Padraig Whelan·7 June 2023
Padraig Whelan·7 June 2023
The 2022/23 campaign will be looked upon as an ultimately triumphant one for Barcelona.
After a summer of turmoil and financial levering to put themselves in a position to strengthen, they went on to reclaim the Spanish title in Xavi’s first full season in charge.
Although they didn’t have it all their own way …
LaLiga – Champions
After a four-year wait, Barcelona finally reclaimed LaLiga – winning it for the 27th time in their history and perhaps significantly, for the first time since Lionel Messi departed.
They did so at a canter as well, losing just three games until the title was wrapped up in memorable fashion with a 4-2 win away to city rivals Espanyol.
It was a ruthless statement from Xavi’s side. Are the good times back again?
Champions League – Group stage
As impressive as the Blaugrana were in the league this season, Europe was a different story.
They won just two games in their Champions League group as they finished third behind Bayern Munich and Inter, dropping into the Europa League play-off round.
Europa League – Knockout round play-off
Here, they played out two thrilling ties against Manchester United but ultimately fell short as their continental adventures came to a premature end.
Copa del Rey – Semi-final
After avoiding major embarrassment in the round of 32 with a 4-3 win over Intercity after extra-time, Barça thrashed Ceuta and overcame Real Sociedad to set up a Clásico semi-final.
They brought a 1-0 first leg lead back from Madrid before inexplicably collapsing in incredible fashion to lose 4-0 at the Camp Nou and crash out.
Supercopa de España – Winners
But they did at least get one over on their old rivals to lift a trophy, winning the Supercopa in Saudi Arabia in January with a 3-1 win after disposing of Real Betis on penalties.
Goalkeepers often don’t get enough credit but without the performances of the German this season, things may have been quite different.
He was a colossus between the posts from the moment the season started and prior to the title being won when everyone took their feet off the accelerator, Ter Stegen conceded just 11 goals in 33 LaLiga games.
While he came under criticism for his European showings, he was arguably the key factor in putting Barcelona back on top at home.
Barcelona held a nine-point lead over Real Madrid when they welcomed them to the Camp Nou in March for a decisive derby in the title race.
They fell behind before Sergi Roberto levelled and then Franck Kessié stepped up in injury-time to spark jubilant scenes with a last gasp winner.
“That was my favourite moment of the season,” Xaxi admitted after the title was secured. “That goal won us LaLiga.”
So accustomed is the footballing world to goals from the Pole that they are almost taken for granted.
But it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was 34 adjusting to a completely new style of play in a different league.
And he still contributed a return of 34 goals in 44 games in his debut campaign, claiming the Pichichi too for his LaLiga exploits.
Can Pedri, Gavi or Ansu Fati really be considered rising stars? We don’t think so, despite their average of just 19.
So the only person truly under consideration here is Balde, who dislodged Jordi Alba from the side and never looked back, impressing so much that he even went on to represent Spain at the World Cup.
The future is very bright at left-back for the Catalan giants.
Having reclaimed their perch as top dogs in Spain, it is now about about re-establishing themselves as a dominant European force again.
They have disappointed in the Champions League too much recently and the priority for Xavi now is translating their domestic success to the bigger stage.
Replacing the iconic Sergio Busquets is also a big priority this summer and he leaves a hole in midfield that they may struggle to fill for a long time.