Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Was Barcelona's victory over Real Madrid greatest ever club display?

The pre-match hype was akin to a world heavyweight title fight between the two greatest boxers of all time.

By the end of the drama at the Nou Camp on Monday night though, I felt like I'd just watched Mohammad Ali against Audley Harrison.

It was a ruthless destruction, completed in just about the classiest manner possible.

Barcelona ripped Real Madrid apart, beating them 5-0, in what was a wonderful display, taking them back to the top of La Liga.

Madrid can consider themselves fortunate that the scoreline wasn't more embarrassing as the Catalan giants toyed with their fiercest rivals when the points were secure.

After being given a footballing lesson, Jose Mourinho insisted that the result was not humiliating.

Who was he trying to kid?

Of course it was. Mourinho was brought to the Bernabeu to make Real the special one in Spain.

Clearly he has a long, long way to go. Jose is now under pressure, with questions being raised in Spain about his ability to catch up with and overhaul the Catalan kings.

There's no such worries for Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola — his coaching reputation soaring to even greater heights following the latest El Clasico.

His team were majestic. They played with speed, skill and were far too street smart for Mourinho's men.

It was bewitching from minute one, watching Barca's players pass and move and move and pass — at pace.

The feet were fast, minds quicker still, with Madrid's superstars left hypnotised.

Computer football games have become so advanced now that when you see an expert — normally a 10-year-old kid — play them, you think it's too far-fetched. Then you gaze in amazement at what Barcelona achieved on Monday night and you realise the manufacturers still have work to do to reach that astonishing level.

Given the magnitude and intensity of the game, added to the fact that Real are supposed to be the second best side on the planet right now, you have to rank the 5-0 win as one of the greatest club performances of all time. If not the finest of the lot.

The peerless Lionel Messi, of course, led the way. The Argentine with magic in his boots is so often the scorer. Against Madrid he was the creator supreme, his precision passing setting up the clinical David Villa for two goals.

In the battle of the best players in the world, Messi was awesome and Cristiano Ronaldo virtually anonymous, once again failing to deliver against Barca. His only notable act was a petulant push on Guardiola.

Little Lionel, with the balance of a tightrope walker, may have played the lead role but every other home player shone on the Nou Camp stage.

Let's name check the starters, who had finished off their opponents before the hour mark — Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Busquets, Villa, Puyol, Pique, Alves and Abidal — players with the utmost confidence and trust in each other.

Even goalkeeper Victor Valdes was impressive when called upon.

It was THE total team performance. And one to savour now and for decades to come.

Football has reached saturation point on TV, but bar Madrid followers, who would ever tire of watching this?

You may ask just how did Barcelona humble Real Madrid to such a degree, especially when you consider that Mourinho's men were unbeaten up until that point.

Well, Real were outclassed because they were out passed. Look at these telling statistics: Barcelona passes in the game 684. Real passes in the game 331.

Barca passes completed 89 per cent. Real passes completed 74 per cent. Barcelona possession 67 per cent. Real possession 33 per cent.

Barca's midfield maestro Xavi made 110 passes, the most in the match, and he was substituted on 87 minutes!

Former Liverpool favourite Xabi Alonso made the most passes for his side, but as well as his fellow World Cup winner Xavi, there were six other Barca players ahead of him in the overall passing table. Incredible.

You get the feeling Barcelona will head the more important La Liga table come the end of the season.

I refuse to rule Real out of the title race, however, because what happened at the Nou Camp will make Mourinho even more determined.

But after bringing unprecedented success to Chelsea and Inter Milan, this is his toughest challenge yet.

He'll know that the bottom line is when Barcelona are at their breathtaking best, no-one can stop them.

Belfast Telegraph


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