David Villa strikes twice as slick Barcelona thrash Real Madrid
José Mourinho always insisted that this game would not be decisive but it felt like it last night. He insisted that, having enjoyed the best start of any coach in the club's history, Madrid would lose one day but he did not expect to lose like this. Real Madrid, so impermeable before, were punctured tonight. Five times. A stunning 5-0 win represents the worst league defeat Mourinho has suffered in his career.
The chant going round this stadium, inspired by Mourinho's infamous accusation that Leo Messi had play-acted during a Chelsea-Barcelona Champions League, clash was clear: "Mourinho, go to the theatre." He might have wished he had. There would have been little comfort in the fact that this Barcelona side are a genuinely special one. Pep Guardiola's side were imperious, their control of the ball often breathtaking.
Speaking of genuinely special, if this was indeed the game that would decide who was the best player in the world, there can be only one answer. Leo Messi may have failed to score for the first time in 10 games but his performance – with those of Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Sergio Busquets – was nonetheless sublime. There were fewer brilliant dribbles, less fantasy. But there was a stunning assuredness of touch and impeccable precision in the passing. This was the Messi who controls the game. And then decides it
In terms of talent per square metre, a case could be made for considering this the greatest club match ever. There were 11 World Cup winners on the pitch at the start, plus 10 candidates for this year's Ballon d'Or and, wherever you looked there stood a man who could be considered the planet's best in his position. Then, of course, there were the two men with the strongest claims upon being the finest footballer around, men who have come to define their clubs: Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
For the pair there was a sense of this being something of a final frontier. Ronaldo has never scored against Barcelona; Messi was yet to get a goal against a Mourinho side. The last two winners of the Ballon d'Or, they had scored against everyone else. Ronaldo reached 50 goals for Madrid quicker than anyone in the club's history – hitting the half century in just 52 games. In the other corner, Messi – scorer of 13 in 10 and provider of five assists – has 70 in his last 71 games.
But it was Xavi, the ideologue behind Spain's World Cup success, whom the Spaniards consider the strongest candidate to win this year's Ballon d'Or, who opened the scoring after nine minutes. Messi, who spent much of the game dropping off from his 'false No 9' role into midfield, content to play simple passes and keep the ball moving, combined with Xavi deep in midfield. Opening up his body, the Argentinian swept the ball to the left for Iniesta. His pass into the box found Xavi running though and as the ball sat up fortuitously off his heel, he was able to nudge a volley past Iker Casillas.
It was the perfect demonstration of Barcelona's football. Short, clever passing, a man always in support. Even the goalkeeper, Víctor Valdés, refused to thump long aimless balls up the pitch. Barcelona did things that would be risky for any other side.
Soon, the Camp Nou was roaring again. Villa collected, delivering a cross that Casillas could only just reach. As the ball squirmed away from him, Pedro got ahead of Marcelo to push it over the line to make it 2-0. Almost immediately, it was nearly three – Iniesta's sumptuous assist found Villa clean through but he was fractionally offside.
Madrid were not finished. They had little of the ball but when they did recover possession they broke rapidly and with murderous intent. When Guardiola refused to give the ball back to Ronaldo on the touchline, there was edge too.
Ronaldo, while increasingly irritated, was coming into the game. A shot flashed wide, a free-kick dipped past the post and just before half-time he appealed for a penalty as Valdés dived at his feet. The referee, Iturralde González, gestured for him to get up. He clearly felt that Ronaldo had looked for the penalty and replays suggested that although Ronaldo may have looked for it, he may also have found it. Still Barcelona continued to move the ball around with a smooth, slick quality that Madrid could not match.
Within two minutes of the second half starting, Messi had the ball in the net only to be called back for offside. He, Pedro and Villa had already made a mess of a superb opportunity in the Madrid area. And four minutes after that, Messi slipped an angled delivery through for Xavi. Unfortunately for Barcelona it was not the only thing that was angled: as Xavi stepped away from Casillas he could not wrap his foot round the ball sufficiently to prevent it going into the side netting.
When Messi did much the same thing three minutes after that, Villa made no mistake. Messi's pass was again perfectly weighted through the gap and Villa, sneaking in behind Pepe, struck cleanly into the net for his seventh of the season.
Almost immediately, he got his eighth. Again Messi provided the angled through ball. Again, Villa slipped behind the defence. This time he toe-poked the ball past his international colleague. Jeffren rounded the game up with the fifth in stoppage time to complete a miserable night for Rea