Neymar’s possible move to the Nou Camp has got virtually all Barcelona fans excited, knowing that they will be treated to nothing but pure class next season, owing to what is likely to be an unmatchable connection upfront between the Brazilian and his Argentinian mentor Lionel Messi.
However, in reality, what all Blaugrana followers are concerned with is the long-term status of the team. Reflecting on Barca’s culminating campaign this season, it is incontestable that the Catalans have been tormented on various occasions by the curses of inconsistency.
Irrefutably, many of Los Cules’ most important games this season were badly handled by coach Tito Vilanova, who never seemed to find the true lock to Barcelona’s solid doors. Too many times, the league champions misused their possession in games, and way too often, the defence was unconvincingly beaten.
It is fair enough to deduce that Vilanova had it all wrong numerous times in his tactics. But, back to the starting point, it makes sense to ask: which strategy did Vilanova employ in the first place as the default stratagem for the entire season when he replaced Pep Guardiola as head coach?
Ahead of Barcelona’s home leg against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals, Vilanova asserted: “[Depending on Messi] is nothing new and it's normal since he's the best in the world. We hope to be dependent on him for many years.”
Indeed, Barcelona have been over-reliant on the four-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has somewhat struggled to carry the weight on his shoulders throughout the season.
Much to the worry of the fans, top midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez never managed to convert their passing game into a more brutal and direct one. Barca’s front has generally lacked efficiency as well, subsequent to Alexis Sanchez, David Villa, Christian Tello and Pedro Rodriguez’s inability to take their goalscoring skills to the next level and explore long-range shots more often.
Subsequent to the weak status of their back-line, Barcelona have been counting on their sense of attack, but – without the supernatural forces of their star forward Messi – the entire team has looked vulnerable to harsh lessons throughout the term.
It was early this year that Barcelona’s massive dependence on Messi was openly exposed. Following the No. 10 ace’s incapability to shine against Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, the Catalans seemed harmless in front of goal, and therefore had to bow out of the competition after a bitter 3-1 home loss in the second leg.
Against AC Milan in the Champions League’s Round of 16, an unimpressive Messi was also partly the reason behind Barca’s 2-0 away loss to the San Siro in the first leg.
Whereas Messi went on to redeem himself in style in the second leg, his team’s heavy dependence on him was witnessed again against Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals.
Finally, against Bayern Munich, the team’s collapse at methodological level was more apparent than ever. As a consequence of Messi’s injury – and with no genuine tactics or support elsewhere – the impotent Barcelona were disgraced 7-0 on aggregate.
Clearly, Barcelona’s techniques have been occasionally dreadful this season. For the most part, the tactics employed by manager Vilanova have been futile.
Yes, Messi has cemented himself at the very top as a fantastic player. His 91 goals last year and his 60 additional goals this year are obvious signs of his greatness. Nevertheless, no player can singlehandedly lead his team to success on a long term.
La Messidependencia, as it is referred to in Spanish newspapers, perhaps proved to be effective in the past, when it was less accentuated. Nevertheless, the club certainly had to pay the price this season after intensifying their dependence.
Hence, their ensuing setbacks have been the ringing alarms for immediate changes.
Sacking Vilanova? Spending big on the transfer market? Promoting youth side players? The true fact is that no approach will help the club on the long term if the main destructive plan of “playing for Lionel Messi” does not get dissolved.
Probably, this is something that the Barcelona board has considered. Nevertheless, taking into account the low production of other frontmen in the team, losing the focus on Messi could have horrible consequences.
At least another player should be able to connect with the wings, as well as the midfield, and turn the play around. That is when Barca transfer target Neymar comes into play.
The athletic Brazilian striker has stamped his authority on the pitch with Santos, using his vast talent to crush defences and set up his team-mates in creative manners. From open play to set-pieces, Neymar has exhibited his skills in a way that is not only entertaining, but also intimidating.
His brave attitude and mental strength complement his consistent performances, making him a dangerous all-round player in the long run.
Bearing this in mind, his entry in Barcelona would be the perfect turning point to control the balance of duties within the team, whilst the managing staff could also look into the nerve-wracking defence problem.
Could we be in for an unparalleled partnership upfront like we saw several years back, when Brazilian icon Ronaldinho was playing alongside Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto’o?
No one can tell, but at least, we know for sure that Neymar’s association with Messi at Barca will unlock the gates for a flow of improvements within the Catalan team next season.
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