UD Las Palmas 1-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

February 21, 2016

“Often when Barcelona play teams, their respective position in the table means very little. Already this season we’ve seen teams who are rooted towards the bottom go out and play toe to toe with Barça and in the opening exchanges of this game, that was the case.” Barca Blaugranes

Atlético Madrid Without the Ball

February 7, 2016

“The famous analyst Leo Tolstoy once eloquently stated ‘Every great attacking team is pretty much the same; every team that isn’t great at attacking is not-great in their own, unique way.’ Powerful and flowing words. Why is this? Mainly because our statistical understanding of soccer is mainly shaped by the team with the ball. We can measure most of what teams do with the ball and while 10 years from now we will look back on the rudimentary stats and conclusions we are reaching with amusement, we are least on a track that will lead us to a robust understanding of the game. When teams don’t have the ball we are still generally foraging in the dark. It’s not easy to get stats that correlate at even a .4 level while attacking stats correlate at .7 or more routinely. This makes not-great attacking teams often fuzzily look somewhat similar.” Stats Bomb

How will Pep Guardiola assess Manchester City’s current squad?

February 7, 2016

“Predicting Pep Guardiola’s assessment of Manchester City’s current squad is a trickier task than might be expected. Across his time in charge at Barcelona and Bayern Munich there are common themes and obvious concepts he insists upon — the simple concept of possession football being the most obvious example — but his favoured type of player has varied dramatically. It’s worth remembering, for example, that when Guardiola took charge of Bayern three years ago, the consensus was that he’d struggle to find a place for Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben — wingers rather than the wide forwards with whom he’d worked at Barcelona.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Money League – Oh! You Pretty Things

February 2, 2016

“A couple of weeks ago Deloitte published the 19th edition of their annual Football Money League, which ranks leading clubs by revenue, this time for the 2014/15 season. On the face of it, little has changed compared to the previous year, as Real Madrid once again top the table for the 11th year in a row with annual revenue of €577 million (£439 million), and there are no new entrants in the top 10. However, there has been some movement with Barcelona (€561 million) overtaking both Manchester United (€520 million) and Bayern Munich (€474 million) to reclaim second place, as they became only the third club to break the €500 million revenue barrier.” The Swiss Ramble

Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid | Red cards ruin epic tactical battle

February 2, 2016

“Barcelona took on Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp in arguably one of the most important matches in La Liga this season. Heading into the match tied on points, both teams were looking to strengthen their title credentials.” Outside of the Boot

Around Europe: Mourinho looms over Man United; Argentine attackers star

January 25, 2016

“As the transfer window gets set to shut and teams in Europe’s top leagues take stock of where they stand, significant developments continued to unfold around the continent. Arsenal, down to 10 men, lost ground in the title race after a London derby defeat, while Manchester United also slipped again at home in the Premier League. Real Madrid dropped its first points under Zinedine Zidane, while Pep Guardiola is facing another injury-induced challenge at Bayern Munich. Two Argentine strikers are fighting it out for top honors in Italy, while in France, the title race is over already. Here is what caught our eye Around Europe this week.” SI

Analysis: The genius of Lionel Messi | Offensive Pressing Traps, La Pausa and more

January 21, 2016

“The 2014/15 season was one with many fine performances, some examples worth mentioning are: Juventus, Sampaoli’s Chile who won the Copa America for the first time ever and of course the ’tripleta’ season of FC Barcelona. If there is someone to praise except the fantastic attacking-trio of Barcelona, it is coach Luis Enrique. He has fine-tuned the system of Barcelona, especially the way the midfielders now work in order to open up space for the talented strikers to work in, compared to Guardiola’s system, where the wingers were much more wing-oriented, which was even mentioned by Thierry Henry here.” Outside of the Boot

Sharing a Name With Barcelona, if Not Its Fortunes

January 21, 2016

“In his sparsely decorated corner office overlooking the field at Estadio Monumental, Juan Alfredo Cuentas sought to explain the power of the brand he has inherited as Barcelona Sporting Club’s new vice president for finance. Outside, the once-manicured grass lay vacant for the off-season, slowly spoiling in the January heat. … For most soccer fans around the globe, the name Barcelona is synonymous with the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez; huge financial resources; and Champions League triumphs that have often made Spain the king of the sport. But in Ecuador, the name Barcelona is usually associated with the 90-year-old soccer club founded here in Guayaquil, the country’s largest city. The two teams are very different, of course, but in at least a few ways they are alike.” NY Times

Real Madrid looks rejuvenated as Zidane wins first game in charge

January 13, 2016

“Zinedine Zidane wore the number five shirt during his time as an iconic player at Real Madrid, so it was somehow fitting that Real Madrid beat Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 on his coaching debut Saturday night. This was a first game that even the Frenchman could not have imagined, with two early goals settling the nerves and a last-minute Karim Benzema strike that underlined a huge improvement in performance, attitude and atmosphere.” SI

Messi the favorite, but could Neymar jump Ronaldo in Ballon d’Or voting?

