When asked about Josep-Maria Bartomeu and his board’s resignation after an emphatic victory in Turin, Sergi Roberto reverted by saying that the win in itself was the best response to the events that unfolded the previous night. At the same time, he went on to add that the players try to keep themselves away from these matters: “It is none of our business.”
Undeniably, there was truth in Roberto’s words. Political tension within the club should not have any bearing on the showing on the field. The mark of a well-managed club is a clear partition between the bureaucratic and sporting institutions.
The players are paid to play, and the person filling the president’s chair should have no bearing on the results they bring home. Yet, Barcelona was far from well managed, and there lied the twist.
Right from the get-go, one could see a different glow in Lionel Messi’s eyes. After a brief spell where he looked slightly disinterested, the fire seemed to reignite. He carried the ball swiftly, through the chaotic Juventus defence, showing glimpses of the 2017/18 season.
The Argentine was actively looking to get into goal-scoring positions as we all know him. The celebration after his goal once again had the passion of a true captain. Indeed, one might call it unprofessional. Lionel Messi’s business at the club is restricted to just being a player. His rights are limited to that of a squad member, and his commitment must always be towards the club, not the president.
Yet, it was not just Messi. It was the team as a whole that played joyous football once again. Though the expressions of Gerard Pique were not available to interpret, one could see the cohesiveness and more importantly, the happiness in each pass.
Pique would have enjoyed this night more than most. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP)
It may have really been unprofessional. However, on a human level, it is understandable. As iterated, the mark of a well-run club is the separation of politics and sport. Yet, Bartomeu and his men used the players to cover up for their faults.
Hiring an external agency to defame the players and spread rumours is unprofessional too, to say the least. Calling out the heavyweights in the dressing room for transfer decisions is mighty unethical. Understandably, Barcelona were free of their shackles on Wednesday night.
The renewed passion for the Blaugrana colours written all over their faces. They played with the feeling of playing for ones own home, not out of contractual obligation. On the night in Turin, the feet danced over the ball.
Pedri had the Bianconeri midfield begging on their knees; Antoine Griezmann suddenly looked to connect with everyone around him. Meanwhile, Ousmane Dembele traumatized Danilo and Leonardo Bonnucci while Messi almost returned to his complete former glory.
Despite being two centre-backs down, the defence held up well. Yet, there was something more special than the result. It was the attitude that the Catalans displayed. They didn’t just defeat Juventus; they humbled the Italian champions at their own stadium.
It would be foolish to say that the entire team display was a consequence of Bartomeu and his board’s resignation. In fact, the relatively new players in the squad will not have too much to complain about. For most of them, it was just another magical might of football.
The entire team was on song the other night. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)
That said, there is a sense lingering inside that it was a massive deal for the veterans of the club. It facilitated them to deliver a statement that showed their class. In a team, every little gear and screw matters tremendously. When Barcelona suddenly fired on all cylinders, they simply oozed confidence.
The performance was certainly not an outcome of the surrender from Bartomeu. However, it was no mere coincidence either. Nevertheless, as long as it channels the energy and fire into the team, nothing should matter. If this was the team’s way of celebrating, we hope for many more celebrations to come.
Barcelona’s rebirth is inevitable, but it will take time
Barcelona’s rebirth is just around the corner. In early March, the club will finally get their long-awaited new president following the tyranny that was Josep Maria Bartomeu’s tenure. And perhaps ‘tyranny’ may be a bit too harsh of a verdict, but how else would you call years of systematically destroying the club, consciously or subconsciously, plunging it deeper and deeper into the abyss? On second thoughts, ‘tyranny‘ will just have to do.
But all of that is firmly behind us now. In just weeks’ time, the Catalan giant will rise once more, reborn from the ashes of its fallen self to conquer the world anew. But things in football are never really that easy, are they? Everyone knows you can’t win all the time.
Even the greatest of teams such as Pep Guardiola’s very own Barcelona had their rise, peak and subsequent downfall. And there are not many clubs out there who have faced the harsh reality of building new dynasties from scratch as much as Barcelona have.
So if history is any indication at all, change takes time and the upcoming presidential tenure at the club will be no different. But let’s get one thing clear right away – this is not meant to bash any of the three candidates nor promote them either. All three of Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Antoni Freixa have their own visions of the direction in which to take their beloved club.
