With an important 2-1 win over league-leading Real Sociedad, Barcelona moved to fifth in La Liga. With 12 matches played, the Catalans have played fewer games than three of the top four, although one more than Atlético Madrid, who are tied for first place with La Real.
This is to say that top four is definitely an achievable goal, but is that enough to qualify for a good season?
A lot of youngsters took part in that win: Pedri, Sergiño Dest, Ronald Araújo, Óscar Mingueza, Francisco Trincão, and Carles Aleñá all played, so it’s a good season for developing players. It’d be even better if Riqui Puig was playing, or if Ansu Fati wasn’t injured.
Of course winning trophies is the most important thing, but if you can’t win trophies, then a transition season trying to replace some iconic veterans, while maintaining status in the UEFA Champions League, is about the best you can hope for.
The trouble is Barcelona forced Lionel Messi to stay. Messi wants to win trophies before he retires, and Barcelona are paying him a monster salary that suggests they want to win now, not rebuild slowly. It’s a contradiction.
Of course, it could be argued that, without Messi, Barcelona would suffer too much and not even qualify for the Champions League. Considering they’re fifth, it’s plausible. But it’s harder to think that top four and developing players would qualify as a successful season for Barcelona with Messi. Certainly, Messi wouldn’t accept that.