Stéphane Peterhansel and Kevin Benavides, the kings of the Dakar

The 43rd edition of the Dakar has come to an end. A different, complicated and exceptional edition that has taken the riders to the limit and that ended this Friday with the arrival in Jeddah of all categories. Despite the joy of having finished this complicated edition, the death of the French pilot Pierre Cherpin, after five days in a coma, has saddened the atmosphere.

Stéphane Peterhansel has returned to being the proper name of the test. Monsieur Dakar has lived up to its nickname and has returned to reign in the race thanks to its ability to control the situation and its regularity with the Mini. While his main rivals, Al-Attiyah and Sainz, have made mistakes, the Frenchman has managed all the stages, including the last, in which he started with a margin of more than 15 minutes overall. Despite not winning the 12th stage – which was celebrated by Sainz -, the third position ensured that Échenoz-la-Méline signed his eighth title in the car category. With this victory, there are now fourteen editions of the Dakar that Peterhansel has on his list, counting the six titles in the motorcycle category.

On two wheels, a new name is added to the list of Dakar winners. Kevin Benavides got his first win and signed the second consecutive title for the Honda team. The Argentine’s direct rivals, such as Toby Price, Joan Barreda and Nacho Cornejo, have left the race due to accidents in the last stages and, with the road to victory, Benavides has not hesitated. The Argentine, who has won two stages in this edition, is the first driver in his country to win the Dakar Rally in one of the two main categories.

“I’m happier than other years”

After not getting the best position of all her participations, the driver Laia Sanz has acknowledged that “it has been a very tough Dakar”. “The result is not what I would normally like, but I am happier than other years. It has been very difficult for me to get here. I have certainly not made the result that other years I would look for, but I think I can be happier than other times. next year, ”he said. The Catalan finished for the eighth time in a row in the Top 20 and has completed all her participations in the Dakar (11).


Ter Stegen’s hands lead Barça to the final (Toni Padilla)

Without Messi, the Barça hero was the only player who did not wear Barça, Ter Stegen. In Barça’s first round of penalties since 1998, Koeman’s team qualified bravely for Sunday’s Super Cup final, when they will aim to close a two-year injury without titles. It was necessary to reach the penalties after tying an even match. And then it was Ter Stegen, with two stops, who offered Riqui Puig the chance to score the last penalty, the final. Barça are dreaming again.

And that without Messi Barça became a little smaller. With the Argentine it is like playing one of those games in the school yard where you have chosen the best player in the class for your team. Mentally, you feel stronger. And right now Barça still need the best player in history. And, in fact, the improvement of recent weeks had been built around the footballer from Rosario, who had to watch the game from the stands, going cold, wondering if his teammates would give him the first final in two years. Without him, the Royal Society faced a team that lost the joy of the last days, even though it knew how to compete. This is the importance of being called Lionel Messi. His absence in a match conditions the fate of 22 players, because it changes the rules of the game.

Aware that in front of him was one of the rivals who takes better care of the ball in the league, Koeman decided to be more prudent than other times, leave Sergiño Dest on the bench and bet on Mingueza, a center, on the right side. With Araujo back in the center of the defense, Barça gave up being brave. To Koeman, from time to time, it happens to him. Instead of being bold, he becomes a result-oriented, prudent technician. And to face the Super Cup, instead of evolving his team to an aggressive 4-3-3, he asked De Jong to help Sergio Busquets in a double pivot for much of the game that could not avoid two clear chances of the Royal Society. Without Ter Stegen, a lifeline twice against Imanol Alguacil’s team, the Basques could have left Barça against the ropes in an entertaining first half with chances in both goals.

Unable to be stable, Koeman’s Barça left part of the credit they had recently won in the League on the cold turf of the Nuevo Árcangel. Busquets was everywhere and Araujo became a giant, but Pedri did not have the day. And Dembélé was again that player impossible to understand, who surprises with a great individual play, or makes a run of 50 meters to help defend a rival attack, but just at the worst moment he decides that he has done enough and leaves Mingueza alone against two opponents. Braithwaite, on the other hand, was a shadow. Neither balls came to him nor did he generate much space. However, one of the few times he did so allowed Barça to hit a formula that is starting to be a classic this season for the first time. Frenkie De Jong continues to enter from the second line with the same passion that a rock star takes to a stage, ready to eat the world. And a cross from Griezmann took advantage to beat Remiro head. Barça was not well, then. Not bad either. He wasn’t dominant, but they didn’t dominate him either. Basically, Barça was still trapped between the past and the future it wanted to build, mixing moments of creative play with moments when it lost momentum. A team where who commanded more was Araujo, because Griezmann leaves details but does not seem ready to play the role of leader. And when final stages are played, leaders are needed, like Ter Stegen.

And the Royal Society knew it. The Bailiff team, with that staple of teams that almost never play finals and want to dream, was closing Barça in their area in a loose second half start of Koeman’s men. Finally, Mikel Oyarzabal, the man who does not usually miss penalties, equalized by transforming one after a few hands of De Jong inside the area, without imagining that a few minutes later Ter Stegen would return the blow stopping him ‘ there is another. Barça had to start again. And despite Koeman’s team running out of gas, the coach, instead of making changes to avoid reaching overtime, seemed to accept it and just let Trincão in for Braithwaite. And the party slowly headed towards the end. Towards extension. Towards all or nothing.

The art of penalties

And now yes, Koeman opted for Riqui Puig and Miralem Pjanic to put one more gear and avoid penalties. And although Ter Stegen saved Barça with a non-powered flight after a long shot from Zaldua, it was Koeman’s team that carried the weight of extra time, with Araujo imposing to cut the Basque counters. And they were not few, as Januzaj, initially a substitute, martyred Barça with his talent, with two very clear goal opportunities that could have avoided penalties. But that would have avoided being able to make the figure of Ter Stegen bigger.

The German goalkeeper, a giant, stopped the first two shots in the Royal Society, one of them in Oyarzabal. The other to Bautista, who had come in just to kick the penalty. And, touched, the Basques surrendered to the penalties despite De Jong and Griezmann also missed theirs. Dembélé, Pjanic and a Riqui Puig who decided to shoot the last one, proving all his character, opened the doors of the final, against Madrid or Athletic. A match in which Messi may be able to return. A match where Barça could lift a cup again, gaining momentum to leave the memory of the dark days away. And in part, thanks to Ter Stegen. The man who did not hide in Lisbon, apologizing. In Córdoba, fortunately, he did not hide.

Koeman will no longer look the same as Riqui Puig, right ?: the hot notes of Real Sociedad – Barça


“I kind of laugh when they say we didn’t train”

Jon Aspiazu , Barça’s second coach at the time Ernesto Valverde, has reviewed his time at the Barça club just one year after his dismissal. “It was not the right time, we went first and we had passed to the next round of the Champions without losing any match of the group stage, but the club decided to give a steering wheel to the technical direction of the team and we had to leave “, he explained in an interview in the program What are you playing at! of SER Catalunya.

Valverde’s second denied that the team did not train well, one of the reasons Éric Abidal , then technical secretary, justified the dismissal of Valverde and his staff. “I kind of laugh when they say we didn’t train. It’s also true that Barça is a special team and has, for many years, a very specific way of working, and the players compete every three days and put on in form playing, “he explained.

Aspiazu has talked about the discovery of Ansu Fati, who made his debut with him and Valverde on the Barça bench. “We had injuries in the first team, he was playing in the branch and we went to see him. When I saw how he played the first ball I was already look like a special guy. We said to ‘ Ernesto that looked good and in the first training of the Ansu with the first team he told us: “The Ansu stay with us “.

The assistant coach of Extremadura, who is currently without a team and focused on interests and hobbies beyond football, has also been asked about the shipwrecked of the team in the Champions League. “We only lost two games Champions “But yes, they were expensive,” he said Aspiazu in reference to the hard defeats of Rome and Liverpool. “The match was much more evenly matched than the final result. But the last goal was so decisive and so out of the ordinary that it was an incredible burden,” he said specifically about the defeat in Anfield . “We went to that game with more fears, even though some players had said to Valverde, ‘Mister, but how do you think we can lose?’ ‘I’m the coach, I have to anticipate all the options,’ was the response. “


Change of dynamics between Barça and Real Sociedad before the Super Cup

Barça and Real Sociedad will meet in Córdoba this Wednesday (9pm, #Vamos) to play in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup. Exactly, it will do 28 dies since the faces were seen in a rectangle of game, in the victory of those of Koeman at the Camp Nou (2-1). Since then, there has been an exchange of evolutions: the white-blue they have deflated and Barça pass now for its best moment of the course.

Those of Imanol Sheriff , who arrived as leaders of the championship in the Barcelona temple, have since chained a victory, a draw and three defeats that have brought them down to 5th place. On the other hand, Barça have had two draws, four victories and no defeats, so that they have moved from sixth to third place in the table. During this stalemate, Barça also became the top scoring team in the league, with 37 goals.

