Another tournament, another Spain victory. The run since 2008 is truly remarkably, nigh unbelievable. Spain currently holds all the following titles: 2008, 2012 UEFA European Champions, 2010 FIFA World Cup Champions, 2011, 2013 UEFA Under-21 European Champions and 2011, 2012 UEFA Under-19 European Champions. This evening in Jerusalem, team captain Thiago Alcântara scored a hat-trick (the only ever in a one-off sub-21 final) and inspired his team to a 4-2 victory against finalists Italy.
The Spanish Under-21 team started off its UEFA U-21 Championship with a 1-0 win over Russia in Jerusalem, after fielding four Barça players at the start – Bartra, Montoya, Tello and Thiago, who is the captain- while Muniesa watched from the bench.
The Russian team played as a defensive unit to limit the spaces for the Spanish side, and as a result limited their chances. However, all three of Montoya, Thiago, and Tello had very close scoring attempts in the first half. Montoya shot just wide of the goal on the 10th minute, while Thiago’s freekick was saved on the 18th minute, and Tello’s own shot was also just off the mark on the 37th minute.
Transfer rumors have a polarizing effect, either the start of hope (or dread) or simply a nuisance. As papers worldwide scramble daily to fill the pages, they conclude that in fact 2+2 does equal 5. And yet while some stories are so clearly garbage, people imagine truth anyway. So here’s a summary from totalBarça taking gossip and passing it through a sieve.
Arrivals and Departures: Navigating the Transfer Market Madness is a new weekly series that rounds up the transfer gossip and rumors of all potential (sometimes hopeful) outs (Tuesdays) and ins (Thursdays) at FC Barcelona. Though it’s not of the run of the mill variety. Agree or disagree, that’s what the comment section is for. (Note: all amounts are euros)
FC Barcelona is known to be a club that trusts its youth products and often gives them chances. We are all familiar with the stories of Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, and many other La Masia graduates who were introduced into the first team at a young age and ended up making a successful career in Catalonia. However, especially this season, it almost seems as if Barça doesn’t believe in its academy anymore, or at least, is far less eager to give the youth products chances on the pitch.
Many have wanted to see a lot more of Thiago this season, myself included. Questions have also been raised about the policy over Martín Montoya, Cristian Tello, and Marc Bartra; if they are as talented as their few performances indicate, what is stopping Barcelona from giving them more chances? These four men are perhaps the most radical examples of talented youth products that have been more or less snubbed this season.
Seems FC Barcelona could not wait another day to begin to cash in on the signing of Brazilian striker Neymar (21). FC Barcelona Botigas opened today with Neymar jerseys ready to fly off the racks. Customers could pick any number to go on the blank jerseys but most went with either the numbers ’7′ or ’11′ according to reports. The Santos product sported the number ’11′ at his Brazilian club and does so currently for the Brazilian national team. Curiously, he has not yet officially been presented by the club and thus, does not have an official number. But if reports in the Spanish media are to be believed, the number popularly given to Neymar proves ominous for another of Barça’s Brazilians, Thiago Alcântara (22), as well as the aging David Villa (31).
Almost there folks, it’s game 37 of the 2012/13 season and Barça make their final away trip of the year, though it’s only 9 kilometers down the B-20 to Espanyol’s Cornellà-El Prat stadium. Again objectively this match holds near nigh mathematical meaning. FC Barcelona have secured the title, and vanquished the poison of Spanish football José Mourinho in the process, and Espanyol have once more navigated themselves to mid-table safety while dreams of European competition are very much of the pipe kind. But, it is a derby and the white-blue side of Barcelona were rather perturbed with the Nike stunt of promoting the new Barça kit on the statue of Christopher Columbus at the bottom of the famed Ramblas. In response the club produced a video for the derby that features the Espanyol flag being waved in front of all of Barcelona’s famous sites like La Sagrada Familia, Ramblas, and others, in essence trying to reclaim the city as their own. So the motivations in theory are Barça will fight for the 100 points record and Espanyol will call upon pride to defend their honor and their city. That’s only in theory and whether the players on the pitch, with summer holiday on their minds, will play to such motivation remains to be seen.
Xavi Hernández, FC Barcelona’s midfield maestro and the team captain in Puyol’s absence, has played 3,547 minutes this season – only four fewer than his 2011-12 total of 3,551. With two games left to play and Vilanova showing little interest in rotation, the 33-year-old seems sure to overtake his total from last season, a fact that should be a surprise and a concern to many culés, as elaborated below.
Reports this week in MundoDeportivo and Marca have asserted that La Masia product Thiago Alcántara is considering an exit from the squad, with both Manchester clubs being possible destinations. Alcántara was formally promoted to the senior team last season but saw limited playing time this year despite injuries and decline in the Barcelona midfield. Both Premiership outfits are said to be studying the fine print in Alcántara’s contract in order to sign the player without having to negotiate with Barcelona management. The contract, which carries a 90 million euro buyout clause, apparently has language which reduces the buyout threshold to only 18 million euros if the player fails to play a minimum number of minutes in the previous season.
Tell us what you think: can Barcelona afford to lose Thiago?
Thiago Alcântara gave a press conference after Thursday’s training session to stress the importance of the league title, and how much FC Barcelona wants it.
“We’ve been fighting for this all season. Last year we lost the title and we want it back. It’s a lovely title. Sometimes you get so used to winning it’s as if you don’t value the title, but I can tell you that here in the squad we know how hard it has been to face up to and win so many games.”
