Barca sink to new low as president Laporta urges unity at Camp Nou: We must row together

By Sports Desk December 08, 2021

Barcelona president Joan Laporta called for unity after the embattled club were dumped out of the Champions League.

Barca were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 on Wednesday, outclassed 3-0 by Group E winners Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena.

Xavi's Barca needed to win or hope Benfica failed to beat Dynamo Kiev elsewhere in the final round of group fixtures in order to avoid elimination, but the struggling LaLiga giants were no match for Bayern, who were led by goals from Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Barca are also seventh in LaLiga, 16 points off the pace as Laporta addressed the club's plight.

"We are sad about this result, but we have to move on. It is time to work hard and try to reverse this situation," Laporta told TV3.

"We have not been able to go down to the locker room to lift the players. We will speak with the coaching staff on the plane.

"We did what we could and now we have to try to overcome this situation.

"I make a call to all the Barcelona fans, today more than ever we have to row all together in the same direction to try to overcome this situation altogether."

Barca's tally of two goals after their six group-stage matches is their lowest recorded total in the Champions League, whilst only in 1997-98 (14) did they concede more goals at this stage than the nine they have shipped this season.

Xavi became second Barcelona head coach to fail to win in his first two Champions League games (D1 L1), after Louis Van Gaal in 1997 (D1 L1).

Barca boss Xavi added in a news conference: "This must be a turning point. I have told the players, today a new stage has to begin for Barca, revealing ourselves to this situation.

"We cannot accept this situation because Barcelona does not deserve to be where we are today. I tell the Barcelona fans that we will work hard because I feel this club, I love this club and we will work hard. We will leave our skin to [help] Barca recover and put them where they deserve, and that is not in the Europa League.

"But we have to face it, it is a hard reality but it is what there is. It is the reality and we have to face it and rebel and this has to serve as a turning point to improve."

Related items

  • Doncic leads Dallas into tussle with fellow form team Phoenix Doncic leads Dallas into tussle with fellow form team Phoenix

    Two teams in the NBA are on league-leading four-game winning streaks heading into Thursday's schedule. The pair face one another at American Airlines Center.

    The Phoenix Suns have pulled clear of the Golden State Warriors at the top of the West, their league-best record improving to 34-9 while Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Co are .500 across their past 10 games.

    But this latest Suns run has been matched by the Dallas Mavericks, who are again recovering from a slow start.

    The Mavs have won 10 of their past 11 outings after a 16-18 start. In 2020-21, Dallas recovered from an early 8-13 record to take the fifth seed – the same position they again occupy.

    Dallas' problems prior to these recoveries have undoubtedly been linked to Luka Doncic, their sensational superstar who has tended to end seasons in more impressive fashion than he begins them.

    Doncic has been the preseason MVP favourite in consecutive years but each time showed up looking a little out of shape.

    The Slovenian is not denying that, saying in December: "I had a long summer. I had the Olympics, took three weeks off and I relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much. I've just got to get back on track."

    But there are signs now that Doncic is delivering as promised. Having returned from an ankle injury to feature in nine of the Mavs' past 10 games, he had a year-high 41 points last time out against the Toronto Raptors. Three of his five triple-doubles for the year have come in this period, too.

    Will this improvement continue against Phoenix, though?

    The Suns are 5-0 against Dallas across the past two seasons, albeit all five meetings (three last year, two this year) have come during those tricky starts for the Mavs.

    Since themselves returning to contention, Phoenix have not yet played a Mavs team in their groove.

    PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

    Dallas Mavericks – Kristaps Porzingis

    The Suns have a wealth of talent, while Dallas too often have only had Doncic. The need for a second man to step up and help the two-time All-NBA First Team selection is evident. Porzingis is the obvious candidate.

    While the Mavs struggled while Doncic was out, Porzingis has shown that he can play the role of leading man when required.

    His usage rate of 28.6 per cent this year is the highest it has been since he moved to Dallas – explained by Doncic's lay-off – and the knock-on effect is an increased offensive output when the simple option of passing the ball to his team-mate is removed.

