When FC Barcelona welcomes the FC Bayern Munich team this Tuesday (9 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Champions League and on Amazon Prime) to kick off the football Champions League, European football festivals will begin again – but at FC Barcelona it is Hardly anything left of the glamor of the successful years.
The last win in the premier league of football was six years ago, in 2015 captain Lionel Messi lifted the trophy into the night sky of Berlin, where Barça had previously won 3-1 against Juventus Turin. Rakitic, Suárez and a certain Neymar had scored the goals for the Catalans, who had previously eliminated Bayern with 3-2 goals in the semifinals.
None of the three goalscorers are still playing football in Barcelona. It is true that Barça became champions twice and even four times cup winners in the following years. But it’s as if each of the stars had switched off a headlight while leaving Camp Nou – and now coach Ronald Koeman and his team are groping their way into an uncertain sporting future.
Depay in the hearts of fans
The Catalans have appeared in the league three times so far this season. Koeman’s team still dominated in the 4-2 win against San Sebastián, but it was only a draw against Bilbao and the 2-1 win at home against Getafe was not very convincing. None of the three opponents are of course by the likes of FC Bayern, but newcomer Memphis Depay has played his way into the hearts of the fans – although he is quoted in his biography as saying: “At 25 I didn’t even achieve half of my goals. The list is long: play at Real Madrid, win the Champions League … “
Now it was not Madrid, but Barcelona, but his performances in the Barça shirt are convincing. Against Bilbao and Getafe, Depay finished powerfully, once with his left foot, the other time with the right, as determined as if he wanted to erase all the question marks behind his commitment.
The fact that he went to Barcelona is also due to the football teacher Koeman, who knows him from his time with the Dutch national team and wanted to bring him to the team six months ago. The 27-year-old professional footballer is said to have turned down better offers from Italy. Depay, which emerged from the talent factory of PSV Eindhoven, had previously put a lot of obstacles in its own way. In 2015, when Barça was just winning their last Champions League, he joined Manchester United.
He was not happy under Louis van Gaal and even less under José Mourinho, played little and instead acquired a reputation for being more interested in life outside the stadium than in football. “Switching was the best decision I could make,” said Depay in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Periódico, “things have happened that I don’t want to talk about.” He had just seven hits when he himself after one and a half seasons joined the Lyon team, where he stayed for four seasons and scored 76 goals. And now the chapter FC Barcelona.
He is a player who “creates opportunities out of nowhere”, says the Dutchman of himself. The return of some players who are either injured or had obligations with their national teams would still be helpful for his team. Defender Piqué and full-back Sergiño Dest have recently been injured. In attack, Koeman is missing several players due to injuries, Dembélé, Ansu Fati and newcomer Kun Agüero. Antoine Griezmann has meanwhile gone back to Atlético.
They also have high hopes for the young Pedro González, known as Pedri, in Barcelona. The only 18-year-old was one of the outstanding Spaniards at the recent European Championship. After he was also in the Olympic selection, he played twice in the league before Koeman sent him on vacation for two weeks. But Pedri definitely wants to be back against FC Bayern. “It is better to be on the grass than to see a game from the outside,” said the great young hope. With Pedri’s ideas in midfield and Depay’s dynamic attack, Barça could perhaps be dangerous again for Bayern.