Goodbye Birmingham!

Bartra, Grimaldo and Patric trained on Friday at St George's Park. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
FC Barcelona’s final day at St George’s Park was a wet one

After seven sessions in England, attention now switches to Nice

Friday was Barça’s last day at St George’s Park. After five wonderful days enjoying the extraordinary FA facilities, the team is now off to Nice for the second friendly of the preseason.

The first session was scheduled for this morning, just after the news was announced that Sergio Busquets will be wearing the number 5 shirt that was formerly owned by Carles Puyol. Watching on were the youngsters from the Monroe Soccer Club, New Jersey, who are staying at the same hotel as FCB.

Manager Luis Enrique allowed the media in to watch the first 45 minutes, which mainly consisted of a possession exercise under heavy rain. But the session ended up being moved to the neighbouring pitch, the only one on the site with a roof, and which is exactly the same size as the one at Wembley.

It turned out to be the last session on the field in England, for the evening workout was moved indoors. There was also a photo session involving the seven new signings this season, and shortly after club president Josep Maria Bartomeu arrived in Birmingham and offered a positive appraisal of progress made this week.

Bartomeu will now be travelling with the team on Saturday morning for the friendly with OGC Nice. On arrival, Jérémy Mathieu and Marc-André Ter Stegen will be giving a press conference. The game kicks off at 8.45 PM CET, and when it’s over, the players will be heading back to Barcelona after a six-day absence.

Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen couldn't be happier now that he's an FC Barcelona player

Ter Stegen is training hard for the new season / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
The German is settling in well with his new team-mates and is loving the atmpsphere between them

Ivan Rakitic has been helping him with the language barrier and he’s getting on fine with his fellow goalkeepers

Marc-André ter Stegen is absolutely loving his first few weeks as an FC Barcelona player. “It’s all perfect, much better than I expected” he told in Birmingham. “What Barça do for us is incredible. It’s all perfectly organised, much more professional than at Mönchengladbach, and I just hope we have a good season.”[[CITA_1]]The language barrier has caused some difficulties, but the FCB stopper claims that “my team-mates have been very welcoming, they’re supporting me. And we all get on well off the pitch, and that’s also important.” He’s also enjoying this week’s trip to the UK, where “the facilities are perfect and being here has been a great chance for us to talk and laugh together”.

Asked about how his Spanish is coming on, the German said “I’m getting better every day and the faster I can learn the better. Whenever I have any major doubts, Ivan Rakitic can give me a hand.” The Croatian international grew up speaking Swiss German and spent four years in the Bundesliga.[[CITA_2]]Ter Stegen has also struck up a close friendship with Marc Bartra and Sergi Roberto, as well as his goalkeeping colleagues Claudio Bravo and Jordi Masip. “We haven’t had much time to get to know each other” he admitted. “But they’re good people and we have fun together in training.”

Coach José Ramón de la Fuente is in charge of the first team goalkeepers this season, and Ter Stegen commented that “the sessions are very different to what we did in Germany, but we talk a lot and I understand what he wants of us, and of me. We’re getting on fine”.

My Spanish is getting better every day and the faster I can learn the better
Bravo and Masip are good people. We have fun together in training

Sergio Busquets will wear the Barça number 5 shirt, by personal request of Carles Puyol

Puyol wishes for former team-mate Busquets to take his famous shirt number / PHOTO: FCB ARCHIVE
The midfielder takes the new number by personal request of its former owner Carles Puyol

Sergio Busquets will be the new FC Barcelona number five following the retirement last season of its previous owner, Carles Puyol.

The midfielder will be wearing his new shirt number for the first time in Saturday’s friendly in Nice. The Catalan wore number 28 when he made his first team debut under Pep Guardiola in the 2008/09 season, and then wore 16 for the next five years.

Legendary number

Following the departure of its previous incumbent, Abelardo Fernández, Puyol went on to make the number five shirt his own over the last twelve seasons between 2002/03 and 2013/14. He made 593 official appearances in the FC Barcelona first team, 481 of those wearing a shirt number that has gone down in Barça folklore.

On hearing the news, Sergio Busquets said that “it is an honour to wear number five, and also an honour that Carles Puyol thought that I should inherit it”.

És un orgull poder portar el número 5 i un honor que en Carles Puyol hagi pensat en mi per heretar-lo

@gerardeulofeu looks at his first few days with the first team in this videoblog

Deulofeu's videoblog . PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
Deulofeu aims to learn from the talent around him

The Catalan youngster is full of praise for the St George’s Park facilities

Gerard Deulofeu is the third Barça player to record a videoblog for from St George’s Park Birmingham. Like his predecessors Bravo and Rafinha, the winger tals about his first impressions of the season is full of praise for the centre’s facilities.

Deulofeu also reveals the great atmosphere that exists in the squad in these early days of the preseason and lets slip one of the best kept  ‘secrets’ from his free time during the stay in Eng!lan: who is the best table tennis player in the team? The answer? Check out Gerard Deulofeu’s videoblog!

#onthisday: Today is the 25th anniversary of Ronald Koeman's debut for Barça

Ronald Koeman, during a Barça match / PHOTO: ARXIU FCB
The Dutchman made his debut in a friendly in Holland against the amateur side VV Buitenpost

His debut couldn’t have been better: two goals in 45 minuts and a 15-1 win

This Friday, 1st of August is the 25th anniversary of Ronald Koeman’s debut for FC Barcelona, in the 1989 preseason, in a match played in Holland.

Ronald Koeman will always be present in the minds of Barcelona fans, thanks to the goal he scored which won FC Barcelona’s first ever European Cup, at Wembley in 1992. Signed in January 1989, it was said at the time that he might join before the end of the 1988/89 season, and be freed from some of the important commitments with PSV Eindhoven. But it was not to be and coach Johan Cruyff would have to wait until the start of the 1989/90 season to be able to have ‘Tintín’ in his team.

Placid debut with 2 goals

Koeman made his Barça debut on August 1, 1989, in his own country, in a preseason tour match with his new team against amateur side VV Buitenpost. He couldn’t have had a more placid start when you consider the huge difference in class between the two sides and looking at the final score: 1-15. The Dutch defender, who only played the first half, scored two trademark goals, with two strikes from outside the area, and showed from the very beginning his authority in his dialogue with his teammates.

The other Barça goals were scored by Laudrup (3), Geli (2), Eusebio, Almagro, Onesimo, Julio Salinas, Valverde, Begiristain, Soler and Milla. As an anecdote, the six thousand spectators that filled the Buitenpost gound applauded Koeman’s two goals as if he’d scored for the home team.

Key player in the Dream Team

The great expectations as far as Koeman was concerned were fully confirmed with the passage of time. Koeman was a key player in defence for the Dream Team, that fabulous outfit from the first half of the nineties, had in him a key to the rear. Everyone remembers his great long passes, his powerful shots and his infallibility in free kicks and penalties. Koeman left the club in 1995, having scored 102 goals, not very usual stats for a defender

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