The ethos of austerity, or “The case of the inconsistent penny-pinchers”

The ethos of austerity, or “The case of the inconsistent penny-pinchers”

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.

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Operation Centre Back

Operation Centre Back

With the Luis Suarez transfer saga now finally over, it is time for FC Barcelona to turn its attention to one of the most burning issues in the footballing sector of the club. The purchase of a new centre-back. The search has been going on for years but has not managed to bear fruit. Yet the need for a centre-back has now stopped being just evident; it is rather best described as urgent. Still, the big question remains – Why is it so difficult to get our man? What does he have to be like? Read more after the jump…

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Why Alexis had to go

Why Alexis had to go

You just can’t have both Alexis Sánchez and Luis Suárez. I’m a little surprised to even be writing this because it’s really rather obvious, but given the cacophony of disbelief, here we go. It comes down to simple math in a way. Suárez is a top five world footballer, Sánchez is a top twenty or thirty. If that’s too simplistic, let’s get into it.

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Back and Forth: Does Barça need Luis Suárez?

Back and Forth: Does Barça need Luis Suárez?

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?

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Beko, the latest club sponsor

Beko, the latest club sponsor

Not that long ago Barça was the only football club free of sponsorship (aside from Nike obviously). Then came UNICEF, which warmed people’s hearts, then it was the “humanitarian” Qatar Foundation, which made perceptive people suspicious and of course soon afterwards the inevitable corporate sponsorship reality came full circle with Qatar Airways. Now, anybody who believes Barça can exist in the modern footballing world without additionally revenue streams, of which primary shirt sponsorship is a major source, is mistaken. It remains naiveté to still yearn for the days of a clean shirt. One has to ask themselves whether they want the money to buy and pay the best players and compete for the biggest trophies, or if one would rather football’s superstars all go to Paris, London and Manchester while Barcelona finds solace in being the home of moral superiority.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the shirt has to be reduced to an auction for advertising space and sold off like vehicles in NASCAR. First the front, then the front and back, don’t forget the inside and now the sleeve. Should we all be expecting corporate logos to soon be imprinted on each leg, all around the socks, on the side of the shirts, or what about right across culé cules? But at the same time, it won’t be long before other mega clubs copy mimic this business idea and have sponsors paying for their sleeves, shorts and socks as well.

Sponsorship details after the jump.

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The Barça B Progress Reports-Summer 2014: Part 2

The Barça B Progress Reports-Summer 2014: Part 2

Barça B had a season to remember in 2013/14. The Blaugrana reserves earned third place on the final standings of the Liga Adelante, playing beautiful, attractive, Barça-branded football and winning plaudits from everybody interested in Spain’s second division. However, as happens at the end of each season, the time for reflecting back on the team’s performance has come. With this mini-series, totalBarça will review the individual performance of each of the 26 players who appeared for the team this season, based on an A-F scale. Read on to find out who excelled, who surprised, who disappointed, and who could have done a little bit better…

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FC Barcelona B Progress Report: Summer 2014 Part One

FC Barcelona B Progress Report: Summer 2014 Part One

FC Barcelona B had a season to remember in 2013/14. The Blaugrana reserves earned 3rd place on the final standings of the Liga Adelante, playing beautiful, attractive, Barça-branded football and winning plaudits from everybody interested in Spain’s second division. However, as happens at the end of each season, the time for reflecting back on the team’s performance has come. With this mini-series, totalbarça will review the individual performance of each of the 26 players who appeared for the team this season, based on an A-F scale. Read on to find out who excelled, who surprised, who disappointed, and who could have done a little bit better.

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El Pivote: Summer Holiday Report Cards (Part 2)

El Pivote: Summer Holiday Report Cards (Part 2)

El Pivote (The Pivot) is a totalBarça column by Anoop Jethwa, a fully licensed coach in UK, about the trials and tribulations of FC Barcelona. From the positives to the negatives, this piece will dive deep into the living fabric that is blaugrana.

The dust has settled on the season. Now that we have the last few games of the season out of our minds, a quick reflection on the players’ performances over the course of the entire 2013/14 season is a good starting point for focusing on what we need from the players for the new season.

We had the Christmas report cards (part one and part two) for the players in January, and I will be using the same grading scheme again. In brackets will be what the player received in the winter break. (A quick reminder — here’s the simple grading scheme: A = exceptional, B = good, ticking along nicely, C = progress required next term to get back on track, D = struggling.)

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Neymar impresses in goalless draw

Neymar impresses in goalless draw

In a goalless yet entertaining game, Brazil were held to a draw in their second 2014 World Cup game against the always difficult Mexico. Both teams failed to capitalize on their chances throughout the 90 minutes. The result keeps Brazil on top of Group A with four points, with Mexico on their tail with four points as well. FC Barcelona’s Neymar Jr. and Dani Alves played the entire game. Continue reading for more details.

