We’ve all been there before. The frustration, the hypocrisy, the never ending sense of ennui, the powerful urge to deactivate all social media accounts, throw out all technology in your possession and embrace life in the wilderness, the—
Wait. Maybe you’re not actually there yet. Maybe you’ve never been there.
(That’s possible, though such luck is typically unique in this day and age — unless you’re over the age of forty. Then again, there was Star Trek and Star Wars, so maybe that should be amended to over the age of ninety.)
Maaaan what the… (yawn) It’s three in the fu… (yawn) You know what time it is, you f—–g prick?
It’s CLASICO TIME!
(a loud crashing sound ensues, which is either indicative of the end of the world or of a culer falling out of his bed and generally making a mess of what once upon a time looked like a bedroom)
What? Where? When? Clásico? Here? Now?
No, not now. Take it easy. Keep that heart attack at arm’s length from your chest. Breathe in, breathe out. The game is tomorrow.
Tomorrow? So why you calling me at three o’clock in the morning?
I can’t sleep.
Tomorrow’s the Clasico.
Oh. Right. Why don’t you watch tv or something, get your mind off things? And let me sleep! Jeeez…
I tried that but they talk about the game on every channel.
Oh, right… Uhmmm… Hold on… Why is there a picture of the Camp Nou above this article? The game is at the Burn-the-Eeew.
Man, you’re slow!
Yeah, so? What does that got to do with it?
It’s got everything to do with it.
You’re a jerk. What do you think of the game?
Well, do you want my BFB-contributing, sangria-drinking, happy-go-lucky, rallying-the-troops and stand-behind-my-team opinion or do you want my honest opinion?
What do you really think?
Color me culer but I think we’re gonna lose. M*drid is playing like a monster right now. What do you think?
Man, you’re one pessimistic son of a bee. We’re gonna kick some whitey butt. We’re gonna run rings around Pepe until he bites his own —hole. We’re gonna make D-Lo wish that he’s Iker and Iker wish that he’s Sara sitting at home and breastfeeding the baby. We’re gonna make Ronaldo cry piss from his eyes, only they don’t call it piss they call it CR7. We’re gonna rip Bale’s nuts off and feed them to Tomás Roncero. We’re gonna fill their diapers with blaugrana doo-doo and snap the neck off of any Ancellady that tries to change ‘em.
Dude, forget I even asked. I forgot how weird you are. And Tomás Roncero would probably love to eat Bale’s private parts. Or at least nibble on ‘em just a little bit.
Man, he’d gobble ‘em up. And who you calling weird? Look at you, man, I mean, man, just look at you!
My point exactly. But I wish I shared your confidence. I’m also worried that Martino might have lost the team.
Lost the team? Martino? Not the Pope of the Pampas, no Sir. Gerardo knows what he’s doing. They don’t call him Tata for nothing.
Oh, I get it. Yeah, blazing trumpets. Cute. Some say he’s not Catalan enough for this team.
Sheeeeit, by the time he’s done they will hand him the keys of the city. He’ll be trainer, mayor ‘n president and all at the same time. Every other sentence heard on the streets of Barcelona will be “Who the f— is Pep?” They will change the country’s name to Tatalunya!
Enough with the madness already. You’re making my head spin. Why can’t you be more normal, like me? I thought you’d be more chilled out half-asleep. You’re still a crazy bastard.
I am chilled out, man. What the f—.
Yeah, I guess you are not as bad as usual. Wish you wouldn’t cuss as much, though.
Awwww be honest, you love me the way I am. Show me some love, man, let’s do it!
Hey, kids might read this, man, that’s nasty.
Here we go again (sigh). Always with the kids, huh. No kidding, man, but you’re boring! Anyway where we gonna watch the game, bro?
See, I don’t know. I don’t wanna go to La Rambla cause there’s just way too many tourists out there.
Shit now who’s crazy? The Rambla. Ha! Very funny! You act as if you’re in motherf—–g Barcelona or something.
Eh, du-uh! Where have you been?
Inside your head.
Yeah, and have you ever bothered to look out of my eyeballs?
I see a computer screen. An orange wall. A fan. And three mirrors. What you got three mirrors for? Wanna be three times as ugly?
Look to the left.
Out the window.
(waaaait for iiit…)
WHOAH!!! Oooh shit! We’re in (breathe), we’re in (breathe), we’re in (breathe), we’re in…WE’RE IN BARCELONA!!!
You mean I. In the eyes of our beholders there is no we, ’cause we are I. One person, not two. You should know that by now. This ain’t the first Clàssic preview signed by yours trulies. I, that’s who!
