Off-the-radar: Raúl Tamudo

Sarthak Kumar tells the story of Raúl Tamudo, a legend who Espanyol fans call the “only” Raúl.

On 12th September, 2015, Raúl Tamudo – an Espanyol legend – took to the grass of the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat once again, the magnitude of the act quite evident on his shoulders.

After performing the honorary kick-off in his jeans, he left the Cornellá stadium looking as humble as when he had stepped on that grass for the first time in 1997.

We look back at the moments that defined his career, especially two end-of-season goals he scored that changed the fate of many La Liga clubs – for better or for worse.

Scene 1: 27th May, 2000

It could not have been more different. Espanyol were facing Atlético Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey, and their runs to the final couldn’t have been more different. Espanyol had beaten Celta Vigo and Real Madrid; Atlético Madrid had beaten Rayo on away goals in the quarters and Barcelona forfeited the semifinals.

At the end of a crazy league season, where Atlético Madrid were relegated, the notion was that the Copa del Rey would be their consolation.

Boy, were they wrong.

Goalkeeper Toni Jiménez, who was in his first season at Atlético Madrid after having won the 1998 Zamora with (ironically) Espanyol, served as backup to José Francisco Molina. He was having a treacherous season, and only played cup games. And he was about to have a moment that would haunt him for ever.

The ball was in his hands. He was about to throw it in the air to kick it. And he did.

But Tamudo’s head beat him to the ball, and he scored into the open net. Tamudo had made his former teammate look silly, and in just the second minute of the game, Espanyol had quite literally snatched a goal.

And any last hope in Atlético Madrid’s season.

Funnily enough, he would also score in the second minute against Zaragoza in the 2006 Copa del Rey final, against César Sánchez, a Champions League winning keeper.

Scene 2: 9th June, 2007. 9:00pm

Real Madrid and Barcelona, both on top of the table, both with the same number of points but the Catalans are behind on head-to-head.

Real Madrid make the trip to La Romareda to face Real Zaragoza while Barcelona face city rivals Espanyol on home turf. Two games left in the season and both teams know victory was essential.

Over the next 90 minutes, the tables turned numerous times, so much so that even Sevilla were on top of the table for a few minutes. And so the two matches kicked off in perfect unison.

29th minute – Raúl Tamudo scores – a brilliant top-right-corner finish from inside the box, beating Víctor Valdés.

32th – Diego Milito scores a penalty after Pablo Aimar is fouled in the box.

43th – Messi scores this goal.

57th – Ruud van Nistelrooy powers in a header to level the scores. Seconds later at the Camp Nou Messi scores – again – a right-footed shot into the left bottom corner.

64th – Diego Milito scores again, this time drilling a low shot under Casillas

89th – Ruud Van Nistelrooy scores again, an inch out from the goal line.

At this point, Real Madrid are on 73 points and Barcelona on 75.

It looked like the league was sealed, for the final fixtures were easy – Madrid vs Mallorca and Barcelona vs Nastic.

It was.

And then it wasn’t.

Former Barcelona player Francisco Rufete, then playing for Espanyol, played a sumptuous low through ball past the Barcelona defense and the only striker available waited for Valdés to come to him. A long wait, but a true number nine goal. No complications, no extravagance. A simple, effective, precise finish.

The goal to end Barcelona’s La Liga hopes.

This was the year that Barcelona lost the UEFA Super Cup to Sevilla, the FIFA Club World Cup to Internacional of Porto Alegre, Brazil, were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League at the Round of 16 stage, and were dumped out of the Copa del Rey after a shameful 4–0 loss to Getafe in the semi finals.

Just one striker, scoring one dull, boring goal, to end one club’s hopes for one annual championship.

Scene 3: 13th May, 2012. 7:00pm

The league table reads 15th Granada (42 points), 16th Villarreal (41), 17th Rayo Vallecano (40), 18th Zaragoza (40).

As Villarreal entertain Atletico Madrid at El Madrigal and Zaragoza visit Getafe, Rayo Vallecano play Granada at the Vallekas, arguably the crunch game; both know that most probably, the loser will go down to play in La Segunda.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Rayo Vallecano were in eighth place after match day 27, and were two points off a Europa League place. Four points off a Champions League place.

But a poor record of three points – a solitary, albeit impressive, 6-0 win over Osasuna – from nine games, left them relegation candidates and needing a win. Only a win could save them.

