It was the game all loyal fans feared, but deep down they knew it was coming, and it was agonisingly painful in two-fold.
Lionel Messi is no longer the world-beater, dazzling the globe with his silky skills as the opposition reeled in awe. No more will Barcelona be feared on the global stage.
One night — no, 90 minutes — in Lisbon shattered those long-held ideals as Barcelona were thoroughly destroyed by a formidable Bayern Munich side who were a class apart in every department. Lose 3-2, OK. 4-2, oops. But 8-2 — over one leg, not the normal two — is utterly unacceptable (I fully expect Quique Setien to have lost his job by the weekend).
This was no 2-1 loss, a dodgy decision here and there. This was an annihilation of Drago v Creed levels. Only the referee refusing to use VAR kept the score out of double figures in a historic match that saw Barcelona’s worst nightmares come true.
Barca went into the match as the underdogs — something they were not used to as the Catalan giants almost always swaggered into these ties with an air of history and finesse that gave them an advantage. No such chance in Lisbon, where the competition’s business-end matches would be held over one leg in a bio-secure bubble to contain the threat of coronavirus. Had the game been over two legs, who knows how ugly it could have got for the sorry Catalans?
This was beyond a humiliation. It was beyond a rout. It was a sheer destruction that will be felt for years. Every man in 'blaugrana' on the field should be held accountable. Many may not wear the shirt again, Messi included.
But from the ugly to the beautiful. Bayern were sublime and a sheer joy to watch in their ruthless, relentless dismantling of Barca. They must go on to win this tournament now, and they should simply outclass allcomers — be it the unknown Lyon, the formidable Manchester City, Neymar’s Paris St-Germain or upstarts RB Leipzig. They are simply a class apart. Goals came — almost at will — from Thomas Mueller, Ivan Perisic, Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich, leading scorer in the tournament Robert Lewandowski, and — believe it or not — Barcelona employee Philippe Coutinho, who added a quickfire double on the night after coming off the bench for loan club Bayern. Ouch, indeed.
No only did this single game signal the demise of Lionel Messi’s time at the top, it officially heralded a seismic change in European football. No longer are Barcelona and Real Madrid the mainstays of the elite competition, they are the footnotes.
Now is Bayern’s time ...