Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Piqué, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal; Coutinho, Luis Suárez and Leo Messi. This was the eleven most used by coach Ernesto Valverde during the 2018/19 season, the last in which Barça was able to lift the title of La Lliga. Now, four years later, the blaugrana have once again proclaimed themselves champions of the competition which rewards consistency, after beating Espanyol in their Cornellà stadium by a resounding 2-4.
The value of the 27th League
However, the protagonists of this 2022-23 triumph have been quite different, since of the eleven mentioned above, only three footballers remain in the current squad: Ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, and Busquets - who has just announced his departure, following that of Gerard Piqué in the first part of the season, the last of the heavyweights from the Pep Guardiola era. The flavour of this season's triumph is also very different. Four years ago, Barça took the title for the second year in a row, imposing themselves on Real Madrid in an authoritative manner.
Messi said it himself in the Joan Gamper trophy later that same year: "We have to appreciate the value of the League we won. The eighth in eleven years. This for any club would be something huge, and it is for this one as well. Maybe today we aren't giving it the value it deserves, but within a few years we will realize how difficult it is to do this". And Messi was right. Since then, the culers have only celebrated one Copa del Rey and one Supercopa de España, the latter also this season. Slim pickings for a fan base who had to stick with their club while all the glory seemed to slip away over that four year period.
From Valverde, through Setién and Koeman, to Xavi Hernández
First of all, in the sporting area, where Barça has flipped its coaches on three different occasions. Since Messi's words, Valverde, Setién, Ronald Koeman and Xavi Hernández have sat on the Camp Nou bench, leading teams that have been far from safe bets to face the massive challenges of the most important titles of the season. An instability aggravated by the critical economic situation that the blaugrana club descended into (and continues to fight its way through), preventing FC Barcelona from signing decisive players and forcing the club to say goodbye to their mythical number 10, who had been the team's top scorer and the centre of the Barça machine for all these years.
The solution to this set of circumstances? La Masia - the Barça academy - once again bore fruit, as the club looked towards its footballing - but at the same time, with more than a small amount of help from the famous financial levers. This cocktail allowed Barça to put together a team with Gavi, Araujo, Pedri, Lewandowski and Kounde as leaders, and Xavi Hernández as coach. And despite the fact that the results in the European competitions and the Copa del Rei have not been as desired, in La Lliga, Xavi's men have ruled with an iron hand. In defence, an historic team. In attack, still with many things to improve. Like the whole project in general. But the first step has been taken. Like the legendary adventurer, Barça seems to be reaching the end of its tumultuous odyssey through storms and perils, and finally has the opportunity to take some firm steps on a footballing Ithaca.