Saturday, 8 November 2008

Match discussion: Valladolid

This evening at 10 pm bt,
Barcelona plays the tenth game of the season against Valladolid.

Valladolid is ranked fourteenth in the Liga, Barcelona second. Last weekend, the team drew one all with Mallorca in the Spanish cup. Last weekend, Valladolid defeated Sevilla 3-2 (goals by Sesma and two by Canobbio), playing with Asenjo; López, Calvo, Nano, Marcos; Medunjanin, Alvaro Rubio (49 Dorado); Pedro Léon (83 Borja), Escudero (45 Canobbio), Sesma; Goitom.

Valladolid goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo would be on Barcelona's transfer list.

Barcelona squad list:
Valdés, Pinto, Jorquera, Alves, Márquez, Piqué, Puyol, Cáceres, Sylvinho, Xavi, Touré, Busquets, Keita, Gudjohnsen, Hleb, Víctor Sánchez, Messi, Eto'o, Bojan, Henry

Valladolid squad list:
Asenjo, Villar, Pedro López, Baraja, Nano, García Calvo, Marcos, Álvaro Rubio, Vivar Dorado, Medunjanin, Aguirre, Pedro León, Escudero, Sesma, Canobbio, Víctor, Goitom, Ogbeche

Before (what are your expectations, what's your prediction, what should be the line-up,...), during and after the match, you can comment on the game here.

From two hours before until two hours after the game you can join a match chat (read more here)

Alves (1): "I'm grateful for the effort the club made"

Barcelona player Daniel Alves gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

You have to be thankful to Sevilla president José María del Nido...

Thanks to him refusing to sell you to Chelsea or Real Madrid one year ago, you're now a Barcelona player.
Well, if you look at it from that perspective, it's true.

You still feel uncomfortable about the attitude of Del Nido?
Well, it's the past but I don't like it when people don't keep their word. I keep on trusting the word of people.

If we're well informed, you gave your word to Barcelona in the month of March. You don't think that you were taking a risk there?
I don't see why...

You were closing the options to join Madrid, Chelsea, Milan...
Look, in my life I'm good to people who are good to me. Barcelona came for me, Txiki and Ingla made me an offer, they treated me with respect, they transmitted security and they showed me that they can be trusted.

And Barcelona paid an huge transfer fee to Sevilla...
The club believed in me and made a great effort. I will always be very grateful for that.

After you had a verbal agreement with Barcelona, Real Madrid contacted you twice trying to sign you...
You should ask my agent about these things, he knows more about it. But once I had given my word to Barcelona, there was no other option for me. Barcelona dealt with the issue very seriously and that was enough for me.

How did they convince you?
With a very tempting football project. Barcelona hadn't won a trophy for two years and the club wanted to put a new team together that was able to return to the top. And they counted on me. That attracted me a lot.

It wasn't all about the money?
One always try to get paid better and to feel secure about the future. Barcelona offered me what I was expecting.

But you had higher offers from Italy and England...
I wanted to live and play in Barcelona. I knew I would be very happy with my family there. That's more important than the money. Besides that, it was very important for my state of mind to leave Sevilla by the front door. I was afraid that I would leave with problems, but thanks to Sevilla and Barcelona I left like I had dreamt it.

This was the first part of this interview. Tomorrow you can read the second part with Alves talking - amongst other things - about life in Barcelona.

[Henrique] Karlsruhe-Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen played this afternoon their twelveth Bundesliga game of the season. After having lead 0-3, Bayer drew three all with Karlsruhe.

Brazilian central defender and Barcelona loan out Henrique (22) started the match and played the whole game in the centre of the Bayer defense. Henrique got booked for a fault in the 73rd minute.

Barcelona bought Henrique this summer and decided to loan him out to Bayer Leverkusen for one season (read more here). This blog will follow Henrique's performances during this season.

Sunday 10 August - Cup round 1: Rot-Weiß Oberhausen-Bayer Leverkusen 2-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 120 minutes.

Saturday 16 August - Bundesliga game 1: Bayer Leverkusen-Borussia Dortmund 2-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 23 August - Bundesliga game 2: Vfb Stuttgart-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 30 August - Bundesliga game 3: Bayer Leverkusen-Hoffenheim 5-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Right back.

Saturday 13 September - Bundesliga game 4: Hamburg-Bayer Leverkusen 3-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Right back.

Friday 19 September - Bundesliga game 5: Bayer Leverkusen-Hannover 4-0
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Tuesday 23 September - Cup round 2: Augsburg(2)-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Yellow card.

Saturday 27 September - Bundesliga game 6: Bochum-Bayer Leverkusen 2-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 4 October - Bundesliga game 7: Bayer Leverkusen-Hertha Berlin 0-1
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Yellow card.

Saturday 18 October - Bundesliga game 8: Eintracht Frankfurt-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Friday 24 October - Bundesliga game 9: Bayer Leverkusen-FC Köln 2-0
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Tuesday 29 October - Bundesliga game 10: Werder Bremen-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Friday 31 October - Bundesliga game 11: Bayer Leverkusen-Wolfsburg 2-0
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 8 November - Bundesliga game 12: Karlsruhe-Bayer Leverkusen 3-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Yellow card.

