In round 20, FC Barcelona finally lost its first La Liga game after 18 wins and one draw, 3-2 at Real Sociedad. It's not the end of the world--no soccer team has ever gone undefeated--but for some Barça fans this defeat remains hard to digest. They fear this loss, only the second of the season, is not just an accident and are ready to hit the panic button.
Earlier in the week Malaga had brought the high-flying Blaugrana down to earth with a 2-2 tie in the Copa del Rey at the Camp Nou. That was a bad game by a Barça B squad. The coach was criticized for not taking a good team seriously. Saturday Tito Vilanova sent the best possible lineup against Real. Another mistake, probably, because the rematch at Malaga, this Thursday, where Barcelona needs to win to qualify for the semifinals, had become the more important game.
Everything looked normal for about 25 minutes. Messi and Pedro gave Barça a 2-0 lead, then Messi had a great chance to make it 3-0, and probably put the game away, but his lob over the goalkeeper hit the post instead of going in. Pedro also hit the post with a shot from outside. Squandering chances has long become Barça's habit of luxury, but has never been a concern because this team has an uncanny ability to create bunches of scoring opportunities.
Not this time, though. The team suddenly froze, switching to an ineffective, disinterested autopilot, letting the hosts back into the game. And Barça goes how its two geniuses go. Messi, hands on his hips, looked like a tired, indifferent observer, after an incredibly busy and successful year capped by too many PR, advertising and other obligations brought upon him by the success and world adulation.
Iniesta, whose suave dribbling arabesques have inspired popular poetry on many a blog, plays too much for artistic impression and more often than not ends up in a labyrinth with no exit. He loses way too many balls and--people forget--has scored a grand total of one goal this season.
Xavi and Busquets, the other two pillars, also missed too many balls, made bad passes. Tiki-taka suddenly looked and sounded like a Ferrari running on 87 octane. When this happens, unexpectedly and unfortunately Barça has to depend on the likes of Piqué, who is expecting, so gets red-carted because his mind is elsewhere; Alves, who was MIA when the hosts scored the first goal in min 39, which gave them hope that they can hang in with Barça; and Valdés, the nutty goalkeeper who, as one internaut puts it, would allow four goals on three shots.
What player in his right mind, playing on a team anointed as the greatest in history--OK, let's put that on hold for now--would announce, almost two seasons before his contract expires and with the team running on a 19-game unbeaten streak, that he will not renew? Rosell, we have a problem. Let Victor experience the world, seek other cultures, and let's get a real goalie. For what you pay him now you can get two good ones, 'cause backup Pinto is almost 38. Sure, on most days Barça looks like it could play without a goalkeeper, that's why Victor has made a career here.
If he stays until the contract runs out he should apologize to everybody and polish Messi's and Iniesta's boots before each game and practice and pay for lunch daily for the entire club, La Masia included. If you don't have trust in your goalie you're doomed as a team, even if your name if FC Barcelona. So, let's not panic, let's solve the problem.
As a kid, Vladimir Moraru dreamed to watch Kubala and Evaristo, but never had a chance. Wearing Messi's Barcelona shirt at 66 makes up for everything.
- Sports & Recreation