FC BARCELONA – THE NEXT CHAPTER?

Back in August, in the aftermath of one FC Barcelona’s most humiliating defeats, I wrote about the future of their talisman, skipper, star player Lionel Messi and the wider implications of him staying or leaving the Catalan giants. 6 months on, after another Champions League capitulation, I look at what has changed, if anything, and where the club can go from here.

Transfer Request

As we know, immediately after that infamous Bayern defeat, a Messi transfer request was submitted in the bizarre and well documented form of a fax – A move the Messi camp claim was the only way the club would take him seriously and listen. There is talk the Argentine had informally tried to set out his intentions of leaving a few times in the months previous which apparently, or quite clearly, fell on deaf ears. After much tit for tat from both camps, he stayed at the club, in what looks like, a mix of his family’s reluctance to move cities and club’s down right refusal to let him leave.

Messi still feels that if he’d taken the matter to a higher power, he would have been granted his wish to move on for free. But as a dark blot began to appear on his legacy sheet, the iconic number 10 decided not to take legal action against his employers – A motion that would have undoubtedly ruined a relationship forever and turned a small blot into a large, unwashable permanently marked streak. Through gritted teeth he remained and remains.

Financial Meltdown

What wasn’t public knowledge at the time of the Messi transfer saga was the extent of Barcelona’s financial troubles. 1.2 Billion euro’s in arrears with 730 million of it due in the short term. In Lehman’s terms, how does the club still exist!? It’s a montrous amount of debt, a debt that would have seen other organisations go to the wall a thousand times over.

The club claim the debt is a result of the pandemic, others would see it as a 5 year train ride headed for 2020’s cliff. The mismanagement of bad big money signings and a rocketing wage bill coupled with failing to prepare for an ageing squad at the end of a cycle. Basically, the papering over of huge playing side cracks. Yes, the pandemic has probably been an exacerbating factor but other European giants with far less world standing seem to be managing just fine.

With all this in mind, there’s one big question which sticks out like a sore thumb. With the vast majority of their budget going on player wages, how could they afford to keep Messi? Their highest (by far) earner. You would think letting him leave 6 months ago would have relieved some, if not a lot of the money burdens the club are facing. Is a 33 year old really that integral to the organisation if it puts the club’s long term future at peril? There’s no doubt Messi is still a money spinner of shirt sales, sponsorships and a prolific sell-out stadium merchant. His allure is still unrivalled. However, that isn’t much good in the midst of a global pandemic where fans are unable visit the stadium, museum and club shop.

The Season’s Plan

From Barcelona’s perspective, you could see what they were trying to do. Offload other high earners which would enable them to keep Messi and build a younger, more vibrant team for the future. The problem? Offloading these players. Coutinho, Griezmann and Dembele to name but a few proved difficult to get rid of and each of them still remain at the club. The financial situation has now become so bad that they cannot afford to play Coutinho in any more La Liga matches, for another 7 appearances would incur an automatic 10 million euro payment to his previous club, Liverpool. In today’s modern game, 10 million seems a small amount. The fact is, Barcelona, one of the world’s elite clubs, can’t afford it which is mind boggling. They now have a player on hundreds of thousands of Euro’s a week who is unable to play. Scary.

On the pitch, the plan remains unchanged year on year. The goal is to win everything they enter. With Messi and new coach Ronald Koeman, why couldn’t they? Again that naivity of previous years that Messi will find a way. A 27 year old Messi, maybe. A 33 year old Messi, no chance – despite the brilliance he still offers and delivers frequently.

koeman, a club legend in his own right, was seen as coaching appointment that could get Barcelona back to playing the Barca way, the Cruyff principals that define its modern era. Things, as yet, haven’t worked out quite to plan for Koeman although he will tell you it’s a large work in progress. A very indifferent start in La Liga, defeat in the Supercopa to Bilbao and currently trailing by 2 goals to the impressive Seville after the Copa Del Rey Semi final first leg. And that’s not to mention another humiliating defeat in the Champions League to French counterparts and Messi admirers, PSG. A 4-1 defeat at home to anyone is an unthinkable outcome for Blaugrana and it’s a deficit they will not overcome on current form.

