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The best Barcelona side to have never won the Champions League

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Back to the 90s...

Soccer - UEFA Champions League 1993–94 - Final - AC Milan v Barcelona - Olympic Stadium, Athens Photo by Phil O’Brien/EMPICS via Getty Images

In much the same way as those teams that immediately followed Barca’s all-conquering vintage of 2011 were somewhat hampered by their predecessors’ greatness, so it was the case for the team post 1992.

Johan Cruyff had led the Blaugranes to their first ever European Cup at Wembley, the last year of the old format before the Champions League would come into being.

Despite having an incredible squad, the Dutchman couldn’t coach his side to another triumph at the pinnacle of European football, though they’d come close.

The club retained a core of winners from 92, for much of the next four years. The likes of Guardiola, Koeman, Bakero, Stoichkov, Ferrer and Zubizarreta were fixtures for a large part.

At various points, some world class additions were made, whilst La Masia players were doing their utmost to make the grade.

Players such as Romario, Luis Figo, Sergi, Robert Prosinecki, Gheorghe Hagi and Amor peppered the starting XI across the period.

One couldn’t even say that the team wasn’t that great because they were dominating La Liga at the time. They just couldn’t translate that success into another Champions League title, more’s the pity.

In the first season post-Wembley, Barca were knocked out in the second round to CSKA Moscow, and the manner of the defeat was unforgivable.

EUROPEAN CUP 2ND ROUND 1ST LEG Photo by Phil O’Brien/EMPICS via Getty Images

The first leg in Russia had ended 1-1, thereby handing Cruyff’s European Cup holders the advantage.

Once Miguel Angel Nadal and Txiki Begiristain had put Barca 3-1 up on aggregate in the second leg, it was game over. Which is probably what the Catalans thought, took their foot off of the gas and paid for it.

Within 30 minutes of Begiristain’s goal, Bushmanov, Mashkarin and Karsakov had improbably put CSKA into the lead. The balance of play had swung and Barca just couldn’t get back into it.

Perhaps with that hiding in mind, the Blaugranes weren’t going to let the same fate befall them the following season.

On their way to a final appearance against AC Milan, they’d scored the most goals out of any of the teams in the group stage (13 - compare that to Milan’s 6), and had only conceded three. Milan, with two, had the best defensive record in the tournament that year.

Comfortable 3-0 semi-final victories for both Barca and Milan in the semi-finals (against Monaco and Porto respectively), gave no hint at what was to come in the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

From a Barcelona perspective, it wasn’t just a bad day at the office. They were ripped apart.

Milan AC v FC Barcelona - Champions league finale 1993/1994 photo by Alain Gadoffre / Onze / Icon Sport via Getty Images

At 4-0 down before the hour mark, they can consider themselves lucky it wasn’t a heavier defeat.

If that weren’t bad enough, they didn’t even qualify in 1996 meaning a second successive season where Barca had failed to win a single trophy.

That was the catalyst for the Cruyff era to come to an end with Josep Lluís Núñez sacking the Dutchman and bringing the curtain down.