Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Eto'o, Henry, and the last man standing.

Thinking about Barcelona front line, I opened my word document aiming to write about our transfer alternatives for next season. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought. My normal approach to figure out what we have before checking whom to get, complicated the topic for me. So I thought its better to start with analyzing two crucial cases we need to deal with, before we talk the buying language. The cases of Henry and Eto’o.

I base my topic on an assumption that we will only sign one player for our front line this summer. Which, in my opinion, the most realistic scenario we can think of at the moment.

Henry will leave this summer, not as certain as it looks:

One of the major reasons why Barcelona fans expect – or even wish- that Henry leaves this summer, is the idea of getting Ribery. It’s the desperate need for a pure wing. But I think the reasonable logic weavers all the links created by time between Henry departure and Ribery arrival. In fact, the realistic approach oppose the common belief.

If we sell Henry, then it’s impossible that we will sign Ribery. In another more significant words: If Barcelona wants Ribery, they need Henry to stay. Or else, our front line will be as follows:

Ribery, Iniesta (both can play on flank and midfield), Bojan, Eto’o, Messi, Pedro (I guess) plus one or two Barca Athletic players who play on the flanks. Anything weird? Yes! Who will play as a striker? Eto’o and Bojan.

I strongly believe Bojan can work better on the flank, rather than in the box. Yet, even if we considered him as a striker, is it smart to count on him as the only cover for Eto’o? What if Eto’o got injured for…hm…two months? Is it healthy for a big club like Barcelona to have only one 19 years old -talented- boy to lead their front line for two months against the teams of la Liga and the Champions’ league?

More over, let’s forget about the “if clauses” and deal only with facts: Eto’o will be out of service for six weeks next season serving his international commitments in Africa.

Messi can play as a striker as well, but there is a big difference between playing him deep because you want to, and playing him there because you have to. That’s an extra pressure on the player, on the technical staff, and on the squad in general. Does the case really worth taking that risk?

If Barcelona sells Henry, then the club will sign a player of Henry category. A striker who can play on the flank.

In Brief, regardless of each fan evaluation for each of the two players, the logic need to switch from “Who is better to have next season? Ribery or Henry?” to become “Is it for the best of the team to keep Henry and sign Ribery? Or it’s better to sell Henry and get another player who can play as a striker and as a wing at the same time?”

The club wants to renew Eto’o contract, not as certain as it looks:

Eto’o is one of the best forwards in the game currently. But what’s more important is that he fits Barcelona in so many ways that makes it dangerous to pull this piece out of the squad puzzle. He is a record scorer. He is a horse running on the opponents’ defense while we are on the quest to win back the ball. He is adapted to the complicated Barcelona dance on the pitch. One of the hardest football styles to adapt to. Then why not renewing his contract?

If we want to renew his contract because we – all- love him, then skip the following paragraphs about Eto’o contract renewal. It’s not interesting to read. If we want to guess how the board is considering the case, and what kind of discussions they had in their board meetings, then this is what I predict:

The club seems not to be so sure about the decision to be taken. I got the impression that the board of directors sees lot of gains in renewing and less concerns through offloading. May be some of the following factors are rooming on the boards table while painting the best strategy to tackle this issue:

1) Eto’o is insisting to postpone the talks till the end of the season:

That’s a very tricky situation. If the club wants to work on other options, they need to start cooking the transfer meal on April, or at most on the sunrise of May. Waiting till the last minute is suicidal. Eto’o is now 28 years old, and based on Fifa's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, Article 17, he can buy out his contract at the end of this season. He only need to inform the club 15 days before sending the cheque . If the club accepted this situation, it will be a mistake. With all my support and appreciation for Eto’o. There are rules, fundamentals and responsibilities that govern managing an organization. One of the key principles is that the Russian roulette game is forbidden in decision making management.

Barcelona had never been the symbol of excellence in that department. I believe the right approach is to offer him a contract renewal and give him till the end of April to make his final decision.

