Jürgen Klinsmann and Why Barça is Pretty Good

Maybe this is just an excuse to talk about American soccer while the team is here in the US, but I was struck by a couple of things regarding US Soccer’s decision to fire Bob Bradley and hire Jürgen Klinsmann. Whatever the reasons for firing Bradley–and I think a friend was right when she guessed it had nothing to do with him and everything to do with finally getting a deal with Klinsmann–the American footballing (or soccering, I guess) world has a chance to reinvent itself from the ground up.

A little bit about the American system, as I know it: There’s a cliche that every child in the US plays soccer until middle school or high school and then chooses a more “American” sport to focus on. The bulky kids become American football players, the tall ones play basketball, and the boring ones play baseball. Reality is a bit different from that simply because when someone says “everyone plays soccer” they mean “all the middle class kids play soccer.” The system is designed with travel teams in mind because of the distances between towns and the desire to face different opposition when your town consists of just a couple hundred kids. It makes some sense, but in order to get on the majority of travel teams, you don’t have to be good, you have to be able to pay. Traveling costs money, after all.

Where I grew up in Ohio, there were kids who boasted about being on travel teams, but most of the rest of us knew that those teams weren’t better or more prestigious. There were certainly good travel teams–the best teams in the area were probably the good travel teams–but the system effectively kept a lot of players off the field by disincentivizing local summer leagues or simply making them impossible. We played pick up when we could, but that is hardly a good replacement for coached training and competitive games. At least it’s not when you’re 16 and 17.

Klinsmann claims to have overhauled Germany’s national system, working with the leagues to create a system that could be implemented across the country. If that’s his goal with the United States, there’s a large cultural shift that might have to take place to really find the talent hidden in plain sight. Encouraging kids that would otherwise focus on different sports to choose soccer is tough if their barrier to entry is a costly travel team and they’re already saddled with economic difficulties. Further, the US doesn’t see the game as a street game, like so many kids elsewhere do. It may be more common in New York or Los Angeles to see kids playing after school in ad hoc fields with backpacks and rocks as goalposts, but where I grew up you needed a field and equipment to play. Cleats, shin guards, and socks were all required, and that simply wasn’t possible for a lot of kids. So they stopped playing. That’s a steep hill to climb.

But what’s this got to do with Barça? Simply put, it’s got a great system in place that almost everyone on earth would love to implement. It’s a miniature version of what every national team would like to have at their disposal: a system, from start to finish. In order to achieve great success at the highest level, the lowest level has to be incorporated into a plan. Kids growing up “the Barça way” learn how they should play from a young age rather than being forced to adapt later. Klinsmann makes the point in the BBC article I linked earlier that “whatever approach the England team decides on – whether it is attacking or defensive, patient or high tempo – everybody in the English game needs to sign up to it.”

This is key and that everyone in Barcelona has signed up for the program is one of the things that makes Barça so good. There are certainly drawbacks to the system, but the point is that Barça put in the effort to create a system that is now paying huge dividends. If the US can follow a similar line–and appointing Claudio Reyna in 2010 as head of youth development sounds like a promising start–the 2018 World Cup could be a fantastic tournament for showcasing the US’s true potential. Or cultural norms could stunt that growth and we’ll continue dominating the gridiron.

Additionally, MD came out of with a list of all the canteranos that left Barça this summer. I’ve listed them below with their new destination in parentheses.

Keita Balde (Lazio)
Pol Garcia (Juventus)
Mauro Icardi (Sampdoria)
Gael Etock (Chelsea)
Cristian Ceballos (Tottenham)
Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Jon Miquel Toral (Arsenal)
Pol Roigé (Real Madrid)
Pol Busquets (Atletico)
Aitor Ruano (Atletico)
Antonio Cristian (Villarreal)
Toni Casamayor (Málaga)
Mara (Málaga)
Marc Navarro (Espanyol)
Pau Belana (Espanyol)
Roger Canadell (Espanyol)
Ramon Saavedra (Espanyol)
Sebas Leguizamon (Espanyol)

Even if these players were never going to make it in the first team (and no doubt that is true of at least some of them, if not all of them), it still makes me a sad panda to read that long a list, especially if we’re letting them all know we’re willing to buy them back if they turn into gold.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. blitzen
    July 31, 2011

    Haha! Look at Espanyol picking up our leftovers! 🙂

    (Stuck in Edmonton waiting for a bus.)

