In many ways, those left behind at Barcelona when Lionel Messi packed his bags for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021 will never quite feel the same again. That transfer created a void at Camp Nou that will prove almost impossible to fill.
Having been spoiled in a sporting sense by one of the finest talents to have ever played the game across 16 memorable years, there were always going to be questions of ‘what do we do now’ once an all-time great had departed for pastures new.
A class of 2021-22 are finding that out the hard way, with the football betting site at Paddy Power pricing them as +3500 long shots for La Liga title glory this season. Rarely has a club with such a rich history of collecting major silverware been written off so early.
There is, however, no escaping the fact that another serious rebuilding project is being undertaken not all that far away from Gaudi’s stunning Sagrada Familia Cathedral. That famously unfinished monument is due for completion in 2026 – 100 years after the passing of its legendary architect.
✨ History made together.
Thank you, Leo Messi. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/c02krCE6iL
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) August 8, 2021
Joan Laporta, Xavi and those charged with the task of delivering on football-based expectations will hope to complete their project long before the scaffolding comes down at a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is, however, much work for them to do in order to get the masses returning to a different place of worship on a grand scale.
Speculate to accumulate
Barca have never been afraid of splashing the cash, but that has become more of a hindrance than a help in recent times. Balancing the books has proved tricky of late, with Messi’s stunning departure for France driven by a collective need to start tightening the purse strings.
A backward step has been taken, but the intention is to start establishing forward momentum once more. Tentative progress is being made down that path, with deals done for the likes of Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
New contracts have also been agreed with the likes of Ansu Fati and Pedri, with there an obvious need to keep potential onboard alongside proven pedigree. There is hope for a loyal fan base, but many still need to be convinced that former glories can be recaptured.
Camp Nou has not quite been the fortress it once was, and with Messi no longer around and results proving hard to come, interest has waned a little.
𝑺 𝑶 𝑶 𝑵 😍
💯% Camp Nou pic.twitter.com/54eE9ZeJlw
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 13, 2021
The summer of 2022 could, however, change all of that. Efforts have been made to get match-winners through the doors, and there remains the promise of more to come.
There has been talk of prodigal son Messi retracing his steps to Spain after just one season outside of a Catalan comfort zone, and a deal there really would get Barcelona bouncing once more. Rumors of a raid on Borussia Dortmund for Erling Haaland also refuse to go away, and he is another that would set pulses racing.
One statement signing may be all that is required in order to bring a buzz back to Camp Nou, with one of the most iconic venues on the planet deserving of seeing the greatest showmen grace its prestigious stage.