On 4th January, 2015 if some seer woulda ve told a Cule that five months down the line Barcelona would be contesting for their second treble in six years, in all probability that Cule would have liked to borrow some of the stuff that the seer was probably smoking a for two fundamental reasons:
- Firstly to forget the pain of yet another season of downward spiral with the dressing room in a mess
- Secondly that stuff seemed really good a second treble in six years (most dona t even have one)
Five actual months later, Barcelona are realistically contesting for their second treble in six years and fans around the globe couldna t have been happier.
David Moyes, notorious for breaking Manchester United, ironically played a monumental role in galvanizing the Barcelona outfit into one of the most feared ones in recent times a probably more than the one led by the legendary Pep Guardiola.
Ever since the departure of Pep Guardiola nothing seemed to be going right for Lionel Messi. Until 2015.
Messia s Fitness
Messi is an ardent lover of steaks, cola, pizza and sweets but under Guardiola, he was strictly restricted to a diet of vegetables and fish. Guardiola also administered a special set of vitamins which were essential to the young mana s development. Ita s not only Messi, but every member of the squad was administered a special combination of vitamins and minerals for their physical development and endurance.
Even Carles Rexach quipped that Messi was eating more fatty stuff, which hindered his performance on the pitch and led him to a trophyless season, which is an exception. He also surrendered the Ballon da Or to Cristiano Ronaldo, who is an absolutely brutal athlete on the football pitch.
In the match against Real Sociedad, in January 2015, Leo and Neymar who had returned late from their Christmas vacations (with due permission from the club), were benched by Luis Enrique a a resteda , as they say.
Barcelona lost 1-0.
Leo missed training the next day with a gastroenteritisa .
Then there was some argument between Enrique and Messi for a foul which wasna t called and the two stopped looking eye to eye.
In short the dressing room was in a mess and Barcelona looked to be going further down into the chasm that they had entered ever since Guardiola left.
Call it jest, but therea s reported to have been a discussion on a popular instant messaging app for smartphones, which might have led to the resurrection. Xavi, the departing hero, was the first to put his foot down and reprimand the rest. And things took a turn.
Also Messi made a quick trip to Italian town of Sacile, near Venice, during the summer to sit down with Dr. Giuliano Poser, who was in-charge of his diet, for a quick discussion for the business end of the season. Messia s international teammate and Manchester City striker, Sergio Aguero too have been benefitted after consulting Dr. Poser.
Apparently the duo seems to have cut down on pasta, sugar and (red) meat and as with Messi, Aguero too has been in the pink of health this season with lesser injuries compared to his previous ones.
A more insightful look at Leo and Kuna s numbers in the last two seasons will manifest the importance of the proper diet for a footballer at the top level.
If the resurrection of Messi has been an influencing factor in Barcelonaa s foray right till the end of the season, so has been the coming of age of Neymar and the resurgence of Luis Suarez.
Much has been said and done about the Neymar transfer. A Barcelona President had to step-down for his financial misgivings and another is on the verge of moving out (with the upcoming elections). But both, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu should be thanked for eventually delivering the final pieces of Barcelonaa s offensive jigsaw a Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Suarez a Messi a Neymar
Offensive tridents are no strangers to Barcelona. Frank Rijkaard had Ronaldinho-Etoa o-Guily/Henrick Larsson and Ronaldinho-Etoa o-Messi (in the 2006/07 season Messi had established himself as a first team regular and played 36 matches, scoring 17 goals and giving 4 assists), Guardiola had Henry-Etoa o-Messi, Villa-Messi-Pedro.
A glimpse of the top 3 scorers for Barcelona from 2008/09 season onwards should help us understand.
Ever since the treble winning season, the reliance on Messi has grown exponentially. Hea s been Barcelona seasonal top scorer for quite some time now, but the support he has received has been dwindling.
It went down as low as just 29.12% (Season 2011/12), where Leo contributed almost 71% of the goals scored by the top three goalscorers in the team. The 4-time Ballon da Or winner went from strength to strength and racked up numbers which where hitherto impossible a not even Ronaldo could reach those numbers.
And after scoring 186 goals in 3 seasons at an average of 62 goals per season, Leo fumbled.
The human body can only take so much.