On the polar opposite side were Zaragoza, who had given up mid-season, but an impressive run of six wins and a draw in nine had helped them remain in 18th, needing a win.

Granada had been in poor form all along – five points in their last six games hadn’t helped either. And Villarreal, playing in the Champions League, were in poor form too, but know a draw would be enough.

All that is about to change.

Zaragoza win 2–0 against Getafe, who were reduced to ten men, then to nine. And then to eight. Zaragoza were safe. Miraculously.

And till the 87th minute, Rayo Vallecano were relegated.

Except that three goals, in three stadiums, scored in four minutes, would leave a shocking surprise.

In the 88th minute, Falcao scores off a corner. 15th Granada (43), 16th Zaragoza (43), 17th Villarreal (41), 18th Rayo Vallecano (41). Level on points, but on head-to-head Villarreal were safe, and Rayo were relegated.

Seconds later, at the Vallekas, David Cobeño, the goalkeeper and captain of Rayo, is sent up for a corner. They have nothing to lose, but when the corner is cleared everyone starts to run. The minute the ball is loose, everyone is too. Some run backwards, some forward.

The ball somehow reaches the Granada box, where five Rayo players are standing. A shot is taken, saved. A shot by Michu hits the crossbar and rebounds. And there, standing near the goal line, a Spanish 5’10″ striker tries his luck in an empty goal from a yard out. A header, a goal.

A goal to relegate a Champions League team with zero debt, to save the aspirations of a club in administration. Actually, two – Granada celebrate too, a while later, once they hear that Villarreal were beaten. The game that was to relegate at least one team, finished with both of them safe.

One goal.

Scene 4: 5th September, 2015

A 37-year-old Spanish professional football player retires from football. He retires after seeing Sabadell relegated to the Segunda B and being able to do nothing about it – a knee injury sidelined him for most of this season.

He ends up being the highest scoring Catalan and the highest scoring Espanyol player. He is a UEFA Cup finalist, losing to Sevilla on penalties; he scored five times for Spain in 13 appearances – all of them headers. He helped Spain qualify for the UEFA Euro 2008 with a crucial strike in Denmark. He is an Olympic Silver medalist, having helped Spain reach the final with a goal against USA.

But he was already a legend – from the day he scored that goal to deny a Champions League winning team the league title. He scored the Tamudazo. And then he saved Rayo Vallecano.

And yet – things could’ve gone so much differently. Espanyol fans may not have been going “There’s only one Raúl: Tamudo”. In 2000, Dick Advocaat’s Rangers met the release clause in his contract and Espanyol were forcing him out because they were cash-strapped, but the move fell through when Dr Gert Jan Goudswaard advised against it.

There is now an Espanyol fan club named ‘Doctor Gert, Diga 23’, 23 being in reference to Tamudo’s shirt number, in honour of the doctor who unknowingly became part of making of the legend that is Tamudo.


I wrote a post on Raúl Tamudo way back in September 2015 (a few months after he had retired). It was my first ever article and I am still very proud of it. (Read it here). However, it was slightly incomplete – there were more aspects of his career that could have been detailed, and he has given interviews since which are very interesting and worth documenting. So I rewrote it and this article is reproduced from a series on the faces of Spanish football. You can read it here.

Barcelona vs Leganés, 2017 La Liga: Final Score 2-1, Mediocre Barça win late

Three points, and that’s all.

Barcelona responded to that humiliating loss in Paris with a 2-1 win at home against Leganés. The Blagurana played mediocre football throughout the match and paid for their lack of ideas and desire to score, but a late penalty gave Barça a victory that is not exciting and does not give hope for the future.

FIRST HALF

It seemed like Barça were ready to run over Leganés when Lionel Messi scored after just three minutes, and the Blaugrana were displaying a hunger to press high up the pitch, get the ball back and create chances. We did see that for the first 20 minutes, but as time went on Barça lost some of their intensity and kept the ball without a real threat to Leganés.

The visitors were very compact on defense and tried to hit the Catalans on the counter, and Ter Stegen was twice called into action with two great saves to keep Barça ahead.

At halftime, the performance was good, but the team lacked just a little bit more will to score more in the final period.

