Should Barcelona have hired Marcelino?
Background image: Paul Arps, CC BY 2.0
A civil war is threatening to break out in Barcelona. However, it’s not a political one this time. The reason is Ernesto Valverde. Blaugrana's fans and management have polarizing viewpoints on the Spaniard, mainly due to the under-performing nature throughout his reign.
After the season-ending meltdown, the Cules have turned on their gaffer. A lacklustre approach in cup competitions, surrendering treble dreams as well as tactical setup are some reasons for Valverde's unpopularity. However, he still boasts President Josep Bartomeu's support along with the squad’s trust helping keep his job secured.
Bartomeu’s allowed him at least one more season to turn things around, something which won’t bode well with the disgusted fanbase. Moreover, Barca had the opportunity to right Valverde's wrongs by instilling a new philosophy. Though Pep Guardiola's beyond their reach, while Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman’s international duties complicate their appointments, a valuable successor is closer to home.
Indeed, Marcelino Toral’s masterclass in the Copa del Rey finale should’ve been enough evidence supporting his superiority over Valverde. Valencia stung like a bee to bring the giants crashing back to earth, showcasing unforeseen fearlessness to strike Barcelona where it hurt most.
It’s not like Marcelino hasn’t suffered severe criticism himself. At one point this season, his side were barely above the relegation zone. After winning four league games in nineteen, the Spaniard’s future looked bleak before 2019 kicked in. However, the confidence and togetherness he etched into the squad compelled the players to rally.
What began as a resistance movement transitioned into a revolution, all perpetrated by Marcelino. A similar revolution to revitalize Barca’s fortunes would be greatly appreciated by the Catalans. It took time for his system to become effective, but once things shifted gears, Els Taronges glittered up La Liga with glorious attacking football.
Marcelino's quench for an uncompromising, fluid style makes him a perfect fit for Barcelona. Unlike the overly pragmatic Valverde, he isn’t scared of the consequences of pouring men forward. The 53-year-old believes in encouraging wing-backs to attack vehemently, wingers to cut in and the striker’s to be in and around the area. Moreover, his defensive approach is compact and effective, rarely allowing disasters in goal.
The end result for Valencia was the unlikeliest underdog story, curbing both Alaves and Getafe’s fantasy La Liga tales and ending their own season with a trophy. Marcelino's never-say-die attitude in the face of failure is something Barca could learn from. Under the current gaffer, Blaugrana tend to cower under pressure leading to their embarrassment.
Marcelino is not only a strong character but also an expert in inspiring underperforming talent. When his sacking seemed inevitable, his charges poured their souls into turning things around for their boss. Marcelino’s ability to produce players' inner-warriors is another trait which would benefit Barcelona. Blaugrana players themselves echo Valverde, crumbling into a heap when trouble arrives.
Moreover, Marcelino has four years more managerial experience than Valverde. This is despite being two years younger. The Villaviciosa-born coach has seen it all in Spain. Granted, his European record isn’t the best to power Barca's hunger for the Champions League, but even with a limited squad, his Els Taronges made the Europa League semi-finals recently.
Marcelino's introduction would’ve eased pressure on Lionel Messi, too. The Spaniard prefers playing as a whole, improving every single player into dedicating their last sweat to the cause. The Argentine would, of course, still have ruled the roost when it came to attacking, but he'd have benefited from teammates providing more help.
There’s always a chance Valverde redeems himself with proper reinforcements next season. However, Marcelino’s emphatic rise made him a perfect choice to oversee Barcelona’s evolution. If he ends up making bigger strides with Valencia and outshines his counterpart in managerial contribution, Bartomeu will sink in a pool of regret.