FC Barcelona: Is This The End?

Barcelona may have thrashed Alaves 5-1 in La Liga last night, but not even that convincing scoreline can conceal the deep-rooted problems at the Catalan club. Sofia Villegas Navarro charts Barça’s demise and explores whether they can turn things around.

(Photo Credit – Corbis via Getty Images)

Ten years ago, ask any football fan to describe FC Barcelona – “Majestic”, “Revolutionary”, “Awe-inspiring”. Perhaps just some of the many superlatives that people may have used to gush about European football’s most dominant and beguiling force.

Today, ask any football fan to describe FC Barcelona, and if they’re in their right mind, they’d say “A MESS.”

The almighty team rooted in legendary Johan Cruyff’s vision of the game has officially died. Nowadays, the real question is whether the club will rise like a phoenix from its ashes or perish like a fading star.

Over the last two years, numerous shots have severely pierced the Catalan team’s reputation as a winning club. From the humiliating 8-2 result against Bayern in last season’s Champions League, to the 2-1 loss against the newly promoted Cadiz last December, the club’s intimidating aura has been chipped away at. In a nutshell, Barça have been painful to watch in recent years.

Barca’s 8-2 Champions League Quarter Final battering by Bayern was their heaviest defeat since 1951. (Photo Credit – Getty Images)

The five-times European Cup winners have had a rough time, both on the pitch and off of it. To say that their management team over the recent seasons has been unstable falls short. In over three years, three different managers have stepped into the chaos. Undoubtedly, the constant change in leadership hampered the team’s ability to bond, and has instead produced a side that is so clearly out of sync.

Quique Setien came into a fractured group and was unable to gain the trust of key team figures. Something Suarez and Messi made noticeable when they blatantly ignored Setien’s directives during a match against Celta Vigo.

Then Koeman who, let’s be honest, no one really knows how he got there. Despite him being from the Netherlands, just like Barça’s guardian angel Cruyff, the two countrymen are like chalk and cheese. However, to place all the blame on the staff would be a coward’s move.

Let’s start with Griezman, a promise who faded. The former Atletico de Madrid player came to the Catalan club with the hopes of being the star, alongside Messi, and winning countless championships as he entered the prime of his career. Nevertheless, we soon realised Griezman did not really fit into the team. A fact clearly mirrored in his performance. In Barcelona, he scored 14 goals in a campaign, whereas with Atletico, he didn’t once go under 20 in a single season. From my viewpoint, I believe the French frontman has witnessed his dream crash and burn. He has gone from being the main character earning all the adulation to a supporting actor who smiles at the camera every now and then.

Despite their hefty price tags, Coutinho & Griezmann have failed to impress consistently at Camp Nou. (Photo Credit – Marca)

Then there is Coutinho, for whom Barça paid €120 million – the most expensive player the team has ever had. Despite this, he has only played 14 matches in La Liga in his four years in Catalonia. Or should I say three years… let’s not forget Barça ceded him to European rivals Bayern for a season. A decision that reared its ugly head as the Brazilian scored twice in that Champions League thumping in Lisbon last year.

First of all, €120 million, really? And second of all, why would you pay so much if you later don’t give him the chance to prove his worth? A crystal-clear case of spending money for the sake of spending money. No wonder there is a constant rumour that the team is bankrupt. 

Continuing with good players who the nearest they are to the pitch is the bench: Samuel Umtiti. Honestly, this is a mystery I am yet to figure out. The centre-back only played 18 out of the 50 matches Barca had over the 2019/2020 season. We can all agree, to leave out of the squad a World Cup winner is a massive red flag. Yes, I am aware he hasn’t played his best when he’s been on the field, but could that maybe be demotivation due to the lack of trust, or that he has possibly forgotten his way around the team after spending most matches watching from the sidelines? 

When talking about Barça’s players, we must mention the supernatural, the beast, el Capitan: Lionel Messi. It’s an open secret the Argentinian player is unhappy in his lifelong team. The MSN years are long gone and, the times when La Pulga referred to Barça as ‘home’ seem a distant dream.

With his contract up at the end of the season, and with his unhappiness very public, speculation is rife over the future of Barça’s greatest ever player. (Photo Credit – Getty Images)

An definitive turning point in the Argentinian’s love affair with Barça was the leave of his comrade Luis Suarez. How the Catalan hierarchy quietly chucked the Uruguayan player through the back door was eye-opening for Messi. He no longer plays with mates who understand what he means with just one look. He knows it. He shows it.

I honestly hope – although it breaks my heart as a Cule (local slang for a FC Barcelona fan) – that he leaves the team before his legendary status becomes in any way tarnished. I’d hate to see fans loathing the player who is quite literally the heart of the club.

Speaking more hopefully, it does seem Barca could yet turn the tide. When thinking of players who could spearhead this resurrection, the three first names that pop up in my head are Frenkie De Jong, Ansu Fati and Pedri – the latter of which has just turned 18. This trio boast both youth and talent, so there is not much more we can ask from it for now. They are a breath of fresh air for a team that is dangerously ageing. They are a dash of optimism for the upcoming seasons. They are the future. 

Perhaps this new generation will save the Blaugrana legacy, and bring back the team that made teams across Europe tremble. I, for one, can’t wait for the awe-inspiring Barça to return.

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