Azulgrana RoundUp, Week 5

Cesc, Xavi and Alba in the game against Sevilla / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
On this week’s RoundUp: Microsoft founder Gill Gates talks about FC Barcelona’s commitment to eradicating polio, President Rosell sits down with ESPN, and BFB gives an interesting overview of Barça’s U18 NextGen Series match against Tottenham Hotspur…

• ESPN. Sandro Rosell sits down with ESPN to talk about the Club and the nature of his visit to New York City.

• The Gates Notes. Bill Gates. Day 1 at the UN: Good Friends from Around the World

“I spent some time with Sandro Rosell, the President of FC Barcelona and the FC Barcelona Foundation.  They have been tremendous partners in using their club and its worldwide fan base to raise awareness of polio with their “More than a Goal” campaign. We recorded a short video together talking about the foundation’s partnership with them to work toward saving children’s lives around the world.”

• Yahoo! Deportes / EuroSport. Christian Pulina. Guardiola y el Barça, han hecho malos a todos los demás

“El mensaje en principio iba a ser el de que el nivel del fútbol europeo es bajísimo, pero luego me di cuenta de que no estaba bien dicho, y que lo correcto es decir que el Barça ha hecho que los demás parezcan muy malos, porque cuando el Barça era horroroso en la época de Gaspart, yo no recuerdo que estos equipos que ahora me parecen malos, me parecieran mejores de lo que son ahora, simplemente eran menos malos que nosotros, que es diferente.”

• ESPN. Roger Bennett. How video game is changing face of soccer.

“We have more research on what motivates people to watch football than anyone in the world,” said Bilbey. The narrative he has uncovered validates the story that played out in Scarborough’s Alabama fraternity house. “We analyzed passive interactions with soccer and compared them to interactive experiences with the sport,” he said, “and while there can be no substitute to seeing Barcelona at the Nou Camp, the American audience enjoys interacting with our game more than watching soccer passively on television.”

• BarcelonaFootballBlog. Linda. Barça v Spurs in the NextGen Series: a few thoughts on youth development

“La Masia’s reputation has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years because it is credited for the success of the first team. Think about it again: a successful first team built around La Masia graduates. That would have sounded like a fairytale to many fans even just 6 years ago. In Barça’s 04-06 dream team, the midfield general and star player were both foreign signings. The ‘brand’ of the La Masia-educated midfielder, in particular, didn’t have half the strength it has today.”

• TXIKOLOGÍA CULÉ. El Barça no tiró de épica, se aferro a su estilo

“Anoche en el Pizjuán pudimos disfrutar de un tremendo partidazo entre dos grandes equipos de fútbol. Como dijo Michel en rueda de prensa, hubo tanto fútbol en el encuentro que ni la polémica arbitral, ni los minutos en los que se consiguieron los goles deben ocultar lo mucho y bien que jugaron ambos equipos. Cada uno con su estilo, por supuesto, pero Sevilla y Barça, Barça y Sevilla, sacaron todas sus armas y las utilizaron con talento y fe.”

Barça train at Da Luz Stadium

Primer contacte amb l’Estadi Da Luz / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Barça’s 21-man squad trained in the stadium where on Tuesday, at 20.45, the Azulgranas will face Benfica in the second match of the Champions League group stage

Barça returned to Da Luz Stadium, a ground where the team has never been able to claim victory in an official match, for this evening’s training session ahead of tomorrow’s match against Benfica. Iniesta, Puyol and Adriano -all of whom were given the medical all-clear this Sunday- trained with the group.

The Spanish midfielder is one of five remaining players in the squad that featured for Rikjaard’s Barça in 2006 against the Portuguese side in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Valdés and Iniesta were named to the starting line-up against Benfica, whilst Xavi and Messi, injured, and Puyol, suspended, didn’t travel with the team to the Portuguese capital.

