Friday, May 30, 2014

Barcelona Finally Forced To Grow Up

----->Barcelona have been forced to take a more mature approach to rebuilding this summer, with a strong focus on fixing the defence. It's a big job for Luis Enrique...<---- It's an interesting move, to be sure. In order to combat the duel threats of Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid - and threatening noises from Getafe, oh yes - Barcelona have channeled an Adam Sandler film. Not all that surprising really, for a popular-culture loving club who once had a coach that based an epic six-trophy campaign on repeatedly playing a Coldplay song in the dressing room. However, this particular tribute to the sadly now rubbish American comedy actor is not all that positive. Barcelona's ongoing makeover is more 'Big Daddy' than 'Punch Drunk Love'. Or even Wedding Singer, which is genius in parts. Barça are following the lovable-oaf-has-to-get-real-and-grow-up-fast narrative, done to death and then some by Sandler over the past decade or so. The golden era 2009 is well and truly over and Barcelona have only just woken up to that fact, some six years on. Gone are the days of sweeping all-comers with a brand of possession and passing football. This is now the era of the Camp Nou club failing to beat Atlético Madrid on six occasions this season and limply surrendering the league title to their rivals on the last day. This summer is the time when Barcelona have woken up on a Sunday and realised that the fridge finally needs a thorough clean-out. Another in-house manager has come in in the form of Luis Enrique, and the former Celta Vigo boss, along with Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta, is spearheading a new look for Barça. Of course, the club's makeover is not entirely of Barça's own choosing. The departure of Víctor Valdés and the retirement of Carles Puyol sees a couple of holes needing to be plugged. Marc-André ter Stegen has been brought in from Borussia Mönchengladbach to fill the ranting void in goal left by Valdés. With José Pinto being waved off into the sunset, Barça are also in the hunt for a strong number two to help out the German keeper, and it looks like being Real Sociedad's fine Chilean international goalie, Claudio Bravo. Personal terms have reportedly been agreed, and all that is required now is the go-ahead from the Basque side who could be receiving €12m in the deal. The centre-back resource gap is one that has been stubbornly ignored for seasons now, but that looks set to change. If the summer transfer stories are in any ways accurate, then the purchase of Miranda - a season too late - would be a great start, combined with interest in PSG stopper, Marquinhos, who was involved in a flurry of rumours this week. The midfield is a curious department, with another saga over Cesc Fabregas' happiness at the club due to set sail. A lot of that might depend on what the immediate future is for Xavi Hernández, with questions about whether the 34-year-old has the knees and mental strength to lead another project and a potentially more dynamic style of play under Luis Enrique. There are no signs at the moment that much is set to change up front with Gerard Deulofeu - a possible late entrant into Spain's World Cup squad - returning from a loan spell at Everton - a forward who is a carbon copy of other Masia-produced talents at the club. Leo Messi has recently signed the umpteenth contract of his Barça career, so can expect to remain the focal point of attack, which again begs the question of whether a Zlatan-lite project will be relaunched with a target man being introduced to the Catalan club's tactical thinking. Barcelona have some ground to catch up on a jubilant Real Madrid side that can be expected to spend big once again and even Atlético, a team that is lining up Ivan Rakitic and Roberto Soldado for their summer swoops. The attention currently being paid to the back line is a positive start in what will be a necessarily disruptive summer for the club. Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter @LaLigaLoca.