In Guardiolaa s last season at Barcelona, the diminutive Argentine received the worst kind of support from his fellow goal-scorers. Under Late Vilanova it wasna t any better. Finally when Alexis stepped up in 2013/14, with able contribution from Pedro, but by then, Leoa s body had given in.
With a modest return of a justa 41 goals from their talisman, the Catalan giants went trophyless in a long time.
After being humbled by Real Madrid in the Copa final, losing the league on the final day of the season, and then also in the Champions League semifinal at the hands of Atletico rang Martinoa s death knell.
While the defense (or the lack of it) was pointed out to be Barcelona Achilles heel, their offense was no better. An overburdened Messi against defenders who had learned, and conned by rote was as big a predicament as their defense.
While the talent of Neymar and brilliance of Messi was never under question, Luis Suarez, despite his immense potential, was considered the disruption that would break the dressing room again.
It couldna t have been farther from the truth.
After a forgettable incident In Brazil against Italy, Barcelona seemed to have offered Suarez a new and perhaps the last lease of life. Away from the ever intruding English media, in the warmth of sunny Spain, Suarez felt at home and despite some rustiness in his game took to Barcelonaa s game like a fist to water.
More so when Messi took control and asked him to play in the centre and moved himself to the right where he had once been hugely successful.
Luis is a born drifter who can seamlessly interchange places with Messi even after starting at the centre. His biggest strengths are his lateral movement and his innate ability to sacrifice personal accolades for the greater good.
There had been situations where Suarez could have scored the goal himself, instead he chose to feed either Neymar or Leo a something, which he didna t practice as much in Liverpool, not because hea s a selfish player but because hea s their best player and sole source of doing the unthinkable.
Last season Liverpool scored 101 goals in the league and just missed the PL trophy by a whisker. This season they have found the back of the net just 52 times a such has been Luisa influence.
As for Neymar, it is fair to say that he has exceeded expectations. If 15 goals and as many assists in 41 outing last season (his first in Europe), can be considered great, then 38 goals and 11 assists this time around must be exemplary.
In Neymar, Barcelona have found their secondary goal-source, and with more physical maturity, Neymar looks set to take on the mantle that Lionel Messi took over from Ronaldinho.
Fatigue, injuries and age too adversely affected the squad. Either they were too old (Puyol, Xavi, et al) to put in 90 minutes of intense efforts week-in week-out or they were too young (Alexis) to take the game and turn it on its head.
After the appointment of Luis Enrique this was the first thing that was taken care of. While Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen were termed inadequate for the demands of the Catalan club, last summer, the club also brought in Claudio Bravo (31), Marc Andre ter Stegen (22), Luis Suarez (27), Ivan Rakitic (26) amongst others a a near-perfect ix of youth and experience.
Enriquea s a notoriousa rotational policy, that took him 27 matches to figure out his best XI, wasna t actually that bad. In fact, his rotational policy is one of the main reasons as to why the players are still fit after a long haul and raring to go all guns blazing in Berlin.
Another unsung hero at the Barcelona camp is Juan Carlos Unzue. A former Barcelona player who made a name for himself in Sevilla, Unzue holds the designation of Assistant Manager. But be rest assured, hea s much more than that. Barcelona are no longer vulnerable in the air. And one man who can be credited for that is Unzue.
Discarding zonal marking, Unzue had devised a mix of both man-marking and Zonal and new recruits Ivan Rakitic and Jeremy Mathieu have been immensely helpful in implementing the strategy.
As Lee Roden has perfectly identified,
a Unzu introducing a new mixed marking system that has made Barcelona far more difficult to better in the air. The new formula starts with SuA?rez, a naturally aggressive player, who is tasked with cutting out balls that approach the near post. Centre-back Gerard Piqu , the best header in the team, is given the freedom to come and attack the cross where he sees fit. Everyone else either marks a determined man or a designated zone.a
– Lee Roden for ESPNFC.
While Ivan Rakitic and Claudio Bravo have provided stability in two of the much needed areas, the acquisition of Luis Suarez has been the game-changer.
Luis Enrique started from scratch, weathered a huge storm and finally is on the verge of taking this Barcelona to the shores of immorality a the Treble.
What happens in Berlin, only time will tell. However Enrique has proved beyond doubt that hea s as good as they get and this season has been a hugely successful one for Barcelona.