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Posted by Isaiah Cambron on 07/31/2010

Today's announcement that Rafa Márquez has agreed with the club to rescind his contract, making him eligible for a move to the New York Red Bulls, should come as no surprise to anyone. Márquez played for 7 years at FCB, amassing 242 appearances and 13 goals in all competitions. His first goal for us was in the 2-1 home win over Real Betis on November 9, 2003 while his last goal was this stunner of a freekick in the 4-0 home win over Racing Santander on February 20 of this year.

I've already written about him a bit here, so instead of focusing too much on him (though he does deserve a fair number of tributes), I'll focus primarily in this article on the club and squad at large.

We've shipped out Thierry Henry, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Yaya Toure, and now Rafa Marquez while bringing in David Villa and Adriano. Henrique's re-loan to Racing Santander and Keirrison's loan to Santos mean that there are more spots available for either players brought up from the youth ranks or for new transfers. With club president Sandro Rosell sending out his economic team under Javier Faus to discuss how much money we lost last year at every possible turn while also pushing for the mega transfer of Cesc Fabregas (a contradiction Rosell seems perfectly happy with), there doesn't seem to be much room for large transfers. Former economic VP Xavier Sala i Martin wrote a post on Facebook (also found here) on Wednesday denouncing Rosell and Faus' the accounting practices and suggesting that they're enriching themselves at the expense of the club and its reputation.

If we take the economic doom and gloom at face value, though, then we must look at the viable options: The roster now has 19 players in it and of those, 9 of them come from the youth system (Valdes, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Bojan, Busquest, Pedro, Jeffren). So there is ample room for the youth players to step up and fill gaps throughout the season and a precedent for trusting our youth organization to bring up players worthy of being trusted. Still, it seems like a whirlwind of changes and if it ain't broke, why fix it? We earned 99 points last season and made it to the semifinal of the Champions League. But in the end the system and the concepts will remain the same and those coming up from Luis Enrique's B squad will already know and understand the system, unlike any big name transfer (though you could argue that Fabregas would, much as Piqué did). This means a level of continuity and a roster replete with players that the coach inherently trusts to understand and follow his directions.

David Villa's presence in the squad strengthens our left wing and gives both Bojan and Pedro the chance to improve while not having to be match winners. It also allows Ibrahimoic to play a more dynamic role and not be the focus for all of the "how come he doesn't score a hundred goals" comments. Against Valerenga on Thursday (more on that later), Ibra was dropped back towards the center circle to be more of a creative force. The out-and-out strikers alongside him were Benja and Edu Oriol who, because of Ibra's movement through the middle, were able to spring diagonal runs behind the last defender and received weighted through balls. I expect this to happen more often with Villa and Messi while Ibra then finds the space the departing strikers have created. Messi's tendency of late has been to fill the middle of the field almost as a "false 9", but his true creative genius comes to the fore when he's given space, something that Ibra's deeper position should offer him, especially if Iniesta is allowed a more flexible midfield role.

The Valerenga match, a 2-4 victory for the blaugrana (I predicted a 2-1 loss for us), showed off the skill sets of some of our youngsters, but also allowed Guardiola to experiment with his formation a little bit. I've mentioned Ibra's deeper position already, but Guardiola also experimented with a 3-man midfield that didn't include a true defensive midfielder. Neither Martí Riverola nor Sergio Roberto really filled that role. Instead, Guardiola opted for 3 midfield playmakers in the first half with Víctor Sánchez playing the box-to-box role for the first 25 or so minutes and then Riverola filling in there for the last 20 or so. Jonathan dos Santos played the creative lynchpin role--the Xavi, if you will--throughout the first half. In the second half, Guardiola put Nolito, ostensibly a forward, into the "Iniesta role", Sergio Roberto into Xavi's spot, and Keita into the, uh, Keita's.

You can read this a lot of ways and conspiracy theorists will no doubt consider it a tactical approach for when Cesc finally makes his move to Barça, but I read it more as an experimentation for when the midfield consists of our regulars once again. If we can get away from an anchored defensive midfielder, then Yaya's departure will not be felt so keenly. It requires much more defensive industry from the other two midfielders, but Xavi has never been one to back down from such duty and will no doubt be fully capable of filling in. Keita, then, can be a late addition to add "steel" to midfield if Iniesta can't provide the physical defense that's required or simply a member of a 4-4-2 that allows Iniesta full mobility throughout the center.

