Saturday 10 January 2009

Xavi: "Give me a couch and a movie and I'm happy"

Barcelona player Xavi gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

What has been the critical comment that has annoyed you most?
They have said all kinds of things about me, but I understand that because you cannot be liked by everyone. It's never nice to be criticized but you have to be able to form your own idea on your performances, otherwise you don't know what to believe. But of course bad comments affect me, like they affect everybody. And I read all of them... I accept every opinion although there are things that I didn't like, people saying that I don't have a personality, that I don't have depth in my game... Now I'm going through a good period but I keep on saying that I depend on my teammates. If you give a hoizontal pass that's because they asked me, I'm the passing guy and my way of playing depends on the others.

What do you mean, that Xavi is the barometer of Barça?
That would be too much praise, that's not right. It's true that I particpate a lot during the game, I touch more than 80 balls in a match. I like to be the playmaker. I have a big responsibility, protecting the ball, holding it, offering myself... I want to help the teammates. I try to make it easier for them. I'm also like that off the pitch.

A key player has to be modest?
You need to have enough selfesteem, otherwise they walk over you. You need to have a lot of personality if you want to win, but that doesn't mean you should be selfish.

This team has a lot of leaders?
Yes, there are more leaders than other years, some because of playing here for several years, others because of their importance for the team... Milito for example is only here for one year but because of the way he talks, he's a leader, like is Márquez.

Do you feel a leader?
I feel important within the group, people respect me for the years I'm here. I'm perfectly happy with my role.

Are you demanding towards yourself or do you need someone else to put some pressure?
I take care of myself. After the game against Madrid for example, I was thinking that I didn't participate like I usually do but if you start to look at the man-marking, that they were on top of me... It was a tough game. But when your team wins, you sleep well even if you didn't play well.

Having to pay tribute to Madrid last season is what hurt you most?
No, it didn't. It's a matter of modesty. Madrid was the champion and you have to respect that. The 4-1 and the referee, that angered me.

Something has changed in your life now that you're going through your best moments?
I would like to have some more privacy, although I know it won't happen. Sometimes people that I don't like approach me. It's as if everyone want to have a taste of you. So I would like to be a little more anonymous, but that's the price you have to pay. Although on the other hand it's also a privilege because I like to be admired for what I do as a football player. But besides that, I'm a normal guy and people don't see me like that. It seems foolish that people look at footballers being on another level than the others.

You never took advantage of your fame...
Well, it works both ways. If you go to a restaurant, you can have some special treatment but afterwards you have to pose with them for a picture. I've adapted to the whole thing and I won't complain.

There are things you're not doing anymore?
I had already stopped doing them because I wanted to become a professional player.

You had childhood idols?
No, only people I admired as a player. I didn't like to ask for autographs. It was enough for me that I could see them train. I liked to see them play. I liked Koeman, Pep, Romario...

What's the gift you would like most for the new year?
Above all, staying healthy and keep on enjoying together with my family. I think more about the others than about myself. I don't need a lot. If you give me a couch and put on a movie, I'm happy. I don't need a luxurious hotel on the Maldives, I just want to feel well-surrounded.

This was the third and last part of this interview. You can read the first two parts here:
"How did this happen?!"
"Messi is playing at his own level"

Marquez and Hleb not in Osasuna list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola has earlier today announced the list of 18 players for the eighteenth game of the Spanish league against Osasuna tomorrow evening at 9 pm.

The list:
Valdés, Pinto,
Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Cáceres, Abidal, Sylvinho,
Xavi, Touré, Busquets, Keita, Gudjohsen,
Messi, Eto'o, Bojan, Henry, Iniesta

Hleb, who couldn't train properly this week because of some ankle problems, Pedro, who will play with Barcelona Atlètic tomorrow, and Jorquera are not included int he list. Márquez is suspended because of five yellow cards. Milito and Víctor Sánchez are not available because of injuries.

Barcelona had a last training session this morning. The squad will travel tomorrow to Pamplona. The players are expected at 10:15 am in the Camp Nou for a breakfast and will leave for the airport at 11 am.

