Archive | Thoughts

Elections and a return to normalcy

Ahhh, that’s more like it. For longtime culers, a happy, consistently victorious Barça was kind of weird. So it’s in many ways reassuring to find that the team and the club have returned to its old, infighting, backbiting self.

— Factions within the board? (Check)
— A superstar unhappy with the manager? (Check)
— An allegedly lost dressing room? (Check)

As we all know now, current president Josep Bartomeu announced today that elections would be convened in the summer of 2015, to rid the club of the stress and uncertainty. And to adequately discuss this, we need to separate personal views from a broader, club-centric view.

Personal side

This group has been a pox from the beginning. Back when I was against them and the effects of the reign weren’t as apparent, I was constantly asked why I wasn’t being fair, what I had against Rosell, etc, etc. Well … this. From false austerity to shoving aside players in heartless ways, from selling the shirt to misunderstanding the human side of managing a sporting club, the list of their flaws, from my very personal perspective, are many.

The prospect of an election makes me giddy with rapture, because it is the opportunity to vote these people far, far away from any semblance of Barça elected office. It’s also something that Bartomeu, rather than hiding behind the shield of club bylaws, should have done at his soonest possibility. These elections should have been last summer, when the club was throwing hundreds of millions of Euros around in an effort to save its collective hide by buying players galore. It didn’t work, and it didn’t work because of a series of meltdowns. “I am David Moyes, destroyer of worlds.”

It obviously isn’t just Moyes and the loss to La Real, any more than it is just Messi and his “blue flu.” It’s everyone all at once, gathering to ensure that the right thing has finally been done. They have done some good, but nowhere near enough to outstrip the bad, for me.

So no, I don’t like this board. But more importantly I like the notion that the voting members will be deciding upon its future.

But is there really a choice?

At the moment there are four potential candidates, only three definite: Victor Font, Agusti Benedito, Bartomeu and Joan Laporta. But as with it was with Rosell, there is really only one candidate, should he decide to run: Laporta.

In a Sport poll of possible candidates, Laporta got something like 89% of the vote. It’s doubtful he would even have to really mount a campaign. Just show up. I don’t believe that to be a good thing.

Jimmy Burns made the Laporta reservations very clear in a very good column posting. And make no mistake about it, Laporta had complexities, even as they paled in comparison to what this group has done. With the club in rather a delicate state right now and transfer banned until winter 2016 window, it is necessary … no, crucial to have a firm, steady hand guiding things.

Laporta would skate in because of the positive memories of his tenure. No, not the two silverless years when the team was a mess under late-Barça Frank Rijkaard, but the Guardiola years, before the Great Slide began. Those memories make Laporta a slam dunk, and in effect there is really only one candidate running, so we have as little choice as we had when Rosell was the 1000-pound gorilla. Would any of the others be good presidents? Good question, and as immaterial as it was when Alfons Godall and the rest were running in 2010.

A iron-clad mandate is a dangerous thing. Rosell took his whopping victory to mean unfettered control. What’s to keep Laporta from assuming the same? Nothing. What does this mean for the club? No idea, but to think that it would automatically mean victory parades and cava for everyone isn’t entirely correct.

Mitigating factors

The next Barça president will have to deal with hiring a new coach, assembling a board and taking the reins of a sporting project that has banned youth players who are stagnating, a first-team transfer ban and an actual first team with aging players, untested ones and a cranky superstar. It’s a big job, even when there isn’t an impatient bunch of supporters breathing down your neck, expecting miracles and wonderment. In reality, this could even dissuade Laporta from taking on the job, though I rather doubt it. Any culer who thinks that elections will solve the problems are as misguided as the ones who think that firing Luis Enrique will solve them.

From club membership to a shirt sponsor who many allege has ties to questionable organizations, a lot needs to be unraveled. Putting the sporting project first at a time when nothing really can be done means what, exactly? It’s important to take a clear-eyed view of what elections in summer will mean for Barça the club, and Barça the footballing side, even as the reality is that we don’t know. Would Enrique be shown the door in a show of solidarity with Messi? The latest rumor is that Messi is uncomfortable with Enrique remaining as manager of the club, and will be for as long as he is there. So then what? Don’t forget the bombshell from the Enrique presser. When asked if he felt it still true that Messi was “delighted” to be at Barça, he answered that things change over time, and the press corps should talk to the parties involved. New manager? Who? And what OF that shirt sponsorship? It’s pretty easy to get hooked on 30+m flying over the transom every season even if it isn’t coming from whatever Qatar deems worthy to offer up for the shirt front. Don’t forget about that stadium project, where the fiscal magic will enable the club to spend 700m and not incur any new debt. “Enrique out!” “Barto out!” Okay. What now?

Lots of things to do and questions to answer for an organization that is a club, but really lives and dies by the exploits of the football team. It’s crucial that culers and socis not view this presidential election as a high-profile attacker transfer, where everyone expects eleventy bajillion goals because “If he scored 35 for his old club, imagine what he will do at Barça!”

But the biggest thing is that finally, finally there is a chance to choose the person who is to run this club. Because players come and go, but it’s the club that endures. That club right now is in trouble, and needs more than anything the right hands guiding it. Those hands will be chosen by its members, for better or worse. As redemption stories go, the act of choosing is a great start.

Posted in Analysis, Messi, Team News, Thoughts9 Comments

Then as now, aka “Respect my authority!”

rm enrique

“Luis Enrique will do a better job than I did.”

— Pep Guardiola

History is most interesting when we forget it. In using the “where there’s smoke …” adage, it’s doubtful that anyone continues to use “alleged” when discussing the alleged rift between Messi and Enrique. Is there something in fact going on? Again, we don’t know.

People say Enrique is “arrogant,” “difficult,” “in over his head,” “can’t manage at a big club,” etc. These things are said without knowing, because we don’t see what goes on. Most of what we know is his Vito Corleone-like badass face at pressers, where he rasps answers from behind a jutted chin. From that, people get arrogance, etc.

But it’s worth going back to happier times, when Pep Guardiola rolled into the club after the days of Frank Rijkaard.

Speaking of Rijkaard and history, what’s interesting is that many suggest that his tenure went off the rails when he lost Henk Ten Cate, who was his pit bull. So that authority, that person who would say “Shut up and deal with what we are telling you,” was lost. From there, the locker room descended into anarchy. Once a coach loses the locker room, there’s no way to get it back, and that coach is on a very, very short leash.

Guardiola came in and laid waste. Unlike his successors, he had full and complete authority, and knew what he wanted. People also forget that he wasn’t interested in dissent. It was his way or the highway. He leavened that stern nature with hugs and was clearly a very human coach, but Guardiola was going to get his way.

When he took office, the first thing he did was clean house. The wholesale clearout that transpired included Ronaldinho and Deco. It was easy for many to accept those moves, because R10 wasn’t what he once was unless at a party, nor was Deco. More interesting was Samuel Eto’o, a fearsome striker at the peak of his powers. Guardiola wanted him out, and said you can do this my way, or leave. Eto’o stayed, and was an integral part of that legendary Treble side. When he lapsed he was gone, in favor of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The warnings about Ibrahimovic were many, and pretty much all of them came to pass. He eventually left the club. Toure Yaya wanted more playing time, wanted things from his role in the team that he wasn’t going to get, mostly because Sergio Busquets fit what Guardiola wanted better but also because Guardiola didn’t want anyone who wasn’t fully on board with his program to be around, getting in the way.

This is exactly as it should be. A coach should have full and complete authority to run him team exactly as he likes, and it shouldn’t matter who that coach is. The role should come with that presumption. Management styles differ and can be debated about, but what should be etched in concrete is that Coach is Mister. That the traditional Mister role has disappeared in the face of modern players and superstars is another matter for another day.

I’m not speaking to him

Guardiola ran his team.

