a Galatasaray with Catalan sauce

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Since the arrival of Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona has taken the time to set up its offensive and polished game. After two eliminations from the Super Cup (by Real Madrid) and the Spanish Cup (by Athletic Club), the Blaugranas have been undefeated in La Liga and the Europa League and have even distinguished themselves offensively – registering 22 goals since the end of January (in 8 games) – which allowed them to achieve convincing victories (Atlético, Valence, Naples, Bilbao). But last Thursday at the Camp Nou, the FCB could not find fault against Galatasaray (0-0) despite a high-quality attacking technique, bolstered by the last winter transfer window (Aubameyang, Traore, Torres).

On the couch: Domenec Torrent

Facing them is a solid team from Istanbul led by a former Barça member Domenec Torrent. After a modest career as an amateur player, the native of Santa Coloma de Farners converted as a coach, again in lower divisions, before a young Spanish coach, then 36 years old, called on him to support him at the head of FC Barcelona reserve, in the person of Pep Guardiola. And since this 2007/2008 season, Torrent followed him everywhere: Barça, Manchester City, Bayern Munich. But after 10 years together, winning 24 trophies, the Spanish assistant wanted to return to his role as head coach.

At New York City FC, another club in the City Group, he will be put in charge of a first team instead of Patrick Vieira. But this new solo adventure wasn’t quite as successful: After a little more than a season at the helm of the first New York franchise, Torrent left MLS and was left without a club for several months. He will wait for the recommendation of right-back Rafinha, who he knew at Bayern, to sign his second contract across the Atlantic with Flamengo, with whom he will play for the first time against Atlético Mineiro… by Jorge Sampaoli (defeat 1 – 0). Three months later, a crushing defeat to the Argentine technician (4-0) forced Mengão’s management to fire him in November 2020.

Again more than a year of unemployment before he faced a challenge to match in mid-January 2022: replacing the emblematic Fatih Terim on Galatasaray, thanks after an unusual 12th place finish for the Aslanlar. To straighten out the Istanbul formation, he relies on a more open game, but that would have its flaws: 3 defeats and 9 goals in his debut. It was during the month of February that he managed to get better results (2V, 2D, 1D), before keeping a clean sheet at Camp Nou for the first time. Result and defensive solidity: This is the best possible scenario for the Spaniard before he won the Istanbul derby against Besiktas (2-1) last Monday, despite a blunder by Iñaki Peña, who was nevertheless very solid against his training club…

In goal: Inaki Pena

Because yes, of course, at the end of the game, he literally punched a hole on Ridvan Yilmaz’s low shot, but the Spanish goalkeeper delivered the best example of his professional career against the club that made him grow (4 stops). Born in Alicante and first trained in Villarreal, it was at the age of 13 that the young keeper joined La Masia to one day join the first team, with the first goal of becoming No. But with the arrival of Neto from Valencia, that goal got darker for him. He will have “taken advantage” of three weeks and an ankle injury from the Italian-Brazilian to replace Marc-André ter Stegen before returning to the reserve… As the As went away a little more, the international Espoirs (1 selection ) made his mark at Barça B: 4 clean sheets in 9 matches played (3V, 3D, 3D).

But here, too, the environment is not conducive to allowing him to gain weight. Here a place opens up on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea: Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera suffered from a stretch of the cruciate ligaments of the left knee in December. The chance for Domenec Torrent to trust the child of a school he himself attended. A career choice praised by sports director Mateu Alemany: “He had the courage to go on loan, it will be a great experience for him, but it is an asset to Barca.” Arriving on the last day of the winter transfer window, Peña quickly integrated into the red-and-yellow squad, even if the ranking hasn’t been as fast as the supporters had hoped…

As he goes from good to bad in the Süper Lig before returning to Catalonia, his performance against his training club on the other side of the Pyrenees has been discussed. So much so that some Spanish media have already announced that Barca leaders would consider repatriating the 23-year-old goalkeeper next summer to install him in the first team. A decision that seems to be in line with the sporting logic of Joan Laporta’s board with the aim of putting the spotlight on the players trained at La Masia, but it would also be an economic blessing: his return would be combined with the departure from Neto, on departure to release wages…