SECOND HALF

Leganés had a good chance that forced another great stop from Ter Stegen to start the second half, but Barça quickly regained control and looked to find spaces in the visitors’ defense. There were some chances thanks to Neymar and Rafinha’s movement, but Barça couldn’t score and the one-goal lead was getting more and more dangerous.

Until the Blaugrana paid for their lack of goals. Sergi Roberto lost an easy ball close to the box, and Machís found Unai López who scored the equalizer for Leganés. Barça had to score a game-winner and went forward looking for it, but there were no clear ideas and desperation took over. Until Neymar’s brilliance gave Barça a penalty that Messi buried with ease to win the game.

The three points are important, but the performance was poor and the team does not look good at the moment. Lots and lots and lots to improve.


Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Umtiti, Mathieu, Digne (Alba); Rakitic, Gomes (Iniesta), Rafinha (Denis); Messi, Suárez, Neymar

Goals: Messi (4′, 90′)

Leganés: Herrerín; Tito, Mantovani, Siovas (Insua), Rico; Martín, Morán (U.López); El Zhar, Gabriel, Szymanowski (Machís); Guerrero

Goal: U.López (71′)

Barcelona vs. Leganes: Suarez, Messi combine for another masterpiece

Of course

Lionel Messi has struck in just the third minute of the match against Leganes in their La Liga match. It’s his 16th goal of the league season, but it was Luis Suarez who made it all happen with a fantastic outside of the boot assist, his eighth helper of the season.

These two are no stranger to teaming up for great goals and this one is no exception. Just two world-class footballers doing what they do best.

Barcelona vs Leganes, 2017 La Liga: Confirmed Lineups, Live Game Thread

Game time!

La Liga: Jornada 23

Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Kickoff: Sunday, 11 February 2017, 8:45pm CET

Referee: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva

*****

Starting Lineups:

Barcelona (4-3-3): 1. Marc-Andre ter Stegen; 20. Sergi Roberto, 23. Samuel Umtiti, 24. Jeremy Mathieu, 19. Lucas Digne; 4. Ivan Rakitić, 21. Andre Gomes, 12. Rafinha; 10. Lionel Messi, 9 Luis Suarez, 11. Neymar Jr.

Substitutes: 13. Jasper Cillessen, 3. Gerard Pique, 18. Jordi Alba, 28. Carles Alena, 6. Denis Suarez, 8. Andres Iniesta, 17. Paco Alcacer

Coach: Luis Enrique

*****

Leganés (4-3-3): 13. Iago Herrerín; 2. Tito, 5. Martín Mantovani, 22. Dimitris Siovas, 15. Diego Rico; 12. Erik Morán, 6. Alberto Martín, 8. Gabriel; 11. Alexander Szymanowski, 9. Miguel Ángel Guerrero, 25. Nabil El Zhar

Substitutes: 1. Nereo Champagne, 17. Víctor Díaz, 18. Pablo Insua, 19. Unai López, 7. Darwin Machís, 10. Alberto Bueno, 20. Luciano

Coach: Asier Garitano

Barcelona vs Leganés live stream: Start time, TV listings and how to watch La Liga online

Can Barça bounce back from humiliation in Paris?

Barcelona suffered humiliation in historical proportions on Tuesday against Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital. It was a 4-0 defeat that exposed the Catalan giants like we’ve not seen in a long, long time, and it raised immense doubts over the real quality of this team and its manager.

Luis Enrique led the Blaugrana to major success in his first two seasons in charge, but the current campaign has not been the best in terms of performances and results, and the horrible loss in Paris caused many to question whether or not Enrique should stay as Barça manager, and if it’s best to rebuild the squad and bring in better players.

This could easily be an overreaction to a bad loss, and Barça have an opportunity to prove for the rest of the season that the PSG match was just an outlier that does not reflect the true colors of the world’s best club.

Lionel Messi and Co. hope to show the world what this squad is made of, and Sunday’s La Liga match against Leganés will be the first chance to pick up a strong victory and begin rebuilding a team hurt by disappointment in France. You should not miss today’s game. You really should not.


