FC Barcelona have been struggling for the past couple of seasons on the European stage.
However, what happened over the weekend in the Champions League quarter-final against FC Bayern Munich was nothing short of sheer humiliation. Barcelona were completely outplayed by Munich and were handed their worst defeat in any competition in over seven decades.
The scoreline of 8-2 was the biggest margin of victory in the quarter-final stage of the Champions League. Barcelona now have an unwanted record of being involved in the worst defeats in the quarter-finals, semi-finals (Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona, 2013) and the final (AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona, 1994) in the competition.
It is now highly likely that major changes will take place at the Catalan club as was made clear by defender Gerard Pique who said during a post-match interview that the club has hit rock bottom.
The unmitigated disaster that unfolded in Lisbon on Saturday has sent shock waves across the Barcelona board, and it is now being reported that the presidential elections of 2021 might be brought forward.
Quique Setien may not be continuing as the Barcelona manager next season and is expected to be sacked in the coming week after having come in as a replacement for Ernesto Valverde in January. In the 25 games that Barcelona played under Setien, they won 16, drew 4 and lost 5, with a win percentage of 64%.
Lionel Messi who has been carrying the club for so long, is also frustrated with the current situation and is now said to be closer than ever to a move away from the club that he considers his home.
Initial reports seem to suggest that the Argentine international could leave Barcelona when his contract with the club expires in 2021 if no major changes take place at the club by then. However, it is now being reported that Messi could leave as early as this year itself.
The prospect of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona might sound outrageous at first, but if the club truly wants to kickstart a transformation process, they will have to let go of their overdependence on the 33-year-old forward. A move away from Barcelona could also help Messi play at a club that is not excessively dependent on him, allowing him to finish his final years on a high.
Barcelona require a complete squad revamp
Barcelona have tried to replace key players such as Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Neymar with many skillful players in recent years, but with limited degrees of success.
Most of these players were never able to fit into the team as the club has been overly reliant on Lionel Messi. Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann were played out of their natural positions as Barcelona's whole game plan revolved around Lionel Messi.
Pep Guardiola used tactics that involved Lionel Messi's increased role in the playing XI. However, it was a different scenario then as the Barcelona midfield contained players like Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta who could combine with Lionel Messi.
The situation is very different now as the Argentine talisman now has to drop into midfield to initiate attacking moves and is almost always heavily marked by opposition defenders.
With Lionel Messi's departure, Barcelona could truly start a transformation process and introduce a game plan that does not rely on the Argentine's individual brilliance. The club will initially miss La Pulga's genius on the field, but in the long run it would help them to completely revamp the team and not depend on any one individual.
Lionel Messi could end his career on a high, but that may not be at Barcelona
Barcelona have endured a series of heartbreaks in the Champions League in recent seasons. After Saturday's catastrophic defeat, it is safe to say that the Catalan club won't be strong contenders to lift the coveted title in the near future.
The club is now likely to undergo major structural changes in the next few years, a process that could take a while before Barcelona become a dominant force in Europe again.
For the 33-year-old Lionel Messi, however, time is running out as he last won the Champions League in 2015. If he wants to win another Champions League title to draws himself level with rival Cristiano Ronaldo, it may have to happen at some other club.
In order to give his illustrious career a fitting conclusion, it might be in Lionel Messi's best interests to part ways with Barcelona. He probably deserves to spend his final years at a club that would not overly rely on him but rather combine his brilliance with the overall strength of the team.