After his first season in blaugrana I would have carried Titi on my back to BCN Airport just to get rid of him. Contributing next to nothing on the pitch and grumpy and disagreeable off it, his dream move to Camp Nou had turned into a complete disaster. Frank Rijkaard struggled to fit him into a front three that already had Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Leo Messi. 'dinho, in what was to be his last season at the club was spectacularly off form and falling out with Eto'o. Messi was in and out of the team with injuries and the whole team will still crippled with the malaise that had set in after they threw away the Liga the previous season. Bar Xavi and young Bojan, few players emerged with much credit. Henry was stepping aboard a sinking ship and his attitude did little to steady it. By the time Rijkaard had announced he would be leaving at the end of the season it was clear Barcelona would win nothing, indeed they would even surrender second place to Villarreal in the final weeks. They just gave up.
How different things would be second time around, when the Barça team, reborn under Pep Guardiola, would win everything, beat everyone, lay waste to Real at the Bernabeu. Titi, playing both through the middle and wide on the left formed like Voltron with Eto'o and Messi and returned to his imperious best. There was no need for that DVD. He scored 26 gols, his best since 05/06. What a difference being in a good team makes, rather than one that's fighting with itself. The departures of Deco and 'dinho meant opportunities for Iniesta, Henry and Messi, all of whom were outstanding. It was to prove Henry's last hurrah, his third season a real disappointment. Benched for most it, Pedro asserted himself as first choice on the left side of attack. Henry made some brief cameos (he was fantastic in the second half against Valencia, setting up two of Leo's gols) but he would scored just four times. When he came on as substitute late in Barça's title clinching win at home to Valladolid on the final day of the season, you knew it would be the last time he'd wear the shirt.
And so Titi rides off into the sunset, to wile away his days in the MLS. There has been talk of a return to the Premier League with West Ham but I can't see that happening, he's never play for another English club after Arsenal and he's certainly not going back there.
A man of exceptional talent and grace, peerless at Arsenal, played he could for just one season at Barcelona, but my, what a season. For that I can forgive him everything, even that handball.
When I move, you move
In other transfer news, Joan Oliver, himself out a a job tomorrow, confirmed that Yaya Toure is off to Manchester City (who also signed David Silva this morning). The fee is believed to be in the region of £25 million, which, quite frankly, is ridiculous. Ala Chelsea when Roman Abramovich first took over, there seems to be one price for City and one for everyone else. It's a good deal for Barça, it's much more than he's worth. I wish him well at Eastlands.
Also, as expected Txiki Begiristain will no longer be Technical Secretary. He's done an exceptional job since 2003. He gives a good interview to FCBarcelona.cat here. Interestingly, he's made a point of singling out the signings of Hleb and Keirrison. He could add Cacares and Thuram to that list.