Working Together: Collectivism and the Individual

I wanna hug toooo

Consider collective action, perhaps also collective memory; you could even go as far as pointing to Durkheim’s collective consciousness or to the upwelling of collective history in works like Galeano’s Las venas abiertas de América Latina (though for purposes of this piece, perhaps his El futbol a sol y sombra would be more apt). Somewhere in there, between the rhythmic beats of the show and the magic of the voices pouring down from the heavens, you can find the individual. Sometimes you only see him in flashes, stepping out from the shadows for merely a moment’s work before sliding back into the scenery; sometimes, though, he has a monologue with the spotlight centered on him.

During these epic performances, when you’re rising to your feet to clap and smile and shake the hands of those next to you, as the artists on stage bring things to their crescendo and inevitable conclusion, as you spout words like “magisterial,” “unparalleled,” or “exquisite,” you might just notice that there was something a tiny bit off—that actor forgot one of his lines, I think, that bit of scenery wasn’t painted as well as the others. You would never say anything, of course, because this was a “rapturous performance,” a “scintillating artistic endeavor,” but maybe you overhear someone—the guy with the cough behind you that annoyed you during the show, perhaps; yes, it must have been him—saying to their friend, in faux-hushed tones meant to be overheard, that so-and-so wasn’t up to par tonight, that it detracted from the beauty of the piece. You dismiss it. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the silly buffoon who is also stupid.

As you settle into bed that night, dinner having sated your appetite and a round of toasting to the “terrific, magnificent cast” having brought smiles to the faces of even those who missed the performance, your thoughts return to that comment said near the orchestra pit: If only that actor had been better, if only he had played the part more correctly. Maybe that buffoon (who is stupid) was onto something. No, no, it didn’t ruin the performance, not a performance as fantastic, as dramatic, as well put together as that. You sigh contentedly. Your head falls onto the pillow. It was such a good night. Next time you go, though, you’ll just have to watch more closely, make sure he really is doing his job correctly. Just so, you know, you can tell that buffoon how stupid and silly he is.

That collective action and memory causes one, at least the modern Barça fan, to feel that the collective transcends the individual, that the moments are created organically by the whole. We remember things passed down by those around us, we encourage ourselves to remember Barça, the team, the blaugrana stripes, the Camp Nou in full roar; yet we also discuss the individuals in hushed tones: Kubala, Herrera (not even a player!), Cruyff, Guardiola. In casual conversation, we bring up moments—Koeman’s freekick or Ronaldo’s run, Figo’s moment of treachery or Luis Enrique’s deification—rather than eras or teams. The Dream Team perhaps transcends this, but not many people will remember the individuals of this year either, except maybe Messi. “Who is Xavi?” your children will ask and you’ll smack your forehead, just as your father or mother smacks his or hers if you ask “Who is Garrincha?”

After all, the original culers in Les Corts were not cheering a concept and neither are we, really, despite many claims that such was and is the case. There are those who argue that we have a philosophy, that we care more about how we play than the results, that we should “think of history instead of a single season,” but none of those fans are worried about anything other than our victories here and now. For instance: against Valladolid, was your heart not in your throat before the match? Did you not scream something (profanities, shock) at Valdés’ touch of stone that gifted Manucho a wide open shot that he cuffed because he’s rubbish? What about during the Inter match? Did you say “This possession is fantastic! What’s with these over-the-top-balls that just give it away?” or were you more aggressive, demanding that we stop with the spectacle and get on with the winning?

Lest it be pointed out by others, I’ll cop to it now: I’m not above demanding goals over beauty, of putting a little brawn into our sugary sweet approach. In the more sober moments (both literally and figuratively) I like to think about the beauty of our passing, to talk about how we played a team of the park, or discuss how we drove our philosophy into their skulls and made them thank us for it in the process. Of course I do. I’m a culer. So I understand the sentiment, I understand how and what others think of the team (if I may be so bold as to say so), and I fall prey to it whenever the going gets rough as well.

At some level the social consciousness, the group mentality, breaks down into that of the individual and appraisals of singular pieces of a machine are obviously possible. However, Paul Connerton connected the collective with the individual in a physical sense (such as gestures, even clothing) and therein lies the crux of the problem. Because we take almost everything as a clue—be it the way someone walks, talks, gels their hair, or otherwise comports themselves—we often find ourselves judging people and things for nothing more than a glance or a fashion choice.

Take any footballer you hate (or if you don’t hate anyone then whoever you dislike the most) and think about why you hate them. I am overtly anti-Cristiano Ronaldo, but obviously the reasons are more for his demeanor on screen than because of the conversations we’ve had. Sometimes it’s the boisterous one that makes you sneer, sometimes it’s the quiet one (Paul Scholes has always made me cringe, which is hilarious because he’s not exactly an advertising megstar that pops up on TV all the time hawking ludicrous products; the same is true of Tim Duncan, who I know I should really like because he, like Scholes, gets the job done with a minimum of fuss and showboating). Whatever the reasons are, they’re personal and, truth be told, rather petty. But they are what makes us who we are and what makes our societies function as they do: without these signals, we wouldn’t be able to find the friends or sexual partners that match our personalities.

Beyond that, of course, is the concept of fitting in. How does one move from one social group to another without adapting? It’s not really possible, is it? If you’ve ever moved to a new culture or even a new city in your native society, you know that the immigrant experience is more than learning a new language or memorizing an unfamiliar street map. There are new social rules, new mores, and even new physical gestures—it’s such a cliché at this point that if you listed off the “new kid in town” movies produced in the last 20 years, you’d be here all day. Basically: it’s hard and when it really comes down to it, it just takes time to adapt.

Returning then, to Durkheim, to Galeano: If Barça is a totemic religion (and I would argue that football clubs are religious institutions and football itself an overarching religion divided into many sects), then it stands to reason that it has its symbols, its rites, its necessary pilgrimages, and its required demonstrations of faith and commitment. If you fall afoul of these requirements, of the often unspoken list of demands, you’re the goat, even if you play well. You can’t be our player if you’re not one of us, after all. But this proof is often more than solemn badge kissing or pointing out that you’ve always dreamed of playing for the club, it’s got to do with how you look, how you are perceived. The rules are, after all, unspoken and it’s often the minutest detail that gets your blood boiling or your heart going pitter-patter, pitter-patter.

In his book, El futbol a sol y sombra (Soccer in Sun and Shadow), Galeano writes of the mystical, mythical, and personal. For instance, there is no modern German football—no modern Germany—without Rahn:

It was at the World Cup in 1954. Hungary, the favorite, was playing Germany in the final.

With six minutes left in a game tied 2-2, the robust German forward Helmut Rahn trapped a rebound from the Hungarian defense in the semi-circle. Rahn evaded Lantos and fired a blast with his left, just inside the right post of the goal defended by Grosics.

Heribert Zimmerman, Germany’s most popular commentator, announced that goal with a passion worthy of a South American: “Toooooooooorrrrrrrrrr!!!”

It was the first World Cup that Germany had been allowed to play in since the war, and Germans felt they had the right to exist again. Zimmerman’s cry became a symbol of national resurrection. Years later, that historic goal could be heard on the soundtrack of Fassbinders film, “The Marriage of María Braun,” which recounts the misadventures of a woman who can’t find her way out of the ruins. (Galeano, 94-95)

I don’t know who Helmut Rahn is. I’ve never heard of Mihály Lantos or Gyula Grosics. To my knowledge, I’ve never heard Heribert Zimmerman’s commentary and I’ve never seen The Marriage of María Braun (I mean, now I have heard of them and even read up on them, and I’ve now listened to Zimmerman’s commentary), but the resurgence of Germany in the 1950s, the reawakening of German self, is akin to the sudden, seemingly inexplicable resurgence of the Barça self with Iniesta’s goal against Chelsea. You are self-actualized by these moments and the whole is reaffirmed by the individual. There’s no doubt Rahn was a hero in Germany—perhaps he still is—and there’s no doubt Iniesta ascended to culer deity at that moment, but it speaks more to the collective than the individual that there is even a pedestal to put them on.

What I mean is, we all know what transpired at Stamford Bridge and most of us will carry that memory with us for a long time, but it is meaningless without the existence of the season that came before it. Without the team, there is no Iniestazo, no Champions League semifinal to play in. I cannot speak for Germans in the 1950s (or at any time, for that matter), but my cule-ness, so to speak, is inextricably tied to those moments of magic that bring home what the rest of those “lesser” moments really mean; still, if it weren’t for those moments, the ones that mean so little when you look at them individually, there would be nothing at all to feel rapturous or terrible about. I’m gutted when we lose and exultant when we win, but the games mean nothing if I don’t actually watch them.

All of that, the meandering thoughts and bloated concepts of where football meets sociology, brings me, at last, to my point: Zlatan Ibrahimović deserves to remain a Barcelona player. I think I just heard you roll your eyes. All this for that point? Well, yes. But obviously, like an infomercial, there’s more.

Forget money. I mean it. You bring up money and you fail to understand or consider the reality of the situation. 11 players on a field, 1 team. The former is subject to change, the latter is not. Sure, without the collection of the former there is no latter, but without the latter, the former are a hodgepodge of nonsense running around kicking a ball on a field. Or, really, probably mostly kicking the ball off the field since they have nothing to lose by doing so. It’s the team that matters and it’s mostly the symbols that get in the way of empathy and fairness.

What I’ve noticed over the course of the year is that most of us want to break down the team into the “who did what and how well” kind of thinking. That’s all well and good and I’m the first to point out when Busquets galumphs his way down the field and into some mighty trouble, but often it mistakes collective failures for individual failures. When the team messes up, when the system breaks down, the individual often pays for it with embarrassment. And when you’re the guy everyone is watching and considering, you’ll be lambasted for your mistakes and your successes will be brushed aside as if they’re the expected results.

Remember the show we put on at the beginning of this post? The one that everyone loved, cheered, and generally thought was the greatest ever? Except that jerkface behind you, of course. And that, to me, is exactly the case we have here. We have a team playing beautifully, earning the most points in the history of the league (99 or 86.84%) and garnering an astonishing +74 goal differential, but, of course, there’s something wrong with the scenery, someone missed their line, I’m sure of it. Didn’t you see it too?

Of course we did. Of course we saw it. I also see the cue marks when I go to the theater and the reels are about to change over, but that doesn’t ruin the movie. You know how in Godfather the scene where Carlos gets killed doesn’t actually make any sense? I mean, why would you do it in the car in your own front yard? You lost a windshield and got your car all messy, numbskull. But that doesn’t ruin the movie either. The pothole on my street doesn’t make the neighborhood suck. And Zlatan’s surly look doesn’t make a difference to me either. I mean, it does, because I’m not as spastically happy to chant his name, but it doesn’t really.

Speak of contributions to the team all you’d like: he played in 8 of our draws and all 4 of our losses (in all competitions). Guess what? Xavi played in all the games we dropped points in. All 10 draws and 4 losses. Sell him! Messi? 9 draws and 4 losses. Out!

Goals scored? 21 overall, 16 in the league. Only Messi, the Pichichi and Golden Shoe winner, scored more goals in the league and only Messi and Pedro did so overall. As a general rule, I like the minutes-per-goals scored statistic. Only Messi, Bojan, and Pedro have a better overall MPG, than Ibra, while in the league only Messi and Bojan scored more often. Of course, Bojan only had 8 goals. Funny this stat: Lots of people say that Bojan only got minutes at the end of games, when he couldn’t possibly make an impact and that coming on as a substitute is harder than being a starter—Ibra has 167 minutes as a sub, Bojan 164. Yes, Ibra has exactly half the number of sub appearances, meaning he averaged about twice as many minutes per sub appearance as Bojan, but he also has 3 sub goals to Bojan’s 1.

