Money, intent and a Barca Tag Day? Not likely, kids!

We’ve seen the joyous news in the English footy press, that we have about a zillion dollars in debt, and will probably have to turn to the Camp Nou travestis for some sort of revenue sharing plan, anything to make the bills, because Barca is busted! Yay!

Um, not so fast.

They won’t be needing to hold tag days for us any time soon, which must frost some people’s bacon.

To recap, for those who have been sleeping through all of this. When Joan Laporta and his administration left office, they said we had an 11m profit. When Sandro Rosell and his administration took office, they said “Not so fast, that’s actually a 400m+ deficit.”

Now, I’m not big on man crushes, but as a journalist, numbers terrify me. It’s why I chose to make my living at words. So it must now be revealed that I have a full-on man crush on the blogger who is Swiss Ramble, for the most excellent financial analysis that lays bare any and most of the high-and-mightiness that big-time footy sides bring to the table.

The latest post, titled “What’s Happening With Barcelona’s Finances,” is here. Clink the link for the full glory. It’s a delightful read, and says what we pretty much all knew: Laporta was trying to make himself look good as he scuttled down the rat lines, and Rosell was trying to make Laporta look bad, to derail the ambitions of the would-be King of Catalunya.

And the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’ll just clip some interesting tidbits then natter about them, but you should visit the Swiss Ramble site, for the full monty. Give ’em some clicks. Anybody who does work that excellent deserves them.

even in an age where we have International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), accounting is not quite as black-and-white as people might imagine. There is a considerable degree of judgment applied over which revenue and costs should be recognised in the accounts. Even Faus admitted that the old accounts were not “fixed”, but the new board had simply taken a far more conservative approach, “We opted for caution.”

Translation: Sure, we jiggered the numbers to make Laporta look like a bigger git than he is. So?

This is certainly their right, as to the victor goeth the spoils, right?

One of the fundamental accounting conventions is prudence and it does look like Laporta had a tendency to count his chickens before they hatched. On the other hand, you can be too careful. As an analogy, if you believe that it’s going to rain, you might take an umbrella with you when you go out, but you probably wouldn’t refuse to leave the house just in case you get wet.

Translation: The truth is somewhere in the middle.

you have to ask whether Barcelona set a completely unrealistic budget for 2009/10.

On the face of it, looking at the projected growth from the 2008/09 results, you would have to say no. Revenue was only budgeted to increase by €20 million from €385 million to €405 million and almost all of that growth was due to €40 million profit on sales of assets (players €25 million, land €15 million). All other revenue streams were largely unchanged with marketing revenue actually forecast to decline, as they did not anticipate a repeat of the previous season’s spectacular trophy wins.

They also forecast €13 million cost growth from €362 million to €375 million, but this looks less reasonable. Player amortisation was budgeted to increase by almost 30% (€16 million), reflecting the impact of new players, but salaries were hardly increased at all. This never made sense to me and, as we shall see, this proved to be hopelessly optimistic.

Translation: Hang on there, Joan. Talent costs money, and a lot of it.

So how did the actual 2009/10 results compare to this budget?

Using the figures after the audit adjustments, we can see that the revenue was pretty much in line. In fact, it was actually €4 million better than budget, as the negative variance due to the non-booked profit from the land sale was more than compensated by the core revenue. Marketing revenue was €7m above budget, thanks to more royalties from Nike and higher merchandise sales, while television revenue, the source of so much concern, ended up €16 million better than budget (11% higher than last year), mainly due to more money from the Champions League, following the 30% increase in the total pool. Although match day income was slightly lower than budget, it rose by 3%, helped by a 7% increase in the number of members.

However, the stand-out variances against budget were in the costs, which were an awful €103 million worse, coming in at a grand total of nearly half a billion Euros. The audit provisions are the reason for the €66 million adverse variance in other expenses, but the real damage is done in salaries. Adding together all staff (sports and administration) produces a jaw-dropping figure of €263 million, which is €36 million worse than budget. Put another way, the budget was out by 16%, which is a hell of a lot in just 12 months. It’s not as if they’re trying to forecast the lottery numbers, for heaven’s sake.

In fact, after all the audit adjustments, the total shortfall against budget is a round €100 million. Ouch. The solid revenue growth of 6% has been obliterated by terrifying cost growth of 32%. Granted, a considerable chunk of this is the result of once-off provisions, but much of it is down to player expenses – amortisation and salaries.

The wages were already very high, but €263 million is a scary figure. To place that in context, big-spending Real Madrid “only” paid out €187 million in staff costs last year (though it may have increased since then). The club identifies three reasons for the increase: new signings, contract improvements and variable compensation. The bonus payments were worth around €40 million, so Barcelona are, to some extent, victims of their own success.

Translation: Talent costs money, and boy have we been generous with the incentives and contract sweetenings.

Some have speculated that Laporta only left Rosell enough funds to either make the payroll or buy new players, but not both, thus forcing the new president to not make any marquee signings in his first summer. Others have attributed the shortfall to the purchase of David Villa, when Barcelona for once had to pay the entire transfer fee upfront, due to Valencia’s own financial travails. On the other hand, some have claimed that the liquidity crisis was caused by Rosell’s decision to cancel the scheduled price rise in season tickets, as the previous board’s (unpublicised) request for a bank loan had assumed this additional revenue as part of their business plan. This meant that Rosell had to re-submit a modified loan request.

It has surely become obvious by now that there is more than a hint of politics in this whole mess with FC Barcelona caught in the middle of a deeply personal battle between the incoming and outgoing presidents. Although Laporta and Rosell were colleagues on the board between 2003 and 2005, they have famously fallen out and now only communicate through lawyers. Rosell was elected on a platform of sorting out the financials, so he is hardly going to say that everything is “hunky dory” once he’s put his feet under the desk. Having said that, it is equally clear that Laporta would like to go out with a bang: financial stability as well as sporting success.

Translation: I told you so.

n fact, there have been so many contradictory statements coming out of Barcelona, that it’s almost impossible to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. How can a club need a €150 million loan to pay its wages, but the next minute also have a transfer budget of €50 million (sorry, €89 million after player sales)? That’s some transfer pot for a club with cash flow problems. Until we can examine the comprehensive financial statements, it’s difficult to get to the bottom of this, but something doesn’t add up.

