The Decay

style.jpg

Anyone who ever faced a job interview (or watched one being shown in a TV Series or movie) knows of the cliché question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I never cared to read the reasons why that is a standard HR question basically everywhere in the world for lots of years already, but the main goal is simple: to know if the person being interviewed has the desire to grow and achieve more than what he currently possesses, which means he will make the company grow as well with said drive.

5 years ago, had any FC Barcelona fan been asked “where do you see your team in 5 years?”, the answers would be VERY different from our current reality.

May, 2012.

Messi was by far the best player on the planet, scoring and absurd number of goals, yet not really taking any of the two important titles home before taking his vacation.

Guardiola’s last season saw the addition of Fábregas, and a more frequent use of 343, that even allowed us to crush RM at home for 1-3, despite conceding on the first few seconds and taking it easy against them on the second half.

FCB wasn’t able to win the League, due to an inability to beat deep defensive blocks over and over again, besides suffering with refs mistakes against our club, while RM would get all the calls their way.

On the Champions League, while the team was still completely dominating the games, creating 20+ chances on each match, Chelsea’s effort (and sheer luck) made us fall on the semi finals, at home.

But the future was bright for Leo.

Not only was he on the peak of his powers, but the squad was balanced enough (even though Alexis was far from being the player he is right now), Xavi and Iniesta were still running the show wherever they went, and the work being done in La Masia was still focused around Cruijff’s style and belief in brains over muscle, in possession over running adversaries over.

Then Rosell’s and Bartomeu’s revenge against Laporta started.

Since Guardiola was no longer around, someone who was a Masia icon, first team Captain, and the coach who won 6 titles on his first year as first team coach, while beating RM at the Bernabeu for 2-6… they would finally put THEIR view about football in motion.

But before we focus on that, you need to understand how the Catalan society works, and especially how it moves around our club.

The richest members of the Catalan society are not modern entrepreneurs who travel around the world to experience new cultures and accept more intelligent views as a way to move forward. They are conservative, limited, who think they are the OWNERS of not only Catalunya itself, but especially our football club.

FCB has made many rich people even richer, and turned someone as mediocre as Nunez in a very rich man. As he needed to do to be FCB’s President for 22 years was bend the knee.

Bend knee for the richest Catalan families, who want their own people running our club.
Bend the knee to the media groups that sell the most newspapers about our club: Grup Godó, who owns Mundo Deportivo and RAC1 radio; and Grup Zeta, which has been in financial peril for years, and can only survive by selling FCB merchandise through SPORT, its newspaper.
Bend the knee to the Penyas, fan clubs around Catalunya and Spain, where older, conservative people see that the 13.000 or 15.000 votes they hold on any Presidential Election are enough to warrant them free buses to pick them up to attend Camp Nou matches, free tickets for big games, or even free airplane tickets to watch away games, any time they see fit.

Things were like that throughout the whole 20th century.

Conservatives with closed minds running the club by spreading propaganda and hiring coaches that focused on strength and running. The only exceptions came during the Kubala Era, where the Hungarian influence took over our club, and we won 5 very important titles in a very few years. However, that superb team ended in 1961.

After more than a decade of more mediocrity, while the powers that be remained where they were, a couple of Dutchmen brought happiness and a League title back to our club. In 1973-74, Michels and Cruijff turned a sad, losing team and an ever sadder and abandoned fan base in a force to be reckoned with.

But, you see, the thing about conservatives is that they do not like foreigners doing well on “their” ground.

Even less so when said foreigner is a star like Johan Cruijff, who was good looking, a superb player… and more intelligent and outspoken than anyone in Catalunya back then. Therefore, even though they loved the title and the respect he brought back to our club, they always resented him. Mediocrity will always loathe brilliance.

So, naturally, Michels and Cruijff left. And many more years of mediocrity and zero League titles happened yet again. We did win the Liga in 83-84, but with a very physically based team, that was not able to keep the winning momentum for more than one season.

And, once again, when the pressure from the fans was too big, the conservatives had to resort to the Dutchman who saved them back in 1973: Cruijff did come back as coach in 1988, and, on the 8 years he remained as first team coach, FCB built not only a winning team, but a Dream Team, what was able to win 4 League titles in a row (something our club hasn’t done before or since), and even give us our first European title, something we waited 37 years to come to fruition.

Cruijff not only gave us a playing identity, focused on possession, pressing, positioning and intelligence, but also made sure the same elements were taught in our Academy.

La Masia would produce several amazing talents due to Cruijff’s views and undying belief that playing a pleasing brand of football is the surest way to enjoy the sport as it was intended and that  that was the way to achieve the most titles: by believing in a style at all costs, and not going for easy/cliché solutions (like keeping a tall 9 in the bench for when we need a goal to save us in the dying minutes).

Nevertheless, even through all of the titles and the dominance, Cruijff and the people around him where NEVER unanimously loved in Catalunya.

Remember: conservatives were never able to form a mold to themselves as human beings, so they need to keep hammering the same pitiful ideas they heard from their older relatives to feel relevant. And someone as flashy and crass like Cruijff will never be accepted by said people.

And these people, that made and broke Presidents and that controlled what the fans would consume about our club, be it via newspapers, radio or TV, always sold Cruijff was “genius, but unpredictable”, a “mercenary”, a “careless coach”.

Therefore, in 1996, when Cruijff was thinking about building a new winning generation, while considering names such as Bergkamp and Zidane… he was fired. On the dressing room. With no previous warning.

The conservatives got rid of the strange person on “their” club, and went first with Bobby Robson, then with Van Gaal, to keep the momentum from what Cruijff built coming. (Remember this; it is happening right now to our club).

When things are done properly, when La Masia is raising kids that would fit into the team/playing style seamlessly… said momentum will easily go on for 3 or 4 years, even if you bring coaches like Robson or Van Gaal.

But the fact of the matter is: our playing style will always need someone who actually believes in it to make improvements and changes to keep us competitive, to value La Masia before even looking to sign a new player, especially midfielders, but that will also bring foreign stars when they are able to introduce to the team something that just isn’t taught in Masia, but that will make our team more competitive in the long run.

That momentum ended in 2000.

2000-2001. 2001-2002. 2002-2003. The three seasons where, with no Cruijff Momentum going on, our club was barely able to finish in the Top 4 in La Liga. Ugly football, one-route coaches, focus on strong players over intelligent ones. Just the way the conservatives wanted our club to be. However, naturally, no results came. 

The fans had enough. Manifestations on the Camp Nou, complaints, and, finally, exactly 7 years after Cruijff and his legacy had left the club by the backdoor, those ideals were seen as important, once again.

Laporta won the elections, with Cruijff by his side, and chose coaches that believed in the same brand of football Johan did. He also hired people with the same views to run La Masia and to value good players over strength or speed.

We were soon on the winning path again. Two straight Liga titles, the magic night in Paris, where we lifted our second European Cup, and young players coming from La Masia frequently to help strengthen our squad.

The initial “comeback” lasted 3 years, and after 2 very disappointing seasons, Rijkaard was let go, and Pep Guardiola, who had never coached a professional team in a top European league before, became our leader.

And the rest is history. 14 titles in 4 seasons, and a level of footballing dominance that Europe had not see for decades.

Everything was being built in a way to keep our winning mentality and possession based style around for as long as humanly possible. Guardiola would each week talk to Masia coaches, and would plan for when to debut young Masia talents.

But remember the conservatives? The ones that run Catalunya, the media, the penyas and that can make the fanbase change their minds very quickly? By 2010, they had enough of Laporta, who was too loud, too much of a party animal, too much of an independentist for their taste. And they elected Sandro Rosell, one of their own, someone they trusted to run THEIR club.

Soon enough, they were after Guardiola, for the same reasons they went after Cruijff: someone who is immensely intelligent and successful will always have huge flaws, in their minds. Moreover, do not forget: we were winning Leagues and reaching UCL finals/semifinals EVERY SEASON back then.

So they would have their media (they are not FRIENDS with the media, they own it completely) attack him whenever we lost a match, or a title. Whenever a sub caused us to draw or lose a match. Whenever they could.

And Guardiola said enough. Even though he’s Catalunya’s poster boy, especially when it comes to the Independence movement, Pep up and left the club of his life, the place where the achieved what no other team had achieved before or since… because there were just too many people (important, powerful people) against him.

And the conservatives were back in power, to run the club the way THEY wanted. To hire coaches that could sell as “Barça DNA” bearers, but with the personality to blindly obey whatever they were told. Leaders like Cruijff and Pep were too “unpredictable”.

Remember when we talked about the momemtum after Cruijff left in 1996? And that it lasted for 3-4 years?

Check our 12-13, 13-14, 14-15, 15-16 and 16-17 seasons.

Tito was the one they chose to “replace” Pep. They knew the backlash from the fans (and players) would be too much if they went with someone from outside Catalunya, so they went with Tito.

And soon the media would say EXACTLY like they did from 1988-1996: the coach (Cruijff/Pep) are the leaders, but the one who actually thinks of the tactics and excel at it are the assistants (Rexach/Tito).

History will always repeat itself, but in our club, that is just too easy to see.

12-13 kept the momentum of what Pep built alive and well. We won the League with 100 points, but since the care about the most minimal parts of our style was gone, we were destroyed in the UCL by Bayern. That moment right there should have been proof that we had to work on making our midfield younger, or at least give experience to those would eventually take over for Xavi and Iniesta.

But the conservatives didn’t do that. They brought Alex Song to our midfield that season, and sold THIAGO as soon as our Liga title was wrapped. Why keep a controlling, organizing midfielder around when they needed the money to sign… Neymar?

Sadly, Tito’s illness cut his time as FCB coach short, and Tata Martino was signed as FCB coach. An argentine with some success in South America, but zero european experience. But the conservatives sold him as “having more Barça DNA than many here”, and had several people from the media they own link his arrival with a demand from Messi (who had never met the man before in his life).

Messi’s dominance is so abundant, and the momentum was so strong, that we almost won the League (we actually won it, but we won’t talk about that Messi goal, cause I’m sure Atleti would just score another anyway), but failed once again to win the Champions League.

Neymar, who was signed by Rosell to do one thing and one thing only (replace Messi, while making the conservatives and club lots of merchandise money) had a very shy first European season. So Messi stayed, Tata left, and then came Luis Enrique.

Remember the care for possession, positioning, pressing? The urge to value keeping the ball above all other things, since the best way to both attack and defend is to do just so? Luis Enrique never believed in those things. He saw football just as he sees life: as a competition where you need to reach your goal faster than your adversary, and no “style” or “philosophy” were necessary. Just winning.

And he did win. Even though the one midfielder we signed for our Treble winning season was Rakitic, and Xavi was on his way out, we won La Liga and had one of the most memorable runs in Champions League history, beating the League Champions of Netherlands, France, England, Germany and Italy to win our 5th European title.

15-16 came, and even though Arda Turan (!) was chosen as the midfield signing, Lucho’s competitiveness and what was left of our momentum (and Messi), made us win the League yet again, but fall short on UCL due to the same reasons Tata did: lack of proper creativity and midfield organization to beat a team like Atleti.

2 Leagues and 1 UCL in 2 seasons. Of course the conservatives would keep Lucho around. And they added… Andre Gomes to help us regain our winning ways, after Real Madrid had won the UCL yet again, their 2nd in 3 seasons. So we went for the 16-17 season with the last few ounces of our Cruijff/Pep momentum, and whatever was left of the speed and verve Lucho and his MSN were carrying.

That wasn’t enough. Lucho’s focus was always on getting results as soon as possible and with the least suffering possible. Such a view may turn you into a winning team right now (like it did in 14-15), but won’t help you build for the future or keep an identity alive at all. You can’t be fast forever, after all. That’s why no actual relevant title came in 16-17.

And, right now, there’s nothing.

No momentum from what Cruijff/Pep built. Nor the speed and sheer competitiveness from Lucho.

There’s just an older team, that never got properly rejuvenated, especially in midfield, and that, since 2012, only signed the likes of Song, Rakitic, Arda, Gomes and just today PAULINHO to try to return to the winning days provided by Xavi/Iniesta’s brilliance and the undying loyalty to our style and the way Masia should be developed.

The conservatives went with Valverde as coach, a person that never managed a big team or ever played a brave style in his career… but will certainly be a very obedient employee of the conservatives and to whoever they choose to run our club, be it Bartomeu now, or Cardoner when they see fit.

So don’t waste your energy on criticizing Valverde. He’s been hired to get results with the tools/players the board sees fit to give him. He has no voice, no control or weight in any footballing decision. They will all be made by the people that acting on revenge and pettiness, destroyed all that we had going for us in 2012.

What will it take to bring us back to the ONE football identity/philosophy that turned us in the best in the world? Another 3 sad and trophy less seasons, like we have from 2000-2003?

Or will the Catalan socis react once again before we waste Messi’s and all of our player’s potential?

By the end of September, we’ll know. And before that, I’ll write the second part of this article, where I’ll focus on every single shady deal the conservatives and the people behind them pulled since 2012, where they all got richer while our club decayed and withered.

 

 

 

Nelson Semedo

Semedo.jpg

After Gerard Deulofeu’s return, our second 17-18 signing is Nelson Semedo, who’s been my favorite pick for our RB spot since I sat down to analyze the available names.

We paid 30mi euros, plus variables, for this 23 year old player, who’s been playing for Benfica for the last 5 years, and has also featured for Portugal’s NT.

Semedo is a very fast and strong (for his stature) RB, who besides having a great eye for creating chances (had 12 assists last season), also is intelligent and skillful enough to combine with midfielders and attackers who are close to him.

Being 1,77cm tall, he is good enough to hold his own when facing aerial duels, especially during corners. His others defensive traits are his tackling, which he knows when and where to use; and his interceptions, where he uses both his intelligence and superior pace to beat the opponents before they can even reach the ball.

After 16-17, a season where we had NOT EVEN ONE PROPER RIGHT BACK in our squad (Roberto is a midfielder and Aleix is a winger), Semedo’s signing is great news for our club, and our future.

Not only did we not sign Bellerin, who’s been more of an obsession in resigning former catalan Masia players then trying to bring a player that could actually strenghten our team; but we’ll also have a player that will compete with Aleix for the starting RB spot, and will allow Roberto the chance to shine in our midfield, since both Rafinha and Denis Suarez have failed to do so (up until now).

Messi himself will also be happy to have Semedo around, since is calm on possession and rarely gets dispossessed. Nelson has the skills to combine in closed spaces, which is something Leo likes to do at all times, but can also overlap and make crosses and assists from very acute positions. Besides that, Semedo has been known to lay out passes for players that are invading the area, which is another thing Messi adores receiving (just ask Alba and anyone at the Bernabeu).

While paying 30+ mi for a 23 year RB who isn’t a “star” shows, once again, that our club now looks first to what the market has to offer before trying to promote Masia players (like Palencia, who’s had a great 16-17 in the B team), Semedo’s overall qualities, and his potential for growth are worth the investiment and the risk.

