By Saul Garcia.
Barcelona have had a tumultuous time of it so far this season, from various injuries to key players to a managerial change, this campaign has seen the Blaugrana go through plenty of ups and downs.
Initially, this was blamed on Ernesto Valverde and a supposed straying from the “Barca DNA” and not prioritising possession-based football.
His ousting, while many thought it unjustified, brought in a new era under Quique Setien, but many of the same problems remained.
The ageing stars, the over-reliance on Lionel Messi and lack of quality and depth across the board. That lack of depth led to a panic, emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite, and while it is too soon to tell how he will fare, he is not of the quality Barcelona usually sign. This has led to problems with balance in the squad.
There are two solutions to Barcelona’s current problems.
One, purge the team of old players, but save Messi.
It will be difficult, but if Barcelona want to compete with Real Madrid and Atlético next year, they need an overall younger and more energetic squad.
Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique are the biggest culprits. They have not been on the levels expected of a Barcelona player. If not for Messi, they would have merely been clinging to a Champions League spot.
Add an ageing Arturo Vidal, an often injured Jordi Alba, and Luis Suarez declining and injured — it becomes clear it is time to move on and bring in younger players.
Two, focus on recruiting players under 23 while also making use of La Masia.
This would be similar to the way the Madrid clubs have been going about their business of late. Barcelona need to use their massive scouting network to find players akin to their style.
From a Joao Felix and Renan Lodi at Atletico, to Real’s Brazilian trio Reiner Jesus, Rodrygo and Vinicius; Barcelona need their own examples of these.
They got off to a good start with the signing of Trincao, but they need more.
How about a Thiago Almada? A winger/attacking midfielder from Velez, coveted by many English clubs; or Sergio Gomez, a midfielder from Borussia Dortmund?
Moving on to re-inventing La Masia. It will not be easy, but if they invest money in coaches and actually promote a player or two, it could work.
What is clear is that Barcelona need to do something, because as good as Messi is, he will not always be able to save them.
Barcelona will exist after Messi leaves and they need to start preparing the future, and that future is closer than we think.