5 Barcelona Names Who Must Prove A Point Next Season

Barcelona are only 2 matches away from closing the 2011/12 season. Despite having already won 3 titles (Club World Cup, European Supercup and Spanish Supercup) and having the chance to add La Copa del Rey in a couple of weeks, I can’t help but feeling we missed a golden chance of retaining La Liga and Champions League this season.

Yes, I know we can still win La Copa Del Rey if we can beat Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao in the final, but somehow it feels like we could have done more. Am I being too greedy? Well, probably, but this high expectation is a direct result of Barcelona’s excellence during the Guardiola era.

Let’s be clear: Barcelona weren’t able to step up when it mattered the most. After that infamous week when we blew our chances of success in both ‘big’ titles, the Blaugranas have gone on to scoring 15 goals in the last 3 matches. While winning is always a positive, it feels like too little, too late.

You can argue squad tiredness, certain refereeing calls and long-term injuries are factors which affected our season. The truth is two of those were only decisive points due to our own flaws in terms of fitness preparation and having a squad to start with – As for the Spanish refereeing, I understand it’s a tough job which they try to do to the best of their abilities but, when taking decisions in a split second, Real Madrid’s constant whining seems to have worked wonders for them, to the point that Barcelona had to formally complain to the RFEF in March.

Anyway, time to move on and start a new page.

Guardiola’s departure leaves a massive hole both on and off the pitch – We can’t afford to waste our time regretting Pep’s decision and must start working on the future now. At this moment in time, the Barcelona staff need to take a close look at the current situation to ensure our team is even more competitive next season.

Here are 5 people who have a point to prove if Barcelona are to succeed next year:

Tito Vilanova: I have to admit I was not expecting Pep Guardiola’s successor to be announced on the same day our current manager announced his departure. After the initial shock, it actually seems like the best decision at this moment in time: Tito knows the players well, has been part of masterminding the best team in Barcelona history and seems prepared to continue building on The Pep Team’s success.

Having said that, he won’t be able to hide behind Guardiola’s shadow next year and must prove his worth both on the pitch and during press conferences. Vilanova hasn’t really shown Cule fans much of his personality over the last 4 years – I’m sure Mourinho is relishing the chance of poking ‘the new boy’ again next season!

Sandro Rosell: Since he became Barcelona president back in 2010, Sandro Rosell has taken a failry quiet approach to the job, working behind the scenes but taking a secondary role in front of the media – with Guardiola mostly responsible for defending our club from drug-taking accusations, refereeing conspiracies and other rubbish.

With Pep gone, the responsibility of responding to external attacks must fall into Sandro Rosell’s hands – Cules are expecting their president to show them why he was voted for such a high profile job in the first place.

Gerard Pique: Unfortunately, the line between being a professional footballer and a full time celebrity is very thin and, from time to time, some of our Barcelona players are drawn towards crossing it without even realising it. It famously happened to Ronaldinho (taking him from FIFA World Player of the Year to Highest Earning Flop of the Century in a couple of seasons) and, perhaps more unknown to the wider public, Mikel Arteta while at La Masia (where bad influences ruined one of the most promising youngsters to ever enter our Culė academy) 

I am hoping that is not Gerard Pique‘s case. Our Catalan Giant showed tremendous form during his first seasons at the Camp Nou and I would like to interpret his dip this year as part of his ‘growing up’ process: Dealing with those annoying paparazzi on a daily basis while coping with Culė expectations can definitely not be an easy task.

Let’s hope Pique‘s focus remains on football rather than fashion shows next season – Barcelona need him back.

Pedro Rodriguez: The fact Lionel Messi has beaten so many goalscoring records this season, while impressive, also shows how other attacking players have been below par.

Since Guardiola took over as manager Barcelona always had at least 3 players scoring over 20 goals per season. A team which wants to succeed at the highest level must make rivals fear that goals can come from any player at any given time. This year, it felt that others only needed to defend Lionel Messi to hurt us, forcing us into never-ending passing periods in midfield which didn’t lead many goalscoring chances. Not good enough: Other players need to take risks as well and contribute.

While Pedro suffered from injury early in the season, it can’t be denied that dropping from 23, then 22 to only 11 goals must make Barcelona fans expect better in the near future.

The fact David Villa has been injured since January and Alexis Sanchez just landed at the Camp Nou last summer gives them a bit more leadway but, to be honest, the pressure must be on for them too.

Dani Alves: I feel the Brazilian rightback has been key to make Guardiola’s Barcelona one of the most successful teams in football history.

Having said that, Alves doesn’t seem to be as committed as he was when he first landed at the Camp Nou. This season, he has been benched several times in key matches – which would have been unthinkable in the past.

The fact is the Brazilian has tried to break Guardiola’s strict team rules and behaved inappropiately at times, like when he got publically reprimanded for his stupid dance when winning 0-7 at Rayo.

The fact he took far too long to sign his last Barcelona contract makes me think he may be looking for his last big-money transfer elsewhere. PSG and Manchester City have the cash and have already shown an interest – I wouldn’t be surprised if Dani Alves wasn’t wearing the Blaugrana for much longer.

Tito Vilanova really needs to solve the Dani Alves puzzle as a matter of urgency as unsettled players and a new, inexperienced coach doesn’t seem like the best basis to build on.

Things are going to change dramatically in Barcelona as a result of Guardiola’s decision to leave. It is now up to those who are staying to work together, ensuring we keep our place amongst the European and World football elite for years to come.

I am confident it can be done.

Let’s get to work.

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Posted by: Francesc Tomàs
Founder and Columnist at www.barcablog.com and ESPN correspondent.
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