There is no threat this will unstable the player. If he wants to stay it will be great to renew at the beginning of May, before the crucial period of the season. So we enter that period with no concerns. If he doesn’t want to renew, then he will have the motive to show his worth before contract negotiations with his new destination. Beside, he will not waste the chance of winning any title with Barcelona this year just because he will be moving this summer. Beside the golden ball and other individual awards that he can hunt. All to add to his career profile.

Is it an unpopular scenario? Well that’s what successful management is all about, taking the hard decisions. One of the sins of the board in the previous two years was not taking the right decisions on time. Laporta admitted that, but we need to wait and see the improvement.

2) Long term concerns: Footballer life cycle:

There are four kinds of forwards: a) Skillful -Del piero type. b) Skyscrapers -Adebayor. c) Sharp finishers – Inzaghi . d) Dynamic- Eto’o. Forwards either belong to one of the categories or a mix of many.

The last type usually characterized by the shortest life cycle. Because they count on their fitness level and runs to generate their Scoring opportunities. They waste lot of them, but they generate enough to score. With that in mind, the question is: Can we predict the same Eto’o we have at the moment, two years from now? This is a question the board is definitely analyzing. May be it will not decide their decision if they renew his contract or not, but it will be a vital element while planning the contract to offer. They will –and they have to- put lot of “Based on performance” Clauses. It will be a wrong approach to put a clause like “Minimum number of goals he scores”, that will turn him to a selfish beast. The number of goals the team scores per season with a minimum number of games eto'o needs to participate in, may be a good way to go. That will also require lot of supportive clauses to defend his rights, and to take in consideration some other details as well (injuries for instance), its complicated. How far can Eto’o agree on that. If not, will that be a sign to make the board think twice?

If he was a striker from the other three categories, there will be no case of concern, good finishing survive, Height in the box will always be there (and gets more influential with time), Skills with experience can offer sometimes better than young skills without experience. But when it comes to the running and wrestling part, that’s a different story.

3) Financial demands: Can we match Eto’o financial demands? Can he pump enough financial returns to the budget that match his demands? There was a saying that Ronaldinho was financing his own salary, what about Eto’o? I am not saying he will not, I don’t know. And that’s something the board will also consider when they put the higher bound they can accept regarding the expenses of renewal. Then, how long will it take Eto'o to request reconsidering his contract conditions?

4) Pumping new blood Upfront:

We certainly need a new key player upfront besides promoting youth players, if the player we sign will be a pure striker, will Eto’o accept timesharing? If we signed a Wing, then Henry will need to play more often as a striker. Again, how will Eto’o react to that? Certainly a group of members in the board believes that the best solution is to sign a new player, Sell Eto'o and keep henry. Henry, the player who can serve on the left wing if needed, and can also play as a striker till the new signing adapt to one of the mentioned positions.

But again, if we sell Eto'o it means we will buy a player who can operate both in the box and on the flank.

By intention, I focused more on the reasons that may lead to keep Henry and offload Eto’o. Not because I recommend that, as the following part will clarify. But because that’s the other invisible side of the story, hidden under the dust of continuous confirmations:

Henry: time to say good bye. And Eto’o: You are here to stay.

Will we keep the two guns next season? Are we going to offload one of them? Who? That will give a clear idea about the way we will approach the market next summer.

Ramzi Tanani


ayman said...

I think we should sell etoo and loan bojan and bring villa and Ribery !henry will play on the wing or striker as a sub and messi ribery villa will play upfront together

david said...

nice work as always, ramzi. I also have a FC Barcelona blog, written in Romanian for Romanian fans (see it by clicking my name). Since all your posts are very interesting, I would like to translate them for Romanian fans. Would you agree to that idea?

SimonP said...

I hope the attacking line looks like this next season

Left wingers: Ribery, Gai

Strikers: Eto'o, Henry, Bojan

Right wingers: Messi, Pedro

Ribery - Eto'o - Messi with mainly Henry and in some extent Bojan being included in the rotation.

