Selasa, 29 Desember 2009

Jonathan:”I will improve”

Jonathan Dos Santos Barca B 1110

In an interview after Barca B in over Sabadell (3-0), Barca Atlètic midfielder and Mexican Jonathan Dos Santos (19) repeated his willingness to continue growing, either in Barca B or the first team: “My goal is to do my best at Barça Atlètic, gaining valuable playing time and helping the team win the points. If God wills it, within a short or long term I hope to be with the first team.”

Dos Santos recent good performances even earned him a call up for the Mexican national team last month but the youngster is still focused and prepared to play in both first and second team: “I am so lucky to have all my coaches. For me there is no radical change, although very different football is played by both sides, I think I’m adjusting well. Little by little I will improve.”

Senin, 28 Desember 2009

World Cup 2010: Barcelona Star Lionel Messi Targets World Cup Glory With Argentina

Lionel Messi, Barcelona (Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi, Barcelona (Getty Images)

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is hoping to crown a memorable year by lifting the World Cup with Argentina in 2010.

Having scooped a trophy cabinet of silverware and personal awards in 2009, the FIFA World Player of the Year is eager to go one better and win the greatest prize in football.

Messi is currently in Argentina celebrating the festive season with friends and family and upon his return, he set the tone for 2010. He claims World Cup glory is the only achievement that can surpass all he has done thus far at the Camp Nou.

"I have had a great 2009 as we won everything," he is quoted as saying on

"My ambition is to keep growing and to win something with Argentina at the World Cup. All I have done can be exceeded by winning the World Cup.

"I will always make an effort for the national team and I hope my performances get better."

Report: Arsenal Chairman P***** Off With Barcelona

EPL: Cesc Fabregas, Burnley v Arsenal (Getty Images)
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EPL: Cesc Fabregas, Burnley v Arsenal (Getty Images)

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has reportedly lost patience with Spanish giants Barcelona and the continued speculation linking club captain Cesc Fabregas with a move to the Catalan club.
Fabregas has oft proclaimed his unswerving loyalty to the footballing vision instilled into Arsenal by meticulous manager Arsene Wenger, but that has not perturbed the playmaking midfielder's pursuiters.

"I am really p****d off with Barcelona and all that nonsense," Hill-Wood is said to have told The Daily Star.

"Cesc is on a very good, long-term contract and I don't think he has any intention of not honouring it.

"It is not the first time they have done this and it is a most disrespectful and tiresome thing to do.

"You would think there would be some action you could take against them, but I suppose you cannot stop the man shooting his mouth off.

"Our position, and I think Cesc's position, is very steadfast," he added. "He has been with us for seven years and there is no reason he should want to up sticks.

"I don't think I would talk to him about what Barcelona have been saying because I don't think he wants to talk about it.

"From everything we hear he is very settled. He has a long-term contract and I see absolutely no reason why it shouldn't continue."

Barcelona have also been linked with a move for prodigiously-talented striker Benik Afobe.

The youngster is said to be held in the highest of regards by Wenger due to his outstanding goal-scoring exploits in the club's youth side, and his technical ability is believed to belie his years, however, the player is understood to prefer a stay in north

Barcelona's Sergio Busquets Lauds Pep Guardiola's Coaching Techniques

Sergio Busquets, Barcelona (PA)
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Sergio Busquets, Barcelona (PA)

Barcelona won every competition that they entered in 2009, and Sergio Busquets has revealed some of the secrets behind that success.

Speaking to Sport, Busquets elaborated on Guardiola's methods, saying, "Working with him is very easy."

"It is clear that he enjoys what he does, and preparing you for games. In ten minutes, he tells you everything you need to know.

"In 50 pictures, he shows you the strategy of the opponent."

Busquets then went on to pay tribute to the coaching staff in general, continuing, "The whole team is fantastic."

"We are more professional every day. The first team works very hard.

"The technical staff spare no details in preparing us for games."

The Barca midfielder has only been playing senior football since the beginning of last season, and he spoke of the changes it has made to his life, stating, "I do not have a very peaceful life."

"At times, I lack privacy. I don't have as much time to be with my family."

Finally, Busquets spoke about the harmony within the group, highlighting Lionel Messi, saying, "We are lucky to be a group that get along very well, which is noticeable from the outside."

"Messi is a star in every sense. He is not as timid as he seems.

"With us, he is very confident. He regards himself as just another one of us.

"If he has to pick up a bag of balls, he will do it.

"He is very grounded."

Gus Poyet: Barcelona Pain Will Spur Chelsea To Champions League Glory

Gustavo Poyet (PA)
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Gustavo Poyet (PA)

Chelsea can use the pain of last season's semi-final defeat to Barcelona to motivate them to victory in this season's Champions League campaign, according to former midfielder Gus Poyet.

The Uruguayan, now manager at League One outfit Brighton and Hove Albion, is eager to see the Blues succeed having witnessed last season's controversial exit, when much of the focus was on referee Tom Henning Ovrebo's performance.

"I want them to win the Champions League so badly," Poyet told The Daily Mirror.

"It’s something that is becoming an obsession for everyone related to Chelsea.

"I was there watching the Barcelona game and it was difficult to take. I was pleased that I wasn’t on the pitch."

"But this is why I think 2010 will be their year. The pain of that Barcelona will motivate them."

I Never Get Tired Of Winning - Barcelona Star Lionel Messi

FIFA Player Of The Year 2009 - Lionel Messi (Getty Images)
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FIFA Player Of The Year 2009 - Lionel Messi (Getty Images)

Barcelona’s recently-crowned Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has spoke of how he is enjoying his football at the moment, and how he will never tire of the desire to keep winning both with his club and at international level with Argentina.

Messi helped the Blaugrana round off an incredible 2009 with victory in the World Club championship, their sixth trophy of they year, and is also confident of success at next summers World Cup in South Africa.

Speaking in an interview with Sport, the player spoke of his desire to maintain his level of performance in the year ahead.

