The Champions League holders were dumped out of the competition by Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, but Tim Stannard's done his best to dig out a silver lining...
Even for the gloomiest of Barcelona fans, there is a glimmer of good news shimmering faintly in a bleak aura of despair.
The untimely quarter-final expulsion from the Champions League at the hands of Atlético Madrid might have saved the already-cash-strapped club a very pretty penny, if the leaked revelations concerning Neymar’s One True Contract are correct.
That deal states that the Brazilian would receive €1.7 million in the form of a bonus for winning the Treble, on top of all the other rewards for winning each trophy individually. Bearing in mind that Neymar is just one member of the Barcelona squad, such payments quickly add up. To misquote dance teacher lady from Fame: success costs and right here is where you start paying.
Barça's barren run
But with the loss to the most tactically predictable team on the planet coming after eight points from nine have been dropped in La Liga, this defeat very much falls into the ‘no bueno’ category
To be fair, despite a reputation in Spain for being a touch thrifty, it's unlikely that the good people of Catalonia will be feeling vaguely chirpy the morning after the night before.
A knockout to Atlético with a 13-point lead at the top of the league table – and in the middle of a 42-match unbeaten run – could be mentally processed as just one of those things that happens in football. The Rojiblancos are nobody’s pushovers.
But with the loss to the most tactically predictable team on the planet coming after eight points from nine have been dropped in La Liga, this defeat very much falls into the ‘no bueno’ category for Barça fans.
Griezmann delivers the knockout blow
Who's to blame?
92 per cent of supporters in an online poll in Sport believe that the defeat was deserved, a huge majority even taking into consideration those who voted may be of the Atlético or Real Madrid persuasion
Mundo Deportivo gets linguistically creative with Thursday’s front page by turning the expected “Campeones” into “Campe...off”. Indeed, there were very few complaints in the editorials, despite a late penalty claim which could have saved the match. Not that there's any guarantee that the spot-kick would have been converted by Barcelona these days, however.
“Neither Neymar, Suárez, nor Messi turned up,” notes Santi Nolla. “Atlético believed in themselves more over the two legs and completed their objectives.” The response from the paper’s director was typical of a measured, grown-up attitude to the hysteria from Capital City over a UEFA conspiracy concerning the two yellow cards for Fernando Torres last week.
“Anyone who gets fed up because another Treble will not be won will be like a rich kid’s tantrum because no one bought them their fifth bicycle,” wrote Fernando Polo in Thursday’s edition.
— M E S S I 4️⃣9️⃣9️⃣ (@MessiStats) April 14, 2016
In an online Sport poll, 92% of supporters believe that the defeat was deserved – a huge majority even taking into consideration that those who voted may be of the Atlético or Real Madrid persuasion. The front cover of Thursday’s edition is also all with the creative, with a play on the TV show Lost.
The paper’s editor was less philosophical in its response than over at Mundo Deportivo, where Ernest Folch blamed a predictability and lack of imagination from Luis Enrique. “Everyone has the right to lose a game and a knockout. No one has the right to lose an identity.”
There is a Get Well Soon plea for Leo Messi from Joan Batlle, with the Argentine having another anonymous match for Barcelona, in contrast to a certain Portuguese person who scored a hat-trick the previous night. “I don’t know what's going on with Messi,” he wrote. “I only know that without him there are no goals and there will be no titles. We have seen this in a very bad fortnight. Get well soon, Leo. We need you.”