What is clear is that Barcelona need to somehow improve their financials. The most immediate action should be to cut costs and they have plenty of scope to do this with a couple of obvious targets. They have already started the process of reducing the enormous wage bill by offloading Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez to the New York Red Bulls and selling Chygrynskiy to Shakhtar and Yaya Toure to Manchester City. The latter two sales also provided the double whammy of bringing in €39 million of sale proceeds. There may be more to come here with Alex Hleb and Martin Caceres likely to go on loan, though it now seems unlikely that the high-earning Ibra will leave this summer.

Translation: Yes, we have debt and we need to do something about it. The easiest short-term thing is offloading some stuff. Hey, looka that.

I could go on and on with a not-so-detailed analysis of the excellent analysis over at Swiss Ramble. But do yourselves a favor, and go read it. Then come back here and discuss. And I’ve even reached out to the post’s author with an invite, sort of a “Hey, we’re over here” in case they’d like to pay us a visit, and clear up any questions that haven’t been answered by a tip-top effort.

My bottom line is that we’ve all suspected that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Rosell isn’t entirely evil, Laporta isn’t entirely good. Both are self-aggrandizing, ruthless businessmen. This is good. The latter has lorded over a staggering period of sporting success, from hoops to football. What will the former do? Only time will tell, but it looks as though they are taking the right steps to address the club’s balance sheet (never mind the skullduggery), and not just because of the looming FIFA financial strictures governing European competition.

As a soci, it worries me that at the end of our deal with UNICEF (2011), that will be well within Rosell’s tenure and he might look at selling the shirt as a way to raise quick cash. As we see, however, that isn’t the only way, so it is my sincerest hope that should such a thing arise, common sense will prevail.

And that’s what I (sort of) know. What say ye?

P.S. The “translations,” such as they are, are mine. Word.

By Kxevin

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


  1. hasn’t anyone come up with a good nickname for Mourinho? darth maul or something? 😉

  2. Saying Ibra is one of the 11 starters set in stone is disrespecting to Bojan and Pedro who started the end of last season with the last chance of a title on the line. Breaking the bank for him is still having repercussions as Sergio and Keita are not enough. Relying on Barca B players to fill a gap and deliver a championship is not the formula for success. Sergio and Keita are very similar relying on their quickness and receiving a lot of contact. I’m left wondering all the time if Keita is going to get up.

    1. Disrespect how? By saying we want to take a shot with one of the most talented strikers in the game? I’ll take that disrespect. If Krkic were the answer, we wouldn’t have bought Villa. If Pedro could provide the width to make our attack go, we probably would have trebled again.

      Guardiola knows his squad, what he wants and who he wants. I was sitting in front of some locals at El Clasic, whining about how Krkic should have been the sub, right up until Ibrahimovic scored a wonder goal. Then it was “Molt be, molt be!”

      Pefro is a firestarter like Giuly, not a starter. Krkic is potential, and lots of it. Ibrahimovic is a striker who has proved himself in the land of catenaccio, came to us injured and out of shape, and stilll wasn’t that far off his goal tally of the previous season, with Inter. If Guardiola didn’t etch his name in stone, I would question his sanity.

    2. Pep doesnt have Ibra’s name etched in stone (como titular), thats why Pep didnt start Ibra in those games at season’s end, and the choice appeared to be a good one.

      It all depends on form, attitude, and the whole “horses for courses” thing….who the opponent is, etc.

      Even in your words Kxev, nobody is guaranteed a start, and that’s the way it should be. Ibra needs competition and if that means benching him when need be, Pep would be fully sane to do so. I would question his sanity if he *did* etch Ibra permanently in the starting 11.

  3. I guess Messi can fill in at defensive mid as Barca are so stacked at forward. I mean really the hopes of this amazing team are on Iniesta not getting injured this year? Last year Maxwell played left mid in the biggest game of the year. And so far Barca sells YaYa and gets coy with Cesc when he’s worth every penny of the 50 mill bantered about.

  4. Ibra scored most all his goals in the first 10 games with that injured hand. And I think it was a reflection of La Liga giving him too much respect early on. With Villa and Iniesta everyone is going to see better chances. Your most talented striker has a lot of baggage and he’s brought to Barca, getting himself benched in the meantime. If this season is a fresh start for him so be it, but if Pep stays with him as excruciatingly long as last season, I’m out of the Pep camp for good.

    1. “I’m out of the Pep camp for good.”

      Will you also forward your resume to the club as a potential replacement? :/

  5. You say Pedro was the reason no back to back? Are you kidding me? No way! Yaya sat the bench at home against Sevilla and away to Inter. Mascherano might not be such a bad idea.

    1. No, I said lack of width. Pedro was partly culpable. So was a mostly worthless Henry. As the season progresses, nobody, including Messi, will be etched in stone. But you start the season with the strongest lineup, and that lineup includes Ibrahimovic. Fitmess, or lack thereof, catches up with you. So a player will tail off.

      It’s also important to note that Ibrahimovic had more space when Henry was in the lineup. Even an empty threat still created space. As Henry rightly found the bench, that width, even fake, went away. And our total attack suffered, even as Messi thrived, thanks to the space created by the Ibrahimovic threat. It’s why Messi, absent one of thoae transcenxent games, was eaaier to play without Ibrahimovic in the lineup.

      This season, with real width in the form of Villa, you should see our offense as potent as it was in the year of the treble. Width is the answer, rather than Ibrahimovic being the problem, as his detractors are fond of believing.

      As for Guardiola, it would take a lot for me to leave his fan club. He knows his club and his players. It’s why Krkic didn’t get time when he was ineffective, which was, lest we forget, most of the season.

  6. the truth is we won la liga without ibra in final critical games.and yes ibra is not a automatical starter.he has to fight for a spot this season!thats
    good!but in C.L is another story!he was so poor in both semifinals!we wanted a plan B and we lost our beautiful game with sami..

    1. We won La Liga as a team effort. It couldn’t have happened without Ibrahimovic’s goals, or Pedro’s, or Messi’s, or any of the other players who stepped up and made significant contributions to the club’s efforts.

      We lost the width that made the Henry/Messi/Eto’o trident work so well. It isn’t any one player. Yes, it’s fashionable to say “Barca screwed up by selling Eto’o and getting Ibrahimovic.” I don’t go in for fashion. You can watch the matches and understand what happened.

