It has been confirmed that both Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta will not participate in the upcoming international week with their respective national sides. The Argentine Football Association (AFA) announced that in Monday’s friendly against Germany, Messi will not play as a “precaution”. Iniesta had been called up by Vicente del Bosque but the midfielder yesterday communicated with the federation to tell them his knee is not in condition for action.
A company called Traffic sits front and center in suspicions around the transfer of Douglas. It was the same company which facilitated FC Barcelona’s acquisitions of Keirrison and Henrique, players who effectively ended up never playing for the club. Vice-president Jordi Mestre however rebukes any ideas of shady dealings regarding Douglas. “You cannot compare this operation to those ones [Keirrison and Henrique]. Our coaches asked us for this player and the economical amounts are very different.” He further explained that Traffic was simply acting as Douglas’ agents and “were absolutely no hindrance“, and that the economic of the deal were exclusively between Barcelona and São Paolo.
The Madrigal has been a happy hunting ground for FC Barcelona in recent years. In the last five visits to the home of the Yellow Submarines, Barça have secured four wins and a draw, meaning Villarreal haven’t defeated the blaugrana on their own turf since the 2007/08 season. Marcelino García Toral will be looking to change that on Sunday and to put the first stain on Luis Enrique’s perfectly clean record.
Moments ago, FC Barcelona’s 2014/15 group stage challengers were made official. From the scary pot 2, Barça were joined by Paris Saint-Germaine (PSG), a significantly strong opponent with a certain familiar face. For the second year running, Ajax came out of Pot 3, while Cypriot club APOEL Nicosia from pot 4 completed Group F.
Over the weekend, Josep Maria Bartomeu for the first time since the FIFA ban surfaced acknowledged a proportion of guilt. “We were aware that FIFA would ratify its sanction. In the past, we have committed certain irregularities — but always respecting the spirit of the regulation. It was highly unlikely that the tribunal would not ratify a sanction that had already been imposed. It was only to be expected… but the penalty is far too big. We knew that we’d end up going to the CAS, and now that time has come.”
As many have suspected, the summer mega splurge, with possibly more to come, was in anticipated of the two window ban. “We knew that we might not be able to make signings in the next two transfer windows and that at the same time there was a pressing need to renew the squad.”
Yesterday the board, technical staff and coaching staff had a joined meeting to discuss the happenings at the club before the board then alone held a meeting and released the following official statement:
Munir El Haddadi is La Masia’s man of the moment. The 18-year-old not only started against Elche, he capped off his dream night with a Camp Nou goal. Munir was the guest on Barça TV’s El Marcador following the match and obviously he was on could nine. “I am so proud to have scored at the Camp Nou with Messi and so many other great players around me. I’m very happy. It was a dream come true to play with them … Luis Enrique has told me to keep doing what I do, and so I’ll keep working for more chances. He tells us to work hard and get better every day. He’s a great manager.”
Despite admitting a combination of nerves and excitement had him up all night, his performance was assured and mature, not only scoring but blasting the crossbar earlier on. But the goal is what he will remember forever. “It came because if you keep losing your marker, sometimes you get there. I saw the goalkeeper was off his line and just chipped the ball.”
The early star of the show was an old Camp Nou friend (or an omen for those suspiciously inclined folks). But when the black cat was shown the exit (the security man earning a bite for his trouble), Luis Enrique’s new look FC Barcelona comfortably beat Elche 3-0. The visitors’ defensive strategy was voided when Lionel Messi opened up his 2014/15 account and despite a late first half setback, a debut goal 49 seconds into the second half from Munir El Haddadi ended this game as a competitive affair. There is certainly praise to go around, but seeing an energetic Messi with his much missed smile is unquestionably tonight’s key takeaway.
The last time FC Barcelona lost on the opening day of La Liga was the 2008/9 season, when Pep Guardiola’s eventual all-conquering triplete side lost to Numancia 1-0. After that, Guardiola managed a win on the opener of his other three campaigns as did Tito Vilanova and Gerardo Martino in their debut seasons. Will Luis Enrique make it six on the trot?
After training alongside Thomas Vermaelen yesterday, Pedro Rodríguez has joined the main group this morning and therefore should be ready to play tomorrow following his stomach bug. The Belgium is back on the pitch but continues a recovery program, as do Marc-André ter Stegen and Neymar. Neymar is unlikely to be in action tomorrow.
Adriano participated in some of the main training but the club remains cautious with the Brazilian. Otherwise, everyone in the senior side is fit for tomorrow. Barça B guys Munir El Haddadi, Sandro and Sergi Samper also trained with the seniors and at least one should make the bench against Elche.
Dani Alves had the media salivating with the sheer amount of sound bites but hopefully also left them feeling twinges of shame during his no holds barred press conference yesterday afternoon. The Barça man spoke on a wide range of subjects, particularly the way he believes he is perceived and treated by fans, the club and the media. He also confirmed, though its been blatantly obvious for some time, that he is staying at the club and in fact has a contract until 2016, not 2015. All the very juicy stuff after the jump.
Not long ago FC Barcelona announced Neymar was medically assessed after discomfort in his left knee following yesterday’s training session and tests uncovered a grade 1 strain. There is no further information at this time regarding recovery time or when he will return to training.
This is truly a pity after the Brazilian’s excellent display in the Gamper.
Another day another sponsor cheque to bank. FC Barcelona has signed a sponsorship agreement with Advan, a mobile phone and tablet manufacturer in Indonesia, one of the club’s strategic markets. Indonesia has more Barça fans (7.7 million) on Facebook than any other country and registers growing figures on other social media channels. Advan has signed a two year agreement and becomes a regional sponsor.
Club spokesman Manel Arroyo was on RAC-1 last night to discuss FIFA’s rejection of the club’s appeal, expressing surprise and frustration but also more self responsibility than seen before. “We do not agree with FIFA’s decision. We are surprised and now will go to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). Our lawyers are preparing the case because we know this ban is not what Barça deserve. We have demonstrated that to the pertinent authorities.” However he admitted that the club “is ready to find the right way so there is no issues when signing juniors” and that the club “needs to revise its processes and improve what is necessary.” Finally, Arroyo again stressed that the objective of Barça and it’s youth development is to “develop children and people” versus the trafficking of children which the spirit of FIFA’s law is intended to legislate.
In an unsurprising announcement (seeing as FIFA imposed the ban themselves), FIFA have rejected FC Barcelona’s appeal concerning the violation of regulations meant to protect children under the age of 18.
In response, Barça have communicated they are to appeal the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The official club communique is below: