FC Barcelona needs little or no introduction when it comes to club football. The team from Catalonia have been among the greatest in the history of world football for decades. But in recent years, Barca have taken it to the next level, with the exploits of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andreas Iniesta, Charles Puyol, Sergio Busquet, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez and Neymar. However, Barca seem to have hit a wall…
Guardiola harnessed La Masia products to his advantage. The type of football played, especially under Pep when he won it all, has not been seen at any club. The only team that came close were the Dutch boys that played Total Football in the early to mid ‘70s. We are not looking at every Barcelona team here, just the team under Guardiola. The claim here is not that his team was the best ever, although that team will likely win it if such a poll was ever conducted. Pep achieved greatness with Barcelona by taking key decisions, such as shipping out senior players/big names and handing responsibility to players with Barcelona’s DNA.
But there are no more messiahs coming out of La Masia. When the likes of Deco, Ronaldinho and Yaya Toure were shown the exit door, Messi, Busquet, Xavi and Iniesta (the last two were already part of the first team but had little playing time) stepped up to become serial winners, playing mind-blowing and orgasmic football. Fast forward to the present: Barca have found it difficult to replace them. Xavi and Iniesta are ageing, the defense is terrible, and the midfield is not consistent. And those were the small issues, which leads us to the bigger ones.
Barcelona are discovering that the type of talent that came out of La Masia, don’t grow on trees, and they are not getting it right with their recent signings; especially in midfield and defense. The players brought in have failed to live up to expectations. Recent big money signings like Paco Alcacer, Andre Gomes, Arda Turan, Aliex Vidal, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermalen have failed to shine. And nothing seems to be coming out of La Masia, which before now, had supplied the players that helped the first team succeed.
The spine of this present team is getting old. Messi, Iniesta, Suarez, Pique, Busquets and Mascherano are almost or above 30, with no replacements in sight. Yes! The magnificent Messi has signed a new deal, but remember that he can’t do it alone. Ernesto Valverde will add something extra to the teams’ set up, but the biggest fear is seeing this unique generation leave the stage without passing this magic to another pool of stars.
The Barcelona job will soon become a pressure poisoned chalice. And that is based on expectations. Real Madrid seem to have hit gold with Zinedine Zidane. Any manager that joins Barcelona now, will have both the ghost of Pep and the success of Zidane to deal with. How will that work? Barcelona fans brace up, the coming months and years could be the toughest you’ve seen in recent years.