Some solace has come in their recent league form which has seen them rise to 3rd in the table. Messi has seemed back to his imperious best in recent months give or take the disastrous cup matches. And there’s promising youngsters making headway in the form of Pedri, Rigui Puig and Anso Fati. The latter has unfortunately missed the majority of the season through injury but he could be a key component in the rebuilding years to come and potential figurehead going forward.

Luis Suarez

One player and high earner Barcelona did manage to offload in the off season was striker and club legend, Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan had seen, or so the club thought, his best days drift away in his latter years and it was a clear objective of the club to get rid before the season started.

The problem Barcelona had, or caused themselves, was the manner in which they went about his exit. It is reported Suarez was told he was surplus to requirements in a blunt 2 minute phone call by new boss Koeman the day after the Dutchman’s appointment, treatment that infuriated Suarez’s best pal……. Lionel Messi. It is fury the Argentine great has expressed in public. Not the way a club great should be ushered out the door and another PR disaster for the hierarchy.

To make matters worse, Suarez has been in blistering form for Atleti this season in what looks like being a great Indian summer for the striker’s career. His 16 goals make him the current La Liga top goalscorer which has fired his new side to a 6 point lead at the top of La Liga – A clear two fingers up to his former employers.

What next?

The resignation of club president Josep Maria Bartomeu in October was not before time. Bad descisions, an impending tax fraud case and the very public falling out with Messi heading a long list of turmoil within the Camp Nou walls. The presidential election to find a replacement is due to take place next month with former leader Joan Laporta the favourite to be reelected into the club’s hot seat.

You would think the first thing on his agenda will be addressing and resolving the Messi situation once and for all. The club’s greatest player will turn 34 in June and it maybe time to say goodbye – An outcome that could benefit all sides. A chance for Barcelona to start again and rebuild a new team around the previously mentioned youngsters. Messi can leave behind the unenviable weight of expection he has carried for the best part of 15 years.

An amicable ending is what’s important from both parties point of view. A great legacy that must remain just that, great and untampered with, not least to help the club’s financial situation and leave a path for Messi to return in other roles later down the line, should he so please. A fresh start for Messi would enable him to completely focus on one final shot at a World Cup in 2022. There may not be trophies this year but, in this hypothetical instance, everyone wins.

Making Barcelona financially stable again is going to be a huge undertaking for whoever is given the reigns. Removing the older statemen high earners will be a start. With the club unable to afford high transfer fees, they may have to invest the little cash they do have in the seemingly neglected La Masia youth system once more. The fruits of which may not be evident for perhaps 5 or even 10 years.

What the club have surely learned, you would hope, is that there will be no quick fix to this mess. Replacing the Messi era should have been a proper plan in the making 5 years ago but ignorance, arrogance and burying heads in the sands of Messi time have become an all too evident theme in recent years.

BLOGIN BETS 5/12/20

This week’s accumulator selection is £10 @11/1

• TRANMERE 5/4 (Home v Walsall – KO 15:00)

• JUVENTUS 4/11 (Home v Torino – KO 17:00)

MAN. UTD 1/1 (Away v West Ham – KO 17:30)

INTER 2/5 (Home v Bologna – KO 19:45)

BARCELONA 3/10 (Away v. Cadiz – KO 20:00)

CONFIDENCE: 8/10

OVERVIEW: Another week, another accumulator and a great looking one at that. But before we get into the details, I wanted to go over some funny news which emerged out of Italy this week. Who remembers Sinisa Mihajlovic? The former Lazio and Inter nutcase defender with one of the deadliest free kicks in the game. How could anyone forget him. Well, he is now manager of Bologna, who incidentally face one of our acca picks, Inter. In the pre-match press conference, the mental Serb was asked why he tested a new tactical pattern in training and would he be applying it in the match at the San Siro. His response…

‘No, it was just a feint to know which players gave the news to the journalists. If I find out the player who spoke, I stick him to the wall and he won’t play football again. When I find the player who switched, it’s going to be his f**king problem. If he does this to get a better score on other teams you never know anything. On ours, everyone knows everything. I swear if I find him, I don’t know what I’m gunna do, but I’ll find it’

GOOD OLD SINISA. – Let’s hope he finds the culprit and it sends their match preparations into meltdown.

