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Why 2021 will be a critical year for Barcelona

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By next year, we will know what the future holds .

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

After one of the worst seasons in recent history, FC Barcelona has done very little to provide their fans with any semblance of hope.

They had to watch their team concede the title to archrivals Real Madrid, and worst of all, they are seeing the last years of Lionel Messi’s career wasted.

With the midseason sacking of Ernesto Valverde, many thought that could turn Barca’s fortunes around, but that has not been the case. Quique Setien has come in, and not only has he not exhibited the type of football he promised to bring back, but he also cost the team the league.

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Valverde coached with a small-club mentality, trying to preserve 1-0 leads instead of going for the second, which is against everything Barcelona stand for. But now Setien came in trying to do the opposite, and he was even worse.

Off the pitch, Barca have been a whole new level of embarrassing, and that is down to the board, led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu. He has driven the club into the ground with some of the financial and managerial decisions he has made.

The club spent over €400m on Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann, none of which have repaid their price tags in any way, and now they are in massive debt. Bartomeu has shifted the transfer policy at Barcelona as well.

During the Blaugranas’ best times, the saying was that while Madrid went out and bought stars, Barca made them. Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol, and many more all came from La Masia, the famed Barcelona academy.

Now, though, Bartomeu has decided he prefers short-term fixes in the transfer market rather than trusting the youth and building for the long-term. He has shown this by shelling out for veteran midfielders such as Paulinho and Arturo Vidal, while letting homegrown products slip away.

The president is trying to change the culture at the club, and to a degree has succeeded. But why would anyone in their right mind want to change the culture that made some of the best players of all time, and brought the team’s most successful period ever?

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

The answer is that it shouldn’t happen, and any way to revert Barcelona to the way it once was starts at the top. Thankfully, there will be presidential elections in 2021, with Bartomeu out of the running.

There are several important candidates in the mix, none more so than Joan Laporta, the man who led Barca from 2003-2010, the club’s best period. Laporta actually has the Barca DNA, and players like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol owe a large part of their careers to him.

Another promising candidate is Victor Font, who has been endorsed by former Blaugrana star Xavi. Font promises to return to the system that made them so successful, and the first step is bringing Xavi back to the Camp Nou, this time as manager.

Of course, Bartomeu’s vice president is also in the running, but he would just be another Bartomeu, and fans and players alike want a change at the club, especially Messi, whose influence matters the most.

If either Font or Laporta win the election, the future will once again look bright for Barca, because they have the same ideology that Cruyff used to create one of the most successful teams in history.

The most important task ahead of them will be to manage Messi’s departure, which looks like it will happen in a few years. He has even threatened to leave next summer if his old pal Xavi isn’t chosen as manager.

Their next job will be to rebuild La Masia, and begin to use it more in the first team. This season, we have seen Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati come into the side and make a name for themselves, both generational talents, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Barcelona V Levante Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

There are so many other youngsters in the academy just waiting for their chance, and there are also many that have slipped away, such as Eric Garcia, who is now starting for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and Thiago Alcantara, a star at Bayern Munich.

These are just a few examples, but there are so many others. There’s no use dwelling on the past, though, so the only thing the new president can do is begin to trust La Masia again, which Xavi would certainly do.

Players such as Alex Collado, Carles Alena, and Ronald Araujo all deserve a run in the first team, and further down the pipeline there are many more. The problem is Bartomeu doesn’t trust them, and he hasn’t given his managers free reign over transfers and team selection.

This is why Xavi has rejected the manager job at Barca, because he refuses to be another puppet controlled by Bartomeu. If Laporta or Font are chosen to lead the club next year, he will almost certainly come back, as well as others like Puyol, Iniesta, and Victor Valdes.

That’s why 2021 will be so important for Barcelona. If a new president is chosen that wants to bring the team back to its glory days, then Xavi will be back, he will reinstill the trademark Barca style into the team, La Masia will be incorporated much more, and most importantly, Messi will be happy.

However, if the next president is a supporter of Bartomeu, nothing will change. The transfer policy will stay the same, as will the managerial decisions, Xavi won’t go anywhere near the club, and there’s a good chance Messi leaves next summer.

With many sides now opting to bring back younger legends as managers, such as Madrid, Chelsea, and Manchester United, Barca should follow suit. Xavi is the one who can lead his lifelong team back to where they used to be, when they conquered the world.

If 2021 goes Barca’s way, they have a very exciting future ahead. If not, the club could be in ashes.