1. Hoffenheim (11) 25
2. Bayer Leverkusen 25
3. Hamburg 23
4. Bayern Munich (11) 21
5. Schalke 04 (11) 20
6. Wolfsburg 19
7. Köln 19
8. Borussia Dortmund 18
9. Hertha Berlin (11) 18
10. Werder Bremen 17
11. Stuttgart (11) 16

1st and 2nd place: group phase of Champions League
3rd place: third qualifying round of Champions League, winner enters the group phase, losers enter the Uefa Cup
4th place: qualifies for 4th qualifying round of Uefa Cup
5th place: qualifies for 3rd qualifying round of Uefa Cup

Pedro not included in Valladolid list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola has earlier today announced the list of 20 players for the tenth game of the Spanish league against Valladolid this evening at 10 pm.

The list:
Valdés, Pinto, Jorquera,
Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Márquez, Cáceres, Sylvinho,
Xavi, Hleb, Touré, Busquets, Víctor Sánchez, Gudjohnsen, Keita,
Messi, Eto'o, Bojan, Henry

Midfielder Keita returns to the list after having recovered from an injury (read more here). With 20 players included, two players still have to drop from the list. The names of these players will be announced shortly before the game.

Wing attacker Pedro is not included. He played this afternoon with the B team. Central defender Milito, left back defender Abidal and attacker Iniesta are not available because of injuries.

Hernanes waiting for Barcelona

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that São Paulo midfielder Hernanes (23) will continue until next summer with Brazilian first division club São Paulo, that wants to compete for the Copa Libertadores in the first half of the coming year.

With the Brazilian player already having rejected several offers because he only wants to leave for a European top club, Brazilian player's agency Traffic, that represents Hernanes, hopes to restart the negotiations with Barcelona in the summer of 2009 after a transfer of Hernanes to Barcelona failed during the past summer transfer window (read more here).

Read more:
Hernanes could come next summer
Barcelona following Brazilian striker Dentinho
Negotiations on Hernanes in last stage

Watch a video of Hernanes:

Live Match Chat: FC Barcelona - Real Valladolid

(original post by OmarX)

Have you ever sat infront of your TV or computer while you were watching a FC Barcelona game and hoped you could share your excitement, feelings, and opinions with other fans LIVE as it happens?

We are proud to present you the new FC Barcelona Match Chat. Now you will be able to communicate before, during and after the match. The chat will be available from two hours before until two hours after the match. In the future this could turn into a 24/7 chat.

The chat is designed to be very user friendly and just requires you to enter your desired nickname and join (no registration required!). It is open to everyone, therefore make sure to invite your friends and spread the message. If you encounter any troubles or difficulties please put them here in the comments section or contact omarx in the chatroom.

To make all this work, we're setting up a moderator's system. Until that's in place, please keep in mind the following basic rules:

- on the public chat the main language is English

- you can hold private conversations by using the appropriate button you find below at the right of your screen
(mark the person you want to have a private talk with and click the button)

See you there!

Chat Link:

FC Barcelona - Real Valladolid
(Saturday 8 November 2008 @ 22:00 Local time)

Chat starts at 20:00 - 8 pm

Poll result: Who should replace Iniesta?

This is the final result of this blog's Who should replace Iniesta on the left wing? poll:

1. Hleb 54%
2. Henry 19%
3. Bojan 18%
4. Pedro 7%
5. Other option 2%

See other poll results here

Eusebio: "Barcelona coming close to Dream Team"

Former Barcelona player Eusebio (44), who has been the second assistant of rank Rijkaard until the end of last season, gave an interview with Madrid sports tabloid As.

How does your life looks like after having left Barcelona this summer?
There's life after Barcelona, football is very important but there are also other things. After those years with Barcelona, I'm having some time for myself. First you have to go through a stage of total disconnection but once the summer got to an end, I'm again watching games. I'm doing some things in the media and I'm inviolved in the world of football. I want to continue in this world and I want to be ready and fully prepared in case I get a chance.

This weekend, the two teams of your heart are playing against each other.
It's a special game for me and I sure will watch it. Valladolid and Barcelona have been key clubs in my career. It's always something special.

Where will you see the game?
In the Camp Nou.

We guess it would be impossible to choose a favourite team...
It will be a relaxed night for me because every result will be good for me. I will watch the game without any pressure, I will always be happy with the result. May the best win.

Well, then it will be difficult for Valladolid, if we take into account how Barcelona is playing...
The team is playing spectacular. It's all so brilliant that it's difficult to find some weak point in their way or playing or the mental approach to the game. They attack and defend perfectly.

The comparison with your time with the Dream Team of Johan Cruijff is possible?
They are playing at a fantastic level. It's not always easy to remember things but during my time as player and coach, we always had brilliant periods. This Barcelona is coming close to the best moments of the Dream Team.

There's something left from your time as assistant coach?
You learn from everything, from the good things and the bad things.

