FC Barcelona’s future looks bright despite rough few years


Shai Pal | Wikimedia Commons

Leonardo Revilla

For a club that was once revered as one of the greatest of all time, FC Barcelona hasn’t been the same since 2015.

It’s been six years since Barça last won The UEFA Champions League, the most prestigious league in Europe and one of the most renowned leagues across the world.

Since then, Barça has suffered some embarrassing losses: 3-0 against Juventus in 2018, a 4-0 loss to Liverpool after winning 3-0 in the first leg of their semi-final matchup back in 2019 and the worst of all, losing 8-2 against Bayern Munich just a year ago.

Though Barça’s fall from grace may seem sudden, it’s actually been a natural turn of events.

Beginning with Barça’s style of play, the tactics previous managers Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setién used focused on the possession play Barça was famous for: “Tiki-Taka.”

First used by former legendary Dutch player Johan Cruyff in the early 90s, the tactic involved lightning-fast possession play with free movement of the ball. This is what would make Barça famous.

This tactic was practically perfected by Josep Guardiola. Arguably the best manager in Barça’s history, Guardiola oversaw the club as it garnered an astounding 14 trophies in only four seasons. Also, under Guardiola management, Barca became the first team to win six trophies in one season.

His 2009 team comprised Víctor Valdés in goal, Dani Alves and Eric Abidal at full back, Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué as center backs and Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta in the midfield. Then, the team featured an attacking trio of Thierry Henry, one of the best French players ever, Samuel Eto’o, one of the greatest strikers of all time, and Lionel Messi. With a lineup like this, it’s no wonder this team was destined for greatness.

Even after the retirement of Puyol and the departure of Henry and Abidal, Barça’s team was still very strong.

Then in 2013, Neymar Jr., one of the most talented youngsters in the world joined the roster and one year later, in 2014, Luis Suarez left the English Premier League with an astounding 88 goals in 133 games and came to Barca. Those two players, with Messi, would become arguably the greatest attacking trio in the history of soccer, forming the famous MSN trio.

During the three seasons they played together, the trio amassed 364 goals and 173 assists and won six major titles.

The addition of Jordi Alba at left fullback in 2012 and Marc-André ter Stegen as goalkeeper in 2014 helped Barcelona tremendously as well.

Manager Ernesto Valverde enjoyed some success, winning four titles over 3 seasons after he joined the club in 2017, but the 3-0 defeat to Roma was the end of his time as manager.

Barça’s lackluster performances are most likely the result of two reasons: the state of the squad as well as their reliance on Lionel Messi.

Messi, one of the greatest players of all time, has an extensive trophy cabinet that includes a record six Ballon d’Ors, a prestigious award given to the best soccer player of the year, and a

record of six Pichichi awards, which are awarded to the top scorer of Barça’s domestic league in Spain, La Liga.

Having someone like Messi on your team is a game changer. However, soccer is a game played with 11 players per team and having one as great as Messi, or even a few great individual performers, will not win games. That’s why teams like FC Bayern Munich have been so successful.

Hans-Dieter Flick, Bayern Munich’s manager, employs an all-inclusive playstyle with his team acting as a single unit, making use of high pressure plays and quick counter attacks. This is what led Bayern to the Champions League last year, annihilating Barça in a humiliating 8-2 win.

Looking deeper in Barca’s squad, Sergio Busquets is not the player he once was. This has hurt Messi, who was once able to be supported with strong midfielders Neymar and Suarez. Now, Messi’s forced to take matters into his own hands…or feet.

Barca’s defense is also a source of problems. They have struggled to find good replacements for Dani Alves and Puyol, who were not only excellent defensively, but provided great offense.

Going back to those aforementioned Barça losses for a second, the team was outplayed due to a lack of athleticism. The midfield and defense could not cope with the constant onslaught of high pressure and counter attacks they experienced from opposing players.

Expensive transfers, such as Ousmane Dembélé, Phillipe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann, have also amassed $432 million. They haven’t hurt the club terribly, but none of these players have had a significant impact.

The biggest issue facing Barça is the rumors that Lionel Messi is planning his departure from the team.

However, this is not the end. Barça boasts several promising youngsters like Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Ronald Araújo. The new signing of midfielder Frenkie De Jong, from the Dutch club, Ajax, looks very promising as well.

Griezmann is slowly starting to find his form and adapt to Barça’s style of play. Also, the appointment of Ronald Koeman, who played at Barcelona under Cruyff in 1988, has been a step up from Setién.

Lastly, the resignation of Barcelona’s club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who was behind numerous disastrous signings and poor management decisions, as well as being a big reason for Messi’s rumored departure, has given a breath of fresh air to the club.

If Barça can start looking for promising defenders and improve the depth of their squad, the club will soon taste success again.