Barça come into the start of the season in a strange situation. The opponents are Real Madrid, but the game is the thing talked about the least. The transfer market and the hangover from the Neymar transfer dominate. Even more so after Piqué’s words yesterday that highlighted the distance between the board and the dressing room.
The centre back revealed an uncomfortable truth. The squad knew Neymar had already decided to leave. The board only suspected that he was unsettled. And Valverde was the last to know. The club is trying to recover from the Brazilian’s departure but is doing it in the worst conditions possible.
Clubs know that Barça are in a rush, and under pressure, to sign players, and that they have €222 million in their pocket. In an inflated market, Barça will have to pay fees that were unimaginable a few months ago for players like Coutinho and Dembélé. Even Paulinho has cost €40 million from the Chinese League.
And in the middle, a Super Cup with no clear favourite, as you would expect from a clásico. The US tour did not seem the best place for Valverde to get his ideas across. But a few of his ideas are starting to show – for a start, the desire to press high, a common feature of the Txingurri’s teams.
The talk has changed. Barça no longer talk about the trident. Now they are putting the emphasis of the team because, as Piqué said, there won’t be another Neymar. While they await the outcome of the Dembélé negotiations, the fans are focussing on Deulofeu, an unusual and talented player who divides opinion. He has had to wait a long time for his chance at Barça.
His time at Milan, where he played the best football of his career, has led people to re-evaluate the winger and he could start today. In the Joan Gamper trophy match, he showed a new side to his game. He was no longer the forward playing his own game, or the winger who saw the game as an individual challenge. He showed better understanding of his team and more of a desire to work for his teammates.
He also connected with Messi, who is now more important than ever following Neymar’s departure. He will be the one his teammates turn to as they look to overcome a Madrid, who come into the game with no problems, delighted to have won the European Super Cup and, in Zidane, a manager who has achieved the unthinkable: bringing stability to Real Madrid.