This is why Barcelona are 'Mes Que un Club'
Why did we love Barcelona's comeback on Wednesday night? Because we love football, and to understand this night is to understand why.
There are the sporadic moments of spiritual success that define the beautiful game. They are special through their rarity, but when they occur, they put the magnitude of irrelevant noise that surrounds the world game into perspective. One such moment occurred in the capital of Catalonia on Wednesday night.
Barcelona were on the verge of exiting the UEFA Champions League without reaching the quarter-final stage. An unacceptable 4-0 reverse to Paris Saint-Germain in the city of love on Valentines Day appeared to have already confirmed their fate as the two sides took to the field at a capacity Camp Nou. But this was Barcelona, and the stadium was packed with a belief that the tie could be turned around, despite no club recovering from such a deficit in the competition before.
And the reason that the fans believed is because this is Barcelona. This is 'Mes Que un Club', or 'More Than a Club'. If any club in the world could realise such a comeback, it was this club. The forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar dictate that the side can never be dismissed under any circumstances, but few believed that such a reversal was possible.
The timeline of the match is well-documented, and the winning goal has been replayed around the world on repeat since the second the ball left Sergi Roberto's boot in the defining final moment of the match. Serious questions were asked about the Barcelona defence as Paris Saint-Germain ran riot in the 1st leg, and even if Luis Enrique's side could give themselves hope in the return match, a solitary away goal from the Parisians would be enough to make the task all that more impossible.
Edinson Cavani scored that away goal just after the hour mark, and the Camp Nou was temporarily silenced. Fast-forward, and with just a couple of minutes of normal time remaining, Barcelona still needed to score another three goals without reply.
Neymar subsequently obliged on 88 minutes, and again from the penalty spot a couple of minutes later. It couldn't happen, could it? It happened.
Goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen unsettled the Paris defence in injury-time as he joined the desperate attack, and with seconds remaining, a delicately placed pass from Neymar found substitute Sergi Roberto onside and in space in the area.
He stretched, his touch directing the ball past the approaching Kevin Trapp in the Parisian goal, the net rustling to euphoric screams from every corner of the stadium. The devastated French champions kicked-off and the match was brought to an end. The impossible had been made possible.
A night to remember forever
The scenes were incredible. But, there was no trophy to lift, no title or award to celebrate, no honour to add to the career haul of any of the players involved. This was a 6-1 victory over 90+6 minutes, a result that ensured a 6-5 victory on aggregate, and booked the side a place in the last eight.
There is still a long way to go and a lot of football to be played before Barcelona can even think about visiting the Welsh capital of Cardiff for the Champions League final, and reaching the last eight was a minimum expectation for the Catalan club. It was certainly never expected to be a reason to celebrate. But this was different, this meant more. This was redemption for Luis Enrique over the critics that appear to have already driven him out of a job.
Redemption for the performance, or lack of it, from the players in Paris a few weeks before. This was Barcelona taking football emotion to a different level at their own cathedral.
The celebrations that followed the final whistle were not choreographed or staged, planned or considered. This was raw emotion. The professional staff who look after team affairs from the sidelines held each other, cried together, they were as one. Players ran off in all directions. The gravitational pull of emotion forcing them into the arms of team-mates and staff.
The supporters grabbed strangers, connected by an unspoken bond over what they had seen before them, crying together like the closest of loved ones despite meeting for the first time. This was the emotion generated by a goal. A delicate touch from one player to the boot of another and a ball placed past an advancing goalkeeper. It was one of the most beautiful moments in the history of the game. It didn't need a trophy or a title to categorise it.
But it was not just supporters of the Blaugrana who celebrated, football supporters around the world celebrated, and they celebrated because they had witnessed an event that will be chronicled in the annals of football history. The manner of the victory will act as proof that anything is possible, and that football can generate emotion like no other sport.
This was a sporting resurrection of unparalleled proportions. It cannot be compared to any other comeback. The team, the stadium, the star names, the timing of the final three crucial goals. This was a script that cannot be transferred to Hollywood without falling into the category of fiction. To watch the match was to watch history. To be fortunate enough to be there was to be a part of history being made.
To understand the magnitude of it is to understand why football is the greatest game in the world. Barcelona have redefined the game in recent years, but on Wednesday night they took the game to a different level through what they achieved and how they achieved it, and we must now be eternally grateful for that night.