June 2010 - Goodbye Gift
We started the transfer season with a bang. Laporta left Barca with a final gift and what a gift it turned out to be. David Villa signed a 4 year contract with us worth €40 million. His presentation would be watched by 35,000 cules. Sandro Rosell won the elections for club president with over 60% of the votes in his favor.
July 2010 - The Departures
Sandro Rosell's first day in charge was on July 1st. Yaya Toure (€30m) and Dmytro Chygrynskiy (€15m) were sold to Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively. Rafael Marquez and Thierry Henry left to New York Red Bulls on free transfer after their contracts were terminated. Rosell's first signing was Adriano Correia for €9.5m on a 4 year deal. Pep Guardiola and assistant Tito Vilanova would agree to a one year extension as coaches of the first team.
August 2010 - The Ibra Saga
August was a month with mixed fortunes. It began with us playing against Sevilla in the Spanish Supercup first leg without 7 of our Spanish Internationals, who were in Mexico for a friendly. A goal from Ibra would be overshadowed by Sevilla's comeback from Fabiano and Kanoute's brace. The return leg in the Camp Nou would be a different story, with Barcelona displaying an almost complete squad. David Villa made his Barcelona debut on that game. A konko own goal and Messi hat trick would secure the Supercup for Barcelona with a 5-3 aggregate win. It was a record ninth. Barcelona invited Ronaldinho's AC Milan for their annual Joan Gamper match. David Villa would score his first goal for Barcelona, only to be cancelled by Inzaghi's wonder volley. The game would go to penalties and end 3-1 for Barcelona after a superb performance by Pinto. Barcelona would sign their third player, Argentina's captain and veteren Javier Mascherano for €24m. However on the same day, Ibrahimovic would declare he's been having problems with Guardiola. The Barcelona board saw Ibrahimovic's words as questioning the honor and integrity of coach Guardiola. He was loaned to AC Milan who would pay all his earnings for 2010/11 and an option to buy him for €24m next season. First game of La Liga was on the 29th in Santander. Goals from Messi, Iniesta, and Villa secured a 3-0 win.
September 2010 - The Shocking Start
A shock 0-2 defeat to Hercules at the first game at the Camp Nou was the highlight of September. However Barca recovered with victories against Atletico Madrid 1-2 in Madrid, Sporting Gijon 1-0 at the Camp Nou, and 1-3 against Athletic Bilbao in San Mames. Against Atletico, Messi suffered an ankle injury after a brutal tackle from Ujfalusi in the final moments of the game. Barcelona traveled to Bilbao without Messi, where Villa received the first red card to a Barcelona player this season, when he let his temper get the best of him and punched a Bilbao player. In Europe however, Barcelona began brightly, with a 5-1 victory over Panathinaikos, and a 1-1 draw in Kazan.
October 2010 - Recovery
Barcelona suffered more loss of points at the Camp Nou, this time it was a 1-1 draw with Mallorca without David Villa. The only good news was the return of Messi from injury. However the next game was the biggest test to Barcelona yet. Villa's former club Valencia visited the Camp Nou and Pablo's strike saw the first half end 0-1 to the visitors. However, Barcelona came out in the second half with positive attitude, and from that moment they would never look back throughout the season. Goals from Iniesta and Puyol secured the comeback. A win away against Zaragoza 0-2, and a 5-0 thrashing of Sevilla at the Camp Nou was the turning point for Barcelona. In between the two games, Barcelona won third division side AD Ceuta 0-2. In the Champions League, Barcelona were still group leaders with a brace from Messi in a 2-0 victory over Copenhagen.
November 2010 - The Five M's... Madrid, Merengues, Mourinho, Messi and The Manita
The month began with a 1-1 away draw with Copenhagen in the Champions League. In the Copa Del Rey Barcelona finished Ceuta off with a 5-1 victory at home. PSV and Barcelona agreed for a €3m deal for Ibrahim Afellay once the January transfer window opens. In La Liga Barcelona were preparing for their first of many meetings with Real Madrid this season. A 1-3 victory over Getafe in Madrid and a 3-1 victory over Villareal were warnings. However it was Almeria who were the victims of complete destruction. Barcelona thrashed Almeria 0-8 away to send a clear message to Madrid just 9 days before El Clasico. Another Champions League game, and another victory, this time 0-3 in Athens, Greece against Panathinaikos. To end the month, Barcelona hosted Madrid in what was labelled the "game of the decade". Mourinho who had led Inter to a treble, in which they knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League semi finals the previous season, was in charge of Madrid, and the expectations were high. Xavi would give Barcelona the lead, followed by a Pedro strike. In the tense match, Ronaldo would shove Guardiola only to be confronted by the furious Barcelona players. The first half would end 2-0 to the hosts, but the Merengues still had faith in a comeback. Villa would end the game with 2 goals in 3 minutes. Finally, substitute Jeffren would put the icing on the cake with a goal in the dying minutes. 5-0. Real Madrid were humiliated. But at the end of the night, everyone would be talking about Sergio Ramos. Shortly after Jeffren's goal, after Messi dribbled past him, Ramos would rush and brutally tackle Messi. A red card was shown. Ramos would then push and slap Puyol and Xavi while being taken off the field. However, the festivities began in Barcelona...
