Archive for the ‘Barcelona’ Category

What the signing of Frenkie de Jong means for Barcelona

Just days after making one of the more surprising signings of the January transfer window, by inking Kevin Prince Boateng to a six month loan, Spanish giants FC Barcelona made a move on Wednesday that many in Europe were expecting them to make.

Frenkie de Jong, an exciting Dutch midfielder who plays his football for Ajax, will join Barcelona at the end of the season for 75 million Euros, per the club’s official website.

Barcelona outbid fellow European giants Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City for de Jong’s services.

At just 21, de Jong figures to be a key cog in Barcelona’s long term plans. The club is still transitioning from losing two legendary midfielders (Xavi in 2015 and Andres Iniesta in 2018). De Jong is a player in a similar mold.

de Jong, who is right footed, can slot in as an attacking midfielder, a central midfielder, or even a defensive midfielder, offering Barcelona versatility and balance in midfield. He also fits the bill of a creative maestro that has been so intrinsic in Barcelona’s footballing philosophy.

Barcelona have been investing in youthful, prodigious talents for over a year now. de Jong joins Arthur, acquired this summer to replace Iniesta, and Ousmane Dembele, who was acquired last summer to replace Neymar, as players who figure to make up the teams core when mainstays like Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Gerard Pique eventually hang up their boots.

How will de Jong fit in at Barcelona? This season, under manager Ernesto Valverde, la Blaugrana have transitioned from the more defensive oriented 4-4-2 that won them the league last season, to a slightly more adventurous 4-3-3, which has been the typical formation of the club for years, particularly under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.

Potential Barcelona Starting XI with de Jong

de Jong will join an immensely talented, albeit crowded midfield unit.

de Jong and Arthur are young players who are immediately going to be involved in the first team. Busquets, Rakitic, and Vidal are the steady old hangs. Rafinha and Samper provide squad depth and cover; Alena and Oriol Busquets project as long term squad options.

However, de Jong’s arrival spells doubt over one man’s Barcelona future: Phillipe Coutinho. The Brazilian earned his dream transfer to the Nou Camp last January, but has been average at best this season. He started off well, playing as a central midfielder, but his statistical success came at the expense of Barcelona’s balance, as noted by Squawka.

Coutinho then moved out wide, but struggled in that position, and has since been overtaken by the Frenchman Dembele, who has had an outstanding second season in Spain.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Barcelona games on US TV and streaming

Coutinho’s failure to integrate at Barcelona may have accentuated de Jong’s move to Spain– the Dutch youngster has similar creative talents to Coutinho, but offers better defensive balance in the midfield.

Essentially, Coutinho appears to be the player who will be most impacted by de Jong’s arrival. After spending a large chunk of money on de Jong, Barcelona may feel obligated to move Coutinho on, perhaps to Manchester United or Chelsea, and use the cash his transfer generates to purchase a striker– Luis Suarez is the lone true No. 9 on the Barcelona squad, and is on the wrong side of thirty.

Frenkie de Jong’s passing ability and his lineage (he joins a group of Dutch players who have played for Barcelona that includes Johan Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Patrick Kluivert, and Frank de Boer) suggests that he will be a key cog in Barcelona’s midfield for years to come.

His arrival, however, may also raise a red flag toward the direction of Philippe Coutinho, and his future at the club.

Coutinho has time to prove himself however, as de Jong only becomes a Barcelona player on July 1, 2019.

Until then, we can only sit back and watch de Jong in his final months at Ajax, which will include a Champions League Round of 16 matchup with a club he will become very familiar with when he moves to Spain: Real Madrid.

Review of Jonathan Wilson’s new book, ‘The Barcelona Legacy: Guardiola, Mourinho and the Fight For Football’s Soul’

Jonathan Wilson has established himself as one of soccer journalism’s most knowledgeable tacticians. Inverting the Pyramid made his already sterling reputation as a tactical analyst firm, and even if there are other writers whose knowledge of modern soccer tactics is better, Wilson writes in a way that is relatable and marketable.

His new book is The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola. Wilson takes his tactical knowledge and applies it to a specific coaching tree, albeit one that is quite famous. Johan Cruyff has traditionally been attributed with creating the modern Barcelona style of play. Even today, with every new manager, the questions are asked whether the new man can keep Barcelona playing the same tika taka style while churning out the next great generation of soccer talent every year.

Wilson explores Cruff’s legacy through the men who succeeded him at Barcelona and in the Netherlands. He focuses primarily on Pep Guardiola, who many call his tactical heir, but also looks at his contemporaries with Barca connections like Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, and Ronald Koeman. He uses these men to explain how Cruyff’s vision of perfect soccer has been modified, or adapted depending, in the modern game. Wilson uses his ability to explain tactics in layman’s terms to show how Guardiola modified the possession style of his Dutch predecessor and how van Gaal showed how it could be used pragmatically. Conversely he draws parallels to Mourinho, who spurned by Barcelona early in his career has shaped himself and his tactics to be almost anti-Cruyff.

