17-18 Season: Squad Analysis and Expectation

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The summer transfer window is now officially closed. I won’t talk about how badly the FCB board handled it, be it at signing the players we needed, be it at selling our outgoing players for a respectable price. I’ve done that every single day via twitter. I’ve had enough about this subject.

So, let’s look at our squad for the 17-18 season.

 

GKs: Stegen and Cillessen: We are fine here.

Barring injuries, we shouldn’t have any problems regarding our GKs. I just hope fans are smart enough to know the difference between a badly set up team that has a weak defensive system due to a lack of control from the midfield… and actually having a bad GK. We have a superb GK and a great backup one.

 

FBs: Semedo, Aleix, Roberto, Alba and Digne:

While, for some reason, I see lots of people attacking Semedo before he’s yet to play 90 minutes for us, I’m confident we’ve signed a very tactically capable player, who can both defend and attack well.

Aleix, as I said in my 17-18 Season Planning article should have been sold, and his performances so far have been DIRE. Hope he’s our backup RB and only used sparingly.

Alba should have a better season this time around, due to the fact our midfield will be, in theory, better in defense, be it due to Valverde’s focus on pressing, be it due to the presence of someone like Paulinho to allow our FBs to attack freely.

Digne, who’s decent in defense and mediocre in attack should remain with his current role: a backup LB who won’t ever see the final third when we are attacking.

CBs: Pique, Umtiti, Mascherano and Vermaelen:

Somehow, the board managed to leave our central backline WORSE than it was when the summer window opened!

Marlon has had great performances in 16-17, having been one of the very few surprises to come from La Masia in the next few years. Having him as backup would rejuvenate the group and create an action competition between our backup CBs. With him on the squad, we would be OK, at least regarding the qualities of each player available.

But, as they’ve done with 98% of our Masia talent since they took over, this board decided to loan him to Nice, and trust Mascherano and Vermaelen to be our backup CBs…

No team that aims to win the Champions League again would trust in Mascherano, and especially in Vermaelen, as backup CBs. It’s that simple.

Mascherano should have left our club this summer, because he’s become a liability, especially during the last 2 seasons.

And Vermaelen hasn’t even played 40 matches on the last 4 seasons due to injuries… but they decided to trust him when we rotate our CBS, which is something we’ll DEFINITELY due constantly during the season.

So, we need to root that Pique and Umtiti have both a superb season and remain perfectly healthy and free from suspensions. Relying on Mascherano and Vermaelen, even for emergencies, is just too risky and ill conceived.

 

CDMs: Busquets, Gomes, Roberto, Paulinho:

Busquets, once again, is left all alone as our CDM option.

Samper should not have been loaned out, because he’d not only help rest Busquets, but also learn from him. That would have been the best bet for our future, but, once again, the board showed they could not care less about Masia players and set Samper packing. For the second straight season.

I sincerely hope Gomes is used as our backup CDM, because he’s been dire in every other position we’ve used him. He’s far from being able to replace Busquets (no player in Europe is), but at least he’s had decent performances on this position.

After Gomes, I’d use Sergi Roberto as our backup CDM, when needed. Few people will remember it, but Roberto started carving his place as a 1st team starter after Lucho used him a few times as CDM, and he impressed. It was only after that he gained the confidence from the coach and became our RB. To make it clear: I want Roberto as our CM, but given the other CDM backup option is Paulinho… better a Masia player, any day of the week.

Paulinho… First time I ever write about his signing. A few players in the world would be SO different from our style and what we (are supposed to) represent. A thug box-to-box player who is a mediocre passer, worse assist giver and has only thrived for Corinthians and Brazil NT for “having stamina” and scoring a few goals. It should be clear, however, that Paulinho is a “threat in attack” because he simply vacates his defensive/organizational duties behind and tries to attack. Whenever we are caught in counters, the massive hole left behind each time Paulinho decides to attack will cause us serious problems.

