First, apologies for the long break from the blog. I think it’s fair to say there has been very little news from Can Barça and a few weeks off helps me to recharge the batteries. With Euro 2012 taking place it seems as though the transfer market has been put on hold which means the only signings so far have been Tito Vilanova and Andoni Zubizaretta. This should change next week when it looks likely that Valencia’s Jordi Alba will become our first purchase of the summer, though there are reports today suggesting Barça could wait until next summer and get Alba for free. I imagine this is just Barça playing hardball as the final details of the deal are thrashed out with Valencia.
Our biggest problem this summer may turn out to be finding a central defender. It’s all very well running stories in the press about Thiago Silva, Mats Hummels or David Luiz but none of them look anywhere near to signing for us. I have a particular liking for Hummels though I understand he signed a new contract with Borrusia Dortmund at the start of the month.
I have to say I have been enjoying Euro 2012 though it has been lacking a little in drama. The two most exciting games featured an uninspiring England team as they defeated Sweden 3-2 and then lost on penalties to Italy. The other factor that is missing is the emergence of any new stars. Of the youngsters on show it is only really Hummels and Alba who have left much of a mark on the tournament, while it is the established names such as Iniesta, Ronaldo, Pirlo and Schweinsteiger that have been most effective for the successful sides with old hands Ibrahimovic and Schevchenko also reminding us of their class.
The two sides that have impressed me most have been Spain and Germany. Since Spain dumped Raúl and started to play like Barça they have become the team to beat and I will never tire of watching Xavi and Iniesta. However, I’m not so big on the Fabregas false nine role though to be fair to Vicente Del Bosque he does seem to have a game plan here, bringing on more direct attacking players as substitutes to exploit the space in the later stages. It’s been exciting to watch the promising understanding between Alba and Iniesta on the left, though I have to say it’s a bit embarrassing to see Arbeloa on the other side in acres of space while his teammates ignore him as if they know he will only mess things up if he gets the ball. I’m no fan of Sergio Ramos but surely he could do a better job at right back which would allow the excellent Javi Martinez to partner Piqué in the middle. That’s what I’d do anyway.
Spain will be favourite to beat Portugal in the semi-final though I’m sure it’s going to be a close one. I imagine I am not alone among Barça fans when I say I really don’t want to see Portugal win. While I may laugh at Ronaldo’s worrying obsession with all things Messi, I can’t deny he is looking very dangerous and is the only Portuguese player with much hope of ruining Spain’s dream. However, I am confident that Spain will limit his chances and get through to the final. In the other semi I think Italy will frustrate Germany but unless Balotelli and Cassano can improve on their finishing the Germans will still nick it.
Finally, and in case you haven’t seen it elsewhere, here’s Pinto in the 2010 Gamper showing how to stop a Pirlo penalty.