Barcelona’s embarrassing 8-2 defeat by Bayern signalled the beginning of the end for Messi, Suarez and Co… now they go head to head for first time since that shocking night in Lisbon, with the Catalans never far from crisis
- It’s just over a year since one of European football’s most seismic results
- Bayern Munich’s 8-2 demolition of Barcelona created seismic repercussions
- It led to Quique Setien being fired and Lionel Messi’s Burofax request to leave
- Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned two months after the humbling
- Club’s colossal financial issues have since been revealed with over £1bn debt
- Bayern, meanwhile, lifted the trophy and remain a heavyweight European force
Just 397 days have elapsed since one of the most shocking scorelines ever seen in European competition sent shockwaves through the game. Barcelona 2 Bayern Munich 8.
During the course of just one balmy evening in Lisbon, it seemed like the whole magnificent edifice that Barcelona had built in the modern game had been sledgehammered into dust.
The years of the world gawping at the beautiful football played by Lionel Messi and Co came to a shuddering halt in a single disastrous 90 minutes. It was the end of Barca’s golden era, the music had stopped.
Bayern Munich celebrate one of their eight goals in last year’s seismic thrashing of Barcelona
It was a result that sent shockwaves through world football as Barca’s golden era was ended
Lionel Messi tried to leave the club in the immediate aftermath of the humiliating loss in Lisbon
It set in motion a chain of events on and off the pitch that continues even now as the two sides prepare to meet again in their Champions League group stage opener on Tuesday night.
As much as Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman and his players have been at pains to insist there are no psychological scars from that evening, there’s no way they wanted to see the Germans again so soon.
The trauma is evident in the fact Barcelona have struggled to sell out the 40,000 tickets they are permitted for the match at the Nou Camp under Covid-19 restrictions. Even the hardcore fans fear another nightmare.
Also, the longer-term repercussions can be seen in the fact Bayern are favourites for Tuesday night even in Barcelona’s own backyard. The Germans appear to have overtaken them in every regard.
Nobody is tipping Barcelona to win the Champions League this season but Bayern are regarded among the small knot of favourites alongside PSG, Manchester City and Chelsea.
The defeat led to plenty of upheaval at Barcelona, both in the squad and behind the scenes
Manager Quique Setien was fired three days after the debacle, with Ronald Koeman coming in
It was the first time since 1946 that Barcelona had conceded eight times in a match and it was their heaviest margin of defeat in 69 years.
Immediately there was weighty talk about what needed to change. Defender Gerard Pique spoke about ‘structural change of all types’ and added ominously that ‘nobody is indispensable.’
Manager Quique Setien was the first to discover this, sacked only three days later by president Josep Maria Bartomeu. That act was just the beginning of a lengthy legal wrangle as Setien sough financial compensation.
Given that Covid had delayed the final stages of the Champions League into August, the transfer window was in full swing and Messi further rocked the club by sending his Burofax claiming his contract allowed him to leave right away for nothing.
You could tell from Messi’s body language on the night of the defeat that his love affair with Barcelona would come to an end sooner rather than later and such a humiliation was the most opportune of moments to go.
Defender Gerard Pique demanded a complete structural change from top to bottom
Barcelona club president Josep Maria Bartomeu would resign his position not long afterwards
Messi cited three dramatic Champions League capitulations in three consecutive seasons against Roma, Liverpool and now Bayern.
‘I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete,’ Messi said.
‘At least compete for it and let us not fall apart as in Rome, Liverpool and Lisbon.’
In the end, Messi was persuaded to stay and see out the final year of his contract but it has remained clear that Barca are a diminished force and his exit, to Paris Saint-Germain, did finally come this summer.
He has a far greater chance of winning the fifth Champions League title if his career there.
Messi did get his move a year later, leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain last month
Koeman was appointed as Setien’s replacement but was handed only a two-year contract and could never really shake off the image of being a stop-gap manager.
Another casualty was the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal. His last act was to inform Setien of his dismissal before himself being relieved of his duties a day later.
Naturally, there had to be a bonfire of the squad as well with a number of high profile names sold or released during the off-season that followed.
The 8-2 proved to be a rather unedifying final match in Barca colours for Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo and Arturo Vidal.
Most farcical among these was Uruguayan striker Suarez, who promptly joined Atletico Madrid and scored 21 goals to help them to the LaLiga title last season.
Luis Suarez was helpless amid the carnage of an evening in which Bayern ran rampant
The Uruguayan striker duly moved to Atletico Madrid and powered them to the LaLiga title
And it wasn’t long before the ruthless cull reached all the way to the very top. Bartomeu, who’d served as president since 2014, and the whole board of directors resigned in late October rather than face a vote of no confidence with memories of the result still sore.
Back came Joan Laporta following elections earlier this year and he soon laid bare the dreadful state Barcelona’s balance sheets were in.
Damaged by their enormous stadium sitting empty during the Covid pandemic, debt was revealed to stand at £1.15bn with the wage bill accounting for 103 per cent of total income.
‘Barcelona has a negative net worth of 451million Euros (£384m) – it is a terrible inheritance. What has been happening is very worrying,’ he said in August, pointing the finger of blame squarely at Bartomeu.
Because of this, Messi and his huge salary had to be slashed from the wage bill, despite a five-year contract extension being verbally agreed.
Joan Laporta replaced Bartomeu as president and has made clear the club’s colossal debt
This inevitably caused great upset among the fans and the Argentine star’s move to Paris really did heighten the end-of-epoch feel.
On the pitch, Koeman delivered the Copa del Rey but Barcelona finished third in the league behind the two Madrid clubs and found themselves run ragged by Kylian Mbappe and PSG in the Champions League last-16.
This underachievement led to Laporta spending two weeks searching in vain for a new manager before reluctantly sticking with Koeman.
A frugal summer followed, though Memphis Depay’s signing on a free has energised the team, and it’s fair to say Barca look some way short of their traditional heavyweight rivals in Europe this season.
Manager Ronald Koeman is tasked with winning some silverware for Barcelona this season
Among them will be Bayern, of course, and following that 8-2 win they acquired an unstoppable momentum that would see them beat Lyon 3-0 in the semi-final and PSG 1-0 in the final to lift the trophy.
They scooped up another Bundesliga title last season but weren’t able to defend their European crown, edged out by PSG at the quarter-final stage.
The Bavarians go again this time around under new management after the talented Julian Nagelsmann succeeded Hansi Flick.
He came from RB Leipzig and Bayern were able to poach two of their best players, Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer, to come along with him.
Harnessing the momentum of the 8-2 win, Bayern went on to win the Champions League
Now managed by Nagelsmann, Bayern look as strong as ever as they chase more success
Robert Lewandowski smashed all kinds of records last season and already has eight goals in six games this time around. You can just envisage him giving Barcelona a torrid time.
From the wily Thomas Muller to the speed of Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry, Bayern just bristle with menace.
Both teams should ultimately make it out of a group also containing Benfica and Dynamo Kiev. But it’s Bayern with the chance to well and truly hammer home their supremacy over a much diminished Barca.
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