Barcelona have finished 2012 on an incredible high, defeating Valladolid 3-1 away from home in La Liga. Lionel Messi was once again part of the final score, but this year may be a curtain call for a couple of individuals at the club who may be struggling to capture the spotlight.
Just when you think a Barcelona team containing Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta can’t be improved, Tito Vilanova takes the side through the first half of the league campaign undefeated. No matter how good Pep Guardiola was with Barcelona, even his sides had a few slips during the four years he was in the dugout at the Camp Nou.
But can they go another step further? Alexis Sanchez was brought in last year from Udinese for a fee surpassing the 30 million euros mark, but the Chilean international has thus far failed to make a real and sustained impact of note. Sanchez is a player who on paper should fit the bill for what Barcelona need: a versatile, technically proficient forward who knows where the goal is. The problem is, Sanchez just doesn’t look like a Barcelona player on the pitch.
David Villa, in particular, has never shown he’s not good enough to play for the Catalan side, but his injury last season has certainly pushed him to the back of the mind. Cristian Tello has performed incredibly well every time he’s been given a chance this season, and he’s a player who will take Alexis’ and Villa’s wide positions and make them his own. With a fully fit Cesc Fabregas, either he or Andres Iniesta could be in line to take a place on one of Messi’s flanks. And let’s not forget the desire so many have to see Pedro regain the form that saw him to back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons.
Villa will move on and he should, primarily for the reason that both he and the club have appeared to outgrow one another. Alexis, on the other hand, has never impressed in the way he should. He’s still a fantastic footballer and one who could shine at any number of leading clubs around Europe, but his time at Barcelona should also be drawing to a close.
The importance for the club is that they find alternatives to goal other than Messi, something which both Villa and Alexis have either done or been brought in to do. The club need a player who can seamlessly drop in and out of the side and make an impact. It may come from their famed youth academy with players like Gerard Deulofeu, but the most obvious sign points to Brazil.
Neymar looks to be the player the club need to take them even further and cement their place as the greatest team to play the game. The Brazilian superstar is a forward who plays with such ease on the flanks as well as through the middle, and his performances during the summer Olympics were magnificent.
It’s been reported that there’s already a deal in place to take Neymar from Santos to Barcelona at some stage over the next two years, and that move or movements towards it should signal the end of one or two others.
Villa has been a wonderful servant to the club, winning the Champions League in his debut season with Barcelona and playing a role in that memorable 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid. But Barcelona do need to look forward to players who will be sticking around for the long-term and who can play a significant role on the pitch.