[Crosas] Celtic Glasgow-Dundee

Celtic Glasgow played this afternoon the 1/8 finals of the Scottish cup. The Scottish champions defeated second division club Dundee 2-1.

Former Barcelona midfielder Marc Crosas started the game and played over an hour before being replaced by Robson in the 64th minute.

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.

Sunday 9 November - League game 12: Celtic Glasgow-Motherwell 0-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 12 November - League game 13: Celtic Glasgow-Kilmarnock 3-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Sunday 16 November - League game 14: Hamilton-Celtic Glasgow 1-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 22 November - League game 15: Saint Mirren-Celtic Glasgow 1-3
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Tuesday 25 November - Champions League group stage game 5: Aalborg-Celtic Glasgow 2-1
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 30 November - League game 16: Celtic Glasgow-Inverness 1-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Sunday 7 December - League game 17: Hibernian-Celtic Glasgow-Inverness 2-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 10 December - Champions League group stage game 6: Celtic Glasgow-Villareal 2-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 13 December - League game 18: Celtic Glasgow-Hearts 1-1

Sunday 21 December - League game 19: Falkirk-Celtic Glasgow 0-3

Saturday 27 December - League game 20: Rangers-Celtic Glasgow 0-1

Saturday 3 January - League game 21: Celtic Glasgow-Dundee United 2-2

Saturday 10 January - Cup 1/8 finals: Celtic Glasgow-Dundee 2-1
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Robson in the 64th minute (2-1).

1. Celtic Glasgow 51
2. Rangers (20) 43
3. Dundee United 35
4. Hearts (20) 32

Bundesliga top scorer Ibisevic offered

British newspaper The Times claims that Hoffenheim forward and Bosnian international Vedad Ibisevic (24) has been offered by his club to several European top clubs, among which Barcelona.

The transfer fee asked for the current German Bundesliga top scorer is expected to be around 9 million euro°.

Read more:
Barcelona scouting Hoffenheim's Carlos Eduardo
Barcelona considers offer for free agent Cruz
Barcelona preparing bid for AZ striker El Hamdaoui

Watch a video of Ibisevic here:

Barcelona working on Valdes renewal

Asked about the contract situation of some players of the squad, Barcelona president Joan Laporta has confirmed in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that the club wants to renew the contract of Barcelona goalkeeper Víctor Valdés (26):

"We wants some players to stay at the club for many more years and one of them is Víctor Valdés. But this issue is being taken care of by the sports director."

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Valdés, whose current contract expires in the summer of 2010, is one of the key players Barcelona wants to offer a renewal. The club considers that given his age, the Catalan goalkeeper can still make progress.

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain would be preparing the renewal and would already have had a first contact with the player's agent. The negotiations will be started soon and despite the player wanting to stay, the talks aren't expected to be easy because of the financial demands of the player (read more here).

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the talks with Valdés have already started, which means that the goalkeeper is the next player the club wants to reach a renewal agreement with. The starting positions of both parties are far from each other but the clear intention to close a deal makes a positive outcome very probable.

Read more:
Valdes is next renewal target
Guardiola asked for three goalkeepers
Tottenham was looking for Valdes agent

Hleb: "I'm speaking Russian with Toure"

Barcelona player Alexander Hleb gave an nterview to Catalan newspaper El Periódico.

How do you feel six months after your arrival?
Little by little I'm feeling better. I had to deal with a lot of changes. Everything was new: the team, the language, the atmosphere. It hasn't been easy but I got a lot of help. I try to learn and to find my place in the group.

No, I'm not refering to adapting to the level of the game, but to the fact of understanding the style, knowing how everything works around here. It's very different compared to what I have known at Arsenal and I need some time. That's normal. And above that, I didn't play for a month because of an injury.

Are you coming close to reaching your best level?
Not yet. I need to feel more confident, have good feelings on the pitch and certainty about what I have to do. I need more games and more training sessions.

