Management the problem for Barcelona?
It was hardly 3 and a half years ago that Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona’s side eased past Manchester United in the Champions League and were subsequently declared not just the best team in the world but one of the best teams in the history of the game. A few things have changed since then with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich rising to power as the two top clubs in Europe, coupled with the drubbing Barcelona received at the hands of Bayern in 2013 and a trophyless season in 2014.
This makes it fair to say that although Barcelona are one of the top 4 clubs in the world just now, they are now not only no longer the team to beat. It is not wrong to say looking back at last season’s performances that they were also the third-best team in Spain last season, behind the two Madrid clubs.
This leads us to question what exactly went wrong within the club that has lead to their slip in form because at the end of the day it is hard to question the quality of players they have at their disposal. Here we take a look at some of the mistakes the management have made along the way and some of the problems they currently face:
• ?Policy of hiring managers: Barcelona's policy of hiring managers that understand the philosophy of the club unearthed a gem in the form of Pep Guardiola but their last two managers Gerardo Martino (resigned after a trophy-less season) and Luis Enrique have not been able to live up to the standards set by Guardiola with Martino publicly admitting that his time at Barcelona was a total failure and that he failed to teach Lionel Messi and the rest of the team nothing.
A change in policy of hiring managers if Luis Enrique does loose his job could do Barcelona a world of good as a more experienced manager would be better suited to guide Barcelona through the summer transfer window where they will be unable to sign any player.
• ?Transfer Ban: FC Barcelona received a transfer ban for breaching transfer rules relating to the signing of young players which has resulted in a transfer ban that will prevent them from signing players for two transfer windows. The ban only allows Barcelona to recall players from loan and renew the contracts of their players. This means that although Barcelona have a strong squad they will lose ground to title rivals Real Madrid and serious injuries to key players could spell trouble for Barcelona.
• ?Failure to replace Carles Puyol: Although the defender only retired in the summer of 2014, he had been facing a massive injury crisis and it was evident that they would have to replace him. Gerard Pique was touted to be the long term replacement for Puyol from Barcelona's current crop of players, but the defender’s recent fall from grace has raised further questions to Barcelona’s already fragile defense. Barcelona have signed Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen, however neither of the two are suitable replacements for Puyol’s spot but simply add to the depth of the squad.
• ?Poor summer signings: Another gamble that Barcelona have undertaken is to give Luis Enrique, who is quite an inexperienced manager, more than 100 million to spend on transfers and so far none of the new signings have made much of an impact .The summer of 2014 was key to FC Barcelona with the transfer ban coming up, and Luis Enrique’s signings may have added to the depth to the squad but they have in no way added to the quality of the squad.
In fact letting go of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas will be giving Enrique nightmares as both players have quickly adapted to the Premier League and have been playing some brilliant football for their respective clubs. Enrique’s new signings haven't made much of an impact so far with striker Luis Suarez, who coming in after the best season of his career, has failed to hit the same heights he did at Liverpool. Thomas Vermaelen, the former Arsenal captain, is yet to make an appearance for the club and new right back Douglas Pereira has so far warmed the bench.
• ?Controversies surrounding the club: Barcelona have faced their fair share of controversies over the last few years with President Sandro Rossel stepping down due to allegations of the club misrepresenting the transfer fee paid to sign Brazilian forward Neymar. Lionel Messi has repeatedly faced allegations of tax fraud. Most recently, the (CAS) Court of Arbitration of Sports upheld their transfer ban to the dismay of the club which also led to the sacking of former goalkeeper Andoni Zubizaretta from the role of sporting director and his number two, former club captain Carles Puyol.