As recently as the 2010/11 season, Barcelona had it all.
Enjoying their most successful era under Pep Guardiola, who won an astounding 14 trophies out of a possible 19 during his tenure, Barcelona were the team to beat.
With their slick ‘tiki-taka’ passing game, they dazzled Europe and the rest of the world with a star-studded cast led by Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and arguably the greatest player to have graced the planet, Lionel Messi.
Two years on, after an embarrassing 7-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich and defeats to Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey and La Liga, something needs to change at the Camp Nou.
2012/13 was meant to be the season for Thiago, with Xavi ageing and getting on in his years, unable to complete back to back games in quick succession. He was being hailed as one of the great stars of the future, with a staggering €90 million buy-out clause to boot. In a confounding lapse from Barca, they allowed his clause to drop to a bargain-basement price of €18 million, as they failed to play him for 30 minutes or more in 60% of their games.
To add to the humiliation, he was snapped up by the team that trounced them in the semi-final of the Champions League, led by none-other than Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona manager himself.
Another area of concern is the defence. With captain Carles Puyol deteriorating and Javier Mascherano hampered by niggling injuries, it leaves Gerard Pique as the only reliable centre-back. When injuries occur, Marc Bartra had been overlooked by Vilanova, who opted to push Alex Song back into an unfamiliar role.
Whilst Song has shown promise, he has been a woeful utility-man signing considering they were heavily linked with Javi Martinez before his move to Bayern, a wonderful coup for the Bavarians.
While they have been flirting with big names in the transfer market as of recent, with the likes of Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marquinhos all gaining a mention, no serious bids have been made. With Marquinhos wrapping up a deal with PSG, Thiago Silva & David Luiz having no intention of leaving their respective clubs, Barcelona have to look elsewhere, and quickly.
Tito Vilanova has resigned from the managerial position, where club president Sandro Rossell cited Vilanova’s ongoing battle with cancer, where further treatment would be needed as the reason he would no longer be compatible with the rigours of one of football’s high-pressure posts.
Choosing his successor is no easy task and needs to be done wisely and with the season starting in less than a month, the next manager needs to be one who knows the Barca system methodically, to not do so would be an incredible risk, which Rossell and Andoni Zubizarreta would prefer not to take.
Another rising concern is the revolution occurring at El Clasico rivals Real Madrid.
Having brought in a flurry of exciting young talent, such as Illaramendi, Isco, Casemiro and Carvajal under new coach Carlo Ancelotti, these signings indicate a possible shift in change of philosophy from Mourinho’s counter attacking style to Ancelloti’s dynamic, possession based play.
The identity of the club will become younger, more Spanish and somewhat Barca-esque. If their prudent but aggressive manner in the transfer market is anything to go by, then they have some serious competition not only on the European front, but domestically as well.
They suffered embarrassing defeats to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and La Liga last year and will be hopeful in turning that around in 2013/14.
Season 2013/14 will be the defining year for Barcelona, Sandro Rossell and Andoni Zubizarreta. The last five years they have provided a trend-setting standard and dazzled the globe with their prowess, being football’s hottest topic.
But now the other clubs are catching up, they are no longer the dominant force in Europe, with clubs such as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Borrusia Dortmund all establishing themselves beside Barcelona as Europe’s finest.
This will be a defining 12 months for Barcelona, whether they can hold off teams such as Bayern Munich to re-establish themselves at the top, or fall into a slump as one of football’s greatest tragedies.
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