Adriano also made his debut during the Valerenga match, coming on for Maxwell (who scored!) at left back in the second half. Adriano's versatility will allow Dalmau and Bartra the opportunity to step up as right backs in Copa del Rey matches while still being available to switch sides if necessary to cover for them.

It would appear, then, that Guardiola is planning for life with a roster such as we have now. We have several centerbacks capable of stepping up and several midfielders already good enough to be full first team members. I'm still not convinced about Oriol Romeu's readiness, but Guardiola looks prepared to take risks with him and that could be just the confidence booster Oriol needs to make the leap successfully. Thiago and Jonathan dos Santos are ready, despite the latter's only so-so performance against Valerenga, and promoting them would not mean much of a dip in form.

We'll, see, though, how Guardiola continues to think through his new squad when the team travels to South Korea to play 2 friendlies (August 4 and August 8) before official competition begins. The squad list for the Korean games is out: Jose Manuel Pinto, Rubén Miño, Oier Olazábal, Ilie Sánchez, Sergi Gómez, Gabi Milito, Maxwell, Martí Riverola, Jonathan dos Santos, Víctor Sánchez, Jonathan Soriano, Adriano, Armando Lozano, Albert Dalmau, Benja, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edu Oriol, Seydou Keita, Marc Muniesa, Nolito, Sergi Roberto, Víctor Vázquez, Andreu Fontàs, Eric Abidal, Dani Alves, Lionel Messi, Alexander Hleb, Tello.

The first teamers are Pinto, Milito, Maxwell, Víctor Sánchez, Adriano, Ibrahimovic, Keita, Abidal, Alves, Messi, and Hleb. Both Alves and Messi returned to Barcelona for their medical reviews today. Bojan and Jeffren were not included in the list because they have been called up by Luis Milla for U21 duty.

So the preseason is trundling on and the season is approaching. The squad is changing and the outlook goes from sunny to scary and back to rosy again depending on the time of day and the latest headline in Sport. No matter what your perspective, though, this will be a different (and fun) season, with new heroes and new absurd goals by Messi. Bank on it.


Comments

Posted by Woody on 07/31/2010

This was a big loss to Barca but with the squad they can win trophies next year

Posted by Fanboy on 07/31/2010

I feel Barca are a bit short in the defence area. They've let go of Marquez, meaning it's just Puyol, Pique and Milito left for CB. I don't exactly consider Abidal a CB after his performances there with France. With Villa, they'll be much stronger in attack, as he is exactly the position Barcelona were weak in last season - the left side of attack where Pedro or Iniesta played. Anyhow, letting go of Toure means a new player must be bought. Personally, I don't see how Fabregas would fit into the Barcelona formation. Someone who defends, rather than attacks is needed, and I believe someone like Mascherano would be the man for that.

Posted by Abdullahi Hussaini on 07/31/2010

The exit of Yaya has been the sour of the season end bt when i watch uefa under 19 i saw that boy oriol Romeu. i believe what i see should give me a reason to be optimistic. we cant be a player for huge amount of money and expect him to be bench. Bt we oriol who happens to be from the youth rank, competition will be high with busquet. he has the physique and the height to be a good DM.all he needs is games under his belt and the same encouragement busquet got

Posted by tony on 07/31/2010

barcelona is finished. madrid will as always the number one!!!
Good luck Rafa.
Thierry Henry
Yaya Toure

^^^"+_
new heroes? c fabr.vill??
will s

Posted by buti on 08/01/2010

good luck, Rafa marques, yaya and thierry..you all did the best thing for barca, i like yours style, barca is the best club in the world..viva barce vitoria sempre.

Posted by GunnerSG on 08/01/2010

When Barca is borrowing money to pay its players their wages, where are Barca going get the money to make big named signings ? Barca already have a squad any manager would envy. what is the need to go out and make more big named signings ? I suppose the only position Barca have to reinforce now would be the CB position with the departures of Marquez and Chygrynskiy.

Posted by Terence on 08/01/2010

There is this fear that beyond the starting 11, Barcelona seems a little weak in reserves. Its good to rely on its youth team, but this season may be a season too early for some of them. This, coupled with the fact that Madrid is finally coached by a manager who is capable of handling egos, could mean that Barcelona would be in for a tough season.

