Saturday 11 October 2008

Ronaldinho (3): "Barcelona is a magical place"

In an interview with Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo, AC Milan player Ronaldinho talked about his new club and his time in Barcelona.

(this is the third part of this interview, you can read the first and second part here and here)

What happened that the best team in history didn't continue winning?
I don't know, things are how they are, we almost won everything and when there are no trophies anymore the things that happened can happen... I will remember the good things of Barcelona, the leagues we won, the Champions League, I take the good memories with me. I'm like that. You can always see the negative and the positive side of things, I prefer the positive side. Now in Milan I'm somehow going through the sams as in Barcelona. I arrived in Barcelona when they didn't played the Champions League. At the beginning we had some problems but the people here -like there- adore me, it's been said that people started smiling again. When I was presented by Milan, there were 40 000 people, like in Barcelona. I played the derby and scored the decisive goal, like in Barcelona. So many similarities! My cycle with Milan starts now. I needed a stimulation to keep on winning and I have found it here. I have very good feelings about it cause it seems I'm living the same thing as in Barcelona, and I know how that one went... I hope things will be the same as in Barcelona.

You've also found a large Brazilian comunity here...
Yes, indeed. Dida, Emerson, Kaká, who I already know for ten years, Pato, who comes from my city, Seedorf, who's almost Brazilian and a great player... The truth is that we have an excellent group. Ancelotti also helps me a lot.

And Berlusconi loves you...
Yeah, yeah, I often don't really know how to deal with him. He's a very important person but he always taking care of me, asking if I don't need anything...

People see him more often in the night clubs than you.
There's nothing wrong with that, it's a normal thing that people want to relax and have fun... What's wrong about being normal?

You heard about the party some of your friends organized in Castelldefels recently?
Yes, of course, it was spectacular. But I want to stress again I never left, I will always come back. Barcelona continues to be a magical place for me. I've been lucky. Everywhere I have lived, people have treated me very well. I have made a lot of friends in Barcelona, I don't like saying goodbye, I'll be back...

I never heard you criticize some less nice things that have been said about you...
I'm happy with my way of living. For me, it's the right way. I keep the good things, which is a lot. This fills my life. All the other things aren't worth spending time on.

This is the third and last part of this interview.

Read the first and second part here:
Ronaldinho (1): "I want Barcelona to win everything"
Ronaldinho (2): "I miss Puyol a lot"

How things stood: Defensive midfielder

At the end of last season, this blog looked forward to the coming transfer summer under the title "How things stand". Five months later and knowing what we know now, it's interesting to take a look back.

He was the least known of the four transfers last summer, but Ivorian defensive midfielder Yaya Touré (24) established himself from the start as a key player in the team. If he was not fit or during the Africa Cup he was replaced by Rafael Márquez (29), Andrés Iniesta (23) or José Edmílson (31), who was injured during the first part of the season.


The contract of Brazilian defensive midfielder Edmílson, who arrived in 2004 from Olympique Lyon, expires in June and will not be renewed. In the last months the player has been linked with clubs like Betis, Besiktas and Villareal. Mexican central defender and defensive midfielder Márquez could also leave (read more here).


Barcelona had planned to bring in a solid back-up for Touré. But it is now to be seen what the effect of the appointment of Josep Guardiola as the new Barcelona manager will be on how this position will be filled in. If Guardiola wants to bring back the 'pivote', the playmaker before the defence that he has been during his career, it could well be that Xavi or Iniesta, who were formed at this position, could be pulled back.

Olympique Lyon midfielder and Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20), who was nicknamed "the new Guardiola" (both for the position he played as for the physical resemblance), has now probably more chance to come back, despite having said he would prefer to stay at least one more year at Lyon.

This could also cause Barcelona to look for another type of player. Barcelona has been linked with players like Christian Poulsen (Sevilla - 28), Seydou Keita (Sevilla - 28), Daniele De Rossi (Roma - 24), Stéphane Mbia (Rennes - 21) and David Albelda (Valencia - 30), but Guardiola could well prefer a player like Xabi Alonso (Liverpool - 26).

How things stood:

Hleb (1): "My team-mates laugh with my accent"

In an interview with Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona attacker Alexander Hleb talked about his first months at the club.

