Barcelona: Revista's John Toshack says Catalans do not have the spark of old
Former Real Madrid boss also pays tribute to outgoing legend Puyol
Last Updated: 10/03/14 3:35pm
Barca thumped lowly Almeria 4-1 at the Camp Nou on Sunday to move to within a point of table toppers Real Madrid, who recorded a stalemate against city rivals Atletico earlier in the day.
However, Toshack was far from intoxicated by the Catalans' display and says Gerardo Martino's side lacks the fizz it played with during Pep Guardiola's trophy-laden regime.
"Barcelona do not have that spark - or chispa, as they say in Spanish - that they had in previous years, but I think a combination of things is not helping them," said the former Real Madrid boss.
"There is this little scandal with Neymar which seems to have upset things a little bit and I think he has become concerned about the negative publicity regarding the transfer.
"It's the manager's first season, too, while [Carles] Puyol and Xavi, who have always been the instigators and the ones who got players going, are coming towards the end.
"[Lionel] Messi, also, has been two months injured, is not the player or scoring the goals we have seen in previous years, and maybe has one eye on the World Cup.
"Maybe I am being overly critical but we have been spoiled by Guardiola's Barcelona and while the football is still the same, the speed of it is a bit lower and the side are a little bit down."
Barcelona skipper Puyol - who has figured in in just 12 games in all competitions this term - announced on Tuesday that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season after 19 years on the playing staff.
Guillem Balague appeared on Sky Sports News shortly after the story broke to pay tribute to Puyol, who has won six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns in a Barcelona jersey, as well as the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup with Spain.
And Toshack was equally glowing whilst assessing Puyol's impact, suggesting Camp Nou centre-half Gerard Pique will be nowhere near the same force without his long-term partner by his side.
"He is a terrific character who, along with Xavi, does 50-60 per cent of the manager's job by getting the other players going," Toshack added of Puyol.
"He also has total respect from all of his colleagues and has popped up with a few important goals, like in the World Cup semi-final with Germany [in 2010].
"The fella is a class act and has been a terrific servant for Barcelona because, as much as we talk about tiki-taka and Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and [Sergio] Busquets, someone has to hold the house up and be the cement.
"Barcelona will miss him on and off the pitch because Pique is not the same player when Puyol, a wonderful professional, is not alongside him."