And even though he’s represented by Jorge Mendes, the player is the real deal. I prefer to sign Mendes’ players than to ever invest in random brazilians, like we did with Henrique, Keirrisson and Douglas (and now Paulinho, for whatever reason).

Overall, Semedo’s signing has pleased me greatly, and I’m certain we’ve signed a young and talented player that can defend well enough and is calm when under pressure; will provide more options when we are trying to create chances from the middle, but also be a threat in the final third, especially when cutting back to look for players invading the area.

Here are some videos to better understand Semedo’s qualities:

 

Camp Nou Vip Experience (or: We’ll take your money and not tell you about it!)

sky_boxes_03.jpg

FC Barcelona has been using a system (Seient Lliure) that allows season ticket holders to sell their seats when they can’t/aren’t interested in attending a given match. It’s pretty straightforward: the holder downloads an app/access the website, tells the club his seat will be available, and… that’s it! If anyone buys it, the soci would get 50% of the price the buyer paid. The other 50% goes to the club. (It’s actually less, given the there’s 21% from the full price that goes to taxes, plus another 10% that goes to the club for “managing the seat).

Season ticket holders are free to sell how many tickets they want to, but they cannot earn back more than 95% of the full value of a season ticket. That’s it. That’s the whole info socis had gotten about this service.

Seient Lliure has been going on for the past few seasons, and there had been one major complaint about it: socis aren’t attending matches as they once were, and the Camp Nou is now full of “guiris” (tourists). While the club may say it represents a “lack of commitment” from the season ticket holders, they are pretty happy that the tourists will pay to visit our Museum, spend money at the Nike Store, pay for whatever food/drink they consume during the matches.

So, up until now, the FCB board was making money from the season ticket holders, that pay every single year for the right for their own seats; then for the fact the same seats were being “rented” to tourists that would end up spending WAY MORE than a normal catalan soci would just to attend a match.

But, actually, the club was making way more money than that. Up to 17 million euros more.

Xavi Torres, one of the best sporting journalists in Spain, revealed earlier today that the club was selling “VIP Experience” tickets for up to 1.500 euros, on selected matches. The investigation was able to identify 10 high profile matches from the last 3 seasons where those tickets were sold. The thing is: the 50/50 formula for the Seient Lliure tickets was being ignored. Instead of getting 520 euros (after taxes) for a seat that was sold for 1.500 euros, socis were getting 88 euros. That’s 16% of the total they should have gotten.

FC Barcelona earned up to 17 million euros just from these VIP Experience seats during the last 3 seasons, and only gave a far inferior percentage back to the original season ticket holders.

Seems bad, right? Not according to our club’s next President, Jordi Cardoner. (The man has 15.000 penya votes in his pocket as we speak. It’s inevitable).

Cardoner held a press conference a few minutes ago to explain the situation. He said that the 50/50 rules applies only to the cost of the seat itself. While the club did sell tickets for up to 1.500 euros, the actual price of the SEAT was 225 euros… all the remaining 1.300 euros didn’t “count”, because it was related to “services”, such as: catering, parking spots, etc.

He went on to add that while the club was indeed profiting from these “services”, the difference between what the season ticket holders got, and the club got would go to fund the other services all socis make use of, such as: free access to children under 14 years old, and the club’s ability to pay our player’s salaries and make new signings.

Cardoner, who’s used to TELL his media friends (Mundo Deportivo and SPORT) to post the news the board wants them to, was clearly shaken up and nervous during the whole presser, even saying that Xavi Torres “didn’t check his sources correctly”, and that “it was a shame that OUR TELEVISION, TV3, would publish such news about our club”. A conservative old man getting pissed off people talked about a subject he didn’t want them to… that’s new!

When pressed by a few journalists about the subject, Cardoner revealed that the club has never hidden this information from the socis: it’s all been “clearly” presented at our yearly financial reports! And all the socis had to do was to ASK for this information, or call the club about it (He made sure to reveal the club receives up to 25.000 calls from socis each year, and over 6.000 visits to the offices).

So, basically, the VIP Experience fiasco can be summed up like this:

  • Seient Lliure has been allowing the club to host thousands of tourists during the last few years, and profiting from the fact they spend way more than catalan socis.
  • It was clear that season ticket holder were getting 50%, after taxes, from whatever price the club managed to sell their tickets, but the club has been redirecting up to 1.300 euros from each sale to a fund that would be used to “benefit all socis equally”. That information has never been given clearly before.
  • When asked about it, Cardoner said the plan was not for socis to “sell up to 20 tickets each season), EVEN THOUGH THE SEIENT LLIURE SYSTEM ALLOWS IT; that “it makes no logical sense for a soci, with just the seat from El Clasico, to make up to 600 euros, which is almost the yearly price to be a season ticket holder” even thought socis weren’t even aware of the “extra services” that led to this bigger price; and that “if the socis wanted to know more about this, all they needed to do was call us and we would have showed them our yearly report in detail”.
  • Cardoner also made sure to attack Xavi Torres’ capacity as a journalist (making sure to say his last name wrong); to attack TV3 “my television channel” for broadcasting an information “that wasn’t carefully checked” (even though he confirmed everything they’ve said); to say that “if it wasn’t for sources of revenue such as this, we couldn’t afford our players’ salaries and to sign the players we need”.

Cardoner did not deny ANY OF THE REVELATIONS MADE BY XAVI TORRES. Simple as that.

Once again this board proves they cannot be trusted. That didn’t really matter to most catalan socis, since they did elect Bartomeu and his friend with over 25.000 votes, even though the club got a FIFA Ban and was convicted of Tax Fraud over the Neymar signing.

But catalans REALLY like their money. Trust me, they take money very seriously.

Good luck trying to explain to an old catalan his 1.500 euros seat will only net him 88 euros, and that the “difference” will be used “for the good of the whole club”!

 

 

Lucas Lima

579805e6cd44c.jpeg

According to the brazilian media (Fox Sports, ESPN and Globo Esporte), and to the player himself, that told a room with over 50 people he was moving to Barcelona, our first 2017-18 signing is Lucas Lima.

He’ll land in the Catalan capital in the final days of 2017, and will be available to us after January 1st, 2018. He’ll come as a free agent, with a 5mi euros signings bonus and 4mi euros in net yealy wages.

LIMA’S QUALITIES

Unlike the last time I wrote about a brazilian signing (Douglas), Lima is a good player, that has had a great 2015 season here in Brazil, suffered with injuries in 2016, and is currently having a decent 2017 season.

He’s a creative midfielder, who likes to start plays near the halfway line. Most brazilian teams are stuck with either a 442 or 4231 formation, and Lima has mostly played as a RCM/RW, cutting inside (he’s left footed) to combine with the other midfielders and create chances, behind the strikers. He does have the capacity and vision to also play in the center and left sides, when needed, and especially in counter attacking chances.

Lima has great vision, averaging 3,3 key passes per game in 2017, and 0,5 through balls per game during the same period. While he’s intelligent and knows how to move his body and make use of his low centre of gravity to beat his opponents, he isn’t a great dribbler, averaging just 0,8 dribbles per match this season. Even on his best overall season (2015), he averaged 2,4 dribbles/match, but he does have other skills that make up for this flaw.

He likes to combine with his team mates, always looking for the best passing option available before trying a through ball or dribbling. Lima rarely gets dispossessed, mainly due to the fact he doesn’t try to dribble often, and even though he’s able to show his best when given space on counters, normally tries to be calm on attacking situations and doesn’t take naive risks.

Even though he doesn’t do it constantly, he’s great at pressing and won’t just sit back and watch the opponents CDMs and CBs pass the ball around. He’s given assists and scored after dispossessing his adversaries near the area more than a few times.

