There comes a time when you just can’t accept losing any longer.
You have to see yourself as a winner if you want to be a winner, and once you start respecting yourself, your opponents will be forced to do the same.
Xavi felt this deeply from the beginning. The biggest challenge of all wasn’t finding a new center forward, or getting the defense to stop the unforced errors, it was getting Barcelona to see itself as Barcelona again.
This team has gone from being fatalistic to being dreamers.
For months, we’ve seen the progress, but needed more evidence that the change we were seeing would stick.
Go back to the Supercopa defeat in January. That was the first game where we saw Xavi’s Barcelona put in a proper performance. One that suggested, regardless of the result, this team would compete and play the game on its own terms.
Even after a dispiriting exit from the Copa del Rey shortly after, Xavi refused to let his players sulk.
There was always work to be done. Kick the emotions to the curb. Fill some holes during the winter window, and get back to the training ground.
Focus on the tactics. Get the attitude right. The rest will fall into place because the talent is there to compete with anyone.
Barcelona knocked off Atletico Madrid, after a lifeless defeat in the fall. Then they got revenge against Athletic Bilbao. For good measure, they took down Napoli, an Italian power competing for their own domestic title.
And they scored goals. Lots of them.
Game by game, fans were encouraged by what they saw. With lowered expectations, however, culers didn’t allow themselves to get too excited. It felt like a significant change, but after being let down for years, the wise thing to do was to wait and see if it could be sustained.
The Clasico was always going to be the real test. If you can’t do it there, nothing else really counts. Real Madrid is the standard Barcelona must always exceed.
Going into this one, we felt like it was possible to pull out the result, even at the Santiago Bernabeu.
We had a center forward in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was scoring goals at will.
We were seeing the emergence of a version of Ousmane Demele that was world class, just like we had always hoped for.
We were seeing a defense that was becoming reliable, and a midfield that was proving itself to be one of the most creative in Europe.
But what we saw on Sunday was more than anyone could have expected, even in the most pleasant of dreams.
But it wasn’t a dream. It was what happens in real life when you put your head down and go to work. When you block out the distractions. When you have a leader who forces you to see yourself for what you’re truly capable of.
Barcelona dominated Real Madrid.
They had the better game plan.
They had the better system that was being refined for months.
They had the better players at every position.
They had the better coach.
With absolutely nothing on the line except for pride, they gave a black eye to the presumptive champions of La Liga that will leave a bitter taste in their mouth, even when they hoist the trophy at the end of the season.
Xavi has put the world on notice, and his aims are clear.
Even if he doesn’t win the league, he will prove that Barcelona is the best team in Spain.
He will ensure the Blaugrana are back in Champions League.
There will be a top four finish, if not a top two.
And Barcelona will march their way to a Europa League title.
Xavi’s Barcelona are winners.
That’s how they see themselves, and that’s how the world will see them too.
The work has just begun, and we are all along for the ride.
Time to get the popcorn, this is must-watch football now.