Levity, Please

Well that was an absolutely dreadful weekend of transfer news, culminating in the proverbial and yet somehow literal kick in the crotch that was Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s odd loan + buy option for next year at €24M the following term. In its wake, enough e-ink has been spilt over the transfer saga to drown even the most epic of football or FC Barcelona fans. Predictably, much hand-wringing has been made about the financial bath that the Blaugrana took from this mess, and rightly so. This was an unmitigated financial disaster that is going to cause us a fair amount of monetary distress, not to mention the problems if Zlatan is injured during the season and Milan balks at the purchase, but also making everyone involved in the deal look very very bad. Truly this was another of Pep’s phyrric victories, his scorched earth policy that consumes all who get on his bad side and all agents who would deign to deride his managerial style. However, should we, as Barça supporters be so down about this as to become fed up with everything and start laying blame everywhere, even when it may not be so deserved? Maybe we can brave this one with a little humor, a level head, and the man with the knowledge on La Liga at the Guardian Sid Lowe, whose excellent article provides all the quotes below.

In happier times...

Let’s start with some concessions. Yes, I and others who write in these spaces defended Ibrahimovic’s play last year (although we shouldn’t have had to, since he had a good year for a 9 playing partly out of position in this system) and his presence on the team, stating multiple times that he would not be moved, nor should he have been. I freely admit now that not only were mistakes made with how he was handled, but he may have also been misutilized by Pep at times. Of course, it is also now clear that he had to go by the end of all this. But enough of contrition, you came to hear about the shit show. So, let’s chat, what do we know about the situation, what should we have seen coming, and what does it all mean?

What We Know
That this was much much worse than any of us here feared or knew. If the relationship was this toxic then it is no wonder we were looking for a place to dump Ibra in the wake of all of this coming out so swiftly. In hindsight, we now know a lot more about the key players too.

Firstly, all those comments that Pep made avoiding questions about Ibra and his place on the team during the preseason were not so much about Rosell looking to sell off Zlatan to the lowest bidder but were more about a frosty relationship based on a communication breakdown at the end of last season. That breakdown evolved into something we haven’t seen very often involving our own Don Draper: a sniping match wherein Pep let his true feelings be known. Last year, after losing out on Villa, who Pep wanted to replace Samu Eto’o originally, Pep let Samu go because of a “feeling” and little else was said. Sure, the writing was on the wall (“I don’t like Eto’o’s style, he’s a child sometimes, lazy others, and he won’t play how I want him to”), but it was never explicit. Now it was laid bare by Pep, via Raiola and Zlatan.

Guardiola wants to win, but he wants to do it his way, with his people, and through his own symphony. If a player is not cutting it or is not playing the game the way it should be played, he will let that player walk, and with a quickness too. Eto’o, Yaya (maybe not wholly on the player, but with Çeluk, this was always going to happen and he may have influenced Toure’s thoughts and actions), and now Zlatan have seen how Pep takes to players that try to make themselves bigger than the team, so too have we. He wants harmony, he demands perfection, and while we love him for trophies, and comments, and his outstanding haberdashery, he is also wont to cut down anyone in his path. This process shows that we have a manager who is tactically and strategically gifted, but who may also cut off his nose to spite his face.

Second, Zlatan did not like how he was treated. He derided the coach for speaking to him only twice in six months and only hours before his departure became imminent, showing up at the Camp Nou, stating that he was there to sign his renewal. This went south rather quickly. Sid Lowe has more:

“The ‘philosopher’ has kicked me out,” spits Ibrahimovic as he strolls into the scrum. “I don’t know what his problem with me was. Whenever I walked into a room he walked out again … maybe he was scared of me.”

Alright then. So Ibra has been pissed at Pep for a while, likely since his exclusion from the squad at the end of the season to the benefit of the littlest 11, Bojan. Seeing Barcelona nearly triumph against all of Mourinho’s might in the Champions League and complete a second consecutive conquest of La Liga while sitting on the bench must not have sat well with the big guy. What started in a flourish,

He hasn’t been a failure at Barcelona. Not really. He got 21 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, scored the winner against Real Madrid, and averaged a goal every other game in the league. He even scored in the Champions League – twice, against Arsenal. Only Gonzalo Higuaín was directly responsible for securing his side more points in La Liga.

soon came to be what we all feared: a situation with a star striker who didn’t fit the system and eventually weighed on both manager and team. To wit,

As one insider puts it: “Zlatan thinks he’s Messi and he’s not.”

All this blame cannot be laid on him, because there is too much to go around. His attitude certainly did not help matters and he apparently had no clue how to deal with Guardiola or how he would fit into the squad at all. Maybe we should have known he would cause internal problems because when you have former fans warning you of that, it’s probably a bad sign.

Third, Mino Raiola. He’s an ass and apparently damn good at his job. I’ll let Mr. Lowe take this one to the house:

Those who called Raiola an idiot, the world’s worst agent, are as wrong as those who call Pedro López the world’s worst serial killer. Look at it his way: he’s the best. Yes, he’s a clown and a big mouth, a walking parody, but he’s a ludicrously rich one, feisty as hell and successful too. Ibrahimovic has now commanded €140m in transfer fees. You’ve got to admire their balls. Just don’t let them catch you doing it.

His commentary throughout the entire situation may have been the final nail in this coffin. Statements that Zlatan would certainly last longer at Camp Nou than Pep due to the contracts they had signed were disconcerting to some fans worried about Pep’s future at the club and laughable to others of us at the time. Now they seem as opening salvos. And out of all of this, Raiola may be the most culpable in turning it from a “normal” transfer saga–if any transfer with Braça can be so called–into something toxic and awful:

The same Guardiola that Raiola said, “should be in a mental hospital”, “has a problem with himself” . . . “You don’t buy a Ferrari and just leave it in the garage,” Raiola complained.

Fourth we have the much vilified Sandro Rosell. First Sandro was said to have been looking to sell Ibra as a way of getting rid of all of Laporta’s latest signings (after the Chygy move was made to save some money). Then Rosell was an idiot who couldn’t get anything out of this deal and had to take a bath due to his own bravado in some misguided attempt to make his own imprint… um, wrong. Sandro apparently knew that Ibra and Pep were not getting along and flyers were out all summer trying to sell Ibra, but the market wasn’t great as it has been depressed and the only big spenders, Man City, who were looking for young guys and no more Adebayors, were not looking for a deal. So a deal was struck, a really shitty, stupid deal, but one that had to be made based on the circumstances: an inability for player and coach to coexist and a need to save umpteen millions in salary, financial crisis or not.

The cost was high. Some newspapers splashed their covers with a little round sticker like it was Tesco Value Thick Slice, declaring “double saving: Barcelona make €24m and save €60m in wages”. Or screamed: “Good riddance Ibra”. Others pointed out that Barça had lost €40m on the deal.* They were right. Last season, Barcelona bought him for €45m plus Eto’o, formally valued at €20m. It looked like a ridiculous deal then: it looks like even more of a ridiculous deal now. It also underlines an uncomfortable truth: Guardiola wanted David Villa

Finally, fans. Yes, we should have seen more of this coming and yes we should have been more appreciative for how Ibra played last year.

What We Should Have Seen Coming
Hindsight is 20-20 they say, and here, they are certainly right. We missed that giant pink elephant sitting on the other end of the room, staring us in the face and knocking shit off the walls. This had to happen in a lot of respects, possibly in this very manner. Sure a partnership up front of Villa, Ibra, and Messi would have been superb, if it worked, but failing that, it could have been the downfall of the most talented team in club football. It should have been clear as day from the time the big Swede was removed from his role as the starter and it became a permanent injunction:

For all that the coach was seduced by the idea of having a Plan B, it hadn’t worked when they needed it most. When Barcelona made a final, hugely impressive push for the title, they did so without Ibrahimovic and with Bojan Krkic. The group mattered most so at the end of the campaign he insisted on Barcelona selling the Swede – no matter what the cost.

Pep wanted Villa all along. Laporta finally made it happen, but maybe a year too late. Pep knows Villa can play the wings, and he has shown his ability to play as a lone man up front or in a two-man strike formation for La Furia Roja, and he wanted this. Villa is the player who does what is needed and who stuck around for a team with almost zero chance of succeeding in little more than holding out hope of continental football for three years too long, playing his ass off each year. This is what Pep wanted and this is what he has now.

In short, we should have seen Zlatan’s signing for what it was last year, an ill-fated, ill-conceived, and short-sighted marriage of convenience to get rid of Eto’o on short notice to a team willing to give up a good player. Inter was that white knight, they got the better end of that deal.

It was largely the fact that Inter would take him that forced their hand and finally ensured it would be Ibrahimovic that signed instead.

It ended how all marriages of convenience do: with both sides hurting and one making out better than the other. Zlatan, Raiola, and AC Milan got us here, it was always going to be like this. You can only make the best out of a bad situation sometimes, and this is one of those times.

