Photo: Barcelona (Getty Images)
Despite lifting the La Liga trophy just over a year ago, Catalonia giants Barcelona has struggled to hit the heights they achieved under Frank Rijkaard and of course under Pep Guardiola. The Blaugrana has remained competitive in the Spanish top flight and in Europe, but have yet to really spark since the departure of Guardiola.
After five years under Rijkaard and lifting two La Liga titles as well as the Champions League in 2006, Barcelona stepped it up under the current Bayern Munich manager, Guardiola. They adapted a new ‘tiki taka’ style combined with high pressing and sharp movement on and off the ball. It earned them many praises as well as silverwares and the way they dominated their oppositions was a sight to behold.
The standard they set was seen as the benchmark of modern-day football, playing heavenly football and winning trophies in fine style. It put pressure on all the other top clubs in Europe to try produce a certain level of football where winning was not good enough because owners wanted their teams to win playing the game in a beautiful manner. It would prove easier said than done because the level of technical skill, composure on the ball and understanding between players had to be of the highest possible order.
However since Guardiola decided to take a sabbatical in the summer of 2012, Barcelona has failed to find continuity as they have had 3 managers in less than 3 years. Tito Vilanova was expected to lead the club into the future but he fell ill to cancer and died in April of this year. Before Vilanova’s death, Gerardo Martino replaced him as manager but was relieved of his duties after just one season where he finished runner-up to Atletico Madrid.
Club legend Luis Enrique replaced the Argentine manager at the start of the current campaign but it seems their troubles are continuing. They have yet to recover from their slump and this is also concurrent with the poor form of their star-man Lionel Messi as well as Xavi’s inability to have an influence on games.
Messi has been instrumental at the Camp Nou since he broke into the first team under Rijkaard and especially under Guardiola. The 27 year old won four consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year award from 2009 – 2012 after some scintillating years for his club and in the past 2 – 3 years for his country. His partnership with Xavi and Andres Iniesta was at the forefront of Barca’s success but that has since been absent from their play.
The constant change of managers could be a major role in that. Certainly Messi has not been the same since his hamstring injury which plagued him in the 2012 – 2013 season. He was also seen vomiting on numerous occasions which is also a worrying sign for both club and country.
However with the constant change of managers with new ideas and different styles, it can hurt even the best and most organized teams. It will take a bit of time for the players to understand what the manager wants from them so the club’s board must decide to stick with a manager for an extended period of time.
They achieved great success when they had two managers in nine years with Rijkaard and Guardiola. During this time they won 6 La Liga titles as well as 3 Champions League trophies. It goes to show that if they can have a manager for an extended period of time they will achieve great things and also play at an exceptional level with the players that they have. Class is permanent while form is temporary so it could be a matter of time before the Blaugrana starts firing on all cylinders once more.