I sincerely hope Valverde is not thinking of using a 4231 with Paulinho besides Busquets. Our matches would be dull, slow and predictable, only relying on fast transitions and counters to actually be a threat to our opponents. The “muscles and speed” Paulinho brings means nothing. The danger/safety has to come from keeping the ball and moving it intelligently, not by having someone running 14km each match.

 

CMs: Iniesta, Rakitic, Denis, Rafinha, Roberto, Paulinho, André Gomes, Alenya:

Sigh… After 16-17, we it was CRYSTAL CLEAR we needed to invest in intelligent, organizing CMs so we’d have a chance to set up a proper midfield and compete for the Champions League again, the ONLY SIGNING WE MADE WAS PAULINHO!

I won’t even talk about all that happened regarding Verratti, Ceballos and Coutinho, it’s pretty clear we have now WORSE CM options that we did for the start of the 16-17 season, and older players to perform the same roles.

Andres Iniesta is reaching the twilight of his career, and the years under Lucho did him no good. If Valverde sets the team up in a manner where Iniesta will be able to get the ball closer to the area and be able to combine with players such as Dembele and Messi, we should see a great season from him. However, if Valverde thinks like Lucho and places Iniesta behind the halfway line, so he has 30-40m in front of him… Awful news.

Rakitic’s best season was 14-15, due to the fact Lucho set up a system where he basically had to cover for Messi and Alves. He had zero creative obligations then, and was basically just a work horse. Since then, not only has he not been able to perform the same way, but any time he was given more responsabilities, especially creative… we suffered.

Paulinho is a liability. While I’m sure he’ll press the exact way Valverde desires, and will even score a few goals, be it from headers or chaotic counters, he’ll leave us vulnerable each time he decides to attack. If Paulinho is as disciplined as Rakitic was in 14-15, which I highly doubt, then, maybe, he’d be a decent option to current Rakitic. But get this: signing a 29 year old player from the Chinese League to basically replace a 31 year old player that has had vestigial creative importance in our squad is just demented.

Denis has been impressing so far this season, even though he’s not had many minutes to play. I’m aware he’s performed better as a LW than a CM, but he’s the type of player that can help us keep/recycle/circulate possession. He has pausa, can dribble and can be given a creative role. Trusting Denis over Paulinho is the way to go, but I doubt that will happen.

Rafinha should have been sold this summer. But since he can run/press and Valverde likes that, let’s hope he’s given enough minutes and we give the minutes Paulinho would have to him. If we are to have a box to box player, at least let it be from Masia, not the Chinese League.

Sergi Roberto. I sincerely think this will be THE SEASON he becomes a midfield starter. He offers more than Rakitic and Paulinho would, due to the fact that he not only can run/press, but can also also help us keep and recycle possession when needed. Roberto is versatile and will also be to both take part in creating chances during a slow, horizontal build up, but also help us during counters, as he’s shown last season, even at the Bernabeu. Yet again: if we are to trust on players like Rakitic/Paulinho… at least let’s put Roberto ahead of both. Especially after last season, he’s earned it.

André Gomes should also have left this summer. He will never suit us, be it under our actual style, be it under a vertical one. He’s too slow to move, can’t even turn to look for better passing options, and always needs two touches on the ball and time to think before making a simple pass. He cannot run, his pressing is limited, he can’t dribble and lacks vision to create chances. Every single time he’s used as a CM, I’ll prefer Rakitic/Paulinho instead, and that is saying A LOT. Should be used as CDM, and very rarely.

Alenya is a great Masia talent, with several attributes that we should be looking for in a midfielder. I doubt Valverde will give him many minutes, after sending Marlon and Samper away, however. Let’s hope that isn’t the case and Carles gets the minutes and the trust from the coach to shine.

Wingers: Deulofeu and Dembele

The one position in our squad where we’ll see young, hungry, skilled players.

Deulofeu has too many critics. Even when he’s having a good match, like the one against Betis, people always find a way to attack him. What people seem to forget, however, is that Deulofeu had to finish his development in clubs such as Everton, Sevilla and Milan because our club did not trust/believe in him. Judging a winger that had to develop under systems COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM OURS IS WRONG. Once Deulofeu gets a full season as a 1st team player, we’ll be able to actually see if he’s good enough. The potential is there and clear to anyone who is willing to give the kid a chance. I believe in him and his potential, and sincerely hope he has a superb season. We’ll need his brilliance.

