8-2: The End Of A Dismal FC Barcelona Era

Photo courtesy of Manu Fernandez/Pool Photo

The day was March 8, 2017. I was working at my current employer when I noticed FC Barcelona scored 2 goals against Paris Saint-Germain to make it 2-4 on aggregate. Over an hour later, history was made and Barcelona completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, winning 6-1 and 6-5 on aggregate thanks to Sergi Roberto connecting on Neymar’s cross into the box in the final seconds of the second leg. 

When that happened, I felt compelled to write a story. I had to. It was history and after being an FC Barcelona writer since 2011, I felt I had to come out of semi-retirement and give my take on the joyful occasion. 

Three years later, Aug. 14, 2020, I felt compelled to come back once again, only this time, it was to say “bona nit” to the post-Luis Enrique treble/post-Neymar era FC Barcelona.

After Barca’s win over PSG three years ago, the French team made it the club’s goal to get the man that broke their hearts at the Camp Nou. And thanks to the riches they have, PSG got their man for $263 million. Barcelona were in trouble, as they’d have to find a replacement. 

What happened was a series of unfortunate events that lead to what happened in Lisbon against Bayern Munich. 

8-2. The Titanic that was FC Barcelona these past few years finally sank to the bottom.

Barcelona’s board, including club president Josep Bartomeu, began to think of the now and not the future. Instead of “Més que un club,” they went “Som el un club,” (We are the club) meaning they thought about themselves, profits, and what would make a splash to the media and other clubs. 

Buy Ousmane Dembele for nearly €150M? Sure. But was he scouted completely? Did we know about any muscle issues? Probably not, but hey, he’s got great potential, right?!

Buy Philippe Coutinho for nearly €160M? Umm… sure? Again, another buy to replace Neymar. There were other options, but no, Coutinho is a big name, Brazilian, and would make a “big splash” in the transfer window. 

Other patchwork signings like Malcom (one-year for nothing), Yerri Mina (can you even remember one good moment he had a FCB?) and Paco Alcacer (nope) did nothing but cost the club money. 

Sign Arthur? OK! Maybe he can be the “Xavi-esque” long-term midfielder Barcelona needs. Nope, can’t pay him, allegedly, and he’s gone in exchange for an older player past his prime.

How about signing Antione Griezmann? Umm… for what?! Money wasted.

And no, signing Frenkie De Jong doesn’t erase every poor decision Bartomeu and the FCB board has made. We all get luck on our side once in a while.

On top of all of this, add an inept manager like Ernesto Valverde and you have the making of a club whose success is ticking away. 

Yes, losing Neymar is difficult and nearly impossible to recover from. But Bartomeu and the board did not care about how to strengthen the team. They only cared about making waves in the transfer market with expensive signings, signings that don’t fit the style of the team’s key player like Lionel Messi, or signings just to flex their financial muscle. 

And Valverde? His style was never going to work at FC Barcelona. He tried to adapt, and thanks to Messi and a few others on the team, he won two Liga titles, a Supercopa, and a Copa del Rey. But let’s be honest: he was carried by Messi, Luis Suarez and others to those titles.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid was winning Champions League titles, but I digress. 

Let’s bring it back to what we saw in Lisbon.

What we saw on Aug. 14 was a cocktail of failure:

  • 1 serving of the failures of the Barcelona board (bad signings and all)
  • 1 shot of past-their-prime play of Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez 
  • 1 shot of “Who is Quique Setien and what is he doing managing Barcelona?!”
  • Three fingers of Messidependencia
  • 1 cup of Bayern Munich greatness

Shake that together and serve in a cold glass of worldwide humiliation.

This club has hit a new low. This club was the Titanic ever since Neymar took off to PSG. Yes, this club could have survived without him, and they have done so. 

Only thing is they survived and have been dragging on themselves on the floor ever since. They’ve been in pain, struggling since 2017 to stay competitive. If it wasn’t for Messi keeping them going, this club would have bled out and died in the 2017 Champions League quarterfinals when Juventus smoked Barca 3-0 on aggregate.

Messi, along with a few other bright spots (remember that Paulinho actually played well at FCB for the short time he was there) kept this team crawling for three years. Combine that with a bit of luck and you have a couple of Liga titles. 

