Barca 3, Athletic Bilbao 0, a.k.a. “One down, five to go.”

So we’ve read quite a lot about how Barca’s play is like the music of the late, great jazz legend Thelonious Monk. Spare a couple of minutes for this video, then we’ll begin.

Here’s what I meant when I initially raised the analogy, borne out by yesterday’s thrashing of an under-manned Bilbao side.

Monk raised the game of jazz by being brave, unconventional and yes, a little crazy. He had a very different bag of tricks to work with, one that made the traditional structure of jazz suddenly insufficient.

Now look at the moments that were on display last night, as Barca grabbed its first silver of the season, the Spanish SuperCopa:

–Yaya Toure taking a ball, faking out two defenders, tiptoeing along the end line and lacing a cross in to Keita.
–Messi lofting a pass in to Ibrahimovic that he took off his chest, in effect setting himself up for a ninja-style shot.
–The first goal that pinged from Xavi to Ibrahimovic (back heel) to Messi, all at full speed.
–Henry, suddenly materialized on the right wing, pulling a pacey move and lofting a perfect cross-box pass to Ibrahimovic, who pipped in a one-touch cross.

There were more, but these are the ones that stood out for me, moments that, as great as we were last season, give us the potential to redefine the game’s expectations. Some might say that Bilbao turned out with a side that had the Europa League in mind, resting its best players. Perhaps. But as usual, you have to have the ball to beat us, and we weren’t at all interested in relinquishing possession. And if we keep the ball, eventually, you will die. It’s just that simple.

Guardiola rolled out a starting lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Messi, Henry, Ibrahimovic. This is almost the season starting lineup, though the first choice XI will swap Abidal and Iniesta for Maxwell and Keita. And again, the band gains virtuosity. The music becomes even more compelling, thanks to players who understand the system, and perform to perfection.

For me, this wasn’t as much a match of individual moments as a collective display of elegance. People yell, “Why doesn’t Txiki B. sign some players?!” And I think of one Monk recording session of the tune “Brilliant Corners.” Bassist Oscar Pettiford was a killer jazz bassist of sterling reputation. He was driven to pantomime playing the bass during this number, so difficult was the tune and so high the expectations. Many names have come up, and almost all have been rejected by Guardiola, because he understands the ensemble that he has, that it’s almost better off using a canterano, who at least understands how Barca is supposed to play, than someone not quite up to the Olympian standards of the club.

And after watching last night, can you blame him? The game was all grace, style and movement, players dancing about like striped fireflies in service of one thing: Putting that spherical thing into the back of the net.

With Ibrahimovic and Maxwell dancing around, suddenly Henry has someone to play football with, and he looked rejuvenated in his movement and effort, being denied scoring only by an excellent keeper performance. You can watch Henry’s movement, how his head is always up, how he always has ball control and is looking to pass as much as he’s looking to shoot. Now he has Ibrahimovic, a player who is, really, a bigger, stronger Henry. He has pace, ability to position himself and play with his back to goal, a pillow-soft first touch and a quick shot that goes with tremendous shotmaking inventiveness.

This year, the left side of our attack is as potent as the right side, which wasn’t the case last season. And the band gets just a little better, the possibilities get a little broader. Alves can start throwing in high crosses, as he did to Ibrahimovic, because now there’s a player in there who can hold his position and get off a strong header. Set pieces gain potency, because Henry, Ibrahimovic, Pique, The Yaya and “Air” Capitan all bum rush the net.

And the music gets a little sweeter.

A little crazy? Is The Yaya the best defensive mid in the world? Possibly. I am hard-pressed to think of a better one. A little crazy? Okay, let’s take him and run him alongside Xavi, an attacking midfielder who is the size of a galaxy, and see what happens. Magic. So go ahead and man-mark Xavi. He just dishes to The House, and it’s off to the races.

And the goals come. The first came off a little piece of brilliance, a three-man interplay in which Xavi intercepted a clearance, controlling and one-touching to Ibrahimovic in the same, elegant motion. Ibrahimovic controlled and back-heeled into a space that Messi could run into, a perfectly weighted ball that allowed Messi to take it on the dead run. He stopped….and started suddenly, leaving his defender for dead and flicking in a sharp angled shot that beat the keeper. And that was that.

Hector will analyze this goal later, so I won’t. But I will say that having the control and passing ability of Ibrahimovic spearheading our attack means that there is one more player to get Messi the ball on the dead run, where he is most dangerous.

The second goal came from a penalty that shouldn’t have been, but the breaks of the game go your way when you are on top of the world. Alves went down as though he were poleaxed. Yes, it was a dive. Messi converted the penalty, and it was 2-0.

