Barca in Paris: Too old, too slow, too clueless
Barcelona punished for being too old, too slow and too clueless
One heavy defeat doesn't sound the death knell for Barcelona, but it is a serious cause for concern.
In the Champions League knockout stages, no side have ever overturned a deficit of four goals or more.
After Paris St Germain's easy 4-0 victory yesterday morning (Singapore time), the European dream is all but over for the Catalan giants.
Here's where it went wrong for Luis Enrique's losers.
1) Clock's ticking for old men
In the second half, Andres Iniesta miscontrolled the ball and presented PSG with a throw-in.
He also turned into a training cone when Angel di Maria danced around the Spaniard before curling his second goal into the top corner.
WHAT THEY SAYFor all PSG’s brilliance tonight, I’ve never seen Barca play as poorly. And I’ve never seen Messi play as badly.Former England captain Gary Lineker, who played for Barcelona in the 1980s
Barca have been Barca’d by PSG!Former Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand
One of the finest midfield technicians to ever wear a Barcelona jersey drifted to the periphery, too slow to catch opponents or chase the game.
Watching Iniesta labour in vain to keep up with Marco Verratti's vanishing shadow was an uncomfortable experience.
Of course, he is 32 and still recovering from a calf injury and was hardly the only culprit.
Sergio Busquets was also over-run in central midfield.
At 28, the dogged campaigner exemplifies the great Indiana Jones line. It's not the years. It's the mileage.
It was certainly men against boys along the halfway line and the boys won.
Adrien Rabiot, just 21, defied his birth certificate with a monstrous display.
Barcelona's midfield looked haunted by thoughts of their football mortality.
The clock's ticking.
2) Messi went missing
Lionel Messi picked the wrong occasion to have his worst game in recent memory.
Two of PSG's goals arguably resulted from the Argentinian either being caught in possession or through his lackadaisical approach around his own penalty box.
Lionel Messi didn’t get a touch in PSG’s box and made only 28 completed passes.
No team have ever come back from a four-goal deficit to progress in a second leg of a Champions League knockout tie.
Fortunately and unfortunately, he wasn't spotted around his own box too often.
Messi just doesn't do defending. At face value, such a critique seems petty and ungrateful, like ridiculing Beyonce for not being able to play the guitar.
But Messi's reluctance to track back proved pivotal in Paris. The hosts out-countered Barca, exploiting gaps that were more conspicious by Messi's absence. And Neymar didn't exactly dash back to help either.
And on the rare occasions when Messi did drop back to gather possession, he lost the ball and PSG surged towards an exposed Barca backline.
Extraordinarily, Messi was a liability at both ends of the pitch.
3) Finding their Fellaini
It's a cruel comparison to make, but an increasingly common one. Barca have found their Marouane Fellaini in Andre Gomes.
The young Portuguese midfielder brings height, strength and tenacity to the Catalan cause, but little of the guile, intellect and subtlety that define the club.
At times, he played a ball of wool to Blaise Matuidi's playful paw.
Like Fellaini at Manchester United, Gomes rarely looks like a Barca player. The guy who usually does started on the bench.
Ivan Rakitic's mercurial form saw him fall from favour with the management earlier in the season, but one of the most reliable Barca performers in the last three years surely offered a more substantial threat than Gomes.
With Sergi Roberto equally poor at right back, Enrique's decision to pick the second stringers was an unqualified disaster.
4) No love for Enrique
Everything about Barcelona was off. Despite the strange selections, the ageing midfield and Messi going AWOL, there was an overwhelming listlessness from front to back.
The lack of communication in defence suggested the back four had met one another through a dating service.
Luis Suarez appeared subdued. Everyone else was a yard short, a pass long or a tackle late.
It was the most un-Barcelona-like performance of the season, as if they were unsure of themselves or the system.
Reports continue to trickle out of Spain that tense training sessions are spilling over into disagreement and dissent.
Enrique's alleged lack of alternatives is reportedly irritating senior players. Certainly, the Barca coach offered no other options when PSG raced to a 2-0 lead.
Both teams deployed similar 4-3-3 line-ups and tactics, but only the hosts appeared willing to run relentlessly for the popular Unai Emery.
There's already speculation that Enrique might not be around next season. Any more performances like this and he definitely won't be.