Last Saturday Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Barça recovered from their first leg loss to defeat Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup. New signings David Villa and Adriano won their first trophy and made their home debuts at the Camp Nou, in a match that showed the Catalans are ready to defend their La Liga crown, starting their defence this Sunday against Racing Santander. The victory was the ninth time that Barcelona have won the Cup, meaning they are now the record winners.
Since then the news around the city has been of transfer talk. Liverpool want-away midfielder Javier Mascherano has been the subject of discussion, but the clubs are still far from agreeing on a price. Rumours of an £18 million bid plus a player in exchange, probably Alexander Hleb, was reportedly rejected by The Reds, who are holding out for £25 million. Owner Sandro Rosell has worked hard since he took over the club to sign a high-profile player, but deals for the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Mesut Ozil have broken down with manager Pep Guardiola having faith in his players from the canteria. If Mascherano was to join, it might highlight the doubts over Andres Iniesta’s ability to remain fit for the season. It would allow Sergio Busquets to adventure forward, although fans are doubtful over why they need to sign a player of Mascherano calibre, which would restrict Busquet’s role in the team when everyone is fit.
One player who looks certain to leave is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, after AC Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani confirmed he is in discussion with Rosell over a transfer, only a year after the Swede’s big money move from Inter Milan. There are problems between the player and Coach which are yet to be revealed, and Ibrahimovic stated that his relationship with the manager is poor. “I haven’t spoken to Guardiola for six months. I do not know the reason for this, but there are certainly problems.” The Coach refused to resolve the situation, but admitted that there are details to be revealed shortly. “There’s always a reason, but I’m not going to explain it now. I’m very communicative. When it’s the right time I’ll give my opinion.”
On Wednesday the two teams competed for the Joan Gamper Trophy, which saw the return of Ronaldinho, one of the greatest players of his generation who expressed his incredible ability at the Camp Nou during his stint. It finished 1-1 with David Villa scoring his first goal for his new club, before Barça won 3-1 on penalties. The hero of the game was stand-in goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto who saved penalties by Clarence Seedorf, Marek Jankulovski and a comical attempt from Andrea Pirlo whose cheeky chip was embarrassingly caught. All eyes were on Ronaldinho, and he was fittingly given an empathic return from the cules, however the plaudits were drawn to Fillipo Inzaghi who scored a delightful volley.
Whether Guardiola adds to his squad before the transfer window closes is unknown, but it is likely there will be two departures. Martin Caceres and Hleb have been told they can find themselves new clubs, and the Uruguayan Caceres is currently in discussion over a transfer to Sevilla. The future of Hleb is still unknown, with a return to the Premiership a likely outcome, but he knows if he remains in Spain he won’t be playing any matches. He was not even part of the annual team photo, which pretty much summarises his future at the club. Hleb’s time in Spain has not been enjoyable, and he recently said he regrets leaving Arsenal; however with his selfish play and rumoured bad vibes he creates in the dressing room, his loss won’t be any concern.
El Sardinero will be the venue for Sunday evening’s game where Barcelona will face a Racing team who will be amongst the relegation candidates this season, especially as they have lost the highly rated Sergio Canales to Real Madrid. The opponents should be playing Henrique, the Brazilian defender who has rejoined Santander on loan from Barça for the second consecutive season. This should be the ideal fixture for L’equip blaugrana to get warmed up before their big game on match day three against Atletico Madrid. If Messi and co can recreate the demolishment of Sevilla on Sunday, then the home fans will be hoping they can leave the stadium with at least some dignity.