The last day of the market has arrived. It wasn’t just João Félix who came because the other João also appeared in Barcelona. It was Cancelo. Both on loan, one from Atlético, who wanted to get rid of him, and another from City, where Guardiola did not want to meet the Portuguese defender again. A sign of Barça’s economic weakness for years, a victim of his waste because he then threw away the money that he now no longer has.
He wasted fortunes on Dembélé, Coutinho and even Griezmann, to whom he later gave away. This is how the Joãos appeared on Montjuïc. Over the top to provide quality to a shrunken and stunted squad, also forcing Xavi to modify his tactical structure, now placed under suspicion due to these dark days that he is experiencing with the defeat in the classic and in Hamburg.
The former Atlético player soon found a place on the left flank of the attack. There where Gavi played when the Barça team of four midfielders expressed themselves happy last season. He assigned the excitizen first to the right back – his natural position, even though in Manchester also played as a left-back – and even invented a role for him (Madrid and Real Sociedad) extreme/interior/ that had a short-lived life. Two games and back from Xavi.
Also going backwards is the performance of João Félix, a natural talent that does not find its proper place. He never got along with Simeone. In it Chelsea, and during a short six-month loan, he didn’t settle down either. And in Barcelona, he started wonderfully, radiating light and creativity to the offensive game. He scored three goals (one against Betis and two against Antwerp) and three assists in his first four games with the Barça shirt, becoming one of the driving forces of the attack.
It had fit perfectly, as if Xavi’s drawing had been designed perfectly for that footballer nomad who wants to show everyone what he is. And above all to himself. A different, decisive player. He is young (he is 23 years old), but he appeared so young in the elite that he gives the feeling that time is running out.
That exceptional start filled the coach with hope, who at first was reluctant to see the arrival of the striker? Portuguese. Forward? Half Point? False extreme? Offensive interior? All that is this footballer. “Not only does the president like João Félix, he fits all of us,” said the coach at the beginning of September, opening his arms upon his arrival. “He is a natural talent, a fast player who can play on the left, inside, he can adapt to the three top positions,” Xavi argued then.
And João Félix soon helped with that exceptional entry into the culé universe. “I’m happy”, he maintained. He didn’t need to say it. He showed it in his game. He felt as if he had returned to that start at Benfica that caused Atlético to pay 127.2 million euros for a 19-year-old young man to cover up Griezmann’s departure to Barça. The red and white club paid a fortune, as if it were Barça with Coutinho, Dembélé or Griezmann, for someone who never fit in. Hence, those first steps of his as a Barça player gave him back his self-confidence.
Now, however, João Félix has faded away. His football is no longer so bright. Neither does his performance. It is not a question of goals, that too, but rather that his weight in the team has decreased, which has affected the structure that Xavi set up. There are many Barça in the coach’s head. But there needs to be imbalance and impact in the opposing area, something that has been lost in the last two months.
Since last September 19, the Portuguese has not celebrated a single goal. It happened against Betis in Montjuïc coinciding with that period in which the coach himself described it as “the best” of his time. 5-0 to the Andalusian team; 5-0 to Antwerp. It was, and it was not known at the time, ‘João Félix week’.
Then, the void. Then, 10 consecutive games without scoring a goal, a more than evident symptom of the offensive decline. Both his and Barça’s. He has stopped scoring and even assisting because his last two assists (one in Granada and another in Montjuïc, decisive his gift to Marc Guiu) credit that unexpected blackout of João Félix.
And Xavi needs him to turn the switch back on because he changed everything, even his drawing, to make a place for him at Barça, maybe the last chanceas hard as it may be, being as young as he is, for talent to defeat irregularity.