Allegedly, Messi and Enrique aren’t speaking. My mind immediately returned to the allegations that Guardiola didn’t speak to Eto’o, Ibrahimovic or Yaya, and I got to thinking about what the differences were. I got to thinking about how back then, people said it was stupid to even consider that a coach wouldn’t be on speaking terms with a player on his team. It’s more than results because when Guardiola cleared house the season hadn’t started yet. When he wanted Eto’o gone, the team had not yet become That Team. And Guardiola’s only coaching credentials were that he had great ideas, and kicked ass at Barça B.

But Guardiola had the authority to run his team. That team also didn’t have a superstar of the likes of Messi. Ronaldinho was brilliant, affable and a great player. Would people include him in a list of 5 greatest players ever? Maybe his Mom, but that’s pretty much it. But even if he had been he would have been gone, because Guardiola wanted him gone. He relented on Eto’o because the player convinced him, but as soon as that full confidence was lost Eto’o was gone, as was Ibrahimovic.

Back then, a few brave souls said that Guardiola seemed to have difficulty managing superstars and their egos. In that context, draw what you will from his assuming the helm at a Bayern team that lacks that real superstar, iconic player who is also near the top of his game. He could sell Robben or Ribery in a heartbeat and few would bat an eyelash.

When Guardiola sold Ronaldinho, people said “Okay, but your crap had better come out smelling like roses.” It didn’t, and the muttering began. Then the team started winning, and Guardiola’s authority grew even stronger, to the point where the only real issue that most had with the sale of Ibrahimovic was price, rather than that the most talented striker in the game was being sold because he and his coach couldn’t get along. “Zlatan’s just an arrogant prick.”

“He got benched for Krkic!” Yes, because he checked out. The player that was benched by Guardiola wasn’t the same player who started the season, it was clear. Why? All we have is what Ibrahimovic has been saying in his book, pressers and pretty much whenever anyone asks, painting himself as the free will among the passel of choirboys.

Obviously, Guardiola and Enrique are very different managers. One has a role in Barça iconography, the other might not even finish his first season. But just because the two can’t be compared doesn’t mean that there aren’t commonalities, and one of the most noteworthy is their authoritarian styles.

But to do this you have to step back and look at the situation. How possible is that when it involves Messi? Enrique is automatically wrong. For those who say that he isn’t getting results, he is. So the issues become his rotation, seeming lack of a system (compared to what, it should be asked, and what role does poor execution play in that alleged lack of identity) and his “arrogance.”

Who’s the boss?

I can’t say that I agree with those notions. If a coach in American football plays a beautiful, offensive game and all of his players love him but his team finishes 2-14, that coach is gone. If a coach plays an ugly, defensive style, butts heads with his players and wins the championship, that coach is secure as can be. In many sports, it is all about results. The rest is window dressing.

Many have a difficult time understanding the idea that many culers would rather lose a match playing pretty, than win it playing ugly. But it’s at the core of the Enrique complexity. He’s getting results, doing so with a squad that unlike the squad that Guardiola was given for his first season, isn’t anything approaching ideal. It’s aging icons, a superstar who’s lost a step, role players and promotions still taking shape. Enrique has taken that group and has them second in the Liga and to the knockouts in Champions League after winning the group. That team also cruised (yes, it was Huesca) in the Copa. It really has been an impressive start from a results worldview, even as it has been at times a failure from the other worldviews.

And that’s the difficulty. The past is impossible to escape. Note that Tata Martino (who used 17 different lineups in his first 17 matches, by the by) is never used in Enrique comparisons. Why? He didn’t win anything. But that comparison would probably bring about a bit more patience, a bit more willingness to have patience with Enrique. Yes, the team has 3 losses in Liga. The Treble team had 7 losses, even though some came when the league title was all but done.

I don’t know what Enrique does or how he manages. The only thing I have to go on is what I see on the pitch. I haven’t watched training sessions, haven’t watched him interact with the players or staff. Because I have seen none of that, I am ill-equipped to make the same judgments that many are making about his fitness to continue coaching FC Barcelona.

But I can look at history, find similarities and speculate about why past is present but that present is perceived differently. Guardiola won everything under the sun for one great season, kept winning for a while, won a Copa and then left. The results weren’t there for the same reasons that the team isn’t doing all that it can right now: a neglectful board.

