MIAMI — FC Barcelona’s South American contingent is set to rejoin the club on August 8, but one player went out of his way to get a head start.
After failing to see a minute of action for Brazil in a disastrous Copa América tournament, which saw the eternal favorites eliminated in the quarterfinals, fullback Adriano decided to join Barcelona a week earlier and get a jump on his preseason.
“I cut short my vacation because I didn’t play in the Copa América and I wanted to be with the team,” Adriano said after his first preseason practice on Tuesday morning at the University of Miami’s Cobb Field. “This week that I can gain here is going to be important for me. And although I’ve stopped playing for two weeks, the truth is that I’m fine because I worked hard with the national team even though I didn’t play [in the Copa América]. I think I get here in good shape.
“I’m going little by little but I hope to be available even earlier for the manager.”
The 26-year-old, who last played in Miami with the Brazil Under-23 national team that ousted the USA in the Gold Cup semis back in 2003, was critical of his national team and their Copa América elimination at the hands of Paraguay in a penalty-kick shootout. He says he saw the warning signs well before the start of the South American tournament for national teams.
“The team wasn’t doing well before the Copa América,” Adriano said. “We played two friendlies and we tied them [0-0 tie vs. the Netherlands and 1-0 win vs. Romania in Ronaldo's farewell]. There was more pressure after the friendlies. But now we need to start getting things to work. … We wanted to get to the final but we were eliminated.”
Adriano’s words will not do anything to help the cause of Brazilian manager Mario Menezes, who has been on the job for a year generally collecting unconvincing results. But the picture is a rosy one with Adriano's club team.
A player who can feature at either right back or left back for the Blaugrana, Adriano filled in on the left for Éric Abidal in the middle of last season, as his teammate recovered from a battle with cancer. With Dani Alves a lock to start at right back, the left flank may be the best chance at playing time for the right-footed Adriano, who started 23 matches total last year.
“I’ve seen the team’s matches [in preseason] and it’s surely getting better,” he said. “On the 14th [Spanish Supercopa first leg vs. Real Madrid], we’ll be 100 percent.
“The match against Real Madrid fills us with even more desire to start the season. … We’re prepared and excited to get to this game with even more desire because we know the rival. It’s Real Madrid. We know they’re training well but so are we in order to have a great game against them.”
That competition between Barcelona and Real Madrid can extend to the bidding for the services of Neymar, according to Adriano, who says that “it’s been a real soap opera … it’d be great if he could play for Barca.”
Some things never change. Including the back-and-forth jabs in the sports dailies between Barcelona and Real Madrid that has already started in the lead-up to the Supercopa first leg.
“That’s normal,” Adriano said. “Barcelona keeps winning titles and the other people can keep talking. We can only keep doing what we’re doing. … We know it’s difficult to repeat but we have a lot of desire to have the season we had last year.”