Saturday 14 February 2009

Match discussion: Betis

This evening at 8 pm bt,
Barcelona plays the 23rd game of the league against Betis Sevilla.

Betis squad list:
Ricardo, Casto, Melli, Fernando Vega, Juanito, Ilic, Juanma, Sergio García, Monzón, Pavone, Ricardo Oliveira, Rivera, Emaná, Mehmet Aurelio, Lima, Mark González, Juande, Alex Ortiz, Isidoro

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


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

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

Player of the Month: January

1. Lionel Messi
2. Daniel Alves
3. Andrés Iniesta

Player of the month September: *Andrés Iniesta* (read more here)
Player of the month October: Lionel Messi (read more here)

Player of the month November: Lionel Messi (read more here)
Player of the month December: Thierry Henry (read more here)

Man of the match poll results during the month January:

1. Henry 24%
2. Toure 23%
3. Puyol 21%

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

1. Messi 56%
2. Alves 13%
3. The whole team 11%

1. Iniesta 28%
2. Toure 17%
3. Alves 8%

1. Alves 47%
2. Messi 15%
3. The whole team 14%

1. No one 32%
2. Iniesta 12%
3. Puyol 12%

1. Messi 61%
2. Alves 15%
3. Iniesta 9%

1. Bojan 56%
2. Busquets 18%
3. Alves 9%

Eto'o wants to negotiate renewal in the summer

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona wants to renew the contract of Barcelona forward and Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o (27), whose current contract expires in 2010, or sell the player in the summer.

Barcelona's first option is the renewal of Eto'o but the club doesn't want the negotiations to drag on and is keeping an eye on the market in case a renewal deal wouldn't be found.

Eto'o would also want to renew the contract but wants to focus on football first. The player's agent Josep Maria Mesalles is quoted as saying that they don't want to talk in the coming months: "I already said before, and Eto'o has confirmed it, that we will talk about the future at the end of the season.

This is not to put some more pressure on the club or to gain more time. The player is happy, Barcelona has still a lot to fight for and I think that at this moment the most wise thing is to focus all efforts on trying to win the three trophies that are still in play. When all this comes to an end, that will be the moment to negotiate."

Asked about the future of Eto'o, the player's brother David Eto'o said in an interview with Catalan radio station Onda Cero that the Cameroonian won't leave the club: "The fans can be calm because me brother is and will continue to be a Barça player. If the club wants, I think he will renew. If the club doesn't want it, that's when he'll start to look for another club."

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Eto'o plans to ask for a pay rise of a little one million euro net, which would make him earn as much as Messi is doing at this moment. Barcelona would like to reach an agreement before the start of next season. Madrid news agency EFE claims that Barcelona will wait until the end of the season to see what will happen but that the club is already looking for alternatives.

Asked about his future, Eto'o meanwhile repeated earlier this week in an interview with French radio station Europe 1 that he doesn't exclude playing in France one day: "I still adore Paris Saint-Germain, even though I've always said that I would like to play with Marseille for one season. If one day I decide to come to France, I would like it to be at Marseille but why not somewhere else? But I won't deny that, given the current circumstances, it will difficultly happen."

Read more:
Inter wants to sign Eto'o in the summer
Eto'o postpones renewal negotiations
Madrid presidential candidate approached Eto'o

Pichichi and Zamora (day 22)

With Barcelona players competing for the trophies of best goalscorer and best goalkeeper of the Spanish league, this blog will follow the events during the second round.

21 Eto'o (Barcelona)
17 Villa (Valencia)
16 Messi (Barcelona)
14 Forlán (Atlético Madrid)
13 Higuain (Real Madrid)

0,73 Víctor Valdés (Barcelona)
1,23 Casillas (Real Madrid)
1,36 Diego López (Villarreal)
1,45 Riesgo (Recreativo Huelva)
1,59 Diego Alves (Almería)

Father Bruno Alves confirms Barcelona interest

Asked about the rumours linking Porto central defender and Portuguese international Bruno Alves (27) with a move to Barcelona (read more here), the player's father Washington Alves has confirmed the interest of Barcelona in an interview with Barcelona radio station Radio Barcelona:

"Bruno feel immensely honoured by the interest of Barcelona. This interest is actually not surprising since other clubs are also following him. I'm sure Bruno would fit very well in this super team."

In an interview with Catalan radio station Ona FM, Washington Alves also commented on the issue: "When they would reach an agreement with Porto, they won't have problems finding a deal with Bruno, especially because we're talking about a club like Barcelona."

Read more:
Barcelona monitoring Porto centre back Alves
Olympiacos offer for Caceres rejected
Barcelona prepares offer for Bruno Alves

Barcelona president visits India

Barcelona president Joan Laporta and a delegation from the club travelled to India this week. On Thursday, Laporta inaugurated a XICS centre in Bathalapalli, the first one of this solidarity centres, an international project supported by Barcelona, in Asia (read more here). Yesterday, Laporta laid the first stone of the second XICS centre in the town of Atmakur (read more here).

