The world witnessed today bizarre events that confirmed the end of a Golden Era for FC Barcelona.  Despite trailing Bayern Munchen by 0-4, Barcelona talked about evening the score in the return game at the Camp Nou.  Coming back from a 4-goal deficit had never been done before in the Champions’ League, but it was possible.  The local press did their bit to stoke the embers of belief.  The Guardian reported newspaper headlines with Es Possible.  And this sentiment was given credence by Messi’s wonder goal against Athletic Bilbao over the weekend in which he dribbled past 4 opponents before bending the ball around the goalkeeper.  It seemed Messi was back to health and would be ready to lead the attack against the Bavarians.  With Messi fully fit in the line-up, overturn the 0-4 score did seem possible.
So imagine the disappointment at Messi’s absence from Barca’s line-up.  How could it be that he played against Athletic over the weekend but would not start against Bayern?  Was he injured again?  When it was confirmed he would not play at all, it was shocking news.  Messi was injured and out of the semifinal.  Why was he risked against Athletic, when the game was meaningless, the league title being mathematically nearly Barca’s?  Radio Marca pointed out that Barca’s technical staff would have to answer questions about why had Messi been risked against Athletic, and why had he not been rested more throughout the campaign?  Had the pursuit of individual records distracted the staff from focusing on the larger picture?
Messi’s absence aside, the line-up chosen by Vilanova read like an audition for next year, at least for two players.  Here was an opportunity for Cesc Fabregas to show his mettle and his ability to lead the attack, and to show he can be an alternate to Messi.  Would Cesc be able to replicate his Arsenal form of old?  Replacing Busquets as the holding midfielder, Alex Song had an opportunity to show his ability to support his defensive line, and to distribute the ball from the back.  Both players disappointed.  Worse, they showed they have regressed and are shadows of the players they were when they wore Arsenal shirts.  Cesc could not lead the attack, nor did he find a groove when he dropped into midfield.  Song took too many touches on the ball and as a result slowed the pace of Barca’s movement.  Plus he lacked the confidence to attempt a long distance pass like the ones he successfully attempted to provide Robin Van Persie with the opportunity to score memorable goals, like the one last season, against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
When the first half ended and Barca had not yet scored, belief began to drain.  Bayern took full advantage of this once the second half kicked off.  Robben scored on the 48th minute, bringing the aggregate score to 0-5.  Seven minutes later, Alexis Sanchez replaced Xavi, and with that substitution Barca signaled its capitulation.  Fifty-five minutes had elapsed in the match.  Subsequently, Iniesta made way for Alcantara on the 65th minute.  Barca had folded her colors.
Barca were a shambles from the start, especially on defense.  Pique felt compelled to cover for each one of his colleagues on the back line — Alves, Adriano, and Barta.  As a result, he was caught out of position several times, and in one instance it led to an own goal, Bayern’s second.  How is it that there is no replacement of caliber for Puyol, an aging player suffering from injuries for the past two seasons?  It is incomprehensible that nothing’s been done to shore up the defense, especially at the centerback position.  Unfortunately, important signings have disappointed: Sanchez, Song, Fabregas, Ibrahimovic, while others, like Villa, are not played enough and hence lack fluency.
The aggregate loss to Bayern of 0-7 does mark the end of an era.  Where will Barca go from here?  Clearly they will need to recruit players of high-caliber, and with physical presence as well, to help them overcome their disadvantage against teams like Bayern.  However, will Barca have the funds to bring a centerback, a fullback, a holding midfielder, and a forward?  La Masia cannot be the sole answer to the need for new blood.  The technical staff will need to do a better job at resting and protecting players like Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi, from overwork, fatigue, and injuries.  They will also have to explain why they risked Messi against Athletic Bilbao, and did not have him fit to play against Bayern Munchen in the return game of the semifinal of the Champion’s League.  A bizarre decision indeed.  It is unlikely all these needs can be fixed by next season.  Rather it will be a process of rebuilding that will take a few years, hopefully not many.  The true wonder is that this team’s dominance has lasted this long, playing at such a high level for six consecutive years that have also included World Cups, Euro Championships, Super Cups, Intercontinental Cups, etc., etc.  Now that it is over, we can say that it has been a privilege to have been a witness to the first Golden Era of FC Barcelona.

One Response to “A Bizarre End to a Golden Era: FC Barcelona 0 – 7 Bayern Munchen”

  1. Wolfram, Roland

    Very well said Luis.

    Thx,

    Roland

    From: Luis F Rueda <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: Luis F Rueda <comment+_adpemqggkfjxtl73w81an@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:17 AM To: Roland Wolfram <Roland.Wolfram@nike.com> Subject: [New post] A Bizarre End to a Golden Era: FC Barcelona 0 7 Bayern Munchen

    luisfrueda posted: “The world witnessed today bizarre events that confirmed the end of a Golden Era for FC Barcelona. Despite trailing Bayern Munchen by 0-4, Barcelona talked about evening the score in the return game at the Camp Nou. Coming back from a 4-goal deficit had “

    Reply

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