How is your recovery going?
I've done some extra training with Tito Vilanova, Paco Seirul.lo and Francesc Cos on Friday. We have a good feeling about it. I expect to receive the green lght in the coming days. If everything goes well, I'll be able to train normally with the group next week. Being part of the match squad next week? We'll see, we shouldn't rush things, although I'm like crazy to return to play. In this Barcelona you don't even want to miss a training session.

You felt bad not being able to play against Atlético Madrid?
And how! What a game! It was incredible. At least I could see it live. I enjoyed myself a lot. I thought about how lucky I am to be part of this squad.

How is your adaptation going?
It's going well, but it's a process that takes time. When you come from the English Premier League, you don't adapt to this new environment in one night. It's not only starting to drive on the right side of the road instead of on the left side, you know. There's more to it than that. You have to learn how your team-mates are thinking and how they like to move on the pitch so you can adapt your way of playing to that.

They are helping you out around here?
They do, a lot, everybody at the club is very involved and I'm very thankful. When I will be able to talk Spanish, everything will be easier. I will finally be able to ask Iniesta to go for a drink so we can talk a little. I would like to know him better. I can't believe he's really that timid. Now he always uses the excuse that his English is not good enough...

How are you communicating with your team-mates?
With Thierry Henry, who has been a great help, and with Gudjohnsen and Sylvinho, I'm talking English. And with Touré, I'm talking Russian. He knows it very well. It's strange how a guy from Minsk and an Ivorian use this language to talk, but it works. With the others I'm helping myself out with my basic Spanish. I attend classes three times a week, but my real teacher is Piqué. He gives me a big head because he doesn't stop talking. I always tell him to shut up. And of course they all laugh with my accent...

This was the first part of this interview. The rest will follow in the coming days with Hleb talking -amongst other things - about his preferred position on the ptich and the possible return of Cesc to Barcelona.

International: World cup and Euro u-21 qualifiers

Later today and early tomorrow, several Barcelona players could come in action with their national team, trying to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa or the European U-21 championships in Sweden next year.

4 pm
Italy-Israel (u-21)

4.30 pm

4.30 pm
Ivory Coast-Madagascar

5 pm
Equatorial Guinea-South Africa

8 pm
Piqué, Busquets, Bojan [Pedro]
Switzerland-Spain (u-21)

8.40 pm
Abidal, Henry

8.45 pm
Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta [Bojan]

8.45 pm

11.30 pm
Messi; Cáceres [Milito]

2 am

The time indications are "barcelona time". If you have seen one of these games, you can comment on them here.

Ramzi Rambles: A new day has come! (part 1)

An era ended, a new one started. Since the end of last season, the team witnessed a lot of changes, and it's good to take advantage of this international break to make an overview that covers all the aspects of the team including the new coach and his philosophy, transfers and their impact, and the expectations and demands for the near future.

The end of a glorious cycle!

It’s not possible to start talking about the new cycle before briefing about the previous one, even though it will need more than a briefing to give the Rijkaard era a fair analysis. Especially that, even for a person who has never been a big fan of Frank like me, it feels bad when I notice that the new fashion is to criticize Frank to praise Pep. So I will consider this part as a message of gratitude for this man.

While making a fast research to support my topic, I found an article about the Frank Rijkaard era on Wikipedia, so I need to mention that the following is a mix between what I read and what I believe, aiming to create an objective point of view.

Frank was appointed in a period where everything sounded too pessimistic for Barcelona. The team was under achieving, the club was in debt, there was nothing you could hang your hopes on, except a new board of directors from the new generation of Socis, with lot of enthusiasm and desire to turn the table! Even though they started their era with a huge disappointment for Barcelona fans - then - when they failed to sign David Beckham, who was the fans favorite target and the board election’s promise, but instead signed the secondary option, Ronaldinho.

The squad Rijkaard inherited was a mix of the old underachieving players who yield no success since 1999.