  2. Leckan1
    July 31, 2011

    The only players I rate from that list are the Arsenal players based upon what I’ve seen.

  3. July 31, 2011

    Spain’s U-20 WC kicks off right now against Costa Rica!

    Sergi Roberto, Romeu and Bartra are starting. Bartra’s captain 8)

  4. July 31, 2011


    Oriol gets a yellow and 5 seconds later Rodri scores. 1-0 Espana!

  5. July 31, 2011

    Heh. And then Costa Rica almost scores. WTF was that, Pulido? smh.

  6. July 31, 2011

    Rodri! GAH! That was great last ditch defending, Costa Rica CB.

  7. July 31, 2011

    Also, Messi’s friendly at 5pm EST, in other words, in 30 minutes. It’s on ESPN2 in the US. I have t–WTF WAS THAT SPAIN?! Nice save, Aitor–o stream it.

    • culegirl3
      July 31, 2011

      Messi & Friends isn’t on ESPN2(at least not with Direct TV)..they’re showing tennis. It is being shown on ESPN3.

      • July 31, 2011

        Whoops! Forgot to fix that. Yeah, it’s on the online ESPN, and ESPN Deportes.

  8. July 31, 2011

    What a save, Costa Rica keeper. Highlight reel stuff. Too bad for you, Pacheco. (I’m going to stop now…)

  9. Dani_el
    July 31, 2011

    43M euros for Pastore? is he worth that much!? I think that could hurt the deal for Cesc, he’s supposedly earning 1M euros less in his salary for each year in Barça if he comes, in order for BFC to sign him. The same happened with Masche. Thank you for reminding us of the Spain – CRC game Kari!

  10. July 31, 2011

    Okay, I have to post this, because I thought I already did but somehow didn’t. Rodri, the Spain numero 9 that scored, is Thiago’s cousin. THE ALCANTARA GENES, MAN.

    • jordi™
      July 31, 2011


      So hes related from the mother’s side?

      • July 31, 2011

        I’m not sure which side tbh. He was born in Rio, but he’s part-Brazilian and Spanish too, and holds a Spanish passport. (Also played for EE’s youth teams. Bleh.)

        And I just realized that part of the reason why Bolton tried to sign Thiago too was because Rodri went there. 😆

  11. Miguel
    July 31, 2011

    Gooooool Rodri again!

    I don’t really see the resemblance between him and Thiago, though.

  12. Ryan
    July 31, 2011

    Messi & Friends sounds like a superhero team, doesn’t it?

  13. kinukinu
    July 31, 2011

    Messi and friends link please? Anything other than rojadirecta would be greatly appreciated

  14. Calvin
    July 31, 2011

    Even Victor Vazquez thinks the club could do better than to sign Cesc. “but is it wise to spend so much money for a player who the club does not need in such a position?”

    • July 31, 2011

      Yep, and Victor Vazquez is one of Cesc’s good friends. Says something, doesn’t it?

      In any case, la novela Fabregas should definitely be over before August 15/16, when Arsenal has its CL qualifiers. After all, Arsenal isn’t going to leave out their best player for it, and we can’t have a cup tied player, can we?

      • jaymin
        July 31, 2011

        Novella? This thing is a 7 volume collected set!

  15. culegirl3
    July 31, 2011

    WTF was up with that Messi puppet?! lol

    • Miguel
      July 31, 2011

      I don’t know but it was awesome. 😀

      Oh, hey! This game’s on ESPNDeportes.

      • culegirl3
        July 31, 2011

        I don’t have that channel.. but I might as well switch to a Spanish package since the commentary is much more entertaining than it is in English!

        I was expecting Messi to start playing with it but I guess he’s only into legos and playstation.

  16. July 31, 2011

    “but where I grew up you needed a field and equipment to play. Cleats, shin guards, and socks were all required, and that simply wasn’t possible for a lot of kids.”

