For the third time in five years (2006, 2009 & 2011) Futbol Club Barcelona, or simply Barca, is the champion of Europe. Former player Pep Guardiola's squad outclassed Alex Ferguson's club for the second time in the last three finals. Given Spain's win in the world cup with a team full of Barca players, Noman would be safe in saying that this has been the world's best team, with the greatest talent, for much of this glorious run.
Noman has had the pleasure of watching Barca play over the last 20 years, and he has seldom seen a club so dominate the time of play and ball handling the way recent Barca teams have. They are both elegant and explosive. The other team rarely has a chance to score. This exciting group is loaded with players who know what to do with the ball around the net, none moreso than the electrifying Argentine striker Lionel Messi. This guy is dangerous whenever he touches the ball: think of Maury Wills or Lou Brock on the basepaths, or Magic Johnson on a fast break, or Barry Sanders in open field. Barca signed him when he was 14 years old and brought him to their "cantera" or minor league team. He's been playing on the big club since he was 17.
Noman had his doubts about this one going into the final because Barca had to crybaby their way to victory over arch rival Real Madrid in the semi-finals. You might remember the way basketball was almost destroyed in the 1970's by players posturing to take the charge, and feigning being run over in order to get a call from the referee. The soccer equivalent is guys throwing themselves on the field and grabbing their faces in feigned agony in order to get a guy on the other side thrown out of the match. As you may know, in soccer, an expelled player isn´t replaced, and the team has to play shorthanded. That's what happened to Madrid, and Barca had an easy time of it after some spectacular belly-aching, whining and academy-award-caliber acting. Conclusive video evidence demonstrated that there was no contact on this controversial and pivotal play. But, alas, the referee was swayed by Barca's histrionics.
In any event, they didn't need it tonight. The first half was close. But Messi drove a dagger through Man U's heart with a spectacular second-half goal in the 55th minute, which was followed by Villa's coffin nail. It is Barca's 4th European Cup overall. That's still a far cry from Madrid's record nine, but it goes a long way towards establishing Barca's dominance of contemporary futbol. ¡Visca Barca!