Saturday, May 28, 2011

When Class Is Pure

I could easily have dedicated a blog to being a long suffering Arsenal fan if Nick Hornsby had not already written the definitive book of the 'joys' of that particular experience. Over the past two years I have written about their nemesis' Barcelona when it comes to Arsenal's pursuit of Europe's top prize, the Champions League. The trophy is one that has yet to grace the trophy cabinet of the North London club and I'd be delusional if I thought it was coming any time soon.

Barcelona tonight won their fourth Champions League when they simply played Manchester United off the Wembley pitch that played host to a master-class in total football.
While Arsenal honour the beautiful game with their approach on how to play it, they never quite manage to secure the players that can deliver the promise of playing their own particular brand of total football. Barcelona, on the other hand can get them. They are, quite simply, the best footballing team I have ever seen.
Their talisman Lionel Messi again delivered the goods with a commanding display worthy of any final and was ably assisted by the players around him, players that believe the ball belongs to them and only them. When not in possession they hunt in packs to get it back, before effortlessly easing back into their pass and move philosophy, ready to exploit fully even a momentarily switch off from the opposition.

They surpass the invincible Arsenal of 2004 and even the treble winning United of 1999. Even the great Liverpool teams don't compare and Real Madrid, for all their history in the competition, lag behind when it comes to the practice of how football should be played.
I've seen the Brazil team of the 1970's but they were not of my lifetime. This Barcelona team are. They refuse corporate sponsorship and instead brandish the name UNICEF on their shirts. Their fans own the club. Tonight they not only showed their class on the pitch, but off it as well.

Defender Eric Abidal lifted the famous trophy tonight. Two months ago he had an operation to remove a cancerous tumour from his liver. Captain for the night Xavi and club captain Puyol stepped aside to allow the man a moment he truly deserved having faced such adversity to be there tonight.

There is no substitute for class of the purest kind.

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