After being held 0-0 by Rayo Vallecano at home, the first away trip of the 2022-23 season saw FC Barcelona in top form against Real Sociedad.
Even for those who don’t speak Spanish but follow the football action in LaLiga, fans overseas can soon become accustomed to understanding certain words. In the Spanish press, the word ‘palanca’ has frequently been associated with Barcelona in recent weeks, which literally translates ‘lever’ in English.
And when it comes to transfer business during the summer months, Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been pulling plenty of economic levers, amidst a frenzied attempt to balance the books and register new signings. LaLiga enforces quite stringent financial fair play regulations, which all clubs must adhere to, while Barça were in deficit in terms of squad spend and wages.
All of the major new signings had been registered for the start of the season, with the sole exception of defender Jules Kounde, thanks to Laporta effectively leveraging the sale of club assets. This included selling a percentage of future TV rights income, even if some analysts considered this to be mortgaging the future of the club itself. Nevertheless, this move has raised necessary funds to solve present problems.
However, despite best efforts behind the scenes to ensure that manager Xavi Hernandez has a competitive squad to work with, the first match of the season was hugely frustrating. Rayo Vallecano, one of the poorest sides in LaLiga in economic terms, managed to hold Barça to a goalless draw at the Camp Nou, while their goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski was especially impressive.
— DAZN España (@DAZN_ES) August 13, 2022
Clearly this wasn’t the kind of start Barcelona fans were expecting, particularly after strengthening the squad significantly with new additions, including prolific Polish striker Robert Lewandowski and exciting Brazilian winger Raphinha. But credit must also be given to visiting Rayo Vallecano, who defended as if their lives depended on maintaining a clean sheet.
Real Sociedad hosted Barcelona in the second round of LaLiga fixtures, which on paper was viewed as a much tougher test of their new-look side. Clashes in the past between the two teams have usually produced memorable games, and this one was no different when Lewandowski opened his account in the very first minute.
Swedish international Alexander Isak levelled the score just five minutes later, while the ebb and flow of the first half could have taken the match in any direction. But after Barça boss Hernandez made key changes midway through the second half, the visiting side soon began to impose themselves.
Ousmane Dembele gave Barcelona the lead again after 66 minutes, then Lewandowski struck his second goal of the game. The cameo appearance of Ansu Fati was also justified, as the young forward also made his mark, netting the fourth Blaugrana goal with ten minutes left on the clock. Job done for the visitors and the final score reflected a quality team performance.
Meanwhile, watching the game from home, Jules Kounde congratulated his new Barcelona teammates for the result achieved against Real Sociedad, although one can only imagine how frustrated he must feel about not having participated. Signed for an initial fee of €50 million at the end of July, the French defender will eventually be another key addition to the team.
🥳 The birthday boy speaks 👇pic.twitter.com/uMLOxok8vl
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 21, 2022
Club supremo Laporta still has more economic levers to pull, before Kounde can appear on the pitch and feature in games, and before the squad registration window closes. This is typically in tandem with the closing of the summer transfer window, although Laporta remains confident there won’t be any problems meeting LaLiga regulations.
Barcelona fans around the world are now increasingly confident, including those across Asia and within the Indian sub-continent, where millions follow every move made by the Spanish giants. There is a growing sense that during the 2022-23 season, the signings made will ensure Barça can genuinely challenge for silverware.
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Beyond the challenge of ensuring Kounde and any other possible new signings are registered, once the transfer window closes for good at the start of September, the current impression is that Barcelona are firmly back in business. The club has worked hard to balance the books, while impressive player arrivals have certainly boosted their chances of a strong campaign.
Can Barcelona win LaLiga? Only time and continued positive results will tell.