Barcelona Are in Crisis – But Lionel Messi & the Entertainers Are Back

I wonder if Barcelona supporters would be so quick to slam the door behind Ernesto Valverde now, knowing exactly what has followed the double title-winner’s departure. 

Since the much-loathed coach left Camp Nou, things have really spiralled out of control in Catalonia. Results on the pitch have worsened, and relations between superstar ?Lionel Messi and sporting director Eric Abidal have very publicly soured. 

Antoine Griezmann

The Spanish champions are also heading into the final months of the season with a thread-bare squad, and an injury list as long as Antoine Griezmann’s hair. 

But at least it’s not boring. 

La Blaugrana went into their trip to Real Betis knowing they had to make up a six-point deficit on league leaders Real Madrid. No margin for error, then. 

Within five minutes, ?Barcelona were behind. A needless penalty kick was conceded, and the pressure was beginning to heap on Setién. The Spanish coach’s pain was short-lived, however, as the free-flowing football he had promised upon his arrival bore fruit. 

Los Cules demonstrated just how majestic they can be if they set their issues aside, when Messi’s beautifully-weighted pass was finished off by the insanely talented Frenkie de Jong. 

Frenkie de Jong

Barça were playing the game at 100 miles per hour, and they produced an intensity and a frenetic pace that had been missing in this type of contest under their former boss. 

But if you live by the sword, you must be prepared to die by that very same weapon. Arturo Vidal’s mistake in the midfield allowed Betis to regain the lead, thanks to a through ball from on-loan Barcelona star Carles Aleñá. Disaster. 

Somewhere, Valverde was probably swilling a glass of whiskey, smiling wryly to himself at the state of the club he had recently left at the top of the league. Barcelona’s display was a perfect metaphor for everything that was wrong in Catalonia this year. Pretty passing triangles and the occasional moment of magic plastered over what was overall, a disjointed and unbalanced performance. 

And inevitably, when things did get tough, the responsibility was shifted onto the shoulders of talisman and one-man band ?Leo Messi, to try and dig his teammates out of another hole. 

Lionel Messi

The Argentine’s frustrations certainly don’t stem purely from Abidal’s recent comments about the work ethic of the players being a key factor in Valverde’s sacking. 

The 32-year-old has been let down time and time again, and he must look around him on the pitch, and wonder just how this squad was allowed to be dismantled, without the foresight of recruiting any worthy replacements. 

It was a hat-trick of Messi assists which got Barça over the line in this gruelling 90 minutes, and without his freakishly accurate deliveries and willingness to carry the burden of an entire club on his shoulders, La Blaugrana would probably be left with very little hope of a title charge. 

The dream, as always, is Champions League success this season. 

It has been for the last five years, and Messi’s patience is wearing thin. The players around him are certainly not cut from the same cloth, and even though he will receive all the praise for another show-stopping performance, there’s no doubting that he’d much rather be a cog in a ruthless winning machine. 

Let’s hope Barcelona don’t roll the dice with the squad they have next year, and they provide their superstar with a crop of signings worthy of sharing a pitch with the world’s greatest footballer…