July 31, 2010

Rafa Marquez Officially Departs

So I'm gone all day on a family outing, oblivious to the fact that an hour after I did the previous post and got offline, Rafael Marquez's departure from Barca was officially announced. It was all over my twitter homepage when I opened it later that night, and although I knew it was coming, I can't help but be just a little bit heartbroken.

Well, I'll keep it short. He and the club came to a mutual agreement to rescind his contract, which would have been good for two more years. I can be glad about the fact that Rafa went willingly and wasn't outed the way Eto'o was, but I had hoped he'd retire on the club. I thought he would when his contract was renewed last season. But I guess this is good for him, he'll be playing much more on another club than if he'd stayed with Barca.

Rafa gave a press conference where he affirmed his love for the club and his satisfaction with his time here, saying that he'll be a Barca fan till he dies. Then he stopped by training yesterday to bid farewell to the team, photos here. It's too bad Barca's Spaniards couldn't be there, but Dani Alves was, fresh from his vacation, and even in the midst of my sadness over Rafa's departure I couldn't not notice how awesome Dani's outfit was.

Later that day his public farewell was held in the Sala Paris in Camp Nou (the chamber of Barca's 2006 Champions League victory in Paris), which is a fitting location since Rafa says that that is his best memory with the club. President Sandro Rossel, coach Pep Guardiola, and team Captain Carles Puyol where among those present, and Rafa was presented with a commemorative plaque and recieved a long standing ovation.

Goodbye and infinite thanks for everything, Rafa. You and your hair have been inspirational to me for years, and of all the players who have departed from Barca, you are so far the only one I love enough to continue stalking even after you've left the club.
Edit: Actually, I still stalk Deco from time to time too. Damn, I miss that guy.

Lio's Love For Oasis Gone Too Far?

I think the combination of World Cup dissapoinment and too much sun is getting to Lionel Messi's head. He's been acting very strange lately, and I'm not just talking about things like starting a breakthrough fashion line. It's this Oasis obsession he has... I think he just crossed the line with it.

The basic story is that Carlos Tevez got to know the band while he played in Manchester and introduced them to Lio, who fell in love instantly; then the entire Argentine NT got caught up in the Oasis love and listened to them throughout the World Cup.
Things started to get a little unuasal when Lio decided he would do the impossible to bring the broken-up band back together to have them play at Argentina's celebrations if they won the World Cup.

That obviously didn't work out, so he invited band member Noel Gallagher to the upcoming Clasico. He wants to try and convert the Barca boys, who love Kasabian as Spain does, to Oasis. Okay, nothing too strange about that.

But if the latest reports are true, it seems that Lio's obsession with Oasis is getting to be like Barca's obsession with Cesc: out of hand.

He's said to be forming a mock-fan-tribute band for Oasis, where he plays Noel Gallagher and another Barca player will play Liam. Lio won't say who, but I'm going to take a timid guess and say Dani Alves.

I don't think I've ever heard anything so bizarre. I'll just leave you with what Lio was quoted as saying:

"Our disguise is based on how Oasis looked in the mid-90s. We have our wigs, clothes and glasses sorted."

"I also spent a lot of time getting the mannerisms right."
"We'll visit the UK. If you're at a pub or club where we are performing and see past our disguises there'll be a decent prize in it for you."

I think I need to lie down.

July 30, 2010

Zlatan Announces His Barca Stay

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who apparently has a strong disregard for belts, yesterday gave a press conference in which he announced that he'll continue to play for "the best club in the world."

Zla said that he never spoke with any of the clubs that he was linked with over the summer, and went on to thank those clubs and the media, saying that he considers it "free publicity."

As for the questionable issue of his spot on the squad now that David Villa is here... at the end of last season he said, if I'm not mistaken, that the day Villa joins Barca would be the day he leaves. Well, looks like he's had a change of heart. 'He's a great signing. I'm happy he's here because he is one of the best in the world," Zla said about the Spanish striker. "We will be stronger and we'll have more opportunities to win.''
Our skyscraper swede isn't worried about Mourinho coaching Real Madrid either. Mou may be "an expert at taking teams to the top", but as Zlatan reaffirmed, "we are the best team in the world."