    WHUT? You kidding!?!? I mean, you need a ball, a field, shoes, and legs..in general at least. Why all that stuff? Why is it that expensive? I really can’t understand that playing football could anywhere in the world be a money issue(though I understand the travel part but expensive to begin with?).
    But then again, basketball is essentially a middle-class sport in Europe, American football is upper class and you can’t afford it at all, so I guess it comes with it being foreign and all.

    • Josep
      August 1, 2011

      I think it’s more so on the parents. I mean, you see the kids in the streets of Brazil, Ghana, etc. playing with whatever means..

      That isn’t really like that in the States. The parents want to make sure the kids are all geared up and safe and whatnot and when it comes to a just “pick up and play” sport you’re more likely to see american Football or Baseball.

  17. Ryan
    July 31, 2011

    Sign Romario!! Messi-Romario combo is awesome. 😀

  18. July 31, 2011

    This game is so fun. I want to go to a Messi and Friends partido!

    • Ryan
      July 31, 2011

      Me too! I wonder if they could somehow get Maradona to play for a little bit in one of these. 😆

      • Miguel
        July 31, 2011

        Or at least get him to slide on his belly again. I’d pay to see that.

        Messi got subbed off? And he’s smiling? Wha?

        • Ryan
          July 31, 2011

          Belly sliding, playing on the field, whatever works!

          I wonder if that slip on the pitch had anything to do Messi’s substitution.

      • July 31, 2011

        Oh my God, I can’t even! 😆

        That would be SO awesome!!

    • Andres
      July 31, 2011

      I just got back from the game. So much fun! Messi was pretty clearly chilling out there, but he had some beautiful passes (especially in combination with Romario!) and seemed to be enjoying himself.

      • Ryan
        July 31, 2011

        That must have been a great game to see live! Could you see the hi-jinks on the bench with Campos & co though? They seemed to be having more fun than the folks playing!

        • Andres
          August 1, 2011

          Haha I couldn’t make out what was going on on the bench (I was right behind the goal) but Campos was having a great time on the field too – joking around with the fans, acting indignant when they booed him or cheered for the other team – and making some good saves while he was at it. He’s quite a character, that’s for sure.

  19. July 31, 2011

    It’s not fair! City have The Yaya, Silva, and Kun all on the same team! *sees Silva v Inter again* DAMN YOU, CITY! /shakes fist

    • outerspacedout
      August 1, 2011

      And Balotelli 😛

      Seriously though, I’m gonna root for City next season. I don’t really like any of the other EPL teams, used to like the old exciting United back when they had Ronaldo and a dynamic midfield, but meh to everyone since then.

      So I like City because the rest of the EPL (especially the La Liga basher types) hate them and I would enjoy seeing them get all apopletic; cos they are bringing in technically talented players to the EPL; cos I love Yaya, Silva and Aguero; for that video-game fun-ness of making a team from scratch; and cos their fans have all been super-nice to Barca as far as I can see, never seen a City fan bash us on the Soccernet forums. Their old fans from pre-Sheikh era who are now delighted at being contenders all seem like nice, humble folk too.

      But mostly cos the La Liga and Barca-bashing EPL people (especially from Chelsea and Arsenal) all hate City too, and cos of Yaya Silva and Aguero.

  20. Eklavya
    August 1, 2011

    B players Sergi Gomez and Deulofeu, who’ll play the final of the Euro U19 today, will tomorrow travel to Miami to join the team. [md]


  21. Colby
    August 1, 2011

    Wilshere on Mata:

    “He is a top quality player, we’ve seen that in the Under-21’s and in the Spanish league last season. I think the way Arsenal play would suit his game,” Wilshere said after the Emirates Cup game against Boca Juniors.

    I don’t even need to say it…

  22. Josep
    August 1, 2011

    so who here actually goes to MLS games? I just mention this because I read mom4’s comments about beer guy getting in her way.

    I sit in the supporter’s section at Chicago Fire games and yeah its cool, but the flags. god damn the flags.

    They make huge ass flags and just wave them and you can’t see. Last week versus United they had 4 flag guys at ground level, so literally you couldn’t see ANYTHING.

    Then people started chanting to put the flags down, and they finally did. But it was pretty ridiculous. I’m all for supporting the cause and what not but don’t blind people.

