President Josep Maria Bartomeu recently spoke about how he wanted to “transform Barcelona.” In his speech, he praised the club’s economic growth, saying, “Barca’s economic health is not the end goal, but it is a good and essential tool that will guarantee the independence of the Club and benefit athletic and infrastructure investments.” As always, he concluded the speech by noting that Barcelona had reduced the debt and increased revenue to record levels. This has been a familiar party line from Bartomeu and his predecessor, Sandro Rosell, since they joined the board of directors in 2010 (Rosell famously declaring that the club could not afford color copiers). Despite running on a platform of transparency, rarely have these men spoken of the vision they have for the club in anything but vague platitudes - rather, the details and the accomplishments have come in the spreadsheets, in the money saved and the money earned. Read on for more.
FC Barcelona could be very close to signing their first centre-back since 2010 as rumors intensify around Valencia CF defender Jérémy Mathieu (30). The Frenchman was the only member of the Valencia squad who did not participate in a friendly against German club SpVgg Bayreuth on Tuesday, despite no reports of injury – usually a sign that a transfer is imminent. More after the jump.
Attacking midfielder Javier Fernández (18), commonly known as Bicho, has joined Barcelona B on a two-year loan from Deportivo de La Coruña. The terms of the deal are rumored to be very similar to Denis Suarez’s loan to Sevilla: A two-year deal with options to buy and buy-back for both sides. Bicho is one of several reinforcements to the Barça B’s midfield after the departures of Suarez, Javier Espinosa, and Ilie Sanchez this summer. Read on below for more on Barcelona B’s newest signing.
In a totalBarça special, we bring to you the Back and Forth series! Throughout the season rumours and stories come and go. We constantly hear and read articles about players leaving, signing and retiring while others compare players, judge coaches and debate who’s better.
Now Eric and Allison are bringing these discussions to you. Both writers will share their views and opinions regarding a certain matter that has been strongly rumoured as of late. Meanwhile, you vote on who you agree with more and share your views in the comments. Back and Forth’s last edition debated who should replace Carles Puyol. Now, it is time for another debatable topic. Shall we begin?
Should Barça sign Luis Suárez?
New Barcelona signing Ivan Rakitić started for Croatia yesterday as his team crushed Cameroon 4-0, eliminating their opponents from the group and setting up a tense final match against Mexico. Rakitić faced fellow Barcelona player Alex Song, who received a red card for a foolish and bizarre running elbow to the back of Mario Mandzukić, as well as former Sevilla teammate Stephane Mbia, with whom he exchanged kits after the game.
FC Barcelona (FCB) held a press conference today to announce some changes to the board of directors. First and foremost, Eduard Coll, the director of the handball team as well as vice president of the FCB Foundation, has resigned from the Barcelona board. Catalan daily SPORT report that this is due to disagreements with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Also, Pilar Guinovart, until recently the director of the Social Area, has stepped down, although she will still remain an employee of the club in other capacities. Taking over her responsibilities is Pau Vilanova, who was named as the new social director back in May, but has now officially been introduced as a member of the Barcelona board.
In many ways, Barcelona versus Atlético has been the defining match of this season. An astonishingly well-organized and defensive team highlighting both the coaching and tactical weaknesses that have come to plague Barcelona, Atlético have marked Barcelona’s downfall with their own ascendancy. With their incredible discipline, teamwork, and fanatical adherence to a single playing philosophy, Atlético Madrid echo the ethos of Guardiola’s Barça, if not the aesthetics, and the current blaugrana team have been unable to overcome this ferocious discipline in six games. In many ways, Saturday’s Liga finale was a microcosm for their experiences this entire season. Barcelona started strong and faded sharply in the second half; the most-maligned players on the field (Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué, Dani Alves) were some of the game’s best performers; a key injury turned the game for them, while Lionel Messi never seemed to get out of first gear. All familiar sights to the average cule, but ones that deserve further dissection today.
Win or lose, tonight’s dramatic finale to the 2013/14 La Liga is sure to be spectacular, and it is a fitting conclusion to what has been a rollercoaster season for FC Barcelona and the top three teams in general. Overall, La Liga has been much more competitive than in recent years: In addition to having a genuine third challenger for the first time in several years, the title race has had more twists and turns than in the previous 100-point Ligas, in which dropping points more than a handful of times spelled certain defeat. Read on below for a look back at a crazy season.
FC Barcelona have announced a new sponsorship deal with global tools provider Stanley Black & Decker. The latest addition to an ever-growing list of club sponsors, this deal will run until 2017, with an optional extension for an extra season. Black & Decker will be able to use FC Barcelona’s image in marketing its products, as well as sponsoring club friendlies and receiving “hospitality rights” at Camp Nou. In return, promotional campaigns like the new “Striker Challenge” will encourage Black & Decker consumers to access Barça-themed activities when purchasing SB&D products. Said FCB vice-president Carles Villarubi: “This is a strategic alliance that goes much further than a traditional sponsorship deal, because it unites two internationally prestigious entities, both of which feature prominently in the everyday lives of so many homes around the world.”
