There’s a specter haunting Barcelona missteps, that being the transfer ban which will find the club without infusions of talent for the next year.
So losses sting a bit more, and perceived managerial missteps — like leaving Neymar, Dani Alves and Lionel Messi out of the Starting XI before losing to Real Sociedad on Sunday — are magnified in light of the solutions that cannot be created in soccer’s open season.
The pain will feel more acute during this January’s window despite the fact that Barcelona has rarely made any, let alone big moves in this window. It’s been the summer which has seen Barca bring in names like Jordi Alba and Neymar, but now the lack of new faces will seem like they should’ve been en route to the Camp Nou.
And so lineup decisions like Sunday’s moves by Luis Enrique are going to be paramount. The club still has plenty of high-flying talent, but how the club’s veterans are used can and should be under the microscope moving forward. In retrospect, leaving Messi and Neymar out of an XI on the road at Real Sociedad isn’t so bright.
Before the game, though? These ghosts will start to haunt Enrique even before kickoff.
Barcelona’s appeal allowed the club to pick up a bevy of players for the future given their transfer prognosis, with Thomas Vermaelen, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Claudio Bravo, Douglas and Jeremy Mathieu joining the Blaugranas this summer.
But what good will those players be if they aren’t in the lineup?
Barcelona is going to have to continue to work its way through the UEFA Champions League, Cup runs and La Liga without bringing in high-priced transfers or free agents. Dani Alves is out of contract this summer, and Xavi will turn 36 next January.
Sunday’s loss by Real Madrid used to be the ones that were pounced upon by Barcelona. That didn’t happen on Sunday. While that doesn’t mean it won’t happen next time, it’s starting to feel like Barca could become not just option B in the race for La Liga’s crown, but option C.