Analysis: Barcelona win La Liga, but key departures mean they’re already losing next season

On the 16th of May, 2023, Barcelona tweeted out “Jordi Cruyff will leave at the end of the season.” On the 2nd of May, the Catalan club had confirmed Mateu Alemany would leave at the end of the season, eyeing a move according to rumours to Aston Villa, with a seemingly higher salary. This might leave many cules with one major question – now… What?

When President Joan Laporta hired Xavi Hernandez, the new project truly began. Beforehand Ronald Koeman was still there, it was mid-season when El President was elected, and tensions lit up as quickly as many expected. Eventually, a loss against Rayo Vallecano concluded the partnership between them. In came Xavi and with him, his brother, Oscar, but also Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff, who began with Laporta and came in the previous summer respectively.

Occupying the positions of Director Of Football and Sporting Director, this bright new world excited many Cules. Alemany made himself a name in Spanish football with Real Mallorca and then Valencia, a skilled negotiator. His mission in Catalunya’s capital was clear: re-order the catastrophic wage bill following Josep Maria Bartomeu’s reign, and find cheap deals. Bring in scouted recruits, preferably on a free, as the club could not spend much, yet simultaneously was in urgent need of glory and Champions League success. A sentence many would not expect to read from the Catalans given their illustrious past, yet the harsh reality of the new Laporta reign is omnipresent debts, above all. Jordi, son of the legendary Johan Cruyff, was chosen as the head of the football department, working closely with Alemany.

On the 15th of May 2023, La Liga was confirmed to be Barcelona’s, as they celebrated at Espanyol’s ground. But two days afterwards, the club announced Jordi Cruyff’s imminent exit. Has something gone wrong? Is Barcelona’s board falling apart? And more importantly, how does that impact the club?

If one thing is for sure, it’s that Barcelona will need (strong) replacements. So far, Deco is the chief name to be linked with doing so. The Brazilian legend has already been working indirectly with the club, and most likely would remain in charge of overseeing young stars in South America, the goldmine of Europe’s elite, and a race Barcelona have lagged behind in lately. Attempts were made to bring raw talents to Barca Atletic previously, with the likes of Gustavo Maia and Matheus Fernandes arriving and leaving almost without a ripple. Vitor Roque now appears to be the main target, a forward talent the Catalans are after, yet many remain unsure of the feasibility of the signing.

If Barcelona want to continue and advance their project, experience and coherence will be needed. Clarity is necessary for Barcelona to mature too. Deco, as good as his connections may be, will not be enough. There isn’t much experience there, and the reported Antonio Cordon links were denied by the man himself – it all looks a little uninspiring.

They might be champions of Spain, but they crashed out in the group phase of the Champions League with a catastrophic display, before eventually digging deeper into their European shame as they lost to Manchester United.

It can and should be argued Xavi has been satisfactory in his first seasons, eventually bringing La Liga home after several years of patience; the last one was in 2019. But it’s also true that Xavi himself is inexperienced, and he will need guidance, notably to avoid an over-concentration of power and responsibility in Xavi’s hands when it comes to transfers.

Managers should remain part of the project, not the project itself. And for that, one needs to make sure there’s more to the board than Xavi and Laporta, two legends of the club, but also two people that need healthy criticism for their misses. Arguably, even data analytics within scouting is a sector in which the Catalan club is lagging behind its competitors, something that would greatly aid them in avoiding unnecessary expenses on wasted signings.

Barcelona have done a great job beating out Real Madrid to the league title, but it also needs to keep its feet on the ground. Great ambition is a necessity, and yet it’s somewhat awkward to see two of the chief figures making strides towards that ambition, two important figures, leave not even mid-way through the project. Explanations that a greater financial offer arrived remain unsatisfying for those questioning the timing of the announcement, and the reasons behind it. Barcelona will need to restructure their hierarchy, and fast – summer is coming, and time waits for no men.

Tags Barcelona Joan Laporta Jordi Cruyff Mateu Alemany Xavi Hernandez
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