There is no crisis in Barcelona. Not yet anyway. However, it seems that a lot of people are not happy with their performances. And they are very right to feel that way. Barcelona has won the last two La Liga titles but there is still a sense that the team could still do better especially looking at their poor performances in the Champions League against Roma in the second leg 2017/2018 and Liverpool 2018/2019.
This season, it seems to have become worse. In the early stages of this season, Lionel Messi was injured and the results were mixed. Lionel Messis’s return to fitness seemed to steady the ship. The trend has recently continued; even when Barcelona win, they do not do it convincingly. The reality for Barcelona right now is this: When Lionel Messi does not play well, Barcelona does not play well. The plan is basically to give the little magician the ball and hope for the best. That is Plan A. And Plan B. And Plan C. That is the only plan. This has been Ernesto Valverde’s major failing. But is it all his fault?
After Neymar signed for Paris St Germain in 2017 for a world-record fee, it was a bit of a shock to the football world as it looked like all was well in Barcelona, the Messi- Neymar- Suarez triumvirate was the best in the world and Neymar looked like the heir apparent to Lionel Messi. Since then, Barcelona signed Ousmane Dembele for a huge sum of money, a player that only had one full season under his belt- he has gone on to miss one-third of Barcelona games since he signed due to injury, poor professionalism and bad form. Shortly after, they signed Phillipe Coutinho, a player who is now on loan in Bayern Munich. This season, Antoine Griezmann was signed, a player whose best position is Lionel Messis’s. This now means that Barcelona had spent north of 300m to find Neymar’s replacement, who would then be the heir to Lionel Messi. It has been an embarrassing search so far. Unfortunately, the search would have to continue – it has also been reported that Barcelona tried to sign Neymar again in the summer.
It is not like other teams do not have their own talisman, however, this overdependence on Messi is bordering on obsession.
Lionel Messi is getting to the twilight of his career, whether he- and Barcelona- admits it or not. Is there another way that Barcelona can play and get the best out of the players and ultimately take on some more responsibility and gradually shed Messi of his? Only time would tell. The game against an out of sorts Atletico Madrid would be the best time to implement this plan.