Over the past five to eight years, one club has dominated European club football: FC Barcelona. Their superstar Lionel Messi has been the best individual player in the world and the club has been winning trophies at ease. However, this year they have not stricken fear into their opponents the way they had been during the Pep Guardiola era and the controversy of the Neymar transfer has surrounded the club all year. So the question the question begs to be asked; is FC Barcelona losing their edge?
From 2008 to 2011 no other club in the world could rival the success of FC Barcelona. They won three straight La Liga titles and two Champions League titles in 2009 and 2011. Manager Pep Guardiola had the Catalonians running like a well-oiled machine scoring goals at will and winning almost every single match. The club seemed untouchable and the fact that most of their talent was homegrown made it look like they could keep winning forever.
In the spring of 2012 the tide began to change. Barcelona was behind their fiercest rival Real Madrid in the title race and they were not blowing away teams in the Champions League like in the past. Guardiola looked physically exhausted in press conferences constantly having to answer questions as to why his team did not look as dominant as the fans and media expected. This exhaustion led to Guardiola announcing he would leave the team in the coming summer before the season had even ended. Announcing this when he did shocked the football world and most of all his own players. The 2012 season ended very poorly for the club as they lost the La Liga title to Real and were bounced out of the Champions League in the semi finals by eventual champions Chelsea.
Barcelona saw a return to form in 2013 and again won La Liga, but were again bounced in the semis of the Champions League this time to eventual champions Bayern Munich. What happened in the summer of 2013 would cause controversy and confusion for the club until now. Highly sought after Brazilian wunderkind Neymar was the prize of the transfer market and it was long rumored that he would end up with Barcelona. In June, the transfer was made official to the delight of the Barcelona faithful. However, midway through the current campaign, it was revealed that the transfer might have been conducted in an illegal way.
Spanish authorities are currently investigating Neymar’s transfer from Brazilian club Santos and there has yet to be any formal punishment up to this point. The only negative so far in this situation for Barcelona has been the blow to their pristine reputation. This is a club that refrained from ever putting a sponsor on their jersey for decades because they viewed it as a hindrance to the game. When they finally did put a name on the front of their jerseys, it was UNICEF, bringing awareness to a charity and donating money to their cause. To say they were highly viewed as an organization is an understatement, and that is why the Neymar transfer saga has left the football world torn on what to think about Barcelona. Doing whatever is necessary to get a player in the transfer market has become the norm for major clubs, but the public has not ever viewed Barcelona as a team who feeds into the dirty doings of the transfer market until now.
Barcelona is on track to bring home some trophies this season but still have work to do. They currently sit in second place in the league only a point back of Real Madrid and they are taking a 2-0 aggregate lead and two away goals back to Camp Nou for the second leg of their final 16 clash with Manchester City in the Champions League. Even with their current success, the questions surrounding the club are mounting and fans have to be wondering if Barcelona have lost their edge.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius