It’s almost over, for better or worse

As a culer, I am struggling to get my mind around all of this. Truly.

This is a season that has rocketed past. It seems like only last week we were wondering about buying Luis Suarez, and him having to miss the first half of the season, would Neymar blossom like all second-year attackers at Barça, would Messi be fit, how will yet another new coach fare.

And now it’s almost over.

I always find that each season is like a weird romance. You don’t fall in love all over again, but you do renew your vows in a spiritual sense as things happen that make you rediscover the team that you love. Sometimes it’s failure. Other times it’s humanity. Still other times it’s a sort of magic, a close-but-no-cigar glory that resonates as vividly as the victory parades, ecstatic multitudes and confetti raining from the skies as if the Gods themselves are weeping Blaugrana tears of joy. Does any culer with tenure not remember the Rivaldo Chilena that got Barça into Europe? A Barça team finishing in fourth place and just making it into Europe today would be assassinated, not celebrated. But that magical day wasn’t all THAT long ago, in football time.

A football season is an improbable journey in a world that doesn’t suffer fools or failure. Games are low-scoring affairs, where a 4-4 scoreline would be considered bonkers. Chances come and go and goals are rare. There are wins and losses against hated rivals, inexplicable performances and moments that threaten to concuss us from clapping hands to heads.

We come here, or head for social media to discuss the team and how it is doing. There are favored and unfavored players, tactics and things galore to work out. We do this from armchairs, sofas, home offices and living rooms and even as none of it matters, it matters to us as we solve the team’s problems with a few hundred keystrokes.

What has happened this season so far is an absurd sort of extravagance that confounds even those who claim to have known better. Some idiots predicted that the team would go silverless this season, based on logic in a game that spits in the face of that pretender. It made sense at the time, with so many questions lingering from an ohsoclose season of fast starts, beauty, failure and heartbreak. Eight new faces and a new coaching staff ladles on uncertainty like syrup, and in the face of uncertainty our default setting tends to be reserve.

Then came clean sheets, moments and arguments, balls that fell exactly in the right places, moments that were engineered by strokes of genius most of all by a diminutive colossus who, when his former coach expressed joy that he was back, said, “I never left.” In many ways, the matter-of-fact delight of the season finds its encapsulation in a very simple comment. After a move so complete, delightful and unpredictable that it felled a giant defensive back and sparked dozens of Internet memes, media critters asked Messi how the move happened. “He expected me to go left, so I went right.” How easy it sounds, as easily as the goals seem to come during match after match, against team after team.

And now, with things almost at an end, four matches left in a potential history-making (again) season, there are many questions that people will ask, having to do with tactics, perceived deficiencies in the team and its approach, all kinds of things that don’t, and can’t really get at the reality of this year and how crazy it all is. Transfers, transfer bans, court cases, hearings and lawyer fees. A resigned president and jettisoned technical director and finally, elections were called. Anybody who says that they expected all of this is a liar. You can’t ever expect this. When this kind of sporting success happened with Guardiola, curiously enough, it began (once again) with calls for a coach’s head early in the season. Nothing was learned from that episode, just as nothing will be learned from the most current iteration of “Wait just a second, there.”

Even Fate has conspired to have things fall into place for this team, laying down a Sevilla/Valencia gantlet for its eternal rival that let some men wearing Senyera shirts put the ball firmly in a Catalan club’s court. As if that wasn’t enough, then a former academy player put the knife into his ex-homies, sparing the universe the gibbering, completely bonkers windup attendant to a Classic Champions League final. And in the Copa del Rey, Atleti dispatched its capitol city rivals then fell prey to the second and third of its losses this season against Barca. Crazy times, people … crazy times. Act like there was a plan all you like, but there can’t be. You just go through one match at a time, and hope. Even when you know your players are better, luck is still required. Is Malaga really capable of holding Barça scoreless in not one, but two matches? Apparently, yes.

But this is not the time for gloating, or inferiority complexes. Just take each match as its own moment, and enjoy the ride.

Winning doesn’t come all that often, despite the expectations of anticipatory fan bases. Just read a story about RM and the Perez presidencies guaranteeing not much more than failure on the big stage, and it’s interesting. Also interesting is that discomfiting as it is, the Barça and RM clubs and fan bases have never been more similar than right now, right down to Galactico signings. Impatience, nervous leaders who throw people under the bus, a demand for immediate success or out you go. Even now, rumors are building that Ancelotti will be gone in the summer, which will make a coach a year, just like us. Will Enrique stay? If he doesn’t win big silver, it will be hard for him to survive an election, particularly if a new president comes in. And that will be another coach, another year for us.

It’s why it’s all so difficult to get cranky about. Winning is wonderful. Some care a lot about how the results come. I’m not that picky, because winning is in and of itself, some magical stuff. Long ball, counter, last-minute ugly goal, a couple of headers, whatever. Just win, because there just aren’t that many opportunities to. So there will be fighting, and squabbling and “I told you sos,” whether Barça win the treble or log a pair of draws while RM win out, fall prey to the Juve bus and get kicked off the pitch by Athletic Club. But something wonderful has happened this season, and I intend to enjoy the hell out of it. Every second, every silly bit and goofball picture from training, all of it.

