The narrative was strong and powerful ahead of Juventus clash but the eyes of Barcelona players and staff failed to hide the lack of belief that the Catalans can truly pull it off once again.
In the end, five-time Champions League winners failed to score a single goal against Juventus after previously putting six past Paris Saint Germain in a thrilling come-back in the round of last 16. The 6-5 feat against the French champions was described as a miracle, but Barcelona fans learned the hard way that miracles in football are often mistaken for hard work and clean-cut execution of a good plan.
Juventus were there to teach them a valuable lesson and perform a miracle of their own – a victory of desire, motivation and heart – which all individually and in combination allowed the Italians to execute their vengeance on a toothless side.
Barcelona’s Champions League elimination can hardly come as a surprise in what is turning out to be quite a disappointing season for the Catalans’ standards.
It’s Barcelona’s fault to begin with since extraordinary football over the past decade has become quite a burden for the team itself as it had the entire football generation thinking that Barca’s style, records and results are the norm when in fact they are not.
Pressured by high expectations and the sense of uncertainty that pretty much has to do with the fact Luis Enrique is leaving his players at the end of the season, Barcelona players lost their identity and their trademark playing style, which made them the world’s most exciting team in the first place.
Once a team that would not let you touch the ball for the whole 90 minutes if they wish has become vulnerable and susceptible to becoming outrun and outperformed. Paris Saint-Germain domination was a smokescreen for the inexperienced as Barcelona got outwitted and outcompeted once the first big challenge came along.
The Catalans have become victims of their most lethal weapon – the MSN trio
Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were setting all sorts of records, and crushing their own along the way in 2016, as they were running around scoring for fun with wide smiles on their faces and that children’s playfulness which dazzled us all.
What Barcelona failed to do in the subsequent season however is to learn how to be less dependable on the front three, who seem to have lost the recognizable flair and the edge. The MSN got blunted against the best defense in the competition and their matchup against Juventus is arguably the most illustrative example of Barcelona’s struggles.
Looking back at Barcelona’s 2015 Champions League triumph which came after an impressive 3-1 performance and fast-forward two years to the very moment we are in right now, a worrying fact remains that Barcelona’s line-up went through almost no changes at all.
Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto – who got replaced by Javier Mascherano later on – are the only two different names in the starting line-up compared to Barcelona’s 2015 side, whereas Juventus at the same time only had two players from 2015 that were in the team on Wednesday – Gianluigi Buffon and Leonardo Bonucci.
The Catalans have become predictable, too MSN-dependable and easy to read and analyse. New players had been brought in during the past two years, but the failed transfer policy is just another important aspect of Barcelona’s decline.
Misguided Transfer Policy
A look between the two Barcelona teams – the one that won the coveted trophy and the latest one that failed miserably – could mistakenly lead us to believe that Barcelona did not invest in new players.
However, the sum close to €175 million was spent on wasteful transfer choices which had an important play in Barcelona’s dwindling fortunes.
The irregularities with youth recruitment at La Masia earned Barcelona the infamous FIFA ban, but the Catalans did manage to bring two players to Camp Nou in 2015 – Adra Turan and Aleix Vidal. Neither of the two at the time highly-rated players went on to be given a prominent role in the team and both of them look set to leave this summer without leaving their footprint at Camp Nou.
The likes of Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer only serve to highlight Barcelona’s inability to replace the likes of Xavi, Pedro, Dani Alves and to offer support for the ageing maestro Andres Iniesta, who sadly still remains the single most important piece of the puzzle for Luis Enrique.
Misguided from their trademark recruiting philosophy which was built on the canons based on the premise of bringing nothing but great talents from the outside and nurturing the top quality from the inside, Barcelona are ruining La Masia, while at the same time giving refuge to medium-quality players who fail to make the final cut and fight for their place under the Catalan sun.
The summer ahead, therefore, carries great importance both for the team and the club management.
Will Barca find their way back to the top and rectify its own mistakes?
The Sunday’s El Clasico is arguably the first lifeline for the lost side. Barcelona travel to Santiago Bernabeu facing a 21/10 price to beat Real Madrid and possibly restart the cursed campaign.
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