This week’s weekly news round-up unsurprisingly cannot escape the frenetic rumour-mongering of the newspapers in relation to the now-closed transfer window.
We at Barcacentral not only don’t believe in rumours, we don’t believe in newspapers either, but regardless this blog post will plumb some of those depths.
News from the Club:
The most notable event for Barça fans was that nothing happened with regards to Dani Alves – the window has closed and Dani is still with us. Despite the rumours of an approach from Manchester City Dani’s agent insisted as late as 28th January that they had had no interest from English clubs and subsequently Andoni Zubizarreta, Barça Sporting Director, made a public statement that the club was confident that a deal would be reached with Dani. Gregory van der Wiel, who most had considered the most likely replacement should Dani leave, also stated that as late as 28th January he had heard nothing formally of FC Barcelona’s interest, aside from internet rumours, and whilst this was a transfer window of particularly late activity, it seems that perhaps Dani was never as close to leaving the club as had been feared. That being said, until a new contract is signed nothing is assured.
Ruben Rochina, who came through La Masia and had played for the Barça B team since 2008, has transferred to Blackburn Rovers having failed to make it into the first team. Andy Mitten, who writes for Eurosport and a host of other publications, reflects that a key motivation for younger Spanish players to move to England is the vast salary difference between La Liga and the English Premiership.
And so now we enter into the realm of rumour. Despite Bojan’s recent poor form, Arsenal are supposedly considering a move for our young striker this summer. Also, Barca are supposedly leading the chase to buy Gareth Bale according to the UK’s Sunday Mirror, this despite the fact that the Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has said that he won’t sell his prized winger for any amount of money. The News of the World, when not hacking your mobile phone, has also been reporting rumours that Blackburn Rovers have been chasing the signature of our Victor Vazquez from Barça B, although for the time being this has come to nothing.
Looking at the rest of La Liga, Malaga have been the most active during the transfer window – unsurprising considering their new ownership – although it seems that Malaga are not taking the Manchester City “splash-the-cash” approach with record signings but intend to improve the squad with mid-level signings of seasoned professionals (Julio Baptista and Martin Demichelis) and promising younger players (Segio Ansejo who wasn’t getting much play behind David de Gea and Ignacio Camacho both from Athletico Mardid). Athletico Madrid meanwhile had laid out €7m for the Brazilian Elias (whom little is known of) and (perhaps the best deal) €3m for Juanfran from Osasuna, both of whom we may see this Saturday at the Camp Nou. Ahsan Ali Syed has completed his takeover of Racing Santander and their first signing is one of our own with Giovani Dos Santos joining them from Tottenham – ie, from a only possible Champions League opponent to a definite La Liga conflict. Mahamadou Diarra has left Real Madrid for Monaco – the 29 year-old has not had a start all season and so the move seems to make sense for the Mali international. Outside La Liga, our old friend Eidur Gudjohnsen has moved to Fulham on a six month loan deal where hopefully he will find a new lease of form having made just five substitute appearances for Stoke since arriving from Monaco in the summer.
In non-transfer news, FC Barcelona have announced a new way to become a member of the club – essentially paying a fee for a number of years prior to being allowed to submit an application to become a full member – this after restricting membership to only i) those related to a Barça member; ii) those under the age of 14; or iii) those who have previously been a member of the club. Further details will be forthcoming, but currently it seems that this fourth tier would be expected to pay much of the normal fees for three years (€125 vs the normal €161) whilst enjoying none of the major rights (ie, no voting rights, application for season tickets, etc.) That being said, many would welcome a way that opens up membership to a non-traditional base, including international members.
There is positive news as Iniesta has returned to training this week following a back-sprain received during the Hercules match. Jeffren and Puyol are still receiving treatment.
Finally El Mundo Deportivo is reporting that Pinto will be given the start in goal for the Copa Del Rey final against Real Madrid, Pep and the team having full confidence in him after his performance in the Copa final in 2009 against Bilbao.
A View from Madrid:
After the interfamily squabbling of last week, it seemed there would be little to comment upon this week, however a loss at Osasuna last weekend changed all that. El Mundo declared the game a knockout in the league, whilst Sport stated that Madrid “were sunk and the league had turned blaugrana”. Even Marca conceded that it was “time to go out for drinks (the cups)” now. AS seemed in a more defiant mood for Madrid: “The league is Dead: Long live the Cup! Long live the Champions League!” And how has this affected the little family-that-could? Well, despite Mama Valdano offering some conciliatory words (see ) it seems Little Mou is still tempted to put his Italian Football Oscar in his knapsack and go home to England. Until then he explained the recent lack of form for his team as being down to the fact that in recent seasons they have been knocked out of the Copa and Champions League before now and so are not used to playing two games a week during January, an interesting argument as they of course played two games a week in the autumn, and so one that might be more convincing if he fielded a team of grizzly bears who were still needing to work off the soporific effects of a winter’s hibernation rather than a team of professional footballers.
Normally a striker’s confidence is a fragile thing, and to discover that before Manu Adebayor received an offer, not only was Van Nistleroy contacted, but also it seems there was an attempt to get Diego Forlan to change metro routes to come into work, however Adebayor clearly did not take this to heart and took his first opportunity well, coming on in the last ten minutes of the Copa clash with Sevilla to score a great volley that has Mama Valdano beaming over his “cool-headedness” and “ruthlessness” (that line makes the Familia Perez sound like not-too distant cousins of the Manson Family).