Marc4barca said...

well predicting barcelona is tough since they are so quite in the transfers, i won't be surprised if they offload both and bring in villa and ribery or maybe pep wants to keep them both and still buy a top striker to inherit the 4-4-2 and diamond formation next year to rotate players and formation.(henry as the sub when switched to 4-4-2 and diamond)

Hilal said...

Another fantastic little piece Ramzi. Just as i was reading another story on how Ribery/Villa/Messi was the desired front 3 for next season. I think if we sold Eto'o, kept Henry and bought both Ribery and Villa we would have the perfect setup up front. We would have cover in every position. Ribery can play either left or right. Villa and Henry can both play left or centre, Messi can play anywhere and Iniesta can cover the left if needed. So essentially we have all the positions covered. Villa would be our main striker and Henry being 32 next year will be happy to rotate with Villa/Ribery for the centre/left wing. This is of course in an ideal world where we also get Lahm as a LB/RB cover :)

I do not think we will buy two top players, we might, but i think it is a bit of wishful thinking. If we do settle on one player i think it might be selling Henry and buying Aguero because essentially Aguero can play either on the left or in the middle (like Henry). Villa could do this, but i dont think he will be as comfortable out on the wing. I also dont think Eto'o/Villa would be willing to share the striker role. At least not Eto'o.

unreal2 said...

i must say.... great article ramzi. u would do great as guardiola's assistant.

well as far as forward is concerned i think we should sell eto'o, get villa and ribery. tin that case we can even play a 4-4-2 formation.

in midfield i think we should sell gudj and give hleb another chance and make him play more often...

in defense it is time that uncle sylvinho makes way for a new and younger LB. i think we should get someone like Fabio with abidal being the 1st choice.

and for goalkeeping sell jorquera and get sergio asenjo and allow asenjo to play some league matches as well.

bojan! said...

I always reed this blog and I can only say breathtaking article Ramzi, as always.. For me the best solution is to keep Eto'o and Titi cuz Eto'o will go in AFC next year and TIti will be 32 so we need to buy only Ribery. That probably will be the best solution Ribery Eto'o Messi ( Iniesta, Henry as replacemants) and with fresh blood like Bojan, Gai and Pedro we will cover all positons. And if Eto'o dont want to renew his contract Villa is our target man ( I prefer Torres but only in my dreams probably)
I hope u will analize our midfield and the defence !
pozdrav od Makedonija
saludo from Macedonia!

Anonymous said...

the nice thing about eto is, with the kind of money we can sell him for, we can secure any other striker in the world, so let's say we get villa instead of him, by making such a deal we are actually gaining money in the transfer window and getting a player who is exactly eto or very very close to him if not better, so we don't have to worry about securing money for such a transfer.
then we need to get Ribery, I think that Hleb has not showed real worth this year, we can say that he will not be missed if offloaded next year, plus Gudjohnsen too, and one or two of the CBs, Marquez/Milito/Caceres, keeping in mind we will get Henrique for free next season, if we sell these players we are not leaving any position uncovered, and we get at least half the price of Ribery. so I believe we can secure both transfers without being in a bad financial position, and the best part we can do so while keeping Henry, and leaving no single position unbalanced, and there are other alternatives like Benzema, Lavezzi and Aguero in case we couldn't get Ribery.
there are some inexpensive fullbacks, which is the only two position that gave us a bit of headache, I think Vargas and Comotto of Fiorentina and the already well-known Belhadj, or Diego Castro from spoting Gijon for example are all suitable substitutes and can share the left back position with Abidal and Alves when there is a need to rotate.

K9 said...

Great article.

My hope is:

Out ---->
Henry, Hleb, Gudjohnsen, Keita, Pinto.

In <----
Keirrison, Ribery, Fabregas, Assulin, Thiago, Sergio Asenjo.

Dont think thats gonna happen, but the lineup could look something like this:

ST: Etoo, Keirrison, Bojan

LW: Ribery, Iniesta

RW: Messi, Assulin

MF: Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta, Thiago, Busquets, Yaya Toure,

LB: Abidal, Caceres

RB: Alves, Puyol

CB: Puyol, Marquez, Milito, Pique, Henrique

GK: Valdes, Sergio Asenjo

Anonymous said...

