Too young to follow West Germany’s victory march between 1972 and 1974, I will take Paul Breitner’s word for it that it was indeed the best-ever football team.
With the greatest-ever Brazil side that bagged the Jules Rimet trophy after their third World Cup in 1970, my only visual connect is from highlights on TV and Giants of Brazil, the film.
What Barcelona did early on Tuesday morning (Indian time) too looked like highlights. Only that they were in real time. And a dazzling ballet in shorts and studs it was. Nights like this don’t come often in football but when they do now, it is usually because Barcelona are playing the beautiful game.
Barcelona intimidate by keeping possession. I don’t know if they have managed to match that incredible string of 26 passes Argentina played against Serbia and Montenegro in the 2006 World Cup finals but the accuracy with which they move the ball leaves opponents chasing crooked shadows. Ask Real Madrid who were often left ball-gazing even though they were at an arm’s length of an opponent in a UNICEF shirt.
What makes it awesome is that sometimes this passing precision is embellished by an audacious flick, a dribble, a nutmeg or a back-heel. Xavi’s goal on Tuesday had the ball being transferred from heel to toe in one fluid motion. David Villa’s second goal went through Iker Casillas’s legs and again after the Madrid backline had been brutally exposed.
Villa also set up the second goal and scored the third. He is everything big Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic wasn’t in this team of great artistes and Villa’s skill and opportunism complement this set of geniuses, some of whom have grown up together.
Spare a thought for Casillas as he stoically surveyed the wreckage. Ditto Jose Mourinho who watched Real crash to their first defeat of the season and the worst of his career. TV grabs also showed Florentino Perez equally expressionless at his galacticos being dismantled in a manner so spectacular that even Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola seemed embarrassed to be there.
Tuesday will also have told the Real boss that love isn’t the only thing money can’t buy. Trophies in football don’t always follow a funds flood which fetch flamboyant stars. Teams groomed on the time-tested notions of stability and continuity have a better chance of getting there.