FC Barcelona 4-2 Valerenga

Last night's match was thoroughly pleasing. It was great to see Bojan wear the Captain's badge, to see all the youth players look so promising, and to see the team score four goals in their opening friendly, evenly divided two by two between the B team and the senior squad.

Yes, I'm counting Victor Sanchez as a B-boy until he secures a spot on the first team, like Bo and Pedro and Busi have, and judging by last night's match, that shouldn't be too far off. For once a player actually benefited from a loan-out, I mean, it really seems that Vic's year with Xerez paid off. I always liked him, and I'm glad to see him back and improved. He played a great half and opened up the scoring with what was probably the best goal of the night.

Four goals to two, not bad at all. As expected, Pep traded out the full starting eleven at halftime, putting in a fresh new squad for the second half, most of which were midfielders; the formation changed from 4-3-3 to Ibrahimovic as the solo attacker with five midfielders behind him. An interesting move from Pep, but it seemed to work. Barca's game had a good flow, passing was sharp and the attack was relentless from kickoff to final whistle (in passing, what are everyone's thoughts on Pep's look? Shaved head and full beard? Seemed a bit mis-matched to me).

The defense was a bit shaky at times, especially that moment in the first half when one of our defenders passed to Pinto when an opposition player was too close to him. Pinto tried to dribble past the player (leaving his goal open) then got tackled and lost the ball. If that Valerenga player hadn't been called for fouling Pinto, it would've been a sure goal for his team, and our boys have to watch out for that kind of thing.

Muniesa's defending was pretty good though and in general, the youth players really had a great run. Bojan did a wonderful job of leading the team in the first half too. One youth player that caught my attention is Benja; I'd never seen him play before but damn, he's got a good eye. Great goal in the second half. Jonathan Dos Santos had a fair match and a great shot, but I want to see more from him, that kid could be huge. As for Ibrahimovic, I honestly have to say that his biggest moment was when that pitch invader leapt onto him for a hug. If he's going to be staying, I really hope he'll show that he has more to offer this team.

Adriano made his debut of course, coming on at the half, and he played a strong forty-five minutes. He looked very promising, as did most everyone. I'm looking forward to seeing more and more of the youth players and getting to know them better as the preseason continues... next up is the Asian tour, which will be graced by the presence of Lio Messi and Dani Alves, so let the fun begin.

July 29, 2010

Randoms: Villa & His Girls In Ibiza

- Check out David Villa and his radical shorts at the beach with his wife and daughters in Ibiza. Spanish keeper Pepe Reina is there with his family as well.
- Barca's World Cup winning Spaniards aren't due back on the team till August 9, but Pique and Puyol decided to drop by training in Barcelona to see the squad before they take off for Norway today.

- In case you were wondering, Cesc, who was with Pique in Ibiza, would continue his vacation in Greece according to some reports, or go back to London to yell at Wenger and force his Arsenal exit accoriding to others. Take your pick.

- Spain isn't done celebrating Andres Iniesta. He's set to be named the adopted son of Albacete, as the city pays tribute to him in an event tomorrow that includes him meeting with regional president José María Barreda. He'll also recieve the title 'Ambassador of the Fair and Bright Badge of Albacete Balompié', and accept the Gold Medal of the City of Fuentealbilla. Rock on, Andresito!

- Andoni Zubizaretta, the legendary goalkeeper of Barca, will be presented today as the club's new sports director, taking the place of Txiki Begeristain.

Preseason: FC Barcelona vs Valerenga, Ullevaal Stadium, Thursday, July 29, 19:00 CET

Finally, culés have something to talk about other than Pique's antics in Ibiza and the probability of Cesc joining Barca: it's match time! That's right, for the first time since the night the club celebrated their 2010 Liga championship, Barca are playing again.

I've always been a fan of the preseason: it's a fresh start and new beginnings, we get to see the team in action after months of off-season, and there are new signings and youth players to watch and judge.

