Blogs & Opinion


David Villa and Lionel Messi have a more fluid relationship, says Guillem Balague

Rayo Vallecano - Guillem Balague Posted 18th March 2013 view comments

Silence isn't always golden. Just ask David Villa.

Back in January it was pretty clear that Villa wanted to leave Barcelona and that Arsenal were willing to buy him if Barcelona let him go, but they didn't.

At that point somebody within the club should have been telling Villa that he had an important role to play for the team but although I believe Tito Vilanova approached him with that view, it wasn't backed up by action.

David Villa: a No 9 who frees up room for Messi and finds the net too

David Villa: a No 9 who frees up room for Messi and finds the net too

Villa found himself sidelined and as a result he felt that he wasn't given the opportunities that he deserved. Again, when he had those doubts he didn't get enough support.

But talking can be overestimated too.

Sometimes you just need to produce on the pitch and that's what's happening after a transformation in the relationship between Lionel Messi and Villa.

I think that Messi realises how important Villa is to the team, either as No 9 or even from the left hand side of the attack because he takes away one or two defenders and gives Messi more freedom.

Guillem Balague
Quotes of the week

It was interesting to see that Messi had the opportunity to pass the ball to Alexis over Villa ahead of Barcelona's first goal against Rayo but he went for Villa instead, which suggests that a relationship that had been tense has become much more fluid.

I think that Messi realises how important Villa is to the team, either as No 9 or even from the left hand side of the attack because he takes away one or two defenders and gives Messi more freedom.

It's a better combination and one that people in the club had been demanding - they wanted a No 9 in there because otherwise it became easier to stop Messi.

Real problem

Real Madrid remain 13 points behind Barcelona and are still susceptible at set-pieces.

In fact, if you count penalties 37 per cent of the goals they've let in come from set-pieces which suggests there's a significant problem.

The staff at the club say they are doing plenty of work to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents and that they pass that information onto the players, but if one of those players then lose their individual battle, it all falls apart.

Ramos, for example, has lost his mark four times out of those 15 so he's got to improve.

Quality

Meanwhile, the continued progress of Real Sociedad is a fantastic story of a team that with Inigo Martinez, Antoine Griezmann and Asier Illarramendi in the ranks now has more quality than it has had for decades.

Illarra is the closest they've got to Xavi Hernandez, so keep an eye out for him. They also have internationals with the quality of Claudio Bravo, Chori Castro and Alberto de la Bella - plus mature players like Xabi Prieto and Carlos Martínez. It's a great combination.

But they also needed a manager who was brave enough to put them in and not ask for players that guaranteed less quality. Philippe Montanier is now that man.

Sometimes managers go for defensive midfielders who have got less quality but guarantee more work instead of giving chances to players coming through, like Ruben Pardo or Illarra.

In the last 12 months it has been more the case of a manager adapting to the side than the other way around.

Last season Montainier would have gone for more defensive players - this season he's given them the freedom and the confidence to the young players that they ended to become the team that they are at the moment.

In my eyes they are still a top-four team and I am confident that they will finish in the top four this season.

Guillem answers your questions...

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it toskysportsclub@bskyb.com or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.

COSTA CALL-UP
Hi Guillem, a quick question about Atletico Madrid. How much is their excellent form down to the individual brilliance of Diego Costa - and how much is it to do with the team's seeming ability to out-think other teams? i.e is their success down to the players or the manager? P.s. Costa fully deserves his Brazil call up Jim, Halifax

GUILLEM SAYS: Costa is the most uncomfortable player to play against. He is easy to wind up but he winds people up as well; he commits his fair share of fouls but is also fouled in equal measure. He has actually become a better goal-scorer and more essential than Falcao since the turn of the year. Atletico have to be careful with Falcao's physique since he got injured and Costa has been exploiting his chance in that position and is becoming the leader of the team. But he has been told by his manager and fellow players that he is so needed that he can't put himself in a position where he is sent off, that he shouldn't push the limits so often. Anyway, Brazil have called him up and if they hadn't Spain would have because he offers something different - especially as only Alvaro Negredo and Villa are perceived as being up to scratch at the moment.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Martin Tyler

Tyler's stats and facts

Which letter surname gets the most goals? Who has made the most passes? Martin has the stats......

Guillem Balague

Balague: Real lack logic

Guillem Balague says Real Madrid’s poor football judgement has left them weaker than last season....

Alan Smith

Smith - Welbeck exit sad for United

Alan Smith says many Man Utd fans will be upset to see Danny Welbeck move to Arsenal....

Latest News RSS feeds

Live transfer updates

Kevin Strootman linked with Man United again, Aston Villa seal Tom Cleverley loan and Cesar Azpilicueta signs new Chelsea deal.

Van Gaal not feeling pressure

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal insists he has no regrets about taking the job at Old Trafford this summer.

Stones handed England start

John Stones has been named in England’s starting line-up for Wednesday night’s friendly against Norway.

Hodgson fears for young talent

England boss Roy Hodgson is worried Premier League clubs are too scared to take a gamble on young home produced players.

Torres: Costa signing crucial

Fernando Torres admits he knew his time at Chelsea was up when they signed Diego Costa.

Features

Free Transfer XI: The pick of the players still available following the closure of the transfer window

Free Transfer XI: The pick of the players still available following the closure of the transfer window

Still not had your transfer fix? There are still players out there looking to find a new club this summer...

The Science of Scouting: Abroad

The Science of Scouting: Abroad

The globalisation of football is an opportunity for clubs savvy enough to identify talent from abroad. However, with players being expected to adapt to a new country, the risks are increased in line with the reward.