This is a very difficult article to write, but here we go...
FC Barcelona's chances of winning La Liga are all but done as they fell to Real Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday afternoon.
The team looked pathetic. Plain old pathetic. It felt like they were simply uninterested in this game, minus Lionel Messi.
It's been a long time since I've been this sad about my team. After the Valladolid game, I was sad, disappointed, upset, confused, and angry all at the same time. La Liga is now looking more and more "Blanco". And you know what, Real Madrid would deserve it. This season, they have shown how to put teams away-something Barça can't do-and have been consistent, something Barça has not been all season long. I'm not saying Real Madrid has already won the Liga title; all I'm saying is that if they do win it, they'd deserved it.
If Barcelona somehow comes back to win the Liga title, I'm sorry, but if that happens, I will say it was more Real Madrid or Altetico Madrid that lost La Liga than Barcelona winning it.
When Gerardo "Tata" Martino was hired last summer, there were some football experts that said they were concerned if the job was "too big" for Tata. Now, it's safe to say it was/is. Don't get me wrong, I think Tata is a great guy, and is a solid manager. But this job is just not for Tata. He brought the pressing game early in the season, but that soon faded away. Now, the team is lacking creativity and motivation. Tata was put in a difficult situation-to try an replace Tito-but still, Tata's tactics and motivation don't work with these group of players.
It's now safe to say that FC Barcelona should part ways with Tata Martino at the end of the season. The club will go through a major overhaul, and a new manager with new ideas will be needed. No, it's not all Tata's fault, but he does share a part in this season's bad run. The FCB players haven't lost their talent. Part of the blame rightfully goes to the manager. Tata still has much to prove, and he will always be motivated to give his all. It's very admirable, and I'll always support Tata. But unfortunately for him, Tata is the man caught in the middle of the changing of FC Barcelona as we know it.
Now more than ever, we can see that some Barça players have got to go this summer. Not that they are all bad, it's just that the chemistry of this team needs to be changed. We all know that Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol are heading out. As far as who are those players that could be joining VV and Puyi out the door, let me give you the list of players I would consider selling if I was in charge of FCB:
Pedro: As much as I love Pedro, he's been too inconsistent for nearly three years now.
Alex Song: Sandro Rosell made a mistake by signing Song and not a CB in 2012. Alex should go to a team that will give him more playing time. Plus, it will open up money for FCB.
Dani Alves: I like Dani, but it's time the FCB back-line commits to being more like a regular defense. With Jordi Alba on the left, FCB should look to promote Martin Montoya, who doesn't run forward as much as Dani, as the regular RB. Plus, Dani is entering the latter part of his prime and FCB could still get a nice amount of money for him.
Gerard Piqué: If you are a regular reader of my articles, you know I am not a big Piqué fan. He's gotten sloppy, uninterested, and inconsistent. I very much doubt Pique will be sold, in fact, his contract might be renewed soon. But for me, I don't think Piqué deserves to stay. Mr. Shakira's game is not what it used to be, and I don't' know if he'll ever be back to top level again.
Cristian Tello: The kid had his contract renewed this past year, but his inconsistency is unbearable, and with Gerard Deulofeu coming back next season, there may not be room for Tello. Plus, Deulofeu has impressed at Everton; Tello at FCB hasn't.
Jonathan Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto: Sorry to Johnny Two Saints and Sergi, but with Rafinha's great season on loan at Celta Vigo, there is truly not going to be any playing time for either player. I can see FCB sending Sergi on loan, but Dos Santos' time at FCB has got to come to an end for his own sake. Like his brother Giovanni, Jonathan needs to leave FCB because he's never going to get the opportunity to prove himself, and needs to move on with his young career.
On the Bubble: Javier Mascherano: I like El Jefecito, but with offers from Napoli and other clubs coming, Mascherano could be gone this summer. I hope not, personally. I think he shows lots of heart, and if Song is sold, Masche could go back to being a CDM whenever Sergio Busquets isn't playing. Barcelona could use Mascherano as utility player as a CB and CDM when needed. I'd keep Javier Mascherano, but I wouldn't be shocked if he was sold to bring in money for new signings.
Who Should FCB Sign?: That's another article for another time.
Is el "Fin De Ciclo" here?
Yes. The "Fin De Ciclo" is here. As much as I always tried to tell myself it's not for a while now, it's true. I'm not saying they are not good anymore; I'm saying is that they are not great/the best anymore.
