will, and always will be part of La Liga. A more equitable TV revenue system will be hashed out because it has to be, and nobody will be satisfied. That’s the nature of compromises.

–Expect an early silly season, thanks to the elections. Laporta will want to pave the way for his chosen one by making a big signing before he leaves. The latest rumor is that David Villa will sign with us, almost immediately after the Liga season is concluded. Details have been all hammered out, and we and Valencia have reached an agreement. Who knows, right, since Sport had him signed last season, as well.

You will hear Villa’s and a host of other names bandied about from now, right up until you can’t hear them being bandied about …. until the winter transfer season. We all know what our needs are: midfield help and strong wing play. So does every other club on the planet. So if anyone comes who will meet those needs, don’t expect them to be cheap, and don’t expect the process to be smooth. Yes, consider that a warning.

UPDATE: The latest on the Villa business is that Laporta has set an actual date for the unveiling, of next Wednesday, as in May 19. Now keep in mind that this has been reported by MARCA, who has all the reliability of a constipated man in a cheese factory.

–The Yaya wants to have his future sorted out, and I don’t blame him. And he would like it done before the World Cup. In the past his agent, Pond Scum Seluk, has been guilty of speaking out when he shouldn’t have been. He and The Yaya had a planet-to-man talk, and that has all been sorted. So when Seluk says that Arsenal is a possibility, and you see the reports that Wenger has to consider soon whether to make a bid the The Yaya before the WC, believe the rumors.

And I will go on the record right now as saying if we sell The Yaya, we are out of our minds. Not because I’m a fan, but because I AM a fan of what he brings to the side. I think that is, ultimately, irreplacable. Of course, someone will bring different skill sets that might in their own right be deemed irreplacable. And so it goes, right?

–We are appealing the Xavi yellow from last week, not surprisingly. Also not surprisingly, expect the league to deny the appeal.

–In the “saving the best for last” category, Ghostface is practicing with the squad today, as normal, and looked great by all reports. And how could I have been remiss in wishing Andres Iniesta a happy 26th birthday. Heck of a way to celebrate it, coming back to be a part of the club that in effect, raised him. Many more, Mini Vampire, and all in the colors, of course!


Don’t touch me! Just. Don’t. Touch me!

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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.

140 Comments

  1. Blow-Grenade
    May 11, 2010

    Looking forward to seeing Ghostface!!!! Would anybody else like to see a Ghostface appearence?

  2. PS
    May 11, 2010

    Marseilles won Ligue 1 this year, not Lyon.

    • May 11, 2010

      You are correct, PS. Serves me right for checking out when Montpellier went belly-up. The record above has been fixed.

  3. May 11, 2010

    By the way, am I the only one here who would vastly prefer Mata over Villa? We need a winger, not a striker.

    • Lou
      May 11, 2010

      Is Mata really that much better than Pedro though?

      • ElShowDeJason
        May 11, 2010

        “that much better”
        I don’t think he is better at all.
        I think Pedro! is better than Mata, but would rather have an established goal-scoring threat on the left wing.

      • May 11, 2010

        Better is subjective, especially considering their roles.

        I personally think Mata is must better playing along the touchline than Pedro — which is what we need up front to replace Henry…width. Especially against stronger clubs.

        In terms of raw goalscoring/clinicalness — I think Pedro has a better future – and we should keep him as a tool to be used in circumstances when a wingfull can push forward to create width and free up the need for dedicated winger.

        • May 11, 2010

          So I guess in response to Euler’s post below which I had yet to read, I think Mata will generate more width than Villa, and is thus a superior choice.

    • Boat Forever
      May 11, 2010

      Me definitely Patrick… Mata is an ideal player we are looking for, I don’t think we could do any better with Villa than we presently are!!

    • Euler
      May 11, 2010

      We need a player who is going to generate width more than we do a player who fits in certain defined position.

      How the club decides to improve width along the left flank is a major tactical decision.

      • May 11, 2010

        I happen to know that in a secret Catalan laboratory, scientists are working on a Thierry Henry circa 2009 clone, only one injected with anti-aging hormones. This clone will be able to:

        –Outrun defenders to the end line.
        –Cross balls in once he creates that space.
        –Cut into the box to score goals.
        –Make runs up the field off the wing and lead breaks.

        Sssssh! It’s still secret right now, but Sport will have all the details very soon. 😀

        • pulpo
          May 11, 2010

          Could you be describing an injury free ribery. The thing i like about him is how he can run at full speed and still spot the pass, not unlike our own inesta.

          • May 11, 2010

            pulpo, I should have added “And who doesn’t frolic with underage prostitutes.” I’m a big character guy.

          • vicsoc8
            May 11, 2010

            Add the fact that Ribery has been anything but professional when dealing with his future, and I just don’t think he has the right character to play for us.

            Imagine what Pep thinks…

        • Euler
          May 11, 2010

          And on top of that defend energetically on the press in order for to maximize possession…

          That’s what’s so concerning. The skill sets needed to play in the forward line for Barca are so demanding in Pep’s system that it’s not going to be easy to find player who fit.

          The functional loss of Henry is the overarching reason why they aren’t going to the CL finals.

          A “classic winger” is unlikely to be able to do everything that the system requires.

        • Blow-Grenade
          May 11, 2010

          Nice humor Kxevin! I agree that Sport will have the details very soon.

        • BA
          May 11, 2010

          speaking of the under-aged, what’s going on with Gai Assulin? what are the chances of him getting a shot or even a promotion next season? we’ve been hearing about this kid for 2 seasons now, and he’s a pacey left-winger who likes to take people on the dribble…

          • May 11, 2010

            Christ the kid is 19 — not everyone is Messi give him some time 🙂
            Also — he is up for a new contract right now and rumors have Real and Arsenal after him…

    • cliveee
      May 11, 2010

      definitely not what we need. saw him played with iniesta for the national team, not much edge to speak of, couldnt create the space that we need most, lots of lateral/back passes. yes, juan mata is a valencia star, but i don’t think his wing play is any better than say pedro or even dani alves.

      what we need is a player who is a REAL threat on the left who can dribble pass 1 or 2 defenders and cross the ball for strikers to score, but is also a real threat without the ball. Mata is clearly not.

