After the Getafe result on Saturday, Tata Martino was quoted saying:
"There are times when you ask for a second chance and other times when you don't think you deserve it, so I will see what I think."
This almost seems like a resignation of defeat and that he knows he will be heading out of the door this summer. Speculation has been going on for months now about whether Martino will be in charge come next season. Rumours circulated that he wasn't happy with how he had been treated by the Catalan media and their criticism of his adaption to Barça's style. These rumours have only grown in the last few weeks as Barcelona crashed out of almost all major competitions. Regardless if Barcelona do manage to pull off a comeback and win the league title, it will be likely this season will not be seen as a success.
At times Martino seems to have gotten his tactics completely wrong and tried to implement a game plan that didn't fit the players he had. For example, his decision to go with a counterattacking style when that only really fits a handful of players, such as Neymar and Alexis, who are blessed with pace but alienates the likes of Xavi and Iniesta.
On a positive note he has seemingly got the best out of players during certain periods of the season. Cesc Fàbregas started the season in great form and has since tailed off. While Andrés Iniesta has done the reverse and hit form at the right time for Barcelona. He also showed a willingness to trust youth players and gave Sergi Roberto a lot of substitute appearances as well as handing Adama Traoré his first team debut.
Regardless it seems he won't continue next season and will likely return to Argentina. If this is the case, the board need to act quickly so that the new man has plenty of time to get the players he wants and to organise the team's pre-season. Some potential names floated are Frank de Boer of Ajax, Ernesto Valverde of Bilbao and Roberto Martinez of Everton but the frontrunner seems to be Luis Enrique of Celta.
Enrique played over 200 matches for the Barcelona first team at the turn of the century and succeeded his ex-teammate Pep Guardiola as coach of the B team back in 2008. The Spaniard left the position to coach Roma for a year and has since moved to Celta Vigo. He was one of two names scouted last year when Tito Vilanova announced he was stepping down but he reportedly hesitated in making his decision and the job was given to Martino.
Being an important member of a team that included Pep Guardiola, Ronaldo, Luís Figo, Hristo Stoichkov and Laurent Blanc among others, Enrique soon won the fans' hearts despite moving to the Catalans from rivals Real Madrid. He later became club captain which supports his claim that he has the making of a Barcelona manager.
Whether Martino stays or a new man comes in, the situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible so that all focus can be set towards the upcoming season.
As things stand, the next presidential elections will be in 2016. Many members have been lobbying for them to be brought forward as a result of Sandro Rosell's resignation and Josep Maria Bartomeu's appointment as his successor. Potential presidential candidate, Augusto Benedito has been a strong voice in the appeal to bring the elections forward and ex-president Joan Laporta, who is planning to stand for re-election, is likely to share this desire.
This presidential tug-of-war going on inside the club is actually very damaging. Instead of giving their all for the club, the current board are fending off wave after wave of attacks. They need to establish themselves as being strong enough to lead Barcelona, whether that be by moving the election forward and winning or by being confident enough to ignore the crescendoing calls for an upheaval.
While his policy for spending extraordinary amounts on players from every corner of the world doesn't match Barça's philosophy of nurturing youth, Florentino Pérez's reign at Real Madrid can be seen as an example of a man who is committed to his club and supported by the majority of it's fans.
Bartomeu faces a tough summer in which he will either have the stress of standing for election or having to fend off more and more protests.
Bartomeu Moving out of Rosell's Shadow
If come the start of next season Bartomeu is still president then he needs to establish himself as a Barcelona president. Bartomeu first became a part of the board during Joan Laporta's reign. After both he and Rosell resigned due to differences with Laporta, he became Rosell's right-hand man in their election campaign in 2010. The duo won the elections and Bartomeu was promoted to Vice-President of the club.
Bartomeu was often seen as unwavering supporter of Rosell and this has continued into Bartomeu's presidency with some claiming the reality is nothing has changed after Rosell's resignation. A puppet of Rosell is just one of the insults hurtled towards Bartomeu and as of yet, the president has done little to prove them wrong and win back some of the fans turned away by Rosell's reign.
Rosell's reign was largely defined by three things: transfers, trophies and controversy. Bartomeu has a chance to define his presidency with good signings that lead to trophies whilst remaining above board from here on out. There's no denying things haven't gone his way since he made the step up to president. The on-going Neymar dispute, rumours of a disruption in Messi's contract renewal, the team crashing out of three competitions and the tragic death of Tito Vilanova are just a few sucker punches he's had to deal with.
