Op-Ed: Xavi Is Wrong & Why I Hate Barcelona

TSG’s Tuesday back with an op-ed

Who's in the right? Who's in the wrong?

After losing the Copa Del Rey leg of El Cuatro Clásicos, Barcelona reclaimed their crown as the best team in the world on a night that left Real Madrid’s manager and several of their players questioning why they keep finding themselves a man down against Barcelona.

According to Xavi, “they have nothing left but to play dirty because that’s what their coach drums into them. I wouldn’t dream of playing that way and Barça cannot let ourselves play that way. Football was the winner.”

Xavi is wrong. A mirror image of their pragmatic opponent, Barcelona were willing to use any means necessary to win. Football was not the winner last night, only Barcelona was. The two things are not synonymous. Barcelona’s claim to moral superiority, their claim to carry the banner for “football” increasingly strains credulity.

Not to mince words, but they cheat to gain an advantage in these contests. They do not simply dive or go down without much contact to win free kicks. Several of their players cynically try to get opposing players sent off as their colleagues surround the referee in a display of mock outrage. And they’ve been doing it for years, while football’s aesthetes saw only the beauty. But the ugly is there for all to see.

Frankly it’s disgusting. And even though they’re capable of playing the most extraordinary football in the world, it’s why I hate Barcelona.

It bothers me that those on the Barcelona side think that their opponents should just give them space to play their little triangles and not contest, not challenge and not try to win the ball. Then they complain of negative tactics as Barcelona reach those lopsided 71% figures scrolling across our screens.

With the brilliance of their possession, the intensity of their pressing (somewhat subdued last night), the numbers they manage to get forward, their style of play isn’t boring. But counterintuitively, Barcelona plays with incredibly little risk to dominate possession as they do. While they sometimes leave themselves short at the back, they don’t play thrilling football, at least for those less in thrall to geometry. And without Iniesta they’re quite an ordinary team that happens to have the best player in the world to single-handedly win games.

Ordinarily, much of their possession of the ball is just outside the final third. They keep it there, gaining territory little by little and pushing their opponent back towards their own goal, compressing the space between the midfield and back line like a boa constrictor. They squeeze the life out of their prey, pummeling their opponents with a dizzying array of short passes until they become fixed points in space, reduced to the reference grid for their attacking patterns.

Same strategy, different tactics?

But Mourinho’s Madrid refused to be pushed back. They had 6 midfielders waiting around the halfway line, daring Barcelona to try to play through them in an area where any mistake would have Madrid streaking forward on the counter. They did not concede the territory Barcelona is accustomed to using as their attacking base.

How did Barcelona react? With long stretches of aimless possession around the halfway line. At times they were positively English, knocking it across the back. They found opportunities to get forward up the flanks, but they weren’t able to find possession in dangerous areas until they gained a man advantage. Even then, Barcelona were only rarely able to push Madrid back and pressure with possession in the final third.

All Barcelona’s possession asks their opponents to chase them. That means they are going to get fouled more. This isn’t cynical fouling. It is a simple consequence of having the ball twice as much as their opponents. Trying to get it back quickly whenever its lost, Barcelona are ready to mow down any attempt to break through their lines. Let’s stop pretending they aren’t above putting a stop to their opponents counterattack with a judicious foul.

The fetish for possession can be an extremely negative tactic when they aren’t intent on doing anything with it. It’s almost a cliche now to say that this is their way of defending, the mirror image of Mourinho putting 6 players in front of them in midfield. As Mourinho’s side is content to do without the ball, Barcelona wile the game away with it, knowing they only need that one moment of magic from a Messi as Madrid needs one from Christiano Ronaldo.

The desire for referees to call things this tight at the highest levels was to protect these special players. They needed to stop players like Messi, Villa, Xavi from having lumps taken out of them to remove their influence on the game and preserve the potential for magic that those tactics once threatened to extinguish.

But it’s not these “special” players falling down clutching their faces or rolling around like they’ve been shot after losing a 50-50 ball. It’s the combative midfielder Sergio Busquets with the face so long it extends all the way down to his navel, Delicate Dani Alves and second-rate Pedro that are deliberately trying to con the referee into sending players off.

Messi, the great "un-"equalizer...

A lot of this would be solved if feigning serious injury and immediately returning to the pitch was discouraged with a yellow-card for time-wasting at any stage of the match instead of being rewarded with the occasional game-changing red.

The Barcelona brigade think everyone should play Barcelona’s way and if they aren’t they aren’t playing football. But cheating to gain an advantage and then hoping Messi can win it for you? Is that football? If they’re really the best team in the world how come they always seem to need a man advantage to win matches at this level?

I for one, would love to see someone compile the numbers on how much time Barcelona spends with a man advantage compared to the average team in the knock-out stages of the Champions League. I expect they would tell an interesting tale.

163 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alex on 2011/04/28 at 9:29 AM



    • Posted by Patrick on 2011/04/28 at 11:45 AM


      Here’s your stats with only real madrid up so far for the Guardiola CL era. They really aren’t far off with in terms of time man up per game, but when you break that down by possession (a better stat IMO, because you tend not to get fouled when you don’t have the ball…) Real Madrid actually are two and a half times more likely to have a red called in their favor per minute of their possession.

      Also, I don’t have spss on this pc, but I can guarantee you that most of the other numbers aren’t statistically significant differences…. (P >> .05)


      • Posted by jwrandolph on 2011/04/28 at 2:10 PM

        ^ +1.001 8)


      • Posted by mbw on 2011/04/28 at 3:39 PM

        Come on man — don’t cloud the issue with facts.


        • Posted by gonzalo on 2011/04/28 at 6:07 PM

          lmao, the writer asked for facts at the end of his article


          • Posted by V on 2011/04/28 at 6:22 PM

            I think your sarcasm detector may be a bit off.


          • Posted by jseabold on 2011/04/29 at 7:06 AM

            Err, yeah, but you did not hear one person say that Crouch didn’t deserve to be sent off. Can you say the same for Motta, Van Persie, and Pepe?


            • Posted by Jerome Dunand on 2011/04/29 at 9:17 AM

              Pepe and Van persie did not deserve to get sent off… done

      • I’m not sure comparing directly to Madrid in the group stages is quite what I’m after. The comparison needs to be between Barcelona and the average for all teams participating in the knock-out stages over a period of time – say the last three years. There’s also some circularity between using the percentage of possession for the entire match when long periods of time with a man advantage tend to have a large influence share of possession.

        Also, there were 18 fouls committed by Madrid compared to 22 by Barcelona. In last years semifinal second leg vs Inter, Barca committed 20 fouls to Inter’s 15. That mean, per minute out of possession Barcelona foul far more frequently. Does that mean Barcelona are the more cynical team?


        • sorry, I meant knock-out stages.


        • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/02 at 11:48 PM

          I think these are the stats you’re looking for.

          CL Knock-out stage 2010-2011:
          Barcelona: 14% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with a man down
          Real Madrid: 16.7% of gameplay with a man up, 6.4% with a man down
          Schalke04: 6.2% of gameplay with a man up, .2% with a man down
          Manchester United: 4.4% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with a man down
          Valencia: .56% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with a man down
          Chelsea: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 5.6% with a man down
          Inter Milan: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 7.8% with a man down
          Shakhtar Donetsk: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 13.6% with a man down
          Arsenal: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 18.9% with a man down
          Tottenham: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 20.8% with a man down
          Roma: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 27.2% with a man down

          AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Lyon, Marseille, and Copenhagen have not been in any games with red cards. I think that’s everyone.

          The average across all of the games of one team playing with a man up is 7.4%. The average among teams who have made it to the semi-finals is 10.4%.

          In the last three seasons:

          CL Knock-out stage:
          Liverpool: 17.5% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with a man down
          Shakhtar Donetsk: 13.6% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with a man down
          Barcelona: 7.7% of gameplay with a man up, 1.8% with a man down
          Real Madrid: 9.3% of gameplay with a man up, 3.6% with a man down
          Schalke04: 6.2% of gameplay with a man up, .2% with a man down
          Arsenal: 3.9% of gameplay with a man up, 3.1% with a man down
          Bordeaux: 2% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with a man down
          AC Milan: .3% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with a man down
          Chelsea: 2.1% of gameplay with a man up, 2.4% with a man down
          Valencia: 0% of gameplay with a man up, .6% with a man down
          Bayern Munich: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 1% with a man down
          Manchester United: 1.5% of gameplay with a man up, 3.9% with a man down
          Lyon: 1.9% of gameplay with a man up, 3.6% with a man down
          Olympiakos: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 5% with a man down
          Villarreal: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 6.1% with a man down
          Inter Milan: 4.1% of gameplay with a man up, 11.9% with a man down
          Fiorentina: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 9% with a man down
          Roma: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 10.9% with a man down
          Juventus: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 11% with a man down
          Moscow: 0% of gameplay with a man up, 11.4% with man down
          Tottenham: 20.8% of gameplay with a man up, 0% with man down

          Atletico Madrid, Copenhagen, Marseille, Panathinaikos, Porto, Sporting CP, and Stuttgart did not play in any games with red cards.

          The average for playing with a man up among teams that played over 400 minutes (Porto, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Lyon, Chelsea, Arsenal, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and Barcelona) was 4.4%. The average for playing with a man down for those same teams was 2.4%.

          Cards in those same games (my count may be a little off, but I don’t think it is):
          Sevilla: .5 yellow a game (1 yellow in 2 games)
          Marseille: 1 yellow a game (2 yellow in 2 games)
          Panathinaikos: 1 yellow a game (2 yellow in 2 games)
          Valencia: 1 yellow a game (2 yellow in 2 games)
          Tottenham: 1 yellow a game (4 yellow, 1 red in 4 games)
          Bordeaux: 1 yellow a game (4 yellow, 1 red in 4 games)
          *Man. U.: 1.57 yellows a game (22 yellow, 3 red in 14 games)
          *Barcelona: 1.61 yellows a game (29 yellow, 3 red in 18 games)
          Villarreal: 1.75 yellows a game (7 yellows, 1 red in 4 games)
          *Bayern Munich: 1.77 yellows a game (23 yellow, 1 red in 13 games)
          Liverpool: 1.83 yellows a game (11 yellows in 6 games)
          Atletico Madrid: 2 yellows a game (4 yellow in 2 games)
          Copenhagen: 2 yellows a game (4 yellow in 2 games)
          Sporting CP: 2 yellows a game (4 yellows in 2 games)
          Porto: 2.17 yellows a game (13 yellows in 6 games)
          AC Milan: 2.25 yellows a game (9 yellow, 1 red in 4 games)
          *Arsenal: 2.42 yellows a game (29 yellow, 1 red in 12 games)
          *Inter Milan: 2.42 yellows a game (29 yellow, 1 red in 12 games)
          *Real Madrid: 2.44 yellows a game (22 yellow, 1 red in 9 games)
          Fiorentina: 2.5 yellows a game (5 yellows, 1 red in 2 games)
          *Chelsea: 2.73 yellows a game (30 yellows, 2 red in 11 games)
          Shakhtar Donetsk: 2.75 yellows a game (11 yellow in 4 games)
          Roma: 2.8 yellows a game (14 yellow, 1 red in 5 games)
          Stuttgart: 3 yellows a game (6 yellows in 2 games)
          Moscow: 3 yellows a game (12 yellows, 1 red in 4 games)
          *Lyon: 3.1 yellows a game (31 yellows, 3 reds in 10 games)
          Schalke04: 3.4 yellows a game (17 yellow, 1 red in 5 games)
          Juventus: 3.5 yellows a game (7 yellows, 1 red in 2 games)
          Olympiakos: 4 yellows a game (8 yellow, 2 red in 2 games)
          (stars indicate teams that played the most)

          Barcelona isn’t my team. Arsenal is. I’m still a little bitter because of the sending off of Van Persie earlier this season, because I think that Barcelona got lucky and that they may not have won if Van Persie had remained on the field.

          However, I don’t think that Barcelona has gotten so much more luck than other teams. They should have been in the finals last year, and weren’t because of an incorrect ref call. It happens. I certainly don’t believe in any conspiracy, and I think that while several Barcelona players were disgraceful in the semifinal, Mourinho’s tactics were also a disgrace to football. I do not see how you can praise those tactics, or even excuse them and put the blame completely on Barcelona. Both teams deserve blame, and Mourinho is not to be praised as a manager. Do not just blame Barcelona when both teams acted badly, especially when Madrid acted so cowardly on their home field.


    • Posted by UcantBserious on 2011/04/28 at 10:21 PM

      All i can say is that the Prem has brainwashed a generation. What is football? its a game of skill and tactics right? i think anyone who plays football would appreciate the high level of Barca’s football…u have any idea how hard it is to work one-two’s on the edge of ur opponent’s box with a 6ft defender breathing down ur neck? i think Barca’s work rate is underestimated too?how do u think they get the passes off?the don’t stand around waiting u know…they work hard to keep their shape..as hard as Real does to keep theirs…and they don’t take risks?Dani Alves is a right winger and whether its Adriano, Abidal or Maxwell they all play most of their football up the pitch…and why does everyone sleep on Pedro?that guy is phenomenal..if Messi wasn’t so great ppl would be calling pedro the best player in the squad..and Busquets is great too..have u ever really seen him lose the ball?and Pique and Puyol are on the same level as Vidic and Ferdinand or Samuel and Lucio


      • Posted by Jim on 2011/04/29 at 11:47 AM

        UcanrBSerious – your name says it all. Really? you think pedro is second in talent on that team behind messi? you’ve got to drinking the juice barca is selling. Pedro has talent, but you actualy have to be standing to use said talent. And “biscuits” and gravy hardly loses the ball because he dumps it off as soon as he gets it. Is he allergic to synthetic leather or something? Pique I do like, but Puyol’s talent has always been amplified by his defending partner.


        • Posted by lulu6 on 2011/05/01 at 3:43 PM

          Puyol has been on Barca’s first team slightly more than twice as many years as Pique. I don’t understand how Piqué would amplify his talent.


    • Posted by poopypants on 2011/04/29 at 4:05 PM

      I think the UEFA board should suspended players like alves for 2-3 games for “conning” the referee. It would make diving a thing of the past.


    • Posted by Brandhino on 2011/05/01 at 7:00 PM

      What the writer said was true. Not the first time Xavi made comments like that . You do what you have to to counter your opponents strength. What does he think,everyone should chase them around while they pass back and forth. I find the way they play boring and lacking assertivenes,s but you cant argure with its effectivnes but still boring! and only the Barca homers are the only people who don’t find the play acting disgusting. The way Dani Alves came back after being strechterd out , if he was playing an American sport he would never live that down and would have lost the respect of his teamates along with everyone watching the ga


  2. Posted by John on 2011/04/28 at 9:35 AM

    It should be noted: I am not a Barcelona homer. I enjoy their play sometimes and find it boring others.

    However, they are not an ordinary team with an extraordinary front man.

    Davd Villa…. Ordinary?
    Pique…. Ordinary?
    Valdes…. Ordinary?
    Xavi… Ordinary?

    While I have no love lost for Manchester United, I can appreciate the talent of Giggs, Rooney, Hernandez, Nani et al.

    While I am not a huge fan of Ronaldo, I can appreciate his greatness as well.

    Barcelona as well as Real Madrid are very very VERY far from ordinary.


    • When I say “ordinary”, I only mean they don’t quite deserve the pedestal they are sometimes put on as not only “the best team in the world” but “the best team ever”. These things are relative. They’re a very good team, but without Iniesta it’s more a Messi one-man show attacking-wise. I certainly appreciate their talent.

      Also, if I’m a bit less inflammatory, “hate” translates more as “cannot like”. I do particularly enjoy it when they lose.


      • Posted by John on 2011/04/28 at 9:49 AM

        Well, competition wise they weren’t the best team in Europe last year, while two years ago they WERE the best team.

        I agree with quite a bit of what you have written, but some of it comes as sour grapes to a Barcelona win. Which I guess is fine, but I find it hard to believe that people are using Real Madrid as some kind of underdog flash point.

        Spanish players/league didn’t get a (potentially incorrect) reputation of floppers without flopping. It isn’t necessarily Barcelona but more a symptom of La Liga. Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo aren’t exactly getting youtube videos put up of their dedication to being on their feet.


        • I don’t actually support Madrid. I don’t see them as some kind of underdog. As you say, they’re Madrid. I just wanted to see a good tie.


          • Posted by John on 2011/04/28 at 10:03 AM

            Ah well then… that we can discuss because I was thinking the other day… I have never seen a great “el classico” sure, it is entertaining in a train wreck kinda way, but it is almost as though both teams despise each other so much that they can’t get around to the business of playing good football.

            I mean it seems that every other year there is a great Liverpool v Manchester derby, or a great AC/Inter derby or a North London derby… The Barcelona/Madrid games though are usually chippy punchy affairs.

            The story lines seem to come more from the off the pitch matters. Or, perhaps I haven’t watched enough El Classicos to know better…


            • Posted by Jesse G. on 2011/04/28 at 10:05 AM

              There were some excellent Clasicos with the prior iteration of Barca, around the time of Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Rijkaard, if I remember correctly.

            • Posted by John on 2011/04/28 at 10:06 AM

              Thanks Jesse, I was assuming this as my ability to watch La Liga has only really been in the last few years.

            • Posted by Patrick on 2011/04/28 at 11:40 AM

              I don’t know the 6-2 and 5-0 were pretty damn entertaining.

            • Posted by Jesse G. on 2011/04/28 at 12:36 PM

              A lot of the reasons for the poor matches these days, beyond Barca’s dominance, are stylistic, imo. Imagine if Barca has a world class defensive midfielder and a great partner to play in the center with Carvalho? I’d think the tactics would be different and the teams would match up in a more exciting manner.

      • Posted by The Underdog Effect on 2011/04/28 at 4:33 PM

        In order to quote … “When I say “ordinary”, I only mean they don’t quite deserve the pedestal they are sometimes put on as” …can be true …but what about the Special Mourinho? taking tactics from golden years italy + “you are warriors, and winners, and blah blah” cheesy kindergarden psichology so called tactics, wich seem to work for football players, sportsmans for whom i have had great respect before Mourinho era, but not anymore, and there you go, we have the best coach
        in the world…it is not nice to criticise someone bfore looking into the mirror…want statistics? there’s no point for that …Barca was evil this time, Pep was evil, he did what the special one told him to do each and every single game when he was a 2nd at Barca …what about Mourinho doing the same thing wich each of his teams each and every time …download each of his games …play it frame by frame, with low level teams, and you will see …want a 100% “tru to the rules” referre …think again …real will be left with 7 players in the first 20 min….so chill out …mourinho has a history of wining with referee mistakes, hardcore playing and stuff like this …those goddamn barca poneys do it a few times, and we have a conspiracy …get a break …chill out …and tell Mourinho that psichology books have more than 2 pages …and rivalry do motivates humans, but mostly weak humans…just my 2 cents…peace


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/04/28 at 7:37 PM

          The thing that cracks me up is the reaction to Mourinho’s pre-game press conferences. He’s been making outrageous statements to take the spotlight off of his players on to him, for donkies…

          He’s a great manager, but also a very lucky one too.


    • Posted by Logan on 2011/04/28 at 6:14 PM

      I’m not saying I’m anywhere near the class of valdes, because I’m lightyears away. But I am a goalkeepr full time for my squad, and it’s in agreement among the other goalkeepers in my academy that valdes is not worldclass. He is very much overrated, we feel. It’s very easy to be barcelonas goalkeeper, as you hardly get any shots, and face any real chances.

      This is not to say valdes is a bad goalkeeper. I have no time for pinto, however. don’t know why he’s playing He’s a cheat.


    • Posted by Tno on 2011/04/28 at 10:38 PM

      Valdes …..ordinary? Yes


    • Posted by Gerard on 2011/04/29 at 6:32 PM

      Valdez is as an above average goalkeeper. Take most goalkeepers on a top flight team and they will be as good if not better than Valdez.


      • Posted by richard on 2011/04/30 at 12:17 PM

        the only thing that make valdes out of the ordinary is his anger management issues. i mean come on, does he really need to come out of his box every time there is a conflict on the pitch. otherwise without barca’s midfield to snatch the ball back before the other team has a chance to shoot, he would be letting goals in left and right.


  3. Posted by John Henry on 2011/04/28 at 9:38 AM

    Agreed on all points.

    “Let’s stop pretending they aren’t above putting a stop to their opponents counterattack with a judicious foul.”

    I think it goes even further than that. I believe both Xavi and Guardiola have said publicly that this is a very clear tactic of Barcelona. When they lose the ball, since their whole team is pushed up the field, they just hack the player down to regain numbers and shape in the back. These tactical fouls are just as worthy of yellow cards as anything, yet never get called. Very cynical.

    Seems to me Barca’s belief is that the opposition should just let them play their way, and not to even dare try to push back.


  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/28 at 9:39 AM

    Not to jump on the bandwagon but every time I watch Barcelona play I can’t help but think of Oscar De La Hoya and boxing. Always moving and using jabs to keep the opponent at bay rather than attack. Never liked De La Hoya and the comparison is somewhat apt here.

    I’m not a Barca liker or hater. I just agree that they are very good at what they do, but it not as you straightly put the moral high ground of the beautiful game.


  5. Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/04/28 at 9:39 AM

    I can’t say I was a supporter of Barca before the game, but I didn’t root against them. One thing is for sure though, I’ll root against them now. It was disgusting. Bunch of sallies.


  6. To be clear, I disagree with Jose that there’s some sort of conspiracy and I’m not a Madrid supporter either. Obviously, both teams do their fair share of simulation, but I don’t think there’s another team that deliberately and systematically tries to get players sent off the way Barcelona does. There’s a very clear line for me between ordinary garden variety stuff with the intention of trying to win free kicks and what Barcelona did last night. It’s about feigning serious injury and surrounding the referee.

    As for Mo’s tactics. I think if the home match were the second leg, we would’ve seen something very different. Clearly he was trying to get his side to the second leg without having suffered a coup de grace.


    • Posted by Andrew on 2011/04/28 at 11:04 AM

      They took too many risks after (unjustly) going down a man.

      Mourinho abandoned his team.