But forget the stats. They only tell part of the story. Remember when we talked of collective action coming together in a singular moment? What about this moment? Or that whole match? It has become, in a lot of ways, not a question of his actual contributions, but of his perceived attitude: from his gruff look throughout the season to occasional lack of celebration with the team when we score or win.

Yet note that he was all smiles and jokes at the trophy celebration, his brusque façade dropped for a moment, as it occasionally did during the year. He is a part of this team, but he is still learning the ropes of Catalanism, of ignoring the press and the pressure from socis to not just be on a winning side, but be the winning goal scorer. It took Henry and Abidal a season to figure it out; Hleb never did seem to care to do so, but we never gave him the opportunity to prove us wrong; Alves and Keita took a little bit, but it’s Alves’s gregariousness that carries him through all manner of situations without worrying about anything and it’s Keita’s quiet demeanor and hard work that has slowly won everyone over. Yet because of his price tag—meaningless now—we forget that Ibra is a part of the whole, not just an individual.

Do we demand that Ibra perform 9 times better than Maxwell, who cost 1/9 as much? How can we? They’re on the same field. Did you say “oh, he just wanted to score” when Maxwell failed to cross to a wide open Ibra? Did you call Maxwell a failure because he didn’t create the goals necessary to win the game against Atleti and didn’t stop them scoring either? Do you remember that Ibra scored our only goal in that match?

It is, for me, as much a question of overall style and value as it is individualism. Certainly criticism of players is warranted—of Busi, of Hleb, of Ibra—but often the factors are not taken into account. As long as the player is making an effort, as long as he is trying to do the right thing, I am all for his continued inclusion. And that, of course, is my argument on why Busi and Hleb should be gone: they don’t seem to be trying. But maybe I’m wrong about all that. Busi showed a more mature side after his dance with absurdity during the Inter match and I like that and hope it continues through the rest of his career. Hleb, of course, never got to prove that he was integrating himself into the side. He seemed aloof, didn’t celebrate with the other players, and appeared to have trouble dedicating himself to learning Spanish or Catalan.

The same cannot be said for Zlatan, who, from everything I’ve seen, has learned a lot of Spanish, has watched enough Crackovia to make fun of himself using the caricatures on the show (“Io sono molto contento”—he’s said it in press conferences early in the season and he repeated it during the title celebrations after the Valladolid match). Still, I understand that his body language rubs people the wrong way, that his me-first celebrations can grate, and that his seemingly reserved attitude about things can be misconstrued as pure egotism. But in the end, interviews with him, such as Cirkus Zlatan, reveal a guy who loves football, fast cars, and his family more than he loves the publicity and fame. He obviously loves that stuff too, of course, but he’s more complicated than the 2D image painted of him by those who like to look at him as a commodity rather than a human being, an immigrant in a new land.

Because of that, because watching Zlatan through the eyes of someone who was against his coming for a while and who has previously called him a brutish player with an outsized ego made me realize I’m being unfair and overzealous about perceived qualities, I have to amend my statements about Hleb, at least. My statements about Busi are derived from his direct actions on the field, rather than who I think he is as a person or member of the institution. What I need to remember is that I have no idea what these guys are like until they give us a window into their lives and even then its not like I should be able to judge them any more than you, my readers, should be able to judge me as a human being based on what little you know about me. You should be judging my writing and intellect rather than, you know, whether I should procreate or throw myself out of a plane without a parachute.

Fact: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not Samuel Eto’o. I know, I know, that sounds absurd when you just come out and say it, but it’s true: Ibra is not Samu. No, really, he’s not. Stop comparing them in your mind. How do I know you do? Because it’s natural to do so thanks to the way in which Ibra arrived on the lovely shores of the Ciudad Condal. Eto’o’s inclusion in the deal makes it easy for us to say that Zlatan repaced Eto’o, but in reality, Samu was gone and Ibra was brought in not to be Samu, but rather to change the way in which the team operated.

For instance, look at their roles. Eto’o was our goalscorer, the guy we passed the ball to at the end of galloping runs through midfield or with slashing passes that caught the offsides trap flat-footed. Now, after the conclusion of his first full season with the team, can you say that Ibra is the focal point of our attack? I think not, not just because he didn’t score the most goals, but because he wasn’t even the destination most of the attacks. He had enough close-range goals to suggest to the uninitiated that he’s a tap-in artist, but almost all of those goals were done from a deeper position than Samu ever came from. Even his goal against Real Madrid, that thunderous slash into the back of net from behind the defensive line, started with him passing backwards with Pique in front of him and then finding the space from deep to get open. Yes, he was offside an enormous number of times (50 in the league alone), but most of those were when he was making his run from deep and wasn’t found with a pass until too late. Eto’o wasn’t offside as much (33) because he wasn’t playing as vertical a game—a game not only not suited to Ibra’s physical stature, but also to his role in the team. It was Messi who was given the “free” role most of the time in what was a massive tactical departure from the way we played most of 2008-09, which is why you saw him behind their defenders so much more than Ibra and why, when he started to play more often towards the end of the season, Bojan was doing it too: it was their role.

It’s hard for me to argue with those who claim that Ibra hasn’t adapted enough because at some level, that adaptation to the “Barça philosophy” is merely an attempt to project something that isn’t even real onto a player. What I mean is, did Eto’o embody this philosophy? Was he “team first, me second”? Was he, “Pass, move, offer” before he was “shooooot, coño tio joder” or whatever? Was Samu anything other than a goalscorer? Didn’t Guardiola say he wanted more than a goalscorer? And if it’s this that makes Xavi so good, isn’t it this that makes Ibra so good? What’s the difference except that one was purchased for a lot of money and the other was raised locally?

If this season is a failure because we didn’t win the Champions League crown, then we have had 3 successful seasons in our history and this nothing to get up-in-arms about. If this is, in fact, a successful season, what on earth suggests next year won’t be similar? If we were unlucky not to get by Inter and into the CL final (the words of others, mind you), then it stands to reason that next year bad luck wouldn’t befall us. Or if it does, it’s that and nothing more: bad luck. So whatever the nay-saying reasons, the only one that makes any difference to me is whether or not Pep comes out and, like he did with Ronnie, Deco, and Samu, says that he no longer wants Ibra.

That will sway me, but nothing more because I believe he is not only a part of this team in ways that are impossible to comprehend from beyond the fences of Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. Bay all you wish about unfulfilled promises, but until we don’t win the league because we failed as a team and as individuals, I don’t understand eviscerating one actor in a majestic pageant for failing, when you’re not even sure he failed at all because you don’t have the script in your hands. Maybe sometimes he tried too hard, overacted a bit (the missed opportunity against Valladolid springs to mind), but it was all to provide you with the entertainment you wanted, in the way you wanted it. Eto’o scored gobs of Podunk goals and was lambasted as being nothing more than a poacher. So Ibra hears that and tries to score them with flourish…and he’s derided as a failure for not living up to the standards Samu set, despite his teammate doing so (and Messi of course was slagged for only scoring 23 goals, right? Henry got 19 and was heralded as a virtuoso, as a genius, as the vintage Thierry. Funny, then, that 16% of the goals scored by the team (Ibra’s) is so terribly worse than Messi’s 21% or Titi’s 18%. But then Messi this year scored 34% o the goals and Eto’o just 28% last year. Off with all of their heads.

Until we accept that others coming in from outside of the Barça universe are unaccustomed to our demands, our style, and how we perceive particular actions, it is impossible to say that we are giving anyone a fair shot. Chygrynskiy has done nothing but work hard to win us over, but because he is a giant, scraggly-bearded Chewbacca, he’s viewed as an incompetent. Not everyone can adapt immediately, so give these new signings time. If Villa doesn’t score for his first 3 games, is he an abject failure? If he does score, is he a thrilling success? What if those goals are set up by Ibra? What if they’re set up by Hleb? Yeah.

Don’t be the person behind everyone else whispering loudly enough for all to hear about the mistakes that were made in the pursuit of perfection. Be the one that applauds the effort and the beauty of what was successful, that has a good time. Love this team, love this club, and love it in a way that makes you happy. Don’t be frustrated when we don’t win 5-0. Be exuberant that we won. Be thankful that we’re living in an age of prosperity, when drought is always just around the corner.


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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. y2k156
    May 26, 2010

    excellent piece…when the fans will look back at this season in years time, i am sure everybody will smile and not think about lost CL semi…

  2. Cesc Blanc
    May 26, 2010

    In the eternal words of Sean Carter:

    “Brooklyn, we did it again! Shout out to B.I.G.!”

  3. ermengol
    May 26, 2010

    that was beautifully argued and presented.

    Can you whisper it to the numbnuts at Sport and EMD?

  4. Kxevin
    May 26, 2010

    Holy crap. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Nice one, Isaiah. I agree with ermengol. Somehow, the eejits at Sport have plumbed the depths of Ibrahimovic’s mind from his vacation spot, and determined that no, NOW he wants to be sold because of the arrival of Villa. Ha!

    I’m still not sure how or where the rumor that Ibrahimovic was a bust started. The statistics don’t support it, his play on the pitch doesn’t support it. Many of the same people saying that he was a bust argue for Krkic. But both players are defined by a fairly recent body of work, the back part of the season in Ibrahimovic’s case, with notable (and significant) exceptions and the last few matches in Krkic’s case.

    Suddenly, Krkic is the future, and Ibrhahimovic is a bust who can’t, and will never learn our system.

    Will never understand, but this post by Isaiah makes it all very clear.

    • Luke
      May 26, 2010

      I can tell you where it started. Many fans, American, British, and otherwise get most of their news from English footie sites and for some reason that I do not understand, they HATE Zlatan. I mean, literally despise him and even the usually calm guys at The Spoiler are wont to leave Ibra to twist in the wind at the sight of problems. Therefore, since they say Ibra is a big-game bust and a joke, so it is.

      Without taking his body of work into account, or the fact that Eto’o, for all his success, was a monumental choker at times and was invisible in many instances if not being directly fed the ball.

    • jnelson
      May 26, 2010

      I believe Bojan has a chance to become the greatest striker in Barca history. Yeah, I said it. Just not right now. He still has a few years before he is ready to start. How can you not cheer for Bojan when year after year he mans up and accepts his role on the bench, learning from the strikers we bring in. How many times has he clamored for a move away?? Exactly. The Kid has great skill as well. How can anyone not be impressed with the quickness and power of his shot, not to mention accuracy. Yes, he missed some sitters, but he can make the difficult ones look easy. Of course, Ibra and David Villa are among the top strikers in the world, so back to the bench for Bojan.

      I read somewhere that is Spain advances to the WC final, we won’t get our players back until August 11 or 14? Is that true, cause that blows. With the season starting only about 2 weeks, maybe 1 (?) after that, what happens to preseason? Sure, Ibra will be there, and that is very important, but Xavi-Iniesta won’t. But Messi will be back by then, right? 😉

      • jnelson
        May 26, 2010

        Oh, and I’m not worried about David Villa missing preseason. I mean, he will be playing with Xavi-Iniesta all summer. However, he has yet to play with Ibra and Messi…

  5. Helge
    May 26, 2010

    Wow, that’s a lot to read, I’ll do it later.

    Just wanna ask, why is everybody discounting the Dutch when it comes to top favourites of the WC? I only hear Brazil, England and Spain. But the Dutch are really impressive right now, even without Sneijder and Robben who both are in the best shape of their life. And van Persie (just coming back from injury) seems to be able to finish quite like Ibra, if you take a look at his 2 goals tonight.

    • Cesc Blanc
      May 26, 2010

      name 2 half decent Dutch defenders.

      • Helge
        May 26, 2010

        Well, they only conceded 2 goals in their 8 qualifying matches, so they cannot be that bad. At least, they’ve got great defensive midfielders in van Bommel and De Jong.

        • Cesc Blanc
          May 26, 2010

          wouldn’t call them great, not even really good and their group was rather easy. besides, Serbia conceded 1 goal on WCQ 2006 and then 6 against Argentina. But anyway, they had by far the easiest group in WCQ and like said, their group was too easy.

