Round two of La Liga sees Barcelona earn a tough three points with a one to nil victory away at the new San Mamés. The low scoring affair was cagey and tense throughout with an early header from Ivan Rakitić deciding the affair.
As much as today’s victory was a monumental team effort, make no mistake; Luis Enrique deserves all the plaudits for achieving what he has with all the pressure that following in Pep Guardiola’s footsteps comes with. With today’s win at the San Mames, Lucho became the fastest ever coach to reach a hundred victories in charge, surpassing the now Manchester City boss’s records in both Barcelona and Munich. This game typified exactly how far he’s come from his first game in charge, making this team his own.
Here’s the thing. Even if Barcelona didn’t already beat Manchester City two years ago with basically the same exact team they have now, and even if they hadn’t beaten Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich team in the Champions League, there’s no reason to worry. Because they did, and they will again. There’s no reason to fear City.
The selection of Barça’s first eleven isn’t all that complicated if everyone’s healthy. Rarely on a team as talented and full of quality as Barcelona is any position really in doubt. The team is stacked from top to bottom, with depth that wasn’t present last season. In this respect, the team is probably better than it was last year.
There’s a big difference between this team and last year’s, though. Dani Alves, the first choice right back for years, has left to join Juventus, leaving a hole at right back and a conundrum for Luis Enrique and the coaching staff. While they bought good new players, they didn’t buy a right back. Alves is a player that can never be replaced, but Aleix Vidal and Sergi Roberto are the choices at Barça’s disposal, and while the right back position might come more naturally to Vidal, there is a better option.
Barcelona B kicked off their 2016-17 season on Saturday, and after last season’s disappointment, Gerard López’s men did what they had to do to start their season on high note. In front of just 850 spectators at the Miniestadi, the reserves began their quest to come from the ‘well’ (a name for the Segunda División B due to the complexity of its promotion system) against tiny Atlético Saguntino, who just gained promotion to Spain’s third tier after negotiating the way up from the Tercera División. Gerard’s side dominated the match from start to end, but once again the team’s defensive frailties meant the match went for a grandstand finish, with MVP Marc Cardona sealing the win and three points for the reserves in stoppage time.
-66, -2, -85, -73, -32. These five numbers crudely offer an impression of FC Barcelona’s net transfer spending over the past five seasons. In a brutally quick analysis of these five figures, one can say that Barcelona is a club that every year pays extraordinarily high amounts of money for players, only recouping a tiny amount from sales. That is true, but the million-dollar question is, does this constitute bad business?
Summer for Barça fans as been a bit of a mixed affair. The club made many brilliant signings but some players fell on the international stage. In the Euros, the blaugrana players of Spain crashed out at the hands of Italy, and Ivan Rakitić’s Croatia going out to eventual winners Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Even more upsetting, in the Copa America, Lionel Messi dazzled throughout, only to lose out in another international competition on penalties. After Leo was brought to tears at the MetLife Stadium, some FCB fans feared the worst for his future. Other fans recalled his incredible performances after the World Cup disappointment in 2014. Messi has made his intentions clear for this season after game week one.
There was a night in Berlin when hundreds of millions of viewers tuned in to watch a match between the best two clubs in Europe. Juventus had just beaten Real Madrid off a great performance from Madrid’s own Alvaro Morata, and Barcelona had just squeezed through a stacked Bayern Munich team, coached by Barcelona’s former manager, and perennial title winner, Pep Guardiola. The teams were different then than now, Juventus having a lineup with Pirlo, Vidal, Pogba, Morata, and Carlos Tevez; Barça still employed the services of Xavi and Pedro. Rakitic gave Barça the lead early on, but Morata equalized ten minutes into the second half. With the game tight and Juventus gaining ground, Messi’s shot was blocked wide and Suárez put it back in to give Barcelona the lead. To finish it off, as we all know, and Neymar struck late and gave Barcelona a 3-1 lead. They had won the treble: La Liga, La Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League.
A lot has been said about the 2015/2016 season. And even though it proved to be a success (Yes, a double is a success folks), there was a bitter taste left in the mouths of all cules. Seeing our arch-rivals in Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid competing for top honours in the UEFA Champions League Final seemed a strange ending to a season that had started with so much promise. Celebrating the Copa Del Rey triumph proved an even stranger feeling. I personally can attest to feeling like I was jumping for joy for a 2nd place finish.
August 13, 1973.
Almost exactly 43 years ago, Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona agreed to terms and Johan Cruyff signed a record transfer fee to become a Barça player. Cruyff was insistent that he end up in the Catalan capital, going so far as to threaten a boycott of the 1974 World Cup to pressure the Dutch federation into cooperating with his exit from the Netherlands.
Barring some manner of omniscience, nobody involved in brokering that deal for Barça truly knew how important Cruyff was destined to become. If they had known, they may well have paid even more.