EL BARCELONA DE LOS CUATRO VOLANTES

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Ernesto Valverde hizo de la salida de Neymar una fortaleza. Sin el astro brasileño, Barcelona pasó a jugar con cuatro volantes. Un rearmado que alguien, tarde o temprano, debía realizar.

«España fue campeona del mundo en 2010 y en 2014 tenían prácticamente la misma plantilla, así que cayeron a la primera de cambio. Aunque creo que tenían futbolistas fantásticos, siempre necesitas cambios». En la previa a la Copa Confederaciones 2017, Joachim Low dio su opinión sobre la Selección de España. El éxito en Sudáfrica 2010 había dificultado la transición en favor de nuevas piezas que puedan renovar el estilo del equipo. Al FC Barcelona, le sucedía algo similar: después de la fantástica etapa de Pep Guardiola, al conjunto culé le costó en excesos amoldarse al paso del tiempo. Pasaron por el banco Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino y Luis Enrique. Con este último, el estilo comenzó a ceder: mucha libertad a la MSN y menos juego basado en la posesión. Pero la identidad azulgrana era reacia a ciertas modificaciones. Por ejemplo, el esquema de 4-3-3 -si bien el juego está lleno de movilidad- permaneció intocable hasta los últimos meses de Luis Enrique, cuando las falencias del equipo eran imposibles de ocultar.

Algo similar a lo dicho por Low llevó a la práctica Josep Guardiola, cuando después de una temporada perfecta, realizó modificaciones a su equipo. Lionel Messi pasó de ser extremo a centrodelantero. El denominado falso nueve ganaba lugar en la escena, con el objetivo de no volverse predecible para los rivales. Cambiar en el éxito no es una decisión fácil, pero siempre termina siendo necesario.

En la última temporada de Luis Enrique, se echaron de menos demasiadas cosas del viejo Barcelona. Desde lo colectivo, la calidad del ataque posicional fue la más importante. En tiempos donde crecen los trabajos para fortalecer los bloques defensivos, hacer siempre lo mismo dejó de resultarle al conjunto culé. De un día para el otro, las falencias defensivas de Sergi Roberto no pasaban desapercibidas como sí las de Dani Alves. Sergio Busquets ya no era el mismo cuando de presionar arriba se trataba. Andrés Iniesta no podía estar presente tanto como antes. Ivan Rakitic ya no podía disimular que su naturaleza no era igual a la de Xavi Hernández. Barcelona compitió igual, porque tuvo a Lionel Messi a un jugador estupendo para asumir la responsabilidad de lo que el equipo necesitaba, a Luis Suárez en un verdadero centrodelantero de elite, y a Neymar, un astro capaz de resolver todo en una jugada. Pero aún así, el brasileño siempre fue de lucir desde un costado individual. Eso tiene sus beneficios, como la gran remontada ante el PSG, de la que fue principal responsable. Pero también tiene sus limitaciones: Neymar nunca iba a poder darle al equipo un sello colectivo. Mientras tanto, al tridente Rakitic-Busquets-Iniesta, defender al ancho se le volvió tarea cada vez más difícil. Por eso fue común ver a Neymar como un cuarto volante que cerraba el costado izquierda cuando el Barcelona no tenía la pelota. Incluso, en algunas oportunidades Luis Enrique optó por una línea de tres defensores y dos carrileros. Ambas fueran maneras validas de maquillar una necesidad de reestructuración.

Con la llegada de Ernesto Valverde, la salida de Neymar y la aplastante derrota en Supercopa ante Real Madrid, presagiaban que el nuevo ciclo arrancaba envuelto en problemas. Incluso, Ousmane Dembele, quien llegaba como reemplazante del astro brasileño, cayó rapidamente lesionado. De todo esto, el conjunto culé hizo una fortaleza. Barcelona tenía motivos suficientes para que la consolidación del 4-4-2 aparezca como una necesidad y no como una traición a la identidad. Los resultados acompañaron y el rendimiento apareció. Había, por fin, un equipo que se basaba en un nuevo juego colectivo. Un esquema que permitía la óptima utilización del plantel. El Barcelona de los cuatro volantes le sienta como anillo al dedo a futbolistas como Sergi Roberto, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta. E incluso a refuerzos como Paulinho y André Gomes. Todo resulta más sencillo y coherente.

Ahora que el paso está dado y tuvo buenos resultados, Camp Nou ya no tiene prejuicios ante las modificaciones. Ya no hay un 4-3-3 que base su juego en la posesión eterna de la pelota, pero hay una forma de competir atractiva y efectiva. Valverde ya trabaja en el siguiente paso: darle flexibilidad a su esquema, aprovechar la gran diversidad de características que tiene en ese mediocampo. Además de Paulinho, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, André Gomes, Sergi Roberto y Denis Suárez, se suma Philippe Coutinho, un jugador de primera línea que potenciará, sobre todo, la forma de atacar blaugrana, que no es la de antaño. Tarde o temprano, el cambio se tenía que dar.

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1994. Si no rueda una pelota me siento incompleto. Cuando sea grande diré que vi jugar a Messi. Disfruto de leer y escribir.

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