Guardiola has shown a lot of personality...
He's brave and he indeed has a lot of personality. He loves football and he knows and identifies himself with the club. When he started as player, being only 19 years old, he already very much believed in himself. He has all the qualities one needs to do a good job. He has so much experience as a player that he doesn't feel pressured by the responsibility.

You hope to be the coach of Barcelona or Valladolid one day?
I want to start as head coach and I'm motivated to take on every chance. And then we'll see what the future will bring.

You could get a chance soon, for example by becoming the manager of Numancia?
When you are in my situation, you look for persons who follow the market and the working opportunities. I only prepare myself so I'm ready for the options they offer me. The rest are just rumours.

Read more:
Eusebio has offer from Almeria
Who will assist Guardiola?
Eusebio candidate for Salamanca job

Principal agreement on Busquets renewal

Spanish news agency EFE claims that the contract renewal of Barcelona midfielder and Spanish youth international Sergio Busquets (20) is closer after a new meeting yesterday between Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and Josep Mario Orobitg, the agent of the player.

Barcelona would have offered Busquets, whose contract expires at the end of the current season, to renew until the summer of 2014.

While Barcelona officials confirmed to the agency that it was a "very positive" meeting, Orobitg said that a renewal deal could be reached soon: "The positions are coming closer. I think we'll need one more meeting before signing the deal."

In an interview with Catalan television channel TV3, Orobitg added that there's an agreement on the main issues: "Now it's just about some little details. Barcelona wants the player to stay and the player wants to continue."

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Busquets has been offered to renew until 2013, while the financial conditions got better. Like his team-mates, the Catalan will now also receive a higher fixed salary with incentives based on his individual performances and the performances of the team.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona unexpectedly invited Orobitg for a new meeting after Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and Barcelona general director of football Raúl Sanllehí worked out a new proposal that was seriously higher than the first offer. The deal could now be closed in the coming days.

Asked about the meeting, Orobitg repeats he is positive about the outcome: "The positions came closer and I think we'll have an agreement very soon. This time I can say that I'm optimistic and that I believe that we can finalize the agreement in one or two weeks. Despite having received several offers, we've always said that Barcelona was our priority. And it has been this way. Both Sergio and his father want to continue at the club and we all hope to sign the renewal as soon as possible."

Read more:
Busquets rejects renewal offer

Friday, 7 November 2008

Messi (3): "Ronaldinho didn't deserve such an exit"

Barcelona player Lionel Messi gave an interview to Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo.

(read the previous parts here)

Was last season really that bad?
Ouch! You wouldn't even imagine. It was a terrible season in which nothing went right. Just look at how we drew Espanyol and the title went past us. We want to forget these terrible two years and there's no better way than winning the title this year.

Liga or Champions League?
If it were up to me, both. But things must be taken step by step. It's probably more important to secure the Liga because it's longer competition. We fight match by match in the Champions League, the place in which luck or even the fixtures you encounter can be decisive in the end. It's been two years since we won the Liga and I'm anxious to win it again with the team. The Champions League is for later.

And the World Cup?
I think that it's time for Argentina to win the World Cup again. In Germany, we didn't have luck nor a solid chance of victory in the decisive match against the hosts. Our team level was shown in the match against Serbia and Montenegro. I believe that if we could have overcome the Germans, we could have made the final and win.

Which team do you respect the most in the league?
This year the title race will be closer. Real Madrid is doing well, Valencia is recovering, Sevilla is going strong, and I think that Villarreal is playing the best football aside from us. I was surprised by Agüero's Atletico because I thought that they would be on top with the team that they have, although they're still lacking. It will be tough, that's for sure.

And in the Champions League?
I don't know, if I had to pick I would say Liverpool. Not only because you have great players such as Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt or my friend Mascherano. Why isn't he on the Golden Ball list? It's a shame because he's a heck of a player. I say this because Liverpool play football that makes things difficult for any team. There are other teams that can be considered better, but I think that Liverpool can possibly reach the final in Rome. I sure don't want to meet hem before the final. And Arsenal? They play great football, they have a young and talented squad, but they lack strength and experience.

And Deco's Chelsea?
We'll save them for the semi-finals (chuckles). Felipao Scolari has created a heck of a team with Deco, Lampard, Drogba and others. They defend, attack, and they're a scary rival that plays great football. Chelsea gives me good memories because at my first match at Stamford Bridge I got to learn the level of European football, and it was a great match for me.

Now let's talk about you. Last year, you were left behind in the FIFA World Player and was third in the running for the Golden Ball. The other day you said that you put the team's triumphs over your own.
I was trying to say that that the team's success should come before personal success. But that doesn't mean that I don't have the illusion of being the first Argentine-Argentine to win the FIFA World Player and the Golden Ball. I know that Batistuta was third in the running for the World Player in 1999 and that the Golden Ball was given to Maradona for his career, and to Alfredo di Stefano and Omar Sivori as a Spaniard and Italian respectively. Yes, I would like to win both awards. You know what? I think that it's time for Brazilians to stop winning the awards and for an Argentine to win it (chuckles). No, I'm just kidding, whoever wins it has earned it.

