Winning the Champions League is the pinnacle of success in the footballing world. Clubs invest millions of dollars by bringing in players that could potentially win them the coveted trophy. The likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are more often than not in the thick of things when it comes to the business end of the tournament.
This year was no different. Yet, there was something about the manner in which things panned out that had a devastating effect on clubs, especially Barcelona.
The Catalunya giants suffered a humbling 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals, marking one of the largest defeats in terms of goals scored against. Rubbing salt in the wounds of the fans of Barcelona, this was the third consecutive defeat in as many years in the latter ends of the competition.
The manner in which these defeats have panned out is what sparked massive unrest in Catalunya. In 2018, Barcelona could not hold on to a 4-1 win in the first leg against Roma and conceded 3 goals in the second leg, only to be knocked out on the basis of away goals. In 2019, history repeated itself when they blew a 3-0 lead in the first leg to be knocked out 4-3 aggregate in the return leg. In 2020, with the pandemic having affected the format of the Champions League fixtures (knockouts), they suffered a 8-2 drubbing by Bayern Munich.
This defeat was the final nail in the coffin with arguably the greatest footballer of this generation, Lionel Messi, wanting out of the club. So what went wrong with a club of such a stature and are the players all to blame or should fingers be pointed at the organisational setup of the club?
My personal view of the entire situation as an outsider makes me believe that is the combination of the two. It is ultimately the players that step onto the pitch and have 90 minutes to prove their mettle. The decision making committees can only be questioned for the choices made in terms of transfer decisions, manager appointments and so forth.
Lack Of Desire To Win?
Did Barcelona just get tired of winning? The current squad has seen a lot of success over the past decade, having won the treble with Barcelona and even having conquered the World Cup with the national team.
If we project this argument to the Law Of Diminishing Utility, can it not be prudent to assume that every additional success meant lesser? Did the players not want it any more?
Burnout could be one of the reasons which led to the gradual decline of the supremacy of the club but this isn’t something that the players themselves would be aware of- it was a subconscious change.
This is where the role of a manager and the board becomes crucial. Reinstating the hunger for success and inspiring the players to achieve even greater feats is something that seemed amiss over the years. Rather than convincingly winning the Liga Santander, Barcelona was just content in getting the job done.
Overdependence On Messi:
Arguably the greatest footballer of this generation, Lionel Messi has been the go-to man whenever the team needed a goal and to his credit, he has delivered more often than not. Over the years, rather than being the go-to man for scoring goals, the team has started to depend on him for providing goals, for pressing the opposition and even to defend. However talented the talisman may be, he cannot simply do everyone else’s job!
Football is a team game, 11 vs 11. This dependence on Messi has meant that all the other players on the team do not want to outperform themselves. They are content in being passengers on board the ‘Messi-brigade’.
In the recent years, this obvious pattern or so called ‘strategy’ has been identified and exploited by rival teams by man-marking Messi. Once that happens, the cracks in the team are visible for all to see.
Signings That Made No Footballing Sense?
Arturo Vidal, Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann, Martin Braithwaite, the list goes on. Over the years, the club has brought in players just for the sake of it. The bringing in of superstars like Coutinho and Griezmann both of whom being labelled as ‘failures’, made no footballing sense. These players were brought in knowing fully well that they would play second fiddle to more established players like Suarez and Messi, who play in the same position.
The Average Age Of The Team:
The core of the team that comprises of football stalwarts like that of Gerard Pique (33 years), Lionel Messi (33 years), Sergio Busquets (32), Luis Suarez (33 years), Ivan Rakitic (32), Arturo Vidal (32 years) and Jordi Alba (31 years) are players that are nearing the end of their careers. As was highlighted in the match against Bayern Munich, despite all the skills that these players possess, they were outplayed by raw pace and the physical fitness and endurance of the opposition.
Sergi Roberto, despite all his talent is not a right fullback. This position has been under scrutiny for the past many years, one which was being compensated for by the La Masia graduate. However, when Setien decided to play Nelson Semedo to tackle the pace of Alphonso Davies on the wings, it was an absolute catastrophe. Wave after wave of attacks were being directed by Davies and Semedo just could not cope up.
Unfortunately, it is time for the management to own to the fact that the squad is in dire need of a world class fullback and that Sergi Roberto cannot keep playing in a position that he is not used to.
Not to forget, the recent signing of Antoine Griezmann and how he is termed as ‘failure’. You cannot expect him to play as a winger when all his life, he’s been the striker for his team.
The Delusional Board:
Recently, the board made an Arthur (24 years) -Pjanic (30 years) swap deal with Juventus which was alleged to be one to balance the financial statements of the club. This move infuriated the fans and the players themselves as it was not long ago that the Brazilian was brought into the club to be the heir to Busquets in midfield.
It is high time that the board take responsibilities of their actions because it is the club as a whole that is paying the price for the power struggle at the top of management.
The road to rebuilding for Barcelona is not going to be easy and with all the speculations surrounding Lionel Messi, I hope that everyone associated to the club accepts the decision. It was inevitable that Barcelona’s talisman would at some point, bid adieu to the club, but no one could have imagined that such would be the circumstances.
Visca el Barca.
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