It must be said that the summer of 2020 will go down as one of the most historic periods of FC Barcelona. However, it was for all the wrong reasons.
The Spanish giants would end up being forced into an overhaul from top to bottom, and the saga of Lionel Messi will undoubtedly continue to make the headlines throughout the season. But with the club starting off the campaign with two convincing wins from their opening fixtures, are we starting to see a positive impact in this epic tale of the six times European champions?
The story goes a long way back. Prior to the restart of Spanish football, Barcelona were sitting comfortably top of La Liga, ahead of fierce competition from rivals, Real Madrid.
However, a run where Quique Setien’s side picked up seven wins from their remaining eleven matches ultimately blew what was a convincing lead at the summit of Spanish football. The pressure from their El Clasico counterparts proved too much to handle, who would win all but one of their matches after the lockdown period to be crowned champions of Spain again.
Barcelona were going into the Champions League in somewhat of a crisis.
Despite this, they go defeated Napoli 3-1 at the Camp Nou to reach the final part of the tournament in Lisbon. They would go onto face Bayern Munich in the quarter finals.
The German giants were going into the competition as clear favourites having blitzed through the group stages and the round of sixteen. But not many would predict what would follow. The match brought back shades of their two-legged encounter back in 2013, as the German champions embarrassed their opponents 8-2 in the summer heat of Lisbon. It was a very dark post-mortem for Barcelona, who once again failed in their attempt of lifting Europe’s biggest prize for the first time since 2015.
Unsurprisingly, the match was the final game that Setien would manage. He would quickly be replaced by Ronald Koeman as manager. Koeman is regarded as a legend to the club, and he also left a promising job as manager of the Dutch national team. A testament to what the job meant to him.
But not many would predict what would unfold in the weeks following his appointment. A story rocked world football in a way that not many had seen in their lifetimes. After a sixteen-year spell at the club, Messi announced that he had a desire to leave for free. It was a story that led to a bitter battle between the Argentine and club president, Josep Bartomeu.
Fans of Barcelona would demand for change at the top, and some even managed to break into the home of the club in a series of protests that would last for several days.
Upon describing the situation to Goal, Messi said:“I told the club, including the president, that I wanted to go. I’ve been telling him that all year. I believed it was time to step aside.”
There was clearly a difference between the two figures at the club.
Messi would go onto add: “I told the president and, well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.”
It comes after a battle where the Argentine was believed to have had a clause in his contract where he could leave on a free at the end of the season. Barcelona refused to accept it and out of respect to the club, Messi refused to take the club to court in what would have been a bitter end to one of football’s greatest relationships between club and player.
Another situation at the club would go onto infuriate Lionel Messi. The treatment of Luis Suarez by manager and the board will certainly leave a bitter taste for many at the club. The Uruguayan striker was adored by many at Barcelona. He was a key figure in some of the most recent successes at the club.
However, he was thrown out of the door in a matter of weeks. Suarez spoke at his farewell interview at the club and was visibly emotional. The 33-year-old said: “The coach communicated that to me, I expected it because it had been said before. I can accept it and, as I said from the beginning, I wanted to carry on training.”
Messi would also take the time to offer his good friend a farewell on Instagram. However, it was also aimed to fire a dig once again at the Barcelona board. The Argentine described how Suarez had been “kicked out” of the club and that he is “no longer surprised” by the actions of those at the top of the club.
But on the pitch Barcelona have been in impressive form at the start of the new campaign. The rebuild at the club looks to be spearheaded by Ansu Fati. The 17-year-old has scored in both wins against Villarreal and Celta Vigo.
As the club look to begin a new era, it remains to be seen whether Messi’s historic spell at the club will end in glory or tears.