Braithwaite’s Barcelona dream turning into a nightmare

There’s been an awful lot going on at the Camp Nou just lately, with the Lionel Messi situation and the vote of no confidence for president, Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board hogging the headlines.

Everywhere you turn there’s something else for Barca’s long-suffering supporters to get hot under the collar about.

However, there’s one player that’s kept his own counsel. Continue reading

Winners and losers from Barcelona’s pre-season

The preparation is over and it’s time for things to get serious.

After everything that’s been said and done since the 8-2 hammering against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League, Barcelona have the chance to put it all behind them.

If they’re able to hit the ground running against Villarreal on Saturday, and Ronald Koeman can get everyone playing as they can, the Catalans won’t be too far off the pace for long. Continue reading

Is the new La Liga season Diego Simeone’s last stand with Atletico Madrid?

What Diego Simeone has achieved at Atletico Madrid has been nothing short of brilliant. The team usually in the shadow of their neighbours Real Madrid experienced their most successful decade in the 2010s under Simeone which included a La Liga title, domestic cups, the Europa League and 2 Champions League finals.

However time waits for no man, and especially in football that rings true. One wonders if even Simeone is now on borrowed time at the club? Much of this comes down to last season when Atletico were tipped to do very well. But they ended the season without any silverware and it was the way they performed during the season that simply had a word in neon headlights- underwhelming.

Atletico finished 3rd last season but that could have been 4th as they finished on the same points as Sevilla. Whilst 3rd isn’t bad considering the league has Real Madrid and Barcelona in it, this was seen as not a vintage season for Spanish football. Atletico finished 17 points behind Real Madrid and even 12 points behind Barcelona who had a forgettable season by their standards.

Atletico only scored 51 goals, 35 less than Barcelona and Sevilla and even Villarreal who finished in 5th place scored more. In short not only were Atletico not getting the right results they were also quite boring to watch. Perhaps losing Antoine Griezmann who finally switched to Barcelona was the last straw? However over 120m euros was spent on Joao Felix as his replacement.

At the beginning of the season Felix looked exciting and sharp, and every time he was on the ball the crowd got excited. That dissipated quickly enough though and at the end of the season Felix was much like his club, underwhelming. Scoring just 6 goals and assisted in just one, was very poor for a player that had cost so much. True Felix was hit by injuries too but still played more than half the season. Felix has time on his side, but perhaps Simeone doesn’t?

Of course Simeone has been incredibly loyal to the club, and it would feel odd if they sacked him for having another mediocre season, but maybe Simeone will see that it is time to go. Let’s not forget that Simeone’s contract with the club doesn’t expire until the summer of 2022, but we all know that in football contracts count for very little if the time is right for a coach to move on.

This season will be very interesting where the fans will be expecting Felix to have a much better season. Alvaro Morata is back with the club after they purchased the striker for 56m euros.

Maybe after spending 9 years at the club the time is right soon to move on. However at the other end he has been superb, last season was a blip, and perhaps Atletico will be firing on all cylinders for the forthcoming season. It will certainly be engrossing to have Morata back on the scene, as the club really need goals.

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Barcelona Mark 2- what to expect from Messi and the new signings this season

A terrible season without silverware followed a nasty August for Barcelona when the best player to ever play for them told the club he was leaving. Lionel Messi was THIS close to joining Manchester City, but he will stay with the club at least for one more season.

The change of heart is not, at this time, because of the love of the club but more to do with the fact that he doesn’t want to be dragged through the courts and possibly miss up to half a season as he career free falls into someone’s laptop. Instead he has made the U-turn, and Barcelona will breathe a sigh of relief. So of course will new coach Ronald Koeman who may well have been resigned to losing the Argentine a few weeks ago.

Many have said that the era of Barcelona is over, underlined even with Messi in the side when they were destroyed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Ivan Rakitic has rejoined Sevilla and Luis Suarez looks set to join either Juventus or PSG, either way Koeman has made it known that Suarez is not part of his plans. So it is all change at Barcelona, even with Messi staying, there is a new standing point for the player, who has mostly kept quiet, but his feelings are known now and he is demanding the best from the players on the pitch and the board on their leather seats.

Barcelona have been active in the transfer market and with Messi staying for now this is a boost to the club who have brought in some interesting players. The eye-catching transfer is Miralem Pjanic who comes from Juventus for 60m euros. Barca actually sold Arthur to Juventus for 72m euros, so that is almost like a swap deal.

Koeman has really identified the problem in Barcelona to be of the midfield and along with Pjanic has brought in Francisco Trincao from Braga for 31m euros. Pedri from Las Palmas who will probably see a lot of the bench is in the team for around 5m euros and Matheus Fernandes cost the club 7m euros from Palmeiras.

Also it is widely expected that another midfielder will be brought in that is Memphis Depay from Lyon. Depay had a good last season and has started well in Ligue 1 this season also. He has been tipped to join Barcelona for some time and it is understood that Lyon will not stop the player.

