It wasn’t quite as shocking as the 8-2 from 2020, but it was arguably just as damaging for Barcelona. Lionel Messi leaving was appalling and their La Liga struggles well-documented, but to see a club that gave us the best team this competition has ever seen fail to make it out of the group stage for the first time in twenty years was just sad.
It was a stark sign of how far this once great club has fallen as they succumbed to a 3-0 defeat in Munich that was just a little hollow. Bayern had already qualified and made just two changes as they established themselves as one of the clear favourites to win this competition, but in front of an empty stadium, it was Barcelona’s failings that echoed loud and clear, for all to hear.
Xavi’s team didn’t play too badly on the night. They were well organised for the majority but simply do not have the quality to match their opponents on the pitch. Having seen so many spring meetings between these two in the past, with the likes of Lionel Messi and Xavi himself shining in those matches, it felt strange to watch Barca’s European demise in December upon a backdrop of empty grey seats.
This is a Barca team caught in the middle of a painful transition. The likes of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have been iconic servants to this club but are now past their sell-by date while the young players are not yet at the stage in their career where they can compete on this stage.
Only Mempis Depay (27), Frenkie De Jong, Ousmane Dembele (both 24) and Phillipe Coutinho (29) are around their peak age and all four failed to produce, with the Brazilian left on the bench. In fact, three of those players are a neat summary of Barcelona’s financial woe, costing over £300m between them and delivering the square root of naff all during their time at the club.
In the game itself, Dembele showed promise at times but ultimately flattered to deceive as he missed the best opportunity of the opening exchanges. He sent Memphis Depay through before getting on the end of his pull back, but he lacked the composure to apply the correct finish. As Benfica went 1-0 up against Dynamo, Barca knew they needed something spectacular.
However, they were soon behind after some clever footwork from Robert Lewandowski allowed him to dink the ball into Thomas Muller, who managed to squeeze his looping header over the line. Bayern are one of the favourites for the Champions League this term, and having secured so many damaging wins over Barcelona in the past few years, gave them a huge uphill task to remain in this competition.
Kingsley Coman terrorised the Barca backline and his tricky feet set up the second and decisive blow. He laid the ball off for Leroy Sane to thump one in from range, past his countryman Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in the Barca goal.
Sane should have doubled his tally immediately after the break as Coman pulled the ball back to him on the six yard line, but with goal at his mercy and the goalkeeper on the deck, he somehow fired the ball into the arms of Ter Stegen.
Alphonso Davies was a constant threat throughout with his pace and he set up the third for Jamal Musiala to finish from close range - as the former England U21 international made his Champions League mark for the Bavarians.
But this was a night of predictable misery for a Barcelona side that is a shadow of the one that ruled Europe a decade ago. That night at Wembley, where they were crowned European champions, feels like a lifetime ago. Barca are out of the Champions League and now their best route back to this stage, given they are 7th in La Liga, looks to be through the Europa League.