Tag Archives: barcelona

A Sad Day For Bojan Krkic

Earlier today, Bojan Krkic – the all-time leading scorer in Barcelona’s vaunted youth academy, the wunderkind who bojanused to play alongside Lionel Messi – signed for Stoke City. “Anyone who knows European football will be aware of him as a player,” Stoke manager Mark Hughes said. “The fact that he sees his future at Stoke City is really exciting.” Personally, I think it’s a little depressing that Bojan, whose once-promising career fizzled during his recent stint in Serie A, has ended up at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke is no longer the place where good football goes to die – to be honest, I wish it still were – but it remains a less-than-attractive destination for players who aren’t desperate. Put it this way: I doubt Bojan had even heard of Stoke in the days when he regularly scored goals like this one.

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Barcelona is the Best and You Know It: Graham Hunter’s 400-page Fanzine

FC Barcelona’s world-famous academy is no longer based at “La Masia,” the endearingly decrepit farmhouse in which Lionel Messi of Barcelonamany of Barca’s homegrown players spent their formative years. In 2011, the club moved its training complex to the shiny, modern Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, which contains, among other things, an enormous sauna.

Over the last decade, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas have graduated from the old, La Masia-based academy, where they learned drills like rondo, a kind of monkey-in-the-middle game that promotes quick passing and intelligent pressing. The place was legendary; as Graham Hunter explains in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, it had become a byword for Barcelona’s unique philosophy, its more-than-a-club-ness.

In another era, the relocation might have provoked an angry backlash. But in early 2011 – a couple of months away from its second Champions League title in three seasons, cruising in La Liga, scoring brilliant goals just about every game – Barca could do no wrong. Twenty-eleven was also the year newly elected president Sandro Rosell decided that the club’s long-standing refusal to negotiate a jersey sponsorship constituted financial suicide, and quickly struck a deal with a Qatari airline – but not many people complained about that decision, either.

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Why So Dull? The European Run-In

I once wasted a few minutes trying to convince some minor acquaintance that the 2010 World Cup final attracted RvPmore television viewers than the Super Bowl, and that therefore the World Cup is quantifiably better than the NFL play-offs. The argument approached yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t territory, and the fact that we both walked away more entrenched than ever in our respective positions says a lot about the stubbornness of sports geeks (and about arguments in general). Most serious[1] football fans are totally convinced that the sport they watch and love is superior to every other sport by every conceivable metric, and if you tell them they’re wrong, they get angry and defensive.

This is one reason so few football fans are discussing the Great Big Secret of 2012-13: for the first time in a long time, none of the five major European leagues has produced a genuinely exciting title run-in[2].

Earlier this month, Bayern Munich clinched the 2013 Bundesliga. In Spain, Barcelona is only a few games away from yet another trophy. Manchester United is strolling to title #20, and Juventus has surged clear at the summit of Serie A. In Ligue 1, nouveau riche Paris St. Germain is seven points ahead of its closest challenger.

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The Very Best Of Friends

It’s La Liga’s winter vacation, and Lionel Messi hasn’t scored a goal in more than two weeks. Which, after Messi’sbarca real era-defining, award-winning, 91-goal 2012, comes as a bit of a relief. He’s good, but enough already. Messi’s Barcelona is undefeated in the league, and with two Champions League titles, four La Liga championships and the odd Official FIFA Triumph[1] under its belt, the team is arguably (because these things are always arguable) the greatest of modern times.

At this point, the ins and outs of Barcelona’s recent history are common knowledge: how homegrown players like Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Puyol, Valdes, Pedro, Busquets and Messi gelled in Barca’s legendary academy; how Zlatan Ibrahimovich, one of the most talented players of his generation, simply couldn’t adjust to Barca’s selfless passing style and eventually fell out with Pep Guardiola (supposedly the nicest man in football, so the joke was definitely on Zlatan); how Spain, a perennial underachiever for most of its history, suddenly became world and European champions, thanks mostly to the same homegrown players (minus Messi) who boarded together as kids. It’s impossible to understand the last five years of football history without first understanding Barcelona. Since 2008, virtually everything that’s happened on the European football scene has happened because of Guardiola-era Barca.

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What’s Next For Andy Carroll?

