Barcelona have been talking a lot about ‘economic levers’ as the Catalan club look to improve their finances, but they will no longer be able to use the Champions League pulley after exiting the group stage of the competition for the second consecutive season.
Even before a ball was kicked at Camp Nou against Bayern Munich on Wednesday, Barca were faced with the reality that they would have to play in the Europa League rather than European football’s premier competition in 2023.
After Barca’s spectacular 3-3 draw against Inter Milan two weeks ago, the Catalan side needed FC Viktoria Plzeň to do them a favor and secure a result against the Italian side. But the Nerazzurri won 4-0 early in the kick-off, sealing Barca’s fate.
Rubbing salt in the wound, Barca were then beaten 3-0 by Bayern, who have now beaten the La Liga side in their previous six encounters.
In that losing streak, Barca have conceded 22 goals against Bayern and scored just four – none in their last four matches.
“We weren’t at Bayern’s level today,” Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez told reporters. “They were better. In Munich we were ourselves, but today they were better, intense. The elimination before the game affected us psychologically.
Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen added: “Obviously knowing that we were already out had an influence. It was a strange feeling. It was more a question of pride, but we didn’t couldn’t match Bayern tonight. They scored goals at key moments and we couldn’t compete.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to stamp their authority on the game. Only nine minutes Sadio Mane scored, clipping the ball past the rushing Ter Stegen.
Barca kept possession for much of the game, but offered little attacking threat. Meanwhile, Bayern looked dangerous every time they advanced, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting doubling the visitors’ lead just after the half-hour mark in another devastating counterattack.
Home fans appeared to have had some respite when Robert Lewandowski – facing his former club for the second time since arriving in Spain – won a penalty but was denied the chance to score when VAR overturned the decision .
Bayern added a third with effectively the last touch of the game, Benjamin Pavard taking advantage of a terrible defense to tap at the far post after Serge Gnabry’s missed shot.
After qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League in 17 consecutive seasons, Barca failed to make it out of the group stage for two consecutive seasons.
And after spending more than $150 million over the summer on transfers – much of it funded by the club selling revenue streams and TV assets – qualification for the League of champions was considered important for Barça’s results.
Earlier this month, Barca’s financial vice-president Eduard Romeu said the debts which amounted to 1.35 billion euros ($1.35 billion) – of which 673 million were due to banks – had been reduced to 1 billion, according to club estimates, Reuters reported.
Despite his Champions League exit, Xavi still apparently has the support of the board.
“We have to look to the future,” said Barca president Joan Laporta. “We knew that in this process of rebuilding the team, there would be ups and downs.
“The message to the fans is to look forward. Xavi also got the youngsters playing so they could grow.