Date/Time: Sunday, February 19, 2017, 8:45PM local time (CET), 7:45PM BST (UK), 2:45PM EST, 11:45AM PST (USA), 1:15AM IST (India, Monday)

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Referee: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva

Television: beIN SPORTS (USA, Canada), SuperSport 5, 12 (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa), Sony ESPN SD, HD (India), Sky Sports 3 (UK), beIN SPORTS 2 (Indonesia), beIN SPORTS 1 (Australia)

Online streaming: beIN SPORTS CONNECT (USA, Canada), FuboTV (USA & Canada, 7-day free trial + monthly subscription, sign up here and get special discount for Barca Blaugranes readers)

(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)

FC Barcelona announce squad for La Liga match against Leganés

Luis Enrique has named 18 players for Sunday’s match at Camp Nou

The next Barcelona match is upon us! The Blaugrana continue their La Liga journey on Sunday against Leganés at Camp Nou, and coach Luis Enrique has called up 18 players to be in uniform for the match.

This is the squad in full:

Goalkeepers: 1. Marc-André ter Stegen, 13. Jasper Cillessen

Defenders: 3. Gerard Piqué, 18. Jordi Alba, 19. Lucas Digne, 20. Sergi Roberto, 23. Samuel Umtiti, 24. Jérémy Mathieu

Midfielders: 4. Ivan Rakitic, 6. Denis Suarez, 8. Andrés Iniesta, 12. Rafinha Alcântara, 21. André Gomes, 28. Carles Aleñá

Forwards: 9. Luis Suárez, 10. Lionel Messi, 11. Neymar Jr., 17. Paco Alcácer

None of the injured players have returned yet, so Arda Turan, Javier Mascherano and Aleix Vidal miss out, as well as reserve goalkeeper Jordi Masip and midfielder Sergio Busquets, who gets a day off. Carles Aleñá from Barça B is called to replace Busquets.

********

Projected starting lineup (4-3-3):

Ter Stegen

Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba

Denis, Rakitic, Iniesta

Messi, Suárez, Neymar


The match kicks off on Sunday at 8:45PM CET / 7:45PM GMT (UK) / 2:45PM EST, 11:45AM PST (USA), 1:15AM IST (India, Monday), and you can join us to follow and comment all the action.

VISCA EL BARÇA!

FC Barcelona News: 19 February 2017; 18 in Squad to Face Leganes, Barcelona B Continue Strong

The squad of 18 announced for FC Barceona’s match against Leganés | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona face Leganés at 8.45pm CET on Sunday at the Camp Nou. The blaugranas are looking to secure an important three points to stay in second place in the Liga and not lose sight of the league leaders. Luis Enrique will not be able to call on the suspended Sergio Busquets and the injured Arda, Mascherano and Aleix Vidal, for an extended period. Moreover, Jordi Masip has been left out and Barça B’s Aleñá has been called into the match day squad by the Asturian coach.

[MATCH PREVIEW] FC Barcelona v CD Leganés in LaLiga | FC Barcelona
We all know what happened on Tuesday, but there is time enough for Barça to plan for what would be a historic comeback on March 8. In the meantime there is the no small matter of four league fixtures, starting with the first ever visit to the Camp Nou of top flight newcomers Leganés (Sunday 19 at 8.45pm CET).

Luis Enrique looking for a reaction against Leganés | FC Barcelona
Luis Enrique fielded questions from the media on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s league match against Leganés (8.45pm CET).Going into the game on the back of that disappointing 4-0 defeat in the Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain, the Asturian said that the upcoming match “will serve to show what our reaction will be to a difficult situation”.

UE Cornellà 0-2 FC Barcelona B: Three points on the road | FC Barcelona
Barça B have picked up a hard earned win at such a tricky ground to visit as the Municipal de Cornellà. The reserves posted a solid performance to win a difficult match, and made the most of Marc Cardona and Rafa Mujica’s instincts in front of goal when it really mattered.

FC Barcelona U19A v Girona FC: Late goal sinks youngsters (0-1) | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona U19A suffered a painful injury-time defeat against neighbours Girona on Saturday (0-1), though they remain top of the division. Barça were unlucky not to claim the win as they were denied on more than one occasion by the crossbar, in what turned out to be just their second loss of the campaign.

La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Leganes: Team News, Match Preview

Let’s pretend Tuesday didn’t happen!

FC Barcelona will be looking to put their midweek embarrassment firmly behind them tomorrow evening, when they return to La Liga action against Leganes at the Camp Nou. For the Blaugrana, this match has perhaps become the most important of the season; following their shocking 4-0 defeat against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, the media has been dominated by metaphorical obituaries, both for FC Barcelona’s season, Luis Enrique’s tenure as head coach – and in some cases, even for the players themselves.

