Barcelona need to re focus for next season and Messi and Xaxi could be key to that

Whilst Barcelona are top of the league standings for now and are still in the Champions League any fan who watches them will tell you that they are not having their usual dominant season. They simply don’t look like the Barcelona side that have graced their league and European football for the past decade.

They have had some injuries in Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann has taken time to fit in and doesn’t have consistently good games. Lionel Messi is getting older but he is still a fantastic player, but there is a feeling that he needs to be re motivated. New coach Quique Setien seems like a good man but one really has to question if he is the right person to take Barcelona forward.

Setien’s appointment came after a panic decision led by the board and Eric Abidal to sack Ernesto Valverde, who the players really liked. Everything felt hurried in their decision and the severance got messy so to speak. So bad that Messi himself spoke out about his feelings that Valverde should never have been sacked.

Bringing in Setien always felt like the wrong decision especially when news broke that Barca and Abidal had chased after ex player Xavi to be the new coach. Xavi was loyal to his Chinese team though and rejected the offer for now. Come August and the next season and it is thought that Xavi will be available and will be Barca’s new coach.

Appointing Xavi would make sense, his blood runs the colours of the club, he is respected by his peers and the fans love him. This could work, but of course he will judged on results only. Messi could well improve, even though he is actually having a decent season maybe it has lacked some spark from the high bar that he has set himself.

Next season has to be about focusing for the club. When the Suarez injury hit and the club looked for last minute deals, it made no sense. They wanted to pay big money to Everton to secure Richarlison, Everton quite rightly in January said no. And they simply went window shopping again, with not much care or focus. The truth is Barcelona didn’t want or need Richarlison, and they ended up going for Martin Braithwaite, a decent player but journeyman who simply will not fit into the team.

This was a basic blunder by the club and not to undermine Braithwaite’s skills, but players brought into any club must have a desired role so they can play and fit into the team like a jigsaw. Braithwaite through no fault of his own has been plucked out and expected to be the difference within the team. Instead his biggest highlight might be just sharing a dressing room with Messi. This all comes down to Barcelona panicking.

Bringing in Xavi next season there will be the hope that the team can re focus, he understands the club and was part of the team that was hailed as the best club side in history in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Barcelona still have the magic, still have their integrity, but in football life moves fast. Wit La Liga possibly being suspended this year over the virus it gives the club time to assess the situation, the question is will they make the right choices or continue to panic?

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Can Josep Maria Bartomeu survive Barcelona’s crisis?

What a season it’s been for FC Barcelona!

At the beginning of the campaign, during the curtain raiser to each season, the Joan Gamper Trophy, Lionel Messi apologised for the collapse against Liverpool.

He also noted that the Catalans would be challenging again for the Champions League and the other top prizes on offer.

But it’s safe to say that things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Continue reading

Why Neymar returning to Barcelona is a no-go

Not long now until the transfer merry-go-round spins in earnest.

In fact, the rumours are already in full swing and there’s still the best part of three months until the window opens again!

As clubs across Europe go looking for bargains, there are one or two that need to make a statement signing to send shivers down their opponent’s spines. Continue reading

Is Sergio Busquets’ time up at Barcelona?

As Barcelona wind down another LaLiga season, question marks will again be asked over certain players.

Players who, despite their seniority in the team, haven’t performed at the required level for the club, and for a consistent period, not just a game or two here and there.

Whilst it’s an unpalatable thought, sooner or later, the regeneration of the squad takes precedence over keeping the big names happy. Continue reading

What is Real Madrid’s long term plan for Karim Benzema?

With 14 goals in La Liga this season, Karim Benzema had been enjoying a successful campaign before the global coronavirus crisis brought everything to a halt. Now, there is no suggestion of when the La Liga season will resume and every other division in Europe is in the same situation. These are unprecedented times for the sport.

And so with no matches to preview or react to it’s time to consider some big picture questions. Real Madrid find themselves in the midst of a transition. Zinedine Zidane’s side might be fighting near the top of La Liga for only their third title in 11 years, but this is a squad that is still stuck between the Old Guard and the new generation.

One question Real Madrid must find an answer to over the next few seasons concerns the future of Benzema. At 32 years old, the Frenchman is coming into the twilight of his career, but he is seemingly only getting better with age. So should Los Blancos look to replace Benzema sooner rather than later or stick with him for the long term?

A number of big name strikers have been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu in recent years. Most persistently, Robert Lewandowski has been speculated to be on Real Madrid’s radar with the Polish centre forward widely believed to be keen on making the switch to the Spanish capital at one point.

For all his undeniable brilliance, though, Lewandowski is only one year younger than Benzema at 31. He wouldn’t be a long term successor to the Frenchman. Real Madrid would surely face the same dilemma with Lewandowski as they do now with Benzema. Instead, they need someone who will carry their attack for years to come.

Erling Haaland fits the bill. The Norwegian has hit the ground running at Borussia Dortmund and at just 19 years old is set to spend the next decade at the elite level of the sport. Harry Kane has also been previously mentioned as a future ‘Galactico’ and with the England international reportedly considering his future at Tottenham Hotspur the pieces might be falling into place for him to join Real Madrid.