The third goal came from an appalling clearance, upon which Krkic pounced like a cat on a wounded canary, dribbled the keeper and walked the ball into the net. It was cheeky, elegant, arrogant and full of the exuberance of youth. As a sub, Krkic was bouncing off the walls when the Bilbao players were tired, and he took full advantage of them, helping our constant, constant pressure.

I could go on and on about a team, an orchestra that makes music that is unfettered by the possibilities that limit ordinary bands. “Why not” becomes the standard mode of operation as the band tries chord changes and melodies that don’t seem to work, that other bands wouldn’t even try. Sometimes they will work, other times the notes will all be flat. But they will always be a joy to watch.

And with that,

The Team: 8. They aren’t clicking yet. You can see it, passes that are a little bit off, movement that isn’t quite in sync. When this team clicks, when everyone gets full fitness and starts firing on all cylinders, watch out. Most importantly, the effort was constant.

Guardiola: 8. Made all the right subs, started the right (though something of a no-brainer) XI, and has clearly had them working on set pieces.

Valdes: Incomplete. I don’t know what else to do. He didn’t have anything at all to do, except cheer and try to stay loose. One save. The rest of the night, he stood around with the best seat in the house. I know it seems weird giving our starting keeper an incomplete for having played a full match, but you kinda have to do something to get rated.

Alves: 6. His passes will get better, but his energy is difficult to fault, as our Brazilian Hummingbird flitted about unfettered by any real offensive threat from Bilbao. I didn’t like the dive. ‘Nuff said.

Pique: 7. Center back or sweeper, take your pick. I think that Marquez’ personal rehab program has just been accelerated by the sight of Piquenbauer in the box, taking a shot that was easily stopped, but sent a clear message: Everybody on this club can score, so watch out.

Puyol: 7. His rocket of a header deserved a better fate. And when he just misses scoring he just runs back down to the other end, ready to do the real job that he came for, which is to wreck anything that comes near him.

Maxwell: 6. People have good things to say about him, and they should. He’s a left-sided Alves. But had Bilbao come out ready to attack, we would have been wanting Abidal’s pace. But Maxwell is a gorgeous player, a bargain at the price. His passing, movement and control are already very good. Wait until he learns the system.

The Yaya: 8. Guardiola said it best in calling him a “force of nature.” Attacking the box, racing back to break up any counters, locking down the midfield like a metronome controls a band’s pace. He is a better player than last season, which is amazing to realize, because he was great last year.

Keita: 7. Not quite as good as The Yaya, but almost there. He, too, has improved from last season, bringing defense and offense to the table in equal measure. His big body is easy to find, and he can grumble at The Yaya for blocking his shot on goal, that was going in.

Xavi: 8. Bilbao worked hard to control him and still he excelled, using teammates for the little, space-creating pass as he laid on pin-point pass after pass. He is a study in industry and knowing when to dish. He rarely gets hit or fouled, although this year might be different than last in that regard.

Henry: 7. He’s going to have a hell of a season, is all I have to say. His work rate from last year is undiminished, and he was another one who should have had a goal. His passing game is so underrated.

Ibrahmovic: 6. There are still times, and there will be, where he’s not on the same page as his teammates. But think about the luxury of having a strike who can bring the ball up, pass it and keep moving. Movement is what makes us unplayable, when we are at our best, and now we have another high-wire daredevil who can conjure match-changing skills on the dead run.

Messi: 8. An exceptional match from Argy Bargy, who could easily have had four goals. But they will come. His roofed penalty kick was a thing of beauty, and is it just me, or is he moving even better this season, and with a lot more confidence.


Krkic (for Ibrahimovic): 6. He can be a match-changer in this role of high-energy, box-charging sub. He will never score an easier, or more difficult goal than the one he walked into the net. Because he took the ball in stride, dribbled the keeper and nudged into the net. Showboat. And that’s okay. Just keep scoring.

Pedro! (for Henry): incomplete. Ran around some, broke a bit of a sweat, and off you go.

Busquets (for Pique): incomplete. Came out, made a few plays, but was difficult to evaluate. Though he came on for someone, at that point his role became facilitation of ball possession.

What’s my view after yesterday’s match? Excited at the possibilities and pragmatic. Not every match will go as expected, sometimes the players sometimes have notes that fall short of the moment. And that’s okay, because rest assured, they will try.

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Written by:

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. Alexinho
    August 24, 2009

    Word Kevin on the Monk video.

  2. Maximus
    August 24, 2009

    I’d give Valdes a 6, for looking alert and his accurate long passes to wide players, one to maxwell sticks out.

  3. Kevo
    August 24, 2009

    There’s something interesting that i’ve noticed between Henry and Ibra. Everyone is talking about the Messi-Ibra duet but i also believe Henry is not far behind. There were some nice interchanges between Ibra and Henry that were just delightful, and i think simply because of their height it’s feels more comfortable playing one another. They are able to play with high balls and good ball control.
    I’m not sure if im clear but playing with someone of ‘your same heights’ can have another level of comfort to one another. There were instances that they both exchanged ninja passes or with other players as well.

