Feature: The Downfall of Barcelona?
For years Barcelona have been widely recognised as one of, if not the most talented, successful and elite football team in the world, their tiki-taka playing style continually amazing spectators and earning the Blaugrana an endless stream of silverware over the years. However, is that stream finally beginning to dry up?
The Title Loss
On July 16th 2020 Real Madrid won their first La Liga Santander title in three years after defeating Villarreal 2-1 thanks to a brace from star striker Karim Benzema. However, such an achievement wouldn't have been made possible if it wasn't for Barcelona losing at home 2-1 to 10-man Osasuna, a result which in many ways sums up their bland season, branded as "weak" by club legend Lionel Messi:
"This match represents the entire year, we have been an erratic and weak team. We lost the title because of our own mistakes and not because of Real Madrids successes, as many believe."
The title loss has all but sealed current manager Quique Setien's fate, who is predicted to be sacked in the coming weeks, however the issues at Barcelona go much deeper than management, with many fans also calling for owner Josep Bartomeu to leave after a failure to attract and invest in young talent, ultimately leaving Barcelona with an ageing squad that seems to become poorer year on year.
A Bleak Future?
Perhaps with the exception of 23 year old Frenkie De Jong, who has excelled since joining from Ajax Amsterdam for a fee of £75 million in 2019, Bartomeu has frankly little to shout about in terms of transfer successes. In 2017 Barcelona splurged a massive £135.5 million on at the time 20 year old Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele, despite the Frenchman only being with the German side for one year, for many not long enough to showcase enough talent worthy of such a huge bid. Since joining Barca, Dembele has been riddled with injuries, while his attitude has been criticised by Spanish media, meaning he's not even a regular starter despite his price tag.
In addition to this, 23 year old Brazilian central midfielder Arthur, who has on a consistent basis shown quality and potential within the Barcelona ranks, has just been included in a swap deal with Juventus in return for 30 year old Miralem Pjanic, who in January will join the likes of 32 year old Sergio Busquets, 32 year old Ivan Rakitic and 33 year old Arturo Vidal; all of whom play the same role and will undoubtedly be considering retirement soon, potentially leaving the midfield - the engine of Barcelona's playing style - empty in terms of depth and talent.
One of the only things Barcelona fans may be cheering about at current is rumours surrounding the capture of 22 year old Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez from Serie A side Inter Milan, however Messi was quick to bring such enthusiasm down in his most recent post match interview, suggesting: "signing Martinez does not disguise the failure this year has been."
The Return Of A Legend?
Xavi Hernandez is comfortably in the top tier of Barcelona legends, his role in the midfield alongside fellow Spaniard Andres Iniesta renowned widely as one of the finest in history and requiring no introduction. Upon retiring in 2019, Xavi went to manage his final playing club Qatari side Al Sadd SC, where he has created foundations as a decent coach up until now, leaving Barca fans craving his expertise back at the Camp Neu, this time within the managers position. One issue though, Xavi wants Bartomeu out, and until that happens or drastic change is made within the club, the downfall of Barcelona could become considerably worse year on year.