His successor, Tito Vilanova, won the Liga but nobody really cared because he screwed up and didn’t use Thiago Alcantara enough so he left for Bayern, legend has it. “He didn’t need those 100 points, and only wanted them because RM got them the year before. Hollow victory.” This was really the marking of the first return of how Barça used to be, the Barça that we’re seeing now, of the infighting and nothing ever being good enough. That season was defined by the Bayern beating, and always will be.

Martino came in, got an absolute mess of a team within 5 goals of being in with a shout for the Treble, and it’s immaterial. And in this situation results matter, in a deft malleability of grading standards.

And now we have Enrique, whose sins are:

— Arrogance
— Too much rotation
— “Ugly” football
— Poor man management
— Has lost the locker room
— At war with Messi

He was getting stick for his previous sins, even beFORE the alleged row with Messi. And from my perspective, all of the other sins are nonsense inventions by people looking for a reason to dislike a coach. But if he has lost the dressing room, that’s fatal. A coach can be forgiven a lot, but not that. Because if the players won’t play for you, results are impossible.

It’s why I struggle to understand why the Messi thing has suddenly blown everything up. Prima facie, the alleged situation involves a coach’s authority over a player. And if we believe part of the allegations then we have to believe all of them right, which includes Messi getting a case of the “blue flu” and stiffing sick kids because he was having a pout.

“Oh, but Messi wouldn’t do that.” Yet Enrique is the monster because Messi is angry. It isn’t assumed for an instant that Enrique might have just as much reason and right to take on Messi as Guardiola did Eto’o, Ibrahimovic or Yaya. That thought doesn’t enter anyone’s mind. It can’t, because Messi is involved, and so Enrique is automatically at fault. He has to be, because all Messi wants to do is play with Thiago, his PlayStation and a football.

It shouldn’t take a cranky old journalist to point out the complexities in that approach to the situation.

If you stomp your feet and scream “WHY ARE YOU DEFENDING ENRIQUE,” then you haven’t been paying attention. The point isn’t Enrique’s suitability for the job that he has. The point is allegations, what they mean and a coach’s right to run his team the way that he sees fit, to do the job that he was hired to do. If he’s bad at that job, judge him on that, rather than a bushel basket of “allegeds.”

It’s a complex matter that I have struggled to get my mind around, but it seems to me that a lot of it is perception of two men, both wanting results and success and going about it in their own ways. And now they are allegedly butting heads. If that player is say, Jordi Alba, does it matter as much? When Enrique sat Pique for whatever reason he sat Pique, people defended Pique but really it wasn’t that huge a deal because Pique wasn’t getting the results on the pitch in that he wasn’t as consistently excellent as he has been in the past. News flash: Neither is Messi.

But none of that matters, because Messi is the Best Player Alive and Enrique is just some coach with no credentials, riding herd over a directionless team that is playing ugly football. And now he’s fighting with Messi. Lucho OUT!

What if he is fighting for the way to run his team as he likes? What if at the other side of all this alleged allegedly stuff is a fist of a team that takes shape and kicks the crap out of everyone. What if, what if? What if nobody can see any of the other “what ifs” because heels are embedded into the ground because we aren’t seeing exactly what we want to see from Barça, which makes everything suspect.

You can ask all the questions you like, but without asking the right ones, it’s difficult to solve a dilemma or get past a crossroads.

Posted in Analysis, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts48 Comments

Vocational training, aka “Be a reporter”

These are worrying times for our football club, when the din is threatening to shut everything out.

The people who want Enrique gone are screaming the loudest right now, and people who might be considering a different view retreat in the face of vehemence. People who say the wrong things are being attacked, and it’s getting personal.

Meanwhile, rumors fly about practice rows. Messi and Enrique had a fight because Messi wanted a foul called. In a practice match. The player who doesn’t go down, who gets chunks kicked out of him with equanimity, decides to draw the line. With his coach. In practice. Neymar and Mascherano had a fight. That they are the kinds of rows that happen all the time in a competitive situation is immaterial. Right now, they are different. Why? Because they need to be?

