Monday, December 21, 2009

Collection of my 5 favourite moments from the Calendar year 2009

Is anyone going to forget this? Iniestaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

The goal that sealed the Champions League, courtesy of the man who never scores headers and never scores against English teams.

Gerard Pique Bernabeu tears down the Bernabeu.

A goal scored with the heart - and the Barca badge, to send Barca to the summit of world football.

Finally, unbridled joy on the face of the man who made it all possible.

Barca of the Six Cups

Feel proud, Blaugrana fans. Barca of the SIX CUPS. An unprecedented and unbreakable record.

See how much it means to Pep, the man and the legend.

Great Tribute to Barcelona from a Milan fan

I read this on the forums, written by a Milan fan, irasmaldinista. It was titled

"We are Rossoneri, But We are Not Blind Blaugrana Friends"

Makes me feel extremely proud, fans of other clubs have also appreciated how great this team truly was.

Yes, we can see...

We can see a Football club finally emulating the 1988-1994 invincible Milan and even surpassing them.

We can see a Football club who count on their own home-grown boys.

We can see a Football club who know money may buy some cups, but not character, not history.

We can see a Football club who deserves being called simply the best.

We can see a Football club who free themselves from rigid myths and do what they feel is right.

We can see a Football club who are proud of their achievment, and rightly so.

We can see a Football club who are already gone down in history books as righteous victorious.

We were mesmerized by their humility, their exuberance on the pitch, their harmony, their sense of belongingness to their club and many more aspects of a true phenomenon.

We will clearly remember a Football club whose head-coach dedicated their dominantly conquered European trophy to one of the best men ever in the history of the beautiful game: Our eternal Captain, Paolo Maldini.

They did so only out of pure respect, nothing more. They could easily not have done that and nothing would have happened, but chose to show their immense character to the world and we wish to thank them, again.

I, on behalf of all the Milanisti who are used to winning and who naturally adore the winners, congratulate the unbelievable accomplishment of the Catalan men and express our hope to be the first side to repeat such enormous success.

Let's hope their culture, which is that of the beginning days of Football, which is that of being identified representatives of a region or a city, is followed by all other clubs, including our beloved Milan, to see more of these glorious moments, the moments that they experienced.

Props to the writer again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

El Capi to renew till 2013

Carles Puyol gave Barcelona fans much joy when he announced that he will renew his contract till 2013, thus ending weeks of speculation about his future.

Puyol is the heart and soul of the team, and to have him renew means that any doubts that could have been placed on his future can now be discarded.

"Carles will stay here for many years because he is a Barca man," Xavi was quoted as saying by El Mundo Deportivo. "He is an example to everyone and his renewal is fantastic news."

Puyol and Guardiola made the announcement in training and this was followed by a standing ovation from the players. The contract length means that Puyol will be 35 by the time he is set to leave, hence making it very likely that he will retire at the club where he is already a legend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Robinho loan deal to be tied up in early November

It seems Barcelona has been brought to earth by the lack of depth in the forward line, as is shown by the club's attempts to secure the signature of Manchester City forward cum winger Robinho, who has grown disillusioned at Eastlands.

Reports from Catalan paper Sport recently stated that Manchester City's oil-rich owners have consented to the deal to bring Robinho to the Camp Nou stadium as early as the January transfer window.

Sport now claims that there has been further contact between the two clubs in the last few hours as they look to reach an agreement that will see the Brazilian sign for Barcelona on loan for the rest of the season.

Barcelona are reportedly not keen on protracted negotiations and are aiming to seal the deal within three weeks, long before the winter transfer window opens and their contingent of African players leave for their continental championship.

Sport also believe that relations are currently strained between Citizens boss Mark Hughes and Robinho. The manager is apparently still unhappy with the Brazilian's frequently-expressed desire to leave and has given the go-ahead for the transfer to take place.

Barcelona are ready to pay €3.2m to take the former Real Madrid man on loan for six months, with a set price of €35m to make the transfer permanent in the summer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

David Villa will miss Barcelona match

The Barcelona camp can heave a huge sigh of relief with the news that David Villa and Joaquin will both be absent for the clash at the Mestalla when La Liga resumes after the international break.

