Every time Xavi moves the ball elegantly to open holes in the rival defense, Andres Iniesta feints so much and so fast in a small area that the defenders risk their waists and legs trying to stop him and Leo Messi receives his passes to accelerate to the speed of a gazelle, shoot and score, Barcelona is invincible.
Milan found this out in the quarter final of the Champions League. Milan, with Colombian defender Cristian Zapata as a regular first-team player, relied on its advantage from the first leg in San Siro (2-0) to get past the qualifying round at Camp Nou.
They had been told that Barcelona was in crisis, that it was less forceful, that it was letting more goals in and that Messi was unhappy because things were not going well for him.
Barcelona, with Xavi and Iniesta in charge, returned to what it had always been, in other words, the crushing dominator, the total soccer team able to sink its rival. And Messi ready to rock Camp Nou with a historic come-from-behind effort. He racked up two goals, both passes from Xavi and Iniesta, and Milan advanced in the Champions League with a resounding 4-0 (the other two scored by David Villa and Jordi Alba).
After the disappointment of the defeat at San Siro and the fall to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and in the League, conjecture about “the Flea’s” poor form were shelved Tuesday night at Camp Nou, when the team and the fans needed him most.
Messi did not fail. And not just that. He kept his legend growing. Thanks to his two goals, Messi, with 58, became the second highest scorer in the Champions, surpassing Ruud Van Nistelroy of Holland. The only one ahead of him is now Raul, of Spain, with 71. Since he’s just 25, no one doubts that Messi will break the record held by one of the brightest stars in the history of Real Madrid. The Argentine has added seven this season and could increase the count in the quarter finals.
Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, a golden trident. When it works, and it almost always does, all the rival teams can do is pray that the rout isn’t scandalous.
Messi, Xavi and Iniesta the best in the world?
Few strategies can withstand these three stars of world soccer. Milan’s manager, Massimiliano Alegri, admitted this himself after last night’s match: “Barcelona can lose two matches in a season, but it is still the best team in the world. It has the three best: Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. So it’s easier.”
Alegri was impressed with the fact that Iniesta continued to feint in minute 90 “with incredible brilliance.” The man who scored the goal that gave Spain the World Cup South Africa has that extraordinary virtue. If he gets possession of the ball, there’s no way to get it away from him.
Messi (25), Xavi (33) and Iniesta (28) have been finalists for the “Balon d’or” in recent years. The Argentine star has won the last four. Xavi was third in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Iniesta second in 2010 and third in 2012.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, with Real Madrid, who won it in 2008, has been enshrined among the stars of Barcelona.
All the Italian sports press could do was surrender to this stellar Barcelona. “Messi, a Martian night,” reads the headline in La Gazzetta dello Sport, which shows praise for “the Flea:” “God of the balon,” “monstrous,” “ferocious.” And it also highlighted the other two “prongs” of the Azulgrama trident: Xavi (“he’s always there”), Iniesta (“electric movement”).
Barcelona enjoys the great fortune of having the world’s three best soccer players in their positions. They are the ones who make the difference, the stars who can destroy any strategy.
And it has Leo Messi. They say that all he needs is a World Cup to attain the stature of Argentine soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona. His only problem in reaching that historic soccer height is that Xavi and Iniesta don’t play on the Argentine national team. That’s all.