Barcelona slump to the Europe's second tier competition for the first time in 17 years

Barcelona was the only Spanish team to not have played in Europa League since the 2003-04 season. 

However, back then Europa League was called UEFA Cup, which Barcelona last played in 2003  after finishing sixth place in the La Liga table. 

During the 2003-04 season, Barcelona played in the UEFA Cup (now Europa League), where they reached the fourth round and met Celtic, which ended their UEFA cup journey as they lost 1-0 in aggregate. 

Alan Thompson, who scored the only goal to cruise Celtic to a 1-0 victory over the Catalans, has his goal stood for almost 17 years. This is the last time Barcelona conceded a goal in a European competition that didn't include the Champions League. 

Since then Barcelona have had a regular presence in Europe's premier club competition, the UEFA Champions League. This tells how far Barcelona have fallen from being one of the top clubs in Europe.

It all came down to requiring a  win against Bayern Munich, which did not materialize as they fell to a 3-0 defeat, coupled with a 2-0 win for Benfica over Dynamo Kyiv, which condemned the Catalans in third place of Champions League group directly sending them to Europa League since 2003-04 season. 

And the supporters who have been supporting Barcelona wouldn't be surprised with the Blaugrana demise over the years. Barcelona will now play in the Europa League, which they have not played in for the last 17 years meanwhile Messi was an unknown player during that time.

Departure of Messi and fall of Barcelona

Lionel Messi made his official senior debut in 2003. Since then, Barcelona won four Champions League with Messi scoring many of those goals for Barcelona. When he left, Barcelona hit the rock-bottom, which is quite ironic? 

Barcelona's downfall in the Champions League started since the 2017-18 season in which they suffered a 3-0 defeat in the 2nd leg to AS Roma after leading the first leg, 4-1. 

The following season, they let away a 3-0 first-leg advantage with a 4-0 capitulation to Liverpool at Anfield in the 2018/19 campaign. 

Then comes Bayern Munich, who have bludgeoned 14 goals past Barcelona in their last 3 meetings, including an 8-2 humiliation in the semi-finals of the 2019/20 season. 

The financial crisis led to losing of star players like Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann who are the top scorer of their respective clubs. 

And people thought Messi was in his comfort zone at Barcelona, while it was other way around as Barcelona was in its comfort zone with Messi. It was all Messi who did the hard part and carried Barcelona on his shoulder until his departure. 

He made Barcelona look like a competitive team in Europe and kept the Spanish giants afloat in all competitions and since his departure, Barcelona have only scored 25 goals in all competitions to Lewandowski 27 winning just 10 out of 24 away games in Europe. 

Spanish football journalist stated, "There's such a gap now between the best teams in Europe and Barcelona. They're in a different league now in the Europa League and I don't think too many of their supporters think they can even win that."

Any signs of Promises? 

However, the Arrival of Xavi has seen an alteration in Barcelona's playing style. Albeit it may be youngsters being promoted to the senior team, but there is still need of quality and Xavi will need 2-3 years to reshape one of the powerhouses of Europe. 

In performance-wise, there have been signs of improvement because Xavi knows the club inside out and will subsequently restructure the process. The future is the youth because they cannot afford a highly valued player due to the financial crisis.  

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