Power shift in the world of European Football

Life is a mix of different colors and emotions, some bright some dull, some evocative, hazy and indefinable, and some even provocative. Nothing explains it better than what happened to FC Barcelona on the evening of Friday when the German giant FC Bayern Munich kinda brutally crushed them to their worst defeat in 74 years in any championship.

While we could write endlessly about the way the Germans dominated the game led by such tall giants of the game Lewandowski, Muller, and Neuer, and the way the formidable club extended their unbeaten run of 28 games, I would like to discuss here more about the way FC Barcelona has been seen in the current season. It’s not a cause of worry though but it is surely a subject worth debating considering their high status and the sheer class of players that they boast of. That Bayern Munich played a game that only they probably can, clinical, near-perfect, and fast is beyond that words could describe.

Talks have been on since Cristiano Ronaldo, another of the all-time greats to have played football, moved to Serie A champions Juventus whether Lionel Messi, another living legend, would ever leave a club of FC Barcelona’s fortune. A club that has dominated world football over the last 15 years, and a club that groomed and made Messi what he is today and where he stands today. But is this not one of the challenges that the Barcelona management and their coach have to overcome if they have to build a club that can redefine how artistic and classy football can be played by successfully inheriting the basis of past glory and fusing it subtlety with the demands of current day football with the talent and resources that are available on the global stage.

It’s probably too big a subject to discuss Messi’s future, but the legend himself must be more worried than anybody else as to how to make this desperately needed transition with the current crop of talent available and how to change his game to shift the balance to another couple of emerging talents who have the potential to share the big stage alongside him for next 2-4 years, before he could bid adieu to the game with the satisfaction that he fully deserves.

Luis Suarez is immensely talented but doesn’t look as pacy and effective as he used to be a few years ago. May be he is getting past his prime. The enigma of Coutinho is hard to fathom and serious questions arise as to why one of the most celebrated transfer signings on world football and of Barcelona in recent times was loaned to Bayern when he was brought specifically to fill the shoes of Neymar on the left-wing and as to why was he asked to play like Iniesta and Neymar combined when they moved to play 4-4-2 tactical formation from earlier 4-3-3. Anyway, all these are purely Coach and player dependent, but Coutinho didn’t fail to rub salt on Barca’s wound Friday night when he scored two goals for Bayern against the same Barca.

Talking of the current problems engulfing Barca, the root cause lies in their midfield which used to work so well for them when Xavi and Iniesta were around who were perfect foil to Messi’s brilliance. With the present midfielders Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Vidal, de Jong, and Arthur, Barca are clearly unable to call the shots piercing the midfield to feed their forward line. This was more than evident against Bayern and even before in the other league matches too. None of the present defenders are in the class of Puyol, and this weakness has been exposed more than once.

The last two to three seasons also saw emergence of some French and Italian clubs improving their play and becoming more competitive to their bigger rivals, by investing in younger players, a strategy that has been paying off Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid too.

Barca has to think differently if they have to come out of the current gloom and have to shift focus to grooming the right successors to Messi, Suarez, Xavi, Iniesta, and Puyol. Real, and ManU are in the process of doing it and Barca too must.

For once though, the European football has again started seeing better competition in Serie A, Bundesliga, and Ligue 1, and it seems Spanish football is in need of a booster dose of revitalizing tonic to make La Liga more competitive and entertaining. And this has to ironically start right at the top of the table toppers!

Image courtesy: Sky Sports

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