[Note: this was written June 4, 2011]
Barcelona’s 2010-2011 season has ended, and it has ended gloriously. Like a firework created by Gandalf, lit by Messi, and exploding with the force of 10,000 super suns. Yeah, that’s pretty. So what better way to recap the season than by quoting the single greatest movie of all-time: “Jurassic Park.” For those of you who don’t know, here’s the quick and the first on the film (the book is awesome too, but come on, the movie is SO quotable): British man is wealthy. British man funnels money to dinosaur excavation research. Through inexplicable, yet still seemingly possible, genetic recreation and biological experimentation (read: cloning), dinosaurs are brought back from extinction. British man wants to start dino amusement park. Lawyers (woohoo!) want real paleontologists/scientists to sign off on safety before insuring the park. They come to park. Everyone surprised. Inexplicably, British man allows grandchildren to accompany scientists through park. Tech guy sabotages park. Tropical storm limits leaving island. Defenses down. Goat. T-rex. Tree. Dinosaur sex change. Reset the system. Shit gets real. Awesome early 90s computer hacking sequence. Shit gets realer. Escape. There you have it. And without further adieu, I give you the greatest season recap in 65 million years.
Ian Malcolm: “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.”
Lionel Messi. They always say put your best foot forward, so we start out with the world’s best player, the two-time defending FIFA Ballon d’or winner, and all-around swell messiah. There’s really no point in naming his accolades for the season, but in case you forgot: 55 games played; 53 goals (nearly 1 per game *cartoonishly-large goggly eyes*); 24 assists (77 goals contributed on the season, are you kidding me?); Champion’s League top scorer (3rd consecutive); Champion’s League Final MOTM; 2010-11 DiStefano trophy winner; CdR top goalscorer; medals in La Liga, Champion’s League, and Supercopa de Espana. And lest anyone have delusions of him being lackluster in big games we have: 2 assists in Manita vs. Madrid; goal in 2nd Clasico (his 8th in all Clasicos); 2 goals in CL quarters against Arsenal (2nd leg); 2 goals in first leg of CL semis against Madrid; and the game-winner in the CL Final at Wimbley. godlike.
Robert Muldoon: [seconds before being eaten by a raptor] “Clever girl”
The raptor is Dani Alves, and he’s mighty clever. He is and will be forever trashed by opponents as a diver and a whiner and by some fans as not loyal enough (yes I’m eyeing you, yes you know who you are), but he’s the missing link in the team’s evolutionary chain. The right back who Sid Lowe once presciently called the world’s second best player is a vicious attacking machine who passes well, runs well, moves into space well, tracks back better than he is given credit for, and is a hassle to deal with in defense. Scoring 4 goals and giving 20 assists in all competitions (15 in La Liga, making him 3rd), he is a constant pain to opposing sides and never stops running. He also seems to be the most excited when another teammate scores, which is awesome to watch.
John Hammond: “All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked.”
Ian Malcolm: “Yeah, but John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
The 2-0 loss to Hercules seems like a long time ago, but as I remember it, there were a lot of people who felt it an ill omen. How could such a talented team and defense be opened up by little ol’ Hercules? No goals, what about Villa? Will Messi get on track? Ah, hindsight and all that. Now it is a faint glimmer of a remembrance of walking dream perhaps, but it was a huge moment at the time and would prove to be the biggest darkness before the dawn and all those other quaint platitudes. But oh the handwringing at the time. Just seems funny now.
Alan Grant: [frightening a small child who mocked raptors] “The point is … you are alive when they start to eat you. So you know … try to show a little respect.”
Could it have been anything other than the Manita in the first Clasico? No, no it could not. There were more interesting games that the team played, more competitive, more fun to watch in terms of suspense, but as far as games that involve bitch slapping your eternal rival in the mouth, silencing the doubters, and setting up the rest of a double winning season, this one takes the cake. I am no particular wordsmith, as you must all know by now, so I have the Spoiler’s description of the game, which was awarded their Match of the Season honor:
It takes something pretty bloody special for a 5-0 hammering to be considered the Match of the Season, but this was absolutely, amazingly nice.
Barcelona were incredible. They were beautiful. They were sex on 22-legs.
Yep, that about sums it up. In retrospect, it wasn’t the most important league game of the season for Barcelona, nor for any other competition really, but as a fan of the Blaugrana, a 90-minute surgical torture to the tune of 5-nil will put a smile across your face for years to come.
John Hammond: “Spared no expense.”
Well it wouldn’t be this season’s review without mentioning the Qatar Foundation sponsorship thing (I could also have included David Villa’s signing here, but I think the QF issue somehow was a bigger thing). I fell firmly on the side of those who believe (maybe because I resigned myself to this fact over a year ago) that it’s just business, it was going to happen, and the sponsor might have been worse (read: a picture of Sepp Blatter on the front, BP oil on the back). But no matter how you feel, it was a HUGE deal. Barcelona will be paid €170 million over 5.5 years making this the largest shirt sponsorship deal in football history. Some viewed it as the ultimate violation of everything the team stands for, then again, I kind of viewed that as happening when they wouldn’t let me become a socio because I’m not a Catalan. So yeah, get in a dither about that if you want, but I view xenophobia a might bit harsher than getting paid. Selling out? Perhaps. Luke being jaded? Most likely. Nevertheless, it was big news, and it will shape some of the things to come in the team’s future, both on the field and economically. However, this is sexy as hell:
Ian Malcolm: “Life finds a way.”
The prospect of 4 matches against Madrid in 18 days was enough to excite a number of fans, and enough to drive the rest to drink. Then remembering that those matches could decide La Liga, would decide the Copa del Rey, and would determine one of the finalists for the Champion’s League, you might have considered killing yourself. It was too much, way too much. 2 Clasicos in the league every year involves enough press room histrionics to cause me to avoid any mention of them. However, no season review would be complete without the mention of 4 games against the most arch of rivals just as evolution is not complete without the messy process of billion of years, and billions of dead. In the end, 1 win and 2 draws was enough for the Barça Double’s life to find a way, even if the Cup of the King was not survival of the fittest, but instead an action to make the team stronger going forward. And without survival, and that’s really the only word for it, or those 4 games, we would never be treated to Barça’s 4th European Double in history and pictures like this:
Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever witnessed, yet you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.”
Eric Abidal was diagnosed with a tumor in his liver in mid-March. We did not know the extent of problem, whether it was cancerous or benign, but we do know that he had surgery to remove it shortly after diagnosis. Most called it a season-ending injury. Hell, invasive surgery like that usually keeps a player out for a long period just because they have no fitness coming back. Then, Guardiola subbed him in during the Champion’s League semis against Madrid in stoppage time. It made for a good story but Adidal was clearly out of shape and his positioning was suspect. But Pep knows better and started Abidal in the Final, and he played well. Not great, but well enough. But overcoming the possibility of cancer to return and play in the biggest club football game on the planet gains you a special place in the hearts of your teammates and other fans. So of course Captain Puyol, who played very little in the game, handed the armband to King Eric for one of those incalculably sweet and beautiful moments: Abidal lifts the trophy in the place of the Captain and the Vice-Captain. A touching moment, and probably the Barcelona moment of the year.