But you can’t crawl forever. At some point, you run out of energy. And maybe — just maybe — someone comes to help put you out of your misery.

Sorry to go dark, guys, but the moment calls for it. Plus, this is just an analogy, so go with it.

Bayern Munich was that someone and they showed no mercy. They saw and knew Barcelona was weak, and decided to do what they do to other teams: take them out. Just like in 2014 when a limping Messi and Barca went to Munich, Bayern destroyed FCB with their relentless attack and ability to just steal the ball whenever they wanted to. At the same time, Pique, Jordi Alba, Nelson Semedo and even Clement Lenglet couldn’t do a thing about it.

Courtesy of Reuters

Rakitic and Auturo Vidal? Nope. No help. Again, patchwork players past their prime and ineffective. Vidal said the day before the Bayern match that the Bavarians would be facing “the best team in the world.” 

Send your apology to Robert Lewandowski, “Rey Arturo.”

How about Coutinho getting two goals and an assist against the team that loaned him out? Do your thing, Philippe. 

Suarez got a goal, but where has he been these past few years? Injuries haven’t helped, but even when healthy, Luis has been less “el pistolero” and more of a water gun.

I can’t say anything bad about Marc-Andre ter Stegen. He’s been tremendous these years and it’s not his fault his team’s defense and midfield are inept. I hope he re-signs, but if he decided it’s time for a new start, I wouldn’t be mad. He has the club great years and if he feels he has a better chance of winning elsewhere, then so be it. At least we might be able to get some much-needed funds for him.

Obviously, there will be a new manager at FC Barcelona. Will it be Xavi, a young manager who is a legend as a player for the club? Or maybe it will be Mauricio Pochettino, the proven manager who built up a Tottenham club from second-tier Premier League club to a competitive squad in Europe and even a Champions League Final. 

Whoever the new manager is, he has a Herculean task ahead of him. And he has to bring his own style, too. Adapting to the club’s “style” isn’t working for any manager arguably since Lucho. Instead of adapting to what’s best for Messi, maybe it’s time to bring a new style that Messi can adapt to? For the betterment of the young players like De Jong and Riqui Puig. 

But the real unknown for the new boss is this: Will the new manager have Leo Messi beyond the 2020-21 season?

I saved talking about Leo for last because it’s tough to talk about the possibility of the greatest player in history, let alone club history, leaving FC Barcelona. While it won’t happen this year, it’s a very real possibility next summer. 

Some of you are probably asking: Why would he leave his childhood club?

You should be asking yourself: Why would he want to stay?

Unless a major overhaul unlike we’ve ever seen happens at Barcelona, I wouldn’t be mad, upset or disappointed if Leo walks away in 2021. He’d leave not because he’s a quitter, but because he realizes while he can do more for the club, the club can’t do more for him. 

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are there, with players and a familiar system. And what a challenge it’d be to join City and see if you can help the club overtake Liverpool in the Premier League, right?

There’s always going back home to Argentina and play for Newell’s, Leo’s boyhood club.

Courtesy of Rafael Marchante/Pool via Getty Images

Messi has options. One is a chance to play in a new country with an old friend/mentor. The other is a chance to complete a dream and go back to your home country. 

And then there’s staying at the club that helped make you a star, you helped bring titles, and became an icon. But unless the club makes the major changes needed, you will not have success there ever again.

Right now, let’s be honest: Staying at Barcelona past summer 2021 is the least attractive option. And this is not taking into account the fact that some other club could come and get Messi’s interest.

Yes, I want Leo Messi to retire at FC Barcelona. But right now, I, or anyone else, would have a hard time trying to convince him to sign a new contract. That can change if the right manager with the right style of play comes in alongside new players. 

Barca have several young players like Riqui Puig, Ansu Fati, De Jong, Pedri and Francisco Trincao coming up. But other than De Jong, will Messi be patient and give the youngsters 2 or 3 years until they’re able to make a major impact in big games like the Champions League? Yes, the young players are hungry, but Leo doesn’t have years left to spend waiting.