Ousmane Dembele. My favorite young player in Europe is finally ours. Dembouz offers so much: pace, ruthless dribbling, vision and creativity. He does not waste possession easily, and besides being really acute and vertical, is also able to both combine well with the other attackers/midfielders, and to slow down and think of the best option during a counter attack, instead of simply looking down and charging forward. With Dembele, we have a world class talent that will surely provide us with many fun moments and matches throughout the season.

If Valverde keeps his plan so have Messi as false 9/closer to the area, and Dembele is used as RW, we’ll see many moments where they will link up, and, given time, a Dembele – Messi relationship will develop, where Dembele will provide even more assists than he did Aubameyang (but findind Messi  to finish them).

I’m aware we paid lots of money for him, and that he’ll only have his 3rd professional season in 17-18. But Dembele is simply too talented and unique for us to doubt that he can give us so much during the next few years. Sky is the limit, and given he’ll be close  to Messi and Suarez every day, he’ll become an even better player, given time and patience.

 

Forwards: Suarez and Alcacer

 

The average culer and Suarez. What a weird relationship.

When we first signed him, even though it was something Messi had been asking for over 2 seasons (a 9 in front of him), most people reacted like we had just brought on Pepe. The focus was all on his history of violence, his ban, his diving. Only the negatives.

But the fact is: Suarez is the best 9 in Europe.

Was vital in getting us the Treble, and even more so when we won the League in 15-16. People apparently forgot he was absolutely ruthless back then, and, without him, we would not have retained our Liga title.

Yes, he also had a very irregular season in 16-17. But still scored 40+ goals. Whenever Suarez isn’t absolutely brilliant, culers attack him heavily. No other player from our squad is treated that way. It’s harsh and it’s ungrateful.

I’m sure Suarez will score 40+ goals again this season, and his constant pressing and runs will make life easier for both Messi and Dembele (and our midfielders, in case the plan is to have them also create chances this season, since that was not the case under Lucho…).

Alcacer is a good boy, who is light-years behind Suarez in terms of pressing and making runs to allow passing options when we need to create chances. He’s slower and even less able to handle the ball and create chances when not inside the area.

But he’s a hard working, humble player, that will help us when needed. He’s not capable of ever competing with Suarez for the starting spot,and don’t even get me started on how he fares as a “winger”.

 

Ernesto Valverde:

I expect nothing from Valverde. Nothing.

He’s just a “normal” coach that will obey whatever this obscene board tells him. Samper literally left and said “Valverde wanted me around, but explained to me he could only have a certain number of midfield options, and since he didn’t know who would leave and who would be signed, he had to let me go”.

Stop. Read that again. Analyze it.

Ernesto Valverde told one of the most promising Masia midfielders from the last few years, and Busquets’ natural heir, that he had to send him away because he didn’t know what kind of squad the board would give him. IN AUGUST.

Valverde, unlike Pep and even Lucho, will not bother having his voice heard. He came as a simple employee, and will use the players the board decides to give him, and even the formation they want him to use. (yes. Pep Segura is a “fan of English football” and adores 2 CDMs/one route football”.

The pressing is back, and it’s working, so far. However, the midfield still severely lacks creativity, and the ONE signing we made, Paulinho, will certainly NOT help us create more chances, and the notion he’ll make us “more defensive stable” is utter nonsense.

If Valverde keeps the pressing up, the professionalism (will send Arda packing soon), and provides Messi with the basics of a decently set up team, we’ll compete for the League.

 

WHAT I EXPECT OF OUR 17-18 SEASON:

As long as we have Messi, we’ll be the favorites the win La Liga. It’s as simple as that.

RM may have their best squad in history, full to the brim of the midfielders we should have signed instead of the Songs, Ardas, Gomeses and Paulinhos, but not even that was able to comfortably take the title away from Messi in 16-17 (that only happened due to Lucho’s stupidity and Neymar’s lack of professionalism).

