Messi's crown slips as Euro exit adds to Barcelona woes
Lacklustre defeat to Atletico Madrid does not bode well for Barca coach Gerardo Martino
BARCELONA will be missing from the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in seven years after being dumped out of the competition by the new force in Spanish football, Atletico Madrid, and there is a real chance that the Catalans will end the season without a major trophy for the first time since 2008.
Hit by a Fifa transfer ban, damaged by off-field financial scandals, out of the Champions League, facing a Copa del Rey (King's Cup) final against arch rivals Real Madrid next week and lying second in La Liga behind Atletico, Barcelona's unofficial status as the biggest club in the world is under serious threat.
Their fate remains in their hands, if they win all their remaining games this season they will do the double, but they no longer look the dominant force they once were. Against Atletico on Wednesday even Lionel Messi was off colour as the Catalans fell a goal behind after just five minutes and never recovered. The score was still 1-0 after 90 minutes sending the Madrid team into the last four with a 2-1 aggregate win.
"Messi's failure to have any impact against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night and coach Gerardo Martino's inability to do anything about it, dominated the inquest into Barcelona's dismal Champions League exit," reports the Daily Mail.
It could "spell the beginning of the end" for coach Martino, says The Times. Website Inside Spanish Football agrees. "The clock is already ticking" for Martino it warns.
The famous Barcelona team spirit appears to have disappeared. "Atletico wanted it, and so did Barcelona," says ISF. "The difference? Atletico dominated the space, and Barcelona let them. Atletico was a unit, Barcelona a vague mass of individuals."
Barcelona and Atletico will meet again on the final day of the season, and if things remain as they are at the top of the table the winner of that game will take the La Liga title. But based on this performance Barcelona’s chances are not great.
"Barca expect to win every competition they contest and their failure to reach the Champions League semi-finals for a record-extending seventh consecutive season was always going to set alarm bells ringing," says Eurosport. "If they also fail in both La Liga and the King's Cup and end the season without major silverware, Martino's days in the high-pressure world of Spanish football may be numbered."