Messi: "I’m more concerned with being a good person than being the best footballer in the world"

Messi vs Sevilla FC / PHOTO: MIGUEL PUIZ - FCB
In an interview with El País, the Argentinian opens up about the team, his past as a youth player, Real Madrid, and the characteristics that define Tito Vilanova’s FC Barcelona

“This is my home, my club. I owe everything to Barça”
“My hope is that when I retire that I’m remembered as a good guy. I like to score goals, but I also like to be friends with the people I play with. It’s good to be valued as a person, it’s important that they have good concept of who you are beyond being
“I’m lucky to have landed at this Barça, where there are excellent players. They have given me everything: the individual awards, the titles, the goals, everything … This team makes me a better footballer, that’s for sure. Without the help of my teammat

“I prefer to win titles with the team before individual prizes or outscoring everyone. I’m more concerned with being a good person than being the best footballer in the world,” Leo Messi told El País this Sunday at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. The Argentinean added that “in the end, when all this is over, what can you take with you? My hope is that when I retire that I’m remembered as a good guy. I like to score goals, but I also like to be friends with the people I play with. It’s good to be valued as a person, it’s important that they have good concept of who you are beyond being the guy that scores a lot of goals.”

The following is an excerpt from Messi’s interview with El País [full interview here]:

Question – Do you feel like you’ve paid Barça back for what the it did for you when you were a child?

Answer – No, no … I always want to show that I’m committed to the club. Maybe it was more noticeable when I started playing for the team. This is my home, my club. I owe everything to Barça. And, like I’ve always said, I’m very happy here.

Q- You’ve said that you’re not preoccupied with your personal goal tally but with titles. Is there a title that you especially want to win?

A – Yes, I prefer to win titles with the team before individual prizes or outscoring everyone. I’m more concerned about being a good person than being the best footballer in the world. Besides, in the end, when all this is over, what can you take with you? My hope is that when I retire that I’m remembered as a good guy. I like to score goals, but I also like to be friends with the people I play with. It’s good to be valued as a person, it’s important that they have good concept of who you are beyond being the guy that scores a lot of goals.

Q – What about the possibility of winning your fourth Ballon d’Or?

A – Prizes are always great. I appreciate them, of course. But deep down, this is something that you [the press] are more concerned with … the questions about who is better than whom are constant. Xavi or Iniesta? Who knows the answer to that? I’m lucky to have landed at this Barça, where there are excellent players. They have given me everything: the individual awards, the titles, the goals, everything. This team has reserved its spot in history for everything that its already won. I’m lucky that I get to play here and that I get to play for Argentina, where I get to play with fantastic players. It’s so fundamental to be able to play with quality teammates. This team makes me a better footballer, that’s for sure. Without the help of my teammates, I would be nothing, I wouldn’t win anything. No individual awards, no titles, nothing.

Messi’s non-football side

Q- What makes you mad?

A- I don’t like to lose. – What about outside of football? – In life, I hate poverty. I come from a country where poverty is very noticeable. There are many children that have no other alternative but to beg on the street or try to find work … we’re talking about very young children.

Q – You have a foundation that helps at-risk children

A- Yes, we’re focused on education, we’re trying to get them off the streets through education and sports. We’re working with UNICEF, hospitals, schools … it’s nice to be able to help.

Q – You light up when children come up to you. Why is that?

A- Children are pure, especially when they’re young. They see you and they transform. Some of them are shy. They don’t talk, they don’t understand why I’m there or why I’m talking with them. They only see me on TV so when they see me in person they are frightened. I’m most fulfilled when I make a child happy.

Q – You’re always being watched because you’re famous. Is it suffocating?

A- No, because I’m not acting. I’m the same person on and off the pitch. It doesn’t bother me that I’m looked at all the time because I’m just being me. I’m always me. At first I did shy away a bit, but that was a long time ago.

Messi’s style of play

Q- You once said it’s more difficult to emulate Iniesta or Xavi than it is to do what you do on the pitch. Is it easy to do what you do?

