The view from our seat: Lionel Messi

The view from our seat: Lionel Messi

To those of you who watched the game against Sevilla, you witnessed history in the making. You got to watch a 27-year-old do the impossible and achieve what others only dream of. Lionel Messi is now La Liga’s all-time top scorer with  253 goals, surpassing the legendary Telmo Zarra, and we had the pleasure of watching his journey up until this moment.

What Messi does cannot be put into words. It’s not about the goals alone because seeing Leo on the pitch wearing the Barça kit ignites a warmth of its own, a feeling that only very few cúles could actually describe. We here at totalBarça would like to take a moment to appreciate having the greatest footballer player of all-time on our side, and being lucky enough to watch him do what he does best week in and week out. Because there’s only one Leo Messi.

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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with football expert Ángel Iturriaga

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with football expert Ángel Iturriaga

A few days ago, totalBarça’s own Hady Ezzeddine, managed to have a lengthy conversation with prominent Spanish historian and writer, Mr. Ángel Iturriaga. Iturriaga is an expert on Spanish contemporary history, including football.

He has a great passion for the sport and specifically for FC Barcelona about which he has published several works including the Diccionario de jugadores del FC Barcelona (2010), the Diccionario de técnicos y directivos del FC Barcelona (2011) and the Diccionario de jugadores de la selección española de fútbol (2013). He also co-wrote the biography of blaugrana legend, Paulino Alcantara, ‘Paulino’.

In this exclusive interview, Iturriaga gives great and unique insight on things probably known to only a few, on FC Barcelona’s past, shares his views on the present and gives a small outlook to the future of the club.

We hope our readers enjoy this read as much as we enjoyed the interview. Read more…

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Faus threatens action against Benedito

Faus threatens action against Benedito

Current Vice President of FC Barcelona, ​​Javier Faus, has threatened action against Agustí Benedito for accusations made against him in the midst of the buildup to the 2016 elections. Learn more after the jump.

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Sneak preview of 2016 elections

Sneak preview of 2016 elections

Agustí Benedito, who lost the 2010 election to Sandro Rosell, has taken it upon himself to take the pulse of Barça’s socios (members). Using a survey circulated on the day of FC Barcelona – Celta Vigo on November 1st, we now have a picture of what the 2016 elections may look like. It’s been exclusively translated by totalBarça after the jump.

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On patience, fatigue, and the long haul

On patience, fatigue, and the long haul

Only once the final whistle blew did the red haze start to fade from cule eyes. Looking at the scoreline, it was hard to fathom the bile and spite that had been spewed for the previous two hours. But as the rage started to subside, some questions started to come forward. Would Luis Suárez have been as effective if he had started the game against a fresh, hardworking and disciplined Almería side? Did two away games three days apart, including an unexpected overnight delay in Amsterdam, play a factor in Luis Enrique’s choice of lineups? The international break was put forward as a boon – no Barcelona games for Enrique to worry about – but these fixtures have always been more ache than break for Barça’s players, most of whom have tremendous responsibilities in their national teams.

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Claudio Bravo: “The Bernabéu motivates you”

Claudio Bravo: “The Bernabéu motivates you”

Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is preparing for his first clásico as a Barcelona player rather late in his career, at the age of 31. The Chilean, who has managed to keep 8 clean sheets in as many matches in La Liga, spoke to Gol TV about his opinion on the biggest game of the season, his teammate Luis Suárez, and his feelings after almost 3 months with the Blaugrana. Read the full translation of the interview after the jump.

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He’s literally impossible

He’s literally impossible

On the 1st of July Nate Silver’s ESPN statistics and analytics blog FiveThirtyEight published the “Lionel Messi is Impossible” piece. Over social media recently I stated that it’s not the numbers that prove Messi is the best player in the world. What does then? To shorten what is complicated and longwinded reasoning, it comes down to a simple statement: you can just see it. Then a follower reminded me of the aforementioned FiveThirtyEight piece, though he ironically implied that Messi isn’t about stats and figures when the entire premise of the article he cited is stats and figures. Which is precisely the beauty of “Lionel Messi is Impossible”. Even though his genius is exponentially more than the box score, measurables are handy because there are no “yeah, but”s. These are hard, inarguable analytical facts which as I will go through to fortify Messi’s unmatchable grandeur. Now quoting the author Benjamin Morris:

By now I’ve studied nearly every aspect of Messi’s game, down to a touch-by-touch level: his shooting and scoring production; where he shoots from; how often he sets up his own shots; what kind of kicks he uses to make those shots; his ability to take on defenders; how accurate his passes are; the kind of passes he makes; how often he creates scoring chances; how often those chances lead to goals; even how his defensive play marking compares to other high-volume shooters. 

And that’s just the stuff that made it into this article. I arrived at a conclusion that I wasn’t really expecting or prepared for: Lionel Messi is impossible.

What I particularly loved about this piece was its scope. Morris crunches a ton of numbers to gives us a perfectly fair representative sample that analyses the gauntlet of football. It’s also a handy source to squash any annoying Ronaldo versus Messi debate. So let’s get into it.

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First Impressions: Goalkeepers

First Impressions: Goalkeepers

A pause in club football for the international break provides an opportune moment for some reflection and projection. With about a sixth of the season over and done with, the totalBarça writing team looks into “First Impressions” of the Luis Enrique tenure. The series dives into each positional unit and considers whether there is novelty, areas for improvement, issues of concern and more that may factor into how the 2014/15 season could play out.

Considering how little time the two spent together, Alex Song and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen can hardly be remembered as Barça teammates. Yet perhaps Song’s clumsiness in training on August 11th will end up the beginning of the end for Ter Stegen’s FC Barcelona career. If that sounds extreme, it’s because it is. But is it possible? Most definitely. The Cameroonian’s knee into the German’s spine almost certainly stopped Ter-Stegen beginning La Liga as the number one following his excellent pre-season performances and Claudio Bravo’s gaffe against Napoli. So often in professional sports one’s misfortune is another’s blessing. Coincidence, especially timely ones, can seem innocuous at the time nonetheless prove anything but so at the end. With each additional minute Bravo remains unbeaten his roots between the sticks dig in deeper and Barça’s goal keeping situation becomes increasingly nuanced.

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A very Messi decade

A very Messi decade

9+25+36+40+51+53+55+60+50+46+9 = 434. 1+8+17+16+38+47+53+73+60+41+7 = 361. 0+3+3+13+17+11+24+29+15+14+7 = 135. 434 games played, 361 goals scored, 135 assists given. 434, 361, 135. That’s Lionel Messi’s decade in the FC Barcelona first team by the numbers, for on this day, 10 years ago Messi officially took the pitch in blaugrana for the first time.

Had Newell’s Old Boys or another Argentine club committed to paying the medical expenses a young Messi critically needed, nothing would have been the same. Had Carles Rexach not fought against the majority at the club week after week and Joan Lacueva not personally paid for Messi’s treatment while the club foundered in disagreement before eventually signing the player on a napkin, nothing would have been the same. Anyone who has ever wished more from Messi, or even worse wished him elsewhere, should feel entirely ashamed. That Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini found his way to Barça is the most fortunate of occurrences a football fan could ever dream of. So feel lucky, feel appreciative, feel blessed and more you’ve been around to witness history unfold, that one day you can say you and I saw Leo Messi, the very best there ever was.

To relive the highlights of Messi’s 10 years, FC Barcelona have put together this excellent interactive timeline.

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The little big Dane: An interview with Allan Simonsen

The little big Dane: An interview with Allan Simonsen

If you have been a long time culé, or simply a Dane, the name Allan Simonsen would ring a bell. The former Danish international spent three years of his career in FC Barcelona. Born in 1952 in Vejle, Denmark, Allan quickly showed his potential as a footballer and by the age of 20 he signed a professional contract with Borussia Mönchengladbach, which resulted in three championships in a row. In 1977, Allan joined the company of players such as Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer by winning the Ballon D’or, the first and only Danish footballer to achieve this prize.

In the summer of ’79 Allan joined FC Barcelona and he quickly proved to be a fan favourite. With the same characteristics of some of today’s Barcelona players, Allan was named “El pequeño gran danés,” meaning the little big Dane. He was a small but quick footballer who wasn’t afraid of taking on defenders. In 1981, Barcelona won the Copa Del Rey and the year after, Allan scored the decisive goal in the 2-1 victory over Standard Liége to help Barça win the European Cup Winners Cup final. Barcelona brought in Diego Maradona that summer and because of the regulations on foreigners, Allan decided to leave the club. Allan Simonsen is said to have played some of his best football in the Blaugrana jersey and totalBarça had the opportunity to have a talk with the Danish hall of famer, or “the gentle man of football” as he is called back home. Read more after the jump!

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First Impressions: Midfielders

First Impressions: Midfielders

A pause in club football for the international break provides an opportune moment for some reflection and projection. With about a sixth of the season over and done with, the totalBarça writing team looks into “First Impressions” of the Luis Enrique tenure. The series dives into each positional unit and considers whether there is novelty, areas for improvement, issues of concern and more that may factor into how the 2014/15 season could play out.