He said, "My wish for 2010 is to keep winning titles with Barcelona, the truth is that I never tire, nor do I think I will ever tire of winning.

"Personally, there is not much more I can ask of this year. No doubt I want to continue to grow as a footballer, because I am one of those who thinks that there is always room for improvement.

"I like to find new challenges, although I have to appreciate how spectacular this year has been."

Messi also indicated his fondness for the city of Barcelona and for the reception he has received from the Catalonians during his time in the city.

He added, "I have always felt privileged here, and all the people who have passed through my life were crucial to getting me to where I am now.”

Barcelona's Zlatan Ibrahimovic Believes That Roberto Mancini Is The Right Man For Manchester City

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Barcelona (Marca)
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Barcelona (Marca)

Barcelona hitman Zlatan Ibrahimovic has revealed that he believes former Inter coach Roberto Mancini is the right person for Manchester City.

Mancini was appointed last week to the position, replacing Mark Hughes as manager of the Citizens.

"I think that City has understood that they cannot become Barcelona or Inter overnight," the Swedish international told People as quoted by Corriere Dello Sport. "A lot of time is needed, but also the right man at the helm.

"'Mancio' will change the mentality of the club because he is a great coach, and the players will realise it soon enough.

"Only the great coaches are able to guide the great players.

"If they see a weak boss, who has never managed a top club, they can take advantage of him.

"It has nothing to with not respecting Mark Hughes, but City needed a coach that knows how to turn a team into a great one," concluded Ibrahimovic.

Barcelona Star Andres Iniesta Aiming To Repeat Historic Six Trophy Haul

Andres Iniesta celebrated his return to the Barcelona first-team by scoring in their 3-1 win over Mallorca.
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Andres Iniesta celebrated his return to the Barcelona first-team by scoring in their 3-1 win over Mallorca.

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta says his side must enjoy the "historic" success of 2009 but adds that the demands at the club mean they must try to repeat their six trophy haul when the Spanish football campaign returns from its winter break next weekend.

"What we have experienced this year at Barca is something historic, unsurpassed in terms of titles. Now we have to enjoy it and try to do it again," Iniesta is quoted as saying by AS.

The 25-year-old midfielder also praised coach Pep Guardiola who he says deserves the six trophy haul the Blaugrana achieved this year.

"The titles speak for themselves. He is a very hardworking coach, it's normal that the results follow."

Barcelona resume duties in the Primera Liga on January 2, when they host a resurgent Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Pep Guardiola's Barca future in doubt

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola could be considering leaving Camp Nou at the end of his current contract, despite guiding the Blaugranas to their most successful ever year in 2009.

Pep Guardiola


Pep Guardiola: Considering leaving Barcelona at the end of his contract?

Barcelona have won all six competitions they have contested since Guardiola took charge 18 months ago but the 38-year-old coach has yet to reveal whether he will extend his contract beyond this season.

Spanish media have speculated that Guardiola, who played for the club for 11 seasons, is exhausted and plans to take a break, while others believe he is waiting for the results of next year's presidential elections to see who will succeed current supremo Joan Laporta.

"Pep is a very thoughtful person and he knows what he means to the club," Laporta was quoted as saying in the Spanish press on Monday. "He wants to carry on but there are a number of things he wants to think about. I am optimistic but it's not something that you should decide in the short term."

Barca's 2-1 comeback win over Estudiantes in the final of the Club World Cup on Saturday completed a remarkable year for the Catalans and their rookie manager Guardiola. The Spanish boss has won every trophy he has competed for since replacing former boss Frank Rijkaard in the Camp Nou hotseat last summer.

An unprecedented treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League was achieved at the end of the 2008-09 season, with the Spanish and European Super Cups and the Club World Cup already in the bag this campaign.

La Razon daily wrote on Monday that Guardiola, who broke down in tears at the end of Saturday's match, was "exhausted" and was thinking of stepping aside at the end of the season when his contract expires.

"The coach knows that there is no better time to rest than when you are at the summit," the newspaper wrote. "It's been many months of work, many hours invested and a lot of lost hair. It has all borne fruit but maybe the time has come to say enough. Pep knows that in this way the doors at Barca will always be open to him if he wants to return."

La Vanguardia said the uncertainty about Guardiola's future was worrying the club's board but that they were also reluctant to pressure him into making a decision.

"They would like a response as soon as possible so that the situation does not become a weapon in the imminent presidential election," the newspaper wrote.

The Spanish Primera Liga is currently in its winter break and Barca's next match is a friendly in Kuwait on January 2.

Gerard Pique Set To Extend Barcelona Deal Until 2014

Stankovic, Pique, Barcelona, Inter (MARCA)
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Stankovic, Pique, Barcelona, Inter (MARCA)
Barcelona central defender Gerard Pique will soon put pen to paper on a contract extension that will keep him at Camp Nou until 2014, according to Sport.

Since arriving at Barca from Manchester United in 2008, Pique has established himself as a key part of the Barcelona back line that achieved unprecedented success in the intervening season and a half.

It is understood that Barca's sporting director Txiki Begiristain and Pique's advisor, Arturo Canales, have already had tentative talks on a renewal and club president Joan Laporta has been quoted as saying Pique is next on the list of players the club wants to tie down to a longer deal.

"Pique will be next to renew his contract because he deserves it. Today, Gerard is one of the best central defenders in the world," Laporta is quoted as saying.

It is believed that the new deal for the 22-year-old defender will see him earn in the region of €5 million with his buyout clause set to rise from €50 million to €150 million in line with recent renewals.

Senin, 21 Desember 2009

Club World Cup: Barcelona Loss A Huge Blow For Estudiantes Midfielder Juan Veron

Juan Sebastian Veron- Lio Messi- Xavi - Estudiantes-Barcelona (Mexsport)
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Juan Sebastian Veron- Lio Messi- Xavi - Estudiantes-Barcelona (Mexsport)

    Argentinian outfit Estudiantes came close to upsetting Barcelona in the final of the Club World Cup championship, but a late goal from Pedro sent both sides into extra-time and Lionel Messi eventually helped the Spanish powerhouse to victory. Estudiantes midfielder Juan Veron was satisfied with his side's performances in Abu Dhabi, but the loss against Barca came as a huge blow.