During his stay in India, Laporta talked with two of the country's main newspapers:
The Times of India ("It's our contribution to the social integration of some of the most disadvantaged children. We're using football as a tool to better the lives of the less fortunate"
) and The Hindu ("Typical of our fiercely independent Catalonian psyche, we don’t speculate but ensure ball control").

Live Match Chat: Betis Sevilla - FC Barcelona

(original post by OmarX)

Real Betis Balompié - FC Barcelona
(Saturday 14 February 2009 @ 20:00 barcelona time)

Chat Link:

Chat starts around 18:00 - 6:00 pm

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

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

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

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

- on the public chat the main language is English

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

See you there!

[2008] Mascherano offered

this post was published on this blog one year ago:

Madrid tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona is considering the transfer of Liverpool defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano (23). The Argentinian would have been offered to the club and the technical staff likes the player. Because the economical intentions of investment group MSI, owner of the player's transfer rights, aren't clear for the moment, Barcelona is waiting to put a first step.

Read more 14 February 2008 news:
First Poulsen contact
Mourinho or Van Basten

Medical: X-ray picture reveals Messi's secret

* x-ray picture of the foot of a football player *

* x-ray picture of the foot of Leo Messi *

(click the cartoon to enlarge)

see more cartoons here

Friday 13 February 2009

Match Preview: Betis-Barcelona

44 million fans aside (don’t ask me how I arrived at the figure, read more here), the rest of Europe desperately awaits Barca’s first loss in a league fixture since August. What has amazed fans and critics alike is that beyond the fluent, flowing game that the club has long since made synonymous with its name, the squad has shown the self-belief and spirit to emerge from difficult situations unscathed and with 3 points to boot. Incredulous spectators wonder about this side which unlike the balloon of inflated egos undermined by the slightest pin-prick it resembled in previous seasons, now appears a solidly welded unit of collective self-confidence, undeterred and unrelenting.

While your not-so-intrepid previewer starts every preview mumbling his just-in-case excuses of weariness and fatigue Coach Pep Guardiola has uncompromisingly driven the squad to accept nothing less than a win under any circumstances. Pep’s unflinching approach is reflected in his game-eve comments stating that he will accept mid-week internationals as no excuse for slack performances.

Betis Balompie have won only 2 matches out of 10 at home this season in the league, nevertheless Guardiola’s wariness may be to attributed to the fact that Barca have only won twice at the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera in the last 10 years with 5 out of 9 results being losses.

Coming on the back of a win in the Andalusian derby Betis are on a high. Their record in the last 5 matches is an evenly spaced out 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw. Their poor home form has marred their season causing them to hover only 5 points above the relegation zone. 29 goals scored to 30 conceded is neither a bad nor a good record. Interestingly though Betis have gone behind early in more than 50% of their matches and it remains to be seen if they can effect a comeback against a Barca side which has often rampaged after scoring first.

Betis though have been buoyed most of all by the return of Oliviera. Not having a name ending in “o”; much like Jardel and Elber before him, Oliviera has remained on the fringes of the Brazil squad but has been prolific at club level with his best goals to games ratio coming in his previous stay at Betis (i.e. 26 goals in 46 appearances). Speedy and lethal, he will be backed by the wily Sergio Garcia behind him.

Adding to the speed on the counter are Betis’ season top scorer Emana and Mark Gonzalez. Betis gaffer Paco Chaparro has a problem with suspensions, 3 regulars Nelson, Arzu and Damia picking up their 5th yellows during last week’s derby. Capi seems the likely option in midfield to replace Arzu and partner Mehmet Aurelio. Guardiola has said that he expects the experienced Juanito and Vega to play and with Nelson out, Melli will probably slot in at rightback and Rivas partner Juanito in the center. The inconsistent Ricardo might provide Barca with opportunities of corners and set-pieces.

Puyol’s enthusiastically rushed return has resulted in him sitting this one out. Rest El Capitan! There are plenty more matches to come. Marquez has had a tough week which makes me think Caceres will partner Pique in defense. Alves will probably jog all the way from Barcelona to the stadium since he played only 20 mins midweek. Abidal didn’t injure Messi so he is still in the squad and likely to start. It’s a toss-up between Busquets and Toure Yaya for the defensive midfield position though it is Toure’s turn since Busquets started last time round.

It is also Iniesta’s turn to get some rest and so a fit and fresh Keita should take his place at left-midfield. Xavi, Messi, Eto’o and Henry and of course Valdes in goal complete my line-up.

A tough outing awaits and it remains to be seen whose turn it is to take the starring role. One after the other, Alves, Xavi, Messi and co (Betis might like a special mention made of Gudhjonsen) have stepped up and delivered. Its unlikely Barca will be able to keep a dangerous Betis side from scoring but Betis will find their task of keeping a phenomenal Barca at bay even harder.