I don't know much about tonight's opponents, Valerenga, other than the fact that they're a Norwegian club. Playing in their stadium might be colder than what our boys are used to, but it's the first preseason game so I'm sure everyone is totally pumped for it.

Last summer Pep took full advantage of the no limit on substitutions in friendlies, changing the entire eleven at halftime in all Barca's games. That way everyone got playing time, and what with the hoards of youth lads who are called up now, I imagine he'll be doing much the same thing. In any case, the 22 man squad has been selected: Pinto, Adriano, Bojan, Ibrahimovic, Keita, Maxwell, Milito, Victor Sanchez, Miño, Armando, Benja, Dalmau, Edu Oriol, Ilie, Jonathan dos Santos, Jonathan Soriano, Martí Riverola, Muniesa, Nolito, Sergi Gomez, Sergi Roberto, Tello.

I can barely wait for it!

Birthday Boy: Pedro

I must apologize for the lack of updates over the past couple of days, but I haven't had time and I hope everyone will understand that summertime is busy time, and I never know when I'm going to have the chance to get online... once my semester starts I'll be updating much more regularly, so bear with me until then.

To the point: Yesterday our beloved Prince Pedro turned twenty-three, and like Busi, he's on top of the world at that green age, and I'm talking on every level you can think of.

Internationally, he was called up to the Spain NT for the first time in his life to participate in the World Cup, played and started his share of the matches including the final, and was crowned world champion in the end.

Domestically, he finished his debut season with Barca as a starter and the second top scorer of the team behind Messi, scoring one of the most memorable goals of the season along the way.

Plus he's like, the cutest thing imaginable. His year has been perfect, so let's hope the coming ones are as great! (I would say better, but let's face it, there's no topping the World Cup). Best wishes to him!

July 26, 2010

Xavi, Asleep, Adorable

This picture sent me into a dazed stupor that I'm still recovering from. Xavi, asleep. No other words needed.

Wait, maybe a few more. Xavi, asleep, in his football shirt, with a ball.

Which brilliant guy from the Spain NT took this picture? I need to know who to thank. In the meantime, credit for finding the pic goes to the rockin' chicas over at cr17.com

Barca Loves Kasabian, Lio Loves Oasis

One thing the Spanish national team and Barcelona have in common, other than half their players, is their love for British band Kasabian. But Lionel Messi disagrees.

While the Spaniards drew inspiration from Kasabian's 'Club Foot' during the Wolrd Cup, Lio and the Argentines were listening to Oasis. Lio is crazy about them and even planned to bring the band back together to play at Argentina's celebrations should they have won the World Cup.

Now he's trying to get the Kasabian-loving Barca boys to share the Oasis love. In a move reminiscent of Iniesta's planned get-together with Kasabian, Lio has invited Oasis singer Noel Gallagher to come to the Clasico on Camp Nou in November.
It's all part of his grand scheme to convert the Barca boys: "Maybe Noel could give the boys a live set after training and they could see how great Oasis are," Lio suggested. "At the moment they refuse to listen to anything other than Kasabian."

In the midst of his plotting, Lio still respects the club Noel supports, Manchester City: "If my plan works, it will mean Oasis being played in the world's greatest football club - after Man City, of course!"

"We could also go for an Argentiniean steak at this great South American restaraunt in Barcelona."
Let us know how it all works out for you, okay Lio?

Randoms: Felicidades Principe Pique

- Following Gerard Pique's unforgettable ad for cookie brand Galletas Principe de Beuckelaer, the company released this poster in congratulations to him after winning the World Cup with Spain. And I think I'm going to start calling him Principe Pique from now on.

- Andres Iniesta hasn't signed any Hollywood contracts, but when his footie career has run its course he'll always have his wine business to fall back on - he'll be producing red, white and rose wines bearing the name 'Iniesta' by September.
- Iniesta has also been featured in the July edition of El Mundo magazine, and what do you know, he has hair! Pictures of the spread as well as english translations of the articles here.

- Just because: Spain's U-19 squad (milling with boys from Barca's youth) taking a day off in the pool.

