La Liga Review considers the fallout from Barcelona's Champions League semi final defeat to Manchester United....
On the eve of the Champions league semi final first leg, La Liga Review interviewed the editor of Barcelona's oldest sports paper for the UEFA champions league weekly television show. Santi Nolla, the editor of Mundo Deportivo, defended the position of the Catalan press: if Barcelona were to be beaten by Manchester United, then FC Barcelona could be qualified as a total disaster, however, were the Catalan club to win the tie and go on to win the tournament, then the club could be considered a success.
For once, the Barcelona sports press have been consistent in their response to the club's semi final defeat at Old Trafford and, as expected, they have launched an all out assault on the club, the players, the president and his board.
The team is worthless, the manager clueless and the president spineless: according to the Catalan print media.
The day after the defeat, the headlines all followed the same theme, typified by Sport's 'This Team Is Finished!!' front page headline.
After having had 24 hours to calm down, the Catalan scribblers have gone from hurling abuse at the team, to deciding just what needs to be done with this motley crew of wasters who have sullied the great name of the club. They are all in agreement: the baby, the bathwater, the plumbing and even that funny mouldy spongy backscratcher thing that nobody ever uses all need to be thrown out.
"Total Renewal!" Screamed Mundo Deportivo from it's front page today, "Revolution!" yelled SPORT.
Whereas the Barcelona press have recently been divided in their support of Laporta, following Tuesday nights elimination, they are unanimous in their criticism of the club president. The editorial in SPORT best sums up the entire analysis of all the Catalan press over the last 48hrs.
SPORT writes: "Total clearout! It may be tough to swallow but necessary to wash away the foul taste left in the mouth. The day after the defeat was one of resignation and analysis. When things are done badly, they are destined to end badly. And the thing that hurts the Barcelona fans the most, the thing that gets us the most angry, is that the club gas repeated the same errors that it committed last season. It’s the same old song and we don’t want to hear it any more. In the space of a month, Barcelona have once again gifted the league title to an inferior opponent and have just blown their Champions League aspirations thanks to their impotence in front of goal. Its all over, there is nothing left and it is the end of the Rijkaard era, and confirmation that the Laporta regime cannot make a decision when big decisions need to be taken. The claims that lessons had been learned, turned out to be lies. They have become complacent and foolishly believed that luck would lend them a helping hand. Luck only comes to those who earn it. There is no other option. Total Renewal."
This total clearout, according to both papers, involves sacking Rijkaard and appointing Guardiola, selling Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Deco, Henry, Zambrotta, Marquez, Thuram, Gudjohnsen, Edmilson, everyone, in fact - aside from Messi, Iniesta, Valdes, Milito, Puyol and Bojan. There are even demands, made by opinion writers in all the papers, that Laporta should resign.
Its hard to argue that the team that shone so brilliantly just two seasons ago has faded. It must also be said that, in hindsight, certain bad decisions were made. Yet hindsight is something that the Catalan press posess in abundance, and many of those decisions were popular at the time.
It should not be forgotten that the same papers that are vilifying the board for signing bad players, were championing those same signings - Henry, Zambrotta, Gudjohnsen, Thuram, Abidal as being the perfect additions to the best squad in the land and that with these names on board, Barcelona were going to conquer all before them.
These are also the same papers that began calling for Rijkaard's resignation and/or dismissal less than six months after winning the Champions league final; the same papers that have been telling Rijkaard that he is out of a job next season. Is it any wonder that the manager cannot motivate his players, or even himself, when everybody knows that, regardless of the outcome, he - and many of the players - are not considered a part of the club's future.
Changes need to be made and decisions need to be taken. Motivation and discipline needs to be restored. Are these major or minor changes: changes that cannot be brought about by the addition of a new coach to an extraordinarily talented bunch of individuals?
Ronaldinho will, and should, depart. Of that there is no doubt. Perhaps a couple of other names should join him. But is this not the best squad in La Liga? How many Madrid players would Barcelona fans trade for one of theirs? Very few I imagine, if any.
Changes do need to be made, and it would be wrong to claim that bad luck is the reason behind the club's shortcomings. However, was it not a combination of bad luck and a wonder goal from Paul Scholes that led to Barcelona's elimination? Or, turning the situation on its head, if Scholes had not scored - would Manchester United be a better or a worse side than they are right now?
With over 60% of the possession across both legs Barcelona were, all round, the better side. They just failed to score. Sure, for that they deserved to lose - but it could have been very, very different. Were it not for a mistake from Zambrotta and Scholes's sublime finish it, may well have been Barcelona in the final. They would have won the game and dominated possession for 180 minutes, making Manchester United look very ordinary.
The point is that Paul Scholes' goal, in the eyes of the Catalan media, is the difference between success and failure for this Barcelona side.
That single goal cannot, should not, be the reason for a total overhaul. Decisions need to be made on the same basis, whether that ball had crossed the line or not.
The solution to the problems at Barcelona should not be determined by the outcome of a single goal or a single match, yet that is what the Catalan press is demanding.
An hour before meeting with the editor of Mundo Deportivo, La Liga Review interviewed Hristo Stoichkov. I asked him the same question that I asked Santi Nolla: The press claim that the club's fate is determined by the result against Manchester United - what did he think?'
Stoichkov replied 'The press here are all idiots. My advice to you? Don't bother reading them…