If we sell eto i dont think we would get fair value for him, since he will be leaving because it hasnt worked out, so other clubs know he NEEDS another club and have more bargaining power. Also his wage demands mean not many clubs can afford him, so less chances of bidding wars.

Hilal said...

Who would u guys prefer, Torres or Villa?

I read a lot of comments of ppl wishing they could get Torres but if not then Villa. To be honest i think Villa is a better all round striker. He is more clinical and he is also more versatile. He scores almost as many goals as Eto'o or Torres but he plays for a team that is nowhere near as good. His goal scoring ratio for Spain is amazing, twice as good as Torres' ratio even Torres has played more games. I would say he is probably the best striker in the world right now. Some of the goals he has scored for Valencia have been quite breathtaking. He can also score quite ludicrous free kicks as well.

Would like to hear your take on this Ramzi...

Ramzi said...

Hilal, I am just passing by at the moment, but I will have my cents about that soon.

David, We appreciate the effort made by all the friends who are spreading the good word on the forums or thru translating from this blog to another languages so the fans who prefer reading their own language can have their sayings. So feel free to translate as long as there will be a link in the translated post linking back to the original.

If you needed any help, you can contact Pep, the blog owner for more details.

Interesting opinions all, and also inspiring for the following article:)have a great time.

Dolce said...

The suggested Ribery-Villa-Messi tridente would be too small and ineffective. Ribery and Villa would score combined about 15 goals less than Eto'o and Henry, so it would be very harmful for the whole team. Some of you seem to live in a dream world where is no injuries, rotatation and suspensions. If Barca buys two players, it doesnt mean that Barca must also offload two players. Barca needs more game winning players and the team has now a quite small squad. The best thing would be that both Henry and Eto'o stay and then buying 1-2 new world class attackers. Barca earns over €400M next season so its a quite childish to think that Barca could not afford to give a raise to Eto'o.

kamikaze kontiki said...

Great article as usual, Ramzi.

The least complicated option for me would be to hang on to both Eto'o and Henry and sign a world class left winger. I actually wouldn't mind if we also signed Llorente because while we can use Henry as a sub- striker next season we will be in a fix if aging Henry picks up an injury and Eto'o is suspended or cant play for any other reason. Bojan is a player I like a lot but I still would use him only as a luxury option rather than burden him immediately with a main striker's responsibilities.

Henry said...

Summer 2009:

G: Buffon or Cech or Diego Lopez or Asenjo. And Ruben Mino from Barça Atletic.
D: Henrique. Armand Traoré or G. Bale.
M: Fabregas.
A: Gai from Barça Atletic. Torres or Ibrahimović. Keirrison.

G: Valdes. Jorquera.
D: Sylvinho.
M: Gudjohnsen. Hleb.
A: Eto'o. Bojan(loan).


---------Torres or Ibra-


Jamrock said...

No place for iniesta even in the 2nd team, your a fool delete that post

Henry said...

With the pardon, I forgot, no doubt because Iniesta should be in the team.

DC86 said...

I disagree that Bojan is better at wing, he just need a chance and consistancy in the middle.( This is not much important, just a tought). For me the best scenario would be to sold Eto and for that money bring Villa ( Valencia is in financial debt-NEED money), and give Hleb+money for Ribery.Henry and Bojan stays. Bring Ansenjo for GK, and no need for LB, esspecialy not Lahm or sb high profile player.
GK- Valdes/Pinto/Asenjo
Defence- same + Henrique ( Silvie free) Abidal/Caceres/Puyol cover LB
MID- same + maybe some B teamer or Crossas
ATT- Ribery/Messi/Pedro/Bojan/Henry/Villa/Assulin + Inesta can cover

Ramzi said...

Hilal regarding Torres Vs Villa:

Torres: Is better physically and taller. He is better putting pressure on the opponents defense and is better if we are talking about an Inbox striker. He is younger as well.