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Barça B’s scrapbook for 2013/14

Barça B’s scrapbook for 2013/14

The 2013/14 season will go down as one of the best seasons in the history of Barcelona’s reserve team. The team led by former Dream Team midfielder Eusebio Sacristán marginally failed to equal the 71-point record set by Luis Enrique’s Barça B side in 2010/11, but still managed to finish third on the league standings, which the joint best performance in the history of the team, along with that of 2010/11. This season has been full of those moments that are worthy of inclusion in the season’s scrapbook. Read more to relive some of the most iconic moments, good and bad, in Barça B’s record-breaking season.

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El Pivote: Summer Holiday Report Cards (Part 1)

El Pivote: Summer Holiday Report Cards (Part 1)

El Pivote (The Pivot) is a totalBarça column by Anoop Jethwa, a fully licensed coach in UK, about the trials and tribulations of FC Barcelona. From the positives to the negatives, this piece will dive deep into the living fabric that is blaugrana.

The dust has settled on the season. Now that we have the last few games of the season out of our minds, a quick reflection on the players’ performances over the course of the entire 2013/14 season is a good starting point for focusing on what we need from the players for the new season.

We had the Christmas report cards (part one and part two) for the players in January, and I will be using the same grading scheme again. In brackets will be what the player received in the winter break. (A quick reminder — here’s the simple grading scheme: A = exceptional, B = good, ticking along nicely, C = progress required next term to get back on track, D = struggling.)

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Neymar shines as Brazil win their first game

Neymar shines as Brazil win their first game

The long-anticipated 2014 World Cup in Brazil finally kicked off today with an entertaining and somewhat controversial game between the hosts and Croatia. FC Barcelona’s Neymar Jr. and Dani Alves were selected to start the game against their European opponents and were able to lead their national team to a decent victory on route to a 6th World Cup trophy. Neymar (2) and Chelsea FC’s Oscar scored for Brazil, while Real Madrid’s Marcelo scored an own goal as the game reached full time with a scoreline of 3-1. More details on how Barça’s boys performed after the jump.

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If I were Zubi – Part 3

If I were Zubi – Part 3

Here we are, many thousands of words later, the third and final part of “If I were Zubi.” Having covered Luis Enrique and goodbyes in Part 1 then the goalkeeping and defensive situation in Part 2, naturally it’s time for the midfield and the attack. Having spent an estimated sum of between 50 and 70 million euros of the soft 100 spending cap on the defense, Part 1 left the remaining lines as follows:

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Something or nothing?

Gerard Piqué was caught on cameras telling Spanish national team manager Vicente del Bosque that Cesc Fàbregas has already secured a 33 million euro deal.

He sits down, saying: “[I'm going to] defend Cesc a bit,” then he rather loudly whispers to Del Bosque that “He [Cesc] already told me it’s done.” Del Bosque says, “Him?“, and Piqué replies, “He’s going. He told me 33 million.

It appears clear, but is Piqué to be taken at his word? Was he really so oblivious to what he was saying? I have my suspicions.

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If I were Zubi – Part 2

If I were Zubi – Part 2

As it appears most seem to forego actually reading, preferring the jump directly to the comments to rehash their same old points, perhaps this is a futile request. Still, I ask that readers first familiarize themselves with “A serious look at silly season” from my totalBarça colleague Eric. It’s an absolutely spot on assessment and contains both tone and message that I would have essentially repeated throughout the “If I were Zubi” series. The part on players not being “good enough to be effective” in big time matches has already been handled in Part 1, but these are the other phrases I want to highlight: the underestimation in difficulty of minute management, “grass is often greener”, how things that look nice and shiny from afar can look much duller up close, the many risks of mass signing, the type of player we need more of not less and the too true “frustrated child”.

But before pushing onwards, a quick recap of where Part 1 left off.

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If I were Zubi – Part 1

If I were Zubi – Part 1

Luis Enrique’s opening remarks on this summer’s transfer business were carefully prefixed with the words “try” and “best possible”. He also remarked “there is a market and there are negotiations.” Reading between the lines one would probably discover a frustrated story of targets not acquired in summers past. These are however the realities. In times gone by, only a decade ago, the best global talent found it’s way to six or seven historical powers. Now those scarce resources are shared by at least a handful more, and these handful draw upon limitless wells of riches, until very recently without restraints. FC Barcelona contends not only with new forces of equal or greater financial might, but also clubs with vendettas and clubs rich in ambition either planning to return to previous heights or conquer the status quo.

This is the world we find Andoni Zubizarreta, for all effective purposes a symbolic figure for Barça overall. And this is the world I am imagining myself in, in a little game called “If I were Zubi”, and let me tell you, it’s hardly a holiday.

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Orchestrating a revival

Orchestrating a revival

Following the failed La Liga decider, Josep Maria Bartomeu declared FC Barcelona would begin a period of “profound change.” Profound suggests a certain magnitude, yet I believe there will be less change than it implies. Much of the profoundness has already happened. The symbolic heart and soul of Barcelona, decade-long club captain Carles Puyol, has called it quits, and Barça’s goalie in shining armour, Víctor Valdés, is moving on after twelve years of historic success. That is already rather profound.

