For a team that parades arguably one of the best footballers in the world over the last decade, defeat is often uncommon to such a team. More so, when you have the legendary Lionel Messi as the top star in your line-up, then winning trophies has got to be the order of the day.
However, for Barcelona who had hoped to win a remarkable treble of trophies this season, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the Spanish side.
Undoubtedly, Barcelona were the most dominant and consistent side in the Spanish La Liga this season, and it was always going to be their title to lose; but they successfully defended their league crown. But when it came to Europe and the UEFA Champions League, lots of pundits and fans expected the Lionel Messi propelled team to go the extra mile and win it.
However, they failed to sail past Liverpool FC of England at the semi-final stage of the competition, despite having won the first leg by a whopping 3 – 0 margin. The return leg saw a hapless Barcelona lose by a 4 – 0 margin against a spirited Liverpool side, which ultimately ended the Spanish side’s sojourn in Europe for the season.
Back in Spain, they managed to wrap up the La Liga title in style. And with the famous Copa del Rey title left as their only other achievable title, Barcelona were expected to win it to seal a double.
But, on Saturday, the La Liga winners, Barcelona failed to shine most memorably; as they capped off their season with a 2 – 1 defeat to modest Valencia in the final of the Spanish Copa del Rey.
After their shameful loss at the hands of Liverpool in the semi-final of the Champions League, Barcelona was always going to have nervy games and perhaps loses; until they come to terms with that defeat. However, with their league title successfully wrapped up, no one expected the almighty Barcelona to struggle against Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey.
As if the embarrassment of being knocked out of the Champions League after going 3 – 0 up in the tie wasn’t enough, they went down 2 – 0 in quick fashion in the first half of the match against Valencia. Prior to the game against Valencia, Barcelona stars had suggested that victory in the Copa del Rey final will help wash away the sad memories of their humiliation at the hand of Liverpool in the UCL.
But as the game kicked off, a win didn’t look likely for Ernesto Valverde’s men; as they were below par from the onset, and were uncharacteristically lethargic for a typical Barcelona side from the last decade.
Valencia’s Kevin Gameiro superbly struck a beauty of a goal to put his side up, and teammate Rodrigo headed in a second to put Valencia 2 – 0 up in the first 33-minutes.
The 2-goal margin seemed to put Barcelona out of sorts; as Lionel Messi and his side kept chasing the game throughout the first half. In the second half though, a rather unimpressive Lionel Messi found the back of the net after 73 minutes of play, but it was pretty much too late for any comeback.
The game ended 2 – 1 in favor of Valencia as they held on to seal a much deserved and needed victory against their more illustrious opposition in the Spanish League. As for Barcelona who have always depended on the brilliance of Lionel Messi for much too long over the last couple of years, it is becoming clear that the Lionel Messi era may be coming to an end very soon.
The little maestro from Argentina struggled to make any significant impact on the game, which gradually signifies what fans would be expecting of the former world footballer of the year. Having found himself on the wrong side of 30, Lionel Messi would have to realize that playing at the top level and with the consistency he has been known for, may no longer be feasible in the nearest future.
With no obvious and consistent stand-in for Lionel Messi in the Barcelona squad, they may struggle to perform at the highest level next season if they are unable to bring in suitable talents into the squad.
Is this the beginning of the end of an era for this amazing Barcelona side? Or can Lionel Messi still perform at the highest level for the next two to three years? Only time will tell.
As for Barcelona’s manager Ernesto Valverde, his future is under intense speculation. Should he be sacked or should he be allowed to begin rebuilding a Barcelona of the next era? Your guess is as good as mine.
Thank you for following @steemsports and you can find me @rickie