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Barcelona: 5 things that the next manager needs to fix

(Image credit: Getty)

Barcelona are enduring perhaps their worst-ever crisis: why would any manager want to walk into this mess?

Lionel Messi is gone, there's no money to rebuild the ageing squad and Atletico and Real Madrid both look way ahead of Barca right now. As things stand, the club are fighting for their Champions League status - both next season and in terms of making it out of their group in Europe.

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It's all gone south in recent years - but it's not beyond repair. Believe it or not, there are things that the next Barca manager can do to steady the ship...

1. Be prepared to update the philosophy

Every manager who comes into Barcelona says exactly the same things. They love Johan Cruyff. They were brought up on positional play. They want to return the club to the days of playing beautiful football. 

Barca's most successful manager since Cruyff, Pep Guardiola, was one of the Dutchman's disciples - but he successfully updated the template he learned to play football under to revolutionise football in the 21st Century. Luis Enrique was a Barca man but he was prepared to deviate away from Pep's style; Ernesto Valverde found relative success with a 4-4-2. 

If you don't define yourself at Barcelona, it's easy to drown. Managers like Quique Setien and Ronald Koeman didn't have strong enough identities to implement a style upon this club - and if you're simply playing to the rulebook of how Barcelona played at their very, very best with players who are nowhere near that level... it's only going to end one way.

Barcelona need to take a left turn, even if it is only temporary. When they've tried something new in the past, it's often worked out well for them: they have no choice, since they can't win on Cruyff's or Guardiola's principles, right now.

2. Stretch the play

Memphis Depay

(Image credit: Getty)

With such a narrow philosophy and all-encompassing urge to play the Barcelona way, successive presidents and decision-makers have assembled an extremely samey squad, full of players who want the ball to feet.

Barca want midfielders like Pedri, Gavi, Miralem Pjanic, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie De Jong, attackers like Lionel Messi, Memphis Depay, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho. They all like to receive play and dictate with runners ahead of them - except Barcelona have so few runners - and practically no one on the right-hand side of the pitch.

It wouldn't even take Mohamed Salah to elevate them. Someone like Michail Antonio would vastly improve the team even, increasing the area in front of the opposition defence for all of these technicians to work in. A new right-winger is necessary as a transfer target - and it doesn't have to be someone world-class to improve the side. 

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3. Move on from the old guard

At his peak, Sergio Busquets was the best no.6 in Europe - he's one of the greatest midfielders of all time.

Yet De Jong was brought in to replace him and he's barely got the chance to, as successive managers pair the legendary figure with his young pretender, almost scared to drop the bigger presence. Gerard Pique is well past his best but Barca are almost scared of a future in which he isn't the first name on the team sheet.

The next manager needs to be as ruthless as Guardiola was when he turfed out Ronaldinho and Deco for a young Lionel Messi. Sergio Aguero perhaps isn't even good enough to lead the line either and will need replacing sooner rather than later, too. While you're in rebuild mode, make sure that you're upgrading everyone who needs it - regardless of their standing in the history books. 

4. Change transfer strategy

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann

(Image credit: PA Images)

Look at Barcelona's signings over the past few years and ask yourself how many were signed because they looked like Barcelona players. Coutinho? Frenkie De Jong? Memphis? Griezmann? Those are just the memorable ones.

Sergino Dest was signed when there were doubtless better options on the market at the time - though they may have been less flashy. Eric Garcia may have been free but the pull was as much his La Masia background as his defending. 

Martin Braithwaite and Luuk De Jong - as bizarre as those signings were - were steps in the right direction; not in terms of quality but thinking outside the box. Barcelona have been so busy trying to find the next Xavi or Iniesta that they forgot to find another Samuel Eto'o.

Maybe Barcelona shouldn't be looking to sign Paul Pogba on a free next year, take Tanguy Ndombele on loan or prepare a big bid for Gabriel Jesus, as one might expect from a gossip column. Someone a little less high profile with attributes that the squad lacks could improve Barcelona.

5. Be prepared to suffer (for now)

Barcelona have lost the greatest footballer of all time and not only do they not have £500m to replace Lionel Messi, they don't have the track record of doing so. That's an incredibly bleak position for a superclub to be in, right?

Whoever takes the reigns at the Camp Nou needs to adjust expectation. Barcelona might not be competing for the LaLiga title this season. They might not be competing for the Champions League next season. It might be five years before they're back to their usual standing - because not everyone is Johan Cruyff or Pep Guardiola. 

The next Barcelona manager is more than likely going to have to be someone who makes unpopular decisions and delivers unpopular results while overseeing a long-term plan. Look at Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, getting to eighth in the league twice in a row - but overhauling the squad while doing so. Jurgen Klopp won his first Liverpool trophy four years into his tenure. Mauricio Pochettino was given time, patience and ample failure to turn Tottenham into a top-six side.

And now the same patience is needed at Barcelona, a club that don't have the best record of giving coaches time to implement their ideas. This isn't an instant fix - and Barca would be foolish to treat it as such. 

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Mark White

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. He is a keen player of the Football Manager series and creates Twitter accounts for his Fantasy Premier League team every year, before losing interest in his team every September.