FC Barcelona, having gone beyond their glory days are entering a phase where their pride is on the line, the transition period is on the horizon as well. Under the regime of Bartomeu, several decisions from the Barcelona hierarchy and their management are seriously questioned, and now he is under immense pressure as the vote of no confidence has passed its first stage. Today we will try to analyze the management and mismanagement of this board as well as their appointed managers and how they did in office.
Bartomeu got elected as a president in 2015. Still, he succeeded the sanctioned Sandro Rossel as an interim in January 2014 after Rossel got arrested in a money laundering case regarding Neymar’s transfer. Which of course, brought the pride of the club to mud. The 2013-14 season was a failure on the field. Barca failed to bag the league title, as well as they, lost against Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey final following a quarter-final exit from the Champions League. In Summer, Luis Enrique, the former Blaugrana player, took charge of Barcelona with a job in hand to rehaul the squad.
Luis Enrique era:
Lucho might be the last manager of Barcelona to have complete freedom in signing players. As a fan of direct football Luis Enrique shaped his team accordingly. After a not so happy dance in Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas was sold back to London, and Enrique also did prefer Rakitic to the corresponding position. He wanted his midfield to be the linker rather than orchestrator.
Regarding that, Ivan Rakitic was a better fit than Fabregas in the eyes of Luis Enrique. An ageing Xavi Hernandez accepted the role of a super-sub under him, who would come on later in the second half to slow the game down. Toni Kroos, the Real Madrid maestro was inches away from joining Barcelona. But Barca shifted their focus to Ivan Rakitic instead, later on, Kroos made them regret being an instrumental part behind Madrid’s consecutive European success.
Alexis Sanchez’s 33M move to Arsenal was noteworthy too. Given Neymar’s presence in the team, Barcelona did not see Alexis getting much playing time here. The Chilean was offloaded, and Neymar became an integral part of Luis Enrique’s project. On 11 July, Barcelona and Liverpool announced the transfer of Uruguayan international forward Luis Suarez for a reported fee of £75 million, a transfer that would come handy in the upcoming days. The addition of Luis Suarez formed the attacking trident of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez came to be known as MSN. This fearsome front three gifted Barcelona some good days.
Barcelona also completed a terrific signing of Marc Andre Ter Stegen from Borussia Mönchengladbach shortly after Victor Valdes’s contract expiry. Marc had been scouted for a long time, and Barcelona just pulled the trigger when they needed to. This signing could be labelled as one of the best signings that Bartomeu completed in his tenure.
In that same window, Barcelona did let go of some homegrown talents. Jonathan Dos Santos, Issac Cuenca, Bojan were shown the exit door. The coming days too would not bring any good news for the academy players.
Barcelona started the 2014-15 season quite well, but their unbeaten run came to an end against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. From then to January, Barca had some difficult time on the pitch, but they were able to keep up the pace. In January big troubles emerged in Barcelona.
It was rumoured that several players had cold blood with Luis Enrique and Lionel Messi could even look for an exit from Barcelona. Captain Xavi Hernandez took the matter in his hand and calmed the dressing room. He insisted everyone keep patient and see what Luis Enrique can bring.
— Graham Hunter (@BumperGraham) January 7, 2015
Lucho did have some great virtues of controlling the dressing room and getting the best out of the squad. According to rumours he had run into problems with Messi, but he didn’t let these things affect Barca’s performance on the field. Instead, he represented an insane version of Messi, who was a different animal in 2015. These qualities made Lucho great in the Barca sidelines, and these are the attributes Barca missed from their managers ever since he left.
Luis Enrique knew his team very well, indeed. Lucho’s gameplan was mostly based on the front three of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar. His midfield was not the dictator of the game as we were used to seeing in Barcelona previously. Rather he instructed his midfielder to link up the play between defence and the front three. His orders were simple, ” Just get the ball to our front three”.
Following such style, Luis Enrique installed direct football in Barcelona which was not seen too much before, and as it would be, Enrique was questioned by fans for changing the traditional style. He was accused of changing the identity of Barcelona. But his team achieved unmatched success later on that season that led Barcelona to many positive and negative circumstances.
