FC Barcelona – La Liga Jaime Rincon gives his opinion
Lisbon, August 14, 2020: “Nobody is indispensable and I’m the first to offer myself if new blood has to come in, I’m the first to leave because I think we’ve really hit rock bottom”, Gerard Pique said after Barcelona‘s humiliating 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich.
Barcelona, February 16, 2021. “The light is not [going to] change in two months. I am convinced that if we continue on this path, improving things, positions, trying with the people to change things, we will get there. We are not at the end of the road, but [we are] halfway,” Ronald Koeman said after the 4-1 defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.
The two statements are more than half a year apart. But the two analyses go hand in hand. Barcelona are in the midst of a rebuilding phase. In the summer, Ivan Rakitic, Arturo vidal, Luis Suarez left… but others stayed. The old guard is still there.
They are illustrious names, perhaps, as with the case of the current Atletico Madrid striker, they are players who still have some years left in their boots, but they should not spend them at Barcelona. If you have to turn over a new leaf, you can’t hem a corner, mark it and come back to it in a fit of nostalgia.
It’s a little strange that the 31-year-old Jordi Alba still doesn’t have someone to really compete for his place. And yet the left-back has looked good at the start of the season. But today’s modern full-backs offer many other benefits beyond being a great attacking resource.
It is remarkable that the 34-year-old Gerard Pique had to cut short his recovery time from a knee injury and come straight into the starting XI for a Champions League last-16 tie after being out for three months. And he did so with a defence that pushes up – Barcelona no longer recover the ball in the opposition half, as they did under Pep Guardiola – against a team that wants there to be space in behind to run on to.
It is significant that the 32-year-old Sergio Busquets is still the one who carries the ball – without the passing reliability of before – in a midfield where his teammates, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, play at a different pace.
Football moves forward and does not look back. Today, physicality, pace of play, intensity, demanding pressure… these are what make the difference. And players who have been key for a decade and who, today, make up half the starting line-up, are not there to offer that.
Maximum respect and gratitude for the services rendered, but, to paraphrase Pique, “nobody is indispensable”. The other half of the road Koeman is talking about is to find replacements for those players.