In the tenth minute of Barcelona’s opening day, action-packed 4-2 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday night, there was a heartfelt minute of applause and singing for the recently resigned Lionel Messi.
It was the first time in 17 years that the club did not have its best player ever among its ranks, and the mood towards the new era was subdued to say the least.
But after 90 minutes of action, it is safe to say that the mood has changed. Yes, in the tenth minute of the second half, another round of ‘Messi! Messi! ‘songs soon drowned out screams from’ Barça! Barça! ‘.
Do you believe in life after Messi? Well, after their opening hours triumph, Barça fans can only feel a little happier about their chances.
Here’s what we learned from the 4-2 win.
?? ??? ???? ̧?. pic.twitter.com/LTJOI1QpCZ
FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) 15 August 2021
First of all, let’s just appreciate this man’s fantastic performance at night – and yes, you can joke that he used to play for Middlesbrough, but he was really fantastic.
Martin Braithwaite was phenomenal and could only have shown that he is a talismanic material. He has already proven his work ethic in previous Barça performances and continued the trend of relentless pressure that was the key to maintaining an intensity advantage over Real Sociedad.
But the Dane’s performance was so much more than that. Intelligent movement allowed him to take a well-taken braces and he showed a coolness under pressure to help Barça’s score to seal fourth.
He will never be Messi – obviously – but as long as he performs to the top of his strength, he will be an integral part of this Blaugrana side.
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) 15 August 2021
Well, that’s the way to make your Barcelona debut, right?
Memphis Depay certainly showed why Ronald Koeman was so anxious to move forward in a sensational show in front of Camp Nou faithful.
While Braithwaite converted the side’s play into goal, it was Depay who lit up the field with magical moments, brilliant vision, unpredictable movement, fantastic flamboyance and a creative edge.
Sure, Memphis did not score, but an assist is not and standing ovations are not a bad start.
Eric Garcia had an impressive debut / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images
Certainly considered a good midfielder, Eric Garcia would always be welcomed with open arms to the club where he started.
But after seeing his performance against Real Sociedad, returning home could be a better deal than anyone had really expected. Mobility was the key to Garcia’s impressive display, something Barça have really lacked in their backline.
In addition to his clear skill in possession, the 20-year-old’s pace complimented Gerard Pique perfectly and covered his veteran colleague behind.
Choking the bright sparks of Real Sociedad’s fast forward – especially Portu – Garcia handled counterattacks with safety and without concern, a factor that will ensure what was a leaky defense at times during the 2020/21 season.
Frenkie De Jong was outstanding again / Soccrates Images / Getty Images
It’s been a while since Barcelona’s midfield has been really good.
But the trio Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong have once again shown how good and cohesive the unit is with a dominant performance against La Real.
Last season led to a thriving relationship between the three after Pedri’s surprise to become prominent, but after establishing himself as one of the continent’s best midfielders, the 18 – year – old’s presence together with the consistently wonderful De Jong and Busquets La Blaugrana looks scary stacked .
There may be problems elsewhere on the pitch, but there is now an established world-class unit operating in midfield.
Pedri continues to amaze the football world / Soccrates Images / Getty Images
73-70-bloody-3 ?! – performances for club and country last season, refuses a holiday before resuming their duties for Barcelona, starts on the opening day and is still one of the prominent artists on the field with a typically fluid, silky and powerful performance.
Seriously, Pedri is built differently.
Neto had reason to fear late / Socrates Images / Getty Images
For all the promising, exciting and goal-creating football that Barcelona played during their 4-2 victory on Sunday night, it was another late scare.
Within three minutes, Koeman’s side went from cruising with an unimaginable 3-0 lead to biting the nails at 3-2 in part thanks to Mikel Oyarzabal’s brilliance.
Fortunately, La Blaugrana showed the calm that experienced professionals should have and looked to win with a fourth goal on the counter.
Comebacks were a problem for Barça in La Liga last season, and it is clearly a problem that still needs to be addressed.
Barcelona fans got a performance in front of their players / Alex Caparros / Getty Images
Despite the imminent comeback and the absence of their GOAT, one can safely assume that Barça fans left Camp Nou and felt more optimistic than when they arrived on Sunday night.
A fluid, creative and impressive performance will have ensured that, and the reluctance to repeat his stadium-wide tribute to Messi – a visible acceptance that it’s time to move on from the wonderfully soaked era – in the second period can only bode well for the future.