That's the biggest difficulty?
No. The language is. I have a hard time learning it. As for the rest, I like everything about Barcelona: the city, the food is incredible, the climate... People here enjoy life more. I'm having a normal life here, relaxed. I often go to the city. I'm very happy. Playing alongside people like Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Henry, Puyol, Márquez is something very big. I want to play more, but I'm satisfied with my work. I know it's not easy for the coach. He has to choose between 22 great players.

With whom do you connect best?
I get along with everyone, but a little better with those who speak English, like Henry, Gudjohnsen, Márquez, Abidal... With Touré, I'm speaking Russian. He really talks it very well. It surprised me a lot to hear that an Ivorian knew Russian.

You understand that the coach is rotating so that everyone can play?
Yes, you accept it. It's normal that everyone wants to play. We all need minutes and rhythm to reach our best level.

Guardiola says you can play at the five attacking positions. What's your favourite one?
When I was younger, I used to splay as second striker, behind the centre forward. When I played for Arsenal, I learnt to play on the right and the left wing. If I could choose, I prefer to play as attacking midfielder, but if the coach wants me to play on the wing, that's no problem. It's the same which wing. The problem there is that you're sometimes five minutes without touching the ball.

It's striking how you are able to use both legs on the pitch.
When playing, I have the same confidence in both of them. I'm right-footed but when I was six years old, my father made me practice with my left foot.

This was the first part of this interview. You'll be able to read the second part here in the coming days with Hleb talking -among other things- about his youth in the USSR and his lack of scoring.

Read more:
Hleb: "The atmosphere at the stadium was great"
Touré: "That goal was a bit lucky"
Xavi: "How did this happen?!"

Toure wants a pay rise

Asked about the rumours linking Barcelona defensive midfielder and Ivory Coast international Yaya Touré (25) with a move away from Barcelona (read more here), the player's agent Dimitri Seluk has said in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that the key element could be the renewal negotiations on the player's salary:

"It's one hundred per cent certain that the player will stay with Barcelona until the end of the season because he wants to stay here. But in June anything can happen because Touré has important offers and I'm sure the club will also receive bids for the player. Touré is playing well and we should take into account that despite having performed at a good level since he joined Barcelona, he still keeps earning the same as when he played with Monaco."

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Touré would at this moment being paid little more than 2 million euro a year while Manchester City could now have offered the Ivorian midfielder a year salary of 6,5 million euro gross.

Barcelona and Touré agreed in 2007 that the player would receive the same salary as he was getting at Monaco but that if things were going well, he would be offered a better contract for this season. But last summer the club argued that a rise wasn't an option because the club didn't win any trophies, while Touré thought he deserved it based on his individual performances. With both Touré and his agent losing money, the player would now be open to listen to offers from foreign clubs.

Despite Touré being happy at the club, Touré will start talking with other clubs if no renewal negotiations are started this year. The tabloid claims that Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola considers Touré to be a decent player but isn't a big fan of the midefielder. Taking into consideration the breakthrough of Busquets, it's uncertain if Barcelona is willing to offer Touré a better contract.

Read more:
Toure leaves all future options open
Bid from Manchester City for Toure
Toure is again an option for Arsenal

Decision on Henrique's future next month

Asked what will happen when his one year loan deal ends, Bayer Leverkusen central defender and Barcelona loan out Henrique (22) has said in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that Barcelona will make a decision on his future in the coming weeks:

"My agent is constantly in contact with Barcelona and I know now that they will tell me next month if I will continue to play on loan or if I will return to the Camp Nou next season.

If they call me back, I see myself capable of playing at Barça. I have learnt a lot playing with Bayer Leverkusen and although the start was a bit hard I can say now that I have adapted to European football. I can't wait to put on the Barça shirt. I'm closely following the team on television and the truth is that it's great to see them play. If they continue like this, they will sure win some trophy."