January 10, 2016

“What do Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Franck Ribery and Manuel Neuer all have in common? In the last four years, each was the ‘gooseberry’ on the Ballon d’Or podium behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. This year could be different; for the first time since 2010, when Ronaldo slipped to sixth (Iniesta was second and Xavi third) the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly could be broken by the player Barcelona signed to one day replace Messi: Neymar.” SI (Video)

Tactical Analysis: River Plate 0-3 Barcelona | Barca’s enterprising play too much for River

December 31, 2015

“In Yokohama, the final of the FIFA World Club Championship, saw on one hand the champion of the Copa Libertadores River Plate, who had beaten in the semifinals Sanfrecce Hiroshima of Japan, and on the other the Champions League winners, FC Barcelona that without Messi and Neymar beat Chinese team Guangzhou Evergrande. In the end, the Spanish team had their South American trident, as both Messi and Neymar decided to play the game despite not being 100%. River Plate made one change from the team that played the semifinal, with Uruguayan Tabaré Viudez replacing Leonardo Pisculichi. Luis Enrique presented his classic 4-3-3 system, River Plate alternated between their usual 4-3-1-2 and 4-4-2, the two systems being used by the team of Marcelo Gallardo.” Outside of the Boot

Gerard Pique takes on Real Madrid: Will it ever end?

December 17, 2015

“Even when he’s halfway around the world, Gerard Pique just cannot let it lie. The Barcelona defender’s running verbal battle with most of the Real Madrid squad continued in Japan on Wednesday as he refused to back down after igniting yet another row, this time with Bernabeu duo Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos. We all know there’s little love lost between Barca and Madrid, but no figure on the pitch seems to embody the rivalry more closely than Pique.” BBC

Tactical Analysis: Valencia 1-1 Barcelona | Valencia risks pay off

December 10, 2015

“Following a circus of a week at Los Che where Portuguese manager Nuno walked after his side failed to register a shot at goal in their 1-0 loss at Sevilla; which resulted in the surprising arrival of new boss Gary Neville, both playing and coaching staff at the club will have been desperate to get back to league action. Thousands of the home fans welcomed Neville & co. to the stadium before the game by lining the streets surrounding the historic Mestalla stadium whilst singing his name and making plenty of noise in support of his ambitious words in his first press conference.” Outside of the Boot

Power Rankings | Top 5 Managers (November 2015): Klopp joins Enrique at the top

December 10, 2015

“A new mini-feature on the site for the new season is the introduction of the manager Power Rankings, where every month we list out the Top 5 tacticians from across Europe’s top leagues. October’s Power Rankings features five managers who’ve played key roles as the table begins to take shape.” Outside of the Boot

The Outsiders, Part 5: AP Campionese

December 10, 2015

“‘And this is Campione d’Italia’, she’s the Italian comune in Switzerland, you know, she’s an Italian enclave and exclave surrounded by Switzerland but still in the Province of Como, Lombardia, in the Swiss canton of Ticino’. Introducing the small town of Campione d’Italia, is much like describing a distant relative at a very large family celebration. She’s both vaguely recognisable and completely unfamiliar. She has the same plump and contented face as aunty Giulia, yet she’s definitely got the nose of grandpa Müller.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 6: FC Andorra
“As countries go, there are few that can match the sheer stunning beauty of Andorra. Nestled firmly in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe in terms of size, its population could fit inside Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. It has a rich culture stretching back over a thousand years and is a constitutional monarchy with an official language of Catalan, though French and Spanish are widely spoken too.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 7: The New Saints
“Around the globe, football teams that have incorporated their sponsor’s name are common place. Of course, Red Bull have taken on teams in New York, Leipzig and Salzburg, aptly named the New York Red Bulls, RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg whilst Bayer Leverkusen in Germany have taken their founders’ name since their emergence in 1904, as did PSV Eindhoven in 1913. Hyundai have taken on two teams in South Korea, Jeonbuk and Ulsan whilst Toyota even got in on the act in Japan.” Football Pink

UEFA Champions League: Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs FC Barcelona: Match Preview

December 8, 2015

“FC Barcelona will be looking to end their UEFA Champions League group stage on a high tomorrow evening, when they travel south of Cologne to Leverkusen to take on Bayer 04 at the BayArena. While Barcelona have utterly dominated the group to seal top spot, the second berth for the knockout stages remains entirely up for grabs; all three sides could yet join the Blaugrana in the Round of 16, depending on results in Matchday 6.” Barca Blaugranes

Ability v technique – Barcelona strike perfect balance

December 6, 2015

“The great Tostao, centre forward of Brazil’s 1970 side and the wisest voice in his country’s game, recently tried to clear up a basic confusion in football – the difference between ability and technique.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Champions League reform? Yes, please.

