Barcelona: As Barcelona bathed in the glow of what was being hailed, here, as one of the most exhilarating nights in the club’s garlanded recent past, Lionel Messi spelt out how the Champions League comeback triumph against AC Milan has enabled them to rediscover their mojo at the worst possible time for the rest of Europe’s elite.
After having nothing to declare but his genius during the 4-0 annihilation of the Italian club, Messi explained how he felt when the team rediscovered themselves as they seek to drive towards a second European Cup triumph at Wembley in three seasons.
“Perhaps in the last few matches, we’ve lost a little of our form. We knew, however, that to go through all we really needed was to get back to being ourselves,” said the Argentine, whose stupendous performance decorated with two goals did most to overturn Milan’s first leg 2-0 advantage.
“The crucial thing was to re-establish our way of playing. We needed a night like that. Everything came off perfectly. This is the kind of performance we’ve been producing for years and this is the Barca that everyone wants to see every game.”
It is, however, also the Barca that any of their potential quarter final opponents will be desperate to avoid when the draw is made in Nyon on Friday.
For though Jordi Roura, their caretaker coach, is playing down the idea that they must be tournament favourites again after the victory which is already enshrined here as La Remontada! — The Comeback — the widespread feeling is that Barca’s stars are realigning at the most propitious time.
For the win was accompanied by the even more uplifting news that their coach Tito Vilanova, who has been fighting throat cancer at a clinic in New York, will return to work on March 25, the week before the first leg of the quarter finals.
Roura, who is contact with him daily, reported how thrilled Vilanova was by the Milan result.
As he also would have been with the gamble on David Villa to lead the line, which saw him rewarded with the critical third goal and an excellent all-round performance from the rejuvenated Spanish international.
“It’s just what all of us around the club needed after some difficult weeks,” said Villa, picking up on the theme of the team, having wanted to give Vilanova the perfect pick me up.
Roura sounded aggrieved on behalf of his players, feeling that they had not in the first place deserved the “excessive, out of order criticism” which had followed the two recent Clasico defeats and the insipid first leg reverse at the San Siro.
Yet Sergio Busquets, quite outstanding on Tuesday, insisted: “We didn’t do it because we wanted to silence the critics. We did for ourselves.
“You have a bad time when you lose, so days like these have done a lot of good for our confidence.”
Indeed, the old confident snap and strut is back after what Andres Iniesta called “one of the most complete games we’ve played” and the fans were even enjoying the idea of divine intervention being at work, what with the splendid revelation that Barca always win 4-0 when they play during a papal conclave!
Nobody here would be the least surprised if fate dealt them two more Clasico dates in the quarter finals next month. Roura just shrugged: “If we draw Real Madrid, then we will play Real Madrid. With the draw, whatever will be will be.”
And, naturally, we can presume they’re going to Wem-ber-ley.