The scope of this book is ambitious, as it seeks to explain a branch of a coaching tree in detail that shows the differences between managers. Drawing parallels between Pep and Mourinho is easy, but showing why van Gaal both represents and turns away from the Barcelona style simultaneously is a tougher job. In fact, when I first read the description of the book, I had no idea what to expect. It’s own description on its cover and online really doesn’t get to the core of what this book is.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Barcelona games on US TV and streaming

More honestly, this book is about tactical evolution. A manager famous as a player creates a style of play renowned worldwide, and his former players and assistants take that style and adopt it for their uses. This book is a study on tactical psychology, which to be honest isn’t the most interesting description to put on a back flap. That’s also why I have a hard time recommending this book to everyone, because it’s topic is not universally interesting to every soccer fan. Fans of tactical analysis can go to other authors or Inverting the Pyramid, and fans of the stories behind some of recent soccer history’s greatest clubs will find this book very limiting. Instead, The Barcelona Inheritance is a case study limited to one of the most successful managerial stories in history, and how that spawned its own successes. Those readers looking for something different than the usual soccer book will enjoy this one, but I envision it may have a hard time becoming the success his previous books were.

Written like a long-form Blizzard article, The Barcelona Legacy is a good edition to soccer canon. As long as the reader comes in with an open mind not preset to expect Inverting the Pyramid or The Manager, they likely will enjoy this book. Not having that preconception though may be hard to achieve based on how this book is presented.

Editor’s note: The Barcelona Legacy is available from all fine booksellers including Amazon.

Barcelona draws large crowd in International Champions Cup defeat to AC Milan

The International Champions Cup (ICC) returned to northern California this past weekend. This year’s edition brought two historic clubs in AC Milan and Barcelona back to the Bay Area. The sun was shining on a warm Saturday afternoon in Santa Clara for a reported 51,391 fans in attendance. The Bay Area is home to a vibrant soccer community and the ICC has always tapped into this market with great effect.

On Friday night, the media were present for press conferences from the managers of both clubs before watching each club train for the first 15 minutes. The stadium was quiet with a few supporters sitting in the stands before they got to meet their heroes in person afterward. I was able to take a couple of videos from their training.

On game day, the stadium parking lots were filled as early as 3:00 pm. I was able to speak with a few supporters from both sides, and while there was overwhelming support for Barcelona, I was most curious to speak with fans of AC Milan.

Milan is a big club worldwide and has a rich legacy of soccer at the highest level, yet they remain a club that is not as prominently supported as other clubs have become. I brought this up to Halil Beqaj, an AC Milan fan who grew up supporting them and he said, “In the last ten years, soccer has been growing in the US and AC Milan hasn’t been a top team as much as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea etc. Most people from my generation are supporting these clubs and a lot of clubs from England because those are the teams at the top.” Halil now plays soccer at UC Berkeley as a center back but is originally from southern California.

The fact that Milan regularly participates in the ICC suggests the brand is widely observed in this country. This is the second time I can remember AC Milan playing at Levi’s stadium and they’ve regularly visited the US in the past. The last time they were in Santa Clara, they played Liverpool, another club with massive support. However, before the match, one only needed to visit the fan areas for both clubs to see which club’s fanbase was more represented than the other. For every AC Milan jersey, there had to have been at least 20-30 Barca jerseys around them.

I was curious to find out why so many fans were motivated to support Barcelona over a club like AC Milan and it became apparent that the style of play had a lot to do with their affinity toward the Spanish giants. That’s according to Alex Hernandez, a supporter I spoke with at half time. I asked if he had ever considered supporting another club besides Barcelona and he said, “I support other clubs outside of Spain like Arsenal, for example, but the club I support the most is Barcelona because of their style of play,” Alex explained that players like Xavi and Iniesta were a big reason he began supporting the Catalan club.

Meanwhile, the match was scoreless for 90 minutes, until Andre Silva of AC Milan put one past Jasper Cillessen to beat Barca in the 93rd minute.

It was a disappointing end for Alex and perhaps a pleasant surprise for Halil. It was surprising though that neither of them made any comments about the absence of star names because of the World Cup. It’s clear they were there to support their club regardless of who was on the field, which made me wonder with so many Barca fans in attendance whether or not it really mattered who they played. That’s a bit unfair to AC Milan, but that is essentially the business model for the ICC.

While Barcelona were missing some of the biggest names in world football, the fans came out regardless. This is a model that has proven to be a resounding success. I only wonder whether or not cultivating support of clubs from other countries will grow soccer in the US or have a reverse effect. It’s true Americans are becoming more knowledgeable about soccer and the difference between the quality of European soccer to MLS. However, with a “competition” like the International Champions Cup, we have an annual reminder of this gap in quality. Throw in the MLS All-Star Game, and Americans can’t really justify supporting American clubs over European clubs.

