There wasnt a manita but the 4-0 thrashing at the Bernabéu was historic for Barça, and regular clásico domination there once unthinkable is becoming all too familiar
The clsico started with Sergio Busquets producing a drag-back that left Gareth Bale going past him like a cartoon character off a cliff after four seconds and ended with Luis Surez sitting down Keylor Navas and gently lifting the ball into the net after 74 minutes: Real Madrids goalkeeper, like his team-mates, on his knees and at Barcelonas mercy. Two images that encapsulated this match and these teams and between which lay dozens of images more, revealing portraits of the clsico, like little glimpses of the truth. Andrs Iniestas ovation from the Bernabu and the first goal, say. Or the second, or the third. Or maybe even the fifth goal that never was.
It was 4-0 and it would end that way but still Barcelona attacked, Gerard Piqu particularly. He described being whistled at the Bernabu as a symphony and was desperate for it to close with a rousing finale, conducting the orchestra to a crescendo, cymbals crashing triumphantly. Instead, it closed with more whistles. Not for him this time but for them, Madrids supporters attacking their players and president. Before the game, fans had held aloft white cards for a huge mosaic, handed to them by the club; now those cards were turned against them when, at the end, they used them as makeshift tissues for a paolada, that classic hanky-waving Spanish protest.
Two minutes earlier, alone in the area, Piqu had watched Munir shoot wide. Next time leave it to me, he joked later; at the time, he wasnt laughing. That the Madrid fans were angry, calling for the presidents head (but not, despite reports, that of Rafa Bentez) and whistling their own players, was a measure of how comprehensively their team had been beaten by their greatest rivals and how hard it was to witness this again; that Piqu was angry was a measure of it too. That disappointment at only winning 4-0, was momentarily shared by some culs, and that one Madrid-supporting columnist even gloated next time, sunshine, ultimately only deepened the humiliation.
A Barcelona soci who loves to wind up their rivals, who encouraged team-mates to take a lap of honour after the European Super Cup, so they can see us in Madrid and who has been whistled during Spain games because of a joke cracked at the expense of a footballer from Portugal and a singer from Colombia, Piqu more than anyone wanted to score and he, perhaps more than anyone, knows the significance of a clsico manita or little hand, the symbolism of a result Barcelona achieved in 1974, 1994 and 2010 the night he raised his hand, a goal for each finger. He knows that five would have been historic.
There werent five but four was historic too. Four goals. At the Bernabu. Against a Madrid side who had a fortnight to prepare and every player available, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema, Ramos and Modric all excused international duty. With Neymar flying back from Brazil only two days before, with Ivan Rakitic not fully fit and Iniesta carrying a knock. With Javier Mascherano carried off in the first half and without Leo Messi. It was eloquent he could come on and enjoy watching an hour, not have to rescue his team, strolling but still too quick, getting more touches in 33 minutes than any of Madrids creative players got in 90: more than Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Rodrguez or Isco.
They were better than us in everything, Emilio Butragueo said. Asked about his line-up, if it even was his line-up, Bentez admitted: It didnt work. There was not much else he could say, he added. Not this time. We must be doing something right if Atltico didnt put four past us, he had snapped after he was criticised for his approach in the Madrid derby, the unlike under Ancelotti going without saying. But now Barcelona had put four past them. The numbers are spectacular, he has said repeatedly. But they are not: 12 weeks in, Madrid have fewer points at this stage than at any time in a decade.
When Bentez arrived, he was like the stepfather they didnt want and most still dont. Nor, frankly, does he much want them. Real Madrid is Bentezs club, or it was. Not any more, or perhaps that should say: not yet. As one of his former players put it this weekend: This did not look like a Bentez team at all.
Sergio Ramos was in the wrong place at the wrong time almost all the time. Karim Benzema was just not there. Something has happened to Toni Kroos, a picture of indolence. Danilo was calamitous again. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo were irrelevant. Luka Modric, perhaps the only player with a truly collective conscience, admitted they were not on the pitch, not a team and noted: Its not the first time it has happened.
By contrast, this weekend Diego Simeone praised how Surez, Neymar and Messi work together: It is lovely to see, he said. Iniesta had talked about Barcelona being themselves; Madrid do not know what themselves is.
This tastes like heavenly glory: it will go down in history, Luis Enrique said. What was once unthinkable is becoming familiar in the last six years Barcelona have beaten Madrid 6-2, 5-0 and now 4-0; they have won more than twice as many major titles; their league record at the Bernabu over the last decade reads played 10, won five, aggregate score 22-18; and they knocked Madrid out of the Champions League too, winning 2-0 here but that did not diminish the impact of this result. Not least because it did not diminish the nature of the performance.
When they look back, the headlines will still be there. What a drubbing! A great match, a hammering, a humiliation, said the cover of Sport. A going over, cheered El Mundo Deportivo. Bravo, Barcelona! ran el Peridico. ASs cover said Barcelona led Madrid a dance; Marcas cover said: A ruinous Madrid succumb to Barcelonas demolition; El Pass cover said: Barcelona humiliate Madrid, and La Razns cover didnt say anything, which kind of said it all. And although when they look back a raised hand will not, in the end, be the image, there will be others; moments that encapsulated their superiority, right from Busquetss drag-back four seconds in.