A team.

What Does It All Mean?
In short, a lot, and yet, not so much. Zlatan’s time here was short and acrimonious, but we achieved goals, winning La Liga and the 2010 Supercopa amongst others with his contributions, and they were many. And yet, that hole up front may not be so large after all. Sure, he’s 6’3″ and can hold the ball up well, but maybe that is just not what we needed in our system, maybe we just needed the player our manager wanted all along and the one we got this summer.

And that’s the thing. When the dust finally settled, Barcelona went into the opening game of the season and destroyed Racing Santander with two wonderful finishes from Messi and Iniesta. There was also – and you should get used to this phrase – a goal from Villa. It may have been costly, painful and hugely embarrassing, it may still come back to bite them but now, at last, after all the bickering and the shouting and the name-calling; after the accusation and counter-accusation, the chest-puffing and posturing, Raiola has finally got what he wanted – a huge great big lorry pulling into his drive loaded with cash – but so have Barcelona. The harmony Guardiola demanded and the perfect addition to an already fantastic side, a striker who should have joined a really, really big club years ago. “This team is even better than last year,” the Racing coach Miguel-Ángel Portugal sighed.

Sometimes you have to look bad, get shat upon, and otherwise take the blunt end of a tire iron to the chin in order to move forward. If things were as bad as Lowe, and others have intimated, this partnership could never have worked. A player who thinks he’s everything and cannot get behind a team effort is not going to function or be long for this era of Barça’s history. This deal means stopping something that was never sure to falter but could not have been good for the entire year. When a star player is hating life and his situation where he is, you can be assured it is no good for the overall success of the club.

This may also put an end to a lot of the speculation that Rosell always wants to overpower Pep and that Guardiola despises the President. Let’s be clear about something, this was not Rosell’s move, this was what Pep wanted, and everyone should see that now, loud and clear. When Pep had a player he disliked, even one who was difficult to move, Rosell found a suitor and sold him off, however bad it was for Barcelona, he got rid of that player, just like Laporta did with Eto’o 2 years ago. Instead of this being some calculated move by our totalitarian dictator, it was a calculated bombshell dropped by our totalitarian manager (and as Isaiah said, it’s only ok when the manager is a totalitarian). This was a move that needed to be made and resolved quickly, and it was. We took a PR hit and lost a good bit of money, but this cloud has a silver lining and we have to see that,

Some newspapers splashed their covers with a little round sticker like it was Tesco Value Thick Slice, declaring “double saving: Barcelona make €24m and save €60m in wages”. Or screamed: “Good riddance Ibra”. Others pointed out that Barça had lost €40m on the deal.* They were right. Last season, Barcelona bought him for €45m plus Eto’o, formally valued at €20m. It looked like a ridiculous deal then: it looks like even more of a ridiculous deal now.

Many hated the Eto’o deal, but we made the best of a bad situation where the player was not good for the team and the manager did not want the player. So with 1 year left, we sold him for what now appears to have been very expensive, good looking spare parts. We made the best of it, winning a few more trophies, losing only once in La Liga, in large part thanks to his contributions. And now, 1 year later, we’ve made the same “deal with the devil”, allowing Milan to take Ibra for change and moving along with the front Pep wanted all last year: Villa, Messi, Pedro, Iniesta, and Bojan. You have to get out of a bad situation, sometimes in any way that seems fit at the time. For Barcelona, this seemed fit, and now, we have to move on and make the best of a situation wherein we still have more talent than any other team and will still compete for all the trophies we already would have.

For Barça, better yet was the news coming in from Palma. Last year Barça dropped just 15 points all season; they already have a two-point lead over Real Madrid after Mourinho’s side could only draw 0-0 with Mallorca and have started off where they finished last season – without The Tall Man and top of the table. “Zlatan was the centre of attention on Saturday,” Guardiola said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d quite like my team to be.”

Long story short, I’ll get over it.

Photo 1: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
Photo 2: Miguel Ruiz/FCB

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  1. sab
    August 31, 2010

    is this a substance of sid lowes article?

  2. Lou
    August 31, 2010

    Nice article Luke.

    I remember last summer’s transfer drama differently. What I recall is the club tried to get Ibra, Inter didn’t want to sell so they tried for Villa instead. When it became clear that Villa was going to cost more that 50 million Euros and no one was making reasonable bids for Eto’o (so there was a real possibility that he would leave on a free transfer anyway the following year) they decided that they might as well make the swap + cash deal with Inter for Ibra.

    Ibra then was an expensive experiment: a tall striker who could hopefully hold up the ball, win headers and still fit in with the tiki-taka football. It had some sporting success (21 goals + 9 assists is pretty impressive, but the team still struggled against sides determined to park the bus), but seems to have lead to all sorts of personal conflicts.

    An expensive mistake then. I hope that Guardiola, who after all is still learning as a manager, learns from this experience.

  3. Mikel
    August 31, 2010

    All this whole fiasco would have been solved if Barca had renewed Eto’o, which is what Eto’o wanted, in my opinion he wanted to continue at Barca. We would have won the CL last year and we would have saved a lot of money. I hope Guardiola learns from his errors, and in fact given his youth i think he was entitled to his error in the Eto’o affair

    • Kxevin
      August 31, 2010

      I’d suggest hitting Google and re-studying the Eto’o situation. Eto’o had no interest in renewing. If he did, he would have taken the chances that the club offered him to renew. He didn’t. Then, finally, when it was all akimbo, the club offered him the chance to renew at his existing salary, knowing that he wouldn’t take it.

      Had we not dealt him, he would have left on a free. But make no mistake, Eto’o did not want to renew. We must all recall his declarations of “I’ll discuss it at the end of the season,” when the club wanted to do a deal during the season.

      Then when the end of the season came, “I’m on vacation. I’ll discuss it when I get back from vacation.”

      When a player wants to renew, we get a Keita, who quietly re-ups for two more seasons with a sweetened contract and a pumped-up buy out clause.

      Did Guardiola and Eto’o not get along? Almost assurely not, which is probably the principal reason behind Guardiola’s “feeling.” But selective memory can make people think a lot of things. I followed the Eto’o situation very closely. I had to, so that I could write knowledgeably about it, given my duties for this space. And everything I read told me that Eto’o did not want to renew.

      The “error” was, as it always is in sundered relationships, on both sides, and as it was in this case. All Ibrahimovic had to do, instead of sulking, was reach out to Guardiola to find out where he stood. By many accounts, he didn’t, hence the “He doesn’t talk to me, waaah, waaah!” So talk to him. It’s only your job at stake here, right?

      Sid Lowe puts in all in perspective very nicely. And the Ibrahimovic situation was very different from the Eto’o situation. What is the same is a coach’s right to have the team that he wants.

      • Mikel
        August 31, 2010

        I may be quite wrong, and I respect your opinion, and really I don’t know if is convenient to reopen the Eto’o issue, so feel free to cut this line of dialogue, but I really don’t get why Eto’o would have wanted to go away from Barca and go on a free. He was in the best team in the world, he was making history by being the third topgoalscorer for barca in history, i think he enjoyed playing in our system and the way he celebrated some crucial goals I think he really had a Barca heart, despite coming from the EE, and you have the despective song that he uttered against the capital team during one of the trophy celebrations. He wanted to win more money, but I think he really deserved an improvement in his contract, not at the level of Messi clearly, but I think they ended up paying Ibrahimovic the salary that they denied Eto’o (not sure on this, so Id be glad for corrections)

        This may be one of those mysteries that never will be solved, unless either Samu or Pep shine some light on it in future autobiographies.

        • August 31, 2010

          Mikel, Eto’o wanted a huge ass giant salary on his contract, because he thought he did enough for the club to deserve that money, which we surely can’t figure without the figure and a more professional way of measurement (to evaluate what salary should a player that helped a club won the CL twice get).

    • BarcaFan(BiH)
      August 31, 2010

      Finally someone who sees it the way it is. If we had kept Eto’o we would have left the perfect team player and the perfect #9, saved money and won the CL last year with such a hard worker and great player, not to mention lethal finisher and a legend of Barca. Then we could have bought Villa and played with Eto’o, Messi up top. That would have been unplayable and Mourinho that idiot would have never been able to win the CL. We better win the CL this season to make up for a triumph that would have made this Barca team the best officially in the modern game.

  4. ermengol
    August 31, 2010

    two comments one dr lowes piece from the grauniad site. the first by Ramzi:

    “No doubt, Ibra is the easy target at the moment. His ironic comments after leaving the club doesnt serve him as well.

