Barcelona is one of those clubs that everybody knows. Despite not being as decorated as fellow Spanish giants Real Madrid – something that fans of Los Blancos love to point out – Barca have had some of the greatest players and teams in the history of world football grace the home changing room at the Camp Nou. The likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Johan Cruyff were never relegated while at the club, but have Barcelona ever played in the second tier of Spanish football after falling out of La Liga?
Has Barcelona ever been relegated? Barcelona has never been relegated from La Liga. Barca was one of 10 clubs who founded the league in 1928. The other nine members of that inaugural league season in 1929 were Real Madrid, Athletic Club, Real Sociadad, Getxo, Real Union, Atletico Madrid, Espanyol, Europa, and Racing de Santander. Barcelona are one of just three of that group of 10 to have never been relegated. The other two are Real Madrid (as expected) and Athletic Club (surprisingly).
To look back at how Barcelona has always been a pillar of La Liga it is important to go all the way back to the beginning.
Barcelona was founded as a result of a newspaper advertisement. It was on October 22, 1899, when a then 22-year-old Swiss-born accountant named Hans Max Gamper-Haessig published the advertisement stating his wish to form a football club.
Gamper-Haessig is himself an interesting story as a man stopping off in Barcelona on his way to Africa but so falling in love with the city that he decided to stay. He would later adopt the name Joan Gamper and two teams that he founded still play in the top divisions of their leagues with the other being FC Zurich in his native Switzerland.
A perfect eleven players showed up for that first meeting from a mix of nations as Barcelona was already a world city at the turn of the 20th century. This is further shown by the iconic blue and red colors of Barcelona.
The major theory for this is that brothers Arthur and Ernest Witty, a pair of brothers from Merseyside in England who were major players in the club’s early years, were former pupils of Merchant Taylors’ Boys School in Crosby. The rugby club there has a color palette that would be very family to the millions of Barca fans around the world today.
Barcelona quickly grew into a force, competing in and winning various cup competitions until a national league, La Liga, was formed with its first season starting in 1929.
Barca won the very first edition of La Liga in 1928-29. They finished just ahead of Real Madrid in the table, beginning a league rivalry that has lasted for generations. Barca claimed their first runners-up position in the second season of the league as they were unable to get past Athletic Club to retain their crown.
Barca has been comfortably the second most successful club in La Liga over the course of its history. They have won the competition 26 times and finished second on a further 26 occasions. The only club with more wins is Real Madrid with 35. They are also 14 league wins away from their placed Atletico Madrid who have lifted the trophy 11 times. These are the only three clubs that have double-digit La Liga titles to their name.
That is not to say that it has always been smooth sailing for Barca. While the number of wins is very impressive, there were some seasons in which Barca flirted with the drop far closer than their fans would have liked. Here are a few of the years where Barcelona were far from the team that Ronaldinho and Ronaldo starred for at the end of the 90s/early 2000s.
- 1933-34 – There had been a policy that the bottom club would drop out of La Liga after the first few seasons of play. This season Barca finished in ninth place out of 10 teams with 16 points. Only original member Getxo was below them with 10 points. Neither was relegated, however, as the league had decided to expand to 12 teams for the 1934-35 campaign.
- 1941-42 – This was as close as it gets. The 14 team league saw the bottom two (Real Sociedad and Alicante) automatically relegated. It also saw teams 11 and 12 in the standings in a relegation playoff against a team from the second tier. Barca finished twelfth (and just two points away from automatic relegation) before smashing Murcia 5-1 in a game that, had they lost, would have completely changed this article.
- 1962-63 – Barca finished sixth this season, their joint lowest since the 12th placed finish over two decades earlier. To say they were close to relegation in a season where they qualified for the Cup Winners Cup by winning the Copa Del Rey is a little weird, but Barca were only nine points better off than Mallorca who went down after finishing 13th in the standings in a 16 team league.
- 1987-88 – La Liga, like every soccer competition, was two points for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a defeat until the modern age. It was still that points scoring system here as Barca once again finished sixth, once again qualified for the Cup Winners Cup, and once again were closer to relegation than that makes it sound. They were just eight points ahead of Murcia, a team who needed to win a relegation playoff to stay in the division. Albeit, in Barca’s favor, there were 10 other teams between them and the barely surviving side.
- ● 2002-03 – The last time that Barcelona was in any type of relegation trouble was in the 2002-03 season. Three managers combined to take the team to a sixth placed finish, their worst in 15 years. Three points for a win was in place and they eventually finished 20 points clear of the drop. At one point, however, they were as low as 15th in the table as late in the year as February. Louis van Gaal had been an epic failure and Radomir Antic was somehow even worse to begin with. Eventually, Antic pulled the team out of their rut and they sped to survival. Even so, this is the worst Barca season in terms of league performance in modern history.