PETE JENSON: Barcelona’s long list of mistakes has caught up with them… Splashing out £281MILLION on Coutinho and Dembele and daft pursuit of MORE attacking flair is behind their humiliation
- Barcelona’s nightmare run in the Champions League continued on Tuesday
- The LaLiga giants were handed another humiliating European defeat by PSG
- Their awful run can be traced back to their daft pursuit of attacking flair
- Barca spent millions on flops instead of trying to replace Pique and Busquets
- Their defence was always going to get ripped apart by PSG and Kylian Mbappe
Barcelona know the feeling of humiliation in the Champions League all too well by now.
Barca have been ravaged by Roma, Liverpool, Bayern and now PSG and what is more damning for the five-times Champions League winners is for three of those horror shows it had been the same central defensive paring and the same holding midfielder.
The image of Gerard Pique holding Kylian Mbappe’s shirt on Tuesday was like a frame from a cartoon sequence and summed up Barcelona’s desperation.
Barcelona’s failure to learn from past mistakes caught up with them against PSG on Tuesday
The image of Gerard Pique trying to stop Kylian Mbappe summed up Barcelona’s desperation
Pique was playing his first game for almost three months and is now 34. He doesn’t carry the can for the loss, instead it’s the club who have failed to replace him or his partner Clement Lenglet, or Sergio Busquets, who is supposed to offer them protection.
How is it possible that Barcelona have been unable to strengthen the Pique, Lenglet, Busquets triangle in what are now almost three years? It couldn’t stop Liverpool, it was destroyed by Bayern, it was never going to contain Mbappe.
Barcelona’s nightmare run could be traced back to the end of last season when they lost the league to Real Madrid and were pummelled in Portugal by Bayern, but it goes back much further.
Barca have somehow failed to strengthen the Pique, Sergio Busquets (left) and Clement Lenglet (right) triangle in three years, and they are now paying the price for that policy
It was clear their defence needed reinforcing after that 8-2 pummelling by Bayern Munich
Ousmane Dembele, signed for £136m
Games: 101, Goals: 25, Assists: 20
Philippe Coutinho, signed for £145m
Games: 90, Goals: 23, Assists: 14
Antoine Griezmann, signed for £108m
Games: 81, Goals: 27, Assists: 14
Back to the decision to spend a £281million fortune on Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho when Pique and Busquets were both approaching the end of their glorious careers. And then repeating the mistake by spending £108m on Antoine Griezmann when it was, by then, even more obvious that the daft pursuit of more attacking flair was leaving the team devoid of the sort of steel you need in Europe lest you be blown away by the first stiff breeze or worse still the Mbappe hurricane.
The club are heading towards their second season without a trophy and, while trying to avoid a drubbing in Paris on March 10, Ronald Koeman will try to rally the troops and see if they can close Atletico Madrid’s lead in La Liga and come back from a 2-0 first leg Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla.
Then thoughts will turn to next season. March 7 will bring a new president and if favourite Joan Laporta wins then Koeman will keep his job.
As one Marca columnist said on Wednesday: ‘It’s not his fault he has a second-rate squad with a defence not fit for the Champions League.’
Barca’s pursuit of forwards Antione Griezmann (right) and Ousmane Dembele (left) was daft
The Spanish press have said it’s not Ronald Koeman’s fault that his defence is not good enough
Koeman said on Tuesday that he did not think there would be psychological scars from the defeat. ‘We lack what you need to be at the top level especially in the Champions League,’ he said. His point is that the players know how out of depth they currently are against top teams.
With crippling debts and few saleable assets – who would raise a decent price from Tuesday’s ensemble? – they have to find a cut-price cavalry from somewhere. The good news is that such a thing does exist.
Eric Garcia will join on a free in the summer from Manchester City. Ronald Araujo will get back to full fitness and continue to be the best young defensive talent they have unearthed in recent times. And eventually 18-year-old Ansu Fati will return from his knee injury.
Those three will improve the team. Although a midfield replacement for Busquets might have to be brought in because no one of his profile is emerging from the youth team.
Barca need to find a cut-price cavalry and will try to sign Eric Garcia (left) on a free transfer
They must sell Philippe Coutinho to fund a move to sign a replacement for Busquets
Barcelona will have to raise funds to buy that new Busquets and that means trying to sell Dembele and Coutinho. Dembele only has a year left on his contract from this summer so to neither sell him nor renew him would be another crass financial error to go with all the others committed in the last six years.
That’s the longer-term plan: develop Araujo and Fati, incorporate Garcia and fire-sale the failing big-money signings. The short-term plan is to try to forget the latest trauma as quickly as possible. The players have Wednesday and Thursday off and are not back in training until Friday. That was always the plan and Koeman saw little to be gained from changing it after the loss.
Antoine Griezmann has jetted off to Lyon on a pre-planned trip to see family, other players will have to lay low at home as the dust settles. There are still things to be played for and, while Koeman knows the PSG return leg is a lost cause, the 2-0 first leg cup result against Sevilla cannot be given up on.
Barcelona must go on. The mistakes of the past have caught up with them. The perpetrators have left the club. The rebuilding will take time.