Barcelona v Real Madrid: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even Copa del Rey final victory will make season a success

Barcelona's success has been followed by failures in the transfer market among others

Barcelona have won 21 trophies so far this century. Number 22 could be lifted on Wednesday night at Mestalla when they meet Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup final.

But it says everything about the way complacency has taken them from the sublime, of the 2009-2011 period, to the ridiculous, of this year's catalogue of embarrassments, that the Copa del Rey will not be enough to save their season.

Susceptibility to the kick up the backside always peaks the moment you lean forward to receive the medal and Barcelona should have known that far from making them immune to criticism, success would put them more than ever in the line of fire - being everyone's favourite was always going to make them everyone's favourite target sooner or later.

But complacency has taken hold. They have gone from having three home-grown players on the Ballon d'Or podium in 2010 to having their Masia youth academy investigated for illegal signings of under-18s in 2014; and from receiving praise at having signed Neymar for only €57m to the revelation that because of numerous add-on contracts, the final price was closer to €100m.

Read more: Barcelona v Real Madrid match preview
Can Real Madrid cope without Ronaldo?

The Neymar deal maybe no murkier than countless other transfers involving a player with third-party ownership; and third-party ownership is not banned by Fifa. If it transpires that income taxes have been avoided by paying companies related to Neymar, rather than directly to the player himself, then it will not be first time such a tactic has been used either.

The club are also right to point out the contradiction inherent in rules that are supposed to guard against the abuse of children in football, being used to punish the club with one of the most exemplary youth academy systems in the world.

Barcelona say it makes no sense that a teenager can move to a different country to study but not be able to do so at a football club - with, as is the case at Barcelona's La Masia, a rounded education thrown in.

But complacency has again done for them. The simple relocation of a young players' parents under the pretence that there has been an unrelated change in their work situation has been enough to keep Fifa happy in the past.

Tonight Barcelona face Europe's most prolific forward line with an inexperienced 23-year-old defender Marc Bartra partnering Javier Mascherano in the centre of defence. Real Madrid will be without top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo but Barcelona will feel the absence of the injured Gerard Pique far more.

Ronaldo will be missing from the final Ronaldo will be missing from the final  

Nowhere has the complacency running through the club been more apparent than in the transfer market from which they are now banned. The failure to sign a single central defender since 2009 when Pep Guardiola brought in Dmytro Chygrynskiy has felt more and more ill-advised with every passing summer.

In subsequent seasons the club failed to move for Javi Martinez and Thiago Silva while saving up for Neymar. Between times Alex Song was signed and presented as someone who "could also play in the centre of defence" - news to everyone, Song included.

This year the failure to bring in a long-term replacement for Carles Puyol has hit them even harder with Pique's fractured pelvis keeping him out of Wednesday's final.

Xavi like Puyol has not been replaced with the in-house solution - 21-year-old Thiago Alcantara - inexplicably allowed to leave and join Bayern Munich.

The reaction to the meltdown of the last week - being knocked out of the Champions League and slipping out of the title race - has been as surreal as some of the behaviour that has caused it.

The local sports media keeps pumping out the message that the squad will be renewed at great expense at the end of the season displaying exactly the kind of 'Fifa does not exist' attitude that got the club in trouble in the first place.

And after the defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League attention focused on Lionel Messi's post-match stats with it pointed it that he had run only twice as far as goalkeeper Pinto during the game - supporters reduced to blaming a defeat on the fact that Messi wasn't running about enough.

He looked a little non-plussed in training on Tuesday as the team worked out with a rugby ball in their last session before travelling to Valenica - another surreal touch to an at times bizarre season.

After the weekend defeat to Granada passing statistics actually showed Barcelona had enjoyed 86 per cent of possession: a new high beating the previous benchmark of 84 per cent set under Guardiola.

No-one at the club now has their head so far in the sand that they see that as a sign nothing is wrong. And most believe, even if they win the Copa del Rey, it will change nothing. It will be their third win over Madrid this season - but it's not the treble they had in mind at the start of the season.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention