Amid a myriad of problems off the field, Barcelona can now dream of a great era. DW's Ross Dunbar looks at how the club has brushed off the legacy left by the team's previous coach.
January 4, 2015. Barcelona appears to be imploding, with confidence in head coach Luis Enrique at rock-bottom, fuelled by a supposed dressing room revolt involving a few of its most senior players.
What Barcelona have done since has been noteworthy: the Spanish powerhouses went on to secure the second treble in the club's history, collecting the domestic title, the Copa del Rey - and the Champions League crown for the fourth time in a decade.
It was the perfect way to deal with dressing room politics. Enrique, perhaps slightly overeager to assert his authority on the dressing room, had to turn mediator with those who held the power at the Camp Nou. Media reports became a small frenzy, with Catalan newspapers describing the rift between Messi and Enrique as beyond repair.
The week that followed has defined Barcelona's season. The pair began to sing from the same hymn sheet, whilst Messi was reinvigorated after seeking nutritional advice mid-season. The Argentine tore last season's Spanish champions Atletico Madrid to shreds the weekend after the Sociedad defeat, the start of a breathtaking run of form with 28 goals and 12 assists in 20 league matches.
And yet, the closer Barcelona came to the historic treble, an almost unattainable standard was put in front of them. Six years earlier, Pep Guardiola's team, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Messi forming the nexus, wrote a chapter of their own in Barca's history, winning the club's first treble and arguably changing the course of the sport.
A league of their own
When discussing football teams and their protagonists, fans love to compare the great and good. Whether Pele or Diego Maradona was the greatest player of all-time; who is the best between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, or which side was the best of all-time, all of which essentially miss the point of the global game.
This Barcelona team might have written its own chapter, but that hasn't stopped comparisons with Guardiola's treble-winners. A comfortable championship win was followed up by Cup success and then a 2-0 win over Manchester United in Rome to take the biggest European prize back to the Camp Nou.
Collectively, Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o scored 100 goals in all competitions. Guardiola's high-pressing philosophy was beginning to take shape, setting a trend on the continent for this intensive brand of football. So long as Barcelona is still perceived as a "tiki-taka" team, the comparions will continue. But while the nuts-and-bolts are the same, the mechanics of the team are different.
Four-time Champions League winner Xavi has since fallen short of the required condition for such an intense midfield setup; Iniesta has become the midfield metronome with Ivan Rakitic's arrival striking the perfect equilibrium in attack to allow Messi to take up a more game-changing, central role in the side.
What's more eye-catching is the relationship between Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, the omnipotent front three that has scored 122 goals this season. Barcelona has moved on to another level from its opponents, leaving the rest of Europe's champions to catch up over the next few months.
Finally emerging from the shadows of Guardiola's tutelage, a new dynasty at the top could be on the cards for Barca.
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