The team had started to play with a certain togetherness, recuperating some of the play that charectirzed it, the return of Eto'o and Messi was just around the corner, but it seems to all have gone wrong.
It was bound to be a Celebration at Camp Nou against Racing Santander, with two of the loved ones reunited with their family, the team and the fans.
The basketball team had just won the Cup against Real Madrid, the team was winning comfortably, Messi had just received an ovation and it was going to be Eto'o's turn, when he suddenly refused to go on. Apparently Rijkaard had planned he would substitute Ronaldinho, giving both a standing ovation, however that was not to be. Instead Oleguer Presas came one, another player the fans were keen to give an ovation. To everyone's surprise Rijkaard stated in the press conference that Eto'o refused to come on, it was obviously a surprise coming out of a man who had always washed the dirty clothes within closed doors. The press commented on it eagerly with some defending Rijkaard and some understanding Eto'o. However in a club were there are profound divisions, some tertulias, chat programmes, both on TV and radio, were keen to extend the "incident". There was no press conference the day after and 48 hours later Eto'o appeared in a publicity act, releasing una bomba. That he would take no lessons on thinking of the team first, that saying he did not want to come on was of a bad person and that there was a war going on and him being in the middle taking all the stick, referring to Ronaldinho, Rijkaard and Sandro Rosell (the former vice president, close to players such as Ronaldinho, Deco and Márquez). It is voice populari, that Ronaldinho trains little and perhaps does not lead the professional life he should, that there is a profound divisions between Laportistas and Rosellistas, with both men using the media in order to manipulate and with certain tertulias attacking Eto'o at each opportunity, perhaps in order to get to Laporta, but that Rijkaard is a bad person is a new invention. Eto'o's words echoed all over the world, with consequences that will be extremely hard to solve. Nothing will be the same again.
It has not been an easy year for the club, with two of their best players out for months, but they are still top of the league and alive in three competitions, but perhaps the evolution towards galactization has been slowly happening this year, but it is extremely surprising to see such a rapid decline of what has been a team renowned for its team spirit and lack of egos in the dressing room. This bomba has all changed that, even if it has been lingering under the surface, it was a surprise in how quickly a disintegration can happen.
The hunger for titles can disappear almost over night with complacency and over confidence taking its place.
What will happen now? The team will have to go urgently back to the very path that made them so successful and remind themselves that they are on a path to make history, to look forward to more success rather than accepting that they have reached it all.
The day after la bomba, the club had frenetic meetings, between captains, president, Rijkaard, Ronaldinho and Eto'o as well as the whole team. In training the two "main actors" made peace in front of the cameras, giving each a Valentine hug, making truce, for now… We will have to see how long it lasts, but perhaps it will wake everyone up and remind them that what could have been the very end, could perhaps be the very path needed to be taken.
It is difficult to deal with stars and Rijkaard recently came out saying that having two and a half cracks, stars in a team is enough. The press have been pushing Christiano Ronaldo towards Barcelona (probably by filtrations of the club). Laporta seems keen to sign him, but Rijkaard will have slowed that process, by proving how difficult it is to have stars in a team, that having to many egos is only harmful, as it creates jealousy and manipulation.
He has managed to solve a huge problems with the skills of his diplomacy and the very lack of ego, by allowing the dressing room to solve it themselves. He knows that denying Eto'o from playing is only harming the team, as they have had difficulties scoring goals without him. His very competitive, aggressive and hungry character helps the players to keep themselves on their toes in games and by leaving him in the stand it would have made the rest of the season unbearable. Better to make peace, even if the wound is not healed and we will have to see how long it will last.
La bomba is although just the tip of the iceberg, Eto'o's outrage has created a division between Laporta and Rijkaard, who previously have lived in complete harmony. It was also believed that the dressing room had not been affected with the divisions of el entorno (everything surrounding the club) and especially the war between Laporta and Rosell, who left the club due to unrepearable differences with Laporta. Rosell was the sporting director when they first came to power 2003 and was believed to be the very man who brought the main signing, the symbol of the team Ronaldinho, however that is not so clear now.
Eto'o has allowed voices and persons to influence him, perhaps even Laporta himself as he was seen as very much Laporta's signing. His anxiety of returning to the team was immense and perhaps his word are not totally out of place, as most of them are "true", however he did wrongly in announcing them publicly and by doing so he has cornered himself in a corner. Eto'o was and is fed up that he is not forgiven anything, that at each opportunity he is attacked. He is fed up that Ronaldinho and Deco can do as they like, while Eto'o is perhaps the most decisive of them all is being attacked constantly by certain media. He made one huge mistake and that is breaking the silence of the dressing room and Ronaldinho has been seen as the good guy now. If Eto'o's outburst would not have happened, then Ronaldinho's comments after the game would have questioned his integrity and honesty in critising players of not thinking of the team first. However lazy and party going Ronaldinho is he is someone unites rather than splits the dressing room.
Frank Rijkaard has been rumoured to be on his way out of the club, taking a sabbatical or going to Milan. It has been said that he is fed up with players egos and lack of implication. One of the very successes of guiding the team to success has been his management skills and control over the dressing room, with a modern style, rather than the authoritarian style of coaches as Van Gaal, Capello or Mourinho. It is sad to see that the players have gotten their way and not respected a man who has given them all freedom in order to guide them to work for each other. They have among el etorno and even Laporta pushed him towards the door. It will be a sad and traumatic moment when he decides to leave, probably as early as June and it is only what el culés deserve with their self destructive obsession of neurotic behaviour.