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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Masimira

New Year, New F.C Barcelona?

The club continues to struggle in the 2020/21 season.

Image courtesy of F.C Barcelona, Lionel Messi vs. Huesca

It's not news that the club has struggled over the last few seasons. Despite winning La Liga on two occasions under Ernesto Valverde, the manager's time at FC Barcelona will be remembered for what he and the players failed to accomplish - the Champions League. There are multiple contributors to the enigma that is the Catalan club. Aging players, poor management, and questionable financial decisions have led to the clubs' decline.

The club has spent large amounts of money to emulate the success of Guardiola's tenure, but the club has barely seen a return on its investments. Ousmane Dembele and Phill Coutinho were brought in to replace Neymar, yet they had spent a lot of time injured, performing inconsistently, or even out on loan. Antoine Griezmann was brought in at the beginning of the 2019/20 season to help achieve the coveted Champions League trophy. Instead, the club suffered an incredible defeat, to say the least, this time at the hands of Bayern Munich. The cherry on top of that embarrassing defeat? Griezmann started the game on the bench, Coutinho came on for Bayern Munich to score twice against his parent club and Dembele was out injured. That's more than $350 million spent on three players incapable of delivering week in week out.

Image courtesy of F.C Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele vs. Huesca

Valverde, from what I believe, was the manager brought in to manage the aging players' decline. He did that very well for two seasons despite the Champions League failure. But a common theme with managers at Barcelona is that they don't and typically shouldn't stay for more than two seasons, at least in recent history. For example, Luis Enrique stayed for a third season, and the club only walked away with the Copa del Rey. Nonetheless, Valverde wasn't so lucky and had his reign cut short mid-way through the 2019/20 season and was then replaced by Quique Setien. The club was already in deep trouble, and I think Valverde managed to hide those problems well enough that, as supporters, we thought that the core of the problems were his tactics. His tactics were not the greatest, but he did what he could with what he had at his disposal. Setien, however, in his methods, showed us that not only was he not the right man for the job, but that there are much bigger and deeper problems at a footballing level and a political level. Setien's season ended with an 8-2 defeat in the Champions League and the La Liga trophy going to bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Needless to say, Setien didn't survive after that defeat, and the club introduced Ronald Koeman for the new season. Off the back of the 2019/20 season, the club had suffered financially due to the pandemic. The combination of high player wages, as well as very little income, meant that the club was and is incapable of making big and needed signings. Because of COVID-19, clubs were not in the market for any of Barcelona's players. The club would be lucky to get even half of what they paid for Griezmann, Dembele, and Coutinho. Koeman's start to the season was always going to be an uphill battle because, on top of not making the necessary signings to improve the squad, club captain Lionel Messi was on the verge of leaving the club. With a full fixture list and questionable tactics by Koeman, the club's struggles continue to pile on in a season where current results indicate that we might not be in contention to feature in the 2021/2022 Champions League season. The very same trophy the club has been working so hard to win.

Image courtesy of F.C Barcelona, Lionel Messi vs. Huesca

When all is said and done, and trust that there is a lot more to say, Bartomeu and his board should have pulled the plug on Valverde before he went into the 2019/20 season. The managerial switch mid-way through the season from Valverde to Setien destabilized the team in what was proving to be an already difficult season. Only to be remembered for their failures in the Champions League, the club is witnessing firsthand what it's like to be a team that fights for a place in the top 4.

With Bartomeu gone, the presidential election around the corner, and the club struggling for results under manager Koeman, it would seem as though the tough times are set to last all season. The club lacks structure, and you would assume the best course of action would be to use what you have at your disposal, but with the lack of trust in the club academy, La Masia and no financial resources, this period in time will be marred by struggle.

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