So for Barcelona at this moment it is all about fixing the midfield, maybe accusations of their demise have been exaggerated but then maybe they haven’t. Barcelona have been unlucky in recruitment in recent years, they have certainly splashed the cash only to see the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Phillipe Coutinho and Antonio Griezmann all come up empty. Can their luck change, Messi for one will be hoping so.

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Messi could stay at Barcelona, but is he the problem?

The transfer saga of Lionel Messi may just likely end up as a war of words and nothing else. Messi’s father held talks with the Barcelona board yesterday evening and there were some mixed reports. But some sources confirmed that Messi’s father is optimistic that Messi will make a U-turn and actually stay with the club.

In truth there are only 2 teams that look likely being the right fit for Messi, one is Barcelona and the other is Premier League side Manchester City, mostly because of the Pep Guardiola factor. However there is no guarantee that Guardiola will be at City for the next years ahead, he is entering his 5th season with the club which is a record for him, and this will be likely his final season in Manchester.

Also if you want to know the latest mutterings it makes sense to follow the bookmakers instincts. Last week City were the favourites to sign Messi and could be backed at 1.91 (10/11) to get their main. They are now the 2nd favourites and out to 3.00 (2/1). They have been replaced by Barcelona who are now big odds on at 1.30 (1/3) to keep Messi. That could tell us everything we need to know.

If Messi stays many people especially the fans of Barcelona will breathe a sigh of relief, he is so ingrained into the city, they know they will lose him one day, but no real Barcelona fan wants to lose him like this.

However here’s a thought, is Messi the actual problem at Barcelona? By problem that is not fully blaming him for everything, that would be churlish, and he has been the main reason why Barcelona have been one of the best teams in world football over the past decade. But has Messi simply grown to be such a star that he is stifling other players from growing.

Take out Messi right now from the team and Barcelona do not have higher level world stars in the team. They have very good players, players that on their day look the best in the world, but could it not be argued that the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Phillpe Coutinho could grow into their roles more if Messi was not there?

Messi is indispensable of course, but at the same time with no Messi in the team Barcelona would find another way of playing. And despite how brilliant he has been for the club, over the past few seasons it has become noticeable that he has stopped chasing back once he has lost possession of the ball. A hunger has left him, although that could be his personal protest of how the club are being run.

A team without Messi would be interesting and at the same time personally for Messi to be playing in a different league would benefit him surely. The fire seems to have left him, imagine having that reignited. And at 33 his best years are fading fast, that is the nature of the game, he perhaps has 2 very good seasons left in him at the very top. Would it not make sense to leave now?

Change is needed at Barcelona if Messi is to see any more silverware if he decides to stay. The club have spent close to £1 billion in the past 5 years. Big clubs spend big, but that money was being spent to win Champions Leagues, it did bring one for the club in that time but a club the size of Barcelona demand more, much more. That is how high the bar is at the club.

It will be very interesting in some ways if Messi does stay with Ronald Koeman in charge, at least if Messi stays with the league kicking off soon it will give the club a purpose in the early stages of the new season.

La Liga kicks off on September 12th, although Barcelona have been granted extra rest after their participating in last months Champions League. The club will play on the 12th but this will be a friendly match. Their first game of the season will take place on September 27th at home to Villarreal.

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Griezmann’s dream Barca move has turned into a nightmare

Poor old Antoine Griezmann. What on the face of it was a dream move to Barcelona, has turned into a nightmare.

Against his old club, Atletico Madrid, earlier this week, the €120m man didn’t even get on the pitch until injury time.

That followed a cursory five minutes extra during the previous game against Celta Vigo, a period in which he was at fault for Celta’s late equaliser. Continue reading

Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig deserve their chance at Sevilla

Two games, two wins and no goals conceded. The restarted La Liga has gone as well as it could have for Barcelona, but one of their stiffest tests awaits them this Friday night.

Although recent results at Sevilla’s Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan have been favourable to the Catalans, it nonetheless remains one of the more difficult away trips.

If the Blaugranes are able to successfully negotiate that hurdle, with Real Madrid potentially dropping points against Valencia or Real Sociedad either side of Barca’s fixture, it will go some way to determining the destination of the league trophy Continue reading

Fan Zone: Jason’s back to discuss Suarez, Griezmann, Neymar and more

Jason Pettigrove- a journalist who has covered football for decades and who is the content editor at FC Barcelona- is back for the second segment of the Q&A.

Jason discusses Barca’s possession game as well as some of the big names such as Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and others. In addition, Jason touches upon the frequently mentioned topic of PSG star Neymar who is often linked with a return to the Catalan club. Remember to leave your feedback and feel free to discuss any of the points with both Jason and Rami Soufi by connecting with them on social media.

1) Barca built a reputation playing a heavy possession game. Has the focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic hurt Barca’s quest to lift more Champions League trophies? Contrast that with the direct and ruthless approach of Liverpool at Anfield (to overturn 1st leg deficit)

I don’t think there’s any doubt that your suggestion has merit, but what I would say to counter that is Barça’s style is ingrained in the players from the moment they set foot in La Masia academy. Just the thought of leaving behind the possession game or playing any other way, as we saw with Valverde’s 4-4-2, would cause concern and would lead to the rise of discontent among the fans. Simply put, the fans have long bought into that philosophy and would most likely make their displeasure clear.

2) What do you make of Luis Suarez? His stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you keep Suarez for one more season, or would you sign Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane?

I’d keep Suarez for one more season without doubt. Not just because he and Messi are such good pals off of the pitch but because there’s a great understanding on the field- a telepathy which would be near impossible to recreate with any future signing or incoming elite player. He has to leave sometime soon of course, but I think 12 months from now is a better bet.

3) Were you for signing Griezmann, or did you prefer bringing back Neymar setting aside the financial factor involved in Neymar’s return?

I didn’t like the whole ‘Decision’ video fiasco- to me that was entirely unnecessary. I’ll always support whoever wears the shirt, but I did think Griezmann’s purchase was another ‘statement’ signing without looking at whether he’d fit in well with the team. So far, the season has proved difficult for him further highlighting that not every big signing will automatically succeed.

4) Should Barca bring back Neymar for the 2020/21 season? And why?

No, I definitely would not welcome it. There are just too many concerns and negatives when it comes to bringing back Neymar. Too much money. Too much baggage. Too many injuries. Too many absences. It is just a long laundry list.

5) Moving on from Neymar, what do you make of BVB’s Erling Haaland? Should Barca invest in signing him?

Haaland has shown an incredible appetite for scoring goals, and his movement is beyond his years. Barça should be in the queue to sign the best players if and when they become available, but they shouldn’t sign him just for the sake of piling up talent.

If the technical department believe he’s a good fit and that he can improve, then he’s worth spending money on. Otherwise, let someone else take him. Don’t get me wrong, he’d be a great potential signing for almost all big clubs but Barca have had their share of big name signings who haven’t worked out exactly- Coutinho from Liverpool, Griezmann so far as discussed earlier and Ousmane Dembele due to injuries.

6) Are you for resuming La Liga this season or for voiding it, and why?

Not even a question for me. People are losing their lives. Football isn’t that important when considering the bigger picture. Just void this season and reassess in the upcoming few months.

7) If the league is voided, does Barca get the title despite being only 2 points ahead with over 10 Rounds remaining on schedule?

Nope. You can’t realistically argue that Barça would have gone on and won it at this point. Anything could happen over the course of 10 Rounds let alone a single match when you consider the gap between first and second is only two points.

Barcelona need to re focus for next season and Messi and Xaxi could be key to that

Whilst Barcelona are top of the league standings for now and are still in the Champions League any fan who watches them will tell you that they are not having their usual dominant season. They simply don’t look like the Barcelona side that have graced their league and European football for the past decade.

They have had some injuries in Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann has taken time to fit in and doesn’t have consistently good games. Lionel Messi is getting older but he is still a fantastic player, but there is a feeling that he needs to be re motivated. New coach Quique Setien seems like a good man but one really has to question if he is the right person to take Barcelona forward.

Setien’s appointment came after a panic decision led by the board and Eric Abidal to sack Ernesto Valverde, who the players really liked. Everything felt hurried in their decision and the severance got messy so to speak. So bad that Messi himself spoke out about his feelings that Valverde should never have been sacked.

Bringing in Setien always felt like the wrong decision especially when news broke that Barca and Abidal had chased after ex player Xavi to be the new coach. Xavi was loyal to his Chinese team though and rejected the offer for now. Come August and the next season and it is thought that Xavi will be available and will be Barca’s new coach.

Appointing Xavi would make sense, his blood runs the colours of the club, he is respected by his peers and the fans love him. This could work, but of course he will judged on results only. Messi could well improve, even though he is actually having a decent season maybe it has lacked some spark from the high bar that he has set himself.

Next season has to be about focusing for the club. When the Suarez injury hit and the club looked for last minute deals, it made no sense. They wanted to pay big money to Everton to secure Richarlison, Everton quite rightly in January said no. And they simply went window shopping again, with not much care or focus. The truth is Barcelona didn’t want or need Richarlison, and they ended up going for Martin Braithwaite, a decent player but journeyman who simply will not fit into the team.

This was a basic blunder by the club and not to undermine Braithwaite’s skills, but players brought into any club must have a desired role so they can play and fit into the team like a jigsaw. Braithwaite through no fault of his own has been plucked out and expected to be the difference within the team. Instead his biggest highlight might be just sharing a dressing room with Messi. This all comes down to Barcelona panicking.

Bringing in Xavi next season there will be the hope that the team can re focus, he understands the club and was part of the team that was hailed as the best club side in history in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Barcelona still have the magic, still have their integrity, but in football life moves fast. Wit La Liga possibly being suspended this year over the virus it gives the club time to assess the situation, the question is will they make the right choices or continue to panic?

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Griezmann has to step up for Barcelona

Now, more than at any other time this season, Barcelona need Antoine Griezmann to hit the goal trail.

The former Atletico Madrid striker has had a reasonable start to life with the Blaugrana as his 13 goals in all competitions would attest, however, with Lionel Messi dropping more into the playmaker role, the goalscoring output will fall on the Frenchman.

In what is his preferred No.9 role, he can have no excuses. Continue reading