FC Barcelona picked up their second trophy of the season on Saturday evening, overwhelming and outplaying Athletic Bilbao en route to an emphatic 3-1 victory in the Copa del Rey final. Even before the match had gotten underway, it was clear that we were in for a special night at the Camp Nou; 99,000 Catalan and Basque supporters had packed into the stands creating an electric, if somewhat uncomfortable atmosphere for King Felipe VI in his first Copa final.
After a surreal and ill-advised rendition of the Spanish national anthem, the two teams set about creating a spectacle of their own and Barça didn’t disappoint, earning their win courtesy of some spectacular all-round play. Oh, and goals from Lionel Messi and Neymar – they were pretty important too.
There can be no debate, Lionel Messi is the greatest footballer to have ever graced the game
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the subject, but full disclosure: if you think that someone was or is better than Lionel Messi, you are wrong and that’s all there is to it.
Football used to be a sport that was played by athletes, mere mortals who in some ways were similar to you or me; then along came this baby-faced kid from Rosario, a plucky little Argentine forward with the sheepish smile of an angel and talent of equally heavenly proportions. For Messi, football is more than just a game, more than just a job – it’s an art form and tonight we were treated to one of his finest works yet.
In every sense of the word, this was a total performance from Leo; his first goal defied belief and transcends description. It was a masterpiece, plain and simple and even now, an hour or more later, I’m still shaking my head in disbelief.
Neymar is amazing, and should never have to change
With the game drawing to a close, Neymar drew the ire of the Athletic fans and players with an audacious piece of skill: a rainbow flick that left young full-back, Unai Bustinza looking rather foolish. It capped off a sensational night for the Brazilian forward, who had previously scored his first goal in a competitive final for the club; he was just out there having fun, entertaining the Culés watching in the stands and all across the globe.
Neymar's rainbow flick http://t.co/pHHeLfAu6m— LaLiga_Talkzone (@LaLiga_Talkzone) May 30, 2015
Yet, for some reason, there are some pundits, players and fans who suggest that Neymar should cut this "showboating" aspect out of his game.
Apparently, players like Neymar shouldn’t be allowed to use their talents...to express themselves and to have fun. Just because Neymar is flicking the ball over someone’s head, why is that any different to a Messi nutmeg? Both are pieces of skills designed to beat an opponent, both equally as valid as the other. Haters gonna hate, I guess.
Could this be the best Barça ever?
From start to finish, FC Barcelona were dominant tonight, rarely allowing Athletic Bilbao even a moment to settle on the ball, let alone muster much offensive pressure of their own. Sure, the "hosts" had a few chances over the course of the 90 minutes, mainly as a result of some inspired play from the talented Inaki Williams, but really, there was only ever going to be one winner tonight.
The additions of Ivan Rakitić and Luis Suarez have helped us improve markedly, but the key figure in all of this is Luis Enrique. He has been a breath of fresh air, revamping our faltering philosophy and micromanaging the squad to perfection.
He attracted criticism for his decision-making earlier in the season, but while his choice to bench Messi and Neymar at the Anoeta in January for instance may have been contentious, it has paid dividends at the business end of this campaign. Now, just 90 minutes separate the Blaugrana from an unprecedented second treble...it’d be a tough ask to surpass Guardiola’s Barça, but you know what? This team is coming awful close.