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Time for Barcelona to get serious about winning 

The balance of power between Real Madrid and Barcelona always changes.

This campaign has been one of suffering for Barca fans, not just because they missed out on silverware, but because their great rivals are the Spanish champions again, with a shot at winning the European Cup too after a, once again, shocking and controversial last-minute comeback win over Bayern Munich in the semi-final.

Overall, the two clubs are neck and neck in head-to-heads throughout their history. Real Madrid has 105 wins, Barcelona has 100 wins, and there are 52 draws between them.

But the trophy case definitively favors Real Madrid in the competitions that matter most. Real Madrid has 36 league titles to Barcelona’s 27. In the Champions League, however, the ratio is much worse. Real Madrid are going for 15 this season, compared to just five for Barcelona.

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League

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Now, Barcelona must make the next move. But whether it’s an evolution or a revolution remains to be seen.

Last season, Real Madrid lost La Liga to Barcelona, and were knocked out in the semi-finals by Manchester City in spectacular fashion.

Still, they retained Carlo Ancelotti, who responded with his minimalist, player-friendly approach, en route to a dominant season.

Barcelona, for the time being, are poised to keep Xavi. And yet, there’s a lot of noise already putting pressure on the decision. You just can’t be too happy for too long at this club.

Girona FC v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports

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Stability does matter. You can’t hit the panic button every time something goes wrong in the course of a season, or even at the end of a disappointing campaign.

But you do have to be able to properly evaluate your opportunities and your shortcomings.

So what’s the difference between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the present moment? Is everything financial? If that were the case, there’s no reason for hope. Real Madrid can bring in Kylian Mbappe next season, and be even more unstoppable.

But do they even need Mbappe at this point?

They didn’t this season. This time around, the same man in charge that failed the season before, stuck around, even when he had a chance to leave for the Brazilian national team, trusted his players, made a smart tactical change to the system to accommodate the talent he had available to him, and let them find solutions on the field in real time.

Real Madrid v FC Bayern Muenchen: Semi-final Second Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24

Even when, in fact especially when, their backs were against the wall.

That’s one of the brilliant things about Ancelotti. He’s not dogmatic. His mantra is to maximize the potential of the players available to him. Players love him, because he believes in them, and makes them feel important. No one is ostracized. Everyone has a role to play, and they embrace it with enthusiasm when they’re called upon.

The vibes are good. Confidence and camaraderie in the locker room is always high.

Joselu, a secondary but significant character this season, waited patiently for his chance to be the hero, and didn’t waste the chance on Wednesday.

Is it that simple? Does Barcelona simply need to find a better manager who can get more out of the players on the roster?

Girona FC v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports

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Or, is it luck? Is Barcelona doomed to this fate?

Real Madrid is Franco’s team. Ever since they sabotaged the signing of Alfredo di Stefano, it’s been clear that there are too many forces conspiring to help them.

Referee favoritism in particular. Ghost goals, offsides decisions, and an antagonistic La Liga president, just to name a few recent examples.

In order to move forward, first and foremost, the inferiority complex that Barcelona has towards their rival should be the first thing to go. From a psychological point of view, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that becomes ingrained in the culture. A palpable feeling that affects the players, coaches, and fans alike.

If you care about winning, you have to be about winning.

Girona FC v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports

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Talent and technical excellence is an important part of the equation. Real Madrid has enough money to go out and buy it.

Barcelona, meanwhile, has an incredible academy system that allows them to grow it.

The difference is the culture of winning. The championship mindset, which Real Madrid has built into their raison d’être.

Barcelona’s purpose, on the other hand, is clearly built around the mythology of playing the best brand of football.

And if that’s the case, they need to be honest with themselves.

In the end, you can play more attractive football, more dominant football in fact, and still lose.

Manchester City made Real Madrid look small. They were on a different planet of technical superiority. But tactically, Real Madrid did what they had to do to survive, and be in a position, with a bit of luck, to win the game. They understood that their purpose was to win. That’s it. No romance.

Manchester City v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League

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Out goes Xavi and Barcelona.

Out goes Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

Then out goes Luis Enrique and PSG.

All of whom attacked, and tried to be protagonists, but lost to teams who were more pragmatic.

So Barcelona needs to ask themselves the question, what are you all about?

That will be a soul searching question as they rebuild. They clearly don’t know the answer.

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Real Madrid, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re here for. And every player who steps onto the field and wears their shirt understands it too.

No giving up. Fight for victory until the end. And again and again, they find ways to shock the world when all seems to be lost.

Barcelona, know thy enemy. Respect your enemy. You can even learn from them.

While they consistently come back to win games they had no right to win, Barcelona, especially in cup competitions, have a history of crumbling under pressure when the victory is in their hands.

FC Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain: Quarter-final Second Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24

This is a paradigm that can’t be ignored. It must be addressed head on, and changed through self-awareness and humility.

You win championships with discipline and with grit. Talent won’t win against an opponent that is tough and united, with a common understanding and motivation toward the mission at hand.

Barcelona needs a culture change above all else.

Questions about the manager, players, and even finances, are secondary.

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