  4. Boat Forever
    May 11, 2010

    Actually Lou, Pedro as much versatile as he is… he seems natural playing on right. Mata, as I see him, is an identical to Pedro except he’s leftie

  5. SoccerMom
    May 11, 2010

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmy9TPrKgac

    “These days, we all have a dream …
    the old dream of touching the sky once more …
    because we deserve it.
    The problem is,
    thousands of Englishmen
    and thousands of Sevilla fans
    have that same dream …
    But what they don’t know …
    is that we dream a lot harder,
    with all our hearts …
    Europa League Finals
    King’s Cup
    Let’s dream harder.”

    Drama sometimes makes for better commercials than dominance.

  6. pulpo
    May 11, 2010

    Im actually a bit worried about this off-season because the way I see it, Pep doesnt exactly have the best of records with transfers. I am not questioning his ability as a coach(hes the best) but perhaps his scouting ability. I can understand that sometimes you bring a player in and he is off-form or just doesnt fit in but this seems to have happened more aften than not with Peps transfers. Aside from Alves(who has justified by his cost), Keita and Pique, so many of his buys seem to have the wrong attributes for our system and were brought in at a premium.
    Caceres- 16m yet he is weak on the ball. This can only be down to poor scouting or why else would Pep( and the teamTxiki etc) buy such a skill set. Txgrinskyi is not only slow but cannot tackle. Isnt this a major liablilty for a defender. Ibra is plan B but isn’t as good at heading and holding onto the ball to be effective plan B. Furthermore he isnt agile enough to play tiki-taka(I thought he would be able to and I guessing so did Pep) and contribute when he comes deep. This is why he often stays upfront.
    Henrique, Kerrison are players Pep decided he cant use. So why buy them?

    All these players are not cheap. The Rijkaard era had its share of poor buys, but none like these which werent even given a chance. Also, the era more than made up for them with solid buys which from which we are still reaping the benefits. Yaya(amazing buy), abidal, Marquez, Gudjohnson.

    Im not calling Ibra a failure as I dont want to start that debate. im just saying he doesnt have the attributes he was deemed to have, and that can only be the results of poor scouting. For example he really could go to the wing and play tikitaka, thus drawing the defenders, spreading the field, I would claim him a great buy regardless of the number of goals he scored. But we now know he cant do this well. Also, he is average at best in the air- im sure Messi has scored more headers than him. Plan B didnt work this season because Ibra wasnt the right player for plan B. Pep will have to come up with plan c, and only then might we see Ibra flourish

    • May 11, 2010

      Remember that Adriano and Keirrison were Txiki buys, not Guardiola buys. The two players whom Guardiola has most recently said he wanted, “So get them for me, dammit” were Txigrinski and Ibrahimovic. It’s too soon to make a call on either one. Next season, we will be able to. Never forget that after their first seasons, people wanted to run Abidal and Henry out of town on a rail, calling them failures, and wondering what the hell we were thinking, right?

      • pulpo
        May 11, 2010

        True true Kxevin… but Im talking more about perceived qualities(by us? but we can guess what pep wanted) that arent there. I hate this whole policy of buying young players that the coach doesnt want. If we dont play our young players, they lose resale value. RM policy might be disgusting, but they never overpay in the sense that they can sell the young prodigys off anytime- even Benzema will have resale value

        • May 11, 2010

          I see one failing (if glory can be tarnished in any way) of our Masia being that it is turning out mostly mids and defenders, with the occasional adequacy out wide (Jeffren, Pedro!). But for the most part, we have the likes of Dos Santos, Assulin and Thiago, who are all in that same area of the pitch, or Muniesa, Botia, Fontas, etc.

          Unless I’m just missing out on the wingers in the pipeline.

          For the record, striker Gael Etock is also very, very promising, as in if we let him go anywhere we’re out of our minds, promising.

          • Lou
            May 11, 2010

            I thought Gai Assulin was a winger. That’s where he’s played during his first team appearances anyway.

    • cliveee
      May 11, 2010

      i recommend you watch his games again, because I think Ibra actually did what you said he didn’t do. But remember, don’t judge a player according to recent slumps, watch the whole season.

      Ibrahimovic is more than capable to play tiki-taka than any top-level strikers out there. he made the play for messi to score time and time again, also recently he made amazing thru ball in midfield to direct the traffic. He is on the right track, but he is not 100% yet.

  7. Euler
    May 11, 2010

    Regarding the television contract – it’s a major issue but the globalization of the game is only going to continue.

    More and more of what’s going to matter for La Liga’s health is not only competition inside it’s own boundaries but competition across leagues in different countries.

    And that’s largely going to be a function of how competitive the cream of the crop in each league are. In a certain sense, Barca and Real are adding more value to the La Liga brand than vice versa. That’s just a reality.

  8. majatt
    May 11, 2010

    In other news, the youth team came second in their table of the Segunda B meaning they are in the play off for promotion to the Segunda division.

    May improve the quality and maturity of the youth team playing just 1 league below their parent unit. Although Villareal B is doing wonderfully in the Segunda and I haven’t seen a huge amount of their youth squad stepping up.

  9. Tyler
    May 11, 2010

    I really hope Villa comes. I think he will be a great addition to the team and he will finally have a chance to play on a club that has a chance at winning something big. That being said, the future of our club is Pedro and Bojan and I think that having Villa there will help their maturation into prominent left wingers and only can be a positive.