Maybe this isn’t actually the case and I’m making too many assumptions based on a single game’s crowd of mostly Spanish-speaking soccer fans. But if it is, how long will it last?

Barcelona tickets on sale for US summer tour

FC Barcelona will be heading to the United States this summer for a preseason tour ahead of its 2018/19 LaLiga season.

During the 2017/18 season, Barcelona won the Copa del Rey final after defeating Sevilla in the final. Plus, of course, they won the Spanish LaLiga title in convincing fashion.

During this summer’s International Champions Cup, Barcelona will be playing against tough opposition including Spurs (in Los Angeles), AS Roma (in Arlington, Texas) and AC Milan (in San Francisco).

In the 2018 International Champions Cup, all of the teams will play three games each to determine who will win this summer’s competition.

 

Here’s the schedule of Barcelona games this summer in the United States (all kickoff times listed are in the Eastern United States time zone):

 

Saturday, July 28

Barcelona vs Tottenham Hotspur (International Champions Cup), 11pm, Los Angeles [TICKETS]

 

Tuesday, July 31

Barcelona vs AS Roma (International Champions Cup), 10pm, Arlington, Texas [TICKETS]

 

Saturday, August 4

AC Milan vs Barcelona (International Champions Cup), 8pm, Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco [TICKETS]

 

SPECIAL OFFER:

World Soccer Talk readers get a $20 dollar rebate off their first ticket purchase.

To get your $20 dollar rebate on tickets:

• Visit SeatGeek.com

• Click on the ‘Heard us on the radio or TV?’ link at the top of the page

• Enter promo code WSTPOD

SeatGeek will send you $20 dollars after you’ve made your first ticket purchase.

Once you’ve entered your promo code and made your first purchase on SeatGeek, you’ll receive an email from rebates@seatgeek.com with simple instructions on how to claim your $20 rebate by Paypal or check!

 

The post Barcelona tickets on sale for US summer tour appeared first on World Soccer Talk.

3 matches that defined Barcelona’s role as the greatest team in Europe

Following the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final, Sir Alex Ferguson soberly spoke to the media after the match. The legendary manager spoke on behalf of a team who had just defeated Manchester United 3-1 in the final of Europe’s premier club competition. The date was May 28, 2011.

The team was FC Barcelona. “They’re the best team in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they’re the best team we’ve faced.” Ferguson went on to lament, “No one,” he exclaimed, “has ever given us a hiding like that.”

It was Barcelona’s second UEFA Champions League title in three years, both victories coming at the expense of the Manchester club.

Barcelona in 2011 were as mesmerizing and unstoppable as any team in the history of the sport. In my opinion, they were the greatest team of the 21st Century.

In order to truly quantify the greatness of this side, we need to look at three matches that identify the absolute greatness of this team.

Three matches that defined a Barcelona era

November 29, 2010

For two days a year, the footballing world comes to a standstill and shifts their gaze towards the Iberian Peninsula. For one of the greatest football spectacles on earth: El Clásico. When Barcelona and Real Madrid clash, everything else seems unimportant.

This match, however, spawned a sense of shock and awe that seemed incomparable.

It was only ten minutes before Barcelona took the lead. Andres Iniesta, just four months removed from scoring the winning goal at the 2010 World Cup, sliced a picture perfect ball in between five Real Madrid defenders. Xavi was on the other end of the pass and delightfully tapped the ball over a helpless Iker Casillas. The hosts led, 1-0.

Not 8 minutes later, it was 2-0. David Villa, joint top scorer at that same World Cup, got to the byline and sent a cross that was perfectly deflected to Pedro. He had the entire goal at his mercy.

Villa got his due, scoring twice in the second half. One of them courtesy of an inch perfect ball from near midfield by Messi. Villa latched onto it and slipped it past an onrushing Iker Casillas.

Even young substitute Jeffren contributed with a goal in the 92nd minute.

When the dust settled, Barcelona had won 5-0. It was the most lopsided Clásico in years. And Messi, who racked up 50+ goals for the season, didn’t even score once.

April 27, 2011

There was a beautiful three week period in April 2011. Barcelona and Real Madrid would meet four times. Once in the league, once in the Copa del Rey Final, and twice in the Champions League semifinals.

The first Leg of the semifinals was held at the Santiago Bernebeu.

Real Madrid was unlucky having to host the first leg. The strategy was to get a lead and make Barcelona chase in the second leg. For 75 minutes, the match was a stalemate.

Until a 75th minute Ibrahim Affelay cross from the right hand side found Messi. Darting towards the near post, he slapped the ball midair past Casillas. Barcelona had a crucial away goal.

The post 3 matches that defined Barcelona’s role as the greatest team in Europe appeared first on World Soccer Talk.