It is now down to the same players and the same coach to set about proving the doubters wrong, to remind everyone watching across Spain and the rest of the world that reports of Barcelona’s sudden and dramatic demise have been greatly exaggerated. Progression in the UEFA Champions League may be all but impossible, but there are two more trophies still to play for; the Blaugrana are just 90 minutes away from lifting one title this season, and if they can start to put together a string of good results, there’s no reason why the La Liga title race can’t go down to the wire as well.

Real Madrid’s afternoon victory over RCD Espanyol saw Los Blancos extend their lead at the top of the pile to four points, having played one game fewer than Luis Enrique’s side. Cristiano Ronaldo appears to be back to his best after a somewhat indifferent season by his superhuman standards, and Zinedine Zidane was also able to welcome Gareth Bale back into the squad today, with the Welshman scoring a goal on his return from injury.

In other words, Real appear to be in fine shape for the remainder of the season, but if this week has proven anything, it’s that nothing is certain in football. With tougher fixtures to follow in the coming weeks and months for Real Madrid, the important thing is that FC Barcelona simply keep pace and maintain the pressure. As Lenny Kravitz would say, “it ain’t over till it’s over”.

TEAM NEWS

BARCELONA

Arda Turan and Javier Mascherano are expected to continue to miss out through injury, while Luis Enrique will also have to contend with the absence of Sergio Busquets tomorrow, as the Catalan is suspended for picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend against Deportivo Alaves. The lengthy midfield injury list means that Carles Alena has been training with the squad once again and he could therefore take a place on the bench tomorrow.

The midweek defeat could prompt Luis Enrique to rotate his squad, however it is equally likely that he will send a similar starting line-up out to see what kind of response they can provide. Ivan Rakitic will replace Sergio Busquets in midfield, but aside from that, it’s unlikely that Enrique will want to make too many changes. For the first time this year, Barcelona will have a week before their next game, and as such the focus should be on securing the result above anything else.

LEGANES

A plucky side from the outskirts of Madrid, Leganes are like Getafe’s somewhat more likeable cousin – even if they also seem destined to potentially fall back into the second tier based on their current form. Leganes are without a win in their past 12 matches, and they’ve only managed one win in their past 18. This dramatic loss of form has seen Asier Garitano’s side drop ever closer to the relegation zone, where they hold just a two point cushion over Sporting Gijon in 18th place.

In terms of the match tomorrow, Leganes will be without the suspended Ruben Perez, while Mamadou Kone, David Timor, Roger Ibanez and Ander Serrantes all miss out through injury. Without a proven goalscorer in their midst, Leganes are finding it difficult this season and it’s hard to see that working in their favour against a wounded Barcelona.

FORM GUIDE

Barcelona: WWWDWL

Leganes: LLDDLL

LAST MEETING

CD Leganes 1-5 FC Barcelona – 17th September 2016 – La Liga

Luis Enrique experimented with a 3-4-3 in this early Saturday afternoon kick-off, and it worked a treat with Neymar, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Rafinha Alcantara all finding their way onto the scoresheet.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

Barcelona (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Gomes, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Leganes (4-2-3-1): Herrerin; Bustinza, Mantovani, Insua, Rico; Alberto, Gabriel; Samu, Bueno, Szymanowski; Guerrero

MATCH PREDICTION

Leganes just aren’t La Liga quality; this won’t even be close. Manita.

FC Barcelona News: 18 February 2017; Training Ends for Leganes Match, Pep Guardiola Talks Barcelona

Criticism of Luis Enrique is not new but reflects Barcelona’s identity issues | ESPN
“Hunting season is open,” Luis Enrique declared. The media closed in, and so did the Barcelona directors: they were looking for someone to take his place. There was tension between players and coach; no way could he last beyond the season’s end. The president and his board were worried that they might not last, either, their own culpability cowering behind the coach even as their credibility was bound up in him.

Last training session before Leganés come to town | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona completed their final training session on Saturday morning before welcoming Leganés to Camp Nou on Sunday evening (8.45pm CET kick-off). Luis Enrique oversaw the workout with all available first team players plus Carles Aleñá from the B team. Mascherano was also back on the training field as he continues his recovery.

