Saturday, April 05, 2008

Playing catch up

It's been a busy week yo. A Champions League away win, Rijkaard in still being the coach shocker, Deco limping out of training, Roberto Assis meeting with Adriano Galliani and not to talk about the nice weather we're having, 'dinho injuring himself (really this time) and probably out for the rest of the season and that Messi kid is back in town. So let's get to it shall we?

First up is the blaugrana's win away at Schalke 04. 0-1, thanks to Bojan and some "couldn't score in Coppers"-style finishing from the German side meant that Barça are looking good to make the semi-finals, wherein they'll get roundly beaten by Manchester United. I didn't see the game live (I was watching Roma-Utd, a game that had an all too predictable outcome) but I did get home in time for RTE's extended highlights. So what to make of this? Bojan was 1nce again fantastic, Xavi and Iniesta were solid in midfield and Valdes made two crucial saves. On the other side, Schalke huffed and puffed but couldn't blow Barcelona's house down. Chances-a-plenty were created and missed. They had twenty-four shots (though only four or five on target) in total and looked like they could have played until midnight without scoring. A draw would have been a fair result but what care we for fair eh? Back in the blaugrana, Henry again looked rather hopeless, marooned on the wing and there was more than one "argh!" moment in defense where disaster looked imminent. But given what came before, a wretched rolling-over in Sevilla, this result, and the manner in which it was achieved (no small amount of backs-to-the-wall defending) was very welcome indeed. It may have saved Rijkaard's job, if not the season (things are a bit far gone at this stage...)

Speaking of Rijkaard's job, there was a very strange post on on Wednesday. Given that there has been much speculation about when rather than if Rijkaard goes, the club took the unusual step of releasing an official statement backing the coach for the remainder of the season and next time out. This is of course only the sort of thing that you have to do if it's all gone to shit and replacing the coach looks like the only option in order to try to fix it.

I have absolutely no doubt that Frank will walk away in the summer, mostly because he's got family matters to attend to, he needs a break and he's sick of the criticism being leveled at him. And quite honestly, time has come yo. I'm not going to weight in on who should or might succeed him, that's not for now but I think it would be best for all concerned if there was a new man in charge come the start of next season.

Play on playa

Moving on to the playing staff and someone else who's almost certainly on their way out, Ronaldinho. It was reported on Thursday that his agent, Roberto Assis, had met with Adriano Galliani, vice-president of AC Milan. 'dinho, who was back in training on Wednesday only to actually injure himself (he's strained his hamstring) and leave him on the sidelines for at least six weeks, effectively the rest of the season. Ala much of the news concerning 'dinho, it was written up very dispassionately on the Barça website. At this stage it would seem they just can't wait to get rid of him and this injury gives them the perfect opportunity to ignore him completely until the summer and deal with the specifics of a transfer to Milan come June.

It's a very sad end for a player who wasn't only the best at Barcelona but the best in the world. 'dinho is an incredible player, I've seen him score gols, make passes that were out of this world but crikey, he's the man who fell to earth this season. Frequently injured, over-weight and downright unfit, he's lurched from the treatment room to the stands and back again. It's been depressing to watch his decline, his lack of motivation to do anything about it, the club's lack of support and the general souring of relations, the seeds of which were sown long ago (during the meltdown that was the last campaign). Whether a move will revitalise his career I don't know. He doesn't look remotely bothered anymore and he may just wind down ungracefully and find himself back at Gremio, doing an Adriano as it were.

Also on the injury front, Deco, who looked to be on his way back, possibly as early as this weekend against Getafe, limped out of training on Thursday. According to, "(Deco) had been working with the first team since Sunday, despite doctors having not yet said he was fully fit." Well what on earth was he doing then? Jesus H. Christ but if he's not fit... No word on when he'll be back, though I'm hoping he'll make the CL semis.

Another man who maybe, just maybe, will be giving Patrice Evra the run-around is Leo Messi. Back in the Catalan capital after about a month in Argentina he's sounding upbeat but cautious. More news in the next few days about when he'll be available.

Finally a word about ex-blaugrana youth-teamer, Fran Merida. Merida, currently on-loan at Segunda side Real Sociedad, has signed a new long term deal at Arsenal and should be ready to make an impact at Ashburton Grove next season. Good for him. And with that folks, the clock has struck one and I've to be up in a few hours. More on Sunday, either before or after the Getafe game. Bona Nit.

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