    And also i did noticed that both Alves and Maxwell were way forward but still the backline was held by Pique-Yaya-Puyol. There were times that i only saw 2 in the backline loooks risky but yet again Athletic weren’t much of a threat.

  4. txikidracula
    August 24, 2009

    good shit! as my friend molly would say, “let’s give this guy a round of applause”…she’d then proceed to slap her thighs together repeatedly. monk references galore. like how you cited blue corners. canteranos are definitely the way to go…unless you’re a crack their ain’t no improvising under guardiola. according to cruyff pep’s on his way to the loony bin.

    keep up the good work…wish i could comment some more but i’m off like a prom dress. peace.

  5. Anna
    August 24, 2009

    Great review Kevin.
    And any jazz reference or metaphor is just icing on a indulgent cake.

  6. Eduard
    August 25, 2009

    I think we’ll see this formation when Pep sees fear in the opponent. With one alves, you get a defense on their heels, with 2 you get a defense on its heels and swinging arms as to not fall backards.

    as for Monk and comparing the dance of Barca, I think of a Joe Satriani or Steve Vai concert. You just hear whispers of other admires “How is that man doing that” “incredible” and even you’re jaw dropped and in awe.(it’s in terms of technical comperative to FCB)

  7. Thelonious
    August 25, 2009

    YAY! THELONIUS! Also, to introduce myself, my name isn’t actually Thelonious its Fallioponianio Francesco Tukket. I posted on this blog before when it was on the offside. I love Guddy!

  8. Kxevin
    August 25, 2009

    Say what now?

    What Guardiola wants, Guardiola gets, apparently. 25 million for Chygnasty. Glad we agreed upon a nickname in advance. Funny that this comes on the heels of Cruijff saying that the squad needs a defender/defensive midfielder, and up pops this dude, who can fill both roles.

    Apparently the deal is all but done, barring anything funky. Or it’s just Sport, throwing stuff at the wall until something sticks. Certainly, 25m is above market, but they are said to be doing everything possible to ensure that Guardiola gets the players that he wants. Nothing like a treble to give people faith in your judgment, right?

    Also, Jeffren is in the house ’til January, when a decision will be made in the winter transfer window. In other words, Final Fantasy, play your way in. 😀

  9. Luna
    August 25, 2009

    so we have a hummingbird, maybe BANGS is the butterfly Monk so aptly described: “Butterflies faster than birds? Must be, ’cause with all the birds on the scene up in my neighborhood, there’s this butterfly, and he flies any way he wanna”

  10. Kxevin
    August 25, 2009

    I remember you now, FFT, which I was deciding to call you over at The Offside, to keep from incorrectly typing your handle. Welcome.

    And killer quote, Luna. Isn’t it amazing the parallels you find among great things?

  11. Luna
    August 25, 2009

    Football is apt for that, isn’t it? Thanks for the Thelonius link! I think Anna states it nicely “great review” and I hope this season allows us to wallop the “icing on our indulgent cake”. I have no doubt!

  12. BA
    August 25, 2009

    this guy better be good. 25m is a LOT of money, confused transfer market or not, for a 22-year-old defender.

  13. Kevo
    August 25, 2009

    Sport’s said that Chignasty won’t play Supercup?!?!? And will be presented on saturday.
    They are waaaaay ahead of the game or reading the future i think

  14. Corrine
    August 25, 2009

    i’m glad he can play DM as well or else i’d be going crazy over his price. it kinda worries me how we’re signing another centerback with all these rumours about el capitan’s contract though. i’d like to think that puyi is still an automatic starter but so is pique and marquez. but depth is good and it’ll be interesting to see how we’ll rotate these guys…

  15. Jnice
    August 25, 2009

    Just watched some of the vids Hector posted on Chygnasty and I must say, his passing is on point. Might be even better than Pique’s. I almost want to download the CL matches against Shaktar last season to see how he defended, but that wouldn’t be fair, would it? Although, when we played Shaktar for the 2nd time, we had the group wrapped up and played our B team and lost. But my boy Victor Vazquez played in that match so I might give it a watch.

  16. jordi
    August 25, 2009

    If we play him next to Pique, they have to be positionally perfect, because pique is already slow and chygnasty seems slow and lumbering as well.

  17. jordi
    August 25, 2009

    Maybe if we didnt broadcast that player X or Y will complete us, we wouldnt get held to ransom so much.No rival wants to improve a juggernaut and make it invincible right? Sport and EMD never help matters. “OMG a secret meeting with the player? lets report it and enrage the other team, that will surely speed things up and make them want to deal with us”

  18. OhYes
    August 25, 2009

    Most of these teams don’t even care if Barca becomes invisible, jordi. Shakhtar is in a different league, can rarely compete with Barca as it is, and has bigger fish to fry.