Prediction: A tough call but I fancy the same scoreline as the first leg. Betis 2-3 Barcelona.

kamikaze kontiki

Does Puyol has the wackiest football hairstyle?

The official FIFA website is looking for the football player with the most bizarre hairstyle.

It's an unforgettable image: a player running away in celebration having scored the deciding goal in a FIFA World Cup Final. The one of Brazil's Ronaldo commemorating his winner against Germany at Korea/Japan 2002 was, however, exceedingly memorable. The reason for this was the tuft of hair that covered the front of O Fenômeno's otherwise shaven head - a unique style he assumed after being mistaken for team-mate Roberto Carlos by his infant son.

Japanese midfielder Kazuyuki Toda also sported an outrageous hairstyle during the competition and just one year earlier, David Beckham left mouths agape with his mohawk cut. When the Englishman jonied Los Angeles Galaxy in 2008, he teamed up with another two men renowed for their extravagant hairstyles: club president and former USA defender, Alexi Lalas, and Portuguese right-back Abel Xavier.

The aforementioned are among a long list of players renowned for their wacky hairdos. Carlos Valderrama's was described as an "electrified afro", while Rudi Voller and Kevin Keegan were distinguishable by their shoulder-length perms, Ruud Gullit by his dreadlocks, Roberto Baggio by his ponytail, and Taribo West by his 'strings'.

"He's got a pineapple, on his head" was the terrace chant that reverberated around stadiums when English striker Jason Lee was in action during the 1990s, and Djibril Cisse gained notoriety for his bleached-blond mohican. Charlie George, Trifon Ivanov, Paul Gascoigne, Rene Higuita, Christian Ziege, Loco, Carlos Puyol, Fabricio Coloccini and Bacary Sagna are just some of the many players who have, at some point in their careers, received attention for their wild hairstyles.

you can take part in the debate here

Villa doesn't want to talk about speculations

Asked about the latest rumours linking him with a move to Barcelona (read more here), Valencia forward and Spanish international David Villa (27) has said at a press conference that he's not considering a transfer at this moment:

"I use to think about and make a decision on things when the options are real. Nobody has told me at this point that the club needs to sell me. Until that happens, I'm not thinking about that possibility.

There are speculations about the club having to put me for sale because they need money but you cannot know if this will come true. That's why I'm calm about all this. I just keep thinking about working, there are still a lot of things left for me this season and we'll see what could come after that. I just don't think it's logical to talk now about situations that aren't sure and that maybe won't happen at all."

Villa's agent José Luis Tamargo meanwhile said to Valencia regional newspaper Las Provincias that an exit will depend on Valencia: "If David will leave one day, it will be because Valencia asks him to, because they tell him that they need to sell him for economic reasons. That's the only way he will go. David is happy in Valencia, he has his life here, he feels very comfortable and he doesn't think about anything else than continue to play at Valencia.

If Valencia would be obliged to sell him, David Villa won't leave this country. He won't go to Italy, nor to England, an option we already rejected. It's absurd that he's now again linked with Manchester City. We've always said we don't want to go to England. If we said 'no' to Chelsea, we won't change our mind for Manchester City now. That doesn't make sense."

Read more:
Verbal agreement with Villa
Benzema not a transfer target anymore
Barcelona and Villa reply to transfer rumours

The man who changed Henry's luck

author: Juan Manuel Díaz


After scoring in the game against Almería, Thierry began a ritual that is already a habit: with every goal, he kisses his right wrist

The first one was Angel Cuéllar, "coincidentally, because we had friends in common", explains Luis Tattoo. "Afterwards came Figo, Abelardo, Luis Enrique, Puyol and the Espanyol guys, Posse, Jofre, Lobo, De la Peña; and then Frank Rijkaard, Valdés..."

Luis follows the photographer's instructions sitting in an old dentist's chair that adorns the front entrance to the premises. "It belonged to a prestigious surgeon, Dr. Caralt, one of the first doctors to do heart transplants", he explains. Then later, returning to his work, he comments that a lot of football players "came at times that were kind of special to them. 'Puyi', before winning the first league; Rijkaard, before the Champions League win in Paris; Iván, before winning the King's Cup."

Luis Tattoo has put his 'good luck charms', inspired by polynesian mythology, on a lot of Barcelona stars during the last 15 years, convinced that his art helps them bring out the best in themselves on the playing field. A multitude of athletes have little rituals and superstitions that help them withstand the high stress of competition and to fight off 'jinxes'. "The most fun of all is that media stars like them get tattooed in the Revolution square, number 13, in the centre of the Gràcia neighborhood", he jokes.

Because "of course", Puyol, Rijkaard or Henry have put themselves in his hands in the little studio in the plaza that commemorates the proclamation of the First Spanish Republic. "I tatttooed Cuéllar and Figo at my home. Luis Enrique, the first time, in Ibiza. And Bojan, Puyol for the third time, Rijkaard, Márquez and Henry, right here". The last one was Cesc Fábregas, "recommended by 'Puyi', who had also told Bojan", he remembers.