    • mom4
      August 1, 2011

      I went to a DC United v Galaxy game with friends last summer. I had a better seat for that game than this one (and much much much cheaper) and it was at a different stadium. I don’t remember the beer guy getting in my way. Then again, I wasn’t as interested in that game as in the one on Saturday so I would have been less peeved anyway. Accross from us were the United supporters section. Lots of huge flags. What I remember distinctly is that I feared for the collapse of their bleachers from the jumping(I don’t know why, but their bleachers were a metal sort of bleachers unlike our more permanent looking bleachers).

      Actually, on Saturday, we were also annoyed with people getting up and down, in and out of their seats, passing in front of us, etc. I wondered why they bothered to come at all if they weren’t gonna actually watch the game.

      In general, it was good to be around so many people who liked good soccer. Man U and Barca fans got along well. I remember reading (maybe from barcastuff on Saturday night) that someone suggested a clasico in the states. I don’t suppose the fans would get along as well for that one, and the idea of a friendly between Barca and Madr*d rather amused me.

  23. hammeronmessi
    August 1, 2011

    Anybody watching eng vs india test cricket?the english is crushing the no 1 ranked team in the world.india is a good cricket team but still not a great cricket team like the indian media made them to be.

    and guys who r from india how do u tolerate the commentry of sunil and ravi?so biased.

    • y2k156
      August 1, 2011

      Well mate, I have to say that this is really bad cricket from India and as a fan, i am gutted. English have played well, all credit to them.

      As for commentary, i usually watch it on mute to avoid listening to the guys pontificating about stuff. I still miss Benaud and his commentary. Now that was good stuff to listen to.

  24. hammeronmessi
    August 1, 2011

    Barcelona and other big clubs trying to stage a european super league.
    this news should deserve a post.

    whay do u think?

  25. hammeronmessi
    August 1, 2011

    Barcelona and other big clubs trying to stage a european super league.
    this news should deserve a post.

    what do u think?

    • barca96
      August 1, 2011

      I have always been a fan of the Super League/G14 ever since the idea was first mooted. It will bring the level of competition to a higher level. Can you imagine, a CL league calibre teams but week in week out.

      • hammeronmessi
        August 1, 2011

        But not the excitement of a knockout

  26. Lev
    August 1, 2011

    I absolutely hate the idea. Hated it back when they first started talking about it 15 yrs ago and hate it now.

    Where is the fun of playing other big European teams if you play each and every one of them twice a year anyway?

    And a guaranteed 4 clasicos EVERY season? God, please, hell no!

    The big games are fun because there aren’t that many of them. Too much of a good thing spoils that good thing imo.

  27. blitzen
    August 1, 2011

    No LoveBlob for the U19 game? I’m sat here in a stupid McDonalds because it is the only place with wifi open here today.

    • blitzen
      August 1, 2011

      Spain uncharacteristically sloppy, but Czechs not looking so great either.

  28. blitzen
    August 1, 2011

    Where the heck is everyone? If I can make the effort to tune in from the wilds of Saskatchewan, surely some of you can too!

    So Jeffren is off to Portugal. That makes me sad. 🙁 I hope it goes well for him.

    And Mata may be staying at Valencia after all. We’ll see about that.

    Have we signed Cesc yet?

    • y2k156
      August 1, 2011

      Weather really good in this part of Europe so having some fun outside. That said, go spain!

      well, best of luck to Jeffren. He was one of the kids. Think its a good move though.

  29. blitzen
    August 1, 2011

    Well, that was a stupid goal for Czech Republic, and Sergi Gomez is at fault. Damn.

  30. y2k156
    August 1, 2011

    Wow the Czech’s are leading. How did this happen.

    Though as some one who travels to Prague every two weeks, i do not mind them winning as well:). Beautiful City and very nice people.

  31. Justin
    August 1, 2011

    report from the euro u-19,

    czechs are doing a good job of packing the middle, scored a nice goal partly due to poor defending by sergi gomez,

    gerard delofeu (not sure if that’s correct spelling) has been good but needs to combine more, although considering he is only 17 he is playing quite well.