Read more:
How is Henrique doing at Bayer?
Henrique getting ready to play for Barcelona
Henrique is making progress in Leverkusen

Friday 9 January 2009

Quote of the day: Ribery

Only Barcelona is superior to us at this moment.
Bayern is on a level with every other club.

Franck Ribéry, Bayern Munich 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 last 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 Osasuna on Sunday.

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 four hours before the start of the game, in this case: until 5 pm barcelona time.

If you give your line-up before Guardiola announes his match list (or if 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 the most points at the end of the season, can call himself the winner.

This is the 19th time this game is organized.




mario ch

Dan R

Barca nike
Cali Socis
B. Beltrocco

blaugrana poland

The Video: Atletico

Melo happy about not joining Barcelona

Asked about his choice to sign for Fiorentina last summer, Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo (25) has said in an interview with Firenze local newspaper Il Nuovo Corriere that he's happy with his decision not to join one of the other interested clubs, among which Barcelona:

"I have no regrets at all about having chosen Fiorentina because I always want to play and for example at a team like Barcelona, I wouldn't have had the certainty of playing every game."

Read more:
Barcelona sounded out Melo
OFFICIAL: Henrique Adriano Buss
Barcelona prepares offer for left back Vargas

Medical: Abidal uncertain for Osasuna game

Barcelona's medical staff has announced that Barcelona left back Eric Abidal (29) has caught a flu.

The French player has been given medication yesterday and he will need to rest until he'll be examined again on Saturday.

Read more:
Medical: Victor Sanchez out for at least one week

Ezquerro: "I made very good friends at Barça"

Former Barcelona and current Osasuna player Santiago Ezquerro gave an interview to Barcelona's official media.

How are you feeling at Osasuna?
We are not in a very comfortable position. We want to get out of the relegation zone as quickly as possible. The fact that we are in the relegation zone also means we haven’t been able to show our full potential.

Mentally it must have been a big move for you to leave Barça and come to Osasuna. After fighting for every title, now you are struggling to avoid the drop.
They are a team with different objectives. I had been in other teams before. I was at Athletic for seven years, and at Mallorca... and every club has different aims for the end of the season, and that’s what you have to achieve. For me it is essential to feel important and give all I have in me to achieve those group targets.

And for Osasuna this year, that’s not dropping down to the second division.
Yes. We have to be strong at home and show what Osasuna has always been about, a hard team to beat at the Reyno de Navarra. In the last few games it has been like that again.

From Pamplona and as a very recent ex-Barça man, what do you make of Guardiola’s team?
I don’t think I would be saying anything new if I said that Barça are playing at a very high level. Whoever plays, the team seems to work. Nobody is indispensable and that means it all works well. They create a lot of chances and are very difficult to beat.

So what would you do to stop Barça on Sunday?
We have to be focused in defence and do all we can to make sure the ball is in their half for as much of the game as possible. We have to do what Barça dislikes so much, hold onto the ball and create pressure up front, and most important of all, make the most of the chances we get.

How have Barça changed from last season to this one?
Football goes in cycles. When I was at Barcelona we also had a great period in terms of results, and then one that wasn’t as good. Now Barça are going through a good spell and everything is going right for them.

What do you think all this success boils down to? Is it thanks to Messi?
Messi is showing that he is a great player, but Barça is not just about Messi. If Messi plays well that’s because such a good job is being done by all the other players. For me it’s the whole team that’s important: Xavi, Iniesta, Gudjohnsen, who’s having a sweet moment....

As for Sunday, will make any difference that Osasuna played their cup game 48 hours later than Barça?
Not at all. It’s not a problem. The Sunday match is a late one, at 21.00, and it’s a game any player would want to play in. There is plenty of time to recover and get ready to face Barça.

What do you miss most about Barcelona?
In Barcelona I enjoyed three seasons. But what I miss the most is the weather. In Pamplona it is much, much colder. As for football, you do miss the fact we were competing for titles: at Barça you went out onto the pitch knowing you had to win every game.

Are you still in contact with former team mates at Barça?
Yes. I speak to them a lot. I often speak to Valdés, Xavi, Sylvinho, Gudjohnsen, Iniesta... I made very good friends at Barça.

