Season in Review, Pt. 1: Most Improved Player

And now, we come upon the time of the season where we recap, and look at the players who made us go, and debate like crazy what a dumbass I am.

So to start, Lionel Messi is my Most Improved Player of this season. And it was a really, really hard decision.

You have to look at the club, and the year that it had. When you do, two names leap out at you: Pedro! and Messi. It could have almost come down to a coin toss, because Pedro! scored so many key, key goals for the club this season, and emerged fully as yet another proud, successful canterano. He went from not being on the Del Bosque radar to going to South Africa with the Spain squad, such was his explosion as an offensive force.

But then I had to look at what Pedro! wasn’t doing when he wasn’t scoring goals, and that made the Messi decision a whole lot easier.

If you look purely at the numbers, Messi wasn’t that far off from last season. He had 38 goals in all competitions last year, and 45 this season, if my math is right. But what distinguished his goals this season compared to last was the way in which they were scored, and the import. He essentially hoisted our offense on his shoulders this season, popping in goals just for fun sometimes. He equaled the amazing scoring record of The Real Ronaldo, and nabbed the Golden Boot.

But he also became a leader, making Barca into his club. He didn’t wear the captain’s armband, but when he strode onto the pitch, there was no question who had the steering wheel. And as a leader, he improved his game. Last year, he was banging in goals. This season he added passing to his bag of tricks, laying on neat assists, give-and-gos and deft flicks and lobs, moving himself one more step toward being unplayable.

Yes, he had moments of unconscionable selfishness. And we will probably even find that once the overall KRS is tallied, he probably (no, I don’t know) won’t even be our most highly-rated player overall. But he was certainly our most improved. People wondered after last season, whether he could get any better, and he did. Because he had to as we worked in a new acquisition in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and his partner in crime last season, Thierry Henry, was laid low by injury and age.

And there is no truer sign of a leader than his willingness to do whatever it took, even when he shouldn’t have been on the pitch. So for overall ability and those intangibles that make a great player even better, the Most Improved was, to me, ultimately a no-brainer.

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.


  1. Is anyone else kinda annoyed that all the casual football fans are going for Spain? Well, maybe annoyed is too strong of a word. It’s funny really because Brasil is usually the team they bandwagon on, but now it’s the (once) “perennial underachievers”. I guess I’m a feeling a little weird.

    I won’t complain, though. Usually I have (pretty much) no one to talk to about Football (random people who see my Barca jersey don’t count)…

    Do you guys also get the feeling that because it’s their first tournament being genuine favorites (and I don’t count the previous Marca/AS/Sport/EMD hyperbole), they might buckle under the pressure? I hope not.

    -The Dona ran over a journalist! LOL. Guy’s a riot, alright.

    1. Spain are the favourites.I cannot imagine any team beating them.

      Pique and Puyol in the defence.

      With the midfield command and control between Xavi Iniesta Fabregas Silva and Mata they can open up any defence in the world.

      And there’s gonna be goles galore with Torres and Villa.

      Holy smokes, god save rest of the teams.

    2. I dont think anyone but Brasil can beat Spain, but I can definitely see them being frustrated to a draw and knocked out on penalties 🙁

  2. This is the WRONG off season for election douchebaggery to be rearing its head. Rosell says we’re in debt up to our armpits. Laporta says it’s fine, we’re sensible and we always have been. So who do you trust, right?

    Laporta had some not at all kind things to say about Rosell and his potential for meddling in the sporting project. Ultimately, who knows? I do think that there needs to be calm and stability so that the club can get done what it needs to get done. I trust that when Guardiola returns, everything will be sorted.

    Latest rumor is that we turned down a 15m offer for The Yaya from Chelsea.

    –Casual fans going for Spain don’t bother me, because I’m for France. 😀

    1. Sorry to hear that Kxevin, since their qualification out of the group stage is not at all guaranteed. Actually, I don’t see any team in group A automatically through.

      Excuse me being blunt, but I do believe that South Africa will be the first host nation to fail to qualify out of the group.

    2. Hehe, I also prefer the other 3 nations to advance in group A. But I’m not quite sure which of the 3 shall pass – I like France, but I hate their coach. Between Mexico and Uruguay, it’s hard for me to decide (Mexico has always had great teams and played beautiful football, I was a fan of el Tri in every WC, but Uruguay this time has Suarez, Forlan, Cacéres, Godin etc.)

    3. I hope Mexico makes it out of the group, but I honestly think they’re a total mess. I have no idea what the hell is up with Aguirre and his inclusion of Cuauhtemoc Blanco. It just drives me nuts. Blanco has no pace whatsoever and his contributions are gonna be very sporadic and in general, I think he’s a waste of space in the national team. As for the rest of the team? I dunno, it just seems that Aguirre hasn’t made up his mind about how he wants the team to play, let alone what players he’s going to use.