Yeah, whatevs b—ch. We live and direct from the city that never creeps: Mother…F—–g… Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar – Ceeeeeeeeeeeee – LONAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! BARCELONA! BARCELONA! BARÇA! VISCA EL BARÇA! BARCELONA! OMG. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! WE’RE IN BARCELONA. BARCELONA! BARCELONA! BARCELONA. OH MY MOTHERF—–G GOD! I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T (breathe), I CAN’T (breathe), I CA– I CA– I CA– AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGHHH! BAAARCELONAAAA! BARCE—
Calm down, calm down. Calm down. I know how you feel, boss. Please, just trust me and calm down. Maintain focus. Stay sharp. Concentrate. Waaait for it. And inform our readers in a cool and collected manner that we will now write our articles for the best football blog in the world from the best football city in the world. The Camp Nou better be ready for us, and by the way, I really hope you’re not gonna get me banned. Enjoy el Clàssic, y’all! Visca el Barça i visca Catalunya. Over and out.
Hello and Happy New Year, everybody! I know it’s been a long time, so here is a bumper edition of blitzen awards to start 2014 off on the right foot! Enjoy!
Yay! I won an award!
Busquets d’Or: A new award, for the most perennially underrated player of the year/game/moment. And the inaugural winner is: SERGIO BUSQUETS! Although most of the top pundits these days seem to appreciate what Busi brings to the team, and he even appears on Top Ten Players lists with increasing frequency, no one so far has had the courage to place him at the top, or even in the top three. For my money, Busi has been by far the best midfielder in the world so far this season (yes, even better than Xavi or Iniesta), and should be on the shortlist for that golden trinket they are handing out in a couple of weeks. Of course, he never will be. But we know, don’t we? WE KNOW.
Pabst Blue Ribbon Award For Unabashed Hypsteria: The Barclay’s Premier League and English football teams in general, for whom the must-have accessory of the year is a Spanish football player, *any* Spanish player, regardless of actual talent or experience. To be an English team without at least a couple of Spaniards these days is downright shocking.
Prodigal Sons Award: Gerard Deulofeu, who injury notwithstanding, has been making quite an impression at Everton where he is on loan for the season (possibly two?). His current coach, Martinez, has expressed surprise that he has adapted so easily to the English game, and been more than effusive in praising his skills and “arrogance, but the right sort of arrogance”. It seems his year away has helped Geri mature and rise to the level expected of him, while losing some of the selfishness that has previously tainted his game. I don’t know about you, but I am very much looking forward to seeing what this can do when he plays alongside Messi, Neymar, Sanchez, Iniesta, ect. Runner-Up: Rafinha Alcantara, who has carved out a place for himself at Celta Vigo and become one of their most important players. While the club itself is stuck in the lower half of the table, it is clear that ex-Barça-B coach Luis Enrique values Rafinha highly and has a lot of faith in this young star’s talent. I see bright things in his future when he comes home.
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait Award: Marc Bartra, who did, and has earned his spot in the first team. Maybe he isn’t playing as many minutes as he deserves or as some would like to see, but he is still a junior player. He has the respect of his teammates and his coach, and if all goes well should be a fixture of our back line for years to come.
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow Award: Isaac Cuenca, as all signs are pointing to a January exit for this talented young striker. He has been extremely unlucky, first with injuries that deprived him of playing time for the past two years, then with the arrival of Neymar whose presence is already impacting the minutes of Pedro & Tello, and lastly with being closely associated with Pep Guardiola, without whose attention he would still likely be playing for Sabadell. Although I would love to see Cuenca stay and be given a chance to prove himself, the fact that he has been healthy for a month without even being named to a match squad (much less actually make the bench) makes it pretty clear that he will be moving on. Runner-up: Ibrahim Afellay, see above points 1 & 2.
We Don’t Need Another Hero Award: Centre-back? Who needs a centre-back when we have four perfectly healthy ones right here? Lalalalala I CAN’T HEAR YOUUUU!!!!
Three Wise Men Award: The entire FCB board, who took turns dropping clangers that undermined the team, the coach, and their fans around the world. But the award goes especially to Javier Faus, for implying that Lionel Messi was a moneygrubbing diva, to Toni Freixa, for saying that Tito was better than Pep in every way, and to Jordi Cardoner, for dismissing foreign cules as “outsiders” whose value lies only in what the club can sell them. Well done, gentlemen!
Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire Award: Faus again, who got his toasted well and good when an obviously angry Lionel Messi responded to his remarks about renewing his contract. Our little Leo may seem meek and mild, but when you question his motives or the integrity of his family, the shields go up and the shit goes down.
Lo Puto Amo Award: Gerard “Tata” Martino. You may disagree with his tactic, you may disagree with his lineups, but you must acknowledge our coach’s masterful handling of the Spanish/Catalan press, even under extreme provocation. His press conferences have been a joy to behold, as Tata cuts through the usual bullshit with forthrightness, straight talk, and self-awareness. The media don’t like him because he calls them out on their crap and gets impatient when asked the same questions again and again. He can’t charm the journalists like Pep did, but his intelligence and no-nonsense approach are equally delightful.
