The first Clasico of the season takes place this weekend, but are Barcelona up against it? Ian O’Cuinneagain dicusses.
Real Madrid are flying lately. New signings James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos are adapting their characteristic attacking instincts to include defensive duties. It’s compelling to see how Carlo Ancelotti is honing his superstars to think collectively and play as a group, a huge task considering the egos in the dressing room and the media circus constantly looking to destabilize things.
Madrid have lost three key players in the last two years in Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso. Media focus is always placed on Madrid’s spending yet the merit of winning the Champions League in Lisbon in May of this year and the outstanding last month of football is often lost on the average pundit. The prolific Cristiano Ronaldo, fast becoming a legend in his own time here in Madrid, has been devastating thus far.
On the other hand we have Barcelona.
Luis Enrique, the new manager, comes with a mediocre curriculum vitae after spells at Roma and Celta Vigo. Although a man with plenty of personality and a key figure in Cruyff’s dream team beginning the golden era of Barcelona football, he is a far cry from the master trainers that we have been used to in recent Clasicos with Jose Mourinho, PepGuardiola, Tito Vilanova (RIP) and the shrewd Italian Carlo Ancelotti.
It’s hard to tell if Barcelona are capable or wiling to reconstruct the team. Barcelona made a big statement in allowing Xavi Hernandez to depart this summer, this turned out to be a false dawn as he decided to stay and just as well, as Xavi has been the gel and outstanding player in the resurgence of Barcelona’s total football in recent weeks.
However the slight decline of Barcelona is clear to see, characterized by Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi playing well but not at the incredible level of the last seven years. Barcelona may have a decent year thanks to squeezing another year out of Xavi Hernandez, arguably the most influential footballer of his era, yet the plan for the future definitely seems like improvisation.
FC Barcelona has certain legal disputes occupying its president Sandro Rosell, Andoni Zubizarreta, the floundering sporting director, is under scrutiny and with Luis Enrique struggling to get some badly needed credibility it looks like there is nobody planning for the future.
Mes que un club, but for how long?
Ian O’Cuinneagain, Pundit Arena.