Lima doesn’t focus much on scoring goals himself, and rarely tries to shoot from distance, having scored only 3 career goals from outisde the area. He’s good in dead ball situations, but always focuses on assisting his team mates, never having scored a career free kick goal.

These are some of Lima’s best performances in 2017, so far:

OK, SO HE ISN’T DOUGLAS… BUT WHAT WILL HE ADD TO FCB?

Lima’s signing means Rafinha will definitely be sold this summer. Not only both of them are left footed players that like to cut inside and mainly thrive playing on the right side of the pitch, our club needs the money from Rafinha’s sale not only to be able to go after our main targets (Verratti and Dembele), but to also deal with our growing wage bill, that will get even bigger with Messi’s renewal.

Sadly, Lima’s arrival will also mean Alenya’s development and chances on the first team will suffer. Lima most likely will not be a starter, so the minutes he will have from the bench will obviously stop Alenya from playing much.

Tactically, Lima can be a backup to Messi (Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous), if Messi remains as a RW that cuts inside to create chances/do whatever he feels like. But, since the reality is Messi will play 95% of our minutes, Lima will rarely ever play “in Messi’s place”.

What could happen is: since Valverde adores 4231, Lima could be used as a RCM/RW, while Messi is deployed as 10, centrally, just behind Suarez. That option would severely limit Messi’s freedom and make it easier for CDMs/CBs to box him in… but that is something to talk about if that formation is actually deployed frequently.

It’s important to make it clear that LIMA IS NOT A WINGER. He’s a creative left footed playmaker that thrives on counters, yet is able to hold his on and recycle position and combine with team mates instead of trying to dribble past 3 players and get dispossessed easily.

WAIT…. SO YOU PRAISED LIMA AND WON’T TALK ABOUT NEYMAR AND NEYMAR SR?!

You guys know me better than this by now.

Look, Lima is a good guy, as far as I know. Hasn’t been linked with lots of parties and marketing stunts here in Brazil. His playing style is very “European”, not really focusing on dribbling and hogging the limelight all to himself, and he’s able to show intelligence to combine with team mates often.

But… Lima’s agent is Neymar Sr, the “agent” responsible for the THIRTEEN CONTRACTS FCB signed to get Neymar, a deal so ill-conceived it led to TWO Fiscal cases in Spain and another one in Brazil. 

Neymar Sr will obviously bite a hefty sum form the 5mi signing bonus Lima will get, and the FCB board, besides lacking the dignity to NOT DEAL with Neymar Sr ever again, could anger the Judges handling the fiscal cases about the Neymar Signing, and will definitely look into Lima’s signing as well.

On that note, Santos has already decided to notify FCB to FIFA, for contacting and reaching an agreement with Lima before it’s legal to do so. While Santos won’t easily find actual evidence FCB did so, Lima openly talking about his departure could make FIFA punish us.

MY FINAL VERDICT

I have nothing against Lima. He’s an intelligent player that does have the main skills to help us off the bench. However, Lima is not a star here in Brazil. The last two were Neymar and Gabriel Jesus, and Lima has always been miles behind either, even during his great 2015 season.

Being a good/great player in the Brazilian League nowadays means very little. The overall level is just too poor, and Lima should have gone to a smaller European team before making the move to the Camp Nou, for logic’s sake (just like Romário, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho did). But none of them came as a free agent so, maybe… it’s a decent/safe bet.

The fact he’s coming as a free agent certainly makes his signing acceptable, but dealing with Neymar Sr again after OUR CLUB WAS CONVICTED FOR FISCAL FRAUD OVER THE NEYMAR SIGNING IS A DISGRACE FROM OUR BOARD.

But since I don’t expect better from them and they could have actually signed another Keirrison/Douglas… Lima is a fine, yet not really exciting, signing.

 

2017-18 Season Planning (Midfield, midfield, midfield)

unnamed.jpg

16-17 was one of our worst seasons since Lionel Messi has helmed the number 10 shirt.

We didn’t play well enough (far from it); got thrashed by 3 different teams in UCL (City, PSG and Juventus) and ended up watching RM retain the title; lost La Liga by playing awfully against midtable teams (didn’t lose a single match against the Top 5 opponents, even though Messi was there to save us on most of these clashes).

What I feared the most since 2014 has happened: the focus on results, while completely bypassing our midfield to solely rely on MSN would eventually cost us. And it did.

This summer is the most vital moment to our club’s future for the next few years.

Since this criminal board since 2012 only signed Song, Rakitic, Arda, Denis and Gomes to replace the likes of Xavi and Thiago (whom they PUSHED OUT OF THE CLUB FOR MONEY)… now it’s the moment to spend on our midfield with players that are good enough for us to compete again.

So, let’s take a look at our current squad, and talk about who should leave and who we need to sign.

 

GK – No problems whatsoever here

 

While Mundo Deportivo, the paper that kept pushing for us to sign PEPE REINA for several years, keep attacking Ter Stegen every single time we suffer or are defeated (even though the lack of control from the midfield makes us more susceptible in the defense and forced him to face over 120 shots this season…), we have one of the finest GKs in Europe, someone who will help us for the next decade.

Since we need the money, and to me our backup GK should always be a Masia player, we could consider selling Cillessen.

But since the club has let Jordi Masip leave for free… things will stay as they are.

 

DEFENSE – Remove the dead weight and sign fullbacks

 

RBs- Sergi Roberto, Aleix Vidal

Sergi Roberto may not have had a perfect season, but for a midfielder who hasn’t been gifted with a superb pace, he did what he could.

Aleix Vidal, WHO’S ACTUALLY A WINGER, was doing pretty well before getting injured, but, yet again, since we need money for our signings, I would consider selling him.

 

SUMMER MOVE:

Promote PALENCIA,

sell Aleix Vidal,

sign someone like SEMEDO, RICARDO PEREIRA OR SIDIBE;

send Sergi Roberto to midfield.

Other names: Fabinho, Aurier, Hysaj, Walker, Azpilicueta

 

 

 

CBs: Pique,Umtiti, Mascherano, Mathieu

Pique-Umtiti will be our starting CB duo at least for the next 4-5 years, when Pique retires. Even though Pique hasn’t had a superb season, Umtiti has proven to be THE CB SIGNING we’d been waiting since 2012, and will only get better and more confident on the next few years.

Mascherano has been at our club for 7 years, and formed a solid CB duo with Pique. The thing is: with Umtiti’s presence and the fact we can’t count on him to be a proper backup to Busquets (that night in Turin was the final proof of that), and given the fact he finally scored his first goal for us… it’s time for him to leave.

Mathieu should never have been signed on the first place. A smoking vagrant who’s hurt us badly time and time again.

Vermaelen still belongs to us.

 

SUMMER MOVE:

Promote MARLON

sell Mascherano, Mathieu and Vermaelen

sign someone like DAVINSON SANCHEZ, MAURICIO LEMOS OR JEMERSON

Alternative: promote both Marlon and Tarin and save money to invest on our midfield

Other names: Tah, Laporte, De Ligt, Manolas.

 

 

LBs: Alba and Digne

Alba, to me, is one of the best attacking LBs in the business, who due to his physical “flaws” (short and weak) relies basically on his insane pace to help us in the back.

As I’ve mentioned during my podcast to advocate Neymar’s sale, our left side has been very poorly orchestrated, and both Alba and Iniesta have been wasted so that Neymar gets to cut inside and tries to dribble past everyone… before being dispossessed.

Given his potential to attack and the fact we should spend heavily on our midfield this season, I’d give Alba another chance, but also sign someone who can actually compete with him. Digne didn’t do that.