  7. Posted by Dan on 2011/04/28 at 9:57 AM

    Can’t agree with you on this one. Cheating to gain an advantage? Really? Barcelona play phenomenal soccer and teams try to hack them down to stop them. Not a far-fetched tactic.

    When you’re good you get fouled a lot. Sometimes they dive, but every team in the world has attackers that dive. Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s most renowned culprit for diving. Barca’s possession and skill will inevitably lead to getting fouled more often and opposing teams receiving more cards.

    Aimless possession, or trying to break a team down? The less disciplined bite and open up gaps, the well trained, like Mourinho teams, keep the structure and make life difficult.

    Messi isn’t the great equalizer, because that would mean there are teams equal to Barcelona. No team is perfect, but Barca, at the moment, is as close as it gets.

    TSG, I enjoy your work, but your critique sounds too much like sour grapes.


    • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/28 at 10:13 AM

      Nothing wrong with sour grape commentary as a soccer fan. The point is fair enough I think: Barca are just as culpable as the other “foul-prone” team in a bad draw. Most of their stuff was extremely negative yesterday, excepting Mr. Dear-God-you-juked-everyone Messi.


    • I said, it’s not about diving, it’s about feigning serious injury where none exists and then surrounding the referee. Unfortunately, trying to get players sent off has become one of Barcelona’s tactics in these matches. That’s what I’m calling out.

      There were a number of fouls from Madrid, but almost none of what you describe as “hack them down to stop them.” You tell me when during the match I can find a cynical hack intended to stop a chance and i’ll check it out. And this is what I mean – instead of niggling as Xavi’s heals when he gets the ball the other team is supposed to give him space to turn and find a killer pass?

      Some of Barcelona’s possession is aimless – defensive possession, keeping the ball so the other team doesn’t have it, is the fundamental philosophy of playing this way. Often they are deliberately not probing to create chances while in possession. They do it just as often against lesser teams.


      • Posted by Steven R on 2011/04/28 at 3:24 PM

        Possession is never aimless, and has many advantages – just think. The team with the ball is the master of the game.

        You clearly know nothing about football.


        • Posted by Martin on 2011/04/28 at 4:49 PM

          “The team with the ball is the master of the game.”

          I hear this all the time and it really is a dramatic oversimplification.

          Possession does mean you have a greater variety of options than the team without the ball but it guarantees nothing.

          I’ve seen far too many matches where the team with most of the possesion, the so called more “deserving” team, has lost to the more efficient team. The team that actually wins is the one the makes the most of it’s goal scoring chances. There are not style points awarded, no time of possession points.

          Barca are so dangerous because they have great scorers.


          • Posted by The Underdog Effect on 2011/04/28 at 5:28 PM

            “The team that actually wins is the one the makes the most of it’s goal scoring chances”

            it’s true, but in this case, where are those scoring chances? where are the goals? after the 1-1 return leg, on wich, let’s be serious, that Hitman Alves did not commited fault against Marcelo, Madrid got a penalty, and it was 1-1, and they were 10 at that time…and let’s be serious, that was a true penalty? and Pepe’s behaviour wasn’t a red?…anyway, they were so up their asses after that match …”we were 10 against 11 and we were better” …why not now? …can’t belive the whole world actualy belives Mourinho’s “theater for the massess”…is everybody so blind?…u just have to look at his mimics, face, movement, words….what the hell is so hard? …it’s for kids for christ sake, it’s basic, it’s simple, open those goddamn eyes …hate barca, hate tiki kaka shit, but come on humans, u can do better ..if you think football is what Mourinho “talks”, we can just as well get back to early ages


            • Posted by Martin on 2011/04/28 at 5:57 PM

              I’m not really sure what you are talking about, I’m not a Barca or a Real fan.

              I’m just tired of people forgetting that the object of the game is to score at least one more goal than the other guy.

            • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/03 at 10:18 AM

              People accuse Barcelona of being hypocrites. To a certain extent, I agree. However, they don’t typically whine and moan about ref decisions even when those decisions are wrong (as was seen with the penalty shot in the first el clasico), and I can respect them for that. Madrid has gotten plenty of free kicks and a penalty in the last three games that they did not deserve, mostly because of diving. I do not like diving but fair is fair. If they are going to do that, they can’t complain when Barcelona dives as well.

              As far as the red cards go, all of them seemed deserved to me except maybe Pepe’s. He deserved a card, because a tackle studs up like that is dangerous. If Alves’s foot had been on the ground, his leg could have been been broken. It doesn’t matter whether Pepe made contact (although he did… I think that the video floating around in which he did not is doctored, because according to the laws of physics I don’t think it would have been possible for Alves to move his leg like that with no contact).

              What matters was that the way he went into the challenge was dangerous. In my opinion, it was probably worth a yellow card, not a red, but the referee made the call based not only on Alves’s obnoxious playacting but also on the very physical way Madrid was playing the game. In a game that wasn’t so physical, the card would not have been red. The game was physical, so he reacted to that.

          • See the 2009 Confederations Cup game between the US and Spain.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/04/28 at 6:03 PM

          I think it was Arrigo Sacchi who said sometimes it’s more important what you do without the ball than with the ball. Quite an apt point if you think about Italian football when he was managing Milan.


      • Posted by The Underdog Effect on 2011/04/28 at 5:14 PM

        download the game, watch it …watch Ramos in the 1st half, not Pepe


    • Posted by Sarah J on 2011/04/28 at 5:43 PM

      Did you watch Dani Alves get taken off the field in a stretcher only to be perfectly fine?

      Your critique of this post sounds like sour grapes.


    • Posted by UcantBserious on 2011/04/28 at 11:47 PM

      I agree…and ppl always want to take a swipe at the ‘Latin’ European leagues but the prem is full of divers….#1 Nani, #2Arshavin, #3 Lennon, #4 Drogba (more of a flopper), #5 Nasri


      • Posted by Johann on 2011/04/29 at 11:34 AM

        ??? I can’t think of any examples of Arshavin diving. Oh except for that mock dive in international. If anything he’s had a few where he gets up and says no there was no foul to the referee. Very seldom have I seen any player do this.


      • Posted by Bosque on 2011/05/02 at 8:42 PM

        Arshavin does not dive. He love his football just look at the smile on his face when he plays. When you love football you don’t dive you play. Pedro, Busquets, Dani Alves could learn some. If Barca’s football is so great why don’t they have more fun?


      • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/03 at 10:20 AM

        You must be joking about Arshavin. He doesn’t dive.


  8. Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/28 at 10:09 AM

    Say what you will about the game, but Pepe was the least deserving of a red card in that game to me. He was physical, but went about his business with a minimum of fuss. A travesty to see him sent off in that manner.

    In that respect, Tues, it just seems like Barca have figured out the Spanish system. They have a few brilliant players, to be sure, but once you’ve built that reputation, it’s all you need with some of those refs. I think the league/FIFA need to take action on this first of all, as I don’t see the players reforming anytime soon. Specifically, I’d love to see more post-hoc cards handed out to players for time-wasting/crowding and yelling at the ref. That stuff is ridiculous and has to stop.

    P.s. I want Maicon to remain immortal. Just so Alves never plays for Brazil again.


    • Posted by Durant Durant on 2011/04/28 at 12:39 PM

      I’m with you on the post-hoc cards. I think this would be especially helpful in putting an end to diving. Just look at the replay after the game, if it was a blatant dive that was missed by the ref, give out a red card. This seems so easy to do.


      • Posted by Jesse G. on 2011/04/28 at 12:51 PM

        Couldn’t agree more. It’s incredibly useful in other sports that use it, the most obvious examples to me are Aussie Rules Football and the NFL. Yes, there are controversial punishments for borderline incidents but the overall chilling effect that it would have on the disgraceful rolling around on the ground clutching a part of your body that wasn’t even touched would, by far, out weight the negatives.


      • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/04/28 at 12:53 PM

        That’s tougher to do in a good bit of cases though. This should apply especially for penalties. If a dive costs the other team a goal (not to mention the card the defender wrongly got), the offender should be given a suspension and fine. Increasing fines given to repeat offenders, esp. if a particular team accrues several offenses.


        • Posted by Jesse G. on 2011/04/28 at 12:54 PM

          Like I said, I agree that it’s tougher to police simulation but if you penalize the most obvious cases and go after a fairly obvious but still somewhat borderline example every now and again, you’d eliminate a lot of the most egregious cases.


      • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/03 at 10:23 AM

        I would like this too, but only if reds and yellows were also awarded for dangerous challenges that the ref did not catch. Diving is a problem, but diving can only cost you the game, where dangerous challenges run the risk of serious injury.


  9. Posted by Patrick on 2011/04/28 at 10:24 AM

    After this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-k8NNeb3Kk
    I’m not surprised players tried to take things into their own hands. Do I like play acting? Heck no. But after the third week where a team puts 9 behind the ball and does their best to play defense like its american football rather than soccer something has to change.

    Another quick point: Do you not don’t see the duality in observing
    “All Barcelona’s possession asks their opponents to chase them. _That means they are going to get fouled more_”

    And the fact that teams playing Barcelona tend to collect more yellows and reds? It really seems like you answered your own question.


    • Posted by Arisrules on 2011/04/28 at 10:33 AM

      Exactly. And that is the essential problem with Mourinho’s bitching (this should be the new Mourinho anthem btw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksSPZTZES0). He thinks Barcelona receives favorable treatment, but that is because his team is in a naturally vulnerable position. They have only 30% of the ball. They are chasing all the time. To be focused and not do anything rash during that time is really tough. This problem is compounded by the fact that he has two players who have a history of bad fouls and making dumb plays: Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Pepe deserved to be sent off. He had made several tough fouls and throws his body around. He would have gotten a yellow by the end of the game. The fact that this was going on and the way he lunged, shin-high, studs up, was an immediate red in my book.


      • Yeah, I’m not calling out diving for free kicks, which obviously both teams were guilty of. Unfortunately that’s part of the game. Pretending you’re seriously injured and surrounding the ref to try to get an opposing player sent off is another matter entirely.

        But never mind.


        • Posted by Arisrules on 2011/04/28 at 11:51 AM

          Did we even watch the same game? You are telling me Real Madrid didn’t crowd the ref? Anybody who watches La Liga knows this happens often, and it is an issue with that league. There is absolutely no respect given to the refs.

          As for hte faking injury, PEOPLE HAVE DONE THAT BEFORE. What you seem to be claiming is that there is a conspiracy where the Barcelona players knew before hand that Busquets/Pedro would pretend they were injured, and would then run up to the ref asking for the card. I don’t buy that at all.


          • No, I didn’t watch the same game. I watched as a neutral who thinks tackling is as much part of the game as passing and that the Scotland-Spain refereeing continuum has swung way too far to the south. Practically every challenge in the CONCACAF Champions League final would’ve been a card in the match.

            Of course all the Barcelona players know that the player writhing on the floor in pain is going to get up and continue at any moment. When players are actually seriously injured they don’t do that.


            • Posted by Arisrules on 2011/04/28 at 12:21 PM

              Nice. Conspiracy in combination with gross exaggeration. Are you Jose Mourinho???

              I don’t even get what your point is to be honest. That Barcelona was calling for cards and feigning injury? Why is that new?

            • Posted by Durant Durant on 2011/04/28 at 12:46 PM

              I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I was shocked when I saw the ENTIRE Barca team surround the ref after the Pepe foul. I had never seen that before, but I don’t watch La Liga that often. Maybe it’s the norm there, but I wasn’t a fan at all of the diving and pleading to the refs. I did think that Barca did this moreso than Real.

              You get the diving and complaining to refs in the EPL too, but it is seriously looked down upon, and the media and fans will definitely call someone out on it.

              A team as “great” as Barca shouldn’t need to fake injuries just bc “it has been done before”.

            • Posted by Steven R on 2011/04/28 at 3:39 PM

              What is wrong about looking for cards. It’s called justice.

              I do not condone feigning, but shouldn’t you concern yourself with matters far more serious: career threatening tackles made by shawcross and henry etc. Seems you forget about this becuase you as an Englishman are just so God damn manly and honest. England are the only country in Europe to react in the way they did after the match, and also the only country to like Mourinho. It has a perverted football culture.

              Again I do not condone feigning. But what about Pepe’s nasty rake on Messi’s achilles in the Copa Del Rey, Marcelo’s stamp on Pedro, Adebayor’s double- slap on Busquets = all of which went unpunished. Madrid play on the limit of violence – Holland went beyond that in the World Cup Final and look what happened.

              Barca only resort to this in the face of violence and injustice. You do not evidently know the context in which this game was played – in an atmosphere permissive of hate and created by Mourinho. The man is an enemy of football and Barca play the beautiful game, and you sir should acknowledge this was a victory for football. At least do some research before coming on here and pontificating. Mourinho instigated this all. Barcelona in general do not act in this way.

              Watch Rte’ analysis in future as well – they tell the truth unlike on Itv and Sky

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/04/28 at 6:33 PM

              Re. surrounding the ref: remember Man Utd in the Roy Keane and Jaap Stam days or Arsenal during the Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn era? Obviously not.

              Re. Madrid’s tactics**, I dislike the containment approach. They don’t necessarily go out to “play football”, they go out to stop the other team from playing. Usually, I wouldn’t mind. Just disappointed because of the talent Mourinho has at his disposal and still chooses this approach. One thing to do this with Porto with the resources available, quite another to do with Madrid. To play for a 0-0 at home with that team is… I don’t have a suitable word in my vocab.

              **Don’t get me wrong, I love tactics and strategy as much as the next man. And I understand it’s all about the result, ugly win is better than a pretty loss etc.

    • Posted by jwrandolph on 2011/04/28 at 12:26 PM

      So you’re making the case that only Barca crowd the refs? I mean, nobody likes a dive over play-acting, but thats a patently ridiculous assertion. As another commenter said, this sounds like sour grapes after a deserved Barcelona win.

      1. Barcelona are “ordinary” without Messi? The Spanish national team just dominated a cycle of European play and won the World Cup. Not to minimize the contributions that Casillas and Ramos make to that team, but thats essentially Barca minus Messi. Seems to me that they are the best in the world.

      2. Pepe went in studs up, thigh high. Was he unlucky to get a red? Maybe. But you can’t make tackles like that and complain for being sent off.

      3. Which Madrid red cards were undeserved?

      A. Ramos (11/29/10) made a dirty tackle, from behind, after the 90th minute. Then grabbed a Barca player by the throat and threw him. DESERVED.

      B. Albiol (4/16/11) dragged down Villa as last man in the penalty area. DESERVED.

      C. Di Maria (4/20/11): A yellow for a bad foul, a yellow for a bad foul. DESERVED.

      E. Pepe (4/27/11) – Thigh high, studs up tackle. 50-50% on Yellow/Red. Adebayor deserved red. Remember Pinto (Barca) also got a red.

      So what are you complaining about with the refs? This Mourinho inspired conspiracy that Madrid only loses because of the refs is getting way to common. Barcelona is a damn good team. So is Madrid, but they are not as good as Barcelona by any measure.

      4. The second half of the 5-0 thrashing was the greatest half of football by the greatest team I’ve ever watched. Thats just my opinion, but to call it anything less than extraordinary seems ingenious to me.

      5. I am obviously a Barca fan, but I think its hard to deny that Xavi is undoubtedly one of the greatest players of this generation. Again, look at what he accomplished for the Spanish national team without Messi.


      • Posted by jwrandolph on 2011/04/28 at 12:40 PM

        Oops! Please forgive my spelling: A, B, C, E! 🙂


        • Posted by jellyace on 2011/04/29 at 12:04 AM

          That’s exactly one of the points of this article:

          You can’t commit a foul if you have the ball. Barca’s ball possession obsession forces their opponents to try to steal the ball, hence the higher incidence of fouls committed against them.

          Match that up with Oscar award-winning injury feigning and you have the formula for ending up with a one-man advantage.


          • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/03 at 10:42 AM

            The idea that Barcelona always or even usually ends up with a one-man advantage is ridiculous and I don’t know why people are buying into it. And I say this as an Arsenal fan.

            In the last four years in the CL, if you subtract the time played with a man down from the time played with a man up, you end up with:

            Shakhtar: 13.6%
            Liverpool: 10.8%
            Schalke: 8.2%
            Barcelona: 4.4%
            Real Madrid: 2.5% (before this last game, it was 4.5%)
            Bordeaux: 2.2%
            AC Milan: .2%
            Arsenal: .6%
            Atletico Madrid: 0%
            Celtic: 0%
            Copenhagen: 0%
            Fenerbahce: 0%
            Marseille: 0%
            Panathinaikos: 0%
            Sevilla: 0%
            Sporting CP: 0%
            Stuttgart: 0%
            Chelsea: -.4%
            Valencia: -.6%
            Bayern Munich: -1.4%
            Lyon: -1.4%
            Manchester United: -1.7%
            Olympiakos: -3.3%
            Roma: -4.2%
            Porto: -5.1%
            Villarreal: -6.1%
            Inter Milan: -6.7%
            Fiorentina: -9.4%
            Juventus: -11%
            Moscow: -11.4%
            Tottenham: -20.8%

            They don’t usually play with a man up in La Liga, that I have seen, anyway. I do not understand where this “Barcelona always has a man up” is coming from.


  10. Posted by Arisrules on 2011/04/28 at 10:28 AM

    The only team that Pedro/Alves/Busquets do that to such a degree is against Real Madrid. But I think it’s more of a function of the hightened atmosphere. With Mourinho the expectations have gotten so out of hand, that players feel they have to go to any level to win, even if it is milking fouls. To say they have been doing this for years, is bascially to be blind to one of the worst parts of soccer: people dive and cheat all the time. Is there a player who has not done this? No.

    One point though, before I continue. I felt most of the cards were fair yesterday except for the one on Pedro (which was a joke). Pepe deserved red for putting himself in that position (excuse me, lunging studs up at shin-height in my book and most peoples is a red card). The Sergio Ramos check was nonsense. The ball had been lost. Adebayor deserved a red as well. Maybe there should be yellows for Barcelona players for simulation, but how many of those are usually awarded?

    I think this article is trying to get to something that basically states: all teams play to their strengths in order to win, and will do this at any level. basically teh author is trying to equate the way Barcelona plays (sucking the life out of the game by holding onto the ball, tiring opponents out, moving the point of attack quickly, and rapidly advancing to goal) with the tactics that Mourinho employed.

    I can’t say I agree. This Barcelona team when it gets rolling eviscerates opponents more thoroughly then any team I have ever seen in the past two decades that I have been following soccer. The reason people say they are the best isn’t simply ebcause they win, but because they win despite opponents completely re-structuring their line-up/tactics in order to face them. No other team in the past two decades commands this type of respect. I assume this was the respect that the old Ajax/Dutch teams received from opponents. We say what happened to real when tehy did anything except for bunkering: 5-0. That is the whole point, and I think this article misses that.

    The Oscar De La Hoya analogy is interesting, because of this. Barcelona for all its greatness lacks a certain killer instinct. They want to finish, btu at times they are too fancy, too soft. This is what kills me about this team. This is what, even with Villa, they are missing when Eto’o left.

    I also felt this article was disrespectful towards Xavi. He would start on every team in the world. To say it is the Messi show is a joke.


    • Posted by Braden on 2011/04/28 at 12:46 PM

      Not sure I agree – Alves spent a ton of time on the ground only to get up a second later vs. Arsenal in both legs.


      • Posted by Arisrules on 2011/04/28 at 12:59 PM

        Sure, but I think the Madrid game is where some of the bullshit comes out. Mourinho is 100% in their heads, and it brings out the worst from a handful of guys (notice again it’s always the same guys Busquets, Pedro, Alves, etc). But I don’t think people should extrapolate from that, as some have posted here, that there was some vast conspiracy on the part of Barcelona to bait Real Madrid. That happens during the game.

        Alves plays like that. He’s been doing that since before he came to Barcelona. He’s always on the edge. At the same time he is a small fast guy, a slight nudge by a bigger guy will effect his runs, so invariably he falls, throws his hands up, etc.


    • Posted by crow on 2011/04/29 at 9:00 AM

      I agree that the article is too harsh on Xavi. Xavi, along with Tim Cahill, are my two favorite non-American players. With that being said, I think the majority of people would agree that as goes Xavi goes Spain and Barcelona. When Spain lost to the USA and Switzerland, it was Xavi who was targeted and shutdown. When Barcelona lost in the Copa del Rey, it was Xavi who had an uncharacteristically bad game- including the turnover that led to the Real Madrid goal.


      • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/03 at 2:24 AM

        I don’t think that the majority of people would agree with that at all. I know I don’t, and I watch a fair number of Barcelona games because my sister is a huge fan, so I’m speaking from some experience here.

        Xavi is an important member of the team, but by no means is he the only important member or even the most important member. If he had not had an off-game, Barcelona would probably have won. However, even with his off-gameI do not think that Barcelona would have lost the Copa if Puyol had been on the field, because he would have shut either Di Maria or Cristiano Ronaldo down before they managed to score. (Maybe I am biased because Puyol is by far my favorite Spanish player, but I am not the only one who thinks that.)


  11. Posted by Crow on 2011/04/28 at 10:39 AM

    Since this was an “op-ed” article I’ll offer some “op-ed” comments:

    I appreciate the outspoken commentary but don’t agree on all counts. I didn’t grow up with any European team so i don’t pretend to be a rabid supporter of any. With that being said, I despise pretty much all of the “big teams” in Europe and always cheer for the underdog…. except usually Barcelona. Barcelona has wooed me over the last few years with their style of play. I would accept the comments that Barcelona’s possession is overrated because of how “cautious” they are while having the ball at times. Still, it is hard to criticize the way they play because it is beautiful to watch and it works and it does seem like the way the game should be played.

    With that being said, I don’t believe that a team who doesn’t play like Barcelona should be criticized by arrogant tools like Johan Cruyff who act like they are the authority on soccer. Al Gore invented the internet and Johan Cruyff created soccer.