    "We were so close it hurts, but unfortunately football’s like that: sometimes it gives and other times it takes away. But our minds should be at ease because we gave our very best against opponents of the calibre of Barcelona. Over and above the pain of losing and the sadness we’re feeling, we’d like to congratulate Barcelona on their victory," said Veron to

    "Our performance here was very good. The sheer strength of the opponents we were up against must be taken into account. For many stretches of the game you couldn’t tell which side had all the star names. At no point did they ever feel they had the game under control. And what’s more, I dare say that if we’d been a touch more clinical we could even have scored another goal.

    "I’m very proud to be part of this squad and this club, and I think the other lads should be too. Barcelona have put some great teams to the sword but we had them on the ropes in the final of a Club World Cup. I think that sums up what we did at this tournament."

    Barcelona President Joan Laporta Reveals Manchester City Rejected Robinho Bid

    EPL: De Souza Robinho, Everton v Manchester City (PA)
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    EPL: De Souza Robinho, Everton v Manchester City (PA)

      Barcelona president Joan Laporta has revealed thatRobinho will not be joining the newly crowned world champions after Manchester City rejected the Blaugrana's offer for the Brazilian forward.

      Robinho has been linked with a move to Camp Nou since the summer and various reports in the Spanish press in the intervening period suggested that a deal would be done during the winter transfer window, with officials from both clubs expected to meet during Barca's stay in the United Arab Emirates for the FIFA Club World Cup.

      Laporta has now revealed that a deal is no longer on the cards after City turned down a bid from Barca and it is unlikely that any addition will be made to the squad during the winter window.

      "We are pleased with our squad and if we have to do some fine-tuning we will. Our offer for Robinho was not accepted and this team we have will not be added to, unless something unforeseen arises at the last minute," he is quoted as saying by Sport.

      African Comment: Ungrateful Barcelona May Lose Yaya Toure?

      Yaya Toure - Barcelona (Getty Images)
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      Yaya Toure - Barcelona (Getty Images)

        There is no doubt that Barcelona and Chelsea are two of the most popular European clubs in sub-Saharan Africa.

        This is in huge part because of the effective presence of some African players – the likes of Samuel Eto’o making Barca popular before his transfer to Inter, while Didier Drogba and Michel Essien increase Chelsea's appeal.

        When Eto'o left Barcelona at the beginning of this season, he obviously did so with a good number of African Barca fans in tow. Their love for the Spanish club relocated to Inter Milan.

        This transfer of affection did not simply take place due to Eto'o's move. It was in fact because many African fans felt Barcelona was ungrateful to Eto'o and his achievements, by pushing him out to Italy in an "undignified" swap deal with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

        Eto'o was visibly satisfied with his new contract but some of his fans who loved him as well as Barça were furious at the club for putting 43.5 million Euros (£37.6 million) on top of Eto’o to get Ibrahimovic, whom they see as no greater than their Sammy or Pichinchin.

        And now, Barcelona is looking for more trouble and might lose more of its sub-Saharan African fans as the Yaya Toure saga rolls on.

        The Ivorian Barcelona midfielder told the BBC Sport on Saturday that he is unhappy with his club because he is being underused.

        “I am a strong person and I can play 30 or 25 games, but when I only play five or 10 games I’m not so happy about that,” Toure said.

        And this is turning rumours into reality in the Ivory Coast that Toure is getting fed up with his club. “Run now before they jilt you like Eto’o,” Ivorian fans would say each time they gossip about Toure.

        Bother yourselves no more, fans: the boy is warming up to shoot elsewhere.

        “I’m flattered by the interest from clubs like Arsenal and Manchester City. I’m very happy because they are big teams. Let’s see what they will bring forth. But for me, the most important thing is that I want to play everyday,” Toure revealed to the BBC Sport.

        However, his heart seems to lean towards City, not just because “they have signed big players and have a lot of ambition,” but because of his elder brother, Kolo Toure, who captains City.

        “It’s my dream to play with my brother in the same team, but only God knows how tomorrow will look like,” he said.

        With rumours abounding that Kolo is looking for a move of his own, perhaps the pair's reunion will be more distant than first thought. But regardless, Barcelona would do well to remember that Toure isn't just one man. He carries with him the dreams of millions.

        Spanish Inquisition: Is It All Downhill From Here For Barcelona?

        Barcelona Players (Mexsport)

        Barcelona Players (Mexsport)

        Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but the future does look rather bleak for Barcelona... but in a good, complimentary kind of way. And besides they were coach, Pep Guardiola’s own words, not mine.

        But the former midfield maestro turned prodigy coach does have a very valid point. And he is making those declarations as a pre-emptive measure to play down any expectations from fans and critics that the team will effortlessly waltz away with 12 titles in 2010. Not that that’s possible, even for the wizards and magicians of Camp Nou, but you get the gist of what he’s trying to do.

        Everyone at the Barca camp, including Pep himself, had remarked that it would be near impossible to repeat the kind of success that the club attained over the past 12 months.

        Everything that Barcelona do from here on out, whether it’s Guardiola’s team or a completely different squad five, ten years down the line, will always be compared to the history-makers of 2009. Real Madrid had to live in the shadows of the Alfredo Di Stefano-led glory era from the 50’s and 60’s for a long time, while Milan had to contend with their own achievements from the 80’s. More recently, Arsenal have had to cope with a barrage of condemnation because the current young stars are struggling to revive the team of ‘Invincibles’ from the 2003/04 season when they won the league title without losing a single game.