 

Digne looks like a good kid. Tries hard, can handle himself in aerial duels. And that’s it.

While he’s and overall better defender than Alba, his associative game is just too poor for FCB, and he’s far from possessing the pace, vision and quickness of thought to ever be good for us upfront. That’s why I’d sell him as soon as possible.

 

SUMMER MOVE:

Sign someone like Grimaldo, Guerreiro or Marcos Alonso

Sell Digne

Alternative: Promote Cucurella

Other names: Ricardo Rodrigues, Alex Sandro, Gaya.

 

 

 


MIDFIELD- WE NEED TO COMPLETELY REBUILD IT TO BE ABLE TO COMPETE IN THE NEAR FUTURE

 

CDM: Busquets

While the complete chaos our team had become on the first half of the season made people start with the usual “Busquets is past it, we need someone who’s stronger” talk, Sergio has proven he’s still our finest and most regular midfield player on the second half of the season.

Busquets, to me, is our second most important player, after God.

But since Luis Enrique failed to do the obvious, we need to bring SAMPER back, so he gets to learn from our best ever CDM, and get the confidence and skills to start replacing him on the easiest matches, or when we are already winning at home.

SUMMER MOVE: Bring back SAMPER

 

 

 

CMs: Iniesta, Rakitic, Rafinha, Denis, Turan, Gomes

The backbone of our team, our style, and that is completely weakened nowadays. RM has never had an Academy so well run as ours, has never had a generation of homegrown players like Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Thiago, or a playing philosophy that has dominated Europe from 2008-2012.

But they still won 3 Champions League titles on the last 4 years. Even managed to retain their title yesterday, something that hasn’t happened since 1990.

And how did they do it?

By having signed players like Modric, Kroos, Isco and Kovacic on the last few years. When you have great midfielders to balance out whatever weaknesses you may have in defense or in attack, you’ll always have the advantage.

If we want to be able to compete on the Champions League today, and especially to regain our La Liga title, we need to do a complete overhaul in our midfield.

Iniesta is now 33 years old, and even though he’s always played way farther from the area in previous years under Luis Enrique, his body just isn’t taking it anymore. 4-5 considerable injuries during the 16-17 season, and Don Andres is seriously considering not renewing his contract, that runs out in June 2018.

We have no idea what Valverde’s plans are, but if Iniesta is to play his last season for us, besides using a style that actually profits from his gifts the most, instead of having him start plays in the halfway line, we should sign a younger, world class CM to play alongside him, so he could “teach” his would be replacement everything he could about our style.

Rakitic has been a loyal servant, and we’ll never forget his opener on the Berlin UCL final. But he represents the shift we’ve made since Lucho took over: from organizing controlling CMs that work hard physically but still make use of their combining and intelligence to put the team ahead… we now have a midfield player who’s focused on defending and filling the gaps left by Messi and our RB.

Ivan has always been a very direct, vertical player, and has helped us a lot to win the Treble in 2015. But since it’s now clear we must go back to our controlling and organizing ways to we can compete again… we need to make the hard choice and sell him, for whatever price.

Rafinha, to me, is a left footed version of Rakitic, with greater skill and a bigger eye for goal. But the same argument I’ve used to justify Ivan’s sale, I’d use for Rafinha.

He is not a controlling CM, and his style would fit like a glove in most Premier League teams. Since we can no longer take chances in our midfield set up, especially after the last two seasons, I would also sell him, for 25-30mi euros.

Denis is a very intelligent young man, who’s able to combine in small spaces, can dribble easily, and has the patience and vision to thrive as the kind of CM we need right now. If he has way more minutes than he did in 16-17, and is able to play close to Iniesta and learn from him, I’m confident we’ll have a player that’ll be able to helps us regain the traits that have taken us so far before.

Arda Turan. The most nonsensical signing our club made in the last two decades. Not even worth trying to describe all of his flaws. We need to sell him to whoever pays more.

Gomes. I know this board most likely won’t even consider selling Gomes, given we literally just signed him a year ago.

But they should. And do it fast and for whatever decent sum we get offered.

Gomes, just like Mathieu is very slow in his thought process. He cannot combine with our other midfielders with a single touch on the ball. He’s not able to turn his body when in possession, much less when defending. And besides being slow to think, he’s also slow in pretty much everything else he does in a football pitch.

After RM’s 12th UCL conquest, with such a vast and fitting midfield selection, we should not keep a player like Gomes because “he deserves more than just one season to prove his worth”. Midfield is the most crucial part of our team, and we cannot risk keeping a player that lacks the very basics traits we need in an organizing, intelligent CM.

 

SUMMER MOVE

Sell Rakitic, Rafinha, Arda and Gomes

Sign 2 players from: Verratti, Kimmich, Weigl, Eriksen, Seri, Jorginho, Trigueros or Roque Mesa.

Use Sergi Roberto as a CM as well.

 

ATTACK: MAKE THE TOUGH CHOICE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. OH, AND SELL ALCACER.

 

I will not even write about Messi. Just that we’re lucky he loves this club so much he’s going to renew even after our grotesque sporting planning only provided him with ONE UCL title during his peak physical years (2012-2017).

 

The same goes to Suarez. Even though he’s had a very irregular season, still scored 37 goals (5th best in Europe) and has kept his insane work rate and commitment to this team, and to opening spaces for Messi. He’s the best 9 in the world and we won’t find a better fit.

 

Alcacer  should have never been signed on the first place. This “we need a tall 9 to come in when we need to score/are facing a very defensive side” talk has been around our club since the 1980s.

But the fact is: HAVING A TALL BACKUP 9 ISN’T A PLAN.

IT’S LIMITED AND AMATEURISH.

WHEN YOU HAVE A PROPERLY SET MIDFIELD TO CREATE CHANCES AND HELP THE ATTACKERS COMBINE WELL, YOU DON’T NEED SOMEONE FROM THE BENCH TO SAVE THE DAY WITH A HEADER.

Alcacer lacks pace, can’t actually dribble, hides behind the CBs instead of pressing them and making smart runs inside the area, can’t combine with other players in small places, and has very limited vision/creativity.

It was very obvious we needed another winger, someone versatile enough to play on both sides, and smart enough to be able to create chances, give us width and bully defenders with pace. Yet, not only did we not sign one, but sent both Deulofeu and Adama packing… only to use ALCACER AS A WINGER DURING EL CLASICO.

 

Neymar  will never reach the heights people think he already did. He’s wasteful, does not care about combining with our midfielders to put us in a more advantageous situation, EVEN THOUGH HE’S SPENT 4 YEARS BY INIESTA’S SIDE. Not only does he not care about forming a partnership/relationship with our midfield, he never really formed a dangerous link with Alba, who’s been superb in overlaps.

Besides the fact he manages more dispossessions than dribbles per match, and only actually pulls his most outrageous skills when we are far ahead in the scoreboard, his lack of professionalism (leaving Spain and missing matches to attend both Carnaval and his sister’s birthday every single February), he’s Brazilian.

Every single Brazilian star has had a very short period as the best player in their respective period.

Pelé was only Pelé until 1962, which means he really dominated for… 5 years.
After that, he only managed to win ONE Brazilian League, never again became the League’s topscorer, never managed to win the Libertadores again, and won the WC in 1970 with the greatest XI a National Team has ever had.

Garrincha also shone the brightest for 5 years, then his knee deformation and love for booze and women did him in.

Zico was absolutely relentless from 1979 to 1983, but after Maradona moved to Naples, he was miles behind the Argentine’s brilliance.

