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Characterless: The disintegration of Barcelona in Europe

When analyzing the European situation in Barcelona over the last decade, there is no question at all about the prolonged deterioration: after the victories in the 2010/11 and 2014/15 seasons, the past years have included only one qualifier for the Champions League semi-finals. This is a problem that started to poison the air at Camp Nou, such a feeling that alongside dominance that was more or less maintained in the local arena, the champions became an aspect that weighs heavily and hurts the players, who find it hard to break free from it with every passing pass.

But it’s time to take this discussion to the next level. It is an accepted convention that Barcelona has been a European failure for six seasons, and there are very few who would dare say that the team will be able to turn in Paris the 4: 1 loss from Camp Nou in the first game of the quarterfinals. Now we need to start talking about the fact that under different coaches, in various methods and periods, Barcelona is not just relegated from the Champions League – in every season and season, it is simply humiliated.

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Leo Messi Ter Stegen is disappointed

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Defeats season after season after season

(Photo: Reuters)

It’s no longer a matter of a year or two – when it’s over, it’s ugly. Article link

The blows on the pitch can be compared to the battle of the management and not Messi over the last summer, a kind of bad-tasting end to a glorious era of one of the most exciting teams in the history of football.

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The cumulative figures are staggering: all of the team’s last six losses in the knockout stages of the Champions League have been what is defined as a “defeat”, that is, by a margin of three goals or more! Add to that the 3-0 home win that Barça suffered from Juventus in the last round of the home leg of the season to strengthen the point. Article link

The fifths and fourths against Frantzvarosh and Dynamo Kyiv are no longer important, because Barcelona do not have the professional and mental tools to seriously tackle the European title.

Professionally, the last squad that brought the European Cup today seems like a distant dream. It only happened about six years ago, but the names already look mythological: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Danny Alves. Even then there was a problem in the center of defense, but Mascherano solved it in most cases when he fell back from the link, what’s more, Gerard Pique was at his peak at the time, closing many holes. Today is one of the symbols of weakness – as in the semi-finals in 2015, when Messi tricked Jerome Boateng from Bayern Munich into the grass, the image that will remain as a memory from the defeat to PSG this week is the screenshot that went viral, in which Killian Mbabane flew fast on Human across Pika, who fails to stop him by pulling a shirt.

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Killian Mbabane escapes from Gerard PiqueKillian Mbabane escapes from Gerard Pique

Killian Mbabane escapes from Gerard Pique

(Photo: AFP)

Neymar and Pedro (as well as Luis Suarez) also played in that squad, but he was part of the downfall of the following years). Since leaving the team, Barcelona have poured out scandalous sums and found no real replacement for Neymar.

Antoine Griezmann is lost in the group, and does not perform the simplest actions that set him apart in the past; Article link

The injured Osman Dembele is not fit for what one wants to achieve at the club; Martin Braithwaite is a striker for the Center Table team. If anyone thinks the Pedry kid, with all his talent, can solve these problems up front at the age of 18, just remind him that last year he was still playing in Las Palmas from the second division. But leave Neymar – there is not even someone who gives the heart like Pedro, who was always willing to jump off the bench to eat the grass.

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The group was delayed in changing shifts, made a mistake in purchasing when it already brought a new face, and that is the result. No trio may ever be able to recreate what was between Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, but the club were not sensitive enough to what Messi went through with the departure of the two, who were his close friends and had blind coordination with them. Article link

The numbers stayed because of the raw talent, but it gets harder.

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Antoine GriezmannAntoine Griezmann

Got lost at Barça. Antoine Griezmann

( Photo: AP)

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Messi misses his two friends.  With Iniesta and XaviMessi misses his two friends.  With Iniesta and Xavi

Messi misses his two friends. With Iniesta and Xavi

(Photo: AFP)

All of these names also explain some of the mental problem. That roster included many members of the golden generation of the Spanish national team, who were still in high shape even though the decline at the international level had begun. They brought a winning mentality and a deterrent. It was impossible to go up and play against them without getting into some pressure, because they created the feeling that no matter what, they would win in the end.

They also had a special resilience: this is the same Barcelona that just before the decade we are talking about, in 2008/9, reached the final (which they also won) thanks to the same amazing equalizer by Iniesta in the 93rd minute in London against Chelsea. Article link

The team believed that there is no obstacle too high, and in the last moments of this mental perception, it was expressed in 1: 6 over PSG four years ago.

In recent rosters there are far too many kids that the case falls on because of injuries of key players, delusional acquisition players (remember Malcolm?) That are not similar to those of the past, but mostly silhouettes of big names from the past. Article link

The best example is Sergio Busquets: Pique snatches the fire as the representative of the older generation, but does anyone even recognize Busquets these days? He is only 32 years old, and seems a whole generation away from the dynamics and power of link players today. Five years ago even he would dismantle everything that moved to avoid such humiliations. Today it is soft and unaffected.

And there is another aspect, which many attach the greatest importance to. As we mentioned, Messi’s numbers are high every year, but he is the connecting thread between the staffs over the years, the biggest star, the one that proves that at the European level, he is not strong enough to prevent team collapses. He is completely off when the business starts to fall apart, and the criticisms of his leadership ability throughout his career are justified and sharpest in the context of Barcelona in the Champions League: young players should not see him with his hands on his waist in the middle circle after goals, they need screams and curses, even in the locker room. They need the player who is considered one of the greatest in history, if not the greatest of them all, to direct and reset them.

When combined with the fact that Messi delivers his weakest performances in defeats – that is, it is not even possible to say that the Argentine was the only one here and there who tried to bring the team back into the game – one realizes how much his presence, or lack of presence, shakes Barcelona in real time. It’s not the staff of yesteryear, but it’s also not Messi of yesteryear – the flea lowers his head because he feels he has no one to go into battle with, even though it’s not a staff worth such disgrace.

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Messi is disappointedMessi is disappointed

This is not how a leader looks like. Messi

(Photo: AP)

And so a dismal whole is created. Even when undefeated, Barcelona barely manage and have won just eight of their 18 knockout games in the Champions League in the last five years; Other teams that play regularly in these stages have ups and downs, but since 2017, next in line after Barça’s six defeats is Chelsea with three of those in total; And looking back, it’s just not something that would have happened to a team built by Pep Guardiola.

It’s not just the current loss to PSG or the 8-2 win over Bayern last season. These are also not the losses to Liverpool and Rome in the rematch to which the team came under control. It’s all together, one peeling picture of the group that was considered the best in the world, has long been traveling on the fumes of that fame, and one has to admit that it has become mediocre and weak in character.

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