Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Si Senores, Esto Es Futbol!
by Paul Gardner, November 30th, 2010 12:28AM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

By Paul Gardner

Perfection? You’re looking for soccer perfection? Maybe we got as close as we’re likely to get with Barcelona’s win over Real Madrid on Monday. That scoreline, 5-0, is one you don’t see too often in top class soccer these days, so it’s worth noting that the team that was so mercilessly murdered by Barcelona, was Real Madrid ... one of the world’s best teams, a team on which vast amounts of money have been spent, a team that was sitting on top of Spain’s La Liga.

That was before the roof fell in, or the floor gave way, or the thunderbolt struck . . . and a terrifyingly beautiful reality hit home. Barcelona really is out there on its own, playing the game in a way that the soccer gods must be proud of.

Real Madrid was never in this game, not for a moment. The Barca show began at once, a choreography of rapidly moving players and an even more rapidly moving ball to link up all the movement.

The Spanish commentator, trying to name each player, had trouble keeping up with the action as the ball was passed surely and firmly and quickly, left, right, forward, back, sideways with almost insulting ease.

The old song title “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” came to mind as a way to describe the poor Real defenders. For the first eight minutes it was nearly all Barca -- you know, all that short-passing stuff, the sort of thing that gets criticized so often as “pretty” football. In the sixth minute, Lionel Messi -- it had to be him -- showed that there was a sweet danger to all this prettiness when he gently chipped the ball over Iker Casillas’ head, only for it to hit the post and bounce back into play.

No matter -- Barca continued to do the pretty stuff. That is their style. Then came a prolonged period of Barca possession -- nearly 90 seconds, during which over 30 passes were made. It ended with the ball in the Real Madrid goal, put there by Xavi with the neatest of lobs over Casillas.

During all of those 90 seconds of Barca passing, the ball never left the ground. Real had plenty of players back on defense -- virtually everyone really. But such was the rapidity and the canniness and the accuracy of Barcelona’s play that the usual defensive staples -- interception or tackling or fouling -- just didn’t seem possible. Merely trying to keep up with the ball was evidently the biggest of problems.

Another eight minutes of wonderful-to-watch Barcelona domination produced, as it had to do, a second goal. This time, 50 seconds of play produced 21 consecutive passes before Pedro scored. Only one of those 21 passes was an aerial ball.

The beauty of the game was shining clearer and clearer and surely there was even more to come -- if only because Messi had yet to score -- an unusual state of affairs these days.

Messi did not score on this night, but in the second half he tormented the bedraggled Real defense with his trademark tight dribbling and with the sheer brilliance and audacity of his passing. In the 52nd minute he pushed, or stroked, or guided (however it is that he does it) the ball through the Real defenders for Xavi to run on to in the Real penalty area -- but this pass was maybe either a foot or a second short of being perfect -- the move ended with Xavi having to hurry his shot and hitting it wide.

That, it turned out, was simply Messi rehearsing. Two minutes later, perfection arrived as Messi repeated the move and this time David Villa ran onto the inviting pass and drilled the ball past Casillas.

Perfection, yes -- but then how is one to describe Messi’s next contribution, which started with a short dribble from just inside his own half followed by a long pass -- a ground ball -- that ripped through the Real backline like a searing arrow, again it met up with Villa, and again Villa beat Casillas.

Later in the game, Real had the distasteful experience of seeing two young subs, Bojan and Jeffren, combine to make it a 5-0 rout. Even that goal, the work of almost over-eager youngsters, had the Barca stamp on it. The ball never left the ground. In all five goals, only one pass was made in the air, just one. No crosses, no heading of the ball at all. I suppose we shall be hearing a good deal of tactical analysis on what makes Barca such a good team -- you know, why their 4-3-3 was so much better than Real’s 4-2-3-1, and so on.

Which is OK if you like, or trust, that sort of thing. I don’t as it happens. I find it much more relevant to dwell on the skill and artistry of the players, and the fact that Barca makes it a huge point of its game to keep the ball on the ground, and not to indulge in long aerial balls or to ply the opposing goalmouth with high crosses.

In the array of passes that led up to Barcelona’s five goals, there was only one aerial ball. Not a cross, not a long ball for a forward to fight for, or to chase -- but a precise 25-yard pass from Xavi right to the feet of Villa.

That is the style that we saw from Spain in this year’s World Cup. A confident ground game played by highly skilled players that assures not only possession, but enables complicated and daringly incisive passing patterns. That figures, of course, because seven of the Barcelona players were members of that Spanish team.