Your friend Ronaldinho has done it.
And it annoys me that he wasn't even on the list this year. I'm happy seeing how step by step he's showing his true colors in Milan. I know that he scored twice in a match not too long ago. We still keep in touch, as well as with Deco, and we send each other texts or we call each other.

Ronaldinho "voted" for you and for Kaka.
Ronnie is a phenomenon and he didn't deserve what happened last season and how he left the club after all he gave to Barça. He is also a phenomenal person. I don't say that just because. I'll be proved right in Italy once his teammates get to know him more.

If you were a judge, who would you give the two awards to?
To my pal Kun Aguero. Seriously, but setting him aside, many other players deserve it. I was happy to see Fernando Torres, my teammate Xavi and the rest of the Spanish internationals because of the great Euro performance. I'm a bit dissapointed in not seeing Iniesta on there. I'm sure that next season, when the rest of the world sees how he's doing in Spain, he'll be a favorite. He's a heck of a player and I'm not exaggerating. Did anyone see the goal he scored against Belgium? Also, everyone from Cristiano Ronaldo to Kaka and Ibrahimovic have enough of a reason to win the titles. And Gerrard, Rooney and Lampard who are English players that I like very much.

You don't mention Cristiano Ronaldo...
He's an incredible player, winner of the Champions League. Golden Boot last year too. I think that he's the clear favorite for all those awards because of his quality and goals, but we'll fight for it. Last year, he was ahead of me in the running for the Golden Ball and I was ahead for the FIFA World Player. We'll see this year.

Translated by: AL

This was the third and last part of this interview.

You can read the previous parts here:
Messi (1): "I play the game by instinct"
Messi (2): "I've recently started eating fish"

Official team pictures shoot

The official 2008/2009 team pictures were taken today.

Poll: Who should replace Iniesta?

Lyon interested in Abidal return

French sports paper Le 10 Sport claims that French champions Olympique Lyon are interested in Barcelona left back defender and French international Eric Abidal (29).

The French champions would like to bring their former player, who also received offer from the English Premier League, back to France during the winter transfer window next January.

With Abidal, who left Lyon for Barcelona in the summer of 2007, performing well since the start of this season, the Frenchman feeling good in Barcelona and a presumed transfer fee of at least 10 million euro°, a return to Lyon seems nevertheless not very likely.

Read more:
Lyon president confirms Abidal interest
Milan interested in Abidal
Roma wants to swap Mancini for Abidal

Medical: Green light for Keita

Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita (28) received earlier today, after the morning training session, the green light from the Barcelona medical staff.

Keita got injured during the league game against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday 19 October when he sprained a muscle in his upper left thigh and suffered a sprain of his left calf after twisting his ankle (read more

Read more:
Medical: Green light for Gudjohnsen and Pedro

Busquets rejects renewal offer

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona defensive midfielder and Spanish youth international Sergio Busquets (20), whose contract expires at the end of this season, has rejected a recent renewal offer by Barcelona.

Barcelona would have proposed the player a salary of 500 000 euro plus incentives. The player would receive another 500 000 euro if he plays 60 per cent of the matches and if Barcelona qualifies for the Champions League and an third sum if the team would win one or two trophies.

This offer would have been rejected by Josep Maria Orobitg, the agent of Busquets, who nevertheless will hold new talks with Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain in the coming days trying to reach an agreement.

Catalan sports paper Sport, who thinks that Busquets could earn around 1 million euro, claims that a meeting on Monday was cancelled because of the death of the father of Barcelona goalkeeping coach Unzué (read more
here) but that the parties will meet in the coming days. Although the talks are just starting, the club and the player want to find a deal as soon as possible.

Asked about his renewal negotiations, Busquets is quoted by the paper as saying that he's confident about staying: "There's no problem and I'm sure that I will renew my Barcelona contract and that we will find a deal. My agent, Orobitg, is dealing with this issue, while I'm focusing on playing football and enjoying the game. At this moment I'm relaxed about how things are going and all I want right now is to keep on getting playing minutes and the more, the better."

Asked about the renewal negotiations of Busquets and Xavi, Barcelona president Joan Laporta said earlier this week to journalists that he also believes in a good outcome: "The talks are mainly a matter that is een dealt with by Txiki, but I think the negotiations need some time before we concretely reconcile the interests of both parties.

The two players will renew but everybody should be happy with the deal. Xavi and Busquets are both players of the present and future. It's very clear to them that Barcelona is their priority and that's why I am convinced that they will be with us for many more years."

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that AC Milan, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid would already have contacted Busquets. Turin sports tabloid Tuttosport claims that Juventus is also interested.

Read more:
Busquets agent optimistic about renewal

Barcelona preparing January bid for Cesc

British tabloid Daily Star claims that Barcelona will make a bid for Arsenal midfielder and Spanish international Cesc Fàbregas (21) during the winter transfer period next January.

Although Barcelona would initially have made Cesc the top target for next summer, after a board meeting earlier this week, the club is now ready to start the process of trying to sign the Catalan midfielder immediately.

