Repeat anything long enough, loud enough, and it becomes true. That’s human nature.
So, when preparing another dubious set of “facts” for the media ahead of his first clásico in charge of Real Madrid, Rafa Benítez would be best advised to, ironically, consult a culé or two. After all, where else would he find such ammunition against his counterpart in the managerial hot-seat?
For as long as one can remember – selective memories notwithstanding – Luis Enrique has been under fire, the target of more shots than an opposition goal facing the MSN.
In the early days, when the designer stubble was decidedly less grey, and the brow less furrowed, the Asturian was guilty of heavily experimenting with just about everything at a manager’s disposal: Personnel, tactics, systems, rotations, a predilection for youth – you name it, Lucho tinkered with it. “Luis Enrique is clueless.”
After the Anoeta bombshell, the diametrical opposite became true: The starting XI virtually picked itself, the tactics were all but set in stone, and Barcelona’s perlas found themselves on the fringes. “Luis Enrique is tactically inept; Luis Enrique doesn’t care about youth.”
Yesterday, the Spanish U21 team won 2-0 against Belarus, with FC Barcelona men Denis Suárez, Munir El Haddadi, and Gerard Deulofeu all starting. One name was conspicuously absent: Sergi Samper. Óliver Torres, who has long been considered a similar talent to Samper, started and played the full 90. The difference between the two midfield maestros, however, is that Samper spent last weekend playing in Spain’s third division, while Torres started for Atlético Madrid against Sevilla. This is merely the latest in a series of troubling signs for the future of Barcelona’s most talented young midfielder.
With the closure of the Spanish summer transfer window at 11 pm CET Monday, the transfer ban issued by FIFA to Barcelona for irregularities regarding the transfers of minors reached its end. After two transfer windows without incoming transfers, Barcelona will now be allowed to go back into the wilderness of the transfer market in order to bring Luis Enrique the reinforcements he would like. The question now is, what exactly has been the effect of this year-long transfer hiatus forced on Barça?
Not as shocked as the rest of us
180 minutes of football last season weren’t enough to break down Málaga’s defence and score, and yesterday it looked like the opponents were once again going to leave the Camp Nou with at least a point. But thanks to Thomas Vermaelen, the man with a point to prove, Málaga were finally beaten by Luis Enrique and his players in a fixture that was lost last season. The coach, however, is not surprised to see the Belgian win Barcelona three valuable points.
“[His goal] doesn’t surprise me because he is a player of the top level. On a football level, there are no doubts about him. He is physically still not 100 percent, though. He is a very important player when it comes to set pieces, he is an expert in the air,” Lucho said.
The match winner will also be rejoining his national side after reassuring outings with the Catalans. “I’m happy he’s going with his national team, just like any Barça player. It will be good for him, although they have to evaluate his fitness. It’s good for Belgium and its good for Barça.”
Denis to menace in Villarreal
First off, the big news of the day: Denis Suárez has sealed a permanent move to Villarreal, cutting short his loan with Unai Emery’s Champions League outfit, Sevilla FC.
Swapping sunny Andalusia for the second biggest city in Valencia – well, at least there’s a senyera involved! – Suárez will link up his new club imminently, whereby he’ll form a salivating front line composed with Léo Baptistão, Roberto Soldado, Samu Castillejo, and Matías Nahuel – an outfit which this writer, unashamedly, will love to watch.
Much like ex-blaugrana man and toffee of the month, Gerard Deulofeu, Denis had a vibrant start to his rojiblanco career which since seen its fair share of speed-bumps: after having fallen out of favour with Emery – a fantastic albeit less than personable manager – Suárez pushed to join the Yellow Submarine to increase his minutes (the Holy Grail for youngsters around the globe).
As for the details of the transfer itself, the financing is “complicated,” but the move will essentially see Villarreal pay a fee to Sevilla – reported to be in the region €4 million despite earlier reports intimating €2-3 million – to buy the player outright, with Barça’s blessing.