And what is the story about Henry? "In the game following his tattoo, he scored in minute 13 of the game, the 2-0 in Almería-Barcelona that ended with a 5-0 victory. Luis assures that he's not a fan of Barcelona or Espanyol "because I don't like football at all. Maybe that's why I get along with them so well. I guess that's what makes them so calm when they come here. Even though, if the subject of football comes up, we can talk about it."

The emblems can be produced on any part of the body. Thierry asked to wear one on his wrist "I guess for aesthetics, it was important for him to have it on the wrist", as it has since been demonstrated: he celebrates each one of his goals with a kiss on the design that Luis engraved on him.

But what are his customers looking for in these tattoos? "It helps them reinforce their physical strength, to remember who they are; that if they've been able to reach this point, they can get even further, all they have to do is make an effort. These protections reaffirm them, they help them return to believing in themselves. If you are the best, then why not be the best again?". There must be something to that, because through his studio have walked lawyers, doctors, mechanics, office workers, soccer players from Barcelona and aristocrats like Eugenia Martínez de Irujo, daughter of the duchess of Alba.

The wave is strength; the sun, energy; the dolphin, balance...
Luis jealously guards the folder of letters written to him by clients. "The first thing I do is give them an 'assignment', that in a peaceful moment they write down whatever comes from the heart. Then I read it, we talk about why they wrote what they wrote, and from there I start to draw.

A wave represents force and vitality; a dolphin, harmony and balance. The sun is energy; the lizard symbolizes the Earth. "In my tattoos I try to give expression to each person's history through symbols of Polynesian culture, even though its interpreted through our western culture", he explains. "They write very specific things about their personal lives, that in the football player's cases also includes football because it is part of their lives".

Translated by: Cintia

Read more:
The Arabic tattoo of Busquets
Puyol: "Tattoos are one of my passions"
The alphabet of Bojan (part 2)

Injured Puyol not in Betis list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola has earlier today announced a list of 19 players for the 23rd league game of the season against Betis Sevilla tomorrow.

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

Puyol, who had been working apart from the group the whole week, isn't recovered from an overburdening problem of his right quadriceps. Jorquera, Víctor Sánchez and Pedro are not inlcuded in the list. The last two will play with barcelona Atlètic this weekend. Milito is still recovering from a knee injury. Yesterday, Barcelona Atlètic players Verdés, Botía, Abraham an Joni trained with the first team.

Barcelona will tomorrow travel in the morning to Sevilla, where the game against Betis will tomorrow evening start at 8 pm.

Higher buyout clause for Messi

Spanish news site El Confidencial claims that Barcelona wants to raise the buyout clause of Barcelona right wing attacker and Argentinian international Lionel Messi (21).

With Madrid presidential elecions coming up and Manchester City willing to spend big in the summer, the Barcelona board wants to reach a deal on a new clause of 250 million euro°.

The new buyout clause, which is 100 million euro more than the current one, will be agreed upon in the coming days but wouldn't lead to other changes in the contract situation of the Argentinian. Both the duration of the contract until the summer of 2014 and the salary of the player would for now stay the same (read more

Read more:
Messi third best paid football player in the world
Barcelona uses drastic measures to protect Messi
Messi has no plans to leave Barcelona

Crosas looking forward to Glasgow derby

In an interview with Celtic Glasgow's weekly club magazine Celtic View, Celtic Glasgow midfielder Marc Crosas (21) looked forward to this weekend's derby against Glasow Rangers:

"As a Barcelona supporter I always looked forward to Barcelona versus Real Madrid. But I think this match might be the best, in terms of atmosphere and ambience.

For me, it's amazing and I think that all the emotions you experience in one game like this, even as a spectator, are unbelievable. I didn't play in the two derbies this season. The first came when I wasn't ready and the second was after my injury. But now I think I am ready to play. I really enjoying playing with all the players here and I have made some good friends in Glasgow. I am very happy here at Celtic and I hope to give to the fans and team everything that I can in matches.

I have spoken to my friends and family back home about this weekend's game, but this is not new for them because when I was back home we used to watch the Celtic-Rangers game together. They are looking forward to the game as well, although it's true that when you experience the match on the park, in the stands or on the bench, it is completely different.

When I was at Barcelona we played Rangers in the Champions League. The week before the game it was the derby and we watched Rangers win 3-0 at Ibrox. It wasn't a good day. We watched the win at Celtic Park when Thomas Gravesen scored. Thomas had been at Real Madrid and a lot of Spanish people watched that match. But I have always enjoyed watching the derbies."

Asked if Crosas would start the game on Sunday, Celtic Glasgow manager Gordon Strachan told journalists that it will depend on his physical condition: "Marc picked up an ankle injury in the game against Queen's Park at the weekend and once it settles down we will know if he can play against Rangers.