Posted by Fanboy on 08/01/2010

To GunnerSG-

I'm assuming you don't know the difference between a club's financial position and their cashflow. A club can be making a profit of 100m every year, but that doesn't mean they have cash available to them all year round to pay wages. It's a loan to pay the players when there is no revenue from tickets, so you can be sure that loan will be paid back real soon.

Posted by Toca Toca on 08/01/2010

3 center backs with Abidal as a fallback is fine....

The back consists of Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Adriano, and Milito... 7 to play 4 positions. Ample coverage....The only question is who plays Right Back if Alves and Puyol are out?

Midfield....Come on...I see Keita providing coverage for Busquets, but besides the holding defensive position, there are 3 world class players for each position. Between Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Villa, Pedro, Bojan, Keita, and Busquest....life is good.

Ibra should be better this year and remember, he had the summer off and that is a HUGE advantage. Every world cup produces fallout the following year and most notably Ronaldinho and Deco!

Go BARCA!!!!

Posted by SURAJ on 08/02/2010

Well! they can say what ever they fill like, the fate still remens that barca is the best club in all world.no barca no football and no spain no football up barcelona.

UP BARCELONA!!!!!!

Posted by Quirk on 08/02/2010

First of all, i'd like to say that Barca should be ashamed of the way they're hounding Arsenal over Fab. They could have kept him if they'd appreciated his genius from the worg go. But Noo... They let him go. Their loss.
Secondly, they can't afford him. No money for wages=no money for Fab.
Well run clubs always have other revenue sources besides tickets, so don't even talk about cashflows. they're broke. Full stop. Hope they implode, pull a Liverpool and finish seventh.

Posted by Henry on 08/02/2010

@Quirk7 Barca didnt let Fabregas go, get your facts straight first. Arsenal took advantage of a laws in spain which meant Barca could not offer him a contract at 16. There was Laporta coming in and i remember how pissed he was that Fabregas was taken, hence the reason Van Bronckhorst was given to us. Bottom line is that Wenger does this all the time steal kids from other people's hard work. Barca has nothing to be ashamed of. Viera (Captain) left, Henry (Capatain) left, now Fabregas. How about you focus on why you haven't won anything in five years and why your club has become a feeder club to Barca. Heck, even Arshavin wanted to join Barca before he had to settle for consolation prize.

Posted by Yulo on 08/02/2010

Im a Barca fan. However I know the future does not look right.. Marquez was part of the backbones in the field, the benck and the dressing room. He was there since the Ronaldinho's, Belleti's, Gio's, Eto's etc. Guardiola will regret it.

Posted by john on 08/02/2010

First of all, Arsenal should be ashamed of the way they poached Cesc. They helped him break his pre-contract agreement with Barcelona. Barcelona never wanted to let him go, he was the second best player in their whole academy behind Messi. They didn't 'let him go'.

Secondly, Barcelona have tons of money or they wouldn't be pursuing Cesc. The only reason why Rosell is saying the club is broke is so that he can say he rescued the club. In reality the club is in the best financial health of any of the big clubs. Rosell wants the club's finances to seem bad so he can blame it on Laporta and make his own reign as president seem even better. It's politics, not finances.

Posted by alistair on 08/02/2010

Interesting to hear how many other playmaking midfielders Barca have rotting on the bench and they want to break whats left of the bank to bring in another one.

I agree with John that we schemed to bring a 15 year old over but at least we did something with him and turned him into what he is today, doubt he would be anywhere near as good if he had been cleaning Xavi's boots for the last 6 years. Also we don't need the whole first 11 to tap somebody up when we want a player back, now thats something to be ashamed of!

Anyway, it will be fascinating to watch such a good club like Barca go through a transitional phase. Obviously finances will be a bearing for future Barca direction but its only in certain areas that Barca need to reshuffle, at least the continuity is there and the style of play is so ingrained that it will be good watching Villa bring some individuality to the play. The only downfall is that they only have to be better than 1 club to win the spanish trophies.

Posted by blaugrana al vent on 08/02/2010

this made me soooo excited for the new season!!!
I just hope pedrito and bojan can keep growing and reach phenomenal - almost messi like - levels!!
VISCA BARCA I VISCA CATALUNYA!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Marc on 08/02/2010

Isaiah
Good column -- am enjoying your posts. I'm sorry to see Rafa go (especially to NY??). Terrific player but Barca played most of last year without him anyway. Between him & Yaya however, the absence will be felt but I have enough faith in the Barca youth system that it'll work itself out. Thanks also for addressing the 'Ibra' situation because I've been wondering what his future held, especially after acquiring Villa & if their pursuit of Cesc works out.

