Santos 0, Barca 4, aka “Purity in the service of beauty,” aka “Why buy Neymar? We already own him!”

This was the face. Messi has, of late, undergone a degree of scrutiny that might make many believe he just stands around, waiting for the ball before he springs into action. But if you want to see how much this club wanted this title, just look at this image.

Better yet, watch this glorious, glorious match by the best club in football and one of the best in the history of the game, a beautiful thing that never fails to bring pleasure, even when it fails to fully execute its mission.

Notions of beauty fascinate me. Men and women, cars, objets d’art can all be justly labeled “beautiful,” by many a person who, subjectively, deems them thus. Disputes? To be sure. Recall when MOMA featured a blockbuster exhibition that featured motorcycles. “That ain’t art,” some crowed, “and it ain’t beauty.” But subjective definitions quake in the face of logic, since subjectivity is, by its very definition, unassailable. “I say it’s beautiful, so it is. The end.”

They won’t be putting our glorious club in any museum for people to gaze upon, though they should. There should be videos, and things so that people remember what this is like, rather than some elderly Catalan dude in the stands, waving around a cigar in open defiance of the Camp Nou’s non-smoking edict, talking about the Best Club He Ever Saw.

I’ll start you right off by saying that my Man of the Match is Pep Guardiola, for what he did for this side, on this weekend that is, so far, the culmination of a season that saw so many doubting him. “He messes around too much,” said some. “The players aren’t motivated,” said others. He just said, “We’ll be fine,” and has proceeded to craft an amorphous, glittering objet d’art that leaves its viewers in open-mouthed astonishment, time after time after time. Further, he made them understand how precious this weekend was. Yes, we were better than the clubs at the tournament, better even if an all-star side were to have been ginned up of the best players from every club in the tournament. That’s just a consequence of big-time football.

But the incredible focus that this club had made this destruction of a Santos side that did the best it could without the ball, a true thing of beauty.

Recall when I was wishing that the A team would play the System the way the Babies played it against BATE. Voila. Who thought, at times, that we had more than 11 on the pitch, as the pressure and movement were incessant. Santos pushed and pressured but after a while, as the players re-dedicated themselves to the system that brought them to the current lofty heights, it was all over but the shouting. “Run, you bastards, run,” Guardiola urged the club when he first took over. And you saw it today, when the Santos players were sweating and tired, and we looked like we’d just come out of the locker room to begin the half. You saw it today in the way that our players never were found without a place to move the ball to, no matter how tight the confines.

Guardiola had those players as ready as could be for two matches that were really academic. Santos had only slightly more chance than Al Sadd, despite them having the current holder of the Phenomenon crown in Neymar, who at this point should consider himself lucky to be mentioned in the same sentence as Thiago, never mind Messi. Most importantly, he somehow got them to believe again, in the System. Did they learn from the Babies? Maybe. Was Santos complicit in its own demise? Hard to say, as they never really got the ball all that much.

But this much is without question: It was a dazzling display, a display for the ages capped off with four goals of indescribable beauty.

Guardiola rolled out with the “in it to win it” lineup of Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Busquets, Xaviniesta, Thiago, Fabregas, Messi. If anyone was wondering about the respect that our club had for this tourney and its opponent, look no further than the lineup card. And that lineup set about the task of destroying Santos with a single-minded zeal not seen since last season’s manita. This, for me, irrespective of the opponent, is the best match this club has played this season. Period, full stop. Because it displayed the System to its fullest effect. Was it the rest for Xavi? Dunno. Or maybe, the fact that Messi played his most complete match this season? Possibly.

I prefer to think that it was everything coming together all at once, from a gazelle-like Abidal to our Captain, Carles Puyol, who, as he did with Thong Boy, said to a much-lauded opponent, “You fit in my back pocket rather nicely, thanks. Now git!” It was everything. Dani Alves was his old, bombastic self on the right, and Thiago created danger and good things every time the ball was played to him on the left side of the pitch. Busquets destroyed and created, wrecking attack after Santos attack, and creating ours with delightful balls to Xaviniesta. Santos brought in Elano, hoping that would be the difference, but the same thing happened: We kept the ball, and they chased it. Those two things have but one logical, inevitable outcome.

On the oveall scale of silver, the World Club Cup isn’t all that important. I’ve always viewed it as a sop for the Champions League winner, who gets an easy chance to pad the trophy case. But what made this match interesting, was the hype. Messi against Neymar, a comparison that, for those luxuriating in the delightful clarity of hindsight, is rather like comparing a lump of dough to a perfectly made baguette. You don’t know what the former is going to be yet, because it’s still raw, while the baguette is perfection, a ray of gustatory sunshine suited to melt even the hardest of hearts.

Put another way, Neymar wasn’t allowed to have the ball. And we knew this going in, as Fabregas said during the pre-match chatter, “If dude ain’t got the ball, how good is he going to be, yo.” Or something like that. But in Catalan, so it sounded all pretty and stuff. This was the strategy, one borne out by the lineup of our quickest, best ball handlers. There wasn’t a real forward to speak of, as Guardiola chose to wreak havoc with a cadre of attackers who are supremely comfortable with the ball at their feet. Possession was key against a Santos club that was so dangerous in the counterattack. So we kept it, and kept it, and kept it, and kept it, until suddenly a slick 1-2 between Messi and Xavi broke the match open.

The ball from Messi wasn’t the best, not that it mattered a whit to Xavi as Messi continued to steam right on past him, because this has happened a million times in practice. Messi knows that the ball doesn’t need to be perfect for Xavi. It needs to be sorta there. So Xavi lifted a heel to control the ball, bringing it down to his feet in perfect time to slot a through ball for Messi, who just kept on running. Xavi brought it down, controlled and one-touched it almost in the same motion, to a perfect spot. Messi deftly lifted it over the keeper, and it was 0-1.

