Barcelona’s golden years in their modern history coincided with the rise and prosperity of La Masia. This, needless to say, wasn’t a random occurrence. The relationship between the two was always symbiotic where one was helping the other to survive and improve.
Over the years gone by, however, a lot has changed as more money entered the footballing world and big clubs such as Barcelona were forced to produce instant success. Great footballers are bred in the academy, that much we know to be true, but such a thing simply doesn’t happen overnight. Nor does success, at least not the genuine, long-lasting one.
But the demand of the modern world dictates the opposite, no matter how sustainable or valid that option is. Whether it was that or any number of other reasons, La Masia suffered to the point where Barcelona went from a team build upon their academy to the one for whom the academy is just a luxury addition on the sidelines.
However, as we slowly approach a new era in Catalonia, the cycle seems to be making a full circle. Ronald Koeman has promised us to bring back the importance of the youth and promote and help them develop. In some cases, this proved to be true, in others, it didn’t.
But such is the way of football that not every talented kid on the street will go on to become the next star. Rather, that luxury is reserved only for the chosen few. Be that as it may, Barcelona seem to be relying on youngsters to carry them once more.
To put that into perspective for a bit, the two players with the highest minute-per-goal ratio at Barcelona are Ansu Fati with 119 minutes per goal and Ousmane Dembélé with 124. Lionel Messi is third on the list with 154 in a largely quieter season for the Argentine in front of goal.
But it’s the resurgence of the two young forwards that’s so refreshing and brings optimism. Of course, Fati is currently out injured while Dembélé has a bad track record with fitness issues himself. But if Barcelona can work past that and ensure both of their starlets can have a stady, injury-free careers, big things could happen.
At the moment, alongside Pedri, they seem to be the shining light of a struggling team, which is exactly what Barcelona are all about – the youth invigorating the old.
It is quite sad, therefore, that there are other highly talented La Masia graduates who could be doing the same for the club but are simply not being given the chance. However, as we’ve mentioned before, a new era dawns at Barcelona and with it, changes are coming as well.
And if we’ve learned anything in this trying times, it’s that the age-old formula is still doing wonders for the Azulgranas.
There’s certainly a lesson in that to be learned.
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.