‘Yomi Kazeem: No trophies for Barcelona – Olympus has fallen
Barcelona are all but set to finish the season without a trophy to show for it. However impossible that appeared to be at the beginning of the glorious blossoming of this truly golden generation, it has happened. Or rather, it has beenallowed to happen. Barcelona’s current state is deplorable and the disturbing factors behind this reality for the Catalan club are a string of decisions. At the top level, the devil is always in the details and for Barcelona, this season more than most, the lack of quality, high level decisions have hurt the club.
The Martino Matter
Tata Martino is a good coach. Is he good enough for Barcelona? Probably not. Regardless, putting his managerial abilities or lack of it aside, the real issue surrounding Tata Martino is the motive behind his appointment. Following the successive exits of Guardiola and Vilanova- two men who understood the very fabric of the club- Barcelona had seemingly run out of ‘insiders’ to promote. The decision to seek an ‘outsider’ was a necessary one. In picking Tata Martino though, the current board could have been perceived make the call based on a few things other than his ability to outmaneuver opposition managers tactically. A small fish in a big pond, Tata Martino was thought to be able to do the job of keeping Barcelona highly and consistently competitive but critically, he would be without the baggage of an experienced big-shot. Martino was not going to be throwing a tantrum if he did not get a fat transfer kitty neither was he going to pose a problem say the board, hypothetically, wanted to cash in on a player. While all of this is conjecture, it was surprising that in same summer when Jupp Heynckes- the man who masterminded the total demolition of Barcelona- was available, the Catalan club looked elsewhere. As opposed to attempting to pry a young, vibrant and evolutionary manager in the mould of Jurgen Klopp, the club plumped for Tata Martino. With a score-card that will likely read ZERO in the trophies won column and a lot of speculation surrounding his future, Tata’s appointment has not proven to be inspiring.
All of the blame does not lie at Martino’s feet though. The board has a lot to answer for as well most especially the bizarre series of transfer decisions that have somewhat crippled Barcelona. The very controversial purchase of Neymar, shrouded in secrecy, has not set hearts racing as anticipated. Yes, there have been flicks and goals but there have not been many definitive moments. Neymar’s goal in the first leg of the Super Cup against Atletico Madrid has proven to be his most definitive. Off colour and off form in the business end of the season, Neymar has not lived up to his billing. He can be hardy described as a flop but he will not be regarded as a big hit either. On a scale of preferences, Barcelona’s priority at the start of the season could hardly have been a fancy, showboating attacker. Neymar should not have been a priority instead, the club could have done with new bodies at the back. The Neymar money (no-one knows how much it was) could have signed a defender in the mould of Mats Hummels and possibly even Thiago Silva. Barcelona’s defensive frailties are well-documented and after the humiliating UEFA Champions League semi-final exit to Bayern Munich last year, many thought Barcelona had finally learned their defensive lessons but apparently they had not. Rather than purchase quality defenders, the board opted to splash out on Neymar in the sort of move that had Real Madrid written all over it. The failure to renew Abidal’s contract, sentimental value aside, has also proven to be puzzling. Abidal is no longer the force he once was but faced with the option of playing Busquets or Song in defence as they did against Granada, Abidal does not seem so bad after-all. The sale of Thiago Alcantara will be also privately regretted in the corridors of Nou Camp. There was a player, born and bred the Barcelona way, heir apparent to Xavi, destined to lead the team when the time was right…on the way out of the club. Five years ago, young players did not want to leave Barcelona, they wanted to go there.
Transfer dealings aside, questions on the plans of succession for the core of the playing squad are hovering menacingly. Xavi, God bless his soul, will not run the midfield as influentially next season. Dani Alves will be past his peak in two seasons, at most three. Valdes, bar any change of heart is out of the door and Puyol has asked for his contract to be rescinded. Wherever you look, a wind of change will start to blow at Nou Camp sooner than later but the question is simple: how prepared are Barcelona? Given, replacements for these players can be purchased (Barcelona are not exactly a poor club) but in the probable event that the transfer ban is upheld and Barcelona are deprived of purchasing players for two successive windows, the picture appears to be grim. Awaiting FIFA ratification for the moves of Ander Ter Stegen and Alen Halilovic (both have agreed moves but cannot be REGISTERED as Barcelona layers before July 1), Barcelona could well be faced with having to look inward. While La Masia is famed for its stellar youth graduates, none of their starlets are close to breaking into the first-team as impressively as Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi did. Cynically, it can be argued that La Masia- fabled as it is- has not solved Barcelona’s defensive problems.
End of an era?
Doomsday reports about the end of an era may be premature but this Barcelona side is approaching the end of its shelf life- of that, there can be no doubt. Sustaining these last few glorious years of the club have to be the priority. It is far from being mission impossible but it will not be sorted in one day (especially if the transfer ban is imposed). The bottom line for Barcelona is that standards have slipped and the mantle of being Europe’s top club has been dropped. The era of unquestionable domination, like all things has come to an end. Now the club needs to fight to regain its position as the world’s elite football club. There’s only one problem: Barcelona are wounded and other European clubs have smelled blood. The position of number one is there for the taking. Bayern Munich may well assume leadership of Europe if things go according to script but there can be no doubt that Barcelona’s day of being Europe’s leading club are over. After years of dominating with tiki-taka and carting away with trophies, Olympus has finally fallen.
Yomi Kazeem tweets at @TheYomiKazeem
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