Villa: Is better technically and has a better finishing than Torres. He also can serve himself better than Torres. His skills help him to generate more chances for himself to score while Torres is more dependent on the team service. Villa is more versatile so he can play on the flanks the same as he can play in the box.

Now who is better?

It is a close comparison and it depend on the team needs, Torres is better for some teams while Villa is better for others.

If we are talking about the striker position for Barcelona. I think Torres has a little edge over villa, because he his pluses are more needed for barcelona than Villa pluses (as a striker):

- Villa is a better in self service. But with a team like barcelona you don't really need that when you have Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Alves etc.... so thank you "striker", but u will be well served here.

- Villa has slightly better finishing but with the amount of scoring opportunities barcelona generate in the box the difference will be to finish the game 10 minutes sooner or later between the two options.

- Villa is better for counters, Torres with his physical attributes may have an edge (in the box) against Bus parking, something that concern Barcelona more.

- Torres put more pressure on opponents defense with is a vital part of barcelona style.

- Torres is younger.

- Villa versatility give him an edge over Torres, and thats something Barcelona require.

But there is one advantage Villa has and make him an absolute better striker for Barcelona. He is a more realistic target.

Kxevin said...

I could see both leaving, actually. The complexity about Henry is that, as Ramzi has noted, he is a "9" who can also play on the wing, creating chances and scoring goals from there. That kind of a player is extremely rare. If he goes, you almost have to think about two players to replace him. Interesting quandary.

Eto'o has been the business for us. Again as Ramzi has mentioned, the chaos that he creates with his constant motion, harassing the keeper into an early goal kick, tracking back on defense and just being a pest, is of immense value. He never stops running, even when there isn't really anywhere to run to. Because you never know. This quality is why I tend to favor Eto'o over Villa.

I think that having an on-form Henry and a supercharged Eto'o is a lot of the reason we have had such a good offensive season.

The possibilities that people mention are interesting. But Torres isn't even realistically in the picture. Thank (in part) the jackasses who run the Liga on the TV side for that. They should all be cockpunched. EPL means exposure, riches, etc, etc.

Villa is a strong possibility, particularly given Valencia's fiscal complexities. But as a direct replacement for Eto'o, I'd take Eto'o. All day.

Dolce's comment about the Ribery/Villa/Messi trident is spot on. You need that for-real, double-team required at all times danger man (Henry this season, Ronaldinho in past seasons) to make the rest of our attack go.

Krkic is very talented, but I am starting to wonder if he is ever going to be what we all hope he will become. So likely in the market will be folks such as: Ibra (maybe), Adebayor (definitely if Arsenal doesn't make Champions League), Villa (for sure). The rest are the Kerrisons, etc of the world, who are full of potential, but who knows.

My preferred attacking group would be, as with ayman, some combo platter of Messi/Henry/Ribery/Iniesta, with Villa also in the mix.

This summer is going to be very interesting. I don't think the newbies (Hleb, Keita) are going anywhere, because they are still unknown. Imagine if we'd given up on Henry last year.

Gudjohnsen definitely is, and then you have folks such as Marquez, Sylvinho and Milito (is he too damaged to be back). Frankly, I'm more worried about quality subs at right and left back than our front line.

Warik said...

Keep Henry, sell Eto'o and buy Villa.

A scoring threat on our left wing is a necessity, that isn't up for debate. For all Ribery and Silva's attributes they aren't a consistant goal threat in the way Henry is on the left and Ronaldinho in his prime was.

I cannot see Ribery or Silva providing us with 20 goals or more in a season from the left of our attack. Simply put Henry has to stay until someone arises who can fill his niche, providing 20 or more goals a season.

Marc4barca said...

lol warik are u aware messi has more goals on the right flank than eto and henry.. just now u made it seem like scoring on the flanks is a tough task.. the way barca plays its far from tough. ronaldo scored 42 goals on the flank mostly against small teams and in more open games but neither the less the team gave him all the chances and he took them. scoring on flanks isn't hard and i am ignorant enough to say ribery would probably be on more goals than henry. the big question is can henry repeat this next year with those aging legs he will be 32 or 33 by next season and wingers do alot of running so think about that first and its not really necessary to have both flanks scoring goals.

noubarca said...