A one-goal lead is complex, because it is an error away from starting all over, particularly against a club such as Santos. So not long after, it was time for No. 2, another amazing bit of alchemy, again with Xavi at its core. Alves smacked in a pass to Xavi, a ball that had to be struck with some venom to get it past the ball-hawking, aggressive Santos defenders. Again, showing the remarkable control that makes him unfortunate to be the best player on the planet, playing with a player who scores bags of spectacular goals, Xavi controlled and again, with precious little time wasted on fully controlling the pass, half-volleyed it past the Santos keeper.

The Inevitable Xavi

At 2-0, you really couldn’t say that Santos played all that badly. It was simply that they weren’t allowed to play. The rare time they got loose and (inevitably) fed Neymar, Puyol would roll over and say “Hey. Kid! Sign says no ball playing. Give me that.” Or Valdes worked some magic, including a shot that Neymar probably scores on in a few years, even if he does become Robinho II. 2-0 is also a mistake away from being fraught, so we pressed for a third and again, Alves was involved.

Brazilian Unbound laid in a perfect ball right at the feet of Messi, that was parried away. So Alves ran that ball down and laced in another bit of perfection for the noggin of Thiago, whose header was again stopped as the rebound flew directly to Fabregas, who slotted home from the doorstep. This goal also came at the worst time, right before halftime. A 0-3 against the best club in the world is bad enough. That scoreline with only a half of footy left to be played, is insurmountable, even if players have to think “Sure, we can get this done.” But at 0-3, when your best player has this to contend with ….

It was Alves Time again for the fourth goal, as Busquets won a long clearance from the Santos keeper, heading it directly to Alves, who headed it forward so that he could run onto it to feed Messi, who did something that makes me wonder about The Way Things Are.

He took the ball from Alves and ran at the keeper, who decided that sliding was the best option, because that works to stop mortals. Messi, in full stride, chipped the ball into the pitch so that it hopped up as he rounded the keeper and slotted home. For me, the question is Did Messi mean it? If yes, it’s a remarkable play by a remarkable player. If it was just a happy accident, still …. what a golazo!

All four goals were, in effect, unstoppable because they involved two things:

–Great players doing remarkable things, all at once
–Belief in, and knowledge of a system that enables the first thing

So if Messi has any doubt that Xavi can control the ball and slot it through for him, maybe he doesn’t make that run with the vigor sufficient to beat the defense. If Alves doesn’t know that Xavi is going to take his pass and make magic, the possession game dictates that he probably wouldn’t have made it. It truly is a remarkable time in this great club’s history. It might not win another piece of silver this season, and I have to say that to such things, I don’t care. For seekers of footballing beauty, this club has shown me, all of us, what the game can be like at the highest levels. And that, for me, just like when you visit a great museum and carry the memory of the pure emotion raised by seeing great art with you forever, is enough.

Team: 10. Even as it let off a couple of times in the second half, the support network was there as everyone held everyone else up. They played this match with the fire and focus of a Clasic. Santos should be honored to have gotten our best match.

Guardiola: 10. Right lineup, right psychology, right substitutes. Did everything right and at the end of it is another piece of silver that further underscores the magic he hath wrought. One part of me believes that he will stay at Barca, because he knows that no other club in the world can offer him what this one does in its supernatural players. I hope that is the case.

Valdes: 10. You’re sitting at your desk minding your own business, and suddenly a bunch of people run toward you and one of them kicks a ball at you, really hard. That’s the life of Victor Valdes. Santos had 3 or 4 very good scoring opportunities, including some 1-v-1s. Valdes stopped them all. Calmly and with style.

Alves: 9. If a team is going to allow Alves the space that Santos did today, he is going to kill you. But is also raises the quandary of what to do when there’s Messi, Fabregas, Xavi and Iniesta running at you. Still not a fan of his fouling to fix getting caught out of position, but whatever works, right?

Puyol: 10. Damn. Poor Neymar. Another lauded, preening, stepover whiz with pace, outrun and outplayed by Captain Caveman. He brought the ball up, he played midfield, he did it all, but most importantly during those rare times they (and Neymar) got the ball, Puyol hung out the “Closed” sign.

Pique: 6. Distressingly ordinary on a day when the rest of the squad was playing to such a high level. From wayward long passes to potential extreme danger when he lost a ball to Neymar on our doorstep, Beanpole has had better matches.

Abidal: 9. Let Ganso get the better of him a couple of times, but brilliant match. His closing speed is staggering, and his committment is full. What more can you ask, except why haven’t we renewed him yet?

Busquets: 10. Remarkable match. Supporters of this player should record this match as an example of what he is capable of, and then some. He combined a physical presence, with Keita’s in-the-wayness and he quelled his tendency to dwell on the ball too much. Keeping it moving is the answer.

Xavi: 10. I run out of words to describe the excellence of this player. He should have won Ballon d’Or last year. He won’t this year, either. Not that I think it matters an iota. Simply the best in the world at his position.

Iniesta: 10. So, here’s the thing: You have Messi and you have Xavi, and you have to deal with them. Then you have Iniesta, who seems to be able to dematerialize, then re-materialize behind you with the ball. Sucks to be you, right? Ask Coentrao.

Thiago: 8. He holds the ball too long, and is a little too casual with the flicks and tricks. Having said that, have we found our new left winger when Sanchez needs rest/healing? Every time the ball went out there, something good happened.

Fabregas: 7. In and out of the match, like a transistor radio. Unlike Sanchez, who has decided “Screw it, I’m playing my game,” Fabregas has a more complex world to deal with, peopled by the two best players in the world at his position. So now what? He will learn.

Messi: 9. His most complete match of the season as well as his most selfless, as he worked within the system with fire and flair. I still the Neymar stuff fired him up, which isn’t a bad thing.

Substitutions

Mascherano (for Pique): 7. Was certainly playing his way to a higher rating. He reminds me so much of Puyol when he plays. Same for Neymar, unfortunately, who set off on a break up the right side, and Mascherano said “Different hair, same result. Gimme that!”

