Saturday, August 25, 2007

Farewell to Juliano Belletti

In a move that surprised many people, Barcelona rightback Juliano Belletti has been sold to Chelsea for 5.5 million euros.

On the Barca end of things, out of the group of players who were said to be expendable (Motta, Ezquerro and Gudjohnsen being the other names on it), Belletti was the one who would have proved most useful had he decided to stay. But he had very publicly stated his displeasure at losing his starting place to Zambrotta last season, so perhaps a change was for the best.

This is also quite a surprising move by Chelsea, at least from where I'm standing. Mourinho's distrust of attacking fullbacks is well known, and Belletti is nothing if not a defensively dubious attacking fullback.

He'll probably be better than the likes of Glen Johnson, leaving Michael Essien free to return to his midfield duties, but it's hard to see how Belletti fits into Mourinho's big picture. And it's not like he hasn't seen Belletti's defensive problems first hand: the unfortunate rightback scored an own goal in the Camp Nou against Chelsea in 04-05 and his marauding runs forward in the return leg left him stranded upfield, leaving Damien Duff and Eidur Gudjohnsen free to give Chelsea an early 3-0 lead. So my question is: did Mourinho sign him? Or was this more the idea of the sporting director or Peter Kenyon? It will be interesting to see how he gets on in the Premier League.

But back to Barca. Juliano Belletti joined Barcelona as part of the 04-05 revolution that revitalized the team, going on to win La Liga twice. He played more than 100 games and contributed heavily with his effective attacking runs forward to the team's success. I always liked him for that attacking verve, even though as I've already pointed out he is defensively fragile.

During his time at Barca, Belletti also participated in the campaign that saw Barca win the Champions League for only the second time. I think if you ask Barca fans for their most vivid Belletti memory, it would have to be the goal that gave us victory over Arsenal in the final, which was his only goal for the club.

That goal was a personal release for Belletti, who had been relegated to the bench in favour of Oleguer for most of the games during that season and had only come on as a substitute in the final. The look on his face captured on the wonderful photo above sheds some light on what it meant for him personally. For Barcelona, it meant the culmination of a rebuilding process which had finally lifted the club back on top of Europe, 14 long years after the last time.

So the 'hero of Paris' departs. Good luck, Juliano. And thank you.


Anna said...

I'm still trying to make sense of this move. I did not expect Mourinho in a million years to go for Belletti.

linda said...

Yeah, it's a weird one. Mourinho did say upon signing him that he's the attacking fullback that they've been looking for, but that doesn't square with his playing philosophy at all.