Top of the Liga table with just one draw and a defeat and in the last 16 of the Champions League...What on earth could be wrong at Barcelona?
Well, actually, more than enough.
Most recently, club unity has hardly been helped by the declaration from its financial Vice President Javier Faus that the club has no obligation to renegotiate Leo Messi’s contract, because they have him signed up until February 2016. Read the full details on that here.
The comment deeply irritated Messi to the point where the normally reclusive superstar went public—as per Marca—condemning Faus’ comments and his role as a director. Meanwhile, club president Sandro Rosell realised he had to intervene and immediately apologised, as per Goal.
But make no mistake about it; the damage has been done. Messi does not enjoy the same kind of relationship with this board as he did with Joan Laporta.
On the plus side Messi has now recovered physically from his injury and it’s now just a case of recovering his form. What is also clear is that a new contract is being negotiated and will be announced at some point to kill rumours and speculation, and give the appearance of harmony.
What Messi will find on his return to the fold is that a host of new things have been renegotiated. The spirit of compromise is in the air, especially into the role that should been played by the midfielders in respect to possession, control of the game and how it should be played.
Little things like the physical preparation that focuses on a side’s midfield strengths and balance have been altered, because frankly, box-to-box football simply doesn’t suit Barcelona.
More positive news has been the resigning of Andres Iniesta until 2018, when he will be 34—official announcement from Barca here. This has been a difficult year for the player primarily because he hasn’t played as much as he would have liked for a Tata Martino side that has looked to rotate more than the last regime.
Last season it was all about winning the league as quickly as possible, mainly to show the world that it wasn’t just a Pep Guardiola team that could dominate the world. In the end they paid the price. An exhausted Barcelona were humiliated in the semi-finals of the Champions League by Bayern Munich, the very team their previous manager would soon join.
Despite flying high in the league, Barca are still making silly mistakes at set-pieces and have ignored the need to replace Carles Puyol, who now, after a stellar career, looks like he can no longer run through walls for his beloved "blaugrana" and may well call it a day.
Rate Barcelona's 2013
Despite earlier expectations, Marc Bartra is not yet, nor might he ever be, the perfect replacement for "Tarzan."
The fact is that Barcelona are gearing themselves for a restructuring programme with a new player across all the lines. The only one that we know about, as reported by the Mirror, is a mooted deal to bring in Marc-Andre ter Stegen from Borussia Monchengladbach, as replacement for Victor Valdes—if the clubs agree on a fee.
Don’t be surprised, however, to see Barca make a concerted effort to bring in David Luiz, Chelsea’s Brazilian defender whose naturally footballing style fits perfectly into the Barcelona ethos and who would love to come to the club.
If Barcelona really have an Achilles heel it is how vulnerable they can look in the big games. Just two weeks after the winter break the Catalan side travel to the Vicente Calderon for a massive top of the table clash against Atletico Madrid that could tell us a lot.
I’m not sure it will tell us who’s going the league, as I feel Real Madrid have got what it takes to win La Liga if they bring back some consistency to their game, but I have a hunch that it might just go some way to telling us who won't. I can’t wait.