Pedro (for Thiago): incomplete. Worked hard, got some good touches, continues to show flashes that he is back.

Fontas (for Puyol): incomplete. Too little time to do anything except marvel at Mascherano, which he did very well.

A few more things:

–Next up is L’Hospitalet, for the home leg of the Plat del Reig. For those who don’t know, my view is “Dump the Plat.” We won’t, and I don’t expect us to have much trouble at home against this side. but again, you never know.

–Please don’t think that I am in any way dissing the talent of Neymar. But this was, really, his first showing against a top club side as a club player. He has done well for Brazil, but Santos (and hopefully, Neymar) learned a valuable lesson today. Yes, Barca is as good as advertised.

–That this man scores headers is a continual source of wonder.

"No, YOUR hair sucks more!"

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

174 comments

  1. Ooooh – I would have given Alves a 10 if the only good thing he did all match was the recovery of the ball off Neymar. Steaming up from behind and stole the ball, he did. No foul. Poetry in motion. Neymar probably still doesn’t know what happened.

  2. I really, really hope that Pique finds his way out of whatever funk he’s in. It’s getting annoying – like having a brooding, pubescent teenager around the house.

    1. The sports journos on Twitter were saying something about Pique usually starting seasons slowly but coming into his own usually in the latter end of seasons and doing it again this season as well, Sid Lowe and co were talking about it I think. Joked about it being something he probably picked up from his time at United (who are known to always start seasons slowly and roar into form in the second half of seasons).

  3. That’s a nice AKA Kxevin, so does Puyol get any money when a big European club decides to buy Neymar???
    As happy as i am with the performance i cant get over the feeling of how costly this cup came at, we lost Villa to the end of the season and yes its not a big tournament (certainly the CL is more prestigious and glamorous ).
    Neymar has talent no doubt, i think he might become something, but this match shows that one player cant do it on his own, you need the team, messi doesn’t dazzle the world with Argentina as he does with barca (he plays great, but that’s not enough)
    My MOTM is Alves, he owned the right flank and he did it for 90 freaking minutes.

    1. I believe that the club took this Club World Cup very, very seriously. Since they won their first CWC in Abu Dhabi in 2009, the competition has actually grown in stature, and there is more interest in it, nowadays.

      The fact that it was held in an Asian country had tremendous meaning for Barcelona. They had the opportunity to get in front of a football fanbase of millions, whose only regular dose of football is either the local leaques or the Premier League which is played at times that suits most Asian countries to be able to watch live games. Most of them have probably never seen Barcelona play a full game.

      FCB could not have paid for the amount of branding, marketing and promotion that this competition gave them within Asia.

      Unfortunately, it did come with a high price with a bad Villa injury, but that’s the way it goes. The club still got a huge benefit in terms of exposure to new fans.

  4. What a great game. Seems like Pep did really condition the players to peak for this game. Now I just hope the get the good rest they deserve and that they are ready to win La Liga and Champions.

  5. Such high ratings? Where’s the biased idiot Kxevin and what have you done with him? /jk

    Deserved champions of World Football at the club level (and NT-wise for some). Have we got it on this December! Still not the finished product but we’re having fun along the way for sure!

    I’m hoping Pep is finding it fun too, continuously changing formations and tactics. I shudder at the thought of losing him, with Inter’s fall from grace coming to mind. Though Matchday 6 gives me hope that our future is bright nevertheless, Pep is as important to us as the holy trinity and the rest of the champions of the world..

  6. 9 of the starting 11 players were La Masia graduates, and only 3 of the total players in the game were not (Abidal, Dani & Masch).

    Wow.

    1. OK, so I don’t mean formal graduates like with a ceremony and a robe and a hat and all, but you KNOW what I meant. Players that were developed within the youth system at Barça.

  7. I totally agree re: Pique. He was ordinary and to be honest, ho-hum. Granted it was always going to be a Barca win, but his mind wasn’t sharp and he showed some petculance towards Santos and the game itself.

    Valdes – Not as high as you ranked. His distribution via his feet has been shakey at best lately, and at worst a total liability. A real shame, as he is normally an outfield similar player quality with his footwork.

    The game itself was a brillant way to show just how to shutup the hype – and the simply way is as you described – starve the other key player of the ball. I’ve played soccer since I was 5 and this was always something we learnt – the best player on the opposition simply can’t hurt you if they don’t have the ball to do so. It’s simple in it’s brilliance – yet always something to follow. barca are one of the best examples in modern sport of doing this.

    Good to see Pedro getting back, Thiago still being his audacious self.

  8. Pique has been ordinary for the last two games IMO, El Clasico and CWC final. I wonder if his mind really distracted but by that woman?
    he looked like he’s not really into the match, like “hey, my superstar girlfriend is here! oh, there’s a match. whooops”

    1. or maybe he’s distracted because he has to juggle his relationship with waka waka AND his bromance with Cesc 😉

    2. Yeah, so does my fiance.

      Although, it’ll be close between Sanchez and Alves – I just ignore how gusshing she gets when they show close ups of anything Alves does 😀 – I still pretend she watches the games for the passion of the team just like me, not a shameless time to perve.

      haha

    3. ah yes, Shakira AND Cesc at the same time is too much to handle I guess. poor Pique 😛

    4. I actually don’t think it’s anything to do with his GF. I just think he is in a bit of a rough patch of form, well, not so much rough, but just inconsistant – too many bad days at the office coupled with the occasional brilliant one.

      Thankfully Puyol is there now next to him. May he play another 5 seasons!

    5. but here’s a fact : he played better, much consistent during 2008 – 2010 seasons.
      that was before this stupid waka waka thing.

      yeah, he played well in some matches during 2010 – 2011, but not as consistent as before.

  9. Dani found a Santa hat. Of course. Love him to bits.

    That was worth getting up for. Right about the time the first goal was scored, I got a series of texts from a friend (in Barçelona, so enjoying lunch):

    Are you watching? Barçaaaa!!!