November 24, 2015

“Every May, there’s a special occasion held in our humble abode and it tries to combine the best of European food and football. It usually falls on a warm, late spring evening, which sees windows open and a cool breeze wafting the smells of a busy kitchen around the whole apartment. An annual four course dinner, themed around two particular countries, complete with paired wines, is served over the course of a few hours. Last year we bounced between Italy and Spain for an aperitif, a starter, the main and a sweet. We cook, we eat, we get merrily drunk and we watch the UEFA Champions League final.” Football Pink

The case for Lionel Messi for SI’s 2015 Sportsman of the Year

November 21, 2015

“To understand just how good Lionel Messi was this year, you have to go back to his lowest point. It was January 4, Messi started on substitutes’ bench and Barcelona lost 1-0 at lowly Real Sociedad. The following day, Messi missed training with ‘a stomach bug,’ which is a euphemism in Spain for playing hooky. Andoni Zubizarreta, Barcelona’s sporting director, was sacked. Luis Enrique, the coach, was said to have offered to resign. Sandro Rosell, the president, resigned soon after over transfer irregularities. English clubs were readying bids for Messi. In short, Barcelona was in crisis.” SI

The Ten Oldest Stadiums in Spain

November 21, 2015

“Before I start, I have to admit that there is a flaw in a club claiming to have the oldest stadium. It’s a bit like Trigger’s Broom (or Theseus’ Paradox if you’re that way inclined). Can something which has had all of its component parts replaced over the course of time, remain fundamentally the same? Well for the sake of this article, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Quite simply here are the 10 oldest stadiums in Spain. Just a couple of criteria apply; The current stadium has to be on the site of the original ground and it must have hosted a match in any of Spain’s top three tiers. So in reverse order, in at number 10 is… ” Inside Spanish Football

The Academy Series | 10 best Barcelona products: Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi feature

November 16, 2015

“FC Barcelona’s La Masia is renowned in football and with good reason – it is undoubtedly one of the best youth academies in the world. The training regime at La Masia focuses on performance over results. With good performances, victories and trophies will arrive in due time. Parents are instructed to ask the youth players, their kids, whether they played well instead of ‘did you win?’. This has bred a philosophy-centric education system at Barça. The implementation of concepts from Total Football by Johan Cruyff focuses on technical ability and football intelligence – players being trained to make the best decisions on the pitch, having the technique to execute ideas which were seen and thought of a few steps in advance of their opponents. Out-thinking and out-playing rather than out-muscling the opposition.” Outside of the Boot

Barcelona: More than a club, more than a nation?

November 6, 2015

“Stern words from Spain’s LFP president Javier Tebas, of course referring to Catalonia’s desire to move towards independence. In recent weeks we have witnessed the success of pro-independence parties in regional elections, showering optimism over Catalonia and causing just a little concern in Madrid. Catalonia’s biggest football club just happens to be one of the biggest clubs in the world and as a result, FC Barcelona has at times been at the very heart of the debate. The strained relationship between politics and football has been tested and will almost certainly continue to be.” Football Pink

Hump Day Dumpster Dive: European club vows to fight racism with racism

November 3, 2015

“There is so much bloody soccer happening. Arsenal is awesome terrible awesome terrible. Bayern Munich just served up another reminder that we shouldn’t even bother watching any of its games until the Champions League semi-finals. José Mourinho is living out a terrible nightmare that will probably end in an eight-figure payout deal. Manchester United is…zzzzz. Let’s get to dumpster diving.” Fusion

No Messi, No Problem: Neymar Becomes a Superstar

November 1, 2015

“… Honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you went down the Neymar highlight rabbit hole and never came back. Of course, soccer matches aren’t highlight reels, and if there’s been one criticism of Neymar, it’s that you wouldn’t be missing much just by watching his YouTube clips. He’s the latest member of a long line of (mostly Brazilian) players — stretching from Garrincha to Robinho — whose sizzling ability was (rightly or wrongly) said to not translate into wins on the field.” Grantland (Video)

Getafe CF 0-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

November 1, 2015

“With Real Madrid winning earlier on Saturday, it was important for Barcelona to match Madrid’s result against Getafe and stay level with their rivals. With it also being a Champions League midweek on the horizon, coach Luis Enrique would’ve been hoping to see the game off as quickly as possible.” Barca Blaugranes

Life After Messi & Ronaldo: The definitive search for the world’s third best player

October 23, 2015

“For all the complaints over how closed the title races of modern football have become, competitions such as the Premier League and La Liga are practically wide open to all-comers in comparison to the annual battle to be named the best footballer in the world. Historic seasons by a treble-winning Wesley Sneijder in 2010, Germany’s World Cup claiming, sweeper-keeper extraordinaire Manuel Neuer in 2014 and Franck Ribery, whose irresistible wing-play also inspired his club-mates to a treble in 2013, were not enough to overcome the incumbents who have swapped the honour since 2008.” Squawka

Neymar says he played ‘one of my best games for Barca’ after four-goal haul

October 17, 2015

“Neymar said he played one of his best games in a Barcelona shirt after scoring four times in Saturday’s 5-2 La Liga win over Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou. Neymar grabbing his first four-goal haul — a poker in Spanish — by winning and converting two first-half penalties, then twice finishing clinically after good work from strike partner Luis Suarez — before finally laying on his team’s final goal for Suarez.” ESPN