The Mouse That Roared Award: Rumours of Pedro Rodriguez’ demise have been premature. Over the last two seasons there have been (and still are) those who underestimate him, who think he reached his peak under Pep and should be moved on, sold off so we can buy a “big name”. It’s true that last season was far from Pedro’s best, but this season has seen a resurgence, a refreshed, confident Pedro, as our little roadrunner simply cannot stop scoring for both club and country. Who would have thought that at the midway point Pedro would be our joint top-scorer (along with Messi)? Pedro has always been valued for his hard work on behalf of the whole team and for his relentlessly positive attitude. It’s really nice to see him being rewarded with goals and the confidence of the coach.
Nice Work If You Can Get It Award: According to my extensive research (I asked twitter and this was the result, can’t be bothered to check for accuracy ), Jonathan Dos Santos has played a total of 17 minutes this season, 181 minutes last season, and 288 minutes in 2011-2012 in all competitions. Now, admittedly, Jonathan has suffered a major injury that will rule him out until at least April, but I don’t imagine he would have played all that many minutes this year even if in full health. I don’t know exactly what JDS’s base salary is, but it seems to me that he is earning pretty good money to not do much of anything. JDS should have moved on 2 years ago and found a club that would be happy to use his considerable talents. I can only hope that this summer, when he is healed and ready to move on, he will find a forever home. Maybe he could go play with his brother Gio at Villarreal?
Smells Like Team Spirit Award: I don’t know if you have noticed, but there has been a lot of shit thrown at our team this season, and not only from the usual madridista suspects. Even the Barcelona press has published stories about unrest in the dressing room, players wanting to leave, and unhappiness with the coach and his tactics. Messi in particular has been targeted with rumours about his finances and his personal life, to the point where the club has actually (and unusually as compared to their inaction over the last several seasons) issued statements defending him. If the intention was for the Barcelona dressing room to descend into the morass of intrigue, jealousy and unhappiness that we saw in Real Madrid last season, the campaign has backfired. Our players have rallied around their coach and each other and seem closer than ever. This. Is. Barça.
These Are Not The Dro’s You’re Looking For Award: Sandro Rosell, for his impenetrable web of misdirection and deception surrounding his murky business dealings in Brazil, the U.S., and Andorra. You would need an advanced degree in Forensic Accounting to illuminate the morass of dubious payments, ill-defined “services rendered”, shady “representatives”, offshore accounts and shell corporations that represent Rosell’s sporting and marketing “interests”. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
Brass Bollocks Award: Diego “Cholo” Simeone, who, despite having to sell off his best players every year, has developed a fantastic team and molded Atletico Madrid into trophy-winners and serious Liga title contenders. I couldn’t tell you much about his tactical nous, but what Simeone has in spades is the ability to infuse his players with self-confidence and the belief that they can take on any opponent and win. He has taken Diego Costa, previously know as a solid if not gifted forward, and transformed him into a force of nature running rampant over all opposition. David Villa, whose career took a sharp downward turn as he struggled to regain his form after breaking his leg, is reborn, revitalized, and dangerous. And Koke is finally getting the recognition he deserves as one of the finest midfielders in Spain. Simeone inspires his players to find their best selves, and is the perfect coach for this Atleti. How he was not nominated for Coach of the Year is a mystery. And a shame.
Every Step You Take Award: Thiago Alcantara. Since the days of Figo moving to Real Madrid, has there been another player whose every word, action, even thought have been more closely scrutinized than Thiago? Does he miss Barça, or has he forgotten us already? Is he grateful enough for what the club did for him, or do his words reveal the self-serving bastard we always knew he was? Has he come to praise Barça or to bury it? The boy can’t even fart without people wondering if his cul is pointed towards or away from Barcelona. This level of scrutiny of an ex-player speaks volumes about Thiago’s worth and talent–we know exactly what we have lost. After all, no one is monitoring every word Bojan speaks, are they? Whether you believe that Thiago left purely by choice, or was pushed out, or was kidnapped at knifepoint, he left a hole in our midfield that no other player can fit the same way, and he is missed.
How Low Can You Go Award: Hopefully not very much lower, as Barcelona B has now dropped into the relegation zone in the Segunda division, in 19th place with 23 points (only 3 points above rival bottom-feeders RM Castilla). I have written extensively in this space about my issues with Barça B coach Eusebio and how the team has been mismanaged over the past few years, so I won’t go into detail about how things have come to such a pass. Let’s just say that it is a combination of a younger-than-normal team, numerous injuries to key players, and a coach who at best appears clueless, and at worst seems to be actively inhibiting the development of talented young players. The worst part is that the current FCB board has already stated that it is no big deal if the B team is demoted to the Segunda B, when in fact it would be disastrous for our entire youth program.
