By Steve Zavala
How many times would someone say that their team is in trouble even though they won it all the previous month?
Many Barcelona fans on social media would say “Barca just died” or “Another six years of corruption awaits.” So what would trigger the negative comments from Barcelona fans across the world? Josep Maria Bartomeu was recently re-elected as FC Barcelona President. Yes, that is the Bartomeu who was the only candidate to show his support to sponsor Qatar Airways. Yes, that is the same Bartomeu who is in the middle of the tax fraud and Neymar transfer controversies. Yes, that is the same Bartomeu that has lost the trust of many Barcelona fans around the world over what is in store for the future of the famous La Masia.
So how could he be re-elected as FC Barcelona President? That is the mystery that many fans around the world would want to know. Many assume that because Barcelona won the treble (La Liga, Copa Del Rey, and UEFA Champions League), the Socios (Barcelona voting members) would be convinced that he would be better off in charge. His biggest rival in the election was Joan Laporta, who was FC Barcelona President from 2003-2010. Laporta helped turn Barcelona into a feared powerhouse top soccer team as they won 12 trophies during his tenure while also bringing in world class players such as Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho. Laporta’s promises included ending the sponsorship with Qatar Airways, restoring La Masia, and bringing in young France and Juventus star Paul Pogba.
Who knows what to expect with Bartomeu as President for the next six years. Many expect corruption and scandals to run the headlines for Barcelona, but many fans are hoping for the complete opposite as they hope for their recent winning ways to continue.
There is nothing much left to do besides believe that Bartomeu’s vision for Barcelona will be a positive and memorable one, unless his presidency is cut short with a prison term…
You can either dwell on the mysterious future that awaits for FC Barcelona and President Bartomeu or you can look at what is in store for the treble winning Barcelona.
Before Barcelona can begin their quest to complete the unthinkable and repeat a treble season, Barcelona could add more trophies to their collection as well as face the most popular clubs in the world.
Barcelona will begin their campaign by competing in club friendly games in the International Champions Cup. Over the next thirteen days, Barcelona will be facing MLS side LA Galaxy, Premier League teams Manchester United and Chelsea, and Serie A team Fiorentina. Preseason games like these will be a good way to start the season as the first team players get a good tune up after over a 1 month break. For other players such as Sandro, Halilovic, and Munir, it is a good chance for the youngsters to showcase their talents and prove that they belong here.
Barcelona will also play in the annual Gamper Cup against Roma for their first game of the 2015/2016 season at the Camp Nou. They will look to complete their 2nd ever sextuple by first hoping to win the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla and Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Club. A historic feat that has never been done before twice in the history of European soccer.
After that, it gets real for Barcelona and they will face the question that many are skeptic of it actually happening, could they possibly repeat a treble season?
Their form last season was just unstoppable. As Luis Suarez began to adjust to Barcelona’s tactics and after the “Sell Messi/Luis Enrique sacked” ridiculous rumors, they just could not be beat. They cruised to a Copa Del Rey trophy with their only “challenge” coming from Fernando Torres and Atletico Madrid. They won La Liga as they dominated teams throughout the season. They also went on to knock off the previous season’s champions of Italy/Germany/France/England to win the UEFA Champions League.
The MSN combo was unstoppable and Ivan Rakitic did played well as Xavi’s replacement.
Unlike last season, Luis Suarez will start the season with Barcelona. That is definitely scary considering the fact that the MSN trio scored 122 combined goals even though Suarez missed nearly two months last season.
At the end of the day, only injuries can stop the MSN. Messi has been in top form, even though he underperformed in the Copa America. Now when you add one of the best soccer players of all-time (crazy to say that already when he is just TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD) in Messi and pair him up with a world class striker and finisher with Suarez and a 23-year-old world class winger with Neymar, opponents defenses have trouble brewing.
