Alexis Sánchez gave a brief press conference today at the club media room to discuss the season past and the season to come. One of the main points he wanted to convey was the learning curve involved when moving to FC Barcelona and how it is unique to transfers to other clubs with a less ingrained philosophy and system: “playing for Barça is like starting football all over again. I have learned a lot of things“. He also made reference to his form over the year, despite his high level ending several months, “I won’t grade my performances this year, but I’ll try to do even better next season”. More after the jump.
Thursday morning FC Barcelona held its annual Premi Barça Jugadors awards ceremony, and the winner this year was club legend Xavi Hernández. The award is given to the player who exemplified the idea of “fair play” most during the season. It is organized by the “Association of Players” of the club (ABJ) and voting is done by fans via Facebook for 6 nominees, this year being Èric Abidal, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodríguez, Carles Puyol and the winner himself. A jury then decides the winner and this year it was Xavi who succeeded Bojan and previously Iniesta. The president of the ABJ, Ramon Alfonseda, said on the honor, “it’s a special stat really – it doesn’t take into account assists or goals or the games you’ve played, but rather the human qualities of a player and his fair play”.
Yesterday, May 16, FC Barcelona were honored by FIFA with the “Medical Center of Excellence” status. This recognition is given to institutions that portray a mission “of which is to use medical knowledge and experience to improve the care and medical treatment of footballers of all categories“. This is in actuality quite a prestigious award for the club. Before yesterday’s official announcement, only 33 other such centers of excellence existed globally, and the majority were university medical centers or private medical practices. FC Barcelona are in fact the first ever football club to be donned with such an illustrious title and are also now the only medical center in Spain with this accreditation. More after the jump.
The other Madrid went ahead and smashed Málaga Wednesday evening so any ideas of an especially early La Liga party for FC Barcelona were put to bed. Still Barça are eight points clear of Real Madrid, with a game in hand, ahead of either one playing this weekend with four match-days remaining. Mou’s men travel to Barcelona to face Espanyol and dependent on the result there, a fiesta may break out. A victory for Tito Vilanova’s men Sunday against Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid will clinch FC Barcelona’s 22nd La Liga title and hand Tito his first cup as head boss, irrespective of Real Madrid. Yet, while trips to the Vicente Calderón, or any match against Atlético for that matter, are routine visits for Real Madrid, historically this fixture has in general been arduous for Barcelona. Though from a purely footballing standpoint this matchup is usually a proper spectacle with a high tempo, defensive lapses and normally plenty of goals. Atlético have locked the 3rd place spot so in that sense have nothing much to play for, though this Diego Simeone has their manager’s fight to the end spirit. What could potentially play beneficially into Barça’s hands is the Copa del Rey final on Friday May 17th where the Madrid sides square off and provides the only opportunity for Atlético to pick up silverware this season.
“I just said that some decisions should be taken, but I was talking along general lines. On a personal level for each individual so we could take a step forward and try and be better and work more so that next season we can try to reach Bayern’s level…I have a phenomenal relationship with Tito. He was my coach when I was 15 years old. I appreciate him a lot, and have the highest respect for him as a coach.”
Cristian Tello has had another effective year in the FC Barcelona first team. The zippy 21-year-old winger has started double the games compared to last year, though Tito Vilanova has used him less off the bench than predecessor Pep Guardiola. Tello was on Barça TV Sunday evening as the guest on El Marcador. A summary of his appearance is after the jump.
Pep Guardiola recently visited Argentina which has led to this inspired bit of advertising by the local branch of soft drink giant Pepsi in which Pep and Real Madrid manager José Mourinho are compared. A translation is after the jump.
One of the key men for FC Barcelona, Daniel Alves da Silva aka Dani Alves celebrates his 30th birthday today, May 6, 2013.
Alves shared with his fans via Instagram images of him celebrating the day with friends at the beach. In the post he also shared a message thanking his family, friends and all people who have been a positive influence on his life. More after the jump.
FC Barcelona was well and soundly beaten by Bayern Munich over the two-legged semi-final. And while the players expressed the hurt, which was visible enough on the faces of most after the match (Gerard Piqué and Cesc Fàbregas in particular), they also tipped their caps to a worthy opponent and exited the tournament with humility and class. Much more after the jump.
12, 370 – the number of meters Cesc Fàbregas ran against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou according to official UEFA statistics. That number makes Cesc the most industrious player on the pitch that evening, besting second place Dani Alves by over one kilometer. Can’t fault him for effort or dedication.
990 – the number of media professionals accredited access to the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg Wednesday. This is a record number of accreditations given for a match at the Camp Nou, breaking the previous record of 965 from the 2011 semi-final versus Real Madrid. More details after the jump.
Let’s keep this one short and simple. Everyone knows the task ahead, everyone knows of the difficulty. What remains is one shot, one opportunity to make history. Realistically, statistically, and perhaps even logically Barça will bid adieu to the Champions League on Wednesday. Yet sport is so often filled with magic, the improbable and unreasonableness. Sport is not scripted, the conclusion is not predetermined so there is always room for hope. “Hope is what makes us strong. It is why we are here. It’s what we fight with when all else is lost.”