Enrique’s front three often stretched themselves to create space in central areas. Messi and Neymar would receive the ball at wide positions and try to cut inside which would draw defenders towards them and leave Suarez empty in the centre. The opposite also happened when Suarez drifted wide. He would stick with the fullback allowing Messi and Neymar to have spaces in the middle. On the left flank, Alba did the same with a similar objective.
Dani Alves and Jordi Alba used to overload the flanks when Neymar and Messi drifted inside. This action had other objectives too. Lucho did so because it forced opposition wingers to track Alba and Alves. As a result, the defending team had to engage their wingers so deep in their own flanks. This caused great difficulties for them while attempting a counter-attack. And whenever the opposition won the ball, Barca used to counter-press them using their triangle.
Thus Enrique deployed very effective tactics and eventually got success. But it had its demerits. Through this style, MSN’s great scoring and dribbling abilities were utilized, but in exchange, Barca had to give away something very significant.
That is the control in midfield. In this way of approach, Barcelona midfield lost its importance in the game. Iniesta’s stat for Barcelona back then speaks for this statement. He wasn’t told to do the same thing he used to do, the best thing he used to do. Midfield’s job was to send the ball to MSN as quickly as possible rather than keeping the ball and making the play by themselves. Rakitic was a great fit in this sense. For this reason, Enrique did pick him instead of Kroos. Which later proved to be costly.
Barcelona won their second treble in 2015. Enrique entered the hall of fame as a Barca manager who won the second treble for this great club. This success also facilitated Bartomeu’s election campaign. He won the presidential election later that year, and everything has been going down since.
Life after treble:
Barcelona entered the season 2015-16 as the disputed king of Europe back then. In that summer transfer window, Barcelona signed Alex Vidal from Sevilla who was considered to be the possible replacement of Dani Alves. Arda Turan was a surprising signing done by Luis Enrique and Bartomeu. Which later became an absolute disaster.
Turan was a wide midfielder for Atletico Madrid who just had a very good season. But he had difficulties getting into the starting line up. He may have been signed as a backup player, but he never performed as well as expected. At the same time, his poor disciplinary record made him one of the worst signings in Barcelona’s history. Later, at the end of 2016-17, by sending him on loan, Barcelona confirmed that their 34 million euro has gone to waste.
Just after that, Bartomeu management made another decision that proved to be wrong again in the future. Pedro joined Chelsea from Barcelona for 26 million euros. The board decided to offload Pedro as his game time was reduced due to Neymar’s presence. But two years later, Neymar controversially left the club, and the left-wing of Barca fell into a complicated problem.
Barcelona’s 2015-16 was going quite well. They thrashed Real 4-0 at the Bernabeu and also dominated the laliga throughout the season. Barca was looking good both in Europe and in the domestic league until April came when Real Madrid ended Barca’s 39 games unbeaten streak exposing the weakness of this team to the rest of Europe. One and a half weeks later Simeone’s Atletico Madrid countered Barca’s tactics very well to knock them out of the Champions League.
In modern football, no tactics can rule for a long time. Other teams studied Lucho’s Barca and found out the holes. Atleti took a high pressing approach against Barca for which they got success instantly. Their main job was to press Barca high up the pitch and isolate the front three from the rest of the team. Barcelona’s midfield lost the ability to control the game under Luis Enrique. In addition to that, Rakitic was not press resistant like Xavi was.
Thus high pressing with intensity came handy against this Barca side. Earlier that season, Celta and Bilbao also got the better of Barca’s lack of control in the game. Both the matches ended in humiliation for Luis Enrique and his side. Having no plan B seemed to hurt Barcelona a lot.
Barcelona almost lost the league title that season, but in the end, they were able to get back in form. A successful cup final against Sevilla made Barca win the domestic double. The achievements were outstanding in papers, but the events that took place in April and May rang alarm to the minds of Barca fans.
Barcelona walked into the 2016-17 season after a pretty good domestic achievement in 2015-16. Like I said it all went downwards after 2015 and the departure of Dani Alves speaks on behalf of the fact. Bartomeu and his board had problems with Alves which reportedly made him leave the club through the backdoor. An unfriendly exit of a Barca legend was a terrible sign of poor management. Questions were asked about the credibility of Bartomeu. Later Dani Alves even showed up to press and said Bartomeu lied about his exit from the club.
Barcelona then signed Andre Gomes from Valencia in the summer transfer window. Another signing which never came to any good for the team. Gomes was far from a Barca bound player. He didn’t have the composure like Busquets, nor the passing skills like Xavi. He hardly had the circumstances in favour of him and ultimately became a “flop” signing. Bartomeu and his management had just done yet another blunder.
Barcelona signed Lucas Digne from PSG as a back up for Alba. Who also did not live up to the expectations and got loaned out two seasons later. In that same window, Barca brought Samuel Umtiti who flourished as an emerging talent in the Euro 2016. This was told to be a great signing and Umtiti also rendered a great service initially. But Bartomeu did it wrong elsewhere. He offered Umtiti a very high wage than he should have done. And now after Umtiti’s dramatic downfall as a footballer, Barcelona can’t even facilitate his departure due to his high salary. Another incident where Bartomeu made an unacceptable error.
In 2016-17 Barcelona wasn’t impressive like they were in the previous two seasons. In January they were six points behind Real Madrid and in February Barca faced a shambolic 4-0 defeat against Paris Saint Germain. All the mistakes and mismanagement seemed to take a toll.
In that match, like Atletico Madrid, PSG too exploited the weaknesses of Barca and got the better of them. Barca hardly was in the control of that match, and PSG’s intense pressing just made Barca fall like a deck of cards. The transformation of Luis Enrique’s midfield came back to haunt him. Also, the presence of misfits like Andre Gomes and Rakitic’s vulnerability under pressing made the midfield look so incompetent. On the other hand, Toni Kroos was having a stellar season for Real Madrid and ended up winning two back to back UCL. The player whom Barcelona overlooked three years ago.
However, Barcelona managed to pull off a miracle and came back from a 4-0 first-leg defeat. Sergi Roberto with a last-second goal sent Barcelona to the next stage and also made himself a regular name in Barcelona’s starting Line up. He had been used as a make-shift right-back after Dani Alves’s departure because Alex Vidal couldn’t perform well.
That transformation also led Barca down in the coming years, as of now, Barca’s right-back position lacks the quality to fight at the top level. Two weeks after the Remontada, Rakitic’s contract was renewed to everyone’s surprise. Ivan Rakitic, who was close to the exit doors, received a renewal with a substantial pay rise even after all those poor performances. Just yet another questionable move from Bartomeu.
Barcelona lost the league to Real Madrid that year and got eliminated by Juventus from the Champions League again in a similar fashion. They only bagged the Copa Del Rey which saved Barcelona from going trophyless yet again after three years. After years of both Victory and defeats, Luis Enrique decided to end the party in Barcelona and found an exit. After him, Valverde took over. But things only got worse.
2017-2020 January, Valverde Era:
Valverde took over as Barcelona manager amid the dissatisfaction of Barca fans. Some predicted the ultimate downfall of this Catalan club would happen under this manager. However, unlike Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde didn’t have full control over the team. He didn’t have the freedom in signing new players, nor he had any say on it. Barcelona’s transfer activity became entirely dictated by Bartomeu, which was another indication of ugly management.
Things got very complicated for Valverde when to his utter shock, Neymar left Barcelona for PSG in the summer. Like him nobody expected such a significant transfer to happen. As a result, he had to change a vital part of his plan for the team.
Bartomeu, on the other hand, could not convince Neymar to stay in Barcelona. The Brazilian sensation left Barcelona in a harsh way which of course brought discontent among the fans.
Earlier, Barca targeted Veratti in the transfer market. His attachment to the Barca squad could have greatly reduced the weakness of the midfield. But again this time Jose Maria Bartomeu failed to complete yet another necessary signing.
