They call it El Clasico. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. A literal Clash of the Titans.
It was Version 20-10, Round One, The Nou Camp. Actually, for us, the actual locale was Scallywag’s in midtown Toronto. But it was a memorable afternoon, in that Ian and I got to drink pints and watch a stunning rivalry, all the while texting and taunting Kev and Len — two other ATR contributors — because they had to work. But on the pitch, only one team showed classic form… and the other failed to live up to its superstar credentials.
The media build-up to the game was epic. Thirteen World champions were facing off, along with the two greatest players in the world at the moment: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Both acted according to type: Messi was a genius (although he failed to score) and Ronaldo once again threw all his toys out the pram.
Let’s just get down to it. Final score: 5-0. After a build-up of rhetoric — mostly from the evil genius, Jose Mourinho — the game was nothing short of a blood bath and an embarrassment for Real Madrid. Barcelona tore their rivals apart and left them bent — and possibly broken. Real had gone into this game undefeated but now they sit second, humiliated by their rivals. Nothing but sour grapes for the arrogant side of the Spanish capital.
Everyone talks of how Messi is the best player in the world, but Xavi Hernandez is the best playmaker on the planet… and he proved it with a lucky, flukey goal that looked like he was giving a camp course. The midfielder took a pass off his back heel, flick it up his over his shoulder, and onto the toe of his boot. Some fortunate physics may have been involved but it was a massive, massive 1-nil.
From then on, it was all Barcelona. And regardless of their club stripe, all Spaniards will take small consolation that Xavi — along with teammate David Villa — embarrassed the national goalkeeper, Iker Casillas.
But none of it was as embarrassing as Ray Hudson’s colour commentary on Gol TV. Sounding like someone who forgot to take his Ritalin, the Geordie was over the top on every single play, making inappropriate and/or nonsensical references. Examples:
On Victor Valdes: “He looks like Mussolini looking over the balcony…” Nice… comparing the Barca keeper to the second-most infamous Fascist in history.
On David Silva: “He’s on fire… He looks like a Peregrine Falcon.” Um… I believe you are referring to the phoenix, which is born out of a fiery demise. Peregrine Falcons are known as fetchers for their master. Perhaps you can get one to find you the definition of mixed metaphors…
On Lionel Messi: “He’s the world’s best player… on account of his powerful little legs.”
Back to La Liga. Like it or not, Mourinho has finally lost, a defeat that he is calling the worst of his career. More importanly, the landscape has changed on the Iberian Peninsula, with the Catalans walking as softly as their gaffer, but carrying a big stick. All the while, Madrid will look back at a performance where they began as Los Merengues… but ended as lemons.
Only it wasn’t supposed to end up like this. Madridistas around the world were so sure their team was finally up to the challenge of beating Barcelona. They had the players. They had the manager. They had the confidence of being unbeaten all year.
But, as the saying goes, that’s why they play the games. The end result was a thrashing of historic proportions, handing Jose Mourinho the worst defeat of his managerial career. The new boys of Real were supposed to make the difference. Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, and Ricardo Carvalho were playing scintillating football all season. The blistering Madrid counterattack was touted by pundits as the key to unlocking the slower Barcelona defence. But, the newbies seemed absolutely overawed by the occasion.
Instead it was Barcelona who were majestic. Over six hundred completed passes in the match. Six hundred!! That’s how you play, baby. Forget Messi vs. Ronaldo. Ronaldo has a long way to go to play up to the standards of Xavi and Iniesta, let alone Leo Messi. This was team football at it’s finest. The mesmerizing movement of the blaugrana showed the world that years of playing as a unit trumps any amount of bought talent. Sure Barcelona has some big name buys too (David Villa, Dani Alves, etc.), but it was the interplay between Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, and Messi that unlocked the toughest defence in La Liga.
It may only be one game and there’s still a long way to go in the season. But it’s clear for all to see that Real Madrid has a long way to go if it is to be considered Barcelona’s equal. For those of us who had the privilege of witnessing the game, it was one we will not soon forget.