After a frustrating ending to La Liga campaign, Barça looks to bounce back for August’s unusual Champions League.
Interestingly enough, Barça fans conveniently ignore the fact that their second favourite hobby is interlinking players with superficiality. This firm belief of fans over miracles and superficiality left them with anger, bitterness and frustration after the penultimate La Liga game against Osasuna ended in a 1–2 loss and the trophy being handed to Real Madrid.
FC Barcelona, in the previous season, till September 2018, was unbeaten in 38 straight La Liga home games. How come it possible that the same team lost in an important match that too in their own home ground? Well, one can’t blame the fans for equating superficial behaviours.
What went wrong?
Deep inside, as weeks passed by since football resumed after the pandemic, every Barça fan knew that the title is gone. However, to add insult to injury, Barcelona showed an absolute dismal and disappointing display against Osasuna.
While the fans were in denial for some time, they didn’t stop trying to figure out the reasons for the brutal decline that cost the team La Liga. The two major factors that played a major role in losing the title have been discussed frequently by fans: relying on Lionel Messi and focusing on rivals.
One cannot deny the fact that for many years, Messi has been a one-man show for Barcelona. The players expect Messi to perform at his best while safeguarding their place in the team as well – even for those who are not contributing for a long time now. They clearly need to be on the bench instead of playing with the sentiments of fans in the field. Nevertheless, the humility of Messi comes to rescue them every single time.
This attitude of players solely relying on Messi for creating chances developed a sense of irresponsibility that most on the side didn’t show passion to fight for the win – that was once the highlighting feature of the Catalans that no matter what they had to win every game.
If Real Madrid bounced back for La Liga, why couldn’t Barça do it for the Champions League? | Photo by Irina R. H. / Zuma via Imago
The second major issue is wrong on so many levels: focusing on Real Madrid and favours given to them instead of overlooking the club’s own performance issues.
Gerard Piqué, for example, came forward and spill out his anger after favourable referee’s decisions for Madrid. Understandably, referees’ decisions were disturbing but this made many football fans question: does any Barça first teamer have the right to complain before making self-criticism?
It was never about Madrid and how they were clinching the title from Barça’s hands. They had a goal, they set a target and achieved it. As captain Messi said, “We are Barça and we have to win everything. We can’t look at Madrid. Madrid has done their job, but we have helped them a lot”.
It was about losing the focus and lacking enthusiasm. It was about playing blame games and refusing to identify the team’s own performance issues. It was about the dressing room’s tension and stars’ ego. To sum it up, it was about slow build-up, uncountable missed chances, good for nothing passes, and catastrophic defending.
Messi represented the sentiments of Barça fans
As much as it hurt fans to see Messi suffering from rage, resentment and frustration after the match, somewhere deep inside it was the voice of disappointed culés. When he said “We didn’t want to end the season like this but it represents how the season has gone. We were a very erratic, very weak, low-intensity team”, it represented sentiments of every disgruntled Barça fan.
The Argentinian’s emotions were natural and he didn’t hide them. This, though, was very unsettling for Messi fans. Undoubtedly, seeing Messi suffering is painful, to say the least.
After disappointment in La Liga, Barça captain Lionel Messi did some much-needed self-criticism ahead of the Champions League | Photo by Filippo Monteforte / AFP via Getty Images
Maybe it was an ultimatum, maybe it was a warning, but he continued his interview saying “If we continue like this, we will lose the game against Napoli”. Guess it worked to give hope to the fans once again for the champions league. The first ray of this hope came when Barcelona beat Deportivo Alavés by 0–5. The Catalans surely deserve credit for playing with much-needed devotion and passion.
Champions League: a new hope or another disappointment?
After Messi’s interview and massive win against Alavés, fans are now once again clinging on to the hope of winning the champions league. Even so, if Barcelona want to go back to their winning ways, they still need some serious awakening to fix their issues inside and outside the dressing room.
Without a doubt, there was a time when Barça was not scared of getting knocked out by Napoli, but that time has changed now. In order to bring joy back, the club’s ways of dealing with issues need to be changed as well. Otherwise, the time is not far when this hope will turn into another disappointment.
Remember how Real Madrid was called out for their poor performance when Ajax dethroned them in Europe a year ago and, to sprinkle their wounds with salts, Barça defeated them in La Liga – well, they came out stronger. This alone is enough for a hopelessly hopeful Barça supporter to start dreaming of coming out stronger.
Till then, clinging to this hope of winning is the only option left. After all, that’s the beauty of FC Barcelona. You never know when alien magic is coming to heal the wounds.