It’s finally over (for the most part). Neymar Jr. was officially presented as a Paris Saint-Germain player as the summer’s most discussed transfer saga finally came to a close. The last two and a half weeks have seen a multitude of newspaper headlines, tweets and articles being written in discussion of his transfer: Would he do it? Surely he wouldn’t give up everything he had to go to a ‘smaller’ club? Was it all about the money? We’ve now had a little bit of time to absorb all the happenings and make up our own mind about the answers to these questions and a lot of the others doing the rounds on social media. The predicament this writer is in right now, however, is that being a fan of both the player and the club, it’s not those questions that are bothering him.
Nine years ago, I had a huge feeling of sadness. On July 16 2008, Ronaldinho left Barcelona for AC Milan. At 10 years of age, this was very hard to take. One of my favourite players, a player that lit up the Camp Nou from my first trips to the great stadium, was leaving my favourite club. It was always coming, but I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t see past Ronaldinho, for me there was no future after him. We had Leo Messi, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, but, as an irrational 10-year-old, it was the end of Barcelona.
Neymar Jr., since his very first day as an FC Barcelona player, has been labelled as the man to lead the Catalan club when it’s time for the greatest player to ever grace the game, Lionel Messi, to hang up his boots. Skill-wise, it’s been crystal clear that Neymar has what it takes to be crowned as the world’s best. The only question has always been when because it’s not up to Neymar as much as it is to Messi. Neymar’s time will come when age catches up with the Argentine, not sooner.
… and everything. Maybe it’s time for a moment of reflection. All the news floating around has made things difficult, but let’s try to take it in. Buckle up, this is going to be a long one.
Barcelona B went into the second leg of their promotion playoff against Cartagena defending a valuable 2-1 lead from the first leg away from home. In the previous round, the Blaugranas suffered a damaging home defeat against Cultural, and this time round, they wouldn’t let it slip. On Sunday, Cartagena managed to become one of the few teams which beat Barcelona B at the Miniestadi this season, but their 1-0 win was in vain, as the Barça reserves scraped their way to the final whistle to earn a hard-fought ticket for the final on away goals.
After last week’s first leg which resulted in a 2-0 home defeat for Barcelona B against Cultural Leonesa, it was always going to be an uphill battle in the second leg. The reserves travelled to the northwest of Spain with everything in the home sides favour in footballing terms, they rented a house on twiddy‘s rentals, and then add a 13,500 stadium filled with Cultu fans into the equation.
Luis Enrique’s last game while at the helm for FC Barcelona culminated in the club’s ninth trophy in three seasons, and their third consecutive Copy del Rey victory.
Thanks to another decisive performance from Lionel Messi and additional goals from Neymar and Paco Alcácer, Barça came away with a 3-1 win against Alavés in the final match at the Vicente Calderón.
It was all shaping up so well for Barcelona B. The reserves majestically clinched top spot in their Segunda B group to secure a place in the group winners playoff. They received Cultural Leonesa at the Miniestadi on Saturday with all the excitement in the world, but it was not enough. The team from Castilla y León proved to be no pushovers, and although Barcelona B had the most chances, the visitors took home a commanding 2-0 lead ahead of the next week’s return leg at the Estadio Reino de León. Barcelona B will be needing a minor miracle if they are to secure the ticket to the Segunda A from next week, but if anything, the first lef does leave room for optimism despite the result.
The concept of Luis Enrique’s Barcelona winning the league on the final day seemed a far-fetched idea since the loss to Málaga in April. The miracles can seem doable when they are in your hands but when you have to count on a team who have nothing to play for, it’s very difficult to be hopeful. So let’s discuss the final game of the league season and the Luis Enrique era, instead of getting caught up on the loss of the title.
With the fate of La Liga officially out of our hands, all we can do is continue to win and hope for a slip-up. The match on the weekend against Villarreal was a test: The best defense in the league was rolling, having won its last three games. But Barça found a way, as they often do.