This article will serve as an extension of my older piece, “The Current Questionable State of FC Barcelona and What the Future Looks Like.” So, if you have yet to read it be sure to: http://twsn.net/soccer/present-and-future-of-barcelona/
Last Sunday (8/23) marked the end of the 2020 season for all European teams, with Bayern Munich winning their 6th Champions League title. During this incredible title run, they were the first team to ever go a European campaign and win every game they played. Their most notable victory, came against FC Barcelona, when they beat the “blaugrana” 8-2…(yes, you read that right, 8-2).
So how did Barcelona, such a storied club and perennial European giant, get embarrassed in the grandest stage, 8-2? Sure, credit goes to Bayern for being so dominate and clinical in the final third of the pitch, but the blame must fall on the Barca players themselves.
It is indeed true that then-manager, Quique Setién, got the match tactically wrong to say the least and as a result got the firing that was merited, but this result did not fall on him entirely. The score line was at 4-1 in favor of Bayern going into half-time, so the Barcelona players had time to think things through and try to salvage a result.
In turn, their mental weakness and lack of believing in their manager and system prevailed, leading to them conceding another four goals by Bayern Munich in the second half. Two of them, not to mention, came from Barcelona loanee, Philippe Coutinho, who also provided an assist, all in the final 15 minutes of the contest.
For Barca fans this was the lowest of lows in a season that was filled with many and their demand for change was directed to those at the top of the club hierarchy.
Club president, Josep Bartomeu, felt and continues to receive almost all of the blame for the downtrend of Barcelona by the fans. The Barca faithful point to rushed managerial appointments and subpar activity in the transfer market, in addition to maintaining self-interest over the betterment of the club as a whole, as the many ways Bartomeu has destroyed the image of FC Barcelona.
Many demanded his immediate resignation from his position, as a means of jumpstarting the club’s rebuilding phase, to which Bartomeu refused and instead pushed up the looming board elections to early 2021. Additionally, he almost immediately hired former Dutch international manager and Barcelona legend, Ronald Koeman as Setién’s successor.
As soon as he put pen to paper, Koeman began laying out a plan on how to fix the mess. It begins with offloading veteran players and replacing them with young, up and coming players instead.
According to reports coming out of Spain, the Dutchman also decided to let Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and Luis Suarez go, and has been linked with moves for Ajax’s Donny van de Beek and Lyon’s Memphis Depay, as replacements. In addition, Koeman has made it clear in various interviews that he wants to allow for players already at the club to play in more comfortable position, better suited to their playing style.
With regard to Barca’s young star, Frenkie de Jong, he has been verbal about his commitment to playing him at a deeper, holding-midfield role in which he thrived in before joining Barcelona. Koeman also spoke about Antoine Griezmann’s playing out of position in the past, saying that him not being a natural winger despite constantly being played there only hinders his ability on the pitch.
I’m sure we will be seeing a lot of Griezmann being lined up as a number 9 next season, especially with the inevitable departure of Luis Suarez in the near future.
Aside from injecting youth and rebuilding his squad rotation as a whole, the looming question by many is Ronald Koeman’s handling of Lionel Messi.
The superstar has voiced his displeasure at the club for their lack of consistency on the pitch, and the uncertainty surrounding the front office. It has been reported that during a recent meeting with Koeman, Messi mentioned how he is not certain about his future at Barcelona and may lean towards a way out. It was also reported by RAC1 that the superstar was “furious” that the details of this meeting was leaked to the press and went public.
These reports and others have led to much speculation over potential landing spots for the 33-year-old superstar that can provide him with title-contending success in the latter part of his playing career. Among these include a reunion with former boss, Pep Guardiola, at Manchester City, or even a potential move to French giants and Champions League runners up, Paris Saint-Germain.
So, what would I do if I could oversee the rebuilding process at FC Barcelona?
To begin I would do everything I could to ensure Messi stays. He is Barcelona, he is and forever will be their greatest ever player and the club should treat him as such. Even with a significant injection of youth, Messi can make the players around him better and push Barcelona closer back to European contention.
I would also work along with Ronald Koeman to ensure the right young players are coming through without rushing to make transfers happen. What do I mean by that? I would explore the products already playing for “La Masia,” the Barcelona youth academy. Intriguing prospects such as Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig, Ilaix Moriba, and Dani Morer should get their chance at becoming first team regulars and the next generation of players that live and breathe FC Barcelona.
Also, the club should avoid the transfer policy of getting established players in their late-20’s/early 30’s, in favor of budding stars at young ages. These policies will create a plan for sustainability in ensuring the success of FC Barcelona, not just in the coming seasons, but for many years to come.
Lastly, I would hope that the fans push Bartomeu out in the upcoming elections, in favor of a club president that agrees with long-term solutions rather than short term success. The front office in its entirety needs to change and establish a new identity: one that do not hold dear the success of the past, but rather look forward to the riches that will come in the future.
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