“‘Impossible’ is only a word that weak men use to live in the world in which they were given, not daring to explore the power they have to change it. ‘Impossible’ is not a fact, it’s an opinion. ‘Impossible’ is not a statement, it’s a challenge. ‘Impossible’ is potential. ‘Impossible’ is temporary. ‘Impossible’ is nothing.”
- Awesome inspirational stuff from Daniel Alves’s Twitter account. Everyone is going to need this attitude tomorrow.
This will be the mosaic of support prepared by FC Barcelona for Wednesday night’s Champions League return leg against Bayern Munich. This is the 3rd special mosaic of the year. It will read “Barça!, Orgull, Barça!“, which translates as “Barça, Pride, Barça” and is completed with colors of the senyera and azulgrana. The grey sections in the upper terraces are where Bayern Munich travelling supporters will sit and those seats will not be allocated banners.
There are many quotes that exist on the subject but essentially the message is: it’s not the falling down that matters, it’s whether and how one gets back up. Tuesday evening’s 4-0 defeat in Munich was a humbling experience but life goes on, competition continues and Saturday at 6pm local time FC Barcelona travels to the San Mamés with the possibility of wrapping up the 2012/3 La Liga crown. Barça currently lead Real Madrid by 13 points, a victory in Bilbao coupled with a defeat for Real in the Madrid derby would guarantee the league. Atlético Madrid trail Real by three points and will look at Saturday’s game as the perfect opportunity to vanquish the demons of not winning in over a decade. Mourinho is without doubt solely focused on the return leg versus Dortmund. He knows the league is beyond him and that his legacy at the club lies solely in an unlikely comeback in the Champions League. The game is at the Vicente Calderón and ‘Mou’ will be without Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. But a trip to “La Catedral” is never easy and this trip being the very last FC Barcelona will ever play in the stadium (Athletic Bilbao are moving to a new stadium next season), the ever proud “Lions” could put up an extra fight.
The speculation is over, Marc Bartra has been entrusted by Tito Vilanova to partner Piqué and hopefully marshal the potent Bayern Munich attack.
The starting 11 reads: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Bartra, Alba ; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta ; Pedro, Messi, Alexis
Bench: Pinto, Montoya, Abidal, Song, Thiago, Fàbregas, Villa
FC Bayern Munich are already champions of the Bundesliga. They were duly crowned victors on April 6th with a 1-0 win in Frankfurt, with six league matches remaining, and remember it’s only an 18 team league. It was however hardly a surprise when they did win with the gap between themselves and second place around 20 points for most of 2013.
Dominating is the only way to describe their season, which was the plan from the outset. Three years without a trophy was too much for the Bavarian giants to take and combined with Borussia Dortmund’s resurgence inspiring them, Bayern Munich’s board and staff set out to ensure that the trophy drought ended immediately. They won the league with six games left of 34 total, a new German record, and currently sit with 81 points (equaling the all time points total) out of an available 90, winning 26, drawing only three, and losing just once. In route they scored 89 goals (2.97 per game) and conceded a mere 14 (0.47 per game), besting by some distance any of the other current leaders in Europe’s top leagues. This is particularly true defensively, with FC Barcelona, Manchester United, and Juventus allowing 33 (1.03 per game), 35 (1.06 per game), and 20 (0.61 per game) goals respectively. In brief, Bayern Munich are good.
“I admire Pep Guardiola, but I don’t need any advice from other coaches. I know my team better than anybody and I also know a lot about Spanish football and Barcelona. There has been no kind of contact at all.”
- Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes squashing any sort of speculation he will call on legendary Barça boss Pep Guardiola for inside information. Though I very much doubt Pep, the gentlemen and culé he is, would have said anything anyway.
“Sergio Busquets is a key player for Barça. There are others who get more headlines, but this Barça team have won so many titles thanks in large part to him. Sergio Busquets is the key player for Barça. He always keeps his position and sets up players like Xavi and Iniesta who can go forward knowing that their backs are covered.”
- National side teammate and Tuesday opponent Javi Martínez had these words of praise for Barça midfield genius Sergio Busquets. The two defensive midfielders, though quite different in style, will play important roles over the semi-final series with Bayern Munich. An additional quote is after the jump.
“Barcelona has always been the team most important to me. It’s an example for all with hardworking and dedicated players like Xavi and Puyol, and also for the supporters. Barça is the best team in the world. I never planned on going to Madrid because I’ve been culé for many years.”
- A small extract of an interview, in which he spoke Catalan, with former FC Barcelona star Yaya Touré.
Lionel Messi is again the highest paid on-pitch (i.e. purely salary) football player. In its annual “The Business of Soccer” feature, Forbes analyzes the earnings of football’s top paid professionals. In its 2013 publishing, based on complete 2012 figures, Lionel Messi is paid by FC Barcelona (the world’s highest wage paying team in all sports don’t forget) USD 21.2 million per annum after the recent contract renegotiation. Much more after the jump.