  10. pulpo
    May 11, 2010

    I just want to put this out there. Steven Gerard as an Keita upgrade.

    He is thinking of leaving, we could probably get him for 30m as they need the money.
    While he have thiago and JDS coming up, gerrard offers the physical covering of Keita but is amazing at crashing the box, can pass(not like Masia graduates but better than Keita) and will be a constant threat from on the edge of the box. The ultimate buss breaker. Only thing is he isnt the best positionally.

    what do you guys think? is this crazy?

    • Kxevin
      May 11, 2010

      Madder than a March hare, pulpo. Gerrard is aging, and increasingly fragile. Keita’s passing the past few matches has been exemplary, and his pace and range in enhancing our defensive midfield are not to be underestimated. And he does so without uttering a peep. You never hear an agent saying “You know, Seydou wants his future sorted,” or “Seydou wants more playing time.” He just plays, usually very well, but very well in a way that can’t often be quantified on a stat sheet.

      Another thing is that Gerrard represents a “star-focussed” way of thinking that to my mind, does our club a disservice. We don’t need Galacticos. We don’t even need very much, just wing play and midfield depth, and we’re off to the races again. Keita is a definite keeper for me.

      • ElShowDeJason
        May 11, 2010

        The only reason Keita’s start doesn’t shine too brightly is because he is playing next to Xaviniesta, Yaya, Messi.
        I think there are only 2 or 3 players I would honestly replace him with, Cambiasso or Essien, and still, that would take a lot of thought before making the decision.
        It would also have to be a straight swap, because, I’d rather have Keita + money than either of the two.
        Keita does a lot of unnoticed work, and his box crashing is actually quite amazing, and should be used more often.

        • Jim
          May 11, 2010

          Not sure when the last time Keita “crashed a box” to any effect was.

          • BA
            May 11, 2010

            oh yeah and Gerrard doesn’t have the technical ability or workrate, and isn’t a good player in any system not built to accommodate him. so that’s a resounding No.

    • Euler
      May 11, 2010

      For a moment think of the difficulties Capello has had with trying to integrate Gerrard into England’s national squad given their congestion in the middle in terms of talent.

      Those problems would only be magnified in Barca’s system. And that’s outside of the issues of age, money and ego.

      Gerrard is a player who is most natural through the middle. But how he will work with Rooney and Lampard has been a vexing problem. Capello very well may ask Gerrard to do something very different such as playing on the left. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

    • jose011
      May 11, 2010

      mm, sorta crazy i must say. maybe you could write for goal.com? (jkz)

  11. Lou
    May 11, 2010

    You know I can’t say I really blame the La Liga clubs for wanting to organize their own top division league. The Spanish FA don’t exactly have a good organizational reputation, and I’m not sure I’d trust them to organize a successful bake sale, let alone a marketing campaign to compete internationally with the Premier League, Serie A, etc…

    These are the guys who often don’t decide the time/dates of matches until less than a week before the game, celebrated their centenary four years early and only decided on a date/location for the Copa final a month before the match. (That date is also during the FIFA mandated rest period for World Cup players so players like Fabiano, Forlan, may not be able to play in the final).

    • Kxevin
      May 11, 2010

      Part of that organizational problem though, Lou, is the owners, who are stupid on their good days, and they rarely have good days. One person needs to come along, to drag the Liga from being a boys club to a modern footballing league. Whether the top clubs have their Liga or not, the owners will still be idiots, and it would also dilute the fun and overall strength of Spanish football.

  12. May 11, 2010

    There is absolutely no point in getting David Villa if we already have Ibra. It’ll create too many problems in terms of egos, playing time etc. If we’re keeping Ibra, I would much rather get David Silva, who can actually slot in at LW and back up Xavi/Iniesta in midfield. If we’re selling Ibra to Juve, then David Villa is fine.

    One of the reasons I’m saying this is because I think Pedro next year will be ready to start week in week out, and the experience of being in the NT squad will do him good. And Bojan will be the first guy off the bench. If we have Ibra AND Villa, we’ll have the problem of (a) trying to make Villa a LW, which he’s not, (b) too many egos, and (c) all the young ‘uns (Pedro, Bojan, Jeffren) sliding down a spot, which I definitely don’t want.

    • Jim
      May 11, 2010

      Not sure if I’m reading too much into things but I could see a scenario whereby Laporta buys Villa for a rake of money ( I’d be happy with that btw), hoping to stymie the incoming administration by leaving it short of funds. That then leads to the raising of funds by the new President through the selling of Ibra and the purchase of Cesc ( which I’m not so sure about although he would be a great addition).

  13. Helge
    May 11, 2010

    I still don’t get it… Xavi is on FOUR yellow cards, so why the heck is he suspended?!?

    Did the EE pay some millions of € to the LFP/RFEF or whatever?

    • May 11, 2010

      He got a caution in the tunnel after a game for dissent. So while he has only had 4 “on field” yellows, he still had 5 cautions, which mean a suspension.

    • May 11, 2010

      Considering all 5 of his cards are for running his D**n mouth, he really just needs to learn to shut up and not give refs an excuse to card him.

      • Lou
        May 11, 2010

        Which game was that Patrick?

        No chance that last yellow card gets overturned so we’ll have to do without him.

        I really agree that Xavi needs to control his temper. Getting himself suspended for the title decider for complaining was dumb. Add to this his tendency to make “we were the better team/the only team that wanted to play football” complaints whenever Barcelona doesn’t win matches.

        • Jim
          May 11, 2010

          I don’t know. Most of the time I’ve agreed with him. Can have too much of the PC brigade. Give me a bad loser and I’ll show you a winner.

