Breathtaking Barca: the greatest by far

Barcelona celebrate with the UEFA Champions League Trophy
Barcelona celebrate with the UEFA Champions League Trophy

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To be at Wembley on Saturday night was to be in the presence of greatness.

I have watched football for half a century and have never seen anything like the celestial perfection produced by Barcelona.

Even Brian Glanville, the doyen of British football writers who has seen it all, now places them at No1 in his all-time list.

Manchester United could have picked any XI in any formation and still been given a hiding.

United, we were told, had devised a special plan and had been working on it for three weeks in training.

But on the night, the likes of Carrick, Giggs and Park were chasing shadows as the Spanish midfield masters wove their mesmerising patterns.

Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and Messi defy attempts to nullify their brilliance and only Inter Milan in last season’s semi-finals managed it, albeit with a fair measure of fortune.

Of course, there have been many other great teams through football history.

The Real Madrid side of Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, who won five consecutive European Cups in the late 1950s, dazzled all who saw them.

But the greatest I ever saw – until now – was the Brazil 1970 World Cup winners featuring Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostao, Carlos Alberto and Rivelinho, who toyed with opponents in slow-motion swagger then struck like vipers.

Yet, to watch the laser-controlled slide-rule passing and movement of this current Barcelona side is a simply jaw-dropping experience.

Their Wembley performance will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it.

As for the sensational Lionel Messi, he is simply a dagger to the heart of every defence put in his path.

You can argue that until Messi inspires an Argentina World Cup win, he cannot be rated as the equal of Diego Maradona, who did so in 1986.

But just believe the evidence of your eyes.

Have any of us ever seen anyone as good and as breathtaking as Messi, who incredibly tops 50 goals this season.

Sitting three seats away from me at Wembley was Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, who is an avid Manchester United fan.

Like the rest of us, he just shook his head in wonderment at Barca’s ability to render even talented opposition helpless.

There was no shame for United.

Neither do they need any inquests.

They did what they could, with Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney all playing very well.

It was a pity keeper Edwin Van der Sar chose his final match to have an off night when United needed him in tip-top form.

But these are academic points.

Barcelona would have thrashed any team put in front of them and this time they did so with none of the cynical deceit which sometimes undermines their genius.

They may rule Europe for some time to come. A frightening thought for their rivals – Messi is only 23.