Madrid, May 17 (IANS) FC Barcelona’s men’s and women’s teams celebrated their respective league title wins through the streets of the city, cheered on by hundreds of thousands of fans lining the streets.
The women continue to be unstoppable, claiming another title with a 100 percent record, while the men assured the title with a 4-2 win away to Espanyol on Sunday night, with four games left in the season, reports Xinhua.
Barca’s 14-point lead over Real Madrid leaves no room for debate over which side deserves to win the title. Although Real Madrid fans will point to their progress in Europe and the 4-0 win over an injury hit Barca in the Copa del Rey to argue they have a better team, at the end of the day, the league table doesn’t lie.
Obviously, coach Xavi Hernandez deserves a lot of credit for forming a team capable of fighting for the title after last season’s disappointments.
Xavi is considered one of the architects of Barca’s passing game as a player, but as well as trying to get his team to play attractive football, he also showed he was willing to be pragmatic and play more defensive and more direct football when needed.
He also made tactical changes to Gavi’s role, pushing him into a more attacking position, while at times playing with just two men up front and using an extra man in midfield.
Indeed, Barca’s 1-0 win in the Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey first leg saw Barca register the lowest possession stats since records were kept.
However, although the coach is due a lot of credit, if he didn’t have a squad powerful enough to challenge, there would have been a limit to what he was able to do, and the man who is mainly responsible for building Barca’s squad this season is Director of Sport, Mateo Alemany.
Alemany built the squad under the severe limitations imposed on Barca by LaLiga due to their dire financial situation. The same conditions that meant Barca couldn’t keep hold of Leo Messi two years ago, meaning that Alemany had to move smartly in the transfer market.
Barca spent around 150 million euros on Jules Kounde, Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, but he also brought in Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso and Franck Kessie on free transfers.
Once he adapted to the side Christensen was one of Barca’s best players of the season, forming a key part of a defense that has conceded just 13 league goals this season, but both Alonso and Kessie have also played their part, although Barca may use Kessie to raise funds for news arrivals this summer.
Alejandro Balde also made big steps forward at left back, reducing Jordi Alba to a supporting role and Barca’s other young stars, Pedri and Gavi also played important roles. Pedri was especially impressive, although he was hindered by injuries in the second half of the campaign, while Gavi’s shift into a hybrid attack-midfield role gave Barca balance as they put together their decisive run of form in the New Year.
The lack of depth in the squad was highlighted by Barca’s exit in the group stage of the Champions League and their failure to get past Manchester United in the round of 16 in the Europa League. Meanwhile, Real Madrid made them pay in the Cup as injuries limited Xavi’s options at the end of March and the start of April, and building a squad to battle for European glory will be the next challenge.
With Barca moving out of the Camp Nou for the next season as it is redeveloped, their financial situation remains fragile and the news that Alemany will leave the club (although he will help with summer transfers) means there is still a lot of work to do.