    These smaller teams worry about how much they’re being paid. That’s all, and that’s why Real Madrid’s spending has such a huge effect on what we buy.

    It would only matter if, for example, Valencia were selling to Barca. Or Real Madrid -> Barca.

  19. JC
    August 25, 2009

    Pep seems to want players who can tackle hard. Masche, Poulsen and now this Cryginsky dude.
    What i don’t get is last season we spent a lot on an upcoming talent like Caceres who failed, and now we are doing the same thing.
    N i think we all forget that we have Milito on our books. so we have 4 regulars in Puyol, Pique, Marquez, Milito
    2 loansters in Caceres and Henrique
    and 3 cantero’s in Botia, Muneisa and Fontas. thats 9 players already and will be 10 if Mr. Cryginsky joins.

  20. August 25, 2009

    well i disagree, shakhtar is a really good side! Last year we were head and shoulders above everyone which is why it’s easier to belittle the lesser european teams.

    Yeah it does look increasingly possible that “Chygnasty” will come. I watched his videos and he does seem to have an awesome eye for the long pass and brings the ball out of defense at ease.

    As for our El Capitan, well, i don’t mean to diss him but he’s clearly not as talented as pique and marquez nor does he have the passing capability or vision as those two either. He is and will continue to be our captain because i honestly don’t think there’s any one else that plays with more heart. Perhaps Stevie G comes close but thats about it.

  21. jordi
    August 25, 2009

    Will he be cuptied for the knockout stages or is it just the group stage he’ll miss ?

  22. OhYes
    August 25, 2009

    I’m not saying they can never win against good sides, but over time, they aren’t able to consistently compete against bigger clubs like ManU and Chelsea. Money is the big difference.

    If you look at the 3 Champions League seasons prior to 08-09, you will see Shakhtar didn’t do so hot. 3rd & 4th in group stages against sides like Roma, Milan, Valencia and even Benfica.

  23. August 25, 2009

    he will miss the entire champions league but Barca may appeal to the UEFA for some leeway.

    It makes no sense loaning out all these players even though we’re still not interested even if they have awesome seasons. riquelme for instance. I wonder whats the point of it all the loan signings? caceres, kerrison, helb and henrique and guddy (most prob). When they are loaned out, the contracts with Barca dwindle and i’m sure we won’t make any profit of the player if he doesn’t fit into our plans and they probably won’t, barring kerrison and henrique ofcourse. wonder what’s the point…

  24. August 25, 2009

    25 mil is a lot of money for a CB, esp when the team doesn’t really lack for them. It’s clear that Gabi Milito will basically never come back the same, if at all, if these are the moves Pep is backing.

    I know people raised a lot of similar questions about Dani Alves but that was different because DA filled a hole in the side. This guy won’t even be a first-team starter, will he? The team needed a central midfielder to spell Xavi/Iniesta, and a backup RB because our energizer bunny ran out of steam last year (witness his performances late in the season, both in La Liga as well as the CL). I don’t see either of those requirements being met, what with this outlandish purchase.

    I don’t like this move. Not for this money. No way. I may end up looking stupid at the end of the year, and if I do, I’ll accept it and eat my words, but I don’t like this move one bit.

  25. JC
    August 25, 2009

    off the topic, why was Puyol removed half way through the 1st half against Manure city?

  26. jordi
    August 25, 2009

    Well we did pay 20 million for milito. If he wanted him in today’s market it would probably cost the same 25 as Chygrynskiy will cost.

  27. August 25, 2009

    JC, he was taken off cos it was a friendly infront of the nou camp and pep wanted their fans to see their captain in action for a while. he also wanted to see how the new guys would cope without pique and puyol to help them at the back.

    Ohyes, Shakhtar is definitely not amongst europe’s elite clubs and europe’s finest beat them only by fielding their full strength teams. We have struggled abit against them too.

    We may have an abundance of options in the defensive sector to consider Chygrynskiy a luxury but there must be a reason pep wants him so bad. perhaps we are taking it for granted that a lot of the youngsters are going to see a lot of action which is not going to be the case. He’ll probably blood the odd youngster in the copa del rey but no more.

  28. Pranay
    August 25, 2009

    I like this transfer becuase the underlying basis is the conviction of the technical team. It is not one of those transfer in which a more in the spotlight player playing in top leagues is transferred to be an approximate solution to a vague need in the tactical framework.
    The player can play well both as CB and DM and hence is a solution to multiple problems. The value of the player is in what he brings to us and not in what it might seem to rest of the world.
    May be the technical team feels he is the essential to the puzzle and hence his value is more than what we can percieve.
    As for mistake by Guardiola in transfers, I guess you have to live with them as he had more than compensated for them. Also I think he has become comfortable with team, vision is more articulate to him and has also grown in conviction. Thus I think he has more chances of success in transfer market now.

