You’re having this party, right, and you’re thinking of every possible thing that can happen, every permutation that can go into making your party a memorable one. You have all the right foods, great music, the occasion is right, it’s all working, all planned to perfection. You have all the bases covered, then something happens, and the party is suddenly elevated from sensational, to once-in-a-lifetime.
That was kinda what happened at the Camp Nou yesterday, an extraordinary series of events that elevated a maudlin, sad event into something celebratory and memorable. Pep Guardiola coached his last first team match at the Camp Nou. The plaudits have been raining from the heavens for some time now, some beautiful, some saccharine, some silly, some heartfelt. His players had said many things, made many gestures and through it all, there was also nonsense:
–There was a falling out between Leo Messi and Guardiola
–Messi didn’t come to the announcement press conference for nefarious reasons
Messi answered all of those bits of silliness with a glorious display, his second in a row, laying four goals on our hated neighbors Espanyol, one of the teams that fought and clawed its way to stolen points from us in this extraordinary season. And after the fourth goal, Messi eschewed the usual group hug, as he was a man on a mission. He trotted over to the sideline, and hugged his coach, Pep Guardiola.
And hugged, and hugged, and hugged. Then a few teammates came over, then a few more ….
…. and suddenly, the whole group was over in an ensemble love-in. As usual, the littlest one would lead them, in figuring out exactly what to do, there was really nothing to do or say, only the simplest expression of love and affection that we know: an embrace.
To say that it was a remarkable moment would be an understatement. To say that it was a perfect moment would be about right, because in Guardiola’s last home match, against our bitter crosstown rivals, that our best player, a player who reached his fullest flower yet under the careful steerage of the coach he didn’t want to let go, physically or clearly, emotionally, that player dropped 4 goals. Yes, the churlish will note that two of them were penalties of the softest nature. But the other two were of such joy that, as our very own Isaiah said on Twitter, they should have each counted for two.
Messi was a player that wasn’t going to let anything sully his coach’s last home match. You got the feeling he would have played keeper, had it been required of him, in a match in which players rose above and beyond the call. Puyol rose from the pitch like a rocket on a set piece. Mascherano bailed out a woefully out-of-position Pinto with a clearance for the ages, one that sent him head over heels, rising to his feet almost with a “Did I make it?” expression on his face.
It was clear from the collective enterprise, the vigor at which the club attacked this match, that no player on that pitch was going to be responsible for allowing ANYTHING to sully the Mister’s last home match.
And it’s worth noting that before Guardiola, Lionel Messi was an injury-prone mass of potential. The seasons prior to Guardiola, both injury-hampered, he had 19 and 20 goals. Guardiola came in, put him on a regimen that covered every aspect of his preparation, right down the foods that he ate, specific exercises and other things to keep Messi in the state of Messi-ness. That first season brought 38 goals in all competitions, and a Treble. The next season, 45 goals in all competitions. The season after that, 50. Then this season, with a mind-boggling 72 goals in all competitions, a record that people had to go waaaaay back in time to find anyone who had done the like. Then he passed that dude.
And now, it’s just Messi, a player who has achieved so much under the steady hand of Guardiola, who is probably comfortable with the steerage of Tito Vilanova, and who is still improving as a player overall, in every aspect of his game.
We will leave it to others to question Messidependencia, whether it is wise to place such a burden on such a small pair of shoulders. We will leave it to others to natter about how all that Guardiola did was stand in the right place at the right time, as the armored car doors flew open and those bags of money flew out.
Because we’re too busy marveling at a player who has scored more goals by himself than many entire clubs.
Did the club play a perfect match yesterday, finally handing Pep Guardiola the one thing he had been seeking his entire FCB coaching career? No. But it didn’t matter. The same result would have befallen ANY team that showed up in the Camp Nou on that day, on that auspicious occasion. The players tossed Guardiola into the air, formed a guard of honor for him as he left the Camp Nou pitch for the last time, leaving him and us with memories, moments that he shared with his family as they occupied an empty stadium, a space that was almost certainly still echoing with the cheers of the almost 90,000 supporters that, in unison, showed voceferous appreciation for the man, the Mister, the legend.
What’s next? It doesn’t matter, just like the aftermath of that wonderful, amazing party that you threw, the one where it all came together. Yes, there is work, school or those other real-life committments that scrape away, making our existence a mostly mundane thing. But that is for the next day. For now, it’s the memory, reliving the delight and swapping stories of the night, that amazing night in the Camp Nou when love was so thick in the air that, like the blades of grass that some visitors reach down and swipe during stadium visits, it felt like you could have just scooped some up to take home, and preserve for posterity.
What a party, indeed.