Anyway, now for more pressing matters. I Love the look of this week’s accumulator pick. 5 teams all bang in form and all playing on Saturday at varying times. I’m hoping this maybe the gem we’ve been crying out for all season, 11/1 represents great value. The plan was to deliberately select kick off times that stagger right across Saturday giving the avid viewer the chance to watch and have the extra vested interest. What’s also worth noting is that there aren’t any early starts which usually catches us with our pants down. It’s all set up for a couple of Saturday night beers watching Messi put on a show to wrap up the acca. Imagine that, bloody lovely.

PICKS: You may be raising an eyebrow at Tranmere being first up for the line and although they only sit mid-table in League 2 they have recorded 8 victories in a row in all competitions and are the leagues form side. 5/4 represents unbelievable value. HOME WIN.

Juventus go into the Derby Della Mole unbeaten in 7 and they would expect to beat their city rivals who are situated in Serie A’s relegation zone. Ronaldo is still scoring goals. Routine HOME WIN.

Since defeat at home to Arsenal earlier in the season, Man United have gone about their business relatively quietly winning each of their last 3 Premier League matches. This is in part due to the form of Bruno Fernandes, the Portuguese playmaker has been flying. Opponents West Ham have been going along nicely this season themselves but the Manc’s should be too strong here. I fancy Cavani to bag another goal. AWAY WIN.

Inter have really started to put a run together in Serie A. 4 wins in a row to be precise which has seen them rise to 2nd place in the table. We’ve already heard from the Bologna camp. Utter Chaos. HOME WIN.

There’s a running theme here, teams finally putting runs together and Barcelona are no different. 3 on the bounce for them and maybe Koeman is starting to get a grip at the Camp Nou. Messi to STAMP THE SLIP Saturday night.

MOVE THE BALL QUICKLY, DOWN AND PLAY

BLOGIN BETS 28/11/20

This week’s accumulator selection is £10 @5/1.

BOLTON 1/2 (Home v Southend. Saturday – 15:00)

JUVENTUS 4/11 (Away v Benevento. Saturday – 17:00)

REAL MADRID 1/3 (Home v Alaves. Saturday – 20:00)

AC MILAN 4/6 (Home v Fiorentina. Sunday – 14:00)

MONACO 1/3 (Home v Nimes. Sunday – 14:00

CONFIDENCE: 7/10

OVERVIEW: Welcome again one and all, this week’s accumulator selection is a weekend whistle stop tour of the great European hotspots – Starting in Bolton and heading 5 star to Turin, Madrid, Milan, finishing in Monte Carlo for a little casino dabble with our winnings. All during lockdown, what a belter.

The set up is simple, £10, 5 teams, all to win, spread across Saturday and Sunday. We are due a winner and this could be the one.

PICKS: Bolton have started to pick up in League 2 after a difficult opening period. They’ve won their last four matches in all competitions and face a Southend side rock bottom of the football league. The visitors have been the whipping boys so far and have lost 4 of their last 5. HOME WIN

Juventus are starting to do what Juventus do, win games. Although not at their very best in Serie A thus far, they travel to a Benevento side who lost 4 of their last 5 league games and by some by decent margins. ROUTINE AWAY WIN.

Madrids league form has been a bit scratchy so far this season however, they welcome Alaves to the Bernabeu, A team they have beaten by at least 2 goals in their last 8 meetings. More of the same. HOME WIN.

Table Toppers AC Milan welcome 15th place Fiorentina to the San Siro where they haven’t lost for 13 league matches. In form Zlatan Ibrahimovic to continue his rich vein of form in this HOME WIN.

Monaco have won their last 3 Ligue 1 matches including a Cesc Fabregas inspired 3-2 win over PSG last time out. Opponents Nimes have lost 4 of their last 5. The equation suggests a Monaco win to WRAP UP THE ACCA.