As for Real Madrid ... there’s nothing really to be said. Yes, Messi did come in for some rough treatment, and, by the end, frustration was evident, resulting in Sergio Ramos getting himself red-carded. The Real players did their best, as you know any Real team is going to do in El Clasico, but they were nowhere near good enough. Yes, they should have had a penalty when goalkeeper Victor Valdes brought down Cristiano Ronaldo, but the way things were going, they would probably have made a mess of it anyway. You can’t expect to win a game when your players can’t get hold of the ball, and Real found that very difficult.

An awful night for Jose Mourinho, but at least he managed to stay quiet, a mere spectator sitting glumly on the bench. He denied that it was a humiliation, but it sure looked like one. It also looked like a superb exhibition of soccer artistry from Barcelona, and -- even for Mourinho -- that’s a more rewarding way of looking at this memorable game.



0 comments
  1. Dion Kevin
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 1:33 a.m.
    Cristiano Ronaldo should change his name to the invisible man. One aspect that you forgot to mention was the completely selfless play of Barca. I watched the game with my boys and they were amazed at the options the Barca players had with the ball. Every Barca player was moving to space or providing an outlet to receive the ball. Joga Bonito was the 2nd half, almost perfect soccer. I believe this game will go down in history as one of the greatest games. Although, anyone that watched Barca play Almeria a week earlier would not be so surprised at this outcome, but then again Almeria is not coached by the special one and $200M+ payroll.

  1. Claudio Garcia chamorro
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 1:35 a.m.
    Oh Sr. Mourinho " QUE DOLOR" You said ... When at Milan - I took care of Barca! You also said .. When at Chelsea .... I took care of Barca! Tranquilo Amigo - They took care you TODAY ! But .... 5 - 0 ! "QUE DOLOR" mate! Cheer Up mate - U are still one of the BEST!

  1. Claudio Garcia chamorro
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 1:38 a.m.
    EPL take notice ! This is how the most beautiful game in the planet is played ! Vamos BARCA !

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 8:11 a.m.
    Simplicity and quality at the highest level. RM had no answer to the precision and speed of play which was mostly on the ground. Although Messi did not score, he was brilliant and he took another step to the iconic level.

  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 8:59 a.m.
    Along with my fellow Real fans, I must take this one on the chin, and admit that what Paul writes is absolutely correct. And in the bigger picture, Mourinho, and every other manager with a clue took notice of this game, and that's a good thing, because we saw a brilliant future for soccer. Last week, JM said, "this Real team is not there yet, we have much work to do." That now looks like great insight, Mourinho will respond, prepare, and probably imitate what is working at Barca!

  1. Albert Harris
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 9:32 a.m.
    Sadly, Bryan, I don't believe he will. JM is a great manager, but his team will most likely be built to resemble the one he put together at Inter and Chelsea than it is to look like Barca. A strong defensive spine with 2 covering midfielders and 4 "skill" players up top. When one of those skill players in Ronaldo, it will probably work as it has in the past. Shame though, with all the money at his disposal, he could build a team like Barca, but I don't think his ego will allow it. He's Helenio Herrara, not Guadiola or Cryuff.

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.
    I agree with you, Albert. I think Mourinho is regertting the fact that his team doesn't have the defensive quality and efficiency of his previous teams. He thought that his stars were super enough to overcome any defensive deficiency. But, no. Against a team like Barca, you have to play the Catenaccio way, no matter what Mr. Gardner prefers.

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.
    It’s one of the few times I’ve ever watched a soccer game where I wanted to cry at the sheer beauty. I’ve been a serious fan for 15 years and this was hands down the most breathtaking performance I’ve ever seen on a soccer field. To do it against a world class team like Madrid and against a coach like Mourinho, who made his name “tactically” suffocating the life out of such opposition, made it absolute perfection. A team like Barca’s can’t be bought or created; it can only be built. It’s a victory for youth development and long-term vision over huge transfer fees for superstars. It also left me to wonder how many Messi- and Iniesta-like players there are in the US system if they were allowed to be themselves rather than being told to bulk up and just bang the ball to the corner flags every time or just being dismissed altogether as “too small.”

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 10:49 a.m.
    Brian F, you speak my sentiments exactly. We may never see a team like this one again in our lifetime.This is the kind of game that I want to see our teams play. I think the USA fans will love it. Every US coach, especially at the youth levels should be made to watch this game.This game should be distributed nationwide to every club to be used as a training film. As I asked before, why don't we have our top soccer guys over at the Barca academies studying their methods of youth player developement? We should pay to have our coaches attend their coaching school. We should try to bring some of their coaches here.