          • Lou
            May 11, 2010

            I just don’t see how it’s helpful. Is the ref going to change his mind about giving a free kick or call off a goal because Xavi complains about it? No. It just gets you a yellow card for complaining.

            Does saying that we were the only team interested in playing football change the fact that we dropped points? No.

            Don’t get me wrong, Xavi is my probably my favourite player in the world and I admire his passion for his team, it’s just that sometimes the way he expresses it can be counterproductive.

    • Urska
      May 11, 2010

      Because he has a yellow in super copa. I still don’t know why but it also affects LaLiga. At least thats how someone explained it to me.

      • Urska
        May 11, 2010

        but Patricks explanation seems way more likely than that

  14. ElShowDeJason
    May 11, 2010

    I’ve heard all the Prem-centric arguments all year long from my brother, and really, none of them hold any ground… some samples:

    Brother: La Liga is boring, the there is too far a gap between the top teams and the bottom.
    Jason: well, 1st place Barcelona (96 pts) sit 63 points ahead of 20th place Xerez (33) points. Chelsea (86 pts) sit 67 points ahead of 20th place Portsmouth (19 pts). So really, there is a bigger gap in the Prem.
    furthermore, look at the relegation battle.
    Bottom 5 Teams:
    Place_Prem___________LaLiga
    16. Wigan _____36 pts_/_Valladolid 36 pts
    17. Westham ___35 pts_/_Malaga_____36 pts
    18. Burnley ___30 pts_/_Racing_____36 pts
    19. Hull City _30 pts_/_Tenerife___36 pts
    20. Portsmouth 30 pts_/_Xerez______33 pts
    Clearly La Liga’s bottom teams are fairing better than the Prem’s equivelent.

    Brother: Ok, maybe for the whole league, but in La Liga, it’s been a two-horse race the whole year, The Prem is more competitive because more teams have a chance to win. Spain has a big two, England has a big four.
    Jason: Bullshit. Yes, you can say Barca and Madrid are the only teams that had a chance to win the LaLiga this season, but then you should admit that Chelsea and Manchester were the only teams contesting the Premiership. Just as it’s only Inter and Roma for the scudetto, Munich and Schalke for the Bundesliga, Marseille and Lille for the Leage 1.
    It is my honest opinion that Arsenal (10 points back of 2nd place), had just as little a chance of winning the Prem, as Valencia (27 points back) of winning La Liga, which is just hovering over 0%. to deny that would be to be blatantly biased. and the same goes for Milan ( 10 points behind second)

    Brother: La Liga is top-heavy and has shitty defending.
    Jason:
    Best Defenses in Prem: United 28, Chelsea 32
    Best Defenses in La Liga: Barcelona 24. Ahem…
    Just out of curiosity, how did Chelsea, ManUtd, and Arsenal do on the weekend?
    Chelsea: 8-0, ManUtd: 4-0, Arsenal: 4-0. Oh. and La Liga is “Top-heavy, with shitty defense”… ok…

    etc… etc…

    I could go on shooting down any other Prem-Centric argument with statistics… but I really should be doing something at work… 🙂

    • mike in africa
      May 11, 2010

      u used Portsmouth’s 19 pts to illustrate the bigger gap between premier league teams… but you also put down 30 pts at the bottom of the table….

  15. vicsoc8
    May 11, 2010

    So my only issue with the Villa transfer is minutes. Here is a list of how many minutes our primary forwards have played this season (in liga, CL, and spanish cup game):

    Messi – 4114
    Pedro – 3039
    Ibra – 3025
    Henry – 1665
    Bojan – 1390
    Jeffren – 600

    Villa would obviously take Henry’s minutes, but who else should have less minutes? You have to imagine Villa would want around 3000 minutes. Furthermore I would argue that Bojan and Jeffren should be getting more minutes next year.

    I know Villa could take some of the minutes Iniesta played at LW early in the season, but what do you think? If we bring him in are there enough minutes to go around while keeping everyone happy?

    • May 11, 2010

      I’d think you would want to look at Henry’s minutes from the season before, vicsoc. I would expect Villa, if he comes, to play around that many minutes. I think there are more than enough minutes to go around. Essentially, you swap Ibrahimovic for Eto’o and Villa for Henry (looking at the ’09 season). Krkic was still happy and productive.

      Now, this does leave you with the Pedro! and Jeffren complexities, but I don’t see Jeffren being with us next season, and Pedro! really should be a super sub.

      • vicsoc8
        May 11, 2010

        I want Jeffren to stay, but I doubt he will. If he had been a better fill for Alves in a pinch then I would say he would definitely stay. As it is I hope he is let go on a loan, or at the very least we retain a buy-back option. He is a prototypical winger, which is something we don’t have any others of which makes him a good option.

        • mike in africa
          May 11, 2010

          i think there’s a chance that jefferen will stay. pep played jefferen in place of henry, obviously for the purpose of grooming him for the future… of course that future could also mean a loan spell somewhere…

          • Alexinho
            May 12, 2010

            Waitasecond. When we had four kiddos on the contractual chopping-block, he was the first to be re-signed. In fact, I don’t know if Thiago, Gai, or JDS have been re-signed at all. Where do we stand on our future now?

    • pulpo
      May 11, 2010

      Take 500 minutes from Messi for rest and a contingency for injuries. Pedro as of yet isnt a fixed starter and will not get that many nimutes. If he continues improving next season, and with his goal scoring and effectiveness off the bench, i dont think Pep will have a problem finding him minutes.

      Bojan is a problem. There is no way of predicting how much and how fast he will improve next year. Assuming that he will grow to fill a place is the mistake we made last summer- he didnt and we were short upfront.

      With jeffren’s situation, I think he should go on loan.

