How Real Madrid can put an end to Barcelona dominance
The next two summer transfer windows might be the most important ones in Real Madrid's history. Los Blancos, the most successful club in the Champions League history and also the most successful club in the history of La Liga, have found themselves on the end of a sucker punch by the name of Lionel Messi in the last 10-15 years.
After the little magician's debut for Barcelona in 2004-05, he has managed to guide Barcelona to 10 La Liga titles, under various managers, and played alongside iconic players.
Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o are all legendary players themselves, but they were all pushed onto stratospheric heights due to the Messi's influence.
Real Madrid has found no answers to this brilliant man. After winning the league twice in 2006-07 and 2007-08, Pep Guardiola's Barcelona took over not only the Spanish league but also world football.
Real Madrid could only look on in envy as Barcelona swept all trophies in front of them, they won the treble too, an achievement which Real Madrid have not done till now and a fact that still stings them.
They then signed a battering ram going by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United, an attempt to stop Barcelona from winning everything of significance all the time. Along with the signing of other Galacticos like Kaka, Ozil, Gareth Bale, Xabi Alonso, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, Real Madrid assembled a team which was nothing short of iconic in one-off matches, but could rarely last the grueling race of a whole La Liga season.
Real Madrid won the Champions League 4 times when Ronaldo was at the club. The Portuguese established himself as "Mr. Champions League". But they failed to overcome Barca's dominance in La Liga, winning the league only twice when Ronaldo was at the club.
All the Galacticos from this era did not succeed either, the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Xabi Alonso have been successful. Unfortunately, Kaka and James Rodriguez failed to live up to their hype as Galacticos. The jury is still out on whether Gareth Bale has been a success or not.
The main aim of all the managers of this Galactico generation has been one thing: let the rest of the team work hard to give the ball to Cristiano Ronaldo so that he can put the ball in the back of the net. Cristiano didn't fail in doing his job, as he went to be the ultimate goalscorer and the man for big moments, but the rest of the attacking players suffered.
Barcelona is now experiencing what Real Madrid have been for quite some years; everything seems to go through Messi only and if he doesn't turn up, neither does Barcelona. He has become their saviour in the league just as Cristiano was Real's saviour in the Champions League.
The capitulation at Anfield this season, and that at Rome last season might have been the only two matches where Messi didn't turn up, and Barcelona ended up losing them. Messi will turn 32 this year. Unfortunately, it won't be long before he is out of his prime, and La Liga becomes an open playing field again.
The time is ripe for Real Madrid to strengthen, but they have to do so wisely, and they cannot afford to make one man at the forefront of the operation like last time. It needs to be a collective job, and they cannot let someone like Eden Hazard or anyone else have control over the team.
Players like Sergio Ramos and Marcelo – integral members of the previous era who are no longer at the peak of their powers – cannot be afforded to stay for more time than required at the club.
Barcelona is consistently getting it wrong in the market with big money signings such as Coutinho and Dembele. This is where Real should show their nous. The signing of Luka Jovic and the potential signing of Ferland Mendy are smart ones as they would peak at a time when Barcelona might be on the decline.
Real should also not make the mistake of selling players if they have one bad season as they have done previously. They have always bought talented players, and some of them might take time to adjust to a new league and a new team.
The proverb "To strike while the iron is hot" is befitting Real Madrid in the current situation. This Barcelona team is not good enough, and while Messi is getting older, Madrid should buy intelligently in the next two transfer windows to put an end to Catalunyan dominance.