Even at the start of the last decade, FC Barcelona were the force to be reckoned with in Europe. Not just that, their homegrown style of football was the prime precedent in terms of beautiful football.
But in the past few years, they have lost both of their sorcery and success. Despite the continuity of domestic success, they failed to reciprocate their charismatic football and authority in Europe. Adding insult to injury, their arch-rivals Real Madrid were crowned European Champions thrice in a row in the last five years.
Andres Iniesta, one of Barcelona's greatest ever, has said that Barcelona will never be what they were during that time. But how did all go wrong? Where did that beautiful Barcelona go?
Moving away from La Masia
The great Barcelona side of Pep Guardiola and even Luis Enrique was fuelled by Barcelona's legendary academy La Masia. Lionel Messi, Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Pedro Rodriguez were all graduates of their own academy, which meant these players knew the Barcelona style to their heart from a very tender age.
But in recent years, the Catalan club have depended more on buying players than promoting their own. That has not only led to their success depleting but also them losing their own beautiful brand of football.
Turbulent transfer market policy
Barcelona's transfer policy has been disastrous in the last few windows. The number of failed transfers are way too many which include the likes of Phillipe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Andre Gomes, Arda Turan. They have brought in below-par players like Martin Braithwaite, Kevin-Prince Boateng and despite his well-off performances, Paulinho.
They had lost Neymar to PSG in 2017 and never recovered from that loss. Their attempts to cover up for the talismanic Brazilian were failures and that has led them to their biggest problem in recent years, way too much Messi-dependency.
Way too much Messi-dependency
The brilliant Barcelona side was different because it did not rely on one single player for their success. Yes, a mercurial Messi surely helped their cause but they did not break down to pieces when Messi was not there. In recent years, especially after Neymar's departure, that has been exactly the case for Barcelona.
This might prove how crucial Messi has been for Barcelona in the last few years. Barcelona lost only one league game in the 2017-18 season and that was the only match of the season in which Messi did not feature at all.
Messi has directly contributed to 178 goals since the start of the 2017-18 season, which include 120 goals and 58 assists. Let alone that, Messi has single-handedly orchestrated Barcelona's for the last three years and this, by no means, is an over-statement. In these years, a bad match for Messi meant a bad match for Barcelona and this has only helped Messi to get his hands on more personal achievements, with Barcelona staying deprived of European success.
This kind of over-dependency on one man leads to Messi being burned out at the latter parts of the season, resulting in Barcelona getting thrashed and losing the chance of being crowned European champions.
Impertinent managerial appointment
Barcelona probably had their worst managerial appointment considering their style of play in Ernesto Valverde. The Basque manager was by no means a fan of the fluid passing system and rather favoured a safe approach compared to Guardiola and Enrique's high-risk styles.
But the worst part of him must be his dealing with the mental pressure. Enrique had said before that famous 6-1 win against PSG, "If they can score four against us, we can score six." The players did that but that showed the belief and the confidence the manager provided the players with. Under Valverde's reign, such things were noticeably missing and it can not be a coincidence that it was under him Barcelona threw away three-goal leads in consecutive seasons.
Despite his success in the domestic arena, Valverde would be remembered as a mistake by the Barcelona hierarchy. Not only did he mismatch the style, but he also lacked the personality required to become a Barcelona boss.
Barcelona have appointed Quique Setien to replace Valverde and changes have shown. But from the destruction done to Barcelona in the last few years, the question still persists.
Will their beauty ever be back?