      I do hope Jonathan gets to play some, though I don’t expect him to be a starter.

      And while South Africa is by no means a good team, they are gonna get the benefit of being the home team, so I dunno.

    4. As a South African who will be at many world cup games next month, and someone who has attended Bafana Bafana matches and was there for the Confed Cup, i think you underrate us.

      Sure we are shit in general. but when we pull together with the home support (you have NO idea how much playing in front of home fans means to our boys) i think we can pull off an upset.

      the whole world thinks to see us not going through. i will even wager on us beating mexico in the opening game.

      if we do that then we probably just need a draw to go through or a shock victory.

      just dont count us out yet, its not fair. we have almost an entirely new squad that has done nothing but trained for this WC for the last 4 years. they play together well as a team and the only thing we really lack now is a finisher to score goals who i think we have found in katlego mphela and bernard parker. (benni can go to hell). our defense is pretty solid, just ask spain and brazil. the other thing is we are big tough guys and i think we will bring a physicality to the game that mexico cant handle and perhaps the french might struggle with unless they get thewir game together.

      sorry for the rant, but hopefully you can understand that for me supprting my country at the WC as the hpost nation is one of the most exciting things i have ever got to do in my life. i am a little bit sensitive. it doesnt help having lots of mexicans friends….:)

      BAFANA BAFANA!!!!!!!

    5. I actually think that France and Uruguay will come out of that group, but it’s going to be a dogfight. Home field advantage is immense. It will almost certainly come down to the last match.

      Forlan and Suarez are hot right now, so it’s hard to bet against Uruguay. It’s that other spot that will have three sides fighting tooth and nail for it.

    6. @Helge, Jnelson, lovelymofo, i’m tied down at work, but, give me an hour and i’ll give my doozy of a response… My thoughts on the Mex squad, and my defense for counting out SA.

    7. @ helge. understandable. isn’t being a neutral great :-p
      @lovelymofo. Although I have been VERY dissapointed with the garbage 1-0s we’ve been getting, I am really hoping that the inclusion of the Europeans helps.
      Yeah, some of Aguirre’s selections confuse me. Guardado hasn’t impressed me since leaving Atlas, but who else do we have? Alberto Medina is garbage, Chicharito and Vela are green, while Franco is iffy. We have too many CBs, and our FB options aren’t great. Salcido isn’t a fullback, and Osorio ins’t any good. My vote would be for Juarez and Rojas, but I believe Rojas didn’t get called up.
      As far as our Enganche, and thus our tempo-setter, and idea man, the two options are big risks. option A is Cuautemoc who has more teqnique in his left pinky toe, than most, but at 38 just doesn’t have what it takes physically in my honest opinion.
      option B is handing the Reins of a World Cup squad, and along with it, the hopes and dreams of a nation, to Giovanni. I think option B would take a lot of balls, but it’s what I would do.
      My predicted Line-up for most games is gonna be:

      although i would perfer
      more on Mexico later.

      @jnelson. Honestly, “writing off” sounds harsh, because that’s not what I’m doing. I didn’t just stare at the group and pick them out as the weakest. I deliberated, and thought long and hard about it, considering many things.
      To start off, it’s easy to pick France as a team that is left out. They are GARBAGE, thats right. Garbage. There is no continuity in their starting eleven, and have major selection problems.
      Starting with their backline. Abidal is a beast on the left, but is shaky in the middle. Gallas is aging and slow, but Mexes, Squilaci and Escude don’t inspire much more confidence than he does. I’m predicting a Sagna-Gallas-Abidal-Evra starting line. with the aging Taloulan, or the unimpressive Flamini guarding them.
      Even though their defense is crap, bleeding goals really ins’t their problem. Their front line can’t work together well enough to present a constant threat. Ribery has never sone in anything nearing important. Henry doesn’t have the reps to match his skill, and Anelka’s poaching ability is only effective when paired with Chelsea’s three (3!) Attacking Mids at his disposal, and Malouda? HA! i’m not exactly trembling.

      But at the end of the day, France has talent in the front, and can really grind out the results (we know they’ll do whatever it takes 😉 )
      more on this later…

    8. huh? what did i say??? I don’t remember posting anything with “writing off” in it. I haven’t been drunk posting either haha. What are you referring to Jason?

    9. As a National Team bandwagon jumper, I rooted for Brazil in the last 2 World Cups and switched to Spain after Iniesta began featuring prominently in the Spain lineup, before Euro 08. Zidane schooling Dinho in 06 kind of helped. Naturally, with so many of our players with Spain and only Dani with Brazil, I’m still a Spain fan. I am rooting for all of our players individually and will be happy as long as one of them achieves glory, particularly Messi with Maradummer. I am also a Mexican fan. My stepfamily lives in SLP and I am a fan of JDS, Ochoa, and Chicharito. Unfortunately, Omar Bravo didn’t make the team. I hope I get to watch as many matches as I can. I remember sitting in a hotel room in a small town called Rio Verde watching replays over and over of Euro 08. Thankfully, there is a little more competition and diversity with the World Cup.

