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

Has Samuel Umtiti played his last game for Barcelona?

Unless Barcelona suffer a spate of injuries in the centre of defence over the next couple of games, it’s hard to see where Samuel Umtiti gets a look in after his horrific performance against Celta Vigo on Saturday.

The Frenchman was once an undisputed starter for the Catalans but hasn’t been the same since sustaining a knee injury which he decided to treat holistically rather than allowing Barca’s club doctors to sort the problem out. Continue reading

Quique Setien isn’t passing his Barcelona audition

There can’t be too many coaches that are given the sack when their team is top of the league, but that’s precisely what happened to Ernesto Valverde earlier this season.

Barcelona’s demanding fan base had been calling for his head for at least 12 months, and the board finally caved into the pressure – at the worst possible moment.

Their choice to replace Valverde was Quique Setien. 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

Martin Braithwaite is the key for Barcelona against Leganes

When Martin Braithwaite signed for Barcelona on an emergency basis earlier in the year, it’s fair to say that a few eyebrows were raised.

A player who had, with respect, a fairly nondescript career to the point before the Catalans had shown an interest in his services, the move for him appeared to be one of desperation.

But the Danish international quickly shut a few mouths. Continue reading

Will Lautaro Martinez be a success at the Camp Nou?

Lionel Messi has labelled Lautaro Martinez a ‘complete’ forward, and the Barcelona icon has spoken of his desire to link up with his fellow Argentine at the Camp Nou next season. Martinez’s agent has added further fuel to the fire by claiming that there is a ‘very big possibility’ of the 22-year old completing his move to Catalonia this summer.

Although the young striker has enjoyed a fruitful campaign in Serie A, big things are expected of the Bahia Blanca-born star. Can he live up to the hype?

Inter are desperate to keep hold of the forward who has plundered 19 goals in all competitions this season, yet his desire to link up with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner could prove to be decisive. Although a number of top clubs including Manchester United are believed to be circling this summer, Barca are thought to be in pole position, and with the La Liga giants renowned for their possession-based style of football, this is highly likely to play to his strengths.

The Blaugrana have tended to interchange between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in recent years, and the former Racing Club striker should relish the chance to integrate himself as part of one of Europe’s most potent strike-forces. Martinez was used sporadically under former Inter boss Luciano Spalletti, who used to prefer Mauro Icardi in the lone striker role. When given the chance to impress, the forward often found himself isolated due to opponents sitting deep. With the wingers tracking back, the front-man was unable to make space for himself, and was often seen drifting in and out of play.

While lower-ranked teams may occasionally deploy similar tactics against Barcelona, it often tends to be a fruitless task with the 26-time Spanish champions usually finding a way to break the tightest of defensive lines.

Lautaro is able to create space for himself, and is extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, something that is a prerequisite for any potential Barca recruit. Under Antonio Conte, he has been part of a front two alongside Romelu Lukaku in a 3-5-2 formation. This has suited him well due to defenders having to share their attention between Lautaro and his strike partner Lukaku. Arguably, the weakest aspect of his game is his aerial ability, but that is unlikely to be a major concern if he gets his move to the Catalan giants.

He is one of a number of Barcelona transfer targets this summer as Quique Setien aims to bolster his side in preparation for the 2020/21 campaign. Martinez is among the most high profile of the potential recruits due to his efficiency at Inter. Strikers are often considered to be more valuable by fans, due to their match-winning ability and the recognition they receive in the media, and the position has been immortalized by a plethora of mid-90s computer games and more recently, online slots. The latter includes Super Striker, a popular NetEnt release which is currently available at all of the best betting and casino sites including 22Bet and Royal Panda.

Known as ‘El Toro’, the front man has a terrific strike-rate and he is likely to get plenty of chances in the Spanish top flight. He’s been compared to Sergio Aguero by former striker Hernan Crespo, and has also enjoyed success on the international stage. He also appears to be improving season-upon-season, and his numbers have increased exponentially since the arrival of Conte. 

Inter are understandably keen to keep hold of their emerging star striker, but the financial return from selling him and the likelihood they receive at least one Barcelona player as part of the deal may change all that leading to the young man’s exit. Martinez is surely looking to capitalize on a super season in Serie A, and the recent evidence suggests that he would be the perfect fit for Setien’s attack-minded side.

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.

Fan Zone: Jason on Barcelona legends Cruyff & Messi, El Clasico and more!

Jason Pettigrove is a well established author and sports journalist as well as a content editor at FC Barcelona. Jason’s love affair with Barcelona goes back several decades and covers the tough, the good and the great eras of the Catalan club.

In the first part of the Q&A which is published below, Jason touches upon the connection he built with the club as well as his favorite Barca players and matches. Feel free to discuss the main points from the Q&A and to connect with Jason and Rami Soufi via their Twitter profiles.

1) You’ve been a Barcelona fan for quite some time. What made you support Barca?

I’ll try and shorten a long story! I went on holiday to Lloret de Mar in the mid 1970s with my parents, and the Barça shirt was the first one I bought. I saw the Camp Nou and also brought home some posters of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Sotil to put up on my wall, as well as a Barça pennant.

When I was old enough to go to watch football, West Ham were my local team so I followed them for many years. My eldest son, who is now 25, played at the West Ham academy from the ages of 8-12, but he was bullied incessantly by his coach. It got to the point where I had to complain to the Premier League, and was astounded by the club’s attitude.

The week after he walked off of the pitch in disgust at his treatment, leaving football behind in the process, I was in Barcelona to see my first match at the Camp Nou – the 2007 El Clásico where Lionel Messi scored his first hat-trick. Barça were always my first love, but that was the point when I began to properly support them.

2) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Barca players and why? 

Lionel Messi – A player who can do it all and still be better than anyone else while do it all on the attacking front. Goals, assists, dribbling, passing, etc you name it and Messi can do it! Biggest point is we should remember that to be at the very top for as long as he has is astonishing as well.

Johan Cruyff – The Dutchman was perhaps the master. As a player he took the Blaugranes on a long journey which he would later complete as a coach when he guided them to their first European Cup while creating what was referred to as the Dream Team.

Pep Guardiola – From ball-boy to record breaking coach is probably the best way to describe Guardiola’s incredible journey with Barca. An imperious captain and a member of the Cruyff teams in the 1990s. Pep would later prove to be a managerial genius as shown by the titles won under his guidance between 2008 and 2012.

3) Name your favorite Barca player by position. One each from DEF/MID/ATT.

DEF – Gerard Pique – Once regarded as a bit of an afterthought next to club skipper Carles Puyol, Pique has matured into the consummate central defender. As big a part of the success over the last decade, his absence often corresponded with a drop in form defensively and exposed Barca’s back four.

MID – Arthur Melo – Although I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Arthur yet, he gives the team balance and purpose. The ‘new Xavi’ moniker is probably a little unfair, but the team looks so much more in control in the middle of the park with Arthur on the pitch.

Attack – Messi – The phrase ‘Messi-dependence’ is a little overused in my opinion, but
there’s little doubt he is the conduit through which all good things come. He is not just the team’s attacking spark and a football genius, but he is also the glue that holds the team together.

4) Most important Barca victory in your lifetime? Why?

That’s a very tough one as there have been a few important wins and for a number of different reasons. I think I will go with the 1992 Champions League win at Wembley. Simply put, for a world class club with world class players, it had taken them until then to reach the pinnacle in Europe.

Winning the cup got a huge monkey off of the club’s back, and though they probably
should’ve won more than they have since, that victory was a huge turning point.

5) Your all-time favorite Barca match? Why?

I’ll give you two. First, the 3-3 draw in El Clásico that I mentioned earlier. It happens to be my first live Barça match and also Messi’s first hat-trick not to mention the atmosphere that was as good as I’ve ever known.

Second, the 2011 Champions League final. I was lucky enough to be there, and it remains the best 90 minutes of football I think I’ve seen, or will ever see. Pep’s Barça at their absolute peak, and there was nothing Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United could do about it.

6) Pick two from Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann for your team, and why?

For the short term, it would have to be Suarez and Dembele. Although El Pistolero is getting on a bit, he still knows where the goal is, and a lack of pace hasn’t dimmed his excellence in sticking the ball in the back of the net.

Dembele has had his critics, and I’ve been one of them, but there’s little doubt that he is a top player when he’s free of injury. I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on
when he returns.

7) Pick two from Arthur, Frankie de Jong, Busquets, Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, and why?

Easy one here- Arthur and Frenkie de Jong. The future of Barça’s midfield. Rakitic has been a fine servant and doesn’t deserve the heat he’s getting at the moment, but the time has come for him to move. Vidal is a breath of fresh air, but if the club can get some decent money for him, his sale is a no brainer. Busi only doesn’t get in because he’s coming to the end of his career and, sadly, isn’t quite the player he once was.

8) What are Barca’s weaknesses? Some single out the full-back positions while many point to the central defensive pair being shaky with Pique slowing down. Some mention Neymar’s departure. Others refer to over dependence on Messi. Thoughts?

I think what makes Barça great is also their weakness. Full-backs pushing too far up and being susceptible and getting caught on the break, a willingness to always look for Messi when often there will be better options available, possession for possession’s sake which, though incredibly pleasing on the eye, needs to have more of a purpose sometimes.

9) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Barca shirt?

As with other questions here, it has to be Messi for me. Whatever he is asked to do, he does it better than all others. His goal-scoring exploits and his magical assists will stand the test of time, and his passing ability is beyond comparison. There hasn’t been another player in the history of football that ‘had it all.’

Can Josep Maria Bartomeu survive Barcelona’s crisis?

What a season it’s been for FC Barcelona!

At the beginning of the campaign, during the curtain raiser to each season, the Joan Gamper Trophy, Lionel Messi apologised for the collapse against Liverpool.

He also noted that the Catalans would be challenging again for the Champions League and the other top prizes on offer.

But it’s safe to say that things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Continue reading

Why Neymar returning to Barcelona is a no-go

Not long now until the transfer merry-go-round spins in earnest.

In fact, the rumours are already in full swing and there’s still the best part of three months until the window opens again!

As clubs across Europe go looking for bargains, there are one or two that need to make a statement signing to send shivers down their opponent’s spines. Continue reading