Goal Analysis: How Barcelona came from behind to beat Leverkusen

October 2, 2015

“Losing Messi to a knee injury, football fans wanted to know how Barcelona would respond to the absence of a player of such quality. And through the first half, Barcelona was certainly not the better side. Bayer Leverkusen not only produced the majority of opportunities in the first 45 but looked the more spirited and in step of the two teams. But, Barcelona showed resolve and let fans know that one player does not make a championship team. With a gritty second half performance, they showed that they still had enough talent to find a way to net two in the last ten minutes of the game and secured the three points.” Outside of the Boot

Madrid, Messi and Moyes: An Early Season Report On La Liga

September 30, 2015

“We are six games into the season in Spain. Villarreal lead, Messi’s out for two months, there’s a logjam at the top, Sevilla just climbed off the bottom, and we finally have a day off without a league game. I think it’s time to take a quick look at some of the early stats and stories.” Stats Bomb

How Will Barcelona Replace Lionel Messi’s Omnipotence?

September 30, 2015

“When you’ve been as good as Barcelona over the past decade, you don’t get any sympathy — not even when Lionel Messi tears a knee ligament and is set to miss seven to eight weeks. Fair or not, that’s how the sliding scale of club-related compassion works: For one of the biggest and best teams in the world, every setback should only be a speed bump — even if it’s shaped like the best player in the world. So, if you’ll allow us, it’s time to ask the un-ask-able …” Grantland

Talent Radar: Atletico Madrid – Barcelona young players’ combined XI

September 13, 2015

“Barcelona La Masia has established it’s name as world football’s perennial academy, constantly developing talent and pushing stars through the conveyor belt. But the academy seems to have hit a snag, with many questioning it’s current predicament and future. Barcelona are now competing as any modern club would, by making big money signings. Atletico Madrid have always championed their excellent scouting and recruiting policy, particularly from South America, and the effects of this are more than apparent on the side.” Outside of the Boot

What is a ‘False 10’?

September 8, 2015

“In recent seasons, and particularly at the beginning of the current campaign, a trend is emerging which could eventually see the extinction of the no.10 in its traditional role. Many have written about what they perceive to be the false no.10 position. Most of these pieces claim that the role comprises of a player who starts just off the main striker but ends up in the box to score. My argument is that this is either a mere misinterpretation of the second striker role or else it is simply a false nine playing behind a striker that drifts wide or drops off to create space for the false nine. The false nine position is based on the principle that it is better to arrive in a location of threat to the opposition than to start in it. My interpretation of the false no.10 is someone who starts elsewhere with the intention of arriving in the no.10 position. In doing so, they are running into a space where their threat is heightened, instead of beginning in this zone and having to leave it to find space.” Outside of the Boot

Champions League draw analysis: Picks to make it out of each group

August 29, 2015

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, left, and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, right, remove the balls containing the names of the soccer clubs, during the draw for the Champions League 2015/16 play-offs, at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
“There was a twist to the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco Thursday. UEFA’s new seeding regulations meant that only reigning champions would be picked from Pot 1, leaving some dangerous contenders in the lower pots. And so it proved, as Manchester City was drawn with Juventus and Sevilla while Real Madrid drew Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk. The draw resulted in some intriguing individual storylines, powerhouses going up against one another and the first steps on the road to the San Siro.” SI (Video)

Player Analysis: Sergio Busquets against Athletic Bilbao

August 24, 2015

“In the 1st leg of the Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona had huge problems dealing with the high-press of Bilbao in Barcelona’s own half-pitch, while also employing a man-marking system. Athletic were also very centrally compact playing with a 4-4-2, which Barcelona could not penetrate, conceding 4 goals through different pressing approaches of Bilbao which eventually led to counter-attacks against the then destabilized Barca defense.” Outside of the Boot

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 FC Barcelona: Match Review

August 24, 2015

“Starting the game, Barcelona were coming up against a familiar opponent. The Catalan club have already played Athletic twice this season thanks to the Supercopa and the wounds from that defeat are still fresh. Therefore you would expect a lively start from Barça as they look to seek revenge but the opening stages were all a bit tame. Athletic were smart about absorbing the early Barcelona pressure and neither side registered a shot on target during the opening minutes. The high press of the Basques succeeded in limiting Barcelona’s ability to create clear-cut chances.” Barca Blaugranes

La Liga preview: Can Real Madrid or Athletic Bilbao overtake Barcelona?

