Searching for Answers: Barça’s Greek Tragedy

[It’s been a bit since I wrote something of value for BFB. Time, you know. Not much of it. Still, sorry!]

As I stare at my laptop screen, I wonder how I should frame this post. Should I explore the blame route where the coach, players, the fandom are taken to task? Or should it be the sadness route where we relive the destruction of the sporting project that has seen an entire core of players either misused or sold? Maybe stroll down anger road and blast this useless board and their financial agenda? Perhaps make parallels between the fall of Cryuff’s Dream Team and the Sir Bobby Robson era, and Pep’s Dream Team and Tata Martino era?

The answer is: I don’t know. I really don’t.

Following Barca these days is a lot like seeing a Greek tragedy write itself before your eyes. You’re the unseen audience and no matter how hard you yell at the hapless protagonists to not do that stupid thing you’re about to do or bang on the window glass of the clueless voting populace to alert them of incoming stupidity, you’re still invisible, the observers without a voice.

It has all the tropes you could think of and all the plot twists and red herrings of popular media. Old foes clash in a battle of ideologues, priorities and wit. Betrayals and alliances. Naive Newcomer Tata Martino jumps into a snake pit of insidious media and skeptical fans to lead a jaded group to new glory; only he’s having a tough time as his incompetent bosses need to appease their non-existent shareholders and make a 30m profit for their dividends. Just when Villain Protagonist Sandro Rosell comes out with a signing of a brilliant rising star, Spanner in the Works Jordi Cases appears with a lawsuit. Oh, but another twist, Anti-Hero Martyr Rosell engineers a resignation so his more media-friendly number two takes the helm. And round and round we go.

There was a journalist on Twitter who quipped a few minutes after the loss to a Valladolid that’s only one four games previously, “By the way, Puyol’s been smart…’ To jump ship, went without saying. But has this Barca had a true exodus yet? On the one hand, you can say yes: Pep, Cryuff, Abidal, Thiago, Valdes, Puyol to name a few. But on the other hand, Messi, Iniesta, Busi, Neymar to name a few are still around to make up the core of the team. We know Xavi, complaints about pitches aside, will go down with this ship — if he has his way, which is still not guaranteed despite his record appearances for the club. And that’s part of it, isn’t it?

To say fans are ruled by their passion is to say Messi might be decent at this football business (or maybe that’s a bad comparison, seeing how people have been talking about him lately…) They demand excellence at all times; this has its pros and cons. It leaves the team with standards. If the local hero isn’t at that level, they’ll turn on him. In the heat of the moment, past glory means nothing. On the flip side, play well and you’re untouchable. When times are good, it’s freaking awesome. When it’s bad, it’s nightmarish.

But like a true tragedy it’s those ruled by their passion that fizzle out the hardest. Pep Guardiola left because he was burnt out. Mentally fatigued Valdes decided he needs to outsource his talents  to new employers after a pressure cooker career. Puyol’s body couldn’t take the punishment the soul it housed demanded it endure. And in the end, no one can change the mind of a passionate and principled individual (except their parents, maybe). That leaves the fans more inclined to thinking trying to make sense of the body of work, of what’s left. Where did it all go wrong? Nowhere or everywhere. Maybe it was a disaster, maybe it’s the natural progression of events. Maybe too much stuff happened off-screen that we’re not privy to.

In a moderately received post I made some time ago, there was a hastily made flow-chart of fan arguments in response to big games. Fans being fans, there is always a way to make any possible scenario turn into some kind of online victory when they are debating an ‘outsider.’

“No matter the outcome of the game, I still win the online battle.”

The cule reactions would be much shorter of course; Did we win? By how many goals? How well did we play? All of that satisfied? Ok, we’re the best in the world. Fail to reach any of those and we go, depending on the aforementioned conditions, from an underachieving, lazy band of dimming icons to the fungus underneath the dying hopes of an entire fandom.

As usual, the answer is somewhere in between. The team definitely has a lot of fat that needs to be trimmed, for those who like stock pundit phrases, it needs to be reinvigorated but more importantly it needs a good head on its shoulders to lead it. No, I don’t mean the coach; I mean the people up top. But that’s just one opinion. For some it’s the manager, others the gutless players.

At the end of a disappointing day, week, season, years, we’re left trying to analyse the work and find some answers. I don’t really know what to say, honestly. There will be an exodus at Barça, but will it be the board or the players? I just pray it doesn’t end in a real Greek tragedy.

Question of the Day: If you could change one thing at Barça on or off the pitch, what would it be?

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. Our 4th best midfielder, Thiago, goes to BM and is/will be their #1. Compare his, or Iniesta’s, technique to the two mentioned Germans, there is clearly a class difference.

    1. Out 4th best midfielder you say. You should also know that, we nevr even gave him enough chance to show that he can be third or even second. He is not their first. Bayern rotate heavily and thiago is not even their best midfielder. Their best midfielders are kroos, schweinsteiger, lahm at DM, and gotze. Thiago is their 5th. Ask any bayern fan, and they will tell you this!

      One of the reason thiago starts is because of rotation, and injuries to schweinsteiger! Yet he is also very capable too!

    2. Still want to claim müller is as technically competent as Thiago, Iniesta etc? I did not include the DM spot or Götze (a mistake?). I rate Thiago over Schweinsteiger, Kroos, and Müller, never understood the hype behind these players. You feel free to tell explain what they would contribute to FCB for the price tag, say 40m, you seem to watch more BM than I.

    3. The footballers you just mentioned have great talent and possess things our also talented lads don’t. We cant diminish the attributes of others to highlight our own. And I think this has been a problem in the past for us with transfers and team development-wise.
      We seem to lack a real plan of metamorphosis of this team. We have been constantly looking to find the next Xavi, Messi and Iniesta (more importantly for years it should’ve been the next Puyol) neglecting the incorporation of other talent pools and such diversification necessary to remain on top of our ever evolving opponents. So while they did evolve we stopped and have been depending on our ‘old guard’ for some time now. Having this almost ‘holier than thou’ attitude with our team play.
      To be honest Pep did try: Ibra, Helb, Sanchez, Cesc, Mascherano. Each offered something different but wasn’t or hasn’t been really seem as important for continuation of a legacy.
      Other sporting teams have realize that need to be constantly active to remain at the top: Celtics, Lakers, etc. We have done it too. But sometimes success blinds.

  2. Hey there.
    What is hard for me to understand though is that we find it almost totally inconceivable to put any blame on the ones who actually play the game; the players.
    We analyze many coaching decisions and pitch conditions but forget these handsomely paid young men are supposed to be professionals. They have ssimply let us down at various points of the season. In case we forget,this is Barça. Nobody gets to take a day off defending the colours. I would much prefer an off form player giving their all; running their lungs out and legs off and fighting for it than see a casual, disinterested approach where we can turn it on and off.
    I’m also seeing sometimes from interviews some players seem unable of self criticism. It’s always some external force. A look into their minds and maybe egos you say.
    Up Barça though. We live to fight another day and right our wrongs. A great blessing that is.

    1. Thats a point to be made, it does seem some players, particularly Alves, have a bone to grind with some fans which is a little rich considering the latest performances.

      But it can’t be said the players haven’t been overachieving given the transfer activity in past summers and off pitch troubles ( Iniesta, Tito, Abidal ) so rather than give them grief for a lower level we appreciate the great work they’ve done overall.

      At Barça though, for better or worse they won’t accept a drop in performances. You can bet a lot of the Barça media are tearing into them.

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