      No. Width.

      Ibrahimovic was poor in both semis. What did Messi do? What did Iniesta do? What did Xavi do? We know what the defense did. It let in 3 pillow-soft goals that put us in a hole going back home. We know what Krkic did, he pushed a header wide that would have been the difference.

      But yes, that’s all Ibrahimovic’s fault. Makes perfect sense to me. As I noted, blaming Ibrahimovic doesn’t stand up to analysis.

      Ramzi’s challenge for you is an interesting one. Don’t take this the wrong way because blogs and message boards are filled with folks like you, but you’re very negative. Almost constantly. It’s why Ramzi suggested that for every 10 bad things you say, endeavor to say one good thing. Just one.

  7. Why does everyone think Pep took a dig at Ibra for playing Krkic in the last part of last season?

    I think Pep pointed this out before, but Krkic missed out on the first part of the season with a very unfortunate injury in the first league round of last season, that really struck his chances of getting playing time, let alone a starting position. But I think out of respect and confidence Pep let Bojan play the last bit of the season for many reason, but I think the main reason was to give Bojan his chance he never got because he started off injured last season.

    This doesn’t mean that Ibra was in any good form at that time, he was pretty off colour. But we all know what kind of coach Pep is, no matter who you are, Messi or Xavi, if your not performing then Pep will not hesitate to take you off, pure and simple, no one has a secure position in the XI. But on the other hand, Ibra managed to shut his mouth, well maybe not his agent. But Ibra took the benching well and didn’t cause any trouble. Unlike Yaya or Hleb, Ibrahimovic understands his role and he understands when he is not performing, that is normal, he is a competative man, but he is also rational.

    I respect Ibra because he is driven this season.

    1. It’s not a question of taking a dig at Ibra. Krkic was just playing very well at the time, and Ibra wasn’t. Krkic deserved the games at the end of the season due to his form, nothing more nothing less.

    2. It’s my believe that we wouldnt have won the league with Ibrahimovic playing those final games instead of Bojan. We wouldnt have won the Sevilla away game no way. I think Bojan grew as a player in those games, and with the first team experience he has and him being still extremely young he could be one of the sensations this year.

      I wish Ibrahimovic has a great year this season, but I still believe he was a flop this year. Maybe if he hadnt cost so much damn money I could say he had an acceptable season, but in my opinion you always have to judge a player for the money he cost, even if it wasn’t his fault he cost so much. Same like with everything in life, if you listen to your cousin play the guitar and she plays it not very good you don’t care too much, but if you pay a lot of bucks for a concert and the performeris horrendous then you will be in your rights to heckle her. In that sense I could say that last season he was an innocent flop.

  8. and a question:what exactly ibra proved in italy?winning titles with inter without strong milan and juve?and what he did in europe?and for us?a goal in el classico home and 2 in arsenal.yeah for all that we pay him 10m?but now we have a better striker than ibra i hope we don.t waste him in L.W

    1. Agreed. Go back and watch the matches. It’s easy to hate Ibrahimovic and his transfer fee. Video doesn’t support said contention.

    2. and a answer:
      – Won the title every single year. (even though the Juve one was taken away due to some crazy deal in the Juventus managment)
      – top goalscorer the first/third season in Inter
      – Third season he was the top goal scorer (Capocannoniere) in Serie A with 25 goals
      – Against Parma in the final league matchday on 18 May 2008, he returned from a chronic knee injury and scored both goals as Inter won 2–0, clinching their third straight Scudetto
      – 2008–09 season “goal of the year” in serie A
      – Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year: 2005, 2008, 2009
      – Serie A Footballer of the Year: 2008, 2009
      – UEFA Team of the Year: 2007, 2009

      Exactly what did he prove in Italy? That he was one of the most influential players for several years maybe?

  9. Jan Vertonghen as our last signing please.

    He is young, wouldn’t be too expensive (15 million-ish), can play both CB and DM, plays for Ajax and would be able to adapt to our system without too much trouble, and is very highly rated by Crujff.

    I can’t figure out why he isn’t on the roster yet.

  10. Mourniho and RM are winning La Liga this year. Our squad is too thin. We have the best starting lineup in the world. We only have adequate depth for our forward line. We need another defender as Puyol-Pique-Milito are the only the cbs we have. But the real problem is our midfield. Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta is a great midfield, but the only sub we have for all 3 positions is Keita.

    People on here who are bitching about Mascherano are clueless. Mascherano is just what we need, what happens if two of keita-xavi-iniesta-busquets get injured at the same time..WE WOULD BE SCREWED. A player of Mascherano’s position is a MUST.

    1. So you’re going to completely disregard the youth players pep says hes going to count on?I think we need more players but its not so extreme.Id rather we didn’t sign a defender anyway, we signed about 2 good ones in the last decade(Gabi, Rafa), all the rest have not worked out, someone like fontas at least knows what the demands of a Barca CB are.Defensive midfielder is necessary for sure though.

    2. I respectfully disagree with you here Jordi.

      In the last decade, we have signed Abidal, Thuram, Maxwell, Alves, Pique, Edmilson, Sylvinho, Oleguer, Toure(played as CB a couple times – pushing it I know), Belletti, Gio VB. With the exception of a couple, they have all played pretty big roles in our squad (not Puyol sized roles but big nonetheless).

      Even if you just took the ones from the last 5 or 6 years and you have Alves, Pique, Abidal and Maxwell, who were all massive especially over the last 2 years.

    3. I mean I’m frustrated we haven’t signed anyone else, but to say RM are winning the league on August 10th is ridiculous. That’s a sure fire way to get people to not take your post seriously.

    4. “Clueless?” Really? I haven’t seen your name before and you pop in and start flipping about insults? People are entitled to their opinion, just as you are. It doesn’t make them “clueless.” It makes their opinion different from yours. Those are two very different things.

      Our club is between a rock and a hard place. Ideally, we would have two separate starting XIs to roll out, like Chelsea. But that would involve expenditures that we cannot, and should not make. Guardiola is going to roll the dice with canteranos such as Dos Santos and Thiago. If it works, he’s a genius. If it doesn’t, that’s life. In many ways, a trophyless season or two would lose whatever fair-weather Barca fans are trolling about, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      Some like what Mascherano does, others don’t. My simple contention is he is too expensive for what we would need from him. Simple as that. Talented? You bet. World class? Absolutely. Expensive? Indeed. Busquets is the starter. We have the starting XI, with Xavi and Iniesta. So where does Mascherano, at 30m+, fit in? We’d buy him for Copa and platoon duty? How happy would he be with that, and for how long?

