The Inevitable Van Persie to Barcelona Endless Speculation Transfer Story

February 2, 2012 — by Rob Kirby


With Arsenal currently sitting 7th in the Premier League table, it’s now truly inevitable that Robin van Persie will choose a new club come summertime, barring some miracle. But because it seems so predestined, the notion doesn’t trigger anxiety levels of Fabregas-ian proportions from summers past, where you just really didn’t know what was going to happen. Even with Samir Nasri, one thought Arsenal might just take the financial hit and force the Frenchman to stick around, because surely Wenger wouldn’t let two of his three/four best players go at the last possible moment, would he?

Anyhow, just as Robin’s departure seems inevitable, so too does speculation of the destination club. Cue the inevitable stories of van Persie to Barcelona.

Van Persie currently ranks among the most in-form strikers in the world. It’s only natural that he be linked to the best clubs in the world. Money is not the motivating factor. What Robin wants is to win trophies and play with other players of his caliber. Even the most ardent Arsenal supporter will admit that van Persie is in his own league. Wilshere could get there, but certainly not while he’s out for the season.

With talk of Barcelona being the best team of this generation, obviously lazy journalists make “Van Persie to Barcelona” their go-to. They’ve already got the templates, having been through the whole business before with Henry, who left for similar reasons. And they can naturally cut-and-paste parts from the Fabregas template. (Hell, even Alex Hleb!) Despite not currently topping their own league, Barcelona is the best team is the world at present. So, even without a shred of supporting evidence, the link makes sense.

Why player, club and every onlooker might think it’s a good fit is too obvious to really go into any further.

The real question (to me) is: Would van Persie do well at Barcelona? Would he be the preferred starter?

If not, if he knows he will only provide cover for the main striker, utilized mostly as an impact sub, would he choose Barça? (Impact subs get CL winner’s medals, too…)

Van Persie comes from a system not entirely different from the Catalan way, but so did Henry, and that wasn’t exactly an unqualified success. David Villa had played with the midfield maestros on the national team, which made him less of a risk, but Ibrahimovic never had and didn’t mesh especially well, whereas Eto’o did.

Individual chemistry with the team is the unknown and unknowable but crucial factor towards determining an import striker’s success at Barcelona.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Honestly, I really don’t know how it would pan out. Van Persie would certainly kill to play with Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas (again), but I find it hard to believe he’d settle for a spot on the bench.

I also find it unlikely he’d move to another club in England, so who else does it leave? AC Milan? Perhaps next year’s coach at Real Madrid can come up with a new hunter-animal analogy for him?

To be fair to both Henry and van Persie, the comparison with Henry is not entirely like-to-like. Many often cite age as a factor with Barcelona-era Henry, but Henry was only a year older than van Persie will be in the summer. (Henry turned 30 in mid-August 2007; van Persie turns 29 this August.) It really was more that Henry was not at his peak, whereas van Persie is most definitely enjoying his peak and may stay there for a few years to come. (He could even get better with excellent through-pass service, however there was no mistaking the gray hairs in Wednesday’s match against Bolton.) With Robin, it has always come down to his injury status. He’s never lacked the finish, simply the fitness.

Henry in his peak combined with the current-day Barcelona squad would have been incredible to behold. God, I wish that had happened. Except that they were all wearing the Red and White. (And except for the whingeing, whining, diving Dani Alves—Barcelona can keep him. Hmm, I just realized that if you take the “an” out of Dani and “Al” out of Alves, you’re left with “Dives.” Sounds about right.)


Bayern One Step Closer to Revenge

February 24, 2011 — by Sean

Danijel Pranjić — It would've been worse for Inter if he hadn't gone off early with an injury.

Bayern Munich were in the Lombardy region this evening, where they met last year’s Champions League winners Inter Milan at the San Siro. By chance you ask? Well certainly not. This was the first 90 minutes of their knockout round tie, and the Bavarians   certainly weren’t playing for a draw.

Inter were without Milito—the man who scored the winner in last year’s final—though he’s only just back in form after taking the first half of the season off for various knocks to body and mind. The Italians came out in a 4-3-2-1 (the Christmas tree, if you like) to face the German’s 4-2-3-1, Eto’o up top for Inter and Gomez the man at the point for Bayern.

