What Chaos is Happening Behind the Curtains at Barcelona?
Perhaps the headline of the article is ironic and dramatic, given that Barcelona crushed Eibar by a 6-1 margin, maintaining their 100% record in La Liga, and demolished Juventus 3-0 in the first UCL group stages match at Camp Nou. But the events that unfolded during the transfer window and the internal chaos at the club, culminating in a call for a vote of no confidence against the current Barcelona board, have far deeper causes at its base. The club is in murky water and is being dragged into various controversies, with one ex-president languishing behind bars due to shady business deals. It is a far cry from the pinnacle of “Mes Que Un Club.”
The guiding philosophy of Barcelona is that of Johan Cruyff. Right from laying the foundation of La Masia, to winning the first Champions League and multiple La Ligas, to nurturing the playing philosophy and football model at Barcelona, Johan Cruyff looms large in the horizon of Barca’s cult personalities and heroes. He was a man far ahead of his time and he guided Barcelona during tumultuous times both as a player and a manager. A lot of recognition and accolades which Barca enjoys today can be attributed to this man. Without him we may never have witnessed the possession-based playing philosophy installed at the club, basing the football model on technical abilities rather than physique, or a plethora of superstars coming out from the fabled La Masia resulting in a plethora of trophies. It is rumored that when Frank Rijkard was fired, Jose Mourinho was the man to take charge at Barcelona. But it was Johan Cruyff who advised the club to place the reins in the hands of an inexperienced manager plying his trade at Barca B, a certain Pep Guardiola. We all know the outcome. Infact, it can be seen, that whatever Barca have achieved in recent times, the credit of all those could be given to the vision of this man. So why is the Cruyff philosophy failing now?
The Cruyff philosophy is failing because it is not being followed and is being discarded at Barcelona on a daily basis. Internal politics runs deep within the veins of Barcelona, a club owned by the “socios.” After Joan Laoprta lost presidential elections, Sandro Rossel came into the forefront. He is a fabled business man with a serious disliking of Cruyff and all those that revere him a la Laporta, Pep, Txiki etc. He carefully started undoing everything that had to do with Cruyff and his philosophy, including pushing out people who were in line with the Cruyff philosophy like Txiki, Pep, e.t.c., destroying the basis of La Masia. Instead, he focused on purchasing heavy names; even if it included shady dealings; thus tarnishing the club’s reputation. The most sacrilegious act he performed was stripping Cruyff of the honorary president title.
Troubles for Barca started slowly after Pep stepped down. La Masia was neglected to the core and problems started surfacing. Barca was gifted with exceptional players including the man himself, Leo Messi, and they continued doing good on the field with the addition of stars like Neymar and Suarez allowing them to win a treble. But eating away the club’s philosophy at the base means that Barca started lagging more compared to their eternal rivals, Real Madrid, who have been getting stronger by the day. Today the gap has widened so much that the Real Madrid Cantera is producing exciting young players like Asensio, Llorente, Mayoral, e.t.c., as well at incorporating fresh young blood like Theo Hernandez and Ceballos to support their core group of stars, and have won 3 UCL trophies in 4 years. On the other hand, Barca is adopting the galactico policy of Real Madrid, having made a fool of themselves running after Coutinho the entire summer. Not to mention, the loss of Neymar, contract extension problems of Messi and Iniesta and complete neglect and drying up of La Masia have landed them in big turmoil. Real Madrid is looking poised for the future whilst Barca is scraping the barrels with Lionel Messi carrying the complete load on his back. As long as Messi is there, Barcelona always will pose a threat, but the man is not getting any younger. We are so used to his other worldly performances that we forget that the miracles that have been carried out on the pitch by this man, year after year, has never and perhaps will never be seen in the future. His actions might be alien-like, but Messi is human after all, and Barcelona’s heavy dependence on him will eventually take a toll on his body. With the Cruyff Philosophy fading away, the question arises: will this chaotic and shady board completely destroy the golden period of Barcelona?
By Arindam Chakraborty