In June 2015, Barcelona lifted their last European Cup. The team was clinging to the elite of European clubs after the wonderful years with Pep Guardiola in the dugout.
It was a Champions League triumph that was based on years of dominance with a luxury team and one of the best attacking tridents in the history of football: Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Far from the elite
Since then, the team’s decline has been progressive. Each year they have been moving further and further away from the best clubs on the continent and are currently far from the power of Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or PSG.
For the second consecutive season, Barcelona have been unable to get past the group stage. The data is irrefutable: two years without Messi has equated to two years in the Europa League.
This year’s elimination, in the absence of official confirmation in the next matchday, hurts even more. Last season everyone knew that there were no options. Xavi arrived at the last moment of last year, but it was not a question of coach, it was a team problem because there was a lack of quality players and the team could not be reinforced due to economic difficulties.
This season, however, the club has spent almost 200 million in reinforcements knowing that it could not afford another poor season.
A tough draw and injuries
Bad luck in the group draw, combined with the absence of several key players in defense, led to this rapid elimination.
Nobody thought that in October the team could be out of the Champions League after bringing in Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha, among others. The blow to the fans, who had once again believed in the team, has been brutal. On Wednesday, their support was spectacular. The team’s response was not up to the task.
Other notable debacles
The search for answers runs very deep. The mismanagement since 2015 has resulted in the progressive decline of the team. No one was able to prevent the departure of Neymar and from then on, although there had already been some symptoms before, the setbacks began: Roma, Juventus, Liverpool…
Painful exits from the Champions League. Yet, that used to happen in the quarter-finals or semi-finals, now the team is not even able to reach the round of 16.
Just look at their recent record in Europe. Three wins in the last 13 matches in this competition. Furthermore, the victories came against second-tier teams: Dynamo Kiev and Viktoria Plzen. Every time one of the big teams has come along, the gulf in class has been considerable.