For a Catalan, it gets no better than this. The penultimate weekend of the football year, and not one, but two rivals from Madrid fly the white flag in surrender to the power, the beauty, and the spirit that makes Barcelona the best.
Barca gave Atletico Madrid a goal lead, but then overwhelmed the second-place team in La Liga in a 4-1 victory, with two goals from Lionel Messi, on Sunday. That prompted Atlético coach Diego Simeone to say: “We brought out our best weapons, but Barcelona is playing at a different level. They are in a different league.”
And from the Bernabeu — where Catalonia’s second team, Espanyol, held Real Madrid, 2-2 — came a plaintive cry by Real’s coach, Jose Mourinho. “It’s too much,” Mourinho said. “I have never known a situation like this, losing so many points.”
Sunday gave glorious affirmation that players, not coaches or gurus of any type, are the heart of sport. Nine of Barca’s starting players on Sunday graduated from the club’s academy, La Masia. The coach who followed Pep Guardiola, his erstwhile assistant Tito Vilanova, is also from that school.
Whisper it quietly, but Tito’s start as coach is mathematically superior to Pep’s. A run of 15 victories and a draw beats anything in the history of La Liga.
Atletico made an impressive start, causing problems on the break, and after twice going close, Colombia striker Falcao put the visitors ahead in the 32nd minute with his 17th of the campaign. Diego Costa stole the ball off Messi and fed Falcao who sped away and cleverly lobbed the advancing Victor Valdes.
Five minutes later, Barca were back in the game thanks to a thunderous shot from Adriano Atletico were struggling to break and Busquets calmly stroked home the second. After the break, Messi slotted a third into the corner.