By their own standards, it’s been a troubled season or Barcelona, who have endured their fair share to off-field drama. From poorly executed managerial firings to outrageous claims of funding PR campaigns against their star player, the Blaugrana appear to be jumping from one scandal to the next.
Fortunately, the team are settling in well under coach Quique Setien and are well placed to challenge in La Liga and the Champions League.
Barcelona have led the league for half the season and sit only a point behind Real Madrid at the summit right now, but it has been a troubling campaign for the Catalans—mostly for off-field politics and… curious action from the board.
Firstly, the club were heavily criticized for their handling of the firing of coach Ernesto Valverde, which happened in the middle of the night after a protracted saga filled with leaks and ill sentiment.
Valverde’s team were top of the league and had been for 11 straight match days when he was fired.
Then, when Barca Sporting Director Eric Abidal publicly accused the team of not working hard enough for Valverde, his former teammate Lionel Messi shot back on Instragam to criticise the board of directors for failing to take the blame for their mistakes.
Now, the club have been granted permission to make an emergency striker signing due to injuries to Ousamen Dembele and Luis Suarez—a risky move that wouldn’t have been necessary if they hadn’t loaned out striker Carles Perez to Roma in the January window.
And to top it off, the club now stand accused of hiring a PR firm to spread positive stories on social media about president Josep Bartomeu, while attacking names like Messi and Pique.
It’s a shocking twist in a scandal-ridden season for Barcelona… but the good news is that the team is on the right track, despite the off-field shenanigans.
Coach Quique Setien got off to a rough start in January when his side barely scraped past lowly Ibiza in the Copa Del Rey and when they were humbled by Valencia a few days later.
Setien used an experimental formation at Valencia, which backfired, and admitted his side did too much “pointless passing” and not enough penetrative attacking.
But now, Barca sit only a point behind Real Madrid in the table, with a potentially season-defining Clasico on the horizon next weekend.
They have a favorable match-up in the Champions League in Napoli, and in their most recent matches, Setien’s Johan Cruyff-style philosophy has delivered dividends.
Barca are once again playing exciting and beautiful soccer, and getting results.
So, despite politics and bad decisions at board level, Barcelona’s season is on track, and they can pose a threat in the league and the Champions League.