The Joan Gamper Trophy, which is Barca's traditional season opener in which we play a friendly against a big team, preferably from abroad isn't going to be a season opener this time around, which kind of defeats the purpose of the exercise. But that's exactly the way our genius club management operates, having managed to clog up the pre-season schedule yet again.
Nevermind. The opponents will be Inter Milan this time, which brings with it the slightly scary prospect of Luis Figo stepping onto the Camp Nou turf again. I'm asking nicely, Mancini, please don't bring him. Not because I really hate Figo - that kind of thing fades with the years, and all I've ever managed is a vague distaste anyway - but because I dread the prospect of what's traditionally a day of warm fuzzy glows and celebration turning really, really unpleasant.
Apparently the revoluntary concept of having a code of conduct for the dressing room has caught on, and Joan Laporta handed down his Ten Commandments (as Sport is calling it) this week, including crazy ideas such as turning up to training on time, and, um, turning up to training, period.
I think it's especially interesting to read this in depth Rijkaard interview and this (brutally honest as ever) Samuel Eto'o interview in light of Laporta's statements. Frankie's attempt to take the blame for everything that's gone wrong is admirable, and that combined with his coaching style which emphasises respect and communication means that he's still regarded well by the players. But it's clear that some things will change.
Note this passage from the Eto'o interview:
I was the first person to make a mistake; because we could have sorted everything out internally. This is what I will be careful of next year and I will make sure that everything is kept inside and that there is no chance of things leaking out.I was quite surprised to read that. Good on him for the mea culpa, and hopefully - given his forthright nature - he'll be able to stick to that.
Also reassuring, Eto'o on his alleged conflict with Rijkaard:
What really did hurt quite a bit was when they tried to say things were bad between me and the coach. It was partly my fault because there are times when you want to use a word and you put in another one instead and everyone is ready to pounce. But have absolutely no problem with the coach. I am delighted that he is the coach because I think that he is the best there is.Deco on the other hand believes that an (unholy) combination of Mourinho's tactical nous and Rijkaard's man-management would make the perfect coach. He also says that good pal Ronaldinho's happy at Barca. I'm glad he is and I really hope he comes back from holiday fit and ready to play.
On to transfers:
Out: Saviola (free agent), Gio (free transfer to Feyenoord), Toni Calvo (B Team, sold to Aris Salonica), other B team players
In: Henry (24 million euros from Arsenal), Abidal (15 million euros from Lyon), Toure (9 million euros from Monaco), Dos Santos and Krkic (graduating from the B team)
Likely to go: Motta, Giuly, Ezquerro, Belletti
Motta's still demanding a free transfer, but Barca have (somewhat delusional) hopes of getting up to 8 million euros for him. He does have quite a few caps for Brazil, but based on form for the past few seasons, I can't see anyone paying more than 5 million for him at the very, very most. If we're very, very lucky.
Giuly's turned down quite a few offers and is going to report back to training for pre-season despite the club having made it clear to him at the end of the season that he was surplus to requirements, all because he wants a free transfer as well. Oh dear.
First the big news: Real have finally concluded one of the sagas of the transfer window by appointing Bernard Schuster as their new coach. This after Schuster was forced to pay for his release fee from Getafe out of his own pocket. The former Barca and Real player, not to mention FC Barcelona club member - No. 115088, to be precise - also has some interesting things to say about the impact of Fabio Capello and the way his team will play in that article.
President Ramon Calderon has been singing Schuster's praises and promising entertaining football to the press, which is fine except for the claim that the fans wanted Schuster instead of Capello when polls indicated that the majority were opposed to Capello's sacking. Oh yeah, he also wants you to know that selling Ronaldo won Real the title. Alright, maybe that's true - I wouldn't presume to know - but it does sound just a teeny bit ungrateful given the seasons in which Ronaldo's goals won Real games even when they didn't play well.
In other Madrid related transfer news, Jose Antonio Reyes will most likely be joining Real if a deal can be worked out with Arsenal (and if the Londoners aren't too angry about the whole Cesc business to talk). Emerson's agent also wants you to know that he's not leaving - cue groaning from the Bernabeu's faithful.
Real's first transfer window signing - sort of - defender Christopher Metzelder finally arrives in Spain.
Some bloke named David Beckham puts forward his own reason on why the club suffered the trophy draught that ended recently.
Whatever you can say about Sevilla's president Del Nido - and there's certainly a lot to say - I quite like his club's policy when it comes to interest from other clubs in their players. Which is to slap a price tag on them and wait for the suitors to either meet it or go away. They've now done so for star striker Freddie Kanoute (15 million euros, if anyone's interested, which seems reasonable to me), who by the sound of things of things doesn't so much want to leave as he wants a pay rise. I'd say let him have one, as he is hard working, dedicated and one of the stars of that side. But then I don't own a football club.
Sevilla have also got their first signing of this transfer window in the form of 30 year old Italian 'keeper Morgan de Sanctis, who invoked a recent FIFA ruling to terminate his contract with Udinese. Looks like the Italian club aren't going to let him go (for free) without a fight, though.
The president of Atletico speaks about Torres, the disappointments of the 06-07 season, and his desire to leave the club in a better state than when he started when he does go.
Jon Dahl Tomasson is making his loan move from Stuttgart to Villarreal permanent, signing a one year deal.
New Depor coach Lotina has a lot on his plate. Despite the funds from the (already done) sales of Jorge Andrade and Joan Capdevila and the (pending) sale of Fabricio Coloccini, his club aren't exactly rolling in funds, and he's got to do something to improve what this article terms 'the worst strike force in La Liga'. I was going to protest at that, but statistically Depor did score the least goals last season along with (relegated) Real Sociedad. To make matters worse, they've sold Javier Arizmendi, their top scorer last season with a whopping 5 goals to Valencia. Luckily their young striker Adrian Lopez looks to be coming of age at the U20 World Cup, but surely that won't be enough.
Newly promoted Almeria have been quite busy in the transfer window. It's interesting to see them raiding Real Sociedad for players - I would have thought Athletic would have been eager to snap up any decent Basque players that wanted to leave La Real, despite the rivalry. (Lord knows Athletic need the help, since they've lost a few important players in the transfer windo themselves.)