    I love my team!!!!

    Are you awake?

    Why are you not watching?

    Silly friend, of course I was awake and watching, I was mesmerized by the beautiful football, not paying attention to my beeping phone…

    Cesc’s hair is a tragedy. At least Villa’s hair … well, it makes him look like David Villa, is best can be said of the style, really. (Assuming that’s who Kxevin means by the “your hair sucks more” caption.)

    It was sweet that they all put the “Mucha Fuerza Guaje” shirts back on for the post-match interviews and pictures. Usually it seems tribute shirts disappear after the pre-match shot.

  10. Pique has been brooding all season because when Bojan left he lost the butt of the majority of his locker room pranks.

  11. Oh, also, I’m not sure on your take with Cesc scoring headers is suppose to be tongue in cheek or serious. I’m assuing you are joking due to his ‘Kramer’ style hair –

    However, we can thank the EPL for his aerial prowess. Something that this club has ALWAYS needed. He makes superb late rates into the box and is a genuine threat in the air -and for that, I’m very happy.

    1. We may have the EPL to thank partly – but he’s already scored more headed goals this year than he did in all his years at Arsenal.

    2. That’s because instead of creating the moves leading up to the goal he’s got the freedom to actually be on the END of them for once 😀

      No question though that the aerial ability of his game has come from his time in the EPL. Those skills arn’t exactly high on the list of most La Liga players.

    3. Yeah, I was wondering that too. Cesc certainly gained some physicality from playing in England, but how exactly did he learn to score headers in England if he barely scored any? Seems more the case of a player suiting this particular system much more.

  12. “despite them having the current holder of the Phenomenon crown in Neymar, who at this point should consider himself lucky to be mentioned in the same sentence as Thiago, never mind Messi.”

    Not sure if serious… because he had one “bad” game against Barca he’s all of a sudden not highly rated? Is this what, the second? Third time you’ve seen him play?

    1. Neymar is always highly rated – I agree with your sentiments Jo – I’m also on the side of believing the hype warily. He’s had OK games for Brazil, and is playing in a league that is neither here nor there.

      Has some serious talent, I hope for the kid that he doesnt peter out like most other Brazilan players at the age of 26-28.

      Anyway, I’m also firmly on the belief he is going to head to Barca, rumours running rife we did a deal while we are over there, and to be honest, I’m tempted to believe we have an agreement in place.

    2. Read the WHOLE review before you log in with dyspeptic comments. You probably missed, in your haste to label me a butthead:

      Please don’t think that I am in any way dissing the talent of Neymar. But this was, really, his first showing against a top club side as a club player. He has done well for Brazil, but Santos (and hopefully, Neymar) learned a valuable lesson today. Yes, Barca is as good as advertised.

      I don’t mind being called out, but do so properly. First off, Thiago is a world-class talent. So is Neymar, who still has the potential to be Robinho as much as he does “the next Messi,” as if such a thing could be said to exist. And like Neymar, we ultimately don’t know how he is going to develop, either. Thiago could be another Iniesta, or another Gio Dos Santos, who was talented and brilliant, but fell in with the wrong set of influences. Messi is a finished product, even as he is improving. (hence the lump of dough vs baguette analogy). Neymar is not. Far from it.

      The kid has talent. But now he also understands the level to which he needs to aspire. Simple as that. To read anything more into my comments …. I dunno.

      Finally, GolTV shows Santos matches, and there are also Brazil matches. I have watched Neymar play about as much as my attention span allows, which is significantly more than two or three times, I can assure you.

    3. So the Copa Libertadores isn’t a good competition? Just because you don’t rate the biggest competition in South America doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s great.

      On top of that with an incredibly inferior team there’s no way you can get that one player to shine, I thought he and Ganso did decent considering all circumstances.

      Thiago isn’t a world class talent, yet. Come on. He has the potential to be but he’s not walking into any starting XI in the world.

      Just your statement alone that Neymar is far from the finished product makes you atleast realize he has insane potential..I mean all these “Neymar needs to prove it in a bigger league” is the same as “Messi needs to prove it away from Barca because Maradona was at Napoli”

    4. Yes, he does have “insane potential”… But you can’t really call dominating Copa Libertadores proving that you are ready to hop in to the first XI of one of the top clubs and start the quest for the Golden Ball and Champions League and whatnot. Copa Libertadores is an inferior competition to the Champions League in the similar manner how Santos is an inferior team to Barcelona (although the gap is bigger between the latter two), so I wouldn’t really call Copa Libertadores truly a decent “proving ground”. Neymar is still highly rated, but just as a “hot prospect” not as a world class player, because with all these comparisons that were drawn by the media, Pelé, and everyone else between Neymar and Messi I’ve had a feeling that he was already though to be someone who would give Messi a run for his money… And I don’t think Neymar would do much better than Thiago if he was playing in Barcelona. A bit more flair, but, at least in this stage, not to different… Perhaps Thiago would be even better, as he is a La Masia “graduate”.

  13. one thing that amazing, Pep is able to find a way to put Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, and Cesc in starting line up. all four of them.

    back then, before this season, how many of us think we can play them in CWC final?

    Cesc arrival doesn’t kill Thiago’s improvement. and Cesc isn’t rotten in the bench either, like many people predicted before.

    how awesome is our coach? Guardiola is simply amazing.

  14. Marca is running this brilliant story. Stats can prove anything!

    http://www.marca.com/2011/12/18/futbol/equipos/real_madrid/1324234189.html

    Acaba 2011 y hay un dato que da que hablar. El Real Madrid es el equipo que más puntos ha sumado en el campeonato en este año que agoniza. Los blancos, con 91 puntos, hasta han superado al Barcelona, con uno menos que los de Mourinho, que se llevarían el título imaginario.

    El titulo imaginario! Because it’s, you know, imaginary!

    WTF?!?