This five-season era of winning multiple titles and dominating the football world is over. And it's not just because of the loss against Real Valladolid. It's because the writing has been on the wall all season long as well as last season. The Valladolid loss just reaffirms the end is near.
Pep Guardiola left in 2012, but with Tito Vilanova staying to replace him, everything felt like it was going to run, for the most part, smoothly in a good transition. But how quickly things can change. Illness took Tito away for most of the 2012-13 season. Despite missing their manager, FC Barcelona was able to tie the record for most points in a Liga season (100) and easily won the title. But the destruction at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League semis raised many questions about El Blaugrana. A change was needed then, but never happened.
Last summer, Sadro Rosell signed Neymar, but once again did not sign a centre back. Tito Vilanova was expected to be back to manage. Unfortunately, his illness forced him to step down, and Tata Martino was quickly signed on try to continue the "golden era." This obviously has not happened. It was always unrealistic to think Tata would continue the legacy of the years prior to him. But Barça's golden era fading wasn't all Tata's fault.
Sandro Rosell, Andoni Zubizarreta, Josep Maria Bartomeu, and the rest of the FCB board are at fault as well. Their complete incompetence have made this team what it currently is. Let's not forget that some of these players are too comfortable at FCB, and their time is up. Time to get new blood in the FCB board of directors as well as in the locker room. As I said, I like Tata, but I feel he's not cut out for the job. It's too big for him, and there's nothing wrong with that. Tata is a solid manager, and he'll be fine. This may sound like the wrong thing to say, but Tito Vilanova and even Pep have part of the blame as well. Pep didn't do enough to try and sign defenders-and he was the manager! Tito did not give Thiago Alcantara enough playing time, thus his anger to leave was there-which eventually happened and was/is a disaster.
The 2013-14 season is the swan song of this FC Barcelona era. Yes, La Liga is not completely lost, and there is also the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League. But La Liga will be tough, and let's face facts: I don't see how this Barcelona team can win this season's CL title. Anything is possible in the one-game Copa Final, but the FCB defense is a mess and the offense is lacking ideas and motivation to reach the CL Final and win it. With teams like Bayern, Madrid, and even PSG out there who are playing well, Barcelona would struggle. Sorry, but I'd be lying if I was like some of these other so-called "Barça columnists" that are not in touch with football reality and praise FCB all the time. I call it as I see it, regardless if it's good or bad for my beloved Barça.
I don't believe the "Tiki taka" will end after this season. It's now part of the club's DNA. The core of this team-minus Xavi-has many years of football left, so the tiki taka isn't going away, but it may and should be modified for the future.
So What's Next?
For now, the focus goes to the Champions League and Manchester City. With a 2-0 away goal lead, I expect FC Barcelona to play well at the Camp Nou and move on to the quarterfinals. As far as La Liga, FCB will host Osasuna next weekend.
It's honestly reached the point where we have to say this team has to take things "one game at a time."
Xoel's Final Word
The end of an era is upon us. While it is sad to see it leave, it will always be in our hearts and in our memories.
But remember that we, the True Culés, have been a part of seeing the end of FCB eras. Over the last 20 years, we've seen Johan Cruyff leaving as manager as well as Romario's exit, the end of the Rivaldo/Patrick Kluivert/Luis Enrique era of the late 1990s-early 2000s, the end of Frank Rijkaard/Ronaldinho/Deco era (2003-08) in the 2007-08 season. It seems that these eras last five or six season. Barcelona falls, but they always get back up strong.
While many "Bandwagon Barça fans" will or have already left to jump on the Bayern Bandwagon, we True Culés have seen this story unfold before, knowing this moment would come, and we will stand by our club.
We may not like who is in charge or who the board members are. We may not even like some of the players on the squad. But despite disagreements, True Culés' love of this club has not and will not falter. Now more than ever is when we have to love our club more than ever. Stand strong together in the good times & the bad. We may not like who are a part of the club, but we love the club and all it represents, period.
I love FC Barcelona, and although I am sad that this era of FC Barcelona is coming to an end, I'm thankful for all that it gave Culés and the football world, and I look forward to the exciting new things the new era will bring us this summer.
Yes, it's sad that el Fin De Ciclo is upon us. But our belief that a new, exciting era with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Andres Iniesta, Marc Bartra and so on, as well as new players excited to be a part of a new era should keep us smiling, believing, and confidently knowing that Futbol Club Barcelona will rise once again.
O le le,
O la la,
Ser del Barça es,
el millor que hi ha!
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona