Are there any winners from the Messi situation?

It was one of the darkest periods in FC Barcelona’s recent history.

When Lionel Messi gave notice, via an official burofax, that he wanted to leave the club, it signalled a huge changing of the guard at the club.

He has since had the opportunity to clarify why he had taken such a decision, and it won’t sit well with many of the clubs supporters.

The fact that he was particularly scathing about president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, will have irked as much of the fan base as it will have delighted. Continue reading

Ivan Rakitic leaves Barcelona with his head high

After the 8-2 humiliation against Bayern Munich, there were always going to be casualties, and not just on the coaching side.

The result was so cataclysmic for the Catalans, that if a root and branch clear out wasn’t necessary, then something approaching it probably was.

Barca’s lowest ebb of this millennium needed strong decisions to finally be made, no matter what. Continue reading

Where will Messi likely end up?

In football and perhaps even outside football, 25 August 2020 will be remembered as the day Lionel Messi sent a request to Barcelona to release him so he can move to another club. His career has so far stretched over 16 years, with Messi winning 34 trophies and scoring 634 goals.

Obviously, Messi is a player considered by many to be the best in the world. His desire to leave comes against the backdrop of a humiliating 8-2 defeat at the hands of eventual Champions League winners Bayern Munich.

As the magnitude of his request continues to sink in the world of football, only a handful of clubs have a chance of securing the services of the Argentine wizard.

Clubs likely to sign Messi

The English Premier League has a strong following across the world with Messi also
known to be a close follower. This is further helped given that two of his closest friends,
Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Aguero have enjoyed great success from their exploits in
England. It is also believed that Messi spoke with Manchester City’s boss Pep Guardiola before submitting his transfer request. It should also not be lost that the key Manchester City boardroom staff of Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, also worked with Guardiola when he was coaching Messi at Barcelona.

Manchester City also stands as one of the few teams with the financial muscle to meet Messi’s salary demands. However, City may face serious competition from their neighbors, Manchester United, who are also believed to have the financial clout to seal
a move for the Argentine. While Liverpool’s boss Jurgen Klopp already ruled out a move, Arsenal and Chelsea have yet to give a response though it is highly unlikely Messi would join either of the London clubs.

Outside England, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) may tempt Messi to link up with long-time friend Neymar as they attempt to get their hands on that elusive Champions League Trophy. Other suitors that have been mentioned as possible destination include Italian champions Juventus who happen to have Cristiano Ronaldo in their squad! If you fancy your chances and want to bet where Messi might end up, look at various betting reviews like this Swedish betting site for legitimate options.

Heading home or staying put?

Messi has always said he hopes to end his playing career back in Argentina with his
boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys. However, security concerns are a major issue, particularly given the superstar has three young children attending school. Messi also believes that he still has something to give, and thus he sees the need to put the move back home on hold and instead continue to play in an elite league for a bit longer.

A possible scenario is that he may yet end up staying at Barcelona if his conditions are met and if he is convinced by the club’s hierarchy that they will try their best to create a strong and competitive side. Messi and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu currently have a strained relationship, which has been raised by more than one source as one of
the reasons why he wants to leave. A major hurdle that may prevent the Argentinian from leaving is the legal battles likely to come up. Messi had a contract that would have allowed him to leave for free in June this year.

However, some in Barcelona believe that the clause has expired, leaving Messi under contract until 2021. Any effort to take him away from Barcelona would have to be met with a 700 million buy-out clause, which obviously would be a world record.

Will he stay, or will he go?

Lionel Messi is not bigger than FC Barcelona

As unpalatable as the current situation with Lionel Messi at Barcelona may be, the Argentinian is not bigger than the club.

Yes, he is by far their greatest ever player and yes, the club owe him a monstrous debt of gratitude, but that’s where it ends.

The captain is an employee just like anyone else. Continue reading

Selling Luis Suarez is the right decision for Barcelona

It’s all change at Barcelona with Ronald Koeman having been handed the task of getting the Catalans back to where they belong.

A horrific 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich laid bare just how far the Blaugranes have fallen, and on the back of such a seismic result there was always going to be casualties.

Quique Setien and his staff were quickly followed by Eric Abidal, but now it’s Koeman’s turn to weed out the under-performers from his squad. Continue reading

Barcelona look to the past as they head to the future

It’s a tried and tested method with football clubs when appointing new managers.

Go with someone who has played for the club in the past so therefore understands the heritage, the demands of the fans, what it means to play for the badge etc.

Although such moves are understandable, they’re always a bit hit and miss in terms of how successful the new incumbent becomes. 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’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.’

Lionel Messi looks tired and disinterested at Barcelona

Surely Barcelona’s supporters didn’t think it would end up like this.

Their best ever player, Lionel Messi, strolling around seemingly disinterested and looking as tired as he ever has.

Whatever the party line from him is, his body language doesn’t lie. Lionel Messi is not happy. Continue reading