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The Kings of Europe


First of all, United have nothing to regret. They lost 3-1 to the best European team of the moment (and perhaps the best in the last three years).

What else can anyone say about Barcelona’s brilliant, divine football? Everything has already been said about them. They are the artists of this game and there’s no doubt about that. I don’t think there will ever be a team as exquisite as this. Pep’s lads have already entered football’s Hall of Fame. To win the Champions League twice in three years is amazing. To defeat Manchester United twice in three years, in style, is out of this world. As a fan, I confess that I’ve never seen United played like this. Ever! Again, there’s no shame in losing to one of the best teams in history.

Even if Sir Alex had chosen to play Nani to Valencia, Scholes to Carrick (or Giggs), or Berbatov to Chicharito it wouldn’t have made any difference. Los Cules were simply divine. I agree, Van der Sar could have guessed Messi’s intention. He could have saved a goal. It wouldn’t have mattered much though. Messi would have scored eventually (perhaps when he back-heeled the ball to United’s net, only to see his effort saved by Fabio).

At 1-1 I hoped that United could score another and win the game. Rooney’s goal was fantastic and I really hoped they could do more. Yet, when the second half began, I knew that United would eventually lose. Barcelona’s determination to win the game was simply greater than United’s. It was the same determination Los Cules displayed at Camp Nou in November during the clash with Real Madrid. If they have the correct attitude, they cannot be stopped.

I wonder: if United suffered such a heavy defeat, is there any team out there can beat and outshine Barcelona? Except Hercules Alicante, of course. Real Madrid failed to achieve eternal glory during the five clashes with their arch-rivals. Los Blancos won the Copa del Rey, yes, but in extra time. When it mattered (La Liga or Champions League), Real Madrid failed to outshine their rivals.

Barcelona are capable of beating any team in this world (club or national team). I would challenge Brazil’s national team to defeat Pep’s lads. I would even start the game from 1-0 for Brazil. Could the samba kings outshine Barcelona? I am asking because the only team that managed to play football against Barcelona (except Arsenal at Emirates) were Shakhtar Donetsk. Isn’t football funny? Shakthar Dontesk, managed by the Romanian Mircea Lucescu, played much better at Camp Nou than Real Madrid at Bernabeu. Sure, they conceded 5, but Lucescu’s flamboyant Brazilians could have scored at least 3, if not for the lack of composure. Brazilians could be the key in defeating Barcelona (when I talk of defeat, I am not referring to a team that has only one shot at goal and wins 1-0, despite being bullied for 90 minutes by Barcelona).  But it’s not enough to buy 5 or 6 Brazilian players. You need much more. You need a plan. A brilliant one.

Another way to end Barcelona’s brilliant Golden Age, is to buy them. If you can’t defeat them, buy them. Easy as that. Manchester City are rumoured to have put a 200 million Euro reward on Cristiano Ronaldo’s head. Or feet.

Every summer the Citizens have a go at Barcelona’s trio: Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. It’s utopian to think any of these players to leave the club. Xavi is 31 and he seems set to end his career at Camp Nou. Iniesta is currently 27 and his love for the club seems to be inexhaustible. Aided by Xavi and Iniesta, Messi is on his way of becoming the greatest player to have ever played the beautiful game. Who can say ‘no’ to that? Yet, one must not forget football’s golden law: it consumes and does not forgive. Ever.

Nowadays, the best player in the world, tomorrow a shadow of his former self. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Garrincha, Best, Maradona, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and even Zidane (to name a few) are just a few examples.

Add to that, the plethora of exceptional talent of Barcelona’s new generation. No, I am not talking about the Jeffrens, the Boyans or the Alcantaras. I am talking about the 16 year old Sergi Samper or the 17 year old Gerard Deulofeu. These two alone could be the next world class stars at Camp Nou.

Now, about Messi.

As a fan, I would challenge Messi to leave Camp Nou and try to win it all with another team. It would be ideal to emulate Maradona by joining a Napoli-like team: Aston Villa, Newcastle, Fiorentina, Lazio, take your pick. For example, to win the Champions League with Aston Villa is much greater than 5 Champions League trophies with Barcelona, in my view.

By all means, it is only a challenge.

No one must ever doubt the diminutive Argentine. He’s world class. Regarding the future, I guess it all comes down to his inner self. If he has the motivation, there’s no telling what Messi can achieve. At the end, he could be considered as the best player in the history of the beautiful game.

Leave the players aside. If you can’t buy them, try to buy their mentor, Pep Guardiola. Barcelona have a fantastic squad, I agree, but without their mentor, I doubt they could have achieved all this. Mr. Guardiola knew what to say and do to get the best out of Messi, Xavi and the others. I cannot help but wonder how Guardiola motivates his players. To win so many games, so many trophies and in style, is something formidable. Barcelona play fantasy football. And credit must go to Guardiola for making all this possible. Truly remarkable. I’ve seen Guardiola play football for Barcelona. That’s his way of practicing football. Always has been. As a footballer, Guardiola was one of the finest midfielders of his generation. Moreover, he knows everything about the club. The first team, Barcelona B, La Masia Academy of Wizardry. Especially the last one. Guardiola knows everything about every little guy registered at La Masia.

Guardiola could need a new challenge soon, as he has won it all with Barcelona. Inter, City and the others are said to be keen admirers of Guardiola’s technical abilities. Yet, Guardiola recently declared that he would stay another year at Barcelona. He could as well stay another 10 years to his beloved club. He deserves it.

As well as in Messi’s case, I would challenge Guardiola to manage another team and win everything all over again. If not a mediocre team, at least another team (e.g. Chelsea, Inter, Juventus). It would be almost utopian to get another team play like Barcelona does. Or even better. But not impossible.

If Guardiola and the key players stay for the following season, it will be Mourinho’s job, perhaps the toughest in his career, to end Los CulesGolden Age. If there’s a guy in this world that can beat Barcelona, his name is Jose Mourinho. With the departure of Valdano, the Special One has all the power and funds to make it all happen. But will he succeed?

Meanwhile, defeat surely tastes awful for Sir Alex Ferguson. I confess I’ve felt sorry for United’s fantastic manager. It is shocking to see his hands shake like that. It was an priceless image.

After the game, Sir Alex confessed that he would avenge this defeat. The Red Devils are reported to sign several players this summer to test and defeat Barcelona’s free-flowing football.  It will be a fantastic summer, I assure you.

For now, all of the above have little value. What really matters is that Barcelona are the new Kings of Europe. They deserve to be. Thank you, FC Barcelona for your fantasy football!

But, what if Bendtner scored at Camp Nou?

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