Luckily, Barca’s institutional madness has not been transported onto the pitch. The earthquakes that are shaking the club’s offices cannot be traced on the field. While there may be calls for revolution in the stands and people signing motions of no confidence because of errors made by the club’s hierarchy, there is peace on the pitch, a sense of calm that not even the presence of the team that the dressing room despises the most can disturb.
Ernesto Valverde may not be the best communicator in the world but he knows like very few people that a football team cannot live at the same frenetic pace as supporters, the board or the media. They are different worlds, often polar opposites.
The team is the heart of the club and where calm and common sense need to rule if a new project is to take shape. To do that you have to build barriers, through decisions, that protect the team. And Valverde has started to do that. He is making decisions that seem insignificant but could be the start of something important.
Take, for example, his decision to leave Paulinho and Dembele, the most expensive signings of the summer on the bench for the derby as they only recently had their unveilings. The new arrivals need some time to get a sense of the club and the Camp Nou, and there’s no better way to do that than from the dugout despite the fact that everyone wanted them on the pitch from kick off.
Valverde’s Barca is starting to take shape and developing into something. There’s still a long way to go, but the project is now starting to bear teeth. And one thing has not changed: the star who illuminates everything. The mere figure of Messi fills everyone with hope and joy because he is able to turn up again at Barca after a terrible few days with Argentina and score a hat-trick, becoming top scorer in the league in the process and taking Barca to the top of the table.
Then came Pique’s cherry on the icing of the cake and Dembele’s brief demonstration of what he is capable of. But everything begins with Messi and Valverde is protecting the team from all the noise that is not made by the ball. Starting with a five-goal win over Espanyol is not bad at all.
And what about Madrid? It’s all music to Barca’s ears.