  29. August 25, 2009

    – A good idea to listen to Jazz while reading the reviews. May be you can think of making it a habit, Kxevin.

    – Regarding : “This is almost the season starting lineup, though the first choice XI will swap Abidal and Iniesta for Maxwell and Keita.”, I think this selection against Bilbao was also a first-option selection. Its even better than the one with Iniesta-Abidal instead of Keita-Maxwell for some games. I think we have 16 players whom we can pick a first class selection from depending on the game we play. Specially now that we have Ibra (a big striker) in the box. Iniesta-Xavi combination in the midfield has less disadvantages than last season (and specially if Yaya switched with one of them from time to time to run forward. Also, Iniesta in Henry place with the same midfield we played in this game will be a bless. the same without Ibra if we can have henry as a main striker. And so on…

    -Yaya as a midfielder beside Xavi is just a pleasure for football. Especially with Keita in the midfield, who is so far the best tactical player we have-positioning wise. Even though he doesn’t seem to do anything special, He serves the whole selection so every one of his teammate looks much better (and move more without positioning concerns) when this utility player is in the midfield. I will defend him all the time.

    -Ibra was good. Though still need time to adapt to the situation where he has more than two teammates in the opponents half. It requires more effort from him to find the right movement and pick the best position to step into. Beside, with all the suddenly amazing services he got he is probably feeling dizzy (in a good way). He can’t believe he will get that amount of ready-to-net scoring situations. But He was tactically very positive and I am sure Henry left the field with a big smile. What will he (the player who like to position himself on the flank and cut into the box) wish more than a striker who love to move from inside-out to the flank dragging a centre back with him.

    -I am glad to see the Xavi-Keita-Messi-Henry penetration into the box while Ibra pull defence out. Something that some thought it was too theoretical to happen 😉 Ibra shots from outside are good as well, even if he doesn’t score, its enough that he will force more opponents to run out to block the shots creating more gaps in the box for his teammates.

    Very promising game indeed…Cant they play everyday? I need to increase my doze, my body demands it.

  30. August 25, 2009

    opps, sorry for bolding, I only wanted to bold one phrase, not sure what happened.

    Probably lack of…you know, the doze…

  31. Jnice
    August 25, 2009

    Great review, Kev. Can’t wait to possibly win another trophy on Friday. And with Maxwell and Ibra, plus a better Keita and versatile Yaya, I’m confident that we will be able to break buses all day and night.

    Ramzi, what do you think about the Chygnasty (possible) transfer? Do you think he is a necessity?

  32. August 25, 2009


    The UEFA UCL individual awards are (I think) either tomorrow or the day after. Will we see certain Barca domination. We’ve got three in the bag (forward, midfielder, and MVP) but how about GK and defender? Remember that its the coaches of the last 16 teams that vote.

    Given that it would actually not surprise me even one bit to see a guy like Xavi win MVP over Messi. The Ballon D’Or (journalists) and the FIFA (players and coaches) are one thing but if its only 16 knowledgeable coaches then Xavi may just get his due now while Leo gets his in December.

  33. August 25, 2009

    At the beginning of the transfer period, my priorities were:

    – A striker, especially if Eto’o didn’t renew/stay. (Ibra was first option but didn’t expect it will happen)
    – LB, especially if Caceres didn’t gain on Pep. (Maxwell was my first option, it was almost a done deal, then vanished before it happened out of sudden).
    – CB to give an opportunity to Puyol to rest Alves when needed. And also give us a chance to use Marquez or Pique (who will be a great holding midfielder if tested, by the way) during the ACN period.

    – DM, specially if we didnt sign a CB. Which will also give us a chance to use Yaya in an advanced position more often. My one-and-only option was Mascherano. But you cant ask for everything in this life, right?

    Now that Masche is not an option. If we can get a player who may have almost the same potentials, younger and cheaper (because he does not have an international high profile as mascherano), but who can also play as a solid CB with passing qualities, then no complains at all, right?

    If he combine two needs in one (Increase CB depth, Increase RB depth where Puyol will be able to play, Increase the DM options and the midfield quality by offering more chance for Yaya, Keita and even Busquets to play beside Xavi/Iniesta, and increase the offense depth where Iniesta will be able to contribute without worries about midfield quality) then the 25 M turns to be a cheap price to pay.

