On Monday, Barcelona faced their greatest rivals in what was being billed as the greatest game in football. Unfortunately, only one team turned up, and ran out 5-0 winners.
There have been many attempts by the media to explain why the defeat was so heavy, and here’s mine.
La Masia was the difference between the two teams.
I don’t mean it in a “La Masia produced Messi, Xavi et al” way, but instead in a motivation way. Of the two starting lineups, Barcelona had eight players who had progressed through the ranks at the club. Real only had one. That was Madrid’s problem.
The La Masia graduates all know how to play. They all follow the same system, know their positions and most importantly, know their team-mates.
The first goal for instance, Xavi anticipated that Iniesta was going to make a slide-rule pass and get behind the defence to score. Even the players who have joined, like Villa, seem to share this telepathy.
Villa and Messi have only played with each other since the start of the season, but look like lifelong friends, who know every move the other is going to make.
When in Messi’s case, you have the knowledge of where your team-mates are, and the superhuman vision/ability to make the pass, you become impossible to defend.
Not only do they know how to play, but they will be incredibly motivated to defeat their arch rivals.
Imagine you have come through La Masia, you owe Barcelona—the club you support— everything. How better to repay your debt than with a victory over your enemy.
Take Messi again. He came through the system after Barcelona agreed to pay his medical fees.
Messi now feels that he is indebted to the Blaugrana, and how better to show his gratitude than with over a goal per game, and two sublime assists in El Clasico.
This is not to say that the Real players will not be motivated, but most of their players don’t have the connection to the club like Casillas obviously has and Raul had.
Most of them will not have supported Real Madrid prior to joining, and like in Ozil’s case, may have previously said they support Barcelona.
How can one be as motivated as the La Masia graduates, who have grown up supporting Barca, and hating Real, when your sole motivator is money and prestige?
Victory in El Clasico means everything to the Cataluña-born players like Captain Fantastic Carles Puyol. To many Real players (e.g. Ronaldo), El Clasico was just another game.
Then again, they probably argue that Barcelona are not “mes que en club.”
I think Barca have proven on Monday that they are.