For the first time since 2004, Barcelona will start their season without Lionel Messi. The Argentine will now represent Paris Saint Germain as Barcelona failed to register him under LaLiga rules. Although he had agreed to a 50% salary cut, it wasn’t enough to register him due to the newly implemented salary cap. Barcelona fans were distraught as Messi wanted to stay but both the club and him couldn’t make it possible.
Years of financial mismanagement has come back to haunt Barcelona as this transfer window will go down as one of the worst in their history. Barca’s President, Joan Laporta, had promised that he will convince Messi to stay and Messi will be a huge part of Barcelona’s rebuild. However, during the press conference of Messi’s departure, Laporta has said that he believes Barca has enough quality to compete for the post–Messi era. For Barcelona supporters, the post-Messi era has started a lot sooner than they would have anticipated. With Messi, Barcelona dominated Spanish football for the past 15 years but now they have to start again as a new era begins at Barcelona.
Ronald Koeman has already expressed his gratitude towards Messi for what he has done for the club for the past 16 years and also how lethal Messi was during his first season under Koeman (scored 38 goals and bagged 14 assists). With Messi’s departure, the club has already accumulated a loss of 160 million in brand value, in addition to their debt of 1.5 billion. Under the guidelines of the Spanish government, LaLiga has allowed clubs to welcome supporters to their stadiums up to a certain limit. Everyone knew that Messi’s exit will hit them hard and it did as Barcelona were unable to sell 30,000 Camp Nou tickets to socios only, and hence they opened it for everyone. But they finally managed to sell almost all the available tickets before their game against Real Sociedad.
Under such circumstances, Ronald Koeman has demanded an overall team effort from the whole squad as individual efforts won’t be able to save them all season long. In this transfer window, Barca were able to land some amazing signings as Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguerohave arrived on free transfers from Manchester City. Memphis Depay also joins the list along with young Yousuf Demir. Emerson Royale was signed from Real Betis but was immediately sold to Spurs for a 30 million fee. This crazy transfer window pulled off one last shocking transfer as Antoine Griezmann returns to Atletico Madrid on loan with the obligation to buy option.
Griezmann was heavily criticised for not performing up to the standards in his first season at Barcelona, but last season he showed some glimpses of his old Atletico days as he was the next best goalscorer after Lionel Messi by registering 20 goals and 13 assists to his name. This season, expectations were high as he was leading the Barca frontline but performed very poorly in the opening three games. Many fans weren’t impressed with his performances and made their thoughts clear by whistling at him when Barca played Getafe at home. Luukde Jong is supposedly a temporary replacement for Griezmann. The former Sevilla man will be keen to bag some crucial goals after his reunion with former Netherland’s coach, Ronald Koeman.
Eric Garcia’s debut was somewhat impressive but he was sent off in his second ever game for the Blaugrana. Sergio Aguero, who joined Barca with the hopes of playing alongside his best friend, Lionel Messi, were shattered after Messi’s departure. The ex-Man City player also suffered a calf injury in training and will be sidelined until October. Yousuf Demir has impressed everyone in the Catalan outfit. Pre-season was a good experience for the Austrian as he bagged a goal and an assist. After Griezmann’s exit, fans will be hoping for him to make his mark in this team. However, one player that has won the hearts of Barca fans is Memphis Depay. The Dutch forward has been Barca’s main man so far and has shown his ability and willingness to take on defences whenever needed. Memphis has already added 2 goals and 1 assist to his tally.
On Wednesday, Barcelona also unveiled their new no.10 as Ansu Fati will wear the legendary no.10 jersey for the 2021/22 season. The 18-year-old now has big shoes to fill in and Koeman wants him to come with all guns blazing. Koeman has already stated that he wants Ansu to take his time and will only start him if he’s 100% fit. Now, Memphis and Ansu will have to fill the void left behind by Messi. The overall team effort is visible as SergiRoberto and Martin Braithwaite have come up with the goods whenever required. The return of Coutinho, Ansu and Dembele will be crucial for the Catalans for the latter stages of the season.
After 3 league games, the Blaugrana sit fourth in the table with the top 6 teams sharing 7points each. Koeman’s team has scored 7 and conceded 4, which isn’t too impressive as the Barcelona defence still seems shaky as they have been caught napping by their opponents which has lead to 3 goals till now. Barcelona are yet to face a big team but it seems their first big test of the season is on its way when Bayern Munich come to Camp Nou for their Champions League group stage game. The last time when these sides met, Bayern ran a riot in a crumbling 8-2 defeat in Lisbon. Now it’s Barca’s turn to either make a statement to the world or else Bayern will exploit their weaknesses in a crowd filled Camp Nou.