EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Barcelona may be out of the Champions League but they’re no spent force yet

The Catalan giants are experts at the shrewd art of extending their success cycle at the top.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said that the game of football ran in cycles and Manchester United knew when other teams ran out of their time in the sun. What he didn’t predict was how long those cycles could go on for. And that is where Barcelona as a club have shown their ability to stretch out their period of success. More so than any other team in recent memory.

On Wednesday night, the Catalans crashed out of the Champions League quarter-finals, merely weeks after scripting one of the greatest comebacks of their history when they overturned a 4-0 deficit against PSG to progress into the next stages of premier European football. But even with this defeat, Barcelona showed that they weren’t the spent force that everyone thought they were.

Since Pep Guardiola exited the stage at Camp Nou, there has always been talk that the years of domination that Barcelona enjoyed are set to be a thing of the past. Yet time and again, they showcase an ability to challenge these notions and rise above.

Extending their success cycle

This might be, in part, down to their pragmatism. Barcelona, a club known for its beautiful way of playing football, is not only about that. They have shown a level of shrewdness, missing in other top clubs. And that shrewdness has helped them extend their success cycle at the top.

Take into account some of their ex-players. Any club that loses Xavi Hernandez, Victor Valdes and Dani Alves would find it extremely hard to replace them and still attempt to compete in the higher echelons of the game. Yet Barcelona have not only done so, but thrived.

Guardiola’s success has almost been matched by current manager Luis Enrique. Neymar will be a worthy replacement to Lionel Messi. And in order to tide over the times when their youth system isn’t producing enough talent, there will always be a Luis Suarez in the market. Time and again Barcelona have showcased their ability to pre-empt a problem by recognising a situation and preparing for it beforehand.

So now that they have lost to Juventus this time around, there will be more chattering about how they are a spent force. But Barcelona being Barcelona know that the club’s golden period is waning but not completely over. Lionel Messi, an extraordinary player might lose a step or two in the coming years, but he still will be one of the best in the world. An 11 out of 10 player will still be a 9 out of 10 at best when he/she starts to fade. And Messi is no different. One look at how Andres Iniesta’s last couple of years have been managed by Barcelona show that much like a Manchester United that squeezed every last bit of football from the Class of 92, Barcelona have shown success in doing the same.

A bright future

The club’s future lies in great hands as players like Suarez, Neymar and Gerard Pique hit their prime. Yes, they might not enjoy the same level of success that they did but Barcelona will remain a team that is hard to beat purely on their reputation as an elite team in Europe. And that is down to their top notch organisation from the youth levels to their senior team and everything in between. Football clubs will be successful but the Blaugrana has shown the world how to be successful for longer periods than anyone else.

And as for Juventus – they are now one of the three teams who have successfully relegated Barcelona to no goals in a two-legged tie in the knockout stages of the Champions League. The other two teams, Manchester United in 2007-‘08 and Bayern Munich in 2012-‘13 went on to win the Champions League.

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