    1. Not sure what is more sad and pathetic…this article from Marca or Tomas Roncero on tonight’s Punto Pelota not being able to say Barcelona did a job well done without giving everyone a EE lecture on the “great” team that DiStefano and some guy named puskas formed a part of and mentioning a million times the titles EE won during the black and white glory days. It’s a proven fact that when someone asks a EE fan if this Barcelona team is the greatest in the world they’ll answer with a half assed yes and a BUT and then cue the “we have the most CL trophies” story. Maybe for one second they can press stop on that song and say good job.

    2. Um, sorry, but that “some guy named Puskas” is a freaking legend and Barça are in many ways indebted to him and that Hungarian model of play. Roncero may be a wingnut and a Mad Madridista, but I’m not going to fault him for lauding Puskas.

      #doyourhomework

    3. And lest you forget, Di Stefano was originally supposed to come to Barcelona. #respect

      (But I am no way endorsing the views of Tomas Roncero!)

    4. Yup, we had Stefano all ready to roll then he got snatched away.

      Also, Blitzen is right…Puskas was one of the greatest players ever to grace football.

    5. I’m clueless about puskas, apologies. I’m just saying Roncero behaves like a jealous female who is unable to shift the attention away from themselves for even a second

    6. No shame in not knowing something. None of us were born knowing who Puskas was, after all 🙂

      My father, when I was younger, would tell me of great players like Di Stefano and Puskas. More than a decade later, I told him “Hey, did you know Di Stefano and Puskas both played for Real Madrid? On the same team? Gento and Kopa were in on that gig too”. And he said “Really? Wow. I bet that team was really something!”
      My father is primarily familiar with Turkish soccer and international soccer. He’s learned most of his club soccer lore from me 🙂

    7. ^ this. exactly this. there’s a reason why in my country’s largest online community , they called EEistas as “History Teachers”. because they refuse to talk about “the present”, they keep teaching us their history like we can’t search it from wikipedia by ourself.

  15. Nice review, Kxevin.

    For that first goal, wasn’t a one-two between Messi and Xavi. Messi actually plays it to Cesc who pings it one time to Xavi.

    Wonderful match. Especially the first half. I’ve watched it 4 times already.

  16. Good review, Kxevin but—

    Goal three was really much “messi”er than you described. Alves sends the perfect ball to Messi in the box. Messi does things only Messi can do with it then backheels to Alves. It was never parried away. That was one fantastic piece of work from our little alien flea. And most others would have gone down looking for a pk.

    We were simply beautiful.

  17. We played amazing. That is really all I can say. The high ratings are a bit generous- looks like Kxevin IS a 5am morning person 🙂

    So Soldado bagged another brace today. The man can’t stop scoring. VDB has got to give him a call up, he really does deserve it. To keep a team like Valencia chugging along, AFTER losing arguably their three best players (and WHAT three players too), is quite impressive.

    1. Soldado is simply on fire. If he doesnt replace Villa on current form then I’ll eat my hat. I’ll take a video of me doing it too and post here.

      🙂

  18. Wow Kxevin is in a very good mood. Everyone gets a generous rating.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a high average rating before 😆

  19. Estudiantes is a team with a long tradition of maintaining shape and defending physically.

    Santos comes out of a completely different line of development.

    And today we saw just how utterly devastating it can be for a team that is used to controlling games and dictating play to face Barca at their best.

    There’s that famous quote from Pep saying that Barca is a disaster without the ball.

    Thing is – most teams with talent suffer from the same problem. Great players are usually used to controlling the ball. They too need the ball.

    And they just can’t have the ball when they play Barcelona. And eventually – after long enough – disaster ensues.

    You see it with Real Madrid. It’s fundamental to why they can’t play with Barca. The entire team is used to controlling the ball. But in this one instance – they can’t.

    The same happened with Santos.

    Barca played at a level today few teams in history can.

    Thought Dani Alves just played an amazing match. Don’t think any other player in the world could have played the match/role that Dani did today.

    For me, he was the most decisive player on the pitch today. He pushed the left wing back to the defensive line – and even then terrorized him. At the same time he tracked back like a demon – and did so from the right back position.

    The width that Alves and Thiago provided was fantastic. Of both edges they created danger.

    And that’s really where Barca are now learning how to play within the new system Pep is trying to push them to operate through.

    They are getting better. They’re learning how to play more effectively horizontally. And that’s just been great to see.

    By spacing the pitch, the team just becomes unplayable on the interior when they have Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi running through midfield. Throw Thiago’s position switching in on top of that – just amazing. The patterning.

    It’s tapestry football. And the curtain comes down on the opposition.

    Santos really had no idea who or how to mark players in midfield. They were overwhelmed numerically – just by the sheer number of players Barca streamed into the area. They were overwhelmed by the dynamism – the movement of the ball and players through the space.

    A couple of thoughts on Neymar. He really had a limited game – Santos just had so little of the ball and their midfield build up and service was so scant outside of those few through balls from Ganso. He just didn’t really have an opportunity to enter the match. And as Kevin said – this was the first match against a top European club side in a truly competitive environment. Hard to draw any conclusions about his attacking game.

    However, I was impressed with how he played in certain ways. Compared to his baseline, I thought his workrate and defending were much better. I thought that was a good sign. In a match where his team was starved of the ball – he increased his effort and defending. That was in stark contrast to some of his teammates – Ganso in particular.

    1. For me, he was the most decisive player on the pitch today. He pushed the left wing back to the defensive line – and even then terrorized him. At the same time he tracked back like a demon – and did so from the right back position.

      Yeah, Dani was so aggressive when he had the ball, I almost felt bad for Leo. He ran at him with such directness and intent, it must’ve been frightening. Once he skipped passed him in the first 5 minutes, I knew Dani was on.

      Beast.

      Thing is – most teams with talent suffer from the same problem. Great players are usually used to controlling the ball. They too need the ball.

