Disappointed by the season? Ready to kick some internet ass and spray your opinions throughout the four corners of the cyberworld? You gotta do what you gotta do. But first, let’s separate the bull from the crap, the pimp from his hoes and hit the judge with its own hammer. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, with no further ado…
Myth: We had a bad season.
Reality: Any culer worth its salt knows we didn’t. You don’t even have to be that old. Only seven seasons ago we ended third in the Liga with a whopping 18 points below Real M*drid. That was pretty bad and guess what? We still reached the semi-finals of the Champion’s League, a competition we didn’t even participate in five years prior. In the Gaspart years the club spent boatloads of money to be only equaled by an incredible amount of frustration felt by its followers. As a fan of F.C. Barcelona since Cruijff took over, I’m not even an old-timer. The old guys don’t remember the bad seasons as much as they remember the occasional league championship every decade or so. To sum it up, the only way this season qualifies as “bad” is when we compare it to the most successful period any club, not just ours, but any club in the world has gone through in the last forty years of the game.
Myth: Pinto sucks.
Reality: He’s our backup goalkeeper. Let me repeat. Backup!!! How many squads have had such a good backup keeper over the last five years? Really, people need to wake the hell up before they judge. Even the newly crowned champions of Europe almost lost out on their décima because of a horrible mistake made by their backup goalkeeper. When I think of how Pinto has played since Valdes’ injury, I don’t remember him costing us even one goal. He has induced the occasional heart attack, for sure, but he has not cost us. To a lot of fans he has been our most entertaining player of the season. Culers giggle and laugh in bars throughout the city whenever he goes on one of his crazy dribbles. Give that man a one-year contract. Let him be the third goalkeeper and tutor a young Marc-André ter Stegen and Jordi Masip. Not only because he deserves it, but because it’s the smart thing to do.
Myth: Neymar and Messi can’t play together.
Reality: The truth is we haven’t got the faintest idea. While true that they rarely looked good together, that can almost be said for the team as a whole. Besides, Leo was injured for two months and when he came back Neymar got injured. When Neymar came back, the team collectively slumped and our coach seemingly gave up on coaching his squad. I say seemingly because we don’t know that either. What I do suspect is that the team will be better off with Messi as a no. 10 and a selfless striker who moves around a lot and doesn’t need the ball at his feet. Higuiain would be perfect in that regard. Mandzukic intrigues as well. Time will tell, and whatever the technical team decides, it’s up to our new manager to make it work.
Myth: Tata was given a raw deal.
Reality: He knew what he was coming into. We had a bad board then and we have a bad board now. You’re gonna tell me he was unaware that SPORT and MD print their dailies with poison instead of ink? Without any European experience, Gerardo Martino was given the chance to lead an extraordinary group of players who had won it all and then some. That was precisely the challenge: how the heck are you going to keep them winning. He failed, and I don’t blame him. Without a proper pre-season, no reinforcements, and the drama of replacing a manager who fell out with cancer, this was a damn near impossible task. But let’s not kid ourselves. A lot of coaches would have signed up for that deal, regardless of the circumstances. Heck, they dream of that chance to come along. And the majority would have won squat, just like Gerardo Martino. It doesn’t make him a bad coach. But it definitely does not make the board wrong for replacing him with Luis Enrique.
Myth: If Lucho chooses to play a vertical game, Cesc will flourish.
Reality: It’s true that Fàbregas plays better when we play more vertically, but he has only ever really flourished at Arsenal. Why? Because he was the best player on a team that was built around him. A squad that features Messi, Iniesta and Neymar will never be built around a less godly talent such as Cesc. And if he doesn’t have the freedom to go where he wants on the pitch and do what he wants, the attributes that made him such a great player are severely compromised. Has he ever looked anywhere close to great in a big game? He has been back at F.C. Barcelona for three years now, and has had plenty of opportunities to shine. We all know he can. Just not at his boyhood club.
Myth: We should abandon our style.
Reality: We play a formation of 4-3-3 (of which 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1 are merely variations). We´ll never hoof it up the field or sit back and lure on the break. Our game has always been based on technique and passing, possession and offense. That’s what makes us us, from the Masía to the B-team and all the way up to the first team. A bad season or two (or three, or thirteen) changes not a thing. Football goes through cycles… Period. During those cycles, Barça will always be Barça and should always play like Barça. A closely related myth is that Martino betrayed our style. All because we actually scored some counter goals and even had less than 50% possession once on a potato field ploughed through by the caretakers of Rayo Vallecano, press and fans were aghast at what they considered “counter attack” football. Never mind the fact that during that same first half of the season that this particular criticism was continuously uttered, Barça actually maintained possession of the ball for 67%.
Myth: Dani Alves can’t cross.
Reality: Ok. How do you explain that during our last two games against Atletico Madrid, an awesome defensive team featuring a goliath duo of Godín and Miranda, Dani found the heads of little Messi, Xavi, Neymar, Pedro and Alexis? Not to mention the fact that our season winning and wrongly called offside goal came off of his cross also. Claiming that Dani Alves can’t cross because he sometimes mistakes the corner flag for a head is like saying la Pulga can’t score because he sometimes shoots straight at the keeper. You can argue that he shouldn’t play as many crosses because our players aren’t the most naturally endowed physical specimen to knock in header after header, but you are very much mistaken if you think he’s not a good crosser of the ball.
Myth: Our players didn’t try hard enough.
Reality: Get real. A sports team can’t just keep winning forever. Impossible. And neither can Messi. The same fans who proclaim him celestial for a standard of play that saw him pick up a historic four balons d`or in a row (and let’s not forget, saw our team haul in a historic number of prizes in the process) are dragging him through the mud now that he has “only” scored 46 goals this year and co-led the team in assists. If his winner in the last match of the season had stood? Our God and savior. But it didn’t, so let’s treat him like crap and doubt his heart. Another travesty is the comparison being drawn in some quarters between this group of players and Frank Rijkaard’s guys in their mister’s final year. Are our stars out getting bent four nights per week? Do they skip training en masse? Did they… get fat? No. They fought for the league title until the last minute of the last game. So what if they didn’t win. They made this culer proud, and I’m convinced they will do so next season as well. Visca Barça!