The new year is smiling, for now, at Ronald’s Koeman . With all the hustle and bustle around Messi’s future, the Argentine, as if he felt raining, adds two doubles in three games in 2021, which make him lead the table of scorers in the domestic championship with 11 goals. A figure that has had the complicity of Pedri : the canary has caused a nutritional influence around the 10 Barça with fantastic assists, such as the second goal in San Mamés , passing the ball to him with a spur.

It is also largely the fault of the good time in the form of Ousmane Dembele . The umpteenth reappearance of the Frenchman is reminiscent of the version more similar to that of the young footballer who shone in Dortmund. The winger scored the equalizer against Eibar on his return. In addition, he has accumulated three titles this new year, and also served the assistance from 0 to 4 that he scored Antoine Griezmann to Granada.

With this good dynamic comes the Super Cup for Barça. The competition that blew up the Barcelona bench in Ernesto Valverde just a year ago. This Wednesday Barça will play this competition again and will do so with many new faces. Real Madrid, as league champions, and ‘ Athletic Club and the Royal Society, as finalists of the Copa del Rey, complete the other participants. Those of Zinedine Zidane they will defend the title won last season in Saudi Arabia.


The dilemma shared by Sergio Ramos and Leo Messi (Xavi Hernández Navarro)

Four goals in the last two games, one of which was a direct free kick, and the feeling that everything is rolling around again. Leo Messi is living, at the gates of the Spanish Super Cup, the sweetest moments of the campaign. He forms with Pedri a company that trades upwards and begins to see that passing balls to Ousmane Dembélé is not such a bad idea. However, it is not yet known if he will remain at Barça next season. In a recent interview he said that he will decide his future after listening to the new Barça president, who will be elected in the elections on 24 January.

With two weeks left to find out if his interlocutor will be Laporta, Font or any of the aspirants who pass the signing of the signatures this Monday, Messi smiles again. He also gets the interest of clubs that would be happy to have him in their ranks, such as Neymar Jr.’s PSG. and Mauricio Pochettino. Millionaires who, deep down, know that their options to convince the Argentine depend largely on their disillusionment at the Camp Nou, which may go down now that Koeman has regained 4-3-3 and the team gives symptoms of consistency.

Tebas punctures the bubble: Barça will no longer be able to have the most expensive squad in the league

The more sporting happiness of the 10, the more important would be the economic argument of PSG or City in turn, a factor with which the Barça of the future will not be able to compete. And it is that Messi already knows that the club of his life, which has seen its income plummet due to the pandemic, will not be able to make an offer to expand in accordance with the figures currently agreed. The captain will have to decide based on multiple variables, but always bearing in mind that the Barça institution will now only have the financial muscle to renew him downwards. Therefore, the next president will have to bolster other arguments to seduce the star until he decides to end his career in the United States.

Lean cows all over Europe

Messi is not the only top player to have to tighten his belt if he renews. In Madrid, Florentino Pérez accepted that Luka Modric, who will turn 36, sign for one more year as a white player, but is sweating bravely for Sergio Ramos, who ends his contract in June, to give the green light to a two-point extension years down in a context of lean cows. The Andalusian will be 35 years old, continues to perform at a high level and will most likely continue at the Bernabeu. However, he plays his cards so as not to lose purchasing power. He earns 30 million gross a year and flirts with PSG to pressure Florentino, who five years ago had to scratch his pocket in exchange for the continuity of the Madrid captain, who in that case threatened to leave for Manchester United.

Ramos and Madrid talk and disagree. Messi will listen to the proposal of a Barça impoverished by the effects of the covid. The football stars are getting used to a new reality in which downward offers predominate, imaginative formulas and deferrals such as those agreed by the Barça manager a month and a half ago to guarantee the club’s viability. Will the industry have enough money to pay for the final stretch of a major benchmark career? Because, apart from Messi and Ramos, the list of great footballers who are waiting for the business to normalize to aspire to high contracts is long. Who can take on the salary of Di María, Agüero, Alaba, Bernat or Wijnaldum? They all end their current commitment on June 30th.

The damage has already been done to Leo Messi

The damage has already been done to Leo Messi


Valverde’s prediction about De Jong not coming true with Koeman (Albert Nadal)

At the end of November 2019 Ernesto Valverde uncovered himself at a press conference prior to a Champions League group stage match against Borussia Dortmund and stated: “Maybe I’m talking more about the account, but I think in the future De Jong will end up playing more as a midfielder ”. The Barça coach concluded an elaborate presentation on the role of the Dutch footballer at Barça, who, together with Griezmann, was the most outstanding addition for the 2019-20 season.

