Four goals last night for Lionel Messi, bringing his grand total this season to 72, including 50 in La Liga. What a performance from the Argentinian on a night to remember for 90,000 fans and myself at Camp Nou.
The last time I watched a match in this wonderful stadium was way back in 1982 at the Opening match of FIFA World Cup: Espana´82 between reigning champions Argentina and Belgium. The Belgians won 1-0. That was 30 years ago, although I have visited a number of times since. We have the gigantic stadium, then a museum, Barca shop, indoor Palau Blaugrano for their basketball, roller hockey and handball team, and an ice skating stadium, Palau de Gel for their ice hockey team and for public skating. Across the road is the Mini Estadio seating about 15,00 home of Barca ´B´. Andorra sometimes use it for international matches if say England, Germany, Italy or another team that brings lots of fans.
I was going to watch Barcelona´B´v Elche in the 2nd Division, 3 hours before the Barca v Espanyol ´derby´but instead finished up at La Rosa bar on on Carrera Perez Galdo, downing a couple of Estrella Damm draught beers while watching Chelsea v Liverpool in the F.A. Cup Final from Wembley Stadium. The local press gave the comparisons of Duda Georgescau of Dinamo Bucarest scoring 50 goals in season 1976-77, Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in USA with 70 goals in 1924-25 Pele with 66 goals and Gerd Mueller with 67 in a season.
For an hour or so in the late afternoon I enjoyed watching some of the Barca Academy teams play in a complex behind the Mini Estadio, with parents gathered on the other side of the fence.
We had a marvelous night for coach Pep Guardiola for his last home match, after he announced his retirement after 5 great seasons. The club had a gigantic banner, about 50 metres square, that slid down ropes from the upper tier of the stadium as the teams came out, and on each seat there was a flag saying GRACIOS PEP, for everyone to wave. It took 26 men to roll it up and carry it away on their shoulders.
The players didn´t disappoint against local rivals RDC Espanyol, who have recently moved out of the Olympic Stadium to their own state of the art one, Estadio Cornella-El Prat. The visitors in blue and white were like the Washington Stars playing the Harlem Globetrotters. They held out for a little while until Messi strutted his stuff. Referee Fernando Teixaira Vitiens seemed to play along as Messi scored from both open play and the penalty spot. After his fourth, he ran over to the bench and hugged Pep, followed by his team mates.
RCD Espanyol,The Parakeets (Periquitos) were hoping to get three points and challenge for a Champions League spot, but it was a hope too far. Barca, trailing Real Madrid in La Liga standings, and knocked out by Chelsea and The Champions League semi-final, are not finished yet. They still have to face Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey in Seville.