Well, that went well.
It’s no secret that Barcelona have had their struggles recently, both on and off the pitch. Lionel Messi is looking increasingly likely to leave after his contract was leaked, the club are in massive debt, and both Atletico and Real Madrid are ahead of them in La Liga. However, all this aside, Barcelona had been enjoying a decent Champions League campaign.
They did have a fairly easy Champions League group, starting with Juventus, but then facing Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros. However, there’s no denying that they weren’t impressive, beating Ferencvaros and Kiev handily both times. They also looked good when beating Juventus 2-0 in the first match, although they finished second in the group after losing the second match 3-0. Nothing could have prepared them, however, for the 4-1 beatdown they received AT HOME against PSG.
It’s hard to believe that just a few short years ago, Barcelona were lifting the Champions League trophy after comfortably beating PSG (three times), Bayern, Manchester City, Ajax, APOEL, and Juventus in the final. And with the season Barcelona are having, it might be nice to look back on the past. Here is Barcelona’s Champions League Final winning team, and where they are now.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona
Despite being only 28, ter Stegen has been at Barcelona for some time. The 2014/15 season when Barcelona won was actually ter Stegen’s first season with them, having been bought by Borussia Mönchengladbach. Despite establishing himself as Barcelona’s Champions League goalkeeper over Claudio Bravo, ter Stegen played in zero La Liga games his first season and seven in his second La Liga season. However, ter Stegen played all 13 Champions League games, including the final, and kept six clean sheets. Not bad for a debut season.
Six years later, ter Stegen is still at Barcelona, where he has played over 250 games. He has recently signed a lengthy extension to 2025, and should stay at Barcelona for some time.
LB: Jordi Alba, Barcelona
Jordi Alba is one of five players who started the Champions League final who trained at Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy. In comparison, only four started in the Champions League loss against PSG this season, all of whom played in the final against Juventus six years earlier. At the time, Alba was 25. He is currently 31, but the youngest of those four.
Alba is still at Barcelona and has been a constant performer, with 366 games and 96 goal contributions to his name. However, he’s also scored five own goals – the most in La Liga history.
CB: Gerard Pique, Barcelona
Pique is the second player who played in Barcelona’s La Masia academy, despite the fact that he transferred to Manchester United at a young age. However, Pique didn’t stay in England for long and has since had a prolific career with Barcelona. When the final occurred, Pique was 27 and recovering from a miserable 2014 World Cup. He made a proper turnaround, making the La Liga Team of the Season and helping Barcelona win the treble.
Pique is still at Barcelona, although that, too, could change. Last season Pique offered to leave to start the inevitable rebuild, and he recently got in a lengthy spat with Antoine Griezmann during the Champions League.
CB: Javier Mascherano, Retired
Some people may not remember Javier Mascherano, but the Argentinian defender only retired in November 2020. After leaving Barcelona in 2018, Mascherano played in China with Hebei China Fortune before his move back to Argentina with Estudiantes.
Mascherano was a legendary player, and that showed in the 2014/15 season. In 16 of the 28 games Mascherano played in La Liga, Barcelona kept a clean sheet. He also played in five of Barcelona’s six Champions League clean sheets that season.
RB: Dani Alves, São Paulo
That’s right. Dani Alves is still playing at the age of 37. He’s not exactly taking the easy route, either: he’s in the Brasileirao Serie A, one of the top leagues in the world, Club World Cup results aside. (Looking at you, Palmeiras). Alves has been a constant this season for title-contenders São Paulo, where he has missed just seven games, all either because of injury or suspension.
Alves has always been one of the best attacking defenders in the world, and in 2014/15 he grabbed 11 assists. Four of those were in the Champions League, impressive stats for a right-back.
CDM: Sergio Busquets, Barcelona
Sergio Busquets is the third La Masia player in the starting lineup, and he is also still at the club. However, it’s no secret that he, too, is on the decline. In 2018, Busquets had a career-high market value of €80 million. Three years later, at the age of 32, Busquets has a market value of just €10 million. That’s a €70 million decline in three seasons. He’s still a member of the national team, but injuries this season have not helped the Spaniard. He also hasn’t scored since February of 2020.
Injuries were also an issue for Sergio Busquets in 2014/15, as he missed multiple games due to an ankle injury, including the second leg of a round of 16 match against Manchester City. Busquets still managed to start all but nine La Liga matches and all but four Champions League matches.
CM: Ivan Rakitic, Sevilla
Rakitic was one of many sacrificial lambs for Barcelona this summer, sold back to Sevilla after six years away. It’s a shame, because the ugly divorce ruined Rakitic’s Barcelona legacy, where he played 310 games (over 21,000 minutes) and contributed to 77 goals.
Ironically, the 2014/15 season was Rakitic’s first with Barcelona after being purchased from Sevilla for €18 million. He had an impressive first season with Barcelona, nabbing eight goals and ten assists in all matches. Rakitic even grabbed the first goal of the Champions League final against Juventus, scoring in the fourth minute after an assist from Andres Iniesta.
CM: Andres Iniesta, Vissel Kobe
Another player you may have forgotten is still playing. Iniesta graduated from La Masia academy and went on to play 674 games for Barcelona, the third-most appearances for Barcelona of all time.
Iniesta is without a doubt one of the best midfielders of all time, spending 16 seasons with Barça’s senior team and 12 seasons with the Spanish national team. During that time he won the Euros with Spain (twice), the World Cup, and won the treble with Barcelona twice. In the 2014/15 season, various injury problems including calf and back injury kept the Spaniard out for multiple La Liga and Champions League games. That didn’t stop him from getting five assists in the Champions League, including the previously-mentioned Rakitic goal.
