It would be a major lie if every club in the world did not dream about playing like Barcelona. Such has been the widespread fascination that this Barcelona team has created over the last 10 years. Like all good things, it must come to an end and Barcelona certainly seem to be coming to the end of a great cycle. According to sports wagering sites like CrownBet, right now Barcelona’s chances of winning the Primera Liga may have been rejuvenated by the El Clasico victory, but they have been playing like mere mortals of late.
Much of the success in the last decade has been built on Lionel Messi. Of course, players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Carlos Puyol have had a huge say, but the little Argentine tops the lot. Lionel Messi seems to have come to a crossroad in his career. He is still very much at the top of the game – proved by his return of 33 league goals in 2016-17 campaign – but the Argentine seems to be considering his future at the Camp Nou.
Any club would fear the prospect of the best player entering the final 12 months of his contract, and this fear is magnified by several multiples in the case of Messi.
There are growing concerns at Barcelona that Messi may decide to leave the club in the near future. Still just 29 years old, he reportedly wants to come back to Argentina, where he has not had much of a history. After having joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old, he is unlikely to remember much from his days at Newell’s Old Boys. Replacing a player of his magnitude will be a huge task.
Then, there is the small question of a Luis Enrique replacement in the dugout. Barcelona have not had the continuity with regard to managers, despite their best efforts. The late Tito Vilanova would have been a great follow-up to the Pep Guardiola era, but those methodologies are slowly dying away in the absence of a replacement. While Enrique’s methods have been successful, it is not a system that teams will try to replicate or watch in awe.
As a club, Barcelona are as political as Real Madrid and this does not bode well for a return of Pep Guardiola. The club are left with options like Jorge Sampaoli, Ronald Koeman, and Ernesto Valverde being touted as replacements. Koeman and Valverde have Barcelona connections, but they have never managed a club of this magnitude. Jorge Sampaoli is great, but he may be viewed as an alien at Barcelona. Furthermore, he lacks the top level European experience after having been in charge of Sevilla for less than a year.
As the uncertainty surrounding the manager continues, Messi will have more time to ponder over the options. At this stage in his career, trophies or money may simply not produce the same desire and there is every chance of Messi leaving the club 12 months from now.
As Barcelona step into an uncertain period, it becomes impossible to gauge the direction of the club, which has given so much joy to football fans over the last decade.