  32. blitzen
    August 1, 2011

    GOLLLLLLL Spain!!!! They might edge this after all!

  33. ooga aga
    August 1, 2011

    i dont see any official word about jeffren….

    • blitzen
      August 1, 2011

      Because nothing has been officially signed yet. But there was a quote from Guardiola about it, that seems pretty offical to me,.

        • blitzen
          August 1, 2011

          It was a quote on barcastuff, check their timeline,

          • ooga aga
            August 1, 2011

            well lookie here:


            not a done deal but seems likely.

  34. Justin
    August 1, 2011

    so yeah, gomez is gonna need some time to adjust to barca b

  35. August 1, 2011

    Sorry dudes. I slept in. 🙁

    But hey, we’d only be watching for Deuolofeu and Sergi Gomez, right? Right? *hangs head*

    • Justin
      August 1, 2011

      ones been great, the other not so much…

  36. Justin
    August 1, 2011

    when deuolofeu gains more composure and learns when and exactly how to use his speed he is going to be deadly

  37. August 1, 2011

    This u19 game really demonstrates why so many club teams have moved right footed attacking flank players to the left and vice versa.

    It was a mistake playing Deulofeu on the right. You can see it again and again. They can’t contain him on the flank but when he tries to move centrally after beating players he isn’t able to play onto his strong foot.

    All that said – he’s a tremendous talent. He really is. And it’s not just skill wise. He’s a physically dominant player even when faced against players who are two years older than he is.

    That’s been the most interesting thing about this tournament. Deulofeu has demonstrated the ability to physically outplay much older players and do so even while playing out of position.

  38. Jnice
    August 1, 2011

    Like youngcules said on twitter, Espinosa would’ve dominated this game. Spain’s midfield really is unimpressive.

    • August 1, 2011

      They didn’t play well in midfield. Very untypical for Spain. They didn’t look like the senior national side or the other national youth sides and that was related to their midfield play and the way they pressed.

      Too many long balls. Their plan seemed to be get it up to Morata or Deulofeu as quickly as possible.

      Espinosa would have started and could have completely changed the way they played.

    • jordi™
      August 1, 2011

      Pretty damn right, he and Rafa miss out on every international tournament and the result is my eyes bleeding in midfield.I like Paco as striker far more than Morata.Also its pretty cool that the two best players from the under 17 tournament last year, Paco and Gerard had a big impact in winning the tournament playing with players 2 years older.

  39. August 1, 2011

    On another note – if Barca does not buy another forward this summer, it would not surprise me to see Deulofeu start to get integrated into the first team this season and start to play non-trivial minutes.

    • August 1, 2011

      It would surprise me a bit. Not because I don’t think Deuolofeu is talented enough to warrant it, but because I don’t think Pep would put him in the spotlight like that. I guess I could see it maybe in the Copa, but not anywhere else (unless we’re hit with injuries).

      • Justin
        August 1, 2011

        I’d prefer he gets some serious time with barca b first, no need to bring him along too quick. although i guess if we win the first leg in a copa match by a wide margin he could play in the 2nd.

        • August 1, 2011

          Yup, definitely agree with that, and think that’ll be Pep’s reasoning too. I’m refraining from commenting too much because I didn’t see the game today (but it’s on replay on GOLTV Canada so I’ll catch it later), but I’ve seen Deulofeu play and, while he can kill those a couple of years older than him, he still has a ways to go.

          Segunda has a lot of serious teams with serious defenders, and the adjustment from the jump from Juvenil A will be a bit of a challenge.

    • Jnice
      August 1, 2011

      You think so? Earlier today I told someone I was doubtful of that happening. Juvenil A to first team level is a big jump. Even the Segunda will be difficult. (Though he is killing kids two years older than him) I think it depends on how he does on Barça B. Might take him awhile to adjust, but maybe later in the season he’ll get some minutes with the first team.

      It just seems like Pep is extremely cautious about this kind of thing and Gerard is still only 17, far younger than Pedro, Busi, and the rest when they were getting first minutes. It would be nice if it did happen.

      • August 1, 2011

        It is absolutely going to depend on how he does with the B team. I guess I’m assuming he’s going to do well there.