Labels abound. “Cheerleader.” “Gloomy.” “Negative.” “Bandwagoner.” And everyone rushes to have the last word.

And that’s just among the fanbase!
Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts52 Comments

The first shoe drops, aka “Don’t be fooled”

zubi

I was watching a TV show called “Fool Us,” featuring the magic duo of Penn & Teller. The premise is that magicians come out to do their thing in an effort to find a trick slick enough to fool two of the best magicians ever.

It’s pretty hard to fool Penn & Teller. The question will be, now that the magic trick of getting rid of Andoni Zubizarreta has been performed, whether this board will be able to fool us.

I hope not.
Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, Soap Box, Supposition, Team News, Thoughts33 Comments

Real Sociedad 1, Barça 0, aka “Choosing your path”

lrenr

The match between La Real and Barça today was one of the strangest I have seen in some time, for a number of reasons.

Most noteworthy for me is that this was the match that assembled every last dysfunction that this club has, and dumped it into a cauldron. We can talk about mitigating circumstances, chances created in the first vs second half, etc, etc, but the fact that Barça is a dysfunctional team linked to a dysfunctional club is, for me, beyond dispute.

But in a way, there is beauty in all of that failure in the same way that not being able to complete that last rep in the gym makes you stronger. Pain and misery, self-flagellation are party of any process that improves anything, because you have to fail before you can succeed. The problem, of course, is that you have the right clothes and all the instructions. It should be easy, and what if at the end of all of this failure is … more failure? Who wouldn’t opt for the ease of success and the comfort of the familiar?

You see it in the gym all the time, the people who do the same workouts with the same weights, always completing the sets and strutting to the locker room with a grin. “Another one rocked.” I always seek failure. Put another way, if I get to the last rep of a set in an unruffled state, THAT is when I have failed, because I didn’t push hard enough.
Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Tactics, Thoughts47 Comments

Too much or too little, aka “Is rotation what makes the world go round?”

cordenr

Each matchday, Luis Enrique’s lineup rolls out and the anguished yowls begin.

I wish he would decide on an XI!
How are we supposed to know what he’s doing if he won’t play the same people!
How can the players gel if he keeps changing everything??
Sigh … the 47th lineup in 16 matches. He really doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, Champions League, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Statistics, Thoughts45 Comments

Enrique and life on the fringe, aka “Stuff is happening, but why?”

Photo courtesy of FC Barcelona

Photo courtesy of FC Barcelona

The challenge of holding a minority opinion is whether it stands up to the litmus test of logic.

A popular worldview, supported by many an intelligent football chronicling voice, is that Barça under Luis Enrique is a team that is losing its identity. The latest piece, and an excellent one from Sid Lowe, makes the case as eloquently as any I have seen before and will likely see even as for me, the team has been losing said identity since before Guardiola’s last year, and that loss isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

So in the struggle to reconcile ideas that apparently need fingers on a keyboard to wrap a mind around, here’s a view from an outlier on judgments of Enrique and what/how he is doing in the here and now. It’s a question of not only what you see when everyone sees the same thing, but what is affecting your field of view in how you react to what you see.
Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, Soap Box, Supposition, Thoughts17 Comments

Barça 5, Cordoba 0, aka “Does it matter how the chef stirs the pot?”

cordpedro

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha (pant, pant!) bwahahahahahahahaha!

Whew! Now that I am composed, Barça put the hammer down on Cordoba 5-0, to roll into the holiday break with a bang. This was a match was either wasn’t very interesting or fascinating as can be, depending on what you were looking for.

Prima facie Barça did what it was supposed to do in stomping a relegation side in Cordoba. 5-0. So what. Couldn’t they score any more? They put eight past Huesca. Do these guys suck, or what?

What was interesting for me was that Cordoba had 8, sometimes 9 in the box, determined to prevent Barça from scoring. Once Pedro stamped that first notion with a giant FAIL, their plan B was to stay close and maybe nick one on the counter. Luis Suarez’s soft shoe nutmeg put paid to that, and the rest was history.
Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Messi, Review, Thoughts36 Comments

Merci, Abidal

abi

“As a defender, my aim is to infuriate the opponent. I want him to be so sick of the sight of me that he has to move somewhere else on the pitch to get away.” –Eric Abidal

This player, this man, has officially retired from football today.