          • jnelson
            May 27, 2010

            Agreed. Did Van Bronkhorst retire? I thought he was awesome during Euro 08. Other than him, Dutch…defenders??

            What ever happened to the Czech Republic? I remember them being 5th in the FIFA rankings playing Italy, Ghana, and the U.S. in the 06 group of death. Wow, have they fallen.

          • ballbeav
            May 27, 2010

            jaap stam….the big dutch man…ummmm…

    • andrew.M
      May 26, 2010

      i always think the dutch stand a good chance but… they are like spain was, in that they always get there and then choke.

      i do not fancy england for the WC. they might make the round of 16 buts thats it.

      brazil was ranked no 1 by fifa today. so brazil and spain are obvious favourties.

      i also think germany stands a good chance as they almost always get to the finals or the semis.

      i dont think italy has what it takes this year, neither do portugal, mexico or pretty much any of the african or asian teams. uruguay could prove to be a dark horse but the other latin countries like paraguay and chile i dont think will do great. the usa will run headfirst into the 16 or the quarters and then get surprise wolloped by someone like ivory coast. although if the usa dont pick up their game after what i saw yesterday then they might need some luck to get out of the group.

      my top five to win:


    • Kari
      May 27, 2010

      Well, mostly because they have great winger/playmakers (Robben, Sneijder, VDV) and a quality forward (van Persie), but everyone else seems to be lacking…something. Really, I think it’s that people don’t know many of their other players and say that while their offense is good, their defense is suspect or something like that.

      England is only considered a favourite for four reasons:
      1) overhyping which the media and fans do every year
      2) Capello is coach, so they believe something is different this time.
      3) the Euro 2008 no-show will serve as “extra focus”/reminder, so they will do better
      4) Rooney was on fire this year and they believe he will lead them to glory
      5) Because of the PL, many of their players are recognizable, and as such, will see the likes of Cashley Cole, JT, Rio Ferdinand, midfield of Lampard/Gerrard and say “whoa, stacked team”.

      Holland/Netherlands are a great team, as seen during Euro ’08, but their media doesn’t have the same fire power as the others, their league isn’t regarded as the best and so the players that play there aren’t rated. I think that’ll work in their favour

      My .02

  6. May 26, 2010

    Dammit. I had football in sun and shadow in my hands yesterday and decided to put it back. Suppose I should grab the actual thing and not the translation…

  7. jnelson
    May 26, 2010

    Awesome post. I am still as much of a fan as Ibra as when we got him, which is huge. But, please, PLEASE stop mentioning he who must not be named!!!!

  8. Euler
    May 26, 2010

    Yet because of his price tag—meaningless now—we forget that Ibra is a part of the whole, not just an individual.

    Wonderful piece of prose. Just tremendously well honed.

    Supporter can’t have it both way. We can’t pay homage to the Barca “system” and at the same time expect that there will be no process of adaptation. But adaptation takes time and in a world of impatience – which is the world of football – that process gets too easily lost.

    In football, this behavior has come to be epitomized by Real Madrid and the way they have performed over the past several years. This is why they bought Wesley Sneijder for 27M and sold him in a fit for 15M and why they bought Arjen Robben for 35M and sold him for 25M. Both players were quickly written off as “not fitting in” and discarded. Just unimaginable now. And let’s not even start discussing their coaching situation.

    Barca should not make the same mistakes for a host of reasons.

    What makes adaptation difficult is that it’s a two way street. It’s not only about the player adapting to the “system” it’s about the system evolving to get the best out of the player.

    Much of the purpose of systems as a whole is to allow individuals to express themselves while still being part of something larger and more meaningful. That doesn’t come quickly.

    Watching Barca beat Chelsea, I was thrilled by Iniesta. But it was also apparent that Barca would need to change because the rest of football wasn’t just going to sit around and let them win every trophy. And Chelsea exposed weaknesses that others were always going to exploit.

    Systems die when they refuse to evolve. Rather than bringing the best out of individuals, those systems suffocate them. And that lack of air is often due blaming an individual for not accomplishing what only the whole can do.

  9. Blow-Grenade
    May 26, 2010

    I expect Zlatan to do better this year than he did last year with Barca. Go Zlatan!!!! A lot of Barca’s play revolves around movement without the ball. My only criticism of his play is that he does not have the best movement off the ball, but Pep is “the guy” to teach that to Ibra.

    • Tutomate
      May 26, 2010

      I too expect him to do better this seasn but NOT because he did bad last season because he didn’t.

    • Sud
      May 27, 2010

      Good point, and I would love to see Villa and Ibra open up our left flank by switching positions and doin’ their magic, while Messi handles the right flank just the way he did this season. Actually, I think Villa can be the key to release the full power of Ibrahimovic and solve that “movement without ball-problem”.
      Right flank – Messi/Alves, left flank – Villa/Ibra. Sounds pretty scary to me…

  10. Hey guys I’m going off topic here but if someone can help me out, I am graduating college in December and I am looking to go back to Spain for a few weeks to relax after the 6 long years of college lol!! I want to take in as many FCB games as possible, so does anyone know when the schedule comes out?? Also if anyone is going to be in town I would love to meet up with some fellow board members to catch a game. I usually meet a ton of new people at bars that are going to games, (I love hanging out with English dudes, they think the own football)…. So if anyone either knows next years schedule of is planning trip around December hollar at me.

    • Alex
      May 26, 2010

      The season officially starts either the weekend of August 21-22 or 28-29.

  11. Luis
    May 26, 2010

    While I do not think Ibra did bad this season, I still think that, if we are judge by this season, the transfer is a failure. I am not looking at this purely objectively by points accumulated( as I think there are more important factors that influenced this, namely better defense) but based on my subjective viewing of how Ibra contributed compared with how eto would have done. I am not the biggest eto fan, however I believe his last season contributed more to us than Ibra this season. I guessing had he stayed, his performance would have been mantained(why not?).

    On top of this is the question of 40m. This is a huge opportunity cost which we could have used to bring in depth. It is reasonable to believe which eto and 40m worth of back-up, we might have fared better in the semis of CL.

    Now I will concede that we should not judge him based on this season alone since hes here for longer. Nevertheless, we cant just ignore the 40m. In other words, how much better will he have to be the next few years for him to justify this 40m outlay? And we should use eto projected performances as a baseline.

    • Luis
      May 26, 2010

      Or imagine this. We kept Eto this season, and used the 40m to get Villa. So now we have Eto and Villa in the front line. If Pep wants to change eto, we sell him cheap for 20m. This gives us 60m(20m+ the 40m we actually used to buy Villa this season) to buy a proper left winger, or even cesc 🙂

      • Luna
        May 26, 2010

        Remember Eto’s contract would have run out and they would have to renegotiate a new contract, and selling him for 20m…? Ok I guess the argument is pointless and a lame one at that. Eto’s gone

    • Luke
      May 26, 2010

      How can a transfer be a failure when the player plays in a majority of games, starts those games, scores 21 goals, and helps lead the team to a league tourney?

      Also, how could you know how Eto’o would do? Would Eto’o have scored 30 again with Messi putting in 47? Really? And Pedro putting so many in? I know Eto’o gets lionized sometimes, but I must be quite honest: at a lot of points last year he was lazy, and from most accounts he was one of the loan holdovers that caused so much cantankerous behavior behind the scenes at the end of 2007-08. He was largely vacant for certain games.

      Basically, all of the same “concerns” fans have for Ibra were apparent with Eto’o, and Sammy had more chances to score more goals. Rest assured, the losses in the Copa and CL were not his fault. The Sevilla loss was decent game-planning and tiredness whereas we got outplayed, outcoaches, and our defense was suspect at best against Inter.

      Somehow when Ibra comes up here, this goes from a team game to a one-on-one thing.

    • Aeneas
      May 26, 2010

      Remember how we lost four games this year? Once to Rubin (ended up winning the Russian League), Atleti (Europa League), Inter (Champions League), and Sevilla (Kings Cup). We also beat these teams on different occasions.

      • jnelson
        May 27, 2010

        WOW. interesting facts Aeneas. All of our losses came to League, Domestic Cup, or Continental Cup Champions. Very interesting…although the loss to the mattress makers is still embarrassing. How they can be champions I still can’t accept. It is all because of Quique “Dr. House” Sanchez Flores. That, and the fact that they tanked the league games with reserves. Should have loaned to Patetico!!! blah

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 27, 2010

      I would have to agree with some of your points there.

    • bundy
      May 27, 2010

      Thats a fair point there Luis,

      But either way, If we had kept Eto’o, we are not guaranteed to win titles, we are not guaranteed to win the CL every season or gain 99 points in the league.

      Eto’o was very prolific in his finishing (most of the time), he also kept himself very fit and motivate, he tried to contribute what he can. But again, Eto’o had his problems too, its hard to explain but eto’o worked well with our tactics, but he also hindered our capacity to evolve our attack. His passing and first touch were his main weaknesses and a lot of the time he stopped our attacking play. Plus eto’o was very stubborn with Pep, he didn’t always agree to do what Pep wanted him to do. In a way, if we had kept Eto’o, Pep would have no room to chnage things in our game play and this would have been disaster since again, every team we verse knows how we play and every coach we face has his own tactic to break us down. We managed to defeat nearly every team this season, and that says something about our strength.

      Ibra though, still has a lot to learn about Barca. I like the fact that he is on our team. He has to learn to be more patient though, I see he has had trouble with anxiety, mainly from the excessive expectation he holds on his shoulders, thats something Eto’o doesn’t have to live with. But this doesn’t mean Ibra is a failed signing, because well anxiety is only temporary, its fixable in a realistic time frame. Ibra has all the motivations and the knowledge to play for Barca. But best of all, Pep can work on him, put him in any position and Ibra will respect that choice and so he is infac t very valuable to us.

  12. Luis
    May 26, 2010

    As I said above, I can say the transfer was a failure because of the 40m(or was it 45m) opportunity cost. However this is not a conclusion as we will have to wait and see next season. I thought Eto was very good for us last season, and I wouldnt expect him to be any different this season- just a personally inkling. youre right i cannot say for sure, but is it not just as reasonable as to think that he would have done worst? Just because we had a succesfull season doesnt mean Ibra has done better than eto. It gets too complicated if we involve all the factors. My point was that we cannot simply ignore the 40m when we look back at all this in a few years time.

    • Kxevin
      May 26, 2010

      That just doesn’t track. You make the first mistake, which is to make a comparison between Ibrahimovic and Eto’o. They are different players.

      Second, you are a comparing a fully integrated striker to one who came to us injured, and had to learn the system. Then he picked up other injuries that further hampered his development. Still, 21 goals in all competitions and 9 assists.

      Thirdly, it’s absurd to call a transfer a failure after one season, no matter how you look at it.

      Eto’o wanted to leave on a free, such was the animus attendant to his “relationship” with the club. People forget that. He wasn’t going to stay past this season. Period. Using him to facilitate a deal that got the striker Guardiola wanted, therefore, wasn’t a bad thing. Further, for the aforementioned reason, I don’t see any fiscal gain in the sale of him. He wasn’t interested in renewing, and Guardiola wasn’t interested in having him renew. So moving on was best for him and us.

      You also assume that he was going to be the same player this season, which assumes that defenses were going to play us the same way. Without an active, rapacious Henry on the wing, Eto’o is even more controllable than Ibrhaimovic, because he doesn’t have the ball skills or shotmaking creativity of Ibrhaimovic.

      Nobody will argue that Eto’o was very good for us most of last season. But that goodness was facilitated by strong wing play from Henry. That was absent this season. Thankfully, Messi picked up the scoring slack.