    Yet, lets not keep kicking a dead body, there is no pride in that. Ibra was Pep’s FIRST OPTION one year ago. Not Villa. Barcelona started their negotiations with Inter directly after the previous season ended (Laporta met Moratti). Afterward they tried to sign Villa instead hoping they can get him for cheap by taking advantage of Valencia’s financial problems. When they figured it is not going to happen they returned to the main option and bought Ibra. It is ironic that the same people who evaluate Ibra’s transfer as a 69+ mega bid, repetitively mention that Villa was the first option -though Valencia’s original demand was less than that. I am sure Inter would have welcomed the chance to buy Eto’o for 10 Million, add that to the cash Barcelona paid to get Ibra you get much more cash than Villa would have cost if Barcelona preferred him over Ibra back then.

    Since day one when Pep became the coach, he demanded a player with physical qualities as a striker. We all remember in his first year he wanted Adebayor instead of Eto’o. So it doesnt make sense that he wanted to offload Eto’o and get Villa instead of Ibra.

    It seems the most popular thing to do nowadays is to repeat that Ibra failed at Barcelona. Even Pep said that “As a player, he is great”. He did really well at Barcelona and -football wise- offloading him is a step backward for Barca’s offense as it is for Ibra. Its easy to expect the offense trident with Ibra,Messi, And Villa. Was it off-field issues? Thats another story. And taking the timing of the transfer in consediration (last moment instead of directly after the season ended), there are lots to be said about this one!”

    and the second by lovingu with a reply by lowe:

    — Zlatan comes across (in Swedish) as a person with a lot of sense and not a little integrity.

    Yes, he does. I’ve read a few pieces about/with him where I have been very impressed.”

    this whole ibra is the devil schtick is getting a bit tiresome.

    • Luke
      August 31, 2010

      No, Villa was the first choice with Laporta trying to sign him directly on the heels of the 08-09 season. Ibra came later when we couldn’t sell Eto’o anywhere.

      If you’ll notice what was written you’ll see that blame was apportioned equally. if you somehow think that a player sniping at this former manager on the way out has no blood on his hands from this, then perhaps you misunderstand human interaction?

      • ermengol
        August 31, 2010

        depends on how the player was treated. maybe you don’t understand human interaction?

        • Luke
          August 31, 2010

          Or it depends on how everyone interacted equally. No one is perfect in any situation. People who apportion blame by looking at one thing and then closing their eyes and humming loudly are humorous. Every single person involved with this from Pep to Raiola is to be blamed for this. Ibra acted like a child according to independent sources and definitely had no idea how to approach Pep.

          Not sure how this absolves him? Perhaps he’s just a poor, pitiful multimillionaire who is misunderstood in every way? Of course, that must be it.

          • ermengol
            August 31, 2010

            look, i ain’t apportioning blame. it takes two, but one thing’s near certain here and it’s this: PEP had a “personal” problem with Ibra. thing is Ibra had no idea, he’s said so again and again. it came as a surprise to him because in training and on the pitch things went well. he did what was expected of him, even Pep said so.

            now you can go on and on about how Ibra was a baby, but dud, he wasn’t the one who left the room when Pep walked in, and second, if Pep had a problem with him how is it Ibra’s fault the he, ibra, didn’t go and ask Pep what the problem was?

            who’s the baby?

          • ermengol
            August 31, 2010

            like i said above, what i find tiresome is the “Ibra is the devil” schtick.

      • August 31, 2010

        Luke, I am trying not to make any arguments concerning Ibra as everyone now from the board to Ibra passing by Pep will try to cover up. But there is no doubt in my mind that Ibra was actually the first option. The sequence of events and the final output last summer prove it with no room for doubt. If they wanted Villa, they could have got him for at least the same bill they paid to get Ibra.

        And thanks for ermengol for pasting my comment.

        • ermengol
          August 31, 2010

          you’re welcome man, you make sense. kudos.

        • Luke
          August 31, 2010

          I had always thought Villa was. I remember it coming up almost immediately after the season. Perhaps I am wrong. I have been before.

          Ermengol, they are all children, that’s the point. Apportioning blame between multimillionaires fighting about more money than any of us will ever seen is a patently silly offense in the first place. That was part of the piece all together. When you decide to become a fan you decide to take on the silliness and here we are covering something that 6th graders argue about.

          • ermengol
            August 31, 2010

            luke, no sweat, i’ve been a fan since laudrup joined, and i am taking on the silliness as you say. thing is though, i want to know what he silliness is about, and painting ibra (who i believe has a lot more decency and integrity than many are prepared to admit) as a baby just doesn’t fit into it.

            in the same way that Ibra wanted to know what was actually what and keeps referring to Pep, i’d like to know too. that’s basically it.

          • ermengol
            August 31, 2010

            also, i don’t put much credence in that “inside source” quote: “ibra think’s he’s messi”.

        • Hilal
          August 31, 2010

          Not so sure about that Ramzi. If they had spent 50m on Villa last year what would they have done with Eto who was refusing to sign a new contract and whose wage demands made selling him very difficult. We will never know for sure, but to me it doesnt seem like Ibra was the first option, otherwise why try so hard for Villa at all? Why not just go for Ibra from day one?

          • Kxevin
            August 31, 2010

            Ibrahimovic isn’t some child. If someone has a problem with you, man up and find out what the problem is. Someone is lying/exaggerating. Guardiola has said nothing about it, probably because whatever he says would be misconstrued, and further distract from what could be an excellent season.

            But everyone is making this out to be Guardiola’s problem, because look at Eto’o, and The Yaya, and Hleb and now Ibrahimovic. All of them are saying the same thing about Guardiola’s management style. Which means what? It could mean that coddled football stars are used to people coming to them, hat in hand, to ask them what the matter is, soliciting their permission to enter their divine aura.

            Guardiola says “Here’s how things are. You in or out?” Maybe people are thinking that their situation would somehow be different? Dunno. But there it is. The same single-mindedness that makes him a great coach, sometimes makes him a pain in the ass for superstars craving love and affirmation.

            Recall that he didn’t want to sell The Yaya, but he also wasn’t going to give him the playing time guarantees that he sought. Hleb? He dicked himself out of town. Eto’o? That’s been gone over a million times, as has the Ibrahimovic situation.

          • fcbfan
            August 31, 2010

            This is how I remember it too. We wanted Villa, but Eto’o wouldn’t go to Man City. We were chasing Villa all through June until Villa got so distracted in the Conf cup. Then Ibra came just before preseason.

            Damn there is always a drama every summer.

          • August 31, 2010

            – They went for ibra from day one. Laporta met Moratti before the last game of the season. Moratti demanded lot of money.

            – Valencia demanded 50 M for Villa. Barcelona were not willing to pay more than 40 M. How much did we pay for Ibra -Cash?

            – As for Eto’o, no one was willing to pay over 25 M for a player with an expiring contract. What about 10 million? He moved to Inter after all, so he was not THAT determinant to stay. If I know a bit about Moratti he wouldnt have hesitated to buy him for 10 m (Milito?). But there will be other clubs in the line to compete with. Barcelona (maybe)were even able to mutually terminate his contract without paying him so he -as a free player- can get decent signing on contract from another club.

            – I said it before that Villa transfer would have cost the club as much as Ibra’s considering Eto’o situation. if we take in consediration Villa’s salary and that’s of Ibra, it would have been equally expensive to buy Villa and pay Eto’o his last year in the contract while keeping him.

            Financially both transfers were attainable and -almost- cost the same. Signing Villa was much easier though because his club was more desperate to sell. Initially There was a hope that Villa may cost much less. It wasnt the case, as further negotiations proved. When the two deals became balanced, we jumped for the first option.

  5. ermengol
    August 31, 2010

    here’s a pice from tribal football dated 29.05.09:

    “European champs Barcelona are planning a major bid for Inter Milan striker Ibrahimovic.

    Corriere dello Sport says Barca star Lionel Messi has urged president Joan Laporta to bring the Swede to the Nou Camp.

    And Laporta is ready to meet Messi’s request by offering £17 million cash plus Samuel Eto’o in exchange for Ibra.

    The super Swede will be handed a base salary of £6.5 million, but with sponsorship and bonuses could stand to make an amazing £12 million-a-year.

    Meanwhile, if Ibra hits goal number 25 this weekend in Serie A he will be due a stunning £400,000 bonus.”


  6. August 31, 2010

    Hleb officially off to Birmingham City. It’s a one-year loan deal, with an option. We’re paying part of Hleb’s salary. Not sure how much.

    • Luke
      August 31, 2010

      Good for Hleb. He’ll play a ton there and would not have played much here or likely in Benfica.

  7. August 31, 2010

    And Luke has done a very nice job of making things make sense in our context. Now we have to move on.

    Yes, it’s easy to say “Guardiola screwed up, he sucks,” or “Guardiola isn’t as perfect as people think,” when nobody said that he was perfect. Nobody is.

    And now, we have David Villa. Everybody loves the signing now, just as almost everybody loved the Ibrahimovic signing. Let’s see how the season plays out.

  8. fcbfan
    August 31, 2010

    Good article Luke!

    Agree. If Pep is openly commenting about Raiola in press conference, and Iniesta admitting he is not surprised at Ibra’s exit, then things truly had become toxic, enough to affect dressing room. Just something that needed to be done. but oh I hate Raiola. He really made it worse attacking Pep openly like that. I guess he really wanted Ibra to leave Barca. Recall he said that Ibra’s transfer to Barca won’t be his last big transfer. A trash human being but yeah good businessman. I can see now if Ibra has a fall out at Milan, Raiola will engineer a transfer to Man City.

    and I just love some of the comments in Sid Lowe’s column. Suddenly Pep is now an overrated coach, and he won those trophies because of Rijkaard’s team, and those ignorant Pep is a racist comments. Typical. Yes Pep did make mistakes, and he is a control freak, bla bla bla but wouldn’t have any other coach and hope he stays on a few more years, at least until the next generation mature like my boy Thiago, Romeu etc.

    I still don’t like Rosell, but just want to say I am sorry. I was wrong. A bad situation all around but at the same time I feel better knowing that Pep is truly in charge of the team. You know, Pep probably told Rosell, since you sold Chiggy without my blessing, now go sell Ibra even if it will cost the club losing money.

    So there it is, apart from Masch whose ego I have no idea how big, I think everyone on the squad have no attitude problem, Pep should be satisfied now.

  9. fcbfan
    August 31, 2010

    and I heart Keita. While everyone else was busy trashing each other, Ibra, Raiola, the club, the coach, and then Mascherano coming in, he quietly renews his contract, just like how he plays on the field, quiet, efficient, invisible but gets the job done. I feel like we just made another signing because this came out of nowhere.

    • Hilal
      August 31, 2010

      Yep and hopefully Alves is next!

      Mascherano seems to be saying all the right things and I think (at least this year) he is going to work hard and wait for his chance to play. It is VERY rare that a player of Mascherano’s quality and experience is willing to accept the role he has clearly taken on. He took a wage cut as well to be here, without the guarantee of playing time?!? That to me is EXACTLY the type of player we want and need in our team.

  10. Bundy
    August 31, 2010

    I just hope that future and current players will understand that Pep wants players who can fight for their spot in team and are willing to put their pride to the side, that is now clearly top priority for what Pep looks for in a starter.

    from the start Ibra wasn’t a mistake, but he just couldn’t adapt to the fact that he had to do what was wanted and not expect things to fall together for him because he is some high status big name player. Its in a way both natural and unnatural for these incidents to occur, because you can never find the perfect player.

    As a player though, Ibrahimovic is fantastic, but agian he can’t live without being “the man”.

  11. ermengol
    August 31, 2010

    “Ibrahimovic isn’t some child. If someone has a problem with you, man up and find out what the problem is. Someone is lying/exaggerating. Guardiola has said nothing about it, probably because whatever he says would be misconstrued, and further distract from what could be an excellent season.

    But everyone is making this out to be Guardiola’s problem, because look at Eto’o, and The Yaya, and Hleb and now Ibrahimovic. All of them are saying the same thing about Guardiola’s management style. Which means what? It could mean that coddled football stars are used to people coming to them, hat in hand, to ask them what the matter is, soliciting their permission to enter their divine aura.

    Guardiola says “Here’s how things are. You in or out?” Maybe people are thinking that their situation would somehow be different? Dunno. But there it is. The same single-mindedness that makes him a great coach, sometimes makes him a pain in the ass for superstars craving love and affirmation.

    Recall that he didn’t want to sell The Yaya, but he also wasn’t going to give him the playing time guarantees that he sought. Hleb? He dicked himself out of town. Eto’o? That’s been gone over a million times, as has the Ibrahimovic situation.”

    hey, Kxev, i’m answering this cause i feel it was directed to me, and if i’m wrong then i’m sorry but here goes:

    if the boss has a problem with you that is not evident to you, i.e. he tells you you’re part of the team and you’ve come to terms with the way he does things and have accepted that you have to fight for your place (as Ibra said he had) then how do you “man up and ask him what his problem is” when you do know for sure whether he has a problem until the day you find out he’s made moves to have you sold behind your back?

    simple question really. who messed up here, do you think?

    • ermengol
      August 31, 2010

      as a side note, i’m not making this up to be G’s problem and bringing in eto’o, hleb, yaya or whoever. just so that’s clear.

    • ermengol
      August 31, 2010

      * when you DON’T know for sure whether…

    • Kxevin
      August 31, 2010

      I think that both parties messed up.

      You don’t sit on your hands, particularly if you know that something is wrong. And judging from Guardiola’s behavior, something was wrong with the relationship. Even if it’s as simple as Ibrahimovic wondering why he was sat in favor of Krkic, you ask “Dude! What the hell! You sat me for a midget??”

      Guardiola’s door is, as Puyol said, always open. Go talk to your coach. It isn’t your job to sit on your hands and wait for your coach to come to you, like some supplicant. Guardiola is a for-real, old school Meester.

      Should Guardiola have understood the complexities of managing a modern superstar? Maybe. Maybe he did, and just didn’t want to. Either way, it’s his right to have the team that he wants, however he goes about it.

  12. fcbfan
    August 31, 2010

    Re Ibra Pep interaction, we don’t know much except that according to Ibra he only talked to Pep twice last 6 months or something like that. Other players on the squad say the less Pep talk to you the better because the coach only call folks in when there is a problem, but the coach office is always open to anyone. and we know that Keita in his first year frequently went to Pep’s office to consult the coach on tactics etc. Did Ibra bother to do that I wonder.

    And Ibra himself said in interviews that Pep made a point to talk to him everyday in training talking to him in Italian. Don’t know how things went so wrong. I still think, my assumption that Raiola came in between. Can’t you all see? It was Evil Raiola! Ibra and Pep are the good guys, Raiola the bad one. So now make up! lol. Just hope Maxwell won’t listen to him. Balotelli another troublesome/misunderstood player, also a client of Raiola. See? He is doing something to them.

  13. August 31, 2010

    While everyone is discussing the past, I am trying to figure the future while checking the options available for offense.

    There is no secret that selling Ibra meant a collapse of three years of hope -for me- to see Villa-Ibra-Messi offense as I mentioned in my articles since last summer (even before buying Ibra), and ironically Mascherano and Maxwell were on that list as well.

    But I am not the one who cry on spoiled milk. We move on. And I hope the club move on (I am talking to you Mr.s who will have an interview to talk about transfers tomorrow!). Regardless, anyone else regret being against including -even- Borriello in that deal, now that we did it anyway?

    In the last game the offense flow was smooth. Too smooth if you ask me. There will be time when we will need more holding play in the offense line. Not sure where will that come from.

      • August 31, 2010

        Too late. He scored couple of goals in the EPL. So he is already the new van basten and worth a zillion pound.

        Besides, after Arsenal whiners, and Liverpool riders, are you looking forward for another EPL fan’s tsunami?

        • barca96
          August 31, 2010

          I remember a few years back when Heskey scored a brace in a season opener and his coach claimed that he is one of the best all of a sudden. Ridiculous!!!

    • ermengol
      August 31, 2010

      what about toivonen? like for like. sort of.

      • Luke
        August 31, 2010

        I like him. His manager said he has kind of an attitude issue where he thinks he’s better than he is right now, but will be great in the future. I think.

  14. Kari
    August 31, 2010

    From the Guardian:

    Commenter Question: “Is there any talk in Spain about all the silly quotes and ‘exclusive interviews’ with Barca players (especially Xavi) that seem to come up only in the English press? It started during the Cesc saga but they just continue coming up again and again.

    Most of the quotes about England based players or clubs seem so contrived they must be fake, but it doesn’t look like anyone in Barca is bothered enough (or aware) to deny them even though they’re massively hurting their image (Xavi is quickly becoming quite a hate figure in England). Mourinho didn’t wait much before denying an interview in the Mirror, is Xavi really saying all this bullshit that’s attributed to him?”

    Sid’s Answer: “I am absolutely bloody furious about this and it has become a constant this summer. The quotes are almost entirely concocted and I am pretty sure that I know how it is happening. Me and a couple of other journalists who actually try (yes, yes, don’t always succeed) to do the job properly and who are here in Spain are trying to do something about it. But it’s not easy.

    Good on ya, Sid!

    • August 31, 2010

      Though on his Tweeter he usually re-post such “Quotes”. Only when it is bad for Barcelona’s image of course. But give this guy the credit, he is so good in packing his subjectivity with a blink-y paper of objectiveness 😀

    • fcbfan
      August 31, 2010

      Yes glad to hear that something will be done.

      That easy to work as a journalist in the UK huh?

  15. vicsoc8
    August 31, 2010

    I don’t think it was a question of Manchester City being uninterested, but rather Zlatan refusing to move to a team that wasn’t playing in the Champions League.

    • IS
      August 31, 2010

      Agree. Hence the post-transfer comments that suggested that Ibra had already provided the club with a list (or maybe just criteria) of the clubs he would be willing to move to.

  16. barca96
    August 31, 2010

    Great article Luke.
    Nicely laid down.
    And thanks for being man enough to stand up for Rosell(really unpopular with the international fans hehe).
    And hopefully this is the last time this season we hear anything about Ibra. He is too controversial!!(not entirely his fault though)

    I will definitely come back to this post and re-read everything at a slower pace as I’m in a public place.

    Will Xavi play in the qualifiers?
    And what’s the latest on Maxwell?

    • Kxevin
      August 31, 2010

      No rumors or buzz about Maxwell. I just don’t see it happening. He’s been getting lots of playing time, and must be feeling liberated by not playing in Serie A.

      On the other hand, you can certainly see him wondering about his future, now that we’ve signed Adriano. He’s also thinking that the heretofore free midfield spot is gone with the arrival of Mascherano.

      So who knows? There are still 5 hours left in the transfer window, so anything can happen.

  17. vicsoc8
    August 31, 2010

    For those ragging on Pep, consider this:

    The players who have bought into his “the team comes before any individual player” philosophy, and have accepted that “the success of the team brings success to the individual, not the other way around” love Pep. They have nothing but good things to say about Pep, even those who have been offloaded like Marquez.

    Not only did Zlatan have trouble fitting into our playing system, but he was unwilling to embrace the underlying philosophy of the team.

    This is also why Pep had a “personal” problem with Ibra. Ibra was a professional, but he was unwilling to submit himself to the team due to his huge ego. This personal problem isn’t as insidious as others make it out to be, but rather a result of Ibra being too egotistical to fit into the team’s philosophy.

    • Kxevin
      August 31, 2010

      And the recent history of transfers certainly supports that notion as well, doesn’t it? I must admit that it hadn’t crossed my mind, vicsoc. Thanks for that bit of perspective.

      • Kxevin
        August 31, 2010

        It should be added that this notion doesn’t support all the recent transfers. Txigrinski was against Guardiola’s will.

        • blitzen
          August 31, 2010

          And he is another one who has nothing but good things to say about Pep and the time he spent at the club.

      • vicsoc8
        August 31, 2010

        I just read Crujff’s weekly article over at totalbarca. Interestingly enough he alludes to some of the same concepts.

  18. Kxevin
    August 31, 2010

    Most awesome tribalfootball.com headline:

    “Raiola key to AC Milan beating Barcelona for winger Robinho”

    Of course, Guardiola saying “No thanks” had nothing to do with it.

  19. fcbfan
    August 31, 2010

    This is what Cruyff wrote in his column:

    “The only thing that can be controlled is the public attitude of the agents.  The player is always responsible for what comes out of the agent’s mouth. 
    The players need to control their agents.  I’d be inflexible.  If one opens his mouth then goodbye.  Your player won’t play on Sunday.”

    • Kxevin
      August 31, 2010

      I’m with Cruijff. As I’ve said before in the cases of The Yaya and Ibrahimovic, agents don’t say crazy crap without the player’s approval.

  20. Kxevin
    August 31, 2010

    Oh, and Chelsea is trying to hire Txiki B, probably for the sake of alliteration.

  21. Diego S.
    August 31, 2010

    Great Article Luke, I also read Sid Lowe’s article, But I won’t comment on the subject of Ibra because I think we talked about it enough ..

    Masch had his 1st practice session with the team today

  22. ooga aga
    August 31, 2010

    if we dont move soon, Robbie Keane is gonna get snapped up by Besiktas. fuuuuuccckkkkk

    • August 31, 2010

      We will only buy Robbie Keane if he can play while wearing high heels. Or else, who will we need him?

      • ooga aga
        August 31, 2010

        cmon ramzi,,,dude is *quality*. like Quality Inn type quality. and cool goal celebrations.

        dont play like he wouldnt fit right in.

        • Eklavya
          August 31, 2010

          Yeah! Robbie Keane is in the world top 5 strikers! Heck, he’s even better than Bojan! I really hope the club make a move for him, he’s become our top scorer!

          My dream signing!

  23. August 31, 2010

    Yaya’s agent was as bad as Ibra’s. Still Pep came back from his vacation to convince the player to stay. Yaya had his own reason to leave.

    Pep showed no signs that he doesnt want Ibra to stay. He said it himself “I didnt ask anyone to sell him”. Ibra made a comment about his agent:”I am not his father to check what he says, but I am only responsible of what I say”. Something Yaya didn’t do, but still Pep wanted him to stay.

    So this is irrelevant in my opinion. Though, I can feel a tale is in the making. A closing that fits everyone.

    • Luke
      August 31, 2010

      There probably is a tale being spun here. I don’t think Pep wanted Ibra after this past year and especially now that he had Villa. Either way, it will be written as most stories are, based on half-truths and speculation.

  24. fcbfan
    August 31, 2010

    damn international break, Kxevin hope you guys have interesting posts lined up till nxt jornada 😀

    silly season is ….. over! yay! I think

  25. Barcathegreatestever
    August 31, 2010

    What I haven’t read here is how Eto’o the toast of Soccer euphoria was subjected to so many racial epithets in various venues around Spain that he had his young children in ?Paris. I don’t know if its better now, I hope so. He had a deep seated anxiety about his treatment and others. Money doesn’t fix that.

    Villa for 45 million was the end all but for whatever reason it didn’t happen and Inter were willing to deal. Ibra doubters were there from before the beginning and Pep became one of them.

    Hers is a guy that quits his national team because he is too good for them then is back less than a year later. He goes to his arch rivals at AC Milan. He says he is Barca and wants to fight for his spot and allows his agent to spout off for the last 6 months questioning his coach. Congratulations to all at Barca for ending the Ibradrama in one year only. Now they are perfect once again. Amazing!

    • blitzen
      August 31, 2010

      Yes, it was absolutely scandalous the treatment he and other black players were subjected to at times. The Spanish football federation really needs to step up and come down harder on clubs whose fans behave like that. Of course, it is not just happening in Spain, and the teams always support the players, but I just can’t believe that things like that still go on in this day and age. Even Barca still has the Boixos Nois.

      • Kxevin
        August 31, 2010

        It has been addressed before. And it’s worse in Italy. Ask Balotelli what he had to go through. Racism is appalling, speaking as one who is black, and it’s getting worse, not better, despite all of the “Respect” patches that players are putting on their shirtsleeves.

        I noted, during the day when we were starting The Yaya, Eto’o, Henry, Keita and Abidal, the value of that in a Camp Nou that has its own unfortunate history with black players.

        Until federations start forfeiting matches, it isn’t going to stop. And when people stop saying it, they won’t stop thinking it.

  26. Bill
    August 31, 2010

    Luke, this was a very well written piece, complete with perspectives from all sides and very well balanced. It’s one of the best I have read about this issue soo far.

    I’m really happy about the latest events. Well, less happy considering the amount of money lost by this saga. But I feel this was always the right thing to do. Ibra had to go. Simple as that.

    I was astounded last year when they got rid of a striker of Eto’o’s magnitude and output, for someone like Ibra. Make no mistake about it, I have always followed Ibra’s career, and considered him a very good player. But he was as much a striker as Lampard or even CRonaldo is. He was never in the mould of Torres, Eto’o, Villa or Drogba. He needed freedom to operate and enough space and time to do what he likes. And during the season, I always asked myself, am I the only one who sees that this thing is not working? I even questioned my own bias against him because I was only impressed with about 4 games from him. Come to find out that even Pep realized a long time ago that it wasn’t working is a relief to me.

    Speaking of Pep, I almost committed blasphemy in the old space when I questioned the popular “in Pep we trust” sentiments amongst many fans. While I think he is a brilliant tactical coach, his man management skills are dreadful. The treble winning season was an amazing collision of a team carefully assembled be Rijkaard and Txiki, then given a very good tactical imprint by Pep. This past season was a more normal season by a great first year coach.

    The problem with Pep is that he has his own ways, his own honor system, and completely believes in them. If you question him, you are in trouble. As much as I didn’t like Ibra on the team, as much as it was always the right thing to do. How he was ultimately treated leaves a queesy feeling. It happened to Eto’o, Hleb, Keirrison, Henry, Caceres and even Bojan. This is why teams want managers with experience to run the team, because a big part of managing is how you are able to work with personalities soo different from your own and bring out the best in them. Peps rigidness and stubborn nature has cost Barcelona an unbelievable amount of money and instability, and he needs to learn fast.

    A coach like Phil Jackson worked with completely different and difficult personalities like Michael Jordan, Shaq, Pippen, Kobe, Rodman and many more. He was almost always able to get the best out of them regardless of their idiosyncracies. Thats a large part of managing a team, and Pep needs to learn that.

