<
>

Barcelona's never-ending roller coaster

4/30/2014


By now, we already know that football is a funny old game. Every strike, every result, every detail both on and off the pitch has the potential to tip the fine balance between failure and success.

In the case of Barcelona, however, the speed at which the situation has changed from one day to the next in the last two years has been much faster than an out-of-control roller coaster.

Long story cut very short: The most successful coach in Blaugrana history left to take a sabbatical year. His successor had to abandon his dream job to undergo cancer surgery, then passed away while trying to recover. The club's best-ever goalscorer was accused of tax evasion and was forced to defend himself with very little support from the board. The president resigned from the job he was elected for as soon as the courts started investigating his signature transfer. FIFA then banned the club from signing any players for 14 months for breaking rules on signing international players under 18.

In contrast to what used to be the norm in previous seasons, the team pretty much buried every chance of lifting significant silverware in less than a week, despite having many world-class players at the manager's disposal. Winning a title would improve the mood slightly, but unless an unexpected miracle happens, that possibility remains a virtually impossible dream.

The current president, a person who Cules have very little faith in, given the fact that he was never elected for the job, is now faced with the daunting task of rebuilding an aging squad that hasn't been adequately improved for far too many years.

At this point, choosing the necessary reinforcements wisely is as important as offloading current players whose best years are behind them or who, quite bluntly, simply don't have the required level of skill to make a difference at a club of Barca's calibre.

Fortunately, FIFA have reconsidered their position after receiving the Catalans' appeal and opted to postpone the transfer ban. While no final resolution for the case has yet been reached, the fact that the club will be allowed to sign new players this summer is a huge relief, given the urgent need for reinforcements.

As expected, the Catalan media are now full of reports about prospective players or options to offload current squad members who are not considered essential in the club's future. Having said that, I believe that the current situation needs deeper changes -- just signing a couple of players won't do anymore.

Personally, I believe that Josep Maria Bartomeu should bring the elections forward once the league is over so that club members have a chance to decide the future of the club. However, it is also true that club regulations explain that he is entitled to continue until June 2016 if he so wishes.

With that in mind, I am afraid that Andoni Zubizarreta will be responsible for rebuilding the squad, despite his poor record to date: Spending a combined 212 million euros on Ibrahim Afellay (3 million), Javier Mascherano (24), Cesc Fabregas (38), Alexis Sanchez (43), Adriano Correia (13), Alex Song (19), Jordi Alba (14) and Neymar (a reported 57), and only earning 113 million in exchange for Yaya Touré (30), Thiago Alcántara (25), Dmytro Chygrynskiy (13), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (24), Oriol Romeu (5), Jeffen (4), Maxwell (4) and David Villa (3), plus Seydou Keita, Gaby Milito, Rafa Márquez and Marc Muniesa (free).

The first step toward renovating the squad must be hiring a new manager, especially given the very limited ability that Gerardo Martino has shown to motivate his players, bring any new blood to the team or unbalance matches by introducing unexpected variations.

My personal favourite would be former player and Barca B coach Luis Enrique, currently excelling at Celta Vigo, because of his in-depth knowledge of the Catalan club, his proven ability to maximise La Masia, strong leadership and winning attitude. While Ernesto Valverde has also been considered for the job, my view is that the former No. 21 would be given much more credit by the Blaugrana supporters to lead the new project.

Once a new manager is appointed, it would then be time to discuss which players to sign and who to show the door to. While many names are being discussed, my personal feeling is that at least two central defenders, a right-back, a powerful midfielder and a taller striker are needed. As for the sales, it will have to depend on the possible profit that could potentially be made by offloading current players.

Having said all of the above, the main priority continues to be ensuring that club legend Lionel Messi extends his current deal at the Camp Nou. If feeling comfortable and fully committed, the Argentinean forward is the best footballer on the planet, the key element in order to achieve sustained excellence in the very near future.

These are times for change at Barca. Let's hope those in charge show why they want to stay in their privileged positions and succeed when taking the many important decisions ahead of them.

The Quote: "Some decisions have been made and there are others to be made. We'll be announcing things as they happen once the competitions are over. There won't be a revolution, but there will be in-depth restructuring of the football team. Zubizarreta will be leading the process. This board was voted in in 2010 and the project ends in 2016. We have two years left and we're excited about going forward with this. So there will not be any elections." -- Bartomeu.

More than 515,000 Cules follow Francesc Tomas at @TomasESPN and Barcablog Facebook for news and opinion notes on Barcelona.