      Eto’o is an ex-Barca player. You can only compare Ibrahimovic to Eto’o after the same amount of time in the system, and exposure to the same coaching. And I don’t have any idea where the 40m figure is coming from. I assume that’s what we paid for Ibrahimovic, a striker who, if he isn’t here, we probably don’t win the Liga, as his performance in the home Clasic was essential to our victory.

      I just don’t think that any supposition supportable by logic can call the Ibrahimovic transfer a failure. If you want to persist in the Eto’o comparisons, the Cameroonian had 28 goals and 0 assists his first season with us. Ibrahimovic had 21 goals and 9 assists, which means that both players accounted, directly or indirectly, for almost the same number of goals their first seasons with the club. Ronaldinho only, by the by, had 19 goals his first season with the club, and no assists.

      I don’t recall anyone calling for his sale after that year, calling his transfer a failure.

      • Tom_Johnson
        May 26, 2010

        Why don’t we leave the names aside. Instead, lets focus on what coaching staff expected him to do and to what degree that player fulfilled the expectations.

        In Ibra’s case, it was expected from him to offer a “new dimension” up front to counter the extremely defensive tactics (chelsea at camp nou). When the opposing team is defending with 8-9 players behind the ball one can only do as much. We had an opportunity more than once to see first hand how it works when you have a mobile but short and physically inferior striker.

        What one can do against teams that “park the bus” is one of these 3 things:
        1. An individual effort (where a player would dribble past 2+ defenders and score, ex ronaldinho’s effort against chelsea at camp nou 1-1 when terry bounced off)
        2. A header from play or set piece (where striker’s height plays a huge role, as big as a quality cross)
        3. Well placed and powerful shot from the distance (20m+)

        I would like you guys to go ahead and tell me how many times Zlatan did any of these things against Inter (and during the whole season). That is what we were trying to add up front and that is why we paid a premium price. Did we get what we were hoping to get? It really boils down to this.

        Now, I personally expected him to give us a little bit of that flair where he would take on multiple defenders (ex that time in ajax when he dribbled past 5 players).

        What bothers me most is that it looks to me that Pep instructed him to pass first. So many times he had time to turn around just outside of the box and either dribble straight to the goal or unleash the powerful shot (and if he doesn’t score the odds are someone would connect on the rebound). Instead, he was so obsessed to pass it as soon as possible. This was very painful for me to watch.

        Also, they weren’t using his height not nearly as much. A bunch of crosses were going to the shorter players. They had to work more on this. “Script” the plays if necessary.

        He is not fast enough and haven’t develop the timing with the midfield (hence he ends up offsides way too much). Now look at little Bojan. He times his runs much much better and keeps it fast and simple once he is in a scoring position.

        Should we keep him one more year (bare in mind he is slow, doesn’t pressure the defense as much, is a minor threat in air and from free kicks) hoping he improves on the later two or (now that villa is here) we cut him get the 40m (or so) and invest to fill other needs (a creative midfielder, lw, rb)? Sometimes one needs to leave emotions aside and do what is in the best interest of the whole team.

        • Tutomate
          May 27, 2010

          I’m sorry but you are seriously leavng out some even more important ways to break the bus. I’ll give you an example, Pedro’s goal againts Estudiantes. Why as he open for a header? Yes it was Pique hat headed to him but only because Ibra was pulling at least 3 other defenders with him Creating Space. That is another way of breaking a bus.

          You pick out 2 games of wich he only played less that 90 min out of 180. But you fail to comprehend the crux of Isaiah’s point. You point out the individual (what Ibra failed to do) and dismiss the collective.

          • Tom_Johnson
            May 27, 2010

            Granted, that is another way to deal with it. But what created the situation (and a goal) is a strong presence in the air. That is what I stated in my post as No. 2. Pedro’s goal is just a sub-type (for the lack of better term).

            Now, tell me how often that happened during the course of the season? We need a viable strategy (plans b and c if you will) and not some random occurrence/desperation move type of thing.

            “You pick out 2 games of wich he only played less that 90 min out of 180”

            Wasn’t the main reason he was brought in to “offer a new dimension” up front against the ultra-defensive sides? That is what the management told us. That is what I was hoping for.

            It is only fair then to evaluate such an acquisition in a situations like those, against the very defensive teams. Chelsea last year vs Inter this one. Coincidentally, both occurred in the Semifinal of the Champions League.

            For the record, I am not denying his desire, effort and contribution (direct and indirect) throughout the season. All the players have said numerous times that he is a joy to have in the locker room and a great professional. I am simply stating that he failed to deliver on the number one reason he was brought in. Rendering the cost-benefit analysis not so favorable to us.

          • Tutomate
            May 27, 2010

            Tom I appreciate your points. But do you really want me to go through the season and show you how many times Ibra created space for another to score?

            You are saying I’m picking 1 ocassion when your focusing on one oponent Inter. And you still failed to see the collective. What about when xavi doesn’t make the right pass to him. Or ignores him.

            Now I’m not saying when the Ibra s infalible and that it’s everyones fault but his. But to suggest that he s the reason we didn’t go further in the champions league is an argument that is lacking.

            You said that if he had cost 25m you wouldn’t feel this way. Well Tom that means you are letting it clould your reasoning.

  13. Hilal
    May 26, 2010

    “I thought Eto was very good for us last season, and I wouldnt expect him to be any different this season”

    I think it is quite the opposite actually. I think it is more likely that Eto would not have had as good a season this year. First of all, teams played us completely differently this season compared to last, which is why we didnt win as many games so convincingly. Last season, nobody knew what to expect, and most teams (even in the CL) tried to play us outrright. All our players got more space and time on the ball and players like Eto thrive on space. This season was completely different, teams either played with everybody behind the ball or extremely aggressively – either way, very little space. I dont think I need to point out how many times Eto has been invisible against teams that “park the bus”. What makes you think he would have done so much better this year?

    Then you have to take into account that this season we were missing two very key players in Iniesta and Henry; players that created width, danger and chance after chance for Eto to score the season prior… Do you really think Eto would have done as well this year without Henry on the left creating havoc or Iniesta in middle doubling up with Xavi and making it close to impossible to defend? My inkling, is that Eto would have struggled compared to his previous season.

    Say what you will about Ibra, but one thing that he has not been given this season is space by the opposition. They put bodies all over him and whenever he tries to use his physical presence as an advantage the ref calls a foul against him (something i find ridiculous btw). HE was our big signing so it is natural that defences concentrated on him last year. Next year, when the focus is more on Villa (and poss Cesc) I am pretty confident you will start to see more and more of why Pep believes in Ibra so much.

  14. Euler
    May 26, 2010

    As I said above, I can say the transfer was a failure because of the 40m(or was it 45m) opportunity cost.

    That’s perfectly reasonable. I personally think it’s far too early to draw this conclusion. But one can call the transfer a failure. With a deal as large as the Ibra deal was there’s large trade offs that are made and significant risks. Opprtunity cost is one of them. That’s what large businesses do and their success depends on getting those decisions right.

    However, that point of criticism seems more directly relevant to Pep, Txiki and Barca leadership than it does Ibra.

    Ibra had limited involvement in how Barca leadership valuated him as an asset. That was a function of the buyer, the seller and market dynamics.

    Ibra performed at least reasonably well. I think we can agree on that. By that I mean he wasn’t Robinho. He wasn’t even Kaka. He provided reasonable effort and production.

    Just because a team pays more for a player on the transfer market, it doesn’t change his true talent level and capacity to perform.

    If the deal is a “failure” should Eto’o be given credit for Inter extracting surplus value from the deal? Should Eto’o be given credit for the shrewd business dealings of Inter? Not really.

    Part of the Ibra issue is where the blame is being laid by people who feel the deal was a failure. The player had little to do with what Barca was willing to pay for him in terms of cash, talent or opportunity.

    If this is a failure it is primarily a management failure not a failure on part of the player, but it’s mostly the player who is being blamed for a decision he had very little role in making.

    • Luis
      May 26, 2010

      Agreed, if there is blame it should go to management becaus they made the transfer. I actually feel abut sorry for ibra and always cheer- I imagine he is feeling disillusioned now about his barca dream.

      Kxevin- I think you are missing my point when you compare their first seasons. I’m not comparing the players but the investment- the transfer as such. I’m comparing scenarios where we did and didn’t to the deal. I never concluded it was a failure yet, we have to wait and see.
      Interesting point regarding the free. I can’t see us letting him go for nohing thoughbif the ibra deal didn’t happen. We would have got something for him.

      I admit eto does struggle against busses but ibra hasn’t done too well in this regard thus far either. Also defenses can press high and swamp ibra deep is becaus he is ibra and not eto. Also I don’t see the point of saying we won la liga because we had ibra. That is as speculative as my points about eto continuing to do well. We simply do not know

      • Kxevin
        May 26, 2010

        I think it isn’t all that speculative. The difference was less than a match between the two sides. So without Ibrahimovic’s wonder strike and what it did for the side psychologically, who knows?

        I understand your fiscal rationale. I just don’t think it’s as simple as you make it. A player can leave on a free any time he likes by simply not assenting to any transfers, as Eto’o was doing, if you recall. Your Eto’o plus Villa supposition assumes that with hom atill here, we go for Villa. But what’s the point of that, when the two players are so similar?

        This season, assuming we aren’t silly, the attacking options presented by Villa, Ibrahimoc and Messi juat boggle the mind.

        • Aeneas
          May 26, 2010

          Reminds me of a Ramzi gem Re: Villa/Eto’o from the valencia offside page –

          Eto’o rejected the move to Man city. There was no other offer from any club. Based on Supply Vs demand, Based on all the standards followed to indicate product’s price, its unrealistic to think that his market Value was 25 m or even 15 m. He was on the transfer list for two summers and the club recieved Zero bidders.

          Regarding Eto’o+40 (46) M, analysing why this formula earned its fake credibility take long text that might not be appropriate on this page. In fact -for Barcelona- it was 46 M – Eto’o as keeping Eto’o would have made the transfer more expensive than offloading him. Imagine getting Ibra only for the cash, whats next? The coach does not want Eto’o to stay (Football analysis is another discussion, as we are taking it from business perspective). If Eto’o stay he will earn a whole year salary+ Bonous without playing (more cost). In a world cup year, Eto’o will not accept that without blowing the dressing room apart. Add that to the doubt that in his last contract Eto’o demanded a condition that the club must use him in a minimium number of games per season when he is fit (that was directly after signing Henry). All that lead to one conclussion: Contract termination that will cost more than 10 millions for sure (Cost added to the 40M.Thats why when valencia announced the take it or leave it 50 millions price tag to sell villa, Laporta took the plane to Milano to sign what ended up being a cheaper deal for barca.”

          • Colby
            May 26, 2010

            The salary aspect has been mentioned on this blog many times in the past. I forget the exact numbers and don’t feel like looking them up, but I believe eto’o’s (YES!) salary impact on the club was about to increase by about 4-5 million a year if we resigned him (which was our only option, if we kept him). He would have required 2-3 million wage increase, plus his tax bracket was changing from 20% to almost 50%. Instead we signed Zlatan who ended up having a similar salary to what Samu had, meaning we are saving 4-5 million a year on Zlatan’s contract. Over 4 or 5 years, that is 20-25 million euros.

          • Euler
            May 26, 2010

            When discussing the impact of opportunity cost, these kind of factors regarding Eto’o and his strange situation also need to be factored in. You have to consider opportunity cost in it’s entirety.

          • cliveee
            May 26, 2010

            great post. all very logical to me. but are they also very speculative?

  15. jordi
    May 26, 2010

    Looks like Botia will be at sporting next year.4 year contract, 3 year buyback option for 2-3 million.


    • Jnice
      May 26, 2010

      I like that 3 year buyback option. If he continues to perform well, we will probably take them up on that. I did, however, want to see him in preseason with us. Oh, well. Good deal.

  16. vicsoc8
    May 26, 2010

    I’m going to try to use many of the same philosophical/sociological thoughts you used to explain why people are anti-Ibrahimovic.

