BARCELONA’S DOWNFALL: THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Barcelona last won the Champions League in 2015. If I were to rephrase it, It’s been five years since Barcelona last won the Champions League. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is a big deal considering the potential of FC Barcelona. The club, which has probably the world’s best youth system La Masia; The club, who have arguably the greatest footballer on the planet in their team.
The club, which featured on the list of the richest sports club on the planet in 2018. A club, which used to show wonders, magical football that no one would dare to reciprocate. A club like that is now not less than a circus. And, It is not because of the things that have happened at Barcelona off the pitch.
Barcelona’s downfall has been catastrophic both in terms of sporting achievements and the Club’s management. A lot of factors can be attributed to Barcelona’s failure to win the coveted trophy. The most important among them is the lack of edge in the away knockout matches.
Barcelona has won 5 out of 6 UCL finals it has been in. From 2005 to 2015, we won 4 UCLs. So clearly, it’s not like they don’t know how things work, how to strike in crucial moments, how to come out victorious in those kinds of days. Giuly’s goal at San Siro in 2006, Iniesta’s thunderstroke at Stamford bridge in 2009. Messi’s magical solo run at the Bernabeu and his dink against Bayern with his weak foot in 2015.
All these moments required perseverance and persistence, something that is lacking from 2015 till now. The team lacks passion, the urge, the spirit to win games. It seems like we are waiting for a goal against us to spur us in action.
Apart from that magical 6-1 Remontada against PSG, we haven’t played with the intensity required of Champions League champions. Since 2015 we have managed to score just five away goals in the knockout stage of UCL. The closest we have come to win the CL is the semifinals against Liverpool, where we were humbled at Anfield despite leading by three goals in the first leg.
Let’s analyze all our defeats against in the away matches in the knockout stages of UCL since 2015. In 2016 Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid pressured us and didn’t allow a single shot on target at the Vicente Calderon. Despite having 78% possession, we lost. In 2017 Allegri’s Juve out-thought us in Turin and brought it home with a goalless draw at the Nou Camp.
In 2018, we were caught off guard against Roma in Rome and spluttered the three-goal advantage we had from the first leg. We were complacent and lacked creativity in the middle. However, our most humiliating defeat came at Anfield, where Liverpool, with more than 50000 people charging them on as if it was a gladiator match, destroyed Barca’s defense with a 4-0 defeat. Our defensive’s fragility, which worried all the Culers throughout the season, was brought forth mercilessly at Anfield.
Everyone was thinking, all these defeats would have spurred Barcelona to come back stronger. Instead, we were humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the most humiliating manner ever. Barcelona should be thankful that the game was played without fans, or else the humiliation would hit them even harder.
Phillipe Coutinho, whom Barcelona had loaned to Bayern for a year, came off the bench to score two goals, which opened Barca’s project’s superficiality. All these defeats point to more than our less than spectacular performances on the field. It explains the mentality of not wanting to come out of our comfort zones. It indicates a mental block that constant change in management hasn’t been able to change.
For far too much time, we have believed that playing the Barca way and having Leo Messi in the team is enough to win the knockout matches. If we are to win or at least reach the final stages of the competition, we have to change the group’s mentality as a whole.
We need to understand that just having better players on the pitch doesn’t guarantee success. We need the spirit of former Barca captain Carles Puyol which dictated giving everything on the field for the club no matter what, Running on every blade of grass demanding from each other.
Messi is staying for at least another season. We must unite together to provide the club with European glory before the golden generation of Messi, Pique, and Busquets leave. The whole world is watching us in this post-pandemic world, looking for us to inspire them like we used to.
The Barcelona magic still remains in the club. Top players still choose the club over other European giants; youngsters from all around the world still drool over the dream of playing for Blaugrana shirt, playing alongside Lionel Messi. Barcelona is not like FC Barcelona as it used to be, but the belief is still there.
Now that Bartomeu is gone and elections will happen soon, with new management, a new project full of potential, a surge in mentality among players, and the ignition of the passion of playing football, playing for Barcelona is something that can revive Football Club Barcelona from this chaotic situation towards glorious days.
There will be better days for sure. Visca el Barca!