2013-14 Season Review – Barcelona

Unable to cap the season in style, this campaign Barcelona personified transition, with Tata Martino not the right man to propel La Blaugrana onto newfound success in the wake of the Pep Guardiola golden era.

Lionel Messi, normally a figure from which Barcelona draws creativity and inspiration, was a shadow of himself despite managing a fruitful tally of 28 League goals. His body language was downbeat, as the pressure continued upon both the Argentine and his compatriot Coach.

New boy Neymar was unable to consistently impress nor shoulder a portion of the expectation, while the system employed by Martino neither got the best out of Messi, nor recognised him as Barca’s most important cog.

Alexis Sanchez and Pedro chipped in with a combined 34 League strikes as Martino’s attacking 4-3-3 allowed for the Barca wide men newfound importance. However, this wasn’t the Barcelona of old, or one pioneering a revolutionary philosophy for global admiration.

Testament to the quality of the playing squad, Barcelona headed into the final day of La Liga with a more than realistic opportunity to lift the title. Unable to break down the dug-in lines of Atletico Madrid, who also stood staunchly in their way during the Champions League knockout stages, the unlikely Primera dream faded away.

This time, rather than a Diego Ribas thunderbolt, a Diego Godin header whistled into the back of the net to deny the Catalans a solitary trophy. The Camp Nou trophy cabinet is rarely devoid of silverware and so the club will dip into the transfer market and rejuvenate an aging squad.

Newly named Coach Luis Enrique has quite a task on his hands, though his challenge has become slightly easier with the renewal of Messi’s contract. The bare minimum expectations for the ex-Celta Vigo boss will be to coast through the Champions League group stage, much akin to this season, while making Barcelona a force to contend with for both Real Madrid and Atltico.

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has already been brought to Camp Nou in place of Victor Valdes, while Croatian wonderkid Alen Halilovic promises much in midfield. Both Rafinha and Gerard Deulofeu have showed glimpses of real quality whilst on loan, meaning that Enrique will have plenty of youth and vibrancy to call upon next season to try and wean dependence from the deep-lying influence of Xavi Hernandez.

A season of slight imperfection for Barca, with boardroom grumblings the backdrop – a Diego missile saw them prematurely depart from the Champions League, a Gareth Bale sprint ended their domestic Cup hopes and Atletico’s sheer obduracy saw the Camp Nou crowd applaud the surprise La Liga champions off the Catalan turf.

Thwarted twice by the unstoppable contribution of the individual, Barca were stumped at the final hurdle by a stronger collective.