    • Eklavya
      August 31, 2010

      I agree about the part where Pep is too stubborn.

    • Ryan
      August 31, 2010

      If a normal season includes a record breaking amount of points in the league, and losing only once, I look forward to business as usual this season!

  27. vicsoc8
    August 31, 2010

    This may have been discussed, but I didn’t see it so:

    Keita has improved and “extended” his contract. His buyout clause went up 10ish million (although this is ridiculously unnecessary), he is making more money, and his contract will automatically extend itself up to 2014 depending on how many games he is playing each season.

  28. Euler
    August 31, 2010

    It’s now very apparent that Ibra had to go.

    But I think the reasons why he had to go need to be taken as a serious lesson learned by the club with respect to their future transfer policy.

    All of us knew that Pep demands a very stringent hierarchy of team over individual. Most Cule’s have tremendous respect for him because of that.

    The Ibra situation has now amplified and presented in an even more dramatic fashio how strict Pep feels that hierarchy needs to be.

    Given this, the initial Ibra transfer should have never been made. Pep needed to be more honest with himself about how fixed he is on having players who are going to seamlessly place club over individual.

    There’s no way Ibra is that kind of player. Nor is this knowledge hindsight or 20/20 vision in retrospect. That was well known about Ibra prior to his purchase last season. His multiple ugly transfer blow outs were well documented, for example.

    This is not to say that Ibra was necessarily a “cancer” or anything like that.

    It’s just to say that if Pep was not going to be make allowances for Ibra’s personality, if he was not going to actively “manage” those idiosyncracies and ego then the initial purchase of Ibra represented even more massive risk than it initially appeared.

    And at 69M on their books the deal represented enormous risk to begin with.

    Ibra was a guy who has been on so many different teams and constantly moving. He was never going to be a guy who was just going to blend in like one of the players from La Masia or a squad player like Keita because he loved the colors and felt honored to play for the squad.

    Given these divergent personalities the deal should never have been made – not even for the football or direct financial outlay. But due to the enormous risk that discord in personalities posed.

    And again – this is not in hindsight. No you couldn’t know for certain this would happen but when you’re making a big deal that’s not how you think about it.

    You have to be very honest about how much and what kinds of risk you are willing to absorb.

    Pep and the club needed to be more explicit with themselves about this issue at that time because what was always clear was that if something serious happened between Ibra and the club and it just didn’t workout the club would get pennies on the dollar. And they did.

    Pep just needs to be more honest with himself about how stringent and difficult his requirements are. Those requirements are positives. But in the transfer market they complicate things greatly because they systematically increase the risk involved with any deal not working out.

    This needs to be an explicit part of their transfer policy now.

    • Bill
      August 31, 2010

      I touched on this above. We see the same thing, but we have varying solutions to this. I don’t think the team should only start getting players ‘in Peps image’. We will narrow the talent pool tremendously and it will ultimately cost the team. If Pep was the coach 7 years ago, we don’t get Ronaldinho, we don’t get Deco, and we definately never get Eto’o. Would the team have won as much?

      I think Pep has to start learning how to handle a difficult personality, and how to get the best out of players regardless of how he thinks about them

      • Euler
        August 31, 2010

        I too would like to see Pep expand his abilities to manage personalities. I anticipate he will over time.

        You’re correct – under this style of management a player like Ronaldhino would never have worked (and ultimately didn’t).

        All that said, I’m not one to speculate on or to make plans that are contingent on human nature changing.

        And until Pep is willing and able to manage divergent personalities in a different way then the club needs to be honest about were they stand with regards to making expensive transfers because the risk for financial loss is just too high otherwise.

        And I’d anticipate Pep will have only marginal interest in changing his management style as long as La Masia is producing world class talent.

        • Bill
          August 31, 2010

          Thats very true. But I really hope Pep does. For the benefit of the team. It has cost the team alot, and it will cost even more if he doesn’t.

          I am not even in the locker room, but I could tell as early as last november, that the yaya was on his way out of the team. The way Hleb & caceres have been treated was also not good. The question is, how many more untill only La Masia is left?

          More importantly, how many players would be willing to take a plunge, risk their budding careers in order to play with the Xavi’s & Iniesta’s if the thought of them being alienated by Pep is a very big possibility?

  29. Bill
    August 31, 2010

    Not too many people like Sandro in this space and blame hime for a lot of things, but soo far I think he has made the tough but right decisions.

    Sandro is coming off as a pure administrator. Laporta was a populist. He did everything to make everyone feel all rosy about the team and uplifted everyones pride in the cause. But he hid problems. He was never honest about the true financial situation of the team. While most fans believed that the debts from earlier in the decade had been cleaned out, it turns out, only a little dent had been made.

    If laporta was more honest about the debt, the team, the fans, and the newspapers would not have given pep the leeway to go and make irresponsible and unnecessary buys like Ibra and Chygrisky. And other teams would not have been inflating prices of players like Alvez and Keirrison, thinking that Barcelona are rich and therefore willing to pay

    So I respect his honesty about the situation, that prevented us going overboard with the purchase of Fabregas and others.

    • Kxevin
      August 31, 2010

      My jury is still out on Rosell. The truth of the situation that he presents is somewhere in the middle of Laporta “Everything’s fine!” and Rosell “We’re poor, and doomed.”

      What vexes many is his resolve to damage the club’s perception to make himself look good, and Laporta look bad. He promises transparency in all dealings, and accountability to members.

      Where is it now, in the face of so many questions about this situation, and why we were forced to sell Ibrahimovic for such a loss.

      NO president will EVER be truly honest about the financial situation of the club, including Rosell.

  30. Luis
    August 31, 2010


    Holy Crap! I really hope we dont see any broken bones this season

    • Helge
      August 31, 2010

      hehe, he definitely likes to tackle. Seems like the perfect player for the EPL, we’ll have to wait and see how he does in la Liga.
      My only concern so far is that he might give away too many freekicks against teams like Real Madrid who can take advantage of that (well, sometimes CR still shoots unstoppable freekicks). Apart from that it’s good to have a sometimes over-physical player in our team. We get tackled too much from time to time (Malaga, for instance) but now we’ve got someone to strike back.

      9, 6, 5 – that’s the amount of yellow cards for him during the last 3 seasons (EPL only). I would bet he’ll surpass 10 yellows this season (provided he plays 24+ matches).

    • Bill
      August 31, 2010

      Wow! I saw this video and promptly ran and put my leg in a cast. Thats some old school hard nosed tackling. He probably dreams about lunging at someones feet. I would play him against dirty counter attacking teams like Inter and chelsea, where he can break up a counter attack at the center circle area. He may give up alot of free kicks and red cards though. But he may also get Busquets excited about dishing out the pain instead of being the damn victim all the time.

  31. Helge
    August 31, 2010

    Wow, this transfer season sucks more than anything before! We keep on loaning the players, even the ones that will definitely never get another chance, instead of selling them: Hleb loaned to Birmingham, and they won’t even pay his total salary, but about 70%…
    6 hours ago it was reported that Birmingham is willing to pay 4.8m, but the club wanted 5m.
    And now we give them a player for free PLUS effectively some money 🙁

    Milan is the complete opposite, they’ve completely taken us to the cleaners, signed Robinho for 15m (well, he sucks but ManCity paid 40m) and how does a loan deal from Milan look like?
    “Milan have confirmed that they have off-loaded Marco Borriello to Roma on loan. The deal will cost the Giallorossi €2 million and they will have the option to purchase for €13m.” (from BS.com)
    So it is possible to even get some money for a loaning, but wtf! We are obviously not able to negotiate at all, since Txiki and Laporta left.

    • Luke
      August 31, 2010

      The key word on all of this is “reported” figure for Birmingham City move. The club is not going to move from a 4.8M deal to paying 30% of next year unless that actual figure never came and was not true at all.

      The Milan situation was pushed by Pep and the club had little room.

      Not to mention that we got hosed on a lot of deals with Laporta (Eto’o, Hleb, Caceres) and Sandro signed Adriano for a reasonable $9+ and Mascherano for $16+.

  32. Bill
    August 31, 2010

    Kxevin, you may have followed the Eto’o saga closely, but by your own admission, you tend to shut the door once the players are out :). Well, I followed it after he left to really understand what happened.

    -Txiki and Laporta came out and said they didn’t really want Eto’o to leave, but the coach did. It wasn’t because of them or Eto’o’s contract dispute.

    -Players like Messi, Puyol and Xavi came out and said they had wanted Eto’o to stay, and Iniesta went as far as saying they should erect a statue of Eto’o outside camp nou. It wasn’t a locker room instability

    -Eto’o himself said he thought he would play at camp nou untill about 33 and later said “I never understood why pep didn’t want me, but ok” He even went as far as lobbying Inter to get Pep as coach if he was availlable this offseason. It was never the player Issue.

