Realistically, we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised by Barcelona’s failure to mount ‘Remontada #2’.
It would have been a bridge too far for a good side, let alone this current crop of Camp Nou misfits. No, Wednesday evening belonged to Paris Saint-Germain, and we knew it all along – even if we weren’t quite ready to accept it.
Perhaps we weren’t prepared to accept that football isn’t one constant miracle, and just because we whisper about the possibility of the impossible rearing its magical head, it won’t automatically present itself before us.
And mostly, we weren’t ready to acknowledge that Lionel Messi just isn’t capable of pulling rabbits out of the hat anymore – even if those around him still chuck the top-hat his way and stand around with eyes wide and hearts in mouths.
Barça travelled to Paris with the faintest of hopes of qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals, but those dreams were pinned on nothing more than a memory of a glorious night almost exactly four years ago.
In fact, the memories which should have surfaced instead, were those of La Blaugrana’s collapse in Rome in 2018, or their even more shocking 4-0 defeat at Anfield in the semi-finals only a year later. And yet, the 2017 Remontada played on a loop in the back of our minds, hoping to being prayed into existence for a second time.
And for 45 minutes, we dared to dream. Barça conceded on the half-hour mark, but little changed for the visitors. They still needed four goals. Seven minutes later, one arrived, and in a manner that only a match-defining strike can arrive.
Messi, the superstar carrying all the hopes and dreams, just rocketed one into the top corner from 30 yards. A lightning bolt of anger and rage from football’s fading God. And then, all of a sudden, the flashbacks began to blind PSG’s stars.
Stage-fright was in full flow, and when Barça were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time, the Remontada was on. But as soon as the Remontada was giveth, it was as swiftly taketh from our hearts.
The man charged with leading his troops to glory missed from the spot, and with that, the energy and belief was zapped from the game. It was a monumental moment in the tie, undoubtedly shifting the pendulum back in PSG’s favour, and saving them from what felt an inevitable embarrassment.
Luckily for the French champions, they happened to be facing one of the very few bigger bottlers than themselves in Barcelona. But that can’t be put squarely on Messi’s shoulders. He did everything he could in the second half to break the hosts down, but in the end, it was too high a mountain to climb.
The chances came and went, and the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann spurned their own potentially game-defining moments. But that is the story of this Barça side.
It has moments of genius, and players such as Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Messi roll back the years and click through the gears like they did for season after season. But it’s not enough anymore. They’re not enough.
And it’s as much our fault for even believing they could be enough.