Despite coming heavily under fire since his team’s 1-0 loss to Real Valladolid over the weekend, Gerardo Martino was calm and assured in his pre-match press conference for the Champions League game against Manchester City. Barcelona welcome the Citizens to Camp Nou following a 2-0 victory in the first leg, but Martino urged the team not to become complacent despite their lead. Read on after the jump for more from the Barcelona manager.
Alexis Sanchez was nominated as the Barça representative to speak to the press on Monday after the loss to Valladolid this weekend. The Chilean was direct in acknowledging the team’s failures but also emphasized the need to look forward, with key matches against Manchester City and Real Madrid approaching. Read on to see what Alexis had to say.
Barcelona lost 1-0 to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid today, seriously damaging their title hopes in La Liga. Away matches have been a serious challenge for the Catalans in the second half of this season, and Valladolid proved no exception. Away from Camp Nou, Barça’s run of form is shocking: They have won just one of five games in 2014, kept one clean sheet in the last eight matches, and have not scored the first goal of a match since November 2013. Though one can remember that the players are human and have had a difficult week between the international travel, Carles Puyol’s announcement, and a personal tragedy to Andrés Iniesta, nonetheless there is something inexplicable about the downward spiral occurring to Tata Martino’s men. Make the jump as we try to dissect this puzzling match.
FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board began an information campaign Wednesday designed to educate socios about the new Espai Barça project, which is scheduled for a referendum on April 5. The project’s main components are a renovated Camp Nou, a new Palau Blaugrana for the basketball team, and new social and commercial areas to attract more revenue for the club. In total, the Espai Barça has an estimated cost of €600 million euros and would be completed by 2021. Read on below for a summary of the proposed project, and check out more extensive videos and infographics on the club’s Spanish website.
Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro Rodríguez sat down with UEFA.com for an interview recently. The two discussed their growth as players and their Champions League experiences – see what they had to say below.
Barcelona host relegation-threatened UD Almería tomorrow in their first game of March. The Catalans will be hoping to start the spring on a good note, having struggled throughout January and February, dropping ten points in seven games. Fresh off their worst defeat of the season, a 1-3 loss to Real Sociedad, Barcelona need a solid win to settle back into form. And with Almería having won only two of their last six games, this match could be just the morale boost Barça need. It will also provide an opportunity for the blaugrana to gain on their title rivals, who will be meeting in the derbi madrileño earlier on Sunday. Any result among the Madrid teams will be a good one for Barça, as they could either regain first place or put some light between themselves and Atlético Madrid.
18-year-old Juvenil A striker Munir El Haddadi has been called up by Eusebio Sacristán for Barcelona B’s match against Mallorca on Saturday, his first ever summons to the B team. Equally adept as a winger and a striker, Munir is widely regarded as one of the best attackers in La Masia, and he is a regular feature on Barcelona’s weekly top five goal videos from the youth teams. In addition to his extraordinary left-footed shot, the youngster has a seemingly endless reserve of creativity and dribbling skills, drawing comparisons to a Barcelona legend, Rivaldo. This excellent news comes just a few days after Munir received his first call-up to the Spain U-19 team for a friendly against Holland, along with fellow Barcelona youngsters Adama Traoré, Alex Grimaldo, and Sandro Ramirez. A great week for Munir El Haddadi, and a great sign for Barcelona’s future.
17-year-old Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Alen Halilović has confirmed a move to FC Barcelona on his official Facebook and Instagram accounts. The young Croatian is regarded as one of the best midfield talents in the world, drawing comparisons to Andrés Iniesta and even Lionel Messi, due to his excellent left foot. He has made 48 appearances for the Dinamo first team in the last two seasons, becoming the youngest goalscorer in the Prva HNL, the second-youngest player to ever feature in the Champions League, and the youngest ever player to debut for the Croatian national team in the process. The transfer fee is rumored to be somewhere between three and ten million euros, and Halilović would play a year with the B team before promotion.
In the aftermath of terrible performances like Barcelona’s 3-1 loss against Real Sociedad on Saturday, fingers are always pointed. Cules find themselves filled with frustration and confusion: How could this team, our wonderful team, play so poorly? How could the team which has produced so much magic look so lackluster and confused? But nobody asks these questions – to ask questions is to admit confusion and helplessness. Questions don’t make us feel better about ourselves, we want answers, somewhere to pile on the frustration and hurt and rage we feel as passionate fans. So this weekend cules, Madridistas, and armchair analysts around the world flocked to comment on the spectacle that is a Barcelona defeat, each with their own answers.