    In totemic religions the ultimate goal of religious practices is to reach a place of collective consciousness. In essence the deity that is the focus of the religion is this collective consciousness. The symbols of the religion are representations of the collective, and the rites of the religion are generally focused on overcoming the individual and tapping into the collective consciousness. The dancing, singing, potential use of mind altering substances, etc found in many totemic religions are all important vehicles that allow the individuals involved to overcome their separation caused by their individuality and in the process feel the exultation associated with succumbing to the collective.

    When we apply this concept to modern day football clubs and specifically Barcelona we find that we are essentially a secular totemic religion. The stripes, the crest, are all symbols of the club, but more importantly they are a symbol of the collective consciousness that Cules are trying to achieve. When fans are at the game they are searching for that succumbing of self in the collective through cheering, but primarily through the players. The players are the centerpiece, and therefore when they are playing smoothly they are imitating a ritualistic rite which allows the fans to feed off them, and get closer to reaching the collective consciousness. At the same time the players feed off the fans.

    This is why the Iniestazo was so special for so many Cules. Everyone was wrapped up in a frenzy and waiting with bated breath. Everyone at the stadium and likely watching around the world were feeling the same thing, and when it went in it was a collective cheer, everyone felt part of the club and overcame their individuality in the second and we were all part of the collective consciousness that is Barcelona.

    And this is why people don’t like Ibrahimovic. First of all exchanging Eto’o for him meant that the style, the flow of the team changed completely. It’s like a very important ritual for the Barcelona religion was suddenly changed – it is much harder to reach the collective consciousness when you are uncomfortable with the ritual. You have to give yourself fully to the ritual for it to work, but you can’t do that when you are unfamiliar with it.

    On a slightly different note Ibra has, for long periods of the season, looked out of place in the side. When he got involved a lot of the time it would stilt the team’s flow, or halt it altogether. I’m not assigning blame, but the fact is he just looked out of place in the team. When this happens it causes the fans to lose the buildup to collective consciousness they were experiencing. For example, imagine a totemic religion is in the middle of a ritual, and it is reaching it’s climax, and a stranger walks into the middle of it and disrupts it. Those involved in the ritual will lose all progress they have made toward their goal of the collective, and will likely be pissed. This was happening at various times with Ibrahimovic on the field.

    As a disclaimer, I don’t think Ibra should leave. The ability to flow, and to reach the collective consciousness isn’t created overnight. In religions it is built over a lifetime. As Barcelona fans we don’t often reach the same level of collectivism religions can. However it is necessary to allow time for a new flow, a new rhythm to develop in the team, and getting rid of Ibra for someone else is more likely to disrupt this process than fix it.

  17. barca96
    May 26, 2010

    what’s the purpose of this post?
    to create sympathizers for ibra?
    haha jokes aside.

    i for one thought that etoo should leave. i was 70-30 happy that he left. he created many but missed a lot too.
    so what i expected pep to do, was get an upgrade like villa or torres or rooney. but in the end pep went with a player who supposedly would add a new dimension. what is that? i thought plan B was someone who could break down the buses. but i know from his time from Ajax and Inter that he is not one such player. Hence the many emails I sent to the barca site begging them to think twice about ibra.
    I hardly watched Juve play so i cant comment on that.

    i dont like to compare ibra and etoo.
    one thing and probably the only thing that i didnt like about him is the amount of chances he misses but ibra doesnt even create half as many chances as etoo.

    i blame pep for this mistake as ibra was a totally different type of player that would need a lot of time to settle in. we already had a perfect system in place, why bring in a player who would take time to adjust and hence slow down our progress.

    • Vj
      May 27, 2010

      “Ibra doesn’t create half as many chances as Eto’o”

      2009/10 Assists (League/(CL)): Ibra 7(2) Eto’o 5(2)

      CAN you say? Inter you say?

      2008/09 Assists: Ibra 7(2) Eto’o 4(2)

      • barca96
        May 27, 2010

        what i meant was, getting in to positions to score.
        just look at the difference when bojan is playing.
        all of a sudden we are creating chances after chances.

  18. cliveee
    May 26, 2010

    I am surprised how we are not linking to other players after Villa and Fabregas. Are our directors all working on the Cesc project and no time to look into the market?

    I suppose Hleb’s return will be a boost for the winger position. If I am on the same page with them, they want him to play a role on the wing. I still believe in Pep. He saw good stuff in Hleb, but I don’t quite see enough of it.

    Regarding Ibra as many of you have been discussing, I will wish him a good rest before the season begins again. He needs confidence that he lost in the middle of the season. To me he only performed half season of his greatest football, another half wasn’t too bad, but just not 100% great. Watch and see how Villa will provide the width we need and then Ibra do what he is supposed to do in the box, i.e. Killing.

    BARCAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! by the way, that FC barcelona Confidential has opened my eyes wide! So, Rosell and all other candidates are actually close friends of Laporta? so that makes everything easier isn’t it? when will we have a post or a bunch of post to explain the election details? I agree with someone who said Rosell looks like a Douche, but after watching that FCB Confidential he doesnt look too useless to me. So…

  19. Karo
    May 27, 2010

    I love this website
    Thank you Isaiah, great work!

  20. Blow-Grenade
    May 27, 2010

    Rate me down people, but here is my critical analysis.
    Ibra not only did poorly last season, but also contributed to Henry’s downfall. He tends to drift left, where Henry plays. He never gets to Henry’s crosses. As a world class striker and if he is chosen as a starting player for the Barca team, he should stay onside, and meet the crosses. No excuses there.
    Ibra also tends to be lazy getting onside. I have seen many games where Xavi and Messi turn to find Ibra offside so they have to play the ball back and the attack is lost.
    He also has lacks in his ability to turn and shoot the ball. Every top class striker should be able to receive the ball with his back to the goal, do a feint, turn and shoot at the goal. What is even more perplexing is that even if he was facing goal, he, towards the end of the season, tended to pass to Messi instead of shooting. His confidence needs big time improvement. He needs a “Pep” talk.
    Lastly his movement off the ball could be better. Find a space where people can pass to you dude!!! And man up and take on defenders!!!

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 27, 2010

      And by the way, for the Ibra goal in El Classico, some credit needs to go to Pique. He drew the two central defenders to him so Ibra had the space to shoot.

      • Sud
        May 27, 2010

        Alright then….we have looooads of credits that needs to go Ibras way if we start giving cred for picking up defenders and creating space for others.

        It it also obvious that the team is not used to big target players that wants to hold away the defenders rather than moving away from them.

        If you have seen Ibra before he came to Barca, you would know that he’s got all the tools in his toolbox. But the team is not using it. Hopefully, Villa will open up the toolbox.

        “Every top class striker should be able to receive the ball with his back to the goal, do a feint, turn and shoot at the goal.” Football is not about one single skill. You might as well say:
        “Every top class striker should be able to use his right foot.” – Alright then. You can sell Messi. He is useless. No right foot.

    • Kxevin
      May 27, 2010

      It’s fine if you want to hate on Ibrahimovic, but at least ground it in reality. Henry’s age and injury contributed most to his downfall, not Ibrahimovic. If we had an actual threat on the left wing, Ibrahimovic wouldn’t have been drifting out there to find playing space, he would instead have been capitalizing on the threat created and finding his own space in the middle.

      Ibrahimovic has always been offside a lot. We knew that going in. Other strikers of his type are offside a lot, as well. Fabiano spends most of his life offside. Inzaghi wakes up offside.

      Is Messi a top-class striker? He can’t take with his back to goal, turn and shoot. Or is Messi a striker at all? Many say that he is. Your definition of a striker is limiting, unless we sign Drogba, but then people would be slagging on his temperament and lack of tactical flexibility. Nobody is ever good enough for too many cules. I’ll lay cash money down that Villa won’t be, either.

      And everyone’s movement off the ball should have been better. For every time that you can point to Ibrahimovic not moving properly, I can show you moments where he created space by drawing the platoon of defenders appointed to keep him from scoring, and nobody else moved to take advantage of that space.

      Which means what? That we have a new player, who needs to learn to play in our system as much as the system needs to ADAPT to learn to play with him.

  21. jnelson
    May 27, 2010

    Yes, let’s all call Ibra a failure and don our despicable white jerseys and root for Mourinho outside the Bernabeu. To not see a correlation between the thinking of Ibra being a failure and the lack of principles of the EE is absurd. I believe such talk is ridiculous. It is as blasphemous as calling for Pellegrini to be fired after record breaking point haul, and AFTER Robben and Sneijder were sold without consulting him, and AFTER the board refused to allow him to play with wings. Am I defending Pellegrini? No. I am merely using an analogy to illustrate how awful it is that Ibra is considered by some to be a failure. What more do you want from the man!! Maxi Lopez, now he was a failure. If Ibra performed, or, well, wasted a roster spot like him, then what would some of you be saying?

  22. Bundy
    May 27, 2010

    I think what Influenced Pep’s decision to off load Eto’o was more than just super high wages and bonuses.

    The biggest problem was his stubbornness, he wouldn’t always agree to Pep’s decisions and he didn’t accept some of the role’s Pep set him to do in some games, and I think thats why Pep has a tough time wanting to keep him. The other problem is Eto’s limitations. Pep needs attacking players that are flexible that can play anywhere and accept it.

    Eto’o is a prolific finisher, a workhorse and a fitness freak. But he has two massive flaws that is his first touch and his passes and it affected a lot of our attacking flexibility, I recall a lot of times last season, a lot of our attacks burnt out once Eto’o possessed the ball because he either couldn’t link up with Henry or Messi that well tbh because his passes were never the right weight or acurate. But that is not the main problem. His other problem was his ineffectiveness against heavily defensive teams, especially physically strong teams.

    Ibra still has anxiety and impatient in his play. But atleast he always accepts his role that Pep gives him and that is more promising then what we had with Eto’o.

    Again Bojan aswell accepts his role, thats why he is still here too and not on loan or poached somewhere else.

    • barca96
      May 27, 2010

      i wouldnt call etoo stubborn…
      he had to play LW or RW once in a while.
      yeah…i used to get pissed off at etoo. such a weak first touch.
      but i thought that ibra had a good first touch, which he had, but somehow lost it ever since he got here. so in that department i dont see out current #9 being an improvement of our previous one

      • Bundy
        May 27, 2010

        Yes, I agree, Ibra doesn’t have a great first touch, definetly agree,

        maybe I have been a bit too harsh on Eto’o, obviously he is a great player and he has a very good attitude on the pitch most of the time.

        There were a few times though where Pep wanted Eto’o on the RW and eto’o would get a bit frustrated. I guess Pep also gets frustrated because Eto’o can only really play as a CF and nothing else tbh.

  23. ermengol
    May 27, 2010

    re the OP: Pep believes in Ibra, he didn’t believe in Eto’o. It works the other way too, as in Ibra expressly stated that he is at Barca to become a better player and he believes Pep can help him with that. Eto’o on the other hand considered himself untouchable.

    And if we’re going to talk about goal celebration style, what irked me a lot of times in 08-09 was how Eto’o would stand there with his arms spread out and away or pushing back team mates trying to congratulate him. Every time. Ibra’s main problem in that regard is his height and self-consciousness, but then again look at the last picture in Isaiah’s post.

    Whatever, I see great potential in Ibra then in Eto’o and I think he’s shown it. What he’s also shown is that he’s willing to do and play where and when and how Pep wants him too.


    On a different note. I watched the CL final and felt that the way Inter played was embarrassing. After the match I’ve read and heard almost nothing but praise of the Mou, but still felt short-changed.

    Finally, Brian Phillips of RoP put up a post that really hits the nail on the head re Mou’s “genius”. Highly recommended.



