I will always support my team, through thick and thin. But I will never forget the day we, as a club, made a mistake that is haunting us even today (I sensed, at the time, that we would regret it).
That was the day we decided to sell Thiago Alcántara do Nascimento to Bayern Munich and keep the hyped ‘prodigal son’ transfer of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal.
Not Cesc, and not any midfielder we have brought in since Thiago’s departure is on Thiago’s level of talent and suitability to the playmaking role in the team.
Today we are sitting in a situation where our identity as a team is leaving us bit by bit. We are becoming just another team in terms of our style of play, even though we still have a high level of skill.
Our unique tiki-taka style is gradually going by the wayside. Someone managed to fool us and tell us that we needed to device a plan B in our play and that we needed to evolve, as teams had ‘figured us out‘.
That is the biggest lie in Barcelona’s recent history. The style we had under Pep was the best for our team and bringing back Cesc at the expense of Thiago was a signal of the start of the end of an era – an era which would have possibly been successfully continued by Thiago after Xavi’s imminent retirement.
Maybe Thiago’s departure was partly political – he was wearing 11 and the incoming wonderkid Neymar wears 11, so maybe our management felt something had to give – who knows?
In as much as I do praise them when they play well, players like Rakitic, Denis Suarez, Andres Gomes are a different breed to what makes Barca the team they were. Even Thiago’s younger brother, Rafinha isn’t quite woven into the ilk of his sibling.
These players are not the kind that help us keep the ball and oven-bake it to perfection before it goes to attack. Yes, there will never be another Xavi, but why did we have to sell our best chance of having a Xavi-like playmaker who has innate Brazilian flair?
Thiago would have been a giant in this midfield at this point. So, to compensate for our limitations in midfield, Lionel Messi is gradually becoming a more and more important figure in the middle third.
He now has to increasingly assume a mixture of a playmaking role, wing-play role and a striking role. And even though he shows he is capable, it should not have gotten to this point, because he won’t always hit the right note, regardless of how good he is.
With important players leaving our midfield (Xavi and almost Iniesta), things were always never gonna be the same. But so un-Barca-like is this Barca that I don’t know exactly where we are going in terms of style of play.
When our midfield lacks form (like it has in the past weeks), our deficiencies in the middle of the park become so evident for everyone to see. We become so thin, frail and lacking in purpose in the middle of the park.
This disturbs me.
The only time that our midfield plays well and shows the soul of Barca is when Sergio Busquets plays well. And, in this past few weeks, he has struggled for form. The blessing that we now have (MSN’s firepower and quick-attacking-style) also contribute towards our midfield being less important because, now the ball spends less time being cooked in the middle of the pitch and we rush it to the MSN Gang.
When it works, it works very well. But when it doesn’t, it exposes the lack of Barcelona soul that this Barca has. I guess we gained some by losing some. Was it all worth it, though?
This is my cry as a fan. I’m hopeful that somehow, we will dig deep into ourselves and come up with a performance for the ages this Saturday (the El Clasico) bonus for me would be for it (the performance) to be a classic Barca performance.
But that may be asking for too much.
I can only hope that, throughout the season, our level of attacking skill makes up for the lack of soul in our play, and the lack of midfield control that is becoming part of our bloodstream in this past couple of seasons.
Nzudzanyo Ranwaha, a South African, is an engineer by profession. He loves watching football, playing football, playing pool (billiards), graphics designing and a few other hobbies many people would find boring. You can catch up with him on twitter @nzuu198