      If you believe that The Other Spanish Team with its import coach are going to win the Liga, go right ahead. Their board over at The Offside could use your support. Here, we believe that Barca is going to win the Liga again, and will live up to our role as Champions League favorites.

      I refer you to this site’s “What We Have, What We Need” post. Position by position, we take a look at starters, depth and needs.

      What you contend could be true of any big club in the world. If your Liga champions suffer injuries to Higuain or Thong Boy, what happens to their chances? If Chelsea suffers injries to Frank Lampard and Drogba what happens? If Arsenal suffer injuries to Van Persie and Fabregas, what happens?

      On another note, the increasingly negative tone in this space is distressing, and it’s coming from the new folks. Not sure what’s happening out there in the world at large, but I’m not a fan of its presence here.

    5. Where would Mascherano fit? Possibly as the starter ahead of Busquets, as he is a superior player, BY FAR. The only thing Busquets has over Mascherano is that he understands the Barca system, but with time Mascherano can learn.

      Canteranos like Dos Santos and Thiago are not players you can rely on. Maybe they come good maybe not, but to put all your season on the line for Canteranos is not smart.

    6. I just took a look at that post you were talking about and you yourself said we would be screwed: “we go from 2 1/2 (Keita is the half) defensive mids to 1 1/2, which ain’t a good number. We’re a wrong foot plant away from being screwed”

      Looks to me like we are on the same page, except I’m being realistic and you’re being too optimistic.

    7. Again, “realistic” and “too optimistic” is a subjective evaluation, based on what someone believes. A DM sub is something we need. Everyone agrees on that. The difference is the who, and how much.

    8. Busquets and Mascherano are different players, just as Busquets and The Yaya are different players.

      Dos Santos and Thiago might be ready to bust out this year, just as some kid named Messi did. You bring them up, give them some first team time, and let them run. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. But it definitely doesn’t work if you don’t try it out. When Busquets started getting playing time, it was “Who the hell is that, and why is he taking time away from our Yaya?” Now look.

      But to say that Mascherano is the “superior player, BY FAR” implies that you have seen Mascherano play in a system such as ours, that you have seen him transition from destroyer to attacking mid to box crasher and back again, playing one-touch passing with Xavi and Messi. I haven’t seen that, so Mascherano’s being a better player for us, in our system is not a contention that I can make.

      I do know price, however. And his would be expensive. I don’t want to buy success. That is the surest way to destroy your youth system. If we have to have less success while laying a groundwork for the future with the likes of Romeu, Dos Santos and Thiago, I’ll take it. Clubs don’t win everything, all the time.

    9. You start with how everyone’s opinion is equally valid then turn around with this bit about how we need to get rid of fair weather fans. They’re just as entitled to root for Barca. Being knowledgeable about Barca doesn’t really make you a truer fan. The club itself doesn’t really distinguish it that way, other than maybe if you spend money on the club or not. And I’m sure the club doesn’t feel the same way you do about going through trophy-less seasons just so you personally won’t have to deal with fair-weather fans and can feel a little more special about your hobby. And guess what, unless your idea is for us to never win any more trophies or play terribly all the time, they’ll be back.

      I also enjoyed that your response to someone suggesting that our squad is too thin to win La Liga is for them to go be a Madrid fan. Way to respect them opinions!

      If you want to get to the discussion. A 30m Mascherano would be too expensive. However most suggesting to get Mascherano are hoping for a cut-price deal. With Inter pulling out, Liverpool having signed Poulsen, they are in a poor bargaining position and are resigned to losing a very unhappy want-away Mascherano. Just because Liverpool fans keep bandying about the 30m fee doesn’t mean that’s what they’re going to get. If we can get Mascherano for 12-15m + Hleb how would that not be worth it? Isn’t this the one benefit of getting Rosell, that’s he’s fiscally responsible and a tough negotiator? If we can’t even get that…jeez. And if we can’t get him for that fee, then I’d agree, forget Mascherano. But if we have a chance to get another world class midfielder to rotate with Busquets when we only have one first team DM why the hell not? He’s not exactly the same as Busquets either. That’s what we wanted to do with Yaya until Yaya left. If you trust the gaffer then Mascherano was certainly someone he wanted last year.

      Not ignoring the youth players, I agree they need playing time. But come on dude, you’re throwing out Jonathan dos Santos’ name and comparing him with Messi? I’ll bet anything Jonathan will never be anywhere near Messi. Jonathan was playing in Juvenile A a year ago before being promoted to Barca B last year. By 20 Messi was Fifa Word Player of the Year runner’s up two years in a row. Your argument is that we should risk wasting the best years of Messi, Iniesta, Xavi’s careers by laying the groundwork for the off chance that JDS and Romeu might become very good first team players? That’s who we are as a team? I beg to differ. We’ve had a lot of promising youth players over the last 10 years. Many of them have not made the first team. I want to stress that point, many of our promising youth players have not made the first team because they simply weren’t good enough.

      This is the best team in our history. We are in a golden generation of talent in the cantera with Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Valdes and so on. It may NEVER be replicated. I’m sorry if I don’t share your idea that I’d rather go trophy-less if necessary if we can keep promoting canteranos every year. This is the single most important time for us to win trophies.

      It doesn’t take away from the legacy of Barca if we buy Eto’o, Deco, Ronaldinho. If our only goal was to play cantera or Catalan based players we could just copy Athletic Bilbao. I think you might have been implying that somehow buying a Mascherano or Ozil takes away from our identity as a club. It’s doesn’t. Our goal is to start with the academy, build a foundation, incorporate other good players who can play the same way, including the best players in the world, express our style of football the best way we can and entertain the fans with our way of football. Not counting on JDS or Thiago as our 5th midfielder does not mean we are ignoring our cantera. Let them be 6th, 7th choice and prove themselves in the Copa and then we’ll rely on them once they’ve earned those minutes.