Of course it’s nice to know that Ronaldo Jr continues to make friends at school. Here is Walter Pandiani with whom Ronaldo had a play date at Osasuna:
“What Cristiano should do is learn from Lionel Messi, and leave out this cocky attitude…
He is the one who creates all problems, every weekend, and should be penalised. He should look to be the best in the world, and see if he is able to learn a little more. He has a screw loose. He has to learn to be more humble…
Barcelona, they are a team of people. Madrid footballers do not deserve such treatment, but pay for the follies of others. Madrid is paying for Cristiano’s cocky attitude.”
Bit harsh? And what had Ronaldo said? Reportedly he had asked Walter how much he was paid. The Ronaldo Jr charm offensive continues.*
*Thanks to JFan101 for picking up on the story.
Eye on the Tiger:
The most notable Champions League news for a Barca fan relates to the injury of Samir Nasri, who has been Arsenal’s standout player this season, and who will now very likely miss the first leg of the tie at the Emirates. Nasri had stepped in for Rosicky who was suffering from flu and who otherwise would have been the second string starter for the fourth-round FA cup match versus League One Huddersfield. Should Nasri respond well to treatment he could make the Emirates game but would be low on match fitness and we will likely only see him for the return at the Camp Nou.
Cesc Fabregas beloved of Arsenal and Barcelona, has been making less friends around the Premiere League, firstly with details of a supposed argument during the Huddersfield clash appearing on twitter after Cesc supposedly refused to exchange shirts at the end of the match, and then further controversy after comments supposedly made by Fabregas (rumoured to be the suggestion that the officials had been paid) in the tunnel were relayed (or implied) to the media by the Everton Manager David Moyes, leading to Arsene declaring that Fabregas was the subject of a witch hunt.
Perhaps the biggest footballing story of the week has been the signing of Fernando Torres to Chelsea – and with David Luiz also arriving this week – the West London club is the most improved Champions League club from the transfer window as crucially neither player is cup-tied in the competition. Torres has received some flack from Liverpool fans for the move which led to our own Anfield emigrant Javier Mascherano offering some support to Fernando via an interview with ESPN. Chelsea, a team whose brand of physical football has provided a challenge for Barca to overcome in recent years, have also improved their form over recent weeks with four league wins in a row (and one draw in the FA Cup), scoring 17 and conceding only 2, taking them to fourth place in the league. Manchester United remain top, where Wayne Rooney seems to have recovered some of his form scoring twice against Aston Villa, with Arsenal in second and Manchester City in third. Tottenham are in fifth, with a more inconsistent run of form having won, drawn and drawn in the league (including a draw against Manchester United) and were spanked in the cup 4-0 by Fulham. Where they have been more consistent is in their transfer dealings, having seemingly made a bid for every player in La Liga – €41m for Giuseppe Rossi, €31m for Fernando Llorente, €45.5m for Sergio Aguero, and €15m for Diego Forlan – although signing none of them. Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham coach, even made a bid for Quique Sanchez Flores to replace himself because he thought “he could get him for a steal”.
Ex-Barca man Mark von Bommel joined AC Milan in this transfer window from Bayern Munich and did what he does best in his second game for the Italians – got sent off (perhaps a little unfairly). Milan nevertheless won the game against Catania through goals from Robinho and Ibrahimovic (remember him?). Inter Milan, who signed the most players this transfer window (some five players), reaped the dividends of that investment as Giampaolo “The Madman” Pazzini came on in the second half to score two and win a penalty converted by Samuel Eto’o (remember him?) to come back from being 0-2 down against Palermo and win it 3-2; Houssine Kharja, another new acquisition, repeated the feat by scoring the first goal in his own debut against Bari, before in extra time “The Madman” scored the second and then Kharja and “The Madman” combine to set up Sneijder for the third.
Bayern Munich are also a club on their uppers – having now recorded their fourth win in a row, those four games totalling 17 goals, they are now up to third in the Bundesliga and perhaps have turned the corner on what had been a disappointing season so far. Schalke 04 drop to 11th with a loss at home against Hoffenstein. Ligue 1 remains close this year, with Lyon having moved to third place and Marseille one point (but two places) behind in fifth place although with a game in hand. The Ukranian League will not return from its winter break until early March where Shakhtar stand first with a 12 point lead over Dynamo Kiev in second. Copenhagen… well… I hear it’s lovely this time of year.
The Best of the Press:
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the knuckle-wringing of the transfer window, there is very little else to offer from the press. We must give another mention to another great article from Sid Lowe (the €200 in used notes please sir), which provides some context to the “bid” supposedly received by Athletico Madrid for Sergio Aguero, and provides a fuller explanation of what a buy-out clause really means. And Sid Lowe also provides for the Guardian a nice overview of the reaction to the Madrid loss at Osasuna:
“Last night, some even floated the idea that Barcelona might almost gift them the second clásico in April – by resting their players for the Copa del Rey final three days later, safe in the knowledge that the title race is sewn up.” – Sid Lowe
Finally Eurosport has some nice videos of a recent interview with Xavi Hernandez, broken down into a number of segments including on the Ballon D’Or and perhaps best of all on “owning” Man United in the Champions League final.
We’re lucky to have him.