Look: even under Tata Martino, such an excuse for a coach we never pressed and he “wanted Messi to touch the ball the least possible”, we competed for the 13-14 League title until the very last second.

Valverde may be just a simple puppet of this board, but he has vast La Liga experience, will demand professionalism from our players, and we’ll compete for the title, with actual chances of winning it.

Besides that, and I talk the season as whole… WE’LL HAVE FUN!… ON SOME MATCHES, AT LEAST.

Look: with players like Dembele, Deulofeu and Suarez around Messi and the MINIMAL SUPPORT from our midfield, we’ll certainly witness lots and lots of matches where we’ll crush our adversaries and score lots of times. We’ll have crazy fun when Dembele-Messi click.

But without a properly set up midfield, every single time we face a big or well put together team, we’ll suffer. We’ll suffer just like we’ve been suffering since 15-16. And not even Dembele and Messi will be able to save us, because the ball simply won’t get to them.

If we don’t win La Liga, it won’t be due to Suarez, Dembele or Messi. It will be due to the people behind them that are supposed to support them. It’s very simple.

Champions League? We’ll go as long as Messi, Dembele and co are able to take us. I’ll never doubt Messi can give us any title, but the last 2 seasons have showed us that without support from the midfield, Leo can only do so much.

In summary: our transfer window was a complete disaster, but we’ll have lots of fun with Dembele around. We’ll compete for La Liga and may even win it, but for us to compete for the UCL title, Messi will have to perform superbly once again, and the people around him have the decency to AT LEAST not waste all the chances he’ll inevitably create.

 

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La Descomposició

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Qualsevol que ha fet una entrevista de feina (o vist una en alguna sèrie de TV o pel·lícula) coneix la pregunta típica: “On et veus en 5 anys?”

Mai em vaig preocupar les raons de perquè aquesta és una pregunta standard de Recursos Humans a qualsevol lloc del món des de fa una pila d’anys, però l’objectiu és simple: saber si la persona entrevistada té el desig de créixer i assolir més del que té actualment, cosa que implica que farà créixer la companyia amb la seva empenta.

Fa 5 anys si algun fan del FCBarcelona hagués preguntat “on veus el teu equip en 5 anys?”, la resposta seria MOLT diferent que la nostra realitat actual.

Maig, 2012.

Messi era de lluny el millor jugador del planeta, marcant una absurda quantitat de gols, i sense assolir cap dels dos títols importants a la competició abans de les seves vacances.

La darrera temporada de Guardiola va incloure l’afegitó de Fàbregas, i un ús més habitual del 3-4-3, que ens permeté destrossar el Real Madrid per 1-3, malgrat encaixar un gol en els primers segons i fent-ho fàcil en la segona part.

El FCB no pogué guanyar la Lliga degut a la seva incapacitat per a batre grans bloquejos defensius un cop i un altre, a bande de patir amb els arbitratges errors en contra, mentre el Real Madrid triomfava a la seva manera

A la Champions League, mentre l’equip dominava els partits, creant més de 20 oportunitats en cada partit, l’esforç del Chelsea (i la pura sort) ens va fer caure a les semifinals a casa

Però el futur per a Leo era brillant

No només era al pic de la seva energia, sino que l’equip estava equilibrat (encara que Alexis era lluny de ser el jugador que és avui), Xavi i Iniesta encara donaven espectacle allà on anaven, i la feina feta a La Masia era encara focalitzada al voltant de l’estil Cruijff i la creença en el cervell per damunt el muscle, a la possessió per damunt dels adversaris que corrien.

Aleshores començà la revenja de Rosell i Bartomeu contra Laporta

Donat que Guardiola ja no hi era -una icona de La Masia, Capità del primer equip, i l’entrenador que guanyà 6 títols en el seu primer any com a entrenador, a banda de batre al Real Madrid al Bernabéu per 2-6- finalment ells posarien en marxa la SEVA visió del futbol.

Però abans de focalitzar-nos en això, necessitem entendre com funciona la societat catalana, i especialment com es mou al voltant del nostre club.

