Barcelona's 2021-22 campaign came to a close with a 2-0 loss at home to Villarreal on Sunday evening, and the Catalan outfit will be pleased to see the back of what has been a testing season.
There are plenty of reasons for the supporters to be optimistic, though, with Xavi making a positive impression since his return to the club as head coach, while it is expected to be a busy summer transfer window for Blaugrana despite their ongoing financial problems.
Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Barcelona's season, which saw them finish second in La Liga, reach the last-16 stage of the Copa del Rey and also suffer disappointment in both the Champions League and Europa League.
Final league position: 2nd
Copa del Rey: Round of 16
Champions League: Group stage
Europa League: Quarter-finals
Most assists: Ousmane Dembele (13)
Lionel Messi's departure from Barcelona on a free transfer last summer sent shockwaves around the world of football, and it would be fair to say that the Catalan outfit are still coming to terms with his exit.
The 34-year-old had carried the team during their difficult moments, but the club's financial problems meant that they were unable to sign him to a new contract, with Paris Saint-Germain making the most of the outstanding opportunity to sign one of the best players of all time on a free transfer.
There have been plenty of positives this season, with outstanding prospect Gavi announcing himself on the biggest stage, but second in La Liga is seen as a failure by the club, and they were unable to challenge for the title this term, ultimately finishing 13 points behind champions Real Madrid, who proved to be far too strong for the rest of the competition.
Barcelona have so often been the dominant force in the Copa del Rey, but they went out in the last-16 stage of that competition and were also knocked out in the group stage of the Champions League, forcing them to play in the Europa League for the first time since 2003.
Eintracht Frankfurt beat the Catalan giants in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, so it has been a season without a trophy for the club, and there have been a number of lows both on and off the field.
Ronald Koeman was sacked as head coach at the end of October following a poor run of form, and following a host of speculation, Xavi returned to the club as manager at the start of November.
The legendary midfielder has taken charge of 38 matches since his arrival, boasting a record of 21 wins, nine draws and eight defeats, and the fact that he managed to guide Barcelona to second must be taken as a positive, as at one stage, it appeared that they might struggle to qualify for next season's Champions League.
The club's January business certainly helped them, with Aubameyang proving to be an inspired signing, ending the campaign with 13 goals and one assist in 23 appearances. Meanwhile, Ansu Fati's return from injury in the latter stages of the season will stand the club in good stead for next term.
The team have once again suffered a number of injuries to key players, though, with Pedri missing a lot of football, while Dembele's contract situation has caused problems behind the scenes; Aguero was also forced to announce his retirement from football in December due to a heart condition.
The club are planning a busy summer, with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski believed to be their leading transfer target, and Xavi will certainly be confident of helping the club return to the top of European football once again, but it has been a difficult and often frustrating campaign for the club's supporters.
LA LIGA STATS
Goals scored: 68
Goals conceded: 38
Yellow cards: 98
Red cards: 2
HOW DID IT COMPARE TO LAST SEASON?
Interestingly, Barcelona finished higher in La Liga this season (2nd) than last (3rd), but they were only seven points behind the champions Atletico Madrid in 2020-21, whereas they finished this term 13 points behind Real Madrid, who won the title at the end of April.
The Catalan side scored 85 league goals last term, conceding 38, while this season they scored 68 and conceded 38, so it is not difficult to see where they have struggled.
The fact that Aubameyang did not arrive until January but finished as their joint-leading goalscorer with 13 is telling, especially as Messi struck 38 in all competitions last term.
Barcelona also won the Copa del Rey last term, in addition to reaching the last-16 stage of the Champions League, so they have performed worse in those two competitions in 2021-22.
For many, Xavi's ceiling is higher than Koeman's, with the Dutchman arguably achieving all that he could last term; the current head coach can be pleased with his record since arriving, and he is expected to be given time to get things right at Camp Nou.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON - JORDI ALBA
Sergio Busquets has had another impressive campaign for Barcelona, making a huge 51 appearances in all competitions, while Gavi, at the age of 17, has made 47 outings this term, with the Spain international one of the most exciting young players in European football.
Ronald Araujo has also been in strong form at the back, but Jordi Alba has been the team's overall player of the season when taking everything into consideration.
From left-back, the 33-year-old has contributed three goals and 12 assists in 44 appearances in all competitions, showing consistency throughout the campaign.
Barcelona are believed to be keen to sign a new left-back this summer, but Alba deserves to again be a key player for Xavi's side next season, showing once again that he remains one of the best left-sided defenders in European football.
Barcelona's best result of the season, by a considerable distance, was their stunning 4-0 victory away to Real Madrid on March 20. The Catalan outfit entered the match as the underdogs, but Aubameyang scored a brace, while Araujo and Torres both registered at Bernabeu.
Real Madrid had won five Clasicos in a row entering the match, but Xavi's side were far too strong over the course of the 90 minutes, and the result was a further indication of their improvement since the change of management at the club.
Barcelona's away form during the 2021-22 La Liga season was actually excellent, picking up 35 points from 19 matches, but they lost five times at home, with Cadiz, Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal all winning at Camp Nou in the latter stages of the campaign.
Xavi celebrated his first game in charge of Barcelona on November 20, and it proved to be a very special occasion for the legendary midfielder, with a second-half penalty from Memphis securing a 1-0 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby.
The 42-year-old enjoyed a special playing career at the club, making 767 appearances, winning eight La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey crowns and four Champions League titles.
After making a strong impression as head coach of Al-Sadd, Xavi was given the chance to return to Barcelona, and there was a special atmosphere inside the stadium for the derby, with the victory making it a sweet homecoming for the Spaniard.
TOP PRIORITY FOR SUMMER
Barcelona still have financial problems, but the issues are slowly being addressed, and there will be money to spend this summer's transfer window.
Bayern's Lewandowski is the priority, though, and the Poland international has revealed that he wants to leave Allianz Arena during this summer's transfer window.
Lewandowski is the type of statement signing that Barcelona need this summer, and he remains one of the outstanding players in world football, scoring 50 goals and registering seven assists in 46 appearances in all competitions at club level during the 2021-22 campaign.
Finding a way to bring the experienced striker to the club should be a priority this summer, which might mean allowing Frenkie de Jong to leave, but Barcelona also have an excellent base to build from, with the likes of Araujo, Pedri, Gavi and Fati capable of playing leading roles in helping the club return to former glories.
Addressing Dembele's future is also high on the club's priority list, with the France international's contract due to expire at the end of June. As it stands, he will be leaving on a free transfer, but the Catalan outfit are still said to be confident of convincing the World Cup winner to sign fresh terms.
The first half of the 2021-22 campaign was turbulent, and the atmosphere became toxic during the latter stages of Koeman's tenure, with a change obviously required.
Xavi has had some difficult moments at the helm, and there is no getting away from the fact that the club's Champions League and Europa League campaigns were huge disappointments.
There are plenty of reasons to be positive about the future, though, and with the right summer transfer window, Barcelona will be up there once again challenging for the major honours in the not too distant future.
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