Barcelona fans seemingly aren’t allowed to be happy for too long.
Maybe this is just the new reality. Don’t get greedy.
One trophy in a calendar year (do we count the Supercopa?) is still an important accomplishment given the circumstances.
Should we just be grateful for what we have? It has been an incredible domestic campaign after all.
Culers are not entitled. We understand football. Even if we were a bit spoiled during the Messi era, we can accept that the game is cruel, and you can’t always come out on top.
It’s not that Barça was defeated by Real Madrid, it’s about how it happened.
And how familiar it feels. So many cringey performances on the big stage. When things start to go wrong, instead of fighting back, we see the capitulation coming from a mile away.
It’s happened to every coach, from Ernesto Valverde to Xavi Hernández.
If we’re being fair, even Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique weren’t immune. Maybe that Inter Milan shocker at the hands of José Mourinho, followed by the Atlético Madrid surprise in the Champions League courtesy of Diego Simeone, were the warning signs that shouldn’t have been ignored.
There’s something about the Barça character and culture that holds the team back from performing well in cup competitions.
It’s hard when the point of comparison is Real Madrid, who in contrast, are built to succeed in this arena.
It’s true that the Copa del Rey has still been fruitful over the years. No team has won it more over the past decade.
But it must be said Barcelona are losing their ruthlessness there as well.
Ironically, Ronald Koeman has had the best showing, defeating Athletic Bilbao (a team that really punches above its weight in the competition) 4-0 back in 2021.
But starting with the defeat to Valencia under Quique Setién, followed by the lackluster showing against Athletic last year, and now this against Real Madrid, what are we to make of the direction Barcelona are going in?
These moments can’t be brushed under the rug.
For the manager, who has a contract extension on the horizon, it reveals a lot about the true progress that has been made, and whether it’s likely to continue in the seasons ahead.
Yes, this last game came down to player mistakes, so some will so it’s unfair to point fingers at the coach. Especially when you concede that the team came out of the gates playing well and hard.
But the record doesn’t lie. Xavi has been abysmal in the Champions League, Europa League, and Copa del Rey.
The future of Barcelona depends on the manager finding a way to make the team competitive again in the cups. In that area, Xavi is failing, and the question must be asked whether he’s the man who can turn things around.
He is responsible for these games.
He’s the one who decided to play Marcos Alonso as a center-back, a naive experiment that was always going to blow up in his face eventually.
He’s also the one who decided to play Alonso throughout the Champions League, instead of a red-hot Alejandro Balde, which weakened a team further that was already struggling with injuries.
You can’t tell me that Eric García is so bad as a center-back that he should lose his place in the lineup to the third string left-back.
Xavi has decided to neglect Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres opting for Sergi Roberto instead, a player who continues to be in every picture of every historic embarrassment the club experiences. This is not a coincidence.
If Ansu and Ferran are so incapable, let us get a chance to see it on the pitch for our own eyes.
Given the uninspiring performances of Raphinha, there has been plenty of justification to give Ferran more of a chance on the right.
With Pedri and Frenkie De Jong out, Gavi was desperately needed in the center of the midfield, meaning Ansu was clearly the logical choice to play on the left.
Xavi is the only one who can make these decisions.
If they work, he gets the credit, and when they don’t, as has been the case many times, it’s up to him to take the information and be smarter in the future.
Has he done that?
After once again being knocked out of a cup in famous fashion, he has a lot to prove, and can no longer can ask for the benefit of the doubt.
Barcelona need to think long and hard about what it wants its future to look like.
Find players with a backbone who will fight until the end.
Hold the manager accountable too.
We need a team we can be proud of in defeat, because it’s inevitable in football.
Will the club finally learn from the latest setback?