        Even now, Barca are drawing critique after critique for their performances, simply because they do not look as vibrant and as exhilarating as they did last season, eventhough they are still playing beautiful, possession football and getting the required results. One can only guess just how much they will be slandered and disparaged should they walk away with only the Copa del Rey in 2010.

        The fact of the matter is, their achievements in 2009 do not need to be topped or even replicated. There’s no official rule in football saying that a club must win the same amount of titles or more one year after the other to join the annals of the all-time greats. The class of 2008/09 won the sextuple and it will be this group of players who will be recognised as the immortals of their generation.

        But football, as with all things in life, doesn’t quite work like that. People will celebrate and embrace Barca’s unprecedented success, but in the long run, it is ultimately failure that will be remembered and revisited the most.

        Which of these two games will people bring to light more often in the future: the 6-1 mauling of Real Zaragoza or the 2-1 home defeat to Rubin Kazan in the Champions League?

        Just another day at the office

        The bar has also been raised monumentally not just for the Blaugrana, but for the next administration who will take over Joan Laporta’s reign. It will be even tougher for Guardiola. There is absolutely nothing he can do that will top his outrageous achievements in his first 18-monts at the job. Such is the exaltation that has been showered on Pep that if and when he chooses to leave Catalunya to coach a different club abroad, he will forever have to carry the six winners’ medas around his neck wherever he goes, and be expected to deliver the same level of success, whether it will be at Roma, Brescia or Rubin Kazan.

        While the harshest of critics will demand that Barcelona go on to win another six titles in the new year before they can be convinced that Guardiola’s Drean Team II are a champion outfit, there’s a small part inside the rest of us who do not want the Calatan behemoths to duplicate another hextuple-winning campaign.

        Records are meant to be broken and the history books are there to be written on, but it’s always more unique and treasured when a crowning achievement is accomplished only once. If it happens to often and repeated too frequently, the allure and the myth will disappear.

        Barcelona Will Work Hard To Repeat Last Season's Heroics - Xavi

        Dec 21, 2009 4:29:15 PM

        Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez takes questions from the media ahead of the Champions League clash with Chelsea
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        Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez takes questions from the media ahead of the Champions League clash with Chelsea

          Spanish international Xavi was one of the absolute key man in Barcelona's extremely successful year and the playmaker played a big part in his team's six prizes. Xavi is confident that Barcelona will stay modest though and that hard work will be the key to more success.

          "It will be an unbelievable joy for all five players here if they win. I am overjoyed to be among the five nominees and I hope I win," was Xavi quoted as saying on a press conference.

          "Six titles in one season can’t be repeated. Winning the Champions League was Barcelona's biggest success. Nevertheless, our first win in the Club World Cup was also big and I am very happy that we’ve won this prize now.

          "I think it’s a matter of not losing our modesty and continue to work hard. We had to work hard to win all this prizes in the past, but we will try to repeat our success. We are competitive and have a competitive group. We have to keep working hard and stay modest if we are to equal our success," continued the midfielder.

          The Barcelona youth academy product also took the time to discuss why the Spanish titleholders are so successful, despite their lack of a physical presence on the pitch.

          "Luckily football is more about talent than about energy and power. Talent will always surpass force in football and this is for the good of the game. Of course football’s physical, but we have the advantage of talent prevailing force at Barcelona.

          "I can think of a lot of people to dedicate the Player of the Year award to if I win the award. I could dedicate it to all our fans and to the Barcelona youth academy. Of course to my team mates and to my family. They've always stood unconditionally at our side."

          Lionel Messi At The FIFA Awards: It's Been A Perfect Year

          La Pulga was on hand to answer questions at the FIFA World Player Gala...

          Lionel Messi - Estudiantes-Barcelona (Mexsport)
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          Lionel Messi - Estudiantes-Barcelona (Mexsport)

            Widely regarded to win the FIFA World Player Award,Lionel Messi was largely modest in FIFA's Gala preceding the presentation of the award.

            When asked of his reaction to receiving the award, Messi expressed his happiness. "It is a great joy to be here for the 3rd consecutive year. It is the culmination of a year that cannot be improved upon".

            When asked about his favourite memory of a record year for Barcelona, the Argentine cited the Champions League final victory as his highest achievement. He also went on to praise FIFA for their organization of the Club World Cup and cited the Abu Dhabi fans as "very enthusiastic".

            As for what is in store for the rest of 2010, the Ballon d'Or winner highlighted the importance of working to continue to achieve good results saying that Barca would continue to fight for all titles.

            Seated next to Xavi, Iniesta, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Kaka, the three Barcelona players were markedly shorter than their Madrid counterparts and when asked of the height difference, Messi downplayed its importance, saying "Barca have some tall players, but also players who can run a match. Football is such that height does not matter as much as talent."

            The Argentine had high praise for the rest of the candidates and thanked Crisitano Ronaldo for his warm compliments, saying that the arrivals of CR9 and Kaka to La Liga will reinforce the Spanish league. However, he did not go so far as to say that La Liga stood atop the world as the best league citing England's teams that are always near the top of the Champions League. Of Robinho's possible transfer to Barcelona in January, Messi chose not to comment, but said that if the Brazilian did come to Barca, he would be welcome.

            Finally, when asked why he could not manage to replicate his club form for the Argentina national team, Messi was evasive. "I just want to say that I will try to do the same thing for the Albiceleste as for Barca. The qualifying matches were difficult, but World Cup can be very different. I have achieved everything I can for my club, now I would like to do the same for the national team".

            World Player Of The Week: Pedro Rodriguez - Barcelona

            Join in saluting another global player worthy of recognition...

            Pedro  - Estudiantes-Barcelona (Mexsport)
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            Pedro - Estudiantes-Barcelona (Mexsport)

              Welcome to's regular feature: World Player of the Week. Each week our worldwide team of editors will put forward a selected candidate, as chosen by International, who deserves recognition for achieving something special that matchday. It won't necessarily be the best player in the world - at least not usually - but whoever we nominate will have done something amazing. It might be for a particularly awesome performance or for something praiseworthy off the pitch - either way, the person in question deserves special attention...