      Please don’t make it sound like I’m trying to sell the club’s soul. I’m not in any way suggesting we should sell out the academy. It is certainly our basis, and the most important aspect of the club. My contention when the club is obviously short on depth and there are world class players available, we should be looking into whether or not we can get them for a reasonable price. We’re not Madrid or Man United with a ton of depth, we can still find playing time in smaller games for Thiago & JDS even after buying another important midfield squad player.

    10. “My contention when the club is obviously short on depth and there are world class players available, we should be looking into whether or not we can get them for a reasonable price.”

      And who is saying that the team is not or should not? I think the the team is and I think we all wish they do. But that does not mean that when we find a theoretical backup we won’t make a cost benefit analysis. Will the ~20m we pay for Macherano outweigh the performance he will bring to the team. Since we know that Busquets has made himself a big part of the team, and even though he is not an automatic starter, replacing him as a starter would be a hard task. So suppose that he is a back up. Would he be happy as such? Would we be happy with a 20m bench warmer? Was that not our primary contention with a Cesc transfer? Not to mention that it would also takes time from the kids. Same thing with Ozil. This has nothing to do with Barca being too holy for foreigners. I never read into Kxevins comments like that. it should be easy to deduce how Kxevin feels about transfers when you look at his history. Did he not like Henry,Ibra.

      Like you said “I think you might have been implying that somehow buying a Mascherano or Ozil takes away from our identity as a club”.This is what you interpreted not actually what he said far from it actually. But hey I could be wrong.

      Also he said its ok to express opinions even if that opinions is “I think you are wrong”. The problem is when you start calling people “clueless”, “classless”, and say they are “bitching”. IMHO those are different than “fair weathered fans”.

      Other than that I agree 🙂

    11. You’re completely misinterpreting my words.

      1. When a team loses, it separates the fair-weather fans from the “real” fans, who stick with a side no matter what. That’s fact. Barca has a ton of both. Adversity will tell. Simple as that. This space has changed. A lot. New names, new tone, mostly unpleasant. I don’t know who’s a fair-weather fan and who isn’t. What I do know is when (not if) we stop having immense success, or ANY success, some people will flit away, leaving a core of support. A club such as ours needs a core of support to weather it through. Again, simple as that. Barca is the fans, and the socis. It’s the backbone of the club, and that backbone needs to be strong. Some fair-weather fans become die-hards, then socis. Awesome. Others don’t. Adversity cleanses in a positive way sometimes.

      2. I personally don’t feel that a true fan of the club would ever say that EE is going to win the Liga before the season has even started. I won’t ever say that is going to happen until it is a mathematical impossibility for it not to happen. Yes, I do believe that people who believe such things would be more comfortable in another space, with like-minded people. They will be difficult to find here. Our club isn’t as thin as it was last season, and we won the Liga, and came within a misguided Krkic header of making the Champions League final. This year, we have real width again, a mature, improved Busquets, Correia to give real ooomph in the midfield and on the wings, and Maxwell is looking very, very strong. Milito is also back. In the midfield, we are only missing Yaya. Big miss. Enough to kill our chances of success? No. We only had Xavi last year, we only have Xavi this year. People are acting as if not buying two or three players means we’re doomed. I disagree.

      3. I never said that our sole goal should be to play canteranos. I do believe that young talent such as ours should be nurtured. Krkic happened too soon. Now look. We are in a situation on and off the pitch where we need to be careful. We can’t afford to run around bargain hunting. If the talent that we can in fact afford to buy isn’t any better than our farm can provide, why not keep it in the family? If I have to lose a match because a player makes an error, I’d rather it were Fontas or Romeu rather than some 10m import DM, acquired for price rather than ultimate quality. Guardiola would probably say the same, which is why he will most likely stand pat with the main squad, buttressed with canteranos.

      4. No club on the world stage has a ton of depth. Look at what happened to United and Chelsea when Rooney and Drogba, respectively, went down. There were no Premiership clubs in the Champions League semis, which I think speaks eloquently to their depth. People act as though we are the thinnest club in world football. Far from it. Every big club with transcendent talent is an injury away from being less brilliant. I believe that we are better equipped than most to deal with it. Messi goes down, Ibrahimovic leads the line, Villa stays put and Pedro comes in. Iniesta goes down, Thiago potentially grows up fast, or we insert Keita to play off Busquets. Xavi goes down, and Iniesta slides over and Messi slides into the Iniesta role, with a punch.

      5. This is a rare club. And it’s a club whose hallmark, whose core, came from the farm. 7 of its starting 11 came from within. Philosophically, I think that counts for a lot.

      6. The implication isn’t that buying Mascherano or Ozil takes away from our identity as a club. It’s that those players aren’t going to join a club to sit, or be a squad player. And the Catalan press isn’t going to let such a thing happen. Players have agents, agents talk crap. Then what. Another Yaya? Another Ronaldinho? Ozil has had a very good World Cup. We don’t know how he will work in our system with the players that we have, nor do we know how comfortable a star will be with sitting. If Ozil comes, does Fabregas still come? What of the canteranos?

      7. Dos Santos and Thiago have immense potential. If you compare anyone’s development to Messi’s, they will come up short. You grossly misinterpret my words if you think that I made a direct comparison between Dos Santos and Messi. Messi is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. But prima facie, Dos Santos and Thiago might be ready to bust out like Messi not in terms of his mercurial brilliance, but in terms of suddenly being ready for first-team duty in a limited, but important role. Messi is beyond comparison. After all, we just cut the “next Messi” loose on a free transfer. But look at how Xavi developed as another example. And look at what he is now. It’s a delicate balance of timing. For every Xavi there is an Assulin. But if we have another Fabregas situation, I’d rather it was because the farm had too much talent rather than because we bought someone and chased the talent away.

      8. If Liverpool is stupid enough to take Hleb and 10M for Mascherano, we should do the deal. But they aren’t that stupid. We can’t even find a cut-rate buyer for Hleb. What makes anyone think that Liverpool would do that deal, for a player they don’t need, either?

      9. Finally, I respect everyone’s opinion here. But don’t think that I don’t have opinions of my own. At The Offside, we started with fewer than 10 comments per post. In this new home, we’re usually in triple digits, more with a post such as this one. Lot of opinions. But this space is a home. And in that home, I believe you should respect the hosts and the family. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees.