    Anyway, I am a BIG fan of Jose Mourinho. Basically, another reason I like Barcelona (to a point) is because I despise Real Madrid more than any other team in the world. To me they represent everything wrong in world sports. They are the Miami Heat or New York Yankees of the soccer world. All they do is stockpile talented prima donnas and try to fuse all the pieces into a team. Although Barcelona is a huge club, I respect the fact that they stay faithful to their playing style and that they “homegrow” many of their players. With all of this being said, I actually found myself pulling FOR Real Madrid- all because of Mourinho, lol, despite the fact that I despise Ronaldo, Di Maria, etc. etc. I think he is truly ‘The Special One’. It is my dream that one day he coaches the US National Team. Barcelona is playing at an incredibally high level and Mourinho was able to stymie them with a bunch of divas who hadn’t won anything in a long time. The guy is like the Michael Jordan of coaches. He may be arrogant but he lives up to every word.

    Finally- I think the Pepe red card was harsh (and that obviously destroyed Mourinho’s tactics), but calling out Barcelona for diving is absolutely ridiculous. Real Madrid is guilty of diving all of the time. The only player that is an embarrasment for Barcelona is Mascherano, who I have less respect for than probably any other player in the world.


  12. Posted by Braden on 2011/04/28 at 11:12 AM

    Could not agree more.


  13. Posted by kaya on 2011/04/28 at 12:19 PM

    I can agree that Barcelona build a moral pedestal for themselves that’s a bit dishonest, but this post makes it sound like they use exceptionally negative tactics which I plainly disagree with. RM play a physical game and I think the level of play (re)acting on the part of Barca in the 2nd half was pretty much on par with the physicality. And to call out Barca when playing against a team which CR7 is part of… really? He only largely exonerated himself on this occasion because he saw little of the ball. I think I saw DiMaria go down 3 times towards the end of the first half on total flops resulting in 3 free kicks that could’ve been good opportunities.
    I’m not an expert in sports rules, but whatever rugby has that makes refs like kryptonite to players once a foul is called seems like it should be applied to soccer. Like a 10 yard radius beyond which players couldn’t approach except for receiving their cards… maybe then this imaginary card waving could go away. Didn’t SAF just go on a tirade about the FA limiting player interaction with the ref? I just don’t understand this at all except that big time managers like to keep intimidation as a tool. Barca are no exception, so if your point is that they’re no more angelic than any other team: point taken. However, the title of the post really is reminiscent of Newscorp.


  14. Posted by Erik the Orange on 2011/04/28 at 12:30 PM


    I fully felt as though I were the only sane one in the loony bin and if I decided to try and defend my sanity I’d be gathered away and lit up with 500cc of Thorazine and left in the corner.

    Wanna park the bus? Fine, allowed. Wanna defend and counter? Sure. Wanna counter those tactics with play acting, diving, feigning, protesting, Dani Alvezing, etc etc? GO HOME. PERIOD.


  15. Posted by Rich B on 2011/04/28 at 12:30 PM

    I want to sneeze on Busquets and see if he screams at me for giving him AIDS.

    I hate Barca’s diving. They get away with it because they are a VERY good team and the good teams, no matter what league you look at, always seem to get the breaks.


  16. Posted by wallace44 on 2011/04/28 at 1:37 PM

    Well only thing to do then. Go Man U!!!

    I’m no Manchester fan but their football ethics are much more inline with mine.


    • Posted by John on 2011/04/28 at 2:23 PM

      Er… Really?

      I’m not going to have a go at United, but I am guessing that you have never watched Nani play.

      He dives like an Olympian.


      • Posted by Durant Durant on 2011/04/29 at 7:46 AM

        That’s one guy compared to the entire Barcelona team. It will be a cold day in hell when I see Wayne Rooney get carried on a stretcher only to come back on 15 seconds later after receiving the miraculous cold spray.


        • Posted by John on 2011/04/29 at 8:35 AM

          Er: Did you watch the Rooney video? In the Blackburn game he completely play acted, obviously so, then he threw a fit when the ref wouldn’t card the Blackburn player, then he ran up and basically came through the back of the Blackburn player in revenge getting a yellow card for his troubles, when he (Rooney) intentionally fell down in the first place.

          I would rather people play act and get taken off the field than try to potentially injure other players in the process.


  17. I pretty much agree with everything you’ve written.


  18. just a couple quick thoughts:

    Dani Alves is a bitch. I love watching Barcelona play but he is a joke when it comes to staying on his feet. however, he is by no means the only player who does this. Nani spends an immense amount of time on the ground, and I have seen Drogs go down as if he has been shot before. This is an international problem at this point.

    Barcelona trying to come off as the moral standard is funny. For some reason teams get uppity when other teams play them physically. Sure, you are going to get fouled more. Go about it like Messi does, which is try to play through everything and when he does go down, it is an actual foul. Again, this doesn’t apply to Barca but everyone.

    To call Pedro second rate and say that players like Sergio Busquets do not deserve the same protections that you afford Messi and Xavi diminishes your point greatly. Stick to attacking the fact they go down easily, and not your personal thoughts on their level of skill. All players should be judged at the same level with the same rules. There is no league that doesn’t have the issue of players feigning injury, and yes it is quite frustrating. Most of what you pointed out is insight into issues that have infected the game the world across.


    • I totally agree with paragraph 2. Messi has certainly gone down in a heap before, but mostly he goes down, gets right back up and shows us some genius.

      I’m not saying that those players don’t deserve the same protection from referees just that they’re taking advantage of a situation where referees are calling games so tight at the highest levels.


      • Posted by Durant Durant on 2011/04/29 at 7:48 AM

        I agree with this too. I’ve seen Messi many times attempt to catch his balance and finish a play after incidental contact where others would have gone down looking for a foul.


  19. I don’t have a problem with their style of play at all. I have a problem with the ridiculous amount of diving, and the rolling around on the ground afterwards.

    Some say diving is a part of the sport and will never be eradicated. Fine. Take your dive, get your foul, and get the heck back on your feet. The stopping play, the other team coming to lift you off the ground because they know you’re full of crap, the guy waving them away, just everything…

    It’s so European, that it makes me long for the day that Americans can play great world-class soccer so we don’t have to watch that stuff anymore.

    As for sour grapes, of course Madrid is equally as guilty of it. They’re in La Liga. That’s the MO of that league. Ronaldo is one of the lowest forms of a person on this earth for the stuff he does.

    I will never root for Manchester United in a match before the final or after the final. I’ll be rooting so hard for them during the final though.


    • At this point, it’s an epidemic only because (and obviously this is a theory out of left field) its necessary to win soccer matches. I truly believe Americans are at a disadvantage because it takes a lot for someone to take a dive (Dempsey does his share but he’s basically a career international player).

      Why can’t they just play soccer and when they get fouled, they get fouled. If not, just play the damn game.


      • “Why can’t they just play soccer and when they get fouled, they get fouled. If not, just play the damn game.”

        So painfully true. Ref baiting is a joke. It diminishes what is so pretty about the beautiful game.


      • Posted by chile on 2011/04/28 at 4:31 PM

        Americans are at a disadvantage because it takes a lot for someone to take a dive

        Oh plz. Don’t act like Americans don’t dive. Saw Davies’ world class dive the other day? Jozy goes down easily too especially for a big guy so save that Americans are above diving argument cuz they’re not.


    • Posted by John on 2011/04/28 at 3:43 PM

      In answer to your Manchester United statement…

      Nobody is without fault. I can find videos of Gerrard diving, Drogba diving, Ronaldo diving, Tevez Diving, Torres diving….


      • I said that everyone dives, and diving is one thing. Every single play, every single touch is the worst injury in history to the guys in La Liga. It’s disgusting.

        I was considering paying for GolTV to get La Liga, I’m glad I don’t. I’ll stick with MLS and EPL.


      • Posted by Durant Durant on 2011/04/29 at 7:51 AM

        Do you see Rooney rolling around on the ground for 10 minutes and getting carried off on a stretcher, and then coming back on 15 seconds later. It’s one thing to take a dive a couple times a year, but w Barca it’s every freaking time there’s any sort of contact whatsoever.


    • Posted by V on 2011/04/28 at 4:49 PM

      “It’s so European, that it makes me long for the day that Americans can play great world-class soccer so we don’t have to watch that stuff anymore.”

      Oh, look at that. A xenophobic stereotype. Americans are not the be all and end all of fair play. There are plenty of Americans who dive and Europeans who don’t.


      • Stereotypes are there for a reason. The loud boisterous lack of respect for the officials on EVERY call. The way they’re allowed to work the referee is ridiculous. It’s quite pathetic.


        • Posted by V on 2011/04/28 at 6:41 PM

          You can’t say all Americans are innocent of diving; that’s like Terry claiming that an influx of foreign players is to blame for increased diving in the premier league. It’s a generalization that, at its core, attributes faults to other races while portraying English (or American) players as beacons of purity. Anyway, it’s not particularly relevant to the discussion on this page. I apologize for digressing.


          • Posted by T Peterson on 2011/04/28 at 7:08 PM

            “You can’t say all Americans are innocent of diving”

            Uh, and he didn’t say all Americans are innocent of diving. He said simply that stereotypes are there for a reason; that is, the weight of evidence allows a reasonable observer to make reasonable generalizations. In this case, that generalization is that, by and large, American soccer teams do not engage in flopping and rolling to the extent that teams in some other cultures do.

            That doesn’t mean Americans are some beacon of purity. There could be any number of reasons for their relative lack of diving. Indeed, it’s probably just a pragmatic issue: American sports fans absolutely detest it; they have been quite vocal over the years about detesting it; it is viewed as one of the biggest factors holding back the sport’s wider acceptance here; and thus American players consciously avoid it.


  20. Posted by kaya on 2011/04/28 at 3:38 PM

    it’ll be interesting to see if Spain start fouling each other when they come to Foxboro in June =)


  21. Posted by Seybold on 2011/04/28 at 7:14 PM

    The tactical analysis of this match is 100% wrong. “Real Madrid refused to be pushed back.” Ridiculous. This was Madrid’s home match in a European tie. If you sit back and don’t even bother to attack, why should the visiting side even bother?

    Mourinho always plays defensively and on the counter against Barcelona (or even Arsenal), and Guardiola called his bluff. Someone finally gave him a taste of his own anti-football medicine, and decisively beat him in a tactical battle. It’s long overdue. What did he have in reply? Nothing.

    You won’t see Manchester United playing timid soccer against Barcelona. They’ll go after them. Imagine how the galacticos of Real Madrid would have played against this Barca! They might even have cast them aside with casual arrogance.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/04/28 at 7:56 PM

      I don’t think Tuesday was wrong [although I disagree with small elements of his commentary]. Barca did have the ball a lot around the halfway line without being pressed by Madrid. But when Barca threatened to go further forward, then Madrid pressed pretty well. Although Madrid did have Casillas to thank for keep the score level pre-sending-off.

      One thing that nobody mentioned is that for all of the ‘Barca only scored when playing vs. 10 men malarky’, Madrid never got a shot off at the Barca goal even when they did have 11 men. So, what does that tell you? Was Mourinho playing for a nil-nil, at home, in front of 80,000 people at the Bernabeu?


      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/04/29 at 6:31 AM

        Looks like it, especially considering who mourinho left on the bench. Subbing özil was also a mistake for me; I think he’s brilliant.

        As for the “only scoring against 10 men” sentiment, Messi still jukes 5 players to get his second. That was a great goal.


        • Posted by Alex on 2011/04/30 at 7:37 PM

          The goal was very overrated. He basically ran in a straight line he nobody picked him up. When everyone was saying that it was such a glory goal- I was expecting something much better. If the situation was Wolves- Bolton, nobody would’ve blinked an eye.

