“In the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid”. Those were the words of Pique after losing 5-1 on aggregate to Real Madrid. I agree 100% with him on this statement, it was weird seeing them being outplayed by Madrid’s midfield. Madrid looked like the dominant team. In the past when Madrid have won classico games it was because they were better on the day or you can say they had a gameplan. But the two legs showed the world that Madrid are a better team right now.
If you go back 8 years to the summer of 2009, Madrid bought Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema and others to compete with the treble winning Barcelona team. Since then Madrid have won 2 La Liga titles and 3 Champions League titles, Barcelona have won 5 La Liga titles and 2 Champions League titles. Whilst Madrid have won trophies the view has never been that they are better than Barca. But after winning the Champions League in 2015 I think they have declined as a team. They have been too reliant on the their front three and haven’t recruited well in midfield or defence. Since Xavi has gone the style of the team is different, they should never have let Thiago go. Whilst that has been going on Madrid have developed a perfect midfield three of Kroos, Modric and Casemeiro that is possession based and athletic. Watching them play in the Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup it’s clear to see that they are the best team in Europe right now.
So what of Barcelona right now? They had their superstar player stolen from under their wing and are now scrambling to replace him. Having Neymar up front with Suarez and Messi was almost unfair. That’s 3 of the top 5 players in the world scoring over 100 goals a season between them. I think more will come out about why he left but I don’t think they honestly saw it coming. Without him I now see them as a world class team but not a great team like Madrid. Who does Barcelona have coming through into the first team, Deulofeu? Dennis Suarez? I don’t think they are ready to step up yet. Madrid on the other hand have Asensio replacing the suspended Ronaldo and scoring in big games on a regular basis as well as Lucas Vasquez. It’s weird that the tables have turned and now the best young players are coming from Madrid rather than Barcelona.
Now that Neymar is gone what can they do in the short term? They are trying to buy Coutinho and Dembele which would be good signings but I don’t see that as a direct replacement for Neymar. You can’t replace a great player with two really good players, look at previous examples with Liverpool and Arsenal when they sold their best players. However let’s not forget they still have Messi and Suarez upfront which is better than nearly everyone. But the problem is they are use to having the best attack or team in the world. This season may be a difficult season for them to adjust with the loss.
In the long term I think that they need to try and get back to playing their original style of football which made them unique. Recently they become more of a counter attacking team which I don’t think gets the best out of their team. Now that Iniesta is ageing they need to get in a great midfield player like Veratti to allow Messi more time to spend up front rather than always trying to create for the team. The team from a few years ago with Xavi, Iniesta, Pique and Messi is nearly gone. Messi just turned 30 so he is now entering the last part of his prime years, everyone would like to see these years spent with him happy and winning trophies. He is currently in contract negotiations and Barcelona need to show him that they have a plan going forward because I don’t think signing players like Paulinho will impress him. Suarez is also out for a month with a knee injury so there will be even more pressure on him come the start of the season.
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