So there I was
in the Congo in my cubicle. Just minding my own business. Well, sort of. I was surfing the internets (is that the opposite of minding my own business?) and I ran across an interesting headline on Marca: “Messi: ‘I asked to play for 90 minutes, it’s my responsibility'” it read. Damn, I thought, having tweeted this yesterday:
So why is Messi still playing in this meaningless friendly? Same goes for the other starters.
Now, the first rule is to never take headlines in the daily rags at face value, so I dutifully clicked to read the whole quote. What I met with wasn’t the usual rearranging of words with a vague spot of truth them, but instead:
Leo no tuvo descanso: “Yo pedí jugar los 90 minutos”. Y sobre el lanzamiento del penalti manifestó: “Suelo tirarlos, es mi responsabilidad y la asumo”.
In case you don’t speak Spanish,
Leo didn’t get a rest: “I asked to play 90 minutes.” And about taking the penalty, he declared: “It fell to me to take it, it’s my responsibility, and I undertook it.”
So the headline mixed two separate quotes about two separate things. Okay then. With great journalism comes great responsibility is the original Stan Lee quote, I think, but Marca is a bit behind on their required reading. Not that Sport or MD are anywhere near completing their 3rd grade summer list. They’re stuck on that part in Say Cheese and Die where you learn that the camera kills people. Also, what kind of teacher would assign that? Spain is so crazy.
It’s not like I’m not acutely aware of the failings of the Barça-based press. They’re often more egregious than the capitaleños, though I don’t read AS anymore because they’re not even worth my time and my time includes lots of things like this post. Tells you something, doesn’t it? The point is, they’ve been just as stupid lately as always. Surprise!
This time around it’s a lot of hoohaw about Chelsea or Real Madrid or maybe the Boston Celtics putting up money for Cesc Fabregas. Headlines like “Madrid is negotiating for Cesc” make no sense in February, but there they are. £60m coming from Abramovich for little ol’ #4. These things, these statements, are all bullshit. Messi claiming he wanted to play, Valdes saying Fabs would never play for the whites. None of it matters and none of it is real. Maybe they actually said these things, but then again, maybe they didn’t. And it doesn’t matter at all because Abidal can say he wants Ribery all he wants—“He’s my best mateypoo on the national team!” or “I detest that guy!”—and it doesn’t mean anything.
What’s interesting, however, is the number that was quoted. £60m is a lot of cashola and while it’s doubtful that anyone will pony up that kind of money next summer, Arsenal fans who claim they can demand that kind of money have a pretty decent point considering Fernando Torres’ price tag just a few days ago and Andy Carroll’s replacement move immediately afterwards.
These moves are especially interesting because of the (im)pending regulations on financial solvency, which Tom has previously covered and which appear in one-off mentions like this one all over the Internet. I won’t get into their specifics because that’s not particularly interesting, but I will get into some of it in a rather general way.
My own thoughts on Cesc are pretty well known—don’t want him mainly for non-footballing reasons and because I stand by my thinking that any canterano who leaves Barça should stay gone from Barça or come home on a free*—but I think it’s worth noting a few things that sometimes slip through the cracks. With Thiago officially on his way up next season, are we looking for a Xavi replacement or a different style? At £60m+ (or, really, even at £30m+), any player must provide either something we don’t have or improve something we do have. Cesc is not Xavi. That’s not a knock on him, of course, because he’s quite good, but he’s certainly not going to directly replace Xavi when the latter retires. Cesc, Iniesta, and Thiago all seem to enjoy playing much higher than Xavi and none of the 3 have really ever shown the ability to control a game like the maestro.
And a note to anyone who feels that they should comment about Cesc being as good as Xavi at controlling a game: he’s not. But that merely makes him like every single other person in the history of time. So that’s pretty decent company. The wider point of that is that Cesc and Thiago play so similarly—that is, unlike Xavi—in my mind that there’s no real reason to bring in both. Squad depth is important, of course, but rotations seem to destroy Barça’s attack more than alleviate fatigue. It’s Iniesta that will replace Xavi and it’s Messi that will further develop his already formidable passing skills.
Obviously Keita’s eventual departure is important too and that could be the way that this squad goes. Keita is very obviously not Xavi or Iniesta. He’s very obviously not a game controller, a metronome, or whatever other descriptor you’d like to use. He’s very obviously a “box-to-box” midfielder who plays defense with equal fervor as he attacks. And that is something that none of the other midfielders I’ve mentioned so far have. He’s a great defense against opposing metronomes and while I fully appreciate Iniesta and Xavi’s contributions, there’s something perfectly Guardiola in Keita’s contributions. Something completely at ease with the system as a whole in a way that having extra metronomes can’t replicate.
And none of this is an insult to Cesc, who really did open my eyes to his ability to play with Iniesta and Xavi by putting in some great performances in the WC. Thiago may not be as good as he is, but I personally don’t care. I prefer Thiago because he stayed. Arsenalites may claim to have raised Cesc (or at least matured him), but unlike many cules, I agree with them and I say they should keep their best player. And that’s said not with an air of superiority, but rather because I don’t think dishing out dozens of millions of euros on a sufficiently complete position is a good investment in our future, just as Arsenal has assumed for quite some time now. Arshavin was a big purchase and Nasri wasn’t cheap either, but they’ve generally been more prudent than we have and I think that’s pretty cool. So I hope they reap the benefits, keep Cesc, and also, sort of incidentally, get their asses blown off in the Champions League by us.
So anyway–take none of what the rags have to say worth a grain of salt and instead, err, turn to me for The Truth. It’s kinda the only way to go. Or something. I’m back tomorrow with a preview of Sporting Gijon that you won’t want to miss and then again on Tuesday with a Champions League super duper uber OH SHIIIIT preview of magnificently decadent proportions. Or at least that’s the plan.
If you’re in Philly this weekend, perhaps I’ll tweet a location where I’ll be, but I can’t promise anything since I might just end up on on the ‘net looking for a stream like everyone else. Or maybe I won’t. Suggestions for locations to watch are quite welcome.
*I’m opposed, in retrospect, to the €5m we paid for Piqué. Despite his obviously talents—and Cesc has very obvious talents—Gerard should have come home for free or stayed in Manchester, whatever the consequences for the team. Perhaps that’s too harsh a line, but it’s one that I stand by; it’s my only real kowtowing to the concepts of loyalty that everyone else appears to take such pride in.