Well, a comparatively quiet week.
All we have are arguments over the legacy of a Real Madrid great; announcements on twitter of transatlantic romance; and one of our “administrators” signing a new contract.
Pretty dull really.
News from the Club:
So the biggest piece of news this week – and the one that will be met by Cules with almost universal rejoicing – is that Pep Guardiola has agreed a new contract that will see him stay with the club until at least 30th June 2012. Most understood that Pep had resisted signing a longer deal and preferred to be engaged under rolling one year contracts in order to ensure that the players were fully committed to the project and working their hardest; with their recent run of results and overall performance few would have then doubted that Pep would sign, although it is important to note that alongside the players’ performance, the arrival of a new President and Board of Directors would have been an important factor in Pep’s considerations. Supposedly the selling of Chygrynskiy over the summer was not supported by Pep and so many have been monitoring relations between coach and president, although this is the clearest indication that they have a relationship that is at the very least a working one. The club has announced that the contract will be signed on 22nd February.
There has also been more positive news from Alves on his contract renewal, however some commentators have noted that rather than fighting with all his strength to stay at the club he simply has to sign, and some may see this as a means of placing more pressure on management to reconsider their contract offer. Talking about the management, they have been surprisingly vocal this past week: firstly Director of Football Raul Sanllehi stated his amazement at the fee paid by Chelsea for Torres and then he went on to say that any deal for Cesc Fabregas was currently dead in the water due to the high price set up Arsenal, a sentiment echoed by Vice President for Finance Javier Faus. To make matters worse, not only are the UK’s Sun newspaper reporting that Chelsea are rumoured to be interested in Cesc (hey, but it is the Sun so what do they know), so too does Sport.es report that Madrid are trying to steal him from us. In more positive transfer news, Mazinho, father of Thiago Alcantara, told Marca that offers had been received from Sevilla amongst others, but neither Thiago, nor Barca were interested, particularly now that promotion to the first team is assured next year.
Sport.es also has the first look at the new Barca shirt featuring the Qatar Foundation logo. The club will require endorsement from Michel Platini as there is a restriction on a shirt carrying two sponsors, however the club will argue that UNICEF are not a sponsor; rather Barca sponsors UNICEF. The current intention is that the UNICEF logo will appear on the back of the shirt underneath the player’s name. For a detailed run-down on the deal see our previous feature on the Qatar Foundation deal available here.
In other club news, there is an update (including pictures and video) on the development of the new Masia complex, which is expected to be completed this June. Messi is the latest Barca star to support the club’s facebook campaign to become the first football club to reach 10m members (and may we take the opportunity to not only encourage you to join the main Barca facebook page but also our own barcacentral facebook page, with updates, photos and more!)
Finally, after months and months of rumouring Gerard Pique announced his relationship with Shakira via a photo on twitter. If anyone still disbelieves this story, remember these hips don’t lie.
A View from Madrid:
Can this week’s View from Madrid go the whole way without mentioning Little Mou (aside from that mention)? Perhaps. So to begin with something completely different, Deloitte’s football money league has placed Real first and Barca second in their list of highest earning clubs, on €438.6m and €398.1m respectively. Man United, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Chelsea, AC Milan, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Juventus round out the top ten.
The UK’s Daily Star newspaper reports that Man chester City may take a £10m loss on Emmanuel Adebayor and make his move to the Bernabeu permanent ; having scored against Sevilla and Real Sociedad the Merengues surely can’t have too much to complain about.
But what has been making the most noise in Madrid is Quique Sánchez Flores’s comment that Messi is the 21st Century Di Stefano. Which of course meant that the following day Mama Valdano had to immediately make a statement to correct that point. Ronaldo Jr is of course the 21st Century Di Stefano. If you need any proof, Marca said it on their front page. So there.
Except that was not all – perfectly timed for the debate Messi and Ronaldo Jr went head-to-head in international competition on Wednesday. The Catalan press declared Messi the winner; the Portuguese press declared Ronaldo the winner; the Madrid-based press more wisely ignored it and focussed on the national team’s first win after going three games without. Make your own mind up but Argentina won the game 2-1, Ronaldo scored, but Messi got the assist in the first goal and scored the winner.
La Liga at Large:
In a brief round-up on La Liga in general: the biggest non-Barca news has been the sacking of Miguel Angel Portugal by new Racing Santander owner Ali Syed and the reappointment of Marcelino; the Spanish national team won the team of the year at the Laureus Awards, making it a Spanish double with Rafael Nadal bagging sportsperson of the year award; and Zinedine Zidane received the lifetime achievement award (let us never miss the opportunity to emphasise that the Spanish national team bears more than a little resemblance to the FC Barcelona first team); and finally, in more disheartening news, Dani Alves has commented on the racism that is still too often prevalent at Spanish football grounds.
Eye on the Tiger:
Now that there is less than a week until the Emirates game, Eye on the Tiger will ignore the rest of the Champions League because, well, if FC Barcelona don’t beat Arsenal across the tie then we won’t be meeting anyone else. The good news is that Arsenal did not have a very good weekend. In fact they had a record-breakingly bad weekend. On the weekend Arsene Wenger’s team became the first side in Premiership history to give up a 4-0 lead to draw the match. Despite first half goals from Theo Walcott and Johan Djourou and two goals from Robin Van Persie, before a half-time speech that saw Newcastle United fly out the blocks with some aggressive closing and high energy, that led to a fair but rather solid tackle on Abou Diaby, who responded by knocking Joey Barton to the ground. Diaby got his marching orders and the come-back began, as two penalties and two in open play levelled the match. Arsenal play Wolverhampton Wanderers this Saturday and the second from bottom club, who despite beating Man United at the weekend, will likely give the Gunners a win to return their confidence before meeting FC Barcelona.
There have been some immensely unfortunately timed flu bugs going around the Emirates, with both Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas having to pull out of international duty this week. Oh well, at least they’ll be well rested. And they are only friendly games anyway. And besides, they face Barca next week… oh. No. Really? Well at least our team will not have to face any significant travel arrangements – the Spanish national team having to go to Rome to meet the Pope the Monday before the Emirates match? No. Really?
The Best of the Press:
David Villa has been quite busy in the press over recent weeks, extolling the virtues of Barca where he seems very happy now. See him talking to Sky television’s Revista de la Liga or to Fifa.com.
“The coach has managed to assemble a group of players with some very special characteristics, who’ve adapted and gelled perfectly… I think we have what it takes to define an era.” – - David Villa
Is this Barca the greatest side ever? Andy Mitten asks what we’ve all been thinking and concludes: “no”. Or “kind of”. Or “yes to their fans”.
“Until Barca can dominate the top trophies at home and abroad, they will ‘only’ be as good as those other top sides who have failed to retain the European Cup.” – - Andy Mitten
Another plug for Sid Lowe at the Guardian who this week is discussing the likey imminent dismissal of Quique Sánchez Flores:
“At the end of December, Miguel-Angel Gil Marín was named “football director of the year” by the Dubai-based Globe Soccer group. They might as well have handed Pol Pot the Nobel Peace Prize.” – - Sid Lowe
And finally, Guillem Ballague answers the questions (in our view correctly) that we have all been hoping could never possibly happen: “If Ronaldo Jr played for FC Barcelona would he score as many goals as Leo Messi?”