The Day Football Broke My Heart Award: No, I’m not over it. I will likely never get over it. After two years of fighting the cancer that threatened to destroy his liver and end his career, Eric Abidal was finally back. Healthy. Fit. And ready to play. And he did play. He played as if he had never left. After so long with a huge gap in our back line, here was the CB/LB we have always needed. And they sent him away. Rosell and the other talking heads on the Barça board decided that this wonderful man, this excellent player, this living embodiment of the values the club claims to hold dear, was surplus to requirements. Even though they had made a public statement during his illness, a promise, that as soon as he was healthy they would offer him a new contract. They broke that promise. Their explanation? “Technical decision.” They had a press conference. Abidal, in tears. Rosell, pursing his lips and looking like butter wouldn’t melt. Zubi, the peacemaker, saying all the right things except WHY? FOR WHAT REASON? Well, we know it was money. Money the club would save on his salary that could be “better” spent on purchasing Thiago Silva (never happened) or topping up the Neymar Fund (tell us about that 40M, Sandro). Abidal, to his credit, has never spoken a single word of recrimination, not a jot of criticism except an air of puzzlement, of confusion as to why exactly he was sent away. He is better than that. I’m not. I will never, ever, forget this.
Joy to the World Award: The last few years have seen a remarkable baby boom amongst our players, with Messi, Pique, Pinto, Cesc, Pedro, David Villa (yes he counts), and Valdes (twice!) all welcoming new additions to their families. Tello, Iniesta, and our indomitable captain Puyol are all expecting as well. Even BFB has gotten into the spirit, as three (3!) of our mods have also been blessed with mini-mods in the past year. Something is definitely in the water in these cule parts…
So that’s the first half of our season! On behalf of all the mods in this space I would like to thank all our readers and commentators for making this space so special. Thanks for your patience during our time of transition, we are very grateful for all of you (even the ones we argue with ). Now it’s your turn:
Tell us, what are your hopes and dreams for Barça in 2014? What changes (if any) would you like to see? What is the one thing you would like to see happen in the coming months? (And don’t just say “Buy a CB”, you know everyone will say that! Be creative, be thoughtful, be silly. Let’s see what you come up with!)
We wish you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2014! Visca Barça!
The sky bleeds black. The scorched earth is littered with dead ravens. A cule shouts “HASHTAG BARCA LOST” into a void. The world burns.
I lie on the floor, dazed and confused. Outside my window, it’s snowing and grown men are sobbing on the streets. My body feels like the eyes of a terrified rabbit. Four rabbits, even. It all started so promising: win against our footballing cousins, clinch top spot in the group, score five manitas. Where did it all go wrong?
The injures? The suspensions? The rotations? An intense team that came out to play for their European lives?
I don’t know. I don’t know anything. It’s like I’m living in a bizarro world where Messi gets injured before Adriano and Atletico is an actual title contender.
I forgot what this felt like. It had been 21 blessed games. What was life before that, anyway? Before Pique became Hlebbed, before Xavi scored penalties that weren’t in a shootout, before the world and Eusebio deluded themselves into believing Patric would be a right-back full time. I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything. Who am I? What is this? It’s not real life.
Mother Catalunya is about ten seconds away from going full-Thermoplyae on the effigies of Argentina. My strange metaphors are as terrible as ever.
We should sell everyone: Puyol, Puyol’s old age, Pique, Pique’s waka waka, Song, Song’s swansong before it even happens, Tata, Mata – wait, he doesn’t play for us. The point stands.
Barça lost and I may never be happy again.
Except nope. Everything above this sentence was a lie.
Hoy, mañana y siempre.
Except for the grown men crying part. That’s 10000% accurate.
[ NOTE: This post was drafted prior to Barça’s October 5th victory over Real Valladolid, when the boards were rather grumpy ’cause we were all … well, winning, and stuff. So if you’re bucked up rather than (what rhymes with “bucked up”?) lately, bookmark this and come back when we lose, or tie, or win again in a way that you don’t like. Psych! – Ed. ]
Valdes likes to work on his macrame when he’s not busy keeping goal.
I admit, I’ve been off to a slow start this season. But then I heard that Rio Ferdinand was planning his own awards, the “Footies”, and I was spurred to action! Make no mistake, the blitzens are the premier football awards going. Accept no substitutes!
