The mood among Barcelona supporters could not be more dreary, with the club losing out to Real Madrid in the hunt for La Liga and, on top of that, having to sit and watch their fiercest rivals win back to back UEFA Champions League titles.
However, looking forward, in spite of the eternal enemies' success over the past season, there are still a number of reasons why Barcelona fans should be very optimistic, and why next season could indeed be another classic for the Catalan club.
I suppose we should start with the fact that there's a new manager in town, and this particular manager has been backed and highly praised by both Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola, the two greatest coaches FC Barcelona has ever had. Ernesto Valverde is highly praised and talked of by anyone who is asked about him, there isn't a person who has anything bad to say about him, and he appears to be a very well liked and wonderful person to work with. Valverde is also a coach with a proven track record with regards to successfully bringing through youth and academy players and his ideals and playing style is exactly what Barcelona like; a focus on passing and possession play, the focus of the team being on the midfield and the collective, rather than bypassing that area of the pitch to make it all about the front three, but he will also mix things up when required and be more direct when the situation calls for it. He's a believer in the Cruyffian philosophy, but he doesn't live and die by it, he knows sometimes you must deviate from it according to how the match is playing out. This certainly means that Barcelona will be far from predictable and one dimensional next season. The football under Valverde, regardless of how much trophies he wins, certainly isn't going to be dull, it will be very beautiful. Seeing Ernesto Valverde implement his blueprint on the side and translate his ideas onto the pitch, and seeing how he does and if he lives up to the praise afforded to him by Cruyff and Guardiola, should be reason enough for any Cule to be excited for the kickoff of the next season.
A second reason for optimism will be seeing how the bench players do. Barcelona is perhaps the most difficult club in the world for an outside player to go to and fit in, and the likes of Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer and Denis Suarez have learnt that the hard way this season. All three have underperformed and been criticized, very, very harshly, especially in the case of Gomes. However, coming towards the end of the season, all three showed signs of improvement and began playing better, so now that they've had a year to bed in, and now that they will have a full, proper preseason at the club, you feel that next season they'll be much better, and it surely must excite Barcelona fans to see how they do now. One of the key, deciding factors in losing out on the Liga was Madrid having a much stronger bench than Barca, and thus they were able to rotate and still play well and pick up wins, a luxury Barca were not afforded. So Barca's bench pieces improving and allowing them that luxury this season would be a massive, massive boost and could be one that helps bring the Liga title back to the Catalan capital next May.
The third reason for optimism is the transfers. Ideally Barcelona only really need two world class signings to improve the Starting XI this summer. That would be a midfielder and, of course, a Right Back to plug that massive hole that plagued them all of last season. Marco Verratti is a player that has always seemed destined to one day play for Barcelona. His play style is perfect for them and he has been personally earmarked as Xavi's successor by the man himself, and he is indeed the closest thing you could get to Xavi right now. He's among the very best midfielders in the world, and would instantly bring back up the standards of Barca's midfield and will be the first massive step to restoring the club's midfield to one of the best in the world again. Negotiating with Paris Saint Germain will prove to be very difficult, and indeed, on many other occasions has proven to be impossible, but if this time, if it's third time lucky for Barcelona and they finally get PSG to buckle and the Italian maestro switches to the Camp Nou, it will be earth shattering and you suspect Barcelona fans will be jumping around and celebrating in pure ecstasy as if they have just won a trophy, if they land this man. Secondly, the lack of an actual RB has been Barca's Achilles heel this season, and it would certainly be something more to celebrate and to rejoice when La Blaugrana plug that gaping hole, with either Hector Bellerin or Nelson Semedo, both of whom will be brilliant choices.
Finally, the motivation and the burning desire that the Barcelona players will feel is the fourth reason to be very optimistic. After watching their eternal rivals enjoy the success they did is sure to have left a very bad taste in the mouth, and the players will be very eager, perhaps more eager than ever, to return to the top and shut them up again come next May. You suspect that Lionel Messi, especially, will be even more fired up than usual after having to sit down and watch Cristiano Ronaldo enjoy the major success he has, with the Portuguese most likely going to claim his fifth Ballon D'Or title, equaling Messi in the process. This will be a huge factor for Barcelona, as a motivated, pumped up Messi out for blood is, to put it simply, unstoppable. A motivated, hungry, fired up Barcelona, is unstoppable.
Barcelona fans have many reasons to be very optimistic ahead of next season, and they can truly believe that they will enjoy success under Ernesto Valverde and return to being at the summit once again come next May. They won't be back, because they haven't gone anywhere, they'll simply be reminding everyone who forgot who the best really is.