Although the circus no longer comes to town, Barça have a done a great job in making sure the circus is still alive and well for the entire football world. The month of February saw the Barça board and the team perform quite a few circus acts. Consequentially, that caused mixed emotions from the Blaugrana fans and followers consisting of eye-rolls, anger and bitter disappointment.
It all started in early February when Barça’s sporting director, Eric Abidal said in an interview that the Barça players were not satisfied nor worked hard under previous manager Ernesto Valverde. That drew an immediate rebuke from his former teammate, Lionel Messi who dared him to back up that statement and name names. Whenever Messi responds to comments made by the board, you know it’s bad, and it once again showed the poor management by this club.
When that storm quietly died down, the equivalent of a hurricane hitting a volcano happened when the Cadena Ser radio network reported that the Blaugrana paid a social media company €1 million to attack those who are against the board such as future presidential candidate Victor Font, former Barça players Carles Puyol and Xavi, former Barça player and manager Pep Guardiola, and even some Barça players such as Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique. The club immediately denied the story but as of March 3, 2020, president Josep Maria Bartomeu has yet to face the media and give us some real answers. Perhaps that €1 million could have been put into good use elsewhere, like bringing back former Masia player Takefusa Kubo and not letting Real Madrid outbid us for the Japanese Messi.
In between those two circus acts, we were informed that winger Ousmane Dembele’s return from injury was a quick act because he suffered another injury and was ruled out for six months after undergoing successful surgery on a hamstring injury. With the team short on players, what does the Barça board do? They sell two forwards, first teamer Carles Perez and Barça B player Abel Ruiz, and also loan out center back Jean-Clair Todibo. Perhaps this was their magic act of less is more.
But Barça did have a trick up their sleeve and managed to sign Danish international Martin Braithwaite from Leganes after paying his €20 million buy-out clause. So why did the club spend €20 million on a player who can only play league games when they could have saved €20 million and relied on Carles Perez and probably Abel Ruiz if he ever had a call up with the first team? The juggling act of the club when it comes to roster decisions continue to baffle many.
On February 22, 2020, Barça fans were afforded the chance to see Braithwaite in action for the first time against Eibar. However, it was the fans who were the spectacle of the Camp Nou, and not the team, when prior to kick-off, man fans waved white handkerchiefs and chanted “Bartomeu, resign!” for about seven minutes before the game finally kicked off. The message from the spectators to the ringmaster was heard and seen by the world. Barça though won 5-0 with Messi providing a great performance by scoring 4 goals while Braithwaite came on as a substitute and played a key role in setting up the final two goals which gave the fans short term amnesia as the club were back in first place in the league table.
Whatever jubilation the Blaugrana faithful were feeling was evaporated when Barça played Napoli to a 1-1 draw last Tuesday. The match saw Busquets get booked which meant he would miss the second leg. With the team already short a midfielder for the return leg, Arturo Vidal decided to be a clown by getting a late red card. After the game, the usually quiet Busquets hinted at how poorly assembled this team with his comment “We are a little short at the moment.”
This past weekend, Barça were to perform the impalement art by being knife throwers at the reeling and spinning Real Madrid. Instead, Barça failed to deliver and took a pie to the face by losing to Real Madrid 2-0 and relinquishing the league lead back to their arch rivals. We have been watching this circus act since 2010 when Sandro Rosell became the Barça president before stepping down over the Neymar transfer saga before Bartomeu succeeded in becoming his successor in 2015. Since then, it’s been more of bring in the clowns as the club wastes away Messi’s talents. In a few months, we will see if Bartomeu and this board will step down in the summer for early elections. If they don’t, they may be successful in making us watch this circus become a carnival.