FFT's Spanish expert Tim Stannard reflects on a busy week for Barcelona, who welcome another former Gunner – and some returning mopers – to Camp Nou...
Having enjoyed such stunning success in the past, it is quite evident why Barcelona have rummaged around in the bottom draw of Arsenal’s closet to discover what hand-me-downs may be available for the new season.
After all, Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Alex Song are just three legendary figures in recent Camp Nou history to make the transition from North London to Spain’s east coast with ease, and be worth every penny paid by the generous Catalan club. Right?
Barcelona have handed more than €170 million to the Gunners over the past 15 years or so, their most recent purchase being Thomas Vermaelen who, Marca note with snoot, has had 24 injuries in the last five years.
Still, beggars cannot be choosers and Barça have continued to follow La Liga Loca’s guidance that Spain’s best losers last season don't need world beaters at the back, but merely players who can put a head to a ball from a corner without getting injured too many times. The latest news on the Belgian’s integration is that the first day of training with his new team was spent with a physio working on his dicky isquiotibiales, whatever they may be.
Don't mention the... everything
With Xavi deciding to stay on for at least six more months, and Gerard Pique wandering about with Where is my mind? by The Pixies playing on a loop in his head, Barça are beginning to take shape for the new season – although it's not clear who will be playing in goal. Luis Enrique has admitted he has yet to decide between the recently purchased Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo, and may even plump for 25-year-old B-teamer Jordi Masip in a move that would surely delight Barcelona’s money men.
Leo Messi is back in town with a new homemade haircut probably on the 'things you do not ever mention to Leo' list handed out to the rest of the squad before the Argentine's arrival. It’s a fact sheet that also includes the words 'Germany', 'choke', 'blown', 'greatest', 'moment', 'of', 'lifetime', 'how', 'does', 'that', 'feel', 'must', 'haunt', 'your' and 'dreams'.
Neymar also returned in a non-hobbling manner via a stint in Japan selling mattresses – a wonderful irony considering the Brazilian’s back issues. His appearance at the pre-season weigh-in must have been a bit of a shock for the international team-mates who clearly thought Neymar was dead, such was the sorrow and wailing that surrounded the player's absence ahead of the infamous World Cup clash against Germany.
The future of Luis Suarez is still in limbo, with the Uruguayan having gone before the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week. Disappointingly, the former Liverpool man was not wheeled into proceedings on a luggage trolley, Hannibal Lecter style.
After a five-hour session, Barça now have to wait a few more days to hear whether Suarez's sanctions will be reduced, with his new club having used the tried-and-trusted defence of whining that life simply isn’t fair and to give them a break because they are Barça and therefore a bit special, like.
LLL suspects this legal approach might just work to allow Barcelona to continue work on an intriguing shape for the new season once all injuries, suspensions and couch time with therapists are done and dusted.