    Porzingis has scored 22.8 points per game Doncic has missed this season, versus 18.6 when he has played. Even including those the pair have played together, Porzingis' offense improves from 29.8 points per 100 possessions with Doncic to 35.4 without.

    Doncic's high usage (36.3 per cent, the highest in the NBA among those involved in 250 or more possessions) reduces Porzingis' role significantly at times, but Dallas need both to fire against a team like the Suns.

    Phoenix Suns – Chris Paul

    Nominally a point guard, Doncic is more of a point forward, hogging most of the shots himself. In truth, there are few genuine point guards remaining in the NBA. Paul is one of them.

    Even at 36, Paul has started all 43 games – ranking 21st in the league for minutes (1,383) – and leads the NBA in assists (429), well clear of second-placed James Harden (390). Not since 2015-16 has he averaged this rate of 10.0 assists per game.

    Given the frequency with which Paul is creating shots for team-mates, his assist-to-turnover ratio is even more impressive, ranking second with 4.38 dimes per turnover.

    With Curry and the Warriors slightly on the wane, Paul could soon be in serious consideration for the MVP award. A big performance in a big game such as this one would aid his cause.

    KEY BATTLE – Doncic to deliver in Ayton's absence?

    The Suns will be without center Deandre Ayton, the player they selected first overall in 2018 before Doncic went two picks later.

    Ayton, who has an ankle injury, was a little slower than Doncic to truly establish himself but has never struggled against the Mavs, enjoying a 10-1 record in such matchups.

    Doncic missed Phoenix's first two wins against Dallas this season and has only three victories in the 11 games he has played versus the Suns.

    With Ayton's role in Phoenix's recent success starting to alter the narrative around the 2018 draft, in which Doncic was quickly considered the most talented young player, the Dallas man may see this as an opportunity to send a message.

    HEAD TO HEAD

    This had been a closely fought rivalry until the Suns' dominance in the Ayton-Doncic years. Now, Phoenix boast a 93-74 record against the Mavs and will hope to improve that further on the road.

    Dallas are a more impressive 47-36 in home games against the Suns.

  • FIFA announces new loan regulations to prevent clubs 'hoarding players' FIFA announces new loan regulations to prevent clubs 'hoarding players'

    FIFA has announced new regulations that will limit the number of players that can be loaned in and out in order to prevent clubs from "hoarding players".

    The new rules were outlined by the governing body on Thursday and will come into effect from the start of the next transfer window should they be ratified by the FIFA Council

    Teams will initially be limited to having a maximum of eight players loaned out and eight loaned in at any given time during a season. 

    That number will drop to seven ahead of the 2023-24 season, and six from the start of the following campaign and beyond.

    While that does not cover domestic loans, national associations have been asked by FIFA to bring their own regulations in line by July 2025 at the latest.

    However, players aged 21 and younger and club-trained players will be exempt from these limitations.

    In a further development, the number of players loaned in from the same club will be capped at three per season. 

    And the minimum length for a loan deal will be between two transfer windows, while the maximum loan period will be one year.

    FIFA hopes the new regulatory framework, delayed by two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, will help with player development and promote more competitiveness.

    The regulations could have a major impact on the likes of Premier League pair Chelsea and Manchester City, who currently have 21 and 14 players out on loan respectively.

  • Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele? Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele?

    Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career appears to be drawing to a close, with the club's director of football Mateu Alemany confirming on Thursday that he is up for sale.

    Dembele's representatives have been in talks with Barca since July over a new contract for a player that arrived at Camp Nou in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

    Barca splashed the cash – €105million, to be exact – to bring the winger in from Borussia Dortmund, where he had enjoyed a wonderful campaign in 2016-17 after a move from Rennes.

    Despite Xavi wanting to keep the player, an agreement between the club and Dembele's camp has not been reached and the stand-off has now resulted in Alemany publicly stating the France international will no longer play for Barca now he has turned down their latest offer.