It’s worth a few words on this wonder of a player who, as always when humanity decides to kick sport in the face, reminds us of possibilities and our own humanity.

From rocky starts …

It all began in 2007 when Abidal joined Barça after essentially going on strike at Lyon, who didn’t want to sell him for reasons that would become apparent. He made his debut in August of that year and it’s safe to say that he didn’t show the signs of a player who would become essential to the success of a succession of great championship teams under Pep Guardiola, becoming the French Greyhound who held down the left side with class and style as he lived up his assertion. Teams didn’t attack that side of the pitch, because it was effectively closed, even as his sideline-to-sideline range meant that pretty much wherever he was, that part of the pitch was closed, too.

His acclimation process at Barça was slow, as it often is with foreign players. And typically of culers, many were ready to write him off, already making up their minds about him instead of using that magical word that seems an epithet to so many these days, patience.

And Abidal himself admitted that he wasn’t his best after that first season, in full honesty, but insisted that his best was yet to come as he added understatement to his roster of formidable skills.

For me, and I suggested this back then, the roots of Hlebruary were in the seemingly annual Abidal injury around that time of the season, where he would pull or strain something and it would suddenly become apparent how important he was to how the team defended.

abilevante

Gerard Pique was off being Piquenbauer, Dani Alves was dancing around the opposing keeper as Carles Puyol was busy occupying the space that others had left behind. Whenever something would go bad and an opponent got a chance, Abidal would almost invariably come streaking in to kill it, using speed and strength to right the ship.

As a player, he was really never rated by too many culers, who watched matches with the blinders of past expectation that limit a player to an initial perception. Or he was dismissed with, “He doesn’t attack enough.” Then, when he added attacking to his game with increasing fluency it became, “He doesn’t attack like Alves.”

None of that mattered to a man who was, we realize only now, irreplaceable. Barça’s defensive complexities began when he left the club, and they have only now begun to assume a semblance of solidity. Because just as Messi saves the team on offense, Abidal did, time and time again, on defense.

But he wouldn’t just do it, he would do it with style and his preternatural calm on the ball, quelling an attack and introducing la pausa on defense before passing it to a waiting midfielder. And yet it wasn’t always style. Dude cleared a ball with his head, slamming his dome into the ground in a battle for possession while laying on the pitch. Any how, any way.

He even scored goals for Barça, choosing important moments to do them. His tally against Athletic Club seized the day for Barça, and he also slotted home a goal in as minor a showcase as the Classic.

Weeping culers

And then came the word, a little thing that trickled out that then became grim reality: Abidal has cancer, and will require surgery. Guardiola said that he wept like a baby, and it’s safe to say that many of us did as well because suddenly, it was serious, and personal as it always is when an evil thing tries to take someone from us. RM players wore Animo Abidal shirts, a phrase that also flashed on the Bernabeu scoreboard as rivalries are cast aside when humanity comes calling.

Of course as we all know, his comeback was legendary. Surgery in March, then starting and playing 90 minutes of Barça’s Champions League victory at Wembley, capped off by the moment when Carles Puyol did the only thing that a great Capita should have, in handing the trophy and the armband to Abidal.

abitrophy

It was a moment that Puyol said was his most special in his 15 years as a player for Barça. It is also one of the moments that sticks most indelibly in my memory, because of a truly great story. From the note that Abidal left in the locker room at Wembley, promising to be back in May, to an athlete beating that most evil of assailants in his own body and returning to triumph … if somebody brought that story to you for a screenplay, you would tell them it was too good to be true, and kick them out of your office.

Triumph turned to tragedy when it was announced that Abidal would need a liver transplant because his battle wasn’t over yet. Such was the bond forged with the player that Dani Alves offered to be a donor, before Abidal’s cousin stepped up. The surgery was a success and the player returned to Barça yet again, even as storm clouds were on the horizon.