Read more:
Ezquerro presented at Osasuna
The expiring contracts
OFFICIAL: Ezquerro to Osasuna

Musical preferences of the Barcelona players

Catalan sports paper Sport asked the Barcelona players about their musical preferences when travelling with the team.


Zeca Pagodinho
Ana Carolina
Seu Jorge

David Bisbal

El Canto del Loco

Koffi Olomide

Rolling Stones



Dire Straits

Koffi Olomide


Leo Mattioli




Boyz II Men

Guns N' Roses

Víctor Sánchez
Antonio Orozco

Bruce Springsteen

Read more:
Coldplay on the Barcelona bus

Villa and Van Persie among summer targets

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola will soon meet to start preparing the next season.

The paper claims that two of the biggest names that will be on the transfer target list for next summer are Arsenal winger and Dutch international Robin van Persie (25) and Valencia forward and Spanish intervational David Villa (27).

Four criteria will especially be taken into account when deciding on the incoming transfers:

- Limitation of non-'European Union' players. With Cáceres, Touré and Hleb, Barcelona has already three non-EU players, Henrique could be number four next season. That's why the club prefers to sign players with a EU passport.

- Africa Cup 2010. Touré, Keita and Eto'o will most probably not be available during the month of January and maybe a part of February next season. That's why the club prefers not to sign any more African players who will participate in the tournament.

- Lack of left-footed players. With the right wing being stronger this season, Barcelona prefers to bring in footballers able to play on the other wing.

- Affordable price. There's money to spend but the club won't pay excessive transfer fees.

Read more:
Barcelona wants Van Persie for the left wing
Villa again linked with Barcelona move
Bid for Cesc and Van Persie being planned

Friendly 7: Barcelona-Bunyodkor 1-1





19 Puyol 1-0
[1st half] Soliev 1-1

participating substitutes
Víctor Vázquez
Xavi Torres


not in match squad

Víctor Sánchez

Friendly goal scorers
6 Eto'o
4 Messi
3 Puyol
2 Bojan
2 Gudjohnsen
2 Jeffren
2 Pedro
2 Xavi
1 Cáceres
1 Henry
1 Hleb
1 Márquez
1 Touré

Friendly 1: Hibernian-Barcelona 0-6
Friendly 2: Dundee United-Barcelona 1-5
Friendly 3: Fiorentina-Barcelona 1-3
Friendly 4: Chivas-Barcelona 2-5
Friendly 5: New York Red Bull-Barcelona 2-6
Friendly 6 (Gamper): Barcelona-Boca Juniors 2-1


Medical: Victor Sanchez out for at least one week

Barcelona's medical staff has announced that Barcelona polyvalent midfielder Víctor Sánchez (21) has suffered a 0,5 centimetre rupture of the sartorius muscle at the back of his right thigh during Wednesday's training session.

The Catalan player will be out for seven to ten day and won't therefore be available for the Sunday league game against Osasuna.

Read more:
Medical: Marquez uncertain for Atletico game
Barcelona wants to renew Victor Sanchez
Medical: Green light for Iniesta

Toure leaves all future options open

Asked about the rumours linking him with a move to Manchester City or Arsenal (read more here), Barcelona defensive midfielder and Ivory Coast international Yaya Touré (25) has said to journalists after the cup game against Atlético Madrid that he doesn't think about a move now but that nothing can be excluded for the future:

"I play for Barcelona now and I don't think about these things. But I have a manager who works for me and thinks about all these things because for me the most important thing is the football. The important thing is I want to play. I want to tell you that I play football. My friend and manager sorts these things out for me. I'm more concentrated on the football.

When a big club call you it's very good for me because I'm an African player and when a big team like Arsenal and Manchester City call me I'm very happy because all African players want to go to a big club. But right now I play for Barcelona and I want to make everything work and then after I will see.