Things got even dramatic when PSG steered Neymar away without allowing Veratti to go to Barca. One more story of failure for Bartomeu. Despite that, Barcelona got 220 million euros through Neymar’s transfer, a hefty amount which was enough to bolster the team is spent sensibly. Yet again, Bartomeu failed to make any decent move and wasted the whole of it.
Then Bartomeu and his board went all in for Dembele, a young winger from Borussia Dortmund with a very bright future. At that time, Dembele was the right pick provided his tremendous potential, but Dortmund made Bartomeu’s life hard as they were very reluctant to let him go. Barca then took the dirty approach, which could be considered as unethical.
They convinced Dembele to go on a strike against his team by missing train sessions. Dortmund then agreed on a potential move and set his price tag for 120 million euros.
This was a pretty high price for a young talent who was yet to prove his worth on big stages. But Bartomeu was cornered, and he did complete a panic signing paying such a high amount for the French international. Later Dembele missed the most of that season due to injury and also in the following two seasons. Barcelona’s biggest signing ever back then is yet to have his mark in the Blaugrana shirt.
Getting over Veratti, Barca brought Paulinho to the Camp Nou. Who was never near the Barca profile nor the Barca quality. Yet he scored a significant number of goals as a midfielder, but Barcelona’s downgrade became clear through this kind of mediocre signings. Barca also signed Yerry Mina and Marlon from Brazil. Both of them also could not impress the fans during their days in Barcelona.
Previously Barca signed their scouted target Nelson Semedo from Benfica. The Portuguese right-back was expected to be the replacement for Dani Alves, but unfortunately, it was another story of frustration and agony. It looked like every move that Bartomeu was making, was turning into disasters.
In January after all the speculations, Bartomeu announced the signing of Coutinho from Liverpool in exchange for an initial £105 million, which could rise to £142 million with various clauses being met. So far this is the most amount that Barca ever paid in the entire club’s history.
Bartomeu seemed to be very interested in making blockbuster signings, and he had a reason behind that too. Big signings mean making headlines, selling shirts and merchandise, as well as earning revenue. Business got the priority over sporting projects, and that idea is justified by the Coutinho transfer.
After losing Neymar, Bartomeu had to do something crucial to calm the fans down. Coutinho was brought to be Iniesta’s successor but hardly did they realize Coutinho would not suit their style. Coutinho is a no. 10, wants to be the central attraction in the team. But Barca already had the greatest ever no. 10 in their roster.
Messi and Coutinho ate each other’s spaces in the central area, which just led Coutinho to failure in his new club. Barcelona’s biggest ever signing was loaned to Bayern Munich in 2019 just to score a brace against his parent club and humiliate them 8-2. Biggest humiliation in the history of the club.
There goes Barcelona’s 270 million of the transfer budget. And they just managed to buy an injury-prone player and a complete misfit. No money was spent on the ageing defence and the midfield. These two sectors were Barcelona’s major weak points and over the years, but Bartomeu didn’t even pay any heed to the club’s true needs. Besides Barca already had an ageing and declining team but no steps were taken to make the future prosperous. As a result, Ernesto Valverde barely had a competent squad to implement Barca style on the pitch. But doubts remain whether he would be able to make Barca great even if he had all the resources.
Ernesto Valverde’s tactics should better be named “100% Messi” His gameplan was fully based on Lionel Messi. As a result, Barca was greatly dependent on his brilliance. That is the time when Messi dependencia hit the peak. However, Valverde was managed to bring the best out of Lionel Messi. Messi under him was an absolute beast, but it did not bring any good as the whole team was below average.
Valverde gave a free role to Messi. His side looked like 3-4-1-2 in attack often with Messi cutting inside and dropping deep to create chances, and Paulinho/ Rakitic would make the forward runs to allow Messi to come deep. This system was implemented when Dembele used to be out due to injury. Without any winger in this system, Barca’s attack would become narrow; for this, the fullbacks had to overlap a lot to give width. Which consequently would give away spaces for opposition counter-attacks.
Messi in a free role was out of the world. Suarez’s form started to drop at that time but riding on Messi’s brilliance, Barcelona was steering through 2017-18 quite comfortably. Valverde’s experience in Laliga also came to great use. Barca won the Laliga and the Copa Del Rey, but the story on the European stage was completely different.
