There is still more than half of the season to play, but Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has already all but conceded La Liga’s title race, illustrating how far the club has fallen after a disastrous 2020.
An injured Lionel Messi watched on from the stands as struggling Eibar frustrated Barça at Camp Nou on Tuesday night. The visitors took the lead in the second half, before Ousmane Dembele got Koeman’s side back on level terms. But that was how it stayed.
Barça missed the opportunity to jump to third place by failing to win and have been victorious in fewer than half of their 15 La Liga games this season. Leaders Atletico Madrid are already seven points ahead and have two games in hand, the first of which they play on Wednesday evening.
Real Madrid are also seven points better off, while Barça languish in fifth.
A lot could still change in a very short space of time, but Koeman, who has inherited the worst Barcelona team in a generation, looks like he is already giving up and throwing in the towel.
“I'm realistic, winning the title is complicated. Nothing is impossible, but we have to recognise the distance,” the Dutchman is quoted as saying by Marca.
“Atletico look very good to me. They're very strong and they don't concede many goals.”
Television cameras regularly focused on Messi during the game to gauge his reaction to his teammates’ struggles and the six-time Ballon d’Or was seen shaking his head and walking away with his head down when the final whistle sounded.
Messi recently admitted he is yet to make up his mind about his Barcelona future and will decide whether he wants to stay or leave at the end of the season. His contract expires in June and if he decides for the second summer in a row that he wants to go it will be as a free agent.