Romário was absolutely ruthless from 1988 to 1994, where he was focused and destroying defenses first for PSV, than for Barcelona. After winning the 1994 WC, he achieved what he most wanted in life, and focused on what actually gave him pleasure: living in Rio de Janeiro, partying and womanizing. That’s why he never won a UCL or Libertadores, and has only 5 National League titles (only one after 1994).

Fat Ronaldo was completely dominant from 1994 to 1999 (2 great season for PSV, 1 superb seasons for us, and another 2 great ones for Inter), but after he ruptured his knee tendon playing for Inter, was never the same. He did win the 2002 WC with Rivaldo’s superb help, but only had a testimonial career since then, also never managing to win a Champions League or Libertadores title, and only won TWO National League titles during his whole career.

Rivaldo is the only exception here. While he was never considered the best player in the world for the 8 years he played at top level (1994-2002), he was always as professional as any European player from the same period, and, unlike other Brazilians, never really got involved in scandals, parties and overall excesses.

Ronaldinho wasted his skills so much it literally hurts to talk about it. From 2003 to 2006, he completely dominated world football, by bringing joy, brilliance and ruthlessness in the same package. But by the time he was 26 years old, with a World up and a Champions League title to his name… he retired. Instead of working hard to keep being the beast he was, he was literally sleeping in our massage tables to recover for the never ending nights of partying.

Kaká is another  wasteful example of a Brazilian star that reached the top and simply died down. Shone for São Paulo, stayed in Milan for 6 seasons, where he never scored more than 20 goals in a season. Did manage to win a Balon Dor in 2007, but soon after that moved to Real Madrid for money and accepted staying on the bench, even though he was told by Mourinho he wouldn’t be a starter.

That’s why, given the footballing reasons and the historical truth the Brazilian players burn through their potential way faster than they should, due to a lack of overall interest and a grotesque approach to being a top level athlete. Neymar doesn’t act like a professional, and we should sell him NOW, while we can still grab 140-180 mi euros for him.

All my case justifying Neymar’s sale is here: https://zcast.co/j/Zz4lgPS2zP

SUMMER MOVE

Sell Alcacer and Neymar

Sign a player such as: Ousmane Dembele or Dybala

Alternative: Bring back Deulofeu/Munir

 

 

 

 

OVERALL 17-18 SUMMER MOVES:

 

Promote PALENCIA,

Sell Aleix Vidal,

sign someone like SEMEDO, RICARDO PEREIRA OR SIDIBE;

send Sergi Roberto to midfield.

 

Promote MARLON

Sell Mascherano, Mathieu and Vermaelen

sign someone like DAVINSON SANCHEZ, MAURICIO LEMOS OR JEMERSON

Alternative: promote both Marlon and Tarin and save money to invest on our midfield

 

Sign someone like Grimaldo, Guerreiro or Marcos Alonso

Sell Digne

Alternative: Promote Cucurella to compete with Alba

 

SUMMER MOVE: Bring back SAMPER

Sell Rakitic, Rafinha, Arda and Gomes

Sign 2 players from: Verratti, Kimmich, Weigl, Eriksen, Seri, Jorginho, Trigueros or Roque Mesa.

Use Sergi Roberto as a CM as well.

 

Sell Alcacer and Neymar

Sign a player such as: Ousmane Dembele or Dybala

Alternative: Bring back Deulofeu/Munir

 

 

 

 

Pugs and Rock ‘n Roll

Corsario.jpg

We just witnessed the most insane night our beloved football club has ever experienced. The impossible required 95 minutes to be accomplished, and we only did so because of the union between our players’ heroic efforts, never, ever giving up; and the support from the 96 thousand at the Camp Nou who instead of leaving on the 85th minute, decided to actually stand from their seats and support this team that has given us so much over the last decade.

And we won.

Every single culer who believed, who cheered, and especially went insane and are now unable to speak properly. We all did it. Our collective energy to achieve this seismic achievement made it happen.

Most of us could not sleep at all after this historic night. Everyone was still on twitter, talking about it, watching celebration videos and sharing photos. But, mainly, just sharing how happy we all were.

But then the night turned bittersweet. Sour. Sad.

I was informed by my dear friend @maria_ines6 that her brother, best friend and roomate, @corsario_N had just passed away.

Words left me completely. I had just talked him 2 days ago, as we often had since late 2013.

His real name was José Luis. He was Chilean, loved his pugs, was crazy about our team and Messi, and we grew closer on the months leading the the 2015 elections. He was just as anti-Rosell and Bartomeu as I am.

Not only was he a culer, but an actual soci. That’s the reason I’ve actually only learned his name after he passed away. He didn’t want to risk losing his membership in case Rosell and co found out he was part of the group of people we had organized to act against the board back then. So, to me, during the 3 years we knew each other, he’s always been just… Corsário.

And we had so much fun together. From talking about Robot Chicken Star Wars Especials, to bowing before Bergkamp each chance we had. We shared the same views about our club, Cruijff, Messi and La Masia. He’s never been a fan of Sampaoli (and most of the chilean players, by the way), but had a soft spot for Berizzo.

We were so much alike, we actually spent two Copa Américas supporting Argentina, despite our home nations being there. That’s how much he cared for Messi.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

He was also an experienced (and hurt) Gunner:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

José Luis really understood how FC Barcelona works, as well:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But, besides all that, he was a great friend.

Not only did we get to talk about all the interests we have in common (like friends that actually know each other personally do), but he would always ask about my views on brazilian politics, movies and music.

Oh, music. He surely loved his rock and roll. We just lost a really honest culer, pug lover and head banger. What a unique guy José Luis was.

His last tweet before passing was about… Iniesta. And Bergkamp.

He was watching the match yesterday, like all of us, and after the 2nd goal happened, he had this so say:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Yes, my friend. That backheel strike from Iniesta was something Bergkamp would have been proud to have produced himself.

Just as I would have loved to have actually met you, José Luis. But we’ll catch up in due time.

It’s not yet clear what caused his death, but we do know he was watching the game, and was found after it had already finished. He most likely passed during the match after some sort of heart issue. Corsário was only 34 years old.

He was a caring friend, and sent me this a few days before the end of last season:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Don’t you worry, my friend. Us culers that had the honor to get to know you will all have a drink on your behalf to celebrate our 6×1 miracle.

And we’ll win this Champions League for you. And drink on your honor yet again.

Rest in peace, José Luís. I’m certain there are loads of pugs and good classical rock music where you’re headed.

16/17 and beyond

29-05-09_BUSQUETS_COPAS_01.v1425042226

15/16 is over, and even though the inevitability of La Undecima looms, no one should believe the noise from the Madrid/English media: we had a superb, historic season.

Not only did we win 4 titles, but we did so with one of the worst benches imaginable. Spending a whole season relying on the conquerors of Berlin was heroic, but only Sergi Roberto added anything of value this season, other than the 12 players responsible for us winning everything in 14/15.

We won these 4 titles because Pique, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi and Suarez held us together, specially after those 4 straight losses that almost led to utter disaster.

The “sporting planning” did not help us achieve anything this season, in fact, it’s responsible for our failure at the UCL, which was the trophy these players wanted to win the most, as they’ve said it themselves several times.

Even though Bartomeu and his board do not know a thing about football, even though useless professionals like Braida, Robert and Rexach are responsible for our sporting decisions, and even though our coach has a few obsessions, like Mathieu and Arda, and only used Barça B players for 70 minutes this season, I decided to write this article with my views on how we should plan for the 16/17 season and beyond that, so what happened at the Calderon doesn’t happen again.

UTMOST PRIORITY: RENEWING BUSQUETS

Imagine a player as vital as Busquets having to go before the press FOUR TIMES during the season to say he’s still waiting for the President to keep his word and give him the renewal/raise he was promised.

