FC Barcelona were getting very uncomfortable. It was not a death blow, but it was close to it.
Losing 1-0 at home to FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona were not set to be eliminated. But they were edging uncomfortably close to it once again, despite multiple signings and getting an easier group than last go-around.
This was on top of several poor results, including a loss to Real Madrid, that made the local media for the very first time wonder whether Xavi should be sacked.
Just a few minutes later, up stepped João Cancelo. He dribbled past one defender and scored with a well-placed shot.
And he kept going. He was putting in a shift defensively, but he was absolutely unplayable in attack. He was going by people, linking up play, creating chances... all of it.
It was only a matter of time before one of his teammates capitalized on his actions, and Cancelo assisted his namesake and countryman João Félix for the winning goal.
Cancelo’s numbers were astonishing: 1 goal, 1 assist, 4 tackles, 1 interception, 0 times dribbled past, 90% accurate passing, 5 chances created, 2 accurate crosses, 4 accurate long balls, and 6 dribbles completed.
It was a masterful performance that the likes of Jordi Alba, Dani Alves, Marcelo, Roberto Carlos, or Cafu would be proud of.
The opponent was perhaps not a super club, but it was a more than respectable team that Barcelona were having a lot of trouble with. And it’s not the knockout stages yet, but it was still a critical moment in the season.
Cancelo has had inconsistent moments and moments where his attitude was questioned, which is why Manchester City allowed him to leave on loan and why Bayern Munich did not make his move permanent. But at the moment he is delivering for Barcelona, who must be thinking that they always have to find a spot for him in big games.