December 2010 - Back On Top
The three candidates for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award were named. All three came from La Masia and all three came from Barcelona; Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Lionel Messi. President Rosell signed a 5.5 year, €170m deal with Qatar Foundation to sponsor its name on the shirt. Barcelona was known for not having paid sponsors on their shirt. Three Liga games in December were all headlined by victories. A 0-3 win against Osasuna away at Pamplona, a 5-0 win at home against Real Sociedad, and a 1-5 win at the Barcelona Derby away against Espanyol. In Europe, Barcelona sealed Group D with a 2-0 win at home against Rubin Kazan, finishing the Group Stage with 14 points from 6 games, 4 points above second placed Copenhagen. In the Copa, Barcelona faced Athletic Bilbao, with the first game tied 0-0 in the Camp Nou. Barcelona would go into the winter break top of La Liga, in the Last 16 of the Champions League and Copa Del Rey.
January 2011 - Back To Business
The winner of the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or was announced... World Cup winners Xavi and Iniesta finished third and second respectively, leaving the award to Messi who had an astonishing year, scoring 60 goals in 64 games in all competitions. Five Liga games were played during January, all ending in victories. Wins at home against Levante (2-1), Malaga (4-1), and Racing (3-0), while continuing their 100% record away in Riazor against Deportivo (0-4) and against the only team that has beat Barca in La Liga, Hecules (0-3). After 19 rounds, Barcelona had a record 52 points, beating their previous record of 50 points in the 2009/10 season. In the Copa, Barcelona travelled to a tough game in San Mames, following their 0-0 first leg draw. Eric Abidal would send Barcelona to the quarter finals by scoring his first goal for Barcelona, who would go through on away goals after drawing 1-1. Barcelona would meet Real Betis in the quarter finals. The first leg ended 5-0 for Barcelona at the Camp Nou. At the return leg, Pep Guardiola fielded a younger, less experienced team that would end Barcelona's 28 games unbeaten run by losing 3-1 to Real Betis in Sevilla. Barcelona were tied with Almeria in the semi's. The first leg at the Camp Nou ended in another 5-0 victory. This meant that in the final, Barcelona would meet rivals Madrid if both sides qualified.
February 2011 - Landing In London
To start the month, Barcelona visited Almeria to seal the deal and advance to the final and meet the winner of Sevilla and Madrid. A 0-3 victory made the score 8-0 on aggregate. Three days later, Barcelona hosted Atletico Madrid, and broke the record for most consecutive victories in the La Liga thanks to Messi's hat trick. However the record stopped there, and so did Barcelona's 100% record on the road, as they drew away to Sporting Gijon 1-1. In Europe, four days after their draw with Gijon, Barcelona traveled to London, where they were tied again with Wegner's Arsenal. Just like last year, they would dominate from the start, and Villa strike seemed like it would give Barcelona the advantage in the second leg, until the 78th minute, where Van Persie would score from an almost impossible angle, leaving Valdes wondering how that went in. Five minutes later, Arshavin would bring Barcelona back memories from last year where they were leading 2-0 only to concede two goals in the dying minutes. The hosts led 2-1 at the emirates. Barcelona had a reason to complain as Messi had a perfectly legitimate goal disallowed at the first half. Back in La Liga, Barcelona were back in winning ways with victories at home against Bilbao (2-1) in their fourth meeting this season and away against Mallorca (0-3). After that win, Barcelona had won every team in the league at least once.
