How Barcelona won their first league title after Messi left

Barcelona’s risky gamble to mortgage the club’s future paid off on Sunday, at least in the short term, as a team led by newcomer Robert Lewandowski won its first Spanish league title in four years.

Barcelona reached their 27th title, second only to Real Madrid’s 35, after beating Espanyol 4–2 with a pair of goals from Lewandowski with four games left.

Now the team can finally start a new chapter after winning their first major title since the painful departure of Lionel Messi two years ago.

Barcelona thus led the league from matchday 13, bypassing the potentially more talented Real Madrid and leaving Atlético de Madrid with no chance of catching up.

Earn Now, Pay Later?

When Joan Laporta, the club president who hired Pep Guardiola nearly 15 years ago, returned for a second term at the end of the 2019-20 season, he found the squad in disarray.

The club’s financial condition, with a debt of $1,400 million, prevented Laporta from fulfilling his promise to persuade Messi to stay. Instead, Laporta told Barcelona’s top player that he had to leave because the team could not pay him.

Thus, last season, after seeing that the team did not win a title, Laporta and his board decided it was time to take drastic measures. He sold 25% of his Spanish television rights for the next 25 years along with other properties for $725 million.

That income was destined to touch up the squad with the transfers of Lewandowski, Jules Kunde and Rafinha, and the signings of free agents Frank Casey, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso.

They returned to contention for the Spanish league, despite Barcelona being knocked out again in the Champions League group stage and an early exit in the Europa League playoff stage losing to Manchester United.


The former Bayern Munich star showed he is still capable of regularly finding holes in opposing defenses when given a bit of space.

After eight successful seasons with Bayern, the 34-year-old Pole had no trouble adjusting to his new team. Lewandowski leads the Spanish league with 21 goals.

Rafinha added seven goals while sharing playing time with Ousmane Dembele, who scored six times before missing weeks with injury.

ter stegen

After a few years in which the German goalkeeper lost his best form, Marc-Andre ter Stegen has returned to the level of the man who helped Barcelona win their last Champions League title in 2015.

While Madrid lead the league with 70 goals, Barcelona only needed 64 to win the championship, thanks to a great defense that allowed their rivals to score only 13 goals, the lowest number of the tournament.

Ter Stegen kept his goal on 25 occasions.

The defense is led by Ronald Araújo, who made sure Barcelona do not miss mid-season retiree Gerard Pique. Araújo was the team’s best one-on-one keeper, especially against Madrid’s Vinicius Júnior, in their clashes in the “Clásicos”.

bright future

The best news for Barcelona is that its future looks assured following the continued development of its young stars.

Midfielders Gavi Paez (18) and Pedri Gonzalez (20) have won the last two Golden Boy awards for Europe’s best under-21 players, while Alejandro Balde (19) has replaced veteran Jordi Alba as Xavi’s favorite left-back this season. Displaced as preferred.

Next season the team and its fans will have to adapt to playing in a smaller stadium while the Camp Nou is being renovated. In addition to lower ticket sales, the temporary move will also test Barcelona’s field strength: Camp Nou has a capacity of 98,000 supporters, compared to 56,000 at the Olympic Stadium.

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