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Lost Ballons and departures, aka “Ain’t the vicarious life grand?”

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Football is us. It explains so much, really … the passion, the way we defend our teams and players, our views of those teams and players. It’s a game that we carry in our hearts and minds. It’s pure.

And because it is us, it makes us feel things that are in many ways, irrational. We take a player to heart so that when things happen, it feels like they happen to us, in a strange way. “How DARE they not give Messi the Ballon d’Or?! He is the best!”

It also makes us feel it more acutely when players we lionize are suddenly not those players any longer and sometimes stuff starts to make sense, even as you don’t really believe that it does, as you grasp for tenuous links to make seeming crazy talk make just a shard of sense.

What is the job of a football club? It depends on who you ask. To win? Okay. To make money? Sure. To provide a gentle place for its iconic players to be put out to pasture?

Hang on there, ace. Surely even the most devoted supporter of a player can see how that last isn’t even remotely compatible with that whole winning business.

On yet another level, a football club and the team that represents us, exists to meet a need that so many of us have — to feel something. We don the replica kit, find our way to a gathering place, or hunch over a laptop and a fuzzy stream that gets Whack-A-Moled by those pesky rights managers, and we are united in that one thing … Barça.
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Posted in Messi, Thoughts, Transfers/Transfer Rumors115 Comments

Ones that got away, aka “I love him so much! How can he DO that to me!?”

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Just had an interesting discussion on Twitter that, of course, became the seed for a post, on the ones that got away and the reactions of supporters.

These days, no word can spark a spirited discussion like “Thiago.” Culers are never on the fence with this one, be it that Vilanova and the board cast him to the waves in a little papyrus basket, or he’s a little ingrate. After all the club did for him … .

There are many ways to look at the situation, but let’s take a broader view, for all the exes out there.
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Posted in Soap Box, Thoughts, Transfers/Transfer Rumors125 Comments

A CB, a CB, my kingdom for a CB, aka “Who needs two?”

Barça's latest signing works out.

Barça’s latest signing works out.

So. Do I really need to say it? No. But I will anyhow:

We are not going to sign a centerback in the summer window

Maybe.

I know, I know … but we NEED one like sprites need a ball and oxygen, right? Right? Let’s natter a bit about this.
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Posted in Analysis, Transfers/Transfer Rumors111 Comments

Today is the first day of the rest of now, aka “These are pretty amazing times”

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Today is the day. The first day that our new coach, Gerardo Martino, will be in charge of our first team. It is also the first day of many, that I have to wrestle with not being in any way, shape or form mature enough to deal with a coach nicknamed Tata.

A lot has gone on this summer, and a lot will go on this year. We will discuss, harangue, vex and turn inside out many things that are going to happen in this season, things that didn’t, things that “if only.” We already have, right? Cules are seeing doom, and a defense that is certainly going to concede 47 goals per match, while its new coach is staring at the roster, staring at it again, smacking himself upside the head, staring at the roster again, and wondering what magic has placed him where he is.

“(PINCH!) Wow. Still here …. ”

And were I a genie who could grant wishes, my fondest wish for many cules would be contextual freedom.
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Posted in Thoughts, Transfers/Transfer Rumors204 Comments

Silly Season dawns, aka “Can’t tell the defenders without a scorecard”

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

U.S. political figure Donald Rumsfeld could have been talking about transfer season when he uttered those words, as they describe exactly what is going on …. actually …. sorta.

Here’s what we know:

– We have Neymar
– We need one, preferably two defenders
– We would like a keeper

If I had my way, we would sign a sanely-priced veteran, and a very talented young player to groom in the system. Bartra’s feelings might be hurt, not that such a thing would bother me in the least. “Wanna stay? Earn your spot.”