    12. Plus, we’ve had 4 canteranos in the last three years break into crucial roles at the club (Bojan, Pique, Busquets, and Pedro) to such an extent that we ended up selling off or loaning people who they were initially competing with for playing time, like Hleb, Caceres, Toure, Marquez, and Henry.

      When those canteranos joined the first team squad, no one would have predicted that they would soon be getting more playing time than those players who have now left. Fontas, Muniesa, Thiago and JDS are now in a position to do something similar.

      Also, if they fall on their faces, we can look to spend the money for a new midfielder in January, when we’ll at least know who is or who isn’t working out.

      We need to stop buying people out of a panicked sense that we need to add players to keep up with our big-spending rival. Pedro had a bigger impact on La Liga last year than either Kaka or Benzema.

  11. you have a good time @the game, isaiah? place looked pumped.

    frustrating to see @first, but brasszzzil really settled into the fluid, attack minded side i think mano was going for. weird seeing el mister start off w/a doble pivote of ramires and lucas, though.


    1. In my home state and I didn’t go. Great young Brazilian team out there, plus my UMD dudes Gonzalez and Edu (most consistent player for US) started and played the whole match. I’m a dummy.

  12. if we buy anybody in the next year going into next transfer season, we need to look at Ganso. he was *brilliant* tonight, and if he keeps developing he’s going to fulfill Riquelme’s potential to it’s fullest.

    1. Yeah, I like the way he plays. He looks calm and he picks his moments.

      I also liked how Dani played with that squad. I feel like Dani was a better fit for this game than Maicon because of his little short passes and combinations. He is so intelligent with his movements in those situations… sometimes he may do a little too much, but I love it. It made me look forward to the season and the combinations he’ll have with Messi.

  13. EMD now claims that Pep is still mulling over the Ozil operation and although he is closer to saying “no”, if he gives the okay, the deal will be closed within 24 hours. Uh huh.

  14. Hola,

    What do you guys think of this fast-getting-hot Ozil rumour? Maybe the club will decide to loan him out for playing time? Although, I have serious doubts about this signing cos that almost tells Cesc (Yes, yes. I am sorry) we are not gonna come after you for a while, which is hard to believe.

    On the off chance that this deal does materialise, who was the last German we signed? I can’t remember!

    1. Not going to happen. But if we were going to sign him, we wouldn’t loan him out. That would defeat the purpose.

      The only German player I can think of is Schuster.

  15. yer, I don’t think the recent Ozil rumours are even true, three weeks ago EMD and Sport were banging on about how Rosell was travelling to Bremen to finalise a transfer.

    anyway, with reagards to our youth system, we look at our b-team’s progression over the past two/three seasons and they have managed to get promoted twice in that time, while also having to adjust to a new coach, when Luis took over Pep’s place. we also can look over the number of recent youths who have managed to gain a position or appearance in their respective country’s NT. I would take all this as an indication that we should have some sort of confidence in the potential of the current crop.

    Again, like we have witnessed in the pre-season friendlies, the youth players do show a lot of quality and promise. Pep might or might not decide to promote any youths, but I am sure that he is thinking thoroughly through the values of buying or promoting.

    plus, Maxwell can play midfield too…

  16. if the amunts that are all around are true (15 or at least under 20 mill) WHAT’S WRONG WITH GETTING ÖZIL??? He sure is good, and we can later sell him for more money… don’t you think? He plays here a year of two and if pep doesn’t like him we sell him, a skilled ex-FCB player still with many years of good footy. There’s no way we will sell him for less than 15. He can even be part of a CESC OPERATION later, offering özil+money not hleb. Pedro bojan thiago and JDS are really really young still. Only pedro! deserves all confidence by now according to the last two years. If we don’t buy him I hope thiago plays a lot this year with us. But I wouldn’t mind getting Mascherano either.

  17. özil is not going to Barça, ôzil, himself, has confirmed it. Repeat: he is not coming. He is staying at Werder Bremen.

  18. Mascherano’s agent (courtesy of Barcastuff):

    ”A transfer is in the hands of Barcelona. Economically, things are very easy if they want him. If it was for him, he’d already be playing for Barcelona for four years. He would be delighted. Inter is no longer interested, Benitez is out, Liverpool needs money, so the price has dropped a lot. Barça could include Hleb in the deal because Hodgson wants him. Guardiola has the last word on this.”

    Hodgson wanting Hleb makes this interesting. I just want to know the exact figure Liverpool are asking for Mascherano.

    1. If the price is somewhere in the 10m – 20m + Hleb and Mascherano accepts a role as a squad player, I would take it in a heartbeat. But I don’t think any of those things are likely, and besides he is 26 and would likely want more playing time, as he is approaching his best years. While I doubt the signing will happen, I will be happy and welcome him, if he comes.

    2. When it come to the price, he was available for around 30M last summer. As for now 1) he didnt renew his contract with Liverpool yet and 2) he clearly wants to move.

      Taking all that in consediration, I think 20 M + Hleb is too much.

  19. @ Kxevin, I agree with points 1-8 except 2. It is not because you believe or say that B is going to happen but hope/support A to happen that your not a true fan! Even less the fact that one in that case should join a B-minded society (i.e. EE-minded).

    Furthermore, I believe YAYA’s loss will be felt tremendously. While we have strengthened our Width, we lost more depth and quality in our Central Midfield an area where injuries have had a big impact for us the last couple of season’s. Going from arguably 5 Quality-proven starters to 4 with 2canteranos is in my opinion a risk. I’m not doubting JDS or Thiago’s potential but that means that we’ll have to count on them as 1) competition for our 4 starters, 2) our only midfield Game changers available right after the first injury or suspension.

    Offcourse we can put Messi in a CM-position or slide Ibra back a lil more often but an extra DM or CM of “proven quality” (whatever that may be) seems absolutely critical for succes on multiple fronts.

    For the record, I firmly believe in our chances. Nonetheless, I believe we’re more vulnerable than last year due to the fact that imo the center/core of our squad offers less depth than last year.

  20. Kxevin, I will agree to most of your post but there is just one thing that I can’t wrap my head around.

    When you say, “I personally don’t feel that a true fan of the club would ever say that EE is going to win the Liga before the season has even started” it makes me think you don’t know what a fan is. A real fan is one who supports his/her club when they are having success and when they aren’t having anyway. The fact that I don’t think we will win La Liga doesn’t make me any less of a fan as you are. A Fan isn’t someone who believes Barca will win La Liga every year. Just because I think RM will win La Liga doesn’t mean I am no longer supporting Barca.