    • May 11, 2010

      I think what kevin is getting at a bit using the 08/09 numbers is that Messi shouldn’t be playing as much as he did this year… he should be able to rest some games and not be worried about loosing. Thus, villa will get a lot of Messi’s minutes along with Henry’s

    • Jim
      May 11, 2010

      I’d cut down minutes for Jeffren, Pedro and Bojan in that order. None of them compare to Villa at the moment in my opinion, well though the last two have been playing of late.

    • Bundy
      May 11, 2010

      I wouldn’t think about it that way.

      Firstly, lets think about Messi aswell, will he play every single match next season? well I hope not. (the same issue is with Xavi)

      Pedro is a lot better playing on the right, and naturally he is more of a Messi back-up then an Henry back. Villa just adds that ability for us to rest Messi in some games but we still retain that clinical threat in our forward line.

      plus Pedro has a personality that wouldn’t put Ego ahead of the team, I think he will be unphased with a little less minutes.

      Put it this way, would you rather have Messi score 40+ or Pedro score 20+ a season or see them playing in the CL final?

  16. Tyler
    May 11, 2010

    And ideally with having five forwards (messi, ibra, pedro, bojan, and villa) we could establish a rotation order for matches against lesser competition, or in the event of injury we have competent backups. depth – what a concept!

  17. ElShowDeJason
    May 11, 2010

    Dunga just anounced his 23 man list.
    No Ronaldinho or Diego (Juve) :-0

    I’d personally take either of the over Kaka :-/
    and he only took 4 strikers Robinho, Nilmar, Luis Fabiano, and Grafite. None of which, and this point in time are established World Class strikers.

    You can never really count Brazil out a world cup, but if they make it far, it won’t be playing Beutiful Samba footy 🙁
    SADNESS.

      • ElShowDeJason
        May 11, 2010

        I’m not saying Fabiano is bad, he’s a great striker actually, but he isn’t in the same class as Ibra, Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Drogba, Eto’o, Villa, Torres, Tevez
        I’d place him in the next tier with VanPersie, Milito, Higuain, Forlan, Aguero

        • BA
          May 11, 2010

          in club form, Fabiano is a decent striker surely. in national team form (and system) however, Fabiano is every bit as good as Villa; probably a tossup as to who’s #1-#2 in international competition. his scoring rate is .694 to Villa’s .654 per game, with 26 goals in 35 games for Brazil, a rate no other striker on that list can come anywhere close to…

    • y2k156
      May 11, 2010

      Do not remember Brazil playing beautiful Samba football in my viewing life span. Since early 90’s, they are a counter attacking team with focus on defence. Maybe the 82 vintage or ones before that were really good but sadly i did not watch them. I have watched recent incarnations and wonder why people laud them so. Even when they have distroyed Argentina, they have all been about speed and skill in attack than any real great on field presence, as we are mostly. They have had fantastic players though (Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronnie).

      Sad to see that Ronnie misses out as well.

      • May 11, 2010

        It’s honestly because the style of football you describe isn’t as effective as it once was. Back in the day a defender from holland never saw the kind of skill a brazilian had. Today, globalization has exposed players to that style of soccer and they know how to deal with it, thus good teams tend to follow the same general format.

        Strong defending. Midfield possession. Fast strikers.

        Especially the international game, simply due to the lack of time spend practicing together.

        • y2k156
          May 11, 2010

          I have watched football quite regularly for last 15-20 years and the only national teams that have stood out for me as playing game the most beautiful way have been Spain of current vintage and Argentina of 2005-06. Rest of the teams have had few good points but never a overall excellence that made me go wow.

      • Miguel
        May 11, 2010

        //http://www.zonalmarking.net/2010/03/03/analysing-brazils-fluid-system-at-close-quarters/

        here’s an article that’s basically a rehash of one of jonathan wilson’s on brazil’s formation.

        the common critique of diego is that he is too much of an old school enganche & kaka is a more modern hybrid enganche/supporting striker. i call bullshit on that. if you’ve watched juve play this season you’ve seen diego in an advanced/false nine role, and given his time @ santos playing w/robinho it’d be insane not to atleast call him up as a atleast a sub.

    • Miguel
      May 11, 2010

      i can understand dinho being stood up, but diego? who’s gonna back up humpty dumpty kaka when he goes down w/another injury? julio baptista? elano? pfff.

      i do dig his inclusion of michel bastos for the left back slot. i think he’d be perfect their given brazil’s heavy reliance on their fullbacks for width & build up play.

    • Vj
      May 11, 2010

      Besides, both Ronnie and Diego had awful seasons.. Latter not qualifying for Cl and the former lucky to do so..

      • ElShowDeJason
        May 11, 2010

        yeah, luck.. or hard work… either way.

        Milan and Jueventus had bad seasons. that doesn’t automatically mean that Ronnie and Diego did.

        I actually thought Ronnie was a bright spot in Milan’s iffy season.

      • Jim
        May 11, 2010

        Have you looked at the number of assists R10 has this season?

        • Larm
          May 11, 2010

          yeah i was gonna say the same. in my opinion dinho had a damn good season.

    • Euler
      May 11, 2010

      Kaka is arguably the most important player on the Brazilian squad. He is almost irreplaceable for what they are trying to do.

      Dunga has assembled a system of impressive flexibility. It’s not going to play through a dominant central striker like Ronaldo but it’s has great dimensionality. It’s going to maximize the talent and skill sets of the players he has to work with.

      Robinho for instance I think will have a very strong world cup and much of that is Dunga’s doing.

      They are going to dominate possession against most opponents and perhaps while not true Samba will be pleasing in it’s own right. In addition they are going to great defensive solidity.

    • Helge
      May 11, 2010

      Well, I’m an Argentina fan, so this is good news, because honestly, I don’t see this Brazilian team getting to the semis.