Of course, Los Blancos spent big on the signing of Luka Jovic last summer. He was meant to be the long term successor to Benzema, but has so far struggled to grow accustomed to his new surroundings. Finding a successor to Benzema won’t be easy, but Real Madrid must start devising a plan of action.

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3 players Barcelona could buy this summer

Regardless of whether Barcelona end the season with silverware or not, it’s clear to everyone that they need an injection of new blood into the first team.

For the most part of 2019/20, the Blaugrana have looked laboured and off of the pace, and have relied on their showings at Camp Nou to gloss over their evident shortcomings.

Shortcomings that have been brutally exposed away from home. Continue reading

Unexpected La Liga hiatus could benefit Real Madrid’s injured contingent

These are unprecedented times with European football set for a hiatus of undetermined length, with news of the suspension of the 2019/20 La Liga season coming on Friday. There is no suggestion as to when the Spanish title race will resume as the sport grapples with how to handle this situation.

The break for Real Madrid comes after a damaging defeat to Real Betis, a loss which saw Zinedine Zidane’s side once again concede their advantage over Barcelona at the top of the table. The Clasico win over the Catalan outfit looked to have given Real Madrid the momentum, but they lost that in losing at the Benito Villamarin.

There could be a silver lining to this unexpected hiatus for Real Madrid, though, especially for the players who are currently on the sidelines through injury. Eden Hazard in particular is surely relishing the opportunity that a few extra weeks of recovery will give him to get back on a football pitch before the end of the season.

Hazard underwent surgery in Dallas last week and is expected to be missing from action for quite some time. This latest injury blow was predicted to all but finish the Belgian’s season, but time is now on his side. Real Madrid haven’t seen the best of Hazard so far. He could still make an impression before this campaign is out.

Thibaut Courtois and Marcelo have also picked up knocks of late, with the duo expected to miss the games against Eibar and Manchester City had they gone ahead as planned. Courtois is a key first team figure and has finally proven himself as the ‘Galactico’ goalkeeper he was signed to be this season. Marcelo has also demonstrated his worth recently, shining in the Clasico victory over Barcelona.

Then there’s Marco Asensio. The Spanish international has missed the entirety of the season so far, suffering a serious injury just weeks before the start of the 2019/20 campaign. Asensio is now back in training though and so if the season is now to be extended into the summer, as has been mooted, then the 24-year-old will stand a better chance of returning to the pitch before the honours are handed out.

There’s no knowing how this La Liga season will end, or whether it will end at all, but there is still a scenario in which Real Madrid could benefit. The break, even in the face of grave societal challenges, might rejuvenate a number of players at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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What does the future hold for James Rodriguez?

It seemed unlikely that James Rodriguez would ever play another competitive game for Real Madrid. The Colombian had been sent on a two-year loan deal to Bayern Munich, with the Bavarians holding an option to sign him permanent after that period. Even when Bayern Munich decided not to exercise that option at the end of last season it seemed probable that Real Madrid would move him on.

And yet James was kept at the Santiago Bernabeu for the 2019/season. The initial signs were positive for the playmaker. He looked to have regained the trust of Zinedine Zidane, earning a place in the Real Madrid after a number of impressive performances over pre-season. There is still a player in there.

Now, though, James’ time at the Santiago Bernabeu might well be over. The Colombian has struggled for game time of late with Zidane overlooking the playmaker for every game Real Madrid have played since the Copa del Rey defeat to Real Sociedad at the start of February. He has been ostracised at a time of the season when Zidane could use the extra squad depth.

Speculation is already swirling over where James could pitch up next, with Wolves reported to be interested in the 28-year-old. A switch to Molineux would be somewhat remarkable, making a real statement about the progress they have made over the past few seasons under Nuno Espirito Santo.

James is still an exceptional player with exceptional talent. He could still enjoy a fruitful twilight to his career. He hasn’t played poorly in the handful of appearances he has made for Real Madrid this season, but an elite level team needs performers who can make a difference. Increasingly, James finds himself a passenger. He is no longer the headline grabber he was a few years ago. He is no longer capable of deciding a game almost entirely on his own.

Signed after the 2014 World Cup where he was the player of the tournament for Colombia, James looked like a natural ‘Galactico’ in his early days as a Real Madrid player. The aura faded quickly though and with Los Blancos in a transitional period the time has come for James to leave. That much has been proven this season. For all parties concerned, it’s probably best that a parting of ways comes this summer.

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3 players Barcelona could sell this summer

Every teams have cycles of success, and Barcelona’s has almost certainly ground to a halt recently.

That’s the time when there needs to be an overhaul of staff, in order to pump new energy into the group and give a renewed focus.

Though it will be a shame to see certain players leave, the club have to be ruthless. Continue reading

Lionel Messi looks tired and disinterested at Barcelona

Surely Barcelona’s supporters didn’t think it would end up like this.

Their best ever player, Lionel Messi, strolling around seemingly disinterested and looking as tired as he ever has.

Whatever the party line from him is, his body language doesn’t lie. Lionel Messi is not happy. Continue reading