Villarreal, first chapter of Lionel Messi's last dance at Barcelona

BARCELONA – Barcelona begins its official season this Sunday by facing Villarreal in a Camp Nou that, luckily for everyone, is still empty. It will be, after the most atypical, rugged and implausible preseason that is remembered, the moment of truth for Koeman’s team, with all the emotional charge that is experienced before what will be Messi’s last dance at the Barca club.

A more uncomfortable opponent visits the Camp Nou because of the name and what is supposed to him than because of his results in themselves. Villarreal, who have started three victories and four draws in 22 visits to the Camp Nou, have not scored since 2009 (1-1), having since then had nine consecutive defeats.

Barça’s numbers when the league starts at home are even more impressive. Of 42 premieres he only lost one and won 37, adding four ties. Since the 2-2 game against Atlético de Madrid in 2002, they have won the next eight debuts at the Camp Nou, where they never lost their first league game (26 wins and two draws). The only defeat when the championship began at home came at Les Corts, in 1939 in a derby against Espanyol, which they won 0-1.

The duel this Sunday, however, comes starring, indisputably, by Lionel Messi. Being the premiere of Ronald Koeman on the bench, 31 years after doing it as a footballer, and waiting for the debuts of Miralem Pjanic or Trincao, it is the captain who focuses all eyes a priori.

After a month of the great storm, Messi’s last dance with Barcelona begins. Or that is supposed in light of everything that has happened in recent weeks, rounded off on Friday with a public farewell from the Argentine to his friend Luis Suárez who discovers that, for nothing, the waters have calmed down in a boiling club and of which the captain gives the sensation counts the days to say goodbye.

Orphan of Suárez and without Arturo Vidal, only those closest to the Argentine crack know for sure what is the true state of mind of a footballer whose frontal attacks on Bartomeu’s directive have shocked all of Barcelona, ​​both expectant and incredulous and, at the same time, divided with the events of the last four weeks.

With the game against Villarreal, the first chapter of a novel begins that will have its climax when the new president of the Barça club is proclaimed to find out what intentions he will have with regard to Messi and, even more, to know what those of the Argentine himself will be, that on the grass he will have to lead a project as novel as who knows if ephemeral with Ronald Koeman on the bench.

What’s new? Injured Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Neto will appear in the goal, Philippe Coutinho will return and the Ansu Fati era will begin, it is assumed. There will be neither Ivan Rakitic nor Arturo Vidal nor, above all, Luis Suárez, with which all the tests that the new coach has sought so far must begin to have a visible consistency with his new system and the absence of a ‘ 9 ‘as seen in recent years.

Luck, in a certain way, Barça has, will have, that the first opponent is a team that likes to play, to discuss the command of the game, to attack it and not crouch down closing spaces to turn the game into a funnel and even if that means An exam for the well-known Barça defense will also be a test for the expected rebirth of their offensive agility.

From this Sunday it will begin to be considered if Messi can begin to be, as in an increasingly distant past, the icing on the cake or if, unfortunately for Barcelona, ​​he is still the whole cake. If the collective game of Barça turns its captain into the differential piece or Leo must continue with his well-known role of recent times.

If Michael Jordan was able to get involved with a group of immeasurable value in Chicago to win his last title and give an exceptional documentary after the years, in Barcelona there is the feeling that this documentary begins with Messi as the main protagonist.

It remains to be seen the real spirit that Leo will have in the series …