What a summer.
What a time to be a football fan after witnessing the great musical chairs of superstars.
Unfortunately, Barcelona didn’t get to participate in the game, and instead were forced to swallow one reality pill after another.
Time to eat our vegetables. It may not be fun, but the plan is to establish healthy habits for the long term.
A return to football, and away from the galactico greed that corrupted a Barcelona team that was supposed to be more than a club.
What lessons have we learned seeing Joan Laporta navigate his first transfer window in his second stint as president, and what does success look like this season?
The wins and losses
Without Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, it would be easy to lower expectations and make excuses for an underachieving campaign.
But this is Barcelona, the footballing mecca of the world, and the pressure will be on to deliver results.
I wouldn’t have it any other way, even if it means setting ourselves up for disappointment.
In the Champions League, no one will expect a deep run, but last year’s winners, Chelsea, set an inconvenient example of showing that in a knockout tournament the team with the best players doesn’t always win.
Ronald Koeman may not be as tactically effective as Thomas Tuchel, but he will be expected to give a strong showing on Europe’s biggest stage.
Managers matter more than ever in these matches. It’s what Unai Emery has built his reputation on, and why Pep Guardiola is desperate to prove he can crack the code in a competition that has confounded him since his departure from Barcelona.
The real objective this season, however, will be winning La Liga.
Atletico Madrid are the reigning champions, and they are deeper and stronger now with the addition of Antoine Griezmann, who is poised to pick up where he left off under Diego Simeone’s tutelage.
Barcelona must embrace the spirit of the underdog, and give an inspired fight for the title regardless.
Real Madrid were unable to poach Kylian Mbappe from PSG. La Liga is not the powerhouse it was, losing many of the best players and managers to the Premier League in particular.
For the true lover of football, however, it will be a proper competition in Spain.
Sevilla, and maybe even a surprise contender like Valencia, will throw their cards into the ring.
It’s any man’s game. Led by Memphis Depay, who can’t stop scoring goals and my early favorite for the Pichichi, Barcelona have a chance, and should be held to a high standard.
A return to the club’s roots
Those are the expectations.
As high as ever because that’s how it will always be at the Camp Nou, but how will the team get there?
A pragmatic approach? Surely the experience of Sergio Busquets, Luuk de Jong or Sergio Aguero will come in handy?
Ronald Koeman may think so, but if he goes this route he’ll be digging his own grave, with no chance to leave any kind of legacy as a manager at the club.
Success is in the journey, not the destination. One game at a time.
If Barcelona goes down, it needs to happen while fighting, and with something to show for it.
Imagine going without a trophy, having relied on older players who could be out the door as soon as the season ends, instead of giving opportunities to the likes of Yusuf Demir, Riqui Puig, Nico Gonzalez, and Alejandro Balde. To name a few.
The time is now to give them confidence, let them make mistakes early on, and see them pay you back twofold with youthful energy, and the desire to make it at the most prestigious club in the world.
This is a recipe to put Barca on a path for long term success, and the team’s best shot at winning silverware this season.
Every player on the roster will play a role, but this should be the beginning of a new chapter, not a step back into the past.
Learning the right lessons and not repeating mistakes
These are the hopes and expectations of a fan.
In the end, the decision-making power lies with Ronald Koeman, and how he copes with the pressure of managing a weakened, yet still talented and proud team, under difficult circumstances.
Joan Laporta has embraced his role as president with the courage to make difficult decisions, not knowing when or if they will bear fruit.
Koeman needs to do the same thing, and make his players truly believe they have the ability to compete for everything. This means putting the team first and evaluating every resource at his disposal with fresh and objective eyes.
With major players still recovering from injury, the next two months will be a big test. In fact, it could be the whole ball game.
Will Barcelona overachieve in La Liga and buy time for the cavalry to arrive?
Will they avenge the badge and stand up to a ruthless Bayern Munich team in the Champions League?
Will they even make it out of the group stage?
Through thick and thin, Barca world needs to be united and pulling in the same direction.
Players, coaches, staff, and fans alike.
We all have a role to play.
Let’s see what this team can do.