Star striker Villa suffered a muscular injury in the game against Racing Santander and has been ruled out for three weeks, while Joaquin Sanchez has been ruled out for 20 days with a thigh problem.

This news was first reported by Marca.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sloppy win over Almeria, Real Madrid loss take Barca to La Liga summit

Barcelona seized undisputed top spot in La Liga with an uncharacteristically lacklustre 1-0 home win over Almeria, thanks to Real Madrid's 1-2 defeat away to Sevilla.

Pedro scored a fantastic goal on the half hour mark to give Barcelona the win. It was not a good game however. Xavi and Iniesta were shackled well by Ortiz and Chico, and Almeria made sure that Barcelona were made to work very hard.

Birthday-boy Ibrahimovic was unable to score his sixth goal in as many games, being denied by a fantastic save late in the game.

Carles Puyol, meanwhile, celebrated his 10th season as a Barcelona player with a solid performance. He was absolutely immense in defense.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Video: Malaga

Barcelona overcome physical Malaga

Ibrahimovic scored his fifth goal in as many games, and super-sub Pique added a second to give Barcelona a 2-0 victory in a hard-fought game at Malaga.

The game was extremely difficult for Barcelona due to the uncompromising nature of the Malaga defenders. And this is just putting it mildly. Messi got stepped on thrice, Henry and Chigrinskiy walked off injured and the referee literally ignored every bad tackle by Malaga.

Though Albert Luque did get a red card late on, the real culprit was Wellington who was guilty of some truly horrible challenges.

However, the negative and despicable tactics of Malaga did not prevent Ibrahimovic, who replaced an injured Henry after 25 minutes, from becoming the most successful signing in the club's history by scoring his fifth goal in five games.

Another impressive performance and three points. However, Barcelona are second in the table on goal difference over Real Madrid.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Video: Atletico Madrid

Atletico thrashed 5-2, Messi stars in rout

Yet another Barca-Atleti fixture. Yet another goal-fest. It is a fixture that has the word "GOALS" emblazoned all over it.

This time, it finished 5-2 in favour of Barcelona, with goals coming from Ibrahimovich (who called him a flop?), Messi, Alves and Keita.

Barcelona started with Valdes in goal, Alves, Pique, Chiggy and Maxwell in defense, Xavi, Busquets and Keita in midfield and the attacking trident of Messi, IBra and Henry.

Ibrahimovich started off proceedings in the second minute with a superb chip that Eto'o could not have scored even in his wildest dreams, showing why Barcelona bought him for that ridiculous amount at the start of the season.

Messi then reaped the rewards of a brilliant Xavi cross to make it 2-0 within 20 minutes. He ran onto the exquisite pass, used his pace to beat his marker and slotted it coolly past the hapless keeper.

On the half hour mark, Alves then scored another excellent free-kick which went in off the post.

Ibra was involved again in the move that led to Barcelona's fourth goal. After a run down the left wing, Ibra stopped, watched Messi's run and then coolly chipped the ball over his marker to the little Argentinean. Messi did the rest. With three superb touches, he beat his man, ran to the touchline and gave an excellent cross to Keita to make it 4-0.

Barcelona's clean sheet record was broken before half time however, as Busquets' error led to an Aguero goal.

Barcelona geared down in the second half, despite the introduction of Andres Iniesta. They conceded another goal due to a poor clearance by Valdes which put Forlan in acres of space to find a finish.

However, Messi completed the rout just before full time with a goal befitting a nifty little set of touches exchanged between Alves and Xavi.

Another win and another superb performance by Barcelona. They remain at the top of the table with 9 points out of 9.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lionel Messi agrees extension till 2016

Lionel Messi has agreed a contract extension with Barcelona that will tie him to the club till 2016. He is expected to sign the contract today.

