Category Archives: La Liga

Barcelona’s massive debt

Apparently, Barcelona’s debt is a staggering $563 million.

The soccer end-times are coming for the big teams that are drowning in debt. Mark my words.

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United target De Gea?

Sir Alex Ferguson

Apparently, Sir Alex Ferguson is targeting Atlético Madrid keeper David De Gea as the long-term replacement for Edwin van der Sar. He could do worse, of course. He could have Manuel Almunia.

There are snags in the plan (or whatever this is; gossip and/or speculation are probably the best words): the first is that De Gea will reportedly cost around £12 million and it’s unclear exactly how much money Sir Alex has to spend. The second is that the man (boy?) himself said that he’s going to remain at Atlético. The second is mere window-dressing. It’s the first that matters.

The gossip brings about questions regarding United’s current transfer policy, in that the club doesn’t seem to have one. There are obvious weaknesses: central defense, central midfield, and wings in addition to back-up keeper. There were plenty of targets over the summer – Mesut Özil would have been an excellent (and cheap) addition – but Sir Alex didn’t pull the trigger. Perhaps he couldn’t because his hands were tied, financially speaking. I doubt that, because he scrounged up £7 million or so to spend on Portuguese striker Bebé in addition to the £20-odd million spend on Javier Hernández and Chris Smalling. I daresay he could have spent £16 million on Özil.

Which brings us back to the start: what’s the plan? Is Sir Alex being obstinate, like Arsène Wenger? Wenger continues to think that he doesn’t need a keeper, which is foolish. Similarly, Sir Alex has unending faith in Rio Ferdinand, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick, Nani, Anderson, et al. Except that all of them are either perma-crocked or not up to the task of playing at the highest levels (although Nani has shown flashes of brilliance, I think he should be off-loaded ASAP; someone will pay based on his potential). Sir Alex used to be ruthless. He used to get rid of players as they proved they were unworthy. I realize that it’s hard, but sometimes you need to admit you were wrong.

United need to add players because, sooner or later, it’s lack of skill and depth will come back to haunt them.

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Ujfalusi gets 2 matches for Messi tackle

Atlético Madrid defender Tomás Ujfalusi has been suspended for two matches for his clumsy tackle on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

To be sure, it was a terrible tackle. Ujfalusi claims it wasn’t his intention to come in so hard, but the video evidence clearly shows that he stepped on Messi’s ankle. Yeah, both players were moving at high speed, but Ujfalusi’s job is to tackle the opponent. If he wanted to, he could have done it cleaner. Instead, he sent a message. Or tried to.

Here’s the video:

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Transfer round-up

Rafael van der Vaart

In which I publish a list of notable transfers, in no particular order:

Rafael van der Vaart to Tottenham: For a measly £8 million, Spurs added an excellent player in Rafael van der Vaart. He’ll give the offense a bit of class and a lot of punch. I never understand why he didn’t feature prominently at Real Madrid, not do I understand why he doesn’t play more for the Dutch national team. And I don’t understand why Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t all over this move, especially at only £8 million. Their loss is Tottenham’s gain.

Robinho to AC Milan: For €18 million, AC Milan added a supremely talented striker and malcontent. He’s one of those guys who needs constant attention, which must be exhausting, to be honest. However, I think he’ll provide a good return on the money because he’s motivated and he’s wanted at Milan.

Asamoah Gyan to Sunderland: Ambitious Sunderland added World Cup hero Gyan in a bid to give the offense a boost. I, for one, think it will work out just swimmingly.

Javier Mascherano to Barcelona: A terrible move for both club and player. Mascherano doesn’t fit Barcelona’s system at all. This is a vanity signing, pure and simple. And it’s destined for failure.

Raul Meireles to Liverpool: A good move for Liverpool because Meireles is a gifted player (despite his comically bad tattoos). I think he’ll work out fine.

Mario Balotelli to Manchester City: And City add another player. And overpay for the privilege, too. Of course, that’s been the story of the last couple of years. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Ramires to Chelsea: A good move by Chelsea. And cheap-ish, too.

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Whither Barcelona’s reputation

Could Barcelona really be just another club? Could it be that it’s being dragged into petty politics, just like other clubs, and tapping-up targeted players, just like other clubs? It’s sad, but that just might be happening.

I’m not sure what former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart was thinking when he revealed that he wanted either Arsène Wenger or Fabio Capello to manage the team in 2001. What difference could that make to Barcelona in 2010? Apparently, both Arsenal (Wenger) and Roma (Capello) refused to allow Gaspart to interview their managers. How is this news? So one of the big clubs in the world wanted to attract a highly-respected manager. That’s not a surprise. The only reason Gaspart would go public now is to embarrass Barcelona’s current leadership. And that’s just dumb (unless he wants to be president again). So, there’s no point to his revelations.

Cesc Fàbregas, Arsenal captain and Barcelona targer

Of more concern to Barcelona’s fans are the near-constant tapping-up of Fàbregas for the last two years. He’s from Barcelona, participated in the youth system, and he wants to play there again someday. But he’s 23 years old and he has a long career ahead of him. He’s also Arsenal’s captain, which raises another large problem.

Canadian basketball player Steve Nash could have done what so many did before him: demand a trade when it became clear, after the 2008-09 season that the Phoenix Suns were rebuilding. But he realized that he couldn’t lead if he did so, and signed a contract extension. As a result, the Suns had a good season and Nash remained in his leadership position. Which brings us to Fàbregas.

He needed to come out and say he was staying at Arsenal for the foreseeable future. That wouldn’t have ended the speculation (I’m certain Barcelona would have continued tapping him up) but it would have made his own position clear. And it would have ensured his leadership position in Arsenal’s locker room, especially important since he is the captain.

At the same time, Barcelona should have stopped its pursuit sooner (it has apparently conceded defeat, for now). First, they have two extraordinarily gifted midfielders in Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, neither of whom are retiring anytime soon. So, there is no place for Fàbregas on the pitch (witness the Spanish national team’s first XI). Second, he’ll cost a fortune (assuming he is actually available, which he’s not). Thus, it would be a vanity signing and nothing else.

Barcelona doesn’t have the financial resources to make vanity signings; it’s not Manchester City. Barcelona’s weaknesses (primarily depth and, perhaps, reliable scoring) need to be addressed more than adding another midfielder. That, combined with Gaspart’s ill-timed and ill-conceived revelation, make Barcelona just another club. It needs to be above the fray in order to be mes que un club.

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Márquez to join Thierry Henry in New York

Rafael Márquez scores v. South Africa (Getty Images)

Well, probably. If you believe the reports.

Though the man himself remained non-committal, it’s a rather poorly kept secret that the New York Red Bulls are interested in signing him, especially now that he won’t have a transfer fee.

Even though Márquez is 31 and has been hurt more or less all the time for the last two years, this is a good move for New York and for MLS. Márquez is by no means finished as a player and his quality and versatility will help the team. His name recognition and pedigree will help the league.

I think it speaks volumes that Márquez would rather go to New York than return to Mexico to play for Atlas (his original club) or, say, América. It says that MLS has to be taken seriously, at least by continental stars.

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Rafael Márquez to New York?

Rafael Márquez scores v. South Africa (Getty Images)

Mexico captain Rafael Márquez is on the verge of being released by Barcelona, according to reports.

I suppose that’s not really surprising since he’s been hurt a lot the last couple of years and both Puyol and Gerard Piqué are now entrenched in the first XI. That, combined with his relatively high wages and Barcelona’s worsening financial situation, means he could be on his way out.

The only problem is that Barcelona doesn’t have a lot of depth at center back. Perhaps there are a few prospects on the reserve or youth teams but the senior team will be somewhat short-staffed. Of course, just because Márquez might be leaving doesn’t mean the team won’t make other moves.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has subtly suggested that the New York Red Bulls will offer Márquez a soft landing spot.

This is something to watch.

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