Opinion: Barcelona – the end of an era?

15 February 2017 | 4:21 pm

Opinion: Barcelona – the end of an era?

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It was a dismal evening in Paris for Lionel Messi and co. (Picture: Getty Images – Clive Rose)

‘On the brink’ is one way to describe a Barcelona team so far away from what they should be. 

A lack of intelligence, intensity and desire are some of the ways you can describe the abject display beneath the Eiffel Tower at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday evening.

The 4-0 humbling is the joint-heaviest defeat the club has suffered, the most recent of which was a two-leg hammering by Bayern Munich in 2013.

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The issue for the Catalan club is the lacklustre performances have occurred all season, a week prior to the game in Paris they faced an Atletico Madrid side that squandered chance after chance; this time they were not so lucky.  

You’d be foolish to write off Barcelona, after all they have a team filled with stars and the world’s best; especially the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, although the trio were disappointing on a night designed for the best to show their worth and to carry the club to success.

But it has become apparent the current style-of-play under Luis Enrique – who is implementing a version of the Tiki Taka – isn’t working.

The lack of adaption and innovation has been startling. The Spanish giants now face a conundrum; stick to what has undoubtedly brought success to the Catalan region, or take a risk and innovate.

A lack of inspiration

As a club there is an inspiration lacking, summer signings of Paco Alcacer, Angel Gomes, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne, Jasper Cillessen and Denis Suarez lack imagination. Of the six signings, only two started the PSG fixture.

The failure to successfully replace Andres Iniesta and Xavi at the heart of the midfield, and the continuation of trying to play a specific system that doesn’t suit the players they have is an issue.

Perhaps the lack of inspiration can be laid at the feet of the manager, who faces intense media speculation about his current position. Many believe this summer will spell the end for Enrique, whose team sit second in La Liga, but are way off the pace of rivals Real Madrid.

After the PSG defeat, Enrique post-match stated: “We could have stood on our heads and it would have been the same result.” 

The boss, who led Barcelona to the treble in only 2015, went on to say: “I’m responsible for this so don’t look for anyone else to blame, but I don’t like the tone and I would have liked the same treatment all the times we have won, that I am getting tonight when we haven’t.” 

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The most telling of comments came from Sergio Busquets, who admitted that their opponents “played much better than us and they overwhelmed us physically” and added: “They pressed us harder, they were much better tactically than us, they had a plan and executed it how they wanted to and they were the better team.”

Managerial change in order?

The two favourites for the top job (if available) are Jorge Sampaoli, the fiery Chilean who is having a fantastic season with Sevilla in his first year in La Liga, and Thomas Tuchel of Borussia Dortmund, who is carrying on his predecessor Jürgen Klopp’s work of high-intensity attacking football.

Looking at these two candidates it would appear Barca are looking to innovate, perhaps they should even turn to Unai Emery, the man who put his team amongst favourites to win the Champions League with their win over Barcelona.

The one saving grace that Barcelona have is the second leg. Although no team has ever overturned a four-nil deficit before, they have a chance to reassure the footballing world that this isn’t the end of an era for a philosophy that has had a transformational impact on the sport. 

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