Somehow at the age of 36, and despite all the injuries, Iniesta is still playing for Vissel Kobe in Japan. Since joining in 2018, Iniesta has led Vissel to their first-ever Japanese Cup and Japanese Super Cup victories.
LW: Neymar Jr., PSG
Almost four years ago, Neymar Jr. left Barcelona to sign for French Ligue 1 side PSG for a world-record €222 million. It was assumed that Neymar’s arrival in Paris meant that the Champions League curse would be lifted and PSG would win Europe’s most prestigious trophy. Fast forward to present-day, and that hasn’t happened. Last season PSG lost in the final to Bayern Munich after losing in the Round of 16 the previous three years. This begs the question: has Neymar really justified the high price tag?
That’s hard to tell. He’s missed over 50 matches since joining the Parisians due to injury alone, not including suspensions (which he has had several of) and eligibility issues. There has been controversy of alleged transfer requests to return to Barcelona, and questions about whether or not Neymar really wants to be a PSG player. Furthermore, there have been zero Champions League trophies and he even missed four matches of last season’s run to the Champions League final, almost all of which were won handily without him.
On the other hand, when Neymar has played, he’s been superb. Since joining PSG he has contributed to an incredible 130 goals in 103 games, an average of 1.26 goal contributions a game. His first season alone he grabbed 19 goals and 13 assists in 20 Ligue 1 games. He added six goals and three assists in the Champions League, where PSG probably could’ve advanced farther if Neymar hadn’t been injured (and PSG hadn’t been drawn against eventual winners Real Madrid). So has Neymar justified the high price tag? Probably. Has he justified the highest price tag in history, which will probably stay that way for a very long time? Probably not.
Regardless of whether or not Neymar has proved his worth at PSG, he was incredible at Barcelona and his stats in 2014/15 proved this. He scored 39 goals in all competitions with ten assists. Ten of these goals came in the Champions League, including a goal in the 97th minute of the final to make it 3-1 and secure the Champions League title.
ST: Luis Suárez, Atletico Madrid
Probably the highest profile to move this summer, Suárez was forced to depart Barcelona following a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern in the Champions League. Barça spent all summer trying to sell him, with Juventus and Inter Miami rumored destinations, but he ended up heading to La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid for just €5 million. Since joining Atletico, Suárez has been in prolific form, scoring 16 goals in La Liga with two assists as Atletico are leading La Liga.
Similarly to Rakitic and ter Stegen, Suárez was a summer transfer from Liverpool and 2014/15 was his first season with Barcelona. He recovered from missing the first eleven games of the season (as punishment for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup) and went on to score 25 goals with a further 23 assists. Suárez even scored the winning goal of the Champions League final, beating Gianluigi Buffon after the Italian goalkeeper initially saved Lionel Messi’s effort.
Unfortunately Suárez’s Barça legacy has also been ruined due to unfortunate parting circumstances. However, no one can deny that the controversial Uruguayan striker was incredibly prolific during his time at the Camp Nou.
RW: Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Where did it all go wrong for Lionel Messi?
In 2014, la pulga was in fine form. He had just taken Argentina to the World Cup final, where they had lost to Germany. Still, it was a close match and Argentina still looked like contenders in the future. Less than twelve months later, Messi got the assist that helped Barcelona win the Champions League and clinch the team’s second treble. Things looked great for Messi.
Since then, there has been a beard promise followed by missed penalties, international retirement, un-international retirement, Champions League humiliation, leaked contracts, rumored departures, french lessons, and every possible catastrophe. However, Messi is and always will be one of the greats and 2014/15 was one of, if not the, best season of his life. (I personally would rank it second behind his 2011/12 season). Barcelona won the treble thanks to 58 goals and 30 assists in all competitions where Messi played almost every minute of every game.
Whether or not Messi’s Barcelona legacy will also be ruined if he leaves remains to be seen. The current team around him has been built with poorly spent money and some of the brightest young prospects have been allowed to leave for almost nothing.
If Barcelona’s 2014/15 team proves anything, it is that money can’t buy the Champions League. It might look like, on paper, that Barcelona did use a massive transfer window to win the Champions League, spending €166.7 million on seven different players. However, if you break it down, it’s not that way at all.
The third-biggest transfer was Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen for €19 million. However, two different injuries limited Vermaelen to just one appearance all season, and none in the Champions League. Wingback Douglas was bought from São Paulo for €4 million and made eight appearances in three years, none of them in the Champions League. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made 37 appearances in La Liga that season after being bought from Real Sociedad, but played zero Champions League games.
Plus, Barcelona needed to spend that money because they had no goalkeepers on the active roster. So, if you subtract the transfers of goalkeepers Ter Stegen and Bravo, as well as Douglas and Vermaelen (who didn’t play in the Champions League), Barcelona only spent €119 million on three players that they didn’t technically need or use in the Champions League. Most of that money was spent on Suárez, and Barça also received €81.8 million in transfer fees for players they had sold.
If you look at the teams that are struggling in the Champions League, many of them are big spenders. Manchester City, Manchester United, PSG, and Inter Milan are just some that have not lived up to the Champions League hype in recent years. Bayern Munich, Liverpool, and Barcelona before them used smart transfers to get to the Champions League final, not €100 million signings. Even Real Madrid spent limited funds (by their standards) when they won the Champions League three times running from 2015/16-2017/18. Of the ten players who were bought for €100 million or more, only one (Gareth Bale) has won the Champions League. Investment is necessary for reinforcement, but not just for the sake of spending. Now that Barcelona have started spending on unneeded players (Hi, Antoine Griezmann), they are experiencing difficulties in the Champions League.
Please let me know if you would like to see more articles like this in the future!
Image Courtesy of Ferran Cornellà, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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