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

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

Mallorca v Barcelona: 3 things to watch

La Liga kicked off again on Thursday evening with the Sevilla derby, followed by two games on Friday, all of which were notable for the armchair viewer having computerised graphics in place of supporters in the stands as well as piped in noise for a more realistic effect.

It certainly makes the action eminently more watchable, and on Saturday night Mallorca and Barcelona will be the next to get the ‘virtual’ treatment. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Jason returns with focus on Messi, Maradona, Ronaldinho & more

Jason Pettigrove- a sports Journalist and broadcaster- is back to discuss more topics involving Barcelona with emphasis on current hero Lionel Messi as well as former football stars such as Ronaldinho and Diego Maradona.

In the previous Q&A, Jason focused on former Barca star Neymar as well as wily veteran Luis Suarez and last summer’s marquee signing Antoine Griezmann. This time around, Jason talks in details about Barca’s success and the factors behind it. Feel free to leave a comment below, or contact either of Rami Soufi and Jason on social media to further explore related topics and to provide any additional feedback.

Without further delay, the third segment of the Q&A is below:

1) Is Barca’s success the last 12 years down to a system (possession etc), La Masia Academy, coaching philosophy, the players or simply Messi? 

I think you answered it yourself. It is all of that. Take away one element and I’d argue that the club wouldn’t have been as successful as they have since 2008. When we look back in a few years, Messi will be the dominant name of course, but he’s the first to admit that without the likes of Pep Guardiola, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Dani Alves, David Villa etc, he wouldn’t have been as lethal or productive.

Let’s not forget how many La Masia graduates have played in the first team since 2008. Yes, there have been a lot lately that haven’t made the grade and that’s something that the club must address, but you could probably make two Starting XI’s composed of players that have come up through the academy and that would hold their own in most leagues.

2) Messi’s Barca has been dominant in La Liga despite constant change in coaching on top of Messi having to adapt to new partners in attack. The point is Barca kept winning. Where does Messi rank among Barca’s all-time greats?

I think what Johan Cruyff did off the pitch helped define the Barça that we see today, not to mention how brilliant he was on the field. Ronaldinho brought some Joga Bonito to the club and definitely did his utmost to put a smile on everyone’s face. Perhaps his signing more than any other is responsible for the worldwide interest in the club- and that interest has kept growing since his spell due to the club’s success on the pitch.

Ronaldinho also took Messi under his wing. Just discussing Leo brings up the ultimate candidate who has become Barca’s greatest. It has to be Messi. Messi is like a chameleon. He is whatever Barça need him to be, and to have done what he has for so long is beyond words. For those reasons, I put Leo at the top.

3) Some keep comparing Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo, but what about the Maradona vs Messi comparison? Interestingly, Maradona played for Barca too but just 2 seasons.

As far as time at Barcelona is concerned, there is no comparison. Perhaps a better one would be Maradona’s time at Napoli versus Messi’s time at Barça, but I think that even then Leo would come out on top.

4) How do you explain Maradona’s success with Argentina as opposed to Messi’s inability to win that elusive trophy with his country? Messi came close twice in Copa America and once in the World Cup final vs Germany.

Maradona is certainly a unique talent who achieved incredible things when at his peak.  If we are to properly assess him, then it is fair to say that over the course of those matches in 1986, Maradona was simply unstoppable. He left many in his wake.

Let’s be clear here though, Messi has been unstoppable for around 15 years, not just a tournament like the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

5) What do you make of Coutinho? Do you think he can fit in with this Barca and with Messi? Should Barca keep him or sell him?

I’m torn with Coutinho. He showed at Liverpool as well as in a number of games at Barça what a great talent he is. He just wasn’t consistent enough in Spain, though a lot of that has been put down to him not being played in his natural position under Ernesto Valverde. Unless the club get a big fee in return for selling him, I’d probably be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and bring him back. Still, the club should also be willing to lose money on him if he doesn’t hit the ground running next season.

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

Is Sergio Busquets’ time up at Barcelona?

As Barcelona wind down another LaLiga season, question marks will again be asked over certain players.

Players who, despite their seniority in the team, haven’t performed at the required level for the club, and for a consistent period, not just a game or two here and there.

Whilst it’s an unpalatable thought, sooner or later, the regeneration of the squad takes precedence over keeping the big names happy. Continue reading