     World Player of the Week #31: Pedro Rodriguez
              Club: Barcelona
              Country: Spain
              Age: 22
              Role: Forward
              Achievement: Completed a unique feat in scoring at the Club World Cup - making him the only player to score in six competitions in one season.

              Pedro, the Canaries-born attacker, began the season as a squad player at Barcelona - behind the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry in the jostle for starting berths. However, over the course of the past few months, the 22-year-old has become a vital asset for the Blaugrana. By scoring against Atlante last week, he became the first player to score in six different competitions in a single season following strikes in the European Super Cup, La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League and Spanish Super Cup. He helped turn the Club World Cup final around after being introduced as a substitute and netting the equaliser with only two minutes remaining in normal time. A bright future lies ahead for yet another Cantera product; expect to see Pedro's name in lights many more times this season.

              Congratulations to Pedro , our 31st World Player of the Week!

              Honourable Mentions

              Rafael van der Vaart: Real Madrid

              The former Ajax man took his first goal brilliantly against Real Zaragoza as he scored a brace that will really help his confidence. He was so comfortable on the ball all evening as Real Madrid trounced their opposition - a really timely performance.

              Nicolas Spolli: Catania

              The Argentine defender had a fantastic match, giving coach Sinisa Mihajlovic his first victory as coach of the Sicilian club. In the first-half he completely nullified the Juventus offence, leading the Etnei to an historic victory in Turin.

              Daniel Van Buyten: Bayern Munich

              Following the departure of Lucio, there were many questions as to whether Bayern’s defence would be able to improve from last year, but Van Buyten has risen to the challenge and exceeded expectations. Against Hertha, the towering Belgian defender played well defensively and a glancing header as Bayern coasted to a comfortable win.

              Leave your notes of congratulations for Pedro below, or discuss who else deserves a place in the sun this week...

              Johan Cruyff 'Proud' Of Barcelona Coach Pep Guardiola

              The Barcelona legend is 'proud' of Guardiola's achievements...

              Johan Cruyff, Catalunya (MARCA)
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              Johan Cruyff, Catalunya (MARCA)

                Following Barcelona’s historic Club World Cup victory over Estudiantes, club legend Johann Cruyff has become the latest high profile name to herald Pep Guardiola’s achievements as coach.

                The flying Dutchman admitted that not only had Guardiola written a new chapter in club history as coach, but had done so in immaculate style.

                "It's not just the result," he said, “but also the way to win, always producing quality on the field."

                Cruyff, who remains the most successful coach in the Catalan club’s rich history, securing no less than eleven titles during his time in the hot-seat, was quoted inMarca as being "proud" of Guardiola for achieving, "a title that the club did not have, in more than one hundred years of history".

                The current Catalonia tactician also revealed how impressed he has been with Pep’s decision making, saying the coach "knows to make decisions as he demonstrated on Saturday in the Club World Cup final".

                The Club World Cup was Guardiola’s sixth title since taking charge less than two years ago.

                Lionel Messi Wins FIFA World Player Of The Year Award

                Lionel Messi, Golden Ball
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                Lionel Messi, Golden Ball

                  Lionel Messi has capped a sensational 12 months in Barcelona colours by being crowned FIFA World Player Of The Year.

                  Messi, who described his presence at the FIFA Gala as "the culmination of a year that cannot be improved upon", has managed to indeed go one better, sealing the only title still evading him.

                  The diminutive Argentine beat off competition from the a host of the world’s best including team-mates Andreas Iniesta and Xavi, as well as Real Madrid stars Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Portuguese having already admitted that "he [Messi] will probably win the award".

                  The crown capped a quite incredible year for the 22-year-old Argentinian forward who, as a pivotal member of Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Barca squad, beat Estudiantes in FIFA’s Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi on Saturday to lift their sixth title in the last 12 months.

                  Messi will add FIFA’s prestigious title to pretty much every individual award in European football; having already been crowned UEFA Club Forward of the Year, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and UEFA Champions League Top Scorer amongst a host of other individual titles.

                  Messi’s incredible achievements will go down as one of the most successful seasons ever endured by a single player in club football history.

                  The final five, with their voting points

                  Minggu, 20 Desember 2009

         Comment: Let Not Barcelona's Achievements Go Unnoticed

                  Barcelona (Mexsport)

                  Spare a thought for Barcelona. They finally go and make it six trophies in a row, but do so on a day that Manchester United succumb to their heaviest league defeat of the season; Liverpool fall to Portsmouth; Italy has both games snowed off; Manchester City sack Mark Hughes and hire Roberto Mancini; and to cap it all off, Real Madrid busy themselves with putting a sackful of goals past Real Zaragoza. Barca can't even make history in peace.

                  As such, it's not a huge surprise that the achievement has gone quite unheralded today. The global media has largely greeted it with mild interest, leaving Barcelona short of the credit they deserve. Then again, why would it be a shock? The countdown to trophy number six began the day Barca hoisted aloft the Champions League cup way back in May. La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup - one by one they fell like dominoes. The final cup, against a brave but ultimately substandard Estudiantes side, was a formality.

                  The plaudits came heavy and quickly, as a rain squall, when the more prestigious cups were won. In recent times, it has been more of a checklist - one down, two to go - and one greeted as a chore by the observer, rather than the achievement that it is.

                  That is what this piece is to remind us of. Barcelona have won all six competitions that they entered - an unprecedented achievement in the modern professional game, and one that may well go 100 years without repeat. It didn't come without the occasional stumbling block, but it did come without anything even resembling a stumble itself.

                  Commentators in recent weeks have described Barcelona as off-colour and inconsistent - when other teams go two months unbeaten winning their Champions League group, topping their domestic table, and progressing in all cups, they are heralded as heroes. Barcelona are victims of their own success in this regard, but it doesn't have to be this way. There may be a lot else going on in the football world right now, but tonight Barcelona have made history. Don't roll your eyes - the headlines may have read that way for months, but today it finally happened in earnest. Celebrate it while you can. It might be a long time before football sees a team like this again.

