It’s been a historic week for FC Barcelona, and one that allows us to finally address the Blaugrana as the best club side in the world. The Club World Cup was nothing more than a formality, just like many predicted, although it did have its downside. That downside is the loss of David Villa, at least until the start of April but more likely until the end of the season.
The prize money barely covers his wages over his period of absence, and I know these things happen, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Sure, Villa was playing badly, but this is the same man who has scored 51 goals for Spain, a slump in form was just that: a slump. There is little evidence to suggest that El Guaje is merely declining as a footballer, take his performances over this barren spell for Spain. Since the start of the season, Villa has managed four goals for Spain and crucially he has notched three in the UEFA Champions League.
David Villa will be sorely missed over the course of the season, though nothing of the sort was apparent against Santos on Sunday. Barcelona looked to be back to their scintillating best, each movement displaying the understanding, exuding confidence with every pass. It was breath-taking stuff that much is for sure, and as long as Guardiola witnesses performances like this, we can bank on the record-breaking coach extending his contract.
Pep has said himself that the job puts him under a great deal of stress, but has noted that he will continue as long as the players share his vision. It was clear from El Clasico that the players are adapting well to his 3-4-3 system, and they compounded that with the Santos match yesterday. Muricy Ramalho had no answer, although his observation was that Pep employed a "3-7-0" formation.
In a way, this was true, but it could also be argued that Barcelona played a 3-0-7 instead, bombarding the Santos defense with a litany of decoy runs and slide-rule passes. Whatever the case, Neymar summed it up best:
"The best team in the world today showed us how to play football."
Read into it what you will, but Neymar does demonstrate respect, which surprised a few people. Behind all the theatrics, drama and undoubted ego is an individual driven to succeed. He knows when he can flaunt his talent, and when he just needs to buckle down and put in the hard yards. Personally, I am a huge fan; unlike Cristiano Ronaldo he has time on his side and in a few years no-one will remember any of his unsavoury antics. After all, when you think of Lionel Messi, you remember the trademark dribbles, jaw-dropping goals and trophies galore. I doubt many will think solely of his "Hand of God" goal versus Espanyol.
That is because Messi realised that he had talent and with the correct guidance, he has become one hell of a player, perhaps the best of all-time. The man providing that correct guidance? Josep Guardiola.
Should the Brazilian sign for FC Barcelona, Guardiola could offer himself in a similar role to Neymar and more importantly Lionel Messi (and the rest of the squad) could also lend a hand, offering advice if necessary. Neymar may have an ego, but he also has a great deal of respect for this club, that much was evident in his post-match interview. The attacker witnessed Barcelona at their best, and who wouldn’t want to be a part?
It certainly isn’t fun being out-classed like that – as Cesc Fabregas would no doubt tell you – so why not strive to do your best to join that club? That is what Neymar can take out of the Club World Cup, while Barcelona can return to Cataluña with yet another trophy, an enviable title and the knowledge that Neymar is no doubt impressed with his Catalan suitors.
On a side note from Neymar, an email arrived in my inbox from a charitable cause that is offering a once in a lifetime opportunity. There are two auctions, although one doesn’t/shouldn’t really appeal to any Barcelona fans, although the first one most certainly does. This is the direct quote from said email:
The top bidder for Messi’s auction will travel to Barcelona to watch an FC Barcelona La Liga match during the 2011-2012 regular season, and then meet the living soccer legend after the game. Other events for the weekend include watching Messi and the FC Barcelona team during a private practice session, as well as a tour of the Camp Nou stadium. Leo will also send the winner home with a signed Messi jersey.
This particular auction will raise money for ONEXONE, a charity I am not familiar with, but appear to be working towards a fine cause: improving the quality of life for children around the world. The reserve itself is pretty costly, but if you have the money, it seems like a win-win situation. A link to bid can be found here.