Which is why this summer may be the most important summer of his career. He has the chance to rebuild bridges with some of the less-then-happy fans by making signings fans and journalists have been calling out for for years now.
It's no secret that there is going to be a lot of coming and goings this summer in the North-East of Spain and that was before FIFA imposed a transfer ban. The ban has been suspended which means Barcelona will effectively be completing two years worth of transfers in this window so let's look at the areas they should be targeting.
As it stands both Victor Valdés and Jose Manuel Pinto will be leaving the club in the summer after a combined 18 years with the first team. This means Barcelona will be needing two new goalkeepers to come in, one who is a great keeper who can only get better for years to come and another who is of good quality but happy to be back up. Marc-André ter Stegen is rumoured to have agreed to join the Catalans in the summer and the annual Pepe Reina rumours have cropped up again. Regardless two goalkeepers are a must for Barcelona this summer.
Then you have the defence, a position that has had holes for years. Club captain Carles Puyol is leaving at the end of the season which means Barcelona will only have two first team players who were trained to be centre-backs, Gerard Piqué and Marc Bartra. The conversion of Javier Mascherano to a centre-back, while effective under Pep Guardiola, has soured of late as he makes errors that a true defender simply wouldn't. Bartra looks to be the future but it wouldn't hurt if he was sharing play time with a finished article such as a Thiago Silva.
You could fill articles after articles with defenders who have been linked to Barça recently. Liverpool duo Martin Škrtel and Daniel Agger, Chelsea defender David Luiz, PSG's Thiago Silva, Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen, Real's Sergio Ramos and Dortmund's Mats Hummels are just a few of the names linked with the club. Whoever it be, Barcelona need a top quality defender, maybe even two, to add to the team.
Then you have the midfield. Neither Alex Song nor Javier Mascherano are good enough to cover for Sergio Busquets so Barça need a defensive midfielder cover too. İlkay Gündoğan of Dortmund and Javi Martinez of Bayern have been linked but both are likely to come with a hefty price tag and the former has become an injury concern this season.
The attacking midfield department may be one of area of the team where Barcelona are strong. Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández remain two of the best midfielders in the world and I'm personally a big fan of Cesc Fàbregas. Sergi Roberto is also looking promising and is making good progression to becoming a first team starter in the future. But some people would disagree and say neither Roberto nor Fàbregas are good enough and would like to see the latter sold. This has led to the inevitable linking of midfielders to Barça. It's really a case of pick any midfielder playing for one of the top clubs and he will have been linked to the Catalans at some point.
Up top, there is likely to be a lot of changes. Almost every one of the front players at the club has been linked with a move away, including Messi. The reality is we will likely see up to four leave the club this summer. Isaac Cuenca and Ibrahim Afellay are almost certain to leave and Cristian Tello may join them having seen his playing time cut. Alexis Sánchez and Pedro have also been rumoured to be leaving the club in the not too distant future. Personally I don't see ether of them leaving this summer but if I had to pick one I think would leave it would be Alexis.
Similar to nearly every other position, there have been a number of attackers linked to Barcelona. Marco Reus, reportedly a Barça fan, keeps cropping up so it may be the Barça board decide to build on the Neymar acquisition of last year with another big name signing.
As well as a lot of new faces coming in, it is likely we will see some of the old faces heading in the opposite direction. Carles Puyol, Victor Valdés and José Manuel Pinto are certain to leave and there is a potential list of ten or so players that could join them. Players such as Isaac Cuenca, Cristian Tello, Pedro, Alexis, Cesc Fàbregas, Alex Song, Dani Alves, Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay have all been linked with a move away from the Catalan club.
This summer represents an opportunity for Bartomeu and the board to get the club back on track. This can be achieved by making great signings while offloading some of the players who aren't good enough for Barcelona anymore. The board need to work well with the manager, whether it be Martino or someone different, to ensure the squad is ready to compete for all three titles again.
- A Plan of Action for FC Barcelona's Summer.
- Thank You, Football Gods: There is Hope
- Report: Manchester United set to make a £45 million offer for Cesc Fàbregas
- Barcelona Interested in Chelsea's David Luiz, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard?
- FC Barcelona News: 4 May 2014; Camp Nou Says Goodbye to Tito Vilanova With Draw Against Getafe