Falling Up Award: Neymar is a diver. Even his biggest fans admit that. It sucks that someone with the immense skills that he has also resorts to sleazy tactics like diving and simulation. He also gets fouled a lot. I think the commentators said that he has been fouled twice as much as any other Barça player so far this season. This might give him extra motivation to go down easily. HOWEVER. Tata said the other day that he expects the same of Neymar as he does of any other player when he gets fouled: “get up, put the ball on the ground & play”. To his enormous credit, this is exactly what Neymar has done.
Still Waters Run Deep Award: Tuesday’s game had several remarkable sequences of play, but none was more special than the clusterfuck in front of goal that saw Messi’s shot ping-pong back and forth just shy of the goalline, then get frantically cleared…right into the path of the one Barça player who can be relied to never take a shot on goal if he can possibly avoid it. Except this time he didn’t avoid it. It wasn’t the most elegant strike in the world, but it was powerful and straight, and when it went in, Busquets broke out in the biggest, sweetest grin ever–and once his teammates had recovered from the shock, so did they. I really hope Busi keeps taking shots like that, it was the highlight of the game for me.
The Kid Is Alright Award: I have been holding off on commenting much on Neymar’s performances so far this season, because I don’t think it’s fair to judge a player until he has had a chance to settle in properly with the team. For the record, I was against buying Neymar because I didn’t think he was a necessity and we needed a centre-back far more (still do!). I still think we overpaid for him. Neymar showed up with a good attitude and intention to work hard, but although his talent was obvious, he still lacked something in his connection with his teammates. Tuesday’s game was the first time I really felt he really got it, that connection, that seamless give-and-go, that makes this team what it is. It was a very complete performance, and I was honestly impressed. I look forward to seeing him continue like this as the season goes on.
Never Mind The Bollocks Award: You can debate Tata’s tactics* all you want, but his press conferences have been nothing less than brilliant. Our new coach is impressively straightforward. He doesn’t dodge questions, he says what is on his mind, and he is very clear on who makes the decisions regarding the team. If he is less “media-friendly” than Pep, he makes up for that by outright refusing to entertain questions with an obvious agenda. It’s pretty awesome, really.
You Spin Me Right Round Baby Award: Rotation. We have it.
Small Packages Award: So our best players in the air are Leaping Lexus, and Messi, who now scores headers at will? Um, Pique? Not to single you out or anything, but your height has always been kind of one of your best features, and it just seems a bit odd that the two shortest players on the team can outjump you. So maybe work on that?
The Kid Is Alright Award, Part 2: Not only did Bartra get to play 2/3 of a game (get well soon, Masche! Please?), but he also scored a goal! I think this is exactly what Bartra needed to give him confidence. I have been watching this kid play for several years now, and I am sure he has the quality to succeed at Barça, but he has a tendency to get nervous when playing for the first team (this doesn’t happen when he plays for the U21 team). Some serious minutes, no major mistakes, a goal–this will all help him to relax and step up his game. He has no choice now, anyway. Masche is out for another week or two and Puyol hasn’t been given the green light yet.
The Pause That Refreshes Award: Messi was subbed out with 10 or 15 minutes left in the game. Was I the only one waiting for him to go into the dressing room, then come back out holding a can of Coke and drink it right in front of Tata?
Fashion Fetish Award: It’s not just me, right? Tata has worn the same blue sports jacket to every game. At first I thought he must have very few other options, living in a hotel as he is, and his wife still being in Argentina and not being able to shop for him. But certainly the club could have found someone to pick him out some new threads by now. No, the truth is that Martino, after having made a perfect start in the league and winning all the possible points available plus a Supercopa, has fallen prey to superstition. He is afraid that if he changes his jacket, his perfect run will end. This is the only explanation.
The Kid Is Alright Award, Part 3: There was a joint training session today, with the first team and Barça B training together as well as a few Juvenil A and B players. One of the lucky Juvenil B players was 16-year-old Adria Vilanova, son of former coach Tito Vilanova. I imagine he got an extra-warm welcome from the senior players. He’s a good player, too. A centre-back. Tall. Catalan. Just saying…
Yes, they are finally here! Just a few end-of-season thoughts from me. Thanks to everyone for sticking around and keeping the discussion interesting!
Crystal Faucet Award For Persistent Tapping Up: Dani Alves, who may have been working on some kind of commision from Sandro Rosell, considering the number of quotes in the media where he urged Neymar to come and play for Barcelona. While he stopped just short of pulling a blaugrana shirt over his head at a public event (for some reason this tends not to go down well), the constant Chinese water torture-like drip-drip-dripping of persuasion into Neymar’s ears must have had some effect on his final decision. I hope Rosell is planning to reward Dani appropriately.