          Barcelona is a very high quality team- you can’t deny that fact. I have no interest in Barcelona or Real Madrid, but I will admit that the red card was rash and the disgusting thing was the way they followed and hounded the ref. I can’t stand that.

          And I do agree with the comments that Barcelona has a false sense of entitlement of being the most morally “correct” team. They disrespect the game in different ways- diving, influencing the ref, faking injuries etc…

          Also their play is not that amazing. Yes passing the ball back and forth for a sustained period of time is harder than it looks, but everyone knows that these players are some of the most skilled passers and dribblers in the world- it is expected of them. If they were so good though they would blow their opponents out of the water.

          Point is Barcelona are not the greatest team ever and this idea that they are the best team ever is a huge stretch.


          • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/03 at 2:28 AM

            However the rest of the players were conducting themselves in that match, Messi was the bright spot both for his refusal to dive and because that second goal was brilliant. I can not understand how you can call that overrated. I agree that Barcelona is not the greatest team ever as a whole but Messi is certainly the best player today.


      • George – Madrid pretty much matched Barcelona chance for chance in the first half. See: Ronaldo’s shot on the half turn that Valdes spilled to the offside Ozil.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/04/29 at 5:31 PM

          Tuesday, you are correct. I forgot about that effort. But I do think that this article was written with Mourinho-tinted glasses on. For the record, I think he’s a fantastic coach, but he’s also very blinkered when it comes to recalling history and facts.

          Regarding the “10-man” statement that’s been going back and forth, I saw a stat that said that in 15 games vs. Barcelona, his teams have had 7 sendings off [admittedly, yesterday’s should have been a yellow IMO]. Nobody is saying that you should stand off Barcelona and let them play, and have it all their own way. Yes you want to compete, and yes you want to be physical – within the laws of the game. Mourinho’s teams are often over-physical when playing against Barcelona, to the point where a player gets sent off. If Mourinho’s really is The Special One, why can’t he beat Barcelona more frequently without resorting to being over-physical and negative, especially given the players he has [and without a lot of luck]? A Spanish reporter also said “After Pepe got sent off, Real Madrid couldn’t, and before the red card they didn’t want to.” – I thought that this summed up the game pretty succinctly.
          He played more positively in the one-off Cup final and got a result, and then he resorted to his containment strategy.


    • Posted by EM. on 2011/04/28 at 10:55 PM

      “Decisively beat him in a tactical battle”?


      Sure, if by “tactical battle” you mean diving all over the pitch to get opponent players sent off when there was hardly any contact. Or say, getting on a stretcher only to come back within seconds.


      • Posted by Seybold on 2011/04/29 at 10:34 AM

        Guardiola held back his fullbacks, denying Real the space to counterattack. He played Villa and Pedro wide to smother Real’s fullbacks. Mourinho had no response, because it was so unexpected–his bluff, and standard strategy of playing Barcelona had finally been called. He was comprehensively beaten in the tactical game (in fairness, unlike the previous two recent matches, where he won the tactical battle).

        The diving was unseemly (and that means Di Maria too). What is the proper response to body-checking thug soccer, and tactical fouling anytime you get the ball to within 35 yards of the goal?

        Mourinho dragged the game into the gutter, by design. Live by the sword, die by the sword. All the Manchester United players should stop wasting their tweets on all this–they need not worry about anyone diving against them in the final, because Man U isn’t afraid to play.

        You don’t have to play thug soccer to beat Barcelona, even over two legs. Sevilla proved that in the Kings Cup last year.


  22. This is just the critical point of post 1986 football (or soccer as you want): no creativity, simply physical teams. And with such financial issues, Platini is just a stupid guy refusing the video which would help referees and prevent those dumb-asses like CR7 or Dani Alves from feigning fouls, because they are not able to find a way to score.
    It’s not a Barca vs Real question, it’s a post-80s football issue.
    And people saying Barca plays the best have never seen any real game, being fast and physical and passing the balls within a perimeter of 10 square meters doest mean playing good football.

    Evidence that Alves feigned: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-OMZyuFEOw


  23. Posted by Woody on 2011/04/28 at 8:34 PM

    Reading this I was going, yeah, yeah, I could see that, yeah, there is a point there, yeah, ummm hmmm, sure I guess….. then I read, “second rate Pedro,” and you lost me.


    • Posted by elizabeth on 2011/04/28 at 10:58 PM

      I wouldn’t consider Pedro second rate, however he is not on the same level as Messi, Villa, Xavi, or Iniesta, which is, i think, was the author’s point when he said “second-rate”


  24. Posted by RManzano on 2011/04/28 at 9:59 PM

    First of all i am a Madrid supporter and this may come out as biased but regardless i will speak. Whenever Barcelona play i can deduce that they will dominate possession and win. Theres no point in watching their games, as i do ONLY because they are Madrid’s strongest competitors, because the result is obvious. in terms of possession they play more front to middle and back to tire out their opponent and make space up front for a nice through ball to get a goal. Now their passing abilities are top of the class compared to most teams but football is a match between two teams and when i see Barcelona play in only see one team, them. Its boring at times because you know what their plan is and their opponents play into their little game of keep away, which to me it simply is. Once the opposition grows desperate and tired they send their through balls into a scrambling defense. Also,Barca never seem to take risks and when they do it becomes a game of football not a one team show. As much as i hate to say Madrid are Barca’s only real opponents. Their is a lot of talent in the league but a Mourinho Madrid can offer Barcelona a very difficult 90 minutes.

    Now my 2 cents on tactics, even though in not a football coach whatsoever: Crowd the midfield and the backline as well and Barcelona’s keep away game will be made more difficult because when they try to regroup and cant find enough space to push forward they always move the ball back. Bring three up in front with four in the midfield and the three most solid defenders in the back with a midfielder moving to the back when Barca is on the attack.


  25. Posted by lune on 2011/04/29 at 12:08 AM

    You seem to forget that Barca has already won playing 11vs 11.And what a win was it!5-0.Oh yeah, Ramos was sent off after all goals were scored.Cut the crap.


  26. Posted by jellyace on 2011/04/29 at 12:14 AM

    There’s one point the article missed: The Barca “system” is the best strategy to employ when the majority of your players are SHORT. They have to keep the ball low and close to the ground because they can’t jump as high for the ball in an aerial match.

    Their height disadvantage also gives the players the illusion of frailty. That coupled with rolling around feigning injury and having “legends” like Xavi crowd the refs often results in cards that are harsher than the actual fouls.


    • In high school our rival had this tiny tiny kid that played for them. Must have been about 5 foot nothing. You couldn’t tackle him because absolutely everything was seen as a foul. Maybe this is revelatory.

      Still, it’s the tall and gangly Sergio Busquets who is probably the worst offender.


  27. Posted by Peter Langford on 2011/04/29 at 3:53 AM

    it seems that you’ve only really watched barca play in the knock-out stages of the CL and i would venture only the past two semis.
    if so, i dont believe you are in any great position to write this article.


  28. Posted by Blazindw on 2011/04/29 at 4:35 AM

    This. 1000x this. The whole article.


  29. Posted by Notrh on 2011/04/29 at 5:17 AM

    This certainly attracted the Barca haters. Very emotional reaction within the guise of an intellectual argument. So very wrong. If you hadn’t noticed, Manchester United played very much the same way on the 1st leg of the other semi. Not pressing at all, content with posession, and would have been happy with 0-0, as Barca would have. 2nd, as the special1 criticized Pep of complaining about correct calls in the CDR, he has turned a complaint into a delusional argument – if you make a stamp motion down into an opposing players shin/ankle/foot (esp while flexing your foot so you expose the heel of your studs) it is an automatic red card – the referee has no choice. Pepe got caught up in the moment and made a poor choice. The only thing I agree with is that I’m sick of players chasing down the referee after a foul wanted a card. This should be eliminated from the game as it definitely detracts from the beauty of the game.


  30. Posted by star_bury on 2011/04/29 at 5:19 AM

    I haven’t read other comments and I didn’t read the whole article. I stopped after the “it’s why I hate Barcelona” line.

    I agree that Xavi’s “football won” comment is silly, but pinning Barcelona as the lone team that dives, cheats and surrounds the ref card-begging is ridiculous. Sorry, but if you hate Barcelona for doing this, I’m not sure what team you could EVER support.


  31. Posted by daniel on 2011/04/29 at 6:37 AM

    those of you who think 71% possession isn’t thrilling football are ridiculous. barcelona did that in the first half against 11 men pressing just about as hard as you like.


    • I think Barcelona really lack incisiveness without Iniesta. With him they have two players that get between the lines of midfield and defense and cause problems. If a defender tracks Messi out into the area between the lines, Iniesta is often the one finding this space and he uses the ball very well in these areas.

      I’m not immune to the beauty of Barca’s rhythmic possession approach, but having that level of possession isn’t the point in itself.


      • Posted by daniel on 2011/04/29 at 8:00 AM

        i never said possession was the point. but neither is a ridiculous bicycle kick or a fancy roulette. they’re all factors that contribute to giving the game it’s beauty. to watch a side keep the ball against opponents who have very plainly been instructed to hit them anytime they have it is exciting.


  32. Posted by Tim Lovejoy on 2011/04/29 at 6:46 AM

    A lot of this would be solved if feigning serious injury and immediately returning to the pitch was discouraged with a yellow-card for time-wasting at any stage of the match instead of being rewarded with the occasional game-changing red.

    Never gonna happen because it takes courage.
    England and Italy made all the right sounds about how they were going to stop this and had their token foreigner penalized and then nothing. Italians still dive and bitch and moan and english players like Rooney and Gerrard still do it and get away because their english and supposedly they dont play that way, no matter if the proof is available for all to see.
    Heck, Huth stopped a ball with his hand about a month ago in the crease and then clutched his face and fell down to simulate that the ball hit in in the face.
    That shameful simulation wasnt condemned by the TV crew but giggled at because Huth is not ‘that kind’ of player.
    So its obvious that only the Nani’s will ever get punished…IF something was to be done.

    On the other hand, people like MarcBT are idiots is they think that IN GAME instant replay is preferable to this farce.
    The stops in play would be just horrific (read Phil Jacskons’s, greatest basketabll coach, talking about how the replays that are used in the NBA for last second shots only take way to long and thats in a sport that stops every 5secs.)
    Imagine for every foul, you start stopping the game for 1 to 4 mins for the referees to consult the replay. I watch enough sports that have them and the worst is teh NFL which only gives you a certain amount of reviews which is the summum of idiocy: deciding on a set number when some games can have no calls and others have plenty. Goal line technology is different because it is instantaneous and to be honest would be so rarely used that we would forget about it. Seriously, try to remember when your own team had a goal line decision which was too close to call. I can remember only one in the past 5 yrs for the team I follow. Like I said, youd even forget it exists.
    (people think its a epidemic because we can see goals from all over the planet on sites like 101GG).
    And putting this pressure on refereees to decide while under duress what the leagues cant seem to do on their own is even less appealing.

