Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Milan's new number 80

They really ought install a revolving door at the Camp Nou. In the past week one of the finest players ever to wear the blaugrana shirt has been given the heave ho, Arsenal lay about Alex Hleb has passed him the way in and today it was announced that rabid Catalan nationalist and ropey defender Oleguer has left the club to sign for Ajax (where he will link up with another ex-blaugrana, Gabri). Also, Palmerias defender Henrique has signed for the club, only to be shipped out immediately on loan to Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.

Crikey as James Richardson would say. Of course 'dinho's departure is far and away the biggest news. His departure, along with that of Deco to Chelsea and Ludovic Giuly last season to AS Roma, means that Samuel Eto'o is the only member of that incredible front four (and it was a front four, Deco's role was easily as important as the three that played ahead of him) who remains at the Camp Nou. I've waxed about 'dinho before so I shan't rehash the same old shit again. The short of it is that when he was on point he was quite simply incredible. We will probably never see his like again.

Moving on to the signing of Alex Hleb from Arsenal *sigh* I don't know about this at all. Certainly he's very talented, a superb passer of the ball and pretty tricky but christ if he doesn't faff about a lot, rarely shooting when given the chance and not really offering anything different to Xavi and Iniesta. I suppose he can play out wide upfront but surely the prefered forward line for next season is Henry, Eto'o (if he stays) and Messi. I don't think he's any addition but until the pre-season starts and we begin to get an idea of how the team will line out, it's hard to judge where he'll fit in.

Catalunya is not Spain

I was a little suprised to read about Oleguer joining Ajax today. It would seem that Ajax have been transformed from the club that produced players like Marc Overmars, Jan Wouters, Johan Cruyff, Denis Bergkamp and current coach Marco van Basten. Now they buy up muckers like Urzaiz, Albert Luque, Dennis Rommedahl and now, Oleguer. Joining for a fee of €3 million, with another 2.25 million linked to appearences, he has yet to agree terms or have a medical (watch that finger!) but the blaugrana wouldn't splash this on their website were it not going ahead.

Like Phil Babb to Carles Puyol's Paul McGrath, Oleguer always looked better alongside the captain than he really was. Dodgy both at centreback and out on the right, were it not for the fact he was a local and such a vocal Catalan nationalist, I think he would have been shipped a long time ago. He's hardly featured in the past two seasons since Gianluca Zambrotta was signed and with Dani Alves joining from Sevilla, he was unlikely to enjoy a renaissance this time around. He'll probably do alright at Ajax given that he'll be facing hopeless forwards week in, week out in the Eredivise and the fact that (yet again) the Amsterdam side have missed out on the Champions League.

Also worth a mention, though he won't be pitching up until the 09/10 season is Palmeiras defender, Henrique, who arrives for a medical today. His fee is €8 million. I know absolutely nothing about this guy, only that he won the Sao Paolo State Championship with Palmeiras this season and that Ajax were in for him too (because like I mentioned, Ajax don't seem to grow players anymore, they just buy them in).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Power outage

Thanks to my Mac still being in the shop, I've not had a chance to get blogging on either the 'dinho transfer or Alexander Hleb. As I probably won't have it back until the weekend at the earliest expect an update sometime Sunday.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rock the vote

With Joan Laporta barely surviving the vote of no confidence in his presidency last Sunday, FCB is still very much at sea. Rumours abound that Laporta will resign on Thursday (tomorrow), thus triggering an election. I have my doubts about this for a few reasons, mostly concerning transfers, specifically those of Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o.

Elections would mean an immediate suspension of all transfer activity until a new president is in place, which realistically wouldn't be until the end of August/ the beginning of September, by which time the transfer window would be closed. Whatever of Eto'o being persuaded to remain at the Camp Nou, relations between 'dinho and the club appear to be at an all time low (which really is saying something) Despite the fact that he's unlikely to still be with the blaugrana come mid-August when the Olympics are on, the club have denied him permission to go anyway.

While they're perfectly within their rights to do this (the Olympics is after all, not a FIFA sanctioned tournament), it's the sort of thing you'd do before a player is called up to the squad, not afterward. Why do they care if he goes or not? It's not like he's going to play in the Champions League qualifiers anyway (or ever again wearing the number 10 Barça shirt). It strikes me as petty.

Business Time

In the past week and a half the club have been making serious moves toward securing Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal, for a fee that could be as high as €30 million. I'm no fan of Ade, who ala Andy Cole, needs about six chances to score one gol. Having forced his way out of Monaco little over eighteen months ago and been the agitator-in-chief in the Togo squad that threatened to go on strike at the World Cup (like anyone would have noticed), he's at it again, looking either for a move away from Ashburton Grove or a huge wage increase. With Champions League-less AC Milan seemingly out of the running, his mostly likely destination would appear to be the Camp Nou.

The very idea of replacing a striker as clinical and sharp as Eto'o with a big lumbering oaf such as Ade is ridiculous. The possible addition of his equally over-rated Belarussian team-mate, Alex Hleb, doesn't fill me with joy either. Neither are of the quality Barça need and both are looking for crazy money on the back of one good season. Milan, Bayern or whomever want's them are welcome to their hyped up asses.

