The last-16 exit by the hands of Paris St Germain (PSG) was the primary time Barcelona did not make it to the Champions League quarter-finals in final 13 years. The final time that occurred, Lionel Messi, who missed a penalty after scoring a stunner on Wednesday, was 19. However that the 1-1 draw on an evening felt like delight restored is a measure of how expectations have modified.
“We’re out, which is what counts, however we exit with good emotions,” stated coach Ronald Koeman after the 2-5 combination loss at Paris’ Parc des Princes. “Enormous credit score after the results of the primary leg. Happy with my workforce. There’s plenty of the season left and we’ll combat to the top,” tweeted injured star Gerard Pique.
Barcelona had their possibilities within the first half regardless of trailing by a Kylian Mbappe penalty. It stoked recollections of the 2017 tie in opposition to PSG the place too Barcelona had misplaced the first-leg 1-4 earlier than bouncing again to win the second leg 6-1. However “Remontada”, which is what that turnaround was referred to as, didn’t strike although Messi had scored a shocking equaliser. Messi’s miss from the spot — PSG goalie Keylor Navas deflecting it to the bar — was a primary since 2015 and extinguished hopes of one other escape to victory.
An concept of how far Barcelona have fallen behind Europe’s elite got here final season when Bayern Munich gained the single-leg quarter-final 8-2. The indicators of rot had been there — five-time European champions, Barcelona hadn’t gained the Champions League since 2015 — however that defeat confirmed cracks couldn’t be papered over anymore.
Since then, Messi has had a well-documented drawback with the membership’s former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and an affiliation that had begun on a paper serviette practically ended through a “burofax” — a Spanish postal service the place receiving a doc and its contents have to be acknowledged. Messi stayed, the membership acquired a brand new president and a brand new coach however it’s apparent that the rebuild shall be painstaking and gradual.
The membership desires Messi to be half it. Koeman spoke about his need to maintain his largest star on Wednesday. “Leo has seen for a while this workforce is rising,” he stated. Quickly after being elected, new president Joan Laporta made it clear that his first precedence shall be to influence Messi, a six-time Ballon d’Or winner, to proceed.
Having off-loaded a variety of gamers, amongst them Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic, and targeted on some younger gamers similar to Pedri González, Ansu Fati and Ilaix Moriba, Barcelona are second in La Liga, six factors behind Atletico Madrid, and alive within the Copa del Rey the place they staged a exceptional comeback to oust Sevilla 3-2 within the semi-final.
“With the adjustments we now have made, giving possibilities to children with high quality, with huge futures, I do not assume it is a query of anybody having doubts about this workforce,” stated Koeman.
However it is a workforce means off the one coach Pep Guardiola took to the la Liga and Champions League titles in 2008-09; Messi, who made his senior workforce debut in 2004-05, scoring 32 targets in each competitions that time period together with one within the Champions League closing in opposition to Manchester United. It’s a workforce means off the one for which Messi scored within the 2011 Champions League semi-final in opposition to Actual Madrid evading Lassana Diarra, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol and Marcelo earlier than beating Iker Casillas.
“Don’t write about him, don’t attempt to describe him, simply watch him,” is what Guardiola had stated about Messi. Given how good Messi nonetheless is, that’s precisely what Barcelona could possibly be doing subsequent summer time.