In a shocking result in Seville, Valencia upset Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey.
This is the first time since 2014 that Barcelona have failed to win the tournament and Ernesto Valverde must take the blame for the humiliation. Let’s look at the key men of this game…
Valverde – must get out. Now.
Here we go again (again). You have to wonder how a manager can make the same mistake so many times when it has now twice basically ruined his season and caused all his good work in La Liga to go unnoticed.
Yup, you know what happened. Valverde sent his team out onto the pitch against Valencia with precisely two quick players: his full-backs. At first it appeared that Barca were playing a 3-4-3 and it looked like the coach had sprung a tactical surprise! But, no. He had not.
So Barcelona had lots of the ball but did almost nothing against a supremely organised Valencia defence, who broke thrice, scored twice and had one shot cleared off the line. Barcelona looked befuddled, and everyone everywhere wondered how the same stuff had happened again.
Valverde became the first Barcelona manager to lose a Copa del Rey final since 2014. 2014! Spain were still World Champions and Real Madrid had won only 9 Champions League titles (they now have 13).
The Blaugrana’s dominance of the Copa del Rey was taken as a given, a justification for all the energy spent pursuing it in January, but Valverde can do anything.
He has to get sacked now, surely?
For a man who publicly refuted talk of his exit and stated his ambition to win more Champions Leagues with Barcelona, Ivan Rakitic sure played the Copa del Rey final like a man who had already accepted that he would be sold in the summer.
Rakitic is often capable of these kinds of performances where he just meanders through games as an offensive presence, but he nearly always makes up for it in a defensive capacity where he protects the Blaugrana defence. Today, though, he was nowhere to be seen.
The nadir of his display was when he failed to cover Sergio Busquets when the Spaniard pushed up to press in the first half, and that was the space from which Kevin Gameiro blasted Valencia into the lead.
The Croatian added nothing to Barcelona’s comeback effort, and was taken off with 14 minutes left and for the first time in the night he showed some gumption, kicking the bench and throwing bottles around.
He may want to win another Champions League with Barcelona but if the Blaugrana are sensible they won’t give him the chance.
Semedo is often a loser when Barcelona play, even if he doesn’t actually play he loses. He got the start tonight against Valencia, and let’s just say he failed to state his case.
It’s not that he was shockingly bad in terms of overall play. He provided good thrust in the attack, showing his pace on the overlap, but he fell asleep twice defensively and Valencia punished him both of those times.
First, he pushed up way too high, allowing Valencia to play the ball in behind him and then cross to score.
And then just over 10 minutes later he was asleep at the back post, allowing Rodrigo to run in front of him to head home a cross from the right flank. He was subbed off at half-time, and for once he can blame no one but himself. A shambolic showing.
Same as always. When it comes to disappointing Barcelona fans, Coutinho never disappoints them.
The Brazilian wizard, arriving last year for an eye-staggering fee of £142m, failed his team and supporters yet again as he did literally nothing positive in the entire game.
He has proved his incapacity throughout the whole season, especially in both legs of the Liverpool tie, yet he continued to start under Valverde.
Liverpool’s Coutinho was an absolutely world-class attacking midfielder. But now? Can’t tell whether it’s his fault or Valverde’s.
Messi & Malcom
The only positives for Barcelona in their defeat.
Messi was a menace every time he got the ball, but Valencia were often able to deal with him due to the lack of a presence elsewhere in the attack. Despite that, still forced Jaume into several saves, hit the post with after an amazing solo run and strike, and then got the goal that gave Barca life inside the last 20 minutes.
Malcom’s impact off the bench was another. The blazing Brazilian winger came off the bench to energise the Barcelona attack and allowed them to press Los Che back and even grab a goal.
Some may also suggest losing was a positive: There’s an argument that Messi’s brilliance has papered over the cracks for too long now. This loss, which comes so soon after the humiliating Champions League collapse at Liverpool, could well lead to a summer shake-up.