Barcelona make us smile again, says Neil Humprheys
On their day, like the one on Saturday, Enrique's men can elevate football to an art form
REAL MADRID 0
(Luis Suarez 11, 74, Neymar 39, Andres Iniesta 53)
In essence, sport should make us smile.
It can, and should, do many others things of course but, in its purest form, sport makes us smile. When we least expect it, almost involuntarily, occasionally against our will.
Barcelona left us with the broadest of grins on Saturday (yesterday morning, Singapore time).
As with everything those magicians do, their timing was effortlessly exquisite.
Without wishing to sound trite or trivial, we needed to smile.
Europe, and European football in particular, wanted to feel something different, an emotion other than the one that had languished in dark corners for a week.
The sweetest smile is always the most unexpected and those beasts of beauty made it happen in a technicolour display of spontaneity.
Four fabulous goals, hypnotic possession and pinball passing with that unexpected cheekiness, this was football played with a twinkle in the eye, the football repeated in school playgrounds the following morning, the football of our childhood daydreams.
Nobody does it better than Barcelona. Nobody.
Bayern Munich are bigger, sometimes faster automatons and they may beat Barcelona, perhaps even this season. But they will not better them.
When the Catalan giants click, as they did in El Clasico yesterday morning, when the patterns are so seamless you can no longer see the stitching, they elevate their sport to an art form.
They transcend routine highlights packages to create a gallery of timeless images and memories.
Against Real Madrid, they were a side without weakness.
Sergio Busquets was a central dictator, ruling with a paintbrush rather than an iron fist, a true original, an anchorman with an intellect.
He's the best in his position at present. He's put down a faultless template for the future.
Nestling alongside, Andres Iniesta remains the Michael Corleone of midfield, still ruling on behalf of his Barcelona family, still thinking faster than those around him.
If he were an animated character, a lightbulb would appear over his head each time he scurried away to execute a thought pattern, to draw those pictures in his mind's eye.
Around Iniesta, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were on constant rewind, jumpy and jittery, archaic VHS men in a digital, wireless world.
Sergi Roberto, the latest off the Barca production line and raised in the ways of Lionel Messi, proved he was ready to deputise.
He's 23 going on 24, a wise head on slender shoulders and blessed with the legs of a gazelle.
He traumatised Marcelo until the Brazilian was mercifully substituted. He made an unhappy man look very old.
And then, of course, there were those architects of unadulterated joy.
Neymar and Luis Suarez were trained killers disguised as court jesters. Their goals gave them the giggles. Their mood was infectious.
They hijacked the world's most significant football derby and replaced it with the jolly japes of beach football; flicking, chipping, bending and swerving balls for kicks.
The suntan lotion and buckets of beer were missing, but not the insouciance. They played to entertain, to amuse themselves and their peers. This was a cheeky kickabout with mates taken to a global stage and it was utterly glorious.
Simplicity really is genius. It's also so much damn fun to watch.
In an age of cynicism, when Real were sent out not to lose, at home, when dull 1-0 victories against Norwich are considered a step in the right direction for reigning champions, when the search for artistic excellence is seen as a fool's errand, Barcelona's performance felt like an unexpected gift.
Suddenly, briefly, the game was good again. Football had fixed itself, not with dubious pre-match gimmicks involving national anthems, but with football. Just football. The game really doesn't need anything else.
In the 53rd minute, Neymar found Iniesta with that backheel, that ridiculous, ludicrous, sumptuous backheel.
And we smiled. We might have even laughed. The backheel, the stupendous strike that followed and the outrageous elegance of the entire move made us smile at the insane belief that such a moment of sporting perfection could be attempted and achieved.
But Barcelona pulled it off. Of course they did. They are in the lonely business of sustained brilliance.
Many great sides win, but the Catalans are also devoted to the pursuit of happiness.
It's a welcome and refreshingly simple philosophy. They keep winning. We keep smiling.
Enrique: We've made history
History made. And it will be remembered by all Barcelona fans for years and years.
The 4-0 pain inflicted on their biggest rivals Real Madrid and at their home ground - Santiago Bernabeu - will be an El Clasico that will go down in history.
Even with Lionel Messi only fit enough to start the match on the bench following an eight-week injury lay-off, Barca made light work of Rafa Benitez's men.
"This victory tastes glorious because it is against our eternal rivals and, as well as the victory, it will be very difficult for us to better this performance," Barca coach Luis Enrique said.
"This squad won the treble last year and it is one of the best squads you could hope for."
Although the victory took Barcelona six points ahead of Madrid at the top of La Liga, the coach was careful not to suggest his side were the favourites to win the title.
"There is still a long way to go and this is by no means decisive, but we leave here feeling very, very satisfied," he said.
"Winning like this against players of such a high level is difficult, but we managed to pull off what we were hoping to do throughout the game.
"I don't think Real Madrid gave up, I just think we were a level above them and we outnumbered them in many areas of the game and we were very effective.
"The game is more of a reflection of our merits than Madrid's faults.
Andres Iniesta was cheered off by some Madrid fans when he was replaced 13 minutes from time in scenes reminiscent of the Bernabeu's reaction to Ronaldinho's stellar performance in a 3-0 Barca win 10 years ago.
And Enrique admitted Barca had no intention of slowing down as they tried to emulate the 5-0 thrashing of Jose Mourinho's Madrid five years ago.
"We wanted to win and, the bigger the difference, the better," he said.
The coach also explained the decision to wait until the 57th minute before introducing Messi.
"I decided it during the week and I wanted to get feedback from him and it was a relatively easy decision to make, and Leo also understood it." - Wire Services.