Bayer players celebrate one of their goals against Barcelona. / EFE

State of crisis at Football Club Barcelona

Not making the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in twenty-one years is only the tip of the club's troubles

ROB PALMER

In three decades of commentating on La Liga I've seen a state of crisis declared at Football Club Barcelona when realistically it's been just experiencing an historic wobble.

This, right now, is the real thing. Not making the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in twenty-one years is only the tip of the club's troubles. Barca dropping into the Europa League is like a former World Heavyweight Champion having to mix it with the middleweights. The big problem is that many of the middleweights are capable of knocking them out.

We thought the club had hit rock bottom when they lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in 2020. At least they still had Lionel Messi at that point.

Some compare a Messi-less Barca to Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson departed. It's true that the football suffered, they made some dreadful signings and fans had to start making plans for Thursday night European football.

The difference is that Manchester United still had the structure and global pull.

Visiting the Nou Camp right now is like going back to a nightclub the day after a big bash or seeing a theatre without the lights and music. The allure has just gone.

It is far too simplistic to pin it on Messi's departure. The club has been mismanaged on so many levels. A debt of one billion euros says it all. The cash from the record sale of Neymar was squandered on players who are frankly not good enough to wear the Barcelona shirt. Phillipe Coutinho, Martin Braithwaite, Miralam Pjanic, Malcolm, Arthur, Clement Lenglet have all been expensive mistakes. I'd argue that Frenkie De Jong and Ousmane Dembele don't justify their hefty transfer fees.

It's not just the recent signings. In normal times, the senior stars would be playing out their autumn years for a pay off in Qatar, China or the United States. Gerard Piqué has creaked this season, Jordi Alba looks tired, and Sergio Busquets is just about hanging on in there.

Even Marc-André ter Stegen, the most reliable of goalkeepers, is making silly mistakes and looks like a shadow of his previous self.

Xavi returned with a great fanfare and gave the club a lift. The unveiling captured global

attention and he gave an impressive rallying call.

There was a reason he'd been so reticent to leave Qatar for his homeland. He knew the state of the club that he was destined to join.

Post Bayern, he was saying things like "This is reality, and it hacks me off. We start from zero. Our objective is the Champions League, not the Europa League, but that is our reality now and we have to try to win it." He's still in his honeymoon period, even if it is an unenjoyable honeymoon.

It's likely they won't win the Europa League and probable they won't finish in the top four to qualify for next season's Champions League. Some think this team has hit rock bottom.

Alas, there are new lows to delve.