In 2015/16, FC Barcelona defended the domestic title. This, is a true statement. But it is also a poor statement, one which betrays the club’s fans, aka culés, who nearly saw their team come second (or even third) best in the Spanish Liga, after amassing an eight-points lead! It is a poor statement because it does not tell you that it was a roller-coaster of a season. In 2015/16, FCB scooped the domestic double, and in doing so, broke the record for the longest unbeaten-streak of Guardiola’s Barça, oversaw the harsh transfer ban, and most fondly, shattered Real Madrid 4-0 at the Bernabéu.
It’s a new season now, and like every other season, it starts with the pre-season friendlies. And, it’s the same questions again. Will the manager try a different formation? Will the new signings do a Rakitic, or a Song? Will the Masia young-guns step up and fight for the starting XI? How will the Madrid teams fare, and Bayern and other European powerhouses?
Additionally, there are other unique anxieties for this season. Has Messi gotten over his heartbreak? Will the trident be deciphered? Will Alves be dearly missed? Will the goalkeeper conundrum be too hot to handle? Is Suarez going to bite?
Last season will forever be remembered by football fans as Leicester’s. They defied all odds and claimed the league title. They celebrated, sang and said, “We are the champions.” Kevin rightly writes for Barcelona Football Blog that Barça, of the last eight seasons, “has been able to say that six times.” Something to be proud of.
There are many such things that us fans can look at with pride right now. One, is the fact that the Illusionista, who I consider to be the most elegant player of all time, captains the side and leads it by example in the biggest of the stages, despite being on the wrong side of 30. He, by the way, is someone who “made passing sexy,” so writes The Telegraph. Masterful, yet humble, Iniesta epitomizes the Barça culture, which is one of mutual harmony striving for both aesthetics and efficiency. Real Madrid can have lucky Champions League wins all they want, but with committed players, a world-class youth academy and a distinct footballing philosophy, Barcelona are the football (soccer) world’s number one.
We beat Celtic 3-1 in our first pre-season match of 2016/17. Turan, largely anonymous the previous season and heavily criticized in the recent Euros, scored a stunning curler. Vidal, who has now big shoes to fill, looked ready. The newbie Denis Suarez and Messi tagged along as if it was routine. Roberto was impressive and so was Munir. It is just a friendly, I know, and a pre-season match at that, but I can’t help but feel that good times lay ahead. Visca el Barça.
[Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images]