Over the past few years, FC Barelona’s midfield has arguably been the most consistent and strongest in the world, providing the fans with one less thing to worry about. What in the world is better than having Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets as your midfield trio? And along the way, we’ve seen amazing players like Cesc Fábregas and Thiago Alcântara come and go with both claiming they were’t utilized correctly. What they didn’t know was that change was imminent, and Luis Enrique has already begun reforming his midfield.

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FC Barcelona reiterates support of right to vote

FC Barcelona reiterates support of right to vote

FC Barcelona have sent an official letter of support signed by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu to Joan Rigol, the former president of the Parliament of Catalonia, in which the club reiterates its support to the National Pact for the Right to Decide (Pacte Nacional pel Dret a Decidir) campaign, of which Rigol is the figurehead. By now, that Catalonia as a region wishes to vote for independence from Spain on November 9th is global knowledge and make no mistake, the fervor in the region is the hottest it’s ever been since the end of General Francisco Franco’s rule and the start of democracy. The issue is very nuanced, paralleling intimately to the country’s financial crisis, and is obviously one involving extreme emotion. Not to mention the fact the referendum vote itself is currently under review by the national constitutional court for legality and that the Spanish government is uncompromising on its view that independence is not an option for Catalonia.

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First Impressions: Full-backs

First Impressions: Full-backs

A pause in club football provides an opportune moment to do some reflection and projection. With about a sixth of the season over and done with, the totalBarça writing team looks into “First Impressions” of the Luis Enrique tenure. The series dives into each positional unit and considers whether there is novelty, areas for improvement, issues of concern and more that may factor into how the 2014/15 season could play out.

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Mascherano: “I would like to end my European career at Barça”

Mascherano: “I would like to end my European career at Barça”

Barcelona midfielder/defender Javier Mascherano gave a recent interview about the season so far, coach Luis Enrique, and his fervent desire to see out his career in Europe at Barça. More after the jump.

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We’ve got mail: An open letter to Neymar

We’ve got mail: An open letter to Neymar

It has been a while since we have had something submitted to share with the totalBarça community. This one is a good one, it is different, and it is dedicated to Neymar Jr.

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Tito Etern

Tito Etern

He may not be with us in body, but in spirit Tito Vilanova, a true culé will always be remembered. Today September 17th, 46 years ago, Tito was born in the small municipality of Bellcaire d’Empordà. The man who was beaten by cancer aged just 45 last April led a remarkable blaugrana life, serving the true club of his heart first as a player and then returning with his best friend as a coach before becoming first team manager.

His daughter Carlota posted the above photo on her Instagram account, along with the caption ‘46’, as a reference to her father’s birthday.

Tito, por sempre etern.

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Clásico kickoff time set; day after Suárez ban ends

Clásico kickoff time set; day after Suárez ban ends

Mark your calendars for 6pm CET time on October 25th! Not only is it the day and time of the away clásico at the Bernabéu, but it will also mark the possible debut of our biggest summer signing. Read on after the jump.

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La Liga close-up: Real Madrid

La Liga close-up: Real Madrid

Spain’s incredible trio seems to be in line for another nail biting three-horse race. Atlético Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Real Madrid have stayed busy during the summer transfer window as they prepare themselves for another challenge, but did they strengthen or weaken their squads? Are their current players capable of enduring another trinity war? This article will focus on last year’s Champions League winners and the side that finally succeeded and ended the search for ‘La Decima.’ Barça’s fiercest rivals may face a tougher campaign than expected.

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Protecting the Youth

Protecting the Youth

As the midnight transfer deadline approached Monday night, RAC 1 radio reported that Barcelona turned down several last minute transfer requests for the team’s most prized youth players. Find out who after the jump.

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Mascherano: “We still haven’t seen the best of Messi”

Mascherano: “We still haven’t seen the best of Messi”

Fresh off signing a contract extension, Javier Mascherano sat down for a revealing interview in which he discussed the pain of the World Cup final, Luis Enrique’s coaching style, his Argentine teammate Leo Messi, and that black cat at the Elche CF game. Read what he said after the jump.

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Alves: “Who disrespected me? A bit of everyone.”

Alves: “Who disrespected me? A bit of everyone.”

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.

