Can Winning Become A Handicap? Why We Should Ask Barcelona.
As I learnt early in my football career, it is not only the love of winning that makes you win, but the hatred of defeat that keeps you winning.
Barcelona have been so dominant in the past football seasons that we all became so used to them winning that the only when they lose does anyone show emotions, and that has been the case most recently!
So bad Barcelona by their standards, they broke a negative record: never have they gone since 2003, 5 games without winning at least two! What could be responsible for this?
When Barcelona lined out to take on Real Madrid during the most recent “El clasico” just weeks ago, they were not only more than 10 points ahead of the opponent of the day but were looking like certain la liga champions 2016.
They were also looking as the most credible contenders to be the first team to win the Champions league back to back as they prepared to face the hard fighting Athletico Madrid days after the el classic, in the champions league quarter finals.
Then the unexpected happened; not only did they lose to Real Madrid at home but were eliminated by Athletico Madrid from the prestigious Champions league and as we share thoughts, they are at risk of losing the la liga title as they stand equal on points with Athletico Madrid and 1st on the league table just due to better goals aggregate!
Is the loss of form due to the legal, fraud, tax evasion cases against the super stars Lionel Messi and Neymar Junior? Or Is it due to false reports in my opinion of a rift between the coach Luis Enrique and his star players?… The suspicions are endless but I think it might be due to something else: They look like they tired of Winning!
You might rightfully be amazed by this and ask out loud, how can one get tired of winning?
These mega stars are also human, they played over 70 games last season (2014/2015) always at high tempo, won everything winnable, participated till the last day of major tournaments, the Copa America 2015 included for some, whilst most other opponents were on holidays.
They mentally seem to have become too accustomed to winning that only defeat has become unusual.
I have had the fortunate luxury to experience this as a Professional player in my playing days, At Ajax Amsterdam, Juventus and at BVB Dortmund, it is a great and horrible situation at the same time: to be expected always to win.
All and sundry, including oneself at times, expect victory before the game even starts and complacency and mental winning fatigue creeps in!
Do not get me wrong, Barcelona did not lose form just because of this, Real Madrid deserved the victory and physically Athletico Madrid deservingly muscled them out of the champion’s league big time, a la Diego Simeone! (Atletico’s coach)
This piece is not aimed at giving excuses for Barcelona’s loss of winning form, in fact in a season at one point or the other every team should expect this, but the prayer of every coach is that it happens early, early enough to give you time to catch up and most definitely not at the end of the season like now when all objectives are crowned.
Other teams also want to win and will argue that they are better that’s why Barcelona is losing to them and nothing else.
Sporting success, I believe, is based on 70% mental strength and 30% physical and the ability to stay hungry and focused makes the difference.
This weekend I watched Barcelona take on relatively modest Betis Sevilla and it was the first time in years I felt fear in their approach of the game. Unlike them they waited for the opponent, at times hoping on the counter and quick to kick away a dubious ball when uncertain and reduce risks. All this with the opponents playing one man less most part of the second half due to a red carded player!
This does not mean in no way that Barcelona will lose the La Liga trophy this season but if they want to retain their title and save their season ,by their own high standards, they have to reboot and start hating defeat badly enough again now to keep winning! Let’s just hope that mentally they are not too tired for this!