I'll be totally honest with you. I didn't think we'd win last night. I consider myself a mildly pessimistic person, I've always been like that. Every time, I just assume the worst is gonna happen. In part, that's what made me think we'd lose the final yesterday. Also I thought we were due for a stinker, I thought ManU was poised to avenge yesteryear's final loss. I also thought that if we lost, it wouldn't matter much becase this Barça is so great, it can actually afford to lose a Champions League Final without anybody doubting its place in history.
Other than being a pessimist, having italian blood in my veins, I'm also a very supersticious person. Two years ago, during the final stretch of the La Liga and Champions League I used to dress exactly the same way (including underwear) for each important game: the 2-6 in the Bernabeu, Iniesta's miracle in London game an obviously Roma's Final.
It shouldn't surprise you, then, that as soon as we sealed the victory against Madrid, me and my friends decided we had to watch the game in our lucky bar. That is, the bar were we witnessed Belletti improbably score the winning goal in Paris, the same bar where we saw Barça manhandle Manchester United in the Eternal City. It was a no-brainer, even if we never go to that bar anymore, we couldn't risk messing -no pun intended- with karma on such an important night.
Karma sent us a wink when we met an old friend at the bar. A friend who watched with us the other two finals there and, like us, thought it was paramount to maintain the tradition even though we did not arrange to go there together. It was a sign. Suddenly I wasn't so worried anymore.
One of my friends, Victor, a born and raised Catalan, was nervous as hell. In the bar, the atmoshpere was tense. All cules are pessimists, by nature. These last few years haven't changed that. Deep down, we all expect the worst. When Manchester United came out of the locker room with an all out press, swarming Barça's usually swift ball movement, it made everybody hold their breath. We knew it wouldn't be as easy as two years ago, but we didn't expect this.
We were all totally silent, sipping our beers, eating some "patates braves" and staring at the screen. A group of guys would, intermittently, start chants: Barça's official hymn or the popular "ol-le-le ol-la-la, ser del Barça es, el millor que hi ha" (Being a Barça fan is the best there is). Confidence quickly reemerged as Barça started creating endless chances. Too bad everybody seemed to have forgotten how to score. We started getting desperate. I said to my friends: "Damn, we can't afford to waste so many chances against this team. We're going to pay for it".
Then came Pedro's goal. Pedro, the kid who always, and when I say always, I mean literally always, scores when it matters the most. The bar erupted and we jumped on our chairs. Barça was back on track. It didn't last much though, as Barça's defense was caught by surprise and let Wayne Rooney tie the game with a beautiful give and go with the evergreen Ryan Giggs. At the bar, it was like a cold shower. Silence came upon the room. Even the beer started tasting terribly.
Then more wasted chances, more desperate sighs, more silence. There's a spanish saying that goes like this: "Jugamos como nunca, perdimos como siempre" (We played like never before, we lost like always). It was a popular saying until last summer, everytime the Spanish national team lost big games in the World Cup, when they were always favored. It couldn't apply to this Barça team because we are now used to winning, but still, it felt like we should've been up 4-1 at the half. Maybe destiny was not on our side this time.
Fortunately, who needs destiny when you have Messi on your side? What else can be said about him? 55 games played, 53 goals, 28 assists. I mean, do we even NEED to say anything about him? His game, his performance, speak for themselves. He might not be the best ever, but he's already pretty close, and he already belongs in the exclusive upper echelon of football's best ever. Oh, and he's only 23. Where will he be in 10 years? I actually get goosebumps just by typing that question.
The bar erupted again. Used as we are to seeing Messi amazing goals, they never cease to be special. The fourth Champions League was closer than ever and Villa took care to wipe away all the remaining doubts, with a hell of a goal. Another explosion of joy in the bar. High-fives, hugs, exstatic yells. For all intents and purposes, it was over. We were the Champions again. It was time to celebrate.
We headed out of the bar as soon as Abidal lifted the Cup. The streets were overwhelmed by people wearing blaugrana jerseys, cars honking, people waving flags. It was strange to see young kids celebrating a Champions league victory for the third time in their lives. It made me think of the thousands of Barça fans who waited so many years to see their beloved team win the first, in 1992. "How did that feel?", I wondered.
And now we have four.
"It seems strange to think that Barça has now four Champions League Cups", said my good friend Victor. I didn't answer at first, then I just nodded. Somehow, he was right. I was too small when Barça won the first one. I did remember Athens, though. And I remember all our disappointing first round exits throughout the years. Yes, it does seem strange to have four. It really seems odd to see Barça's name up there, along Ajax and Bayern, just below Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool.
We reached the fountain of Canaletes where thousands of people were already gathered, chanting, dissing Real Madrid, celebrating the tenth title in the Guardiola era. Think about it, ten titles in three years. Wow.
It suddenly dawned on me. This Barça team is something we'll never see again. We'll never be lucky to see a team with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol and Messi, all in their primes, playing for a coach like Guardiola.
How could I even doubt them?
This Barça team is larger than life. And if you think about it, the only strange thing would actually be if this were the last Champions League Cup they hoist.
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