It would be good for us if he was available for selection as I feel he helps to knit our team together at times. He performs an important role for us. In my opinion, Marc helps to gels things together. We will see how he is once the swelling on his injury goes down a little bit. But he will be a big loss if he is out.

I felt Marc was dragged down to the same level of mediocrity as the rest of the team in what was an unacceptable performance against Queen's. But he has shown in certain games this season what an influential player he can be. Against Hibs and Dundee United, in particular, he was brilliant."

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.

Read more:
Crosas dreams about Barcelona return
How is Crosas doing at Celtic?
Crosas: "Guardiola was the best man for the job"

Barcelona most popular club in Europe

German research and consultancy company Sport+Markt says that Barcelona is the most popular club across Europe.

The company conducted for the second consecutive year a survey of 9600 football fans between 15 and 69 years in 16 European countries.

Despite a little decline, Barcelona stays on top of the ranking with over 44 million fans across the European continent.

Top 10
1. Barcelona: 44,2 million
2. Real Madrid: 41 million
3. Manchester United: 37,6 million
4. Chelsea: 25,6 million
5. Zenit Saint Petersburg: 23,9 million
6. Liverpool: 23 million
7. Arsenal: 21,3 million
8. AC Milan: 21 million
9. Bayern Munich: 19,8 million
10. Juventus: 17,5 million

Read more:
Barcelona third richest club in the world

Hleb agent denies exit rumours

Asked about the rumours linking Barcelona attacker and Belarus international Alexander Hleb (27) with a summer exit (read more here), the player's agent Uli Ferber and his partner Maurizio Gaudino have said in an interview with Italian football site Calcio Mercato that he's not aware of such an operation:

"We didn't receive any sign from the club, we don't know anything about this. The player also didn't talk to me about leaving. He is feeling very good in Barcelona. He likes everything, from the team to the city.

Barcelona has no intention of losing a player like that. He's only there for six months. Barcelona is convinced of his quality and will give him time to show it. So, for the moment there's not a chance he'll leave. We will see what will happen in the next two months, in football, as in life, never say never.

Of course the player is not very happy because he is not playing a lot, but he wants to give everything and fight for a spot in the team. We shouldn't forget we're talking about the best team in the world, with many quality players. Alexander has great respect for his team-mates and the whole squad. He doesn't have any problem with the coach. Guardiola has a good relationship with him, as with the other players.

It's just about adapting to Spanish football. Barcelona practices a different style of football than the one of Arsenal. And above that, the Spanish football as a whole is very different from the English league. I think that the process of adaptation is well underway and that we already could see the real Alex in the next matches."

Read more:
Guardiola denies Van Persie-Hleb swap offer
Hleb: "I'm speaking Russian with Toure"
Barcelona considers selling Hleb

[2008] Giovani's price tag

that this blog is one year old, also means that we have built up an archive (also one of the reasons I started this blog), and I think looking back knowing what we know now can be nice. that's why the blog will from now on regularly (daily?) re-publish a post that was published exactly one year ago. this post was published on this blog one year ago:

As Madrid tabloid Marca announced yesterday, Barcelona youth product Giovani Dos Santos (18) would be one of the players having to leave when Barcelona doesn't win a major trophy this season. The technical staff thinks the Mexican winger doesn't have the capacities to shine at the top level and with several European top clubs interested Barcelona could make a profit out of a transfer. The club is willing to sit around the table with everyone ready to pay 12 million euro.

More 13 february 2008 news:
Mourinho or Wenger

Bojan sounded out by European top clubs

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona forward and Spanish youth international Bojan Krkic (18) has rejected in January loan or permanent offers by Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam (read more here), German club Hoffenheim and French club Marseille.

Bojan, who has a contract with Barcelona until 2013, has decided to be patient and wait for more playing time at Barcelona.

During the winter transfer window, several European top clubs also would have sounded out the Catalan striker about joining them in the future. Chelsea, Manchester United and Inter Milan would be among the interested clubs that are keeping an eye on Bojan and have contacted him.

Read more:
Barcelona rejects loaning Bojan to RS Belgrade
Bojan: "I don't regret missing the Euro"
The alphabet of Bojan

Thursday 12 February 2009

Messi Free, Winning Dynamics.

