BARCELONA

Barcelona's European decline: from unbeatable to "it is what it is"

Barcelona's 3-0 thrashing by Bayern Munich was the latest in a growing list of bruising Champions League defeats, for a team whose European decline shows no signs of slowing.

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Barcelona's European decline: from unbeatable to "it is what is"
David Ramos Getty Images

After Barcelona’s harrowing 0-3 defeat to Bayern Munich at home at Camp Nou on Tuesday night, in line with many Barça fans’ dreary predictions, coach Ronald Koeman and captain Gerard Piqué reached the same conclusion: “es lo que hay” ("it is what it is").

The fact that Bayern managed to win playing in third gear, controlling the game at all times and never really feeling threatened by the home side, offers damning proof that Barça’s European decline continues. 

Harrowing precedent for Barcelona

As reported by stats guru Mister Chip, Barcelona finished the game after failing to manage one shot on goal for the first time in UEFA Champions League history. It was also the first time in the history of the competition that the Catalan outfit lost their opening fixture at Camp Nou. Two alarming statistics for a club aiming to return the lofty heights of Champions League football. That seems a long way off now for Koeman’s side.

As if this weren’t enough, let’s also note that Barcelona’s defeats used to come in the final stages of the competition, but for time now, they have been liable to happen at the group stage.

Bayern Munich players celebrate after their 3-0 victory over Barcelona at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Barcelona’s bruising defeats continue to pile up

Since they last lifted the Champions League in Berlin in 2015 after defeating Juventus 3-1 in the final, Barcelona have lost 3-0 at Roma, 4-0 at PSG, 3-0 at Juventus, 4-0 at Liverpool, and 8-2 against Bayern in Lisbon; at Camp Nou, bruising defeats have come at the hands of Juve (0-3, group stage), PSG (4-1, last 16) and now Bayern (0-3, group stage).

Some will attribute this disastrous trend to the decapitalization of the squad since 2015, which has seen the departures of Xavi (2015), Neymar (2017), Andres Iniesta (2018), Luis Suarez (2020), and now Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezman.

But the truth is that the problem goes much deeper than that because many of these stars (excluding Xavi and Neymar) were present in the field when most of these disasters occurred. It is more a question of renewal than nostalgia.

Ahead of Tuesday’s match against Bayern, not even the most pessimistic Barcelona fan was predicting a repeat of that 8-2 spanking in Lisbon, with most expecting a dignified defeat or at least a close and competitive game in which the footballing gods would decide the outcome.

That was more or less the approach that was taken by the team and which was summarized by Piqué after the game in a cruel lesson of reality, while Koeman summarized the game with the brief and dismissive phrase: “es lo que hay” ("it is what it is"). The comments portray that of a team which was once feared, but which now travels around Europe in third gear, hoping to not get thrown off the train too soon.