"It's an immense piece of news for the club and for the player that Messi is renewing his contract," said Barça manager Pep Guardiola. "As it also was when Victor Valdes and Xavi did so.

"People go to football to see the best and that's what they are. It's
a privilege for Barça to have some of the best footballers like Messi."

Messi will be paid an improved salary of 10 million euros a year, and his release clause will be increased to 250 million euros from its previous sum of 150 million euros.

The Video: Inter Milan vs. Barcelona

Inter's Bus Holds Barca to a 0-0 Draw - My Thoughts

The parked bus has struck again. Barcelona were once again, undone by the strong organisation and commitment of an opposition defense (though some poor finishing also helped in getting Inter off the hook).

Dominating the game for the course of the entire 90 minutes with a possession ratio of 67:33 in their favour, one might have expected Barcelona to take the game. And they probably would, against a coach less wily than Mourinho.

Jose, knowing that Barcelona was far superior to his own side, did what a certain Mr. Hiddink did with Chelsea last season - he parked the bus. At any point of time, I counted seven-eight Inter players in the penalty area, just waiting for Barca's concentrated attack to break.

What I saw was, that despite this, Barcelona had their chances. Messi broke through very quickly in the 1st minute itself to test Cesar with a shot that would have beaten most keepers. In the 7th minute, Ibra had a half chance, but made a real meal of it. However, the guiltiest party in the lineup was Seydou Keita, who squandered the best chance of the match (it was a chance I could have finished off).

The game progressed with Barcelona attacking at every gap they could possibly find, and Inter blocking them off. The result was a disappointing one indeed, but not the worst result in the world.

What worries me is the reaction of Barcelona players after the game. A lot of them were whining about Inter's "negativity". Yes, Inter played negative. As would any other team if facing opponents of Barcelona's stature. As did Chelsea, and almost came away with a win. As did Man City, and actually won. As did Shakhtar and almost took Barca to penalties. Barcelona need to understand that the parked bus, though not yet a feature of Spanish football, will always be employed by foreign opponents to stop them from weaving their magic.

Pep Guardiola needs to work out a plan B to use in these situations. It is easier said than done, agreed, but otherwise there is a high likelihood that Barcelona will get embarrassed sooner or later by opponents who restrict them, cut them off and then finally score a fluky goal on the counter.

I would like to end by saying - this was not a bad result. It was an away draw against a good team. However, the parked bus is something that, if not countered now, will certainly cause Barcelona's downfall in the not-so-distant future.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Preview: Inter vs. Barcelona

Barcelona start their Champions League defense in unarguably the most mouthwatering opening day tie against Inter Milan at the San Siro.

Not only is this a battle between two European giants, it is also a game where many players will be playing against their former clubs.

Barcelona do not have an easy task on their hands, that is for sure. Inter, for all their domestic successes, have not made strides in Europe in the recent years. However, the Nerazzuri might feel that, with the additions that they have made to the squad this season, they have the best chance in a long time to finally provide a serious challenge in the Champions League

Barcelona News

Form Guide: Barcelona have made a very positive start to the new season. In two league games, they have scored five goals and conceded none. Ibrahimovic has netted in both the games, and his link-up play with Messi was evident against Getafe.

September 12 v Getafe (A) – WON 2-0 (La Liga)
August 31 v Sporting Gijon (H) – WON 3-0 (La Liga)
August 28 v Shakhtar Donetsk (A) – WON 1-0 (UEFA Super Cup)
August 23 v Athletic Bilbao (H) – WON 3-0 (Super Copa)
August 19 v Manchester City (H) – LOST 1-0 (Friendly)

As we can see, in the last five games, Barcelona have lost just once - when they had played their reserves in the Gamper Cup against Manchester City. They have won the remaining four games in comfortable fashion without key players like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta.

The team will also be high on confidence with the fact that they have won two trophies already.

Probable Line-up: Valdes - Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal - Xavi, Toure, Iniesta - Messi, Ibrahimovic, Henry

Rafael Marquez has been included in the squad after his long injury layoff. However, it is highly unlikely that he would start, given the stature of the opponents and the importance Guardiola lays on physical fitness. Dmitryo Chigrinskiy is, of course, ineligible to play in the Champions League this season.