August 21, 2015

“On the face of it, the Spanish Super Cup suggested this season might be different. Barcelona, who won the treble of league, Copa del Rey and Champions League last season, was beaten 4–0 in the first leg by Athletic Bilbao and, back at the Camp Nou, managed only a 1–1 as it attempted the impossible task of overturning that deficit. Is Barça in crisis, could Athletic mount a serious challenge, is this the year when Spain becomes more than a two and a half horse race? Probably not.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

FC Barcelona Power Rankings: Week Two

August 19, 2015

“The timing of the Supercopa de España ensured that this week’s power rankings were pushed back a day to Tuesday, which means that we have a total of three competitive matches on which to rank the squad. Of course, there have been some ups and downs over the course of those 300 minutes of football, so this might get controversial… Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Barca Blaugranes

Tactical Analysis: Athletic Bilbao 4-0 Barcelona | Bilbao’s 4-4-2 and pressing exposes Barca’s vulnerabilities

August 17, 2015

“San Mames is a notoriously hard stadium to play in, as visiting teams often find themselves wavering in front of the intense Bilbo crowd and team during the 90 minutes of the game. Since the first sound of the whistle, Bilbao approached the game with a robust and intense style. Playing hard, aggressive and direct, the first 10-20 minutes of the game did not see Bilbao risk anything in the build up, but instead preferred to play longer towards the opposing half, in order to force the high-lines of Barcelona to drop deeper. This long balls approach worked as it forced Ter-Stegen out of the goal to head it away, leaving his goal completely exposed which was duly punished by what may turn out to be a contender for goal of the season. San Jose got to the 2nd ball and shot directly into the open goal from 40 yards out, resulting in a 1-0 lead for Bilbao after 15 minutes of the Super Copa Espana.” Outside of the Boot

Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 5-4 Sevilla | How Barca created space in the middle by playing out wide

August 17, 2015

“Last season treble winners Barcelona came up against Europa League champions Sevilla in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. For what was expected as a mouth – watering game by many, I’m sure they weren’t disappointed with the final outcome.” Outside of the Boot

La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1: Who will win titles?

August 14, 2015

“From managerial changes at some of the continent’s biggest clubs to long-running transfer sagas, it has been a hectic summer of activity across Europe. The season has already begun in France, Germany kick off their league campaign this weekend, while Spain and Italy start the following week. So what has changed? Who are the new faces to watch out for and, crucially, what does it all mean for the title races in Europe’s major leagues?” BBC

Is it time for Rafinha Alcantara to have his Barcelona moment?

August 14, 2015

“Following on from Rafinha Alcantara’s goalscoring performance in the Uefa Super Cup final, the 22- year-old will be hoping for and expecting more opportunities in the Barcelona starting 11 this coming season. The final was a feather in the cap of Rafinha as he started such a high profile, important game in a position that is usually taken up by the great Neymar. However, due to the extraordinary condition of mumps that the member of last season’s record breaking forward trio was diagnosed with, Rafinha was somewhat surprisingly called upon to take his place as a left sided attacker alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.” Outside of the Boot

Here’s how the 2015-16 La Liga season in Spain will pan out

August 11, 2015

“Season previews are the worst kind of sports content. They’re so lame. They tell you nothing because we know nothing. It’s part of the beauty of sports that we basically don’t know anything going into something. Soccer is especially difficult because the margins of victory are just much thinner, so unlike baseball or basketball, where over time you can make accurate predictions based on statistical models, in soccer you just can’t. But since La Liga is always pretty much the last of the leagues to start and since it’s pretty much been all quiet on the Western front for the past few weeks, we’re going to shove some pukey, cliche’d season preview content down your throats.” Fusion

Dynamic Pedro Rodriguez Far More than a Mere System Player

August 9, 2015

“It’s August 18, 2013, and Tata Martino is watching on from the bench. It’s the first time he has taken charge of Barcelona in a competitive match, and the signs are good. His selected eleven are already three goals ahead of the less illustrious Levante, on home turf at the Camp Nou, and it’s about to get even better. Lionel Messi has dropped off the front line and is assessing his options. Out on the left-hand side, he sees his trusty sidekick, Pedro Rodriguez. The two have spent many years together at Barcelona, and their understanding is verging on telepathic. As a consequence of this, Pedro prompts a pass from Messi by sprinting in behind the Levante defence.” Licence to Roam

England Rules: Four Questions That Explain the Summer Transfer Window

July 27, 2015

“While there’s still more than a month remaining, something about the current transfer window just seems … off. Most of the big clubs — Chelsea, PSG, Arsenal, Barcelona, and Real Madrid — have been relatively quiet, and the star we all expected to leave looks like he might stay put in Italy for another year. Now, there’s been plenty of movement in Munich, Manchester, and everywhere else, but even those transactions have been underpriced, overpriced, or seemingly out of nowhere. In short, the silly season’s gotten weird. Here are four questions to sort through all the mayhem.” Grantland

Lionel Messi’s idol just retired

July 17, 2015

“Pablo Aimar, the curly-froed magician, and the one player who could make even the great Lionel Messi blush, has retired at 35 after a series of debilitating injuries. Aimar recently penned a farewell letter to his River Plate teammates after he was left off of the team’s Copa Libertadores squad by coach Marcelo Gallardo. The past few seasons had been torrid for Aimar as he underwent three ankle surgeries, a sadly recurring theme in what’s been a career hampered by injuries. Though younger fans of the game may not be know him well, it’s not hard to see why Messi idolized Aimar, an effortless player who seemed born to dance on the field. An entertainer rightfully nicknamed ‘El Payasito’ (the clown) for his effortless ability, Aimar was a fan favorite everywhere he went.” Fusion (Video)

Sergio Busquets – the underrated key of Barcelona’s success?

