It was always going to happen at some point – Barcelona is getting old. Xavi is now 33 years old, Dani Alves is now 30 and they recently had to part with the legendary Carlos Puyol. The ‘tiki-taka’ team of five years ago is certainly long gone, with new Barcelona manager Luis Enrique brought in to start the first stages of a transition.
A transition is something all footballing sides have to go through at some point in time, but with Barcelona it felt as though the players from five years ago would never face the fall. Old age has crept up on the team however, which leads to a very different Barcelona outfit.
The setup is still the same, to take complete control of the ball and to attack precisely. Tika-taka hasn’t completely left Barcelona but it will never be the same as it was in its prime. Enrique deploys a 4-3-3 with both wingers switching sides constantly to keep the full backs alert. Sergio Busquets cleans up any hint of an attack through the middle with newly signed Ivan Rakitić used as a playmaker and Iniesta gliding through the defenses. The setup and quality of players is similar but will depend on promoting youth through their academies, hoping to unlock new gems and create a new era for Barcelona. This all sounds great for the future, but the real focus remains Lionel Messi and potentially why he should leave Barcelona to prolong his own career.
To even contemplate a Barcelona without Messi is hard to fathom, from the age of 20 he has destroyed La Liga opponents and claimed every club trophy on offer. However, with the club looking towards the future, perhaps it would be a shrewd move for the Argentinian to analyze other club options available to him.
When Cristiano Ronlado left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009 the Spanish side were certainly not the complete package they boast today. It could be argued at that time they were going through a transitional phase as they had a lot of potentially world-class players yet to reach the heights expected of them. Ronaldo was brought in as a player to build the team completely around, five years later and the club have won the Champions League and La Liga titles – transition complete.
Messi, in his current situation, is one goal behind Telmo Zarra in the all-time La Liga scoring charts. The little maestro will surpass that feat shortly and should be able to keep Ronaldo at bay, who is ninth on the list and 56 goals behind his counterpart.