So, there was a very interesting commentary on ESPN Soccernet about our recent visit to Korea, and how we, in effect, broke the toilets, insulted the host and left the party throwers unhappy.
I read that. I think they’re right. If you roll into a country as an ambassador of your club, you have your business correct. This means that there is stuff that you do and don’t do.
–In other words, you know who’s going to play and what the contract stipulates about who’s going to play.
–You DON’T confuse North and South Korea.
–You don’t have your star player in effect say “Wherever in the hell this is. Whatevs. I’m too tired from frolicking with dolphins and stuff while on vacation.”
That’s a king-sized dose of Not Cool. I wouldn’t ask us back, frankly. Some might say “Good. Less long travel,” but that area of the world is an immense, untapped revenue stream. If we get in there, it means potentially millions of shirt sales, new socis (provided Rosell lets such things happen), etc.
Clubs do tours such as that for business. We netted a cool 2 million from that match, a total that would have been 200,000 light, had Messi not taken part for his goal-laden cameo. It’s business that helps the club, helps us have the kind of international profile that enables our farm to continue drawing talented players from around the world, and it’s just flat-out cool.
It vexes me mightily to see our players acting like the high-and-mighty blokes that people accuse us of being. It’s why I scoff at the notion that there is a collective, club-wide effort to do something like “unsettle” Cesc Fabregas. We can’t even be bothered to, on the plane ride over, say “Okay, we’re going to South Korea. Journalists are going to ask, and here’s who they played in the World Cup. This country matters as long as you’re here. Let’s act like it does.”
Do players have a right to speak their minds? Yes. Do they have a right to act as though they are not part of a collective that is FC Barcelona, an entity that is beholden to fans, socis, board members and supporters around the world? Hell, no. Yes. Messi is tired. But he isn’t tired from the World Cup. He’s tired from a nice, loooong vacation, a loooong flight and the psychic burden of wrestling with failure. Is that South Korea’s fault? Smile, make pretty and have a club handler fill you in on how the hell to act.
I think that ESPN’s suggestion that we are culpable for the organizing firm not making sure World Cup stars were going to be on the tour is another matter altogether. We aren’t. It would have been easy enough to make those queries and arrangements when booking the tour, and plan accordingly. Not our fault. Some might suggest that we should have checked with Xavi, Iniesta and Villa, since it is our tour, to ensure that they were there. I disagree. We have the responsibility to make sure that the club is in the best shape for the coming season. If that means that Xavi, Villa and Iniesta get an extra-long vacation, so be it. But if they had decided to report in time for this tour, they, as the people who did appear, would have had to have come correct.
—Should Messi have played? Not if Guardiola didn’t want him to. Period. He knows his squad. The sporting director of the club shouldn’t have to intervene in a situation to keep hosts of a friendly happy. That train has already left the station. Again, we should have been on the same page. You can’t tell a coach that he has to play someone vital to the long-term success of his team. First you sell his chosen center back without his full acquiescence, then this. If you were writing a handbook about how to run a successful coach out of town, these would be the first two chapters.
—More irritants: Del Bosque can go to hell. ZubiZa is right in calling nonsense on the call-up of the 7 Barca players who also participated in the World Cup for a nonsense friendly against Mexico, three days before our Copa defense against Sevilla. His excuse that the club didn’t ask for those players to be held out is nonsense. They’re still on vacation, you dour-faced fool. And Mexico called up Jonathan Dos Santos for the friendly as well, because why not? Let’s make sure that ALL of Barca’s midfielders are tired. The players are not going to ignore the call-up, and they can’t very well claim injuries from being on vacation.
My guess is that Del Bosque will play them, but not for very long. The bit of action might be a good thing, to shake out the cobwebs before they start kicking balls in actual anger. At some point it comes down to club vs country, and the right of a club to control its players. Country pays a player’s heart, club pays a player’s bills. Most players are thrilled to represent their country, and I’m sure that Spain’s players are. But this is a friendly. Give them a break. Please. Yes, qualifications for Euro 2012 begin in September, against powerhouse Liechtenstein. I assume Del Bosque wants to make sure the side is in tip-top shape for that intense test.
And that’s what I know.