March 2011 - The Feud Revived
The two games before the Champions League second leg with Arsenal ended in scrappy victories for Barcelona. 0-1 at the Mestella against Valencia, and 1-0 against Zaragoza at the Camp Nou. It was time for Arsenal to come back to the Camp Nou, where Messi scored his first super hat trick last year. Messi would start where he left off last year with a goal at the end of the first half which Barcelona dominated in every aspect. In the second half, however Arsenal would get a gift from Sergio Busquets who headed the ball into his own net. 2-3 on aggregate for the visitors, Arsenal believed they were close to eliminating Barcelona. However their hopes would slowly fade away as Robin Van Persie would recieve a red card for time wasting, and after continuing his attack while being flagged offside after the referee's whistle. This caused huge controversy. Barcelona didn't waste time, and in the 69th minute, Xavi would cooly finish his one on one with substitute Almunia who came in at the first half after Szczęsny's injury. Now it was 3-3 on aggregate, but not for long as the referee would give Barcelona a penalty which Messi would slot to the left of Almunia making it 3-1 for the hosts and now it was Almunia having nightmares from last year. At the end of the match the shot count was 20-0 and the possession 68-32 both for Barcelona. Barcelona would advance into the quarter finals where they would meet Shakhtar Donetsk. However it wasn't all good news for Barcelona, as radio station Cadena COPE accused Barcelona of doping practices. They said their source was someone from Real Madrid. Barcelona didn't take the accusations lightly and sued Cadena COPE for these accusations. COPE issued an apology later. Later in the month more bad news would arrive not just for Barcelona, but for football in general, as full back Eric Abidal was diagnosed with a liver tumor. After a succesful operation it seemed as Abidal would miss the rest of the season, but that was the last thing on anyone's mind as his condition was life threatening before and during the operation. Real Madrid and Olympique Lyon showed a huge sign of support and solidarity before their Champions League round of 16 second leg in Madrid, when they wore t-shirts with the phrase "Ánimo Abidal" (Strength Abidal). Back in La Liga and Barcelona faced Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. The match would end 1-1, the 4th time Barcelona lost points after 29 rounds. 6 days later they faced Getafe at the Camp Nou, goals from Alves and Bojan gave Barcelona a 2-1 win after Manu scored a late consolation goal.
April 2011 - Los Cuatro Clásicos
The month began with another 3 points to Barcelona in the Liga, this time against Villareal at the Madrigal 0-1. This took them to 8 points at the top after Madrid lost to Gijon 0-1 at the Bernabeu. In the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals, Barcelona cruised to a 5-1 thumping of Shakhtar at the Camp Nou. A week before the first of the four clasicos, Barcelona won 3-1 at home against Almeria to complete an extraordinary 19-1 score over 4 games. In the second leg of the quarter finals, Barcelona would set up another meeting with Real Madrid, this time in the semi finals, after a 0-1 win in Ukraine. Messi would set a new club record with 48 goals after his strike in Ukraine. This set up 4 games between Barcelona and Real Madrid over 17 days. The first was in the league, at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Madrid wanted to avenge the 5-0 at the Camp Nou in November. Barcelona took the lead in 53rd minute through a Messi penalty, his first goal against a team coached by Jose Mourinho, which was conceded by Albiol who received a red card for his tackle. Madrid down to 10 players fought back, and were awarded a controversial penalty after Alves seemed to trip Marcelo. Ronaldo would also break a scoring run against Barcelona, by slotting his penalty to the left of Valdes, sending him the other way. The game ended 1-1, meaning Barcelona became one step closer to the Liga, but there were still 3 Clasicos and two more titles to challenge for. The next game was the second of the Clasicos, the final of the Copa Del Rey in the Mestella. The game was closely fought, and was scoreless throughout the 90 minutes. In the 69th minute, Barcelona thought they had taken the lead, only to see Pedro's strike disallowed due to offside. Like the match 4 days ago, the game was filled with tension and aggression. Some examples were "unintentional" foot stomps, acting, and lots of dirty play. The match went to extra time where Ronaldo would head Madrid into the cup following his goal in the 103rd minute. However the night didn't end there as Di Maria would receive a second yellow card and be sent off. Real Madrid newspapers started complaining about the referees favoring Barcelona due to Madrid being on the receiving end of three red cards in the last three games. Barcelona went back to the Camp Nou without the Copa, but knew that they could still upset Madrid by knocking them out of the Champions League. During the Copa celebrations the cup would slip from the hands of Sergio Ramos and fall under the bus, where it broke into pieces. La Liga wasn't won though, and Barcelona wanted to finish it as soon as possible to focus on the Champions League. Barcelona cruised to a 2-0 victory at home against Osasuna. However, Barcelona were without Iniesta, Abidal, Maxwell, Adriano, Milito and Bojan for the semi final, while Puyol was also doubtful. Before their third match, Mourinho and Guardiola would have an off pitch battle. The Barcelona coach responded to the Portuguese in colourful language, adding extra spice to the third Clasico meeting. "Tomorrow we'll take to the pitch at 20:45. Off the pitch he's beaten me" were Guardiola's words. The third meeting at the Bernabeu was the most intense, and was fought closely. At half time, substitute goalkeeper Pinto was sent off for a scuffle with Arbeleo. However, the 61st minute was the turning point, when Pepe controversially kicked Dani Alves, and received a red card for the offense. Mourinho was sent to the stands for laughing at the referee's decision and questioning it. 15 minutes later, substitute Ibrahim Afellay would cross the ball to Messi who would finish it in between Casillas's legs. 3 minutes before the end of the game, Messi would finish off with an incredible solo goal that saw him reach 11 goals in 11 games, 1 away from equaling Van Nistelrooy's record. The match was marred by more incidents of diving, play-acting and violence in what many consider to be one of the worst Clásicos in recent times. At the post match conference, Mourinho accused UEFA of assisting Barcelona, and said that Barcelona's ties with Unicef favored them. Madrid filed a complaint against 6 of Barcelona's players. Barcelona reacted by filing a complaint against Mourinho for these accusations. Both complaints were rejected, but Mourinho would receive a 5 match ban. Barcelona would end the month with a 2-1 away defeat to Sociedad, with a weakened team. This defeat meant that Barcelona's 7 month, 32 game unbeaten run in La Liga ended.
