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This Year is Set to be the Worst in Barcelona's Recent History

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A downhill struggle to say the least

Since winning the Champions League in 2015, things have gone from bad to worse for Barcelona. At the time, they boasted one of the best attacks we’ve ever seen, club legends Andres Iniesta and Xavi were still around and they had beaten Juventus in the Champions League final, however, they have since struggled domestically and folded on the big European nights too.

There is a genuine fear around the club that they are becoming the latest European giant to collapse, as we have seen with the likes of AC Milan and Manchester United in the past, and this year could destroy the Catalans.

Saying goodbye to their greatest

It goes without saying that Lionel Messi leaving would be more than a massive loss for Barcelona and cause disruption like no other, as the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s future is yet to be resolved.

Messi’s contract is up in the summer and plenty of Europe’s top clubs will be eagerly monitoring his situation at the Nou Camp, particularly that of Manchester City. Not only is Messi arguably the greatest of all time, but the Argentine also generates a huge amount of money for the club through advertising and shirt sales, which will further damage Barca’s already fragile financial situation. Perhaps the more worrying prospect for Barcelona will be replacing Messi, a task that could only be fulfilled by signing Kylian Mbappe.

Financially, the club are in ruins, with recent reports claiming that they are in $1.4b worth of debt, meaning that replacing Messi will be near impossible. Much like Real Madrid have struggled in European competitions since Cristiano Ronaldo left, Barca's troubles will further deepen once their club legend leaves.

At the very least, however, Madrid are able to commit to buying players year in year out, and Barcelona, on the other hand, are set to struggle across the board when their greatest ever inevitably departs.

La Masia has been drying up for a long time

In the past, Barcelona’s academy, La Masia, has produced some of the finest footballers around, with the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi coming through the ranks and forcing them not to spend in the transfer market.

However, the flow of talent making it into the first team has dried up significantly and it could be argued that there have only been two promising youngsters graduate to the first team in recent years, as Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig currently battle within the first team squad. This will need to change quickly, as Barca will be entering a transitional period and will be more reliant than ever on their academy.

Similar to how Chelsea had to trust their young players amidst their transfer ban, Barca will have to find a way to utilise theirs, all while steadying the ship financially. La Masia has been the difference between them winning and losing for over a decade, and now, the famous youth academy of Barcelona is set to be more important than ever.

Their struggles on the continent

The last three years in particular have been difficult for Barcelona in the Champions League, after suffering heartbreaking defeats at the hands of Roma and Liverpool, before the humiliating quarter-final tie with Bayern Munich last year.

In 2018, the Spanish side were stunned as Roma came from 4-1 down to progress on away goals and then conceded another surprise comeback the next year, as Liverpool overturned a 3-0 first leg loss to advance to the final. Last year’s 8-2 against Bayern, paired with what was another humiliation elimination by PSG, highlights just how far away Barca are from a sixth Champions League, plus their ageing squad and lack of transfer funds will limit their ability to close the gap to the powerhouses of European football.

The rebuild could take years, which will only make them less attractive to the top players, who may opt to play for the likes of Real Madrid and PSG instead.

Barcelona's board are also in tatters

Outgoing Barca President Josep Bartomeu is seen as one of the key figures in the demise of the club and one of the main reasons why Messi was so keen to leave in 2020.

As the election for a new President concludes with Joan Laporta moving into office, Bartomeu’s offices at the Nou Camp were raided, as the Spanish police investigate ‘Barcagate’ - where club officials have allegedly launched a smear campaign against their own players who had been critical of the club. The current elections offer the chance of a new start for Barca, as they will be wanting to move on from numerous disappointments on and off the pitch over the past few years.

However, the new regime will have a mountain to climb, as they are tasked with rebuilding this subpar squad, replacing their greatest ever player and returning one of world football’s superpowers to the level that they once hit year after year.