“What a player wants is to be a starter. He can play midfield or inside, as he has the ability to take off in attack and break lines. Busquets is a more positional footballer, to get the ball out quickly, to one side and to the other “, Valverde had also stated, when it was a matter of discussion what was the most appropriate role for De Jong. The Extremaduran had made him play then in the three positions of the center of the field, as much of pivot as in the two interiors. Minutes before Valverde’s appearance, De Jong himself had urged the press to ask the coach what he thought his ideal position should be: “Should I prefer to play indoors or midfield? It’s an interesting question, but I’ve said on other occasions that as long as I play and do it in some position in the middle of the field, I’m fine. It’s a question you should ask the coach. ” Months earlier, in January, when his signing was closed, Josep Maria Bartomeu – who had to personally intervene in the operation under pressure from other big clubs to take the footballer away – had told De Jong who at Barça would play indoors.

With the arrival of Ronald Koeman on the Barça bench, finding the best position for the former Ajax player in Barça’s scheme remains a matter of debate. With both Valverde and the Dutch coach – who had already coached De Jong with the Netherlands – the midfielder has had the full confidence of both coaches. If with Extremadura it was Rakitic who saw his prominence relegated, with the Dutchman he is a newcomer, Pjanic, who has to share the minutes with Busquets, as De Jong is indisputable for Koeman.

Koeman and the art of lowering his ears: Granada-Barça’s hot notes

Although during the start of this season Valverde’s prediction was fulfilled by halves – as Koeman, rooted in his 4-2-3-1 system, placed the former Ajax at the double pivot in parallel to Busquets–, it is now, playing as an interior, that De Jong is brightest. In the last week, in which the whole team has been remarkable adding 12 points out of 12 possible at home and going from less to more, the Dutch midfielder has stood out with his own light since he is no longer boxed in the double pivot.

As Valverde had already asked, Koeman also demands that De Jong arrive from the second line and assist in the offensive creation. He has been abandoning the 4-2-3-1 and giving the tasks of starting the construction from behind to Busquets – in recent games has seen the Bay join again between the two centers to start sharing game–, when the Dutchman has started to really have fun stepping on area. Against Huesca he scored the only goal of the match, against Athletic Club Pedri assisted in the Canary’s goal and against Granada he was seen driving fast to step on the area and try the shot, an action that still he has developed little wearing the Barça shirt. The presence of De Jong and Pedri inside has also allowed Leo Messi to have more partners who understand his language at the core.

Koeman explains the importance of De Jong's goal against Huesca

Koeman explains the importance of De Jong’s goal against Huesca

Perhaps Valverde’s prediction – which, more or less, like a long time in football – about De Jong will end up being fulfilled in the future. For now, however, the Dutchman is showing his best side at Barça as an insider.


“I have no problem with Riqui Puig” (Albert Nadal)

The early morning and loose score in favor of Granada made Ronald Koeman distribute minutes among unusual players, such as Riqui Puig. A day after stating that he recommended an outing to “young players who are not playing much” – statements that were interpreted to be aimed at the Matadepera midfielder – the Dutchman wanted to expand and nuance his words. “I don’t have anything against Riqui Puig. When I talked about young players I wasn’t just for Riqui. We have other young players, like Konrad, Matheus or Junior, who aren’t having many minutes either. I’m thinking about their future but, in the end, it is a decision for each player, “said the Barça coach after yesterday’s victory.

In fact, Koeman accused the press of having “taken the name of Riqui Puig” after his statements on Friday. “I was talking about young people in general. This doesn’t do any good to Riqui or me. If I have any problems with his game, I talk to him,” the Dutchman clarified, although the truth is that, despite the minutes yesterday, Puig’s presence is being residual – he has only played 95 minutes – and even before the start of the course he invited him to leave on loan. In any case, the footballer’s immediate environment has recommended that he be patient and follow Barça’s discipline.

“Barça need Leo”

Aside from wanting to clarify his words about Puig, Koeman handed out praise for much of his post-match appearance. It’s still early to launch rockets, but seeing Leo Messi at the top of the list of top scorers in the league again allows a bit of a rift between Barcelona. The Argentine, who shone with a double in Granada and even asked to rest as a precaution in the last minutes of the match (he noticed a small discomfort), has regained the effectiveness and joy he was missing at first of course. “Barça need Leo. For their game, for their influence, to create chances and, above all, for their effectiveness. We need this to be able to fight for the titles,” the Barça coach summed up.

“From day one, the understanding with Messi has been good. From the beginning he has done his best to be fit and help the team. Like the whole team, it cost him a bit at first, but now he is showing the level he was used to, I have never doubted him, I have always seen him motivated: in matches, in training, in the locker room … That he is scoring more goals now does not mean that he is more involved, but that now the ball enters, “Ronald Koeman added after the game. The Dutchman explained that, with such a wide score in favor and seeing that several players had discomfort, such as Araujo or Dest, they also decided not to take risks with Messi, who was replaced shortly after match time.


Koeman and the art of lowering his ears: Granada-Barça’s hot notes

Yes, the system is important. And it’s not the same to play with two midfielders in parallel as you do with a positional pivot and two interiors. Koeman knows enough, that he arrived at Barça determined to implement the 4-2-3-1 that worked for him in the national team and along the way he lost almost all the options in the League. He also changed the good habits of Messi, who with the separate lines and an excessive reliance on the sides to create superiority had plummeted his performance.


Barça play like Barça again (0-4)

Barça looks in the mirror and finally likes what they see. For the first time this season, Ronald Koeman’s team has three consecutive league victories, all three away from home, with exciting moments of play led by the ubiquity of Lionel Messi. As if drinking from the fountain of eternal youth, the Argentine continues to tear down defenses, scoring goals in pairs and leaving behind those complicated months in which he seemed angry with the world.


“People don’t die when they stop breathing”

This Friday marks a decade since the death of Ángel Pedraza (la Rinconada, 1962), a victim of cancer, but the name of the former Barça player and former Mallorca captain is still alive thanks to the School de Futbol Ángel Pedraza, located in Barcelona and created with the conviction that “people do not die when they stop breathing, but when they stop being remembered”.

This is what Carles Sarto, Pedraza’s brother-in-law and director of a club that has as its main goal, “to care for, honor, protect and perpetuate the memory, legacy, memory and message” of Pedraza, points out. . The secretary of the school is Marc Pedraza, son of the late former footballer and current Andorran footballer of Gerard Piqué, with whom he shared a locker in La Masia, alongside Leo Messi and Cesc Fàbregas.

Ángel Pedraza died at the age of 48 and, in accordance with his values ​​and realizing an idea that had already matured in his last years of life, his loved ones created a club that today, nine and a half years after the his birth, already has about forty coaches and 225 players and players from four to eighteen years.

None of them could ever see him play, and a large part, in fact, hadn’t even opened their eyes for the first time when life took him. But everyone knows his name. And also his philosophy, his ideas. “It’s worth the wait, because effort and dedication always come out somewhere,” the charismatic Pedraza said more than once. In their school all young people grow up knowing that effort is non-negotiable. “We educate in values ​​as necessary to life as discipline, exigency, humility, sacrifice, intensity, perseverance, respect and struggle,” says Sarto, director of the Pedraza Football School.

“Here we don’t demand players to win matches and trophies, but we do ask them to give it their all. On the pitch, Ángel came with the effort where he didn’t come with the technique. This is the message we want to try to convey to the players. our players “, claims Sarto, convinced that in life you can fail, as Pedraza himself did in the penalty shootout of that unfortunate final of the European Cup against Steaua Bucharest, in Seville (1986) , but that he can only fall after having given it his all, of having fought to the last sigh.

The Free Zone, in the heart

The football school, “as the angel wanted”, is located in the humble Barcelona district of the Zona Franca, where Pedraza landed at the age of eight as part of the migratory wave between Andalusia and Catalonia and in the who continued to live until he left the Camp Nou behind at the end of the 1987-1988 season, just when Johan Cruyff landed in Barcelona. In the Barça team, Pedraza played up to 90 games and won a Copa del Rey (1988) and a Copa de la Liga (1986). In addition, on 16 September 1980 he left his name engraved in history by becoming the first player raised at La Masia to make his debut with Barça’s first team, in a duel in the Copa de la UEFA against the Maltese Sliema Wanderers and the hand of Ladislao Kubala.

He then became a reference at the now defunct Lluís Sitjar Stadium and a legend of Mallorca, with whom he played almost 300 games, and, just after hanging up his boots going up to Second B with Sóller, he began his career as a coach, starting with Barça’s own football. He helped shape future big stars like Andrés Iniesta. His passage through the benches, and his life, was suddenly slowed down in the early days of 2011, a gray and sad January 8th. Today, however, a decade later, he remains linked to the world of football, to his world, through the 225 young people who defend his name every week.

“We got what we wanted: ten years later not only people his age and all those who remember him fifty that we could see him play, but that his name continues to resonate strongly and that he continues to be a reference for many boys and girls, “says Sarto. And, happily, he concludes:” Without a doubt, this is the best possible tribute to to Ángel Pedraza “.