With speculation abounding over who will stay and go this summer, another question often slips through the cracks, a problem specific to FC Barcelona: who will get promoted from Barça B? Every year, a couple of the club’s youngsters are given first team contracts and a chance to prove their worth. Last year, Cuenca, Fontàs, and Thiago joined the team. This year it was Dos Santos, Tello, Bartra, and Montoya. Next year, likely candidates for promotion are center-back Marc Muniesa, whose season was disrupted by a severe muscle tear this fall, midfielders Sergi Roberto and Rafinha Alcântara, and winger Gerard Deulofeu, crown prince of La Masia. Read on after the break to find out what challenges these youngsters might face in their development.
For many years now, people have speculated over Xavi’s replacement. It’s well known that Xavi isn’t getting any younger, and as much as we’d all love for him to keep playing forever, his time on the field is coming closer to its end. Speaking of replacements, many have seen Cesc Fàbregas as one, many even think that he was brought from Arsenal to fill in for Xavi. During the last year or two, however, we’ve seen that Cesc is a very different player to Xavi. Luckily for us, we have another young La Masia graduate in the team who has loads of potential and looks likely to be able to fill Xavi’s shoes when the time is right. And that young midfielder goes by the name Thiago Alcântara.
Although Cristian Tello was voted Man of the Match against Zaragoza, Thiago Alcantara also performed excellently. In addition to his goal and two assists, this video shows how the 22-year-old’s dribbling, ball control, and passing vision continue to improve.
Video Credit: dervyx3
Tello and Thiago embrace after scoring [and assisting] on Sunday against Real Zaragoza.
Image: Pep Morata
This Thursday, FC Barcelona’s first team held a training session focused on recuperation together with the players of Barça B. The session took place on pitch no. 1 of the Ciutat Esportiva this morning, following yesterday’s qualification to the semi-finals of the Champions League. As is usual the day after a match, the players in the starting eleven spent the session doing recovery work. The rest of the group trained with the next match in mind, Sunday’s league game against Zaragoza.
Spain international and FC Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcántara do Nascimiento celebrates his 22nd birthday today. Barça’s no. 11 is described on the club’s official site as: “a special kind of player with an innate ability that makes him unpredictable and unique. His pin point passing and his added pace are combined with a special skill at free kicks too.” Thiago joined Barça as a 14 year-old in 2005 and hasn’t stopped growing as a player since then, as he worked his way through the various youth teams. He made his official first team debut in the game against Mallorca on May 17th 2009.
totalBarça wishes Thiago all the best for 2013 and hopes he has an injury-free, trophy-laden and fantastic year ahead.
Six FC Barcelona players were selected to play for the U-21 side of Spain in friendlies against Norway U-21 and Russia U-21. Left back Carles Planas was called up earlier, but he picked up a minor injury days before the game. Tonight was the first match of the friendlies before the U-21 Championships which will be held in Israel this June.
With no weekday game this week due to the Champions League, FC Barcelona players were given two days to rest and recover for the month ahead. In their time off, several blaugrana players have given interviews with the press, speaking on the team’s readiness as they prepare for the coming Champions League and Clasico ties.
For the first time this week, Jordi Roura was able to work with the majority of the first team squad at a training session. This Thursday, the players who had been involved in international friendlies on Wednesday were back at the Ciutat Esportiva. A number of these players (Cesc, Alba, Iniesta, Pedro, Sergio, Alves, Adriano, Messi, and Mascherano) spent the session doing post-match recovery work and physiotherapy, while the rest of the internationals (Valdés, Piqué, Puyol, Villa, and Alexis) exercised at a normal pace with the group.
Ahead of the various international matches taking place on Wednesday afternoon and evening, coaches Roura and Eusebio have again led a joint training session on pitch no. 3 of the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. The four available players from the first team -Pinto, Tello, Montoya and Abidal- trained with the available footballers from Barça B.
El Pivote (or The Pivot) is a weekly totalBarça column by Anoop Jethwa 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. We welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments section.
Here is the second instalment of El Pivote’s Christmas Holiday report cards! The first instalment can be found here.
FC Barcelona’s starting 11 on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 against SL Benfica in the UEFA Champions League featured brothers Thiago (21) in the central midfield role and his younger brother Rafinha (19) in an attacking position further up the pitch. The young duo may very well be seen much more often defending the blaugrana colours together in the near future!
What did you think about their performance against Benfica?
Twenty players will travel on Sunday to face Levante in matchday 13 of La Liga. The 20 players include the 18 available from the first team plus Barça B’s Oier and Tello. Returning to the call-up list are Thiago and Adriano, who received their medical clearance to play this Saturday. However, forward David Villa will miss the game owing to trouble with his left ankle. Ahead of Sunday’s 21:00 kick-off, Vilanova will have to drop two players from the squad.
Although FC Barcelona’s first team has the day off and will not train together until Saturday when the squad will begin preparing for the League match against Levante, players Adriano and Thiago headed to the Ciutat Esportiva today to continue with recovering from their respective injuries. The two players began training with the group on Wednesday, and this Friday have continued working on the pitch beside the players of Barça B. On pitch no. 4 of the Ciutat Esportiva, and under the watchful eyes of first team physical trainers Paco Seirul·lo and Aureli Altimira, Thiago and Adriano combined training with the team with individual specific work.