Barcelona drew 1-1 against Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou in Matchday 38 of La Liga. Alexis Sanchez scored the goals for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 67 percent of possession, created 11 goalscoring chances and attempted seven shots, four of them on target.
Barcelona were unable to beat Atletico in the six matches they played this season. With that in mind, it is clear that Diego Simeone's team are deserved champions after one of the best seasons in their history. All Cules can do at this stage is accept that the better team won and congratulate them from a respectful distance.
Many La Liga critics have been criticising Spanish football for many years, arguing that the competition had become an uneventful two-horse race between Barca and Madrid. While I am obviously disappointed about the Catalans failing to lift the title, having a new champion brings a new ingredient to the table and, in a way, raises the profile of titles won by the Blaugranas in the recent past.
Unfortunately, Barca's golden winning cycle is well and truly over. Despite trying their best to achieve victory from the initial whistle, the current team just doesn't have what it takes to be successful in modern football anymore. They lack passing speed, eagerness to sacrifice themselves for the overall benefit of the team, defensive pressure and, most importantly, the self-belief which made them virtually untouchable in the past.
Don't get me wrong, there are several players in this season's squad who should stay based on their quality and potential to return to world-class level (the clearer examples being Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba) but, broadly speaking, I would be prepared to listen to offers for many of the other current footballers.
The need for rebuilding the team is alarming. Luckily, it looks as if the process has already began following Gerardo Martino's announcement to leave Barcelona following his team's disappointing result in La Liga. While the Argentinean manager remained a true professional during his time in charge at the Camp Nou, he has very clearly failed to implement any positive changes to boost an ageing squad in decline. It is now only a matter of time before former Barcelona legend Luis Enrique takes charge of a team in desperate need of rediscovering their missing spark, commitment and ambition. Despite his proven ability to motivate and develop his players, it is imperative that the board invests heavily on reinforcements during the upcoming summer transfer window.
Failure to inject new blood, legs and ideas into the team would only bring further disappointment and, to put it bluntly, may cause another wasted season to follow the one which just ended. Club directors must start making those all important decisions and using their economical resources to attract at least five new additions for the new coach to hit the ground running.
Many players who have been instrumental in order to achieve huge amount of silverware over the last decade will be far away from the Camp Nou next season. Victor Valdes (refused to sign a new contract), Carles Puyol (retired due to injury) and Jose Manuel Pinto (no new contract offered) are most definitely leaving. Others such as Isaac Cuenca, Jonathan Dos Santos or Ibrahim Afellay are also expected to be forced out in the next few weeks.
The futures of regulars such as Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and even Pedro are also up in the air and may depend on whether the club can get an acceptable amount of money in exchange for them. Again, only time will tell whether their poor showing against Atletico was also their last time defending the Blaugrana.
In sport, as in life, only those who are able to accept defeat will learn from their mistakes and come back stronger. However painful it maybe to waste the chance to win the title despite playing the decider at home, the situation must be taken as a learning point to continue walking forward towards bigger and better times.
Time to rebuild.
The Quote: "I profoundly lament the fact that I was not able to help the players to achieve the objectives of the Club. We tried with dignity. We admired these players from afar, we admired them from within and I will continue to do so from now on because the following years will be good ones for them. I don't only admire them for their talent, but because they are good human beings. It has been an honour to lead this institution." -- Martino.