  1. Tom Symonds
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 10:58 a.m.
    Mesmerising! I would suggest that Barca really plays a 4-6-0 formation - six midfielders who weave and dart and interchange and who are virtually impossible to mark. Ball movement was extraordinary. Xavi once said that as a youth player he learned from Rexach that the secret to success was keeping the ball moving and not dwelling on it. Barca sure showed the effectiveness of that strategy. As the match progressed, I had flashbacks to watching Meadowlark Lemon and the Harlem Globetrotters dazzling the Washington Generals, the Trotters' perennial whipping boys, yet again.

  1. Tyler Dennis
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 12:13 p.m.
    Mourinho can't build Real into a Barca team... it takes years of development to create Barca. You can't buy players and put them together and get them to play the Barca style. Give Real 20 years, they may do it... better get started now!

  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 12:40 p.m.
    Finally something to celebrate. Soccer as it was meant to be played. As Ronaldino said, "keep the ball happy."

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 12:51 p.m.
    Walt P -- totally agree that Barca and this game in particular should serve as a template for US development. Unfortunately, the folks on this blog are all preaching to the choir. In general, the coaching establishment will have ignored this game primarily because it isn't the EPL and they will quietly mumble about "pitter pat" passing. They will hunker down for a few weeks and then we will begin hearing about how important size is and that the Spanish league isn't physical enough and that Barca or Real couldn't withstand the weekly physical play of the EPL (or MLS for that matter). This attitude is so ingrained that it will take much more than one game to shake it. Ignorance is indeed bliss. However for those interested in two Brit announcers bemoaning the over-emphasis on size in the English game you might take a look at a replay of the Barca -- Athenaikos game at about the 35th minute -- 5 minutes of delightful bashing of English emphasis on size.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 3:19 p.m.
    Walt P and James Froelich, Instead of just scouting the "La Masia" for training methods, or sending our coaches over there to learn the system, I'm afraid we have to take it a step further if it has any chance of working. I played soccer in the US youth ranks for long enough to know that a Xavi or even a Messi stand no chance emerging out of our youth ranks. We would have dismissed both for being too small and depending too much on players around them. We have to embrace the philosophy at a higher level otherwise our Barca-inspired youth coaches will be sending American Xavi's to a college system that bullies them and an american professional league that will not reward their skill. My question is why the USSF hasn't opened its books to Johan Cruyff. Forget Klinsmann. Cruyff is the madman behind the two most successful youth academies ever - Barca and Ajax. We need to appoint Cruyff as the technical director, youth development chief, whatever, of US soccer. After watching Barca demolish Madrid, and Spain win the world cup with 7 Barca boys, is there any doubt what Cruyff would do with US Soccer? And more pointedly at Sunil, is there any reason we wouldn't want Cruyff directing us? takebacksoccer.blogspot.com

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 3:34 p.m.
    Gak -- couldn't find one word to disagree with. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the soccer establishment -- US Soccer and it college soccer coaches -- would be even more frightened of Cruyf than they are of Klinsmann. It's the inbreeding, it tends to create a generation of morons.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 4:13 p.m.
    GAK, well said! BTW, has anyone seen the latest Rothenberg statement that the US hasn't produced quality players of late? His words may be read in SA's recent report reprinted from the NYT, that in the past 10-15 years we've not produced the needed field talent, which speak volumes. As for Cruyff, I seriously doubt that he could make a difference, other than for his wallet, as the "good ole boy network" is so deeply imbedded in the country that it would probably take another decade before those good old boys get their heads out of the sand, that and we MUST stop importing old and decrepit non-entities former players, who call themselves "coaches" or "trainers," with only one goal in mind and that is to make a fast buck. And yes, last night's RM/FCB was excellent to watch and learn.... but I digress and will ask if we, here in the good ole US of A soccer community learn anything? Jeez, I hope so...

  1. Joe Hosack
    commented on: November 30, 2010 at 4:46 p.m.
    Wonderful commentary on a wonderful game. We ALL thank you Braca!

  1. Karl Ortmertl
    commented on: December 1, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.
    The Spanish League is the only one that doesn't rely on thuggery and plays the game with artistry. It's a shame that the MLS, instead of mimicking the German, English, Italian and Dutch leagues, would opt for the Spanish style. Among other things, there would be less competition for top talent. The matches would obviously be way more entertaining. But I'm dreaming. No one is willing to take that kind of "risk" of not patterning our style after the "tried and true" knock people on their ass style.

