Nonsensical Nemo: Bayern Munich spanks Barcelona 8-2 - Why Messi and Co’s humiliation always feels so good
AFP

As a tribal football fan, there are few joys in life that compare to watching the annihilation of Barcelona in a football match.

While tiki-taka has been dead for a while, its last remaining spirit was exorcised in an excoriating manner by a ruthless Bayern Munich team that echoed the 7-1 humiliation of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup by Germany.

Bayern Munich’s systemic dismantling of a Messi-led Barcelona team perfectly epitomised, in some ways, how the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed the world.

It was the most surreal of experiences while watching a football match.

Barcelona defended like they had all channelized David Luiz and appeared to have borrowed LK Advani’s ‘crawl instead of bend’ maxim while defending.

Neither the spirit, nor the flesh was willing.

Thomas Muller, who was also part of the 7-1 humiliation of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup, rated this higher saying: “In the win in Brazil we didn't have the same amount of control. Yes, we were good, but tonight the way we dominated the game was brutal."

Gerard Pique, who has seen the highs of winning multiple Champions Leagues admitted they had hit rock bottom, and this wasn’t even the first, second or third time.

While the manager has already been sacked, many will wonder if this is Lionel Messi’s last game as a Blaugrana.

Messi, like most of his teammates aimlessly meandered around like a punch-drunk boxer who has just been walloped by Muhammad Ali in the first round of a bout.

As former Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha, the purveyor of sporting metaphors pointed out, it was like the 2014 Lok Sabha Election.

Barcelona fans will write angry posts, perhaps piling on their president Josep Bartomeu, a deeply divisive figure who has managed to oversee the dismantling of one of the world’s biggest sporting legacies.

But for the rest of football fans, Barcelona’s cruel dismantling will allow us to wallow in the basest of all sporting desires – schadenfreude.

We might deny it but seeing one’s rivals dismantled and humiliated is one of sport’s greatest joys. Particularly, when they are holier-than-thou figures. In cricket, it’s the same reason that everyone thoroughly enjoys the dismantling of the Australian team.

From a personal perspective, it probably has to do with one’s Manchester United leanings.

The 2009 Champions League final will always remain one of Manchester United’s worst memories, when Sir Alex Ferguson’s last great team walked into a Messi-Xavi-Iniesta maelstrom of tiki-taka passes.

United were left chasing shadows at Rome and two years later at Wembley as Barcelona shrugged aside the Red Devils like the Modi government does NDA allies.

From a larger picture, it had something to do with the so-called ideological purity of tiki-taka, the pass-pass-pass system adopted by Barcelona and Spain which seemed to suggest to others that their style of football was brutish.

So, whenever tiki-taka was defeated, it felt like a victory for the hoi polloi over elites, much like the defeat of communism.

Mourinho did it in 2010 with his Inter team, pulling off one of the greatest defensive masterpieces of all time where Esteban Cambiasso shadowed Messi and blocked him out of the game.

But a few years later, we’d see both dismantled, as Real Madrid hammered Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, and Spain destroyed 1-5 by Netherlands at the World Cup.

But it went beyond tiki-taka.

It was how Barcelona always presented itself. Mes Que Un Club or more than a club. And it was, as a symbol of Catalan expression and pride against Spain but the posturing could get annoying at times.

Look at us, we are Barcelona, we walk through a chapel before playing because our football his heavenly.

We are football’s purebred choir boys.

We are Cruyff’s reincarnates, we are the only ones who know how to play football. We only have home-grown angels. He created the Sistine Chapel and we are painting on it.

Some of the Barcelona angst would also be because of Guardiola. He exhibited bits of it at Manchester City as he hailed Catalonia’s right to a referendum while happily taking money from a regime with the least bit of respect for democracy.

Pep Guardiola would pretend that he was a puritanical professor whose teams didn’t need a Plan B.

As if having more money, with the joke of a Financial Fair Play rule, wasn’t as important as his coaching abilities. The lack of a Plan B hinders Manchester City to this day.

While the Blagurana are a proud entity of Catalonia’s call for freedom, the more-than-a-club bit is bunkum.

Barcelona, like every other football club, is a capitalist money making entity.

Messi was always hailed as a down-to-earth superstar as if he too wasn’t earning millions from football just like Ronaldo.

The entire Messi vs Ronaldo always adds an edge to the dislike for Barcelona.

Messi is always juxtaposed as the Luke Skywalker to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Darth Vader even though the latter has stats to suggest that he is on par with him and can even play better in a depleted team.

Messi, for all his magic, has never shown that he can do it, when the chips are down or as football fans like to call it: "On a cold night in Stoke."

Ronaldo, one ought to point out, has shown he can do it in three different leagues. And has an international title to his name, a task much harder for Portugal than Argentina.

Then there is the entire notion that Barcelona didn’t buy superstars, that all their talent was homegrown. While La Masia has produced some of the finest talents in football including Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Puyol, Busquets and Pique, Barcelona do splash the cash.

In the last few years, they have spent huge swathes of money on the likes of Coutinho, Dembele, Griezmann, Neymar, Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Frenkie De Jong and others, and it’s their fault most of their stars have failed to assimilate into the Barca way of life.

But perhaps the real reason we love to watch Barcelona fail is because it’s always fun to watch a former God bleed.

Or haemorrhage, as Bayern Munich made them do last night.

Read other Nonsensical Nemo columns.

The author is web editor at Free Press Journal. Views are personal

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