Posted by kosi on 08/02/2010

can bojan be given more chances? while playing my playstation2, fcb has it all except the man in the post line. in real life he is good but virtually he is ......ummmm???? MES QUE UN CLUB

Posted by jnelson on 08/03/2010

why is it that "gooners" have to comment on every barca thread. stick to your own stuff. it is so annoying having you whine about cesc every chance you get. i hate arsenal. i hate wenger. i hate cesc. arsenal should just move to catalonia and name themselves Barca Juniors. you love talking about barca so much. why not? or better yet, you could sell the team to a billionaire like man city, buy all the players you want and shut up. or wait, you would still be crying about cesc. you make me want to vomit. i dont even think i hate the EE this much.

Posted by Musah Barca Gh on 08/03/2010

am proud to be a Ghanaian Catalan...Yaya,14 and rafa have done thier deeds and we appreciate the effort they gave to the club..at a point tin time people move so they moved....all the best to them and Barca is the Best club in the world...Not even Madrid can Tackle that....Catalan forever...

Posted by Ntigeli Abraham on 08/03/2010

up barca 4life,barca shuld find an alternative shuld in case avle sustain injury.

Posted by nolecat on 08/03/2010

@jnelson: Now you know how we feel. Why can't Barca players, personnel stop talking about Arsenal? You'd think 99pts and CL semi was good enough without begging our captain to come ride the bench. 90 days of each Barca wag saying they "know" Cesc wants to play for them, his DNA, etc and yet there's nothing from the man himself. If he wanted to go to Barca so bad, why'd he sign a long term contract with us? We don't have to negotiate with players under contract, let alone take below market offers. Certainly you need more help at the back (like us) than you do in a cluttered midfield of talent.

Posted by Shyrazi Zack on 08/03/2010

Fabregas very expensive...Pep..plz reinforce your defensive area..why pep let go chigrinsky...??can somebody tell me something...

Posted by kwesiman on 08/03/2010

I wonder why it took this long for the coach to play Messi in the middle. He was most effective in that role when the true #9 was out. Ibra is no E'too and cannot shoulder all the stricking duties. He needs to play behind Messi so he is not the main focus of center backs. Once Messi draws away defenders, space will open up for Ibra.

Posted by westmark on 08/03/2010

Why would Barca want to buy Mascherano or any other DM? That's why we let Yaya go, because Busquetts is the starting DM and he's going to play virtually every game. If he's not playing, then Keita would fill in. Why would Masch sign for Barca, just to sit on the bench?

Posted by Shyrazi Zack on 08/04/2010

I agree with westmark...why should Barca waste thier money to sign Masch...there are plenty of youth players who can take the role if Busquetts or Keita cannot play..

Posted by blaze on 08/04/2010

i just love this team and belive strongly in our youth system,we can make it by promoting those youngsters.

Posted by blaze on 08/04/2010

quirk,do how do you think barca can ever pull a liverpool?you just dont know the potential this team possesses ey?assnal,yep i called em that,are just being stubborn and greedy.

Posted by jude on 08/04/2010

Watch it Barca ur little flash in the pan reign will soon be over....hype all you want,once messi is injured,Barca are finished.there's a huge storm brewing from the capital...its hurricane mou.

Posted by Vic on 08/04/2010

Duh-the reasons are quite simple on why Barcelona wants Fabregas. They don't necessarily need him for this season, but Xavi is 30, while Fabregas is 22-23, Iniesta is 28 I believe. As the years pass, it is clear they will need a replacement for them, and getting Fabregas would probably allow them to rotate the 3 and prolong Xavi's and Iniesta's career.

Eventually Fabregas will sign for Barcelona, at this level, it's the players who make the decisions on where they want to play. What Fabregas is learning is that he has to come out publicly stating his time at Arsenal is over and leave them with the option of a captain on the bench or getting something in return for him.

Lets be real, Arsenal is nowhere close to winning the EPL or CL, because as we have seen, when it comes to playing against the elite, they are just not good enough.

