Whilst following Barca could never be called a chore, sometimes keeping up with all the Barca-related news in a given week can be demanding (how many awards did Messi win this week?).
So here at Barcacentral we will be endeavouring to provide you with all the news worth reading about our beloved club in our new weekly round-up.
News from the Club:
Sergio Busquets has signed a new contract that will keep him at the club until 2015, with his buyout clause upped from £80m to £150m. Pep is still mulling signing his next contract; with various players having come out to praise their coach as he turns 40 it seems there is a concerted effort to publicly encourage him to stay. Dani Alves has turned down what is reportedly a final offer of a new contract that would place him in the same pay band as Pique, Puyol, and Valdes (but below Xavi, Iniesta, and Villa, and then Leo at the top); Cruyff has said we should be willing to let him go if he is inflexible. The club continues negotiations with Eric Abidal, who seems likely to sign a new contract given recent statements on his love of the club. Rumours have been floating around that Jonathan Dos Santos may be departing – and that the club would be willing to allow this – however this week JDS has stated that he would like to stay, regardless of whether that means remaining in Barca B. Thiago, meanwhile, has been confirmed as a first team player for next season but returns to Barca B as the final phase of his development. Happy news that Milito will be staying now at least until the end of the season although unless his performances improve enough to increase his playing time then expect to see him depart then.
The muscle strain that saw Dani limping off from the Malaga match will see him out for 10-15 days, although he has returned to light training and Puyol has been suffering from tendonitis in his left knee, which will be monitored and treated, but for which there is no specific diagnosis for recovery time (tendonitis tending to be more of a chronic condition needing management through rest). Jeffren is our most serious current injury, and will be out for around five weeks following an injury to his left thigh. Messi had the flu and Bojan and Pinto both had a stomach bug; tis the season to be poorly.
A View from Madrid:
Most of the talk this past week has revolved around why Little Mou didn’t get the number nine he asked for on King’s day from Papa Perez. Mama Valdano, who does the Christmas shopping, said that he had had more than enough number nines, with one sitting on the bench. And also that Little Mou hadn’t been very good this year (go on, watch all eleven minutes of it). However, Little Mou generally gets what Little Mou wants, and let’s not forget it’s his birthday this week, so after Ruud Van Nistleroy wasn’t allowed to come over and play, and Miroslav Klose was found not to be Champions-league friendly, Little Mou has been given his very own Emmanuel Adebayor to play with, at least until summer when Fernando Llorente arrives (heavily rumoured even if Bilbao President Garcia Macua refutes). Papa Perez says this is a new era of Galacticos – but as the stars align for Little Mou who now has the number nine he asked for – and at the same time lost the excuse for any failings this year – his reputation will now be inextricably drawn by the gravitational pull of those two astronomical bodies. The egos of Manu Adebayor and Cristiano Ronaldo. And all Barca fans will want a seat at that event (horizon).
“Regarding my future, we’ll see what happens at the end of the season. Contracts aren’t the most important thing in football. If all the parties are happy at the end of a campaign, they remain together. If they aren’t, they don’t.” — Jose Mourinho
As well as taking shots at one another, the family could at least unite against a common enemy: the referees who have conspired to make life so hard for this little-family-that-almost-could-against-all-the-odds-and-only-spending-slightly-more-money-than-everyone-else-to-do-so. It should be noted that it is extremely unlikely that a team will ever be able to influence a referee’s decisions. But Sevilla weren’t taking any chances.
Eye on the Tiger*
Arsenal currently sit second in the Premiership on 46 points, five points below Manchester United, but 1 point ahead of Man City against whom Arsenal have a game in hand. They are a better side than that which we faced last year, with Marouane Chamakh and Robin Van-Persie, who scored a hat trick at Wigan, providing attacking threats that were absent last year. Nasri has improved and is their top scorer on nine goals for the season (although Arshavin has perhaps concomitantly diminished and there is talk of a transfer to Juventus or Chelsea). Cesc is fit and playing well. Sagna has got better. And Walcott is still very fast. Which might all bode ominously but then you remember last year. And that their goal keepers aren’t very good. And that their only good centre back Vermaelen is out for four weeks. We play them at the Emirates first on February 16th.
