10 March 2021

What now for Barcelona after earliest Champions League exit since 2007?

10 March 2021

Barcelona have suffered their earliest Champions League exit in 14 years.

The five-time winners were humbled 5-2 on aggregate by Paris St Germain in the last 16.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the issues at play for the troubled Catalan giants.

When did Barcelona last fail to make the last 16?

Barcelona’s Carles Puyol lifts the Champions League trophy following victory over Manchester United in 2009 (PA Archive)

Liverpool were the last team to deny Barca a place in the Champions League quarter-finals when they won a last-16 tie on away goals during the 2006-07 campaign. The ensuing years have seen Barca win the trophy on three occasions, and go out in the semi-finals and quarter-finals five times each. PSG may be buoyed by the fact that six sides who have dumped the LaLiga outfit out of the competition during that period have gone on to lift the trophy.

Should Barca’s Champions League exit come as a shock?

Their absence from the last eight may be unusual in recent times, but it should perhaps not come as a total surprise. Barca’s current side are not at the level of their predecessors, while PSG’s Qatari owners have invested heavily in the quest for European club football’s biggest prize. The French champions made last season’s final, where they were beaten 1-0 by Bayern Munich.

How is their form?

Reasonable. They headed for Paris having lost only two of their previous 14 games in all competitions, the first leg and a Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg defeat by Sevilla, which they overturned in the reverse fixture to reach a ninth final in the competition in 11 years. They sit second in LaLiga, six points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid and two better off than arch-rivals Real Madrid in third.

Will there be repercussions for manager Ronald Koeman?

Former Holland boss Ronald Koeman took over the Nou Camp hotseat last summer (PA Wire)

Barca’s exit came just days after Joan Laporta was re-elected as the club’s president. Laporta presided over a hugely successful spell in the club’s recent history during his previous tenure, which brought two Champions League successes and four league titles between 2003 and 2010, and he will be looking for more of the same. Koeman has a year left on his contract, but former midfielder and current Al Sadd boss Xavi, who was first linked with the job following Ernesto Valverde’s departure in January 2020, is being mentioned in reports again while Koeman waits to hear about the new president’s long-term plans.

What’s happening off the pitch?

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It’s complicated. Laporta’s successful battle to beat rivals Victor Font and Antoni Freixa to the presidency was played out against a background of spiralling debt and an ongoing police investigation. Laporta took the reins from Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned in October along with his board of directors with Barca heavily in debt. His election was confirmed days after officers investigating ‘Barcagate’, an alleged plot to discredit certain people within the organisation, raided offices at the Nou Camp. The club deny any wrongdoing.

And what about on it?

Lionel Messi's Barcelona future is in doubt (AP)

Perhaps the most pressing issue facing Laporta is the future of Lionel Messi. The Argentinian superstar’s efforts to leave the club last summer were thwarted, but he could go for nothing at the end of the season. Laporta is hopeful of persuading Messi to stay but, even if he agrees, the 33-year-old is part of an ageing core – Gerard Pique is 34, Sergio Busquets is 32 and Jordi Alba 31 – who will need to be replaced sooner rather than later.

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