The Mark van Bommel show (featuring Jelle Bataille): “Beating Barça will be extremely difficult, but there are always opportunities”

Not that Bataille cared about that. He watched with amusement as his coach answered all the journalists present. Mark van Bommel (46) did not need headphones to understand the Spanish questions, but he did it in Dutch anyway. “My English and Spanish are not so good.”

The former champion and Champions League winner with Barça (2006) said that he was happy to be back. And especially to see Xavi again. The Spanish coach had already thrown flowers at his former teammate earlier in the day, now it was the Dutchman’s turn to give compliments. “I have very good memories of Xavi, also as a person. He took care of me very well at the time. We always played rondos together with the other Spanish speakers.”

Praise for Xavi’s current work followed. “You can clearly see his hand at this Barcelona: technically neat, dominant, in the opponent’s half. You also recognize the Dutch school in it. The football of Oranje ’74, with Johan Cruijff, has continued through Pep Guardiola and now also through Xavi.”


Which means it will be a tough job for the Great Old, but you already understood that. “This Barcelona must always continue in this group and can also win the Champions League. I’m not saying that because I’m sitting here now, I really think they are one of the contenders because of the way they play. It is not without reason that they became champions with a ten-point lead over Real Madrid. Just win against it… That will be extremely difficult for us.”

The Vermeer theme

Still, Van Bommel wants his players to believe in a stunt. And that they certainly don’t show too much respect for Lewandowski and co. “But I’m not worried about that. It is perfectly understandable that some boys look up to Barcelona players. Their football is also just beautiful to watch. But I’ve told them many times – it might drive them crazy: it doesn’t matter who you play against or where you play. Whether at Cercle or in Het Kuipje or here: ultimately you have to deliver the same thing every time.”

He does not want to adjust the tactics too much. “We are going to play football here in our own way and certainly not hide. We can’t park the bus either. Okay, we don’t concede many goals in the league, but we also like to have the ball. So we’ll try that. And no matter how difficult it becomes, there are opportunities against every opponent. Also against this Barcelona.”

Finally, the theme ‘Arthur Vermeeren’ could not be missed. A Catalan colleague asked about that 18-year-old Belgian top talent, who is known to be following Barça. Van Bommel: “I am very happy that Arthur is with us and that he continues to make progress. A year ago he wasn’t even a titular player and look how mature he is already playing. What he is doing at his age is impressive. That’s why Barcelona follows him, but there are other clubs that do that. And this is not a sales pitch, but simply reality.”


Don’t think about transfer

Enter Jelle Bataille. To be clear: the very first question of the evening was also for the defender – one from Sporza (Peter Vandenbempt). Afterwards he just had to wait a long time. Whether he would have dared to dream of standing here a few years ago, albeit not at the Camp Nou. “Dreams do,” said Bataille. “But I didn’t think it would go so fast. This is very nice, for the club and for myself. But also deserved. This is the reward for our performance last season.”

Joao Felix, Lamine Yamal or Gavi: whoever is his opponent, Bataille knows he will have his hands full. “Every now and then I watch Barça, so I certainly know them. Nice to be able to play against such men. Whoever it is: it is important to give one hundred percent your best.” And to be able to show yourself to beautiful foreign clubs, with a view to a transfer, some players will think. But that’s not how Bataille works. “It is great that there is a lot of interest in such competitions, but I am not currently concerned with what could be possible for me in the future or whether I would suddenly be worth a few million more.” (smiles)

Just deliver ninety minutes of ‘batalla’ (Spanish for ‘battle’), Bataille wanted to emphasize.

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