Floats Like A Butterfly, Stings Like A Bee Award: We the faithful have known it for years, but 2013 seems to be the year that Sergio Busquets has finally received the respect he deserves as a player. A certain type of pundit and ignorant fan may still hate on him, but glowing tributes have flowed in from the likes of World Cup-winning Argentine manager Cesar Luis Menotti, VIncent Del Bosque, journalists such as Marti Perarnau, his Bara and La Roja teammates, and even Abdullah Otayf, a Saudi Arabian player who, after scoring a goal against Yemen, lifted his shirt to show off a picture of Busi, his “favourite player”. Respect. Oh, and also? Busi got skills, yo:
Suicidal Tendoncies Award: Xavi has been suffering problems with his Achilles tendons for several years. Xavi still thinks he can play 60+ games a year. Something has to give. Either he is going to suffer a catastrophic setback soon, or his coaches will wise up and start sitting him more often, but he cannot go on like this.
Die With Your Boots On Award: Speaking of which, Puyol. Frankly they are going to have to carry him off the pitch in a casket before he retires, and thank goodness for that! Yes, he has had a couple of very bad seasons with injuries, but people are much too quick to write him off as over the hill. I think he has at least a couple of good seasons left in him. No, he won’t be playing every game, maybe not even every other game, but on his day he is still one of the best CB’s this team has ever had. He may have slowed down, but his game intelligence, experience and leadership on and off the pitch are absolutely vital to the team.
MOTS Award: 1. Andres Iniesta. This entire season, Iniesta has been playing breathtaking football. If you can even still call it football, and not “magic dream-ball” or “unicorn sparkleball”. I have run out of ways to express the beauty of what he does on the pitch. All I know is, I don’t ever want him to stop doing it. 2. Lionel Messi. I don’t always give enough acknowledgement for what Messi contributes to the team, because he is, you know, Messi. But no one can deny that there were many games this season where Messi carried a tired-looking team to victory. His ability to rise above the fatigue and create something out of nothing are unmatched anywhere. Thanks, Leo. 3. Jordi Alba. This was a tough one, as my mind naturally defaults to Busquets as one of the essential players on the team, but I decided to give it to Jordi as I believe he exceeded everyone’s expectations. His link-up play with Iniesta and Cesc in particular has been nothing short of brilliant. If he lacks a little in height, he makes up for it in speed and positioning. Right now I would say he is one of the best LBs in the world.
Lionel Messi Award For Being Lionel Messi: Neymar! Just kidding. Lionel Messi.
Chumbawamba Award (I Get Knocked Down): Number of times Eric Abidal has had cancer: 2. Number of times Eric Abidal has beaten cancer: 2. Same for Tito Vilanova. You can talk about results (or lack of), tactics (or lack of), players (or lack of), and trophies (or lack of) if you want to, but for me the overwhelming narrative of this season will always be the struggle and triumph of these two men, and how the club and the other players also rose to the challenge. Their stories have different endings, as one man is still with the club, and the other is not–but that’s part of the narrative as well.
Bilbo Baggins Award For Unlikely Heroics: It wasn’t the job he was hired for. It certainly wasn’t the job he wanted, at least not in the way it was thrust upon him. But it was the job he stepped up and took, coaching the team while Tito was away in NYC being treated for his cancer. We spent a lot of time on this blog criticising Jordi Roura for his tactical decisions, his lineups, his lack of rotation, but I don’t think any of us can appreciate the pressure of the situation he found himself in. All things considered, I think Roura did the best job he could under the circumstances, and I am grateful to him for getting the team through a difficult time.
Trollhattan Memorial Troll Of The Season Award: Dani Alves, for his constant stream of instagram photos showcasing his “interesting” fashion choices, including such classics as “droopy diaper-pants”, giant cowl-neck sweater, and “hats of many kinds”. Runner-up: Jordi Alba, who fooled us all into thinking he was a cute, mild-mannered quokka, but is actually quite a snappy little rodent when things go against him on the pitch. Take a time out, Jordi.
Match Of The Season Award: This has, to put it mildly, been an inconsistent season. We have seen games where the team has played with gorgeous, effective fluidity (the two league games against Malaga, for example), and games where they…haven’t (Bayern Munich comes to mind). But for sheer balls-to-the-wall craziness and entertainment value, the game of the season has to be Deportivo la Coruna 4:5 FC Barcelona from October 20. No one could say this was a “good” game, exactly, and for a cule it was heart-attack inducing, but it was brilliant to watch and for me a perfect microcosm of this season: sublime, absurd, frustrating, fun. Watch highlights:
Brother, Can You Spare Some Time? Award: 30+ mins in 60% of the games. That’s the (speculated) amount of time that Thiago needed to play to avoid activating that infamous 18M buyout clause. I’m not going to get into a detailed discussion/lamentation of how in the world the club and coaches could have let this happen (as that’s all my twitter TL talks about these days), but no one can really be guaranteed that sort of playing time, not at his age, anyway. If that was the expectation, then it was unrealistic. Having said that, though, I will be immensely pissed off if Thiago does leave simply because the club couldn’t be arsed to assure him that he is, and will be, an important player.
Pintocalypse Now Award: We are so used to laughing at Pinto’s eccentricity and occasional “walkabout” moment that we tend to forget that he is also an extremely good goalkeeper. He was consistently good all season (more consistent than Valdes, IMO), and looked very comfortable filling in for Valdes when he was injured. No one is going to say Pinto is better than Valdes, but we are very lucky to have had such a good Number 2 for several years, and I wanted to give him some recognition. Pinto has one more year left on his contract. If he continues in this form I wonder if the club would consider keeping him on as second (or even third) keeper for even longer?
Golden Gooseberry Award: You know that person who tags along when you’re out with your date, or invites himself over to your house and doesn’t know when to leave even though you keep dropping hints that you *really* need to get back to studying? But you don’t want to ask him to leave because he’s a nice guy and you don’t want to hurt his feelings, but you wish he would just get the hint already and leave so you can be alone with your special someone? That’s JDS.
Sound and Fury Award: Mourinho has left Real Madrid after three seasons, and what is his legacy? A league title, a Copa Del Rey, and a Supercup. A broken dressing-room, a divided club, and a poisonous attitude from “fans” to cherished club icons. And what has he actually contributed to Spanish football in that time? Nothing. Ultimately Mou was “but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more.”
Jeffren Suarez Memorial Cloak Of Invisibility: Marc Bartra, who has gone from being the most talented CB of his class to an unloved bench-rider who only gets rolled out when literally every other option has been exhausted (and confined to a wheelchair). Shockingly, he couldn’t even get minutes when the league was already won and the last few games were just mopping up a few extra points. To his immense credit, Bartra has kept an excellent attitude throughout this season. He never complained, always trained with a smile on his face, and never even looked sulky when sitting in the stands. I really hope Tito was watching his performance at the U21 Euros closely, as he was excellent throughout the competition.
Alexander Hleb Award For Unabashed Mediocrity: Eusebio Sacristan. The Barcelona B team finished a limp 9th in the table, which is better than they deserved after a season marred by poor defending, tactical nonsense, and outright favouritism by the coach. They even finished a place behind RM Castilla. Eusebio has been rewarded for this with yet another contract and will be benching talented players in the 2013/14 season as well. Hlebbed.
Get Thee To A Nunnery Award: The wives & girlfriends of the entire team. Next season can we have a little less babymaking and a little more attention to playing football, please?
Get Thee To A Gunnery Award: Gonzalo Higuain. See what I did there?
Bait & Switch Award: Sandro Rosell. When the news came out that FCB was selling the advertising rights to the shirt, amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth in these parts, there was at least a glimmer of consolation in that the proposed sponsor–the Qatar Foundation–was a charitable organization with many admirable projects to its name. Two years later we found out that there was an agreement all along that there would be a switch to a commercial sponsor starting in the 2013/14 season. Starting this preseason, Barça shirts will carry the logo of Qatar Airways. “I told you about this. Yes, I did! You just didn’t read the fine print!” Well done, Rosell.
You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It) Award: To all the BFB faithful who have stuck with us all season. This blog has had its up and downs, but it is still one of the best ones out there, and I am grateful to all of you who continue to keep this conversation at a high level. Special thanks to my fellow moderators Isaiah, Kxevin, Levon, Calvin, nzm, Linda, Euler, and Soccer Mom. And a special shout-out to those who read but do not post. Stick around and say hi sometime. Things are going to be quiet around here over the summer, but we will still be here, posting occasionally as things strike our interest.
Since it’s silly season (almost), and we’ve got no serious posts lined up right now, let’s play a little game! I posed this question a couple of years ago, but we’ve got a lot of new people around the blog since then, so I think this would be a good time to ask again:
What is your best Barcelona XI, including any or all past players?
To make the game more challenging, a few simple rules:
1. You may not pick Messi. Unfair, I know, but it will make the selections a lot more interesting, don’t you think?
2. You may pick XI players corresponding to a typical Barça-style 4-3-3 OR 3-4-3 formation (plus GK!), one coach, and up to five subs (one of whom does not have to be another GK).
3. You can’t play someone out of position unless he actually played there on occasion. So you could play Iniesta on the LW, but not Eto’o at RB, for example.
4. Possibly future Neymars players are not allowed. Players must have actually played for the first team.
5. Do not complain about the rules. My game, my rules.
6. Your best XI is almost certainly not someone else’s best XI. Vigorous discussion is encouraged, belittlement of others’ choices is not. Just pretend we’re all down the pub having a good session.