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Breaking: FIFA reject FC Barcelona appeal

Breaking: FIFA reject FC Barcelona appeal

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:

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Zubizarreta: “Suárez was the first name on our list”

Zubizarreta: “Suárez was the first name on our list”

Club record signing Luis Suárez, Director of Sport Andoni Zubizarreta and vice-president Jordi Mestre were all in attendance this afternoon for one of these new blockbuster type press conferences. Zubizarreta confirmed what surfaced some time ago in the English press that Suárez was the club’s priority target and contacts were made well before the World Cup. “He was the first name on our list when meeting with Luis Enrique. We’ve followed him the past two seasons and he’s one of the world’s best. He’s a forward who can play outside that position and drop back, as well as push to either wing. He’s a goal scorer and able to combine, competitive, and within our team structure gives us options in attack.” Zubi also pointed out the benefit of the striker spending time in the Netherlands during his early years in Europe. “He was formed in Dutch football, a type of football we know well, and later in Liverpool, which is a great team accustomed to success and pressure.” It was stressed that Suárez “wanted to be a Barça player and that desire is important.” Finally, he revealed that the club has been playing around with ideas of what to do during the Uruguayan’s remaining ban time. “That he may go to Uruguay to play some friendlies is something we’ve considered and it’s an option we like.” More after the jump on Dani Alves, Alex Song, the FIFA meeting that happened earlier today and more.

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Full CAS press release and FIFPro rebuttal

Full CAS press release and FIFPro rebuttal

After the jump those interested in the specifics of the Court of Arbitration of Sport’s (CAS) Luis Suárez ruling can read the official press release. Football’s players union, which is of late actively trying to gain weight in the game, released their own press release expressing disappointment based on what they deem disproportionate ruling.

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Denis Suárez: “When Barça came calling, City offered me a renewal”

Denis Suárez: “When Barça came calling, City offered me a renewal”

Denis Suárez was one of the stand-out performers in the Barcelona B side that finished third last season in the Liga Adelante. This season, the Galicia-born midfielder finds himself at Sevilla, where he will play on loan for two years. In an interview with ‘El País’, Suárez revealed he preferred to sign for Barcelona rather than staying at Manchester City, despite of the fact that coach Manuel Pellegrini had told him that he would count on him. After the jump you will find Denis’ most important quotes…

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Eusebio: “This generation has a special talent”

Eusebio: “This generation has a special talent”

Barcelona B coach Eusebio Sacristán is not the coach who will always be the media’s favourite. The former Dream Team midfielder has come under fire from the press in numerous occasions during his tenure at the helm of Barça B, and has always managed to respond with more hard work and impressive results. The coach sat down with Catalan daily Sport during the team’s stay at the resort of Torremirona for a training camp, in order to share his views on the present and future of the Barcelona B team. Read the full translation of the interview after the jump…

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Del Bosque pays tribute to Xavi

Del Bosque pays tribute to Xavi

In honor of his retirement from the national team, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque wrote an homagé to Xavi Hernández for the Spanish newspaper El País. Read what he wrote after the jump.

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Ruiz: “I invented the Barça method”

Ruiz: “I invented the Barça method”

The name Laureano Ruiz doesn’t get the instant recognition it should. Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola, even Rinus Michels register, but it can be argued the Ruiz got the primordial FC Barcelona/La Masia/tiki-taka ball rolling. Readers can get familiar with Ruiz in this previously published totalBarça piece. After the jump is an exclusive translation of a recent interview, the last carried out by Olé’s Jorge ‘Topo’ López (who passed away in an automobile accident during this summer’s World Cup) with the legendary Ruiz himself.

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Ter Stegen: “My idol is Oliver Kahn”

Ter Stegen: “My idol is Oliver Kahn”

The first of Barca’s many signings this summer, Marc-André ter Stegen is the club’s goalkeeper of the future. But what else do we know about him? The young German sat down with Mundo Deportivo this week to discuss the expectations of Luis Enrique, competing for the starting spot and the joy of the German World Cup victory, to the chagrin of his teammates. Read more after the jump.

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Figo speaks on El Clásico Legends match

Figo speaks on El Clásico Legends match

Former Barcelona and Real Madrid players will be taking part in a Clásico Legends Match on September 11th at Marlins Park in Miami.

In an interview with the Miami Herald magazine, Luis Figo spoke about the intentions behind the game. “We are a group of friends who at one time were rivals and we want to give the local fans some joy. We know the love that exists for these two clubs in Miami and hope everyone leaves happy.”

You would be hard pressed to find a better group of legends to bring together. It should be quite an entertaining affair. Let’s just hope the rivalry doesn’t get too intense. Continue reading »