A Barcelona official is quoted as saying that the fans don't care anymore about the fact Cesc left Barcelona being a youth player: "His departure for England has been completely forgotten. Pique returned to Barcelona and now we want Fabregas back. Barcelona know that he loves the club and they will do whatever they can to use the emotional ties he has with Barca to get him to return. It will take a lot of money, but he will be the No.1 priority."

Barcelona, that plans to use Cesc's close friend Alexander Hleb and other friends and family of the player to try to convince him, would be prepared to pay a transfer fee of more than 37,5 million euro°, which probably won't be enough for Arsenal, but Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain would have have told coach Josep Guardiola that they will pay what it takes to sign Cesc.

Read more:

Medical: Abidal out for three more weeks

Barcelona's medical staff has announced that Barcelona left back defender international Eric Abidal (29) will be out for three more weeks.

After having to leave the training session last Thursday, a meniscal cyst on his right knee was discovered (read more here).

Although the player is recovering well, the decision has been made to continue the conservative approach for another three weeks. If he hasn't fully recovered by then, Abidal could undergo an arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure to examine the damage.

Read more:

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Quote of the day: Iniesta

The team won't notice my absence.

Andrés Iniesta,
Barcelona player

The Ultimate Game: Get Inside Guardiola's Head

With Frank Rijkaard you couldn't get any honour by predicting Barcelona's starting line-up. Even hockey moms could. But this has dramatically changed this summer. Until this very day, nobody has been able to crack the code of Josep Guardiola's brain. Nor has anyone got inside his sleeves.

So this is your chance to prove not only your knowledge about the game of football but also your psychological insight:


This is not (as in: NOT) a place for discussion on team tactics or personal player preferences. You just give the system and the eleven names you think will start the game against Valladolid on Saturday.

You put them in the right position, so using the 4-3-3 (or whatever you think they will play) and putting the players from the right to the left, so the right back defender is your first name after the goalkeeper. If your line-up isn't clear, my interpretation counts.

Don't forget to add your (nick)name by clicking Name/URL under the comment box and fill it in, otherwise your after-game claim to glory will be dismissed.

You can give your starting line-up until three hours before the start of the game, in this case: until 7 pm barcelona time.

If you give your line-up before Guardiola announes his match list (or if all the available players or at least 20 players are included in the match list), you get one point for the correct line-up. If you do it after that announcement, you get half a point. Who will have 10 points somewhere down this season, can call himself the winner.

This is the eighth time this game is organized.



mario ch
Dan R

Medical: Keita training with the group

Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita (28), who is recovering from injury, returned to the group training today and has been training normally with the first team.

Keita got injured during the game against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday 19 October (read more here) and was then expected to again be available in two weeks time.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Keita will be ready for the game against Recreativo Huelva on 16 November, or even for the cup game against Benidorm next week.

Read more:

Txiki (3): "Rijkaard deserved to finish the season"

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain gave an interview to Catalan newspaper El Periódico.

(read the previous parts of the interview here)

You don't fear that the squad is too short?
The only thing I wish is to have some luck. Over the last those seasons the injuries caused us a lot of problems.

That's why it's more than ever important to take care of Messi?
I think it's more important to take care of everything that surrounds him than of him. We have to arrange everything for him, within certain limits. We should keep an eye on the little problems he has, to see if he can play or not, so that in the months of March and April he and the others are in the best conditions to compete for the trophies. We will need Messi, so we have to be attentive about all the details like the training sessions, the food, the rest.

Laporta has admitted that he considered dismissing Rijkaard after the defeat against Madrid in the camp Nou.
I always thought that Frank deserved to finish the season. You have to give this chance to a coach who wins two leagues and one Champions League. I kept on protecting him and we reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and the semi-finals of the Spanish cup. And against Atlético Madrid we were close to the first spot in the league. Because of all this, I think he deserved to finish the season. The image of Barcelona he has spread to the world was unique. And that's worth something. If we then aren't able to give him something back, we wouldn't have a heart. Then people would mean nothing, we would be a club who needs to win every game with 3-0 and that's it.

Gratitude is also a reason to justify the end of Ronaldinho?
There has been a last chance, in December, when we made a special training schedule for Ronaldinho. We heard from the staff that he was training well. But we also heard other things. The exit of Ronaldinho was the best exit possible given the circumstances. Excellent. And I'm not talking about the transfer fee. No wounds, no swearing. He wanted to go to Milan although there were better offers, both for him and for us. We made a deal with Milan and that's it. It's clear to everyone what happened with Ronaldinho and that he needed to go. There wasn't a debate. The summer before on the contrary, there was a debate. Then he had just scored 21 goals. And after having talked with all parties, we decided to go on. But when you have someone who has given you so much, who has changed the history of the club and when on the other hand there are no doubts about him having to leave, you know you're right. There just wasn't a better way or moment for such an exit.

Without Ronaldinho, the team keeps performing. This is a lesson for the squad?
I don't know. It would be different if you sell Ronaldinho after having won the Liga and the Champions League and after that you again win the Liga with other players. Then you can say that nobody is essential. But we also have to take into acoount that we had another player coming who would take the main role: Messi.

This was the third and last part of this interview.

