Dec 28, 2007

The rumors about Ronaldinho's departure from Nou Camp could have only strengthened by his failure against Madrid. No other player in this current side can commence loyalty from the Nou Camp fans like this man. For the regular Nou Camp fans he has been an emotional hero. The time when he reached Barcelona he was just another kid, but he turned this side into a world winning team in his first two seasons. When he arrived at Barcelona was rebuilding from a very bad phase in their history - Madrid's Galacticos policy (it was a total failure) overshadowed the Barcelona club. They were losing good players to their main rivals and were nowhere in picture in European competition. But Ronaldinho’s heroics against all odds turned the prayers of Barcelona fans to reality. No one will ever deny the fact that he was responsible for the great results we had in the past three years.

When Ronaldinho arrived in Barcelona the club and he had so many things in common. Both have to prove a point. Ronaldinho was heralded as the brightest talent to come out of Brazil in recent times, but his performance was never justifying it. He had a great world cup, but again those performances were far in between. For the Barcelona fans he was the only hope left to come out of the Galacticos shadow and reclaim their lost stature in Spain and Europe. Together they overcame all the obstacles. He was the main person responsible for the two Spanish league titles and the Champions league (surprising only the second one) which Barcelona won. Once again Barcelona reclaimed the stature of the best club in Europe and looking poised for more big things; but somewhere both stumbled. Ronaldinho was rightly criticized for his poor performance in last world cup, but everyone expected him to comeback to this Barcelona side and shows his magic along side the likes of Messi. But he failed terribly.

There was recent rumors of his addiction (over addiction) to nightlife and his lack of interest in training. As a big Ronaldinho fan I never believed these allegations but now i have to say that i slowly started believing it. His performance on the field justifies these allegations. Lack of training was clearly seen on field where he struggled to go past ordinary defenders. To add insult to injury Barcelona started playing better without him (Two season ago the story was different). Barcelona based media have been asking for his head for sometime, but to his rescue the Nou Camp fans still vociferously supports him. Is he taking that support for granted? The support is because of the sweet things he has presented to them in the past, but how much time he can survive on his past. One day they will also start asking for his head and that day will come soon.

What lies ahead for this two time World Player of the Year? There are actually two things:

1) He can train harder, get fitter and win back all the trust of his fans, media and most importantly his team mates. He can prove back to the world that he is still the same entertainer.

2) He can move to another club (this looks likely) where he can try to recreate all his magic. But with his current form and attitude to training how many big clubs will be willing to take such a risk is yet to be seen. If Milan loses Kaka to Madrid then there is a high chance of he moving to San Siro.

But whatever decision he take, he should understand that his carefree attitude will not get him through this difficult phase. He needs to train harder and get back his fitness level. He needs to play for the team (rather than for himself, which ever team it maybe) - He should always remember "When the Team wins, He wins".

NB: "You cannot win the War without fighting it".

Dec 27, 2007

There were too many records that were at stake when Barcelona took on the challenge from Madrid in Clasico at Nou Camp. Madrid never won a match in Nou Camp for some years. Barcelona last home loss came thirty one matches before, Madrid never lost a match when that referee officiated. Some records stayed and some shattered – but it’s disappointing that all those shattered records belong to Barcelona. The match was lost before the first whistle. Rijkaard was at his worst with the preparation for the match. One thing this Barcelona side and management lack is respect for the opponents. If we see the away record of Madrid then it’s pretty obvious that they have the best away record this season. Indeed this match was best away side taking on the best home side. But Barcelona showed utter disrespect for their opponents and perished. The biggest culprit for this failure is Frank Rijkaard. He better admit it.

Am I being too harsh on Frank, I didn’t asked him to be sacked. I am simply telling him to own the mistakes he made. His game plan wrecked the team. For some time I have been critical about his choice of Puyol as a Right-Back. I was unfortunately proven right this day. When you are a goal down and you want to introduce more attacking options, what did Frank do – he brought Zambrotta instead of Puyol. Puyol is a great Centre Back (maybe the best in Europe) but Barcelona’s attacking style requires their full backs to give that wing runs and Puyol can’t do it (it’s not his mistake). I can understand the helplessness of a regular coach when his regular RB is injured, but cannot understand Rijkaard’s tactic when he has an accomplished RB in the form of Marquez with him. I will not criticize him for the choice of Ronaldinho, I though he was playing well in home matches. But to pick Deco with no match practice in place of a inform Gudjonsen was disaster. Eidur was linking well with Iniesta and Xavi in the early matches and he should have been rewarded him with a starting place.

