It can seem as though the UEFA Champions League is a rather cynical exercise at times, what with the rules for qualification having been jigged so that pretty much all the major clubs get to play every year, further enriching themselves and widening the gap to the rest of football. But it also produces an awful lot of good football: people have been arguing for years now that it actually represents the highest standard of football anywhere, as international teams only get together rarely and can’t develop the rhythm and style that some of the best club sides have. This was on display in its full glory in the match from earlier today (yesterday if you’re in Europe) between AC Milan and Barcelona. It was something of a dead rubber as both sides had already qualified for the next stage of the competition, but still something to play for as the winner would probably get an easier tie in the next round. But forget all that: it contained two utterly outstanding moments in Kevin-Prince Boateng’s control and improvisation to set himself up for a goal, and Lionel Messi’s audacious pass for Xavi to score Barcelona’s winner. Highlights here, go watch!
Further thought: Cesc Fabregas has slotted into the Barcelona team as though he was never away. I guess the fact that a lot of them play together for Spain helps, and his upbringing in their youth system, and the fact that Arsenal try to cultivate the same philosophy and style in their players as Barcelona do, and the fact that he’s extremely talented and also the same size as all the Barcelona players… OK it’s not really a surprise at all is it? Funny how he’s growing his hair again now that he’s back in Spain.