We are looking at, or not looking at, various players. We have talked to, or haven’t talked to, various players. Rumors abound, along with plenty of knowns, unknowns and speculative hooey. Here’s some mini-profiles of the players who are known to be rumored to be in our orbit, and because exactly one of you have missed the KRS (Kxevin Rating System), I will rate, from 1-10, my joy at having the rumored defender in our ranks. Let’s call it the KDR, or Kxevin Defender Rating. Let’s go.
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Posted in Analysis, Transfers/Transfer Rumors78 Comments

Between a Rock & a Hard Place: The Abidal Dilemma

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It’s the end of the season, and the club will be making some tough decisions soon. One of the toughest of all is whether to offer Eric Abidal a new contract. Over the last three seasons we have shared his struggle with cancer. We wept for joy when he overcame it to lift the CL trophy at Wembley, then wept again when we heard he had suffered a relapse. We celebrated when a liver donor was found, and rejoiced when he stepped onto the pitch to play his first minutes in over a year. Now, finally, Abidal is fully recovered and eager to take up his position in the team. In a perfect scenario his contract would be renewed and a 100% fit Abi would play for Barcelona for at least another year or two before retiring and moving on to the next phase of his career.

Over the last couple of weeks there have been rumbles from Abidal’s agent (and maybe from Abidal himself, although I’m not sure if those quotes were confirmed) that they are disappointed that the club hasn’t yet sat down and talked about renewing his contract. According to his agent, Abidal requested a meeting with Rosell as far back as February but got no response. After these quotes came out, the reaction was immediate outrage, at least in my twitter TL. Why haven’t the club offered Abi a new contract? How could they leave him in limbo like that? Don’t they owe it to him after everything he’s been through to let him know, so he can plan his future? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and there are serious questions that need to be asked. Even if Abi had been granted the meeting he requested in February, there is nothing that Rosell or Zubi could really have confirmed at that point other than that he is important to the club and that the coaches will be the ones to make the evaluation at the end of the season.

Before the club can even consider renewing Abidal’s contract, they must be convinced of two things: 1) that he is 100% healthy and fit to play, and 2) that he can be counted on to play consistently at the high level demanded by a team of Barça’s calibre. The doctors have passed him fit, and we have no reason to think that his health is still compromised. In the four games he has appeared in this season, he has looked almost like his old self. In fact, I would currently consider him our best defender by far. His speed, positioning, reading of the game, and assurance on the ball have all been top-notch. However, he has only played a total of 175 minutes, and just one full game. The last game he started he had to be subbed off due to “thigh discomfort”, although there was also a suspicion that he just ran out of gas. There is also the fact that Abidal is 33, and will turn 34 in September. I’m not one of those who thinks a player has an automatic expiry date of 30 years, but he is certainly not getting any younger. Taking all these factors together, it is understandable that the coaches are taking their time to make a final decision. With only 25 first team places available and a clear need for new signings, can the club really afford to offer a place to a player who may not be able to rise to the challenge? Then again, can the club afford not to?

This is a very tricky situation for the club. On the one hand, we have the feel-good story of the club standing by Abidal throughout his illness, renewing his contract when there was no question of him playing, and giving him all the support he needed to come back and rejoin the team. Mes que un club, right? A happy outcome, and tons of great publicity for the club along the way. We’re the good guys. But if the coaches, or the Board, or both have decided that Abi just can’t play at the highest level anymore, or for over the course of a full season, how do they let him go without looking completely heartless? Rumours have abounded that club wants to offer him a job on the coaching staff, or as some kind of goodwill ambassador. This would obviously be a good solution for the club, as it would be seen as taking care of a family member, but Abidal has stated that he wants to continue playing for at least another year or two. If he can’t play at Barça, he will certainly look for another club. Apart from the sadness of losing a very talented and beloved player, there is the danger that if Barça lets him go and he ends up having a brilliant season somewhere else, we would look awfully foolish for parting with an excellent defender just when we are most in need of one with his exact profile.

Personally, I would love it if Abidal stays. I think that his talent, experience, and thorough knowledge of our system would compensate for him needing more rest between games or starting on the bench. He could surely play more minutes for us than Carvalho has for the last 2 season for Real Madrid. I think the club should offer him a year renewal, with an option for another year based on number of games played. If at any time his health becomes an issue the contract could be cancelled by mutual agreement. Sadly, it seems more and more unlikely that this will happen. I am afraid that we will have to bid adieu to our French greyhound at the end of this season. I very much hope that I am wrong.

Posted in Barcelona, Thoughts, Transfers/Transfer Rumors125 Comments

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