There will undoubtedly be better days ahead for this Barcelona side, who were, frankly, comprehensively outplayed for long periods at San Mames.
A difficult game was expected against Athletic Club, and that’s exactly what transpired, and even with Lionel Messi in situ, the result may not have been too much different.
Maybe the Argentinian would’ve given Barca more of a cutting edge, but that narrative has to be binned now.
In the post-Messi era, it’s time to focus on the positives.
Gaining a 1-1 draw in the circumstances is certainly something for the plus column, and I’d suggest that I speak for the majority when I say that we would’ve all taken a point before the start of the match.
Traditionally one of the more difficult away trips, there was still enough to take from the match to know that better days are ahead for this young side.
The performance of Memphis Depay certainly deserves plaudits by way of example.
Coming in as the great goalscoring hope straight after the departure of the greatest player to ever play the game is akin to the David Moyes appointment at Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
In many respects he’s damned whatever he does, however, if he continues to work as hard as he did in the Basque Country, and come up with goals like that second-half Exocet, then Barcelona’s supporters can have no complaints.
A little rusty at times, yes, but let’s give the Dutchman the time he needs to grow into the role, get used to the nuance of Barca’s system and the runs and movements of his team-mates.
He’s a threat, make no mistake about it, and if other opposition teams give him as much room as Athletic did, he’ll make them pay more often than not.
The hunger and desire to do well is also clearly evident from a player that knows the whole football world is watching.
Compare and contrast his efforts and attitude to that of Antoine Griezmann on the night too. Chalk and cheese.
There are still shortcomings in Ronald Koeman’s managerial acumen, in terms of tactics and making game-changing substitutions, but I’m prepared to wager that he’ll get the best out of a player that he worked with extensively for the Dutch national side.
How far we go in any competition this season will largely depend on the ability to feed Memphis, because he’s already shown he’s up for the challenge.