Keep it coming guys, I am loving the different opinions. We (BARCA) have a lot of intelligent followers

Anonymous said...

keep henry sell etoo
Henry will be satisfied with the bench role being 32 etoo won't
And about the scoring rate going down if henry leaves , beleive me it won't
Surly ribery doesn't score like henry but he's super fast , has better skills to take on defenders and he can surly create more chances than henry
Toni scored 40 goals last season ribery assisted 29 of those goals

Koyya said...

Hey Pep
Live Match Chat
Can you make it alive on march 20th??
so that we can have a chat while the draw is going on?

Anonymous said...

Henry hardly creates on wing. With a true winger, the striker and e eryone goals will go up. I say ribery or silva, No need to offload eto or henry, but is looking to future, maybe get aguero as henry replacement.

unreal2 said...

we RAMZI, we have talked about the possibility of getting torres or villa in case eto'o leaves. how bout getting benzema or aguero or podolski. i dont think we should have financial problems in signing any of these.

well i have seen podolski play in EURO 08 and in the UCL match against Lisbon, and he is not happy at the moment because he is been benched. do u think he is the right player for us and can he adopt to our style of play?

and how about benzema or aguero? should we consider one of these 3 players should eto'o leave?

Warik said...

Scoring from the flanks isn't as easy as "Marc4Barca" is trying to make it out. Saying Messi and Ronaldo can do it doesn't prove anything, the two best players on the planet can score goals, so what? that doesn't make it an easy task. When Henry played terribly last year he still scored the same as Ribery when Ribery was supposed to have been on fire. This year he has scored double the amount of goals. People just want Ribery for the fancy tricks that we have lacked since Ronnie left.

Personally I feel we should keep Henry and try and blood Gai in when he gets Spanish citizenship. With Henry and Iniesta capable of playing on the left, and a very promising talent in Gai comming up I believe there are other areas in the squad we can strengthen more than the left of our attack.

Marc4barca said...

Warik u can't compare bayern to barcelona and ribery is a good footballer he can score on flanks cause barca make it possible for them. do you think and out of form henry can score 19 goals at bayern nope i don't think so. like i said both flanks don't need to score anyways at first messi was just a support player he hardly scored any goals and barca were still dominating cause ronaldinho was scoring.. ribery will bring more to the left flank and open up the game more henry can stay but as a sub.. a player that play both LW and CF at 32 is the best possible super sub. henry won't be able to play so much next season cause he is getting old and not every youth talent can make it to barca so we need to stop rushing them into first team, give gai more time. when u people say ribery is on fire they don't mean goals they mean beating defenses and assisting. "They want him for fancy tricks" u said, those fancy tricks beat defenders and win games. i'm a henry fan but barcelona comes first and henry will not produce the same performance next year. simply put he is too old and if we don't make the bid for ribery this season he might end up at manu or real and we will lose out on one of the best players to date.

Warik said...

You say fancy tricks win games but we struggled to win games in the past two seasons even with the master of fancy tricks on our left hand side. Simply put it isn't a requirement. Messi is so good because his method of passing players is simple, keep the ball to feet and use shoulder movement to fool the defense. It isn't always about age either, Figo was a very good player out wide until around 34 years of age, as have others.

Not every youth talent can make it but you don't know if you don't give them the chance. Too many top players have left us over the years because they didn't feel they would ever get a chance. Gai is supposed to be one of the best we have, if he doesn't get a chance who will? It doesn't send a good message to the youth teams when every time we can we go off and buy players. We want a new young striker, people talking about Llorente, Benzema etc, what does that do to Bojan? It hardly sends a message of loyalty.

We also shouldn't buy players just to stop another top team getting them. If he goes to Real or Man Utd I don't care, you can't have every top player, if it isn't Ribery it will be someone else, then someone else. It never ends, there is always a player we have to snap up or they go elsewhere it seems.

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