Will Ernesto Valverde follow Barcelona or Madrid?

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 02.10.2017 19:39

Since Pep Guardiola left Barcelona in 2012, none of the four coaches who took over the reins of the team after his departure continued his legacy. Starting with Tito Villanova, Gerardo Martino, Luis Enrique and now Ernesto Valverde, all chose to spoil Barcelona's revolutionary game in the name of moderation. Although it worked, in particular, for Enrique, who won nine trophies in three years, the new mentality of the team has buried the legend of Barcelona.

Nevertheless, with Real Madrid more rational and balanced than ever this season, Valverde has to find a way back to the game that made Barcelona great. Unfortunately, moderation and excuses do not make a team great again, but continuing and adding to a legacy can.

First of all, like it or not, Barcelona and Catalonia have certain cultural characteristics that reflect the way they play football. Just as when they preserved their culture, language and identity under the brutal Franco dictatorship, they patiently developed their football with brave, revolutionary people like Johann Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard and Guardiola.

Unlike Madrid, which represented the ugly truths of football and the superiority of results over beautiful gameplay, they have always been champions of positive football. Their vision respects their opponent's ability to play as good as them, and challenges them with an authentic strategy that aims to play, not to prevent their opponent from playing.

However, since Villanova, Barcelona have drifted into a cheap strategy, which utilizes individual talents in the center. Since they had an incredible forward trio, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, collective action was rarely needed to find opportunities and separating the team into offense and defense seemed much more reasonable in terms of results.

In the end, playing collectively and executing both offense and defense as a team required a great amount of mental and physical work, and none of those coaches dared to play such a game, while they found results in much easier ways.

Now, Barcelona's squad is getting older, slower and more predictable. Added to that, they lost Neymar to PSG and the new signing Dembele is not the equivalent of the Brazilian star. How long can Barcelona continue such an individualistic strategy that has nothing to do with the tradition they developed over decades. How can they continue to produce more Messis, Iniestas, Xavis, etc. without practicing the most advanced version of collective action?

The only way Valverde can change the course of history is by returning to the tradition that Guardiola carried to its peak and take it even further. There was still much more to do with Guardiola's strategy when he left, but his successors had no interest in writing history. To write history for both Barcelona and Catalonia, Valverde has to play like a true Catalonian and Barcelonan.

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