On the other wanna-be-a-contender-s: Chelsea started the season as invincible, arrived at Christmas as rubbish, and now look very good again; Man United manage the trick of being a bit mediocre but winning; Tottenham have lots of goals (but at either end of the pitch). AC Milan sit four points clear at the top of Serie however have had a plague of injuries with Nesta now joining Seedorf, Gattuso, Boateng, Pirlo and Zambrotta in the nurse’s station; Roma sit in third and won 3-0 on the weekend against mid table Cagliari; Inter combusted and Benetiz disappeared in a puff of smoke. See above for Real Madrid and below for Valencia. Bayern sit in fourth some 14 points behind Borussia Dortmund – this is not the Bayern of yesteryear (or even last year); Schalke 04 sit tenth. Shakhtar are twelve points clear at the top of the Ukrainian league with similar stats to us: 17 won, 1 game drawn, 1 game lost. In a relatively close Ligue 1 this year, Lyon and Marseille sit fourth and fifth respectively, with four and six points separating them from first place Lille. And Copenhagen… well… Head Chef Rene Redzepi’s fine, bright take Nordic cuisine secured the best restaurant award for 2010 for his Noma restaurant and should continue to bring the continent’s gastronomes flocking to Copenhagen.
* If anyone can think of a better, snappy title for a weekly, incredibly superficial overview of our next Champions League opponents I welcome the input. Best suggestion wins a weekend away with Lionel Messi at the health spa of their choice.**
**Competition closed on 24th January 2011.
The Best of the Press:
Grant Wahl, senior writer for Sports Illustrated “tweeted” (some new-fangled dance in semaphore this writer presumes) that “If Barça-Real Madrid drew each other in Champions League QF/SF, could meet 4 times in 15 days.”.
Graham Hunter, a freelance football journalist who many may recognise as a regular contributor to Sky’s Revista de La Liga but despite that sin does provide some fantastic insight into Barcelona and football in general, has a great piece on Pep Guardiola, reflecting on his achievements to date and thoughts on his future, on the occasion of our coach’s 40th birthday:
“Guardiola’s partner, Cristina, is so long-suffering that she had to allow him to accept the first negotiations to become Barca coach in 2008 a couple of hours after she’d given birth to their third daughter, Valentina.” — Graham Hunter
Ian Chadband lauds Guardiola’s humility in the face of Mourinho’s self-importance in the Daily Telegraph.
Maybe it was Emery – it was definitely in part the referee Rubinos Pérez – but perhaps it was also the waning moon last weekend and their bat-crazy logo – but how can Valencia so often provide games of such immense entertainment for the neutral? Sid Lowe, one of our favourite writers, does a lovely write-up of the madness at La Mestalla this weekend.
“Valencia-Málaga was beautiful madness, the game that had it all – including the return of The Beast. Seven goals, three equalisers, three red cards, two mad managers, two players confronting Valencia’s fans and only one of them from the opposition. Brilliant attacks and the worst defence since Wednesday, when the Spanish football federation responded to Real Madrid’s complaints about a report on their website by “blustering: “It was the work experience girl.” ” — Sid Lowe
On the topic of refereeing, it’s nice to know that RFEF can cut through the chaff to find those moments that require punishment.
Discover what Pique, Puyol, and Cesc mean when they say “moc, moc” on twitter (again that dance! I must learn the moves!).
Whilst we might not know how to “twitter”, we do know how to do the “facebook”. We’ve just opened our facebook group and along with updates on every new Barcacentral blog post we have loads of photo galleries of individual players from Barca past and present, including this one of Puyol (How does he do it? Does he never just see a ball and go “Mmmm… nah I’ll leave it.”)
…and this one (an extra day at the spa with Leo for the first person who posts below what happens next in this picture).
And finally – stop press! – UK Sky pundits reveal themselves to be sexist dinosaurs – see here, here, or even here (bravo sir!). And what’s more, the female linesman got the difficult offside call right.