  3. no, England will win it this time. haha seriously I’m rooting for Spain, but illogically betting on Argentina to win the wc. but ill be satisfied with a Spain win, as long as Messi has a good tourney, and pray the whole Argentina don’t blame him for the failure.

  4. i must kinda surprised that valdes is included.
    chelsea offered us only 15mil? he is YAYA not KOLO toure.
    whats up with these english teams offering insulting amounts to clubs?
    arsenal offered juve for buffon for an insulting sum as well.

    1. Because players should be honored to play in the Premiership. Come on, man, it’s the best league in the world! 😀

  5. Villa has arrived in Barca and has posed in front of the club badge as per usual!

    Afayaivo Guaje!



  6. My dislike for this years Brazilian squad for the WC(no pun intended) eloquently summed up:


    While you’re at it, check out ‘The Spoken Word of Ray Hudson’ – the poet’s poetic poems..

    1. Great piece. I love those words from RayRay, and to think all that was LIVE.

  7. My brain says the pick of Messi as most improved is the correct one. I’m impressed that he can make such an improvement when he already plays at such a high level. And, man, Pedro! had quite the year.

    But for me, the most improved player was Valdes. I’ve always liked him, I’ve always thought he was better than people gave him credit for, but this year he really showed it. Perhaps, as was suggested by fcbfan, Valdes deserves a “most consistent” nod, but for me, his improvement drove so much of Barca’s success this year.

  8. Epic Nike Ad.Could do without the last bit however…

    1. Ha! The Gael Garcia Bernal bit was awesome! I was gonna complain about no Messi, but he’s with Adidas right?

      I would have like MOAR españoles tho.

    2. I’m laughing because of this
      and this *

    3. nike pandering to the huge mexican/mexican american market. i like how those chicks in the stands dancing samba comes right after kobe’s snippet. i’m sure kobe’s wife caught the humor in that.

    1. Thats excellent. Looking forward to the world cup/pre-season to see how the team will play with him.

  9. He’ll fit right in!

    The Spanish international is set to complete his move to Barca on Friday and spoke of what he believes he will add to Pep Guardiola’s team.

    “Hard work, humility and a desire to try and help the team be a little better,” he said. “I’m really keen to get started here.”

  10. Guys, look at this penalty miss. It’s hilarious.

  11. So does anyone actually know what our debt is?
    Rossell is saying that the figure is €489million.
    I know that in previous years our debt was very big but I was sure that it was less than €100million now.

  12. Well Forbes says we have 0 debt. I think Rosell is misleading folks. I don’t understand finance myself but here’s something I got rom a poster on the bigsoccer forum.

    We carry long-term debt, but year-to-year we turn an operating profit and pay it down. Last year’s signings were within budget and did not add to the debt,
    so either Rossell or the article is being misleading. Rossell most likely just doesn’t want the money spent on Cesc now, because then he would not be able
    to sign anyone if he becomes President.
    Pretty much. The debts don’t come from Laporta, they come from before that. We are really financially stable right now. The thing is that Rossell’s main
    selling point is that, and well people like it. His name is going to win him the election. I only hope his ego gets in the way and tries to force Pep out
    because he was Joan’s signing, or stuff like that.

    If we make one more major transfer, the best Rossell can do will be to bring in a back up RB to Dani.

  13. Don’t know what truth in it, as I was still a new fan then but I heard Rosell wanted to sack Rijkaard in 2003 after months without any positive result. He wanted Scolari instead. But Cruyff advised Laporta to keep Rijkaard. Rosell and Cruyff not been on good terms ever since.

    Hope Laporta keeps him occupied. They maybe can trade insults while hopefully one candidate can take advantage. But really right now all Rosell is doing is attack Laporta’s admin and giving vague responses to his plans. The fact that at one time he contemplated messing with the shirt should make ppl think twice trusting him, jmo.

  14. I would say P! is the most improved player. From not scoring a goal last season to score 23 and going to the WC. I find difficult to remember such progression in a player.

    If I were to assign numbers I’d say Messi went from being a 9.5 player to being a 10 player. Some people would say it’s not fair to give a player a 10 because there’s always room to improve but don’t forget that Messi has been touted by some members of the press as the best footballer ever.

    I’d say P! went from being a 5.5 to being a 7.5, a difference of 2 which is better than the difference of 0.5 for Messi.

    To compare I rate Xavi as being a 9 and Iniesta being a 8.5.
    Of course I’m not able to see all the matches and this is not so scientificly accurate as maybe would the Castrol rankings, but last edition of the Castrol rankings I’ve seen P! has gone up a lot since the previous month while Messi remains in first place. Guess he cannot go higher playing with players of this planet… maybe he needs some extraterrestrial rivals 🙂

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