A- I do what I can to help the team … I wouldn’t know how to play like them. I only try to help the team, always. I really don’t like to lose and I try to help so that we can win. I’ve always said that I go out onto the pitch with the intension of winning, not scoring goals.

Q- Tito says that what you do against the best footballers in the world is exactly what you used to do against your 14-year-old adversaries

A-My style of play hasn’t changed much, it’s true, even though it’s obvious that I’ve learned a lot of things since I started. It helped that I came to Barcelona and that I got to learn in the team’s youth system. Just yesterday I got the chance to watch the seven-year-olds train, the way the youth players are trained here is different. When I was a kid, they taught me to play the ball, take care of it, tactics and how to understand the game. The youngsters play just like we do! I’ll always be surprised by that.

Messi’s time at La Masia

Q – What does it say about Barça’s youth system that you and two of your team-mates from that U14 team [you used to play in] now play with the senior side?

A- It’s an example of how Barcelona works. We knew that team had one of the best generations in Barcelona youth football. In my first team (U14) there were three players [Piqué, Cesc, and Messi], but there were other players that went on to be professionals like Vázquez and Valiente – both of whom have played for Spain. But we knew that most of us would make it, and if it wasn’t for Barça’s first team, we knew that we would be able to make a living playing football for another good club.

Q- Did you ever get in trouble when you were a youth player…

A –  I don’t remember! [laughs]. I’m sure we got in trouble because we were a good group of footballers, but we were dangerous!

Q – Is it true that Piqué would defend you from cynical tackles?

A – Yes, he was a pretty big kid and we were all small. Papá [Daddy] would defend us all.

Q- It’s surprisingly difficult to knock you off the ball and you don’t dive either…

A- It’s from when I was a kid. It’s always been that way. I always tried to finish the play. I don’t know … I never looked for it, never took to diving.

Q – They say that when you were a youth player that you were the only player that was never corrected, that your characteristics were always respected.

A – I was corrected, but I don’t really remember anything specific. They did respect my way of playing, but it’s true that the philosophy here is to play one-touch football. But I never passed the ball! They told me many times to get rid of the ball earlier but they realised that it wasn’t working and they gave up. Little by little I started passing the ball more. But when I first started playing… I didn’t give it to anyone!

Barça’s style of play

Q- What defines this team?

A – The best thing about this team is that we always try to win our games. But above all, it’s that this team has ambition. Even after everything we’ve won, we still get upset if we lose a scrimmage in a training session. That’s the best thing about this team, our ambition.

Q- Is Pep responsible for that?

A – Yes, Pep showed us the way and we followed him. He made us play with the intention of always having the initiative, to always try and score. He gave us the attitude and the belief that we could win. It was spectacular. He is phenomenal in his match analysis and how he prepares his players for games. I don’t think we’ll ever see another manager like him.

Q – Rijkaard was the first. Are you still mad that you didn’t play in the Paris final?

A – I practically owe everything to Rijkaard. He was the first to have confidence in me, he gave me my debut with the first team when I was young, he knew how to handle me. He was wise in not letting me play [the Paris final], at the time I didn’t understand and I was upset about it, but then I understood. Everything that came afterwards is thanks to him.

Real Madrid

Q – Which Clásico do you remember the most?

A – I remember all the ones we won. It’s the best thing to beat Madrid. They are a fantastic team. But if I have to pick one game, I’d go with the semi-final in the Champions League, because of what it meant for Barça.

Q – You like to score goals on Casillas. What’s the deal, do you not like him?

A- No, quite the opposite. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to score in the most recent games against Madrid. I hope that can continue. Iker is a great keeper, one of the best. I have scored on him, but he’s saved so many of my attempts. He’s very good and very fast.

Q- What do you admire the most about Madrid?

A- I really like to play at the Bernabéu. Madrid are a club with a lot of history.

Q- What about Mourinho’s team?