    Here’s Ibra vs Espanyol 12.12.09:


    • gv
      May 27, 2010

      i don’t know why the press was all praise for mou. it was milito who won the cl for inter, and not mou’s tactics.

      • Bundy
        May 27, 2010

        I thought Mou was a bit crazy for choosing to park the bus at the camp nou, Inter got a away with the skin of their teeth tbh.


  24. fcbfan
    May 27, 2010

    First, Isaiah, well done! Tell Sport and EMD! I don’t know where they come up with Ibra going to … crap. His agent is quiet which means nothing is going on, and Vilanova said he isn’t aware of Ibra going anywhere.

    Someone on Guardian posted this:

    “Ibrahimovic joins Ajax and wins 2 Eriedivisie Titles in 3 seasons.
    joins Juventus and wins 2 Serie A Titles in 2 seasons.
    joins Inter and wins 3 Serie A Titles in 3 seasons.
    joins Barcelona and wins 1 La Liga Title in 1 season.

    everywhere he goes, his team has won the league. in fact, the last time a team featuring Ibrahimovic lost it’s league title was 7 years ago, in 2003, when
    PSV beat out Ajax for the title by 1 point. now, some might say that that is because of the clubs he’s been to, but at what point does coincidence turn
    into consequence?”

    Now some might argue that he had other good players around him, true. But that’s not the point. Ibra is a unique player, and his strengths and skills, combined with others on the team each member having different skills and abilitties contribute to making the team even greater, giving the coach more options etc to win games. It’s not working yet, but with time we’ll get there. Right now, Ibra is still getting use to the idea of using what he has for the team rather than the rest of the team playing for him, and I’m sure the giant price tag over him is not helping either. and of course Barca has to get use to having Ibra. Good thing both him and Chiggy are not in the wc. They can have a proper preseason. If we had bought Ibra for 25m I’m sure people would be more forgiving to Ibra. If you think Ibra is a failure because spending 46m on him would have given us the treble again, then what do you say to Thong Boy, 94m, a WPOTY, who is younger and at his prime, giving Madrid nothing?

    • Tom_Johnson
      May 27, 2010

      “If we had bought Ibra for 25m I’m sure people would be more forgiving to Ibra.”

      That is exactly what it is. I have tried to point out in my post above how little of an upgrade he turned out to be over what we had against the ultra defensive formations. You certainly don’t pay a premium price for something like that. Keep in mind, he is not the media darling as Ronaldo is and is less likely to generate significant income through sponsorship deals and jersey sales to offset such a high price.

      His sheer numbers (21/9), lack of speed, lack of pressure on defense, temper, and being a semi-threat in air and from the free kicks doesn’t warrant such a high transfer fee and wage.

      • Miguel
        May 27, 2010

        those were the realities of the market @ the time. floflo hyper inflated it w/his purchases of the bizzaro galacticos & we couldn’t land david villa because of valencia’s inane president. eto’o was holding a gun to everyone’s head by not renewing and wanting to go out on a free the following season so laporta flew back to milan to wrap things up w/moratti.

        ibra can’t really be blamed for that.

        • Tom_Johnson
          May 27, 2010

          For the record, I am not blaming Ibra (or any other player himself) for how much the agreed transfer fee and salary is/was. The blame rests with the management.

          Inflated prices by real and man city is a factor we couldn’t do much about. But we could’ve prepared ourselves better for the transfer period. More alternatives and better time planning. Instead, we had our hand forced by overpaying (zlatan and chyggy) and picking our second choice (zlatan vs villa).

          It would be foolish to expect from Pep and Txiki to get it perfect every time. They make mistakes as everybody does. I am suggesting what happened with Zlatan should be treated as a valuable learning experience. We need to separate ourselves not only by the style of play (which we did successfully already) but with the business model as well.

      • Tutomate
        May 27, 2010

        And that’s where your argument dies. A player has no say in how much he costs and his performance is the same regardless of wether he cost a penny or 40m. You saying that if he cost 25m than you would consider it a good deal shows the true weight If your argument. Remember people we did not pay 40m for 1 year but for 4 years.

        • Tom_Johnson
          May 27, 2010

          “You saying that if he cost 25m than you would consider it a good deal shows the true weight If your argument”

          Once again, it is a cost benefit analysis.

          1.You look what Zlatan gave us this year (direct and indirect contribution)
          2. How big of an upgrade (if one at all) was it over what we had last year. And I am not saying just the sole player at that position but the concept as well:
          -small mobile forward with above average ball handling skills vs
          -big/tall but slower forward with excellent ball handling skills

          Everyone needs to look at these two and make an objective (emotionless) analysis. What we got is not worth the price we payed for.

          • Tutomate
            May 27, 2010

            Yes make an emotionless assesment. Did we Buy Ibra for 1 year? Did we pay 40 for 1 year? Are you deciding the cost/ worth of a player after 1 year? Please make that argument at the end of his contract.

            Here is a question was his performance worth 10 millio?

      • Vj
        May 27, 2010

        His sheer numbers (21/9)

        Tells you a lot about the standards we have thrust upon our players.. When I started supporting the club, those numbers were to kill for; Even a league title meant a whole lot more than it does now (judging by all your reactions)..

        We won the 09/10 Liga BBVA, finishing with 99!! points.. We proved that money can’t buy success, by overcoming an EE side who had more depth than ever imagined.. Ibra scored 16 goals with this team in his debut campaign (which both Henry and Abidal can tell isn’t easy) and even scored the frikkin golazo that won us the Clasico in the Camp Nou..

        FFS Imagine what he can do in his 2nd season, with Messi and Villa..

  25. fcbfan
    May 27, 2010

    As a Barca fan, whats most anoying about Mourinho is that he learned coaching at Barcelona, and then he use all that knowledge to build tactical defensive teams. Nothing wrong with that, but … strange?

  26. fcbfan
    May 27, 2010

    Hey! that Ingla Soriano team ha interesting ideas. Can ppl volunteer at thee embassies?


  27. Kxevin
    May 27, 2010

    What’s funniest to me about the Ibrahimovic debate is that people are offering Krkic and the team’s play with him on the pitch as evidence that Ibrahimovic has the stank.

    So many forget that Krkic was terrible for so much of the season. He really only came into his own the last batch of matches. Just as, when he was stinking out the pitch people were advocating patience with Krkic, I can’t for the life of me understand how that same patience is so absent with a player who could turn out to be one of the best strikers this club has ever had.

    Despite the eloquence of Isaiah’s case above, people will always point out their perceived deficiencies of Ibrahimovic, laying everything that he is seen to be responsible for, solely at his feet. The other 10 players had absolutely nothing to do with any of it.

    Whoa. Really?

    • Tom_Johnson
      May 27, 2010

      You need to look at his performances based on the position. The general trend was that his production was poor at the left wing while he has contributed a lot more as a central forward.

      The last few appearances he played exclusively as a center forward and had responded very well. Away from home at the tough grounds of Seville and Villareal no less.

    • Tutomate
      May 27, 2010

      Kxevin People have a short/selective memory, like cruyff said. They only things they remeber are the last part of the season

  28. Sid
    May 27, 2010

    The IBRA-PEP situation reminds me of the Drogba – mourinho situation. Everyone has a different take on the matter. Every one felt chelsea should be using more fluid strikers (gudjohnsen, Duff etc.), while Mourinho was confident of his ability and knew exactly what he wanted from him.First two seasons passes with 10 and 15 goals.

  29. fcbfan
    May 27, 2010

    Sorry should given the url
    Ingla wants to appoint club ambassadors


  30. fcbfan
    May 27, 2010

    If Villa doesn’t score more than 21 goals and have 9 assists next season, I’ll proclaim him as failure and will demand his sale to Man City. Doesn’t matter if he is injured and miss preseason, he will be even a bigger failure than Ibra because he knows La Liga and is familiar with most of the Barca team, and a media darling etc. 😀

    • barca96
      May 27, 2010

      ok. i will remember ur words!
      and i am sure villa will score more hehe

  31. ElShowDeJason
    May 27, 2010

    blaming Ibrahimovic for being offside is like blaming Valdes for conceding goals. There’s two sides to the equation.

    Just Valdes has defenders in fron of him, Ibra has players passing him the ball.

    If Ibra is in fact so slow (which is bullshit), then Xavi and Messi should have a lot of time to find the pass before he steps offside.

    I think a majority of Ibra’s “offsides” have been the result of passes that came to late, simply because Xavi hasn’t figured out his runs yet. That’s right, I’m calling out Xavi. look at Ibra’s throughball goals. Passes come from Pique, Yaya, Alves and others, but not Xavi.
    I think once this situation remedies itself, Ibra will score more.


    A seperate conversation on speed.
    Ibrahimovic is not slow. He is actually quite fast. The problem is people equate foot velocity and acceleration. which are not the same.
    It is a law of physics that more massive objects have more momentum. It takes them longer to go from still to moving, but they can stay moving easier once movement is achieved.
    Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc are all slow. Yup. They are slow. But because they are small, and of course because they have a lot of teqnique, they can are agile and can change directions faster, without decelerating. Messi perhaps has the best acceleration and agility in the game, which makes him such a dangerous person to have lingering in the backline.
    Ibrahimovic on the other hand, and probably Keita, and Yaya too, are very massive individuals. This doesn’t allow them to change direction very quickly, and especially while sprinting, but this doesn’t mean they are slow. They just need to be played accordingly.

    In the clasico home match, when Alves smacked that perfect cross for his wonder-volley, Ibra raced past the entire Madrid back line.
    In both goals against Arsenal Pique and (?) played good balls while he was already on the move.

    Ibrahimovic is very fast once he starts moving, but it demands a perfectly timed ball, or he will end up offside quickly, and a well placed ball because he can’t change directions that fast.

    We constantly bow down to Messi and Xavi’s plays because Messi’s run asks A LOT out of Xavi’s passing ability, and Xavi’s pass asks a lot of Messi’s first touch and pace.

    I think, simply put, Ibrahimovic asked a lot of Xavi, and Xavi just hasn’t figured it out 100% yet.
    But again this is not too much of a concern. one year in, Xavi and Ibra will figure eachother out, and Villa’s inclusion should create space (and options) for everyone. and If iniesta is back in the fold (which i’m expecting) we are looking at some very optomistic times.

    so, does anyone actually agree, or am I just being a rabid Ibra-fanboy?

    • Kxevin
      May 27, 2010

      Agree fully, but Ibrahimovic’s size makes people assert that he is slow. And that will never change. Once people make up their minds about a player, that’s just how it is. By way of example, for many the Henry of last season was an aberration. This season’s Henry is the real one, and “See? Told you so.”

      It’s what, in many ways, makes debates such as these fun but pointless, because the antis will never see the other side, just as the pros will never see the anti side.

      Villa is going to be very interesting. He isn’t going to match his goal production of this season. Mark these words now. What will people be saying about him a year from now?

      And no, he won’t miss those numbers because of any lack of ability, but because he isn’t the principal target man (neither was Ibrahimovic, by the by), nor is the offense designed with him in mind (again, Ibrahimovic). With incentives, Villa’s price will approach that of Ibrahimovic, by the by.

      What then?

    • Tutomate
      May 27, 2010

      Your being a rabid Ibra-fanboy. 

      That was perfectly said. Ithnk people just need to forget about the price tag for now and focus on the performance.

      • Tom_Johnson
        May 27, 2010

        Buddy, I am not sure where are you losing me. I have never said (and never will) that it is only Ibra’s fault. I would appreciate you not putting words into my mouth.

        Once again, he was brought in to “break the bus”. Lets look at his production in those kind of matches and how that ranks against what we had before. I perfectly understand that this is his first year in the new system and that it was a TEAM EFFORT in the duel against Inter.

        To clear any confusion, the fee wasn’t 40m. It was 47m + the opportunity cost of Eto’s transfer. Since we don’t have enough info on that we can only speculate how much would that be. Also, you can’t focus just on the transfer fee and neglect his Messi-like salary.