Players to Watch

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Ibra will be keen to prove that Barcelona got the better part of the swap deal sending him and Eto'o in opposite directions. The reception from the Inter fans is something he will have to take in his stride, as he strives to live up to his 46 million euro transfer fee. A goal against his former employers would provide him with a confidence boost as well as serve as a deterrent for the people who call him a big-game flop.

Andres Iniesta - Finally back to full fitness, San Andres will be rearing to reunite with Xavi to complete the deadliest midfield in the the world. With Xavi pulling the string and Iniesta providing the creative spark, it is difficult for Barcelona to lose.

Barcelona have their strongest starting eleven available for tomorrow's game. It is in fact, stronger than the team that took Rome by storm on May 27th. Over the course of the past season, we have seen this starting eleven wreak havoc against the strongest of opponents, and tomorrow should be no different.

Inter Milan News

Form Guide: Inter have made a good start to the season as well, the highlight of which was the 4-0 thrashing of AC Milan in the Milan derby.

September 13 v Parma (H) – WON 2-0 (Serie A)
September 5 v Lugano (A) – DREW 3-3 (Friendly)
August 29 v AC Milan (A) – WON 4-0 (Serie A)
August 23 v Bari (H) – DREW 1-1 (Serie A)
August 16 v Bahrain (A) – WON 1-0 (Friendly)

Inter have also not lost in the last few games, and have been high on confidence with the performances of new signings Eto'o, Milito and Sneijder.

Probable Line-up: Julio Cesar - Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu - Zanetti, Motta, Stankovic - Sneijder -Milito, Eto’o

Dejan Stankovic has overcome the flu that struck him in recent days, while Cristian Chivu should return to left-back in place of Davide Santon. Esteban Cambiasso trained on Tuesday but is unlikely to start.

Players to Watch

Samuel Eto'o - Naturally, the first person that comes to mind here is a very familiar face for Barcelona fans. Samu has scored twice in three league games, and he will need to be contained at every opportunity. His goal against Parma was spectacular, and Pep Guardiola will be working to ensure that the Cameroonian is not given any space to work his magic. Especially with him being eager to prove a point to his former employers.

Douglas Maicon - The best player of the Nerazzuri by a mile, Maicon is a danger in defense as well as attack. He can break up opposition attacks, as well as create some spectacular ones himself. With him and Alves on opposite flanks, we will witness some fireworks for sure.

Inter have made some quality additions to the squad in Milito, Sneijder and Eto'o. With these three, and the remaining players they have on offer, Barcelona know that they do not have an easy task ahead of them.


Inter are the first stiff challenge Barcelona will be facing this season. The Nerazzuri will be looking to derail Barcelona's train before it is fully on track, and a home win would also provide a huge confidence boost to Jose Mourinho's men.

However, on the other side stands a formidable Barcelona eleven. While people have been moaning about the lack of depth, they have overlooked the full quality of the starters present in the squad. And the entire starting eleven being fit, Barcelona would be looking to sweep the board at the San Siro

Prediction: Inter Milan 1 - 2 Barcelona

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic Worth 66 Million Euros?

Source: The Guardian
Author: Paul Hayward

Barcelona won the Champions League with unanswerable majesty, but as if to make it more interesting this time round, Pep Guardiola, the all-conquering rookie coach, has exchanged the speed and directness of Samuel Eto'o for the more static and egocentric talents of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Camp Nou has always been a casino.

Guardiola may never be this powerful again. He entered the new campaign parading Barça's unprecedented haul from his debut year: Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey. This blitz, which prompted Real Madrid to shake the money tree to its roots, entitled Catalonia's latest saint to stick to the same formula for 2009-10. Instead, Guardiola imported tactical change and an awkward personality. The first major test is Ibrahimovic's return to Inter on Wednesday night, six weeks after Eto'o moved in the opposite direction from Barcelona to San Siro.

