Barcelona signed off on arguably their worst ever Champions League campaign in two decades on Wednesday, as another comprehensive defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich sealed elimination at the group stage.
The Catalans went into their final game battling Benfica for the second qualifying spot in Group E and knowing they might well need to chase a result in the Allianz Arena. Benfica’s victory over Dynamo Kyiv means that the Blaugrana will have to settle for the Europa League after the new year
It’s been 21 years since the Catalans have failed to advance past at least the first group stage in the Champions League, with the 2000-01 tournament the last time their campaign ended before Christmas.
They will at least have one consolation: the new year will see Xavi’s charges enter the Europa League, a competition they have not disputed since the 2003-04 season.
Spanish football journalist Pete Jenson spoke to BBC Radio 5 “I don’t think people believed in the miracle that was needed tonight and it was clear from the very start that Barca needed goals but they’ve only scored two in the entire group-stage. “There’s such a gap now between the best teams in Europe and Barcelona, they’re in a different league now in the Europa League and I don’t think too many of their supporters think they can even win that.”
“They won’t talk about it but they were heavily failing two or three seasons ago, it was Messi that was keeping them afloat and in the competitions.
“They’ve got some serious issues looming, sponsorship deals are running out and they’ve got financial implications to deal with too.
“Bayern were better, superior,” Xavi said. “This is the harsh reality we have to face. I have told players that this is a turning-point. Today a new era begins and we have to take Barca where it deserves which is not the Europa League. Sponsored Links
“I am frustrated because this is our reality. We start from scratch and we have to get Barca back to fighting for the Champions League. I now feel responsible. Now we have to go out and win the Europa League.”