If Lionel Messi leaves in 2021, I will be sad, but will understand. He’ll always be a legend at the club and will always be welcomed back. I hope Messi stays, but it now comes down to, unfortunately, Bartomeu’s signings/selling and a to be determined manager who will show Leo the new system at the club will lead to titles. 

Of course, elections would be a major step in changing the club, but we’ll see about that.

There are a lot of unknowns for FC Barcelona. One thing I know, at least, is that an era ended in Lisbon with Bayern victorious 8-2. 

We had a golden era from 2008-12 with Pep. 

We had a new (short-lived but Treble-winning) era from 2014-2017 with Neymar and Lucho. 

Now, we see the end of the 2017-20 “post comeback against PSG” era. 

An era so inconsistent that it doesn’t even have a good name. 

An era highlighted by surreal losses: 

Barca 0-3 Roma

Barca 0-4 Liverpool

And now, Barca 2-8 Bayern.

And unfortunately for Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona fans, and era lost in losses. 

But despite the darkness the club is in right now, I and many other Culés will be here, supporting the new era, the young players, and whoever from the past era remains. 

Because this is more than a club. This is Futbol Club Barcelona.

We’ll be back. 


Believe: A Tribute to Barcelona & The Greatest Comeback in Champions League History

“Miracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.”

For FC Barcelona, the night of Wednesday, March 8, 2017 was a time when fear was put aside, and dreams were once again energized.

The events of the second leg between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain were nothing short of a dream. And for PSG, a nightmare.

The great start with Luis Suarez’s goal was the dream start on the dream night. But after Luisito’s goal, it felt like PSG were going to park the bus and not allow anything inside the box. Barça begin to think — and shoot — outside the box, as long shots from Neymar and Andres Iniesta couldn’t find the back of the net.

I’m not going to lie, I felt terrible after Edinson Cavani’s goal. There was nothing Marc-Andre ter Stegen could do. I felt like the miracle I thought was going to happen had suddenly ended. It felt like all of Barcelona had come so close, just one goal away from pulling even in the tie, to being stopped near the finish line.

For me, I was down, but still hopeful something would happen with less than 30 minutes to go. With less than 10 minutes to go, it seemed like Barcelona’s run in the Champions League was about to end.

Then, the impossible comeback became a unexpected and wonderful reality.

With Neymar’s free kick goal, it became a 4-5 agg. scoreline. It felt like a goal for pride, but not many were thinking it was the beginning of seven minutes of history.

Once Suarez was tripped up in the box by Marquinhos, a feeling of joyous confusion entered many Culés’ minds. Joyous because there was still hope, but confusion because many Culés were unsure if the comeback was actually possible, especially since the match was in stoppage time. Neymar’s PK goal made it 5-5 on agg. with PSG up on the away goal.

Five minutes added and four minutes left in what could be the greatest comeback in football history if Barcelona scored one more goal.

It seemed like it was going to be the most painful loss in recent FCB history — for the comeback to come just short — or arguably the most joyous night at the Camp Nou in recent history.

Thankfully, the world was witness to the latter.

It had to be Neymar. The Brazilian’s service into the box found the foot of Sergi Robert — yes, Sergi Roberto — who booted in FC Barcelona into the quarterfinals of the Champions League and booted out PSG. Grande Sergi! The Camp Nou erupted in ecstasy and the football world from all corners of the world could hear the fans’ joy.

The greatest comeback in Champions League history was completed. Simply unreal.


No lie, when I saw the goal and the scoreline, I had to control my emotions. Why? Because like you who is reading this column, this club means so much to me.

Barcelona isn’t just a club, it’s “Més que un club.” Being a Barcelona fan is being someone who believes in miracles, someone who believes in the impossible being possible, someone who believes magic is not fiction, someone who never gives up, someone whose been an underdog too many times and has overcome great odds.

FC Barcelona is for optimists. FC Barcelona is for people who grew up humble but are prideful in what they’ve overcome and will tell you what they are capable of doing.

For me, Barcelona represents me, just like I, as a Culé, represent the club. With all due respect to all other clubs, there is no other club in the world that that is unbreakable connection with its fans. None — and no one can ever and will ever change my mind about that.