BLOGIN BETS 21/11/20 (League 2 Special)

This week’s accumulator is £10 @10/1

CHELTENHAM 8/11 (Home v Walsall – KO 15:00)

EXETER 4/6 (Home v Oldham – KO 15:00)

CAMBRIDGE UNITED 4/6 (Away v Southend – KO 15:00)

NEWPORT COUNTY 1/1 (Home v Port Vale – KO 15:00)

CONFIDENCE: 7/10

OVERVIEW: I’ve scowled the usual leagues across Europe in search of something to get excited about and it’s either shortest of short odds or risky risky. Quite often you get weekends where the fixture list is not worth wiping your backside with. It’s a shame seeing as we finally made to the arse end of the naff international break.

Anyway, I had a little look at the lower leagues and realised most of the top teams are playing sides quite low down. Delving a bit deeper into form, odds etc I’ve managed to get a canny looking line from League 2. So here we have it, a League 2 special. Yes I know, there’s nowt special about it, same carry on, £10, 4 teams, all to win. 10/1 is cracking odds in my opinion and here’s why.

PICKS: Cheltenham sit 3rd in the league and have only lost once at home in their last 8 games which includes 6 wins. They entertain a 13th placed Walsall side who have lost their last 3 matches including a defeat to bottom side Southend. HOME WIN.

Exeter are now 13 games unbeaten and sit nicely in the playoff places. They welcome an Oldham side who have to make 500 mile round trip and sit perilously above the professional football relegation zone. HOME WIN.

Newport County are top of the tree and have won their last 6 league matches at home. Although opponents Port Vale sit just outside the playoffs, they are leaking as many goals as they are scoring. 7 home wins in a row incoming for County.

although Southend won their last match against Walsall, they hadn’t won for the previous 16. They sit rock bottom of the table, an ideal fixture for Cambridge who are flying high in 2nd. They have amassed 25 goals in their 12 matches so far only conceding 9. Go on you university toffs, WRAP UP THE ACCA FOR US.

BLOGIN BETS 4/10/20 – £100 challenge (Stage 3)

STAGE 3

• BARCELONA v SEVILLA – BOTH TEAMS TO HAVE 1+ CORNERS IN EACH HALF 1/2

  • STAKE: £22.50
  • RETURNS: £33.75

OVERVIEW: Arsenal wrapped up stage 2 with a comfortable victory over Sheffield United. The running total is now up to £22.50 so slowly we make our way toward the magic £100 mark.

Moving onto stage 3 straight away I’ve found a little corker in Spain tonight. Barcelona host Seville and all we are looking for is for each team to be awarded a corner in each half. Barcelona have had 11 corners in their first 2 La Liga matches while Seville have had 9 so this sounds simple enough. These 2 sides are amongst Spain’s most attacking sides and at 1/2 this is exactly what we need to keep this challenge going.

A CORNER A CORNER!

HOW LIONEL MESSI BECAME BARCELONA’S BIGGEST PROBLEM

Wouldn’t it be just like the crazy times of 2020 if the 8-2 Champions League demolition at the hands of Bayern Munich does turn out to be Lionel Messi’s last game for FC Barcelona. The greatest player to ever play the game cut a forlorn figure as he and his hapless, ageing teammates were mercilessly took apart in an empty stadium over in Portugal. 2020 may be one of the strangest years in human history but the Barcelona train has been on buckled tracks and on course for the cliffs of humiliation for a long time. They’ve finally reached their destination and Messi wants off.


The warning signs have been up for a while, not that the Barca higherachy seem to be paying much attention. Winning leagues. Yes. Winning cups. Yes. Yet those that have followed the club’s progress over the last 2 or 3 seasons have been aware of an alarming broader picture. The teams ageing squad, the very poor recruitment of players coupled with the lack of once famed youth team progression all playing major parts.

Messi, through no fault of his own, has become the club’s main problem which we’ll go into more detail later. But, his unwavered ability to win games on his own has lead those in charge to bury their head in the sands of Copa Del Rey’s and La Liga titles. There seems to be a complacent, arrogant air of ‘it’s ok, we’ve got Messi’ which wafts away around the Camp Nou. To an extent, this has papered over cracks but only because of Messi’s undoubted genius. It’s in the latter stages of the Champions League where the club have been found out. Crushing defeats to AS Roma and Liverpool in previous seasons made the world sit up and take notice. This isn’t the Barcelona of old, in fact, stop Messi the conductor and you stop the train completely.

Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, once reliable and unquestionably world class performers have all had the sands of time catch up on them. The wrong side of 30, the explosive pace needed at the top end of the elite game now eludes them as their glistening careers wind down. It’s to the club’s great shame that they didn’t let these legendary players either leave for a farmer’s league final payday or allow them to gracefully retire at the very top of their game a few years previous. The blame here lies in Barcelona’s terrible recruitment and lack of planning.


MESSI

The 6 time Balon D’Or winner ended the 19/20 season with 31 goals and 26 assists in all competitions for Barcelona this season despite missing a quarter of it through injury. How do you replace that? The answer is you can’t. But what Barcelona have failed to do is come up with any sort of contingency plan for a post Messi world. The world’s greatest player’s extraordinary performances over the last 15 seasons have seen him become not only invaluable on the pitch but commercially invaluable off it. It has earned him contracts of eye watering amounts but they’re contracts which has increasingly taken power away from the club and ones where the club can be effectively be held to ransom. Messi has it written into his contract that he can leave for free at the end of every season if he so chooses. This has meant signings all seem based around keeping their star man happy rather than looking at a bigger long term picture of the team. One case in point being that Luis Suarez probably would have been shipped out a year or 2 ago had he not been Messi’s best mate.

There has also been a very public dispute between Messi and the club’s sporting director, Eric Abidal. Usually quiet and unassuming, Messi flexed his muscles by lashing out at the Frenchman who had claimed the players weren’t working hard enough under then coach Ernesto Valverde. A wake up call for the club’s board, a PR disaster and a glimpse at the level of Messi’s general unhappiness within the club.

As it happens, Antoine Greizmann was last year’s marquee signing at £107 million which did gain Messi’s seal of approval. A great player for Atletico, he was seen as a good signing. However, looking a bit deeper, at 29 years of age it was another short term solution to Barcelona’s problems and a transfer fee that seemed very inflated. Sadly, even in the short term, Greizmann has looked a shadow of his former self and has struggled to fit into the Barca system, often pushed into a wider role he’s not been used to. Rumours have circulated that he and Messi don’t get on. Rumours which the pair have both strongly denied. Unsettling none the less and again, more bad publicity for the club. Prior and even post Greizmann, Messi has openly pined for Neymar to return to the club from PSG but his own astronomical wage package has meant the club could no longer afford the type of numbers needed to bring back world’s most expensive player. Greizmann would have to do and it’s failed massively.

Then there was the mid season signing of Martin Braithwaite outside of the transfer window which saw a lot of very highly raised eyebrows. It didn’t make any sense especially as Barcelona sort special permission to sign him. That along with other expensive failures such as Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have compounded the boardroom misery. With the lack of money available, you would think La Masia would be the club’s focus. The development of a new Messi, a new Xavi, Puyol or Iniesta should have been a priority but the talent coming through seems to have dried up with the clear focus being on the more established, older and expensive signings. This lack of youth intergration has probably set the club back years. The death of Johan Cruyff hasn’t helped either, would he have let things go this far? The famous Cruyff style of play seems to have been diluted out of the team’s DNA in recent seasons. One things for sure, new coach Ronald Koeman needs to clear the decks and start from scratch. The slight advantage for Koeman is his knowledge of the club. A legend in Barcelona, he knows the Cruyff core principles better than most and, hopefully, how to reimplement them. The downside he and Barcelona have is, how far do you let the club fall behind in order to rebuild properly? Big spenders Man City and PSG won’t wait around for them that’s for sure.

As for Messi, what next? Only a couple of clubs could realistically afford him in Europe, the afore mentioned. Talk of a return to boyhood club Newells in his native Argentina hasn’t gone away. That would basically mean playing for nothing with the major intense scrutiny and fanaticism that comes with it. This has potential to become a logistical nightmare for him and his young family. The 3rd option is to stay at Barcelona and help Koeman rebuild. He’d have to accept the old guard all departing and he himself taking up a more back seat role to allow the club to properly prepare for life without him. That’s not to say the club don’t just continue to keep their heads firmly lodged up their own proverbials and go on as though nothing has happened. Wouldn’t rule it out. Messi would still get the numbers because he’s that good. Then, a year or 2 down the line, he’d retire. What then? A dead institution primed and ready for mediocrity.

