There was a time when Barcelona were unstoppable. Or perhaps we should say ‘times’. Remember that frightening outfit that included Messi, Iniesta and Xavi? A team every football fanatic would relish fanboying over in the pub on a Champion’s League night.
Those days seem like a distant memory for Barca supporters. In the past three years we’ve seen the once unplayable team suffer calamitous defeats in the Champion’s League to Roma, Liverpool, Bayern and most recently PSG. These teams knocking them out were full of quality, so it was easy to see it as a minor blip for the catalonian club.
But now their woes have become a real focus in the footballing world. Behind the scenes management has verged on absolute incompetence. Where Barcelona used to be the favourites to win la liga based on the odds from bookmakers, and if you wanted to place a bet with a bookmaker like William Hill, you’d be advised to back either Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid to win this season . An astronomical wage bill saw their greatest ever player, Messi, having to reluctantly leave in the summer along with a string of other players.
On the pitch they have lost three of their past six games. The question on everyone’s lips is whether they are on a slippery decline that could take them years to recover from? A weak squad, manager and finances are tough to recover from. It may be too early to say but if history teaches us anything these warning signs shouldn’t be taken lightly.
So in true Football Tripper style we’re taking a little look in the history books and bringing you 5 football clubs that fell from grace.
1. Blackburn Rovers 1994-1999
It’s the 1990s. Some visionary upstarts led by the likes of Manchester United, Tottenaham and Arsenal have managed to form a breakaway competition from the Football League called the Premier League. This new venture and appeal is supercharged by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports. And a humble club with the backing of the British industrialist and businessman, Jack Walker, are there to claim the ultimate prize in 1994/95. Blackburn Rovers had the likes of Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton and Graeme Le Saux when they overcame giants Manchester United to win the league. Fast forward four years, and manager Kenny Dalglish has departed along with the club’s biggest players. Heartbreakingly the team gets relegated in the 1998/1999 season. Nobody saw it coming
2. AC Milan 2010-2020
It’s fair to say Blackburn Rovers were never an ‘elite club’. The same can’t be said of AC Milan, whose decline could perhaps be the closest to what Barcelona are currently experiencing. Poor decisions from the owners, rash spending and poor squad management contributed to their downfall. Once one of the most dominant teams in Europe, AC Milan saw their 2010-11 title winning team that included Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic slowly dismantle. Since 2013, they have only finished in the top 4 in Serie A once – that being the season that has just passed. Perhaps good times are on the horizon for the Rossoneri. Still this doesn’t bode well for Barcelona if they follow a similar trajectory over the coming years.
3. Leeds United 2000-2004
For younger readers, the Whites are probably best known for their recent promotion to the Premier League and electrifying brand of football under Marcelo Bielsa. But they had plenty of success before that. In the 2000/01 season, when they finished fourth in the league and reached the semi finals of the Champions League, few would’ve thought relegation awaited them two years later. With their star defender Rio Ferdinand moving to Manchester United in 2002, relegation loomed inevitable for the Yorkshire based club in the 2003/04 season.
4. AS Monaco 2016-2020
Despite winning Ligue 1 eight times, it felt like Monaco had defied all odds when they took the title from a dominant PSG in the 2016/17 season. At the heart of this feat was a squad full of youngsters, including the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva. Two seasons later, the Monacoian outfit finished 17th in the league. What had changed during that time was the departure of their biggest and most promising players. A stark reminder for clubs that if you sell your greatest assets, you better be sure you can reinvest the money for future success.
5. Juventus 2004-2011
Juve fell from grace in a slightly different manner to the others on this list. It was still through gross mismanagement at the highest level, but here the Old Lady became embroiled in one of the greatest football corruption stories: the Calciopoli scandal. In short Juventus managing director Luciano Maggi had formed a shady behind the scenes relationship that saw him having influence over which referees would officiate any given Serie A league game. The club were rightly punished, seeing themselves relegated to Serie B and their 2004/05 league title stripped from them. It felt like a truly bleak time for the club. And it took them six seasons to win Serie A again, which in hindsight seems like a bit of a miracle. From there good times truly returned, winning nine back-to-back league titles. This may be a small comfort to Barcelona fans if this season does prove a difficult one for them!