Barcelona talked a lot about “financial leverage” as the Catalan club look to improve their finances, but will not be able to use the Champions League pulley after exiting the group stage of the competition for the second season in a row.
Even before kicking a ball against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, Barca faced the reality that in 2023 they would have to play in the Europa League rather than Europe’s top competition.
After Barca’s dramatic 3-3 draw with Inter Milan two weeks ago, the Catalan side needed to do FC Viktoria Plzeň a favor and get a result against the Italian side. But the Nerazzurri won 4-0 in the opening kick-off, sealing Barca’s fate.
Rubbing salt into the wound, Bayern thrashed Barca 3-0, having now beaten the League side in their previous six matches.
In that losing streak, Barca have scored 22 goals against Bayern and conceded just four, none in the last four games.
“Today we are not at Bayern’s level,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez told reporters. “They were better. In Munich it was us, but today they were better, alive. Getting kicked out before the game affected us psychologically.”
Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen added: “Obviously knowing we were already out had an effect. It was a strange feeling. It was more about pride, but we 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. Barely nine minutes later, Sadio Mane scored, curling the ball past Ter Stegen.
Barca kept the ball for much of the game but offered little attacking threat. Meanwhile, Bayern looked dangerous whenever they went forward, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting doubling the visitors’ lead just after the half-hour mark with another devastating counter-attack.
The home fans appeared to be relieved when Robert Lewandowski – who faced his former club for the second time since moving to Spain – won a penalty, but was denied the chance to score when VAR overturned the decision.
Bayern added a third in the last touch of the game, Benjamin Pavard taking advantage of some incredible defending to slot in at the far post after a mishit Serge Gnabry shot.
After qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League for 17 consecutive seasons, Barca have not made it out of the group stage for two consecutive seasons.
And qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League is important to Barca’s bottom line, having spent more than $150 million on transfers this summer (much of which was funded by TV revenue and the club selling assets).
Earlier this month, Barca’s vice-president of finance, Eduard Romeu, said that debts of 1.35 billion euros ($1.35 billion) – of which 673 million were owed to banks – had been reduced to 1 billion, according to the club’s calculations, Reuters reported.
Despite his exit from the Champions League, Xavi seems to have the backing of the board.
“We have to look forward,” said Barca president Joan Laporta. “We knew there would be ups and downs in this process of rebuilding the team.
“The message to the fans is let’s look forward. Xavi also made the youngsters play so that they could grow up.”