        I just have a feeling that at some point in the second half of the season the first team is going to have trouble on the front line with either injuries or fatigue.

        In turn they are going to need to look internally for solutions. Playing Iniesta on the wing is one option. I hope they don’t do that but they could.

        But at some point I think they may need to get a real forward and they are going to have to look to the B team to do so. They could go with Soriano, etc. However, when they do look at the B team I think they are going to have a need and they are going to see this one kid who is so much better than anyone else….

  40. August 1, 2011

    (unless we’re hit with injuries)

    That’s the rub. Right now Barca have 4 healthy forwards – one of who has never played a game for the team.

    Bojan and Jeffren are both out. They’ve been replaced by one forward.

    And all this while the team and Pep in particular have said they need more depth.

    They numbers simply aren’t adding up. While the roster will be more flexible and useful – there still is an issue of sheer numbers.

    They don’t have enough player. So something has to give.

    They have 5 forwards. One is going to be 30. Another is going to miss the entire preseason with injury.

    Just my sense – I think the team is going to wind up needing to play Deulofeu at some point if they don’t get another forward.

    • Justin
      August 1, 2011

      cesc is coming, prepare to see way more iniesta on the wing (or you know right back since that seems to be pep’s favorite place to play mfs)

      • August 1, 2011

        I know. Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part as I really don’t want to see Iniesta on the wing.

        Based on past utilization of talent, I do think we are going to see Iniesta on the wing (even if Cesc doesn’t come – they’ll play thiago and Xavi). But I think the team may struggle to score goals.

        Iniesta just is not a forward. Putting him on the wing quickly turns into playing with a 4 man midfield and a two striker formation. And it becomes much easier to defend those two strikers. We’ve seen it over and over.

        Perhaps Thiago and/or Cesc’s goal scoring ability can compensate for this. But it’s just not an optimal solution.

        • Justin
          August 1, 2011

          I agree completely, however it could be used to dominate possession. Generally this as played last year with keita now it would be thiago or cesc so the possession could be absurd.

          Controlling the game this way they could roll alves even further down the right wing while playing messi and one of the three other fowards on the left wing.

      • nzm
        August 1, 2011

        Yeah, please – no Iniesta on the wing. He isn’t fast enough. Defenders without the ball are quicker than he is, and he always gets dispossessed. It’s not a pretty sight.

        As talented as the man is, he has a failing to pass left as well – he pretty much always passes to the right. In some ways, this has contributed to Maxwell’s inability to have an effect on the left, as Dani does on the right. So many times I’ve seen Maxwell pass to Iniesta and then continue steaming down the left side looking for the return pass, only for it to come to nothing as Iniesta either slows down the play or passes right.

        The team needs to develop its left-field play and get it back to Henry levels.

    • August 1, 2011

      Even then, I think Soriano (despite the knee injury) or Tello will get a chance before him. And this is with the reasoning that Ibi is also injured and Iniesta wouldn’t be move to the wing, as Pep is wont to do

      And by the by, Rafinha would have killed the u-19 tournament if he wasn’t injured. He’d be in the running as well.

  41. August 1, 2011

    I guess it’s a blessing both Espinosa and Rafa missed out. We won’t get any more Bolton’s and Arsenal’s after them.

  42. August 1, 2011

    Also – just to clarify my remarks – I really don’t want to see Deulofeu play much at all for the first team. There is no need to rush him.

    I’d like to see the team sign another true forward – I just don’t think that’s going to happen. And I don’t think the team is that excited about Soriano, etc. on the B team.

    It’s going to be a very long season. I think it’s going to be difficult manage with 5 forwards, especially when one of those 5 already is more a true attacking midfielder. They will need to be very fortunate – as they were last season.

    • Justin
      August 1, 2011

      maybe there is a plan to sign say a willian in the january window?

  43. August 1, 2011

    Also, Jeffren is finally gone. Is it possible to feel bad about being indifferent? We also have that damned buy back clause that we’ll probably never exercise added in. (It’s probably to appease some fans, man).

    …Okay he has a face here that screams, “I’m going to cry when no-one is watching”. Now I feel a little sad. 🙁

    A new post is up by the way.

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