Arsenal Football Club. The club I support, the club I adore, and the club I love through and through, true and true. But whilst the red and white colours are the ones which shall forever adorn my heart and flow through my veins, for the next five minutes I would like to talk to you about another football club. And a rather special one at that.
So on Saturday night I sat down in front of the TV, opened myself up a packet of Skittles, and watched contently as Barcelona eased through a 4 – 0 win at home to Espanyol. It was by no means a perfect display by the Blaugrana, and nor was it as brilliant a performance as we have come to expect from Pep Guardiola’s men. But this game was about far more than just a scoreline. Because for just one night of my life, I felt every bit like a Barcelonista as I watched the most successful manager in world football of the last four years, say his goodbye to football.
Yet as unbelievable as it may sound, I wasn’t for one moment thinking about the four goals Messi scored, or the 72 he now has in yet another record breaking season. No, what I couldn’t take my mind away from was the fact that right there, right then, I was witnessing a whole era of football history come to an end, right in front of me. An era which has reaped 13 (pending 14) pieces of silverware, a terrifying 633 goals, and an unmeasurable number of successful passes. But for as many numbers and figures as you can throw out there, nothing, nothing compares to seeing Barcelona play football as they have done under the reins of Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit here for one second and say Barcelona aren’t going to play truly breathtaking football under Tito Vilanova, because you and I both know they will. But watching Barcelona and Pep Guardiola last night, I forgot about the heartache of Paris, and I forgot about all the times Barcelona have undone my beloved club. For all I saw was a man, a tremendously proud man, look up to a sky of 99,000 Catalonian people and say a heart-breaking goodbye to the club he loves. And as Guardiola stood alone solemn in the middle of the Nou Camp pitch, my thoughts turned to how we will remember this team in years to come, how we will read aloud stories to our children, and our grandchildren. We will adorn them with the tale of the Tiki-Taka, just as we will the Invincibles and Anfield 89′, but you know what? They just won’t get it.
But that won’t matter because (and you won’t need me to tell you this) over the course of the past four years I have hade the honour of witnessing the best football that has ever been played. Four years is little more than a blink of an eye in this game, but in that time we have seen so much from this Barcelona team, and for me at least it will undoubtedly go down as the best club side in history. So thank you Lionel, thank you Andréas, and thank you Xavier. But above all thank you Pep, for it has been a pleasure of which I will never be able to repay you for.