The great giant Barcelona is football wise dead
Barcelona had already hit the abyss long before the do-or-die Champions League trip to Munich, but they still managed to plunge to a new low on Wednesday.
Their 3-0 defeat to FC Bayern in the bitter cold and snow of the Allianz Arena means they are out of the Champions League. Benfica’s comfortable 2-0 win at home to Dynamo Kiev ensured they moved above Barca and into the second qualifying position of Group E.
It was a historic failure for Barcelona as they failed to make it out of the Champions League group stage for the first time in 21 years.
The last time was in the 2000/01 campaign when they also came third behind Leeds and AC Milan.
Milan is an interesting case study for what the future could now be for Barcelona.
Between 1989 and the mid-nineties, there was no bigger team in European football than Milan. They were among the richest teams in the world, they broke the transfer record after the transfer record to buy Ballon d’Or stars and they won five Champions League titles.
No one could possibly have foreseen such a giant institution falling apart, either sportingly or economically. But they did, and until this season they had gone eight years without even qualifying for the Champions League. It’s been a long road back towards the top and – as their own European exit on Tuesday showed – they still have a hell of a long way to go.
Barcelona now risks a similar fate. They are €1.3 billion in debt and their financial situation is so grave that they barely were able to register the Bosman transfers they signed this past summer – none of those free transfers have proven to be good enough by the way. Lionel Messi of course, couldn’t even register his new contract and left the sinking ship for PSG.
The Blaugrana still possess some generational youngsters in the form of Gavi, Pedri, and Ansu Fati but the very fact they are being so heavily relied on as teenagers demonstrate what a mess the squad is in and also how badly these players are being mismanaged. Pedri played 75 games in the space of a year, while Fati is constantly injured.
Elsewhere in the team, there are holes everywhere. The defense continues to leak goals and even goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has been poor for the last 18 months.
The less said about the attack the better. Memphis Depay simply isn’t at the level of an elite team, as he showed at Man Utd. None of the other forwards are fit to shine the shoes of some of the legends that wore the Barca colors as recently as a few years ago.
Returning president Joan Laporta has far too many fires to put out in what is virtually an impossible job.
Barca can’t go into the market to remedy the problems they have as they can’t afford to. And even if they could, their transfer policy has been such a disaster over the past half-decade that you wouldn’t trust them. At least they have a 38-year-old Dani Alves to look forward to in January!
New coach Xavi faces a huge challenge to galvanize the squad from here. There’s no guarantee Barca will even qualify for the Champions League next season as they are currently languishing in seventh position, six points off the top four.
The great giant Barcelona that won four Champions League titles between 2006 and 2015 is dead.