Brendan Rodgers is one of an ever-increasing number of football managers devoted to the mystical Barcelona Way, the aesthetically pleasing football method that, after a couple of years of obscurity, suddenly popped into our collective consciousness in 2008. The Barcelona Way got Rodgers where he is now. Without the inspiration of Cruyff, Guardiola and company, he would never have succeeded in teaching a Swansea team composed of honest, lower-league professionals to “play football the right way.” And had Swansea employed traditional kick-and-run tactics, they would probably have been relegated. And had they been relegated, Rodgers almost certainly wouldn’t have been hired by Liverpool.

It’s a bummer for Andy Carroll that Barcelona exist.

The really frustrating thing about Andy Carroll is that he fooled us all. That six-foot something bludgeon of a center forward, that Anfield flop, that money-grubbing drunk: he had us. All of us. When he scored ten goals during the first half of the 2010/11 Premier League season, when he routinely scared the bejesus out of real-life European defenders, we all thought he was good. Not just good; good. Future-of-English-football good. Gonna-bring-home-the-2018-World-Cup good.

These days, the best you can say about Carroll is that he probably didn’t do it on purpose. No footballer can control tabloid hype. Carroll didn’t decide to have his potential international future elevated from “maybe decent” to “certainly brilliant,” The Sun decided for him. Even in his glory moment – and moment is certainly the right word — Carroll probably knew that the press was only praising him to the heavens in preparation for a precipitous trip back down.

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INFTH Book Review: Morbo

Morbo. In the passionate world of Spanish football, where pigs’ heads fly from the stands and clubs take on quasi-political roles in the lives of millions, it is an undefinable source of intrigue which keeps the masses coming back for more. In his book, Phil Ball admits early on to the impossibility of clear translation, but nevertheless places the force at the center of his arguments. It is morbo, he writes, that is the essence of Spain’s national pastime. Morbo; the self-perpetuating, ever evolving creature which forms the hub of rivalries across the peninsula.

This view of the game – through the vitriolic, morbo ridden inter club relationships that make up Spanish professional football – is a novel one indeed. It treats football not so much as a tool for higher political wrangling, but as a phenomenon deserving of appreciation in its own right.

An expert in his field, Ball is an authoritative guide, one that understands the context of his subject. While consumption takes an appetite for basic politics, a sense of fun continually pervades; the one that keeps fans interested in football and readers interested in reading.

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The Premier League Continues To Excel At Its Own Kind Of Magic

It wasn’t tiki-taka. Geometric precision may have been lacking, but the Premier League’s latest serving beats the rest in spice. As tactical and ideological trends emanating from Catalonia continue to dictate the musings of football’s intelligentsia, the English game remains resolute and stubborn.

Never mind the intricate little noises coming from Spain and the revolutionaries in Italy, here we refuse to conform. Here penalties are better in the stands, strikers when they’re missing and artisans when flat on their faces.

Here the populace care not for immaculate technicians. It is in its parochialism that the Premier League has once again usurped the rest, claimed lost ground in a perpetual battle for perfection. The decline of an overwhelmingly cosmopolitan outpost, coupled with an influx of English talent to the country’s most recent European adventurers has seen the league regain a superiority once considered inherent.

The difference is in the drama. As Tony Evans succinctly put it on Twitter, “football is more poetry than maths.” In search of poetic meaning, hunters had not to look far, the story of Fernando Torres might as well have been penned by Thespis or Aeschylus, such was the distinctness of its tragedy; redemption wiped away by a moment of the utmost horror. Someone high up there clearly owns a Manchester United scarf.

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Champions League Consigns International Break To Distant Memory

After two weeks of old arguments, the Champions League’s return proved a refreshing end to the monotony.

At what point England’s dour, 1-0 win over Wales was forgotten is hard to say. It could have been on ninety-three minutes at the Nou Camp, when Thiago Silva powered home a late equalizer, or maybe seconds later, as Ivan Peresic’s breathtaking volley flew into the top corner in Germany. The contrast between two midweek spectacles couldn’t have been more pronounced.

It seems that international breaks are now nothing if not depressing inevitabilities - interim periods cut from the same cloth as that mountain so elegantly described by the brilliant Dante.

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