Rijkaard had a disappointing start at Barcelona that saw some sections of the club's fans call for his resignation, and even caused crisis when the board of directors split between those who wanted to sack him, and those who wanted to keep faith. He drew flak from the media when the team lost to Real Madrid in December 2003, before he unlocked the path for Barcelona to enjoy one of its best cycles, finishing second in 2003-2004 after a heroic come back, then with the strong support of Laporta, and within the next couple of years finally managed to win La Liga both in 2004–05 and in 2005–06. After rebuilding the squad signing new players like Deco, Samuel Eto'o, and Rafa Marquez.

He became the first Barcelona coach to have won twice at Real Madrid's stadium, an achievement which even successful managers like Johan Cruijff, Louis van Gaal and Luis Aragonés were unable to accomplish, so it wasn’t strange that he was among the five nominated coaches for UEFA's Team of the Year 2005. On March 8, 2006 he was also honored by UEFA for his contributions to the European Cup Competition throughout his career as player and manager.

As a coach, Frank Rijkaard's essential philosophy is to guide his team towards playing attack-minded football as a cohesive unit. In doing this, he believes a team can achieve the dual objectives of winning games and ensuring the audience's enjoyment of the spectacle.

The tactics used during his tenure as manager of FC Barcelona best exemplify Frank Rijkaard's commitment to playing stylish attacking football. During the team's 2004–05 and 2005–06 campaigns, the coach frequently fielded a 4-1-2-2-1 formation, a system which encouraged the creativity of the players in the front third of the field and created optimal interplay between the midfielders and forwards during attacks. Within this system the four defenders also tended to play in a relatively high position on the pitch to support the midfield which frequently advanced to participate in the attack. The team generally focuses on maintaining possession in the opponents' half of the field, applying pressure in order to force the opposition to make errors in defense and offensive counter-attacking.

With regards to man-management and motivation, Rijkaard rejects the notion of a "star system" and promotes the idea that every one of his players is a valuable member of the team. He rarely praises one individual over another in the squad, although he has been known to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of a player within the context of a team performance.

Yet, here are things I don’t like about him as a coach, but let me start with what I like:

  • No doubt he made very difficult and brave decisions; it wasn’t easy to release some of the most notable players in the squad like Juan Román Riquelme, Patrick Kluivert, and some other stars who were considered as untouchables, Beside giving the opportunity for Victor Valdes to take Rüştü Reçber's place – some may draw a sarcastic smile while reading this, but those who know how it was before will worship Valdes as a goal keeper. I simply like the coach when he makes his decisions based on what suits his vision, the coach needs to build his squad picking the right players, not the good players. That’s something Rijkaard must be appreciated for taking in consideration.
  • Even though the standard tactical structure of 4 – 3 – 3 is not an invention, especially for a Dutchman, but no one can doubt that it clicked for him perfectly. In addition his well to give his players the freedom to express themselves offered the perfect environment for Ronaldinho to turn the world around.
  • He was a decent figure, we never felt worried when we watched him in an interview because we knew he will never say or behave in a way that may scratch the club image or stature.

What I didn’t like about him:

  • He was not a tactical genius by any mean; poor reading of the game caused bad substitutions, inability to change the tactical structure or to enrich what’s existed.
  • Related to previous point, and the overdose of dependence on individual talent rather than collaborative work. It worked at the start because the squad contained a supernatural group of hungry talents including the most gifted player walking on the planet, beside the fact that the rise of Barcelona was timed with the declining of most of the major teams in Europe where most of them were at the end of a cycle – that may give an answer of how the hell Monaco and Porto played a Champions league final! But later on, when things became serious and when tactics became crucial he failed to meet the demands of the new challenge.
  • Inability to create a disciplined environment and to put boundaries for the players, neither outside the field – long nights – nor in the field whether it was during training or games.
  • Allowing some players to force their way into the starting line up based on their reputation and not on their form.

In brief, even though he is not the most gifted coach, but he was the perfect coach in the perfect situation, Barcelona had talents who only needed a coach to give them the chance to express themselves, and Rijkaard with his flexible tactics was a perfect choice for them, we saw in Barcelona a version of Ronaldinho that we hadn’t seen in France – PSG, where he had a more tactical oriented coach. What makes a coach good or bad is actually – besides knowledge - the kind of teams he coach and the conditions that govern his career, which is exactly what makes José Mourinho for example seems to be a more qualified coach than Guus Hiddink!