At a press conference, Abidal sat at a table with Sandro Rosell next to him, weeping as the club that he loved made the decision, despite the assertion that it came after consultation with coaching staff AND player, that it was time for Abidal to quit FC Barcelona.

It is a decision that I still do not agree with, even as I understand that the circumstances were complicated … that we don’t know what the player was demanding, etc, etc. My objectivity clashed with my emotions, made even more raw by seeing a man who had given everything that he had, kicked cancer in the ass then came back to give everything that he had again, kicked cancer in the ass a SECOND time then worked to again be in a condition to give everything that he had for the team. That man deserved a shot with the club that he loved, an assertion with roots in the reality that it’s hard to be logical, to step back and see all sides in a situation such as that.

abipresser

Time marches on

Abidal went to play for Monaco, part of a back line tossed together by cash and circumstance. He wasn’t the player he was, and many used that as an excuse to say “See? Barça was right.” But he was playing, and he was happy. He signed a one-year extension with Monaco and then on this day a year ago came sudden reports that he was moving to Olympiakos.

People wondered why, and the most persistent rumor was that he was angry that Monaco reneged on the deal with injured ex-Barça keeper Victor Valdes. And truth be told, we like to imagine that rumor is so, that Abidal is such a mensch that friendship and love towers above everything.

But he, as did we all, knew that time was running out because even without health ravages, time isn’t kind to 35-year-old defenders who rely on pace and power as the foundation of their game. And so, today, after an up and down season with Olympiakos, Abidal has retired.

He said that his next role is as yet undetermined, that he has offers from both Barça and Olympiakos. But given his professed love for the club, his roots in Barcelona and his passion, it is difficult to imagine that he will do anything except return home, where he belongs.

abitrio

Posted in Player Profiles, Team News, Thoughts22 Comments

Suarez Hates To Lose

Midway through the World Cup news regarding Luis Suarez joining Barcelona started to emerge. Fans were furious at the fact that we are signing someone with such a terrible character. Let’s just say Luis Suarez is not a person you want to look up to. From Suarez being involved in acts of racism, to actually biting his opponents, the fans had every right to be furious. Not only did the club sign a player of terrible reputation, they also signed a player who was banned for four months.

However, according to Luis himself, his arrival at Barcelona signaled a new beginning. This new beginning meant that all his horrendous acts will be put aside. Luis Suarez considers that he now has a chance at a better life. He believes that his dream came true the moment he put on the Barça shirt.

You could write a movie script about Luis Suarez’s complicated character. The romantic story regarding his girlfriend and how he played football to get her back tells you one side of the story. The other side of the story tells you that he is a psychotic freak of nature.

When asked why he was involved in such hideous actions, Luis Suarez replied: I hate to lose. I don’t know how to lose.

This is a terrible reply. It doesn’t justify his actions. Then again, nothing justifies his actions.

However, this reply brings me to the part I’m interested in and it was never his character. Actually, I was never interested in players’ characters to begin with. This brings me to Luis Suarez, the football player.

Luis Suarez’s ban ended on October 25th 2014. He was directly involved in El Clasico. This match witnessed Barcelona losing 3-1. Unlike most players on their debut, Luis Suarez had a huge impact on the first half. His pass to Neymar led to the first goal. Another beautiful pass to Lionel Messi could’ve made Barcelona have some sort of advantage against a very lethal opponent.

And this is what Luis Suarez is all about.

I remember watching him play for Liverpool hoping I’d see him in our colors. Not many players in the world can make an entire team look good. The last time I checked only Lionel Messi could do that. This, of course, does not disregard what Brendan Rodgers did or what other players were capable of but it was obvious that Liverpool had a player who was on a higher level than the others.

BsQuZXfCQAImr_x

Regardless of the fact that I hate evaluating players based on stats but the qualities & quantities shown above do not portray a normal player. Suarez is no normal player. We notice so much dominance and completeness in only a very few number of players in the world.