      Dunga, what have you done with the magical, Brazilian samba football?!?
      It’s the first time that I’m impressed by the defence and goalkeeper, but not the rest of the team (not even Kaka, but that’s not Dunga’s fault).
      Italy’s squad is also a joke, without Cassanno, Simplicio, Totti, Toni etc.
      Germany’s squad seems a little bit too unexperienced.

      This simply has to be the World Cup of either Spain or Argentina.

      • ElShowDeJason
        May 11, 2010

        and you think Argentina have a shot at the Semi’s???
        I’ll admit… they have a squad to die for, but they are missing some important things.
        1. Most importantly. A Center Attacking Midfielder. Yes, they have an impressive attack, and many of their Forward can play-create (Messi, Tevez, etc) But they need someone to control and set the tempo. A Xavi, a Sneijder, a X. Alonso. without this they will just be a bunch of good players without a plan.
        2. Also very importantly, a coach. La Brujita Veron tried his hardest, but it must be hard to coach with that Maradonna dumbass enjoying the sound of his voice.
        3. a Defense. I’m just not impressed by what they have to offer.

        If they make it to the Semis, it will be the product of some individual brilliance, butt-busting hard work, and a bit of luck.

        • Miguel
          May 11, 2010

          ever banega better get a call up. aimar too.

          • cliveee
            May 11, 2010

            oh no, no call for Ever. Forever? damn… I like that player.

      • Jim
        May 11, 2010

        Agreed. They should get out of the group but that’s about it. Kaka has never been a world class player and Robinho is no better than an average winger of the Lennon quality.

        • Lou
          May 11, 2010

          I don’t know, I think Brazil have to be favourites. They may not always play pretty football but they are confident, solid at the back and ruthlessly efficient. Dunga pretty much selected all the same players he’s been using for years so they know each other well, and play very well as a team.

          I still hope Spain win though.

      • Jose
        May 11, 2010

        Wow. I cannot believe somebody just said Brazil won’t make it to the semis.

        Brazil are the best team at the World Cup, IMO. Put aside all the hype and the superstars. Look at them play. Nobody is more effective… no, not even Spain. And I love me some Spain.

        Brazil (senior team) has yet to lose a tournament under Dunga. Copa America, Confed Cup, CONMEBOL qualifying. Why? Because nobody has a game plan matched for talent like Brazil. They have 1000 ways to score, they hold possession better than 30 of the other teams at the Cup, and are solid defensively.

        I think Euler said it best. They may not be playing the Nike Jogo Bonito, but watching their system at work is amazing in its own right. ZM also summarized it well: Brazilian flare is at its best when their front players can take risks knowing their defense will take care of their mistakes.

        • Jim
          May 11, 2010

          We’ll see in the actual championship. I like the goalkeeper but I remember too many nights watching qualifying matches and sweating over the number of chances their defence gave up which weren’t taken by a series of teams.

          I should point out that normally I would want Brazil to win but I don’t see them as entertaining any more and I think decent teams will cause them problems at the back.

  18. ElShowDeJason
    May 11, 2010

    oh shite, the Europe League final is tomorrow, I keep hearing different times, can someone clarify that for me?

    I’m rooting for Patetico!

    • Helge
      May 11, 2010

      20:45 CET, that is 15 mins before Saturday’s match against Sevilla started.

      • ElShowDeJason
        May 11, 2010

        hm… the Sevilla math started at noon, that means, 11:45am, oh, duh… that’s when all Champion’s League games are, so I suppose it makes sense…

    • Museum
      May 11, 2010

      Anybody know any US tv info for this? I’m not finding it.

  19. ElShowDeJason
    May 11, 2010

    sport says that Xavi’s appeal has been denied.

    • y2k156
      May 11, 2010

      Why do i feel completely unsurprised. Villarato…my a**…If anything, we have got way less decisions going our way. Will add to my happiness come Sunday if we make it.

  20. Helge
    May 11, 2010

    Benzema omitted from France World Cup squad, and he says he’s not disappointed with his first season at Real Madrid. Damn, that dude got high ambitions 😉

    • Helge
      May 11, 2010

      Oh, and Samir Nasri will also have to follow the WC from his couch! Incredible, players like Nasri, Ronaldinho, Totti, Cassano or Pato not making it to the WC.

  21. Alex
    May 11, 2010

    Good news, it looks like ESPN 360 / ESPN3 will be broadcasting the Barca Valladolid game, which means it will be on EPN2 HD (right now ESPN2 HD has Spanish primera division in Sunday 10AM PST time slot).

    It sucks this is the last Barca game for a while, but I for on am excited to see them off in HD glory…..

    VISCA BARCA, what a season……

  22. Memorylane
    May 11, 2010

    If the Barca management even consider selling Yaya to bring in Cesc they are a bunch of gotdamn buffoons, I’m sorry but that’s reality talk and some more relity talk is if anyone wants to admit it or not Sergi isn’t half the player Yaya is.

    He has holded that DM position all throughout the season without merit.

    Compare Sergi’s this season to Yaya’s first season under Rijkaard and Yaya’s first season under Pep which he played a LARGE role in us winning the triple and you’d see it’s not even close.

    I always said come up against a credible midfield Sergi will be exposed and everyone saw that against Inter first leg San Siro
    He doesn’t provide that balance that Yaya brings he doesn’t protect the back 4 the way Yaya can.
    In my opinion he is only favored because of his upbringing.

    We will be letting one of the finest DM’s in the world go a player who is versatility is only second to Messi.
    I don’t care who we bring but please don’t let Yaya go.

    • Ciaran
      May 11, 2010

      All we need to do this summer is hire a new agent for Yaya. Dmitri Seluk is the worst agent on the face of the planet.

    • ElShowDeJason
      May 11, 2010

      It is wise to learn from other’s mistakes, especially your foes.
      I believe selling The Yaya would be the equivalent of Real Madrid’s brilliant decision to sell Claude Makalele.
      It could be a dynasty ender.