BLOGIN BETS 19/6/20

This week’s offering is 2x £5 lines. £5 ACCUMULATOR @7/1 and £5 TREBLE @11/1

LINE 1

  • BARCELONA 5/6 (Away v Sevilla. Friday KO 21:00)
  • LEVERKUSEN 4/7 (Away v Hertha Berlin. Saturday KO 14:30)
  • ATLETICO MADRID 1/3 (Home v Valladolid. Saturday KO 21:00)
  • CHELSEA 1/2 (Away v Aston Villa. Sunday KO 16:15)
  • INTER 3/10 (Home v Sampdoria. Sunday KO 20:45)

CONFIDENCE: 6/10

LINE 2

  • ARSENAL 13/10 (Away v Brighton. Saturday KO 15:00)
  • WEST BROM 4/7 (Home v Birmingham. Saturday KO 15:00)
  • NEWCASTLE 9/4 (Home v Sheffield United. Sunday KO 14:00)

CONFIDENCE: 5/10

OVERVIEW: A slight change of tactics this week after another horror show last time out. I’ve decided to split this week’s £10 and have two lines running, hopefully at once. Main reason for this being I’ve selected Barcelona on line 1 which is on Friday night. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, it’s Barcelona after all, but on this occasion it’s a risky selection with them being away at high flying Sevilla. Should that selection fail it would leave us with nothing to go at over Saturday and Sunday. That’s where the back up 2nd line comes in.

The results really have been all over the shop since football’s return, 2 lines should increase the chances of a win. I read the other day that home win percentages were down about 30% or 40% since the behind closed doors matches began. It shows what a difference the crowds make in creating the home advantage we’re usually accustomed to.

This week’s fixture set isn’t the greatest pool to pick from and going off the previous failures I’ve tried to be a bit more gut feeling rather than being too focused on stats and form. I’d be lying if I said these selections were anywhere near guaranteed and it’s probably the least confident I’ve felt since football returned. Having said that, a change of luck is definitely due and usually arrives when least expected. Here’s hoping.

LINE 1 PICKS: Barcelona travel to 3rd placed Sevilla looking to maintain their lead at the top of La Liga. Seville have had a good season and they have their own Champions League securing aspirations. This is by no means a given result but Lionel Messi has returned from the break in imperious form resulting in 2 wins from 2. If Barca can get through this tricky Friday night match this line has a GREAT CHANCE.

Fresh from a comprehensive drubbing of Osasuna, Atletico will be looking to carry on their decent form and hold on to the converted Champions League spot at home to lowly Valladolid. Golden Boy João Felix finally started to show his worth with a hattrick last time out, hopefully the start of a run for the talented Portuguese. HOME WIN.

Leverkusen are unbeaten in 9 away matches in all competitions with 7 of those being victories. I fancy that run to continue at Hertha who have lost their last 3 matches and are marooned in mid table with nothing to play for. Havertz to bag again, AWAY WIN.

Chelsea have been moving along quite nicely under Frank Lampard and sit in the top 4. Their opponents Villa haven’t won for 7 matches and are 2nd bottom with relegation looking a very distinct likelihood. Chelsea’s quality should shine through with the help of an empty Villa Park.

Inter’s Serie A title hopes may have faded in the week’s leading up to the lockdown but they still should be too strong for struggling Sampdoria. The away side have secured a couple of positive results in recent, not so recent matches, albeit against team’s way off Inter’s quality. It’s possible we could have a good cash out number if we get to this point on Sunday night which maybe worth looking at, but I reckon Inter will wrap up the acca without needing it. HOME WIN!

LINE 2 PICKS: Arsenal divide a lot of opinion but the defeat at City was their first in 2020. Despite a lot of draws in that run, that’s pretty good going. Their opponents on the other hand are on a 10 match winless streak and only 2 points above the drop zone. The Gunner’s extra match fitness could be an aiding factor and hopefully we’ll see Lacazette partner Aubameyang upfront to give the away side that extra firepower. AWAY WIN.