Luis Suarez is not your usual striker. His selfishness is a myth.  He is a playmaker with the ability to score beautiful goals. He’ll lose the ball and fight with every inch of power God has given him to get it back. He is of killer instincts. His intelligence on the field is indescribable. He is always one step ahead of the defender and has the ability to predict the defender’s next move. His technique while receiving the ball to set himself up for a pass or a shot is sensational.

A lot could be said about his talent but more could be said about how passionate he is.

Whether with Liverpool or now with Barcelona, one thing hasn’t changed. He’ll absolutely play his heart out in every single match he is involved in. When he scored a simple tap-in against PSG he was ecstatic. For a second there, he did not care how he scored or against who. All he cared about was the fact that he finally scored in the Camp Nou & in the competition he always wanted to win (his second goal in this competition).

Luis Suarez’s character might not be the fans’ favorite however a part of his character brings back something the fans really needed to see: passion and working your butt off.

Enough with poetry, though. The fans want hard facts and results. Can you blame them?

Barcelona spent around 80 million for a striker whose stats read: 2 goals, 6 assists.
However this does not look so bad when comparing it to others(again, excuse the stat):

 

 

Adapting to Barcelona’s style of play is in itself a challenge to players no matter how great they are. This, of course, is not my assumption. Thierry Henry, Alexis Sanchez and others have all admitted to the fact that players learn a different type of football as soon as they step foot in Barcelona.

2013-12-SuarezHeader

Playing alongside Lionel Messi is the toughest yet most beautiful thing in the world for a top player. It is beautiful because the player finally finds someone who is on a similar mental level. It is tough because the player is no longer the main man and you can feel it. From Suarez’s hesitation in front of goal to his constant need to pass one touch passes he isn’t sure of. Suarez is always in a rush and seems rather shaky on his first touch.

With that said, there is no need to worry about Luis Suarez.  Intelligent players like him always find a way.  He took Liverpool to the top and his impact on that team was no coincidence or fluke.

Scrolling through my timeline, reading news, and opening articles I noticed a certain tone among the majority. Some have already declared him a failure. Many simply disregard that Suarez has been an active Barcelona player for only a month and a half. And in this month and a half he produced moments of absolute brilliance that should remind the fans of what he is actually capable of.

When Suarez first arrived here he said: “I am here to win trophies”.
I am pretty confident that he’ll be a crucial and decisive factor in winning any trophy in the upcoming months. After all, Suarez hates to lose.

Posted in Barcelona, Player Profiles, Thoughts7 Comments

Hope and beauty, aka “Making the nonsensical make sense”

FC Barcelona v Real Valladolid CF - La Liga

The question was a simple one, posed by a favorite Twitter account, that got at the core of everything about this game that has become so much more for so many.

The more BVB fail the more I cheer for them and like them. What’s wrong with me?

My reply was a simple one, that “Hope is at the core.of sport. It’s why it’s all so beautiful. It isn’t the winning. It’s that moment when hope is realized.”

Even when humanity intrudes into sport, making game irrelevant, when all you want do is stop thinking about something and crying, hope is a part of it all.
Continue Reading

Posted in Messi, Thoughts4 Comments

The talent complexity, aka “Having your cake and the patience to let it bake”

adama

Adama Traore. Sigh, swoon, right? Riiiight.

After his goal against Huesca, the hype rose to an even higher level for this astonishing talent who has an even more astonishing physique. But let’s have a closer look at the situation, how it is and what it might or might not mean.

Traore scored that goal against Huesca, a Segunda B side. He should have done exactly what he did, which was own those defenders with pace and strength, and put the ball past the keeper. It’s just as the first team, which won the match 8-1, was supposed to do, particularly as Huesca’s lineup was chosen with its real competition (they are currently top in Segunda B) in mind.

So what do we have with Adama Traore, besides blinding talent in a man’s body?

Don’t know yet. Could be Neymar with power, could be Deulofeu with muscles. But a few things have to happen for us to know decisively, all most likely away from Barça.
Continue Reading

Posted in Analysis, Barcelona B, La Liga, Thoughts14 Comments

Page 2 of 3812345...102030...Last »

Readers Online




Barca Shop