Devastation. Dejection. Disappointment. Culés are experiencing a plethora of feelings after tonight’s 2-1 Copa del Rey final defeat against Real Madrid, and unfortunately none of them are positive. Just eight days ago, FC Barcelona were in with a chance of securing the treble. Move forward to the present day and Barcelona are out of two competitions, and all but out of the running for La Liga.
Gerardo Martino. The board. It seems that everyone wants to hold someone accountable.
Maybe that would be useful to an extent. The club evidently is not in as strong a position as it was throughout Pep Guardiola’s time in charge, or even as strong as when he left two seasons ago. Radical change might be just what the doctor ordered – but that’s the funny thing about the so called fin de ciclo, the end of this era, or whatever you want to label this as.
Cycles have no definitive beginning or end. At the end of every era, there is a new beginning; and yes, it appears as though this era, whatever it might be, is coming to an end. But just as this period comes to an end, another will begin. And I’ve seen enough to believe one thing:
If this is the end of an era, it might just be the beginning of a dynasty.
The results may indicate otherwise, but I genuinely feel as though Gerardo Martino has been a good manager at FC Barcelona. He started out with a flourish, leading the club to a record-breaking start in La Liga and for every defeat we’ve suffered through, he has also provided us with an equally memorable victory. The 4-3 Clasico for instance will live on long in the memory, and Martino’s name will be etched into the history books as the man in charge on that fateful night.
Comfortable UEFA Champions League wins over AC Milan and Manchester City (twice), landslide victories against Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano, Celtic and Levante. That’s to name but a few of the best moments from this season. Certainly I can’t remember as many positive results from Frank Rijkaard’s final season in charge.
Irrespective of these positive moments, Martino will leave the club this summer – of this much I am certain, and it will be beneficial for both Tata and Barça. In his place, someone else will arrive – and it’s plausible that they could be worse than Martino. That’s the thing with radical change – it isn’t guaranteed to have the desired effect. But let’s assume that the board make the right call, or that a new board makes the right call.
Whether it’s re-signing Pep Guardiola, hiring a new face like Diego Simeone or entrusting a proven manager to inherit the current style, like Joachim Loew or Jurgen Klopp, Barcelona will have their new manager. And despite the melodramatics, I firmly believe that the majority of our problems can be solved by an authoritative figure.
Reinstate the pressing, add a little discipline and address the balance issues in our formation; three quick changes and we could easily challenge for silverware. We won a UEFA Champions League title with Javier Mascherano at centre-half before – why does it matter now that he isn’t a natural defender? Of course the answer is that it doesn’t, it only matters so long as the system is broken and the supporting cast around him aren’t pulling their weight.
By all means, target a centre-half – we would still like one, but there might not be a pressing need after all. Gerard Piqué is a world-class player when fit; we’ve been unfortunate in the sense that he hasn’t at key moments in the past few seasons. All he needs is a partner, and Javier Mascherano has proven himself to be a capable before, while the rise and rise of Marc Bartra gives me hope for the future. Despite playing with an injury, Bartra was great tonight and scored a sensational equaliser. Just as I never tire of a trademark Lionel Messi dribble, I could watch his headed goal for days on end. Pure perfection.
Would a centre-half pairing of Gerard Piqué and Marc Bartra really fill you with dread as we approach next season? Yeah, I’d prefer to see Piqué and Thiago Silva, or Piqué and Baresi, but this isn’t a bad alternative.
Neymar was arguably our best forward tonight and will only improve with time. Lionel Messi cannot be as subdued as he was and has been in the past few weeks as we head into next season. Again, the system could and probably will solve that problem, both Messi’s quiet performances and Neymar operating from anywhere other than the left.
Rafinha Alcântara will return from loan to add a fresh dimension to the Barcelona midfield, while Gerard Deulofeu could yet return to add another staggeringly talented face to the Barça attack. In an ideal world, Alen Halilovic and Marc-Andre ter Stegen will arrive as well, both super talented and eager to impress at the world’s biggest club.
Jean-Marie Dongou is constantly improving in the B team, alongside Denis Suarez, Joan Angel Roman and the fit-again Alejandro Grimaldo. And the pipeline is stacked with talent – just look at the recent UEFA Youth League victory, and at Munir el Haddadi in particular. The kid scored a legitimate goal in the course of a game from the halfway line, and yet I’m supposed to believe that this club has a bleak future?
FC Barcelona may be at a crossroads, but I have faith that they will take the right path. Do yourself a favour and think about these positives. Embrace optimism and focus on what the future might bring.
I guarantee you, it’s a lot more fun than the alternative.