Traumatised by the humiliation of facing Bayern Munich (8-2) in August and upset on all levels, Barcelona FC began its vast reconstruction project against Villarreal in La Liga on Sunday (19:00 GMT), under the leadership of new coach Ronald Koeman, and won 4-0.
It’s time for the Catalans to start the new season and, like five other teams in the Spanish league, they have had a long preparation period, having finished the previous season late. They will have to make a clean sweep on the third day.
1-Erase the catastrophic 2019-2020 season, the first without a title since 2008
2- Erase the pandemic, which has put the club’s finances to the test and still threatens the league; erase the abortive departure of its captain Lionel Messi
3-Erase the two coaching changes experienced and the flood of players from the dressing room who have left, and erase the criticism of the current management, which is the subject of a motion of censure.
After the slap received against Bayern in the quarter-final of the Champions League in Lisbon on 14 August, President Josep Maria Bartomeu had promised “profound changes”. And they have arrived.
Quique Setién has been replaced by the former member of Johan Cruyff’s Barça “Dream Team” (1988-1996), Dutchman Ronald Koeman. And several of the big payrolls were ousted during the summer: Arthur, Rakitic, Semedo, Vidal and Suarez.
Messi, savour without envy?
What can we expect from the 2020-2021 season in Barcelona?
The big question is what will motivate world superstar Lionel Messi. After wanting to unilaterally break his contract at the end of August, the Argentinian was forced to stay by the management, but will be able to leave free at the end of his contract on 30 June 2021.
He will even be able to begin official negotiations with teams from January onwards.
Will La Pulga , which often became the saviour of a losing Barça last season, still have the shoulders, at almost 34 years of age, to carry the Catalan institution on its own?
And above all, will he have the motivation, now abandoned by his friends Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez?
Koeman and Messi, who had a bad start to their relationship, advocated appeasement last week. Messi assured that he will invest himself with the same commitment as before. But the new technician is determined to share the responsibilities
Griezmann and Dembélé, second chance
After a first grey season but punctuated by some brilliant performances in Catalonia, with 15 goals in 48 matches in all competitions, the French international Antoine Griezmann (29 years old) could gain some stripes on the front line of the Blaugrana attack thanks to the departure of Suarez to Atlético Madrid.
The same goes for his compatriot Ousmane Dembélé (23 years old), who suffered a long leg injury last season and who could finally shine this season for his fourth season at Barça. “The rookie of the off-season”, as the Catalan sports press has called him.
Still looking for a centre forward to make up for the departure of Suarez, despite the presence of Danish Martin Braithwaite (currently hit in the left quadriceps), the Barça is trying to attract Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan) or Memphis Depay (Lyon)… But Koeman will have to start his season counting on his strengths.
With the return of Dembélé, the technician will also be able to count on the return of Brazilian attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho, (on loan at Bayern Munich last season), Bosnian international Miralem Pjanic, who arrived from Juventus in Turin in exchange for Arthur, and on the integration into the first team of the prodigy Ansu Fati (17 years old).
Perfectionist Ronald Koeman expects much more from Ansu Fati
The young Ansu Fati put in a brilliant performance on Saturday in the first match of the season for Barça in La Liga. But his coach was not completely satisfied.
The Barça wandered around on Sunday evening in their first championship match against Villarreal (4-0). And the number one architect of this brilliant success was Ansu Fati. The 17-year-old Spanish international lit up the match with his class, and scored a double in the process
At the final whistle, Ansu Fati received praise and compliments from all sides except from his coach Ronald Koeman. A perfectionist, the latter preferred to highlight the areas in which his young prodigy had failed.
We have to highlight Ansu Fati’s game and performances,” he said, releasing the Dutch coach to journalists. I complained a little last week that he didn’t have the maximum level of performance in pre-season”.
“He is only 17 years old, he will have a bright future, but he needs to make things better. Sometimes he lacks a little bit of concentration. »
Nevertheless, the performance of Barça’s number 22 deserves to be praised, especially as he is the youngest player in the five major championships to have scored ten or more goals since the start of the previous year. His coach couldn’t deny this fact.
“One of my criticisms was during the friendly match against Elche – he wasn’t good. Today he was. His intensity on the field was immense, he played a great match and we took advantage of his qualities,” the Dutchman tempered. That’s enough to reassure the youngsters a little.