Oh yeah, of course it will be quiet over what is usually recognized as the holiday period. Players are at home, everyone is on break, the team has no games for more than a week, why would they need to announce any new information? So of course the team decides to make numerous announcements today and have Afellay come in for negotiations. Thanks guys, I was nursing a lovely holiday hangover, but not now, I’m here for you with news and love, mostly love.
–Obviously the first big piece of news is Ibrahim Afellay coming in from PSV Eindhoven this morning for negotiations, the meet and greet, medical exams, and the like. If all goes well he will be presented Friday morning. According to accounts, he will be wearing Deco and Alves’s old #20 shirt. He has already met with Guardiola and the rest of the administrative staff. The team and Afellay are working on a 4.5 year deal. Follow BarçaStuff on Twitter for the updates all day.
Regarding Afellay’s use in the coming months, I see him as a handy dandy contributor who can play in the middle for Xavi or Iniesta if they need a breather, or on the wings. While he is not going to take a starting position away from Pedro, Villa, Xaviniesta, or Messi, he can contribute right away and serve as a valuable backup since we get into the full swing of Copa del Rey, Champion’s League, and La Liga games starting January 2. Ramzi over at FootballMood also presents a good analysis for how Afellay may be used in the future. If I had to make a prediction at gunpoint, I’d say he’s going to get the most work on the wings because Bojan is streaky and Pedro / Villa will need a break. I would say Messi would come out, but once again, he’s like an 8-year old and never wants to leave the game.
–In more news, the club announced plans for a Summer 2011 tour including the Audi Cup in Munich; an unnamed friendly; and matches in the U.S. against Manchester United (Washington D.C. on July 30), AC Milan (Miami on August 3), and America de Mexico (Dallas on August 6). This is a good chance for American fans not in NYC and LA to see the club for once and I hope it goes better than the super fail that was the Asian trip.
–President Sandro Rosell also gave a presser about the Qatar Foundation sponsorship deal. For fear of being flayed alive by every involved, I am just posting the link.
–The insufferably amazing and always pleasing Brian Phillips, who is the proprietor of Run of Play has written a piece for American online magazine Slate about FC Barcelona’s amazing 2010. It serves as a love letter to the style of play of the club and is a great bit of positive press. It also means that Phillips apparently has a death wish or some serious stones, because the amount of flack he will take for this from other press and from fans is going to be awe-inspiring I am sure. I’ll just post this particularly poignant and useful quote from the piece:
Of course, there’s some financial clockwork grinding behind the magic. Easily the strangest thing about Barcelona is the way its marketing-behemoth subdivision cannibalizes the team’s achievements while simultaneously enabling them. Barcelona is més que un club, more than a club, as its motto goes, because it holds itself to a high standard, both aesthetically and in its self-conceived role within Catalan culture. (During the early Franco years, when Catalonia’s regional identity was suppressed, its stadium was one of the few places where Catalan could be spoken in public.) But Barcelona is able to meet this high standard largely because its més que un club identity is a lucrative brand—the club earned almost $600 million last season on the back of schoolboy-hero narratives and carefully packaged virtues—that in turn allows it to keep pace with its more clay-footed rivals. The club frequently comes under minor fire for perceived hypocrisies that would barely register at, say, Manchester United—selling a shirt sponsorship, as it did for the first time this year, or shilling for Qatar’s World Cup bid. The paradox being, of course, that if you’re going to use Messi to dazzle the world as part of a program of sports-transcending cultural enrichment, you have to be able to afford Messi, which means occasionally steering your white stallion down the avenues of plain old enrichment.
–Bojan also signed a renewal until 2015 recently and increased his buyout to $100M. In order to avoid being labeled by some harsh epithet because I actually think Bojan is a good player and will improve, I will simply leave this here. I was already maliciously persecuted on Twitter once for this, and these outrages shall not stand!
–Finally, the Spoiler, a particularly funny and wry bit of English football coverage posts this video of Lionel “hide yo kids, hide yo wife, and hide yo husbands too” Messi staying on his feet and fighting through hard challenges. Certain other players might go down in these instances, but not my own personal Patronus charm. Incidentally, if any especially awesome commenter that is familiar with Harry Potter and is also accomplished with Photoshop or similar photo editing software can create me a picture of Messi as a Patronus, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Video below: