The current Barcelona squad has a great deal left to give and there is no need for a sweeping overhaul in the close season, captain Carles Puyol said on Monday.
Barca coach Gerardo Martino and his players have come in for some sharp criticism following last week’s Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid and Saturday’s shock reverse at Granada in La Liga.
Sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta has been accused of failing to bring in sufficient squad reinforcements over the past couple of years, with the lack of a centre back to replace the ailing Puyol seen as one glaring omission.
A Fifa ban from the transfer market for the next two windows could also complicate life for the Spanish champions if their appeal against the sanction, over a breach of rules on the transfer of foreign under-18 players, is unsuccessful.
Puyol, who turned 36 this week and has barely featured this season because of injury, said he and his teammates were with Argentine Martino, who is just under halfway through a two-year contract, “to the death”.
“I don’t think there needs to be a revolution depending on the results,” Puyol told a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s King’s Cup final against Real Madrid, when record winners Barca will be chasing a 27th triumph in the competition.
“You have to have a working method, not just according to whether you win one or two trophies,” added the centre back. “The team is hungry, it wants to win and keep making history.”
Puyol and teammates like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi are some of the most decorated and experienced players in soccer history but Barca have stumbled in recent weeks against defence-minded teams, especially on the road.
They have dominated games but failed to turn long periods of possession into goals and Saturday’s 1-0 defeat in Granada left them four points behind La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid and a point behind Real with five games left.
“We are aware that we have made mistakes but I can say loud and clear that we will fight as hard as we can in the final and in the five remaining league matches, when a lot of things can still happen,” Puyol said.
“There have been moments when we were not consistent enough but now we need to look ahead.
“We have a very important final and we have to give the fans some joy. For sure winning in Valencia would be a big confidence boost and will change things around.”
Martino is waiting on Puyol’s fitness as well as that of fellow injured centre backs Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra for the clash at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, the venue for the 2011 final which Real won 1-0.
“I am working hard to get there, as are Marc and Gerard,” Puyol said.
“There are two days to go and we will do everything to be there. Tomorrow we will assess our chances of playing.”