Busquets already had a glorious 14/15 season, and after Xavi’s departure, he, just like Iniesta and Messi, had to take on  an even bigger role on the system to make up for his absence. He kept the same absurd performances during this season, and only a fool cannot see Busquets is extremely vital to our future.

FCB will never thrive with CDMs from outside La Masia. Forget your wet dreams about Weigl or Verratti.

The system may have changed under Lucho, but the pausa, vision, calmness and adaptability Busquets brings, and Sergi Samper will eventually follow, cannot be found elsewhere. And since it seems seeing Samper on the first team won’t happen any time soon, renewing Busquets should be the very first thing we do now that the season is over.

There’s simply no one close to his abilities, and a catalan Masia boy who has won everything many times over deserves to have his greatness recognized.

GIVE THEM ALL THE MONEY: STEGEN, PIQUE, INIESTA, RAKITIC, MESSI AND SUAREZ

After renewing Busquets and giving him the salary he deserves, now that Nike will shower us with money, we should renew all the players that will surely keep us winning titles on the coming years.

Stegen has all the abilities and potential to be our starting GK for the next decade, and even considering sending him away to keep a 33 year old like Bravo is so demented, so near sighted, I won’t even talk about it. Making sure Marc Andre stays, and is given the role he deserves is vital to a proper sporting planning.

Pique was lost before Lucho came around. Even a fool like me predicted Pique would either get back to his best or leave the club under Lucho. The rest is history. Pique has kept our defense alive on the toughest matches, and his Cup final performance against Sevilla was simply epic. Even though he will retire at the club, he deserves recognition for his importance on the team.

Iniesta. Saying anything about him about his magical Cup final performance is too easy. What isn’t easy is reading several culers attacking him during the whole season, at any opportunity they see to be able to say he’s “not regularly good”. Andres, alongside Busquets, hold the keys to our ability to keep the ball and dominate rivals through posession and fast thinking. Iniesta deserves it all.

Rakitic is far from being the absolute beast he was for Sevilla. He rarely gives assists, through balls, even though he scores a decent amount of goals. But Ivan is absolutely vital to our system. Messi has only scored 99 goals on the last 2 seasons combined because Raki is working hard to allow him the freedom and the space to do so, on whichever position he chooses. Rakitic balances a right side were Alves and Messi are handed the battering rams. He deserves more for all he’s given us, especially after Berlin.

Messi will already get a huge salary bump this season. But if Nike is giving us that much money, surely we should given him more. No offering is enough for having the greatest of all time around. Pay him. Even if he hasn’t asked… just pay him.

Forget the 59 goals or the 22 assists. Suarez deserves to be renewed due to the simple fact no other 9 in Europe is as complete as him, to our system. Supernatural work rate,  a true team player, and a desire to win at all costs that makes everyone around him perform better. Suarez has to feel like the second most important player in the squad, and we should pay him as much. It’s that simple.

THE HARD CHOICES THAT WON’T BE MADE

SELLING NEYMAR

Yes, he will be renewed soon enough and stay. Doesn’t mean I agree with it.

We played 29 matches in 2016. Neymar scored 15 goals and gave 8 assists, which is laughable when compared to Messi, and especially Suarez, but that isn’t the point. It’s his 3rd season at FCB, and he always has a considerable drop on his performances after December. The UCL goals last season made people forget it, but Neymar was also just as irrelevant on the League and Cup then as he was this season.

The fact of the matter is: this wet dream people have that “Neymar will take over for Messi”, or that “Neymar will be the best in the world” won’t ever come to fruition. The biggest brazilians players to have ever played in Europe all had just a few short years at the top, then simply broke down.

Romário left because he couldn’t live without his beloved Rio, even if that mean playing Regional matches. Ronaldo became a fat mess 3 years after becoming the best, and kept that farce going for years, since Nike would not let their poster boy be forgotten. Ronaldinho had the 3 best seasons any brazilian has ever had in Europe, then became a party animal in 2006, never coming back from that. Kaka burned his last few quality years to keep earning truckloads of money in Madrid’s bench, knowing very well he would not be a starter.

The only brazilian star to escape this rule was Rivaldo, who was a true professional, a competitive animal that only went away after coming across Van Gaal, a specialist in making the lives of South American players a living hell.

Neymar is 24 years old. His numbers have been bad in 2016, yes, but his behavior has been worse. It’s been 3 years, and he stills holds on the ball way more than he should, always slowing down our play during build up, or simply dribbling/running back, only to give the ball to the nearest CB, so we start again from scratch. Unlike Suarez, he does not improve our system, he slows it down. The only time he flourishes, and even that happened rarely this year, was during counters.

A professional player would keep his head down and work harder to overcome his shortcomings. Pique did that. So did Iniesta. Even Messi. But Neymar asks for EXTRA DAYS OFF DURING CARNAVAL (!!!). And he was given just that, for the second season in a row! Even if that had worked (it did not), that’s now how a pro should act. Fans may say what they usually say, but of course the rest of the squad hated that. You don’t go partying while the rest of your team mates are busting their ass off in training.

Neymar is treated differently, by either the coach, or the board. While Messi almost got an actual suspension after an altercation with Lucho, and Aleix Vidal never played a single minute after getting injured during a basketball match in one of our training sessions, which pissed Lucho off monumentaly… Neymar comes to Brazil to party with his sister. Then performs even worse than he did before leaving!

A few minutes before the UCL match at the Calderon started, he was liking some random girl’s pictures on Instagram. That sums his professionalism so well, that I’ll just remind you how shitty his performance was that day. He doesn’t care.

Neymar will never match Messi’s dominance, let alone surpass it. Right now, he’s way behind Suarez, who will soon have scored more goals than him, having played way less matches, and even CR, who is the biggest asshole in world football, but works harder than anyone to reach his (selfish) goals. And I honestly don’t see him changing his ways and focusing on achieving his full potential.

He literally just posted a “Be silent” picture, after being gifted yet another tap-in by Messi on the Cup final. You had a laughable 2016, kid. You don’t get to take “bad ass” black and white pictures to shut anyone up. And that kind of behavior won’t go away, because he’s surrounded by fools that feed his delusions, and a father that well… I won’t even waste my time.

I would sell Neymar and buy a player like Dybala, or even Martial. A serious sporting planning involves focusing on having the best and most professional players around, and Neymar simply won’t ever be one, just like the vast majority of brazilians hasn’t.

But a few days after I post this article, Neymar will be renewed, will get a huge pay rise, and we’re setting ourselves up for failure, sooner or later. He cannot be trusted to lead this team neither in the long or short term.

BRAVO, IT’S TIME TO PACK

Claudio Bravo was a regular GK during his years at Real Sociedad. No big team ever chased him, and he simply was never listed on the best GKs in La Liga. He was average, with few great matches here and there. That’s why when we signed him, me and several other culers were stunned, especially after we had just signed a gem like Stegen.

Naturally, Bravo has been vital on both Liga titles we’ve just won, especially on 14/15, the best season he’s ever had. He hasn’t been as great in 2015/2016, even though the 0-4 at the Bernabeu only happened because he was, by far, the MOTM. I won’t ever forget that.

But that won’t change the fact he’s 33 years old. And when you have someone like Stegen, who will be one of the very best GKers in Europe for many years to come, your planning has to be intelligent: give the younger, more promising player what he wants. And Stegen wants all the minutes possible, he wants to be the Liga goalkeeper.