    After the game reviews are the best way to take care of these but again THERE IS LACK OF COURAGE. Review a play and give players 3 game bans for simulations and see how long players will try it but this only works if its done constantly and not given up after a few days.
    Alves wasnt touched by the Pepe hit and deserved a yellow for simulation but had there been a post game review, he would have gotten three games for simulation. After a few of these, even the most stupid players would learn.

    ive taken off work twice this year to go to the pub and watch Barca:
    Arsenal and the most important of the 4 april classicos: game 3.
    And both times Ive seen Barcelona play 11 vs 10.
    Throw in the two games against Inter I took off to watch last year and thats 3 times out of 4 that Ive taken time off for football and have been treated to handball style power plays.

    Barca truly is the best 11 vs 10 team in the world. I would just love to see them do it 11 vs 11.


  33. Posted by Neandrewthal on 2011/04/29 at 9:54 AM

    Love it. Can you do Arsenal next?


    • Posted by John on 2011/04/29 at 10:36 AM

      How about I condense it for you and then you can apply this to any team…

      Team A dives too much, complains about results.
      Team A hires wimpy coaches
      Team A thinks they are bigger than they are
      Team A IS too big
      Team A spends too much money on players
      Team A doesn’t spend enough money on players
      Team A employs too many foreigners
      Team A doesn’t employ enough foreigners
      Team A doesn’t win anything
      Team A wins everything
      Team A’s fans are thugs, prima-donnas, prawn sandwich crowd, stupid, smelly, german/italian/english/french/american/russian, <—insert stereotype here…
      Team A plays too physical
      Team A doesn't play physical enough
      Team A is owned by an American, and they don't know anything about football

      Just replace "Team A" with your hated team and cut out non applicable statements. Then you TOO can engage the e-hate that floats around for every team.


  34. Posted by Joe on 2011/04/29 at 10:34 AM

    “If they’re really the best team in the world how come they always seem to need a man advantage to win matches at this level?”

    It’s a silly question. The last CL semi-final that Barcelona won, they had 10 men and Chelsea had 11. And yet people still hated so hard that the referee had to retire from football.

    The last semi-final that Barca lost, Inter had 10 men and still won.

    The last final that Barcelona won, nobody was sent off and Man Utd never had a chance, even though Barcelona’s defence was considered weak to begin with, and then was depleted by injuries.

    The real question is, why do players get sent off against Barcelona? Ah, I’m glad you asked an intelligent question. Because in the games that you watch, these huge, late stage CL games, every huge team full of offensive stars plays exactly like Holland played against Spain in the World Cup final. Not only do they bunker, but they foul constantly to throw Barcelona off their game. They foul blatantly and they foul secretly. They pretend to go for the ball and they try to hurt people at the same time. They look down at where the player is and they try to step on him twice.

    They leave Kaka, Higuain, and Benzema, the least of which, Benzema, has been in tremendous form, on the bench, and play every enforcer and destroyer at their disposal.

    When every one of these games is like Netherlands vs Spain final, the more surprising result is when the Netherlands side finishes with 11 men!

    It’s fine to try to cope with Barcelona by using players like Eto’o in the Inter semis, and Rooney in the Rome final, as defenders. It’s embarrassing, but fine. But put all your destroyers on the field at the same time, tell them all to hack like they’ve never hacked before, and you need the “subtlety” of De Jong and Van Bommel to reach the end of the match with 11 men.


    • Check the foul statistics for the game.

      Isn’t one of the great things about football that a well-organized, hardworking team can defeat a far more talented side on any given day? Take that out of the game and you’ve got Barcelona’s Harlem Globetrotters against anybody else’s Washington Generals.


  35. Posted by Jim on 2011/04/29 at 12:43 PM

    I could care less about rm and barca, but I can’t believe the number of people who aren’t quite getting what the article was talking about. It’s not about the diving, it about the fact that Barcelona can only play one way, and when that breaks down they use tactics which border disgraceful to the game, but then turn around and criticize the other team for playing non-football. That’s the disgrace of it all. It’s amazing that people missed some key stuff above. Everone keeps talking about how every team fould barca all the time, but yet barca controls 70% of the game, then how come barca had in only 25 minutes of non-possesion 22 fouls when the team who supposedly is fouling constantly only had 18 fould in 65 minutes of play. Shouln’t people really be looking at the fact that barcas defensive technique in this game would to commit 1 foul every 1min and 6 seconds when they didn’t have the ball. That’s almost 3.75 times more other than RM. So whose tactics are dirty. Refs need to start taking notice to this.

    Alves is even more disgraceful than the team in itself, that’s why eveyone uses him as an example. Previoulsy in the CdR, during a 50/50 ball on the sideline, alves and dimaria got wrapped up, as dimaria went over top of him Alves intentionally kicked him in the stomach and no call. Against Arsenal, as he fell and a player was about to break, he just quickly closed his legs and the player tripped, but once again at an angle no ref can see. He also gets away with alot with feinting and fouling because the way the linesmen as setup. On the right side, no linesmen is ever has a direct look from goal in to half line in the defending half. If linesmen would swap sides at half so one-half they would be watching the left-defensive wing and the other half, the right-defensive wing, it would drastically cut down on these tactics.

    I already, as a referee, have red-carded a player for what looked like a vicious tackle. The other play literally needed 3 men to carry him off the field, not 10 seconds later he was asking to be brought back on the field (as he sprinted to the midline). Do you know what happened, he got a red card. Simple as that. It’s unsportman-like and just disrespectful to the game. I’ve had teams try to rush me before as well. Easy solution to that. Yellow card the first player whos not the captain and starts getting in your face after your first warning. The refs need to be respected, but they need to earn that respect. Barca has found a way to intimate these refs and they just fold instead of standing their ground. UEFA and FIFA need to really teach their refs how to handle these situations. It would clean up the game rather quickly. Best referee i ever had at any level was a russian, who spoke no english at all, and completely owned the field with just his whistle.

    Sad part about Barca is that I know people including myself really want to like Barca and think they are a unbelievably talented team, but just can’t get past the arrogance they exude. Personally, I think it’s a shame that messi is a part of this squad. An to answer your question, yes, i think he dives sometimes, but 95% of the time he’s up and just trying to score, and yes, he doesn’t get carded even when he commits stupid fouls (like when he intentionally took out the rm defender), but overall he plays an honest hard-working game (xavi too, but he’s too arrogant) and I respect that. Can’t say the same for masch, pedro, “biscuits” and alves.

    p.s. well written, but have to agree the author realy meant “can’t like” and not “hate”.


    • Thank you for your truly excellent comments.

      Like you, there’s a huge part of me that wants to like Barca but I just can’t bring myself to do it.


  36. Posted by Steven on 2011/04/29 at 2:00 PM

    It really is frustrating watching how people are so quick to place anger and rage toward Barca in an astoundingly large amount ever since the arrival of Mourinho. Have any of you who keep saying that Barca are this terrible team of divers, cryers and match fixers ever said these things a year or two ago, before Mourinho and Ronaldo? It just seems to me that people are so desperate to create this conspiracy theory that Barca are simply cheating at the game, and that is why they are so good. Nevermind that they play in a matter that is beyond most teams and is extremely difficult to counter, and nevermind that teams have begun to defend off the bat rather than bring the attacking to Barca.

    I watched the game because I am a United fan and wanted to see who we might be playing in the final, and as such I believe I kept a fairly objective view of the game. Given that, there were two things I noticed through out the whole game: 1) Madrid resorted HEAVILY to physical play that made many of their tackles and challenges borderline fouls, and 2) Barca gladly hassled the referees when one of their men went down.

    To me, the game was interesting because it was just so much of a train wreck, and watching it all I could think was how poorly both teams were acting and playing. BOTH teams. Not just Barca and not just Madrid. BOTH teams. Why is it that no one else wants to admit that Madrid were playing just as ugly of a game as their much hated rivals? Was it because Mourinho got to you all and made you blind to any chance that Madrid could possibly be playing dirty? Who knows, but it’s increasingly annoying to hear headlines about how Barca is matchfixing and Barca are a complete bunch of divers and Barca this and Barca that.

    Just accept the fact that Barca is simply better than Madrid and get over it. Physical play, referee hassling, and diving aside, the simple fact remains that Barcelona are the better team than Madrid on any given day. If the game was the cleanest football match in history with players and coaches all smiles, Barcelona would still win. Simple as that.


  37. Posted by kaveh on 2011/04/29 at 2:54 PM

    I loved this article because it is the first i’ve read which makes the HUGE distinction which i see fail to be made elsewhere. The distinction is:

    Players like DiMaria from Madrid, or Nani from United, or Torres from Chelsea, or whomever from Arsenal and Bayern and Inter, these guys all dive. It is a shame. It should be stopped. However, they dive in the sense that they exaggerate contact in order to get a free kick awarded in a dangerous area.

    Barca is the only major team which has a premeditated tactic of feigning direct strikes to the FACE in order to get the opponent a red card. This is why they play so often with 11 vs 10, only in important games. This is how you know it is premeditated. Have you seen Barca employ this faking a punch/elbow/strike to their face, against Seville? No, it is only in the semifinals of the CL against Inter or Madrid or Arsenal, etc. They fake red card worthy events in order to get the advantage.

    It is the difference between a kid shoplifting (dimaria diving for free kicks) and Bernie Maddoff stealing billions and bankrupting entire families (Barca faking strikes to the face for red card).


    • Posted by Joe on 2011/04/29 at 4:38 PM

      The face is old. There’s video of Thierry Henry doing it, Drogba, and of course Rivaldo.


  38. Posted by q on 2011/04/29 at 4:27 PM

    So rugby tackling players off the ball, and stamping them is not as bad as feigning injury? You need to get yourself checked for jaundice I think.


  39. Posted by Joe on 2011/04/29 at 4:39 PM

    and oh yeah:


  40. […] Op-Ed: Xavi Is Wrong & Why I Hate Barcelona TSG’s Tuesday back with an op-ed […]


  41. Posted by totti744 on 2011/04/30 at 1:47 AM

    I am a Barcelona fan. I hated the first half of this game and HATED seeing Barca exaggerate fouls committed against them and worse, pretending on other occasions that they were even fouled at all. HOWEVER, rare is the team that isn’t guilty of the same and contrary to belief of some of the posters here, Barcelona DO NOT ALWAYS resort to these tactics.

    What I really hate though is watching the most expensive team in football, coached by one of the best coaches in the game in a Champions League Semi-final on their HOME FIELD play negative football. This wasn’t Xerez versus Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Mourinho’s strategy was to pack it in and foul while hoping for the occasional mistake by Guardiola’s team.

    I (almost) felt bad for Ronaldo when he threw up his arms in exasperation when Barcelona played keep away from him late in the first half. CR9 is a diving, crybaby prima donna, but he’s also a world class talent and competitor. The “Special One” emasculated his players in front of 78,000 paying supporters at the Bernabeu because he couldn’t bear to let Barcelona prove they were the better team. So of course when Pep punishes him for his anti-football, he rails about everything except for the obvious: he was out-coached and his team was outplayed. Mourinho’s criticism of Barcelona, the referees, Guardiola, and UEFA are merely a feeble blame mechanism he often uses to deflect criticism from himself.

    I hated that some of the Barca players lowered themselves to the level of many of their competitors by play acting. Yet despite their world-class talent, they are still just human as you and I.


