It was odd to see Barcelona not start as the favourites in a match, but their struggles on and off the pitch, combined with Bayern Munich’s irresistible display against Chelsea in the previous round, made this a fair assessment. However, it was still hoped that Barcelona would be able to hold on against the German side, before Lionel Messi worked his magic and dragged them through to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Much of Barcelona’s play has been just that in recent weeks – hold on and hope for Messi, but it would not prove to be enough against a very good Bayern side.
The 8-2 humbling will have come as a shock to Barcelona fans, even those who did not expect the Cules to be able to make it past Bayern. The German side were dominant from the first whistle, even though Barcelona created a few chances at the beginning of the match and it could have been a 3-3 scoreline 20 minutes or so into the game. However, Bayern took control of the game, and put Barcelona to the sword. It would have been particularly galling to see Philippe Coutinho, on loan at Bayern from Barcelona themselves, come off the bench to score twice against his parent club, and that summed up the situation at the Nou Camp at the moment.
Barcelona were ahead of Real Madrid in the race for the La Liga title when the competition resumed in June. However, despite leading Madrid in the table, Barcelona let their advantage slip and finished behind their eternal rivals for only the second time in six years. There has been a lot of turmoil off the pitch, with the board coming under fire for their bungled attempts to avoid a personal financial obligation by making illogical transfer deals. The latest of these has seen Arthur being swapped with Miralem Pjanic of Juventus. Arthur is 24 years old and was touted as the future of Barcelona’s midfield when he was brought in, while Pjanic just turned 30 and had one of his poorest seasons for Juventus. Barcelona are also stocked in his position, with Sergio Busquets showing no signs of giving up his place despite being 32, and Frenkie de Jong also capable of playing there. One of the relative bright sparks of the season, youngster Ansu Fati, who became the youngest player to score for Barcelona earlier this season, is still just 17 years old. While the Bissau-Guinean has enthralled with his performances, and caused a lot of interest in him throughout Africa, including on the highest-rated betting sites in Nigeria and other African countries, putting the pressure of performing and carrying the team on him at such a young age will be detrimental to his development.
The big-money deals for Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann have all been relative failures so far, while the club’s dependence on Messi has been increasing throughout the season. The squad is ageing as well, with Messi, Luis Suarez, Busquets, Gerard Pique, Arturo Vidal and Jordi Alba all over 30 years old, which makes the decision to bring in Pjanic even more baffling. Griezmann is also no spring chicken at 29 years of age, and he has struggled mainly because the positions he plays in are occupied by Suarez and Messi, forcing him out to the left, where he is understandably not very comfortable. This shows the muddled thinking at the club at present, and it seems as if Barcelona fans will have to endure a lot more pain before their club can come back to the top of the game in Spain as well as Europe.