Barcelona have won the La Liga title for the third season in a row and look destined to win the Copa Del Rey for the fifth season in a row. One title that has eluded them in the last few years, however, is the Champions League title.
For a team of Barcelona’s stature, this is an unacceptable state of affairs, and there are signs that their wait for another European title is a very indefinite one.
Psychology, not Skill is the Issue
In the days of Xavi and Iniesta, it seemed as though Barcelona were unbeatable at times. Their performance in the 2011 Champions League final still ranks as one of the most incredible displays of all-time, and it looked as though they were set for a period of dominance.
However, it was not to be, and recent years have yielded failures of a more disturbing, and inexplicable nature. In 2016 they got out-enthused by Atletico Madrid, and in 2017 they showed signs of a complete lack of backbone when it comes to away performances. They lost 4-0 to PSG, and it seemed as though they were no longer the dominant force in Europe.
While they counteracted that with one of the greatest comebacks ever, and winning 6-1 at home, it was all for nothing. They lost 3-0 at Juventus and were unable to take advantage of a more seasoned European outfit.
In 2018, and now in 2019, we also have seen big home leads wiped out by an inept away performance. Noted as favourites to progress on the Sporting Index spread betting blog ahead of the latter game, Barcelona have lost 3-0 to Roma and 4-0 to Liverpool, as the means to their Champions League exits of the last two years.
Undeniably, they were embarrassing ways to exit Europe’s most prestigious competition, and far more befitting of a minnow getting a shock home result in a pre-group qualifier, before inevitably folding in the away leg.
The club are seemingly scarred from their away performances in recent years. When Liverpool scored their second goal, visiting fans could almost see their players think ‘not again’ after their Roma embarrassment of 2018.
However, while the lack of tie management borne of good leadership is one issue, finding the right players to replace those soon to be past their prime is quite another.
Aging Players a Key Problem
Despite continuing Barcelona’s trophy success, there might now be pressure on the manager due to the lack of leadership on the field. Messi may be an incredible player, but it doesn’t seem as though he can inspire the troops when the going gets tough.
Ultimately, in order to keep his job long-term, Valverde needs to identify a player who can take responsibility for such poor away European performances. Another problem that Valverde has is the age of some of his key players. Pique is 32, Busquets will soon be 31, Suarez is 32, Messi is soon to be 32, and the same goes for Arturo Vidal. That is an incredible level of talent that could soon be missing.
A failure to adequately replace those megastars will put even their La Liga dominance in jeopardy. There is little doubt that this team is not quite as special as it was when Xavi and Iniesta were running the midfield, and it looks as though further decline is going to occur.
The Future Appears Bleak
Barcelona have made big recent investments with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, but for all his skill, he has no staying power and wilted under the roar of his former stomping ground.
When Xavi departed, Iniesta was already past his peak. Yet, now that they are both gone, it is clear to see how the team suffers in the biggest games. It seems odd to say it when the trophies are rolling in, but the glory days could soon be over for the club.
After finishing third behind city rivals Atletico, Real Madrid are set to spend big in the summer, with a good focus on young talent. This could soon see them as favourites for the next La Liga title, with Barcelona a relatively distant second.
They have every right to still see this as a successful season with their La Liga triumph, but it could be their last for a while. With no on-field leadership, painful comeback memories and aging players affecting the wider psyche of the Catalan giants, it could well be the end of their glorious trophy-laden spell at the top.