According to Mundo Deportivo, Victor Valdés said goodbye to his teammates today, giving a short speech in the locker room . After Valdés’ ACL injury, President Josep Bartomeu offered him a place with the team next season if Victor’s plans changed, but it seems that Barcelona’s number one will depart this summer as planned. An undeniable legend of the club and arguably Barça’s best ever keeper, Valdés announced almost one year ago exactly that he would not renew his contract and is strongly rumored to be joining French club AS Monaco this summer.
In Barcelona’s penultimate match of the season, La Liga finally stopped making any sort of sense. FC Barcelona-Elche, which was supposed to be a 0-0 snoozefest, turned into an insanely open, back-and-forth bit of madness (though still 0-0). Each of the top three teams in its “two-horse race” dropped points for the seventh straight game between them. And Barça, whom the media have unequivocally dubbed the worst-performing of the Spanish three this season, somehow still have a shot at defending their Liga title. It was a day to remember, the last piece of the puzzle before what is sure to be a historic finale.
Dani Alves spoke to Catalan radio RAC1 recently about the state of FC Barcelona and his place at the club. Alves has frequently been a target of blame for the team’s failures this season, by fans and media alike, and is now strongly linked with a summer move to Paris Saint-Germain. Though Alves has certainly not been in his best Barcelona form, the vitriol leveled at him has been excessive and ungrateful considering the critical role the Brazilian has played in Barça’s best ever team.
Dutch club AFC Ajax have decided not to use a clause in Bojan Krkić’s contract which would have allowed them to extend the young Spaniard’s loan for another year. The decision was made shortly after Ajax finished first in the Eredivisie, a title which Bojan dedicated to the late Tito Vilanova. While Ajax embark on a postseason training trip to Indonesia, Bojan will remain behind to train in Amsterdam for two more weeks, after which he will presumably return to Spain. The former La Masia phenomenon has a contract with Barcelona until 2015 – although it is possible he might return to play for his home club after three years on loan, it seems much more likely that he will be sold at last this summer.
B-team players Jordi Masip, Sergi Gomez, Sergi Samper and Edu Bedia joined the first team for a training session this morning as Barcelona prepare for Sunday’s game against Elche. Dani Alves, who had spent several days recuperating individually, returned to train with the group and was congratulated by his teammates for his 31st birthday yesterday. Xavi Hernández continued training separately, but also rejoined the team for part of the training session. After the morning’s training was done, the team held a barbecue lunch at the Cituat Esportiva, the first such lunch they’ve had since December. Good to see the team staying unified after an extremely difficult few weeks.
With FIFA’s announcement that the transfer ban will be suspended pending appeal, culés worldwide took to the web to offer their personal plans for the coming summer. Silly season, as it is affectionately known, has well and truly begun. This year promises to be the silliest in years, as words like “revolution” and “overhaul” are bandied about. Between the club’s refusal to change or evolve and the threat of the transfer ban falling a year or two from now, the prevailing mentality is that Barcelona must completely reshape the squad, as Pep Guardiola did in the summer of 2008.
Daniel Alves played his 293rd game yesterday, giving him the second-most appearances for a non-Spanish player at FC Barcelona. He surpassed Dutchmen Phillip Cocu, who was a staple of the Barcelona midfield from 1998-2004, but is still a distant second to Lionel Messi’s incredible 421 games. This milestone serves as a reminder of just how important Alves has been to Barcelona at a time where many fans have made him a target for criticism and even advocated his sale. Hit the jump for a few of Dani’s recent stats.
With the Copa del Rey and the Champions League gone, Barcelona must turn their attention back to La Liga. While hopes of finishing higher than third are slim at best, they must give one hundred percent for each of the five remaining games of the season. Athletic Bilbao will probably represent the Catalan’s greatest challenge until the final day of the season, where they will of course take on leaders Atlético Madrid for a potentially title-deciding match.
But first, the Basques. They handed Barça their first league loss of the season back in December at the New San Mamés, which has been a nigh-impregnable fortress this season. Undefeated in their last seven away trips, though only one win of the last four, Bilbao have ample motivation going into this game. They are currently in fourth with a six-point lead over Sevilla FC, but that lead is surely not enough to be comfortable – a loss to Barcelona and Sevilla next week would open up the battle for Champions League football. Athletic will be eying Barcelona as wounded giants, an opportunity to gain points from what used to be a certain loss.