I won’t post my own picks right now, as I haven’t thought them through since last time and I may want to make some changes. I’ll add them to this header later.
UPDATE: Here are my picks!
OK, here are my picks! And I’m also going with the 3-4-3 lineup. We just have had too many brilliant midfielders!
Dani Alves — Puyol — Gio Van Bronckhorst
Xavi — Laudrup — Iniesta
Cruyff — Ronaldo — Ronaldinho
Bench: Pep, Luis Enrique, Koeman, Eto’o, Rivaldo
Coach: Pep & Cruyff will duke it out, but I’ll put Pep in charge as player/coach.
I almost went for Zubi instead of Valdes, but Valdes really is perfect for the Barcelona system and is much better with his feet than Zubi ever was. No contest, really.
Yeah, well, this sucks. I sucked. We all sucked, man. Major suck-o. God. No one wants autographs today, huh. No pictures with Mr. Number here, hey. Now we all have to get on the bus to go home. I hate the bus. It sucks. I’m a millionaire. How many millionaires you know ride the bus to work. Sandro so damn cheap he makes us punch a ticket every ride too. Damn, that sucks. Continue Reading
It’s incredible. It’s appalling. We won’t know what to do until we understand what’s really going down. Everyone seems to be involved … is everyone to blame? It’s a real scandal.
I know everyone is feeling a little bummed lately. But there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned Spanish scandal to buck you right up. Bad taste, you say? Italian scandals are bad taste (cf. “Berlusconi bunga-bunga party”). British scandals are seamy (hack, cough, hack hack), American scandals are cringe-worthy (cigar, anyone?) and French scandals … well, French scandals bore me. What’s the point of living a double-love life if everyone is going to be so well-behaved at the funeral? Haven’t these people ever seen one of their own comedies? Continue Reading
Jordi Roura surveys the pitch in advance of the game.
They’re back! You didn’t think I could let a Clasico Morbico go by without a nice fresh round of blitzen awards, did you? Oh, you know you missed, them, really.
Golden Kneecap Award: Xabi Alonso, who successfully used his Cloak of Classiness to conceal several quite nasty kicks, or rather knees, to the nether regions of Barça players-including Iniesta, who tumbled over and looked around with a face of complete disbelief. Alonso made it all the way to the 89th minute of the match before picking up a yellow card. Classy.
Stream Of Consciousness Award: According to some accounts, Tito has been having trouble finding Barça matches on television while he has been in New York, so he has had to resort to dodgy internet streams just like the rest of us! I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel closer to him knowing he is also screaming in despair when his feed cuts out just as Messi gets clear through on goal…
MOTMOTMOI Award: I have two deserving winners, here. First, Pinto! He had an excellent game, IMO. He looked sharp, made big saves, and overall showed why the club chose to extend his contract for another year. Yes, he did have one Pintocalypse moment, but if he didn’t go walkabout at least once per game, he just wouldn’t be Pinto, would he? The second half of the award goes to Varane, who at the tender age of 19 had an absolutely enormous game. I struggle to remember anything he did wrong. If he can manage to play at a consistently high level, I have no doubt he will be terrorizing our forwards for years to come.
Pique Memorial Gilded Icepack: Usually it’s our lanky CB picking up this kind of injury, but on Wednesday it was Pinto doing the honours, when Dani Alves raced back to the goalline to clear a dangerous ball and slid in toe first…smack into Pinto’s family jewels! I’m a woman, and even I flinched and yelped in sympathy. Hope there is no permanent damage!
Trollhattan Memorial TOTM Award: Sadly, I have to give this award to the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu, large sections of which (no, not everyone, of course) spent most of the match hurling racist abuse at Dani Alves. Graham Hunter said in his column that it was about the worst he had ever experienced. Which leads to:
Wizard of Oz Award:“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” Real Madrid and their media mouthpieces attempt to distract attention from the racist chants directed against Dani Alves by engaging in a smear campaign against Messi. Enough said about that. Oh, except for this:
Yes, We Have No Bananas Award: Jose Callejon, for his interesting statement that other clubs, including Real Madrid, suffer racial abuse as well, and since nothing can be done about it, we should all just ignore it and hope it goes away.
Gangnam Style Award: To Dani Alves, for launching himself onto Carvalho and trying to ride him like a pony. Someone needs to make a gif of that.
Hear No Evil Award: Jonathan Dos Santos, who tried out his new “Transfer-Talk-Canceling” Headphones this month and managed to secure himself another six months of relaxing on Barça’s comfortable, well-padded bench. Well done, Jona!
Shut Up and Focus Puyol Memorial Award: Clearly, Puyol runs away with this one for the following bit of business involving Pique, a lighter, and an important game we are playing here, hello!Puyol has no time for your foolish complaints!