You can read the previous parts here:
Txiki (1): "Guardiola is keeping his promise"
Txiki (2): "Youth players adapt easier"

Barcelona interested in Lazio forward Zarate

Asked about the transfer of Lazio Roma forward and Argentinian youth international Mauro Zárate (21), player's agent José Alberti has said in an interview with Italian football site Novantesimo that Barcelona has been trying to sign the Al-Sadd loan-out:

"It was me who informed Lazio about him. I was in Argentina when Lazio was negotiating with Boca Juniors player Palacio, a deal that in the end didn't go through because the offer of Lazio wasn't accepted. When Boca played the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores against Fluminense in May, there were also scouts of Barcelona to watch Palacio.

That's when I talked to Lazio president Claudio Lotito telling him that he shouldn't spend more time on negotiations with Palacio. I suggested him to watch some youtube videos of the striker that Boca wanted to sign if Palacio would leave: Mauro Zárate. After half an hour, Lotito called me back being enthusiastic and convinced to try to sign the player.

I brought him in touch with the player's representative and after long and hard negotiations with Qatari club Al-Sadd a loan deal was closed. Lotito has tried to secure the player and no one else can sign him at this moment. Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona nevertheless asked for him.

But it's up to Lazio. They can finally get him in two years: at this moment he's on loan, next May they have an option to become the co-owner and in May 2010 they have the option to permanently buy him. Watching him play in the Italian league, I understand very well why Barcelona insisted so much in a transfer... Just imagine what a trio Zárate, Eto'o and Messi could have done!"

Read more:
Pre-agreement on Palacio transfer put on hold
Di Maria and Arshavin will be monitored
Diego Milito was again sounded out this summer

Watch a video of Zárate here:

Poll result - Man of the match: Basel

This is the final result of this blog's Barcelona-Basel: who was our man of the match? poll:

1. Messi 43%
2. Puyol 19%
3. No one 18%

See other poll results here

Xavi thinks renewal agreement will be reached

Asked about the ongoing renewal negotiations (read more here), Barcelona attacking midfielder and Spanish international Xavi (28) has said at a press conference that he believes his contract with Barcelona, that expires in 2010, will be renewed:

"I want to continue at Barcelona. This has always been my wish, even when things weren't going as well as they do now. The negotiations are developing really well. I'm sure we will find an agreement, because that's what both parties want. I've always said that I want to stay and that it's my dream to retire at Barcelona.

I've always felt comfortable and appreciated here.The club never told me that they wanted to sell me and I have always said that I would look for an exit if I didn't feel useful. But now things are going great and the club is making an effort that will give me the chance to end my career here. Although I cannot assure anything, I think we will reach an agreement."

Asked about the renewal negotiations of Xavi and Busquets, Barcelona president Joan Laporta said earlier this week to journalists that he also believes in a good outcome:

"The talks are mainly a matter that is een dealt with by Txiki, but I think the negotiations need some time before we concretely reconcile the interests of both parties. They will renew but everybody should be happy with the deal. Xavi and Busquets are both players of the present and future. It's very clear to them that Barcelona is their priority and that's why I am convinced that they will be with us for many more years."

Read more:
Arsenal, Liverpool and Juventus monitor Xavi talks
Barcelona makes official statement on Xavi
Xavi wants to climb up in Barcelona salary rank

[Crosas] Celtic Glasgow-Manchester United

Celtic played yesterday their third game of the Champions League group stage. The Scottish champions drew one all with Manchester United.

Former Barcelona midfielder Marc Crosas (20) was not available due to a hamstring injury he suffered mid-October.

Marc Crosas joined Celtic Glasgow in 2008. Since Barcelona can buy Crosas back in the summer of 2010 for two million euro (read more here), this blog will follow the performances of the midfielder over the next two years.

Sunday 10 August - League game 1: Celtic Glasgow-St Mirren 1-0
Non-selectable. Crosas has signed his contract and is presented to the fans before the match.

Sunday 17 August - League game 2: Dundee United-Celtic Glasgow 1-1

Saturday 23 August - League game 3: Celtic Glasgow-Falkirk 3-0
Substitute. Crosas replaces Brown in the 73rd minute (3-0).

Sunday 31 August - League game 4: Celtic Glasgow-Rangers 2-4

Sunday 14 September - League game 5: Motherwell-Celtic Glasgow 2-4
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Nakamura in the 80th minute (2-4).

Wednesday 17 September - Champions League group stage game 1: Celtic Glasgow-Aalborg 0-0

Sunday 21 September - League game 6: Kilmarnock-Celtic Glasgow 1-3
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Hartley in the 74th minute (0-2).

Tuesday 23 September - League Cup 1/8 finals: Celtic Glasgow-Livingston 4-0
Not selected.

Saturday 27 September - League game 7: Celtic Glasgow-Aberdeen 3-2
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by McDonald in the 72nd minute (1-2).

Tuesday 30 September - Champions League group stage game 2: Villareal-Celtic Glasgow 1-0

Saturday 4 October - League game 8: Celtic Glasgow-Hamilton 4-0
Starter. Crosas starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 18 October - League game 9: Inverness-Celtic Glasgow 1-2
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Hartley in the 95th minute (1-2). Yellow card.

