5 Reasons Why Barcelona Has Declined
Barcelona was, at one time, the best team in the world. Some even argued that Pep Guardiola's side was one of the greatest of all-time. However, since his departure, the club has slowly gone downhill.
The late Tito Vilanova did the best he could, winning a league title in the 2012-13 campaign. His eventual replacement, Gerardo Martino, couldn't steer the ship back on a winning course.
The 2013-14 season marked the first time in six years that Los Cules failed to claim a major trophy, per the club's official website. They won the Spanish Super Cup, but failed to win the La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the Champions League.
Barca previously qualified for six straight semi-finals in the Champions League. This past season put an end to that historic streak, and it is apparent that the team is not improving.
Here are five reasons why Barcelona is still declining heading into the 2014-15 season.
5. Needless Signings
Neymar was one of the biggest signings in history a year ago. According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, via the Mirror, the 22-year-old was acquired for a world-record transfer fee up to that time. Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid eventually trumped that price.
Some legends, including Johan Cruyff, claimed that the Brazilian and Lionel Messi wouldn't work well together, which turned out to be the case. As a result, he thought Messi should have been sold.
Now, by splashing £75 million ($128 million) on Luis Suarez, another dominant player, the same issue will come up again. It's another pointless, unnecessary signing by the board. Director of football Andoni Zubizarreta backed the acquisition, via The Guardian.
However, there's really no justifiable reason why the move is a smart one. Suarez will undoubtedly clash tactically with Messi and Neymar. The latter two by themselves were already too much to handle. Either of those three players are central pieces to build around. A team can't succeed by having three of them.
Big-name signings have hurt the club before, even under Pep Guardiola. On the other hand, it's starting to affect Barca both on and off the pitch. The difference is that now they aren't getting results.
Manager Luis Enrique will have to get creative in order to fit in all three in one system and make them all happy. Chances are he won't be able to do that, meaning Barca will struggle.
4. Lack of Patience
La Masia is a world-renowned youth academy that every club has tried to emulate. Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi are just some of the many in the Barcelona squad that have come from that school.
It has been pointed out to that players like Marc Bartra have struggled at times to replace Puyol. No one can be expected to fill in right away and take over from a club legend, especially a 23-year-old.
There are plenty of talented players that are still coming from La Masia. Gerard Deulofeu is the new prodigy that is expected to excel. He's been called back to the squad following his loan to Everton.
These ridiculous signings and the lack of patience in waiting for youngsters to reach their potential go hand-in-hand. The addition of Suarez leaves Deulofeu's spot in the Barca squad in doubt.
Barca may have to sacrifice results for a while in order to follow that philosophy, but they were able to balance the big names with the younger ones. It would benefit them to do that now, especially with Puyol retiring and Xavi on the way out.
3. No Leadership
Carles Puyol's retirement was significant. Firstly, the Barcelona defence lost one of the greatest center-backs to play for the club. Secondly, he was a stable partner beside Gerard Pique since the 27-year-old became a first-team regular.
Since Puyol began picking up injuries and showing signs of age, Pique hasn't been the same. Managers have tried to replace the former captain, but it's difficult.
Puyol was the heart and soul of the team. He was tough but elegant in his play. Xavi's imminent departure—according to Spanish newspaper Sport (h/t Barcastuff and the New York Post)—only adds to the dilemma.
The lack of leadership has been detrimental to Barcelona recently. Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi are still there, but they don't exude the same leadership qualities that Xavi and Puyol did. It'll be difficult to replace someone of that caliber, but if the club gave time to La Masia graduates, they might be able to find those future leaders quicker.
2. Appeasing Club Members
This issue also goes back to the needless signings mentioned previously in this report, and far beyond that.
The Barcelona board want to please the club members and to show them that they mean business. On the other hand, bringing in Luis Suarez and Neymar will only temporarily appease the fans.
It seems as if the front office is too concerned with immediate wins so as to not upset the supporters. Since Barca failed to win much last season, the fans are upset. Transferring big names is a way to silence the discontent, but that only works in the short term.
Having a clear vision will keep the fans happy. Right now, the board is going against the identity of the club that has made them revered around the world.
1. Egotistical Board
New president Josep Bartomeu, partnered with sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, have been trustworthy, but haven't been smart in some of their business moves.
Bartomeu, like every president, wants to reshape the club in his own identity. Hence the Luis Suarez signing, and Luis Enrique was brought in as manager to replace Gerardo Martino, who was appointed previously by Rosell.
There are simply too many business minds up top and not enough football sense. It's good to have intelligent people who know how to run an organization, but it is also vital to have former players assisting with footballing matters.
Rosell was president when Barca captured the 2010-11 Champions League, but that team was still kicking on from the Laporta era. The new group in the boardroom haven't been able to maintain the values that made Barcelona admirable. Instead, what exists is a bunch of business people trying to fuel their egos.
That arrogance has hurt the club. However, Carles Puyol being involved with Zubizarreta should help transform the team in that aspect, but it may take a while until they return to the top.