Because right now, this is what we have. This is all that we have.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. I don’t know why, but that last paragraph reminded me a tiny bit of the writings of Virgina Woolf (which I adore).

  2. .

    Nicely written Kxevin. It kinda astounds me that folks found some thing to criticize in the wake of our 2nd leg result. It is really remarkable how much this season has exceeded my expectations already and I am delighted where we are now. I, for one, really hope that Lucho gets time here irrespective of the circus show that is imminent.

    I was saying something in the last post about living and loving the “Now” instead of criticizing our past and dreading the future in the last post, but got hectored. Here it is at the cost of repetition.

    Just for the F of it, I was thinking of Fun Scenarios that could transpire over the silly season, given the impression that some significant shuffling will probably happen. But, then again it always feels that way. This time around, we do know about a few things and some changes are bound to occur in some big clubs.

    ~ Klopp announcing his availability,
    ~ Unsure if City will stick with Pellegrini,
    ~ Pep’s situation in Munich,
    ~ Ancelotti facing the boot,
    ~ Elections in Barca,
    So, My mind wandered …

    Crazy Thought – 1:
    – Florentino Perez hires Guardiola.
    – Barca hire Klopp, along with him come folks like Reus & Hummels.

    Crazy Thought – 2:
    – Bayern fire Pep.
    – They bring in Klopp, who brings his BVB stars along, to put the final nail in the Bundesla Coffin.
    – Bayern win the league by 40 points.

    Crazy Thought – 3:
    – Pep announces his move to England to take over City.
    – Gets Pogba as welcome present. Makes a futile move for Messi.
    – The world licks its lips awaiting the Pep-Jose battles.

    Crazy Thought – 4:
    – Barca win treble.
    – Board loses elections.
    – In comes Pep.
    – Takes over B team.

    What will probably happen:
    – EE, completely devastated by the utter failure embark upon another mission similar to what happened in 2009 following our treble. Then, they proceeded to splash it with a new coach with welcome presents like Cristiano Penaldo, Xabi Alonso, Benzema and Kaka. Now, They’ll give Carletto the sack and move for Klopp.
    Klopp, unable to resist the truck loads of cash and opportunity to play sexy football in the most glamorous club, takes the job and the welcome presents like 90M Pogba ( who is paid a shady visit in his home by Zidane, of course ) Hummels, Reus and pretty much whoever he requests for.
    Culers, then spend silly season already speculating the downfall and proceed to waste all the available time thinking about how EE have become so sexy and likeable.

    They quickly forget that a hugely successful and historic season has just been concluded

  3. Thanks for the article Kxevin

    Alves hits Suarez on a deep crossing route which he controls impeccably beating his man in the process, his second touch was the improbable stunner; firing a winner past Casillas who had the goal covered for any shot except an outside of the food blast. Reality instantly changed from everything is possible to notice is served; world bow your head.

    Messi unlocks the tense Bayern first tie against the coach credited for everything, against the World Cup winners. He races to the corner roaring with joy, fists pumping, the past 3 years demons and miseries excorcized. He didnt celebrate for pride just pure joy.

    My best moments pretty easy choices

    1. No doubt those have been the two most memorable games and moments of the season. The season itself has had some other interesting trends:

      1) The number of close games that we ended up winning by a single goal: Villarreal, Valencia away/home, Celta home, Almeria away. Each of these games also by definition had match defining and even season defining goals in games in which we could have just as easily lost.

      2) RM allowed almost twice as many goals as us (34 vs 19) and yet were not really punished that much in the table because of it. This was partially because of our feast or famine scoring in La Liga.

      3)The general lack of competitiveness of our CL knockout matches. All three were fairly convincingly won in the first leg of the tie and left little suspense for the second other than complaints that we could have further humiliated our opponents.

      All this points to a very intriguing match with Juventus– a team that will certainly not look to go toe to toe with us but play a primarily defensive game, playing on the counter and attacking in snatches. It may turn out to be like many of our La Liga matches in which that first goal will be crucial. If we can get it early then a blowout is possible; otherwise a 0-1 loss from a counterattack or a game coming down to penalties is possible. I am not really sure how Juventus compares with Atleti but there are certainly similarities in their styles of play.

    2. Juve is a dominant possession-oriented team in Italy

      They will have to play a very different game from their usual style against us

      I don’t think it will work 🙂

    3. Nice observations, Enrique has given us what we’ve been dieing for for 4 years! An organized stingy defense that everyone can feel safe and relaxed with. That Pique, Masch and Albes have been there all along is just further credit to this coach!

  4. Does any culer with tenure not remember the Rivaldo Chilena that got Barça into Europe?

    We definitely do. And that reminds me how thankful we have to be for a series of very fortunate moments for the club, without which we could have been in a quite bad position now.

    The FFP rules have basically locked in a certain power structure between the clubs in Europe, and we’re for the moment in the top 3. This could change if the EPL really pulls away financially, but for now that’s how things are.

    Now go back to 2001-2003, look at where the club was, and what happened after that – without the spectacular success of the Ronaldinho transfer and then hiring Pep, we might have continued on the same trajectory for a few more years, and we could have been on the level of Liverpool right now.

    There is a lot to celebrate, enjoy and be thankful for when one looks at that history.

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