|photo by Wootang01||via PhotoRee|
farlie on footie special European correspondent Todd returns to our pages by popular demand, reporting tonight from Barcelona’s London Bar, where he's still actively looking for Hemingway’s ghost:
When farlieonfootie asked me to cover this year's Superclásico, it was with some trepidation that I approached the subject, for it was no simple task. The 161st league meeting of Real Madrid and Barcelona would weave storylines complex enough to make even a spider dizzy, and had all the makings of a Shakespearean drama, including:
· Catalonian rebels vs. the Crown
· Pep the local hero vs. the Special One imported from abroad
· Messi vs. Ronaldo – the last two winners of the Ballon d’Or
· Barça vs. the coach that swiped their Champions League Cup
· Played on the 1111th anniversary of the founding of L’equip blaugrana
The rain falling on Camp Nou served as an omen that tears would be shed after this Superclásico match-up. The stage was set and the players included most of the World Cup champion side, though predominantly wearing the blaugrana kit. These are casts that coaches dream of.
Rather than recant the plays that comprised the game, as many other bloggers will, I instead offer some insights to ponder. Before proceeding, though, a few caveats. First, I confess that I am an avid Barça supporter so please, dear reader, consider the perspective from which I savored the match. Second, I am a modestly informed spectator of European football despite my inescapable American roots. And third, I am a midfielder by blood, heart, and mind. OK? Then, let’s begin.
Barça showed the global audience watching the match that it's clearly the best side in the world, with no hyperbole (or “hype” for my Yankee brethren) whatsoever. This season, Real were supposed to be the better side and allegedly proved it, until today, by attaining the top spot in La Liga table. However, they had yet to encounter a worthy challenger as they racked-up their standard three-points per weekend outings. Today’s match exposed Real for what it is: an overpaid bunch of stars searching for a team. In stark contrast, Barça showed what it is: a highly paid team of unselfish special forces operatives executing their mission flawlessly.
I’ve always viewed sport (sports, for my Yankee brethren) as equaling rhythm plus execution; a synchronized team, rather than a group of talented individuals. Today, my perspective was validated as Barça’s unselfish surgical passing decimated the side with the highest payroll on earth. Barça danced a flawless sardana; Real suffered from white man’s overbite. Regarding execution, Barça maintained the ball for fully two-thirds of the match, and the final scorline read 5-0. Enough said.
Barça toyed with their opponents like a Varsity team playing against Junior Varsity hopefuls, playing keep-away for most of the match (The Audacity of Taunt?). Messi’s chip shot (channeling Tiger Woods, sans hookers) in the 6th minute careened off the far post, but nevertheless set the dominant tone of the match – dissss-respect!
I sincerely want to give Los Blancos some degree of credit, but their best play all evening seemed to be Carvalho elbowing Messi in the head and convincing the ref that the little Argentine superhero deserved the yellow. Ronaldo was present but lacked the seriousness and support required to snatch victory, let alone a goal.
The Real back line were consistently duped by Barça’s attack, but the more obvious domination was in the midfield, where Barça field arguably the best midfield on the planet, anchored by Xavi and Iniesta, who should share this year’s Ballon d’Or. Their playful game of possession football, capped by sudden marksmen-like passes, dazzled the fans and tallied goals galore on the score sheet.
By the 54th minute, Los Blancos were waving their figurative white flags, falling into a defensive posture which allowed their opponents to execute an impressive, and embarrassing, passing (and scoring) clinic, complete with at least 10 backheels. Playing for so-called pride and not for victory is a dangerous tactic that usually backfires, and Real experienced that inevitability in spades. In today’s Superclásico, even Barça's substitutes combined for a fifth goal against the hapless Galácticos.
In the end, The Special One redefined “special,” Pep earned another notch in his impressive belt, and the blaugrana supporters deservedly partied ‘till dawn. The first act of this Shakespearean drama ended in tragedy for Madrid, but like all good dramas there will be a second act (in April, on a different stage) with unanticipated plot twists and turns, and of course countless opportunities for redemption.
This is a breathless farlieonfootie, reporting for December 1.