The cracks were already there in Barcelona’s mismanaged team but the 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final on Friday night made it all the more visible. In what was their worst defeat in almost 80 years, Barcelona conceded eight goals, each of which rubbed salt on some already painful wounds from what has been a turbulent and trophyless season.
Hailed as ‘the end of an era’, the result led to Gerard Pique mincing no words in saying Barcelona have hit rock bottom, and radical changes are needed. Talks have already begun over the exit of head coach Quique Setien, and even their talisman, Lionel Messi.
This was the first time Barca had conceded eight goals in 74 years when they lost 8-0 to Sevilla in Copa del Rey in 1946. The side suffered even bigger losses with 11-1 defeats in 1940 and 1943 to Sevilla and Real Madrid respectively.
The ruthless evening the Blaugrana suffered on Friday was a far cry from even their recent history. They dominated Spain in the last 11 years, winning eight of those titles but lost La Liga title to arch-rivals Real Madrid last month.
Another year, another UCL humiliation
Even though the Spanish runners-up managed to reach the quarterfinals, Bayern exposed their aging backline, looking a class apart with their attack, pace, power, defence, and precision. It was thought the new COVID-19 induced format would help Barca’s cause, who were struggling in away games, but a neutral venue with no crowd only seemed to rub in the absurdity of the scoreline. (Bayern vs Barcelona Photos)
Barcelona last won the UEFA Champions League in 2015. Since then, the Catalans have been knocked out by Atletico Madrid in 2016, outclassed by Juventus in 2017, and they somehow contrived to throw away heavy first-leg leads over Roma and Liverpool in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The German champions under Hansi Flick were everything Barca were not in Lisbon. The scoreline had resonances of Germany’s 7-1 semi-final win over Brazil in the 2014 World Cup, a game where Flick was on the bench as the national team’s assistant coach.
End of the road for Barca and Messi?
Lionel Messi, who has seen some embarrassing exits from the Champions League in the last five years, held key talks about his future at the club earlier this season, with his contract running out next year. He had agreed to stay, but the disastrous result in Lisbon might re-open the tough talks for ‘the Messiah’ to leave the club he has spent most of his life in.
Could this drubbing at the hands of the German champions be the final nail in the coffin for the 33-year old’s Catalan association?
Radical changes needed within the hierarchy
In what is no more a whisper game, players have come out and openly criticised the board and the management for the problems on the pitch. Among those are veterans Pique and Messi, who blamed the Barca hierarchy, including president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Messi has also appeared to be more disillusioned by his childhood club in this last one year. He has also spoken out against the club over their handling of pay-cuts forced by the coronavirus pandemic. The FC Barcelona presidential election are scheduled for next summer. It will be the fourteenth presidential election of the club where a new president will be elected for six years.
There have been questions raised over coach Setien’s gameplay, but what appears to be a bigger problem is a wasteful transfer policy, which has meant that the core of the team has not had any fresh injection.
A key example is Philippe Coutinho, who was loaned to Bayern from Barcelona to ease their wage outlay. A $190 million signing for Barcelona, Coutinho came off the bench for the German side only to assist on one goal and score the final two.
Setien not an upgrade
It is almost certain that Quique Setien will lose his job at Camp Nou. Barca’s weakness came to the fore last year when they suffered a 4-0 loss at Anfield under Ernesto Valverde. After taking over from Valverde in January, Setien saw his fifth defeat as Barca boss.
Setien failed to bring out any concrete changes in the style of play with hardly any changes in the squad. Last night’s disaster proves that the coach change has helped the club little and that time has come for a real change, a long overdue overhaul.
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