Why Barcelona's Greatest Era of Success Is Not over Yet

Sam PilgerContributing Football WriterMay 8, 2014

FC Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez, second left, celebrates after scoring against Getafe with his teammates Xavi Hernandez, left, Andres Iniesta, second right, and Lionel Messi from Argentina, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday May 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

At the final whistle, Getafe’s players leapt around the pitch in celebration, while Barcelona’s players trudged to the tunnel.

After scoring a late equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou on Saturday, Getafe hailed their point for edging them closer to safety, while Barcelona believed they could now no longer successfully defend their La Liga title.

Twenty-four hours later, this draw began to look a lot better after Atletico Madrid’s defeat at Levante and Real Madrid’s draw against Valencia.

Barcelona had actually managed to close the gap at the top of the table, and now after Real Madrid’s draw with Real Valladolid Wednesday night, the destiny of the title is completely back in Barcas own hands.

For the last six weeks, it has become received wisdom that Barcelona are a club in decline this season, overshadowed by both Madrid sides at home and abroad.

Football can be so desperate for a clear narrative it can blind itself to the truth.

There is a constant urge to declare that the dynasty Pep Guardiola began building in 2008 has come to an end.

But Barcelona are not a club in decline.

This is a strange decline—for if Barcelona win their two remaining La Liga games, they will be champions once again.

While it will be naturally sobering to watch both Madrid sides decamp to Lisbon for the Champions League final at the end of the month, whether they win La Liga or not this season, Barcelona’s greatest ever era is far from over.

When a side boasts arguably the greatest player of all time in Lionel Messi, it would be foolish to suggest otherwise.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on  during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Getafe CF at Nou Camp on May 3, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

I was at the Camp Nou on Saturday for the game against Getafe, and while it was not one of Messi’s most influential performances, he still scored Barcelona’s opening goal and had several moments of sheer electrifying genius.

Messi is still only 26 and some way from his absolute peak.

Around Messi, Barcelona’s sumptuous array of attacking players are also nowhere near their peaks.

Pedro is 26, Sergio Busquets is 25, Alexis Sanchez is 25, and even Andres Iniesta is still only 29.

These are serial winners, La Liga winners, Champions League winners and World Cup winners.

The only player approaching the end is the incomparable Xavi, who remains Barcelona’s most important cog, but at 34, he has probably played his best football.

When a team can’t find a place for Cesc Fabregas in its starting line-up, which happened against Getafe at the weekend, it rather proves its depth of quality.

The former Arsenal man came on in the second half for an impressive 25-minute cameo that included helping to set up Barcelona’s second goal for Alexis Sanchez.

The absence of the 22-year-old Neymar through injury at the weekend should also not be overlooked.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 01:  Neymar of Barcelona celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on April 1, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Rose/G
Clive Rose/Getty Images

The Brazilian’s season has been undermined by injury and an inevitable period of adjustment to a new league and country, but next season, Barcelona will be significantly bolstered by a fit and settled player ready to show he is worthy of being mentioned alongside Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s best.

The absence of Gerard Pique, himself only 27, over the last month of the season has also clearly hampered Barcelonas title defence.

Barcelona will not stand still, and it is likely their manager, Tata Martino, will be sacrificed for this season’s perceived stutter and—as the Spanish press were reporting over the weekend, per the Mirrors Alex Richards—replaced by former Barcelona player and current Celta Vigo manager Luis Enrique.

Enrique is a strong individual who would seek to evolve Barcelona’s style, making the midfield more physical and the attacking play more direct.

He would inherit a youthful set of players, boasting some of the world’s very best in each position, who will be determined to prove they are not finished setting new records and winning trophies.

Banish those obituaries; the core of this great Barcelona side is still very much alive, and the Blaugrana could even be champions again next week.