However, to think everything will suddenly and immediately change upon their appointment would be foolish. No, in March, we’re not getting the rebirth; we’re only getting the very beginning of one. With a new president sitting in that chair and appointing a new board, Barcelona will once again lay the groundwork for future success.
The immediate appointment of the new upper hierarchy might boost the morale, of course. And that in itself could then translate to a boost on the pitch as well. But a new president can only do as much in such a short amount of time. The real battles are always fought on the pitches and there, Barcelona are still looking like a broken team.
This too, of course, can be fixed over time. With the appropriate staff behind the scenes, a much better scouting department, physios, psychologists and a step-by-step tactical and squad overhaul, we can start hoping for result. But those are all long-term goals that require patience both from us the fans and the team itself.
Unfortunately, years of failure in the market, chasing ghosts of our pasts and blind picks, have resulted in a financially distorted club. Where once was wealth and prosperity now we only have crumbs of former glory. Yes, Barcelona are still a powerful outfit that can and should be aiming to attract only the very best.
But we also have to remember that each of the three candidates is seemingly putting a lot of emphasis on going back to the roots. ‘The roots‘ here mean La Masia, the academy and the youth. But just as is the case with any sporting project, especially the ones founded on the strength coming from within, this takes time to develop. Rome wasn’t built overnight. Nor was La Masia or Barcelona’s legacy, for that matter.
The Azulgranas really do have incredible talent in their youth ranks and this is definitely a pool of players that should be utilised in the future. We shouldn’t, however, expect to find the new Golden Generation right around the corner.
We have been fooled into thinking the likes of Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi are the standard and the rule. Unfortunately, as much as we like to keep telling ourselves otherwise, they are very much the exception to the rule; the standout and likely a one-in-a-million crop of players that flourished under a brilliant manager.
So many things had to be in the right place for them to make it, and somehow, the stars had aligned back then to ensure their development into footballing giants. It would be foolish to expect the same thing to happen again, or rather, to happen that quickly.
But with the right foundations, the right personnel, trust and hope, why shouldn’t we believe in it happening once more? After all, we have the secret recipe for success but are too afraid to use it. Why? Well, the times have changed since Barcelona last ruled the world.
Back in 2009, success was not guaranteed nor was is so expected and the fans were nowhere near as spoilt as they are now. Back then, the coach actually had the time to build a squad, groom them and mould them in his image. That’s what Pep did and miraculously enough, it didn’t take him years, not even months, to start making something truly incredible.
And in so many ways, 2021 mirrors that exact same situation. Before Pep’s time, Frank Rijkaard had been struggling for a while and his team, despite having some big names, was in a need of an overhaul. In that regard, Barcelona were entering their transitional period, the same one they are experiencing now.
Rijkaard bowed out from the stage having finished third in La Liga and having exited both Copa del Rey and the Champions League in the semi-finals. It was a valiant effort for a broken team but ultimately, he finished his tenure with a trophyless season. But in so many ways, that 2007/08 campaign was a start of a new story; one that promoted trust in the youth, power from within and confidence in the beginning of a rise to glory.
So what can we learn from that? We must accept that change is sometimes necessary but that it can cost a lot. In football, results and trophies matter, that’s in the nature of the sport. But sometimes you have to take a step back before you jump two steps forward. 2020 wasn’t easy and 2021 is looking equally as exhausting and challenging. But it’s also necessary.
Already, in a season that may seem full of pain, anger and disappointment, we’ve seen glimpses of what’s to come. Players like Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ronald Araújo rising to the occasion to guide us to a better future. That future may also be without Lionel Messi, the one player who embodies this club the most.
But we should also remember Pep had to lose, or rather let go of Ronaldinho to kickstart his great overhaul. Both players were and still are icons of the club but a new era requires new heroes and new leaders. So even if Messi leaves this coming summer, the world won’t suddenly stop, nor should Barcelona’s strive for greatness.
In March, a new president will get elected and the foundation for a better future will finally be set. It will take time and it won’t suddenly solve all of our problems.
But it will give us a push that we oh so need. Barcelona’s rebirth is just around the corner.
Don’t give up hope in the moment of our greatest triumph.