    Is Chygnasty the player of the mentioned qualities? I don’t know. I can tell you that I always wondered why an Agger kind of transfers never happens for Barcelona? Skrtel? C.Ronaldo (to Man Utd)? Chivu (to roma)? And all the sevilla/Napoli transfers! Cheap with huge potentials. What about Vidic who was less known when Man Utd bought him than our own Chygnasty? I am still pissed off because we wasted the opportunity of signing Mascherano four times before he turned a world brand as the best DM on the planet: 1) When he was still in Argentina and came to play the Gamper against Barcelona (was hoping he will stay there). 2) When he moved to Brazil (why not Catalonia?) 3) When he moved to…west ham… 4) When he moved to Liverpool (and we were in desperate need for a DM back then!

    I can add a fifth time this summer before RM signed Alonso, but may be considering the player cost now, it will be too harsh to criticize.

    There is a risk in this approach, but it’s the same with more expensive / accomplished players. The risk will always exist. So wouldn’t mind a mix especially that this target for 25 M is not that cheap, though not that raw. Its something in between the 35M plus well known targets and the 10 Millions understudy prospects. And most importantly, he is young. If he was over 25, I will give it a big “Hell no!” without any doubt!

    If Chygnasty is the next Vidic, or the next Mascherano for 25 M. I will take it!

    But its a BIG IF! the following season will tell, again IF we signed him.

  34. ballbeav
    August 25, 2009

    monk…satriani…great stuff. how about something more manic and fun like raymond scott? not much of his vintage stuff on youtube, but for lack of something better….

    apologies if i’m turning this into a youtube fest…btw great review kxevin, as always. you make me want to be a better writer. your use of simile and metaphor is great. do you make that shit up on the spot or what?

  35. August 25, 2009

    Exactly, Ramzi.

    Check out the videos of Chygnasty I posted in the comments of the previous posts when you get a chance. Interesting player. Seems like an exceptional passer from the back. Not too many defensive highlights but it seems he is comfortable and used to playing up high and taking the ball out. Pep must have seen something to fall so madly in love with him.

    Apparently he was already vice captain of Shaktar at the age of 20 and is their defensive leader as well as the Ukraine NT’s. Its an interesting situation because although one would think that players always want to make it to the “big time” to make more money, Shaktar’s owners are so rich that he earns probably more there than he would here. That’s probably why negotiating has been so hard.

    Also, if he comes, I guess Yaya will be the official translator. That’s the part that worries me the most. How would he adapt to Barcelona (the city and the team)? A 22 year old who has never lived outside of Ukraine.

  36. JeffP
    August 25, 2009

    For all the Americans out there it looks like we’re officially done with the low-res streams we’ve had to endure the last couple of weeks.

    Per both channels’ sites, Friday’s game will be on FSC (2:30pm EST start) , and Monday’s game will be on ESPN and ESPNHD (2:45pm EST start) due to the US Open being shown on ESPN2. Considering Friday’s game is a UEFA match, I wonder if FSC has sold rights to local HD affiliates? I know that Comcast Sportsnet HD had the Arsenal/Celtic game last week in my area.

    And for the record, Isaiah-don’t-call-me-Ike has been conspicuously absent of late. Where are you, my man?

  37. August 25, 2009

    Busily working on a boatload of posts for this week and the next. You’ll see him soon 😉 .

  38. Helge
    August 25, 2009

    I am quite sure the UEFA CL individual awards (remark: UEFA UCL is tautalogous) will be presented on Friday during the lottery drawing of the group stage. And I also want Xavi to be the MVP, but I highly doubt it. It would be great to see which coach voted for which player 🙂
    I can imagine the truely intelligent coaches à la Wenger choose Xavi, but I’m not sure about some others…

  39. kxevin
    August 25, 2009

    Made up on the spot, ballbeav. And thanks for the compliments. Helping in this space is so much fun, and feeds my love of writing.

    If what we see in the Chygnasty vids is the Realness, 25m will eventually seem a bargain.

    Watching him, he already plays like a Barca back line player, the way he moves the ball up and passes. And if he can play DM, that makes the deal even better.

    This is Puyol’s last season as an automatic starter. Having said that, however, he deserves to retire with the club. If he moves, the decision won’t be the club’s.

    Marquez is quickly becoming supplanted by Pique, and when Milito returns, we’ll get him match fit and then take a loss on his sale. So that’s three who won’t be a full-time part of the picture next season.

    Add Adriano, a returning Botia, Muniesa and Fontas. Wow. Chygnasty, if it happens, is clearly a signing for the future. He plays with Puyol to understand what and how to do it, and we’re off to the races.

  40. Hilal
    August 25, 2009

    Ditto on everything Kxevin said re Chygnasty… the guy is huge!! All of a sudden those big EPL players dont look so scary when we have Pique, Chygnasty and the Yaya. We have some bog boys of our own now! Not to mention a 6’4 target man in the box 🙂

  41. Eduard
    August 25, 2009

    @ ballbeav,

    thanks for the BAS video, he looks very dominate 🙂

  42. Han
    August 25, 2009

    Thanx for the great review and excellent comments. 25 Million Euro for Chygnasty or the Beast from the East. Definitely a lot of money yet it made me think of some other discussion which has spun over this transferwindow and upon which I would like to elaborate later on.

