Barcelona forward Lionel Messi reacts during their Uefa Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain. Yoan Valat / EPA
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi reacts during their Uefa Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain. Yoan Valat / EPA

Diego Forlan: Barcelona were poor in Paris, but do not tell me they are finished



Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

I remember the last time people said Barcelona were finished.

It was January 2015 and they lost a game to Real Sociedad. For one week, the headlines around the club were angry and their sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta lost his job. Four months later, Barca won the Primera Liga and the Champions League.

Barca were not finished then and they’re not finished now.

Yes, the result in Paris this week was terrible. But before I look at what went wrong, how about I look at what went right for an exceptional Paris Saint-Germain team, one that gets more experienced in Europe each season?

Just like Chelsea, who got better and better until they knocked Barcelona out and won the competition in 2012, teams such as PSG are learning and improving.

Barca did not lose 4-0 to someone like Granada, but to a team that have been one of the best in Europe in recent seasons, a team backed with a huge budget from wealthy owners.

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Read more

■ Talking points: Arsenal slump, Barca set back and PSG rise

■ In pictures: Barcelona's huge defeat to Paris Saint-Germain

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They also have the players to damage the Catalans. My old Uruguay teammate Edinson Cavani is in magnificent form.

He is 30, experienced and confident. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure last season means Cavani is now the main striker at PSG — which is what he wants to be.

He gets the space, he plays centrally with fast wide players supporting him. He is fast, strong and scoring. He is one of the best strikers in the world. He is a selfish striker, and I say that in a positive way. He wants to shoot, to score, he wants to be the killer. He gets mad if he does nt score. He was one of several players who had a great game against Barca.

Angel di Maria, Julian Draxler and Marco Verratti were three more as PSG got into the faces of Barca. They attacked, pressured and played aggressively in the style of a Diego Simeone team.

PSG’s coach Unai Emery knew they had to because they knew it would be a storm in Camp Nou in the second leg, somewhere where they have too much experience of losing. And where he had experience of losing with Valencia and Sevilla. He also knew that referees let a little more go in European competitions than they do in Spanish league matches and PSG benefited from that, too.

There should be no excuses. Barca were poor. None of them played well. They did not look like Barca. They were flat, though a little unlucky. That happens in football. No player or team play well every week, but please do not tell me that a team with all their amazing players are finished.

Barca were not finished when Bayern Munich beat them 7-0 on aggregate to reach the final in 2013, though that too was a terrible result.

They happen, football is cyclical yet while Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and both Milan clubs have had far bigger slumps in the past five years, Barca have been more consistent than any other team in league and European competition.

They have won four European Cups since 2006, more than anyone else in that time. Luis Suarez is 30, not 36. Lionel Messi is 29, not 36, Neymar is 25, not 36. They will be very good for several more years yet.

They are so good that it is a big surprise when they are not. I would still fancy Barcelona to finish above PSG in a 38-game league season, but cup ties throw up more surprises.

There might be changes. The manager Luis Enrique may go — despite winning a treble and a double in his first two seasons. It is easier to change a manager than a team. The media start it, the fans get used to the idea and then a great manager loses his job. Or he moves on or takes a break like Pep Guardiola did, because the pressure at a giant like Barca is non-stop.

Every day they are getting pushed into a corner with questions. Sometimes, like on Wednesday in Paris, they get visibly annoyed.

My friend Suarez did not have a good game in Paris. Is he finished? No chance. He is calm. He will be ignoring the noise around him, the 24-hour screaming headlines that want to grab attention by making the most scandalous claims.

They appear everywhere like flowers in a desert when it rains, and then they disappear just as quickly with another result. Some Barcelona fans need to realise too that no team can win every trophy.

They have been spoiled by success and that makes them think it is normal. It is not, as the many older Barca fans who watched them win nothing for years will know.

But they should know that they still have a very, very good team with the best attacking three in the world and new players who need a little more time to settle.

Yet Luis will be aware of the criticism and use it as a motivating factor to prove people wrong because if any team in the world can come back from 4-0, it is Barcelona.

I do not think Atletico Madrid could do it, that is not their style and it will be very, very hard for Barca to do it against such a good PSG side.

I have seen Luis come back from setbacks before. In that team, playing at home, he will have chances. But then Barça need to attack even more than they usually do and that will leave them taking risks at the back, risks which can be exploited. There’s a great game in prospect.