On Tuesday, Andrés Iniesta played the 100th Champions League game of his career. El Cerebro played the key pass for Leo Messi’s penalty and produced yet another phenomenal performance in the victory over Manchester City. Despite a slow start to the season, Don Andrés is once again hitting his best form, and the little magician will be vital for Barcelona’s campaign as he seeks to add a fourth Champions League title to his collection.
The Chosun Ilbo, one of South Korea’s largest newspapers, reported this winter that 15-year-old La Masia star Lee Seung Woo is set to sign a new long-term contract for Barcelona. Lee’s father was quoted saying that they had agreed to a five-year deal, although no follow-up information has been reported since then. An attacking midfielder/forward similar to Lionel Messi, Lee Seung Woo has been hailed as one of Barcelona’s most promising youth prospects, despite being unable to play due to a controversial FIFA ban. If this new contract proves true, Barça will have managed to lock down another one of their priceless gems for the future.
Upon Barcelona’s return from Manchester, medical tests revealed that Jordi Alba has sustained a hamstring strain in his right leg. He will spend the week recovering, and it is unclear if he will be fit for the trip to La Anoeta on Saturday to face Real Sociedad. It is a must-win match for Barcelona, but Tata Martino will not likely risk Alba’s health when he has a more than capable substitute in Adriano.
Pedro Rodriguez sat down with Sid Lowe of the Guardian recently to give a rare interview. Despite his enormous success, the Canary Islander has always cut a quiet, unassuming figure, something he attributes to his upbringing and birthplace. And though in recent seasons Pedro’s scoring form has been similarly quiet, the arrival of Neymar has sparked him back to excellence, and he is currently Barça’s second-top scorer.
Former Barcelona player and manager, Dutch legend Johann Cruyff, is set to receive the 2013 UEFA President’s Award this weekend. The award was created in 1998 “to focus on the true protagonists – the players – and the invaluable contribution that they have made through their careers to the development and success of football in Europe and beyond.” Michel Platini, president of UEFA, will travel to Amsterdam this weekend to present the award.
Although they weren’t able to get the win, FC Barcelona earned a 1-1 draw away against Real Sociedad and a 3-1 victory on aggregate to advance to the Copa del Rey final, their fourth in six years, where they will play Real Madrid. Despite coming into the match with a 2-0 lead, Gerardo Martino took the tie very seriously, as Real Sociedad are famously difficult for Barcelona to play against away – the last time the Catalans won at La Anoeta was 2007. Martino named a largely first-choice lineup, but opted to play Andrés Iniesta as a fourth midfielder rather than a winger like Alexis Sánchez. Martino has experimented with this formation a couple of times lately, but this was the first time he used it for his starting lineup, and I think it merits some focus.
Former Real Madrid player and coach Jorge Valdano has revealed that he co-wrote the script for a film about Lionel Messi’s early life, currently in production in Argentina. The film, announced in January, is being directed by prominent Basque director Álex De la Iglesia and shot primarily in Rosario, Messi’s birthplace. Valdano shares much of Messi’s upbringing, growing up in nearby Las Parejas and also beginning his playing career with Newell’s Old Boys. He explained that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help document the life of his compatriot. Read on for more.
No, not that kind of juggling! It turns out Neymar Jr. is skilled at juggling with his hands as well, and he posted a video on Instagram teaching his two-year-old son David Lucca. The results are adorable.
Pedro Rodriguez (26) played his 250th official game for FC Barcelona yesterday against Sevilla FC. The Spanish international made his Barça debut six years ago on January 12, 2008 against Murcia, coming on as a substitute for Samuel Eto’o, and has since cemented his place as a fixture for Barcelona and Spain. In those 250 appearances, he has bagged a respectable total of 89 goals, including key strikes against Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Shakhtar Donetsk. This season has seen Pedro back to his goalscoring best, notching his first – and then second – club hat-tricks ever and a total of 16 goals in 35 games.
Image Credit: Miguel Ruiz/fcbarcelona.cat
There was a bit of luck involved and it wasn’t pretty, but Barcelona obtained a very good result in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals against Real Sociedad. La Real came out to play for a draw, setting up in a very conservative 5-3-2 formation that essentially put eight men in defense, clogging the midfield and forcing Barcelona out wide. The tactic proved effective at first, but Barcelona persevered and were able to grind out the win.
Perhaps there’s something to the February curse after all: On the first day of the month, FC Barcelona lost their first home game of the season, to a Valencia squad that was completely revamped over the last days of the transfer window. It was also the first time that Barcelona have conceded more than two goals this season, as well as one of the worst all-round performances of the season. In some ways, the incredibly poor nature of the match is reassuring: It is clearly an outlier to what has been an otherwise excellent season for Gerardo Martino, just one of those bad games that every team has. While hardly pleasant for players and cules alike, the blaugrana should be able to bounce back without difficulty.
