Barcelona will today begin their La Liga season, as well as a new era, with a home game against 2020 Copa Del Rey winners, Real Sociedad. Usually, a season opener is merely that – a season opener. This year, however, poses more questions about Barcelona than ever before. Of course, as we are all well aware, tonight’s game marks the first of the “post-Messi” era of Barcelona; with a relatively unproven Memphis Depay taking on the role of Blaugrana talisman.
Whereas old talent remains at the Catalan giant – along with the addition of young, fresh potential stars – losing Messi 17 years after his La Liga debut and legendary career is a potentially fatal blow to a club whose financial security is far from safe. Without a doubt, tonight’s game marks the beginning of a new era at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona: Season Opener to Real Sociedad Starts a New Era
Messi’s Exit Marks the End of the Tiki Taka Era
The tiki taka era technically ended years before Lionel Messi’s exit from the club he captained over the past three years. Barcelona abandoned the tiki taka, “Total Football” inspired philosophy of Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola almost immediately after Xavi’s exit from the club in 2015. With club captain Carles Puyol having retired in 2014, Xavi took on the role of leader and as arguably the most crucial aspect of the tiki taka system – for both club and country – tiki taka reached its zenith under Xavi’s captaincy. Xavi’s exit in 2015 marked a break away from the system.
Whereas core components in Messi and Andres Iniesta remained, the philosophy lacked its pass master whose ability on the ball had made it run so smoothly for a decade. Additionally, more and more clubs had become accustomed to beating the system, meaning the club had to naturally progress without it in order to maintain an iron hold on the footballing world. With Messi then being up front with Neymar and Luis Suarez, it was relatively easy to form a new, ultra-attacking, high-press system which relied on the individual strengths of its star players as opposed to a well-drilled system of patient, possessive, short passing football.
It wouldn’t be long before Neymar was off to join Paris Saint-Germain to forge his own path as a club’s sole mega star (which didn’t last long, with the eventual arrival of Kylian Mbappe). In 2020, Luis Suarez was forced out of the club – moving on to an Atletico Madrid side he spearheaded to its first La Liga title in seven years. Barcelona was now bereft of its most influential talent outside of Messi and one year later, after a more than disappointing campaign which saw Barcelona fail to claim any reward outside of a Copa Del Rey victory, Messi would rejoin old friend, Neymar at PSG. The final key of the tiki taka generation had moved on; the club’s greatest legend in its illustrious, lengthy history is, for the first time in his playing career, not a Barcelona player. The “Golden Era” of Barcelona is finished and a new era begins.
Question to Be Answered Against Sociedad
There are plenty of questions to be answered in tonight’s season opener between Barcelona and Real Sociedad. Firstly, how will they line up? Barcelona, as always, hosts a whole class of next generation superstars – with Pedri, Ansu Fati, Sergiño Dest and more – at their disposal. In a way, they possesses a near-perfect blend of cross-generational talent and there is still much to be excited about, despite the negative mood at the club.
Gerard Piqué remains an ever-present, legend of the club – who took a pay cut to stay at Barcelona – and is able to provide experience to a side which will be far younger and inexperienced this season. Jordi Alba also remains and will provide, along with Piqué, some assurance at the back. In addition to team selection, there is the question of Memphis Depay.
Having experienced a failed spell at Manchester United early into his career, he went on to have a successful time at Lyon; scoring 63 goals in 139 Ligue 1 games. However, Ligue 1 is not La Liga. Despite its decline over the past two or three years, La Liga remains a top division and Depay will have his work cut out to impress an increasingly anxious and weary Barcelona fan base that has seen their legend leave the club in what should have been in easily preventable circumstances.
There is much to be excited about for Barcelona fans this season. Additionally, there is much to be worried about – with a yet-to-impress Ronald Koeman now holding full and complete control over the next chapter in the Barcelona story in increasingly uncertain times for one of the world’s most successful football teams.
Having won the 2020 Copa Del Rey in a Basque derby victory over Athletic Bilbao (a year later than intended), Real Sociedad are riding a wave of momentum and are fully capable of overcoming this new look Barcelona side. The result, however, is entirely unpredictable with all the question marks over Los Blaugrana. Tonight’s game is going to be one to watch. If you are looking for a glimpse into Barcelona’s future, tonight is the night to tune in to La Liga. A new era of FC Barcelona begins at home to Real Sociedad.
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