It’s safe to say that the 2013-14 season has been a disaster for Barcelona. Not only are they set to finish without any major silverware this year, but they have also been embroiled in controversial off-pitch issues such as the Neymar signing and the FIFA transfer embargo, which was eventually suspended.
Then there was the tragic death of their former coach Tito Vilanova. To add to Barca’s increasing misery, veterans Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes are on their way out, and coach Gerardo Martino is likely to follow suit after just one year in charge of the Catalan giants.
Under Martino, Barcelona’s style of football has distinctly changed, with the Argentine often deploying long-ball tactics and not adhering to the tiki-taka approach for which the Blaugrana have earned so much praise from around the world.
The results have been disappointing as well: a 2-1 loss in the Copa del Rey final to arch-rivals Real Madrid followed defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Then on Saturday, Barcelona pretty much pretty much relinquished their last remaining hopes of successfully defending the La Liga title. The former European champions took the lead twice against Getafe at Camp Nou, but on both occasions they were pegged back and ended up with a 2-2 draw.
That result has kept them second in the standings on 85 points from 36 matches, but Atletico Madrid are three points ahead of them with a match in hand. Real Madrid are three points behind Barca, but they have played two fewer games.
So in all likelihood, Barcelona’s chances of winning the league are gone. For good. Both Atletico and Real need to slip up for them to get back into the race, and that is almost impossible to happen.
Xavi knows that, and so does his Barcelona and Spain teammate Sergio Busquets, both of whom admitted after Saturday’s match that their 2013-14 campaign has been a failure.
‘We're f****d’, Goal.com quotes Barca legend Xavi as saying. ‘We didn't have a good season, luck was not on our side and we were not competitive in many aspects. Despite the Supercopa de Espana win, we must wipe this season clear. We have to be self-critical. Except for a miracle, we have lost the league. We have to improve a lot, but from within’.
FourFourTwo quotes Busquets as saying: ‘I guess the Liga is over for us now," he told reporters after the match. We should learn from this for the future’.
Xavi’s words about ‘improving from within’ illustrates just how much they have gone back since Pep Guardiola left in the summer of 2012. Last season the late Vilanova’s ill-health meant that Barca endured an emotional season but still won the league, and this term the change in philosophy did not go down well. Even Lionel Messi, the world’s best player, has appeared disillusioned under the management of his Argentine compatriot Martino, who now looks likely to be sacked.
Barcelona will need to go back to their roots and start all over again for next season.