    -Pep claimed that he got rid of Eto’o because of a “feeling”. You can place that deal, regardless of how you feel about it, squarely at Peps feet.

    I’m not bringing Eto’o back into the discussion as many of you are wont to think, just clarifying some wrong assumptions up above.

    • Kxevin
      August 31, 2010

      I don’t believe that the assumptions are wrong. If Eto’o wanted to renew, he had the opportunity. The club approached him during the season. He tabled it until the end of the season, then went on vacation and said he’d deal with it after vacation.

      As I’ve said before, a coach has the right to have the players that he wants in the side. If he didn’t want Eto’o, that’s certainly his right, and he will live or die by that decision.

      It matters not a whit to me what players think about other players. Rare is the player who makes a successful coach.

      As for Eto’o and his mental Camp Nou tenure, the unspoken aspect of that is “on my terms.” Those terms weren’t forthcoming, so he and the club couldn’t agree to a renewal, nor should they have if Guardiola didn’t want him. I repeat, a coach has the right to choose his army, then go to war with that army.

      • Bill
        August 31, 2010

        Like I said, regardless of how anyone feels about the trade, there is enough evidence to suggest that none of the other issues were at play in his trade. It was all down to Pep pulling the trigger and no one else.

  33. Diego S.
    August 31, 2010

    Hercules have signed Trezeguet and loaned Drenthe from EE, Hope they don’t cause us any trouble

  34. Luke
    August 31, 2010

    I think this should also serve to stifle some of the talk about Pep running out the door on May 31st. He now has the team he wanted last year since we were pursuing both Villa and Masch then. If he leaves, he leaves, but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as some here.

  35. Helge
    August 31, 2010

    Can someone please give me the link to the Yahoo! Fantasy game? I’ve lost it 🙁

    Will bookmark it asap. Thx

  36. Eklavya
    August 31, 2010

    I don’t wanna go in this discussion but I don’t believe Eto’o wasn’t going to renew. He said many times he wanted to stay.

    • Diego S.
      August 31, 2010

      Same Here, I think it was Pep’s decision that he didn’t want Eto’o, And Every Manager has the right to control the squad

    • vicsoc8
      August 31, 2010

      My understanding was there was an issue with wages. Eto’o wanted more money, and he had just reached that arbitrary point in Spanish law where the tax on foreigners earnings increase something like 3-fold.

      That would have been a huge increase in his wages. What I didn’t understand was why we let that be a sticking point and then got Ibra whose wages were higher.

  37. Kxevin
    August 31, 2010

    The 20/20 clarity of hindsight is a game that I don’t play. I thought that Ibrahimovic was a good signing for his potential and versatility, and I would think the same thing tomorrow. As Sid Lowe said in the above cited article, only Higuain was responsible for securing more points for his side in the Liga. And we won the Liga with style.

    As with Henry and his second season, I thought he deserved the opportunity to improve his next season. That isn’t going to happen, so we move on.

  38. August 31, 2010

    I am reading all the “That’s why. Now we can feel better!” arguments about Ibra’s transfer. But none really hold water. I think we will never know why we sold the player. All assumptions are easy to counter. But it probably serve as a mental/psychological healing method.

    The bottom of line is that we made a late deal ending up finalizing a pooooor transfer. Figure. We lost a player with massive qualities for a deal that mickey mouse could have engineered better. By no mean this transfer is something to praise or say “good that it happened”. It is catastrophic by all means. Period. Aside of that, the rest are details.

    I think Trezeguet would have been a good player to have on the bench.

    • Dave
      August 31, 2010

      Yep Trez would be better than nothing. Still wish we had Henrik Larrson.

    • Euler
      August 31, 2010

      Agreed on this point. Whatever the reasons for it, Ibra’s purchase and sale have turned out to be an unmitigated disaster, particularly on the sporting side.

      It may have needed to be done on net. But sunk costs are sunk costs and they are not positives.

      This was a horrible piece of business.

      And it’s still unacceptable to only get 24M for him. That’s just a joke. To get much less for Ibra in a market where James Milner commands a much higher transfer fee and Dzeko would have fetched 40M+ is terrible business.

      AC Milan played hardball here and got what they wanted. Barca should have played hardball and forced a transfer to where they would have gotten a more reasonable deal.

      • Euler
        August 31, 2010

        Sorry meant to say particularly on the financial side.

    • Bill
      August 31, 2010

      Ramzi, Ibra was never going to work. Period. regardless of how much you guys tried to come up with fancy tactical explanations about how it might work, and how much more time people wanted to give him. What was on the pitch was not working. We can also say, in hindsight, that none of your attempts at writing articles trying to make it work ‘held water’. It’s not hindsight for me, because I knew it wouldn’t work even before Ibra arrived. The team bought Villa exactly because of that. Pedro owns the left wing now, yet they spent 40m for villa. It wasn’t so they play him on the left.

        • Kxevin
          August 31, 2010

          Wit’ da trueness, Ramzi. 21 goals and 9 assists is working pretty well from where I, and the club sit. The “second only to Higuain” stat cited by Sid Lowe surprised me. It deserved a second season. But as we can all agree, we will never know the real reasons why it didn’t get a second season.

          • August 31, 2010

            Everyone has a reason he believe. Mine is that there are people who abused the agent comments to an extreme and rode the high horse of protecting Pep’s image to force out a player signed by Laporta. They were not that aware of Pep when they sold a player he didnt want to sell for 15 M. Just saying.

            Pep in my opinion is the one mostly upset by Ibra’s departure. The Gamper was a clear message for those interested to see. He made a clear sign:”this is my position in this.” But when others preach for your pride, you cant be the one who care less about it. And thats how the snowball become bigger.

    • Jim
      August 31, 2010

      *Warning – in a cranky mood after bad day at work !

      You’re right it ended up a poor transfer but the bigger question to me is who in their right mind, when so many were questioning the wisdom of buying Ibra, and especially at that price, would push ahead with it? The fact that Pep thought he was a plan B was, and is still to me, worrying. I don’t know much about football compared to Pep but even I had questions from the start. While everyone was going on abut the Ibra “haters” it was gradually becoming obvious to even the coaching staff that they had made a mistake. Much as it hurts some people to admit it, the Ibra “haters” had a point. Pep wasn’t happy with his contribution so benched him and eventually got rid of him.

      He’s gone and we move on but let’s not have any sniping at Villa. It’s obvious he will fit in better than Ibra. We may not win everything this year but if we don’t it’ll be by trying our style of football against the opposition, not trying to change it. The idea of us changing our playing style to fit in with Ibra was always flawed.

      Whichever way I look at it Pep has gone down a rung in my estimation and he needs badly to reassess his approach to the players. It’s not good enough when even his best players say they have little contact unless they do something wrong. He’s paid megabucks – the players’ welfare and his relationship with them are important and not down to his whims of personality. The thought that he doesn’t talk much even to Puyol is quite frankly unacceptable to me.

      • Bill
        August 31, 2010

        Jim, AMEN! I couldn’t have said it myself soo eloquently.

      • August 31, 2010

        There was nothing wrong in Ibra’s initial transfer. But now that things went the wrong way, this is a play ground for everyone to play. It was not a plan B. It was a plan A.

        Pep benched him when we was out of form. He did the same with Iniesta and used Keita instead when Iniesta was not convincing after injury problems. There is a difference between temporary decisions and permanent decisions. In preseason he used him. Against Sevilla he scored a deciding goal. In the Gamper -even though he was in negotiation to leave- he still played and we saw the promising link between him and Villa. Only Messi was missed on the other flank to take advantage of the spaces created.

        We do not need to change our style. But we need to upgrade it. Pep simply learned from the mistakes of the past. Things didnt go as he planned. This is life. And this is football.

        Its a shame that we will never know how things would have gone if he stayed. So better to leave it there.

        • Jim
          August 31, 2010

          A very measured response to a cranky post Ramzi. Thanks for that. However, I still have a problem with switching to a new Plan A after winning everything in sight. The good teams in the past didn’t throw out their Plan A after a season. If you look at the great Liverpool or Man Utd teams they took advantage of the fact that they were better than those around them for several seasons. Ibra was tinkering on a Ranieri scale.

          It’s not saying much to say that he played in the loss against Sevilia. We had half a team missing. He didn’t play in the important return match and look what happened. The Gamper was a friendly to all intents and purposes but by then Ibra knew the situation that he was unlikely to see much action.

          Imo, we have wasted a season of the best team we are ever likely to have at Barca but are now back on track. However, after a few glasses of Tempranillo I’ve calmed down a bit and am prepared to admit that Masch might occasionally have something to offer us 🙂

          • August 31, 2010

            “However, I still have a problem with switching to a new Plan A after winning everything in sight.”

            After winning everything during Ronaldinho era, we didnt change anything for the second season (for the record, I demanded changes then, and you know what my controversial opinion brings me, usually!). Still, NOT changing a winning team didnt help a lot later on, did it?

            Man Utd is a good example. Who said they didnt change after successful season. They won everything with Tevez-Rooney-Ronaldo. Next year? Berbatov. Is it a coincidence that great coaches think alike (AKA Alex and Pep)? Dont think so.

            When I mentioned the games Ibra played in preseason, I was pointing that Pep didnt already give up on him. Beside the obvious chemistry between him and Villa, only for Jeffren to waste getting advantage of it. Thats all.

      • IS
        August 31, 2010

        Jim, just a point I’d like to stress because it seems to be slipping under the radar of all the (newly triggered) Pep criticism. You, as several others, mentioned that:

        “It’s not good enough when even his best players say they have little contact unless they do something wrong.”

        This has NOTHING to do with how good or bad a manager Pep is! This is purely his management style. Considering his age and the length of his coaching career, if he were not to set limits/rules to his relationships with the players, issues, borne of too much comfort and a broken down hierarchy, could easily surface.

        It’s similar to how he makes it a point not to enter the dressing room. There is a hierarchy within the team, and unless he feels the need to intervene, he trusts in that structure for the day-to-day issue resolution.

        Besides, not all coaches have an open door policy. I actually read very similar quotes from Man U players regarding Sir Alex Ferguson, undoubtedly the most successful manager in the EPL over his 22+ year tenure. Except in those quotes, there was no mention of accessibility to the manager (not to mention that he doesn’t attend all training sessions). Respect and authority are maintained in various ways.

        Personally, I couldn’t be happier with Pep’s management ‘style’. Has he made mistakes? Certainly. Does he have his deficiencies? Sure. Haven’t we often questioned his substitutions? His transfers? His line-ups? All the time. Despite all this, over the past two years (hard to believe it’s only been 2), he has consistently shown us that he has learnt from his mistakes and further enhanced his managerial skill set.

        • Jim
          August 31, 2010

          Not saying he won’t learn, IS, just that I’m starting to see deficiences I didn’t know existed. Not his fault – mine. I got carried away with the “In Pep we Trust” mantra 🙂

    • Jnice
      August 31, 2010

      Sky Sports’ Revista de La Liga



      *http://www.fileserve.com/file/BGCVbHt/Revista De La Liga – 31-08-10.avi

      Credit to Pakman @fbtz.com

  39. Hilal
    August 31, 2010

    A lot of people are assuming that Pep forced the move, but what if Ibra and his agent forced the move? Maybe Pep laid out his plans to Ibra, what his role would be and what he had to sacrifice to be in this team and Ibra wasnt willng to accept it. Like Ramzi pointed out, Pep stated that he didnt ask anyone at the club to sell Ibra. Assuming that is true maybe Ibra and his agent orchestrated the sale by making the situation untenable. The comments that Raoila made were not by accident, they were very calculated and targeted squarely at Pep, knowing that once that relationship had been effectively destroyed they had no choice but to sell him. So maybe its not Pep who was too stubborn, maybe it was Ibra who wasnt willing to accept his place in what is most definitely Messi’s team.

    I guess we’ll never know, but I think its another angle we might consider..

  40. fcbfan
    August 31, 2010

    sheesh I am beginnin to get cranky as well 😀
    Don’t tell me yall are still gonna be talking about Eto’o 5 seasons from now.
    Why not just sack Pep, and lets get Rijkaard back. He treated the players like friends and it worked just fine 😀

  41. mei
    August 31, 2010

    Ramzi , our second season with the rijkaard team, after the double , barely failed because of tactical reasons , and teams coming up with a better plan against us because they have “read our game” or were better prepared.
    It happened… you know why.
    We all have said it in here so many times and has little to do with tacticts.
    Im not against tactical variations , but using that team as an example is just wrong when its well known ronnie , deco and the rest blew up the dressing room and training time , and had just lost any motivation and zeal to win on the pitch.

    • August 31, 2010

      The team failed though we kept old cards ==> no certainties either way. That’s all what matters. We can make a “because” for any cause.

      BTW, tactics had a lot to do with the failure. Just for the record. Like…hm…that 3-4-3 attempt which basically blew our liga hopes. I am laughing out loudly now that I remember it. I wasnt laughing back then.

  42. extreme barca fan
    August 31, 2010

    for me the most important conclusion from all of this is that pep doesn’t compromise, its either his way or the highway. and this is one of the many reasons why i love guardiola.
    we lost a lot of money yes, we had a bad PR image yes, but now its time to move on, get behind our team and be there for them in every way we can from here to the end of the season (and after that of-course)
    lets pack the camp nou for the Hercules game and give our team the support they deserve and need

  43. Cesc Blanc
    September 1, 2010

    interesting interview with the great Arrigo Sacchi, who basically says that while Ibra is a great soloist, he can’t play in a great orchestra, because he can’t coordinate his movements with the others. He also speaks well of Pep for taking a risk and trying to fit Ibra in, despite it not being easy. Anyway, it’s a good read, unfortunately in Spanish.


    • Cesc Blanc
      September 1, 2010

      and the more Ibra talks about Pep the Philosopher, the more I have to listen to “My Philosphy” from BDP, from the time when KRS was one of the 3 great MCs and not some washed up dude talking some stuff.


      Pep Guardiola is just the guy to lead a crew
      right up to your face and dis you

  44. jaime
    September 2, 2010

    I think it’s necessary to remind ourselves how Ibra arrived to realize that we shouldn’t be at all surprised with this situation.

    Here’s how I remember things (in a nutshell)

    This whole Ibra fiasco is the consequence of not having bought the right player last season…and that right player was Villa.

    But we didnt’t get Villa last season because he was too expensive,Valencia had offers from Madrid and the upper hand in negotiations.

    The 2nd reason we couldn’t get Villa is because it had to be coordinated with Eto’o eit.First we had to get rid of Eto’o, but had very limited options.Mainly because he had a year on his contract so we had to a)keep him another season and let him go for free at the end of his contract or b) with this knowledge allow him to go at that moment to another great club on the cheap while not getting us closer to a replacement #9. Keeping him was not an option, so we had to look for a club that was top notch ( so as to be attractive sportswise for Eto’o and could afford him) AND had a #9 available to swap.

    That’s when Inter and Ibra come into play. Inter gave us an exit strategy for Eto’o and in return we brought Ibra…that was the problem. It’s not really what we wanted.

    Economically it would have been perfect to keep Eto’o another season and then gone for Villa, but Guardiola wanted Eto’o gone NOW. It’s important to remember something that I think has been overlooked in this post:

    On day 1 when Guardiola became coach he made it clear he weanted the “non-canterano” heavyweights gone. That meant Deco, Ronnie and Eto’o. They were the reason for the rut and lack of drive in the team. Barca was able to get rid of Ronnie and Deco, but we failed to find Eto’o an exit…so Guardiola took a deep breath and agreed to keep him ONE year for the club’s sake but then he had to get gone. That happened to be the season of the triplete so amidst the ecstasy we forgot about the Eto’o affair. But Pep didn’t.As soon as the celebrations ended Pep wanted Samu gone.

    Ultimately, we had to take a hit as a club because the circumstances were not in our favor and had to make the best out of a bad situation.We were at a disadvantage in all these negotiations, and we paid for it. It is important to keep in mind that the reason we were at a disadvantage is because Pep demamnded these changes…and the club will never say “no” to Pep as long as he kepps bringing home the silverware.It took hard work and treasure, but now the pieces have fallen into place, the market is closed and the season has started.So let’s get over the Ibra thing.Footballingwise, we are better off.

    Random thought: when the time comes that Pep leaves, Tito Vilanova should replace him as manager.

  45. J
    September 5, 2010

    While I agree with everything that is being said in this post, I think it’s important to realise this: the only reason Pep has the leverage is because of his eight trophies in two seasons achievement. If he had a lukewarm start to his coaching career, with say only the La Liga title, I’m sure the situation would’ve turned out differently.

    • jaime
      September 5, 2010

      that’s why i dont like this adulation for guardiola. yes, he’s the man. but if one day he doesn’t get what he wants or he doesn’t keep winning as much his relationship with the club could deteriorate veery quickly.

  46. Zlatan
    September 5, 2010

    What if?
    What if your perfect Coach is not perfect after all?
    What if he is much more smarter than you think?
    What if in his evil wickedness He thought of a plan to get rid of Eto and give Ibra only one year at Barca?
    What if it was Pep’s plan to push Ibra’s button? Giving him little time on the field or no time at all to be little him. Ibra with his ego won’t take it and decide to leave. Pep looks innocent and very professional and Ibra looks impatient with a bad temper. While everyone talking about Ibra’s misfit with the team Pep Say that he has no problem with his football and blame it on his personality “person comes before the player”
    Pep keeps everyone wondering what went wrong and he decide not explain it further.I think because he can’t expose his plan from day one, how to get rid of Eto then Ibra after one year?

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