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It’s been busy these past few days, and we wanted to let everyone grok the fullness of the Champions League run-in. But it’s back to business, and here we go:
–If anybody is broke Leo Messi is the guy to hit up for a loan. No numbers are available as of yet, but he’s signed a new contract that will keep him with us until 2016. The buyout clause is (are you sitting down?) 250 million Euros. Citeh will probably still try to pay it.
The deal guarantees that he will be the highest-paid player at the club which, in the aftermath of the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was temporarily not the case.
–As expected, the Puyol business is getting a prominent spot in the news again. Pep Guardiola has said, without fear of equivocation, “My wish is that he stays,” our coach said to Sport. But he also told his captain that his continued stay at Barcelona is “up to him.”
Now, I’ve nattered about this before, but will again. It’s difficult to know the truth in such situations, but there is a shard of it in there. Pique has become a for-real stud. And we’ve signed Txignasty. So Puyol is wondering, rather correctly, what his future is with the club. It ain’t as an automatic starter for much longer, I’ll tell you that much. So the question for him is really a simple one: Does he want to retire with the club that he loves, in which his deep-seated roots lie, or does ego want to make him flit off somewhere, in search of regular playing time?
Yes, I said it: Ego. But don’t let the loaded definition of the word vex you. Every athlete has an ego. Each of them wants to be the best. But being the best is hard, and Father Time inexorably chips away at the qualities that make that player “the best.” It’s up to each player to decide that balance between ego and longevity. Maldini was a rare and special case. He was ooooold, and retired with AC Milan. But that club plays a more static defense that enables a player with a high initial skill set to stave of challenges. Milan also committed to Maldini in not really offering him any significant challenges.
Guardiola has taken a very different tack, of “Nobody’s place is guaranteed.” His detractors will say that such a stance is disloyal, and doesn’t reward players for long and faithful service. I say that if a club wants to keep winning, turnover, and high-quality turnover, is essential.
We all love us some Captain Caveman. And I feel as Guardiola does, in that my wish is that he stays. But there will be caveats attached to that, and they will up to Puyol to accept. Here’s hoping.
–Thierry Henry was mightily vexed at being taken off in the Champions League match on Wednesday. He felt as though he was removed right when he was getting the better of his defender, and he was right. But you can’t suck the whole match, suddenly decide to start playing and expect your coach to think that’s the trend, instead of your ineffectiveness. He admitted that it was a momentary thing, and he’s fine now. Whew!
Guardiola admitted to Sport that Henry had a point, that the Frenchman had a right to be annoyed because as a former player, Guardiola understands. He also admitted that maybe he didn’t make the right decision.
–Samuel Eto’o's agent said that the striker still had “more to give” to Barcelona, blah, blah, blah. “We don’t agree with the decision, but we certainly respect it, said Josep Maria Mesalles.
Dude. Let it go. No. Really. From me, to you. Consider it my gift. Let. It. Go.
–We’ll be getting us a big-ass pigpile of Txikgrinski, as he will be playing the next three Liga matches. Who his defense partners will be remain to be seen, but it’s a good move, every bit as important as taking the Ukranian strongman to the Champions League matches, even though he wasn’t going to play. There’s no better way to integrate a player into the club. Those of us (well, most of us….some weren’t at all impressed) who watched him via Getafe, came away mightily impressed with that we saw. It was almost as if he’d been raised in our system from day one.
–Finally, I leave it to Inter supremo Moratti to sum up the Champions League tie on Wednesday: “There is a difference (in class) between us and Barcelona, but I insist that we can reach equality.”
Dream on, baby. Dream on.