Friday, July 06, 2007

Barca 06-07 wrap-up: player by player (1)

I've had to break this up into 3 posts since it's gotten so long. So here's my evaluations of our first team squad of 22, plus the technical staff and club management. I'll do another post looking ahead to the Barca squad of next season once all the transfer business is done.


Name: Víctor Valdés Arribas
Age: 25
Evaluation: Great season from our young 'keeper. Those of you who only saw his rather hapless performance against Liverpool at Camp Nou might be surprised, but he single-handedly kept Barca in it many times this season with spectacular reflex saves and the ability to truly dominate the penalty area. Saved a couple of penalty kicks, too. I've been the first to criticise him before when he was so error-prone as to seem like a liability to the team, but he's really done very well this season. One of Barca's best performing players in a lackluster season.
Probability of transfer: No way. Safe and secure.

Name: Albert Jorquera Fortià
Age: 28
Evaluation: With Valdes so well established, the only games Jorquera played this season were in the Copa del Rey, where I'm sorry to say he did not reassure in the same way as Valdes. Technically Jorquera is fine, but he's slower than Valdes and hardly ever leaves the penalty area. Not to blame for Barca's missteps in the Copa, but not entirely impressive either.
Probability of transfer: Low. Unless Barca sign a talented young keeper, which doesn't look very likely, Jorquera will be staying. Just extended his contract this season.


Name: Juliano Haus Belletti
Age: 31
Evaluation: Belletti has been hampered by repeated injury layoffs this season, as well as there being 2 competitors for his rightback position. He's looked impressive going forward in the few matches he did play, and rather shaky defensively.
Probability of transfer: High. Belletti is reportedly not satisfied with the amount of playing time he had this season, and with Zambrotta establishing himself as first choice, that's only set to continue.

Name: Giovanni 'Gio' Christiaan van Bronckhorst
Age: 32
Evaluation: One of the features of Gio's years at Barca have been the consistency of his performances. We know what he can do, and that's combine well in attack with Ronaldinho, whip in a decent ball from defence and make well-timed runs forward, and what he can't, demonstrated whenever he gets caught upfield when the opposition breaks. This season has been no different.
Probability of transfer: already gone, unfortunately. I was quite surprised - if any of the leftbacks left, I'd expected it to be Sylvinho. He'll be remembered fondly for his contributions not only during the good times, but in turning the barren years into fruitful ones.

Name: Silvio 'Sylvinho' Mendes Campos Junior
Age: 33
Evaluation: One of the wise elders of the dressing room - perhaps one of the main reasons why he has been retained for another season - Sylvinho was unfortunately hampered by injury problems this season. When he did play, he displayed his usual efficiency going forward and was sometimes exposed defensively. Still quite a bit of pace running up and down the left wing despite his age, and combines well with the attacking players.
Probability of transfer: Almost none, now that Gio has left. He'll be Abidal's backup next season, and in all probability will play quite a bit if he can avoid injury.

Name: Gianluca Zambrotta
Age: 30
Evaluation: Zambrotta had a tough time adjusting to the Spanish league at first, but even then his class was apparent. In the latter half of the season his displays in attack and defence improved, and with that came the goals. Not bad at all for his debut season with the club.
Probability of transfer: none, despite several Italian clubs vocally wishing otherwise. Zambrotta is trusted by Frank Rijkaard and expected to be first choice rightback next season.

Name: Carles Puyol Saforcada (c)
Age: 29
Evaluation: If every player were like Puyol, we wouldn't have any internal problems. Simple as that. He represents what Barcelona is all about, and as Sylvinho once said, he's this squad's soul. Always a model of dedication and leadership both on and off the field, through both the good and the bad times. (Anybody remember when Barca were 'Puyol and ten other blokes' back in the pre-Rijkaard days?)

El capitan hasn't had a good season, fraught with both personal tragedy and injury problems leading to a loss of form. He had some outstanding games towards the end of the season and always looked the most composed and least error-prone player in an often shaky defence.
Probability of transfer: There was a time when the club contemplated selling Puyol because we were that broke and desperate for the funds he'd generate. As we are not in the middle of such a crisis any longer, Puyol will not be sold. He's indispensible.

Name: Rafael Márquez Álvarez
Age: 28
Evaluation: It's been a season to forget for Rafa. His defensive partnership with Puyol saw Barca to the glories of the 04-05 and 05-06 season, and he had a decent World Cup as well, but this season saw him in appalling form. Such were the levels of ineptitude he displayed at centerback, compounding the already error-prone defence that he was eventually dropped in favour of Lilian Thuram. He played some games as a holding midfielder in Barca's brief flirtation with 3-4-3 and was largely anonymous. (Thankfully, he seems to be back to his normally impeccable self now.)
Probability of transfer: minimal. There was some speculation, but Puyol's injury dashed that.

Name: Ruddy Lilian Thuram-Ulien
Age: 35
Evaluation: The veteran Frenchman earned the respect of the fans early on in the season with his positioning sense and skill and he eventually worked his way into the starting line-up. Unfortunately, his lack of pace was brutally exposed many times, most notably in both games against Real Madrid. It's not entirely his fault, of course, given the lack of cover most of the time, and his footballing intelligence was still much appreciated. Hits a good ball out of defence.
Probability of transfer: minimal. Thuram looks after himself, but at the age of 35 it's difficult to see him moving on at this point. Will most probably play out his two year deal with Barca.

Name: Oleguer Presas Renom
Age: 27
Evaluation: I get nervous everytime Oleguer plays a game at rightback. He's a decent centerback in a 4 man backline, especially when partnering Puyol, but his lack of pace and attacking threat going forward are brutally exposed on the wing. To be fair, he had quite a few decent games when playing rightback this season - it was when he was playing as a part of a 3 man backline that he looked most shaky. The most notable of these performances came against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, where he was sent off before halftime.

The strange thing about Oleguer is that I remember people talking about him as a fairly good centerback and decent rightback just a few seasons ago. Perhaps he's just not had a good season. The other possibility, which a lot of Barca fans subscribe to, is that he's simply not very good. I would suggest that's a bit uncharitable.
Probability of transfer: none. He's the most likely backup to Zambrotta, especially since Belletti is leaving. Also, Oleguer loves Barca and wouldn't want to leave unless he was absolutely not getting a look-in.

Next up, midfielders.

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