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After a hard season, Xavi’s exit and Mbappe likely joining Madrid, can Barcelona ever catch up?

Last season, Barcelona won LaLiga over Real Madrid by a considerable margin; this season, the tables have turned dramatically. With Barca suddenly in crisis, what would it take for them to catch up?

ESPN

Remember when Barcelona won LaLiga? No? It happened less than a year ago. Seriously. I promise.

At this time last year, Xavi’s team was cruising to their first LaLiga trophy in four years, and their first one of the post-Lionel Messi era. It seemed like they’d finally landed on a coach who was able to revive the club’s identity. And although they’d pulled countless financial levers and sold off substantial sums of future revenue, maybe they’d just managed to wriggle their way out of it. They’d be favorites in LaLiga once again and — perhaps — the increased revenue from a handful of deeper Champions League runs, coupled with the club’s continued ability to develop young talent, would keep them competitive at the upper-most echelon of the game.

Or maybe not. Things spiraled out of control so quickly that Xavi announced — before the end of January — that he’d be leaving the club at the end of the season, despite recently signing a new contract through 2025. Things then briefly got better, according to Xavi, because he decided to leave. “If I hadn’t made it, it would have been a disaster. It was the right decision,” he said last week. “That calm is the reason we are where we are. Without it, it would have been much more difficult.”

There was no evidence of calm on Tuesday, and it was a disaster. Barcelona blew a 4-2 aggregate lead to Paris Saint-Germain at home in the Champions League quarterfinal after Ronald Araújo got sent off in the 29th minute, Xavi kicked an advertising board (and got sent off), and João Cancelo slide-tackled a retreating Ousmane Dembélé in the box.

Madrid, meanwhile, did what they always do: won a game that they had no right to win. Despite facing 33 shots and attempting just eight against Manchester City at the Etihad, they drew 1-1 and managed to prevail in penalties. They’re the favorites in the Champions League — ahead of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and PSG — and have an eight-point lead over Barcelona ahead of Sunday’s game in Madrid.

While, currently, the two clubs seem miles apart, what would it take for Barcelona to eventually catch up to Real Madrid?

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