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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. ]
Gotta song in my head …
If you don’t get what Kxevin’s sayin’,
we aren’t on the same webpage.
My t.v.’s low-def and I’m growing old. Maybe I’m going blind.
But they look like a good team to me.
So maybe you just outta you mind.
Is the Liga even close, all them domestic teams?
But you are cynical, you say it’s cule nature.
We still triangulate ‘em off the pitch, even on the counter.
Besides, even if when we lose, no one match is a make-or-breaker.
We’ll still be a good team.
¡Més que, més que … !
Look too long at these lines and your eyes get blurry …
We’re a good team, people. With a good goalie too.
Víctor won’t let nothin’ past him.
Long lobs are part of the job and he don’t blow it.
It’s early; the season’s not wrapped up in bows and plastic …
But 4-1 without Messi?
Talk about getting blasted!
So they grab shirts and kick shins and act all nasty.
Can’t shake ‘em loose? We go down, roll ‘round like it hurt,
Pretend we can’t breathe, get called “fakers.”
Sometimes we get the call, sometimes it doesn’t work.
Simeone says, “Get at ‘em” – and we get up.
So c’mon, everybody, cheer up.
¡Ney, Ney, Ney!
What you dreaming during that Live Streaming?
No CB and Messi’s ouch and Ini’s out …
and we still all up in first place.
You should feel lucky; it’s
(Wait. What rhymes with de puta madre?
I mean it — I got nothin’. Ooga aga? Tutomate?)
¡Piqué, Piqué … !
Many womens can’t resist their pimpin’
One thing I ask of you: Let Marca screw, and AS too.
When we spend 90 mil to let Oezil bail,
then go all boo-hoo.
Bayern was a bitch, but no fans got it as good as you
when them tiki-takas bang on through.
We got long balls now what tear their back line in two.
And in tight khakis strut us some Tatas too.
It’s almost unbearable ‘round here, so many Debbie Downers.
Don’t be a twerk … Roots for your team!
In a hundred years would you’ve thought
Barça – Pep – Tito + Tata = History?
It’s phar out!
I mean, Bartra’s defending, and we’re still winning.
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.
I hope I don’t have to sit next to Dan on the bus. Don’t get me wrong, Dan’s o.k. Sometimes we wonder about him, you know, the tattoos and funny hats. At least he got rid of the fuzzy wristbands. But he always has to listen to those big-ass headphones on the bus. They cover, like, half his head. And they’re loud. I don’t really feel like listening to Carib-o-Brazil-o-rap-hop or whatever the hell noise that is right now. Sometimes a guy just wants to sit and be quiet for an hour and not get a migraine. Why not just get the iDiamonds like a normal person. Match his earDiamonds.
I don’t even know what I’m gonna do when I get home. Take a walk around the subdivision? Big whoop. I remember how cool it was the first time going through the big gates of Ciudad Diagonal and walking up to my big ol’ front door with the gold knocker and the big DING DONG when the guys came by, Andrés and Gerry and Dan, knocked me out. I got it all set up with the Bose sound and the built-in megaplasma over the remote fireplace and all that shit. View of the sea from the john, man. Now it’s like, ugh. Whatm’I gonna watch, anyway. Geez, I hope I get home in time for “Punto Pelota”. Don’t wanna miss that episode.
Maybe I’ll just go for a drive. Audi gave us all cars a season or two ago, but I really don’t feel like the guys seeing me, so I won’t take the A1. I wonder if Paco’s got the Spider tuned up like he said he would. Or else there’s the Mas. I don’t want Cesc to see me go out of the garage though. Did you see what that mofo did to his Mercedes? I mean, some guys treat their cars like they’re goddamn toys. Shit can hurt someone. Maybe I’ll just drive all night. I’ll drive right into Madrid and double-park in front of Cristiano’s ride. God, that guy sucks.
I wonder if my girlfriend’s home. She’s hot. She gets mad when I say that. The guys’ll go, Hey, how’s Carla or Merche or or whoever and I’m like, She’s hot. And she gets that look on her face. Then she craps about how I’m only about her looks and I’m like no, babe, you’re real cute too but apparently that’s not good enough. I’m supposed to appreciate something else, like her sense of humor or something. I go, Carla or Merche or whoever, you don’t get on the cover of ¡Hola! in a bikini ‘cause you say such funny shit in it. If she weren’t so hot wouldn’t I get rid of those puffy poof-pillows she leaves on the couch? Shit is Armani, man. Godamn Grembo set me back, that’s for sure.
Oh well. At least there’s the baby. He likes me. Or she, I forget. Carla says it’s hard to tell until there’s enough hair for a bow and I say, Merche, I am a swarthy Mediterranean man and my offspring are gonna have themselves some hair. And that shit stays until we’re old enough to ink up the guns. She says, Why don’t you spend some time with the baby and I say I just got the Mas interiorized. It’s calfskin and smells don’t come out, s’why I don’t let you smoke those stinky Ducados in there. I can walk, I guess. The guys all go for walks with the babies, that’s pretty man these days. Wags dig it.
I just wish … I just wish I could talk to someone. Dude who understands my pain, you know? Someone who’s bummed out too, but not too bummed out, like these sad sacks on the bus who’ll just get me downer. Just someone to listen, you know? Well, he’s probably home. I’ll try him. Got’em on speed dial from World Cup back when.