It all started off cagedly as you’d expect from this phase of the cup, especially when there’s an Italian side in the mix. There was an early chance off a set piece sent in by Sneijder that then went sailing into the stands off the foot of the center back Ranocchai (the man had a generally awful game, sending dangerous loose passes about the back before being subbed with ten minutes remaining). And another opportunity in the 22nd minute when the lively Eto’o worked up the right wing and placed an opportunity on the foot of Cambiasso, but his blast was stifled by newly-chosen first choice keeper Thomas Kraft. But that was it for the champions, the rest of the half saw them compressing the center and turning away crosses from the quick-footed Bayern wingers.

Immediately following the Cambiasso chance Bayern were up the field, and from this point on they bossed the match. Die Roten were having success up the left flank with Ribéry and the Croatian Danijel Pranjić overlapping and creating a general nuisance for Maicon. Robben looked sure on Bayern’s right, and his cross at twenty-two minutes found Ribéry’s disfigured head, before making its way onto the crossbar. Ten minutes later Panjić had to come off with an injury, but the attacking movement simply worked more up the right through Robben then, with Thomas Müller dropping back from an attacking midfield roll to collect and help the ball from right to left.

The second half was more of the same, with Bayern even more intent to bring a lead back to the Fatherland. Müller had a chance right at the start, finding space in the box before sending an open header well wide. As they settled into the second half and looked for openings, Munich were stroking the ball around for such long periods that the home fans had the chance to build up quite a whistling dislike. They were struck silent in the 55th minute when Robben sent in a strike that hit the post after some clever movement between the attacking four.

Inter were quick to counter after that chance. It was in fact a very punch, counter-punch affair, though the Germans threw many  punches that the Italians simply avoided without attempting a counter-strike. Attack seemed reliant on getting the ball to Sneijder and then to Eto’o (who remained dangerous throughout). And in the 57th minute Eto’o created a great opening for himself and fired a wicked shot in at Kraft, who could only turn it onto an onrushing Cambiasso. This time the spear-bald Italian sent the ball into the upper deck—crisis averted.

Gustavo stiffles Stanković

In the last ten minutes with the score still level at zeros, Inter began to push up. They caused a number of corners and forced the Bayern defense to scramble to keep the ball out (Thiago Motta forced a sturdy save at the end with a fierce header). This, though, was when Bayern’s Brazilian center back Luiz Gustavo showed his true class. Calm in possession, the part defensive mid /part center back twice took the ball from a dangerous position and simply ran up the field away from danger, leaving the Inter attackers helpless behind him.

Just when it seemed like the game would run out without a goal being put through, Bayern manufactured one final surge up the pitch. Robben collected the ball on the right, dipped inside and sent a blast at Júlio César. The Brazilian keeper couldn’t hold onto the ball, but the Inter defenders had let go of their marks, allowing the great poacher Gomez to lope in unhindered and slide the ball into the net. Bayern with a death blow in the 90th minute, and well deserved after they’d very much dominated the game.



Shortlists for FIFA Balon d’Or 2010

October 27, 2010 — by Suman

2009 Balon d'Or Winners


The following 23 men (in alphabetical order) are in contention for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2010:
Xabi Alonso (Spain), Daniel Alves (Brazil), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlán (Uruguay), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Júlio César (Brazil), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Maicon (Brazil), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Müller (Germany), Mesut Özil (Germany), Carles Puyol (Spain), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), David Villa (Spain) and Xavi (Spain).

The odd man in there seems to Asamoah Gyan.  Don’t get us wrong, we were impressed by Baby Jet performances this summer in Africa (this one against the USMNT in the World Cup of course–but also this more recent performance)–but he hasn’t accomplished what the other players on the list have.  (Özil and Müller are two even younger players that one might argue about–but those two have already impressed and achieved more for both club and country than Gyan has.)

There’s more to the Balon d’Or than just the men’s player award however.  The shortlists for the other three categories:

Live Blog

Cameroon v Holland Open Thread (+ Japan v Denmark lookins)

June 24, 2010 — by Sean5

The Flying Dutchmen and the Indomitable Lions facing off right now! Open thread for comments, with Mr. Ganguli here in the second half to walk us through every pass.

[Update: Mr. Ganguli is here, but he most certainly will not be walking us through every pass. It’ll be more forest than trees..see below.

[2nd Update: Final scores:

Japan 3, Denmark 1
Netherlands 2, Cameroon 1

The Dutch finish 1st in the group & Japan advances in 2nd place, with the resulting Round of 16 matchups:

Netherlands v Slovakia (on 28-June)
Japan v Paraguay (on 29-June)