- Chinese artist Wang Huaping has combined his love for football with his talent in carving actual eggs to produce eggs bearing the faces of several top footballers, including Barca's Lionel Messi and David Villa - all I can say is wow.

Vacations Continued: Pique's Non-Stop Party

The vacation round-up isn't over yet! Barca's World Cup participants are still out there, and I never get tired of stalking Pique, who, judging by this photo, is having one hell of a time in Ibiza! He's still out there with Cesc and they've been spotted all over the island: out on the water in their rented yacht, partying in the famous Pacha nightclub, and watching the brilliant sunsets of Ses Variades... at the bottom are the photos of the two on the beach, and here's a video of Pique having a drink:

- Yes, his hat says 'F*** ME I'M FAMOUS'
- The guy he kissed is said to be his brother Marc

Moving on: Lionel Messi is still in Mexico, on the Riviera Maya, with his girl Antonella. He's there to relax, but even while kicking back on the beach (and practicing an unreal immunity to the sun) he's signing autographs. Lio as well as Dani Alves are due to catch up with the squad at the end of this month to join them for the Asian tour, while Eric Abidal showed up today, earlier than he was expected. The Spaniard champions will be back August 9.

And speaking of Spaniards, here's David Villa with the kids at his summer camp in Langreo, which just came to an end. He's due for questioning about that haircut once he's back with the team, but for now he has taken off for Ibiza with his family, to kick back during the last days of his vacation and hopefully save Gerard and Cesc from themselves.

Parting With Rafa

I've been hoping against hope that this wouldn't go through, but it looks like there's no use denying the matter any longer. Rafael Marquez is leaving Barcelona.

It's heartbreaking news for me because Rafa is one of my favorite players ever, and I don't think he deserves to be dispatched at this time. Yes, he's had some bad games and made some mistakes during the past couple of years, but as last season progressed he was playing better and in my opinion, wasn't given enough minutes to prove he's still good enough for this team. Not to mention he's one of the best set-piece takers ever (it sucks that Barca didn't take advantage of that and he wasn't put up to the plate very often). And why did the club go out of their way to renew his contract last season if they didn't want him to stay?

But what's done is done, and Rafa is off to join Thierry Henry at the New York Red Bulls. I hope he has a great run there!

July 23, 2010

David Villa's Post-World Cup Adventures

David Villa sends greetings from Disneyland and begs you not to hold his outfit against him. Seriously, what is it with Barca boys and pinks and florals? Perhaps the fuschia training kits do belong here, after all.

So what has David been up to since South Africa? Well, after the Spain national team's welcome gala in Madrid he flew down to his home town Asturias to join his family, and then they all took off to Disneyland, Paris. Reportedly, Villa's daughters had the most fun at the Peter Pan attraction and the Fantillusion ride.

Next he returned to Asturias to attend various tributes from his fans, as well as with the president of the Principality of Asturias, Vicente Álvarez Areces, at his headquarters in Oviedo. Then it was off to the village of Sama de Langreo where, waving from the balcony of the municipal council, he received homage from the city's inhabitants, also spending some time signing autographs at the ParqueAstur Mall.

Tomorrow he's set to appear at the close of his summer camp for kids, the Official Campus David Villa, in the New Ganzabal stadium in Langreo.

Adriano Adapting

Barca's new signing Adriano sketched out for Pep the five positions he can play: in defense as a left or right winger, in midfield, inside left or inside right, and as an attacking midfielder. Any of that he can comfortably do, although the left side of the pitch is his preference.

Adriano's adapting to his new life in Barcelona pretty well, getting along great on the team and with Pep, who he claims is 'like a father'. He's especially glad to be playing alongside his former Sevilla teammate and fellow Brazilian Dani Alves, although he claims that he more tame than Dani when it comes to dressing room jokes.

Adriano's loving life in the city of Barcelona itself, but he's wary of the cold winters. Also, although he can speak Spanish well after five years on Sevilla, now that he's on Barca he's going to start taking lessons in Catalan right away.

