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Messi, managers and mis-spent millions – What has gone wrong at Barcelona?

Portugal Soccer Champions League
(Image credit: Manu Fernandez)

Barcelona’s record 8-2 European defeat by Bayern Munich has exposed serious cracks in the Catalan giants.

Here, the PA news agency examines what has gone wrong.

Expensive and ineffective recruitment

Barcelona spent more than £350million on three players, two of whom started from the bench on Friday – with the other scoring twice for Bayern. That £105million record signing Philippe Coutinho could be out on loan at all speaks volumes for Barcelona’s rudderless recruitment. That the Brazil playmaker could climb off the Bayern bench and score twice against his parent club underscores major issues behind the Barca scenes. Antoine Griezmann came off the bench at half-time for Barcelona, but the France forward has been unable to find his niche with the Catalans. Ousmane Dembele was back on the bench after nine months of injuries, but remained unused.

Mishandling Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi leaves trudges off the pitch at half-time against Bayern Munich

Lionel Messi leaves trudges off the pitch at half-time against Bayern Munich (Rafael Marchante/AP).

Argentina forward Messi has long since etched his name into every all-time football annal going, and yet Barcelona are now wasting his generational talent. It is five years since Barca and Messi last won the Champions League and, at 33, the diminutive star could now genuinely consider his future at the club. Barcelona have failed to provide Messi with the support sufficient for him to continue to dazzle defences – but the Catalans have also dipped into far too great a deferential stance with him too. Boss Quique Setien and midfielder Arturo Vidal insisted before the Bayern match that Messi remains the world’s best, despite Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski firing 53 goals in a stunning campaign. For this season at least it is clear Lewandowski has outperformed Messi. But no one at Barcelona is able to say that without causing too great a stir. Not provided with the tools for enough power on the pitch then, but with too much power off it, Barca have paid the price for mishandling one of the game’s very best.

Managerial mis-steps

Quique Setien only took over as Barcelona boss in January

Quique Setien only took over as Barcelona boss in January (Rafael Marchante/AP).

Quique Setien’s tenure outlines Barcelona’s board-room problems and shows the need for a much clearer overall vision. The former Real Betis boss only succeeded Ernesto Valverde in January, but his position is now hanging by a thread just seven months later after the humiliating hammering by Bayern. Valverde mustered three years before Setien, but only four trophies and none of them European. For Barca there will never be another Pep Guardiola, and there are only so many former playing stars with the pedigree to take the managerial reins. Whoever takes control next will require far greater boardroom support to succeed.