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The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d’Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.


Barcelona return to the Europa League on Thursday night, 18 years old and four Champions League wins since their last appearance in the competition – then called the UEFA Cup.

This season, the Spanish giants were knocked out of the UCL group stage last December, with Bayern Munich and Benfica beating them for a place in the next round, relegating them to European secondary competition.

Xavi hopes Barcelona can win the tournament
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The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
Xavi played against Celtic the last time Barca were in the Europa League
GETTY

This means Barca failed to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time in 21 years.

In fact, the last time they failed to qualify in their group was in the 2000/01 season under Pep Guardiola’s captaincy.

Nevertheless, all good runs eventually come to an end and now Napoli await the Spanish club in a mouth-watering knockout tie.

The match promises to be an intriguing affair played out by two teams who have a rich history and who both claim to have the great Diego Maradona on their books.

Xavi Hernandez, however, knows the Europa League won’t be enough for his club next season.


The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
Barcelona meet Napoli in a clash dubbed the ‘Maradona derby’ – while playing for both clubs
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He was on the pitch for both matches of their appearance in the competition in a 1-0 aggregate loss to Celtic, playing alongside Ronaldinho and Carles Puyol.

And in light of his club’s return to European secondary competition, talkSPORT.com has taken a look at what else was going on in the world of football at this time, and it’s safe to say it makes for great reading…

Didier Drogba and Alan Shearer tore Europe apart

Drogba became a legend under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

But, the season before joining the Blues, he was UEFA Cup top scorer with Marseille in the 2003/04 campaign.

He scored six goals, alongside future Chelsea team-mate Mateja Kezman, who was then playing for PSV Eindhoven.

The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
The Marseille striker was hot that season
GETTY

But they weren’t the only co-top scorers.

None other than Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time top scorer, also scored six goals in the competition for Newcastle, while Sonny Anderson also netted that amount for Villarreal.

Valencia beat Drogba’s Marseille in the final to clinch a famous double.

But it was the Chelsea icon who ended Shearer’s dream of lifting the trophy earlier in the semi-finals, netting a brace in the second leg to sink the Tyneside club in a 2-0 aggregate win.

The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
Shearer scored in goal regardless of the competition he played in
Getty

Arsenal were invincible but Thiery Henry suffered the Ballon d’Or snob

Still never equaled to this day, Arsenal did the unthinkable and won the Premier League without losing a game.

After guiding the Gunners to the historic gold trophy, many thought Henry was a shoo-in for football’s top individual prize.

He has scored 30 league goals, eight more than second-placed Shearer, and has been an absolute joy to watch throughout the Gunners’ ‘Invincibles’ campaign.

Nevertheless, the gong was won by Andriy Shevchenko who scored fewer goals to help Milan win the Serie A title.

Second place was taken by Deco, who was brilliant on Porto’s way to Champions League glory.

Henry being shunned for the Ballon d’Or will forever remain a big mystery, especially for Arsenal fans.

The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
Arsenal’s Invincibles won the Premier League without losing a game in 2003/04
Getty Images – Getty
The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
Henry was an absolute fiend in 2004 but was shunned for the Ballon d’Or
GETTY

Greece win the European Championship

As we already know, 2004 was an extremely strange year for football and arguably the biggest miracle happened when Greece prevailed at the Euros.

No one really considered the possibility of them winning the tournament and why would they?

It was their first European Championship since 1980 and their last major tournament appearance was in the 1994 World Cup, which saw them lose all of their group matches. They hadn’t even scored in a major tournament before.

But it was a tournament like no other. Germany, Spain and Italy were eliminated in the group stage, while France began their title defense with a resounding victory over England. However, the Blues never really took off.

And it paved the way for one of football’s great underdog stories as Greece outmaneuvered European soccer superstars to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy 16 years ago today.

2. Greece beat Spain, France and Portugal to win Euro 2004
Greece only went to win Euro 2004.
Getty

Valencia beat Galacticos historic double

Real Madrid were in the midst of a golden age, with Raul, Luis Figo, David Beckham, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane all plying their trade with the Spanish giants.

This is why Valencia really had no right to win the league titleandUEFA Cup in 2004.

Nevertheless, Los Ches, led by a youngster Rafael Benitez, pulled off the incredible feat.

Some of Benitez’s key performers were shot-stopper Santiago Canizares with his peroxide hair, power winger Vicente and enigmatic number ten Pablo Aimar.

Other title winners in Europe include Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga and Lyon in France.

The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
Benitez led Valencia to a double that season
GETTY

Jose Mourinho the rookie

Truly the year of the underdog, 2004 also marked the arrival of the “Special One” on the scene.

He steered Porto to a brilliant Champions League triumph, beating Manchester United, Deportivo La Coruna, Lyon and then Monaco in the final to lift the trophy.

Victory would propel the exuberant Portuguese into the limelight.

He then managed Chelsea the following season, guiding the Blues to back-to-back titles.

The rest, as we know, is history.

The last time Barcelona played in the Europa League, Ronaldinho played, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Newcastle icon Alan Shearer were top scorers, Thierry Henry suffered a Ballon d'Or snob and Jose Mourinho was a recruit.
Mourinho guided Porto to remarkable Champions League triumph

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