Barcelona’s gamers met for dinner in a Catalan restaurant late on Wednesday night time to rejoice Ansu Fati’s new contract and to bond forward of Sunday’s Clasico towards Real Madrid.
The 18-year-old Fati committing himself for one more six years carried particular significance for Barcelona.
Despite all the issues they face, some of the thrilling abilities on this planet had pledged his future, elevating hopes he might be the chief of a brand new technology for a few years to come back.
More instantly, there was the need for camaraderie forward of the go to of Real Madrid at Camp Nou.
It might be an opportunity for Barca to regain misplaced floor in La Liga and to spherical off an encouraging week that has already seen them beat Valencia and scrape a much-needed Champions League win over Dynamo Kiev.
Those two intertwining threads – navigating the current whereas nurturing the longer term – really feel just like the defining characteristic of this Clasico, a gathering of two historic golf equipment, every of them making an attempt to strategise, repair and rebuild whereas concurrently flapping their arms simply to maintain heads above water.
Last summer time, in the identical restaurant, Barcelona president Joan Laporta met Ronald Koeman to debate the season forward.
Laporta instructed Koeman he wanted two weeks to evaluate his place as coach, which was taken to imply he would attempt to discover a successor.
But no one might be discovered, or at the least persuaded, and consequently, an ungainly, sad marriage has continued.
Across from Koeman on Sunday might be Carlo Ancelotti whose appointment by Real Madrid in the summertime got here as a shock.
Ancelotti’s predecessor, Zinedine Zidane, had been fiercely loyal to the membership’s vastly profitable, however older, technology of gamers, and the expectation was Madrid would plump for a coach with a grander imaginative and prescient, one which was ready to facilitate change.
Instead, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez turned to Ancelotti, who had already managed the membership between 2013 and 2015.
That is to not say Ancelotti and Koeman haven’t embraced youth. Koeman can take credit score for selling a number of of the gamers Barcelona are most enthusiastic about together with Pedri, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, Ronald Araujo, and Sergino Dest.
Ancelotti has put religion in Miguel Gutierrez at left-back and Eduardo Camavinga in midfield. The 21-year-old Vinicius Junior made his Real Madrid debut in 2018 however below Ancelotti is within the type of his fledgling profession.
Gavi may not have been given his probability had Barcelona been capable of grant Koeman his want to signal Georginio Wijnaldum, who selected Paris Saint-Germain. Miguel has seen his path to the Madrid beginning line-up shortened by an damage to Ferland Mendy.
There additionally stays a loyalty to the outdated guard, a justifiable perception that Gerard Pique at 34 continues to be Barcelona’s most necessary defender or that Luka Modric at 36 continues to be Madrid’s most interesting midfield playmaker.
The outcome on Sunday might be two sides made up of separate generations.
The 17-year-old Gavi could play alongside the 33-year-old Sergio Busquets or the 20-year-old Rodrygo in help of the 33-year-old Karim Benzema.
With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo gone, La Liga is making an attempt to harness the picture of Spanish soccer because the world’s new expertise manufacturing facility and the Clasico – its most marketable fixture – as a window into the longer term.
On Twitter, La Liga’s official account requested on Thursday: “Which teenage star are you most excited to watch in #ElClasico?”
And but there’s a battle there too, with Real Madrid and Barcelona nonetheless formally hooked up to the European Super League, a venture based mostly not on encouraging native expertise however pocketing monetary rewards and attracting larger tv audiences.
Barcelona manufacturers their squad the ‘Dream Teen’ on-line however Laporta believes the quickest path to monetary stability shouldn’t be Fati or Gavi however a closed-off league, with extra video games towards Liverpool, Manchester United, and PSG.
It means whoever wins the Clasico on Sunday will, for a number of days, personal the narrative, take confidence and momentum, and maybe plunge their opponents right into a interval of disaster and doubt.
But beneath the scrap for factors and place and energy is a deeper duel, a battle for relevance once more and reassurance that higher days lie forward.