Nowadays, it seems anything shorter than a treble is a major disappointment at Can Barça. Fans and media expect the coveted silverware like it’s manna from heaven, a granted gift which speaks volumes of the insanely high standards this team of footballers has set in the last decade.
One token of this it’s the dominance they have established in Spain, by winning eight of the last eleven La Liga titles, a feat only comparable to Real Madrid’s supremacy between 1954 and 1969, when Los Blancos clinched 12 of the 16 domestic titles in dispute. Fifty years -that’s half a century- have needed to pass for a club to wield such a tight grip on the Spanish league trophy.
Therefore, when traumatic events befall like the one at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome or the Anfield debacle, fingers are pointed, the let down sensation spreads out and the manna melts in the hands under the desert’s burning sun.
Can Barcelona extend even further their rule in the domestic competition? Will their European demons haunt them one more time? Or is it time for sweet redemption? How will the club cope with the ageing of its amazing core? A little perspective might provide some answers.
Transfer Business Overview
It has been a busy summer at the Camp Nou’s offices with interesting moves and additions to the first-team roster. Former Valencia CF starting goalkeeper Norberto Murara a.k.a Neto swapped places with Dutchman Jasper Cillessen, who had been filling the backup goalie role with efficiency but desired more playing time. Barça paid €26M for the Brazilian keeper and Valencia completed the exchange by paying €35M.
Spanish youngster Junior Firpo arrived from Real Betis with the intention to provide Jordi Alba some competition for the left-back spot. The Blaugranas paid €18M to the Andalusian squad for the defender.
Wonderkid, Frenkie de Jong came from AFC Ajax for €75M. The 22-year-old is expected to be one of the best midfielders for the next decade and will try to make an impact right away donning the Barça jersey.
One of the summer transfer window’s soap operas came to an end when Barcelona confirmed the signing of Frenchman Antoine Griezmann from Atlético Madrid for €120M. The world champion will partner up with Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Co. in what it seems a lethal attacking front, ready to shatter the oppositions defence.
In the exits department Barcelona have had a decent transfer window, with the sales of Brazilian Malcom to FC Zenit Saint Petersburg for €40M, Portuguese midfielder André Gomes to Everton FC for €25M, Spanish striker Paco Alcácer to Borussia Dortmund for €21M and Galician midfielder Denis Suárez to his home club RC Celta de Vigo for €12.9M.
The transfer market closes in Spain on September 2nd with intriguing questions yet to be answered for the current league champions, as the highly publicized possible move for the Brazilian Neymar Jr. and how the club will deal with the ever-increasing players salaries without offloading one of their own, most likely former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho or youngster phenom Ousmane Dembélé.
Ernesto Valverde will begin his third stint as Barcelona manager with two league titles under his belt but nevertheless questioned for the aforementioned Champions League fiascos and the conservative approach he employs.
Somewhat distanced from the positional playing style wired in the club’s philosophy, it will be interesting to watch how Valverde will use the massive amount of talent at his disposal this season, particularly from the newcomers de Jong and Griezmann and how they will combine with the team’s veteran core of Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Messi, and Suárez.
The league title will always be the priority for a juggernaut club like Barça, but there are no doubts the main focus this campaign will be the longed-for European crown. Will this fixation derail Valverde’s men efforts in the domestic competition? It’s doubtful since the Blaugranas have proven to be a testament for amazing consistency: every time they have won the European title they have also clinched the Spanish league. Nonetheless, how Valverde will tweak this team to face its most recent traumas and fears, it’s an uncertainty yet to be answered.
Player to watch
Lionel Messi will be once again Barcelona’s beacon this season, the alpha and omega of their game. It’s easy and difficult at the same time writing about Barcelona’s best player. Easy because the choice is obvious when you have among your ranks the best player in the world. Difficult because finding new words to describe what Lionel Messi does on the pitch has become a challenging task. The Argentinian star makes his teammates perform better on the pitch, while at the same time dismantling the opposition tactics, and that’s one hell of a compliment you could give a footballer.
One for the future
In a club of historical midfielders, a 20-year-old one is summoned to follow the steps of the greats before him. Riqui Puig possesses all the Barça DNA necessary for a bright future defending the Blaugrana jersey. He will need commitment, patience and the coach’s confidence to break through the first team and cement himself in the midfield alongside side his contemporaries Frenkie de Jong and Arthur Melo for years to come.
There will be a fascinating battle in La Liga, especially against defiant sides such as Valencia, Betis, Sevilla FC or Athletic Bilbao. Barcelona’s main challengers for the title are expected to be Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid though, particularly Los Colchoneros who have reinforced their ranks wisely despite losing key players like Griezmann or Diego Godín. However, counting with a healthy core of players and a Messi at his usual best, the culés should come out on top by the end.
Predicted Finish: 1st.