As anybody knows, a solid and consistent midfield is vital to a team’s success. From the Xavi/Iniesta to the Kroos/Schweinsteiger to the Di Maria/Modric duos, successful midfield duos have been proven to be key to Champions League winning teams. And it was not different with the Iniesta/Busquets/Rakitic combo. Seen as Xavi’s successor, Rakitic midfield play was not as dominant as prime Xavi, but he was able to do well in Barcelona’s tiki-taka and help dictate midfield play. Rakitic was able to be a creative facilitator for MSN and he himself contributed nine goals and ten assists in the season.
Addition of Atletico Madrid Arda Turan will be superb off the bench if he adjusts well to Barca’s distinctive style of play. Turan, along with Aleix Vidal, will be able to begin their Barcelona career in January once their transfer ban is finally uplifted.
Looking at the club’s defense, what more can you say besides praise their efficiency and great play all season. The other new addition is Sevilla’s Aleix Vidal, who caught the eye of Barcelona for his tremendous contributions to the Europa League champions Sevilla.
As for an outlook at Barcelona’s goalie situation, it should be the same for this upcoming season. Luis Enrique decided to go for Claudio Bravo for La Liga games while Marc-Andre ter Stegen started in Copa Del Rey and Champions League games. So why should this goalie situation carry into next season? Well, they won it all and as the saying goes, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Hard to see where the flaws are for this team heading into next season. You have three of the best attacking players in the world, a world class midfield, a championship veteran backline, and a coaches dream of goalie depth.
While there are no flaws for this team, there are some question marks that could affect Barcelona’s immediate future. The future of forward Pedro with Barcelona is unknown at this point. Teams such as Premier League teams such as Chelsea and Liverpool have shown interest in the Spanish forward. Barcelona are not ruling it out, but he could be on his way out. His loss would damage Barcelona’s forward depth. While he did lose his starting job to Neymar, he has been comfortable in his role off the bench as he has accumulated a total of 104 appearances and 30 goals combined over the past two years. There could be a silver lining as his loss could open the door for more playing time to youngsters Munir and Sandro.
Another question mark for Barcelona is just how much do veterans Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, and Javier Mascherano have left? All three have been important factors for Barcelona in their time with the team but all are over the age of 30 and as players get older, injuries begin to affect players and possibly skills begin to diminish. In Iniesta’s case, Barcelona have already begun to find his replacement with Paul Pogba. The French superstar is only 22-years-old and has so much more to offer. Pogba’s play in midfield was top notch quality, even in a midfield with Pirlo/Vidal, and he played a big role in helping Juventus get to the Champions League Final. It will be risky replacement considering the projected price of over 80 million and the fact that Iniesta still has a lot to offer to Barcelona.
With the talents of Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves, and Andres Iniesta, it is hard to underestimate what they will bring into this upcoming season. All three were in top form at the end of the season, so like with this Barcelona team, only injuries can stop them.
So can this team pull off another treble?
They know what to expect in Copa Del Rey play and La Liga games. As with every Spanish soccer season, it is always down to Barcelona and Real Madrid. Injuries to Modirc/Rodriguez slowed down Madrid and Barcelona was able to take advantage and run the table. You can not bank on injuries to occur again so it will be a tough battle down the stretch for La Liga/Copa Del Rey trophies. As always as well, do not count out Atletico Madrid or Valencia.
In Champions League play, powerhouse Bayern Munich will likely be adding Arturo Vidal and PSG could be adding Argentina midfielder Angel Di Maria. It just makes competition for the defending champs Barcelona much more difficult, but can they pull off another treble? Of course.
This team has all the potential in the world to get back-to-back treble winning seasons, first to ever do it in European club soccer history. They have everything they need to do it and the additions of Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal in January will no doubt be a big boost to this team as the season progresses.
Team chemistry will be something to watch for this upcoming season. Luis Enrique was successfully able to regroup Barcelona after a “rumored report” of a falling out with Lionel Messi and was able to regroup the team when they were in 4th place in La Liga.
Keeping the team together and focused at the trophies that could await them in May and June should be the #1 priority for Luis Enrique and Barcelona.