Football fans world over area fickle lot, one day they’re this and the next, it’s something else, particularly in regard to their reaction to performances of teams they either support or hate, but in most cases, both.
In the last couple of weeks, I have seen or heard people, including pundits, fans (knowledgeable or not) and even European football non-starters, all labelling Barcelona a finished team—how rival teams have mastered the art to either beat them or stop them from dominating!
This was after the Spanish club, described by many, including top managers like Sir Alex Ferguson, not so long ago as the best club team ever. However, following three defeats in a space of two weeks to AC Milan (Champions League) and Real Madrid (Copa del Rey and La Liga), destructors had a field day.
Great sides are judged by the highest of benchmarks, and Barca’s unprecedented high standards dipped somewhat in recent weeks, leading to critics questioning the club’s place among the great sides.
Having gone out of the Copa del Rey, the Catalan outfit faced with an embarrassing European exit, too, thanks to the awful performance in the 2-0 defeat at the San Siro in their quarterfinal first leg clash against AC Milan.
The nature of those defeats had disappointed the most and left the world wondering whether Tito Vilanova’s team would ever be the same again.
The past few weeks showed us the other side of Barcelona that may be we know it existed, but hadn’t seen it pass as so glaringly as in the defeat at the San Siro.
Tactically naive, defensively vulnerable, physically spent and lacking leadership at times, this was a pale shadow of the side which put it’s self as probably the best there was for four incredible years under Guardiola.
On Tuesday, though, Barcelona were back to their overwhelming best. Even interim coach Jordi Roura, got the luxury to sit back and just enjoy as his players, led by the midfielder maestro Andres Iniesta, served the world a master class performance.
This was more like the invincible Barca that we were used to two, hree years ago—AC Milan players didn’t seem to know what to do to defend a 2-goal advantage as Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Jordi Alba, Alaves and Sergio Busquets ran circles around them.
Messi was moved into a deeper role, his ideal best position and was able to find space between the lines because, unlike at San Siro, he had David Villa in an advanced position to drag away markers.
And it took the four-time World Player of the Year only five minutes to take advantage, smashing a lethal drive into the top corner from the edge of the box. The goal was pure magic.
Messi does not need space to score but just sheer instinct, and he proved that when he scored the first goal for Barcelona in their remarkable 4-0 win.
The little Argentine captain is best served as a false 9, he can drop to the edge of the attacking 3rd and simply annihilate you. Not so much as an out and out 10 since he hasn’t shown he can play with his back to goal which a 10 must do when receiving from defender.
After this kind of performance, few in Catalunya would have any complaint about facing French big spender Paris St-Germain in the quarterfinals because this Barca team is not done yet—a great team can not become useless after just three defeats.