Just weeks ago, it seemed that Lionel Messi’s relationship with the club was beyond repair. He wanted to leave, we know that much, and we know how much he wanted it. And while the Argentine is still very much his otherworldly self most of the time, there were some signs that his heart was maybe not in it as much.
However, Messi is smiling again. Not only that but the game against Juventus the other night also showed us the vintage performance we’re so used to seeing week in, week out. Of course, he only scored from the spot, his third one this season, but it’s never really just about the goals with Leo, is it?
He was dictating play, creating chances, taking people on and guiding Barcelona to a dominant 2-0 victory. And then, at the end of the game, there was a great moment between him and Ronald Koeman.
📸 — Messi and Koeman hugging after the game. pic.twitter.com/aPFt6gvb9w— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 28, 2020
The duo hugged at full-time, signaling their relationship is improving step by step. And it’s really hard not to connect this to the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board. We all know that was the major issue in Messi’s stained relations with the club and with him gone, could we see this bond restored?
Of course, Koeman himself is adamant his captain is motivated and hungry for more and they are indeed on the same page.
“The hug with Leo? My relationship with him has never been complicated. We have spoken clearly in the meeting we had. When he returned he has done everything to win and work to get to his best level. I just told him: ‘We have to kill off the game earlier’.”Ronald Koeman | Post-match press conference
And you could see how happy the gaffer was when Messi scored that penalty. Of course, happy because it secured the victory but also happy for his star player.
Times have been tough at Barcelona lately, both on and off the pitch. They lost the Clásico at home and before that, lost to Getafe as well. Doubt was on the rise surrounding Koeman, the team and Messi himself.
But with the two finally building a proper relationship, there’s nowhere else to go but up.
Should Barcelona trust Oscar Mingueza more often?
Barcelona are going through their worst period ever. The Catalan giants have suffered from an institutional crisis, an injury crisis, an economic crisis and a lack of tactical awareness. For a club that was on top of Europe a decade ago, the shift in mood is gloomy, to say the least.
However, even during times of grief, there is always some light. There are no never-ending tunnels, and often, crisis leads to solutions. Some solutions are more radical, while others show their faces step by step.
To answer Barcelona’s injury problems, one that surrounded Gerard Piqué, Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo, one man came to Barcelona’s rescue. The absentees forced Ronald Koeman’s hand in giving Oscar Mingueza his well-deserved Barcelona debut against Dynamo Kyiv.
The defender is a tall 21-year-old who has been through every La Masia team. Ever since he turned 7, the Spaniard has been waiting for his chance, and Piqué’s horrible injury propelled him into getting his long-awaited opportunity. Away in Ukraine, the youngster showed a lot of promise. Vocal, superb with his feet and calm with his head, Mingueza was one of the best Blaugrana players on the pitch.
As captain of Barcelona B, Oscar Mingueza is one of the most experienced CBs in the youth sides. (Photo via Imago)
The situation was precarious for Barça at first. They went in with a makeshift defence and dominated the encounter. The same defence proceeded to frustrate the Ukrainians.
In truth, the La Masia graduate showed much more than just a promise, he showed a lot of character. Mingueza looked like a natural, as Jordi Alba said; like a player in his prime rather than a rookie.
Now, after catching everyone’s eyes, the debutant has to continue to mirror that display in order to become a mainstay. His display on Tuesday has given a lot of hope to Culés and could be the answer to many questions. He could become a reliable backup or, if he still shows this level of performance, become a regular. It is up to him to show if he is up for the fight.
Usually for Barcelona, when things go South, they are uncontrollable. The recent displays, along with the accumulations of injuries, have shown that when it rains, it pours at Camp Nou.
When Leo Messi goes down injured, for example, the Catalans look worried and anxious because they have no replacement. Having a big squad sometimes does not mean having a complete squad. Every team needs to know where they are headed and who will play in case of a watershed during the season. However, the giants finally have a complete squad.
Ronald Koeman left out Frenkie de Jong and Messi against Kyiv, and the Blaugranas were able to take control of the situation in their absence. The Dutch midfielder is also the usual suspect when a defender goes down injured. On Tuesday, Koeman might have discovered an alternative to de Jong at centre-back.
Indeed, Mingueza is not the finished product. He needs time to grow and cannot play every game like a veteran. He has to be embedded intelligently in the squad.
Nonetheless, in desperate times, the ball-playing centre-back looks like a great alternative. His attitude showed many signs of ripeness, and he can at least help when his club needs him. As a La Masia graduate, Mingueza will fit right in.
Also, as a youth player, the defender costs next to nothing compared to Umtiti’s salary, for example. Having a cheap alternative which has been waiting for this chance since he was a kid is the way to go. If Barcelona want to go back to their roots, they have to trust Mingueza.
📰 — Mingueza played a very good game vs Kyiv, and his great performance could earn him a starting spot alongside Lenglet against Osasuna on Sunday. [md] pic.twitter.com/bZHhWeLFiw— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 25, 2020
Finally, it is worth noting that this was one game, and so the sample size is incredibly tiny. That said, no one starts with a dominating display against Atletico Madrid right off the bat.
Would the 21-year-old have had a Man of the Match performance on Saturday if Piqué was not a starter? Is it plausible to have blind faith in a youngster after one impressive display? Surely not.
After making his debut a memorable one, Oscar Mingueza needs to come in strong against the bigger guns and help Barcelona fill in for Pique, whose void is a behemoth. He can achieve it and have a bright future at Camp Nou if he keeps his feet on the ground. It all starts with another superb performance against Osasuna this weekend.