  23. Memorylane
    May 11, 2010

    Agreed^ I think he is partly to blame regarding Yaya’s lack of playing time this season.

  24. Kxevin
    May 11, 2010

    It makes perfect sense that Ronaldinho wouldn’t be on the Brazil WC squad, mostly because his work rate is for crap. The flicks, flairs and party tricks don’t mean a whit in WC competition. Yes, they please the season ticket holders at club level, but not from him, not now. Don’t forget that with joga bonito, they lost to my beloved Bleus last WC.

    When he was fit and at his best, those tricks augmented a game based on pace, work rate and effort. He wasn’t just brilliant, he also worked hard. Not any longer, so the decision was probably an easy one for Dunga.

    No Horsey Face in the WC, either. Sad for Van Nistelrooy.

    • Jim
      May 11, 2010

      13 goals and 16 assists in a rotten team isn’t that bad. No he doesn’t work as hard as he should but you don’t get those with party tricks or start 44 games. Don’t think we’d call Italian defences poor either.

      I’d rather have him on my bench if I needed to turn a game around in the last 20 than just about any other player around ( apart from Xavi, Iniesta, Messi of course). I don’t see any other members of their squad as being game changers and when was the last time we’d say that about Brazil?

      No doubt he was a huge disappointment in the last WC though.

      • Jose
        May 11, 2010

        He won’t be on the bench, but if there’s an injury in the squad during the Cup, Ronaldinho Gaucho is on the reserves list.

  25. May 11, 2010

    Is the talk about Arshivin coming to Barcelona just rumors? I think he would fit in just nicely on the left side.

    Arsenal won’t sell both Arshivin and Febregas at the same time, but at least Arshivin said that he would love to come to Barcelona.

    I agree with Kxevin that taking care of LW play is the most pressing need. That is why I dont get the Villa trade.

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 12, 2010

      Villa is coming to take the place of centre forward. Guess who has not performed well there this year?

  26. Lou
    May 11, 2010

    Maradona released his list too. Messi is obviously included but Gaby Milito didn’t get picked. It’s not suprising but I still feel bad for Milito, he’s done so well to come back from his injury and it’s probably his last chance to go the cup. It’s hard to believe Maradona prefers Heinze to him.

    • Lou
      May 11, 2010

      Here’s some good news: Jonathan Dos Santos has made Mexico’s preliminary squad list of 26 players. I’d have to think he has a good chance of making the final cut as the list seems to only have five midfielders (according to goal.com anyway).

    • jordi™
      May 11, 2010

      Coliccini is in the list ahead of Gabi..Anyway itds good for us i guess, he wont be at risk to get injured this summer.

    • Kurt
      May 12, 2010

      Lou, he’s not only picking Heinze over Gabi, but also choosing Insurralde, Garce, and Coloccini over him!

      Maradumber’s selection baffles me. He’s starting 4 center backs; he has the greatest collection of forwards in the world but he’ll only play 2 at a time; his only playmaker is…Veron; he completely misuses Messi; he picks Mercier over Cambiasso, Martin Palermo over Lisandro Lopez (machine), Heinze over anyone, unknown Garce over Zanetti…

      Man, I can’t even imagine the things Pep could do with this ridiculous availability of talent. Now wouldn’t that Argentina be fun to watch?

      • Lou
        May 12, 2010

        From what I understand he’s playing 4 centrebacks to keep anything from getting through, then he uses Messi to terrify opposing defenders who will rush to mark him leaving space for Veron to release Di Maria on the left.

        It got them a 1-0 victory over Germany a few months ago.

        Here’s an article by Tim Vickery at the BBC on Argentina’s likely set-up:
        /http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/timvickery/2010/03/vickery_11.html

        And here’s one from the same author on Barcelona/Argentina using Messi as a decoy to create space:
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/timvickery/2010/04/vickery_14.html

        (The second article was written after the Arsenal first leg, when the media was criticizing Messi for “not doing anything” in the match).

  27. Jnice
    May 12, 2010

    I usually don’t pay attention to Guilleme Balague on Revista de La Liga, but he says Villa to Barça is all but done. I ignored that statement until Graham Hunter, the more credible journalist based in Barcelona agreed and said he is certainly coming probably within the next 2 weeks.

    And judging from what Laporta is saying about signing players before the WC, Villa to Barça seems more and more likely. Don’t know what to think, really.

  28. missingpage
    May 12, 2010

    Is Pep about to………..CHANGE the system?!?!

    Personally, I think that if do get Villa it will be because we are changing the system…there is no way that Villa can play Henry role..he doesn’t have the work rate, nor the stamina that Titi had from playing years in the prem…

    Not to mention that even if we do get him for that role he is not going to be able to do all that running for more than 2 years since he is no youngster and his third year will-most likely- resemble Henry’s 3rd year as well..and why on earth spend so much money-again- on guy that can play good for us for only 2 years if not for a change in the system?

    I really NEED your opinions on this one guys…

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 12, 2010

      If Villa comes to Barca it would be to replace Ibra in the centre forward role. Villa is a centre forward not a winger.

      • Eklavya
        May 12, 2010

        I don’t think so. If Henry could play LW last whole season maybe Villa can too…

    • Tyler
      May 12, 2010

      Dude, Villa is a badass. What makes you think he doesn’t have the work rate or the stamina? Even if he only has two solid seasons left in him, that gives time for Bojan and Pedro to still learn under him and develop into world class strikers while learning from one of the top strikers in the world. Villa will be able to fit into anything Pep needs him to fit in. We wouldn’t be spending the money unless we had it readily available and its not putting our club into serious debt. Watch Villa play with Spain and you will be able to see what we are hopefully about to have.

