In anticipation of the most watched club football match, el Clasico, happening today March 1st, it’s interesting to evaluate the future of one of the teams, FC Barcelona and their tiki-taka playing style. I believe that this time around, Real Madrid have a much more dynamic team, with a healthy number of veteran players (Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Benzema, Kroos, and the like) mixed in with promising new blood such as Rodrygo, Valverde, and Vinicius. In comparison, FC Barcelona’s current squad is lacking both in its veteran players, young stars with potential, and thus, the simultaneous suffering of the tiki-taka that the team is most known for.
Let’s take a look at Barca’s current lineup of veteran players. These include Pique as a center back, Busquets as a central midfielder, and of course, an aging Messi up top. Over the years, Barca has also lost many crucial veteran players, including Xavi, Iniesta, Mascherano, and Dani Alves. A primary result of this is a weakened defense, midfield, and attack. Many of these veteran players have also come up through Barca’s renowned academy system, La Masia. Thus, when there are more of them, team cohesiveness and mentorship improve and as a whole, the team performs better. Now unfortunately,
However, with the lack of more new talent through La Masia, Barca has increasingly been looking to purchase more players to fill in holes that departing veteran players have left. For example, the transfers of De Jong and Arturo Vidal have sought to take the place of Xavi and Iniesta. While both of them in addition to Rakitic have been performing well and up to expectations, there still leaves something to be desired. It seems as though these faces do not live up to the tiki-taka style as much as the combinations among Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi did.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the tiki-taka style has started to fade with the evolution of Barca’s team. Although indeed Barca often records a higher number of completed passes and a higher possession percentage, the style is not the same. The new future stars of Barca, who more often than not are now coming from other academies (like Ajax), no longer have a framework of La Masia veterans to fit into. Instead, Barca’s style has started to evolve from an enjoyable tiki-taka to a, truthfully, lethargic and slow-paced game. The youngest La Masia prospect on the first team, Ansu Fati, presents lots of promise as he has contributed significantly, even as a 17-year-old. He carries the legacy of Barca on his shoulders as the rest of the team on average, grows older. In order to preserve the tiki-taka style, Barca will need to bring more players from its academy on to its first team, rather than look to purchase other players.