Yes, after much procrastinating, I've finally written the long-overdue post welcoming the new signings to the club, including 2 'graduates' from the B team.
"Pressure? Pressure is what you feel when you're about to die or when you might go to jail; when you have no money, no food. But feeling the pressure while playing soccer? I've been playing since I was 17. I've played many games, some bigger than others. That's the way it is."Name: Thierry 'Titi' Henry (France)
Squad number: 14
Transfer: 24 million euros from Arsenal
What's there to say? It's not as if anybody will be unfamiliar with his characteristics and abilities. Fabulous forward with ego to match, but there are doubts over how much longer he can kept it up due to a series of injuries last season. Has not looked convincing on the wings, but is undoubtedly a classy center forward.
"You can play hard football without a lot of fouls. It seems to me that lately some games turn into a physical battle where technique comes second. As a defender I think that what is most important is to earn respect inside the first 18 metres and commit as few fouls as possible so that your team does not suffer."
Name: Eric Abidal (France)
Squad number: 22
Transfer: 15 million euros from Lyon
The leftback position has been a bit of a problematic one in recent years for Barca, and Abidal has been signed to remedy that problem. He's strong, quick, and very experienced, able to get into good positions defensively while getting forward a bit in attack.
"I know what it means to play with an advanced defence, but I think if you are well-positioned then the risks are not so great. The key is to be focussed, well-placed and to have good communication among the back four, especially when the team has the ball."
Name: Gabriel 'Gabi' Milito (Argentina)
Position: central defence
Squad number: 12
Transfer: 17 million euros from Zaragoza (rising to 20.5 million depending on trophies)
'The Marshall' as he's known has experience and temperament that belies his relative youth. He was turned down by Real Madrid supposedly on account of a failed medical, but has performed well consistently for Zaragoza ever since signing for them, and indeed captained the side. A lot of Barca fans joke that the club went him for because he looks just like our captain Carles Puyol. There is a bit of a resemblance, even in playing style, but I think where Milito perhaps isn't as good in sheer physicality, he's got a better sense of positioning despite a relative lack of pace. Great header of the ball too, even though he's only 1.79ms tall.
"My target was to play among great players in a big European club and I’ve managed to achieve that today. But the job is not done yet, because I have set myself even bigger objectives. I know I will feel comfortable but I have come here to achieve even bigger things."
Name: Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
Position: central midfield
Squad number: 24
Transfer: 9 million euros from Monaco
Toure was signed to fill the club's problematic defensive midfield position, but he's really more of a central midfielder who can tackle and head the ball. So far, he's taken to the holding position well, and shown that he's got skill as well as strength. Whether the position will suit him over the long run remains to be seen.
“I have always compared myself to Messi but he is a football superstar and I am just starting. Of course I’d like to be like him one day.”
Name: Giovani 'Gio' Dos Santos (Mexico)
Position: wing forward
Squad number: 17
Transfer: from Barca B
Actually, Barca fans like to compare Gio to Ronaldinho more. He even looks a bit like the Brazilian, and scarily enough plays a bit like him too. Of course, he's got some way to go, and his decision-making could be better, but he's got pace, strength, and sublime skill to spare, not to mention an audacity and confidence that Messi didn't have at his age.
"I have had two very good years and did not expect any of this," he said. "I am very conscious of that and it is for that reason that I am staying calm and am excited by the way things are going."
Name: Bojan Krkic (Spain)
Squad number: 27
Transfer: from Barca B
As Cesc Fabregas once said, if you're a teenager and you're playing for the Barca first team, you'd have to be the best in the world in that age group. So the fact that a 17 year old is going to be playing for Barca this season tells you something about him. Bojan has amazing goalscoring statistics in every single age group for Barca and at U17 level for Spain. He's simply got the instinct for goal that very good strikers have (personalised in archetypical goal-poacher, Pippo Inzaghi), not to mention skill and pace to burn. The only problem is that he could be a bit taller, but the kid's only 16, so there's hope for that yet.
(All currency in euros.)
In: Henry (24 million, Arsenal), Toure (9 million, Monaco), Abidal (15 million, Lyon), Milito (17 million, Zaragoza), Bojan (free, Barca B), Gio (free, Barca B) = 65 million
Out: Saviola (free, Real), van Bronckhorst (free, Feyenoord), Giuly (3.2 million, Roma), Lopez (2 million, Moscow), Belletti (5.5 million, Chelsea) = 10.7 million
Total outlay: 54.3 million euros