Els membres més rics de la societat catalana no són moderns empresaris que viatgen al voltant del món per tastar noves cultures i acceptar visions més intel·ligents com una manera d’avançar. Són conservadors, limitats, pensen que són els PROPIETARIS no només de Catalunya, sino especialment del nostre club de futbol.

FCB ha fet molta gent rica encara més rica, i convertí algú tan mediocre com a Josep Lluís Núñez en un home molt ric. El que va necessitar per a ser President del FCB durant 22 anys fou només agenollar-se

Agenollar-se davant les més riques famílies catalanes, que volen la seva gent gestionant el club. Agenollar-se davant els grups de comunicació que venen diaris mercès al nostre club: Grup godó,que posseeix Mundo Deportivo i RAC1, i Grupo Z que està en risc financer des de fa anys, i que sobreviu només venent marxandatge del FCB mitjançant SPORT, el seu diari.

Agenollar-se davant les Penyes, clubs de fans existents a tota Catalunya i Espanya, on la gent gran, conservadors, veu que els 13 a 15.000 vots que arrosseguen a cada elecció presidencial son suficients per a garantir-los autobusos de franc per anar als partits al Camp Nou, entrades de franc per als grans partits, o inclús bitllets d’avió de franc per assistir als desplaçaments

Les coses han estat així durant tot el segle XX

Conservadors amb ments tancades gestionant el club a base de difondre propaganda i contratant entrenadors que es focalitzaven a la força i el córrer. Les úniques excepcions foren durant l’era Kubala, quan la influència de l’hongarès va abraçar tot el club, i vàrem guanyar 5 importants títols en pocs anys. Malgrat això, aquest fantàstic equip acabà el 1961

Després d’una dècada de més mediocritat, mentre el poder romangué allà on era, un parell d’holandesos vàren portar l’alegria i una Lliga un altre cop al nostre club. El 1973-74, Michels i Cruijff van capgirar un trist equip de perdedors i una encara més trista massa social en una força a tenir en compte.

Però el problema dels conservadors es que ells no volen estrangers fent-ho bé al “seu” territori.

Encara menys quan l’estranger es una estrella com Johan Cruijff, de bon aspecte, i un jugador superb… i més intel·ligent i sincer que ningú a Catalunya aleshores. A més a més, encara que ells apreciaven el títol i el respecte que ell va portar de nou al nostre club, sempre estigueren ressentits amb ell. La mediocritat sempre repudia la brillantor.

Per tant, naturalment, Michels i Cruijff vàren marxar. I molts més anys de mediocritat i zero lligues tornaren un altre cop. Vàrem guanyar la lliga 84-85, però amb un equip basat sobretot en el físic, que no fou capaç de mantenir l’impuls guanyador més enllà d’una temporada.

I, un cop més, quan la pressió de l’afecció fou massa forta, els conservadors vàren tenir que recórrer a l’holandès que els va salvà el 1973: Cruijff tornà com a entrenador el 1988, i, durant els 8 anys que romangué com a entrenador del primer equip, el FCB construí no només un equip guanyador, sino un Dream Team, que fou capaç de guanyar 4 títols de Lliga seguits (una cosa que el nostre club no ha tornar a repetir des d’aleshores), i inclús donar-nos el nostre primer títol de Copa d’Europa, una cosa per la qual vàrem estar esperant durant 37 anys fins que arribà a bon port

Cruijff no només ens donà una identitat de joc, focalitzada en la possessió, el pressing, el posicionament i la intel·ligència, sino que també s’assegurà que els mateixos elements foren compartits i ensenyats pel futbol base de La Masia.

La Masia produiria diversos talents extraordinaris degut a la visió de Cruijff i a la constant creença que jugar un futbol atractiu és la manera més segura de gaudir l’esport tal i com fou dissenyat i que aquella era la manera per assolir la majoria de títols: creure en un estil a qualsevol preu, i no anar a solucions fàcils o típiques (com mantenir un 9 llarguerut a la banqueta per a quan necessitesim un gol per a salvar-nos als darrers minuts del partit).