FC Barcelona announced today that they have reached an agreement on the sale of want-away youth player Tonny Sanabria. The 17-year-old Paraguayan striker will join US Sassuolo for 4.5 million euros, with extra variables based on player performance and percentage of a future sale reaching a total of 12 million. It should be noted that although Sanabria is joining Sassuolo, there will almost certainly be a co-ownership deal in place with AS Roma, with whom Sanabria began his negotiations with weeks ago.
Sanabria was determined to leave Barcelona after not being provided with the first-team chances he felt he deserved, and it was eventually Roma who offered to buy the young striker for €3m, believed to be his buyout clause. Barcelona quickly asserted that since Sanabria had appeared for Barcelona B, despite still being officially registered with Juvenil A, his buyout clause had automatically risen to €12m, the standard clause for all B-team players. Negotiations were reported to have stalled over this discrepancy in fee, but apparently a compromise has been reached. Roma had planned to buy Sanabria and loan him to Sassuolo, but reportedly they have filled up their allocation of non-EU players under the Italian FA’s rules.
Two of Barcelona B’s biggest talents, Cameroonians Macky Frank Bagnack and Jean Marie Dongou, renewed their contracts until 2017 today, with buyout clauses of €12 million each. Despite plying their trade at opposite ends of the pitch, Bagnack and Dongou have a lot in common: both came to Barcelona through the Samuel Eto’o Private Foundation, both debuted for Barcelona B at a shockingly young age in 2012, and both were hand-picked by Gerardo Martino as two of the brightest youth prospects available.
While FC Barcelona’s 3-0 victory over Málaga was a comprehensive team performance, the pre-match spotlight shown on Xavi Hernández, as the veteran midfielder was honored for his 700th appearance for Barça. After the match he shared some reflections on his career and the team’s current state. Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets also spoke to the press after the match – read on below to see what the players had to say.
New FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu delivered his first press conference today, a key part of which was a detailed description of Neymar Jr.’s transfer fee and contract. The details of this contract have been controversial, presented to a judge privately but widely circulated in the media. While in office, Sandro Rosell refused to speak publicly about it because he risked violating a confidentiality agreement with the player, but today Neymar’s father decided to forgo that confidentiality and allowed the club to publicly release the contract. Read on to see the elusive details of Neymar’s contract finally explained.
Josep Maria Bartomeu is giving his first press conference as FCB President, in which he and Director of Football Management Raul Sanllehi disclose the full details of Neymar Jr.’s contract
At the launch of Puma’s new evoPOWER boot the other day, Cesc Fábregas gave an exclusive interview to Graham Hunter of ESPN. FC Barcelona’s prodigal son spoke eloquently and clearly about Martino’s coaching style, his passion for watching the Premier League, and the challenges facing the team up ahead. Read on below for some insightful quotes from Cesc.
Fábregas has had three different coaches in three seasons at Barça, but under Gerardo Martino Cesc is playing his best football yet – due in part to the change of playing styles, he says: “In Tata Martino, I’ve found a coach who is perhaps a little different from Tito and Pep and who loves to play a slightly different kind of football.” Many Barcelona players have praised the support and confidence their new manager gives them, but Cesc has been particularly important to the Argentine. His astounding ability to play the final pass suits Martino’s “verticalidad” and direct play – and as a result, Fábregas leads La Liga with ten assists. Cesc explained, “He likes my style of play and that helps me a lot, gives me confidence. Because it’s a long time since I’ve started as many games, and also played for 90 minutes, as I’ve done in the last three months, I feel important to the team.” As he should – the midfielder has started 13 of Barcelona’s last 14 games.
Tomorrow, FC Barcelona travel to Madrid for the second time this week, this time to face Getafe CF in the second leg of the Copa del Rey round of 16. However, this time around the stakes are significantly lower: Barça go into the match with a healthy 4-0 lead from the first leg. Although Getafe will be a tougher match at home, Barça have already been victorious in the Alfonso Pérez stadium this season, winning 2-5 in La Liga in December. All in all, it should be a comfortable match for Barça, though Gerardo Martino will of course take it seriously, as he does every match.
FC Barcelona released two statements in the last days concerning the ongoing legal proceedings regarding the signing of Neymar Jr. For those who have not been following the case, Jordi Cases, a club socio and leader of Grup d´Opinió Barça (or GO Barça) - the same group that attempted to impeach club president Sandro Rosell several months ago – lodged a case against Barcelona in December regarding the murky details of Neymar’s transfer fee. A Spanish judge ordered Barcelona to disclose documents relating to the deal, and the club complied. This past Thursday, it was revealed that the judge found no irregularities or wrongdoing in the signing. However, Jordi Cases is apparently pursuing the case further, and the club has responded strongly. More details below.