The main issue at Barça is that the power and authority lie in the hands of a small dressing room clique, against whom president Josep Bartomeu has been powerless.
I'm talking about Messi, Piqué, Luis Suárez, Busquets and Jordi Alba. Around them, some players thrive (Arturo Vidal), others float along (Frenkie De Jong), while others are forced to leave (Coutinho).
Ernesto Valverde wanted to dismantle the power of this clique but could not manage to do so before his eventual sacking in January. The club had thought about Xavi and Koeman, but in the end they placed their faith in Setién, who has now succumbed to the same faith as Valverde after just seven months at the helm.
Messi et al: Everyone and everything’s fault but their own
I do understand where they are coming from – Messi, Piqué et al. They honestly believe that they are the most righteous figures at the club. They look sceptically at the executive management. They have enjoyed (at least until the Lisbon debacle) the passionate support of all Barcelona fans and they believe that everything that goes wrong at the club is because their wishes are ignored – because Griezmann was signed instead of Neymar; because of the money wasted on Coutinho and Dembélé; and because the squad fall short.
However, they do not believe that anything has fallen short because of what they earn, which has been increased time and time again. So they lose 8-2 to Bayern Munich and Piqué says that you don't have to look at the team or the coach, but rather higher up the ladder. They are the highest paid and most powerful figures at the club, yet they do not consider themselves part of that upper end of the hierarchy.
After Piqué’s pointless comments, the Board of Directors met yesterday. Major changes were expected but in the end came a weak statement that was delayed by hours. But what else can they do? The red wire is Messi, but who cuts that wire, when he himself holds the pliers? His inner circle leaked that he may have had enough, that he may leave, and the mere suggestion paralyses the spirits of those in power who are powerless to confront him. And you also have to understand them; who would have the bravery to do so? The catharsis that Barça so desperately needs is going to be incredibly difficult to find.