Xavi Hernández was never a man of many words. Whenever the former Barcelona midfield puppet master spoke to the press, he did so to offer some words of wisdom and to offer opinions that always echoed the voice of logic. Xavi, now ready to begin his second season with Qatar’s Al-Sadd sat down with SPORT journalist Javier Miguel before joining his team’s preseason training in Austria for a comprehensive interview. TotalBarça is bringing you the whole interview in English.
“When I stop enjoying football, I’ll retire” – Lionel Messi, 2012.
Over the years, you look at the players that’ve come and gone, those that gave you joy and pride. You look back and think how it was only like yesterday, they put on their retro-looking jersey for the very first time and stormed the field like wildfire. And for the majority of those players, the ending creeped up over us like a scavenger on a hunt without us even realising it. So let’s take a moment to study the current facts.
Barcelona have started July by announcing Samuel Umtiti and Denis Suárez as the club’s first summer signings ahead of the 2016-17 season. Although culés did have an idea of Denis’ game, with the Galician having starred with Barça B in 2014, Umtiti’s capture for €25 million did raise a few eyebrows, given that the Frenchman was an unknown quality to many.
That’s exactly why Thursday’s EURO 2016 semifinal meeting between Umtiti’s France and world champions Germany was mightily important to Umtiti’s future in the blaugrana shirt. In his second start for the national side, Umtiti literally had 90 minutes to win the hearts of the most demanding set of fans in the world. And boy how well he did.
Better late than never. We did not voice an opinion on Leo Messi apart from some on-point comments on social media, but the little genius deserves a piece from totalBarça following Argentina’s umpteenth big tournament failure. Leo has put an end to his time with the Albiceleste and the fallout stemming from his decision is still sending shockwaves across the footballing world, even with Wales and Iceland garnering heaps of attention for their indelible displays in Europe.
With the signing of Samuel Umtiti, the return of Denis Suárez, and the imminent renewal of Javier Mascherano, Barça fans seem relatively happy about the start of the transfer window so far. While the rest of the window may yield a different conclusion, these first few signings hint at an interesting question: is Luis Enrique finally ready to plan for Barça’s long-term future?
An open letter to the Argentine National Football Team:
Hey fellas, how’re you all doing? Tata, it’s been a while. Hope life outside of Barcelona is treating you well.
The last time Leo Messi looked this fresh for Argentina was during the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. The team went on to reach the final only to lose to Germany in the dying minutes and a year later, they lost the Copa América to Chile. Luckily enough, Messi didn’t have to wait for another four years to get the chance to finally win silverware with his country, given that he has just helped his team reach a third consecutive final, this time in the Copa América Centenario.
To give credit when its due, even though Messi is on fire in this tournament, his teammates are finally helping him out.
The joke going around before the United States faced Argentina in the Copa América semifinals last night was that a third of the fans in Houston were there to support the hosts, a third for Argentina, and a third for Lionel Messi. To judge from the broadcast, the joke might not have gone far enough. There were Messi jerseys, Messi signs, even albiceleste flags with Messi’s airbrushed face rippling in the breeze. Only the most pious American fans pretended their guys had any chance against an Argentina side that’s playing like the best in the world, led by the best player in the world. Most just wanted to witness greatness.
Spain vs Croatia has the chance to be the most exciting game at the Euros so far. The race to be crowned the best team in Europe has definitely had its moments, but has also had its fair share of dour games, with less than two goals being scored on average per game.
A game between these two teams, then, who are two of the only teams to have scored three goals or more in this tournament, may potentially be one of the most exciting and technical games of the tournament so far, thanks in no small part to two Blaugrana midfielders who are vital to their respective countries.
Gone are the days when Spain were the undisputed kings of international football tournaments. Ever since the Dutch demolished Spain in Brazil, with Arjen Robben and co. putting five past Iker Casillas, the Spanish haven’t quite been the same. The talent is still there, but perhaps not in the same quantities and to the same degree that it was at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.