Pep Guardiola’s conference before 3,200 people at the Teatro Gran Rex in Buenos Aires was labelled as one of the most important events in sports in Argentina. Contrary to Barcelona’s media, which seems to have rapidly forgotten Pep’s legacy and is working to discredit him, Argentina’s football world stopped for a day to learn and to hear someone they consider an inspiration.
Pep Guardiola held a conference this past Thursday, attended by nearly 4,000 people at the Gran Rex Theatre in Buenos Aires. Along with Guardiola, his friend and Barça’s former External Relationship Manager, Manel Estiarte, also gave a small talk on leadership and motivation.
I had the joy and pleasure of attending this conference, mostly thanks to Consultora Med, part of the organization committee that brought Pep to Argentina.
About a year ago, Pep Guardiola announced that he would be leaving FC Barcelona at the end of the season. Some of us cried, some of us thought “no way”, some of us were surprised, some of us were not and claimed that we really thought he’d leave earlier (myself among them).
By some strange coincidence, I was at the first game he ever directed at the Camp Nou, an apparently uninspiring draw against Racing Santander. Four years later, I met him at the end of his journey as Barça coach, during the week of hell, in April 2012. It’s hard to explain the changes, or the legacy if you want, I witnessed between his first game in charge and that day we got knocked out of the Champions League. But I will try.
What is that?? Reading this post’s title, this might be your first reaction. But at the same time, I would like to invite you to explore a bit more.
A few weeks ago a beautiful video became popular on YouTube. However, the notoriety wasn’t about the video itself, but the text that went along with it.
Hernán Casiari is an Argentinian journalist and writer who lives in Barcelona. About a year ago, he posted a text called “Messi is a dog” (“Messi es un perro”), in which he proceeded to explain why Messi is so different from all other modern football players. He proposed an interesting analogy, one that Norberto Janenson (an Argentinian showman-magician) turned into a video.
Here it is, one of the most emotive and inspiring works on our very own Leo Messi. I tried my best to make sure Casiari’s words did not get lost in translation.
After a long international break, FC Barcelona gets back to action in a difficult visit to the northern Spainish city of Vigo. Despite almost two weeks with no competitive action, the culés have been busy in the news this week. The return of Tito Vilanova to Barcelona’s training sessions, as well as Eric Abidal’s long awaited comeback to the squad are without a doubt the best news the team could have gotten this whole season. Both have been fighting disease and are slowly coming back to where they belong, the pitch.
I was trying to remember the last player who actually retired at Barça and I couldn’t. Historically, most players sign for Barça and then leave at some point. Some are consumed by either their ego, the fans’ demands, or just by the high pressure the team puts on them daily. Their performances, movements, gestures, words, and looks are discussed over and over again on countless TV and radio shows, until there’s nothing left. The press follows its own interests, but works for the board in charge as well. One wrong step and a player is out.
Sunday’s game at Málaga was probably one of the most difficult for Barça in La Liga, considering Málaga’s good run of form and the fact that it was an away game. And it certainly lived up to expectations.
Barça started with the usual XI, with Mascherano in defense instead of Puyol, and Dani Alves back. Málaga showed up with a couple of changes, most notably Roque Santa Cruz in front, probably to challenge Barça’s centre backs, replacing Javier Saviola. Dangerous Joaquin and Isco kept their positions, and made it clear why they’re among the best forwards in Spain.
Yesterday, Barça played Córdoba in the second leg of the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. Despite resting players such as Iniesta, Xavi and Messi, Barça quickly found its place thanks to Thiago Alcántara and Cesc Fàbregas. Both midfielders had a fantastic game, especially Thiago, whose vision and precision helped the team to dominate Córdoba and give the opponent no chances. Thiago also offered a fantastic goal, the first one of the night.
If someone watched Barça play in the last days of 2011, then slept for a year and watched the last game of 2012, they would probably think that not much had happened, that nothing had changed. But we all know that was not the case. 2012 tested our strength as culés in many ways, and, hopefully, helped us to learn from those experiences.
Upon reflection, the last 12 months have been a rollercoaster: some great moments, some sad moments, and some to learn from. I would say the events of 2012 will probably shape many of the years to come at Barça.
Shortly after Tito Vilanova was appointed as Barça’s head coach, TV3 Catalunya broadcasted a special documentary that showed some unknown characters and aspect of Tito’s life.
His time at La Masía, his career as a professional football player, and the start of his career as a coach (when he had Piqué, Cesc, and Lio Messi under his command when they were kids), are reviewed in this three part video.
A few days ago, Catalunya’s TV3 broadcast a special TV show about Eric Abidal’s long journey back to fitness. The special recalls some emotional moments, such as his first come back in 2011 against Real Madrid (Champions League semi-final), his Barça teammates dedicating the Copa del Rey to him in 2011/2012, and the very special goose-bump inducing moment when he lifted the 2011 Champions League trophy.
The video is full of emotional and significant images, moments and the thoughts that Eric shared with other people at the hospital, as well as his feelings when he heard the Camp Nou chanting his name during the 22nd minute of every game played while he was at the hospital.
The meaning of family, team mates, and coaches (Pep Guardiola first, and now Tito Vilanova) is also covered in this 3 part video, that you can watch thanks to TV3.
The days leading up to the last game of the year for Barça were a roller coaster for both the club and its fans. After contract renewals were announced for three of the most important players in the squad, Puyol, Xavi and Messi, the team welcomed Eric Abidal back to training after a lengthy recovery period following his liver transplant. However, elation was short lived as the next day, all were shocked to learn of Tito Vilanova’s relapse. It was a hectic week for the blaugranes. Having the coach ill, undergoing surgery, it’s always a difficult matter, but Barça today showed ‘seny, pit i collons‘ (calm, strength, and bravery) to defeat Valladolid and strengthen its position at the top of the table.
The encounter between Barça and Betis was singled out by culés as one of the most important in the la Liga season, since it has always been said that Liga titles are won on difficult fields such as this one. An away match, small ground, loud crowd. In fact, Pep Guardiola’s Barça had never won at Betis’s field. So everyone was expecting to see a hard fought game.
Today’s match was highly anticipated as Barça was facing a challenge difficult to predict. Despite FC Barcelona’s good form, the team was playing Levante away, a trip that has proven to be complicated in the past. With that in mind, Barça started the game doing what it does best: controlling the ball and pressing the rivals from the first line of attack. It worked, but Levante provided a very ordered structure in the back, with at least 5 players present at every moment. They were also quick at attacking, which was even more evident after some time had passed. Balls were easily lost by Barça’s attack, as precision was not at its best, and Levante took advantage of that lack of concentration. They had two good chances to score through Barkero (12 min) and the dangerous Martins (38 min). Barça, in the mean time, tried too hard from the center of the attack. There were some good combinations between Messi and Xavi, while Cesc was a bit off and not reading the last pass well.
FC Barcelona will face the upcoming game against Spartak in a chilly environment – one of the biggest enemies of the new Champions League clash will not only the opposing team, but the cold as well. Winter has already arrived to Moscow, and needless to say, the weather is quite different than that of the Mediterranean coast and what Barça is accustomed to.
Ahead of the difficult challenge that is a visit to Mallorca, Barça had its own problems to solve. One of them, the defense, is slowly resolving, with the anticipated and most welcome come back of Gerard Piqué after a long time away from the pitch. Another issue is the old debate of what to do against defensive teams that do not hesitate to park the bus against us when needed. Many have stated that Barça still doesn’t have the answer to this problem, but Tito seems to be finding it, despite the loss at Celtic. That was one of the key things today.
The following video, posted by Barça TV on its YouTube page, shows the progress and struggle of Eric Abidal to come back to one of his favourite things in life: playing football. After a liver transplant, the Frenchman and much missed left back is using the natural landscapes of Catalunya as his training field. Accompanied by inseparable coach Emili Ricart, part of Barça’s prep team, Abidal is slowly getting his strength back. His efforts are an inspiration and example for his team mates and all culés.
Tito Vilanova, in his post match press conference on Saturday, showed his satisfaction with the team. He began by saying, “I think we controlled the ball, and we had a great game, the best we have had in a while.” The coach, as reported by Mundo Deportivo, also remembered that Barça could have scored a 4th goal before the penalty for Depor. Tito also centered his comments on the good things of the night, such as “the sacrifice Messi showed. He was on international duty, played both games, and he came back and plays like this.”
It is well known that La Masia, Barça’s youth system, constantly produces talented players for Barça and other clubs. A report published by Diario Sport a few days ago describes for us the players that might make an impression in the near future. Included are those that are already making their mark in football, as well as others known only to those that frequent La Masia’s fields.
In a press conference held on Friday, before the big clash on Sunday, Barça’s second captain Xavi talked about the possibility of a win, and what it could mean for the fight for the title. “It would be our 7th victory in La Liga, and also a big blow to Madrid’s hopes,” he said, after explaining the importance of a win. “We would get an important advantage of points, but we could also end up losing those points. It won’t be definitive,” he stated, as reported by Diario Sport.
If you have been following recent events in Catalunya, you probably already know about the political climate that exists around Barça’s home region. If not, allow me to sum up a couple of events: on September 11th, Catalunya’s National Day, 1.5 million people went out onto the streets, displaying la senyera (the red-yellow striped Catalan flag), to demand Catalunya’s independence from Spain. Just a few days later, and after a disappointing meeting with Spain’s Prime Minister, the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Artur Mas, brought together Parliament to call for anticipated elections. On November 25th, Catalans will make their voices heard loudly once more, as they will elect a new president and new representatives. This time, it seems the politicians have listened to the people, and it is almost certain that the new elected government will be calling for a referendum, the people’s chance to vote for independence.
Javier Mascherano shared his thoughts with the press today concerning the upcoming Champions League game, the important week ahead, and the injury of team-mate Thiago Alcántara. Read on for the details!
FC Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez talked to Diario Sport in an extensive interview published last week, where he analysed Barça’s performance this season, his team-mates, and discussed his dream of retiring playing for the blaugrana team. Selections of the interview can be found here. The full interview, from Sport’s paper edition, is translated in full below.
The match at the Sánchez Pizjuan, even before the start, seemed to be one of the most complicated games for Barça. Memories of last season’s game are still fresh, where Barça did everything to win, but Sevilla stood tough, parked a very well positioned bus, and nothing went in.
This time, however, Sevilla looked a much more frightening side, due to their powerful counter-attack, which had already borne fruit a few weeks ago against Madrid. But once again this season, Barça succeeded against a disciplined side, a team that not only defended well but also exposed Barça’s failures in defense. This season, it seems nothing is stronger than Barça’s willingness to win.
After today’s training session, Thiago Alcántara (21) talked to the press, about his successful recovery after four months with no game time. Whe asked about the injury and his time out of the field, Thiago said “the injury is totally healed. I feel fine and can play for 90 minutes. The recovery plan was meant to be such that when I came back, I could play for long periods“.