Connect to share and comment

Football: Battered Barcelona forced to re-build

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

After a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich last week, Barcelona's embarrassment was taken to an even greater level on Wednesday night as stripped of their greatest asset in Lionel Messi, there worst ever European defeat was confirmed by another 3-0 hiding.

The history books show just what a fall from grace this was for a side so used to breaking records for positive reasons over the past five years.

The 7-0 aggregate result easily surpassed the 7-3 aggregate defeat to Valencia in the Fair's Cup of 1961/62 as their previous worst European defeat and it has even been 25 years since Barca lost both legs of any European tie when Dundee United of all teams managed it back in the 1986/87 Uefa Cup.

A postmortem began as soon as the final whistle went with Gerard Pique saying Barca "had to take decisions for next year", whilst President Sandro Rosell insisted the end of the season would be the time to properly take stock.

The primary concern for those at the club must be how Barca's poor physical shape was cruelly exposed by Bayern over both these ties, whether that was simply due to being worn down by injuries or having played such a huge amount of football over the past five years.

Understandably the focus on Wednesday had been on Messi's absence from the side due to the continuation of a hamstring problem, but the Catalans were also missing Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Eric Abidal and Sergio Busquets.

Moreover, the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta were withdrawn once Bayern's first goal had made an unlikely comeback impossible to protect them from the injuries they have been carrying over recent weeks.

The question is now whether a period of rest and recuperation is all that is needed, or whether the burnout has been so severe that particularly the older generation such as Puyol and Xavi will never get back to their previous best.

There will no doubt be new arrivals in the summer, the demolition by Bayern has ensured that is now a certainty. However, there has been a reluctance from manager Tito Vilanova and Rosell to commit to wholesale changes.

That decision will though partly be based on finances. The financial power shift in European football was staring the Catalans in the face over these two legs as Javi Martinez, the man they considered too expensive when he made his move to Bavaria from Athletic Bilbao last season, dominated the midfield throughout.

And there is also the caveat that even when Barca have spent big in recent seasons, they haven't found value for money. The likes of Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song were purchased for close to 100 million euros ($132, £85m) but have failed to even make themselves regulars in the side.

Most worrying of all though for Barca were the words of the usually positive and most staunch defender of Barca's style in Xavi who admitted that Bayern were not just better physically, but tactically and mentally as well.

Whilst time will tell whether the physical capacities of this group can be regained, mentally such a thrashing has most certainly removed their aura for those that come to face them in Europe next season.

kca/nr

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130502/football-battered-barcelona-forced-re-build