Soccer Mailbag: Liverpool’s Losses, Pep Guardiola’s Greatness, That Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United Rumor and More

Soccer Mailbag: Liverpool's Losses, Pep Guardiola's Greatness, That Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United Rumor and MoreIt’s about that time of the season. Title races are won, trophies are lifted, players and coaches take laps of honor, and fans storm fields in celebration.

These emotional scenes are what the game is all about. Fans thank their heroes for their service to their club. Players and coaches return the favor and show much they appreciate their support. It doesn’t always happen at once, but when it does it can make for a special scene. Pep Guardiola‘s send-off ceremony at FC Barcelona on Saturday springs to mind.

Such moments are part of what makes this game great, and I’ve got no problem with these spontaneous celebrations (pictured) — so long as they are good natured and nobody gets hurt.

FC Cologne “fans” responded to their club’s relegation with a flurry of smoke bombs and flares, ruining Lukas Podolski‘s farewell ahead of his Arsenal move. It was unfortunate, and these things tend to happen at or near the end of a long season.

But enough of that. Let’s get to the questions.

Any truth to the Kagawa to Manchester United rumors?
– Chris, Atlanta, Ga.

Hi, Chris. This was shaping up to be a major news story over the weekend, as Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa reportedly went on Japanese television and told the world he had agreed to sign with Manchester United. United fans were buzzing, but within hours Bundesliga expert Raphael Honigstein tweeted that the story was a hoax.

Kagawa’s contract expires at the end of next season, and the playmaker is stalling on signing a new deal. He claims he will make a decision after Saturday’s German Cup final. Remember, he can’t “agree” to sign with United or any other club until a transfer fee is agreed upon. He should cost around £8-10 million ($13-16 million), which would be a coup for any team that signs him.

The 23-year-old attacking midfielder reminds me of Wesley Sneijder in the impact he can have on a game. Dortmund is building something special right now (it just won its second straight Bundesliga title), and Kagawa might want to stick around to see where it leads. But money talks, and he can make a lot more at other clubs. Thanks for the question and for reading, Chris.

Hi. My question to you is: Was Barcas success due to the great Pep Guardiola or the players themselves? Or maybe Pep was so lucky to have Lionel Messi? Is Tito Vilanova a better coach maybe than Pep?
– Bardha Aliaj, Detroit, Mich.

Hello, Bardha. What we have here is a classic “chicken-and-egg” question. Which came first? I don’t remember the answer.

But Barcelona’s success was a mix of all those factors you cite. I’m certain Guardiola wouldn’t have been as successful at another club. The sheer amount of work he put into the job was a reflection of the passion he has for the club and the city he calls “home.” He embodied the club’s ideals and built a team that lived up to them.

Like NBA legend Phil Jackson who coached both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, Guardiola was lucky to have Messi. Few coaches in any sport get the chance to work with a player for home the word “superstar” does not do justice. But Messi was also lucky to have Guardiola as his boss.

It was Guardiola who jettisoned Ronaldinho, Deco and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in order to build the team and implement a system that plays to Messi’s (many) strengths. Messi scored and won a lot under Frank Rijkaard, but he reached a higher level after Guardiola took over in 2008.

As for Vilanova’s comparison with Guardiola, it’s hard to tell who is a better coach, but it’s safe to say “no, he’s not.” Vilanova is central to Guardiola’s Barcelona story. The two were roomates as teenagers at Barca’s academy La Masia. Their playing careers took them to different clubs, but the two remained friends. When Guardiola returned to the club as Barcelona B coach in 2007-08, he insisted that Vilanova come along. When Barcelona offered Guardiola the manager’s job a year later, he would only take it if Villanova would be his top assistant.

Villanova has been alongside Guardiola every step of the way over the last four years. Now it’s his show, and we’ll see what he is made of. Thanks, Bardha.

Marcus, when are you going to come have a beer in the parking lot at Gillette before a Revs game?
– Chris Camille, New Hampshire, U.S.A.

Hi, Chris. I’ll show face real soon. Time has been flying by and my schedule hasn’t allowed me to make it out to a tailgate yet. I traditionally attend a Revolution game — for fun, not work — on or around my birthday (June 3), and I hope this year will be no different. I can’t pin down a date, but it’ll certainly happen by summer.

I’d also like to say how disappointed I was to miss the bus trip down to the swamp. I was invited and really wanted to go, but I had to stick around town that weekend. It looked like it was a blast.

Thanks for the invite, question and local support, Chris. I’ll let you know (on Twitter @NESNSoccer, probably) when I’m headed that way. Please save me a beer, hot dog and burger.

Is Arsenal going to hold on to third place in the Premier League?
– Ken, Dublin, Ireland

This one came in a couple of weeks ago, when the answer was “of course.” Then came Arsenal’s recent dip — it hasn’t won in four games — which put that third-place finish in jeopardy.

On Saturday, it looked like the Gunners had blown it. The 3-3 draw with Norwich City gave both Newcastle and Tottenham an opening. But they wasted it on Sunday. Arsenal can take third with a win on the final day of the season. So I’ll say it: the Gunners will hold onto third … barely.

This has been one of the strangest Premier League seasons I can remember, and Arsenal’s roller-coaster campaign fits in neatly with the rest.

Liverpool recently announced that it lost £49.4 million ($76.7 million) last year? How can this be and what does this mean? Thank you.
– James, Rochester, Kent, U.K.

James, the financial reports that came out of LFC last week made for grim reading, but you have to understand those figures as early growing pains.

When Fenway Sports Group purchased Liverpool, the club was 24 hours away from bankruptcy. The previous owners saddled the club with crippling debt, and FSG had to do a lot of financial house cleaning.

A sizeable chunk of the loss — £35 million ($56.4 million) — is due to the previous owners’ failed stadium planm which FSG had to write off.

Expenditures on transfers and salaries were higher than the previous year. That reflects the investment ownership made in rebuilding the squad under Kenny Dalglish.

Spending was up, while income was down because LFC is not in the UEFA Champions League. Participation brings in tens of millions in television and gameday revenue.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that commercial income is also up, and the money LFC has to pay in debt service has been reduced from a crippling £18 million ($29 million) to a manageable £3 million ($4.8 million).

It means LFC will be able to devote more of its earnings to moving the club forward as opposed to paying off creditors. I have a feeling next year’s financial report will be much more to your liking, as the club now on firm financial footing.

That’s all for now. Thanks for all your questions and, as always, keep sending them.

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O’Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer, NESN Soccer’s Facebook page or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Yardbarker

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