Saturday, June 23, 2007

Welcome to Barca, TH14 (and other player-related news)

Looks like it's official.

Details later when he's presented - surely the signing who's going to take Cruyff's no.14 shirt? Henry has confirmed the transfer himself in a new L'Equipe interview. Hat tip to Gunnerblog for the translation:
I still have to pass a medical on Monday. But yes, I have chosen Barcelona. I am going to sign there for the next four seasons...for the football they play, their history, their stadium. For Frank Rijkaard, who I grew up watching.
Oh, Thierry. Sweet talk us some more.

There's a fairly nice - to me, but then I'm not an Arsenal fan - 'open letter' from him explaining his exit which is available on the Sun's website. (Not linking to that scumbag 'newspaper' but the BBC article I link to does summarize it.) For an Arsenal fan's perspective - which quotes from the above mentioned letter - East Lower has an interesting and very eloquent - far more eloquent than I would be if my club's talisman left - take on the matter.

By the way, Barca vice-president Ferran Soriano - who seems to conduct all our transfer business - wants you to know that there was no tapping up involved:
He...insisted that Barcelona waited for the green light from Arsenal before making a move for the France international..."We don't want to point a gun at anybody," said Soriano. "We have good relationships with the European clubs."
Henry himself is actually still recovering from a groin injury, but he is apparently conscious of getting fit and prepared in time for the start of Barca's pre-season. Which is nice.

You have to admit, Henry and Barca are a good match, if only because he's got 1) that die-hard romanticism about playing football with a certain style and swagger that we have (which makes others label us pretentious bastards), and 2) an appropriately large chip on his shoulder to match the club's collective identity.

I mean that both ironically and sincerely. Some of the qualities that makes Barca sometimes seem smug and annoying to others are the same ones that endeared me to the club in the first place, and I'm not going to apologize for that. But I can poke fun.

With Henry, I suspect it will be the same. He's got a way to go to erase the 'only women dive' remark - not to mention the rest of his post-Paris CL final rant - from my mind, but he's made a good start. (Until then, I reserve the right to laugh at that French NT story about his 'melon énorme'.)

All joking aside, I'm not really sure how to feel about this. The impact of this transfer on the makeup of the squad, not to mention the way we play is going to be huge. Firstly, Gudjohnsen and Ezquerro are almost definitely following Saviola out the door. Most likely Giuly would be too, although his exit would only be tangentially related to Henry.

Second, how are Barca going to play next season? I can't see a way of playing Henry, Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Messi at the same time without sacrificing our midfield advantage and completely destablising the team in a way that will make the already leaky defence even worse.

Apparently the way club management have worked out is that Barca have about 55 games a season and things will be okay if each of the four end up playing about 35 of those. I don't really see how that would work. Who is Rijkaard going to leave out in a big Champions League game? Or I suppose Messi loses out because he's the most junior star amongst the four, but that would be incredibly stupid from any point of view if Barca want to hold on to him at all.

The third option is to offload one of Ronaldinho and Eto'o. (We all agree that Messi is going nowhere, right?) I've said from the beginning that if we gain Henry and lose Eto'o, I think we'd come out worse off, but this is a real possibility now. Sure, Eto'o's relationship with Laporta can pretty much ensure his continuity at the club, but as he himself acknowledges, he has enemies both within and outside the club, and they could make his lift difficult to a point where he is forced out.

Personally, I wouldn't want this to happen, as I believe Sammy to be a crucial player for Barca's successes in the last few seasons who is still very young and has loads more to offer the club. Plus, unlike the whiners (Edmilson - who's just had a knee operation, ruling him out for six months and won't be playing for Barca again - and Deco), he's ready to accept the newly imposed squad rules:
In any place where there is a group there are rules to respect. We have been fortunate that Frank and Jan have given us some freedom or, in other words, responsibility. If they believe that the rules have to be tightened, then it's probably right.
Ronaldinho himself has remained neutral on the subject of Laporta's statements, merely stating that he's not been 100% this season because he's exhausted. Which is fair enough, really, and I'd argue that he's done a lot for the team during the season despite being obviously unfit and a somewhat destabilising influence. Have a nice holiday, Ronnie, and we'll hope to see the old you back next season.

While we're on the subject of resting, and players who need it, how about our beloved Captain Caveman? In a clear demonstration of the absurdity of flying all over the world playing far too many meaningless friendlies, Carles Puyol suffered ligament damage in Barca's friendly match in South Africa and will be out for 3 months, missing the entire pre-season and about a month of league action, not to mention a couple of Champions League clashes. He was operated on as soon as possible, and here's what the doctor had to say:
...he has already said that the recovery time must be shorter, because he does not want to spend as much time without playing.
Vintage Puyol. Not the first time he's been desperate to rush back from injury to help the team, and probably not the last. What a guy. I hope his recovery goes well and that he's back with us soon.


Duniyadnd said...

I'm guessing Barca is going to be relying on injuries to help Rijkaard make some choices. Also, there was this other article that mentioned that Barca is going to be more strict with their players (internal discipline) based on their outside attitude towards their games (late nights etc.)

linda said...

Yeah, I guess you're right. And the discipline thing is apparently going to be implemented, although I for one am sceptical about how well it's going to work.

Derek said...

What do you know/feel about Yaya Toure? I don't know anything about him. Unfortunately, I don't get to see Ligue 1 games anymore since Fox ceased showing them.

linda said...

Derek: I've only seen him play in the World Cup, unfortunately, but more informed people have told me that we're getting a good deal, since he's quite good. A bit slow, perhaps, since he's a big guy, but then so are Edmilson and Motta, and he's quite good in the air, which we desperately need.