Lionel Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain “ripped out” the soul of Barcelona, former Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said after the Blaugrana’s heavy Champions League defeat to the Bundesliga champions.
Barca may have avoided another demolition job at the hands of Bayern, who defeated them 8-2 in the Champions League quarter-finals 13 months ago, but Tuesday’s 3-0 loss was a damning indictment of the gulf between them and the teams likely to challenge for European club football’s biggest prize this term.
It was the first time since Opta records began (2003-04) that Barca have failed to get a shot on target in a Champions League game, and Bayern’s superiority condemned Ronald Koeman’s men to three successive home defeats in the competition for the first time.
Barcelona’s crippling financial state – which has seen their debts approach €1.4billion – has contributed to a situation where such heavy losses to Europe’s elite are no longer a surprise.
Prior to 2020-21, Barca had only ever lost two Champions League home games by three or more goals but that has occurred three times since – with Messi no longer there, many would expect their standard to continue plummeting.
Barca were unable to keep Messi due to salary cap restrictions and Rummenigge sees a hollow shell of a club left without him.
Speaking to Bild TV, Rummenigge – who left his role as Bayern CEO earlier this year – said: “When you looked at the team and how they performed tactically… with Messi [leaving], their souls were ripped out. They are facing difficult times.
“They had to let him leave, but LaLiga scored an own goal with it [his departure].”
Rummenigge was asked if bringing Messi to Bayern was ever a possibility, but he pointed to the Barca’s financial mismanagement around the six-time Ballon d’Or winner that made signing him impossible.
“That couldn’t be, that was not a subject [considered],” he continued. “You can’t think about that.
“His salary is at such dizzying heights, and don’t forget, this has a knock-on effect. Then the others want more too.
“That has resulted in Barcelona having staggering debts.”
But while Barca are left tending to an institutional crisis, their bitter rivals Real Madrid appear to be in a far less dire situation.
Although club president Florentino Perez stressed Madrid football was running out of money earlier this year when he fronted up the attempted formation of a European Super League, Los Blancos were comfortable enough to lodge bids of at least €160m for PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.
PSG did not entertain any offers but the Frenchman will become a free agent next year and Rummenigge believes there is a strong change both he and Erling Haaland could end up in Madrid in 2022, rather than the Norwegian going to Bayern.
“[Robert] Lewandowski is the best centre-forward in the world. Haaland is the second best,” he said. “I think Bayern is interested in Robert staying after his contract expires in 2023. Haaland is an investment.
“I don’t think he’s going to Liverpool. I know the owner very well and he is not known for splashing out.
“With Haaland, I wouldn’t rule Real Madrid out. Maybe they’ll open the chequebook a little more in the summer and possibly get Haaland and Kylian Mbappe.”