Tantmateix, malgrat tots els títols i el domini futbolístic, Cruijff i la gent que l’envoltava MAI foren estimats unànimement a Catalunya

Recordeu: els conservadors mai vàren poder fer un motllo d’ells mateixos, per tant necessitaven martellejar constantment les mateixes lamentables idees que vàren sentir dels seus avantpassats per a sentir-se importants. I algú tant brillant com Cruijff mai podria ser acceptat per aquella gent

I aquesta gent que posà i tregué presidents i que controlava el que els afeccionats consumien en relació al club, via diaris, ràdio o TV sempre vàren qualificar Cruijff de “geni, però impredictible”, un “mercenari”, un “entrenador descuidat”.

Addicionalment, el 1996, quan Cruijff estva pensant com construir una nova generació guanyadora, considerant noms com Bergkamp o Zidane… fou acomiadat. Al vestidor. Sense previ avís.

Els conservadors es vàren lliurar d’una persona aliena al “seu” club, i vingueren primer Bobby Robson i després Van Gaal a mantenir l’impuls del que Cruijff construí. (Recordeu això; està succeint ara mateix al nostre club)

Quan les coses es fan bé, quan La Masia dóna nanos que encaixaran a l’equip i a l’estil de joc sense problemes… aquest impuls continuarà fàcilment durant 3 o 4 anys, inclús si portes entrenadors com a Robson o Van Gaal

Però la qüestió es: el nostre estil de joc sempre necessitarà algú que cregui en fer millores i canvis per a mantenir-nos competitius, per valorar La Masia abans inclús de considerar nous fitxatges, especialment migcampistes, però que també porti estrelles de fora quan siguin capaces d’aportar a l’equip alguna cosa que no s’ensenya a La Masia, però que a llarg termini farà més compettiu el nostre equip.

Aquest impuls es va acabar l’any 2000

2000-2001. 2001-2002. 2002-2003. Tres temporades on, sense l’impuls de Cruijff, el nostre club a dures penes aconseguí acabar entre els 4 primers de La Liga. Futbol lleig, entrenadors monotemàtics, preferència pels jugadors forts per damunt dels intel·ligents. Justament la manera en la que els conservadors volien que fos el nostre club. Tantmateix, naturalment, els resultats mai vàren arribar.

Els afeccionats van dir prou. Protestes al Camp Nou, queixes i, finalment, exactament després de que Cruijff i el seu llegat deixessin el club per la porta del darrera, aquells ideals foren vistos com a una cosa important, un cop més.

Laporta guanyà les eleccions, amb Cruijff al seu costat, i escollí entrenadors que creien en la mateixa filosofia de futbol que Johan. També contractà gent amb els mateixos punts de vista per a gestionar La Masia, i per valoritzar els bons jugadors per damunt de la força o la velocitat.

Vàrem ser aviat un altre cop al camí dels triomfs. Dues lligues consecutives, la nit màgica de París, on vàrem aixecar la nostra segona Copa d’Europa, i joves jugadors sortint de La Masia frequentment per ajudar a enfortir el nostre equip.

El “retorn” inicial durà 3 anys, i després de dues temporades molt decebedores, vàrem deixar marxar en Rijkaard, i Pep Guardiola, que mai havia entrenat un equip professional en una gran lliga europea abans, es convertí en el nostre líder.

I la reta és història. 14 títols en 4 temporades, i un nivell de dominació futbolística que Europa no havia vist feia dècades.

Tot estava éssent construït d’una manera per a mantenir la mentalitat guanyadora i l’estil basat en la possessió durant tant de temps com fos humanament possible.Guardiola parlava cada setmana amb els entrenadors de La Masia, i planificava quan fer debutar els joves talents de La Masia.

Però recordeu els conservadors? Els que governen Catalunya, els mitjans de comunicació, les penyes i que poden fer canviar l’opinió de l’afecció força ràpidament? Cap al 2010 ja en tenien prou de Laporta, que era massa sorollós, massa de la gresca, massa independentista per al seu gust. I vàren escollir Sandro Rosell, un d’ells, algú en qui ells confiaven per a gestionar EL SEU club.