      This is what I said yesterday. They knew they wouldn’t have as much of the ball as they are used to, but I don’t think they were truly prepared for how much they would suffer.

      Time to watch it again…

    2. Imma save you some time on your tactical analysis:

      1. Keep the ball.
      2. Midfielders are awesome!
      3. Chut de Bol!
      4.. BARçAAAAAA!!!!!!

      😀

    3. They knew they wouldn’t have as much of the ball as they are used to, but I don’t think they were truly prepared for how much they would suffer.

      That’s the thing – you can prepare for it intellectually. You can “know” it’s coming, even try to imagine it. But there’s really no way to prepare for the scope of how much it is going to hurt.

      The same thing happens even with top european sides. Even those that have played Barca multiple times like RM.

      There’s just no way to truly become comfortable with being starved of the ball to that degree outside of certain exceptions. You just can’t get used to it fully.

    4. “However, I was impressed with how he played in certain ways. Compared to his baseline, I thought his workrate and defending were much better. I thought that was a good sign. In a match where his team was starved of the ball – he increased his effort and defending. That was in stark contrast to some of his teammates – Ganso in particular.”

      I agree, actually that was one of my major criticisms of him. My second major criticism, that he needs the strength to fight through challenges is hopefully one that will change as he grows older.

  20. does anyone here has found a link of their complete celebration?

    until they made a circle on the field and tossed Pep in the air. I haven’t found one.

    1. yeah, dunno where to find it.

      you have watched the 1st half 4 times already? I don’t think I can beat that. 😀

    2. I downloaded something but haven’t watched it yet. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

      Jnice, have you checked fbtz?

    3. Yeah, I checked fbtz.. no luck so far. I have like 4 different downloads. Maybe in a couple of days? Or maybe masiablaugrana.com will have something.

  21. I am in a bouncingly happy mood. I watched The Muppets in cinema yesterday and its so awesome its like a shot to the arm of happiness I’m still cheerful. Then we demolished Santos in the CWC final. YAY.

    Valencia also got funding finally for their 75k-seater Nou Mestalla stadium to be completed by 2014. And just now I read that van der Wiel has said on radio that he’s agreed personal terms with Valencia for a five-year deal and the clubs just need to negotiate an agreement for his transfer now. They’re slowly adding class bit by bit to each not-so-great position in a quality line-up. Diego Alves, Van der Wiel, Ruiz, Rami, Alba/Mathieu is finally a very good defense. They have such a great side if lacking in the kind of star quality the biggest teams have in spades, a little more star quality over the years should see them be genuinely strong a la earlier in the decade.

  22. “A Madridista in:

    Aug: ‘We’ll win the treble!’
    Dec: ‘We’ll win win the double!’
    Mar: ‘We’ll win the Liga!’
    Jun: ‘We’ve got 9 CLs.”

    And repeat..

  23. i gotta share a little story….i live in kyoto, japan.i came to tokyo ticketless. i tried getting one online, but it was impossible..i went to more than 10 ticket shops all over tokyo, but they were all sold out..i watched the semis in a bar, i had totally given up on going to the final…then..i checked out of one youth hostel and into another…and when i entered the dormitory room, what did i find?….a room full of cules from barcelona with extra tickets?!?!?! amazing…

    i got to sit in the socio section…what an experience…this was my first time to see barca play live..after the game my new friends presented me one of the banners that we hung before the game…without a doubt, one of the coolest experiences of my life…

    1. Thank you for posting this. I wish I could understand spanish well enough to be able to listen and understand interviews better. (I haven’t spoken/listened regularly for almost 10-12 years) But reading I do just fine.

  24. Neymar got some serious pace….. If someone really try to say here that Puyol has lost some pace in recent years, I am going to get the ShotGun and blow your head off. Ronaldo couldn’t do anything with his pace to Puyol, same with Neymar and people(especially English media) say he has slowed down a bit. I would say he has never been this quick.

  25. All being said and told about the game, the most underappreciated aspect of it for me was Thiago’s (unsurprisingly) good play at Left Inside Forward/Left Wing. His one-twos with Messi and constant running at the defense were immense.

    We were all expecting Pep to give Cuenca/Pedro a run at that position and pep comes Pep and pops Thiago out there. Reminds me of what Xavi said in that Sid Lowe interview –

    “I don’t see new players as a threat; I don’t say “this is my patch”. I’m more: “bring them here, let them play”. The more talent in the middle, the better. Four or five years ago [people said] me and Iniesta couldn’t play together. We can’t play together? Look how that one turned out.”

    So, Barca get to play Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Busquets *and* Thiago, who, in a heartbeat could interchange their respective positions. How professionally chameleonic!

    Gee, aren’t we cules blessed to have this era playing out for us.

    1. I know this sounds bad considering that Villa jsut got injured but we looked better with Thiago on the left according to my 13yo brother.
      We circulate the ball faster.

      But I told him that Thiago doesn’t carry the goal scoring threat and his shooting is not up to par. We can;t rely on him for goals.

  26. What a game!
    I haven’t seen a more effortlessly brilliant, aesthetically beautiful and a collectively mind blowing performance by our boys. It was almost like they wanted to prove to the Baby Boys that Battered Bate, that they too can do it. Well, of course they can, but it was just glorious to see.
    The one touch on display on sunday was just brilliant.
    the one moment that stuck with me was the craziest one touch pass you’ll ever see by someone with the chest that laid the most glorious goal on a plate for alves. he screwed it up. but it was an amazing play. 13 out of 16 which could very well have been 15/16?
    Just simply IN-f^^^^n-CREDIBLE!

  27. But Gasol and Kobe are getting old, and (Andrew)Bynum’s knees are so creaky he may actually deserve to start parking in handicapped spaces.

    😆

    Taken from AOL.

    1. Gasol’s currently training with the Barca basketball team until the strike ends. He looks anything but old!

  28. Guys, if you guys found an article on Barca’s CWC win, please share it here.

    Will they talk about it on the REvista?

