It is never a bad time to trust the potential in the rising stars, but the current circumstances add an extra reason for Barcelona to start betting on youth.
The main way in which a team can evolve is by improving the quality of the players. Yes, tactics can be changed and transfers be completed. But, after all, it’s the performance and interactions between footballers, and how they transform the coach’s instructions and how comfortable do they feel in that specific context, what will make the greatest difference. With that being said, improving the quality of the players doesn’t simply mean changing an individual for another of a higher calibre. Instead, it also implies optimising the talent of the already existing players. Making the most out of their virtues, and transforming their weaknesses into strengths.
If the footballers have margin for improvement, the team will have margin for improvement. And, as the footballers improve, the team will improve too. Generally, those who have a larger margin for improvement are the young prospects. The veterans may be more established, but it’s the youngsters who have the most to learn, and who can provide the new blood.
Indeed, Barcelona currently needs a breath of fresh air to bring new life to a somewhat worn-out squad. The blaugranas still have at their disposal many undisputed legends who have given the club a lot in recent years, but it’s time that the club makes a step forward and facilitates the rejuvenation of the group. In this context of the coronavirus, which will have sporting and economical effects and even a financial crisis, aggressive marquee signings will no longer be bread and butter. More cautiousness is expected in terms of transfers. However, this doesn’t mean that Barça shouldn’t be bold and invest in talent – but the talent they should invest in is the one they already have at home.
Having La Masía, now and always, is far more valuable than any signing | Photo by Alex Caparros via Getty Images
Aleñá, Riqui Puig, Collado…Young but ready. And free. Their introduction to the first team has been slower than what it should have been, but there’s no better time than now to fully trust them. Perhaps they cannot be undroppable starters yet – or maybe yes –, but why wouldn’t they be prepared to assume the minutes of the likes of Rakitić and Vidal? They are ready to enliven and revitalise the game, make it more dynamic and animated. Having been grown and developed at La Masía, they carry the essence of Barça in their veins. They are the essence. And Barcelona needs its essence back.
The long-term and short-term is often more interrelated than what we usually think. The mentioned academy products, and several more, are ready to be important pieces in the future, but also in the present. For Barça there should be no more proven quality than that which has been on display at La Masía for years. Under these particular circumstances in which the world is at present, and even in a normal situation, it should be time to bet on the club’s promising prospects.
The Copa del Rey could be Barcelona’s only saving grace this season
With the league out of sight, and the Champions League a distant dream, the Copa del Rey could be the saving grace Barcelona are looking for this season.
As much as it wrenches a Culés‘ heart to see the club they once witnessed conquer Europe with all it’s might now look like a pale shadow of its former self, it’s also vital to come to terms with the fact that Barça are still in the process of recovery, patching their wounds while attempting to rediscover its former glory.
Winning the Champions League and La Liga will invariably be the main motive at a club as big as Barcelona. Still, for once, the chances of contending with Europe’s elite seems immensely slim, especially with the continuous spells of inconsistencies the Azulgranas have endured this season.
Woefully, the club have also made it a customary practice to flounder against relatively bigger oppositions, cracking under pressure in amateur fashion. It’s safe to assume these old habits will once again die hard.
It might be a little too late to kickstart a challenge for the league, as Atletico Madrid do not appear to be showing any signs of slowing down in the league and teams like Bayern Munich and Manchester City are always major forces to reckon with in the Champions League. Not to mention, last year’s finalists – PSG – await Barça in the round of 16, who will undoubtedly be a tough nut to crack over the two legs. Having a shot against established sides in one of the club’s most vulnerable states does not seem plausible in the slightest.
However, despite the chances of winning the two big trophies looking ever so minuscule, the Copa Del Rey stands in solitude, waiting to reconcile with the team that has one way or another always found itself reclaiming this esteemed trophy as it habitually dresses in the Blaugrana colours at the end of the campaign.
Having been knocked out disgracefully in the Spanish Super Cup finals, the Copa del Rey may end up being a crucial source of silverware for the Catalan giants. The prize may not be as notable as the aforementioned competitions, yet it undeniably holds value and possesses the ability to save Barcelona’s turbulent season.
Albeit there’s no guaranteeing the road to success will be a stroll in the park for the Blaugranas, it’s apparent that the situation has been made considerably easier, as the fickle finger of fate blesses Barça’s fortunes with the shocking exits of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Additionally, the fact that Sevilla square up against Valencia and Real Betis lock horns with Real Sociedad implies that two prominent teams will be forced to bid farewell to the competition in the next round, making Barça’s road to the final substantially less complicated.
While the Copa Del Rey’s primary stages are typically utilized to award youngsters and players from the B team opportunities with the first team, Ronald Koeman understandably appears to be opting for his best players in the upcoming round of 16 clash against Rayo Vallecano, who sit at 4th place in the Segunda Division.
Owing to the fact that two of Spain’s biggest teams have already departed the competition indicates that there is simply no margin for error and seeing how even the underdogs cannot be underestimated, Barca must use this as a lesson to showcase their winning mentality, even against sides from the lower divisions.
“It is an important moment of the season, we are doing well away from home. We will put up a strong line-up tomorrow. We know that the Cup is the shortest way to win something.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-game press conference
For a team that has basked in silverware and has reigned supreme on the big stage for years, it’s absolutely quintessential to get back to winning ways. After a season full of turmoil, the Copa Del Rey is the least Barça should salvage. With the context perfect for victory, the acclaimed Spanish Competition could very well be Barça’s saving grace this season, and possibly sow the seeds for success.
Of course, it is too soon to write Barça off in any competition yet, but if there’s one thing the club have proven time and time again, it is that they are still a serious work in progress. That said, the Copa Del Rey would be a respectable achievement for Barcelona during these troubling times. Although it may seem as if it is simply an acceptance of mediocrity, the cup would be a great stepping stone for the future, a chance to not only lift silverware again; but also to get into the habit of winning.