Football Triumphs as Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona Close in on CL Final

Manuel TraqueteSenior Analyst IApril 28, 2011

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona beats Marcelo of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 27, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In the end, football was the victor as Barcelona went to the Bernabeu to get a 2-0 lead in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal.  

Skill overcame brute strength, technical quality overcame sheer physicality, passing proved more effective than body checking, attacking football defeated bus-parking football.

In short, football defeated anti-football.

Lionel Messi showed once again why he's the world's greatest player, scoring the two Barcelona goals, the second an absolute stunner. The Argentine was a true ambassador of football today as he overcame Madrid's negative football to lead Barcelona to an historic victory.

A big mouth vs Great Football

If there's one thing where Barcelona are no match for Real Madrid, it's trash talk. Pep Guardiola admitted exactly that when he awarded Mourinho the unofficial "Press Conference Champions League."

Ronaldo famously predicted that Barcelona wouldn't score eight past Real in November, and similar statements were made throughout the years by the likes of Ozil, Ramos, et al. Admittedly, Barcelona are hopeless in the fine 'art" of trash talking, while Real Madrid have no rivals.

But there's another fine art Barcelona are quite good at: football. 

Barcelona know that football is what they're truly good at and therefore do all their talking on the pitch. And boy are they smooth talkers. What we saw today was another masterclass from Pep Guardiola's outfit, with Lionel Messi showing the world for the upteenth time why he is this generation's best player by such huge margin, and arguably one of the best players of all-time.

There was a time not very distant where El Clásico was the most entertaining match in world football. Unfortunately, with Mourinho in charge of Madrid, that is no longer the case. Madrid's usual flair and passion for attacking football has now been replaced by the "win at all costs" philosophy.

It'd always be bizarre to see a team play with so little ambition in a home Champions League tie, but it becomes downright shocking when that side is Madrid, the most decorated club in Champions League history, who boast of such legends as Di Stefano, Puskas, La Quinta del Buitre (arguably the greatest side never to win a European Cup), Ronaldo, the mightly have fallen!

While adopting a defensive style is a legitimate tactic that many sides employ, the same can't be said about a strategy consisting of literally kicking Barcelona off the park and try to bully their way into the final. Pedro has sustained an injury due to a Marcelo stamp that oddly went unpunished.

Maybe Mourinho sees this as a small victory. Pepe finally learnt that the football pitch isn't a kung-fu arena.

If there are no surprises next week, it's Barcelona who will advance to face Manchester United in the final, a final that promises to be a true tribute to great football.

With Madrid almost certainly out (not quite yet), those who have bought their tickets to Wembley may breathe a sigh of relief as they'll be treated to a proper football match.

It's not hard to guess whether most football fans prefer to see Pepe and Ramos trying to hack the opposition at every occasion or Puyol and Piqué calmly starting to build up from the back; three defensive midfielders adopting the same "tactics" and kicking the ball up field at every occasion or Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets passing the ball in intricate triangles to find gaps in the defense; Cristiano Ronaldo (credit to him, he at least tried to play some football) and Di Maria running around like headless chickens and shooting aimlessly or Lionel Messi weaving his unparalleled magic. 

The same can be said about Manchester United, whose great players will certainly contribute to make the 2011 Champions League final a true spectacle, regardless of who wins.

That is, unless Madrid make me look like a fool by shocking the Camp Nou next week!

Pep Guardiola said in his press conference that he'd do his talking on the pitch. Always a man of his world, he fulfilled his promise with the help of his great players.

Football has triumphed again. May it remain that way for many years to come. 


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