LaLigaTV pundit Guillem Balagué has explained why the situation isn’t as bleak as previously portrayed for Barcelona – but has warned the Catalans that a slow start would crush any remaining optimism.
Messi’s declaration came in the wake of Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, after which they replaced boss Quique Setien with former playing legend Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman’s new side kick off their campaign against Gimnastic on Saturday, and Balagué believes Barça can potentially turn a pre-season of turbulence in their favour.
“Sometimes in times of crisis, the most adventurous decisions are made,” he tells FFT. “I think this could be the case with Barcelona now.
“Although we all reckon that this matter with Messi should have been settled much earlier, all of a sudden you can look at the Barcelona line-up and think positively.
“A line-up with Frenkie de Jong picking up the ball from his own half and moving forward, passing at the other end, which might happen despite not being fully Koeman’s style. A line-up with Pjanic, Griezmann, Coutinho, Messi, Dembele, and they want to bring in a striker and Wijnaldum. You think, ‘OK... wow’.
“You’ve got Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Francisco Trincao as options, and it really doesn’t look too bad. So I’ve changed my tone recently.
“The club looked lost and everybody was to blame, but they have turned a corner with the Messi situation, and they’ve been brave [potentially] getting rid of Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal. Sergio Busquets won’t have as much time on the pitch; Gerard Pique will be OK because he’s still playing really well.
“In terms of fixing problems, they need results and they need them very quickly. If they don’t go on a run, it could all change very fast.”
Barcelona fans were heartbroken with Messi’s shock announcement in the summer, but has his standing changed after the episode? Balagué suggests things could move on quickly.
“It changes all the time!” he says. “It might be different in a week. Right now, some people are upset that he did things in the way he did.
“But I don’t see any [other] way that he could have done things. The memory doesn’t last in football. A couple of goals and it will all be forgotten, I think.”
Barcelona face a much-hyped presidential election in March 2021, with the incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu set to battle against former head honcho Joan Laporta.
Bartomeu’s reign has come under considerable scrutiny in recent times, and Balagué admits that it is causing serious problems for supporters.
“There is a big division within the fanbase,” he explains. “Some supporters are trying to collect signatures to get rid of the president, but I don’t think they are going to get there. It’s an organised campaign to get rid of the people in charge.
“But there are always two ways to look at this club – one is through the establishment, close to power, and against that there has always been the anti-establishment group that Laporta and Cruyff have represented. So it is between those two camps away from the pitch where you see the problems.
“On the pitch, you’ve still got Messi, so you’ve still got the best goalscorer and the leading assist maker. He will probably have a different role.
“Koeman has used the situation to gain authority for the manager. So that makes it interesting, and it could be the last year of Messi at Barcelona, which creates its own difficulties. But there are elections in March, so it will be clearer then.”
Guillem Balagué is a pundit on LaLigaTV. LaLiga kicks off this Friday and you can watch all the action FREE on LaLigaTV until October. Sign up here: premiersports.com/subscribenow
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