Moments like this are emotional. For football fans and in particular, for Culés, FC Barcelona’s comeback was a reminder of how wonderful the sport of football is. Football has the power to bring people together, make us cry in sadness and joy together, make us dream together, and teach us that anything is truly possible.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 10.50.17 AM

While we’ve seen great comebacks in many other sports the past year, like the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors, and the Chicago Cubs over the Cleveland Indians.

While all of the comebacks I just mentioned are special in their own way, Barcelona’s comeback was the greater one. To need three goals with less than 10 minutes to go is a monumental task for any team to accomplish. At one point during the last minutes of the match, the in-game odds for Barcelona scoring three goals and winning the tie were 100-1, according to ESPN FC. Compare that to the Patriots’ odds of coming back to beat the Falcons in Super Bowl 51 when New England was down 28-3, which were 16-1 in-game odds.

Barcelona’s chances to come back were six times as unlikely to win as the Patriots.

Only the magic of Barça can make the seemingly dire into ecstasy.

The entire team was magic, but if one player embodied the magic of the night, it was Neymar. The Brazilian had one of his greatest nights of his Barça career. He was causing PSG problems from the start. Neymar did almost everything for the team offensively, from nearly scoring a golazo from long range in the first half, to having the best seven minutes of his career in the end.

And what a final seven minutes it was.

For many, Neymar’s free kick goal in the 88th minute came as a bit of a shock. It’s not that he can’t make goals like that, it’s just that it seemed like Neymar was going to go far post towards goal. A penalty called in favor of Barcelona just a minute later gave Neymar a chance to cut the lead. Once again, a smooth PK from Neymar didn’t give Kevin Trapp a chance to make the stop. As previously mentioned, Neymar’s service into the box found Roberto’s foot for the win.

After the match, Neymar said it was the best game he’s ever played in. Against PSG, it was Neymar’s finest match as an FC Barcelona player so far in his young career.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen was brilliant on the night. The moment of the night from the German was his stop on Cavani’s stop in the 64th minute to stop PSG from finishing off Barcelona. Whenever PSG threatened, MAtS was more than ready.

The emotion MAtS showed when Roberto scored the goal was lovely. Ter Stegen probably hadn’t felt that Camp Nou magic since the 3-0 Barça win over Bayern Munich nearly two years ago.

I worried that Luis Suarez would get frustrated too easily in a 0-4 deficit, but not on this night. His goal and feed to Iniesta to set up the second goal was classic Luisito. Samuel Umtiti was on point for the match. I can’t help but imagine what Barcelona can accomplish with this 23-year-old for years to come. His awareness and interceptions are that of a veteran player’s skill set.

Lionel Messi wasn’t at his finest, but he didn’t need to be on the night. The entire team was on a high one on could’ve brought down. His penalty kick was a powerful one as the ball raced by Trapp. Andres Iniesta showed why he’s “el cerebro” del Barça.


Every since Barcelona’s win over Leganés with a late goal by Messi, the Catalans have been more loose. I don’t know if the Luis Enrique announcement a few days later further relaxed the team or not, but this team is playing “with house money,” if you will. They’re “all in” this season.

Part of me thinks it could be due to the sluggish start to the first half of the season. Another part could be because the players know this Lucho-era FCB team will end in June, there’s no reason to play tight for the reason of the season.

It’s a bit like senior year of high school or college, if you will. You know it’s about to end, so you might as well have fun and go “all in” rather than have any regrets.

It still doesn’t feel real. But fortunately, it is real and it something all Barça fans will remember for the rest of their lives.

Who knows what will happen for this Barcelona team the rest of the season. But one thing I do know is that this match — this “Miracle at the Camp Nou” — will be a moment in time that combined magic, determination, luck, skill, and destiny into a single match on a night that history will remember for all time. 6-1 (6-5 on agg.) will always be a part of our memories.

Gràcies, jugadores. Gràcies Lucho. Thank you for reminding us that dreams do come true if you work hard and never stop believing, even when we’re facing impossible odds.

We’re FC Barcelona. We’re born dreamers, believers in magic, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now more than ever, Visca el Barça i Visca Catalunya.