This player swap would have been big enough news already without the £40m Barcelona had to add on top to bring European football's great enigma to Spain. Eto'o had scored 108 times in 145 outings for the Blaugrana. In return, they took possession of a 27-year-old Swede who divides the sages into worshippers and indignant disbelievers, of whom Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa manager, is one. "Good grief, he is the most overrated player on the planet," exclaimed O'Neill in his pundit's role at the last World Cup.

Rather in the John Jensen tradition of I-was-there-when-he-scored T-shirt making, there are people who swear they have seen the giant-but-dexterous Ibrahimovic excel in a big game. He scored his second goal in two games for his new club in Barcelona's 2-0 win away at Getafe last night. The disdain is largely confined to games involving English clubs, in which "Ibracadabra", as he was known in Italy, has a history of going walkabout. But there is such a welter of evidence in the opposing camp – including Barcelona's willingness to stump up £40m in cash – that it feels perverse to keep thinking last season's top scorer in Serie A is a self-obsessed impostor.

How can it be so, when the European champions have built a new forward line around him, when he was voted the best player in the Italian league in 2008, when some of the game's biggest names constantly compare him to Marco van Basten? Fabio Capello, the England coach who helped him to two league titles at Juventus, told Italy's La Repubblica: "When Zlatan arrived in Italy he was a rough diamond. But now he is very complete, the best striker in the world and impossible to mark inside the penalty area. I know comparing Van Basten to Ibrahimovic is like comparing Picasso to Rothko, but I believe that because of his power and his technique Zlatan will become stronger than Marco.

"Zlatan needed to learn and mature, but he's an intelligent lad. He also has an incredible gift for maintaining his position, freeing himself from defenders and at the same time seeing a pass, a space or a chance to shoot. What Van Basten and Ibra have in common is their natural elegance. We're talking about giants who are like poetry in motion."

Ibrahimovic was born in Malmo to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother. He joined his local club at 13 and left after Malmo had been relegated, moving to the great Ajax finishing school for £5.5m in 2001. But he always stood outside the herd. He was described as "a shit" by Milan's Alessandro Nesta and drew this stinging review from his headmaster, Agneta Cederbom, who once said: "I have been at this school for 33 years and he is easily in the top five of the most unruly pupils we have had during that time. A one-man show. Completely outstanding in his field, and a prototype of the kind of child which ends up in serious trouble. And I think things could have gone horribly wrong if it hadn't been for the football."

Ibrahimovic left Ajax for Juventus for €16m and, after serving two years with Capello at the Turin club from 2004-2006, he joined Inter when Juve were relegated for their part in the great Serie A match-fixing scandal. There, he agreed with the directors that the only club Inter could sell him to was Barcelona, where a record 60,000 Catalans turned up to see him introduced. On that day in late July, the club's president, Joan Laporta, said: "He is not a conformist, he is ambitious, a winner, an authentic man with strong feelings and he wanted to come to Barcelona."

Thierry Henry said: "Whichever ball you throw at him, he will keep it. What I like about him is his character. I know for some people it is too much, but I don't mind. To be a player like he is, you need to have it sometimes."

In a major study of Ibrahimovic's growth from enfant terrible to aristocrat striker, Sweden's Offside magazine recalled the day Lazio's Dejan Stankovic was watching a 2001 pre-season friendly between Ajax and Milan, and turned to a team-mate – as Paolo Maldini struggled against Ibrahimovic – to ask: "Who is this phenomenon?"

Scouting reports all noted the unusual convergence of power and skill. Ivica Kurtovic, who coached him at his first childhood club, FBK Balkan, said: "He was completely fearless on the field. He put his head straight in where the others didn't dare put their finger. [At nine] he was very forward and hungry. Many of the boys could have been as good as Zlatan. What tipped the scale in his favour was his attitude to the game. A few of them missed training but Zlatan wanted more. I often saw him in his garden playing football on his own when I rode my bicycle home during those years."