Messi:Playing with Alves is Fantastic(Click Here)....Puyol, Xavi and Messi in UEFA Team of the Year(Click here)....Puyol, Xavi and Messi in UEFA Team of the Year(Click Here)....Four Barcelona Players in FIFA Top Ten (Click Here)....Messi Score League goal number 5000 (Click Here)....Messi has no plans to leave Barcelona (Click Here)

ne of the most active Topics recently, is about the magical performance of Barcelona this season. The team exceeded all expectations and made a bombing start in the liga running twelve points away from the closest follower, cruising to the knock out stages of the Champions’ league after dominating the group that was not of enough quality to bother or to disturb. Yet, what’s more enthralling was accomplishing all that in style, turning their games to Opera shows, symphonies, carnivals or whatever makes you thrilled or touched by the entertainment show produced by naturally gifted yet well organized group of talents

Lot of analysis were published and read, some as an attempt to explain, others to flatter, and some rivalry-driven anti-Barcelona followers tried to blot the bright image of the team eye-catching show so far, and the best way-and probably the only way- was to overlook the impact of the team called Barcelona and spot all the lights instead on Messi as the one who is making all the difference, or labeling Barcelona players as individual performers rather than a harmonized group creating a wonderful team.

I understand Rivalry, so the intention of this article is not -originally- to make responds because I always try to invest the time you spend reading my posts on what’s more fruitful than endless debates. But lately the “Messi dependency” started to make a passive impact on Barcelona fans themselves, being dragged into this debate that spoils the pleasure they have the chance to live while the team is performing like fantasy.

The team must be able –and is able- to win without Messi, if its not proved yet, its simply because this team is still under construction, and there was no time for that to take place. We, Barcelona fans, can discuss this issue as something the team need to be aware of, creating the winning dynamics when Messi is not available, that’s an improvement to what’s already making us walk around the city with pride. Actually, if I have to dig for a negative remark regarding Guardiola performance so far, it’s the fact that he didn’t give enough chances for the team to play without Messi, the players need more games without Messi to get used to the situation, but again its reasonable to start the season with the best available, applying the most powerful strategy to gather enough points needed for Barcelona to lead the table with a wealthy bag of points then we start testing things, All that worth discussion. But to start feeling ashamed of how things are going so far, force me before discussing the Messi-free case to clear up some points, for Barcelona fans before the rivals whom I respect as well and enjoy their Rivalry, even though what follows will take the style of me- a Barcelona fan- putting things in place against any attempt aiming to damage or cover the facts behind Barcelona great season.

So what? That’s my simple respond to all the anti-barcelona noises echoing Messi dependency. I am not sure if it’s considered as a shame or if there are any rules in the game that Barcelona break when they count on Messi to get them a victory. I really don’t figure out the point behind all this debate some people throw in Barcelona fans face. May be Barcelona must release Messi for free, or ask him to move on the field jumping on one leg instead of running or else its an unfair game because the opponents are simply not good enough to match him, so he has to lower his performance because they cant raise up to the challenge of containing him. This case reminds me of the childhood street matches when a team bring an older guy to play for them and how everyone in the other team start to complain.

How realistic is it to say without Messi Barcelona is weak? A team that consist of three key players from the Euro2008 champions including the best player in that tournament, added to the player Cafu crowned as his natural heir, added to one of the best three defensive midfielders in the world, added to the striker with the best scoring record in France national team history, added to the player who got the best African player award so many times that he got sick of it, backed by the most impressive youth academy spreading its bless on the clubs around the continent, without forgetting that more than six national teams’ captains and vices are serving this team, beside under twenty one years international key players. All that count nothing, they are all a bunch of amateurs who live in Messi shadow. Excuse me! The strange thing is that you never hear anyone talking about a Man Utd “Ronaldo dependency” last season, the guy was a scoring machine, and he scored almost twice the number of goals scored by Tevez and Rooney together. And now that we mentioned Man Utd, Messi won a game for barcelona directly after getting in, leading the team to come back from 1-0 defeat to 2-1 victory, it became the Obvious fact that make people see "Messi dependancy" as an unnegociable fact, but I wonder if Man Utd were Sheringham/Solskjaer dependent in 1999, because the two guys joined the game at injury time in the Champions' league final against Bayern, scored two goals leading their team to come back from 1-0 defeat and win the title. It happens in football, live a life!

What’s more interesting is calling Barcelona as a squad of gifted individuals who do not play as a team. First of all I have a very brief respond to that: “So what?” even if I will accept living in denial and agree with that, the team is winning and if “individuality” is working that well why will pep think of changing it? But in fact, Barcelona style is the highest level of team work, it looks easy but those who know just a little about the game can tell you, total football is the most complicated style to play. Even the national team coach of Spain – who is by no mean a Barcelona fan as we all know- said before the friendly game against England: “we need to play Barcelona style”. Individuality? Funny stuff!

Messi is as much Barcelona dependent as the other way, of course he will still be a great player in any club, the same as Barcelona will not relegate to seconda Division – or even to second position in the liga- this year if they had to play without Messi. But the same as Messi raise Barcelona game to another level, Barcelona is also the reason why Messi is now the player he is. Not only they tutored, polished and educated him as a player, but also they introduced him to the world the best way you can imagine. The special criteria Barcelona requires when they pick a player for the wing position fits Messi perfectly. Barcelona style help him to express himself and reveal his gifted talent as he would have never done with any other team through playing as a second striker (his natural position), and its easy to claim now that he would have played as a right wing in any other team, but its simply not true. How often a pure left footed attacking midfielder and goal scorer was used as a right wing outside Catalonia? Barcelona stand as a pioneer using the left footed on the right and the right footed on the left. Even with the national team and though Messi always create solutions, but still he is not the same Messi of Barcelona, where he has an Alves on his right, and a Xavi on his left.