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A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Challenge Cup result:

1. UAE 3 faults
2. Ireland 9 faults
3. Brazil 11 faults
4. Spain 15 faults
5. Great Britain 17 faults
6. New Zealand 20 faults
7. Italy 26 faults

Heather, the Totality
Matthew Weiner,
Canongate 

THE BIO

Occupation: Specialised chief medical laboratory technologist

Age: 78

Favourite destination: Always Al Ain “Dar Al Zain”

Hobbies: his work  - “ the thing which I am most passionate for and which occupied all my time in the morning and evening from 1963 to 2019”

Other hobbies: football

Favorite football club: Al Ain Sports Club

 

What is Folia?

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal's new plant-based menu will launch at Four Seasons hotels in Dubai this November. A desire to cater to people looking for clean, healthy meals beyond green salad is what inspired Prince Khaled and American celebrity chef Matthew Kenney to create Folia. The word means "from the leaves" in Latin, and the exclusive menu offers fine plant-based cuisine across Four Seasons properties in Los Angeles, Bahrain and, soon, Dubai.

Kenney specialises in vegan cuisine and is the founder of Plant Food + Wine and 20 other restaurants worldwide. "I’ve always appreciated Matthew’s work," says the Saudi royal. "He has a singular culinary talent and his approach to plant-based dining is prescient and unrivalled. I was a fan of his long before we established our professional relationship."

Folia first launched at The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills in July 2018. It is available at the poolside Cabana Restaurant and for in-room dining across the property, as well as in its private event space. The food is vibrant and colourful, full of fresh dishes such as the hearts of palm ceviche with California fruit, vegetables and edible flowers; green hearb tacos filled with roasted squash and king oyster barbacoa; and a savoury coconut cream pie with macadamia crust.

In March 2019, the Folia menu reached Gulf shores, as it was introduced at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, where it is served at the Bay View Lounge. Next, on Tuesday, November 1 – also known as World Vegan Day – it will come to the UAE, to the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach and the Four Seasons DIFC, both properties Prince Khaled has spent "considerable time at and love". 

There are also plans to take Folia to several more locations throughout the Middle East and Europe.

While health-conscious diners will be attracted to the concept, Prince Khaled is careful to stress Folia is "not meant for a specific subset of customers. It is meant for everyone who wants a culinary experience without the negative impact that eating out so often comes with."

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Five expert hiking tips
  • Always check the weather forecast before setting off
  • Make sure you have plenty of water
  • Set off early to avoid sudden weather changes in the afternoon
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear
  • Take your litter home with you
Meydan card

6.30pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 (PA) Group 1 US$65,000 (Dirt) 1,600m
7.05pm: Conditions (TB) $100,000 (Turf) 1,400m
7.40pm: UAE 2000 Guineas Trial (TB) $100,000 (D) 1,600m
8.15pm: Handicap (TB) $175,000 (T) 1,200m
8.50pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 (TB) Group 2 $350,000 (D) 1,600m
9.25pm: Handicap (TB) $175,000 (D) 1,900m
10pm: Handicap (TB) $135,000 (T) 1,600m

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

UAE v Gibraltar

What: International friendly

When: 7pm kick off

Where: Rugby Park, Dubai Sports City

Admission: Free

Online: The match will be broadcast live on Dubai Exiles’ Facebook page

UAE squad: Lucas Waddington (Dubai Exiles), Gio Fourie (Exiles), Craig Nutt (Abu Dhabi Harlequins), Phil Brady (Harlequins), Daniel Perry (Dubai Hurricanes), Esekaia Dranibota (Harlequins), Matt Mills (Exiles), Jaen Botes (Exiles), Kristian Stinson (Exiles), Murray Reason (Abu Dhabi Saracens), Dave Knight (Hurricanes), Ross Samson (Jebel Ali Dragons), DuRandt Gerber (Exiles), Saki Naisau (Dragons), Andrew Powell (Hurricanes), Emosi Vacanau (Harlequins), Niko Volavola (Dragons), Matt Richards (Dragons), Luke Stevenson (Harlequins), Josh Ives (Dubai Sports City Eagles), Sean Stevens (Saracens), Thinus Steyn (Exiles)


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