Monday night, thousands of Barcelona fans took to the streets to sing anti-Madrid
medleys, pro-Barca and Catalunya songs. They celebrated by the fountain of
Canaletes at the top of La Rambla, a place where Barca's frequent successes
have been honoured for over a century.
is gripped by economic uncertainty and high unemployment, but I have not seen
so many happy people in Barcelona since Barca won the title in May. Or maybe it
was since I watched Sevilla fans after victory in the Copa del Rey or Catalans
after Spain won the World Cup. Perhaps it was a Fernando Alonso or Rafa Nadal
triumph, Alberto Contador winning the Tour de France or Barca's European Cup
sporting stars have given the country much to cheer in these dark economic
times, but most of those triumphs were not major upsets. Spain were favourites
to win the World Cup for instance, yet nobody expected Barca to beat Jose
Mourinho's Real Madrid 5-0.
beat Madrid 5-0 in February 1974, with Johan Cruyff (soon after turning down
Madrid), playing in his first game for Barça in the Bernabeu, where he scored
one and set up three in a 5-0 rout. Madridistas refer to it as the Black Night,
Cruyff as the best month in his life. Three months later a vengeful Madrid beat
Barça 4-0 in the cup final.
Madrid will be equally vengeful when Barca visit the Spanish capital in the spring, but on
Monday's evidence, Barca are by a distance the best team in Spain, if not the
world. Many Barca fans would argue that it's the best club side ever, though
Madrid would refute that and state that they won five European Cups on the
bounce in the 50s.
wasn't supposed to be like this, though. Madrid have improved under Mourinho.
They were the unbeaten league leaders with a cocksure swagger to match their
manager. Cynics suggested that the Primera Liga fixture list had been
unbelievably kind to them, that they had yet to overcome a genuinely good side.
Even the Milan team they beat in the Champions League looked well past their
the first Clasico of the season was the most eagerly awaited game in world
football so far this season. There were so many reasons to get excited: Messi against
Ronaldo, the finest two players on the planet, Mourinho against Guardiola. Even
when the game was shifted to a Monday night, it didn't dampen the demand. Touts
traded tickets on the cold, wet streets outside the stadium for €400 on the
result was paramount. Spain's giants enjoy a duopoly so strong that they seldom
drop points. That will only change when the huge disparity in Spanish
television revenues ends and monies are distributed more evenly and it's a very
sore point among clubs - as I found out recently when I went to see Villarreal
coach Juan Carlos Garrido.
Madrid won one of the two Clasicos last season they would have been champions.
That's how close the league has become, yet Guardiola masterminded two Barca
victories, just as he'd done the season before, just as he did on Monday.
Guardiola has won all five Clasicos as Barca coach, during which Barca have
scored 16 and conceded just two goals.
players again utterly destroyed a Madrid side stuffed with world class talents.
They blitzed Madrid so much from the start that they spent much of the second
half mesmerizing Mourinho as they passed the ball around to cries of Ole! and a backdrop of Mexican waves.
That was when Messi wasn't running at the Madrid defence, taking them on and
threading through balls to set up David Villa. Barca are brilliant with the
ball, but they work incredibly hard and press when not in possession - that was
the main point Thierry Henry highlighted after moving from Arsenal.
how we did it which makes us proud," said Guardiola after the game. "Games
like that happen very rarely indeed." Little wonder that the fans went out
en masse to celebrate.