  42. Posted by Rawad on 2011/04/30 at 2:29 AM

    For Barcelona you should change it to :


  43. Posted by jonathan aguirre on 2011/04/30 at 9:10 AM

    It’s sad that whoever wrote this is actually getting payed for writing ignorance. Do not hate on this edition of the Barcelona team, as a matter of fact be grateful and thankful that you are alive to see what perhaps is one of the best teams is history. When you talk about the triangles and their style of “aimless possession” it shows how much you know. Did you ever play in a high level team? One of the first things they teach you is checking into the ball, creating a diamond or triangles so that the player with possession of the ball has options. And Madrid did try to “play” against Barcelona on November 29th and the result was a 5-0 and the greatest showing of soccer this year to what is arguably one of the best teams in the world, Real Madrid. Murinho is a great coach but a sore loser. If you think that this is the first time he complains about the conspiracies and cries about losing, well just look back at all the teams he coached. Yes he won titles but any game he lost it was never his fault, it was always a conspiracy against him and not only against Barcelona but also when he coached in the Premier he complained about Manchester United and Liverpool, when he coached in the Serie A, he complained about Milan, and so on. There was a special on t.v that showed Murinho’s comments about Barcelona and they were the exact same comments about Manchester United, Milan etc, except with the changing of the team name. Oh and LET’S NOT FORGET, when he was part of the Barcelona coaching staff he said the exact same thing about conspiracies by Madrid and the refs. He is a joke and he always manages to get the local media on his side or the fans on his side by playing the victim. why? Because it works and he gets clueless writers filled with Barcelona hatred to write ignorant articles like the one above. Yes I agree with you that it isn’t from Barcelona to go after the refs when there is a foul but every team does it and has done for a long time. And for those Madrid fans who complain about Madrid playing with 10, you mean to say that Ramos’ red card at the first classico wasn’t a red? That Arbeloa choking and pulling down David Villa wasn’t a red? That Di Maria didn’t deserve a second yellow after fouling Messi? and the Pepe’s foul wasn’t a clear red? Wake up! And if you want to talk about theatrics I believe you have the King of all theatrics in Cristiano Ronaldo with a great supporting cast being led by Di Maria and Marcelo. As a matter of fact I don’t see why Marcelo or Arbeloa didn’t get red cards themselves after stepping on Pedro and Villa after the play was over. Buy yet you fail to see this because you’re anger towards Barcelona. Do not look for excuses just because Barcelona was able to finally win against that defensive style that they failed against twice, once against Inter and another in the Copa de su Majestad el Rey. Congratulations to Madrid for winning that championship. I believe they have the most talented team in the world. A team that has players like Kaka, Higuain and Benzema on the bench. This Madrid team is a better edition of many madrid teams that have won it all but unfortunately for them, they are playing against a team that had the 3 Fifa Ballon d’Or finalists in 2010 and a group of people that has been playing since they were in their teenage years. Madrid fans are a reflection of Murinho, complaining about theatrics when their players dive, and looking for excuses against the oponent instead of just accepting the loss. It’s sad. And although Iniesta scored two very big goals, one in Stamford Bridge and the other one in Johannesburg, in both of those games Iniesta played bad. As a matter of fact he missed 3 or 4 clear opportunities of goal in the world cup final and although they were great goals, they weren’t solely created by him. It was the Barcelona team and entire style of playing that won those games. Barcelona does the hardest thing that is possible to do in sports, and that is to play SIMPLE! Your hatred towards this team is what elevates their game and enriches their fame. This writer is a typical Murinho fan, being brainwashed and geting the media to write stories about his conspiracy and theatrics. There are many other writers in London and Milan that saw Murinho’s press conference and realized that it sounded very familiar. It’s a great rivalry by the two best teams in the world. It is unfortunate that they are playing in the semis and not the final.

    ¡Visca Barça! ¡Visca Catalunya!


    • 1) Paragraphs are your friends.
      2) Tuesday wasn’t paid to write this, unless I am getting the shaft from TSG.
      3) Your opinion reeks of fanboy, and instead of looking at this critically, you just spewed the exact opposite perspective, which makes your thoughts no better then his.
      4) Seriously, paragraphs dude, paragraphs.


  44. Posted by Kyra on 2011/04/30 at 11:46 AM

    Could it possibly be the pressure of a big game that makes players like Pedro and Alves dive? Because I’m just not buying this premeditated stuff. I don’t think the entire Barca squad (as a team) would condone this as a tactic.

    I just cannot imagine Xavi or Pep of Puyol or whomever you want going up to Dani and saying, “Get whoever fouls you sent off, because obviously we’re not good enough to win on our own. Keep those red cards coming, boys! No one will ever figure this out or call us out for it, so let’s try to get it 9 to 11! Have a good game!”


    • Posted by Jim on 2011/05/02 at 4:36 PM

      Could just be, but shouldn’t they used to those big games by now. It’s not like this is their first el classico.

      I wouldn’t past the players or pep to think this way. I’m sure they would never say it directly to a teammate, but I didn’t see anyone scolding dani when he marched back on the field 10 seconds after being stretchered off, but I do remember all those guys practically assaulting the refs to get Pepe ejected. I can bet you his teammates were also high-fiving him in the locker room after the game. The only person who deserves any applause for their performance that day should be messi and affelay. when aff came on and decided he was just their to play, messi saw that and turned it up a notch. credit to those guys for playing the final part of the game the right way.


      • Posted by Brandon on 2011/05/03 at 2:35 AM

        I don’t think it’s the fact that it’s an el clasico. I think that it’s Mourinho, and he’s poisoning the relationship. I remember a time when Barcelona players and Madrid players had competitive games, but they weren’t ugly like these last three games have been. I blame Mourinho, and I am very glad that he’s in Spain for the moment and not England so I don’t have to think about him very much.


  45. Posted by Paul C on 2011/05/02 at 12:36 PM

    That’s like saying “son, your A+ isn’t good enough, because you took too long on the test”.

    I hate the diving too, but people need to accept it as part of the game today. Until there are rule changes enforcing the feigning of injuries, it is a tactical part of the modern game. To say that Barca do it any more than anyone else, ESPECIALLY Madrid, is insanity.

    Haters gon’ hate.


    • Posted by Jim on 2011/05/02 at 4:23 PM

      First off, people don’t accept diving/feinting as part of the game, and they shouldn’t either. It’s not about ‘Haters gon’ Hate’ as you put it, it’s about team who are superior using tactics which goes against “fair play” pricinples they agree to follow when stepping on the pitch in any game.

      As I stated in aprevious comment, stop making this article about diving. The article criticizes Barcelona for using tactics which in no way align with their “mentality” that they play “true” football. Their ability to dominate possession makes them look like they are the “clean” team when in fact in most games they have more fouls called against then in 1/3 the time of non-possession than their opponents. But, due to the fact that they have so much possession, the refs don’t realize the frequency in which they foul. Barca’s true defenders are the middies who fould as soon as they ose possession, so that all the players can get back behind the ball to pressure the opposing team.

      Not every player on Barcas team is like this, but it doesn’t take all the players to give the team a bad name. This is not much different then when people say the epl is about tackling and rough play. If you really believe that every team in the epl is like that, you’ve never watched a game, but people make general judgments based on limited facts all the time. In this case, 50% of the team account for 98% of the cynical play, but nothing is done because Barca plays “beautiful football”, so everyone just ignores it.

      So please, for anyone who wants to post about this being a diving argument, it’s going to fall on deaf ears. If you really want to post a comments, try writing a counter argument to the real reason this article was posted. Comments useing Deflection techniques only give credibility to the authors analysis of Barca’s cynical play.

      What I love about this blog is that fact these authors take their free-time, which these could be doing something else with, and looking at the game from a truly refreshing perspective. It’s these types of articles which make us think, and would to see even more authors willing to add their perspective to this site in the future, but the fan boys whose accuse these respected authors as ignorant should just stay away, as you obviously don’t understand the point behind and educated discussion. Please guys keep these articles coming. I can’t tell you how many of friends I’ve discussed articles from this site. Can’t wait for the next one. Great Work!


  46. […] Op-Ed: Xavi Is Wrong & Why I Hate Barcelona […]


  47. […] Op-Ed: Xavi Is Wrong & Why I Hate Barcelona […]


  48. […] perhaps at its most pragmatic during the Champions league knockout game in terms of approach. As one match analysis put, But Mourinho’s Madrid refused to be pushed back. They had 6 midfielders waiting around the […]


  49. Good overall article, and a nice alternative to the seemingly ‘majority view’. I don’t agree that Madrid were the innocent party here, as they gave as much as they got. But in general, the tactics of Barca are brought into question.

    As I read the replies, the same arguments raise their head as they do in any debate I’ve had. Where are so many united statements coming from? The pundits. I would have to say that the majority of Barca lovers opinions come directly from what the pundits tell them. And they still ahve the grace to call themselves fans. If you are a fan, you are entitled to your own opinion.

    Barca are an amazing passing team, and this can be seen right through there underage ranks as well, and it is a style of football that is drilled into them. However, the cynical style is also drilled in. This can be seen in every player on the pitch looking for the oppurtunity to go down when your passing isn’t working and focus one getting players carded (not necessarily red) to make the opposition less likely to get tackles in as it will resuylt in them getting sent off. Under NO circumsatnces is this ‘Football’ in my opinion. And it is an absolute disgrace to watch.

    Some Barca players are worse than others, in particular Mascherano, Busquets, Valdes, Alves and Pedro. It is also funny how the worse culprits are also the weaker members of the side. Mascherano should be a good example of a player coming from England as a tough tackling DM who never took to the ground. Yet during his time at Barca he has become synonomous with rolling half the length of the pitch if someone sneezes (exagerated for dramatic purposes, not literal). So where did he pick up this new tactic if not being told to do it by his Coach.

    Barcelona is by far and away the best pass and move team in the world. I don’t think there is any arguing that. But I think this fact is overshadowing how they cynically play looking for every tackle on them to result in a card. The ‘Greatest Team of All Time’ is an accolade thrown about quite a lot about this Barca team. My question is if they are the greatest team, why can’t they win games without resorting to this?

    Be a fan and ask yourself, don’t rely on somebody else to tell you what to think and stop regurgitating the nonesense pundits spout, it only highlights your ignorance and their stupidity.


  50. I agree with the article. Barcelona is always trying to give the appearance of a good cop, making the rest of the teams look like bad cops, specially Real Madrid. But this is not true. Both teams are the best of the World, with the same goal and ambition to win everything. Barca should not criticize Madrid´s tactics and just let the results speak by themselves. This season Barca seems not to win any title. Atletico de Madrid is leading La Liga, Real Madrid won La Copa, and both are in semifinals of the Champions League. Might this be the end of the Barcelona era?


    • Posted by David on 2014/11/09 at 3:18 PM

      You’re clueless too. Why are all you Yanks so far up Ronaldo and Mourinho’s arses? They’re both scum.


  51. Posted by David on 2014/11/09 at 3:17 PM

    The writer of this article is just clueless and brainwashed by anti-Barca sentiment. I’d explain why but I would have to write a 5000 word essay to destroy all of his awful points.

    Typical Ronaldo/Mourinho sycophant who’s only been watching football since 2009. Just like the indoctrinated idiots it has attracted.


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