In Rosengard, where he grew up, Ibrahimovic has paid for a rubberised surface, golden goals, and lights at the small practice ground where he learned to be adroit in tight spaces. He posted a plaque, which reads: "Here is my heart, here is my history, here is my play. Take it further."

"You had to run less, but you had a lot of time on the ball, and I like a lot of time with the ball," he said. "The margins are very small, and it makes you think what you have to do with the ball on a bigger pitch."

Then, he was known as a volatile type with no patience, inconsistent, self-absorbed. That reputation followed him to and from Amsterdam, where the coach David Endt said: "At Ajax we're very good at discovering talent, but you have to use talent in a functional way. Sometimes that's hard to accept for players who know they're good. Ibrahimovic had a magic touch and my first thought was: 'Here's the new Van Basten.' I thought: 'I'll have to keep this to myself.' No player should have to be under that kind of pressure."

Co Adriaanse, another Ajax coach, said: "Here, Zlatan was a very difficult person, an introvert who was thinking only of himself. He'd got something wrong in his head. I couldn't get any contact with him. David Endt tried to get contact with him as well, but it was hard to reach Zlatan's heart." Tommy Soderberg, the Sweden coach, prescribed patience and told the Ajax staff that Ibrahimovic "didn't trust anybody" but would respond to careful handling.

At Inter, where he was an automatic starter for Roberto Mancini and José Mourinho, Ibrahimovic shed much of his reputation for turbulence and unreliability, and it may be that Guardiola has gambled at just the right point. Certainly, Ibrahimovic's self-critique of two years ago chimes with the theory that he is a misunderstood master of the striker's art: a thinker who can see geometrical possibilities to which others are blind.

"I'm very quick because I can see still pictures in my mind during the game," he said. "When I'm playing I can see things no one else can see, and it's still in my head five seconds later. They are pictures of what's going to happen on the pitch and what I'm going to do next. I didn't have them when I was younger but when the play reached a more serious level they started turning up. When the play was getting quicker I had to try to find the right solutions."

While Inter and Barça lock antlers, last season's beaten finalists, Manchester United, face a less glamorous assignment at Besiktas. This week Sir Alex Ferguson reflected on the 2-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico in May, in which Eto'o scored Barcelona's first after 10 minutes.

"When you look at these things you can find reasons or excuses, and it's always better to look at the reasons," Ferguson said. "I've watched the game since and I'm quite clear about where we went wrong. That's always helpful. If there are good reasons you can put a lot of things to the back of your mind and get on with your life. If it was a case of not finding any reasons at all then we would be worried."

Ferguson craves a rematch with Guardiola: "Absolutely. I'd love another final. That was the first Champions League final I had lost and obviously it was very disappointing, but it's over. There's no point kicking yourself all summer over it, and I haven't. You can't win 'em all, bad days come along, put it behind you and move on."

Barcelona had good days – the best days in their history, some think – but moved on, too, from Eto'o to Ibrahimovic. Embracing risk has made the club what they are.

Ibra, Chygrinskiy Impress as Barcelona Win 2-0

Barcelona visited their bogey stadium, the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, to face Getafe yesterday in a top of the table clash. Barcelona have traditionally had tough fixtures against the Madrid based side, but yesterday, a superb second half performance saw them run out 2-0 winners.

Ibrahimovic scored one goal and set up Messi for another to make up for a rather poor first half, while new signing Dmitryo Chigrinskiy had a debut to be delighted with. His passing was accurate and his involvement in offensive build up play was impressive.

Andres Iniesta also made his first appearance in nearly three months when he came on as a sub for Pedro in the second half.

I have now decided that I will put down whatever good and bad things that I saw over the course of the game. This is merely my thinking, and suggestions are welcome.

Postives to be taken from the game

- The three points (naturally)
- Ibrahimovic and Messi combining very well
- No goals conceded so far
- One more headed goal makes it four out of five goals from headers
- Chigrinskiy is already settling in
- Bogey game handled well just after international break


- Jeffren is still unimpressive
- Gulf in class between offensive starters and subs
- Marquez was not fit to play