    First it might be interesting to know that Chygriynsky has made the switch from Western Ukraine (region Lvov) to Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk) as a teenager (without his parents) which is a hell of a difference. Not only does one have a language difference ukranian had to be switched for Russion, but the country is a little bit torn apart. The western part looks to the EU for a bright future, the east looks back to the Soviet days and Russia with nostalgia. My point: Don’t underestimate his flexibility regarding adaptation to another country/culture.

    A lot of people seem to think Txiki Beguiristan is doing a bad job. Nonetheless he has been in power as technical director since 2003 and his track record might not be so flawed as one could expect given the recent criticism.

    So I have divided the players (I came up with) bought since 2003 and evaluated his dealings.

    Taking into consideration the transfer fee (approx.) payed –importance to the team and the fee when sold, I came up with 4 categories.

    (figures for fees are not “officially correct” use them as a good indicator)

    A+ = Really good and cheap

    Marquez = 5Mill
    Pique = Around 5 Mill
    Larsson = 0M
    Giuly = 7.5 Mill bought – sold 4.5M
    Sylvinho = 2m – sold 0M
    Yaya = 9M

    Total Spent = 28.5 Mill – Total received = 4.5 M

    A= Really good

    Ronaldinho 28M – sold 21M + clauses
    Deco 12M + Quaresma (6M p/ex) – Sold 10M
    Henry 24M
    Eto’o 24M – Sold 20M p/ex
    Belleti ( couldn’t find a fee, sold to Chelsea 5.5 Mill )
    Alves 30M
    Gio (stands here as I don’t recall the fee paid – sold 0M)

    Total spent = 124 without Belleti – Total received = 75M without Belleti

    B = Good but no bargain

    Abidal 15M (good, just not really cheap)
    Keita 14M (same)

    Total spent = 29M Total received = 0M

    C = Undecided (Not Good, No big Impact, Neutral, or just money-wise neutral)

    Luis Garcia (bought 5M, Sold 7.5M)
    Ezquerro 0M – sold 0M
    Van Bommel 0M – sold 6M
    Gudjohnsen 12 M (might be a Z, but that is too harsh)
    Zambrotta 14M – sold 9M +2M clauses (might be a Z, but that is too harsh and we got money back)
    Milito 17M
    Rustu 0M – no idea, I believe a free transfer
    Edmilson 10M – sold 0M
    Albertini 0 M – 0M

    Total spent = 58 – Total Received = 22.5

    Ibrahimovic 46M + Eto’o (too early too tell, Guess gonna be A)
    Maxwell 4.5M (too early too tell, probably A+)
    Keirrison 14M (too early too tell)
    Henrique 8M (too early too tell)

    Total spent= 92.5M

    Z= little or big disasters

    Maxi Lopez 6M- sold 2M
    Hleb 14M – loaned
    Quaresma 6M – sold as part of Deco transfer
    Thuram 5M – retired
    Caceres 16M – loaned

    Total spent = 47M Total Received 2M

    Lets take a look on the buying part, I have counted 6 A+ players, 7A and 2B rated players for a total something more than 180 Million € and from these we’ve sold for around 80 million with Alves, Marquez, Pique, Keita, Henry and The Yaya still on our books.

    In contrast, we did have some rather mediocre dealings:
    Edmilson (good not great, often injured and not cheap), Zambrotta (not really good, not too much lost), Ezquerro (apparently good character, no loss but nor any profit), Rustu (apparently bad character, no loss nor any profit), Milito (question mark but doesn’t look very good), Gudjohnsen (12m for a good character and a very occasional goal? U decide).
    These players have costed 58million and besides an injured Argentine and Guddy they all left for a total of 22 million.

    Nonetheless, Txiki has gone mad from time to time and imo more often the last seasons (Caceres, Hleb, Thuram) which have costed almost 50Million and have brought us nothing but misery and cheap change. Yet, we can still recover some from Hleb and Caceres, however loaning these players indefinately will not help (and we have done it before e.g. Robert Enke, Rustu, Henrique?,….).

    I have the feeling that these last seasons with more money available, our transfers have become more expensive but not necessarily better.
    For example, we bought at CF first Larsson for 0M then Maxi for 6M and later Gudjohnson for 12M. Same for RB Belleti (bought 10M?), to Zambrotta (14M) till Alves +30M. Offcourse inflation works bigtime, even more this transferperiod and that might make up the bulk of the analysis yet I wanted to mention this point.
    Moreover, as the years have passed and the finances have grown Txike seems to have discarded or ignored cheaper opportunities on whom we used to rely, e.g. Albertini, Davids on loan, Van Bommel, Ezquerro,… . I suggest looking at opportunities like these, some of them might have included the Nedveds and Juninho’s of today. (I don’t want to go propagate this idea too much but they might have been able to help us out for 1 season untill the canteranos are ready).

