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Demise of Barca – Where has it all gone wrong?

Under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona were rightly described as one of the greatest teams to ever play the game. Everything seemed perfect, they were winning major cup after major cup, playing beautiful football and had youngsters coming through into the first team from the famed La Masia academy. Guardiola’s and Barcelona’s marriage came to an end after Guardiola wanted to revolutionise the personnel, but he didn’t get enough backing from the board to do so, and so he left for his football-hiatus. Since then, Barcelona have simply not been the same.

Starting with strictly footballing matters, there have been numerous and ongoing issues with Barcelona under the management of first Villanova and secondly Tata Martino. Firstly, the club seems to have lost some of its key, underlying principles. Where youth would once be trusted and played regularly, there are now all too few opportunities afforded to Barca’s best young stars. This has led to the brilliant Thiago leaving, and that he chose to rejoin with Guardiola cannot be considered as coincidental. Montoya too was close to leaving, and though he signed a new contract he has had very little playing time since then, his story highlights the problems Barcelona are having holding on to their youth.

Another on the pitch matter is that the squad simply isn’t very good. Of course they have a lot of world-class players, but there are also a lot of holes in key areas. For instance, they are severely lacking in defence and really they’ve been crying out for a centre-back or two for years. The genius of Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi managed to paint over the cracks of the squad for a while, but with time and injuries the problems are now rising to the surface. Pique is inconsistent, Puyol is injury-prone, Mascherano is not a natural centre-back and Barta has great potential but isn’t played as often as he probably should be. They also are still yet to sign a natural striker, which I personally feel is a must if they are to be consistent. The playing style seems problematic, because they fire a huge amount of crosses into the box, but no attacker is going to regularly get on the end of it, and so this is an ineffective strategy. Messi has got a decent header on him, but he is not Ronaldo and will never be able to out-jump defenders over six-foot tall.

The biggest problems at Barcelona do, however, lie off the pitch. The board are directly responsible for the imbalanced squad and have managed to secure Barcelona a transfer embargo due to breaking the rules regarding the transfer of under-18 year olds. Regardless of whether this embargo will stand or not, the board are creating massive instability which undeniably affects the performance and confidence of the manager and the players. The suspicious Neymar transfer was farcical, and since the details of the transfer were released the Brazilian has not been the player he was for the first half of the season. One name deserving of particular criticism is Andoni Zubizaretta, Barcelona’s sporting director. He is the man responsible for transfers, and he can’t see the problems with the squad that are so glaringly obvious even to the casual onlooker.

Having said all that, Barcelona have still won some silverware this season in the form of the Spanish Super Cup, and have a chance to win both La Liga and the Copa del Rey. There was always going to be a decline after Guardiola left because the team was his vision and nobody would be able to replicate it perfectly. To say Barcelona’s have reached their demise may be hyperbolic, but certainly the decline has been greater than it might have been because of an ineffective board that struggle to act decisively and intelligently.