Barcelona defeated Roma 4-1 at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Champions Leauge quarter-final but got knocked out in the second leg. Valverde’s safe and conservative approach took a toll on Barca and Roma got the better of this.
Barca lined up in 4-4-2 without any winger in the team with Roberto and Rakitic in the midfield. This is not the formation Barca players are best at. Moreover, Valverde took a very conservative approach inviting Roma to play with intensity. In a fully packed Stadio Do Olimpico, this is precisely what Roma wanted.
Barca’s defence and midfield couldn’t withstand Roma’s intensity and pressing and collapsed miserably. As a result, Ernesto Valverde and Barcelona faced a shambolic defeat.
Barcelona entered 2018-19 with the same energy, and Ernesto Valverde remained in office. Barcelona’s domestic double in the previous season did not let Bartomeu sack, Ernesto Valverde, despite Roma defeat. But yes, Bartomeu himself was the bigger problem than the Barca manager.
Barca did not make any big signings in 2018-19. Clement Lenglet was signed from Sevilla for 35 million euros, and that was a good signing, to be honest. Arthur finally made the long-awaited move from Grêmio to Barcelona for 31 million euros. Arturo Vidal was brought here from Bayern Munich, just another player who does not match Barcelona in any aspect. Malcom was a surprise signing too. But later it was seen he was not even in Valverde’s plan and we wonder even why Bartomeu made that move.
Barca also did offload their previously failed signings such as Digne, Alex Vidal, Yerry Mina, Paulinho, and Paco Alcacer. Bartomeu raised a significant amount of 108 million euros through player sales. The surprising news is, Barca was offered an amount of 80 million euros by PSG for Ivan Rakitic. But they decided to keep him, and two years later Rakitic had to join Sevilla for free.
Barcelona’s 2018-19 was a carbon copy of the previous one. Barca did look very impressive throughout the season, but their football wasn’t so. This is the time when Barcelona fully lost its identity, which eventually guided them to disaster. Lionel Messi was in the best form of his career, and through his consistency, Barca managed to win the league title but fell short of the mark in the Champions Leauge.
This time they were just three games away from the treble. Lionel Messi once again almost carried Barcelona to the Champions Leauge final by scoring 6 goals in the knockout stages.
Then Barcelona went to Anfield intending to spend 90 minutes without conceding 4 goals, but alas, they did concede indeed.
The Roma disaster happened once again in a different name. Barcelona again lined up in 4-4-2, tried to slow the game down. Instead, they allowed Liverpool to come at them with everything and keep Barca under pressure. Alike the last time, Barca fell like a deck of cards and delivered a disaster class to bring shame to the name of this club.
Liverpool was pressing with all their endurance, but Valverde was too late to react. He did not make any substitution to counter Liverpool’s press. In the second half, he introduced Arthur to the game, which was needed to be done long before.
After Anfield, everything has gone wrong for Barcelona. They lost the Copa Del Rey final too. Thus a potential treble-winning season ended in despair.
Even after the shameful display against Liverpool, Bartomeu was not bold enough to make necessary changes. Ernesto Valverde remained at the office despite being the main reason behind two consecutive humiliations. The back four who delivered shambolic performances in such two incidents were not changed either. All the old players also remained at the club whose sluggishness caused Barca two Champions Leauge titles. Nothing was changed even after two terrible campaigns.
On the contrary, Bartomeu once again came up with his “Mega” signings. Barcelona signed Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid paying the full 120 million buyout clause. Amid such a big transfer fee, Griezmann still has not performed up to his standards. Griezmann is another central profile who would not work out at Camp Nou due to Messi’s presence.
Bartomeu again wasted a lot of money without even thinking sportingly. He also can not play as a lone striker in Barcelona’s system. In the 8-2 match against FC Bayern, both Griezmann and Dembele started from the bench. Not only that, Barca’s 150 million man Coutinho was on the opposition bench. There go Barcelona’s 4oo million euros, such unwise spending was to hurt them once when Covid-19 broke out.