To understand how the team can overcome Messi absence, we need to find the answers for two Questions:

What is the role Messi executes for Barcelona?

1)Dragging attention and keeping more defenders busy offering more space for his team mates.
2)Linking with Alves on the right flank.
3)Earning fouls and generating more free kicks for his team on the edge of the opponent box.
4)Being a key player to break down defensive teams using his dribbling skills to break throw and shake the defenders positioning.
5)Putting high pressure on the ball holder in the opponent side of the field.
6)Scoring goals.

How does Messi absence affect the team performance?

1)Definitely it effect through missing the previously mentioned outputs of a talented player like Messi.

2)It has a psychological impact on the selected players. After all the Messi dependency debates, the players feel a load of pressure on their shoulders to prove it wrong. That pressure leaves a passive impact on their overall performance making them more stressed, which cause a bad output and again it increase the pressure on the players’ shoulders more to make up for the previous failure, pressure-->stress-->Bad performance-->more pressure-->more stress, and so on.

3)The players are used to and adapted with the “Messi-included” group dynamics, and its no surprise that Messi absence make an evident damage on the fluidity of the team offense.

4)The role Messi execute on the field is complicated, not only from the quality aspect, but also because of its diversity, its not easy for any other player to excel perfectly in a role sewed and designed to fit Messi characteristics.


In order to overcome Messi absence:

Objectives: we need to create a system that keep the opponent defenders busy running for the ball creating spaces for our players to get advantage of to crush the bus parked in front of the opponent keeper, faxing the ball to the box and generating scoring opportunities.

Implementation: Its not enough to create this strategy and explain it to players, we need to put it in practice, first through training sessions then in games, this way players will get used to it as an alternative plan. One win needed, then followed by another will make the players capable to break that psychological pressure and lead them to perform naturally and feel calm to approach the game with or without the presence of Messi.

There are three methods I can think about to fulfill this objective, each fits a special type of games and has its advantages and disadvantages:

1.preparing a direct substitute:

Pep Guardiola tried to do so already, he tested Hleb, Bojan, and against Racing he used Iniesta. While Hleb is not suitable for this mission, he is a better player in midfield, Bojan and Iniesta are quit good to give enough hope they could be considered as Messi back ups. Yet, Bojan need one more year of training in that role before being able to carry this responsibility, Iniesta is definitely the most reliable choice, regardless of the fact that he was not quiet impressive in that game, but he has the qualities needed, or at least he has more quality to do it than any other player in the squad.

If Guardiola will choose this strategy then Iniesta need to play more in that position to get used to this role.

Now as I mentioned above, “The role Messi execute on the field is complicated, not only from the quality aspect, but also because of its diversity, its not easy for any other player to excel perfectly in a role sewed and designed to fit Messi characteristics”, so its not a surprise to suggest that we change the tactical structure to fit the players most in order to achieve the selected objectives when Messi is not available.

2.The pragmatic alternative:

It is inherited from the first Alternative, with an intention to avoid the disadvantages of that alternative. Having Iniesta in Messi position may not pass with no side effects, when Messi is available, Pep Guardiola in his 4-3-3 has two good methods to approach the game: The first option is using Henry on the left wing and instructing him to cut into the Box or else Eto’o get isolated and inefficient there, and asking the left midfielder –Iniesta in general- to open wide and to act as a left wing instead. The second option is to ask the left wing Iniesta/Henry to open the game from the left while starting a midfielder who can make fruitful runs into the box (Keita/Gudjonsen).

Having Iniesta in Messi shoes, may spoil this structure, because Iniesta and Henry are the only proven left wings in the team this season (Though I insist Henry is more efficient when he cut inside and not when he hug the lines), so as long as Hleb is not in a good form to play on the left wing, and knowing that Neither Keita, nor Gudjhonsen can open wide to the left from midfield with the same quality Iniesta does it, that will leave Pep with Henry as the only option on the left wing who will have no choice to cut in, knowing that when Henry plays a sole wing role, its easy to mark him.

So instead of playing a tactic where half the starters are actually playing out of position, Why not reconsidering the tactical structure rather than players natural roles. And that’s why I like switching to the 4-1-3-2 tactical structure when Messi is not available:

a) You will initially have two pure forwards in front of three midfielders and that will help you to execute a faster transition from defense to offense based on direct vertical movement for the ball combined with the natural horizontal passing of Barcelona style.

b) Having three natural midfielders in front of the defensive midfielder and two forwards who are excellent in putting pressure on the opponent defense will increase the possession dominance of your team and will win back the ball fast which will all lead to generate more scoring opportunities.

c) When moving forward, we will have Iniesta acting as a Left midfielder/Left wing, and Alves as a Right midfielder/right wing, while we still have two midfielders in between; this will open the field wide, and will guarantee a smooth fast transition for the ball from side to side.

