Without Lionel Messi, there is a certain vulnerability to Barcelona which has been laid bare in the first weeks of the new LaLiga season.
Barcelona are in dire straits. Their manager is under immense pressure following a bizarre press conference and they have lost their form on the pitch.
The club have struggled to cope with the departure of the indispensable Messi after being forced to renege on their agreement to extend his deal due to LaLiga’s salary cap measures.
Instead, the Argentine chose to travel to Paris Saint-Germain to be with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in assembling a team of superstars at Parc des Princes.
That left Barca head coach Ronald Koeman with a squad seemingly incapable of challenging for honours, with champions Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid both retaining key members of their squads.
And with the Catalan giants facing LaLiga minnows Cadiz next, the Andalusian outfit’s fans found a way to taunt their opponents about their rapid plight.
Both teams were scheduled to meet in the southern Spanish coastal town of Cadiz on Thursday night. The Blaugrana was desperate for a win.
Barca stuttered to a 1-1 draw against Granada on Tuesday, leaving them eight points behind leaders Real Madrid — albeit with two games in hand.
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And it seems the Cadiz fans were only too keen to pile on the misery by chanting about their former talisman Messi, with hundreds of supporters filling the streets surrounding the Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla before the match.
In footage captured by Sport journalist Albert Roge, they belted out a chant which pointed to Messi’s permanent absence from the squad after 21 years at Camp Nou.
“Dondé está Leo Messi?” they could be heard singing, which when translated to English means: “Where is Leo Messi?”
Of course, Barca fans know exactly where Messi is: in Paris.
His exit has left a gaping void in Koeman’s side and the Dutchman is feeling the heat after holding a bizarre virtual press conference where he read out a statement before refusing to take questions.
“The club is with me in this period of reconstruction,” Koeman stated.
“We have to reconstruct the team as a squad without making big investments and this takes time.
“The young talents we have can become world stars in a couple of years. The young players will have opportunities, just as Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta had in their day, but we ask for patience.
“Finishing high in the table would be a success on its own and in the Champions League we cannot expect miracles. The defeat against Bayern should be taken with perspective. The team should be supported, with words and with actions.”
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They are struggling without their former talisman. Messi, however, is not having the best time in France. He has failed to score in three of his first appearances for the Ligue 1 giants.
The 34-year old looked furious when he saw boss Mauricio pochettino hook him against Metz, with the score at 1-1.
Pochettino later said it was a knee issue that saw Messi withdraw, but the Argentinian magician wasn’t moved by his manager’s comments and remained a sulky figure at the bench.