July 11, 2015

“When you think of Barcelona’s successes from 2008 onwards the three players who immediately come to mind are Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. There’s another player though who is rarely spoken about that should receive equal praise in relation to how Barcelona perform. His name is Sergio Busquets.” backpagefootball

The Barcelona presidential elections, explained

June 30, 2015

“It’s election season at FC Barcelona. On July 18, tens of thousands of Barça fans will hit the ballot box to choose their fearless leader. Will it be the quiet incumbent or the charismatic challenger? Because let’s face it, no one else has a chance. Barcelona is one of the handful of clubs (along with Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and Osasuna) in which the fans vote for the president. But not just any Barcelona fan can vote. You have to be a paying socio, or member.” Fusion

Barcelona 3-1 Juventus: Barca pounce to end spells of Juve pressure

June 11, 2015

“Barcelona won the European Cup – and completed a treble for the second time in seven years – with a 3-1 victory over Italian champions Juventus. There were no surprises on Luis Enrique’s teamsheet. Andres Iniesta had been the only slight injury doubt, but he was fit to start and wore the captain’s armband. Luis Enrique continued with his policy of using his reserve goalkeeper in cup competitions, which meant Marc-Andre ter Stegen started on home soil, with Claudio Bravo on the bench.” Zonal Marking

Juventus, Barcelona, and Beyond: How the Champions League Final Challenges What We Thought We Knew About Soccer

June 7, 2015

“Thanks to Sepp Blatter, the FBI, a hastily called FIFA press conference, and years and years of unchecked corruption, the state of the game has been the talk of the soccer town this week. Of course, none of that talk has anything to do with, well, the way soccer is played on the field. Thankfully, tomorrow we get the biggest (men’s) soccer game of the year: the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus. With championship games, there’s always a temptation to turn the result into a referendum after the fact, to take what happened in the final and retroactively apply it to the season gone by. But if Barcelona lose tomorrow despite their status as heavy favorites, it doesn’t mean they were any less dominant for the six months prior, and if Juventus get blown out, that doesn’t make their unlikely finals run any less meaningful. It’s not the final game that makes the trend; it’s everything leading up to it.” Grantland

How do Juventus stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona’s front three?
“It’s a question that opponents have been asking since the four-year-old Lionel Messi first wandered on to a dusty pitch in the Rosário suburb of Grandoli, nudged the ball in front of him and set off on a slaloming gambeta that took him past three players. How do you stop him? Before the semi-final Pep Guardiola, who perhaps knows his game as well as anybody, admitted that you just couldn’t. As Messi demonstrated against Athletic Bilbao in last Saturday’s Copa del Rey final, when he’s in the sort of form he is in at the moment, even surrounding him with three players and placing another three between him and the goal isn’t enough. So what do Juventus do?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Vintage Barcelona display suggests Champions League legacy has a future
“The holy grail of becoming the first team to retain the Champions League remains unclaimed but this Barcelona, after winning a third European title in seven years on Saturday, can surely be regarded now as not merely a great team but a great dynasty. This Barça perhaps now stand comparison with the Real Madrid team that won the first five European Cups. That is not to say that winning three times in seven years with three semi-final appearances is greater than winning five in a row, it’s to say that the core of this Barça side has remained more consistent than the core of that Madrid one; that – remarkably in this age of transfer-market frenzy – this Barcelona have managed to keep winning with essentially the same players.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona | Barcelona’s quality, and poor positioning from Juventus make the difference
“We all waited for this fantastic evening, and what a game it was. Barcelona took on the lead very early after a pretty shaky period for Juventus, thanks to the man of the match, Iniesta who found Rakitic with a cut-back pass into the penalty-spot. Juventus did eventually shake things up and did also find the equalizer to keep the final dramatic enough, but with the attacking-trio of Barcelona, Juventus proved to be too vulnerable to direct counter-attacks.” Outside of the Boot

4 Champions League Final Storylines – and How Messi’s Presence Could Make Them Irrelevant
“In coming up with an angle for writing this, I was conflicted. On one hand, there are an exorbitant number of spectacular storylines for Saturday’s Champions League Final. When this many legends-in-the-making take the pitch at once, there are bound to be more than a few fascinating plot points. But then I kept coming back to one thing: Lionel Messi will be on the field. I’m going to run through four of the most interesting storylines for Barcelona vs. Juventus on Saturday, and then I will get to Messi. As you read them, just remember the presence of that diminutive Argentine could render all of them basically irrelevant. Here we go.” Soccer Pro

