The UEFA Champions League, with all its elegance, fanfare, ambience, joy, mixed emotions and everything in between; occasionally brings tsunamis of humiliation, ransacking, battering and tumult to even the very heavyweights and footballing powerhouses of Europe. Barcelona is a living witness to that. A night in Paris that ended in poise wasn’t enough to keep them playing in Europe for the remainder of this campaign, thanks to a 5-2 aggregate loss.
It might not be like the ruthless devouring by Bayern last campaign, or the dramatic Anfield comeback, or even the infamous Roma Night, but the aroma of Barcelona European fiasco is in the air. From the memories of “corner taken quickly” – it is suddenly becoming “exit taken quickly” – a reality that Barcelona doesn’t want as an attribute by far. Who failed? Where is the sexy Barcelona style of play? Where is that winning formula of the Catalans?
Messi lost the penalty on the cusp of the first half. Even though they played with verve, he didn’t kick that penalty with his usual nerve. Had Messi scored his spot kick and Dembele converted at least two chances, the hopes of “maybe” – “just maybe” may come to life. But those hopes never came to life, thanks to de-fun Dembele display and Messi’s failure to score from 12 yards. The former was very insipid throughout the match, especially in the the first half. Un-clinicality a la Dembele is athletic insanity.
Barcelona danced their last tango of this campaign in Paris on Wednesday night, being knocked out for the sixth consecutive season. This is the first time Barcelona failed to reach the last eight of this competition since ’07. Juventus were also eliminated the previous night by Pepe-led Porto side of doggedness, who kept Bamba quiet across the two-legged tie.
Apparently, the Champions League quarterfinals will feature neither Messi nor Bamba for the first time since ’04. For seventeen seasons, for seventeen solid seasons, none of them would at least feature in the last eight.
Honestly, there’s no way on God’s green earth that these two gentlemen haven’t enjoyed their colorful legendary duopoly. But seemingly those glorious days are the days of yore. Seemingly, their days in the sun are now shadowing. Nonetheless, memories of Bamba and Messi will always be resting in the coolest chambers of our very footballing hearts. This is certainly their competition albeit otherwise.
Following the shocking premature Barca and Juve exits, Manchester United crashing out in the group stages on their last group day match in the hands of an 11-year-old RB Leipzig side, managed by a 33-year-old manager in Julian Nagelsmann, one could begin to believe that a new paradigmal turnaround has arisen in our beautiful game of football – a turnaround that doesn’t spare even the sexy Barcelona style of play. Not even the romantic tactics of Pep Guardiola or the hot Diego Simeone football.
Last season was a raw campaign for Barca, both domestically and in Europe. This was going to be the second season on the spin, had they not progressed to the Copa Del Rey final and moved second in the LaLiga table, below Atletico Madrid, who are in a big boat on a high sea driven by Suarez, ex-Barca lethal center forward; who is very dogged in his quest to prove his worth and at least justify karma by inspiring Simeone’s side to their first LaLiga title since 2015.
With the avalanche of failing Barcelona nights in Europe and their frustrating trophy thirst, the team’s inability to score goals or do the job without Messi’s contributions, their decline in firepower and loose rhythm, rookie youngsters and under-par lots; continual disturbing thought of Messi’s exit amidst everything en masse, this is somehow the Barcelona bebacle. And sadly, until they’re ready put in that intestinal fortitude to go mamo a mano with their opponents and lessen the pressure on their skipper, this usual Barca fiasco will continue.
Perhaps a new top brass leadership can shift things to the normal good, restore the normal happiness and rekindle the Camp Nou fire. Even if Messi decides to stay and get used to continual heartbreaks by subduing to “classical conditioning”, he’ll eventually retire. And imagine him retiring, will Barcelona avoid falling down from grace like AC Milan?
Batou Saidy holds a degree in Public and Environmental Health. Aside his profession, he is a writer and a football fanatic.