It was exhausting to consider that groups as soon as tried to play like Barcelona. Not any extra. Their soccer is stale, their soul has disappeared and too many gamers have seen higher days. They’re a shadow of their former selves and though it’s unimaginable to envisage Quique Setién ever managing them once more after overseeing a historic humiliation by the hands of Bayern Munich, the tough actuality is that Barcelona’s malaise extends a lot additional than the dugout.

Historical past won’t be type to the individuals who make the selections on the Camp Nou. They deserve nothing however scorn for squandering Lionel Messi’s expertise. 5 years have handed since Messi final gained the Champions League and it has reached the stage the place he may need to do the unthinkable and depart Barcelona, who’re rudderless off the pitch and torpid on it.

Barcelona are a large number below the watch of their deeply unpopular president, Josep Bartomeu, who should settle for a big portion of the blame after witnessing one more pathetic exit within the knockout phases. In 2018 Barcelona contrived to lose a 4-1 first-leg lead Roma within the final eight. Final 12 months Liverpool overturned a 3-Zero deficit to achieve the ultimate. However this was worse. Barcelona have been gutless. They’ve misplaced their identification and couldn’t even carry out the fundamentals. There was no coronary heart and ultimately they have been lucky that Bayern, who will face Manchester Metropolis or Lyon within the final 4, didn’t attain double figures.

Even Messi’s head dropped. He was strolling as Bayern, hungry to carry win this competitors for the primary time in seven years, rampaged ahead. The tip of an period is approaching and Barcelona’s decline was epitomised by Messi shedding the ball earlier than Philippe Coutinho scored the primary of his two targets.

It was the cruellest of ironies that Coutinho, signed for £105m from Liverpool in January 2018, rubbed salt in Barcelona’s wounds. The Brazilian, who was loaned out final summer season after a tough spell in Spain, will need to have been glad to be carrying Bayern’s colors. Enjoying in a cohesive unit, Coutinho had enjoyable in opposition to his mum or dad membership, creating Robert Lewandowski’s objective shortly after coming off the bench and strolling by means of to make it 8-2 within the final minute.

Coutinho was not the one image of Barcelona’s flawed recruitment. Ousmane Dembélé, purchased from Borussia Dortmund when Neymar joined Paris Saint-Germain three years in the past, was on the bench and there was no place within the beginning lineup for Antoine Griezmann, who has failed to carry down a spot in assault since signing from Atletico Madrid final 12 months.

Too many buys have backfired. Frenkie De Jong, who helped Ajax attain the semi-finals final season, has struggled to carry the midfield and too most of the previous guard haven’t been changed. On condition that Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Piqué are the flawed facet of 30, it isn’t a shock that Barcelona are so sluggish.

Messi’s characterisation of a weak group who shrink when confronted by depth is spot on. Barcelona have been stunning on the ball however painfully brittle with out it, and so they conceded from Bayern’s first correct assault. There have been 4 minutes on the clock when Ivan Perisic, breaking into house vacated by Nelson Semedo on the left, discovered Thomas Müller, who exchanged a volleyed one-two with Lewandowski earlier than firing past Marc-André ter Stegen.

At the least there was a short response from Barcelona. Setien’s choice to drop Griezmann and change to a 4-4-2 system unsettled Bayern at first and there was hope for Barcelona when Messi was on the ball.

Lionel Messi cuts a lonely figure at the final whistle



Lionel Messi cuts a lonely determine on the closing whistle. {Photograph}: Rafael Marchante/AFP/Getty Pictures

Barcelona focused Bayern’s excessive line and so they equalised after seven minutes. A protracted ball launched Jordi Alba, who hurtled behind Joshua Kimmich on the left and crossed for Suárez. David Alaba moved in to intervene, solely to slice into his personal objective.

All of the sudden Barcelona have been alive. Suárez, launched by Nelson Semedo, simply did not carry a dink over Manuel Neuer. Messi noticed an inswinging cross hit the within of the publish. Then he shot too near Neuer after dribbling in from the fitting.

But Barcelona by no means satisfied on the again. Lewandowski despatched a warning shot over and the German champions regained the lead once they pressed Barcelona. Sergi Roberto dithered and Serge Gnabry pounced, robbing the midfielder and releasing Perisic, who drove in a low shot together with his left foot.

Barcelona collapsed. Leon Goretzka lifted a intelligent cross excessive for Gnabry, who completed confidently. After 31 minutes Kimmich joined in an assault and crossed for Müller, whose second objective of the evening all however killed the sport as a contest.

The unusual factor was that Bayern, chasing a treble, weren’t flawless. Their defence was weak and Barcelona, who threw on Griezmann at half-time, pulled one again when Suárez beat Jérôme Boateng earlier than ending effectively.

But there was no means again for Barcelona. Six minutes later Alphonso Davies, Bayern’s fantastic left-back, surged into the realm after duping Semedo. Piqué, a centre-back whose powers have waned, froze as Davies gave Kimmich an open objective.

With 15 minutes left Bayern despatched on Coutinho. Barcelona’s distress was not over but. They’ve let Messi down.