Asked where he'll be staying, Adriano said he'd like to find a home by the sea or in Gavà by Pedralbes. For now, he's in the Hotel Princesa Sofia near the Camp Nou. He also proudly showed off the tattoo on his wrist (picture below) which is the letters 'A.M.A' that stand for the names of himself, his wife Manuella and his son Adrian.

July 21, 2010

Preseason Training Observations

Preseason training has kicked off, and judging by Pep's expression we're in for a long season. Hey coach, at least you've got a decent training kit. The boys may be a little rusty coming in from their breaks, but remember they're being made to train while dressed in fuschia. That's going to take some getting used to.

And Ibrahomivic clearly agrees. It seems that his exceptional abs have a phobia for pink cotton, as he spent most of the training session pulling the shirt away from his chest, or else drenching himself with water in hopes that the fabric would dissolve away. I'm not complaining.

In other observations, the new kid on the block, Adriano, seems happy enough training with his new team, fuschia tops and all. It looks like he's getting along well with Gaby and Max. And check out the welcome Hleb got from his teammates!

Lio In Fashion: Who Would Have Guessed?

Today is one hell of a news day for Barca, with the rumours and reports just coming and coming. The issue at hand right now: Lio Messi's supposed fashion line. Initially it was reported just by The Sun, which lets me be skeptical, by now it's on Sport as well so, I guess it's really happening. Lio Messi, of all people, is sarting a fashion line.

I can't say it's not unexpected. I mean, if any Barca boy were to start his own clothing line I would have imagined it to be Pique or maybe Zlatan. Never Lio. What makes it even more bizarre is that his plan is to put together a fashion dream team of sorts, choosing a celebrity to be an ambassador of the line in every major city in the world. From Lio's tongue:

"I have been working on it for a few months."

"It would be me in Barcelona. We have approached Wayne (Rooney) for Manchester, Frank (Lampard) for London and Colin (Farell) for Dublin. We have spoken with Jay-Z for New York and the dream is to have David (Beckham) for LA. I already have Alessandro Nesta and Lupe Fiasco for Milan and Chicago."

"It will be high-end clothes and accessories for men. I'd like to open the initial shops by next summer. If we get all the names we are trying for, we can be the most famous and best men's fashion line in the world."

Lio Messi starting a revolutionary fashion line. Who would have guessed? It all sounds very exciting, and I'm wondering if Lio's girlfreind Antonella has anything to do with it. When we first heard about here it was said that she's studying nutrition, but sometime last year reports suggested that she's actually in fashion...
If anyone can clear that up, I'd appreciate it. By the way, Lio and Antonella are now in Cancun, Mexico for the remainder of Lio's vacation before he has to report in Barcelona at the end of the month along with the rest of Barca's World Cup participants.

La Liga Fixtures Revealed

By the looks on Pep's and Gaby's faces, they're just as excited about the Liga fixtures as I am! To think that I'd been counting down the days for these fixtures to come out, and when they do my laptop decides to stop working; my luck. I guess everyone's seen them by now, but anyway...

The fixtures for La Liga have been released, and Barca is set to open up in an away game against Racing Santander on August 29. The first Clasico is at home on November 28, the second, away of course, on April 17. I'm digging those dates because it means that if we can secure the title within six matches of the Liga's end, we go to the Bernuebeu as Champions.

Full fixture list for the Barca's Liga as well as preseason matches is up on the official site.

Pep & Zlatan, Spotted

The vacation round-up continues, this time featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Barca coach Pep Guardiola. Of course, the two are in Barcelona right now having reported for preseason kickoff on Monday, but where were they before that?

In Zlatan's case, the last days of his vacation saw him chilling in Miami. Word is that he was there with some friends instead of his family, with his partner Helena Seger rumoured to want a split because he's away so much or something. I don't know how much truth is in that report, but whatever.

As for Pep, he and his wife Cristina were spotted at a beachside party in Pescara, Italy along with Barca's Head of External Affairs, Manuel Estiarte (who by the way was back in his day the Maradona of water polo) and his wife Silvia. A bunch of other people who are famous in Italy or something also attended, and the dinner party was capped off with a collective toast to Spain's World Cup Victory.

My only concern with all of this is, what does Pep think he's wearing?