Theres the first goal, after just 10 minutes: the product of a move involving every outfield player touching the ball, 37 passes and almost two minutes, interrupted only by a single attempted clearance from Madrid, Ramos heading the ball out, ready for 24 more passes involving nine players and a perfect finish. Theres the second goal: an individual error from Modric which is in fact a systematic one, the Croat left un-warned and unassisted as Surez closes in behind him, applying the kind of pressure Madrid never did. Modrics team-mates are miles away, the midfield utterly unoccupied, when Surez takes it off him, Iniesta producing a sublime touch just one of dozens to maintain possession before scooping into Neymars path. And theres Neymar leaving Danilo behind and finding Surez, cleared off the line by Marcelo: the games best move.
Theres the hankies waving and the chants for Florentino Prez to resign while he, the president who said I dont know when he was asked why he had sacked Ancelotti, shrugs down in the directors box as if to say What am I supposed to do?. Hiring a sporting director would be a start. Or the images that cameras kept capturing: Ronaldo grimacing and Bentez on the bench, writing something in his notebook.
Theres the third goal: the touch from Neymar, the worlds best player over the last two months, and the finish from Iniesta, his first goal in more than 600 days, which was also scored here, in that astonishing 4-3. There was another backheel from Neymar too, this time for Messi. Theres the celebration of the third on the touchline with Messi, still in his tracksuit, waiting to return, grinning in disbelief at the destruction unfolding before him, and the Bernabus ovation for Iniesta, who Luis Enrique described as world heritage recognition of his brilliance but, like the ovation for Ronaldinho 10 years ago, also a punishment for their own players. Oh, and theres a flying slide tackle from Iniesta too.
That one was clean; these ones werent. There are Ramoss catalogue and the wild hack from Isco on Neymar, a picture of impotence that the fans cheered, conscious that most of the other players could not even be bothered to that. Theres Busquets being, well, Busquets: that drag-back was just the start. Of everything. Theres Messi running away from three players to help create the fourth and the fact that the man who provides the final assist is Jordi Alba, the left-back. And then theres Surez, ending it all. Navas and Real Madrid on their knees, at Barcelonas mercy. Where they had been from the beginning.
No Moyes, no problem. Real Sociedads first game since the sacking of David Moyes ended with a 2-0 win against Sevilla, which sounds a bit better than it really was, provoked by two mistakes, while Ciro Immobile had a goal wrongly disallowed at 0-0, but its still a significant win for the new manager Eusebio Sacristn. The first was scored by Imanol Agirretxe, who is on nine league goals for the season. That makes him this seasons top scorer among Spanish strikers this season, followed by Javi Guerra and Lucas Prez on eight; Nolito, Rubn Castro and Aritz Aduriz on seven; Borja Bastn, Iago Aspas and Paco Alccer on six; Diego Costa on three; and lvaro Morata on one. Which three are in the Spain squad? Yes, the bottom three.
Speaking of Lucas Prez, he continues to be brilliant and his connection with the fans could not be greater: he scored the opening goal in a fun and fast Galician derby that you couldnt help wishing had been on a different weekend, when there is no clsico. (And the second derby will be the same, of course). Nolito had a penalty saved by Lux as Celta tried to find a way back into it, but Deportivo got the second when Jonny scored an own goal in the 94th minute. A volley from 45 yards, on the turn. Which makes it sound more bizarre and brilliantly bad than it really was, but it was still pretty incredible.
Villarreal-Eibar was enjoyable too, a Jaume Costa goal in the 85th minute earning Villarreal a draw and preventing Eibar from moving into a Champions League place. Yes, Eibar. Champions League place. Theyre still in a European place, mind you: they sit sixth, just one point behind Villarreal in fourth and four behind Real Madrid, who go to Ipurua next. Will they be worried? Jos Luis Mendilibar was asked. Yes, I think theyll be worried, just as well be worried about them. They will have a good team in front of them.
Atltico beat Betis 1-0 to climb above Madrid and into second place, thanks to a goal from Koke. So can you compete with Barcelona? Filipe Lus was asked after the game. No, he said.
Another day, another paolada at Mestalla.
Meanwhile, across the city, something is starting to happen at Levante. Something good. Theyre still second bottom but they were impressive in beating Sporting and Rubi may just be turning them round.
Success. Isaac Success. Granada won at last, pulling out of the relegation zone with only their second victory of the season.
Results: Real Sociedad 2-0 Sevilla, Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona, Espanyol 2-0 Mlaga, Valencia 1-1 Las Palmas, Deportivo 2-0 Celta, Sporting 0-3 Levante, Villarreal 1-1 Eibar, Granada 2-0 Athletic, Betis 0-1 Atltico. Monday: Getafe-Rayo.