Tuesday 21 October - Champions League group stage game 3: Manchester United-Celtic Glasgow 3-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 25 October - League game 10: Celtic Glasgow-Hibernian 4-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 29 October - League Cup 1/4 finals: Kilmarnock-Celtic Glasgow 1-3
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Sunday 2 November - League game 11: Hearts-Celtic Glasgow-Hibernian 0-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 5 November - Champions League group stage game 4: Celtic Glasgow-Manchester United 1-1
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

1. Manchester United 8
2. Villareal 8
3. Celtic 2
4. Aalborg 2

Medical: Pique uncertain for next match

The Barcelona medical staff has announced that Barcelona central defender Gerard Piqué (21) has suffered a bruise in his right thigh that has lead to an internal swelling caused by the collection of blood during Wednesday's Champions League game against Basel.

Although it depends on the evolution in the coming days, further medical test yesterday have indicated that the Catalan player is progressing well and that Piqué could be available for the game against Valladolid on Satturday

Read more:
Medical: Iniesta out for six to eight weeks
Medical: Abidal out for one week
Medical: Keita returns to the pitch

The Points: Basel

Valdés 5__6,5__6__7__6

Puyol 5__6,5__7__8__6,5
Márquez 5__7__6__3__6
Piqué 5__6,5__6__4__5,5
Sylvinho 5__5,5__6__3__6

V. Sánchez 5__5__6__3__5,5
Busquets 5__5,5__5__4__6
Iniesta 6__7__6__5__6,5

Hleb 5__5__4__3__5,5
Henry 5__6,5__6__6__6,5
Bojan 5__6__7__3__5,5

Messi 7__8__8__7__7
Xavi 5__7,5__6__5__6,5
Eto'o *__5__6__*__5,5


If you have seen the match, you can give your own points. If you know other papers or sites that give points, you can let me know. See previous points here.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Barcelona-Basel: The best result!

Barcelona vs Basel

The perfect result!

Barcelona's draw with Basel Fc, combined with Sporting's win over Shakhtar means:

We qualified for the knock out stages!

Well, don’t jump to conclusions, this is not why I consider the result as perfect, but its really sarcastic that while any team wish to be in Barcelona's place now guaranteeing a place in the draw, Barcelona fans – not all of them but let's admit a reasonable sector- made a funeral after the match.

First, let’s review the game:

In Basel the game we played was different than the game played in Barcelona, in Basel we played against an excited team who wanted to attack to amuse their fans, we had spaces, in Barcelona we played against 10 men behind the ball, they were good in positioning themselves and in closing any space. They also wanted to clear the shame, they were playing with no pressure and no complications so the result is not expected but...yea normal, I saw that happening again and again in the world of football.

The starting line up: Pep selected the “second options” to start the game, and…wait…I will have a look to the selection again:

Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Marquez, Busquets, Iniesta, Hleb, Henry…

If that’s not good enough to win against Basel Fc, combined with talented Bojan and energetic Sanchez and experienced Sylvinho then…we are in a big trouble!

So Barcelona is only a first class team when we have Messi, Xavi, and Eto’o playing? Ok I don’t believe so, but if it’s true then I prefer to live in denial!

Of course they have a HUGE impact, but we are less dependent on our star players than any other team in the world, pick any team and drop their best three players and check what you get!

We didn’t play sexy football, and with Messi, Xavi, and Eto’o out this is understandable. We didn’t have the perfect midfield, Gudi and Keita absence with Hleb not hitting his form after injury yet made things more difficult, but with three young players in the midfield, and the help of Hleb, backed by a defense lead by Puyol – perfectly - we definitely dominated the game, earned back the ball fast, saw a fighting team, And generated scoring opportunities, scored, hit the post, if only Henry made the right runs to the posts to meet the crosses or made the right expectations for the dropped balls, it would have been a win. But with Henry and Bojan upfront, we missed the killing instinct, are they bad? No, but they had a bad game – based on their role as strikers, which happens…

It was the right thing to try Iniesta in the distribution role with the absence of Xavi, I said it long time ago, we need to get ready for the moment when Xavi can't play a game, people say we need to buy a player for Xavi role, but we have the best player in the world for Xavi role (when needed), The problem was that Keita and Gudi were not available and Hleb is not in form yet (now people need to start realizing the importance of this kind of serving players), so it wasn’t easy for Iniesta to run the show, but we need to try this again and again in this early part of the season and while we are in CL group stage – after we win against Sporting may be.

Hleb was unreasonably criticized when signed, then after he played less than 30 minutes he was praised unreasonably as if he won titles for the club, and now everyone is turning the table over him after this game, but based on this I can say after Malaga game we have to release Iniesta for free...

I supported Pep philosophy to rotate before it proved right, and I was one of the massive majority who waved the flags of victory when things turned perfect, and now? Well, Derdiyok will not force me to change my opinion just because he scored!

Man...I think the draw was the best result to put everything and everyone in place, we support a football team, not supermen, we will draw and lose as well as we will win, we cant question the policy (rotation) when it get a knock and praise it when it work, we all knew there will be a rotation, lot of us felt that’s the right thing before Basel Fc scored the goal, and I still believe Pep did the right thing.