Sometimes you can’t change destiny – that’s the only explanation I have for the way Abidal, Milito and Toure played. Maybe they were overwhelmed by the occasion, but remember these guys are the best players we have and once in a while they are supposed to have a bad day. Now comes the main man- the man on which the entire pre match talk revolved - Ronaldo de Assís Moreira. What a pathetic match he had. He looked totally out of place. I am a big Ronaldinho fan and it’s devastating to see him dive all over the place to get free kicks. Throughout the match he never noticed the wonderful runs made by Abidal to his left, there was a particular incident when Iniesta after making a great run was looking Ronnie make a forward run. But Ronnie never made one he stood behind Iniesta guarding the empty space ahead of him. Ronnie has lost his ball control; he hardly can go past one defender. In between he showed some brilliance but those were too few in between. He is holding the ball for more time; in the first half Eto’o looked completely stranded. There are rumors that he doesn’t train intensively, if that is the case then ship him out of the team. I remember Geoffrey Boycott saying that if you are having tough time batting, the best thing to do is get off the strike. Ronaldinho should understand that the best option he has now is to pass to another player as quickly as possible. The best Barca players on the pitch were Iniesta, Bojan and Giovanni. Its time for Rijkaard to take some tough decision. Every player in the team needs to earn their places.

How can I stop without praising the Madrid side, they were the deservedly winners. They came with a purpose (which Barcelona players lacked) and played as a unit. They all supported each other upfront and way back. They defended well, attacked in pairs and made Barcelona pay for their attitude. They have a comfortable seven point lead and I believe that’s only going to increase now. They may falter at some matches, but I don’t think this Barcelona side (with their current attitude) will be able to catch them (for that they have to start winning away from home.

NB: My suggestion to Rijkaard drop Ronaldinho from the regular squad, ask him to prove his worth in Copa Del Rey and earn his place back. Otherwise by the time Messi comes back we will be out of Champions League, Copa Del Rey and La Liga title race(or are we already out).

Dec 17, 2007

Barcelona Players Celebrating Gudjonsen's Goal against Valencia
Riding on the form of Messi and Eto'o, Barcelona eased away the challenge posed by Valencia at the Mestalla. With this victory Barcelona somehow ended their winless away streak. This is only the second away win of the season and with Madrid match round the corner, Rijkaard could not have asked for more. The only blemish in a surprisingly brilliant Barca was the injury to Messi, which will keep him out for close to five weeks.

Eto did waste a wonderful ball from Messi in the early stage of the match, but that could be count as the only blemish in his awesome performance. When Messi supplied the ball for the first goal, even the most optimistic supporter of Barca would not have imagined a chance of Goal. I only expected him to strike it with utmost power from that angle. Then he is Samuel Eto, he created the Goal from nowhere. What a marvelous piece of skill. The second Goal was a usual Barca move which saw Messi and Iniesta adding swiftness to the move and Eto finishing it in his classic style. If it was not for the legendary Canizares Barcelona would have destroyed Valencia by a huge margin.

Even the fiercest supporter of Barca will agree on one thing- the lack of quality displayed by this unbelievably talented Valencia side. Only for a ten minute duration at the start of second half, they were never in the match. Even if he take into consideration the number of injured players, Valencia indeed should have done better. Barcelona never is the same threat when traveling away, but Valencia players simply disappointed. And how can I forget to mention the unselfishness shown by a young Giovani Dos Santos. He could have gone at the goal by himself, nobody would have complained but he chose to be different.

I have to admit that I like the two tactics employed by Rijkaard. First is playing Gudjonsen in midfield. That gives that extra attacker and a sense of unpredictability about the team. The second is the way he is protecting Ronaldinho from away match. Anyone who has watched Ronnie this season will agree that Ronnie plays like a King in Camp Nou and like a pauper away from the same. Since he is not firing in away matches and with the amount of players available, its make sense to use him in home matches more than away matches. this will help him bring back the confidence and he should be back to his normal best soon than later.

Messi injury overshadow the El Classico this week, but we still can beat Madrid as we played majestically at home through out this season. I expect Ronnie to start this season and expect him to combine with Eto to produce a marvelous match.

Below is the three goals of the match

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