  29. Hey guys, Messi is on break until the 29th, meaning he won’t play the return leg of the Copa match! Hooray for Messi resting!

    1. That means he won’t be back until January, actually. He always get s a few extra days to spend New Year with his family.

    2. There won’t be any matches between X-Mas and approx. 3rd of January, right?

      btw, is Messi still going with Antonella???

    3. They live south of the airport? Isn’t that basically in the Mediterranean? Also, wouldn’t that kind of suck having to hear the planes fly over all the time?

      I always imagined they lived in secluded mansions up top in and around Tibidabo.

    4. Kxevin: I know, right? 😀 Who needs Lego, now?

      Mani: The planes don’t go right over the community – the landing and taking-off paths are more out to sea. Most of the landing occurs from the north, anyway, and when planes take off, they bank hard left and out to sea before they’d get to where the players live.

      You can get a peek of their houses here. Sorry I don’t know where each of the players actually lives!

      http://maps.google.com.au/maps?q=Gavamar,+Barcelona,+Spain&hl=en&ie=UTF8&sll=41.267824,2.017&sspn=0.010161,0.024569&vpsrc=0&hnear=Gavamar,+Gav%C3%A0,+Province+of+Barcelona,+Catalonia,+Spain&t=h&z=14

    5. Kxevin: yes. Antonella’s got one on, too.

      But it all depends on which hand they’d wear wedding rings.

      In Germany and other countries in Europe, wedding bands are worn on the right hand.

  30. Nice review Kxevin.

    It was actually Cesc’ ball to Xavi that was not perfection. Messi would not overhit such a short pass ever *jokingly*

    But Messi did ‘overhit’ his first touch before the 4th goal, that’s why he had to make that little chip and defy physics with changing direction so quickly. There was a super-slow-motion how he rounds the keeper, it’s impossible to change direction that abruptly while keeping your balance!

    Also some special praise to Messi for not going down before the 3-0!

    1. Oh, I missed this earlier. Distracted by something…. Thanks!

      I’ll say it again. Everything is Perea’s fault. Manzano can’t help being so boring.

  31. From an interview with Eto’o:

    In early 2009, you got expelled from a training session at Barcelona. The official cause was your excessively aggressive behavior. What happened there?

    No, no, I wasn’t overexcited or aggressive. Guardiola just asked me to perform a move on the pitch. He addressed me as a forward. However, being a forward, I considered I couldn’t do it and explained him that it was a wrong decision. Then Guardiola asked me to go to the locker room. But in the end I was right.

    How did you find out you were right?

    Because Guardiola has never played as a striker – while I spent all my life doing it. Playing as a forward gained me respect in football.

    What did Pep ask him to do? Track back and defend, I assume. Anyone can remind me of what happened?

    http://www.sports.ru/en/football/132692898.html

    1. What’s Villa’s prognosis again, so we don’t have to go on the market for another classical “striker” ;). The role of that elusive statistic for temperament is a big factor in team sports.

      Given the way we played this weekend maybe the whole concept of striker is outmoded however…

    2. Don’t think it was about tracking back and defending. Eto’o was our best forward when it came to that.

  32. Just a note for the class, that I am going to be out of pocket for a while, probably something approaching a month. Nothing significant, but we have the holidays, and we bought a house so we’re now preparing to essentially discard everything that we own, then acquire a big pile of new stuff.

    There are few problems that can’t be solved with time and/or money, but it’s the former that will weigh heavily on me. You turkeys are lucky the above review was in English, much less cogent and reasonably on point.

    So there.

    1. Oh no. You’re leaving us again??!!

      I was so happy in the morning to see an AKA post cause I knew it would be your work. Sigh.

      Congrats on the house though.

    2. Congratulations on the new house, Kxevin. It’s kind of you to take time off to write this review.

      I’ve moved houses just once before and that’s one headache too many.

    3. My ho’s took me to a Descendents show yesterday. I still have “Suburban Home” ringing in my ears. Congrats, dude!

  33. @Helge

    Anotonella and Messi are very much still together. She was with his family at the Bernabeu during the recent Clasico.

  34. Don’t know if people have seen it already – but totalbarca did a translation of a fascinating piece from El Pais on Barca’s training/fitness methods under Pep.

    It really gives you a sense of how rigorous and exact their approach to physical preparation is.

    Here’s the translation:

    http://www.totalbarca.com/2011/news/pep-guardiolas-lab/

    The link to the original:
    http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/laboratorio/Guardiola/elpepudep/20111216elpepudep_2/Tes

  35. Former FCB player Riquelme on Iniesta:

    …the one who plays the game best is Iniesta: he knows exactly when to go forward and when to drop back. If he’s got the ball out on the left he knows who’s out on the right. He picks the right moment to do everything: when to dribble, when to speed things up and when to slow things down. And I think that’s the only thing that can’t be taught or bought. You can learn how to shoot and how to control the ball, but being aware of everything that’s happening out on the pitch – that’s something you’re born with or not.

    😀

    Read more: http://www.totalbarca.com/2011/interviews/riquelme-the-one-who-plays-the-game-best-is-iniesta/#ixzz1h0BgWQiw

    1. Sigh. I was in boarding school when Riquelme came to Barca. Could only follow Barca through the EPL crazy newspaper and occassionally the highlights when Im back home.

      What was the reason that he didn’t get playing time?
      I saw that he hardly played matches.
      I do remember that it was in a shaky area of our history.
      Weird coaches and an unstable board and Gaspart.
      So did Riquelme really play that badly?

      And after some time I read that he was loaned out. Sigh.

    2. Politics, IIRC. The club was going through a power shift & Van Gaal resented him being brought in without consulting him. He also played him in the wrong position so Riquelme never really got in form.