A coach who leads the club to win as many titles as Frank Rijkaard did, deserves to be imported in the clubs books and fans hearts.













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Next...The new adventure!

Possible deal on Brazilian striker Keirrison

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Barcelona could have reached an agreement on the transfer of Coritiba forward and Brazilian youth international Keirrison de Souza Carneiro (19).

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain would have met in Buenos Aires, Argentinia with the agents of the Brazilian striker, who has sixth months left on his Coritiba contract.

A transfer price of 13 million euro° would have been agreed upon. The fee will be split between Brazilian first division club Coritiba and the agents and owners of the player.

The paper also mentions another rumour that says that it is in fact an intermediary, appointed by Barcelona, who would have reached an agreement signed by all parties concerned, including Keirrison.

Keirrison is represented by the same agents as Barcelona central defender Henrique (21) and like in the case of Henrique, who plays on loan with Bayer Leverkusen this season after he joined Barcelona last summer (read more here), Keirrison could immediately leave on loan.

Asked about the rumours, Marcos Malaquias, one of the agents of Keirrison, denied the deal and indicated that he plans to travel to Spain next week to negotiate with Valencia.

Read more:
Henrique will be loaned out to Leverkusen

Secret talks with Rakitic

German tabloid Bild claims that Barcelona would already have been holding secret talks with Schalke 04 attacking midfielder and Croatian international Ivan Rakitić (20) about a January transfer.

Asked about the rumour that Barcelona would be preparing a 14 million euro° bid for Rakitic (read more here), Schalke manager Fred Rutten is quoted as saying he doesn't know anything about the issue.

Read more:

Gudjohnsen (2): "Guardiola reminds me of Mourinho"

In an interview with Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona attacker Eidur Gudjohnsen talked about the start of the new season.

(This is the second part of this interview. You can read the first part here)

This is your third season at the club and you still didn't win a trophy. Third time, good time?
I've always said that I came to Barcelona to win trophies, but this summer I had decided to leave. I nevertheless went to talk with the coach and by telling me that he had confidence in me and that I could be useful for the team, he made me change my mind. For me, there's no bigger club than Barcelona, I'm very happy about the decision I took and now I only hope to pay the coach back by helping the team winning trophies.

With six consecutive wins and the good performance against Atlético, you can dream of winning a trophy, no?
There are possibilities, but it's still too early to talk about this. We should keep on doing what we're doing and if we deserve them, the trophies will come in the end. In the league, for example, the fight won't only be with Real Madrid, cause I think Villareal, Valencia and Sevilla will also be though competitors.

The Liga is the priority for you?
The league always has to be the priority cause it's a reward of the work during a whole season and it assures you of the Champions league. Besides that, we didn't win in for two years now. The Champions league? That's a different competition and of course it would be special to win it, but now we should focus on winning every game.

You've already made clear that Guardiola has been important for you this season. Tell us something about him.
He's a coach of details. He knows how the players are feeling at every moment because he has been a top player himself and he acts to that. He and his whole team are very united and very prepared. Guardiola reminds me a lot of Mourinho, who I knew from my time at Chelsea. You cannot compare their coaching careers at this point, but both like to talk with the players, they have a strong character and very clear ideas. With Guardiola we train like we play, very intense, and that's something he really brought to the team. There's a lot of respect for him amongst the players and we all feel we can have a great season.

You're a close friend of Henry. You think he's not really happy in his private life, like Abidal has said?
I don't like to talk about the private life of Henry. I think Abidal didn't express himself well because he didn't have any bad intention. I would also like to go out for a dinner with the squad because this is good for the atmosphere, but the only problem is to find the right moment.

You understand the bad comments Henry has received?
It's understandable because people expected a lot but I don't understand why he's the only one that's being criticized. When things aren't going well, that means the whole team isn't functioning, not just one player. Henry is extremely talented and we're going to enjoy a lot with him.

You think he's better as centre forward?
If he's fit, Henry can play everywhere because for me he continues to be one of the best players in the world.

This was the second and last part of this interview.

Read the first part: Gudjohnsen (1): "I'm wearing this shirt with pride"

Busquets will be offered to renew until 2014

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona defensive midfielder and Spanish youth international Sergio Busquets (20) will be offered a contract renewal until the year 2014.

