Barcelona suffered yet another heavy Champions League defeat on Tuesday night, losing 4-1 to Paris Saint-Germain at home, asking further questions of the clubs dynasty. After taking the lead early on through a Lionel Messi penalty, they lost control of the game and were comprehensively beaten by the French side. Kylian Mbappé stole the show by scoring a sublime hat-trick and giving his team a great chance of progression to the quarter-finals.
This defeat was not an isolated event. Barcelona crashed out of last seasons tournament with an embarrassing 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, showing the gulf in class between the two clubs. They are also well off the pace in La Liga, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and are 2-0 down after their first-leg defeat to Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.
After going unbeaten at home in the Champions League for over 30 games, Barcelona have now lost the last two. They require a complete overhaul. But with their current dire financial situation, this looks impossible. Is this just a bump in the road, or is the dynasty finally over?
The End of The Barcelona Dynasty
A Subpar Performance
When Barcelona were drawn against PSG, it was considered the tie of the round. Two European heavyweights battling it out on the biggest stage. However, Tuesday nights game was more like boys against men. The scoreline does not flatter Barca, but it is the manner of the defeat which is more concerning. The Catalans looked slow and ponderous, with no desire to get a foothold in the game. They were completely outplayed by a PSG side that didn’t necessarily have better players, they just wanted it more. That is a more concerning mode of defeat of Ronald Koeman. There seems to be a lack of desire to play for Barcelona currently.
The reliance on Messi to create chances and score goals has never been so apparent. Against PSG, it was clear that the Argentine was the only player on the pitch who was capable of making something happen. With his future in doubt, it could get worse for Barca before it gets better.
There is a clear divide in the ages of the Barcelona players. Some are over 30, such as Messi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Miralem Pjanic and Jordi Alba. Then some are 21 and under, such as Sergiño Dest, Pedri, Riqui Puig and Fransico Trincao. There is no middle ground. Players are either past their best or too young to heavily influence a game of this magnitude. Then there are players such as Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé who are out of form and don’t seem to be able to take the pressure of playing for a club like Barcelona. Trying to fit these players into a system that works is an almost impossible task.
Poor Recruitment A Key Attribute to Faltering Barcelona Dynasty
Looking at the Barcelona team that won the treble in the 2014/15 season, it was one of the most exciting, dominant teams in footballing history. Quick passing, a high press, lethal finishing, no one else could come close. Yet just six years on, the remnants of that team are nowhere to be found. The players Barcelona have let go should not have been allowed to and the players Barcelona have replaced them with are not good enough.
The ‘MSN’ partnership of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar was what made that team great. In the 2014/15 season, that front three combined for a total of 177 goals. Yet Neymar was allowed to leave in 2017 and Suarez was let go last summer. Neymar has continued to star for PSG and Suarez has 16 goals already for Atletico Madrid this season. The trio should never have been broken apart.
Since letting Neymar go, Barca have spent over £70 million on four occasions. On Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Frenkie de Jong and Greizmann. De Jong is the only player out of the four who has been able to fully cement himself into the starting eleven. Barcelona’s spending hasn’t been effective. As well as spending big money on players that haven’t performed, there have been some odd deals made. Last summer they swapped Arthur, the 24-year-old talented midfielder, for 30-year-old Pjanic, who is close to being past his best. Barca’s recent recruitment has been focused on short-term success with no view of what the team will look like in the future.
However, there has been little success of late and now the average age of the team continues to rise. There can be only so much reliance on La Masia to produce world-class, homegrown talent. Barca need to change their recruitment policy to focus on young talent instead of old.
A Club in Financial Ruin
Footballs worst kept secret of late is the financial situation of Barcelona. Although it appears to be one of the most affluent clubs in the world, being the only club in history to surpass $1 Billion in annual revenue, Barcelona are in financial turmoil. Player wages amass to almost $700 million a year, and without the income from match-going fans amongst other factors, Barca’s $1 billion revenue is decreasing rapidly. The club now sees itself in over $1.1 billion in debt. It owes this money to banks, tax authorities, rival teams and its own players. Barca’s former vice-president for economic affairs Jordi Moix has suggested that the club is projected to lose over $600 million due to the pandemic.
So how will the club turn its economic affairs around? The most obvious place to start is with Lionel Messi and his $675 million contract. Messi has become synonymous with the club of Barcelona. He is known worldwide as arguably the greatest footballer of all time. But it has come to the point now where keeping him at the club will do more harm than good. Letting him go would create funds to invest in several other players. It is said his departure would add $250 million to Barca’s budget. Although it will be impossible to replace Messi, it needs to be said that he is 33. Now is the time for him to pass the torch to the next generation at Barcelona. If not, these economic problems will only get worse.
It appears as though a time of transition is approaching for Barcelona. The team that was once the most feared in Europe is no more. The dynasty that conquered all is coming to an end.