Despite a very dubious financial situation, Robinho Lazaró appeared to be living up to his reputation as a “title specialist” in his first six months in Barcelona. His side boasted a 12-point lead heading into 2052 and looked absolutely dominant.
However, the aforementioned finances were an absolute nightmare, largely because of the ridiculous wages being paid out. Indeed, they had seven players earning more than £250,000-a-week and three earning more than £400,000-a-week! And that saw the club £165 million in the red heading into the new year. Lazaró was determined to rectify that in the summer ahead with several big earners about to go out of contract.
But he made an early start by selling a few players in January for around £30 million. Then he beat the likes of Man UFC and Liverpool to the signing of his fellow Colombian 18-year-old wonderkid Kevin Arroyo on a free from Real Santander.
First shot at Spanish silverware
The new year began with Supercopa de Espana, and Barca booked their place in the Final with a 1-0 win over Leganes. And, unsurprisingly, Real Madrid awaited them. Barca nicked an undeserved lead at the end of the first half through young winger Pablo Urrutia but Madrid took control and strolled to a 3-1 win.
Strolling to LaLiga glory
Barca’s return to league matters also didn’t go well in a 3-2 defeat at home to Sociedad, who scored twice in the first five minutes. They also weren’t great in beating struggling Las Palmas 2-1 before a tricky run of games. That began with a straightforward 2-0 win over sixth-place Valencia, with Urrutia scoring again, before beating 10-man Sevilla 2-0. Then they got absolutely mugged by Atlético, who equalised with an injury-time free-kick that was only their second shot of the match.
An easier run of games began by hammering bottom of the league Granada 3-0 away, which began a run of five successive wins without conceding. That, combined with Real Madrid continuing to stutter, moved Barca a massive 18 points clear with 10 games remaining.
Champions League knockouts
Barca had breezed through a tricky group and their reward was Porto in the first knockout round. The away leg saw Porto score their only shot on target but Barca nicked a draw through midfielder Ange Tra Bi. And a Riccardo Gallatta goal secured a 1-0 win at Camp Nou.
A tricker tie followed in the quarter-final against Chelsea. Diego Elías and Urrutia goals sealed a 2-1 win at Camp Nou, but an injury-hit team unsurprisingly fell 3-0 in the return leg. That would have teed up a reunion with Liverpool, who lost to Chelsea while Rennes, who’ve toppled PSG in France, beat Man UFC in the other semi. But Chelsea won the final 3-0.
Significant El Clásico opportunity
Unusual cries of “Aburrida, Aburrida Barca” echoed around the vast Camp Nou arena as fans voiced their displeasure during a dire 0-0 with rivals Espanyol. A 1-0 win over Levante wasn’t much more interesting. But Barca’s fans were well and truly distracted by what was happening at Balaídos, where Real Madrid were getting battered 6-0 at Celta Vigo. Suddenly they weren’t too fussed at the surprisingly negative tactics that saw Barca concede three times in their last 12 league games.
Those results meant Barca could wrap up LaLiga if they avoided defeat in the second El Clásico of the campaign. A terrible first half ended with Urrutia popping up with another goal from close range after great work by young striker Papa Mbengue. And the second half was even worse, with Madrid managing just three shots all game. Absolutely awful!
For some reason, the trophy ceremony didn’t happen but… Barcelona were Champions of Spain!
Lazaró used the final six games to blood some of Barca’s exciting youngsters, more on whom is below. But they still managed to win the league at a canter by a ridiculous 19 points, only losing three times and conceding 23 all season. And that goes to show how bad LaLiga is! At the other end of the league, city rivals Espanyol were relegated on the final day, while Cádiz qualified for the Champions League with Atlético in seventh.
Lazaró was pretty astounded by how easy it had been to win LaLiga. This was the 19th league title of his 31-year career and, in truth, it was probably his easiest. However, the latest success saw him become the eighth-best Football Manager of all time and the most successful South American manager ever.
He didn’t think his Barca squad was really that good, which was proven by only the underperforming, horrendously overpaid Sam Ripley hitting double figures for goals and 38-year-old right-back Patrick Goma being the second-top scorer! The best player all-around was Elías, who scored eight and got 11 assists with a 7.29 average rating. But most of their top performers were defenders. Summer signing Agustín Benavides won Spanish League Player of the Year after seven goals and three assists in 31 games.
Looking to Youth in the future
Ordinarily, Lazaró would be jumping out of Barca this summer having wrapped up the league title. However, the financial situation – which saw them end the season £22 million in the red – meant a massive overhaul was needed.
So Lazaró planned to stay on and rebuild the Barcelona squad around emerging youth talents. That was boosted by an exciting youth intake including wingers Oriol – who became the youngest player in Barcelona and LaLiga history aged 15 years 157 days in a 1-0 win at Villarreal- and José Ramón Francés, Sierra Leonean striker Alimamy Sanusie and Andorran midfielder Jorge Romero.
How drastic will Robinho Lazaró’s Barca rebuild be in the summer of 2052? Or will he get lured by another option elsewhere? Join us next time to find out!