With the debacle at Anfield still fresh in the memory of everyone connected with FC Barcelona, a win against Valencia in the Copa del Rey final was a chance for the Catalans to exorcise those demons.
Against a team who’d beaten them only three times in 11 years, and a coach who’d never triumphed over them in 20 years of trying, Barca realistically only had to turn up to add another trophy to their cabinet.
And yet, turning up is the one thing they failed to do.For that, their fan base will be unforgiving.
Despite the disappointment, there would’ve been a grudging acceptance had the Blaugrana lost with grace, but, as against Liverpool, Ernesto Valverde’s side weren’t really at the races on the night.
The usual ‘give it to Messi’ ploy failed to work because the Argentinian was surrounded by three or four defenders whenever he bore down on goal.
His record-breaking strike in the second-half – the first player ever to score in six cup finals – gave Barca some false hope which, in truth, they didn’t deserve.
So, where do they go from here?
In the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Josep Maria Bartomeu again stood right behind Valverde, reiterating that his coach has a contract for another season.
Valverde himself, risking the wrath of the fanbase, suggested that he felt ‘fine’ despite the loss.
It’s been documented that the senior players in the dressing room still support him too, so it’s difficult to see what will change, aside from a handful of personnel, before the start of the 2019/20 campaign.
A root and branch clear out isn’t the answer either of course, but the club are moving even further away from their La Masia roots.
Though the Catalans have had unprecedented success over the last decade and were, for all intents and purposes, a handful of games away from another treble this season, the supporters would accept a barren period if it meant that the club could recover the ethos of Johan Cruyff.
That, more than anything, is causing the current disconnect between club and supporters.
Buying the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Matthijs De Ligt doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, it just masks the ongoing issues.
Something that’s happened right from the very beginning of Bartomeu’s presidency when he promised the signing of Arda Turan, then a big name at Atletico Madrid, if he won the presidential elections.
A treble that year saved his skin, but since then, despite more trophies being hoovered up, the essence of what the club had always stood for has eroded.
Unless there’s a sea change in attitude at the top, Messi’s final years as a player could well be spent trying to save the club from more on-pitch disasters.
And that will be the worst legacy possible from the club’s golden era.