How Barcelona won first La Liga title since Messi’s traumatic exit | Football News

BARCELONA: Barcelona’s risky gamble to mortgage the club’s future paid off on Sunday – at least in the short term – when a side led by newcomer Robert Lewandowski clinched their first La Liga title in four years.
Barcelona won their 27th league title, second behind Real Madrid’s 35, with four rounds remaining after a 4-2 victory at Espanyol with a pair of goals from Lewandowski.
Now the club can finally begin a new chapter after winning their first major title since Lionel Messi’s painful exit two years ago.

Here’s how Barcelona have led the league since the 13th round, brushing aside an arguably more talented Real Madrid side and giving Atletico Madrid no chance to catch up.
When club president Joan Laporta, the man who first signed Pep Guardiola almost 15 years ago, returned for a second term towards the end of the 2019-20 season, he found a club in ruin.
The club’s financial situation with 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in debt meant that Laporta could not deliver on his promise to convince Messi to stay. Instead, Laporta told Barcelona’s biggest player that he had to leave because the club couldn’t afford it.
So last season, after seeing the team win zero titles, Laporta and his board decided it was time to act drastically. They sold 25% of his Spanish league television rights for the next 25 years for 667 million euros ($725 million) along with other assets.

This money was used to revamp the squad with the transfers of Lewandowski, Jules Koundé, Raphinha and the signing of free agents Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso.
Even though Barcelona failed again in the Champions League group stage, apart from losing to Manchester United at the start of the Europa League qualifiers, it put Barcelona back in contention in the Spanish league.
Lewandowski has shown that the former Bayern Munich star still has the ability to regularly find the holes in rival defenses when given just a little space.
Lewandowski, 34, has had no trouble adjusting to his new team after eight highly successful seasons with Bayern. The Polish striker leads the Spanish league with 21 goals.

Raphinha added seven goals while sharing playing time with Ousmane Dembélé, who scored six times in the league before being injured for several weeks.
After a few years where the German seemed to have lost his best form, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was back to playing as the goalkeeper who helped Barcelona win their last Champions League title in 2015.
While Madrid lead the league with 70 goals, Barcelona only needed 64 goals to claim the title thanks to their great defense which conceded a competition low of 13 goals.

Ter Stegen kept 25 clean sheets.
The backline was led by Ronald Araújo, who ensured that Barcelona did not miss Gerard Pique’s mid-season retirement. Araújo was Barcelona’s best one-on-one defender, especially against Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior in their “clasico” matches.
The best news for Barcelona is that their future looks secure after the continued growth of their youngest starters.

Midfielders Gavi Páez (18) and Pedri González (20) have won the last two Golden Boy awards for Europe’s best players under 21, while Alejandro Balde (19) replaced longtime starter Jordi Alba as Xavi’s preferred option at left-back this season. .
Barcelona face an uncertain off-season even without considering the possibility of Messi turning down more lucrative offers – say from Saudi Arabia – and returning from Paris Saint-Germain.
The club was barely able to meet the Spanish league’s strict financial control rules last season in time to register all of its players, and long nights are looming for Barcelona’s accountants.

The club still need to reduce their wage bill which means they may have to sell players.
It would not be surprising if the club had to consider offers for Raphinha and Dembélé, who both play as right wingers, striker Ansu Fati, or midfielder Frenkie de Jong, whom the club wanted to sell. last summer.
He will also have to find a replacement for sporting director Mateu Alemany, one of the key architects of Barcelona’s rebuild last season, following his surprising decision earlier this month that he was stepping down.

Among his pressing needs in the squad is how to replace long-serving midfielder Sergio Busquets, who announced last week that he would be leaving the club this summer.
Next season, the team and its supporters will have to adapt to playing in a smaller stadium during the Camp Nou renovation. Beyond the drop in ticket sales, the temporary move will also test Barcelona’s strength: the Camp Nou has 98,000 seats, compared to 56,000 at the Olympic Stadium.

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