                  Messi takes centre stage for Barcelona

                  MADRID: The year 2009 will go down in history as the year of records with Barcelona lifting an unprecedented treble, Real Madrid breaking the


                  world transfer record to sign Cristiano Ronaldo while Euro 2008 winners Spain equalled Brazil's 35-game unbeaten run.

                  It was undoubtedly Barcelona's year as debutant coach Pep Guardiola belied his experience to guide his hometown club to a unique league, Kings Cup and Champions League treble which no Spanish side had ever achieved and they did it with the most exciting football in years.

                  By the end of the year, they had also won the World Club Cup.

                  "We're not the best team in Barcelona's history but we've had the best season," said Guardiola.

                  Barcelona beat Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United to win the Champions League and downed Real Madrid 2-0 in the first 'El Clasico' before a memorable 6-2 thrashing of their rivals in May on their own ground.

                  Argentine Lionel Messi was the star of the season, scoring in the Champions League final and both Clasico wins over Real and, in one of the worst kept secrets in football, he collected the Ballon D'Or accolade for the world's top player in December.

                  Real started 12 points behind a rampant Barca when the league resumed in January but new Real coach Juande Ramos went on to collect 54 points from 56 in the league to put Real in with a shout of overhauling Barca.

                  However, that hope was crushed in May when Barcelona ended Real's 18-match unbeaten league run with an emphatic 6-2 win at the Santiago Bernabeu.

                  That defeat and the thrashing by Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League (5-0 on aggregate) virtually ruled out Ramos' chance of staying on as coach beyond the end of the season.

                  To make matters worse for Real, arch-rivals Barcelona won an unprecedented treble defeating Manchester United 2-0 in May to add the Champions League crown to the league and Kings Cup titles.

                  Real responded by recruiting coach Manuel Pellegrini from Villarreal in June and incoming president Florentino Perez sanctioned a record spending spree of over 250 million euros to usher in another 'Galactico' era.

                  After a year of trying, Real finally landed Ronaldo from Manchester United paying a world record 94 million euros having already signed Brazilian Kaka from AC Milan for 70 million.

                  Barca watched on as Real stole the summer back pages although they did sign their own 'Galactico' in Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Inter Milan for a club record 69 million euros.

                  The Spanish national team were also making headlines winning a world record 15 successive matches and equalling Brazil's 35-match unbeaten run, although they missed the chance to better the benchmark falling to a shock 2-0 loss to the United States in the Confederations Cup semi-finals in June.

                  The 2009/10 season began in tragic circumstances when Espanyol captain Dani Jarque died of a heart-attack on August 8 in his team's pre-season training camp at the age of 26.

                  Barcelona, on top of the table again by the end of the year, continued where they left off with Ibrahimovic in the goals and they were vital ones too as he came off the bench to volley in a terrific winner to down Real Madrid 1-0 at Camp Nou at the end of November.

                  Real had made their best league start in 17 years but a third consecutive defeat to Barca was another setback along with their humiliating Kings Cup exit to third division Alcorcon that ended any hopes of emulating Barca's treble season.

                  Despite two months out with an ankle injury, Ronaldo was averaging almost a goal a game for Real but his petulant side surfaced in a 4-2 win over Almeria when he was sent off for kicking an opponent in the closing stages.

                  Atletico Madrid exited the Champions League without winning a single match and a worst league start in 56 years saw coach Abel Resino replaced by Quique Sanchez Flores.

                  Barcelona, Real and Sevilla reached the last 16 of the Champions League after winning their respective groups and intend to go all the way with Real especially keen to do well with the final at their Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

                  Barca are assured of their place in history

                  Members of the Barcelona’s team throw Pep Guardiola, their victorious coach, into the air after their dramatic extra-time victory over Estudiantes in their Fifa Club World Cup final at Zayed Sports City on Saturday night. Fahad Shadeed / Reuters

                  ABU DHABI // Pep Guardiola is still very much a novice in the art of football management.

                  Having graduated from coaching Barcelona’s B team to take custody of the Camp Nou aristocrats in the summer of 2008, the former Spanish international midfield player can today stake a claim to be the all-time greatest “rookie of the year”.

                  Clutching a sixth trophy captured in the last 12 months, Guardiola, still only 38, cried openly as he tried to take in the magnitude of a splendid achievement which was crowned late on Saturday night by the snatching of the Club World Cup from a most unfortunate Estudiantes team who had led for much of a dramatic final.

                  Saturday had turned into Sunday by the time Guardiola had completed his expert analysis of how his cosmopolitan mix of exciting and valuable players team have conquered the world. The enthralled crowd of multi- nationalities who had crammed into the impressive Zayed Sports City stadium had long since filtered off into the night air, privileged to have witnessed an episode in sporting history that is unlikely to be repeated.

                  A Guardiola-inspired glittering end to last season, which brought the Spanish League and Champions League double to go with two domestic cup triumphs, has now been embellished by the addition of the European Super Cup and now the Club World Cup

                  No wonder the coach was in tears.

                  “These things happen,” he said, offering the briefest explanation of how emotion took over in his moment of triumph.

                  Glad to be physically unscathed by his ecstatic squad’s celebration of throwing him into the air several times and just managing to catch him as he plunged to the Abu Dhabi soil, Guardiola is acutely aware that the only way is down from now on.

                  “We have achieved something that nobody has achieved before, he said. “And it is an achievement that nobody else might experience. To win six titles is unthinkable and everybody associated with Barca should be extremely happy.

                  “I’m lucky that I have such quality players in my squad.

                  “The success that we’ve had has been down to them and I’d like to thank them all for that, including those who were with us last season because they also form part of this.

                  “Now we are going to have to be prepared to descend from our stardom but with the talent that got us here we are going to be all right.”

                  It was hugely appropriate that the player who has done most to separate Barcelona from the best of the rest over the last two seasons should score the decisive goal which completed his club’s remarkable clean sweep.

                  Lionel Messi, who scored the clinching Champions League final goal against the holders Manchester United to earn Barcelona their ticket to the capital, was again instrumental in their success.

                  A timely goal seconds after coming off the substitutes’ bench in a tricky semi-final against Atlante was followed by an extra-time final winner against his devast-ated Argentine compatriots.

                  “We have not yet realised what we have done. It will be difficult for another team to repeat this,” said the pocket dynamo, who used his chest – Guardiola referred to the ball going in off the “heart” – to divert a right-wing cross into the net when most spectators were waiting for a plunging header.

                  Messi’s attacking foil this season has been Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a big summer signing from Inter Milan and the big Swedish striker was understandably elated about the swift rewards that have come his way.

                  “One of the reasons I came to Barca was to win titles,” he said.

                  “I hope we continue to win many more trophies. We have made history in every way you look at it and I’m so happy for the boss, for myself and for the whole team.”

                  The defender Gerard Pique has urged his teammates not to let their standards slip in the wake of their record-breaking 2009.

                  “It’s clear that we’re the team who have had the best year in history, but if we are great, we have to continue winning,” said the Spanish international signed from United.

                  “But now we can afford to simply enjoy this over the holidays, we have won a grand slam this year. After that, we just have to carry on.”


                  2009 Club World Cup Final: Estudiantes de la Plata 1, FC Barcelona 2, a.k.a. “How can you top this? YOU CAN’T!!!”

                  The future is dark, ladies and gentlemen, like Pep Guardiola said yesterday before the match. There is no possible way we (or anyone else, for that matter) can top what we achieved yesterday. Six titles. Six cups. Everything we played for, we won. Everything we could possibly win, we won. Think about it.

                  It’s been just over twelve hours since Carles Puyol was given this trophy, and I still can’t stop smiling.

                  Are you smiling at the screen? You should be, you know? Six out of six, remember!

                  Are you smiling at the screen? You should be, you know? Six out of six, remember!

                  But, oh Great Gods of Football, it wasn’t easy and I’ll admit that, for a few moments during the match, I stopped believing. May Pep forgive me, because I doubted him. May Messi and Pedrito have mercy on my soul, because near the 80th minute I was philosophising about what positive effects (in the global economy or the preservation of whales) our loss could have.

                  And then it happened. But first things first, right?

                  Pep rolled out what looked like, at first sight, the shiny Starting XI of the great occasions: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Messi, Ibra and Henry.

                  ‘What? No Pedrito?!” many people gasped on seeing this. ‘And no Yaya?’ a few of us grumbled, almost ready to give up on our battle for the DM position.

                  In the meanwhile, Alejandro Sabella, Estudiantes’ coach, brought out Albil, Rodríguez, Desábato, Cellay, Re, La Brujita Verón, Braña, Benítez, Díaz, Pérez and Boselli. Grim-faced, dressed in white, they looked all business.

                  And FIFA gifted us with Benito Archundia, a Mexican referee who had overseen the 2005 final between Sao Paulo and Liverpool. And damn, I usually try not to talk about referees, because they should be like mimes, seen but not heard, but this man deserves a mention and a few other things besides.

                  Both teams in their away kits (although theirs was less retina-searing than ours), ready to make history.

                  Both teams in their away kits (although theirs was less retina-searing than ours), ready to make history.

                  We already knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. We had prepared ourselves for a tough, gritty match. But I don’t think we had really foreseen how much Estudiantes was going to invest in having the match their way. The pressure they put on our midfield was so great I was worried we’d have to get Xavi and Keita a bathyscaphe each. Come to think about it, even from inside a bathyscaphe Xavi would have done better than what he did in the 8th minute, when he found himself alone in front of Albil and missed a clear, clear opportunity in favour of crossing for no-one.

                  He wasn’t very clear-headed, our Xavi last night. Be it because he was having a bad day, be it because the marking from the Estudiantes midfield was enough to stifle Chuck Norris, he consistently missed passes that usually he wouldn’t. Keita, coming out of an injury to his ischiotibials, had to be taken out on a stretcher before five minutes of play were completed, and even though he returned, he couldn’t quite use his full speed (and is out for three weeks, medical exams confirmed this morning). And Busquets…

                  Actually, Busquets didn’t do a bad job of it. He was solid when he had to assist the defence and something almost akin to lively when he tried to move forwards. Perhaps the Estudiantes players read this blog and underestimated him just like me, because they didn’t mark him so much and at times he almost was the best thing we had going on in the midfield.

                  And here comes the first mention to the highly-esteemed Benito Archundia, the man who was invested with the duty to stop Estudiantes from showing the world how sharp and deadly their tackles could be. Minute 23 third of the match, Messi falls to the ground after a clear foul. The referee shows the yellow card. Oh, good, someone who is not going to allow defenders to kick Messi’s danger away… wait, what do you mean the card was to Messi? For diving?! There started the grumbles, and Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo started a quick poll on whether its readers felt it was fair that we got a Mexican referee after we had defeated Atlante not three days before.

                  But... but... but that’s not what you’re supposed to do when someone gets fouled!

                  But... but... but that’s not what you’re supposed to do when someone gets fouled!

                  And then, not ten minutes later, Xavi shook off his lethargy a little and ran at goal, only to be met by Albil’s knee in the box and fall to the floor. Clear penalty? Yes! Did Archundia think so? No! The Catalan newspapers were already running huge headlines of the type “Barça plays against 12!” and “The ref stole the Cup from Barça!”.

                  Well, referee antics asides, possession was ours, by over 60%, but we had just one measly shot on goal (the same as Estudiantes) when it happened.

                  Minute 36: a great cross and Boselli rose, sandwiched as he was between Puyol and Abidal, and headed the ball into the back of the net.

                  Estudiantes 1, Barça 0.

                  For once, it was not Valdés fault. There was nothing he could do except pose for this photo.

