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Tata Martino Made Mistakes at Barcelona, but Club Needs More Than a New Manager

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Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2014

Barcelona failed in their last-gasp attempt to win La Liga on Saturday, as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Atletico Madrid—who thus captured the title themselves instead.

Immediately after the game, Tata Martino was confirmed to be stepping down as head coach, with rumours of his replacement immediately centring around former midfielder Luis Enrique:

Tata Martino announces he will leave FC Barcelona. The agreement between the manager and Club is mutual. #FCBLive

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 17, 2014

Luis Enrique confirms Celta Vigo exit: http://t.co/iMxO8faAcI Where could he be heading?

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 16, 2014

Regardless of which new manager is appointed to the Catalan club, Barcelona have encountered plenty of issues this season, and one new incoming coach alone will not solve them.

 

It's Not Pep, Anymore

Perhaps Barcelona, first and foremost, need to get to grips with the cyclical nature of football.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 05:  Head coach Josep Guardiola of FC Barcelona acknowledge the fans at the end of the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on May 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. This is Guardiola's last match.  (Photo by Da
David Ramos/Getty Images

Anybody suggesting that the club is in turmoil needs to have a quick review of their take on "success"—Barca finished runners-up in La Liga, made the last eight of the Champions League and the final of the Copa del Rey this season—but there is quite obviously a notable drop in talent, consistency and success from the days of Pep Guardiola to the current inception of the side.

Guardiola and the team he put together was a one-off. It took a clutch of world-class players at the height of their game and swept all before them with masterful approach and tactical acumen.

Success in football never lasts forever, though, and Barcelona have to not simply acknowledge the change, but find subtle ways to overcome it without entirely changing the ethos of the club over the past decade.

 

Messi and other Star Names

Star forward Leo Messi has suffered with injury issues over the past 12 months and, by common consent, has not enjoyed quite as stellar a season as could usually be expected of him—yet he still recorded 28 goals in 29 league starts.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 17:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks dejected during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on May 17, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Still, it's a rare occasion when he doesn't score at a rate of better than 1.0 goals per game these days, and his role in the side altered subtly at times, slightly more withdrawn or off to the right side in certain games.

Elsewhere, ageing stars, including Xavi and Carles Puyol, have seen their influence wane throughout the season, while others have failed to reproduce their best form. The squad needs some quality additions in summer—though, of course, there are other issues to consider there.

 

Off-field Issues

The impending transfer ban that Barcelona are fighting necessitates the signing of several first-team players this summer.

VALENCIA, SPAIN - APRIL 16:  Neymar of FC Barcelona reacts dejected after missing a chance to score during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty I
David Ramos/Getty Images

However, their transfer dealings—in the first team with Neymar and in the youth side with a number of players—have come under scrutiny this season for following a less-than-above-board process, something the club can ill-afford at this point.

In the knowledge that Barcelona need signings this year, don't be surprised to see other clubs overcharge for their targets, playing hardball to increase a player's price. Supply and demand.

Boardroom struggles, a lower number of first-team-ready La Masia graduates and a high turnover of head coaches since Guardiola departed—all of these things have impacted, to one degree or another, Barcelona's fall from regular winners of every competition.

Luckily for them, it's not been such a dramatic fall that they are years off challenging once again—we're talking a couple of stairs to climb, not an entire flight of them.

Luis Enrique, should he be the new face in the dugout next season, has an awful lot already there to work with. But to win the big titles, compete in Europe and dominate domestically again, Barcelona have work to do this summer.

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