Gerard Pique is one of several veterans in the Barcelona team who have seen the side slide from the top of the game to the Europa League
One Spanish newspaper called it Barcelona’s “resignation from the football elite” as their dramatic decline culminated in a generational event – being knocked out of the Champions League before Christmas.
Midfielder Sergio Busquets, speaking to DAZN, said: “We feel very bad right now. We’re in a tough, difficult situation. We got ourselves into this mess and it hurts a lot.”
The last time they were not in the Champions League knockout stages was 2003-04, which was also their last season in the Uefa Cup/Europa League. They were eliminated by Celtic.
The last time they failed to qualify from a Champions League group was 2000, when Leeds finished above them. Barca have won the tournament four times since then.
Spanish website AS said: external-link”Barca staged their resignation from the football elite in a display of all their shortcomings when they fell without complaint against a Bayern Munich that, again in third gear and without giving the feeling of wanting to humiliate, dislodged Barca 3-0 with the attitude of a tired tiger who is lazy to hunt a baby gazelle, but does what nature expects of him.”
Now they drop into the Europa League knockout round play-off. That is a game against a Europa League group runner-up for the right to play the group winners in the last 16.
Perhaps most damning, former Real Madrid midfielder Steve McManaman suggested on BT Sport demotion to the Europa League might be a good thing as winning it would mean they qualify for the Champions League next season.
They are currently seventh in La Liga, having recently replaced Ronald Koeman with club legend Xavi.
“It’s a damning result and they had chances to make it worse,” Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo told Movistar.
Araujo was one of four players who usually play in central defence who played the final hour in Barca’s back four.
“Ultimately, we didn’t not qualify because of this game but because of what we did in the other games,” he continued.
What happened in the other games was two more 3-0 defeats and precisely two goals – both against rock bottom…