By Antonis Stroggylakis / email@example.com
The last time Barcelona made the EuroLeague Final Four was in 2014. Since then, the Blaugrana have suffered multiple eliminations in the quarterfinals even when they had homecourt advantage (2015) while not even making it past the regular season twice in a row (2017, 2018).
Barca great and newly appointed general manager Juan Carlos Navarro believes that seven years is way too much, especially for a team that begins every season with championship aspirations exclusively.
“Seven years without Final Four? It’s too long,” Navarro said for Barcelona’s website, in his first interview after he officially took over his new position. “A club like Barca always has to win things. We have several King’s (Copa del Rey) Cups, but the EuroLeague is a key objective and that happens because we are in the Final Four.”
“One of the objectives for Barca means winning a big title like the EuroLeague,” added Navarro, the Final Four MVP of 2010 in the last time that Barcelona won the EuroLeague.
Barcelona may put an end to this seven-year drought Friday (30/4) with a win over Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia. Sarunas Jasikevicius’ team is up 2-1 after beating their opponents in Game 3 to counter a stunning loss in Game 1 and now have two opportunities to grab this elusive Final Four ticket.
“We didn’t start well in the playoffs at home,” Navarro said. “We play against a team that is very good, very well-trained. I think we were overconfident in the first game. Here in St. Petersburg the team has taken a step forward and we hope that this Friday will close the series. And if it’s not possible, we’ll have the option [to do so] in Barcelona.”
In February, Barcelona completed one of the biggest signings in modern EuroLeague era by bringing Pau Gasol back in Europe and the club for the first time since the Spanish giant left for the NBA in 2001.
Gasol, who signed with Barcelona also to get into the best possible shape ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, has seen restricted minutes so far in EuroLeague, averaging 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 8:30. Navarro explained how his longtime friend’s presence boosts the squad outside the four lines of the court by helping his teammates with his experience and overall basketball wisdom.
“Pau Gasol is a basketball legend and Saras has been very important for us to get into the project,” Navarro mentioned. “It’s difficult for Pau to perform to the maximum after two years without playing. But it’s not only on the court, it’s also outside of it. It’s what he contributes to the players in each practice and now he’s picking up the pace, strength and thinks less about the [injured] foot every day. He will help us a lot.”