“FC Barcelona”, someone tweeted on my timeline. I realized the Champions League draw had started and Barcelona’s name came up first. I started refreshing my timeline like a maniac. The next tweet I saw read “Bayern Munich”.
For the next few seconds, I received notifications from almost every possible application and source of information available on my phone. The world was simply buzzing with the news. To many, the biggest match of the year was finally here. As for myself, I just thought: “It’s time”.
How people deal with time differs. Some are deeply attached to the past, while others choose to let go of it, live for the moment and aim for a better future.
Speaking of time, let us go a few years back.
In 2008, FC Barcelona announced that their former player, Pep Guardiola, has been appointed the new coach of the first team.
We all know the details to that story. However, to sum it up, let us just say that the club witnessed its best period (from 2009 until 2013) in history with Pep and Tito in charge.
Pep left the club after a league failure and a Champions League heartbreak against Chelsea in 2012. Pep’s era came to an end.
Tito took charge of the first team the following season while Pep was taking a year off in New York. While Tito was helping the team accomplish a very successful league campaign, Bayern Munich announced that Pep Guardiola will be their coach in the 2013/2014 season.
Pep Guardiola watched as his former team faced his future team in April of 2013. Sadly for Barcelona, however, the tie turned out to be nightmare. The first match in Germany ended with a pure show of dominance from the German side. With Lionel Messi injured, Tito Vilanova battling cancer and a visible lack of structure in the club, the tie was over with yet another Bayern show of dominance but this time in Camp Nou in front of our home fans.
I heard the phrase “end of an era” a lot in that period. It came from a Robben quote after the two matches (4-0 and 3-0): “Barcelona have dominated Europe for the past five years. We can be very proud.”
Gerard Pique didn’t disagree either as he said: “When another side is so much better than you, there isn’t any option except to congratulate them”
Barcelona fans suddenly started waving their white flags and on those flags, written in bold letters, it said: “End of an era”.
After that period came a long period of sorrow and sadness. While Pep Guardiola was breaking Bundesliga records, Tata Martino had to deal with a relatively broken Barcelona. Barcelona fans truly realized, at that point, that their team is no longer the best in the world.
However, they found some happiness in cheering for their former savior and hero Pep Guardiola as he led Bayern through a fairly successful season. The peak of the support for Pep Guardiola came when Bayern Munich faced Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final in 2014. Barcelona fans witnessed a failure for their former coach and hero when Real Madrid stunned Bayern with a 4-0 win in Germany. Adding insult to injury, Barcelona’s biggest rival enjoyed their best year in ages in 2014 by winning the Champions League trophy.
The world came crashing down for Barcelona fans. From ruling the world and dominating their main rival continuously to witnessing this rival win a Champions League trophy as Barcelona came out empty-handed, the club, players, and supporters declared absolute failure.
In the summer of 2014, FC Barcelona announced that their former player, Luis Enrique, has been appointed the new coach of the first team.
Several players started coming in as Luis Enrique assembled his team. It was the start of something new.
With one defeat against PSG and one against Real Madrid, Luis Enrique was not exactly every fan’s favorite.
When 2015 started, however, things drastically changed. The team suddenly had its most successful winning streak in ages, started playing great football, and defeated literally all major rivals. The fans started to regain hope.
“It’s time”, I thought. It’s time to put our past and present in one ring and let them fight it out. It’s time to see if our ‘new’ style of play will defeat the style of play that put us on top of the world years earlier. It’s time for the present to prove its existence and send the past away forever.
Past events and failures aside, Pep’s team portrayed a certain style of play. It involved the evolution of players like Sergio Busquets. It depended on players like Xavi Hernandez to dictate play. While in Luis Enrique’s team, Xavi is a substitute. Lucho’s team tends to have a much more direct approach than Pep’s.
This, however, did not convince some of the fans.
“Wait! Pep didn’t do it that way”, one yelled.
“Yeah, well, Pep has been gone for years”, the other replied.
“It doesn’t matter, it’s our identity”
“This is how we are right now. This is how we were at least once before Pep. Are you saying that Pep’s football is our only identity?”
“The midfield doesn’t control matches anymore. They just push the ball to the attack”
And the discussion lasts for hours but one thing remains: the present.
The present involves a team led by Luis Enrique. It’s a team that depends on attacking brilliance for success. In this team, players can score and defend set-pieces. In this team, the ball is not circulated around midfield continuously. On the contrary, the players never hesitate to choose the riskier pass instead of the safer one. In this team, you witness the peak of attacking football with goals scored from all types of situations.
A lot of phrases could be used to describe Lucho’s team but my favorite has to be: It’s not Pep’s team.
It’s not the past. It shouldn’t be. It’s something different. It’s something new.
Lucho’s team can end this season with three trophies, no trophies, or somewhere in between. However, this team proved that a footballing success is possible even without the dictations of the past. After all, sticking to the past and its rules shows a lack of ambition and imagination regardless of how successful this past was simply because it shows that you’re afraid to open your eyes and see what the present has to offer.
Who knows? Maybe the present will provide something worth remembering in the future as well.
So, here we stand in May of 2015 ready to take on our former coach and style (with completely different players). We’re ready to face the club that forced us to pull out our white flags and surrender after 7 painful goals. In other words, we’re ready to face our hero and our nemesis. We’re ready to face our past.
As soon as Barcelona qualified against PSG one thought truly came to mind: the need for closure. This club, team, and fanbase need closure. We need to witness Lucho’s team lifting a league trophy, a Champions League trophy or maybe even both. There is something much more symbolic than a trophy in this situation and it is the true signaling of closure. The past is truly over and the present is beautiful and exciting.
There is no sweeter way to get closure than by defeating your past.
The world was simply buzzing with the news. To many, the biggest match of the year was finally here. As for myself, I just thought: “It’s time”.