    3. He was played a lot out of position as winger and you can’t play a player with no pace such as him there. He still made 30 appearances in the league, but it didn’t work out. Then when they bought Ronaldinho he was not needed at all and that was it

  36. http://www.totalbarca.com/2011/interviews/riquelme-the-one-who-plays-the-game-best-is-iniesta/#more-97894

    “Iniesta is always fulsome in his praise for you too…
    What happened was that I was fortunate enough to join Barcelona when he was in the youth team. He started training with us and I became very fond of him; we used to spend a lot of time together. He made his first-team debut around that time and we’ve got on really well ever since. We’ve always kept in touch.” -Riquelme

    I’ve always felt that there is a great similarity between the two. great to know Riquelme mentored him.

  37. This is why I hate Christmas. The internet shuts down. Talking to myself again.

    So with the South American players and Keita already starting their vacations, what kind of lineup are we likely to see for the Copa game? Maybe something like:

    Pinto’s Plait of Power
    Montoya Bartra Fontas Abidal
    Sergi Roberto Busquets Thiago
    Pedro Fabregas Cuenca

    Bench: Pique, Rafinha, Deulofeu, Tello, Espinosa, Oier, JDS.

    1. Whatever, the line-up, we’re going to be at the match. Bought two tickets yesterday for the total Soci price Euro 11.50. 😀

      Your line-up looks good, but not sure about that back-line, although with the South Americans on leave, there’s little choice. Pep might start Pique just to get him more playing time to see if he can improve.

      I think that the bench would need more 1st team players in order to fulfill the 7 first team player requirement on the pitch – unless all the first team starting players play the full 90mins.

      It will be interesting to see how serious Pep is about winning this. After all, the lead is a slender, single goal. L’Hospitalet were not too shabby in the first round, but playing on a bigger, grass pitch in the atmosphere of Camp Nou may be their undoing – or maybe their motivation!

    2. I thought they only had to start with seven first-team players on the pitch, not keep them on all game. Anyone know?

      Maybe start Pique over Bartra, then. I am pretty sure Puyol will get the night off.

      Don’t forget to take some sandwiches to throw at Cuenca. 😀

    3. Yeah – I’m not totally clear about the 7 rule, but I thought that they needed to keep 7 first team players on the pitch. Could be wrong about that – would be good if someone who knew for sure could clarify. Can’t be arsed going through the rule book!

      Sandwiches? Have to be bocadillos in Spain! That’s what you see the fans chowing into whenever there’s a crowd shot at halftime. They come wrapped in aluminium (the correct way to spell the word) foil. 🙂

      I think that Cuenca needs whatever they gave to Messi to bulk him up!

  38. From the press conference after Villa’s surgery (stolen from twitter):

    He was playing while in a lot of pain, and that’s admirable, but ofc no one knew. the club apparently didn’t want ppl 2 know about it

    When he first began to feel discomfort it was right after the Wembley final

    People kept criticizing his form/performance, and the club once deleted a tweet that explained the program.

    I hope you all feel bad now. 😉

    1. Nope – don’t.

      It doesn’t do Villa any good, nor the club, nor the fans, nor Spain.

      If they had rested him earlier in the season, and with proper treatment, he would have been back by now.

      Instead, he played poorly (by his usual standards), got a lot of flak, went through bad press and most likely a bad mindset, and now is out for at least 4-5 months with his place in the NT team in doubt over whether he can reach fitness and form in the required time to play in the Euro 2012.

      This isn’t like Barca to handle a player and an injury in this way. Weird.

    2. I’ll support Kxevin’s x10 with another x10. Barcelona’s handling of Villa’s original injury is mind-boggling. I have always raved to anyone who would listen about the quality of the Barca physical training and health program. A player would get injured and then quickly return to the squad and I would say, to any poor chump sitting next to me, “See how good their program is? See!” And I meant it.

      So what happened this time? If the injury started right after Wembley, then that was the time to rest Villa. We had an uninjured Pedro and Afellay and an incoming Sanchez, so there really was no need to play Villa. It’s great if the player was being valiant, but where were the coaches who should of stepped in and overruled the valiant?

      (Sorry if I am re-hashing old discussions. I haven’t been keeping up recently, but this Villa injury is really riling me.)

    3. One the doctors clarified things in a statement earlier today. I’ll try to find a link, but the gist is that this sort of stress fracture doesn’t really heal well on its own and he was always going to need surgery. They had a choice between having surgery at the beginning of the season and having him be out for 5 months or so, or waiting to see how things developed and taking the chance that he wouldn’t need surgery until the end of the season.

    4. If it needed Surgery, then wouldn’t the club decide to do it earlier than towards the business end of the league. I think we may be missing a lot of details to make an assumption of what happened.

    1. I think keepers from B team needs to be given the second choice keeper status. But Pinto should be the honourary keeper for life. His contribution from bench especially against Madrid is legendary. Pinto rocks, except when taking goal kicks.

  39. Here’s a 5 min (could have been 2 mins really) of Neymar during the game.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnGQhxAXocU&feature=related

    I feel kinda sorry for him, seeing all those big Barca bullies ganging up on him!

    Highlights would be Alves steaming after him to get the ball; any instance where Puyol was involved, and Abidal’s quick thinking to crowd Neymar and reduce his shot potential – making it somewhat easier for VV to stop.

  40. Kevin,
    Your reviews makes me want to watch games twice…well 3 times, cause your review counts as as a viewing.
    A true “baguette” of a post.
    Thanks!

  41. “Messi against Neymar, a comparison that, for those luxuriating in the delightful clarity of hindsight, is rather like comparing a lump of dough to a perfectly made baguette. You don’t know what the former is going to be yet, because it’s still raw, while the baguette is perfection, a ray of gustatory sunshine suited to melt even the hardest of hearts.”

    Oh Euler – it’s such a pleasure reading you. Not only are your posts substantively brilliant, your words and phrasing are so beautifully constructed as well.

    1. 😀 I take the confusion as a compliment, Barcaleya. No worries. Just as long as you didn’t confuse me for Isaiah. Then I would have to bite down on the cyanide pill.

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