Aviat van anar a per Guardiola, per les mateixes raons que havien anat a per Cruijff: algú que és immensament intel·ligent i exitós sempre tindrà grans defectes al seu cervell. A més a més, estàvem guanyant lligues i arribant a finals i semifinals de la Champions League CADA TEMPORADA aleshores.

Així tenien els seus mitjans de comunicació (no eren AMICS dels mitjans, els posseien per complert) atacant Guardiola quan perdiem un partit o un títol. Quan qualsevol detall ens feia empatar o perdre un partit. Sempre que podien.

I Guardiola digué prou. Encara que és un dels símbols de Catalunya, especialment pel que fa al moviment d’independència, en Pep deixà el club de la seva vida, el lloc on assolí el que cap altre equip havia assolit abans… perquè hi havia massa gent (important, poderosa) en contra d’ell.

I els conservadors tornaren al poder, per a gestionar el club de la manera que ELLS volguessin. Contractar entrenadors que podien vendre com a portadors de “l’ADN Barça”, però amb la personalitat necessària per a obeir en tot allò que se’ls digués. Els líders com Cruijff o Pep eren massa “imprevisibles”.

Recordeu quan parlàvem de l’impuls després de la marxa de Cruijff el 1996? I que durà 3-4 anys?

Mireu les temporades 12-13, 13-14, 14-15, 15-16 i 16-17.

Tito era el qui vàren escollir per a substituir en Pep. Ells sabien que la reacció de l’afecció (i els jugadors) seria extrema si anaven a cercar algú de fora de Catalunya, per tant Tito ja els va estar bé.

Els mitjans vàren començar a dir EXACTAMENT el mateix que deien del període 1988-1996: els entrenadors (Cruijff/Pep) són els líders, però els que coneixen bé les tàctiques i les gestionen són els assistents (Rexach/Tito).

Sovint la història es repeteix a ella mateixa, però al nostre club això és extremadament fàcil de veure.

La temporada 12-13 mantingué l’impuls de Pep viu i en forma. Vàrem guanyar la Llliga amb 100 punts, però donat que la cura pel més mínim detall del nostre estil ja no era la mateixa, vàrem ser destruïts a la Champions pel Bayern Munich. Aquella circumstància hauria d’haver estat prova suficient com per a començar a rejuvenir el nostre centre del camp, o si més no, donar més experiència als que havien de substituir Xavi i Iniesta.

Però els conservadors no vàren fer això. Vàren portar Alex Song aquella temporada pel nostre centre del camp, i vàren vendre THIAGO tant aviat com el títol de Lliga va quedar enllestit. Perquè mantenir un migcampista controlador i organitzador quan necessitaven diners per a fitxar… Neymar?

Tristament, la malaltia de Tito va tallar d’arrel la seva època com a entrenador del FCB, i Tata Martino fou contractat com a entrenador del FCB. Un argentí amb algún èxit a Sudamérica, però cap experiència europea. Però els conservadors el vàren vendre com que “tenia més ADN Barça que molts dins el club”, i tenien alguns periodistes dels mitjans que dominen per a relacionar la seva arribada amb una demanda de Messi (que mai havia vist aquest home a la seva vida).

El domini de Messi és tan poderós, i l’impuls era tan fort, que gairebé vàrem guanyar la Lliga (de fet la vàrem guanyar, però no parlarem del gol de Messi, perquè estic segur que l’Atlètic de Madrid n’hagués marcat un altre igualment), però vàrem fracassar un altre cop a la Champions League.

Neymar, que fou fitxat per Rosell per una única raó (substituir Messi, mentre feia guanyar als conservadors i al club molts diners amb el marxandatge) tingué una molt modesta primera temporada europea. I així, Messi continuà, i aleshores arribà Luis Enrique.

