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The Weekly Review: Week 39 | Sanchez, Iniesta, Afellay and now Cesc too? Nike, anyone?

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Hmm, what does a combined transfer fee of €55,000,000 amount to? The answer: Two very expensive and currently unavailable players. And who would "they" be? Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas.

Cesc out for 3 weeks |

The FC Barcelona, midfielder suffered a hamstring injury in training on Saturday morning and will be sidelined for three weeks.

Oddly enough, it’s the midfield area, save Sanchez, that is registering new casualties on an almost weekly basis. It’s the only area where Barcelona is stacked with talent in abundance. At the time of this writing (I’m simultaneously watching the game) Eric Abidal appears to have suffered yet another injury. Incredible. With the Frenchman out, a total of five players has been admitted to sickbay. Keep in mind, FC Barcelona only has 21 first team players, among them, Andreu Fontas. Every additional absentee increases the likelihood of game time for the La Masia graduate. A frightening thought. While the extent of Eric Abidal’s injury has yet to be determined, his fellow sickbay cohorts are unavailable until mid-October, at the very least. But for once FC Barcelona is going to benefit from an international break. On second thought, maybe it’s not a good thing, a lot of players get injured while being away on international duty. Thank the football gods that Barca doesn’t have to play a Champions League fixture in the next couple of weeks. If anything the 5-0 thrashing of BATE Borisov demonstrated what the Blaugrana are capable of with an almost complete roster. Now, imagine if this worrisome trend of injuries were to carry on…Let’s not go there.

BATE BATE Chocolate: 5 Things We Learned From Barcelona’s Drubbing of FC BATE Borisov

With a deeper squad and a strike-force that is playing even better than last year, Barcelona needs only to maintain their burning desire for victory. The addition of the super-motivated Cesc Fabregas has given them a huge boost in this department—Barcelona looks hungrier than ever. We're looking at possibly the first team ever to hoist back-to-back Champions League Titles. Would you bet against them? - Gabriel Roberts

On the positive side of things, for the first time in the current campaign the Blaugrana have managed to register back-to-back victories. FC Barcelona’s form continues to be erratic but at least they won, albeit in very boring fashion against La Liga minnows Sporting Gijon. The prime objective is to win, preferably in style, but if that’s not possible, I take an ugly 1-0 victory any day of the week. The end justifies the means.

Sporting vs FC Barcelona 0:1 All Goals & Highlights 02.10.2011 Sporting 0-1 Barcelona

The history book is written by winners, especially in sports. At the tender age of 24, Lionel Messi has already taken Laszlo Kubala’s 3rd spot in Barcelona’s all-time ranking of top scorers. While most of Messi’s contemporaries normally enjoy a breakout campaign at his age, La Pulga's outrageous stats would indicate that he’s closer to retirement than his peak years.

Well, Lionel Messi is not your average footballer.

By far the best footballer on the planet it’s incredible how American sports manufacturer/Barca’s main kit supplier/sponsor, NIKE, has failed to tie Lionel Messi to a long-term contract or, to be more precise, resign him when the had the chance. And since history has a habit of repeating itself, NIKE allowed one of his most marketable players, Cesc Fabregas, to sign with relative minnows, Puma.

lionel messi nike (via nicolasparraemanuel)

Maybe it’s because I have a background in finance, but I think this one will prove a costly decision for both, Nike and FC Barcelona. Advertising is all about synergies, creating awareness and raising the profile of a brand and/or player. If Thiago and Cesc are indeed the future of FC Barcelona’s midfield, why would Nike allow Puma to promote Cesc instead of binding the former Gunner? One of the reasons why FC Barcelona bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic must’ve been his Nike ties. In fact, Zlatan is the only player post-Ronaldinho to wear a Barca shirt in a global Nike ad campaign.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Nike commercial |2010|

Though Nike still boasts the majority of sponsorship deals with Barca players, most of them aren’t very marketable. Victor Valdes is a keeper, Adriano, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Eric Abidal are defenders, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta are too awkward and Alexis Sanchez not likely to escape the larger-than-life shadow of Lionel Messi.

Cesc Fabregas had already established himself as a household name before he rejoined FC Barcelona, and he would’ve been the perfect ambassador for Nike’s football crown jewel, FC Barcelona. He’s bilingual, Catalan and if the masses of screaming girls are to be believed, reasonably handsome.

Or just ask yourself if you were a Nike executive: Is there another highly marketable, young, Catalan superstar on the books of FC Barcelona? No, there is not.

Any Nike campaign promoting Cesc would’ve simultaneously promoted brand Barca – hence the perfect synergy. Remember when Cristiano Ronaldo was a Manchester United player? He hardly if ever, did not wear any Manchester Unite gear in his Nike ads. Somehow I don’t think Adidas would’ve let that happen. The precedent is there, Adidas helped propel Real Madrid into the stratosphere when Zinedine Zidana and later, David Beckham, were both part of the Galacticos 1.0 project. Why do I write this? I’m a Nike guy; I love Nike although I do own a couple of Stan Smith’s. I think Nike’s football marketing department just stinks. Ironically, Nike does an excellent job of promoting Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the poster boy for their main rivals’ flagship team, Real Madrid. And Los Blancos, or better yet, Adidas, can still count on the services of Kaka.

I have come to believe that, even after almost two decades in the business, Nike is still clueless on how to market its football players, sans Ronaldo - both of them. On one hand they tie Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Götze to a long-term contract, but let the likes of Sergio Agüero, Yaya Toure and Cesc Fabregas sign with Puma. I can only imagine that Puma has offered the threesome a whole lot of money (Cesc is rumored to receive as much as £16,000,000) but I don’t think the German company is equipped, or prepared enough to execute worldwide campaigns. Samuel Eto’o has been with Puma his whole career and I can count all of his ads on one hand. By entrusting Puma with the worldwide promotion of their brand/image, Agüero, Toure and Cesc have effectively forfeited a ton of cash down the line. Asians still think Didier Drogba is the more successful and better player than his Puma counterpart, because that’s what Nike is feeding them, Samuel Eto’o…ehh, not so much. Have you ever noticed that Puma sponsored athletes usually lack any notable sponsorship deals besides the one with the sports manufacturer? Because they don’t have the slightest clue on how to run a worldwide marketing campaign, hence the profile of their athletes remains limited and unattractive to other clients. I dare to say that Usain Bolt could’ve generated a lot more revenue than he did/does if he had signed with Nike or Adidas.

Would’ve. Could’ve. Should’ve.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

Yours truly,


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