When Gerardo Martino was signed as FC Barcelona’s manager in July, the prevailing attitude was one of cautious optimism. He was an unknown quantity, and less rigorous media made his lack of European experience a major talking-point. But more level-headed fans did their research, got to know Martino’s bielsista heritage and pragmatism and welcomed him. Nobody expected an all-conquering winner; while Tito Vilanova was considered a continuation of Pep Guardiola’s project, Martino was an outsider, the first non-Masia coach in five years. Cules hoped, however, that an outside perspective would revitalize the team, diversifying and strengthening the famous Barça DNA, now a stagnant gene pool. In short: not titles, but transition.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti and captain Iker Casillas weighed in with their pre-match thoughts yesterday in anticipation of tonight’s Copa del Rey final. Despite a loss in the last clásico, Ancelotti’s men are in good form, having earned a semifinal berth in the Champions League, while Casillas has not conceded a goal so far in Madrid’s Copa campaign. Both individuals are going into the final against Barcelona confident; see what they had to say about the game below.
Yesterday, Granada CF beat FC Barcelona for the first time since 1972, dealing a massive blow to Barça’s hopes of winning La Liga. As it stands, the blaugrana sit in third place, and with the toughest schedule of the top three in the last five games of the season, they are odds-on to stay there. If Barça were to finish bronze, it would be the first time since the 2007-08 season, well known as Frank Rijkaard’s last year and the year before Pep Guardiola came in and cleaned house. The Barça players have not given up yet, and the fans certainly shouldn’t – but maybe, just maybe, Gerardo Martino has.
With Barcelona’s Champions League run over, they now have to focus on La Liga. There may be concerns that their European form might carry into their weekend match at Granada, but history suggests otherwise: Barcelona are undefeated in the games immediately following each of their last six CL exits, with five wins and a draw. In fact, the most recent victories were emphatic goalfests, taking out the frustration of Champions League defeats with a total of 21 goals spread over four games. It’s scant solace, but Barça must turn their heads now to the competitions at hand.
Atlético Madrid coach Diego Simeone addressed the press ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final clash with FC Barcelona in Madrid. Make the jump for all the details.
Atlético Madrid have just released their official match squad for the UEFA Champions League second leg against FC Barcelona tomorrow, and midfielder Arda Turan has been left out due to injury. Diego Costa is in the squad, though he is doubtful for the match. Read on after the jump to find out the squad.
FC Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta spoke to the media today before traveling to Madrid with the team for the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Zubizarreta has been the subject of a lot of discussion this past week as a result of the FIFA transfer ban, and President Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the former goalkeeper offered his resignation. Zubizarreta offered a few short comments on his situation and the match against Atlético Madrid, read on below.
About Barcelona’s chances against Atleti, Zubizarreta was enthusiastic: “Do we have a good chance? Without doubt! We’ll leave the bookmakers to decide who are the favourites.” He explained that the team’s spirits were high and that they are determined, saying, “We are going there knowing what we have to do. Our idea is to be at our best and on Wednesday night get back on the plane knowing that we are in the semi-final draw.” Read on for more from Zubi.
Barcelona host last-placed Real Betis tomorrow in the 32nd match of La Liga. Only seven games remain, as Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Real Madrid remain locked in what has been the tightest title race in recent memory. The Catalans have been navigating rough waters lately: Severe injuries to key players Víctor Valdés and Gerard Piqué, a tough home draw to Atlético Madrid, and the shocking transfer ban imposed by FIFA earlier this week. Barça badly need a win – fortunately, Real Betis are not the most difficult opposition.
Dani Alves gave an extraordinary press conference today ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League clash against Atlético Madrid. The Brazilian full-back was in high spirits, joking with reporters and speaking with complete freedom – a breath of fresh air from the often stilted press conferences professional footballers give most days. Alves held forth on fickle media and dwindling support at Camp Nou, praised his teammates and opponents, and poked a bit of fun at Luis Figo. Read on to see exactly what the Brazilian had to say.
Gerardo Martino’s comments after the Espanyol match were succinct and pragmatic as ever. Despite the physical, chaotic nature of the match, Martino said that his team were “expecting a game like this.” While they may not have always been in control, Barcelona rode the waves of tackles and fouls and managed to earn a crucial win in their search for the title. Read on to see more of Martino’s thoughts on the match and the final stretch of the season.
FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu gave an interview with Catalan radio station COPE yesterday at midnight. It was an unusual hour and an unusual type of interview for a club president. Unlike Sandro Rosell at any point in his tenure, Bartomeu answered a host of different questions and was forthcoming about many issues that have been swirling in the media lately. The Barça president spoke freely on subjects ranging from Víctor Valdés to player contracts and summer transfers – check out some of Bartomeu’s most interesting comments after the break.