Then another not so minor change: Former club captain and fan favorite Luis Enrique is named manager, and blaugranas feel an odd, fluttering sensation for the first time in eons. Hope. Lucho took to his press conference like a fish to water. He was good natured and calm, but confident and assured. After a quick four to five minute speech, he answered questions from the press for another hour.

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A twenty year Barça journey between the sticks

A twenty year Barça journey between the sticks

There is a reason being an FC Barcelona goalkeeper is a famed occupation. Sport ran a piece today with the cover “18 keepers in 20 years,” and though that claim is exaggerated, the overall theme is not. Here is the odyssey between the sticks from Andoni Zubizarreta to Marc-André ter Stegen.

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Messi: “I ask for forgiveness”

Messi: “I ask for forgiveness”

What Lionel Messi has done for FC Barcelona is unrivaled, and yet he felt the need to send out this message via Chinese social media Weibo.

The truth is things didn’t work out like we had hoped, it was a very difficult year both personally and overall. We still had the chance to achieve our objectives at the final game but we couldn’t accomplish it. I ask forgiveness from all barcelonismos and I promise next year this club will be back on top.

I am very happy to remain at home like I’ve always said. This year didn’t go like I hoped and it wasn’t one of my best. It’s the Barcelona management in charge of my future, but my wish is to stay and I feel the same affection as always from them.

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Match Review: FC Barcelona 1-1 Atlético Madrid

Match Review: FC Barcelona 1-1 Atlético Madrid

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.

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Picture of the day: Puyi don’t need no blankets!

Picture of the day: Puyi don’t need no blankets!

This is one of my favorite photos of Carles Puyol. Again, it just shows his fighting spirit. Can’t you just hear him saying, “What are you fools worried about blankets for? Focus on the match!”

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Be Yourself

Be Yourself

Just be yourself. We’ve all heard it, probably given the advice ourselves. Well, why shouldn’t that apply to a football team? What if this “change” and “evolution” being trumpeted is in fact the exact opposite? Why are Barça trying to be different when it is successfully unique?

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Picture of the day: Wounded Warrior

Picture of the day: Wounded Warrior

How many times has Carles Puyol injured himself in the line of duty? Countless times. Knees, elbow, face, on and on, over and over. But he never gives up, he’s always back as soon as humanly possible, usually before that. Remember the time he tried to staple his own forehead because the medic wasn’t going fast enough for him? Now that’s a warrior!

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The test of Tata

The test of Tata

The man from Rosario, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, was chosen out of many other rumoured coaches with better résumés after the resignation of former coach Tito Vilanova (May his soul rest in peace). Candidates such as Marcelo Biesla, Michael Laudrup and Luis Enrique were surprised by the club’s acquisition – the man had no European experience. But like Barça’s newest signing, Neymar Jr, the club was more than willing to take the risk if the man fit the job.

And now? Follow the jump:

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Picture of the day: Puyol’s World Cup semi-final goal

Picture of the day: Puyol’s World Cup semi-final goal

I happened to be in Europe during the summer of 2010. I had never been interested in soccer (as we Americans call it) but you couldn’t avoid the World Cup, it was all anyone was talking about. I went from glancing at the TV in whatever bistro we were at to watching the matches in my hotel room at night to cheering with the crowds every evening. By the time Carles Puyol made his glorious header in the semi-final match against Germany, I was all in. I had fallen in love with the Spanish team, the Barça players in particular. Puyol’s goal sealed the deal – I was obsessed.

Video of the goal after the jump.

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Picture of the day: Gràcies Puyol

Picture of the day: Gràcies Puyol

I love Carles Puyol. I love his strength, his resilience, his never-say-die courage.  I love the way he shouts at Piqué. I love his blaugrana heart. Some people say that the end of an era occurred when Pep left, but the real end to Barça’s golden era will occur when this season ends and Carles Puyol hangs up his boots. This week, totalBarça will pay homage with some of the images that exemplify our captain. Gràcies Puyol!

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Who’s to blame? Part III – The Board

Who’s to blame? Part III – The Board

We’ve blamed both the players and coach for recent results, for a week that destroyed millions of dreams, but are they solely responsible for what is going on at FC Barcelona? No. If there is a party that does indeed deserve blame, it is the party that has been overseeing the team’s decline over the past couple of years yet chose to do nothing. In the end, Martino accepted a job that was too difficult for any manager and the players are only human, and those who were in charge and responsible of the club failed to react when it was obvious that reinforcements were needed.

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Martino: “I am responsible”

Martino: “I am responsible”

Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino was left disappointed with how this season has ended, believing that he could have done a better job. “I do not like to avoid responsibilities and feel that I am responsible,” he said. It’s true that it has been a disappointing season overall, but we have finally reached the end and now it is time to build once again and learn from this year’s mistakes. More from Tata after the jump.

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We are all human

We are all human

The banana? You have to laugh at these morons. You have to deal with it like this because now we can’t change it. I’ve been in this country 11 years and it is as it’s always been.

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A serious look at “silly season”

A serious look at “silly season”

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.

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