A – Real Madrid kills you on the counter. They have extremely fast forwards and the defence-attack transition is done in less than five seconds, then they score. They don’t have to play well to score goals. They create a lot of chances because the players are very, very good. I’m lucky enough to have played alongside Higuaín and Di María. ‘El Pipa’ touches two balls and he scores two goals … From nothing Madrid can score on you.

Messi casts first vote for FIFA/FIFPro 2012 World XI

Messi, votant l'Onze Mundial FIFA/FIFPro 2012. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
For the third year in a row, the Barça striker, as Ballon d’Or winner, cast the first vote for the best XI in the world

Seventeen members of our squad

On Thursday, seventeen members of the current Barça squad spent a few moments filling in their voting forms for the FIFA/FIFPro World XI, including David Villa, Adriano Correia, Cesc Fábregas, Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi, Pedro, Xavi, Carles Puyol, Alexandre Song and Sergio Busquets.

“I have picked my FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Now it’s your turn”

Leo Messi officially set the voting off for the FIFA/FIFPro 2012 World XI. The currently World Player winner filled in his slip and encouraged all other professional footballers around the world to do the same.

“I have picked my FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Now it’s your turn”, said Messi, his words directed at all professional players around the world.

This has become a traditional annual ceremony for FIFPro. Each year representatives of the union of professional footballers visit the World Player (FIFA Ballon d’Or) and get him to place the first votes for the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. So, for the third year in a row, FIFPro has come to Barcelona to visit Leo Messi.

World XI

This year, FIFPro is distributing 45,000 voting slips around the world. With the help of members of the professional footballers syndicate, FIFPro will be collecting votes from Asia, America, Europe and Africa, whereby each player picks the best goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards.

The players that get the most votes are invited to be honoured at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich (Switzerland), which this year is on January 7, 2013.

Messi told FIFPro: ‘It is a nice prize because of what it means, the people who vote, who are your own fellow professionals. Somebody they want to be the winner, the person they choose, so that’s why it’s such a special award.’

Voting for fellow pros

‘It is an honour to be chosen by your colleagues as a member of the FIFA/FIFPro World XI, the best team in the world’, said David Villa as he posted his own vote. He has been named in the World XI for the last two years.

Since FIFPro started voting for the World XI, in 2005, FC Barcelona has contributed more winners than any other club. Last year, Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi were all named by their fellow professionals around the world. In previous seasons, such other Barça stars as Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, David Villa and Carles Puyol have also featured.

Zubizarreta: “Winning streaks are built game by game”

Zubizarreta, to Lisboa. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
Andoni Zubizarreta has spoken about the positive mood in the Barça camp and how they need to keep taking things one game at a time

“We have to focus on the Champions League. Then on Wednesday we can think about the league again”
“This team has an enormous will to win. They end up winning because they want to”

The FC Barcelona director of football, Andoni Zubizarreta, spoke to the media just before boarding the flight to Lisbon, saying that “winning steaks are built game by game. The results have been very good up until now but on Tuesday we are starting from scratch once again. Previous results are a good reference, but we are always starting from zero … In a short tournament like the Champions League, and especially in the group stages, good results early on can avoid suffering nearer to the end”.

Asked if the thought of the clásico on Sunday might distract the players from the more immediate fixture, Zubizarreta made it clear that “these are two different competitions. Right now, we have to focus on the Champions League. Then on Wednesday we can think about the league again. Anyhow, it’s still only October and there are a lot of points still to play for.”

Ambitions

Andoni Zubizarreta also believes there is an explanation for why Tito Vilanova’s side is coming from behind to win so many matches. “This team has an enormous will to win. They end up winning because they want to”. As for the injury problems, he feels they are just an unfortunate part of the game. “Puyol, Iniesta and Adriano are three great players, and now we’ve also lost Thiago. But these things happen in football. We’ll try to get them fit as quickly as possible and when they come back, they’ll be coming back with their full potential”.