MANCHESTER, England, April 30 (Reuters) - Barcelona's Champions League exit to Manchester United was a failure of team management, directors and club sources said.
Barcelona, European champions in 2006, were beaten 1-0 on aggregate at Old Trafford on Tuesday with the blame being laid on poor management and discipline of some of the world's most gifted players.
A side boasting Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o, Deco, Xavi and Thierry Henry failed to score over 180 minutes against United, who played more as a team.
'It's gone out of our hands,' a Barcelona board member, who declined to be named, told Reuters at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
'We're good, professional corporate managers but we haven't managed the people, the intangibles,' another member of the board, most of whom were educated at Barcelona's elite business school Esade, said.
'The stars need to manage themselves,' Txiki Begiristain, Barca's sporting director, told Reuters.
'Circumstances have led to this, we've had injuries. But maybe because we've lived through glory, now it's harder. We have to encourage our stars.'
This protective, forgiving attitude is what Barca fans want to see eradicated, with crowd chants this season including 'Menys millons, mes collons' (fewer millions, more balls).
'I've been surprised by the permissive attitude,' said Albert Ferrer, a former Barcelona and Chelsea defender, now a television commentator.
'The top players have to give, strikers must score in a team like Barca. There's been too much complacency with the key players who haven't been up to their (usual) standard.'
Barca's plight compares with the struggle faced by archrivals Real Madrid, when their own glittering side failed to deliver.
Real Madrid last won the Champions League in 2002 with Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo but the addition of Ronaldo and David Beckham failed to bring more titles and the players were blamed by Spanish media for a lack of team cohesion.
Since Joan Laporta won the club presidency five years ago, Barcelona have emulated some of United's commercial tactics with improved marketing, lucrative pre-season tours and other money-spinning schemes.
United hold the edge, however, in the figure of manager Alex Ferguson, who has been in charge of the team for more than 20 years and will not hesitate to off-load players if he thinks their egos have risen above the club.
Keeping a manager and maintaining strong club discipline is the best way to guarantee consistency and success, said Josep Maria Minguella, a former agent who helped bring high-profile players like Diego Maradona and Rivaldo to Barcelona.
'I don't know of many United players who haven't delivered,' he told Reuters.
He added that after their 2006 success, Barcelona 'thought they'd found the magic trick, but a year went by without winning anything and nobody did anything, as any company would do with highly-paid employees who're not delivering.
'This is the lesson.'