                  For once, it was not Valdés fault. There was nothing he could do except pose for this photo.

                  And, damn, this wasn’t like the semi-final against Atlante, where we also trailed one goal behind for a long time. We had the possession, but we were far from having the control of the match. Getting a draw looked extremely difficult, not to speak of winning. And there was no providential Busquets to score the equaliser before the half-time; Ibra and Leo both had their attempts swiftly countered by the stalwart Estudiantes defence.

                  The boys walked to the changing room in varying, but high, degrees of frustration. Clearly something had to be done.

                  ‘Bring on Pedrito!’ called the masses. ‘Bring on Pedrito for Henry!’. Yes, Henry was playing. He wasn’t doing much, but he was there and since it was to his place on the Starting XI that Pedrito had been sacrificed, it seemed fitting that it was him who returned to the bench while our Man Boy of the Six Crucial Goals came to solve things.

                  And then Pep let the team back on the pitch and lo and behold, Pedrito was there! But, wait! So was Henry! And Ibra! And Leo! We should know better than to try and guess Pep’s ideas. A quick headcount was necessary to ascertain that Pedrito had come in to substitute Keita.

                  We were going to play 4-2-4. It looked dangerous (for us). And it was (for them).

                  Oh yes, the boys had realised we were losing and that something had to be done about it. The cranked up the rhythm and ignored the midfield completely to concentrate on attacking. Again and again.

                  Yes, at times it seemed as if there were three of them for each one of us.

                  Yes, at times it seemed as if there were three of them for each one of us.

                  And I don’t think that the expression ‘parked the bus’ is appropriate to express what Estudiantes was doing then. This went further than that. They were defending with nine men. Only Boselli stood as far back as the midfield, hoping for one of Verón or Benítez’s crosses and keeping Abidal company, since it was many a time that our Frenchman was the only man left behind as even Puyol and Piqué surged forwards. Every time Estudiantes had to do a throw in, they took almost two minutes to do it. If the ball got to Albil, you could be sure he would take almost a whole minute before he let go of it. They dropped like flies and took their own sweet time getting up. Latin-American football at its finest.

                  Albil was divine, denying chances to Ibrahimovic, Pedrito, Piqué, even Henry… it didn’t seem as if it was possible for a team to be attacking so much and getting so little out of it. We tried it from CKs, we tried it from mid-distance, we tried it by crossing into the box, we tried it in every possible way and still the scoreboard remained mockingly 0-1.

                  Clearly something had to be done about it. Bring on another striker! Henry was tired, why not change him?

                  And Pep nodded and we had a substitution. Yaya Touré for Sergi Busquets.

                  What? Why? Even I had to admit that Busi was doing it extremely well. And Henry was tired. What was Pep playing at? We were losing!

                  Three minutes later, Henry got a yellow for diving in front of the box (well deserved, I must admit, although half of Estudiantes should have gotten those as well), and finally Pep consented in bringing him out for Jeffren. Not that I wasn’t happy to see the kid, but it was surprising to say the least to see him making it into the final after not playing since Copa del Rey matches.

                  Five minutes left of the match. The scoreboard insisted in displaying that horrible 0-1. How many of you wanted to turn off the TV/stream? How many of you remembered Stamford Bridge? How many of you were thinking about the consequences of this defeat?

                  And then, Pedrito. After an assist, of sorts, by Piqué. In the 89th minute. Just in case your hair hadn’t turned white yet.

                  The shouting. The celebrations. The excitement. The ‘oh, wait, damn, we haven’t won yet’. The ‘you mean with this we only get to play half an hour more?’.

                  But things had changed. Estudiantes, for one, were absolutely exhausted, after the effort of holding back the barrage of Barça attacks of which the second half had consisted. You could see Verón, bathed in sweat, still trying so hard to get there, to make the move, but finding he couldn’t.

                  And with Yaya to keep away any possibility of an Estudiantes counterattack, and fresh enough to move forwards when he needed to, and with Jeffren doing wonders where Henry had been merely ordinary, it was a matter of time (and yes, a bit of luck) until it happened again.

                  But it did happen. And it was Leo Messi who made it happen. It was possibly not the most elegant goal of his career (although now the Spanish journalists are insisting he scored ‘with his heart’ or with ‘the Barça crest’), but he scored. From an Alves cross too low to try a header, Messi threw himself forwards and pushed the ball with his chest for it to bounce past Albil (according to the guys at the front page, he Supermanned it).

                  Ten minutes left. Ibra, Jeffren and Pedrito were still trying for the third, but it was Estudiantes who had the best chance to score, first with a CK that Valdés just managed to stop before the linier realised it was offsides, and then with a free kick which Desábato sent less than a handbreadth away from Valdés’ far post.

                  And then the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the match and it was ours.

                  Bronze Ball of the tournament to Xavi. Gold Ball of the tournament to Leo Messi. And the 2009 Club World Cup to FC Barcelona, to seal the end of a year that had brought more happiness to us culés than even the more optimistic of us could dream when we heard that Pep Guardiola had been signed as Barça’s coach (Ramzi has said it better than I ever could).

                  Pep cried. Watching him cry, I cried. Culés everywhere were muttering things like, ‘I can’t believe it’, ‘We’ve won, right?’ and ‘Six… six…’. Even stalwart more-Madridista-than-thou newspaper Marca had this to say about it:

                  ‘The best team in history’. Coming from a Madridista, this sounds even better...

                  ‘The best team in history’. Coming from a Madridista, this sounds even better...

                  I’m not going to grade the players this time. I’d probably give them all a 10 (well, except perhaps Henry).

                  But I’ll leave you with this, the commemorative shirt that players wore for the party after the match, here modelled by our very captain.

                  ‘Tot guanyat. Tot per guanyar’: Won everything. Everything left to win.

                  ‘Tot guanyat. Tot per guanyar’: Won everything. Everything left to win.

                  VISCA EL BARÇA!