    1. It’s why I qualified it with “I personally.” I can’t even entertain the notion. It generates actual nausea. And I would never say before the season has even started, nor would I concede the title before a ball has been kicked, just because the club hasn’t signed the kind of player I think it should sign, or lacks the depth that I think it should.

      That’s my opinion, and you have yours. If you believe they are going to win the Liga, that’s your right. But as I said, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone here who, on this date, would agree with you. As for me, even if, coming into the last match of the season, we have Sevilla and they have a two point lead in the standings and are facing a newly-promoted side who can only field 9 men due to injuries, I STILL won’t say they will win the Liga. That’s just my belief.

  21. Getting Mascherano would be very smart. You guys are forgetting (or forgetting to mention) that this is a post WC year. Count on injuries. Either Xavi or Iniesta get injured and we could move Busi forward while Masch covers DM. That way JDS and Thiago get the chance to go for 1st team without it being a make-or-break situation for them. Also Masch seems to have seriously wanted to go to Barcelona for a while now – can we assume that he has affections for our blaugrana? He offers something we do not really have in our squad, a dirty rotten bastard, lol. And he knows how to play that role in a team geared towards offence (Argentina). 20 million seems like a good price to me. If it doesn’t work out we can still sell him next season or the one after.

    I say nay to Ozil, mainly because I want Cesc next season.

    1. absolutely right on masche! It’s great that both want to go to FCB… but to me busi is at least half-way bastard too

  22. @Kast thinking EE wil win the league before it has begun does not make you any less of a fan. It might make you less culé though :p

  23. Some serious high horse comments getting slung around. My opinion stands on the premise that Barca have a huge responsibility to the magical core of players that they have right now, that they are a once in a lifetime event and that even with their massive talent, their chance to put an emphatic stamp on the sport is fleeting and whimsical. Three years ago Rikjaard put Bojan into the fire, you know how that turned out. Last year Sergio faltered without an Xabi Alonso at his side at the expense of Yaya I might add. Now you want to put the season on the line with who? The time is now. This is not a rebuilding session where you try a bunch of stuff and see what happens. We have Villa this year for 40mill last year 45 was too much. Csec is worth 40 but not 50. Mascherano is too much? Messi broke out last year not in the trifecta year. That team did not depend on one player and I say it is no good to put this season on a Sergio and a Thiago.

    1. Your views are distorted.
      No messi did not broke out last year,he has broken out for some years now, but really excelled as a goalscorer during the trifecta year when he :
      won POFTY , Ballon dor , 38 goals in all competitions + 18 assists.
      Last year he was just a little better , mostly because of the fact that we did not have enough service from the rest of our main strikers : ibra’s form declined , henry disappeared(perdo covered for him but still).
      You cant say messi broke out last year , you just cant get much better than winning every individual award there is along with every collective one , and all these done with style.
      Or from another perspective you cant say that messi had declined if he scores 30 goals this year , if villa , pedro and ibra cover for it.
      Last year sergio was excellent and cemented his place in the starting 11.The world cup simply made him look even better.
      You might not like him but thats a fact(for both guardiola and VDB) and whoever is willing to come he better compromise his plans about playing time with the notion that he will most likely mainly cover for busquets.
      The team never relies on one player to perform and win.
      Some players are more important than others but thats that.
      Nobody claimed that we will use a youth as a starter but as a cover.Thats a huge difference.

  24. “Messi broke out last year not in the trifecta year. That team did not depend on one player and I say it is no good to put this season on a Sergio and a Thiago”

    Opinions will be divided on this but for me the moment Messi broke out was when he scored his hattrick at home against EE. If we can call a break out that everybody knew and felt would happen sooner or later a break out. He definitely did not break out later than that clasico though.

    Also I do not understand why it is no good to put this season on “a Sergio”. You mean the same Sergio who outplayed the Atomic Yaya for most of last season. Sergio, WC-winner Sergio? I think we will be fine with Sergio, although I would agree with bringing Mascherano to the New Field (ah, see what I did there :p ). Comparing Sergio to Thiago is a bit strange, since one has pretty much proved it all last season and the other is completely unproven up until now.

  25. I don’t think that anyone is suggesting that we put the fate of the season in the hands of canteranos. What I personally am saying is if we are bargain hunting, unless the bargain is an extraordinary one, I would rather take risk with a player who knows the system.

    Word is that Liverpool has made contact with Hleb and his agent, which boggles my mind. If we can do Hleb+15m for Mascherano, something that further boggles my mind, it’s a deal we have to do. I would worry about complications with expectations and playing time, but it would be a no-brainer. Mascherano for 30m is too expensive, given our needs from him.

    As far as readiness, we won’t know until the roll the canteranos out there and turn them loose. Krkic was a special case. There was some pressure to bring him up because at the time, there was some worry about losing him. In hindsight, making him first-team was in error. Guardiola wouldn’t have done such a thing, but Rijkaard did. So we’re stuck with it.

    Dos Santos wasn’t deemed ready to play for his NT, so how in the hell is he ready to play for Barca, right? From what I’ve seen, he’s more than ready for platooning, sub duty, etc. Would I be comfortable with Dos Santos starting for an injured Xavi in a Champions League elimination match? At present, no. But perhaps he’d prove me wrong this season.

    I think that below a certain level of player, we’re better off with canteranos. I also think that the addition of a young player such as Ozil would make the likes of Thiago and Dos Santos wonder about their future. And if they go somewhere and turn out to be better than Ozil, what then? Do we buy them back also, as we’ve tried to buy Fabregas back? Good question.

    1. – Good argument regarding youth Vs transfers.
      – I think JDS missing the WC was more a tactical decision more than being a quality indicator. Its more that he was not needed, than he was not good enough. (Cesc to Barcelona is another example of the difference).
      – I think with Hleb, we already have a concern about playing time. We’ve been there before. Its up to Pep how far he will rotate. If he hesitates, there will be a problem everywhere. But as you pointed out Hleb+15. More than that, will be overpaying. Then better go for other options available, including Senna if for his age we cant worry about his injury proneness.

  26. somewhat to Kxevin’s point: We’re talking about coverage in the squad. Look at EE or any other team in La Liga…they’re barely getting by on or even have a starting XI! We know who are starting XI are and besides some questions about ultimate quality (not coverage) in CB/DM we are solid across the board. Injuries are inevitable. Guess what? EE will ahve injuries, too. Kaka (granted, hasn’t been that good recently) is out 4 months. Crynaldo has a history of injury. I just don’t see EE as talented as Barca is.

    So to the question…should we go out and spend more or rely on the the youth system? First, look at the integration of other players who we bought recently. It takes time for them to integrate (Ibra, Maxwell, Chiggy didn’t even get a chance). My opinion is that it doesn’t make sense to buy a short term solution because it won’t reap any dividends. They won’t have time to integrate to payoff. However, bringing in the youth you might have the same integration issues (but not as much because they know the system) but you pay nothing for them and can still be a long-term solution (youth and if even one of them fulfills potential it’ll be worth it).

    The great thing is we can save the cash now and if we need to fill-in with transfers we have the January window. This also gives us the luxury of knowing who is fit and in form.

    We also seem to forget that we have the best attacking front-line in the whole world right now. Villa-Ibra-Messi with Bojan, Pedro waiting to dive in. I don’t think we’ll be lacking goals.

    This is a team that had 1 loss in the league last year during its toughest stretch of the season. 1 loss! Where are we weaker this year? CB/DM coverage! Coverage! Not starting talent! I’m going to maintain my (and many others) belief “In Pep We Trust.” I don’t see any more signings.

  27. Of course we depend on canteranos, our squad is 50% cantera and isn’t that the policy? It’s a matter of the farm and the system.

  28. Well, just to let you know: I’d gonna stick with my first impression of Mascherano. There’s this fancy saying that you should judge people on your first impression, but gimme a break. Who doesn’t? 😀

    And if you say you don’t, you’re not being honest with yourself.

    Anyways, I’ll be watching Cuddly (Bojan for the newer people) and FF (Jeffren) in the u-21s.

    English stream: /

    1. Yeah, but Spain’s defending left a lot to be desired. Finland’s goalkeeper made a fantasic save from Merida from point blank range-ish.

      Cuddly’s getting some rough treatment. No respect being paid by the Finnish defense.

      I may be spoiled by Barca and the Spain NT, but this kiddy Spain’s ball control and passing have been pretty crappy.

  29. What a great debate going on here! Thats why i love this blog! I know there has been a bit more of a negative vibe recently but it definitely promotes more debate so I am all for it!

    10-15m + Hleb for Masch is a no brainer IMO. Any more than 15m and it becomes a little too expensive. His agent has already said that Mascherano understands he will be competing with Sergio for DM so I do not think that will be too much of an issue. Sergio can also be pushed into a more attacking role so it just adds more depth to our midfield and more options for Pep.

    As for the whole canterano vs buying stars debate, well I guess it depends wholly on the cantenaro and how good he can be. One thing is for sure, when it comes to the young players in our team Pep knows his shit. Very few ppl trusted Sergio at the start of the season and who ever could have imagined Pedro would reach the heights he has. Well Pep clearly knew. He even knew enough to play Sergio ahead of a very dependable Yaya, much to the dismay of many a fan. Some calling him crazy and accusing him of favourtism. I even heard a few ppl accuse him of being racist! So I think if we can all agree on one thing it should be that when it comes to the cantenaros we should trust Peps judgement. If he thinks that either JDS or Thiago or whoever else is ready to play a part then I am certainly going to trust his judgement. I think it is a LOT less risky depending on a player that our coach knows inside out and a player who knows how to play our way than it is buying a player who may or may not get it. A player can be exceptional in another team, under a diff system and then be a complete flop for us.

    Also all this hype about Ozil is a bit much. HE had a few good games at the WC, so what. There are a lot of players who play great for their NT and not so well for their clubs and a lot of them happen to be German!! (Does anyone remember Milan Baros!?!?!) From what I have read Ozil had an inconsistent season with Werder last year. From what I have seen of him vs what I have seen of JDS and Thiago, either of them could end up as good if not better. Betweem Xavi, Iniesta, Keita, Adriano, Maxwell and even MEssi we have the attacking mid positions covered. That is without even bringing in any cantenaros. I think a far more important position to fill is the DM. Senna or Mascherano would do nicely. Aside from that we are set.

    Mourinho and MAdrid can bring it. They are GOING DOWN. I cannot wait to beat them home and away three years on the trot!

    1. In addition, from what i saw Javi Martinez is captain, alvaro dominguez, and botia afre the CB’s, De gea goalkeeper ,theres parejo and canella and im not sure who else,Azpilicueta maybe, i didnt see from the start.

    2. thanks. i thought that might be javi martinez but had no idea he’d be called back to the u-21’s. might be azpilicueta.

    1. I would think a year, but I seriously don’t know why we didn’t keep him on for preseason at least.

    1. you know, i don’t mind ibra going back to his national team but does puyol really have to play w/la seleccion knowing how thin barca is in the back this season? wouldn’t he have been available for the game vs sevilla had he still been retired?

  30. Well all respect we have very different views on Sergio because in 09 Yaya delivered those trophies to Barca on a platter. He was phenomenal and won games by himself sitting in front of a torn up back line. Last year the back line became the most respected in world football and Valdes got to Spains national team for the first time. Why? Because he was so brilliant in the one on ones. He stopped 20-30 maybe 35 chances. How is that happening? Sergio has featured and is great in possession but doesn’t have the presence of a Yaya or a Mascherano or a Xabi Alonso. He has been surrounded by the greatest players of a generation and they have covered him when he struggled. Sergio has yet to show that when nothing is working up top he can shut down the middle. I don’t think Keita is that player and I think that was the problem last year when Messi delivered the end of the season almost singlehandedly.

    1. And yet, we had a better record in every statistical category in La Liga, and won the Liga. Would The Yaya have stopped any of those goals against Inter at the San Siro? Not from what I saw.

      Yes, there were 1-v-1s. Has anyone compared the number last season, as opposed to the season before? Further, could they have come from teams learning how to play and attack us?

      Finally, Thierry Henry fans might argue that the width and goal scoring threat the he supplied “delivered those trophies to Barca on a platter.” Xavi fans might say the same. Eto’o fans might say the same.

      Here’s something else to think about re: Busquets:

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