FC Barcelona's been struggling. In the past few weeks, they've lost to Real Madrid back-to-back, and haven't beaten their rivals since last August. They were just defeated 2-0 in the Champions League away to an undermanned AC Milan side. They've only won one game in their last four. Messi is hurting, spiritually. And last week, Barça plummeted in the rankings from best club in the world all the way to fifth.
It's been coming for some time, we suppose. After Barcelona's 3-1 Copa del Rey loss to Real Madrid, we wrote on how Barcelona's best days, which were so ridiculous they were nigh unsustainable, may be behind them. And last week, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) backed our hunch when it released the most recent Club World Rankings based on performances from March 2012 to March of this year.
The rankings are based on a point system given to match victories over the course of the year, with different weight given to different competitions. A club in a top domestic league is awarded four points for a win, and two points for a draw. If a team wins in a major international club tournament like the Champions League or Copa Libertadores, they can be awarded as many as 14 points, with half as much for a draw.
Even though Barcelona's all but won La Liga already this year, the recent flurry of bad results has been enough to topple them from their perched. Real Madrid is in seventh place, the same as last year, but in the IFFHS's most recent rankings, Barcelona was leapfrogged by Brazil's Corinthians, Bayern Munich of Germany, and La Liga's Atletico Madrid. The biggest surprise of all, however, is probably who occupies the top slot: Chelsea.
That's right; Chelsea, from England's Premier League. Even with signings like Belgian wonderkid Eden Hazard, the club's been floundering, domestically at least, for the better part of the last two years. The Blues have a tenuous hold on fourth place in the Premier League right now. Last year, they came in sixth. They were ousted in the group stages of the Champions League this season, and the only reason why they were able to compete in the first place is because Didier Drogba and Petr Cech led the club to an almost miraculous final victory against Bayern Munich on the heels of a semifinal win against, of course, FC Barcelona. They then went on to compete in Europe's Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. They lost both, but they were there.
Barcelona is now ranked the second-best team in their country (Atletico Madrid won the UEFA Europa League last year and beat Chelsea in the Super Cup, and they're currently ahead of Real Madrid in the La Liga table), but Barça can slip to third if Madrid find a way to continue their run of good form and good luck following a Champions League victory against Manchester United after a dubious red card. Unless Barcelona find a way to bounce back against AC Milan next week at home, it might be awhile before we see the European giants back on top of world soccer.
And for anyone wondering, we checked. The Seattle Sounders were 128th. The LA Galaxy are 239th. So...we're on the board.