May 2011 - Just Watch The Fireworks
Back in the Camp Nou for the final of the four clasicos. The second leg of the Champions League semi finals. Madrid were without Pepe or Mourinho. The first half was quiet, and ended scoreless. However controversy started again in the second half, this time it wasn't for a red card. Real Madrid had a goal disallowed after Ronaldo tripped Mascherano unintentionally while Higuian put the ball in the back of the net. The referee called it back to the foul. At the 54th minute, Pedro would end Real Madrid's hope of a comeback with a calm finish. Marcelo would lead the fight back with a goal after Di Maria struck the post. However that was all she wrote as the game ended 1-1 to Barcelona as they celebrated their qualification to the final, which was sweeter due to the exit of their rivals at their hands. That wasn't the end of the party for Barcelona though, as before the match ended, Eric Abidal made his return to the pitch after less than two months, coming on instead of Carles Puyol and receiving a standing ovation from the Camp Nou faithful, who throughout every match since his operation, would cheer in the 22nd minute in support of Eric Abidal. However there was still La Liga to win and the Champions League final in Wembley on the 28th of May. Barcelona won Espanyol 2-0 at home to continue the festivities. On May 11th Barcelona clinched their third consecutive Liga after a 1-1 draw away at Levante. The draw made the difference between Barcelona and Madrid 6 points, with two games left and due to Barcelona's better head to head record (5-0 and 1-1) they won La Liga. They finished the last two games with a scoreless draw at the Camp Nou against Deportivo, and a 1-3 victory away at Malaga, playing both games with a depleted squad. They finished the season with 96 points, 4 more than second placed Real Madrid. They also had the best defence, and goalkeeper Victor Valdes clinched his record 4th zamora with a 0.5 goals conceded ratio. Messi finished second in the Pichichi race with 31 goals, while Ronaldo had 40 (Marca credits him with 41). However Messi had the most assists with 18, edging Ozil who had 17. Now with the Liga over, it was time to go to London, for the Champions League final against Manchester United. Every player was now back to full fitness. The game began with Manchester's dominance for the first 15 minutes, just as it did 2 years ago. However, Barcelona took over control and a wonderful through pass from Xavi the architect, set Pedro one on one with Van Der Saar, who then finished cooly into the bottom right corner. Trademark Pedrito. Manchester didn't give up though, and against the run of play, Rooney would score after a one-two with Giggs, who seemed offside when receiving the first pass from Rooney. The first half ended 1-1, but the second half was a different story. Right from the beginning, Barcelona took shots from outside the box and dominated all aspects of the game. It didn't take long and in the 54th minute, Iniesta would assist Messi who shot a low ball to left of the helpless Van Der Saar to make it 2-1. 15 minutes later, Villa would kill off the game, after Messi's run into the box dragging 3 players to him, the ball would roll into Busquests, who would pass to Villa. Villa proved his €40m price with a beautiful shot that curled into the top right corner. Manchester tried fighting back but were helpless against Barcelona's beautiful football. Barcelona were the Champions of Europe for the fourth time in their history. It was their 3rd in 5 years. Messi was awarded Man of the Match, and with his goal he matched Ruud Van Nistelrooy as the all-time top season scorer with 12 goals in this years version. He also set a new record for Barcelona with 53 goals in a single season. Abidal was given the armband to lift the cup and the rest as they say is history... Barcelona truly are Més que un club