Barcelona’s 4-3 defeat in the hands of Celta de Vigo showed us two things: how stubborn the club is when it comes to its fundamental principles—like not avoiding playing out from the back when they’re being pressed high—and also, in a way, what the future holds for this great squad.
In a sense, this was a summer utilized to varying effect in recruiting those who will wear the Blaugrana shirt for the years to come. Although some might say that they overpaid for some of the players—Andre Gomes could cost them up to €70 million—the club’s executives and fans alike will argue that it’s a cheap price to pay in this fast-becoming expensive perfume shop of a transfer market.
The new players seemed to have gelled well with their teammates in preseason; but then again, it was simply preseason. When Enrique made 7 changes and fielded almost all of his summer acquisitions in what was predicted to be one of the most one-sided games of the season against Alaves, they all failed miserably to stake any sort of claim. The return of the MSN brought about renewed confidence in the next match and some public defense for what now seems like a poorly conducted summer transfer window.
Going with youth instead of experience is always a gamble. However, when the youth is relatively unproven and only show glimmers of their potential even when given regular game-time, it becomes a very, very risky gamble. Bayern were incredibly lucky that their pick of the gems, Renato Sanches, shone at Euro 2016 for Portugal. Otherwise they’d have been scrutinized, too, for paying €38 million plus for an unknown teenager.
In Barca’s case, though, they let go of a player who the fans adored in Dani Alves without having second thoughts in regards to Aleix Vidal’s capability at fulfilling the role at right-back. The latter, of course, has disappointed, it’d be fair to say, in almost every single one of his outings so far. While the acquisition of Samuel Umtiti appeared to be a smart move—he too, one of those who shone at the summer’s tournament—the Frenchman’s obsession with making handballs truly makes you wonder (and look twice at the TV to make sure) whether the game being watched is actually football, or its rather less interesting counterpart. However, there is an argument to be made that it could be a French thing, as Jeremy Mathieu has also been the guilty party in such atrocities plenty of times in recent history.
Overlooking the transfer of Andre Gomes (because that’s just too easy), there is the issue of Neymar assuming the role of the main man within this team after Messi’s retirement. While this is obviously a problem to be dealt with in the future, there is the sense that the Barca board ‘attempted’ to nullify it somewhat this past summer, by acquiring those wonderfully youthful players aforementioned. There is no doubt as to Neymar’s talents, but it’s still easy to see that the Brazilian will never be at quite the same heights as Messi, and thus requires more of a supporting cast. If anything, Barcelona took a step backwards toward that goal this past summer, unless, of course, the new young players truly step up to their billing.
Which, mind you, they have not yet done, even though most of them have played at the top level for two or three seasons now.