  1. Gole goal
    commented on: December 2, 2010 at 11:23 a.m.
    What we witnessed on TV was a "Futbol" that is Futbol Total and is the beautiful game. Glad we watched Barca on the tube play Futbol not Soccer. The overall factor that is present with such a team like Barca is that it exposes what US Soccer isn't and doesn't have. Lets face it US Soccer doesn't promote this type of soccer as a whole. A few number of Coaches do so by teaching and coaching their players on how to use ones imagination but isn't cared for by the masses State-Side. It is sad to see that we can only marvel at such quality play that Barca shows day in and day out and all US Soccer can say is, "But that's Barca." Guess what I am trying say is that the ODP Selection Process, College Soccer,National Selection Process, and US Youth Soccer is failing. Lets stop wanting the classic strong run and gun soccer that doesn't work its time eyes are opened to seek out creativity, imagination, and skill. Remember, hard work is the easy part and so is playing hard. At the end of the day it is a shame that the majority of decision makers up top sometimes have no idea what they are doing, after all they are the ones that creativity and using ones imagination on the field cant be coached shame they feel that way. Nonetheless, US Soccer, US Youth Soccer, ODP Soccer, and College Soccer its time to stop being so arrogant, proud, and prejudice and open your eyes not just one. As a Youth Coach for over 14 years and a ODP Coach, I have seen how US Soccer on the Developmental Side and College Soccer the majority of the time just don't get it. Lets stop playing like robots and start playing the beautiful game lets starts playing "The Poors Mans Game."

  1. Gole goal
    commented on: December 2, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.
    What we witnessed on TV was a "Futbol" that is Futbol Total and is the beautiful game. Glad we watched Barca on the tube play Futbol not Soccer. The overall factor that is present with such a team like Barca is that it exposes what US Soccer isn't and doesn't have. Lets face it US Soccer doesn't promote this type of soccer as a whole. A few number of Coaches do so by teaching and coaching their players on how to use ones imagination but isn't cared for by the masses State-Side. It is sad to see that we can only marvel at such quality play that Barca shows day in and day out and all US Soccer can say is, "But that's Barca." Guess what I am trying say is that the ODP Selection Process, College Soccer,National Selection Process, and US Youth Soccer is failing. Lets stop wanting the classic strong run and gun soccer that doesn't work its time eyes are opened to seek out creativity, imagination, and skill. Remember, hard work is the easy part and so is playing hard. At the end of the day it is a shame that the majority of decision makers up top sometimes have no idea what they are doing, after all they are the ones that say creativity and using ones imagination on the field cant be coached shame they feel that way. Nonetheless, US Soccer, US Youth Soccer, ODP Soccer, and College Soccer its time to stop being so arrogant, proud, and prejudice and open your eyes not just one. As a Youth Coach for over 14 years and a ODP Coach, I have seen how US Soccer on the Developmental Side and College Soccer the majority of the time just don't get it. Lets stop playing like robots and start playing the beautiful game lets starts playing "The Poors Mans Game."


Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
As expected: permissive, English-style refereeing comes to MLS    
Diego Costa, the man Chelsea hopes will solve its goalscoring problems, got off to a great ...
CAS confirms Suarez ban, UEFA victimizes Legia Warsaw     
So the four-month ban on Luis Suarez, imposed for his biting of Giorgio Chiellini, will stand. ...
Landon Donovan: The Most Gifted. By far.     
It will not do to elaborate on Landon Donovan. As a soccer player, I mean. Words ...
Churlish Guardiola snubs Porter and exposes problems of MLS All-Star game    
There are some rather important lessons to be learned from this week's MLS All-Star game. As ...
Walton's fantasy referee world: No guesswork, please.     
Michael Bradley has had his say about MLS refereeing. He doesn't think much of it, and ...
KC's Aurelien Collin -- the great escape artist     
Some seven months ago, writing on the day before the 2013 MLS Cup final between Real ...
Cheating and violence win top games -- does FIFA even care?    
One's patience with FIFA begins to run out. By which I mean, of course, my patience.
World Cup final ref gets big call wrong, punishes the victim, neglects concussion dangers    
Of course there were concussion-incidents during the World Cup. Given that there are head-clashes in virtually ...
Soccer needs a Brazilian revival    
RIO DE JANEIRO -- It took nearly two hours of often rather trite soccer for Germany ...
Alfredo Di Stefano: The complete player. Maybe the best, too.    
RIO DE JANEIRO -- As Argentina was making its laborious way to the 2014 World Cup ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives