Barça v. Racing – Match Preview

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe

Sunday, August 29, 2010. 1 PM EST, 7 PM Barcelona time. ESPN Deportes,

So this is the new year? Yes, yes it is. And isn’t it about damn time we get down to some La Liga games? As far as benedictions go, this is a good one. On Sunday, FC Barcelona begins its 80th La Liga campaign and another league championship title defense at Racing Santander. For a squad that many are predicting will win its 21st league title this year, Barcelona certainly faces a number of questions ranging from the starting front line to depth concern and the prospect of youth and young manhood taking over in the midfield. Then again, the club also sports the greatest amount of talent in the league, and likely of any club in the world. So… let’s preview shall we?

A little housekeeping first. Normally Isaiah dutifully handles the previews and Kevin deftly rolls out the reviews but this year we are doing things a little differently and I will be handling a few of each to relieve the workload. I do my previews and reviews differently, so there will be less talking about the histories of cities and more of me waxing prophetic, cause that’s how I roll.

Ignoring the giant purple elephant in the room for a moment, we find ourselves on the road in Santander to start the year. You’ll forgive me if I am none too afraid I’m sure. Last year Racing took a big step back after approaching the middle of the table in 2008-09 and giving our boys a ton of trouble, regression set in and they barely finished above relegation, and were made to look bad on both occasions by our Blaugrana. Sadly, they look to be doomed to relegation now.

The team has done very little to improve after selling Sergio Canales to Madrid and somehow not getting sure guarantees that he would be sticking around on loan this year too (although it is unlike that their poor showing are 100% their fault since all the big clubs in La Liga keep all the money with no revenue sharing that might make the minnows spend a dime or three, but I digress). Instead, they rely on the ageless, and sometimes toothless, Pedro Munitis for goals (although he did get a ton of assists last year). So yeah, it’s not looking good. This does not even mention that Barcelona will be looking to put an ugly offseason behind them and Pep is likely going to beat the boys to death so that they will not underrate the Cantabrian side. In short, this one is going to get bad, and it’s going to get very bad early.

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe
I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I leave off the prose in relation to Santander and tend to our own mountainous and nebulous concerns that have been piling up, since oh, hoisting number 20 last May. Call it a preview distracted by external factors, but that’s where we are, I cannot help it. As if to make matters more hectic in regards to any preview that was going to be put up, everyone decided that 4 days before the end of the transfer window is the appropriate time to buy a highly-coveted MF from Liverpool in Mascherano and sell last summer’s big swipe, Zlatan for more than $40M.

Then there is the possible World Cup hangover that Valdes, Pique, Puyol, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, and Villa might suffer from. Such an affliction may also hit Messi… And where does Villa fit now? Is he playing on the left with Messi in the center and Pedro on the other side? Vice versa? How does Pep fit everyone in? How will the team react with actual, perceivable depth at every position? What is the meaning of life? Will Thiago, JDS, or Fontas make lasting contributions? Should we build a Captain D’s 2 blocks from the BP oil spill? Many of these are unanswerable. However, as your gallant and epic preview writer, I will make some seemingly bold predictions for the upcoming season.

Thiago will make a huge impact
Huge by degrees obviously, but still. I am a foremost proponent of our Brazillia-Spanish (ok, maybe Ramzi has me), but I think the chances are going to be there for him to step in. He played very well in the U-19 Euros and seems to be tailor-made to step in in the event that Iniesta is injured, or for Xavi as well in a pinch. The fact that he scored his first and only first team goal against Racing is just icing on the cake.

FC Barcelona will have to deal with increased cynicism from all sides
Face it, when you are involved in 4 high profile transfer sagas, one of which involves a most beloved EPL player, and 2 more involve asshole agents publicly bashing your manager, things are going to be very public all summer (if you’re counting it home, the blame lies as follows, that one kid-media/FCB/his club; Yaya-agent/himself; Mascherano-player; Ibra-FCB/agent). All of this following a disastrous trip to Asia, in terms of PR (although I think that’s horse shit, when everyone is exhausted that stuff happens, you’ll move on I am sure), means one of the most well known clubs in the world with a reputation for being fan-centric is going to have its rep besmirched, mostly through its own doing. The way this Zlatan business has ended up just makes us look worse, as Kevin alluded to here, is only going to further damage our reputation. When you win, it also makes it worse. Rightly or wrongly, it’s coming.

Maxwell will continue to impress, and Adriano will fill in that role as well
The unheralded Brazilian left back that we signed for $3M last summer has been more than a revelation, he’s been a savior. When Abidal was injured last year, he filled in. He played up front on the left. He provided pace, skill with the ball, and defensive alacrity when needed. He fits Pep’s system perfectly and does what is needed. The perfect signing. Likewise, Adriano can play roughly 5 positions on the field, maybe more. He’s never going to score a lot, but he will fight for the ball, cross well, and use his pace incredibly. What’s better is that he will provide a break for Alves, something we could definitely use without moving Puyol out.

The offense will be better, somehow
Subtract Ibra, add Villa. Another year of maturity for Pedro, plus World Cup success. Xavi is who he is. Iniesta had an amazing World Cup and can hopefully be healthy. Jeffren, well, he’s still alive I think. And Messi, well, he exhibits all the powers of Cthulhu, with none of the awful tentacle-ish side effects of godhood (and as well all know, just like Cthulhu, Messi waits…). And then there’s Bojan, cute little sweet Bojan. Of anyone who is going to benefit from Ibra leaving, it is our midget 11. Running the 4-3-3, the offensive front is going to look like this:

Villa (Iniesta, Maxwell, Adriano) – Messi (Bojan) – Pedro (Jeffren, Alves)
Iniesta (Thiago, Keita) – Xavi (JDS) – Busquets (Mascherano, Keita)

Last year Messi flourished as a false nine after acclimating, and this year, we likely have the trident back with Villa and Pedro on the wings, cutting inside and providing their scoring flourishes. The midfield is equally stacked with the earth, wind, and fire combining. All of these players know their roles, where they fit in, and how to play with the other players. The only one that we may worry about it Villa, but at home on the left with Iniesta and Xavi feeding and Messi providing space and passing lanes, he won’t have trouble acclimating I am sure.

Season Predictions
La Liga CL Spots: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico, Villareal
Europa League Spots: Sevilla, Bilbao, Valencia
Relegation: Hercules, Racing Santander, Levante

Champions League: Barcelona (lose in Finals); Madrid (lose in Semis); Sevilla & Valencia (into Europa after Group Stages)

Copa del Rey: Barcelona (lose in the Semis)

Oh yes, I remember why we were here in the first place: Santander. Predicted score: 4-0. Goals by Messi (x2), Iniesta, Pedro.

Starting Lineup
Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Pedro, Messi, Villa

Get excited about the new year, cause here, we, go.

By Luke

We calls 'em likes we sees 'em.


  1. Via Pep: Galliani: “The transfer is for 24M. First a loan, then we buy him next year.” #fcblive


  2. Milan sold Huntelaar for 14 million.Epic fail we’ve committed here.Atleast for 40 million you can stomach it.but 25 is just…

    Gonna listen to this now 😀


  3. It’s official, and worse than anyone could have imagined. From Milan’s Official site:

    MILANO – L’A.C. Milan ha acquisito dal F.C. Barcellona il calciatore Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in prestito gratuito con diritto di opzione da esercitarsi alla fine della stagione sportiva 2010-2011 alla cifra di 24 milioni di Euro. Il campione svedese sosterrà lunedì mattina le visite mediche, dopo le quali firmerà un contratto che lo legherà alla Società rossonera per 4 anni.

    MILAN – A. C. Milan have acquired the F.C. Barcelona footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, on loan with the right of free option to be exercised at the end of the season 2010-2011 to 24 million euros. The Swedish champion will support a medical on Monday morning, after which he will sign a contract that will tie him to the Company Rossoneri for four years.

    1. click on the IBRAHIMOVIC banner. *cries and goes into an uncontrollable rage

  4. ibra is a good player but are game down so ibra fans suport peps desicion who has won 8 out of the ten competisions with bean in

    1. I’d bet we have to pay a 12m exit bonus. that would cover a whole year’s worth of his wages from his Barca contract.

  5. Start the vote of no confidence? 24 million, and we don’t get it this year? Someone has to answer for the fee if true.

  6. So, was this a transfer negotiation masterclass by Galliani or the most fucking stupid whatever by Rosell? The shame. I am so ashamed of my club. Well, the Chargers threw LT to the dogs, Seau to the dogs; the Magic traded McGrady; the Mariners traded A-Rod, Randy Johnson, and Griffey…you would think I would be used to it, but what has happened at Barca is just another level. I’m seriously surprised now that it wasn’t 10m plus Huntelaar. I’m sorry, but I don’t think I could live after witnessing something that horrendously stupid.

    1. Yep, I’ve been a fan since Griffey Sr. and Jr. played on the same team. I’m a HUGE Ichiro fan. But, at this point, I feel sorry for him being on the team. Ditto for King Felix. Who could believe that we won 120 games that one season and just sucked since??

    1. Yes, instead of the negativity, all of the clubs of Europe will be laughing at us and being quoted as saying “24m? First year loan? We would have been interested!”

  7. yay,

    can c the racing match live @zee sports.thats a relief for the barca fans in the indian subcontinent

  8. So we bought Ibra for 46m plus Eto’o, sold him for 24m, that too to be given next year, smacks of bad business all round..

    Who’s to blame? Rosell, Laporta, Txiki, ZubiZa, Pep, Ibra, you, me everyone part of FCB..

  9. I’m not sure I understand Sandro’s reasoning for this deal. 24 million is pure robbery, plain and simple. No matter how bad the relationship between player and coach was, he must have realized that this deal would reflect very poorly on him.

    I guess the question is: who was holding the gun to his head?

    1. The only person I can think of who has the clout to force through a transfer this financially irresponsible is Pep. So then the debate becomes what is more important the teams success or being financially smart. Rosell is a lot of things, but he isnt stupid, he managed to get us MAscherano for dirt cheap in a scenario very similar to this one. He knows the game and how it is played, that he allowed himself to be played seems very curious to me.

    2. We only got Mascherano for that price because he was so desperate to get out of England that he agreed to give up his percentage of the transfer fee…about 3 million, which allowed us to increase our offer to something that was acceptable to Liverpool.

    3. wow. in just a couple of days we went from Ibra and family are happy in Barcelona and “99.9%” sure he will remain to selling him for 24 mil which we won’t even receive til next year.

      I mean, I am not as pissed off as when Figo or Ronaldo left, but I am still pretty pissed off. Most of all I don’t have a f-ing clue wtf just happened!

      What I do know is that Laporta’s reign had given us arguably the most stable (and definitely the most successful) years ever. I do hope we will be given the truth on what happened.

    4. At this point I’m not sure Rossell is really a Barca fan. I mean a TRUE Barca fan wouldnt of treated Cruyff the way he did…

  10. THANK THE GODS IT’S OVER!!!! Now can we all just relax and get down to some football?

    Seriously, I liked Ibra and wanted him to stay, but if we were THIS desperate to get rid of him that we made this crappy deal, there must have been something pretty major going on behind the scenes that we don’t yet know about. And we may never know what happened, or what the final straw was, why this late in the transfer window, any of it. I just hope this hasn’t affected the mentality of our other players. (Maxwell, maybe you might want to think about getting a new agent? Please?)

    And speaking of football (and we were, originally), Valencia is spanking Malaga 3-1 at the moment, so it looks like they might be just fine without Villa and Silva. Then again, it’s only Malaga.

  11. As I see it, everyone is to blame.

    Cules: Because 21 goals/9 assists was inadequate.
    Media: Because they acted like dimwitted cules.
    Guardiola: Make it work, dude.
    Rosell: Don’t get taken to the cleaners. Seriously.
    Ibrahimovic: Man up. Being a baby is costing you 4m per season.
    Raiola: You got a commission, but did you serve your client’s best interest?

    The list goes on.

    1. It’s an OPTION to buy? Haha so if he gets a career threatening injury we’re on the hook for him while giving AC Milan a free 1 year loan. Fuck me.

      From the official website:

      “Included in the agreement is the option for AC Milan to make the move permanent next summer for a fee of €24 million.

      If the option to buy Ibrahimovic is taken up by the Serie A club then that could see FC Barcelona save approximately €60 million. ”

      The fact they had to print the last paragraph is proof enough they realize how badly we’ve been taken here.

  12. Ok, this saga is over for me. The money thing really bites. I wish the best for all parties involved. My own speculation, no one is blameless, and I love them all, except the politicky types Rossel and ratty types Raiola.

  13. From barcastuff via Twitter:

    Ibrahimovic: “Would I come back if Guardiola leaves. I prefer not to comment on that.” #fcblive

    1. Ibra’s intent on burning all bridges, it seems.

      Via Pep:

      Ibrahimovic: “When I entered a room, Guardiola left. I don’t know, maybe he was scared of me.”

  14. We sold him for less than we bought Dima for, and we dont dont get the money this year.I cant think clearly anymore.24 million wouldnt have bought his bloody head band last year.I need an explanation.A proper one because if Laporta did that Sandro would have attacked him.Atleast when we rescinded Rivaldo’s contract he was 31.Gaspart where are you?

  15. official site:

    FC Barcelona and AC Milan have agreed a deal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to move to the Italian club on loan for the entire 2010/11 with the Rossoneri paying all his earnings.
    Included in the agreement is the option for AC Milan to make the move permanent next summer for a fee of €24 million.

    If the option to buy Ibrahimovic is taken up by the Serie A club then that could see FC Barcelona save approximately €60 million.

    1. The part that I would have bolded is If the option to buy Ibrahimovic is taken up by the Serie A club….

      Hang on, Myrtle! Say what now?

  16. More Ibrahimovic quotes, via barcastuff on Twitter:

    “I’m very happy because I’m joining one of the best clubs of the world.” (When does a player NOT say this?)

    “Since the coach didn’t want me, this is the best solution.”

    “To know what the problem was, you should talk with the coach. I don’t know it.”

    “When I entered a room, Guardiola left. I don’t know, maybe he was scared of me.”

    1. Kevin I am following those quotes, do we know if they are actual? Where’s the source, beyond the twitter

    2. Various bloggers and journos who were at the press event, Luna. Pep is always legit, never taken in by made-up nonsense.

    1. opzione da esercitarsi alla fine della stagione sportiva 2010-2011

      option to be exercised at the end of the 2010-2011 campaign

  17. “”The 24 millions will be paid over the coming three years.”

    I thought it couldnt get worse..

  18. From the official site:


    “FC Barcelona and AC Milan have agreed a deal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to move to the Italian club on loan for the entire 2010/11 with the Rossoneri paying all his earnings.
    Included in the agreement is the option for AC Milan to make the move permanent next summer for a fee of €24 million.

    If the option to buy Ibrahimovic is taken up by the Serie A club then that could see FC Barcelona save approximately €60 million.”

    60 million in savings? Uh-huh. That’s an interesting spin on the matter…

    1. gotta be kidding me. an option??? What if he gets injured? we will get stuck with him? this is ridiculous. Liverpool got a better deal for Mascherano, a “lesser” player who flat-out refused to play for Liverpool after already been wanting to leave for a year now.

    2. How dumb do Rosell and his crew think the fans are?! 60m in ‘savings’!

      I’m lost for words and I think I’ll remain that way till I get over this mess.

  19. 24m AND what Milan are referring to as a ‘FREE LOAN’?!?!?!?!?!?

    WTF!!! I hope I’m reading it all wrong…

  20. How did this end so ugly?
    These quotes are gonna completely unsettle team preparation esp this one
    “When I entered a room, Guardiola left. I don’t know, maybe he was scared of me.” Pep’s Twitter
    Imagine if we had signed Villa last year.

    1. I dont’ think they will. His former team mates probably know his glib way with words better than us,

  21. My thoughts on the transfer:

    -Txigrinsky is a full on stud.

    -Season starts tomorrow at 1 pm EST

    – Yay! for Bojan. Take your chances, Bojangles, you’ll be getting plenty of ’em.

  22. It is sounding like this all happened because grown-ass men making millions of dollars decided to act like children, rather than adults. As someone above points out, from the way this deal appears to be structured, if Ibrahimovic blows out a knee tomorrow, Milan can return him to us at the end of the season, and opt NOT to exercise the purchase option.

    Yes, he signed a four-year contract. So those two parts contradict each other.

  23. And we could “pontentially” save 60 millions, oh, ok, im happy its not guaranteed.

  24. I know I was against Ibra coming to Barça to begin with but little did I know how bad it was going to turn out

  25. As well you can imagine, they are over the moon at the Milan board. And they should be. Had we done a bit of business like that, I would be crowing to anyone who would listen, and even those who wouldn’t or couldn’t. “Hey, mr bunny …. we just took their ass to the cleaners! You hearing me? The cleaners, yo!”

  26. TWENTYFOUR Mio. only, and first year on loan!?!

    Fuck Ibra, Fuck Raiola, Fuck Galliani, Fuck AC Milan, Fuck everything!

  27. Do you guys see what’s coming next summer?

    Galliani: Ibrahimovic is almost 30 years, we have to renegotiate the fee. 24 million is too much for a 30 year old player.

    I can see that coming from a mile away. We’re not done with this saga at all. All we did was save on wages this year and gave Milan a free loan without fee.

    Honestly, without hyperbole, start the vote of the no confidence please.

  28. U know what. It doesnt matter. We got screwed financially. It sucks. Shit happens. My concern is winning and the continued success of our club. IT seems from Ibra’s remarks that this whole thing is Peps doing, which means he felt that Ibra leaving was the best thing for the club. Whatever the reason, if Pep wants him gone, then so be it. The fact that it cost us so much financially stings like hell, but if I had to chose between this and a season of Ibra’s antics causing choas in the dressing room and even the slightest chance that we end up gifting the title to Mourinho’s Madrid then I would take the financial hit any day. The team comes first, dont care who the player is or how much he cost us.

    This was ALWAYS the concern with Ibra, from day one, that his ego wouldnt fit in. I guess Pep thought he could change that and realised he was wrong.

    At least Rosell was willing to take this hit. I actually find it quite surprising because it reflects very badly on him.

  29. But at least they are paying his salary. I’m kind of surprised, given everything else about this deal, that we aren’t paying that, as well. (Cynicism, you do not become me!)

  30. Wow. Just wow. I’m stunned. This is possibly the worst piece of business in football history.

    At this point, I don’t care who’s fault it is. He’s a Milan player now. Whether you’re for him or against him, doesn’t matter ’cause there’s nothing we can do but discuss it. Like they say, “it’s the badge on the front that matters, not the name on the back”. Sp, personally, I’m just going to look forward and not back. Good luck to him in Italy.

    That’s all I’m gonna say. Visca el Barca.

  31. Hang on, kids. Part of our official statement says buy option that WILL be exercised at the end of the season. Didn’t think we were that crazy.

    1. We’ll have to wait to hear more b/c if it in contractual terms an option, will be can be read differently, it’s not a clause, not a stipulation, etc.

    2. And in the very next sentence it says:

      “IF the option to buy Ibrahimovic is taken up by the Serie A club then that could see FC Barcelona save approximately €60 million.”

  32. You know what? In 2 years, we will be Leeds United if the management under Rosell’s leadership continues like this!

    argh… can’t depict my current anger with words!

  33. And with that, except for a massive, towering rant of a post that is festering in my addled little mind as I type this, I move on, as I did with Eto’o. He is not a Milan player. As I said about The Yaya, good luck to him until he faces us. Then I hope weasels rip his flesh.

    Pep notes this bit of the official statement:

    “The deal in the end was possible thanks to the cooperation of the player and the willingness of his agent.”

    1. what is weird is it is un zlatan like to take a reducation in fees. It piques my curiousity

    2. re: “cooperation” statement. Not sure if that is PR-speak, or if there is something to that, as in “we wanted to sell him and he agreed to let us sell him”?

      I also love this: “Barcelona president Rosell has left the offices through the backdoor without making statements.” from Pep. I mean seriously what would he have to say?

  34. Also from Pep, via two other sources: “Barcelona president Rosell has left the offices through the backdoor without making statements. #fcblive [via @escolanmarca]”

    You bet he didn’t!

    1. The balls of this guy!when was the last time we actually heard his voice? Is he going back on vacation like this never happened?

  35. idk if it is a problem between Pep and Ibra then why did this happen at the end of the summer? If it is purely Ibra’s ego then doesn’t his ego hurt like hell going back to Italy to a lesser team? The dude left Inter, who then finally won the CL, and now he is back at AC Milan? Wouldn’t he feel much happier fighting for a spot in the Barça line-up? What, he is afraid of losing his place to Pedrito? Or Booojan even?

  36. barcastuff :

    Barcelona president Rosell has left the offices through the backdoor without making statements. #fcblive [via @escolanmarca]

    WOW, the guy has balls!!

    I’m Speechless. This is the worst moment in our club’s history.

    At the moment the most important thing is continuation of sporting success.

  37. Heh, hindsight is a wonderful thing.. If we’d spent 5m more on Villa last year, we’d have avoided this fiasco..

  38. I am completely shocked that the EE didn’t take Ibra from us. We clearly were capable of doing business with ANYONE.

  39. Oh Laporta, Where Art Thou ? 🙁 :'( :*(
    PS: I want more emoticons to express anger and grief.

  40. “I’m Speechless. This is the worst moment in our club’s history”

    umm pretty far from it dude. Worst moment in our club’s history was when Real Madrid stole Di Stefano from us (it is said the Franco regime ordered this to happen). Or, if you wanna get all humanitarian, it would be the assassination of Josep Punyol back during the civil war.
    Also the losses of Laudrup and Figo (both to our arch enemies) were a lot more devastating. And I was crushed when real Ronaldo left for Inter.
    The bad thing about Ibra leaving is the way in which he leaves. Other than that I pretty much think he was our least valuable starter. Still mighty pissed off though

    1. Hahaha I knew someone would come up with examples. 🙂

      I just wanted to say it anyway…cause I didn’t find any other words lol

  41. I seriously feel like sending some “suggestions” to the club right now, in their “contact us” section:


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