Barcelona lost their opening match of the La Liga season for the first time since 2008 when one Pep Guardiola lost his first game as the Barcelona manager against Numancia. This time out the Catalan giants fell to Basque side Athletic Bilbao thank to a spectacular overhead kick in the 89th minute scored by 38-year-old Aritz Aduriz.
Despite the defeat, Barcelona fans may be able some solace from the fact it was not a full strength Barcelona that lost in Basque country. The Blaugrana were without Phillipe Coutinho who is closing in on a move to Bayern Munich, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, Arthur, and most importantly, Lionel Messi.
With Messi on the pitch, Barcelona will be considered favorites against almost anyone but when the Argentinean magician is unavailable for whatever reason, they look a shadow of themselves despite the remaining talent at the club. Manager Ernesto Valverde lamented this inability to cope without Messi and focused on what wrong after the match.
“We’re not all like [Messi] and we have to learn to cope when he’s not there. It’s inevitable to miss him, but we need to do other things too. We have to transform possession into goal chances, that’s what counts”.
In the same way that Barcelona struggle to replace Lionel Messi, Athletic Bilbao will face a similar such challenge in replacing Aritz Aduriz when he retires at the end of the season. The 38-year-old is a Bilbao legend and showed that even 20 years into his professional career, he is still capable of producing moments of pure magic.
Aduriz was nothing but smiles after Bilbao’s victory as he spoke about his decision to hang up his boots and his mindset going into his final season.
“Sometimes football is so beautiful and when you least expect it a ball like that comes to your feet and goes into the net. It’s impossible that I won’t end up missing that but everything must come to an end. Everything in life has a start and a finish. I’m grateful to be able to choose to end things where I’m happiest”.
Even in his wildest dreams, Aduriz couldn’t have thought up a better way to kick off his farewell season than scoring a last-minute winner against Barcelona at the San Mames. While he will be hoping for more the of the same going forward, Barcelona were given a wake-up call and realized that there is a lot more work to be done if they are to achieve what they set out to this season.