This incarnation of Barcelona are not a club renowned for their forethought. In a dire financial state after a number of poor signings following the embarrassing scramble to exert some sort of dominance having watched Neymar leave for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, things got so bad even Lionel Messi publicly asked to leave.
Indeed, it seems so long ago that the Catalan giants were considered a level above the rest, pairing academy graduates with smart additions and elite-level coaching on their way to reinventing the modern game as we knew it.
Still, no matter how much a circus Barcelona resemble at times, there are green shoots of recovery. The money situation may take longer to sort out but, prior to their late season collapse, Ronald Koeman had Barca fighting for what would have been a relatively unlikely La Liga title.
While Messi, of course, was brilliant, it was the nucleus of young players who also impressed. One of those, Pedri, has been one of the stories of the summer after impressing at Euro 2020 before heading off to the Olympics.
Spain manager Luis Enrique (the last man win to win the Champions League at the Camp Nou) hailed the 18-year-old as a prodigious talent, suggesting he was performing at a higher level than Andreas Iniesta was at a similar age. So then, it’s vital Barcelona act on their duty of care.
Although Pedri’s game might not quite be as explosive as some of the wonderkids to have made their mark on the international stage who have come before, the fact he has played in 73 games since the start of last season must be taken into account when the new campaign kicks off.
Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney were both hailed as the saviours of English football when they broke through at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2004 respectively and relentlessly played for both club and country at a young age, leading to dramatic downturns in form towards the end of their careers.
Youngsters can seem extraordinary. True as that might be, it only takes some mismanagement of their schedules for that youthful exuberance to recede, reducing them to substitute appearances for Stoke City or Derby County in their mid-30s.
In Pedri, Barcelona potentially have the heir to Iniesta (albeit in a somewhat different position) in their hands. Repeating the kind of strategy that saw Owen and Rooney pushed to the limit could be a grave mistake, potentially costing them the long-term benefits of boasting such a talent on their books.
In years gone by, you’d have backed Barcelona to act accordingly. When Messi himself started emerging into the wider footballing consciousness, Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola eased him into life in the first-team, with the Argentine playing only 50 times in league competition by the end of the 2006/07 campaign.
As a result, the greatest player in the club’s history has rarely ever been injured for a prolonged period of time, giving him the platform to craft what has been the most astonishing career ever witnessed.
That, however, was a different Barcelona. Everything we’ve seen about this version so far crucially don’t think ahead and seemingly attempt to merely win at all costs now, so as to make the most of what Messi has left at the top level.
Clearly, there’s some logic to that, players like him don’t come around very often. That being said, neither do ones like Pedri and if Messi has now been confined to the club’s past, Pedri could be the future.
He must be afforded a break. He must be handled with care. He must be allowed to breathe. If he is, Barcelona could be setting themselves up for life after Messi nicely.
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