Lionel Messi turned his back. He had given the ball away, but he made no effort to atone for his error, no attempt to regain control on the ball. He stopped, waited a beat and then looked to the other end of the field. It was as if he knew what was going to happen, and he did not care - or he could not bear - to watch. He could not watch the demolition of his beloved Barca.
Once it had happened, Quique Sétien turned away, too, with a shake of the head and a shrug on the shoulders, looking at his coaching staff for an explanation or perhaps a piece of solitude. It could not be real. On the field his players stared, glossy-eyed. In the stands, his socially distanced substitutes kicked the seats in front of them in pain and rage and humiliation.
In Pic: Quique Setien knew what was coming next
This was at seven. Bayern Munich has scored seven goals against mighty Barcelona, the Barca of Messi and Pique and Busquets and Suarez, in the Champions League quarter finals, with the whole world watching. It was unthinkable, unfathomable and unbearable.
And then there was the eighth. If it wasn't embarrassing enough, Barcelona had to watch Philippe Coutinho, on loan to Bayern Munich from Barcelona, inflict the final blows and make the collapse all the more painful.
The Bavarians were already cruising into the semi-finals with a 5-2 lead when called on for the final quarter. The Brazilian found time for an assist and then scored twice himself against a keeper he knows so well.
To put it right: absolutely no fan wants to see their team lose by a cricket score. Least of all, one of the stature of Barcelona. The 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich is devastating to anyone with a vested interest in FC Barcelona and for a variety of reasons.
On a personal account, I have always held Barca high. A club that attracted me towards football. Tika Taka was not just a style of play, it meant perfection. How else could a club side rule the world - both on the domestic and international circuit. Spain of the 2010s was very much the Barcelona of Pep Guardiola. The Spanish side dominated world football - winning the World Cup 2010 and two Euros in 2008 and 2012.
Having gone through their recent history extensively through my work at CYS, one is bound to be awestruck with the aura of this great club from Catalonia.
Having said this, the demolition is also probably the best thing that could've happened to the club. And the only shame is that it didn't come a year or two sooner.
Why it is the best thing that could've happened to the club:
Barcelona have long ceased to be a major force in Europe from a start point. Yes, they have come close but their performances since their treble winning season in 2014-15 have shown a certain hint.
The manner of defeats against PSG, Juventus, Roma and Liverpool suggested, even back then, that something was not right at the club. A club that is so dear to its millions and millions of supporters. Rigorous overhaul was required in terms of personnel.
But domestic bliss pulled the wool over many times. Anyways, domestic success should be the bare minimum for a club like Barcelona -- who possess the best attacking player the world has ever seen.
The barometer of where Barcelona stand as a club should be measured by European competitions like the Champions league -- a competition their fiercest rivals have won eight times more.
After spending approx €1 billion in player transfers since their last UCL triumph, is this the team the board of directors aspired for? The club hierarchy has to look for answers and quickly.
And the players: how could a team consisting of some of the top names in world football could lose 8-2. Questions will dismantle legacies and stereotypes around the club. What about the big game temperament of superstars like Pique and Busquets and Ter Stegen and even Messi? A big question mark.
And when a strong hand has been called for from the bench, it generally hasn't been forthcoming. Allied to this, the board has the power to determine when certain players are past their prime, but, in the main, have kept faith.
All this was evident from some time now but it was the little Argentine doing his magic and carrying the burden on his shoulders. And the very match he failed, Barca are a shadow of themselves. We have seen it in Turin, in Rome, in Merseyside and now in Lisbon.
Burying one's head in the sand is never the best course of action. And neither in throwing good money after bad in an attempt to mask previous failings. The 8-2 defeat exposes the flaws for the world to see and take note of. And it needed a demolition of this scale to see what's there right in front of your eyes. There's no longer anywhere to hide, anyone to hide behind.
The Way Forward From Here:
In pic: A disheartened Messi after the 7th goal
"Shame" said Pique after the game. He added "If new blood has to come. I will be the first one to pack up and leave." Pique has always been vocal for the things in and around the club. He is called 'Mr. President' for a reason.
Queque Sétein, who was hired in January to replace Ernesto Valverde, knew what was coming next. He was fired in less than 24 hours after the defeat and was replaced by a former Cüle, Ronald Koeman.
A prodigy of Johan Cruyff, Koeman has stated that he wants beautiful football that the club is known for but also stressed on the fact that the team needs to win.
As for the reports, Koeman has already talked to Suarez and Jordi Alba regarding their future at the club. And conveyed to Busquets that he will have to fight in order to be in the playing XI. Suarez has, reportedly, accepted even a substitute role in the upcoming season. Koeman may recall Philippe Coutinho from Bayern Munich and is looking to settle the Ousmane Dembélé issue for once and for all.
"Some decisions are already taken, and others will be taken as a result of this", Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu said after the game.
When you hit the rock bottom, the only way is upwards and the same is true for Barcelona as well. They cannot afford a complete overhaul, not at the moment at least. But big decisions should be taken and are being taken as well.
Hiring Koeman is a step taken in the right direction and we can only hope for the best. Barcelona are too big a club to be destroyed!