Europe’s best, Barcelona finishes treble run with 3-1 win over Juventus
“Barcelona capped an incredible season with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday, sealing a treble of trophies and ending the 2014-2015 European soccer season on an exciting high note. Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring in the fourth minute with the fourth-fastest goal in a Champions League final, and it looked like Barcelona would ease to the title. But Gianluigi Buffon made a number of clutch saves, and Alvaro Morata, the former Real Madrid striker, found an equalizer in the 55th minute, finishing off a rebound from a Carlos Tevez saved shot.  Luis Suárez scored the eventual winner 13 minutes later, though, and Neymar, who earlier had what he thought was Barca’s third goal ruled out for a handball, tallied the insurance goal with the last kick of the game.” SI

How Barcelona’s tactics helped it beat Juventus in Champions League final
“As long as it played to its capabilities, Barcelona always seemed likely to win the Champions League final against Juventus on Saturday. It did just that, taking its fifth European Cup with a 3-1 victory while controlling most of the match with its flexible possession. Barcelona’s unchanged lineup set out in its traditional 4-3-3 system. Neymar played wider than Lionel Messi, who cut inside as a situational No. 10. A relatively flat line of three in midfield filled in the front line’s gaps, and the fullbacks also provided width when the forwards tucked in.” SI

How Barcelona’s Luis Enrique proved everyone wrong – and ended the hunting season

June 4, 2015

Juventus’ possible defensive formation.
Luis Enrique declared hunting season open in the first week of November and it lasted well into the new year. Barcelona had just been beaten at home by Celta de Vigo, the first time the Galicians had ever won at the Camp Nou, and the Catalans’ coach, who had watched the criticism grow almost from the start, sarcastically foresaw a ‘nice week’ ahead. As it turned out, that was optimistic: it was more than a week and it would get a whole lot ‘nicer’. A 0-0 draw with Getafe followed in December and when 2015 opened with a 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad, a crisis opened.” Guardian

UEFA Champions League Final: How will the teams tactically set-out?
“We have now finally come to the final stage of the Champions League, with a team that has not been good enough in the past few editions of the Champions League in Juventus, and Barcelona, who also started off this season with problems as well on and off the pitch, with an apparent rift between Messi and Enrique, but after the defeat against Moyes’ Real Sociedad, has transformed into an unstoppable team, not losing a single game. If we could separate these teams in any way, than that would without doubt be on the basis of style of play. The percentage of the ball-possession that Barcelona has in a game on average (this season) is 62 % while on the other hand you have Juventus with 52 %.” Outside of the Boot

Juventus and their Champions League conquest
“For the first time since 2003, the black and blue striped jerseys of Juventus FC, will be seen in the Champions League Final, which this year will be held at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. On June 6, Gianluigi Buffon will have the chance to lift the trophy for the first time in his career and there is no better time than right now for him and Juventus to win the Holy Grail. After many years of failure in Europe, Juventus have finally made it to the big time. What has changed? What finally made the Old Lady sing in tune? To start off, we must address what makes Juventus such a difficult team to beat. What cannot be denied, is their defensive prowess, composure and organisation.” backpagefootball

Find a Free Pirlo: How Juventus Built a Champions League Finalist on a Budget
“Why are Juventus in the Champions League final? The short answer is Paul Pogba, the guy who might just be the best player in the world not named ‘Lionel Messi’ or ‘Cristiano Ronaldo.’ After joining Manchester United at 16, Pogba’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson soured over a lack of playing time. He left on a free transfer,1 signed with Juventus, and, three years later, here they are: one win away from a treble. Of course, the longer answer is, well, longer. But Pogba’s move is of a piece with an approach that built a team capable of overcoming plenty of more expensive teams.” Grantland

On-field meddling, off-field brilliance form Pérez’s double-edged sword

June 4, 2015

“Florentino Pérez might be an idiot, at least it when comes to matters on the field, but off of the pitch, he could be a genius. Therein lies the double-edged sword that defines the Real Madrid president in his time at the helm of the world’s biggest club. In the past week ‘Uncle Flo’ has been universally panned for his impulsive firing of Carlo Ancelotti, who’s been replaced today by a far less desired Rafa Benítez. The former Valencia and Liverpool coach now has the dubious honor of being the 90th coach to serve under Pérez during the embattled president’s 12-year reign.” Fusion

Tiki-Taka’s Trojan Horse: Luis Enrique Transformed Barcelona From Within

June 2, 2015

“The shadow of Pep Guardiola still hangs over everything that happens at FC Barcelona, and for good reason. In 2009, Guardiola’s first season as manager, the club won the treble — league, league cup, and Champions League. It went on to win another two league titles, one more league cup, and one more Champions League trophy during Pep’s four years in charge. Quite simply, his Barca side, with their sustained dominance and signature quick-passing style, are the defining team of the 21st century.” Grantland

Five reasons Barcelona won La Liga

May 24, 2015

“Xavi Hernandez lifted the domestic league trophy in front of the adoring Camp Nou on Saturday in what was an emotional farewell to the most influential midfielder in the Catalans’ history. Although Cules are obviously delighted to be celebrating their 23rd Liga title, their team has been forced to overcome plenty of adversity to reach their objective. Here are five reasons Barcelona won La Liga.” ESPN