        • Tutomate
          May 27, 2010

          I never put words in your mouth Buddy. I wouldn’t, I said it was the Suggestion and in Impression. And I said to focus on the Collective because your focused on how Ibra has not been the Plan B we wanted and was supposed to be while not looking at the collective as in how teamates did not use him as such.

          Additionally I belive your stating that what he has brought forth was not with his price tag but this assesmnt is based on 1 year where we did not sign him for ne year but four.

          Or like Euler suggested, Have patience and don’t jump to premature conclusions.

          • Tutomate
            May 27, 2010

            I understand your points and respect them. I’m not trying to be a jerk. If it comes across that way I apoligize. I blame typing on a mobile phone.

          • Tom_Johnson
            May 27, 2010

            You don’t come off as a jerk nor you have to apologize. I just want us as fellow fans to be able to understand each other. To perfectly understand what each and every one of us is trying to say and his/her point of view.

            I was assessing his first season. His contribution during that period doesn’t justify the money payed (12m fee + 12m or so in salary).

            As a fan of Barca first and the fan of Zlatan second, I sincerely hope the contribution he will have in the next 2-3 years will not only justify the price but make us feel at the moments like we underpaid. I want to him to leave a big mark with the club and not to be mentioned only as somebody we overpaid for.

        • tutomate
          May 27, 2010

          I agree. Patience is the key to this,which what is so annoying about the whole “Ibra sucks lets sell him to anyone” point of view some have.

    • Ramzi
      May 27, 2010

      Jason, you are another rabid Ibra-fanboy 😀
      Well said.

    • Jim
      May 27, 2010

      I think a large part of “speed” in football is actually anticipation. The best example for me was Bojan’s last few goals. I don’t have him down as very quick but he was off the mark like lightning on a good diagonal. On a side note I think it just as wrong to judge Bojan a success because of those goals as it is to judge Ibra a failure because of the last few games where confidence was obviously low.

      I think what’s a little irritating is the view of some that anyone who offers an opinion that Ibra has been a disappointment becomes an “Ibra hater”. I’ve been disappointed in him because to me he hasn’t fitted in so far and I’m not seeing the attriubutes that others do which makes him likely to do well next year. You may not agree, which is fine, but it isn’t a ridiculous position to hold. Europe’s media seem to largely subscribe to it. many football pundits ( not all of whom i’d dismiss out of hand) seem to and Pep himself has used Ibra sparingly as it has become more obvious that others at the moment have more to offer.

      I may be wrong. If Ibra stays and does well next year I’ll admit as much. I actually think he does deserve another season to show us but don’t belittle people’s views, wrapping them up as “haters”. I enjoy rewatching matches in some detail and enjoy the cut and thrust we have here but don’t see myself as a hater of anyone.

      • May 27, 2010

        I don’t think that everyone who analyzes the performance of Ibrahimovic in a less-than-positive manner is a hater. Far from it. I don’t think that even his more vociferous supporter will assert that he was 100% successful with us this season.

        My complexity is with the notion that he was a failure and must be sold, mostly because it ignores the complexities attendant to the season, including arriving injured, picking up another injury during the season and having a very difficult system to work into. You simply can’t judge after a single season.

    • Tom_Johnson
      May 27, 2010

      Haha no one denies the laws of physics. What is important here is to determine what we need as a team in that position? Since most of our opponents are playing us defensively, there is not a lot of room left for a big object to pick up its speed. We need somebody who can accelerate quicker to create an immediate confusion and distort the defensive positioning.

      In general, it is not so much about sheer speed as it is about timing. It sure takes a while for such feeling between midfielder and striker to develop. There is no denying it. But given the credentials (and yes the salary) of both Xavi and Ibra, I expected this process to last not as long. For a comparison, look at the “chemistry” and timing between Canteranos. I want Ibra to get as close to it as possible.

      It is somewhat insulting to me to be called “anti-Ibra”. He was one of my Top 5 players since the moment he dribbled past 5 defenders while he was playing for Ajax. To have such a big guy having extraordinary ball control skills is something that comes along every once in a while. It is special. I was ridiculed back then forecasting him a great and successful career.

      It pains me to see him now being sort of like a fish out of the water. He can’t run faster due to his frame. But Pep please let him dribble and shoot more (selfish if necessary) and lets work more in practice to make him a more threat in the air. I surely hope so he breaks out like Henry did in his second season.

      When I talk about the money is strictly from the business side. I hate overpaying for anything and like I said we need to dominate the business side of the business as we do it on the pitch.

      • May 27, 2010

        But did we overpay, or was the price fair for a player of that quality, based on marketplace realities?

        The “chemistry” between canteranos exists because they have been raised in a system. Ibrahimovic has been the lone striker and focal point of attacks, plopped into a system that is, comparatively, like the inside of a supercollider.

        And by definition, “anti” means being against something. In reality, there are degrees. Yes, Ibrahimovic should have had more goals. He missed some sitters. But every striker does. Does saying that make someone “anti?” Not in my book.

        But there are people who offer no mitigating arguments for their incessant criticism of a player who was integral to our success this season. “Slow,” “offside,” “foot speed,” “no head” are some of the things you hear being bandied about as part of the arguments that label him a failure that should be fire sold, now that we have the magnificent David Villa.

        Is there any way to characterize those people, other than “anti”? If you aren’t part of that group, you aren’t. Simple as that.

        • Tom_Johnson
          May 27, 2010

          “But did we overpay?”

          The prices were inflated, sure. But we lost so much time negotiating with Villa. We also didn’t have a viable 3rd or 4th option and a better exit strategy for Eto’o. By no means I am trying to say that all this is easy to get it done in real life. Our hand also got forced at the very end with the purchase of the Ukranian.

          Zlatan could’ve easily had 5 more goals and I guarantee it wouldn’t be half as much “uneducated” ones complaining about him. From the top of my head, against Malaga at home he had two headers cleared of the goal line and his free kick whistled just past the post leaving the goalie helpless. And that post he hit against Zaragoza 🙂

          What frustrates me the most is that with few tweaks/improvements and a better attitude on his part, he can score and do so much more. Nothing major, just more confidence, keeping it simple in front of the goal and developing the timing with the mid-fielders. Lets hope a season ahead of us proves me right.

  32. Miguel
    May 27, 2010

    here’s an aricle on the mexican national team, focusing on the shape they took vs england(probably what they’ll stick to in the wc) for all you el tri heads.


  33. Auld Super
    May 27, 2010

    Looks like Zlatan (the donkey) could be off to Milan, fingers crossed. I never really liked them much but if they take the one that gets in the way then I’ll love em for it the clowns

    • Kxevin
      May 27, 2010

      Ha! Riiiight. You’re reading those 35m+Huntelaar rumors again.

      1. Guardiola’s on vacation.
      2. Ibrahimovic is Guardiola’s chosen striker.
      3. Huntelaar is not for sale, according to Milan’s president.
      4. How exactly is Ibrahimovic’s immense salary/transfer fee going to fit into Galliani’s austerity program?
      5. We have come out and said that he isn’t for sale.
      6. Huntelaar? Really? No. Really?
      7. We aren’t going to sell Ibrahimovic for a penny less than we paid for him, nor should we.
      8. sigh

      • jordi™
        May 27, 2010

        the funniest thing is huntelaar is even more immobile than ibra.He doesnt give assists, nor will he create anything out of nothing like ibra will next year when hes adapted.I can really see why we would accept that.I cant wait till both sport and EMD are at their hypocritical,amnesiac best, gushing over him when hes kicking ass next year.

        • ElShowDeJason
          May 27, 2010

          just AS and Marca going on about Pellegrini’s genius after holding us to 1-0 at the Camp Nou, and how he was a complete faulure after ammasing 96 league points.

          I think we call trash rags “trash rags” for good reason.
          as the saying goes, they go where ever the wind blows.

    • Luis
      May 27, 2010

      But this is a terrible deal. We get Huntelaar… Why do we want huntelaar?

      What does everyone think of Arsenal’s new signing Chamahk? Never heard of him before.

      • Euler
        May 27, 2010

        Why do we want huntelaar?

        We don’t. EMD has just decided that they want to do what they can to run Ibra out of Barcelona. Thus the daily rumors of him going to club X for cash Y and player Z.

        Provincialism at it’s finest.

  34. May 27, 2010

    Here’s a visual aid:

    Here are some quotes, from actual people instead of Sport antis:

    Ibrahimovic’s agent Mino Raiola said to Sky Italia: “Milan? They have never asked us for him (Ibrahimovic).

    “But based on newspapers reports, Ibrahimovic has already gone to Juventus, Manchester City and Real Madrid.

    “But (Barcelona’s outgoing president Joan) Laporta has already stated he is not for sale and Ibra is very happy in Barcelona.”

  35. Euler
    May 27, 2010

    Many Barca supporters villify Real for their money and spending. But how they chose to spend their money is up to them. They have large revenue streams and access to credit. Good for them.

    The dysfunctional part of Real is their complete lack of a coherent strategy and vision for what the club should be. And they have no strategy because they have no patience.

    Patience and is one of the Barca’s single biggest strategic advantages over Real. Real couldn’t put together the kind of youth program Barca has because they think far too short term and don’t have any patience. They are the perfect club for the contemporary world in that regard.

    But patience isn’t only part of the organizational philosophy when it comes to youth players. For long term strategic thinking to work it has to be part of the entire organizational philosophy.

    Ibra was purchased as part of a strategic decision by Pep, Txiki and Barca leadership. Right now they are still trying to optimize how that strategy translates into tactics. That takes time.

    That takes – patience.

    Or maybe we should invite Perez in for consultation. I’m sure he could solve the Ibra “problem” as expeditiously as he handled the Sneijder and Robben situations from last year.

    • Tutomate
      May 27, 2010


      Yes judge at the time of judging wich os at the end of his contract. Or at least just wait till the end of the 2 year mark.

  36. Blow-Grenade
    May 27, 2010

    Barcelona so often mesmerise because they play as if from memory, each pass and movement into space an automatic expression of a pattern created on the training ground the week prior to the match. Not Zlatan. When he receives the ball you can see him thinking, straining to remember the moves, or contemplating ditching the script altogether while the moment passes. For all abilities, Ibra made Barça a slower proposition, and therefore easier to defend against.

    • Kxevin
      May 27, 2010

      Slower is a perjorative word, which tends to expose bias. Different? I’d say the two goals that he scored against Arsenal at the Emirates were pretty quick, right? And fast. Not to mention possessed of shooting touch coupled with great control.

      Or do those not count for the purposes of the “he ain’t good” debate.

      The analysis that you cite is precisely why to label Ibrahimovic anything other than a work in progess is misguided. The Barca system works best when people know how to play it. Henry manufactured goals his first season. His second season he was fully integrated, and understood the system. Voila.

      Look at how much better Keita was this season, by way of another example.

      Did Ibrahimovic struggle to adapt as much as the system struggled to adapt to him (an important caveat, that last one)? You bet. What if we’d sold Henry after the first season, as people were clamoring?

      • Blow-Grenade
        May 27, 2010

        I am with you Kxevin. I just hope Ibra gets better.

    • gv
      May 27, 2010

      i think you said it yourself.

      “Barcelona so often mesmerise because they play as if from memory, each pass and movement into space an automatic expression of a pattern created on the training ground the week prior to the match.”

      our players didn’t learn everyone’s moves a week prior a match. they’ve all been playing for how many years now, from the cantera to the first team. with our core players, xavi, iniesta, messi, pique, puyi, even pedro, busi and bojan, coming from the cantera, they were taught how to move or position themselves with or without the ball the barca way.

      i don’t think ibra stalls the play because he cannot remember anything from practice. i think, it has more to do with him not being familiar with how his teammates play. yeah, he plays with them everytime during practice, but a primera or ucl game is much different from a training match. players move differently, reacting on how the opposing teams play them. this is what ibra needs to learn, and i know he’ll adapt more now after a season with us. it just takes time. even henry took a season to be fully adapted to our system. and our players need to adapt to ibra too.

      plus, i don’t think one could compare berbatov to ibra. berba’s just a flop. 😛

      • gv
        May 27, 2010

        apparently, kxevin and i had the same thing in mind. he just types a hell lot faster.