Recordeu la cura per la possessió, el posicionament, el pressing? L’urgència per a donar valor a tenir la pilota per damunt de qualsevol altre cosa, donat que la millor manera d’atacar i defendre és justament fer-ho així? Luis Enrique mai va creure en aquestes coses. Ell només veia el futbol com veu la vida: com una competició on necessites arribar al teu objectiu abans que el teu adversari, i cap “estil” o “filosofia” eren necessaris. Només guanyar.

I ell guanyà. Inclús encara que l’únic migcampista que vàrem fitxar per a la temporada del Triplet fou Rakitic, i Xavi ja era enfilant la sortida, vàrem guanyar la Liga i tinguerem ua de les millors trajectòries a la història de la Champions League, eliminant els campions de lliga de França, Holanda, Anglaterra, Alemanya i Itàlia per a guanyar la nostra 5ena Champions.

I la temporada 15-16 arribà, i encara que Arda Turan (!) fou escollit com a fitxatge al mig del camp, la competitivitat de Lucho i el que encara quedava de l’impuls (i Messi) ens vàren fer guanyar la Lliga encara un altre cop, però fracassar aviat a la Champions per les mateixes raons que el Tata: manca de creativitat adequada i organització del mig camp per a batre un equip com l’Atlètic de Madrid.

2 Lligues i 1 Champions en 2 temporades. Evidentment els conservadors volien continuar amb Lucho. I vàren afegir… Andre Gomes per ajudar-nos a recuperar els nostres dies triomfants, després que el Real Madrid hagués guanyat la Champions un altre cop, la 2a en 3 temporades. i així varem anar a la temporada 16-17 amb els darrers grams de l’impuls Cruijff/Pep, i el què quedava de la velocitat i l’entusiasme de Lucho i la seva MSN.

No fou suficient. L’objectiu de Lucho fou aconseguir resultats el més ràpid possible amb el mínim esforç possible. Aquesta filosofia pot convertir-te en un equip guanyador ara (com va passar el 14-15), però no t’ajudarà en el futur i tampoc a construïr una identitat en absolut. Al cap i al a fi, no pots ser ràpid per sempre. Aquesta és la raó per la que no hem aconseguit cap títol rellevant la temporada 16-17.

I ara mateix, no hi ha res.

No tenim ni l’impuls del què Pep/Cruijff vàren construïr. Ni la velocitat o la pura competitivitat de Lucho.

Tenim només un equip envellit, mai rejuvenit adequadament, especialment al mig del camp, i que del 2012 ençà només ha incorporat Song, Rakitic, Arda, Gomes i actualment PAULINHO per a intentar tornar als dies guanyadors que ens donà la brillantor de Xavi/Inesta i la inquebrantable lleialtat al nostre estil i la manera en que la Masia hauria de ser gestionada.

Els conservadors han escollit Valverde com a entrenador, una persona que mai ha gestionat un gran equip o utilitzat un estil valent a la seva carrera… però efectivament serà un obedient empleat dels conservadors i de qualsevol que ells escolleixin per a gestionar el nostre club, sigui Bartomeu ara, o Cardoner quan ells considerin oportú.

Per tant, no gasteu energies criticant Valverde. Ell ha estat contractat per assolir resultats amb les eines/jugadors que la Junta Directiva considera adient donar-li. ell no té veu, ni control, ni pes en cap de les decisions relatives al futbol. Aquestes decisions seran preses per la gent que actuant en revenja i amb mentalitat petita, han destruït tot el que teniem el 2012.

Que ens durà de tornada a l’ÚNICA identitat/filosofia futbolística que ens va convertir en els millors del món? Unes altres 3 temporades tristes i sense títols, com vàrem experimentar entre el 2000 i el 2003?

O els socis catalans reaccionaran un cop més abans de que malbaratem el potencial de Messi i els nostres jugadors?

Cap al final de Setembre ho sabrem. I abans d’això, escriuré la segona part d’aquest article, on em concentraré en cadascun dels ombrívols acords als quals els conservadors i la gent que tenen darrera han arribat des de 2012, quan tots ells es vàren enriquir mentre el nostre club anava descomposant-se i assecant-se

The Decay

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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

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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!)

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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

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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)

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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