     

    Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Barca due to injuries and some reported attitude issues, albeit he has hardly been at Camp Nou during the most stable period.

    He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, but he has played in just 52 per cent of Barca's LaLiga matches in that time.

    Barca's plan is to move Dembele on now but, with his contract up at the end of the season, potential suitors may wish to bide their time and sign the attacker on a free transfer.

    Stats Perform explores some possible destinations.

    Liverpool

    Could a move to Anfield be on the cards for Dembele? He has often been linked with Liverpool in the past, and Jurgen Klopp's direct approach could well suit a player that performed so well in the Bundesliga – a competition renowned for aggressive pressing and counter-attacks, which the Reds have down to a tee in the Premier League.

    There is the small matter, of course, of Mohamed Salah. Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, the Egypt star plays predominantly from the right, in Dembele's preferred position. However, there is uncertainty over Salah's future, with a new contract not yet agreed. His deal runs out in 2023 and Dembele could present an ideal rotation option and eventual successor. Klopp would surely back himself to get the best out of the 24-year-old.

     

    PSG

    A team reported to hold a firm interest is Ligue 1 giants PSG. It would be ironic should Dembele – the man signed by Barca to replace Neymar – ended up playing alongside the Brazil star in Paris.

    PSG already, of course, have a star-studded attack. But with Kylian Mbappe expected to leave at the end of the season and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria not getting any younger, Dembele could provide a relatively cost-effective replacement, and a return to France might reignite his career.

    Bayern Munich

    Or could a move back to the Bundesliga be the trick for Dembele? Bayern Munich have plenty of top-quality wing options, with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, who has just signed a new long-term deal, complimented by youngster Jamal Musiala. Yet in all competitions this season, Dembele has created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes played, and that is better than any of Bayern's current wingers other than Sane (2.6).

    His 6.7 dribbles attempted per 90 ranks behind only Musiala (7.8) and he leads the way in shots (4.5). Most important, perhaps, is Dembele's tendency to cross. He has delivered 6.7 open-play crosses per 90 in 2021-22, exactly two more than Bayern's best wide player in this metric (Coman - 4.7), something that Robert Lewandowski would surely relish.

    Borussia Dortmund

    This may seem an unlikely move, but what about heading back to Dortmund? Dembele was a superstar at Signal Iduna Park in his first spell there, although fans did not take kindly to his wish to leave, and that may well mean this would not get off the ground.

    But, putting any negative emotions to one side, Dortmund have a vibrant attack under Marco Rose, though are likely to lose Erling Haaland in the close-season. While Dembele's wages might be an issue right now, should he remain at Barca for the rest of the season, could Dortmund use funds generated from a possible Haaland sale to bring back a player who played a direct hand in 30 goals (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances across all competitions in 2016-17.

     

    Juventus

    Another elite club that could provide a new lease of life for Dembele is Juve. The Serie A giants are not involved in the title race this season, at least according to their coach Massimiliano Allegri, though he will know the Bianconeri nevertheless must challenge for silverware in Europe or in the Coppa Italia. 

    Dembele could provide the spark that is missing in Juve's attack, especially with Federico Chiesa expected to miss at least six months with a serious knee injury, while Dejan Kulusevski has been rumoured to be on the transfer list.

    Newcastle United

    One of these clubs is not like the others but, given their new-found wealth – and, perhaps, the need to make a real statement signing – maybe it would be foolish to discount Newcastle.

    Whether Dembele would fancy swapping Barcelona for the north east of England and a Premier League relegation battle in January is of course up for debate, though what would not be up for debate is Newcastle, with their Saudi Arabia-backed ownership, having the funds to pull such a signing off.

    Dembele would represent a step up in quality and would surely be an instant fans' favourite at St James' Park and alongside Allan Saint-Maximin on the other flank, provide some added star power to help Newcastle survive and, possibly, thrive in future seasons.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.