Barcelona travelled to Madrid on Saturday evening in the knowledge that they were going into a highly important game.
The Catalans had already lost to Real Madrid this season and dropped points to Sevilla, so were intent on putting a genuine rival to the sword as a way of confirming that the Ronald Koeman revolution was in full swing. That didn’t happen.
Atletico Madrid earned their first ever league win over Barcelona with Cholo Simeone in the dugout, a decade’s worth of games, thanks to a goal on the stroke of half-time from Yannick Carrasco after an ill-advised gamble from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The result puts the Azulgrana in tenth, nine points behind league leaders Real Sociedad and five clear of bottom-placed Huesca. Barcelona, in the middle of November, are closer to the bottom than they are to the top.
“Lionel Messi, captain of Barcelona, lost 23 balls at the Wanda Metropolitano,” wrote Juan Jimenez in Diario AS. “A barbaric figure when you realise that he only completed 36 passes in the whole game.
“His image at the end, leaving in bureaucratic manner, accepting one more defeat, reflects the image of a team that has learned to fail and of a footballer who, from being decisive day after day for a decade, has become inconsequential, literally, away from the Camp Nou.
“Messi has not scored a decisive goal away from Barcelona in all of 2020, a fact that isn’t in accordance with his fame and his status at the current Ballon d’Or.”
Messi looked deeply irritated when he arrived in Barcelona from Argentina this past week, telling reporters “I’m tired of always being the problem at this club” after he was pressed on his relationship with Antoine Griezmann.
“The real problem for Messi is that his case [of being the problem at the club] is moving to the field,” wrote Jimenez. “Messi wandered around the Wanda, gradually losing the thread of the game. The team need a captain, a leader, an example to follow. At the moment, Messi is not collaborating with this rebuilding process.”
Messi tried to leave Barcelona this past summer only to be forced to stay due to a misinterpretation of his contract. The Argentine’s deal runs out this summer, however, so he’s free to sign a pre-contract with whomever he wishes come January 1st – a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has been talked about.
Barcelona, meanwhile, will need to get themselves back together quickly. They face two consecutive weeks with Champions League clashes in foreign lands – this Tuesday in Ukraine and the following Wednesday in Hungary.
In between, they face Osasuna and Cadiz in La Liga, two clubs that look at games against Barcelona and Real Madrid as free hits and will be licking their lips at the prospect of adding insult to their injury. Things could get ugly, fast.
Featured image courtesy of FC Barcelona Noticias.