Alex Keble suggests that PSG's 4-0 win on Tuesday night will lead to Luis Enrique leaving the club, and may symbolise an emerging transition of power from Barcelona to Paris.
"It has been a peculiar era of Barcelona’s history, defined by Enrique’s strangely divisive three-year spell as manager. His gradual remoulding of the side from the curvy elegance of the Guardiola school into the straight-edged, razor-sharp age of MSN has been a fricative transition from the outset, but Tuesday’s defeat marks the demise - annihilation, even – of the age of Guardiola and the greatest generation in Barcelona’s history."
Angel di Maria's second goal of the night, a curling effort from the edge of the area, was as beautiful from Paris-Saint Germain's perspective as it was appalling from Barcelona's. The image of Andres Iniesta jogging listlessly back as PSG countered, before half-heartedly attempting a tackle on Di Maria, serves as a defining emblem of Barca's shock 4-0 defeat in the Parc des Princes; Iniesta's dynasty is coming to an end and so too is the cycle of Luis Enrique's management, while PSG are, just maybe, on the brink of something special. They are the 7.613/2 third favourites to win the Champions League now, Barcelona 44.043/1 afterthoughts.
It has been a peculiar era of Barcelona's history, defined by Enrique's strangely divisive three-year spell as manager. His gradual remoulding of the side from the curvy elegance of the Pep Guardiola school into the straight-edged, razor-sharp age of MSN has been a turbulent transition from the outset, but Tuesday's defeat marks the demise - annihilation, even - of the age of Guardiola and the greatest generation in Barcelona's history. It is a death that Enrique's awkward restructuring of the Barca DNA has alluded to for some time.
Unai Emery's buccaneering football on Tuesday night was a joyous celebration of football's most explosive, most gut-punching attributes. They burst through the Barca midfield with an ease that showcased the bravery and tactical sophistication of Emery's philosophy, painfully dismantling the visitors with the very tactical methods Enrique has been attempting to implement for three years. The Spaniard's inability to find a smooth rhythm merely underlines the fact that this most extraordinary generation - of Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, and Gerard Pique - are no longer the dominant force in world football.
Barcelona will rise again, but not this year. Domestic success seems increasingly implausible given they trail Real Madrid by a point (that should soon become seven) and are still to play both Madrid clubs away from home. And so, with the Barca board anxious to ensure their defeat on Tuesday does not symbolise a transition of power to the oil-rich French champions, the Copa del Rey final looks set to be a farewell fixture for Enrique. His contract expires in the summer and both parties remain coy over a new deal.
The obvious choice for a successor is Jorge Sampaoli, whose Sevilla side sit two points behind Barca thanks to the Chilean's fashionably-bold rendition of Bielsa-esque attacking football. He is an interesting midway point between Barca's obsessive possession circa 2010 and the directness of Enrique's new approach, although Sampaoli's lack of ties with the club could prove problematic. Barca tend to keep things in-house, which might hand Eusebio Sacristan, the former Barcelona B coach and current boss of high-flying Real Sociedad, a key advantage.
Whoever takes the reins, a dramatic revamp is imminent. Iniesta's lacklustre 90 minutes in Paris emphasised his decreasing value at the highest level, and ditto Busquets; the sheer speed and fluency of PSG's young midfield was in stark contrast to their opponents'. Youthful exuberance is the antidote, and indeed Barcelona might even poach directly from their victors this summer: Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot would be perfect additions.
Time for PSG to capitalise on European rivals' weaknesses
Of course, Barca's ability to steal from the Parisians depends upon Emery's Champions League success; failure to advance beyond the quarter-finals stage for a fifth successive season would try the patience of their star players. But judging by their sledgehammer performance on Tuesday, PSG have every chance of going all the way.
The theory that an absence of competitiveness in France has hampered PSG's Champions League run appears to have been strengthened last night. Struggling for supremacy at the top of Ligue 1, this was a sharper and more cohesive PSG performance than any we have seen in recent years. The balance of technical artistry in midfield, forceful runs on the wings, and a striker finally finishing his chances has created something that looks genuinely capable of winning the tournament - not least because of the dearth in quality across Europe.
Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus, and Atletico Madrid (who, along with Barcelona, have taken 16 of the last 20 Champions League semi-final spots) all appear considerably more disorganised in 2016/17 than previous seasons, which puts PSG in an unusually strong position. Emery's European record - three consecutive Europa League triumphs with Sevilla - only adds to the sense that this could, finally, be their year.
The current trajectories of Barcelona and PSG could hardly be more different, then, and last night's game marks a significant turning point for both. Symbolised by the damaging scoreline and the lethargic performances of their most senior players, Valentine's Day 2017 was the moment Barcelona's decade-long dynasty began to crumble. For PSG, ten years from now we might just look back on this date as the beginning of a new era of Parisian dominance: the day when one superpower surrendered control to another.