Who gets to take the match ball home? That was the question raised at the end of the game. It has been a few years since the British tradition of a player who has scored a hat-trick being awarded the match ball as a memento was brought to Spain. On Wednesday night Luis Suárez scored four and Leo Messi three. The solution was simple: a ball each. We are living in times of opulence in some spheres, and football is one of them, so a ball here or a ball there won’t be missed. So they got a ball each. On both, it is safe to assume, their teammates will also have left their mark, a reminder of a glorious evening. On the other side of the coin is Valencia’s anguish, after being hit for seven.
Barcelona are tremendous when they are in the mood but a few days ago Atlético left Camp Nou with a 2-1 loss, also playing with numerical inferiority, and in their case a more serious deficiency that, if I may be permitted to say so, was also more deserved. Valencia conceded seven, a full bag of tricks. It is sad to see Valencia in this state. Things have occurred in recent years that have left the club in a whirlpool of confusion. The thrashing meted out last night was simply a brief resume. An erratic squad under a debut manager, with an inexperienced president and a first-time owner. All three of whom are from far-away lands.
It was a shame to witness Gary Neville’s face; the hard-working full back who tasted so much glory as a player and then acclaim as a pundit, which Peter Lim thought sufficient experience to coach a club of Valencia’s stature. Many good managers have passed through Mestalla and they all knew that keeping their job was the same as trying to stay on a rodeo bull. It wasn’t a surprise that Barcelona knocked seven past this feeble side, 14 individuals in search of a leader. Among them was Denis Cheryshev, whose presence rendered the drama crueller still. I can’t remember a more miserable night for Valencia.