Good job Guardiola, but hard luck!

Why is it the perfect result?

After the sequence of games where we hammered our opponents, I started to feel little worried, I may sound like a psycho but I didn’t want things to go perfect and easy all the way this month – November – I wanted some hard times to keep the team alerted before the Bloody December, and with all the “HAIL HAIL!!” shouts we hear every where – even in Marca - praising the Barcelona Gods of the game, I was wondering how would it be possible that the team lose a game without losing points?!! Because that’s what I wanted! My concern was that the team will keep earning victories in November with fives, win against Fc Basel and Sporting draw with Shakhtar this week, so we guarantee heading the group and play to enjoy ourselves in the following two CL games, and that’s how we will prepare for the bloody December introduced by a game against Seville, then Valencia, then Real Madrid, and Villarreal, well that’s not the perfect scenario…

After this draw, I think people will see the players again as human beings, talented but human, no gods, means nothing perfect, or guaranteed!

After this draw, we NEED a win against Sporting in Portugal or else we will most probably ranked second in the group, something we don’t want, Meaning the guys need to sweat in Portugal and I like it!

After this draw, I will not be as worried about the game against Valladolid next Saturday, because I honestly had the feeling it will not be a win, nothing guaranteed yet, but I know the players will be extra motivated now to prove a point! I Like It!

After this draw, and IF Pep noticed that some players must not play together in any rotation because they don’t click, IF he concluded that Sylvinho expired for example, or Hleb is not a winger but a midfielder, or Sanchez is not ready to be a starter yet, it's good that he tried this now and got the message rather than in the Spanish cup, right?

Finally I considered this as a perfect result but not a perfect match, and now that Iniesta got injured, we know that this is a big loss; we will miss the Shy guy!

You know how much I like this player so I better not start discussing this loss or else I will end up typing for ever…you know me…

Ramzi Tanani

Barça B: Chelsea and Tottenham following Gai

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that English Premier League clubs Chelsea and Tottenham are very closely following Barcelona Atlètic wing attacker and Israel youth international Gai Assulin (17) (read more here).

The two clubs have excellent scouting reports of Gai and both Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari as new Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp would have asked their clubs to try to sign the Barcelona youth player.

Read more:
Gai could soon make first team debut
Youth: Chelsea all over Barcelona youth academy
Barça B: English clubs interested in Gai

Watch a video of Gai here:

The Video: Basel

Txiki (2): "Youth players adapt easier"

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain gave an interview to Catalan newspaper El Periódico.

(read the first part of the interview here)

You don't think that the blame for the failure of the past seasons has been put on Rijkaard while more persons were involved, including yourself?
When you defend some manners that lead to a failure, you're in the end responsible. Absolutely. If I say that I think that Frank should stay until June, I'm responsible because I'm giving my approval to the things he does and the things he doesn't do. If he doesn't reach objectives, if he doesn't get through to the group or if the grouop isn't responding, I'm accepting that and that makes me responsible too.

It's over now but don't you think that you should have interfered more directly by talking to the players?
A player doesn't trust me, he should trust the coach.

Eto'o has been the story of the summer. Can you explain the process from saying he should leave until him staying?
He was on the market until we had to play the Champions League qualifier. Because of the circumstances - the market didn't move and in the end only two forwards joined another club - and because the attitude of Samu and his way of training in difficult circumstances were praiseworthy, it could happen that he stayed. And we made the decision on August 13. He didn't stay just like that, it wasn't a coincidence. There have been talks: with the player, the player with his teammates, with the coach. Guardiola has managed the whole process perfectly. People accused him of lowering Eto'o's market value by saying he didn't count on him, but it has been proven that there was no harm done. He said the same thing about Ronaldinho and we received an incredible offer from Manchester City. And I want to point out the second phrase of Guardiola: if they stay, I will threat them the same like the others.

You're satisfied by the important role of the youth players?
When we arrived, we wanted to have 50 per cent of youth players in the squad. We're working very good since some time. It's not about giving rewards to anyone, but this work should be appreciated. All of those who are being promoted show that they have personality. The players who come from outside have more difficulties to adapt than the youth players. When we are signing a player, you're never sure how he will react when he's confronted with the club, the entourage, the pressure, the fans. With the youth players, you don't have those doubts. They aren't scared.

You don't have doubts about Henry?
We all forgot the day when he arrived, the 25 000 fans that were there and the circumstances of his arrival. That he's a goalscorer is something that cannot be discussed. Is he a player who can take on four opponents? No, it's a centre forward who scores. Every game he has two or three chances because he's an intelligent player. Will he participate a lot this season? If he has to play every game, he will. If he doesn't deserve it, he won't. Nobody has to play 50 games.

This was the second part of this interview. You can read the following parts in the coming days with Txiki talking -amongst other things - about the exits of Rijkaard and Ronaldinho.

Read the first part:
Txiki (1): "Guardiola is keeping his promise"

The Pictures: Basel

(click the pictures to enlarge)

(click the pictures to enlarge)

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