Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Messi part of Pep Guardiola's masterpiece in Barcelona's win

Guardiola's strokes of genius behind the scenes helped to orchestrate Barcelona's work of art at Wembley Stadium.
Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, is thrown into the air by his jubilant players following their victory against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, is thrown into the air by his jubilant players following their victory against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

In a display of pretentiousness that would make even a Liverpool fan blush, some Barcelona supporters like to wear T-shirts bearing the slogan: "We don't do theatre, we do art."

The phrase was coined five years ago in response to an accusation by Jose Mourinho, then manager of Chelsea, that Lionel Messi had reacted "theatrically" to the somewhat brutal attention of Asier del Horno.

It was a typically ludicrous charge by Barcelona's bete noire - like suggesting that John F Kennedy had reacted theatrically to the attention of Lee Harvey Oswald - but the Catalans took the bait, and a new level of football snobbery was captured in a single sentence.

It is a snobbery in which mere entertainment is not good enough. Let the vulgar masses have their raucous circus, it says, but we require something more highbrow. To you, that plasma screen is a television, but to us it is a canvas. You may beat your chests, but we will stroke our chins.

Well, they got their art on Saturday night all right. The Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United was Pep Guardiola's masterpiece. Watching it was to understand why he seems keen to leave the club he loves so much because, well, how does one top that? If this match was football's Sistine Chapel ceiling - and, boy, did football need some shiny gloss to cover the leaking stain of Fifa - then Guardiola was Michelangelo, turning up with fine oils, delicate brushes and a dozen skilled craftsmen.

Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, was made to look more like a guy in a Transit van with 50 litres of white emulsion and a couple of telescopic rollers.

But is that entirely fair on the English champions? Did the Manchester United team offer anything for the serious art connoisseur to appreciate at Wembley Stadium?

Well, when Messi struck his goal, United's defence bore a passing resemblance to a set of Henry Moore sculptures: great, motionless hulks of stone.

In fact, the entire team seemed mesmerised by Barcelona's near-constant possession and rapid passing of the ball, their furrowed brows seeming to express the title of the Paul Gauguin piece Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Talking of faces, Wayne Rooney's will always give pleasure to fans of Salvador Dali, and his magnificent, knee-sliding goal celebration was like Winged Victory itself, albeit premature.

Ryan Giggs has worn a Mona Lisa smile in recent months, although it was not in evidence at Wembley, perhaps because it is no longer as mysterious as it was, thanks to the lifting of a super-injunction. He should probably avoid The Garden of Earthly Delights for a while, as should young Rooney, or they risk the wrath of that other Terracotta Army, the players' wives and girlfriends.

Ferguson was gracious in defeat, which was a pity for anyone who expected to see a reaction of shock and horror, like Munch's The Scream, Arsene Wenger is your man for that. Ferguson may, however, be regretting his fielding of young Fabio da Silva over the more-experienced John O'Shea, which had shades of Rubens's The Massacre of the Innocents.

And while most of the United camp will be gloomy, I imagine that the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov, who was not even selected as a substitute, may allow himself a small chuckle.

The Laughing Cavalier, anyone?

World champion Vettel gets by with a little help from his friends

What would those highbrow Barcelona fans make, I wonder, of Sebastian Vettel’s love of the popular music group, The Beatles?

The Formula One world champion and music-lover, who collects vinyl records as well as racing ones, once paid £2,500 (Dh15,000) for a copy of With The Beatles signed by all four band members.

His favourite album is Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – although, after riding his luck in yesterday’s Monaco Grand Prix, his new favourite might be Rubber Soul.

The Red Bull Racing driver was leading the race with eight laps remaining but practically on the belts of his tyres, which were unchanged for a massive 55 laps.

Experts reckoned he had about four laps left before the tyres lost all grip, leaving him vulnerable to the chasing Fernando Alonso.

It was a mouth-watering prospect for fans, until a crash involving other drivers caused the race to be red-flagged.

During the break, Vettel’s car was fitted with fresh rubber and the rest of the race was a procession.

In Sgt Pepper terms, he got by with a little help from his friends, and we never did find out how his tyres would please him when they were 64 (laps).

I bear no ill will to Vettel. He seems like a decent guy, with excellent taste in music, and anyone who keeps the moody Fernando Alonso off the top slot is OK in my book.

However, after the sport introduced fast-perishing Pirelli tyres to increase pit-stops and therefore excitement, why does it allow them to be changed during a red-flag break? It felt like a let-off for Red Bull and a damp squib for fans.

F1 is never shy of tinkering with the rules, so let’s hope they alter this one, to help further improve a sport which is Getting Better all the time.

sports@thenational.ae

Updated: May 30, 2011 04:00 AM

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