    We have a tendency to release players who have done their job, as Kluivert and Cocu come to mind, and Guddy seems another case. While maybe unfortunate and unprofitable it does give a good feeling and nine times out of ten these cases were not revocable imo.

    About selling we should definately mention that it is generally lower than our purchase prices (we’re not a selling club) and it looks we tend to give in easily as a lot of people have mentioned this transferperiod. But if we look back on some of these deals (Ronaldinho, Deco, Giovanni Dos Santos,
    Luis Garcia, Van Bommel, Belleti, Giuly, Zambrotta,…) I would suggest we haven’t been blackmailed (as many fans believe) to say the least. Which is not to say we have always got fair value and the trend with LOANING everyone out these days worries me a little.

    Greetings from Brussels

  43. August 25, 2009

    I’m around, Jeff, don’t worry about that. I’ve got some things going on in the personal life (I’m moving from one apartment to the other) and I’m working on several posts (one up later today).

    About Chygnasty: So can he not be picked for the CL knockout stages? I was under the impression that you were cup-tied through the group stage unless your team went beyond that and since Shaktar is out of the CL thanks to Timosoara, would we get Chygnasty back for the knockouts? That would be sweet.

    He’s a CB and a DM and will provide cover for both, especially during January when we’ve lost Keita and THE YAYA to the ACN. And playing Copa and some league games until then will help him fully integrate into the squad before he’s put into the fire that is the CL. Know what I mean?

  44. August 25, 2009

    And also: Damn, Han.

  45. MoSSi
    August 25, 2009

    Haha I’m still laughing with the new nickname for Chygrynskiy..

    Good one whoever came up with it!

  46. August 25, 2009

    He can’t play with Barcelona in the CL Isaiah. Unless if there is an article I am not aware of. This is the related articles in the CL regulations:

    Subsequent registration

    18.17 For all matches from the start of the round of 16, a club may register a maximum of three new eligible players for the remaining matches in the current competition. Such registration must be completed by
    1 February 2010 at the latest. This deadline cannot be extended.

    18.18 One player from the above quota of three who has played UEFA club competition matches for another competing club in the current season may
    exceptionally be registered, provided that the player has not been fielded:

    – in the same competition for another club; or
    – for another club that is currently in the same competition.

    Furthermore, if the player’s new club is playing in the UEFA Europa League, his former club must not have played in the UEFA Europa League at any
    point in the current season.

  47. Han
    August 25, 2009

    my apologies for the long post. it looks shorter in word.

    Anyhow, the visitors of this blog have very knowledgeable ideas so I wanted to sound out you guys on Txiki. The guy gets burned big time on other blogs.

  48. August 25, 2009

    Han, don’t apologize, I was saying damn like “damn” not like “that sucks”. Good thoughts, I’m formulating ideas on that subject.

  49. Kxevin
    August 25, 2009

    Even Shakhtar’s manager is saying that he’s going.

    “It’s a matter that’s being dealt with by our president and Laporta, and I think that it will happen in the end,” he said in an interview with RAC 1 radio (post over at Pep’s Place).

    I think it’s great news, and I hope that the “this week” timetable of Sport comes true. Unfortunately, he is indeed Cup tied for the fullness of the CL. Had he played Europa League for Shakhtar, he could have played for us in the knockout stages.

    He’ll still be a huge help in the Liga, and next year he’s in for the full campaign. Is he eligible to play World Club Championships for us, I wonder. Don’t see why not, as it is a different competition.

    Excellent post, Han. Frankly, I’d be worried if we sold players for as much or more than we bought them for, as that would mean that we’re selling them with effective years left. A new dishrag is always worth more than a used dishrag, right? Would anyone want to buy Ronaldinho right now? (Toss aside sentiment.)

    We sold Dos Santos for about 6m, and he was a farm kid, so he didn’t cost us much or anything at all.

    The other transfer complexity for us is that we are no ordinary club. Sometimes, on paper, a player will make sense in the system. Then he comes, and can’t fit in, or is bathed in flop sweat. Yet those players are fine for other clubs. But you can’t sell a player who couldn’t cut the mustard with your club, for what you paid for him. You just can’t.

    So I’m disinclined to make any suppositions about the quality of our transfer behavior, for those very reasons. Our standard is extraordinary high. Not everybody, even people who we buy, can measure up.

    As far as our loaning players out, recall Laporta’s quote that loaning lets players develop and get playing time. It’s something for the future. It doesn’t always work out that way. Adriano’s jury is still out. Caceres could develop into a keeper. Keirrison is going to be good. Really good. So I’m not all that bothered by the loan program.

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