Perhaps most of us were too quick to judge this summer. The loss of Neymar became synonymous with the squandered opportunity of staying competitive against Europe’s elite clubs.
Yesterday, we learned something about this Barcelona team, something that should excite fans and strike fear into opposing clubs. Yesterday it became clear that in addition to the quality possessed, this Barcelona squad also have the desire and motivation necessary for a triumphant campaign.
A large percentage of the successful start to the season must be given to the players, but praise must also be given to the new manager, Ernesto Valverde.
In terms of desire, it can be summed up in one particular moment during the Juventus game. Around the 85th minute of the game, Juventus left-back Alex Sandro picked up the ball with acres of space in front of him.
As he moved forward though, Barcelona’s maestro, Lionel Messi produced a lung-busting sprint to place pressure on Sandro and discontinued the Juventus move.
The score was 3-0 and the game was won. Messi could have simply stayed in his position and allowed Juventus a possible consolation goal, but the team’s mentality is different from the previous two years and that is down to Valverde.
Implementing tactics and ensuring match fitness of players are critical parts of being a successful manager. Valverde has proven capable of both these tasks so far into the season, but has also added a spark of motivation into the squad that hasn’t been seen since the treble winning season.
Barcelona so far this year has demonstrated that the high press is back, and back with a vengeance. Countless times the Juventus backline was forced to kick the ball away, including goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon.
The front three of Messi, Luis Suarez, and Ousmane Dembele were constantly pressing and supporting their full-backs when dispossessed. The midfield, including ageing wonder Iniesta were in non-stop sprints when Barcelona was without the ball.
It seems as though Valverde has reminded his team that while quality alone can win certain games, the correct attitude and determination allows the team to control every game.
Similar to the team’s first year under Luis Enrique, Barcelona have started the season angry, in the best sense of the word. Winning only a single trophy last year and seeing eternal rivals Real Madrid win the league and the Champions League ensured that the players entered the off-season with a bitter taste of defeat.
Neymar leaving for PSG only added to the bitterness. Instead of sulking though, this team is out to send a message. Avenging the Juventus defeat of last year is now checked off the list.
Moving forward, this team is poised to develop further due to becoming more comfortable with Valverde’s tactics, integrating new players such as Dembele and Semedo, and continuing to play with a collective chip on their shoulder.
The entire squad deserve to be showered with praise for their performance against Juventus, but let us not forget about Valverde.
After a summer that many thought was disastrous, he has cultivated the players to not only show their quality, but their innate desire to be champions of the league and Europe.
If Valverde can continue to get the most out of his players in terms of effort, the quality will follow, and eventually… so will the trophies. Visca el Barca.