The humiliation of Barcelona at the hands of Bayern prior to the match last night was imminent as there had been signs all through the just-ended La Liga (LL) campaign. What the world didn’t know was how bad the humiliation would be.
And while it seems like the perfect ‘cruise’ to blame Messi for disappearing in the game and even compare him to Ronaldo in those kinds of moments, Messi is not in any way responsible for the result. Rather, the club’s president’s philosophy is responsible and if anyone were to leave, it should be him. Below are my 5 reasons:
1. A Dying La Masia
La Masia means “The Farm House”, in Spanish and it is the dubbed name for the once-famed Barcelona youth academy. The Farm House where raw talents were handpicked into the Barcelona first team produced the likes of Mikel Arteta, Luis Garcia Sanz, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Motta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol, Pep Guardiola, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Lionel Messi himself.
The La Masia, at some point, made one of the top 3 best football academies in the world, falling behind Santos and Ajax youth system. While Madrid, through Florentino Perez pursued the “Galacticos” (meaning ‘superstars’; a philosophy that only expensive world-class footballers will only be signed to Real Madrid) era, Barcelona youth system excelled and held the world spellbound, season after season, Real Madrid’s first “Galacticos” project failed and Perez was fired. Some of the world’s biggest names emerged through Barcelona’s youth rank, playing a compact football style known in the academy known as the tiki-taka. Johan Cruyff, as a coach would only go ahead to adopt the style, making him one of Barcelona’s most successful managers.
About 18 years after Messi progressed through the youth rank, Barcelona and Real Madrid have gone in opposite directions. While Madrid now look towards developing players from its youth rank, Barcelona has been neck-deep in signing talented superstars who are either oblivious to the club’s style of play or unnecessarily surplus to requirement in the team. Ibrahimovic, Henry, Dembele, Griezmann, Vidal, Philippe Coutinho, Frenkie de Jong, the list is endless.
With an aging and declining first team, only a few promising players have managed to get noticed in the team while Madrid keep looking inward and churning out more footballers from its youth rank. The problem? Barcelona’s president believes big names are the answer.
2. Aging Messi
An aging Messi isn’t the problem and he isn’t responsible for this. It is nature’s call which must be answered. The problem here is the total reliance and dependence on one of the world’s finest footballers who is being treated like aging is a sin. A club with a foresight will know better that what brought about dominance at some point isn’t the Messi factor but a fluid midfield which the likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquet provided. Sadly, since their departure, Barcelona has invested more in defenders and forwards, leaving the midfield to God.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid, Barcelona’s arch-rival have found it convenient to sit out maestros such as Kroos and Modric conveniently in games. Barcelona is one of the world’s biggest clubs reputable for horrible signings.
3. The Backline Factor
Although Shakira’s boyfriend has hinted he’ll be the first to leave should the board decides to ax certain players, the stunt is all but a psychological attempt. Pique is worn out, old, and out of ideas. Already, he is incapable of stopping quick ‘feety’ footballers compared to his sworn subtle rival, Sergio Ramos. Those who were fixated on the match against Bayern Munich would have seen how Alba never stopped panting, mostly in the second half. Although the tradition with old age and defense is that you get better as you age. This can be seen in Ramos who is undoubtedly the world’s finest defender even though the heart of his man can be desperately wicked.
The four backline of the team is worn and torn, even with the introduction of new blood who are mostly MIA due to injury. Barcelona needs to look inward and focus on replacing Pique, mostly. There are old but amazing defensive midfielders who can play at the back that have been hinted of exits in certain clubs (whispers P*S*G).
4. The Fear of Messi
The fear of Messi is probably what led to this disaster in the first place, from not liking a particular coach, to the fear of leaving and must be pleased mindset. The president and the club have been pawns in the hands of Messi for too long and they must wrestle themselves from his grip.
Messi is the only player in the team who will hit back at any executive who dare blames the team or criticize their lackluster performances on the pitch. Messi has been known to challenge the club’s hierarchy not on the field, not among the players but on Instagram when one of the top dogs blame the team for something. The resulting effect is mostly accompanied by a sack, reshuffled positions, and more importantly, an increase in his wage. When Messi took to blasting the sporting director, Eric Abidal in February, many sports houses guessed there was something at play. Of course, it was political and Messi knew it. Getting to win the presidential election at FCB means having Messi as your best friend. What many players would take sticks for, Messi would do conveniently while the corporate guys fall over themselves to either retract their statements, apologize or instantly increase Messi’s paycheck.
As a player, you might not necessarily need to be talented. If Messi likes you and wishes for you to remain at Barcelona, it will remain so except you wish to go on your accord.
This power is dangerous. Anyways, Eric Abidal is set to be sacked after ‘defending’ Setien. Could it be that he is about to be axed for criticizing the team in February
5. An Aging Team
Madrid has stood on this spot Barcelona is standing now and understand what will eventually become of them when their first team retire and fall out like a domino. While this is hinged on the failure of the club’s executive in focusing on the Farm House, the after effect will be devastating and will paint a similar picture of Barcelona’s LL final matchday that saw Osasuna beat them. Barcelona themselves have been in this position before, particularly after Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta left.
Unfortunately for the club, the after effect will be felt, and for a long time should Messi exit the team. It is however not too late to start focusing on bringing in talented youngsters. Right now, Madrid is reveling in the glory of its talented youths right now that some of them (notably Kubo, Hakimi, and Odegaard) have all been loaned out while the others jostle for starting places. As a matter of fact, Zidane confused the world after the restart by changing his first 11 per game in order to unburden them. Barcelona might not have the understanding to replicate this right now but the idea of a legendary footballer who is now at the “Messi” (pun intended) of the team and a laughing stock to the world is unfair and mismanaged.