If Bravo accepts playing only the Cup, like Pinto did, I would have no problem keeping him around. But I don’t think that’s gonna be the case, both him and Stegen are proud players. A serious club would make the obvious choice and let the chilean go so the german can actually shine. Let’s hope this hard choice is made, and soon…

I’ve been told the club has received offers from England for Bravo. The way is clear, and both parties need to do is take it.

ARDA TURAN WAS A TOTAL FAILURE. ACCEPT THAT AND MOVE ON.

24 matches (1.151 minutes), 8 yellow cards, 2 goals and 4 assists. A complete lack of understanding of our system, even though he literally spent over 6 months only training with players like Busquets, Iniesta and Messi every single day. Non-existant work rate, way to aggressive to be trustworthy, and a very poor passing range, besides being awful in defending, especially counters.

Arda Turan was a signing made to win an election, and that worked for Bartomeu quite well. But he’s been an utter failure where it matters: the pitch. His skill set does not add anything to our system, and that’s clear for anyone who isn’t biased. There are many teams where he would fit way better, and there are many other midfielders that would suit us better.

So let’s hope the board, the sporting director and especially the coach don’t act with arrogance and simply accept it’s best for our club and Arda to simply part ways. Insisting on this mistake would be a massive planning error, and Arda himself would be throwing his last few good years away.

YES, LUCHO, WE KNOW YOU ADORE MATHIEU. BUT KEEPING HIM WOULD BE RUINOUS.

Jeremy Mathieu will soon be 33 years old. He’s the worst passer on our squad, his “superb” pace is completely useless, because he cannot read the adversaries runs, and his lack of vision has literally cost us 4 Liga points this seasons, in 2 matches we were easily winning 2-0.

Yet, he’s literally played more minutes than Bartra and Vermaelen combined. The coach likes the height he adds, and he must be a very hard worker during training sessions. But he’s simply not young enough or good enough to be trusted as our 1st choice backup CB.

Our team is based on having CBs that can easily play at a high line, and who are great passers. Pique is a superb passer, and Mascherano is one of the best long passers in Europe. Mathieu cannot hit a 10 meter pass if he’s being pressured. Smart planning would be selling Mathieu for whatever price, and finding a much younger, more versatile CB who dominates passing and is clever enough to not rely only on pace to beat attackers.

Personal preferences should not exist on a club this big. Logic says Mathieu’s time has come.

TIME TO GET RID OF THE DEADWEIGHT: DOUGLAS, VERMAELEN, ADRIANO, SONG, TELLO

There’s not much to say here, right?

Douglas has been a great joke, one of the best FCB memes, but.. enough. The man wasn’t even good enough for the Brazilian League, let alone the best club on Earth. Should be allowed to leave for free if we can’t sell/loan him.

Vermaelen has been injured for 90% of the time after signing for us, just like he was on his last few years at Arsenal. Another one that has to be let go urgently.

Adriano knows he’s a goner for months now. Just hope we can sell him for at least 3-4mi.

Alex Song remains a FCB player. Please let end this nightmare this summer.

Tello cannot dribble, relies on space to run into and has an awful first touch. That hasn’t changed since he left, so we should sell him for good, and wish him the best of luck wherever he goes.

LA MASIA AND HEARTBREAK: BARTRA, SANDRO, MUNIR, SAMPER AND DENIS SUAREZ

Sandro has already left. His contract was just terminated, so he’s leaving on a free. I wish him all the very best. Having to compete with Suarez, when you can’t possible also play as a LB/RW is a total nightmare. I sincerely think he’ll have a decent career.

Bartra is also leaving. Unlike Sergi Roberto, he’s never been given an actual run of games (700 minutes this season, while Roberto had over 2.300). It’s a shame to see a catalan Masia player leaving, especially a CB that can pass the ball superbly well. But he’s 25 years old, and just spent another season watching a player like Mathieu play way more than he ever did at the club.A loan/buyback doesn’t make sense given his age, but I’m sure he’ll prove to be one of the best spanish CBs in a few seasons. All he needs is the trust he was never given at FCB.

Munir isn’t going anywhere, will get a renewal soon. He can play both as a LW and a 9, and that is important for us, especially during the MSN Era.

Samper, if he stays at FCB, will remain on Barça B. A journalist I trust told me he will not be promoted to the first team this summer, which does not surprise me one bit, since the coach has used Barça B player for only SEVENTY MINUTES this season….

Denis Suarez. Yes, he’s coming back.
But a journalist I trust keeps telling me the club plans on selling him for good. I mean, after the Bearded Disaster, it would make sense to get rid of Turan and give a chance to a Masia boy like Denis, who actually had a great season at Villarreal.
Bartomeu doesn’t see these matters like we do, however. He sees a bag of money, not a potential starter…

Luis Enrique was one of the best Barça B coaches ever. People who follow Masia daily, people I trust, all say so.But since becoming FCB manager, not a single B Team player has been promoted. Not one.Only Samper and Gumbau had minutes this season, but combined it reached.. 73 minutes. Even Tata Martino gave hundreds of minutes to youth players during his disastrous tenure.

I do not lay the blame only on Lucho, however.

The board has “organized” the club in a way that Barça B and Juvenil A are run by certain people, the rest of Masia by others, then the first team by yet another set of “leaders”. That is literally insane.

You cannot expect a club to seamlessly develop, use and promote it’s youth players if you don’t have a clear strategy and way ahead planned, like we did during the Alexanco Era.
Barça B is treated like a team where only the results matters and not getting relegated (once again) is the focus. That’s why the last La Masia player to become a starter was Busquets, over 8 years ago. Something is deeply wrong at the very roots of our club, and it doesn’t seem to be worrying those in charge, especially not the coach. We’ll keep winning because we are blessed with the likes of Pique, Busquets, Iniesta and Messi, to keep the Masia flag high. But in 5 years? The future seems very bleak…

OK… SO WHO ARE WE SIGNING?!

Well, I think this is gonna be our squad after the expected/logical departures:

GK: Stegen, Masip
RB: Alves, Aleix
CB: Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu
LB: Alba
CDM: Busquets
CMs: Iniesta, Rakitic, Rafinha, Sergi Roberto
LW: Neymar, Munir
9: Suarez
God: Messi

17 players.

We would need: 1 GK, 1 CB, 1 LB, 1 CM, maybe an attacker.

If we’re signing a GK, there’s only one we should consider:

If we’re lucky to see Arda leave, Pjanic should be the name (since Gundogan keeps getting injured):

But we are DEFINITELY signing a CB (maybe 2) and a LB.

After digging into both Whoscore and Squawka (I did make a huge comparison table, but cannot possibly fit it here, so I won’t be able to share it), my personal 3 picks for our CB targets are:

Other names that should be considered: Stones, Laporte, Christensen.

Our main LB target should be Jonas Hector:

Ricardo Rodriguez should also be considered:

And if we are in the mood to deal with PSG… Kurzawa as well:

Blind and Alaba would fit us like a glove, but those are impossible transfers.

Oh, the club/coach wants a 4th attacker so “MSN can rest”. Coach insists on Nolito, and even Gameiro has been heavily rumoured.

I think such signing would fail just as Turan did. Either we buy someone younger with the potential to be world class, or we do not settle to 29 year old forwards. That would be very short sighted.

Either trust Munir completely (I know…), or let him go somewhere and sign a player who can actually force Neymar to focus and act like someone who cares more about his job than looking like a bad ass on Instagram.

 

UPDATE – 26/05/2016: Since Alves is gone and Lucho doesn’t trust Aleix as an RB (only used him for 543 minutes this season), we are gonna need to sign at least one RB.

After analyzing Whoscore and Squawka, these are the highest rated players:

Celta’s Hugo Mallo, who doesn’t have YouTube scouting videos… weird.