We did not really get such a big window to laugh at Barcelona as we thought or hoped. Prove the life lesson that you need to celebrate something worth celebrating at that time and place, otherwise you will miss the opportunity. Barça are roaring in La Liga right now, all the way up to second place after winning seven in a row and nine of their last 10. Xavi has reintroduced the flare that we associate with the club.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can not stop scoring, and did so again yesterday. Pedri looks like the next Barça legend and also scored yesterday in a 3-2 win over Levante, even though they gave away three penalty kicks. That kind of happens and one starts to think that Xavi is walking around with a bag of magic gems and eyes of newts and all that. If the La Liga season was a month longer than it is, one wonders if they would not suddenly chase Madrid down. We thought it could be several seasons that Barça made “trading pitches”. It turned out that it was only a few months.
What makes it more impressive is that Xavi has basically had to do this with what was lying around that Ronald Koeman could not understand. Sure, he got Adama Traoré, Aubameyang and Ferran Torres in January, but everyone came up with questions. Traoré had never shown an end to any of his work with the ball. Torres was the definition of ballast in Man City. Aubameyang had largely resigned from Arsenal.
But Xavi not only gets contributions from that troika, but also found a system that made Pedri an all-conquering hero and finally unlocked Frenkie De Jong. He has even been able to not only keep Ousmane Dembélé from checking out and worry about his next contract, but to play really well in the hunt for the same.
It is fair to ask that Barcelona are no better off now without Lionel Messi than with him. The two parted ways last summer due to Barça’s first dive into the financial cellar, and now Messi is being bulged by his own fans after a rather tumultuous performance for PSG as inspector Cluseau was on his way out of the Champions League again. That does not mean Barça played that whole affair well or anything like that. They may have just gotten Forrest Gump on the road to success.
But all this does not mean that Barça are finished starving after the big names in the match come to play for them, especially when it is still a matter of course that their biggest rivals, Real Madrid, pick up Kylian Mbappé next summer and is not even out of the running for Erling Haaland to join him (or so they say at least). No matter what plan Barça has, the arms race with Madrid is always in mind
So with that there is one awful lot of smoke that they have already agreed to a contract with Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski. There is the small problem that Lewandowski is under contract with the German team until the summer of 2023 and that Barça still only have freshly baked cakes available to pay for any transfer. They can pay high wages, somehow, which Lewandowski clearly commands (rumors have the deal they’ve accepted pays him up to $ 38 million one year). The hope will be that Lewandowski is able to figure something out with Munich to get rid of him cheaply. And it has been an open secret that Lewandowski would like to take another big step in his career and to another country. Chelsea was a rumored destination not so long ago. The city was shut down some time ago. But Spain has been the most whispered destination, meaning one of the two giants.
Lewandowski certainly has nothing left to prove in Germany. In just the last two seasons, he has scored 73 goals in 58 league games. Munich lifted the Europa Cup in 2020, though they may think it’s a bit marked, as it was during the pandemic and the abbreviated knockout tournament it turned out to be. They could easily win it again this year. They have never won the Bundesliga with Lewy leading. If Lewandowski felt he needed another challenge, you would understand. The one he faced in Germany has certainly been conquered.
And Barça seems like a perfect fit under Xavi. They do not play that differently. Edge players who stay wide to make more room for the attacking midfielders can all funnel chances and passes to a central striker. Give Lewandowski a bucket chance, you get a bucket goal.
Any alarm bells that may ring Barça Supporters would likely center around Lewandowski’s age. He will be 34 at the start of next season, which is almost the same age as even Messi started to come out of his wild heights. However, Spain is about the only place where the pace of play drops significantly from Germany. Spain may have more technical skills, but teams do not push and counter or move at almost the pace they do in Germany. It might help someone into the twilight of the career.
The second red light may be the history of exports from the Bundesliga. Timo Werner tore the Bundesliga apart for a couple of seasons. Chelsea fans are now relieved when he comes on the pitch with both shoes tied. Wout Weghorst had 20-goal seasons in Germany and he currently works for Burnley (although everyone wears in Burnley, it’s their way). Jadon Sancho has not made his mark at Man United after setting Germany on fire. Luka Jović could not even join the Madrid team for seasons in a row. Lewandowski certainly has more pedigree than all of them, but it’s not worth ignoring completely.
It is certainly sound planning not to count on Aubameyang in the long run. He went on this heater when he arrived at Arsenal, winning them an FA Cup pretty much alone. And Arsenal thought they would get that in the following seasons, and they certainly did not. He will not continue to score on 35 percent of his total shots or on 53 percent of all his shots on goal (career grades: 22 and 37 percent).
Lewandowski scores with these rates all the time (career mark of 40 percent goal from shot on goal). Although his legs are starting to move, he does not need them that much in Spain (and Barça perhaps his game holds more than Munich does), he wants De Jong and Pedri and others to make sure all he really has to do is open the box and shoot home. That said, Aubameyang and Lewandowski played together for a season at Dortmund. They scored a total of 33 goals. But you can see them giving each other a break in their 30s now instead of being on the field at the same time.
It’s not a long-term solution, but you would be hard-pressed to find a better bridge to whatever decade-long solution Xavi finds at the center.