  37. ElShowDeJason
    May 27, 2010

    “Since most of our opponents are playing us defensively, there is not a lot of room left for a big object to pick up its speed. We need somebody who can accelerate quicker to create an immediate confusion and distort the defensive positioning.”

    Good point, if only we had someone like that. Small, quick, maybe Argentine?
    We have Messi and Iniesta to disrupt thightly organized lines.
    However there is a problem with one deminsional tactics.
    1. Iniesta goes down for half the season, and suddenly we’re screwed. ex. last season
    2. Pep saw first hand last season that having 5 really quick good dribblers in the front isn’t always going to be effective. Sometimes you need some tacticaly variation. Especially against teams like Chelsea. Eto’o/Hnery/Messi/Xavi/Iniesta was NOT effective.
    You could argue that Ibra wasn’t effective against Inter, but I want someone, anyone on this blog to stand up and say that Alves put in any half-decent balls into play. He didn’t. In fact no one did.
    When Ibra makes runs from deep, in theory it should pull defenders with him, leaving holes on the wings. Except that without a threat on the left, two center backs are happy to shadow him, knowing that they can neglect the left because P! is running around crazily over there.
    The one time we decided to actually expose this space, Maxwell waltz to the left byline and Pedro! scored.
    And we never tried it again 😡

    To liken this American Football, Pep aknowldeges that we have a great rushing game. (clearly Xavi is our quarterback, Messi, and Pedro! our Running Backs) But Pep doesn’t want a one-dimensional strategy, so he wants to be able to employ different tactics. So he buys a fast, Big-as-hell Wide receiver. So now we can rush or pass.
    The problem is that the team isn’t used to, and hasn’t developed it’s passing game.

    Back to real football, we need to keep having him make random box crashes, because even if the ball doesn’t get to him, he should draw defenders, and if he receives it uncomfortably, we’ve seen he has the power, and skill to dish it off to a rushing attacker (Messi or Villa).

    And like someone said earlier, Pep should instruct him to shoot more from the outside occasionally. Not all the time, but sometimes a healthy dose of selfishness is good for a striker.

    • Tom_Johnson
      May 27, 2010

      “Good point, if only we had someone like that. Small, quick, maybe Argentine?”

      I see what you did there 🙂 One is simply not enough. We need at least one more (2 out of 3 up front) doing the same thing. That is why I was hoping for Ribery to emulate what Ronaldinho and Messi were able to do against Chelsea few years ago. Iniesta is simply not an option at lw.

      You are echoing the statements from my earlier post. We do need a viable plan b and plan c (us playing on the counter attack). The strategy that it is well thought and exercised in practice and not roll the dice kind of thing. It is just that Zlatan’s contribution this year didn’t make that strategy yield the results we hoped it would.

      “And like someone said earlier, Pep should instruct him to shoot more from the outside occasionally. Not all the time, but sometimes a healthy dose of selfishness is good for a striker.”

      That would be me again 🙂

      • ElShowDeJason
        May 27, 2010

        Exactly, I’m not really contradicting you in the Ibra/PlanB debate.

        What I am saying is that maybe it’s not Ibra’s fault about him not being a proper plan B.

        Pep brought in a Plan B player, and gave him a plan A playbook, and Xavi is trying Plan A plays with him. And Alves’s cross just sucked… for the most part.

        I wasn’t necessarily counter-arguing anything you said.

        I’m just advocating that we can’t blame one without blaming everything, for every fault Ibra had, there was an equal and opposite force at work (hehe… another Physics law 🙂 )

        • gv
          May 27, 2010

          like what i said on the inter-barca review, our crosses to the box improved when ibra was replaced by bojan. why cross more for a 5’7 guy when we had a 6’5 there before him?

          • Tom_Johnson
            May 27, 2010

            That is exactly what happened. Like with every pass there has to be an understanding and timing developed between the passer and the player at the receiving end.

            Something was definitely off between Zlatan and his suppliers. Maybe he doesn’t yet understand when, how and where to move. It has to be said that some of those crosses were poor.

            On a side note, didn’t Bojan miss a clear-cut-header both against Inter and last year against Chelsea (right at the very end in camp nou)?

        • Tom_Johnson
          May 27, 2010

          It is the managements’s fault he came in with such a price tag.

          It is Pep’s responsibility to utilize Zlatan’s abilities in such a way to benefit the team most. Play him to his advantages.

          1. He has great ball handling skills-make him dribble more in and around the box.

          2. He has a huge frame. Anchor him deep in the box (kinda like when you post the guy in basketball). He can protect the ball very well with that frame and make the defense react. This also allows for the rest of the team to come closer and in the better position to shoot.

          If the defenders flock to him, he can see where the “help” is coming from and pass the ball accordingly (sort of like when he back-heeled to pique against racing). If he is left one on one, he needs to turn around and either dribble or shoot. His shot is very powerful and we need to utilize this more

          3. He is tall. Lets work more in practice to make him an aerial threat. I would personally “script” the plays so he knows ahead of time where he needs to be. It is amazing to me how many times the crosses were missing him and going to our shorter players instead. The ridiculous amount.

          But the one thing no one is addressing is lack of goals from the mid-fielders. It is alarming. If we establish the threat from this position (scoring on a consistent basis from 20yards out) the defenses will be forced to respect that and step up to block it. This would in return open more room in the middle for Zlatan (or whoever plays as a central striker).

          The frustrating part is that by the time the season rolled around it seemed they are still not on the same page (or they were having different playbooks as you had put it).

          • barca96
            May 27, 2010

            ur right regarding the defenders coming out.
            it’s like they know even when xavi get’s a clear shot on goal he won’t shoot so the defenders will just keep op sticking to our attackers. same thing goes for iniesta and busi. keita takes shots.and as kxvin posted after the vallalodid game, you saw what happens when yaya takes a shot…hehe 3 defenders lunging in

  38. Vj
    May 27, 2010

    Boy, I can’t wait for next season to start.. Even the WC.. Something to take my mind off the Silly Season.. Ok, time to pop some Hector pills..

  39. Euler
    May 27, 2010

    One player is not a plan B. He’s part of a plan.

    A true plan B is an integrated, alternative strategy in which multiple parts act in unison.

    For example, a true plan B could be the following. If you are up 1-0 in the 19th minute away in the CL semi’s you could reduce your risk of the opposition scoring on the counter by substituting in your better, more physical defensive players or even playing two holding midfielders deep who have ball control skills to make sure that at least one of them is marking the other teams 10 so he’s not left alone in front of the goal. Similarly in such a strategy, when up 1-0 one might want to also substitute in a better defensive player on the wing so that the opposition’s right back can’t make unimpeded runs.

    That would be an example of a true plan B – it’s a different strategy than plan A which involves a different approach to playing the game and coordinates all the pieces in unison.

    Whether or not such a plan B could work for Barca is a different issue. But if it wouldn’t then that speaks to the difficulties of enacting a plan B when you have a certain system.

    • Tom_Johnson
      May 27, 2010

      We certainly have enough talent and physical ability to perform in a way that would limit our opposition coming back from 0-1. The way Pep “reacted” in that game is the way Rijkaard would do. I thought we have learned from our mistakes.

      Since we dominated the proceedings and then scored, Pep thought there should be no changes. But he had to realize that Inter will have to make a push at home (to stay in the game) and that we are living ourselves vulnerable so high up the pitch.

      He could’ve easily put Abidal in right at the beginning of second half and instruct the players to play in such a manner that would limit our exposure and preserve the result. Dirty fouls included. The 0-1 or 1-1 is a great way to end up first leg away from home. Instead, he got overconfident not believing that Inter can do much against us. Mourinho’s teams are one trick pony when it comes to scoring against us. Limit their counter-attack and they are screwed. To Pep’s credit, the second goal came after a blatant foul on Messi and third was offsides but still.

      What is the most frustrating part is that we had to listen the numerous birdbrains giving all the credit to mourinho. It could’ve easily been avoided if we were just “swallowed our pride” a bit and played just to win and not to win and entertain.

      • barca96
        May 27, 2010

        yes i agree.
        pep made the mistakes at emirates and at san siro.

  40. Tom_Johnson
    May 27, 2010

    It is the managements’s fault he came in with such a price tag.

    It is Pep’s responsibility to utilize Zlatan’s abilities in such a way to benefit the team most. Play him to his advantages.

    1. He has great ball handling skills-make him dribble more in and around the box.

    2. He has a huge frame. Anchor him deep in the box (kinda like when you post the guy in basketball). He can protect the ball very well with that frame and make the defense react. This also allows for the rest of the team to come closer and in the better position to shoot.

    If the defenders flock to him, he can see where the “help” is coming from and pass the ball accordingly (sort of like when he back-heeled to pique against racing). If he is left one on one, he needs to turn around and either dribble or shoot. His shot is very powerful and we need to utilize this more

    3. He is tall. Lets work more in practice to make him an aerial threat. I would personally “script” the plays so he knows ahead of time where he needs to be. It is amazing to me how many times the crosses were missing him and going to our shorter players instead. The ridiculous amount.

    But the one thing no one is addressing is lack of goals from the mid-fielders. It is alarming. If we establish the threat from this position (scoring on a consistent basis from 20yards out) the defenses will be forced to respect that and step up to block it. This would in return open more room in the middle for Zlatan (or whoever plays as a central striker).

    The frustrating part is that by the time the season rolled around it seemed they are still not on the same page (or they were having different playbooks as you had put it).

    • gv
      May 27, 2010

      with our midfieler’s lack of outside shots, i think it has to do with their training in the cantera. i think they’re taught to pass the ball more than shooting. we’ve seen that with xavi. even when he had some chances to atleast test the keeper, he seemed reluctant to shoot and just passes it to someone else. even pep just scored 5 or 6 goals for us when he was playing. keita and yaya have wicked shots too in their arsenal, but they don’t do it much.

      • Tom_Johnson
        May 27, 2010

        I imagine you agree with me that is something we must improve on if we are to raise our game to another level.

  41. Ciaran
    May 27, 2010

    Success and failure is a touchy subject in Spanish football and more specifically in Barcelona.
    Take Frank Rijkaard. He was less than successful at the start & everyone was calling for his head. He then turned it around and his team were considered dream team 2. Then we missed out on a league by head-to-head record even though we had a better goal difference than EE. He was a failure again and everyone wanted to get rid of him; eventually did.

    Zlatan has been successful but in reality could and should have been better. He is one of his own biggest critics so I’m sure he is determined that this summer will be a good one.
    His chemistry with his teammates isn’t where it needs to be. Xavi wasn’t releasing passes at the correct time. Ibra’s runs were to the wrong side of the defender. Messi was running into the same space and Henry was crossing near post when Ibra went far etc.

    Bojan has been playing in this system all his life AND HE IS BETTER at it. He is not a better player than Ibra but Pep recognized that the system is more important than the individual and did what he had to do in order to secure the league title.
    If Ibra does not assimilate into the system in the way that is needed then he will be sold next summer because Villa will immediately fit in and Bojan is getting better by the match.
    If he does fit in then he can bring more to our game than either Villa or Bojan.

    As far as his transfer fee goes… we paid it, he’s here, deal with it. Eto’o didn’t want to be here. Pep didn’t want him. Villa could’ve signed for us last year and been out injured. Until we have a time machine and can go back then just let it be.

    • Jim
      May 28, 2010

      Agreed absolutely 🙂 Apart from the fact that he won’t be given a whole season I don’t think.

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