  29. jake
    May 12, 2010

    How would anyone feel about getting Aquilani as midfield backup? Injury woes aside, he’s a fantastic talent. If our medical staff can get him fit he would be a great signing for the side I think. Can spot a pass like very few others. And he’d be dirt cheap too. Word is that Liverpool are looking to offload him for around 10 million.

  30. y2k156
    May 12, 2010

    So Maradona does not give too many surprises. I have to say that after initial wave of dis-appointment (Banega, Lucho, Cambiasso, G Milito, Zanetti, Zabaleta, Lisandro,Aimar all not selected) i have accepted that Argentina are unlikely to do more in this world cup than quality from group stage. Even for that, the people in team have to perform well.

    What Argentina really lack is top class midfielder who can drive them forward and here i think they are really going to struggle. Veron is becoming increasingly unreliable (two sending offs in last one month) and Pastore is not exactly there yet. Lucho has taken Marseilles to French title but does not find a place. Heinze always does.

    It makes me sad to see so much talent going to waste. Maybe Maradona will have something in his sleeve and if he does take Argies to Semi’s and beyond, i will eat my words. For now, he is the biggest drawback for Argies to aim for any success in WC. As a fan, it makes me sad but i am resigned for now.

  31. BA
    May 12, 2010

    WOW. NO Zanetti or Cambiasso in Maradona’s squad.

    i know the man is a complete moron. but wow, that’s staggering. well, there goes Argentina’s chances for a World Cup this time.

    • jose011
      May 12, 2010

      well, cambiasso hasn’t played for argentina since maradona took over, so there’s little surprise there.

      i’m definitely sad to see no zanetti or g. milito though.

      anyways, maradona is crazy but he’ll be around until his contract expires after the next Copa.

  32. Helge
    May 12, 2010

    Fuck you, Maradona!

    You destroyed Argentina’s World Cup chances… I’m speechless. How can he be their coach? 🙁

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 12, 2010

      He is considered god in Argentina. Everything else does not matter. The world cup will settle matters.

  33. Eklavya
    May 12, 2010

    Zanetti, Cambiasso, Gabi Milito, Benzema, Nasri, Pato, Ronaldinho, Diego. Who else is going to miss the WC again?

    • Kxevin
      May 12, 2010

      Add folks such as Van Nistelrooy and Del Piero to that list, as well. The old guard really is turning over.

  34. jordi™
    May 12, 2010

    Argentina will do a lot better than people think.Cambiasso really hasnt played well for Argentina in the last couple of years, not to mention Masch (far superior to Cuchu) is captain and is fixed in the 11.if there should be any clamoring it should be for Banega, he would be the the one that made much more certain that Argentina as dark horses will scrap their way to success, with Banega providing the class in midfield.Shame.

  35. Kxevin
    May 12, 2010

    Stay tuned, people: Three immense rumors up and about:

    –Ibrahimovic is being shopped, and we’re looking to get what we paid for him.

    –The Yaya’s agent has said that is is “90 percent certain” that he will be leaving us this summer.

    –Villa is signed to a 4-year deal, announcement to come in the next week or so.

    Isaiah is on the case, so fear not.

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 12, 2010

      Sad for Yaya’s departure. Happy that Villa will be coming! Finally!!!

    • Tyler
      May 12, 2010

      Kxevin, how likely is it that we would sell Ibra? It seems that we should at least give him one more year, right? (btw I like Ibra I think he should stay)

      • Kxevin
        May 12, 2010

        Personally, I don’t think the sale is all that likely. Near as I can tell, the buzz started with a Daily Mail “exclusive,” which in the international sporting press, usually means “We ginned this shit up.” Then other entities picked it up and ran with it.

        At this point, I don’t think that anything is all that likely. Don’t forget that The Yaya’s agent had him gone last summer, as well. That scumbag is just a vile little shit. I think that players with better agents have longer, more tumult-free careers. Some of the complexity, apparently, is a contract stipulation that he makes a bunch more money if he plays more than 60% of the matches in a given season. Seluk is accusing Guardiola and the team of holding The Yaya down for fiscal reasons.

        I have to say that if that is how they want to operate, then good riddance. We don’t need toxins in the club. No, The Yaya isn’t a toxin. But his agent is, and agents can be contagious. I don’t like it. One little bit.

        We are the best club in the world, and while people shouldn’t want to play for us for free, they should be happy to be with us. If they aren’t, or if the want to leverage their position for more and more money, fuck ’em. I know it’s a business, but it shouldn’t be a nasty one.

        • Blow-Grenade
          May 12, 2010

          That was a fabulous analysis of the situation with the Yaya.

        • Jim
          May 12, 2010

          Spot on with Yaya’s situation. Can’t believe Pep hasn’t seen his worth in the last few games and we can’t afford to lose another midfielder unless we have ample cover so I’m thinking this isnt settled by any means.

          With Ibra, if I’m honest, i won’t be upset if he moves on. Not going into the argument again but for me he has been a disappointment. That’s not strictly true as I don’t think I’d have thought it a good idea before we signed him and he may only be a disappointment in the Barca system – you can’t blame a square peg for the round hole!

          However, I think he will get another season to prove himself when you ask who is able to pay the sort of money we’d need to get back? Man city, EE and who else?

  36. Alexinho
    May 12, 2010

    “So is success boring? People point to the distance of the third-place side as evidence that the Liga has become lopsided, and that such a thing is boring. And yet, the matches are played. Ask the Almerias or Gijons, who sell out the stadium when the glamor boys come to town, if that’s boring. Or the fans who sit and watch, in the hopes that this will be the week that dog-ass striker of theirs puts one away, or their defense isn’t being a sieve, and holds the mighty Barcelona to a draw and if we’re luckyluckyluckylucky, might even cop a win.”

    As a new Philadelphia Union fan, I can testify to the truth in this.

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