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
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
CMs: Iniesta, Rakitic, Rafinha, Sergi Roberto
LW: Neymar, Munir
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.