Another potential arrival is Russian playmaker and star of erm, two games, at Euro 2008, Andrei Arshavin. Currently at Zenit St. Petersburg, Barça have already had one bid of around €15 million rejected. Like Ade and Hleb, Arshavin is flavour of the month after he took Sweden and the Netherlands apart. Everyone seems to be forgetting however that he was absolutely rubbish in the semi-final against Espana and that perhaps, at 27 and having spent his career up to now in Russian futbol, that he isn't the second coming after all and is in fact just quite good. Given the system that the blaugrana play I don't quite see where he'd fit in either, wide left maybe? I don't know. There's not really any room for him in the midfield with Xavi, Keita, iniesta et al and it's Messi Messi Messi and Dani Alves on the right (!) so...

I may have missed

Of course when I say "may have" I do of course mean "did". Back in late June, former Barça and Real Madrid midfielder, has been appointed the new coach of Barça B, now known as Barcelona Athletic. He's signed a two year deal and will hopefully follow in Pep's footsteps. Enrique is a good guy, he was a top player and (like a slew of others) very shabbaly treated by Real, who let his contract lapse, resulting in his joining Barcelona. What's not to like :)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ain't it funny...

As of early this afternoon I was all set to post "what the hell is going on with the signing of Dani Alves?" Despite being confirmed by the player himself weeks ago neither Barça nor Sevilla had made any official announcements and being the worrying type I started to get all antsy. When Keita and
Cáceres had their official unveilings in the past few day I got even more like a kid who can't sleep on Christmas night.

But all that's been dispensed with now. As of about three o'clock Daniel Alves is a blaugrana and everyone else best get out the way. Signing a four year deal that is initially for €29.5 million, rising to as much as €36 million should Guardiola's side win either La Liga or the Champions League, he's worth every penny.

Watching Alves play for Sevilla these past few years has been like watching a thoroughbred race horse gallop down the closing stretch. Pace, power, fitness, a willingness and a determination to get over the line. In addition to incredible skill and real grit, Alves has all of these in spades. He would improve any team the world. I simply cannot think of a more complete modern right back. Expect him to be a revelation.

Before we move onto one Anderson Luis de Souza and his departure to the Bridge it's worth mentioning the other Brazilian full-back at the Camp Nou, Sylvinho. Despite turning thirty four in April he's been given a new one year contract to see him through until June 2009. Given Abidal's fall from grace and shocking displays at the European Championships he could be given quite a bit of playing time in the coming season.

Is that top Deco or bottom Deco?

And so it begins. The first of what will presumably be three departures, Eto'o and 'dinho of course being the others, of the barometer of the Rijkaard era. Off to Chelsea to for a fee rumoured to be €8 million. He's signed a two year deal. Much in the same way as Alves is the very definition of the modern full-back, Deco is the leader of the nu skool when it comes to the number ten. Mobile, strong and agressive in the tackle, his running, positioning and passing are such that, even in a midfield with such exceptional players as Xavi and Iniesta, he completely controls the pace and flow of the game. Given his displays for Portugal this past month, coming on the back of a difficult final season in Catalunya (not just on the field, his marriage also ended in divorce mid-2008) and his relationship with the new Chelsea coach, Phil Scolari, I see him being a huge sucess in England and I think that much like Ludovic Giuly the season before last, letting him go is a mistake. But then making mistakes is what Mes Que un Club excel at...

Also out the door and with much less fanfare are Old Man River Lillian Thuram and Basque forward Santi Ezquerro. Thuram, signed along with Gianluca Zambrotta from Juve two seasons ago, looked all set to sign for PSG before he failed a medical. Given his age (one hundred and thirty six), retirement looks very likely. Thuram's time at the Camp Nou can be neatly summed up in one word, disaster. If you're in need of a second you might want to preface that with either complete or fucking. Moving more slowly than the rate that most galaxies expand, Thuram, once upon a time one of the finest defenders in Serie A (both at Parma and Juve alongside Canna), was well past his imperious best when he pitched up at Barcelona. Frequently caught out by pacy young attackers, he was worth at least one calamity per game, sometimes two. Thank Christ he's gone.

Santi on the other hand hardly ever got the chance to make a bags of things. The leading scorer in a solid if unspectacular Bilbao side, his time at Barça was mostly spent in the stands or on the bench. I like Santi a lot, he never complained about his lack of playing time and always put the effort in when he did play. He was also very popular in the dressing room. There's no word yet on where he may go next.

Finally, before I get to bed, three items of note. One, former Barça assistant coach Henk Ten Cate has taken over as coach of Greek side Panathinaikos. Two year deal. Look for fringe blaugrana, Chelsea and Ajax players to be linked with moves to Athens within the next few weeks. Two, Ronaldinho to Milan seems to be back on. And three, Xavi, in addition to winning the European Championships, is also crowned the tournament's best player. He well deserves it. Bona Nit.