It was a night of utter humiliation for Barcelona as they went out of the Champions League after a crushing defeat to Bayern Munich.
Pundits labelled their 8-2 quarter-final loss “pathetic and embarrassing”, while Spanish football writer Guillem Balague said Barca’s proud heritage had been “thrown in the bin”.
Long-serving defender Gerard Pique did not hold back after the match, saying changes were needed – amid widespread reports boss Quique Setien, who has only been in the job since January, would be sacked.
What next for the five-time champions of Europe, once the most feared club side in the world?
‘Not all Setien’s fault’
Having finished runners-up to bitter rivals Real Madrid in La Liga, the pressure was already mounting on Setien, who is seven months into a two-and-a-half-year contract.
His chances of remaining in charge after his side’s capitulation in Lisbon are slim, with some reports circulating that Barca have already decided to sack him.
“He’ll be out, he won’t last,” said Chris Sutton, a Premier League winner with Blackburn Rovers, on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“You cannot be humiliated like this as Barcelona manager. And this is what it is – an absolute humiliation.”
Balague said it was unfair to lay all the blame with Setien, and said Friday’s surrender was the consequence of “many years of decline” at Barca.
“He was fourth choice when he was appointed,” Balague told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“This was his third game in the Champions League ever. But it was not his fault he was chosen and it is not fully his fault what is happening [at the club].
“Nobody has been intelligent enough to identify what is happening. Barcelona is so political and the players run the show.”
Spanish football writer Andy West said Setien is “certain to be fired”.
“Setien has not made many friends in the dressing room since his appointment in January, with key members of the squad – including Lionel Messi – reluctant to follow the significant tactical changes he was hoping to instigate,” he added.
Who is in the frame to replace Setien?
Former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and ex-Everton manager Ronald Koeman have been linked with Barcelona.
Koeman, manager of the Netherlands since 2018, spent six years as a player at Barca between 1989-1995, while Pochettino has not had a job since being sacked by Spurs in November 2019.
“Pochettino is available and he is somebody who understands the side,” said Balague.
“Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Pochettino are friends.”
‘Something stinks at Barca’
Sutton, who watched Barca’s humiliation as a summariser for 5 Live, said Barca’s team is full of ageing players.
He said eight-time La Liga winner Sergio Busquets, 32, did not “have the legs anymore” to be a commanding figure in midfield, while former Liverpool forward Luis Suarez is “not the player he once was”.
“I can’t ever remember a Barcelona team being humiliated like this,” added Sutton.
“This is embarrassing. They have got a lot of ageing players. Barcelona gave up and that’s totally unacceptable.
“Where is the leadership on the pitch? Something stinks from Barcelona’s point of view.”
‘Rotten to the core’
Barcelona have not won the Champions League since 2014-15.
West said Bartomeu had to take responsibility for the club’s decline.
“To make things worse – and again this lies at Bartomeu’s door – the club is beset by severe financial problems which will make the task of strengthening in the transfer window almost impossible,” he said.
“In fact, Barça are looking to sell rather than buy and several senior players – including Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and maybe even Suarez – could leave in the coming weeks.
“The club is rotten to the core, and that starts at the top.”
Just how bad was it for Barcelona?
- The loss is their heaviest in European competition, surpassing the 6-2 defeat by fellow Spanish side Valencia in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in September 1962.
- They have conceded eight goals in a match for the first time since an 8-0 defeat to Sevilla in April 1946.
- The defeat is the first time they have lost by a six-goal margin since April 1951, when they were beaten 6-0 by Espanyol in a league match.
- This is the fastest a team has ever conceded four goals in a Champions League knockout match since Bayern put four past Porto in 36 minutes in the 2014/15 quarter-final second leg.
- This is their first season without a major trophy since 2013-14.
Messi threw in the towel – what you said
Superjoey: Barcelona for all their dominance in recent Champions League history have had several humiliating losses in the same period and tonight is the pinnacle of it all. Disastrous.
James Stevenson: Who’d have thought we’d get an aggregate score in a one leg match?
Pecunia: Six players that won the CL with Barca last time are still here today, mainly because the board keeps giving them enormous contracts and nobody was courageous enough to shake up the team.
Abid: It’s going to take at least 2 seasons for Barcelona to recover from this game & this season. A team in transition with too many ageing players.
David: Never thought I would say it but tonight is the night Cristiano Ronaldo sneaks ahead of Lionel Messi in the GOAT race. Messi threw in the towel and didn’t try at all. Really disappointing.