If I went to Arsenal I would of course go and play with my brother and I've thought about this for a long time. Two or three years ago I went there, but I didn't sign. Arsenal are a great team and that time when I went there they had Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, great players... I think now I'm playing at a big club with Barcelona, who are one of the best clubs in the world."

Asked about the rumour about Manchester City preparing an offer (read more here), Touré's agent Dimitri Seluk said in an interview with Catalan radio station Ràdio Kanal Barcelona that there hasn't been any contact with the English Premier League club:

"As Touré is one of the best players of the world at his position, it's normal that some clubs are interested in him. Manchester City is an ambitious club and they have money to spend but I didn't talk with them. They should first talk with Barça anyway. But Touré is happy at Barça, at this moment the best club in Europe, and he doesn't have the intention to leave."

British tabloid The Daily Star meanwhile claims that Touré could be used as part of an exchange deal with Arsenal, with Barcelona possibly planning to make a 50 million euro package bid for Arsenal players Cesc and Van Persie during next summer's transfer window (read more here).

Read more:
Bid from Manchester City for Toure
Toure is again an option for Arsenal
Touré considers transfer if he doesn't play more

Thursday 8 January 2009

Number of the day: 17


the number of cards given so far this season
as a consequence of faults made on Sergio Busquets

Plans for new US tour confirmed

Asked about the reports that Barcelona would return to the United States next summer (read more here), Barcelona economic vice-president Joan Boix confirmed in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that a new tour is being planned:

"We'll go back to the United Stated. It's not official yet, but we've scheduled a new tour over there. It's a market in which we want to grow because it's an important one for the Barça brand. Playing more games there will help us to gain more revenues. The potential is incredible."

Barcelona marketing vice-president Jaume Ferrer also confirmed the plans for a new tour in the United States in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràadio: "We will return to play another series of games in what is a key market for our club. We need to go there to strengthen our position."

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that the cities where the team will play in July or August still have to be chosen, although Barcelona could well turn to the East coast and Miami this time.

Read more:
Barcelona to play in LA, Seattle and Miami
FCB Miami: Interview with Barcelona partner Claure
Barcelona plans new US tour in 2009

Barcelona squad visits children in hospitals

The Barcelona squad went to visit children in the hospitals in and around Barcelona yesterday.

Seven groups each visited one hospital:

- Valdés, Alves, Cáceres, Bojan, assistant coach Vilanova, president Laporta, vice-president Franquesa

- Messi, Piqué

- Márquez, Henry, Abidal, Puyol, Hleb, manager Guardiola, vice-president Godall
- Eto'o, Iniesta, Touré, Keita, goalkeepingcoach Unzué

- Sylvinho, Jorquera, Pedro

- Gudjohnsen, Pinto

- Xavi, Busquets, Víctor Sánchez

see more pictures here

Xavi: "Messi is playing at his own level"

Barcelona player Xavi gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

In Madrid they think that the Liga will get tough and that they still can win it...
Well, that's fine by me. That they're trying to fight back tells something about them. Because they've always been there, even when they were playing bad, they always refound themselves and have overcome complicated situations. At the end it's Madrid we're talking about, they're winners and that's why they react like that.

They played poorly at the Camp Nou?
Barça has a clear philosophy, that starts with ball possession. Their philosophy is to win no matter how, we want to win by playing well. We're never gonna change that and a coach with a different philosophy won't join the club.

That's why Mourinho didn't come?
I don't know about that, but maybe even he would have had to adapt to our philosophy that has made the fans very demanding, they want to see a good display ànd they want to win. And when you play well, you normally win. Madrid came here to play their game. They also saw that we were in a good moment. And we could all see a very defensive Madrid.

The fans are setting a high bar for this team?
When people don't come to the stadium, that's not our fault because we have played in a spectacular way... The fans who are there are enjoying it, but the global crisis and the television broadcasts have an influence. If you have to play at ten in the evening and it's cold and you have three little children, you won't come. I cannot imagine that it's for football reasons.

A football player is affected by the crisis?
Of course! I feel it because I have some real estate business and the interests and mortgage loans are going up. But of course I don't feel it in my daily life, we don't have problems to get to the end of the month.

You're satisfied about having signed a renewal last month?
I'm very happy at all levels. The club has valued me rightly. I don't want to think about my retirement because when I will be 34 years old I will maybe still feel excellent. I just want to keep on playing at the club of my life because it gives a double satisfaction when you win. Starting and ending a career at the same club is a privilege that is priceless. And I'm already privileged for being a football player, can you imagine how I feel about being a Barça player?

You play with more pressure now that the opponents are marking you more closely?
Not really more pressure, because I've learnt to deal with the pressure since I was 18 years old. There's always pressure at this club because you always have to win. Every pass, every ball, every control, everything has to be perfect, good or great is not enough. Mentally you sometimes get tired. Also because I'm not a physical player, I have to do it with my technique and my talent. I'm marked more closely now, but I actually like it.

Pep says that the thing he admires most about Xavi is your way of dealing with the pressure.
I can get stressed when I have to do something I'm not capable of, like for example having to speak before 300 people. But with a ball at my feet I don't feel the pressure, because that's one of the things I'm good at.

With the lead you have now, would it be a failure if you don't win the league?
Hypothetically you can speak about anything. I like to talk about the reality and our situation can't get better in any way. We will win or we will lose. We're very dependent on ourselves. We have an advantage but there's a long way to go.

Does it surprise you that the team seems to have something extra after key players like Ronaldinho and Deco left...
It's a coincidence because they weren't to blame. Every player of the squad and the coach and the other memebers of the staff were to blame for what happened.

Messi has definitely taken over the role as kep player this season.
If I were the captain of the Spanish national team, my vote for the FIFA World player would have been one Messi, two Cristiano Ronaldo and three Gerrard or Ribéry, although I think I would have voted for Gerrard in the end because I'm familiar with the position he plays. But it's clear that there's one player who is at his own level and that's Messi. Who don't want to see that must be blind.

How is Eto'o doing after last summer's events?
Eto'o hasn't changed. He has his own way of living. He has good things and bad things like everyone but we respect him and we need him. We're stronger when he's there because he's the best centre forward in the world. It's a guy who's always there when we need to score and his record is just scaring. Other seasons things happened that he thought being wrong and he also reacted in an wrong way. But it's a hard-working guy, honest, true. Someone who keeps the group together and who leads the project.

This was the second part of this interview. You will be able to read the third part later. Read the first part here:
Xavi: "How did this happen?!"

Read more:
Transfer history: Xavi was close to Milan
Deco: "The media pressure at Barca is huge"
Xavi delighted with renewal

Agent Keita denies Marseille talks

Asked about the rumours linking Barcelona midfielder and Mali international Seydou Keita (28) with asummer move to Marseille (read more here), the player's agent Pascal Boisseau has denied in an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien that the midfielder considers an exit:

"The whole story is totally false. I have indeed been in contact with Marseille about some players regarding the winter transfer period, but Seydou wasn't discussed. And I don't see a reason for him to change anyway: he's playing with Barcelona, the best club of the planet! Bluntly speaking, it would just be ridiculous if we would be looking for a transfer at this moment."

Keita is also quoted by the French paper as rejecting the chance of going back to France: "Olympique Marseille already was interested in me when I played my last season at Lens, but now I don't want to return to France."

Read more:
Marseille goalkeeper Mandanda followed
Already pre-agreement with Keita in December
Marseille wants to sign Keita next summer

Poll result - Man of the match: Atletico

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

1. Messi 95%
2. Alves 1%
3. The whole team 1%

see full results here
see other poll results here

Most minutes played: Top five

Barcelona's official website put out a list of players who have played the most minutes in official games so far this season:

1. Dani Alves 2088
2. Víctor Valdés 2076
3. Carles Puyol 1875
4. Xavi 1866
5. Lionel Messi 1699

The Pictures: Atletico (part 2)

(click the picture to enlarge)

(click the picture to enlarge)

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