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain would already have scheduled a meeting with Josep Maria Orobith, the player's agent (read more here). The B team contract of Busquets expires next summer.

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Orobitg is waiting for Begiristain to contact him next week. Although there are several club interested in Busquets, who would currently be earning 30 000 euro a year, the player wishes to renew (read more here).

The paper also claims that at the end of August, Getafe and some other clubs were interested in Busquets. Getafe manager Víctor Muñoz wanted to sign Busquets, but Barcelona manager Guardiola refused to let the Catalan midfielder go.

Read more:

Friday 10 October 2008

Quote of the day: Vilanova

Valdés is the perfect goalkeeper for this team because of his understanding of our way of playing, his experience and his ability to save points and games.

Tito Vilanova, Barcelona assistant coach

Hleb continues recovery while others have days off

The five players who were available for training this week - goal keepers Valdés, Jorquera and Pinto, left back defender Sylvinho and defender-midfielder Víctor Sánchez - have worked from Tuesday to Thursday with Barcelona Atlètic at the Joan Gamper training centre.

The five players have now four days off, since the next training session is only scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Barcelona attacker Alexander Hleb had to travel in the beginning of this week to Belarus, where he was examined by the medical staff of his national team. On Wednesday he returned to Barcelona. On Thursday he cautiously joined the group training and today he continued his recovery on his own.

Youth: Anselmo called-up for Equatorial Guinea

Barcelona Juvenil A player Anselmo Eyegue (18) has been called up for the senior national team of Equatorial Guinea to play a World cup qualifier this weekend.

Barcelona's official website reports that Anselmo, who joined Barcelona from Catalan youth club Damm during the past summer transfer window, was born in the African country but moved soon to Barcelona.

Anselmo made his debut for Equatorial Guinea last June in a World cup qualifying game against Nigeria. He came on the pitch as a substitute after 73 minutes (read more

Read more:
First international call-up for Busquets
International: Piqué, Pedro and Gai
International: Bojan makes debut for Spain

Puyol (2): "Guardiola is obsessed"

In an interview with Catalan newspaper El Periódico, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol talked about the start of the new season.

Messi is still very Messi.
Leo is one of the best players in the world. We already knew that. Every games he shows something special. He's in great shape.

Messi on one side, Iniesta on the other. And Xavi behind them.
It's incredible. Those two are both also going through a great period. It's spectacular to see them play. Sometimes during training sessions I say to them: "If you would play against me, you sure would receive some death kick." Because you have the feeling you're gonna get the ball, but at the last moment they're getting away. You don't know how but they always get away. They're really great. Sometimes, during a game, you think: "Incredible, look how they're playing!" How much would it cost to sign these guys if they would be playing with another team? You couldn't pay them.

You're again enjoying the game?
Yes, but we should go step by step. Without losing our head when we lose, like happened against Numancia, nor losing focus now the results are good. We're only starting but it looks good so far.

All the captains - you, Xavi, Valdés and Iniesta - are all youth products.
That's a good signal, it means the youth academyy is working well, that important players are coming out of it who can compete at a big club like Barcelona. Are we the ones who have the lead the team? We cannot do that alone. We all have to put our grain but we're the ones who know the club best.

And now there's also a coach from the house.
We should let him do his job. We shouldn't compare him with anybody. He has learnt from all the coaches he had and from all the competitions in which he has played. He's obesessed, he wants to control every detail. He's very motivated and enthusiastic. We should let him find his way.

After winning the European cup with the Spanish national team this summer, it seems you have regained the confidence.
I was already feeling very good during the last months of the previous season, even after a difficult year. I started last season coming back from a bad knee injury. It was the first day of the holidays. Coming back from a friendly game in South Africa they told me that I needed surgery. I didn't accept it, I broke down, it was a very hard time. In the end, you have friends who give you the strength to go ahead. You can only end up thinking that you're a priviliged person. You're doing what you like best, playing football, and you're doing that with the best club in the world. What can you ask more? After the rain, there's always sunshine.

This was the second and last part of this interview. You can read the first part here:

Puyol (1): "This team is very hungry"

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