Atletico 0-1 Barcelona: the Messi and Pedro combination wins Barcelona the title

May 22, 2015

“Barcelona wrapped up La Liga with a 1-0 victory at the home of Atletico Madrid, the previous champions. Diego Simeone played his usual formation, but made a few changes from the team which drew 2-2 at Levante last weekend. At the back, Diego Godin returned in place of Miranda. In midfield, Thiago dropped out and Mario Suarez came in. Upfront, Fernando Torres got the nod over Mario Mandzukic.” Zonal Marking

Xavi’s faith in his ideas helped make him the greatest Spanish player of all time

May 22, 2015

“Radical. Fanatic. Ideologue. These are terms that aren’t often attributed to professional athletes, but they are the first ones that come to mind when looking to describe Xavi Hernández, the greatest Spanish player of all time and arguably the greatest midfielder to ever play the game. When Xavi speaks in public, he defends an idea with the unwavering conviction of a cult leader, eschewing the platitudes and clichés that are commonplace in professional sports interviews.” Fusion

Pep Guardiola: The man behind the manager

May 20, 2015

“‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ The quote by Picasso should tell you that great people don’t just come up with great ideas, but take all the best ideas from the greatest minds and apply them to their own visions. There are many in the game with the opinion that Pep has taken Bayern backwards and is not a great manager – inheriting two great squads. The recent first leg loss to Barcelona may have hurt Guardiola. It would be naïve to call his tactics naïve but they were certainly found out by the pace of Barca’s attack and the sheer class of Lionel Messi. However, the second leg showed more of what Guardiola is about. And, if the team’s defending hadn’t been so sloppy, they may very well have got back into the tie.” Outside of the Boot

Why Barcelona’s 4-3-3 works like a charm while Real Madrid’s is a disaster

May 16, 2015

“FC Barcelona is on the verge of winning the treble, while Real Madrid will end the year without a major trophy. Last year, Real Madrid was the champion of Europe while Barça was trophy-less. What the hell happened? Why is it that two teams that seemingly play the same exact formation can have such wildly different outcomes? In Spain, there has been a lot of debate about whether Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 formation is feasible. Proponents say something like ‘Look at Barça! It plays the same way and also has three superstars up front, and it makes it work!’” Fusion

The End of a Mini Era: Where Does Real Madrid Go From Here?

May 16, 2015

“Things move quickly at Real Madrid. One day you’re on top of the world, celebrating La Décima, and then before you know it, a year has gone by and suddenly everybody’s (probably) looking for a new job. Technically, Real Madrid are still alive in the La Liga title race, but with a four-point gap and two games to play, it’s doubtful they’ll chase down Barcelona. After yesterday’s 3-2 aggregate loss to Juventus in the Champions League semifinals, the Madridistas are staring down a season without a single trophy,1 and at a club where the only constant is change even when things are going well, nobody’s job is safe — unless you’re a certain Portuguese superstar.” Grantland

On verge of treble, winning proves to be Barcelona’s elixir after turmoil
“In January, Barcelona was in crisis. The vaunted front three hadn’t gelled, Lionel Messi was out of sorts and furious at being left out for the first game after the winter break (even though he had been in each of the two previous seasons as well) and Luis Enrique appeared to be a dead man walking. And that’s without even mentioning the off-field problems–the transfer ban, the boardroom wrangling, the allegations surrounding the Neymar transfer and the general sense that the club had tarnished its good name with some of its commercial deals. Four months on, Barca is three games from the treble.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich | Pep’s dangerous tactics backfire

May 12, 2015

“If you’re reading this, you don’t need to be informed of the magnitude of the Barcelona – Bayern Munich Champions League semi-final. There were all kinds of storylines and sub-plots to the actual game. Most of them involved Pep Guardiola. It was Pep versus Messi, Pep versus his old club and his old teammate Luis Enrique, then you had Pep versus the machine he had created and every other storyline in between. That was why it was no suprise that Pep started the game in what might be described as an altenative style of play against a team like Barcelona. Guardiola is considered a visionary and the high intensity press that Bayern started with was emblametic of Pep’s thinking. It didn’t work though.” Outside of the Boot

Guardiola’s gambles put Bayern in hole in nightmare Camp Nou return
“That was what Guardiola had said of Lionel Messi before Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but to suggest the match simply bore that out would be too simplistic. To begin with, there was that extraordinary first 16 minutes when Guardiola played a man-marking back three against Neymar, Luis Suarez and Messi. It was perhaps the boldest, most startling defensive gambit in the history of the Champions League, and it may have consequences for Guardiola.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Champions League semis showcase changing role of deep-lying midfielder

May 12, 2015

“This season’s Champions League semifinals don’t feature the four most outstanding goalkeepers, defenders, wingers or strikers in the world, but it’s difficult to argue with the selection of deep-lying midfielders. In Sergio Busquets, Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso and Toni Kroos, we’re being treated to an exhibition of probably the world’s four most revered footballers in that role. Between them, the quartet have won the last three World Cups and seven of the last 12 Champions League titles. More crucially, in different ways, they’ve helped redefine the nature of their position.” ESPN – Michael Cox