Reading the Catalan sports papers over the last couple of days I can’t help noticing an unhealthy mood of triumphalism. Rather than judging the signing of Neymar Jr. on the merits of the player weighed up against the financial price paid there are some who only seem capable of seeing the transfer as a victory for Sandro Rosell over Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez.
This seems to me to be an erroneous way of thinking as Barça should really be looking at ways to return to the position of being the top club in Europe. It’s not just about winning the Champions League, but about receiving the respect or envy of fans everywhere. When Barça slipped up in the Champions League semi-finals in 2010 or 2012 we were still considered the team to beat in the following year’s competition, a fact confirmed by bookmakers quoting Barça as favourites to win the Champions League at the start of the 2010/11 and 2012/13 seasons. However, for the 2013/14 season online betting companies such as bwinbetting.com have Bayern Munich as favourites followed by Barça as second favourites ahead of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United.
I’ve always felt the bookies give a better reflection on the state of affairs than the lists compiled by groups like the IFFHS who currently have Chelsea as number one or Football Club World Ranking. However, the point I’m trying to make is that if all we are worried about is being better than Madrid then we are in danger of slipping further down the ranks of football’s elite. Perhaps it was normal that having lost La Liga in the 2011/12 season we should make an extra effort to reclaim the league title in 2012/13. However, it seems fair to say that despite our fantastic achievement of winning La Liga with 100 points we underachieved in other competitions. Barça are an incredible club with a squad of fantastic players, for this reason we have to aim for the top which means more than just getting the better of Real Madrid.