However, Barcelona completed a no-brainer deal with AFC Ajax and landed Frenkie De Jong to Camp Nou. This is considered as the last good signing from Bartomeu, but he had to offer a very high transfer fee and a lucrative wage to sign De Jong. Even before that Barcelona’s wage structure was ruined and let’s have a look at that.
Offering insanely high wages, especially to the aged players, was a hilarious decision from Bartomeu. In current circumstances, Barca needs to rebuild their squad, and they need to offload the old players to do so. In this case, they are facing great difficulties in selling or in terminating the contracts because of such high wages of the players. It implies that Bartomeu is a failure in both financial and sporting activities.
Bartomeu’s terrible youth project:
Here we have to state another fact, that is Barcelona have moved away from their signing policy too. Previously the club used to send scouts to the different parts of the world to find new talents. After several years of scouting, Barcelona used to prepare a bid and made very good signings this way.
But lately, under Bartomeu, Barcelona leaned on to big signings more and more. Even they discarded the potential signings of Mbappe, Davies, Erling Haaland, and so on. Though Barca had scouts in Brazil, having them did not benefit Barca at all. Barca made many meaningless signings like Marlon, Yerry Mina, Vitinho, Douglas.
The strangest thing is that even after spending money for these infamous players from these clubs, Barca could not buy any of the players from those same clubs, who had very good potential like Gabriel Jesus, Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, and David Neres. Bartomeu had something very fishy in Brazil.
From 2015-20, the emphasis on La Masia has also been reduced. Hardly any player was able to make a breakthrough to the first him and establish his place. The likes of Riqui Puig and Carles Alena was ignored despite their good performances in the division. Several youth players made their way out of Barcelona, knowing that they wouldn’t be called up any time soon. To hide the board’s failure, Bartomeu and his men accused these young players of money seeking, which was never true.
Though Bartomeu has been ignoring La Masia since he took over, a few good players did make a breakthrough from there. Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig are the talents who have come from La Masia lately. These two already have a great impact on the first team, and they are making our dream for the future. Thus the answer to all the problems was always at La Masia, but Bartomeu seemed to ignore them every time.
Setien’s short adventure:
Ernesto Valverde continued till January, and Barcelona’s football just got bad to worse. Following a Super Cup defeat against Atletico Madrid, Valverde got sacked by Bartomeu and Quique Setien succeded him as the Barca boss. During his days, the story was even worse.
The Cantabrian manager took charge of Barcelona in the worst possible time. Bartomeu was running a dictatorship in the club, and the managers had very little to say when it came to making a decision. Setien accepted all that and decided to pursue his dream. At the start, Barcelona played pretty impressive football. But as it was written in the stars, Covid-19 broke out and damaged Barcelona extensively. Barcelona’s revenue dropped and led the club to a severe economic crisis. Bartomeu’s stupid spendings just made the situation from worse to worst.
Another unexpected saga happened in June. Barca signed Pjanic from Juventus for Arthur + 10 million euros. Arthur, whom Xavi himself admired and who was signed after a long period of scouting, is swapped with a 30-year-old player. In this way, another prospect of Barcelona went in vain during the Bartomeu era.
Although Arthur did not do very well at Barca, it is not reasonable to bring in a 30-year-old in exchange for a 23-year-old player in an already ageing team. The most surprising thing here is that when Setien was questioned after the deal, he said he knew nothing about it.
With an ageing squad, Barcelona was not going to win the race against Real Madrid playing 3 games in a week. As expected, they ran out of gas and eventually lost the league title to the bitter rivals. In the Champions Leauge, misery did hit the peak. Barcelona’s every weak point got exposed by Bayern Munich, and they faced the most shameful defeat in the club’s entire 121 years of history. Setien’s inappropriate gameplan was also to blame.
Thus, the consequences of mismanagement and poor decisions made all over the years have finally thrashed Barcelona and their pride. This downfall did not happen overnight, and also the club can’t be revived in a blink. Barca needs an effective and well-planned sporting project to make the way out of this mess. This transition will be long, but Barcelona must act now to save themselves from further downgrade.