WEST BROM look destined for promotion to the Premier League but they also aim to pip Leeds to the Championship title. Although this is a heated derby match I’d usually avoid, I think the home team will show why they are deserve to be promoted against Birmingham side who sit 16th and without a win in 7 games. Bragging rights West Brom.

Ahhh Newcastle United. This is a pick from the heart with logic going straight out the window. The opposition, Sheffield United, have had a excellent first season back in the Premier League and are chasing a European spot. I just have sneaky feeling the Toon will gain a narrow victory in this one at St.James’ Park. Having beat the blades in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, I’m hoping for the same on Sunday. Saint-Maximin to be key in a 1-0 or 2-1. TOON TOON!!!!

BLOGIN BETS 13/6/20

This week’s accumulator £10 @8/1

• DORTMUND & OVER 1.5 GOALS 2/5 (Away v Fortuna Düsseldorf. Saturday KO 14:30)

• BRAGA 4/11 (Home v Boavista. Saturday KO 21:00)

• BARCELONA & OVER 2.5 GOALS 4/6 (Away v Mallorca. Saturday KO 21:00)

• LEVERKUSEN 1/2 (Away v Schalke. Sunday KO 17:00)

• GALATASARAY 4/7 (Away v Rizespor. Sunday KO 19:00)

CONFIDENCE: 7/10

OVERVIEW: After last week’s shit show I was tempted to move away from the acca avenue but,having scowled and researched the fixtures, there’s a more wide ranging selection of picks to go at this time round. La Liga returns in Spain along with the Turkish SuperLig so I’ve gone for 5 selections across 4 different countries spread over Saturday and Sunday. More confident than last week.

PICKS: Dortmund’s title hopes may be fading by the week but they have still won 4 away league matches on the bounce. Their style of play will always suggest goals, either their own or leaking at the other end. Their opponents, Düsseldorf maybe unbeaten in their last 4 home games but that only includes one win. 2nd top v 3rd bottom. Away win with goals.

Braga will be looking consolidate their Europa League spot at home to Boavista. A defeat in their last outing was their first for 11 games so they’ll be looking to bounce straight back. Boavista haven’t won for 6 games 4 of which were defeats and are on the slide, I reckon that streak will continue. HOME WIN.

Despite not always being at their best away from home this season, Barcelona are still top of La Liga with a 2 point cushion. They’ll be out to maintain that gap when they travel to 3rd from bottom Mallorca. With Lionel Messi expected to be fit, the chances of goals are greatly increased. In the 5 previous meetings between the sides, Barcelona have triumphed with a margin of 2 or more goals. I fancy that run to continue, Comfortable Barca victory.

Leverkusen are excellent value at 1/2. They have won 5 consecutive away games in all competitions and are unbeaten in 9. 17 year old forward Florian Wirtz has been very impressive in recent weeks along with main man Kai Havertz and both are in line to play. Their opponents, Schalke, haven’t won for 12 league games with defeats in 7 and have only managed 4 goals whilst shipping 20 in that run. Another defeat incoming. AWAY WIN.

Galatasaray are only 3 points out of the Champions League positions so there’s a big win incentive. The opposition, Rizespor, are winless in 10 matches and are in the relegation places. No crowd could be to Gala’s advantage in this one where quality should prevail. Another away win to CLINCH THE ACCA!!!

EL SALVADOR, EL FENOMENO AND A WISE OLD MAN FROM SACRISTON

The tempestuous summer of ‘96 at FC Barcelona

Since arriving as manager in 1988, Johan Cruyff had transformed the fortunes of FC Barcelona. Already a club great from his time as a player, he went on to oversee 4 La Liga titles, a European cup winners cup, a Copa del Rey, 4 Supercopas and even managed to bring home the elusive European Cup. The first in the club’s history as Barcelona were dubbed the dream team. However, two trophy-less seasons coupled with very public disagreements with club president, Josep Luís Núñez, the talk had remarkably turned to questions about the manager’s future. With speculation increasing, the president did the unthinkable. He sacked Johan Cruyff in May 1996. All hell broke loose in Catalonia and El Salvador himself was gone without any resurrection.

