Where were you when Barcelona completed the greatest comeback in the history of football?
This is the question that will be asked for generations to come as the Blaugrana defied all the odds to register a remuntada for the record books, becoming the first team in history to overcome a 4-0 first leg deficit and progress to the next stage of the UEFA Champions League. But enough with the formalities and the SEO optimisation; this isn't designed to be a blog post, for tonight I'm simply a Culé trying to make sense of the history that has unfolded before my very eyes this evening.
I touched on this in my preview, the unconditional support and hope that this tie had generated not just in Barcelona, but all across the world. Barcelona fans across the globe had remembered just what it means to be a true Culé; and their heroes came through in similar fashion. From the board to the management to the players to the ball boys surrounding the field, they all remembered what it meant to represent this team.
Més que un club was not just a motto or a clever marketing slogan tonight, it was a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down to the visiting Parisians... it was a statement that will echo loud and clear throughout the footballing world. Tonight under the floodlights at the Camp Nou, FC Barcelona rediscovered themselves and in the process, inspired a generation.
Luis Enrique might be leaving this summer, but he was the genius behind a masterclass tonight, drawing inspiration from multiple eras of Barça dominance to put PSG to the sword. There was a touch of Cruyff in the 3-4-3, a pinch of Guardiola in the tireless pressing and there was more than a sprinkle of the directness, the steel and the intensity that has typified Lucho’s tenure as head coach.
This was a historic team operating at the very peak of their powers, imposing their will on a hugely talented PSG squad. Right from the offset, it almost appeared as though Barcelona were writing their own script and grabbing goals at their own beck and call. With a three-goal lead at the 50 minute mark, the Blaugrana seemed destined for a comeback, until Edinson Cavani supposedly delivered the coup de grâce with his emphatic volley.
The mood at the Camp Nou changed with that goal, but the belief of the players and the manager never wavered. Even with three minutes of regulation left, and with Barcelona requiring three goals to progress to the next round, they kept fighting.
We could, should and will wax lyrical in the days to come about the individual performances we witnessed tonight. Samuel Umtiti was tremendous, Gerard Pique was superb, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta were outrageous but there was one man that outshone them all: Neymar almost took this team on his back in the final stages and willed them through to the next round with a virtuous display of composure and sheer ability.
His free-kick was quite simply perfect and it provided Barcelona with a small glimmer of hope. Then, when Luis Suarez was felled in the area, it wasn’t the Uruguayan who would step forward, nor was it the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi. It was the Brazilian, showing his cojones to demand the ball and dispatch the penalty with a trademark stutter step along the way.
Even then, Barcelona had no right to progress. Little time remained and as the clock winded down in injury time it was Neymar again who stepped to the forefront. So often in these scenarios you will see a player aimlessly fire a ball into the area, and at the second time of asking, Neymar produced a defense-splitter to find the run of Sergi Roberto and place the ball onto his outstretched right boot.
Unbelievable. Impossible. Barça.
Tonight, more so than ever before ser del Barça és el millor que hi ha!