Our objectives will be fulfilled through this structure, opening the game wide, controlling possession and switching the ball from side to side will shake any defense and create spaces, while your two strikers are there in the box to get advantage of all the crosses from the wings and the assists from the middle.

Messi is not available on the right flank to keep defense busy, but this time the defense has more mess to deal with, having two pure strikers in their box, and a balances Barcelona team attacking from the two flanks at the same time not only linked with the closest player (Messi-Alves structure) but linked together across the field through two midfielders working closely in between and a striker who will open wide when needed knowing that there is still another striker in the box all the time. Messi is not there to penetrate with the ball and score goals, but the ball is penetrating to the box automatically throw crosses and deep assists while the two pure strikers in the box can guarantee scoring enough goals to seal the game, and are more than enough to put continuous pressure on the opponent defense dragging them to make mistakes.

3. The Radical Alternative:

It has always been a question, what’s the best for the team, having Iniesta beside Xavi glued to his midfield role, or using him on the wing? While having him beside Xavi increase Ball possession and dominance in general, it force Henry to play as a wing and make Eto’o the only striker in the box. In the other hand, using Iniesta on the wing or instructing him to open wide deduct some of the possession dominance but make the team more efficient getting advantages of the scoring opportunities created though crosses and passes to the box. What about a structure that keeps Iniesta beside Xavi to dominate possession and ball distribution, beside offering you a player to run the show from the left wing, and save two players for you to use upfront in the opponent Box? That’s the 3-3-2-2 structure suggested here. Three pure central defenders (Abidal-Marquez-Puyol for example), then Alves and Sylvinho playing initially on the same line with Yaya, which will make them closer to the offense operation area, where they act as pure wings, while Iniesta and Xavi control from the middle and Eto’o with Henry act upfront.

Surprisingly if you analyze this option you will notice that it’s not only a more offensive option, but at the same time its better defensively as well, when losing the ball you will have a line of Sylvinho-Yaya-Alves in front of Abidal-Marquez-Puyol, it seems like a Barcelona Bus for me, parked to give Valdes a vacation. While in offense it offer you all the advantages of the second alternative with a better quality because Sylvinho opens the field Wider than Iniesta does in the second alternative, and he is better when he cross the ball, he also shoot from distance, in the other hand and as mentioned before, Iniesta beside Xavi guarantee you high possession share in the game.

The most Vital disadvantage is that it’s an alternative with short life cycle, meaning, you can’t use it for three consecutive games in a raw for example, because Sylvinho need a break of one week between two games to refuel, but it’s a very efficient strategy to play when you decide to bench Messi for a game, and it is good enough to win you games in style. While for a long period Messi absence –God forbids! I will go for the second alternative, the pragmatic one, anytime.

Regardless of the extend of truth in "Messi Dependency" situation, we are not doomed to live with it. This squad have enough quality to go hunting for titles even when Messi is not available. Are we already "Messi INdependent"? We all know we are not there yet, not completely at least, but there is no reason prevent this team from accomplishing that objective. I am not sure what kind of solutions Guardiola has for the team to start performing well when Messi is not a starter, I am not trying to predict his moves – I don’t even think he has that third alternative in mind- but I am proving that there are other alternatives beside being Messi dependent, but we need to work for it, and when Guardiola start to play more games without Messi even when he is available, that will be a sign for me that we are on the right path.

Ramzi Tanani

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: N-O-T) 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 Betis Sevilla on Saturday.

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

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

You can give your starting line-up until four hours before the start of the game, in this case: until 4:00 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 28th time this game is organized.



mario ch


B. Beltrocco

Dan R

kamikaze kontiki
Barca nike
Cali Socis

Knives Out
blaugrana poland

Barcelona prepares offer for Bruno Alves

Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias claims that Barcelona are preparing a bid for Porto central defender and Portuguese international Bruno Alves (27).

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola, who already tried to sign the player last summer (read more
here), would like to add an experienced defender to the squad and the club would therefore want to offer Bruno Alves a contract for five years.

The central defender, who has a contract with the Portuguese champions until the summer of 2012, would be aware of the interest of Barcelona and the upcoming offer but although he's positive about it, he hasn't yet directly negociated with any person linked to Barcelona.

If the offer would become concrete, Bruno Alves would want that Barcelona would first reach an agreement with Porto. While the Portuguese club would not be willing to sell the player for less than 20 million euro°, Barcelona would prefer to wait until the end of the season to start negotiating a possible transfer.

Read more:
Barcelona monitoring Porto centre back Alves
Porto's Lucho Gonzalez to replace Deco
Bruno Alves wants to prove himself

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