Real Madrid tops La Liga at 46 points with FC Barcelona second at 43 and Sevilla third at 38 points. Over the past five games only Real and Athletic Bilbao, with five consecutive draws, have gone undefeated. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi with 14 goals leads the La Liga scorers’ table followed by Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema at 12 goals and Barca’s Luis Suarez at 11.
Over the weekend, Osasuna won 2-0 at home over Levante on Friday, while Espanyol dropped points at home with a 1-1 draw to Athletic. Valencia pulled the surprise of the round with a 2-0 home win over FC Barcelona while Villarreal won away to Alaves by 2-1. Sevilla closed the day’s play with a 2-0 victory over visiting Granada.
On Sunday, Atletico Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Leganes, while Celta Vigo suffered the same luck with Eibar. Hosts Getafe pulled out a 1-0 win over Real Betis, Real Sociedad won 3-0 over visiting Mallorca, and Real Madrid pulled a win out of a hat with a late, single-goal victory away over Real Valladolid.
But the talk of the league has been the media’s take on the reaction at FC Barcelona over the Cules’ alleged loss of form. That the team is in contention for all potential trophies this season, we are told, seems inconsequential to fans, coaches, and club administrators alike, but mostly to the media.
The idea that years removed from the Cryuff-Guardiola-et.al. era Barca is still either playing a similar style today, or needs to return to an old-style, is unfair to the current players and coaches, and to their success since Pep left. Barca has since won three La Liga titles, four Copa del Rey trophies, two Spanish Super Cups, one Champions League, one UEFA Super Cup, and one FIFA Club World Cup. Not a meager haul. So what would motivate changes at the Camp Nou?
There are three critical factors at play in any consideration of FC Barcelona’s present and future. First, the team has the financial wherewithal to have a roster of all-stars at every position on the pitch and a knowledgeable club administration intent on maintaining that financial clout and locker room situation. Given these premises and the legacy of new players they can always draw upon via their assembly line at La Masia, one can expect the club to succeed at a very high and consistent level for years to come—regardless of system. Not that the system is unimportant but that a great system with poor adherents fails more often than great players in any system.
Second, they have Messi—and as the player at the top of that mentioned roster, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu knows his tenure and legacy are tied to keeping the diminutive Argentine in-town until his retirement. For as long as Messi is happy at Barca—and part of his happiness is being surrounded by an extraordinary accompanying cast that both bows to his whims and supports his every move on the pitch—the Cules will be in contention for everything under the sun. It matters to FC Barcelona, and to all of their opponents, that the best player on the planet plays there. For as long as that chess piece is theirs, and his needs are catered to, what system the club employs will be a secondary consideration.
Third, they (fans, administrators, players, coaches, etc.) would rather die than allow a renaissance at any domestic (Real Madrid) or international (PSG?) competitor diminish the Cule’s relative dominance during the Messi era. Whether it entailed buying Neymar from under Florentino Perez’s nose years ago or keeping the Brazilian at bay at PSG until either he ripens into a better option for Barca or Kylian Mbappe can be pried away, the vehemence of Barca’s passion to succeed is only surpassed by their devotion to the unending global football one-upmanship tug of war with any and all real or imagined rivals. Camp Nou and the globe are FC Barcelona’s stages and what local and planetary onlookers think about the club’s performance is measured in bragging rights over any comers.
Ironically, in our age of omnipresent social media and the interconnectivity of the internet, the concept of the nation of Spain—population-47M, size-a bit bigger than California, GDP-$2T, home of Don Quijote and fount of the Spanish Language—has been prominently maintained on the global social-cool map (that map that identifies points of significance for those in the emerging purchasing demographics and thus precipitates the flows of commercial funds in their wake) because of the auras of the football clubs that play in the cities of Barcelona and Madrid.
So, when talk of the decisions made or to be made about the future of FC Barcelona begin to make the media rounds, keep in mind that one-upmanship, financial clout, and keeping Messi, are the only true conditioners. Those clearly delineated priorities will enable and guide any future decisions and maintaining that trio viable will trump any concerns or discussion about systemic, coaching, or administrative changes the club could make for the foreseeable future.
When Messi retires, or Barca becomes less profitable, or a series of Bernabeu or Parc de Princes achievements muddy the reflected light that now shines on the Camp Nou, then, and only then, can one expect real discussions might ensue about systemic changes at FC Barcelona.