Note: It’s “What If?” week at SB Nation, so we’re taking a look at a couple of hypothetical scenarios involving Barcelona...
It’s been one year since Anfield. A year since Barça quite literally folded, for the second year running, after building a comfortable lead at home. If Rome was the final nail in the Barça coffin, in terms of a European dynasty, then Anfield was the lowering of the casket itself. It was unexplainable. If Rome was the knife wound then Anfield was the twist of the blade.
What if the Anfield debacle never happened? What if Barça came away from Liverpool with a result? What if Georginio Wijnaldum and Divock Origi didn’t score braces? What if Lionel Messi scored? If any of those things had happened, Barça could be looking at a very different past and a vastly different future.
For starters, Barça would be looking at a sixth Champions League, and possibly, another treble. Had Barça not lost to Liverpool and lost all their seasonal momentum, another Copa del Rey was definitely feasible. The loss to Valencia was not shocking to anyone at the point; the team was mentally fried.
That third treble would have, possibly, established Ernesto Valverde as a Barça legend. After all, he would completed the treble with one of the weakest Barçelona teams in recent history. As a result, the chances of his sacking would have been next to none. What that would’ve meant in terms of squad planning this season is up for debate, though.
That third treble would have set Messi up for one of the most breathtaking individual seasons ever. Yes, Leo was phenomenal last season, but an oft repeated claim is that he didn’t win enough to warrant a Ballon d’Or. Safe to say, that would’ve been put to rest. The season would cement the idea that a single player can really dictate the fortunes of team.
To use the words treble and drawbacks in the same sentence seems strange. However, would there have been a drawback to Barça winning a treble? In the short term, definitely not. In the long run, perhaps. It would have allowed the board to get comfortable with the idea that the status quo is right, and that it does not need any changing.
The scary part is that, treble or not, the board hasn’t realised that. Despite the team’s obvious shortcomings in various areas, the board only seems interested in marquee attackers. It is unlikely that the result at Anfield made any difference. The club’s biggest enemy at the moment is its very self. Barcelona the commercial institution has engulfed Barcelona the sporting one.
Unless there is a complete overhaul at the top, results such as the 4-0 are unlikely to have an effect on the dealings of the club. Perhaps, that makes it worse. Therefore, treble or not, we would have probably been heading down the same direction: rash decisions, impulse purchases and subsequent damage control.
A result that is of so much consequence to Barçelona reputation as an elite club and culés themselves is of little consequence to the club’s future. It’s strangely poetic.