Club Deportivo Leganés: A closer look at Sunday’s Camp Nou debutants | FC Barcelona
The city of Leganés (population 186,000) lies on the south-western outskirts of Madrid, and to most madrileños is best known for being home to Parquesur, one of the largest shopping centres in Europe. One of its most popular attractions is a street named after heavy metal kings AC/DC.

Luis Suárez: Self-belief is the key | FC Barcelona
Luis Suárez appeared before the media this Friday in an event arranged to publicise the 12th edition of the ‘Llibre Solidari’, a charity book of sport journalism the proceeds from which go to help children affected by various illnesses. The Uruguayan striker has lent his support to the project and at the press conference to celebrate the book’s completion, he gave his opinion on the side current plight following the defeat against PSG.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: ‘Never will I go back to Barcelona’ | ESPN
Pep Guardiola has ruled out a reunion with Lionel Messi at either Manchester City or Barcelona. The Argentine star wants Guardiola to return to the Nou Camp following Barca’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Paris St-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday, according to reports, with pressure growing on current coach Luis Enrique.

La Liga to stream Friday night games on internet free of charge | ESPN
La Liga and multimedia communications group MEDIAPRO have announced an agreement to air Friday night games live and free of charge in Spain from now on. Granada’s home game against Real Betis on Friday evening will be aired through La Liga and Gol’s Facebook pages.

Institutional trip to China to sign agreement with Mission Hills Group | FC Barcelona
Josep Maria Bartomeu, Òscar Grau and Ronaldinho will travel to China next week to sign the agreement between FC Barcelona and Mission Hills Group. The Barça president and CEO, accompanied by club ambassador Ronaldinho, will first go to Haikou, where on Friday 24 February the strategic partnership will be finalized whereby the first FCBEscola to be completely managed by FC Barcelona will be created, thus helping to expand the club in the Chinese market.

FC Barcelona News: 17 February 2017; Preparations Begin for Leganes Match, Luis Suarez Appeal Taken to CAS

FC Barcelona trying to get a leg up on Leganés | FC Barcelona
Friday may be the final day of the work week for many, but for FC Barcelona, their work is just getting started. The Catalans opened preparations for Sunday’s La Liga clash with visiting Leganés following Wednesday’s recovery workout and Thursday’s day off.

When and where to watch FC Barcelona v Leganés | FC Barcelona
On Sunday at 8.45pm local time, FC Barcelona welcome Leganés to the Camp Nou for the first time ever. It’s time for Luis Enrique and his side to put the setback in Paris behind them and focus on the Liga challenge, where they are currently just one point off the lead.

FC Barcelona to appeal to CAS regarding Luis Suárez suspension | FC Barcelona
After the Appeals Committee rejected FC Barcelona’s claim against the two-match suspension of Luis Suárez, the Club shall be referring the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The Uruguayan was shown two yellow cards in the final minutes of the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Atlético Madrid.

Samuel Eto’o: from Leganés to FC Barcelona | FC Barcelona
At just 16 years of age, Samuel Eto’o arrived at Leganés in order to gain experience in Spanish football. Being loaned by Real Madrid to Butarque was the first step on Eto’o’s way to the very top level of world football. While Van Gaal’s Barça were crowned champions in 1997/98, Eto’o led the survival of Leganés in the second division. His major breakthrough would come a little while later however.

Andrés Iniesta now second on list of all time FC Barcelona Champions League appearances | FC Barcelona
Andrés Iniesta keeps reaching new landmarks as an FC Barcelona player. The blaugrana captain played his Champions League match number 121 against Paris Saint-Germain in the Parc des Princes, thus moving to second on the all-time list of appearances for Barça in Europe’s top club competition. The midfielder moved past Carles Puyol and now only has Xavi Hernández ahead of him on 157 Champions League matches.

FC Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano gives exclusive interview to the club’s official media outlets | FC Barcelona
If there were any doubt as to Mascherano’s influence in the blaugrana dressing room, one need look no further than the prologue of his new book, The 15 Rungs of Leadership, in which Messi himself calls Mascherano “a very positive leader.” “He teaches you many things,” Messi said. “All the time. He’s always thinking of his friends. He’s a fighter. It’s impossible to not follow his lead when you have a captain who is first in effort, who runs more than the rest, and who is the best example of how it should be done.”