The man asked to step in and act as God was a 63 year old Englishman from the coalmine heartlands of Sacriston, County Durham. Bobby Robson was handed the unenviable task of replacing the greatest figure in Barcelona club history. Having passed up the opportunity twice before due to other contractual commitments, he was offered the job after an unrelated phone call about Barcelona star Luís Figo. The time was right for Robson. He’d been successful with the English national team and won titles with various club teams on the continent. He felt he now had the experience needed to handle the Spanish giants on the pitch, but also the political affairs off it. Robson would bring with him a young José Mourinho as Assistant, coach and translator having worked together at sporting Lisbon. The remit was simple; to propel Barcelona back to the la Liga summit.

In the boardroom, Núñez was up against it. It was an extremely risky move to dispose of Cruyff. There was the inevitable media frenzy and a very discontented supporter base. Death threats had arrived at his door and he required 24 hour protection. The president needed something to get the fans back on side and not only that, Barcelona had gone two years without a single trophy. It was practically unheard of.

Núñez, along with Vice President Juan Gaspart, summoned Robson to a meeting. It was outlined that they needed a big signing, a striker that would fire them back to trophy success and also put bums back on Camp Nou seats. They asked Robson if he knew any and, more importantly, if any that would be available. Robson identified a couple of centre forwards but explained to his new employers that it was going to cost. Barcelona at the time didn’t have the money but the club was at a real crossroad. Núñez was getting desperate. They’d have to find the cash, take Robson’s recommendations and back him. 

The first striker identified was in England. Alan Shearer was top goal scorer at Euro 96 and the European golden boot winner. Indications were that he would be leaving Blackburn Rovers that summer. A few phone call enquiries later it was apparent he was looking to stay in the Premier League and didn’t want to relocate his young family to Spain. A polite thanks, but no thanks.

Not too downbeat, they headed to the Dutch city of Eindhoven.

RONALDO LUÍS NAZÁRIO DE LIMA

Ronaldo, El Fenomeno was exactly that. A bonified footballing phenomenon. Playing the previous season with PSV, Ronaldo had fired 54 goals in 57 games. He had electrifying pace, power and mesmerising skill, the likes of which, many had never seen before. At just 19 years of age, Ronaldo was the hottest property on the planet and ticked all the Barcelona boxes.

The Barcelona Vice President, Juan Gaspart, contacted PSV and the green light was finally given on a whopping $19.5 million transfer after a series of long stand-offs. With the world record fee set, Barcelona had 30 days to agree terms with ronaldo or PSV would pull the plug. It seemed like plenty of time to get the deal done but there was a problem. Ronaldo was half way round the world in Miami with the Brazilian national team and was proving impossible to contact. With time running out to sign him, panic had started to set in. Gaspart flew to the United States in hope he could speak with the player one to one.

The signing of Ronaldo was out of a film’ Gaspart told YouTube channel Idolos. “I arrived and wasn’t able to see Ronaldo very easily. There were some bouncers at his door in the hotel and they had orders not to let anyone through. I couldn’t beat the two-metre-tall bouncers up because they’d have sent my flying with a single punch, but something occurred to me. I managed to get a hotel waiter to lend me his bow tie and jacket and he gave me a tray with a Coca-Cola on it. I went up to the floor the team were on in the lift and there were two bouncers there. I told them I had a drink for Ronaldo and I went in. I introduced myself to Ronaldo and he called his agent and told them that he’d been caught. I told him that we’d complain if he didn’t sign and, in the end, an agreement was sped up. We hugged on the bed in his hotel room and finalised everything.’

Ronaldo was finally unveiled in July 1996 and a slice of the summer negativity at FC Barcelona was partially lifted. Becoming the most expensive player in the world has its pitfalls but Ronaldo would score within five minutes of his debut against Atlético Madrid and Bobby Robson got off to a flying start as boss. However the season of 96/97 would become one of fall outs, controversy and betrayal which threatened to derail the club’s ultimate quest for glory.

To be continued.