Posted by mudabir on 08/05/2010

Barca have that spirit of winning titles and are capable of winning matches,visca el barca

Posted by DOS on 08/05/2010

IT SEEMS BARCELONA IS ON A WITCH HUNT. THEY'VE GOTTEN RID OF ALL THEIR GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAYERS AND ONLY GOD KNOWS HOW THEY WILL STAND UP THIS YEAR WHEN GREAT OFFENSIVE TEAMS COME AT THEM. HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET RID OF YAYA TOURE AND KEEP BUSQUEST. HE IS THE WORST HOLDING MIDFIELDER I'VE SEEN IN YEARS. EVEN PLAYING FOR SPAIN IT WAS OBVIOUS. AGAINST INTER MILAN HE WAS THE WEAK LINK. THEN WHEN THEY GOT RID OF ETO FOR IBRA. I'VE NOT SEEN A TRUE ALL & OUT STRIKER LIKE ETO SINCE THE GREAT RONALDO (BRAZIL). NOT THE FAKE FROM PORTUGAL. I DON'T SEE BARCELONA TRYING TO GET CESC. THEY DON'T REALLY NEED HIM. THAT 40-50 MILLION DOLLARS WOULD BE BETTER SPENT BUYING LEST EXPENSIVE PLAYERS. ARSHAVIN WANTED TO COME BARCELONA AND I THINK HE EVEN A BETTER PLAYER THAN CESC. IS BARCELONA TRYING TO GET AN ALL SPAIN TEAM. THEY ONE THE WORLD CUP BUT THEY DON'T HAVE THE BEST PLAYERS IN EVERY POSITION. WE'LL WAIT AND SEE HOW THEY STAND UP IN THE DEFENSE THIS YEAR.

Posted by Brett on 08/05/2010

Hey jude, and the rest of you Arsenal simpletons, I sympathize that after 5 years without knowing what it is like to be a winner you start to get penis envy for your superiors, but you have gotta be outta your damn mind to think "Barca is finished." True, Messi is the greastest footballer in the world and his injury would be devastating, but lest you forget that 7 starters from the team that just one the World Cup (including BOTH CBs to the guy minimalizing our defense), so there isn't a team with a greater collection of talent, and their is NO team that has the fiery Catalan passion and silky technical skill ingrained in its players from infancy, like Barca. Real Madrid can throw money to get big name players and coaches, but the difference will remain that we are "Mes Que Un Club"... our players believe in something greater than themselves, they play for eachother like brothers, and when they are laid to rest, they die as Cules.

Posted by DominicanYork on 08/05/2010

With...
Villa Messi
Ibrahimovic
Iniesta Xavi
Busquets
Adriano Alves
Puyol Pique
Valdez

or...
Ibrahimovic
Villa Messi
Iniesta Xavi
Busquets
Adriano Alves
Puyol Pique
Valdez

They don't need anyone else right now. Their team is great as is, and if any striker gets injured they have Pedro! He had an incredible season. Midfield back up: Keita, Dos Santos, Hleb, even Adriano. Defense: "Toca Toca" is right. They have enough coverage.

If injuries persist, then they can use their great youth system. Viva Barca!

Posted by frank on 08/19/2010

Am happy with the squad we got but I thought we still need at least one or two established player, a MD and CD apart from the youth players.
GO BARCA GO FOR SUCCESS.

Posted by Ken Okuyo on 09/13/2010

blood rushes thru my veins when I hear the word BARCA,Barca lives in my veins. Mourinho is just a lucky gambler, but it's time for him to be exposed at madrid. that's why he keeps hopping form club to club, evading "testing" seasons. But Barca need to step up it's defence

Posted by KALU ROBINSON NWOJO on 09/14/2010

I KNOW FOR SURE BARCELONA WOULD WIN THE LEAGUE TITLE,AND THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THIS YEAR. ALL I KNOW IS THAT MOURINHO IS A FOOL SO FAR I AM CONCERNED HE IS NO MATCH TO GUADIOLA, TO MOURINHO THIS SI NO PREMIERSHIP,ITALIAN LEAGUE OR PORTUGUESE LEAGUE.

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About
Francesc Tomas Hola! I am Francesc Tomas. Barcelona is my passion and home-town team. I consider myself lucky to have regularly attended matches at the Camp Nou since the early 1980s. My cousin played for the Barça youth academy, sharing the team with Don Andres Iniesta, which gave me a clear inside view of how our club works behind the scenes. I am also the founder, editor and columnist at Barcablog.com.

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