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

No silverware this season could be a blessing for Barcelona

At the start of the current campaign, just as he had a year previously, Lionel Messi addressed the Camp Nou.

The message was much the same. The team were disappointed by their Champions League exit, and subsequent Copa del Rey final defeat, but a new season represented new opportunities.

The first team would do everything they could to bring home some silverware, preferably of the European variety. Continue reading

Do Mestre’s Neymar revelations spell the end for Dembele?

The last thing that Barcelona needed was confirmation that Ousmane Dembele was ruled out of action for the next six months.

On the cusp of a return after being out since before Christmas, the Frenchman broke down once again, and this time the injury has turned out to be worse than first feared.

Not only will he miss the rest of this season, but also the European Championship and 2020/21′s pre-season. Continue reading

Messi won’t leave Barca… will he?

In the wake of the fall out between Lionel Messi and Eric Abidal, Barcelona’s fan base have become incredibly concerned.

The thought that their captain could leave at the end of the season is something that is all consuming for anyone of the blaugrana persuasion.

But is it really likely that the No.10 will decide enough is enough? Continue reading

Messi’s criticism of Abidal is final straw for Barca’s players

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Rarely, if ever, does Lionel Messi break cover to say anything even mildly controversial, so we can infer much from his words last Tuesday. Continue reading

Can Ansu Fati become Lionel Messi’s successor?

Before the start of the 2019/20 campaign, only those with knowledge of Barcelona’s youth team players had heard of Ansu Fati.

The youngster had sailed through most of the age groups at the club, due in no small part to the fearlessness with which he approached every challenge.

That has stood him in good stead since his promotion to the first team. Continue reading

3 things that could decide El Clasico

Better late than never.

Although we’ve had to wait for a few weeks, the first El Clasico of the season is virtually upon us, and it can’t come soon enough for fans and players alike.

There really isn’t a game like it anywhere in the world, and this one could be the most closely fought in the league for years. Continue reading