Few things are more uncomfortable than a birthday party with long faces. The Barça, blowing out candles, deserved to be at ease the day they said goodbye to Maradona. And the party, full of complicity and laughter, had a final surprise in store with Messi's goal, who was wearing his second skin under the Barça shirt, the Newell's Old Boys shirt worn by Maradona in 1993. The party was almost a success, despite the fact that at Barça, right now, there is always something wrong. Today a centre-back was injured again, Lenglet. Koeman has finished with Mingueza and De Jong in the axis of the defense. Things don't always go your way, as Maradona discovered at Barça. Talent always needs to be matched with work. And a bit of luck.
But when it comes to vermouth time, there has been a placid victory over Osasuna, which is important for the Azulgranas to stay alive in La Liga, but also for the paths explored by Koeman. His Barça team, with Braithwaite as a starter, has played well; it has seen how Mingueza has been consolidated and how Griezmann has turned the grass into the stage to defend himself from the critics. Better to talk on the grass than off it, right?
In 121 years, the club has seen everything, even though it was not normal to see Barça lost in the qualifying lists, closer to the bottom than to the top. The only club that has qualified to play in Europe every year needed to beat Osasuna if they were not to become a laughing stock by Christmas. Yes, it's a strange season because of the pandemic, a hypertrophied calendar and different institutional fires, but Koeman's team had already made too many mistakes in La Liga. If the course to the Champions League seems safe, in the Liga, mistakes are no longer an option. The Osasuna has paid for it and the Barça recovers positions in the classification. It gains time, it gains calmness. It has reasons to continue ahead. The winning, in fact, hides the miseries and sins of a club that lives a difficult year. However, Barcelona deserved a day like this, when the ball goes in - and everything seems easier.
Pedri, in the engine room
To do this, Koeman has filled the pitch with talented players. Never before has he bet on such an attacking team, with so many players who tend to look ahead obsessively. Pedri, who takes exams that many adults fail before coming of age, has played at the double centre alongside De Jong, with the task of getting the ball to a fearsome second line with Griezmann, Messi and Coutinho. The gamble has gone well, thanks in part to the least media-friendly of them all, Braithwaite. The Dane, after scoring a couple of goals in Ukraine, has been rewarded by Koeman. And with a pure forward strength, Barça has attacked better. Braithwaite has needed injuries, horrible sports planning, a pandemic and an economic crisis to be able to start playing well at Barça. The stars have lined up in his favour, but he is seizing this opportunity with a passion that makes him an easily loved footballer. The Dane embodies that type of hard-working people who are less talented than others but do not falter until they overcome all obstacles.
And his was the first goal, as ugly as it was valuable, inside the area, after he had scored two shots, the second with his knee. A goal that opened the can and rewarded the insistent attacks of a happy Barça, however, they were still a little unstable. The Osasuna would have been able to make damage in some approaches, but their attacks have been useful to make Mingueza shine, who has made his debut in the Liga along with Lenglet. The young center player of La Masia knows that in normal conditions he would not be playing. And, therefore, he tries everything to make these days open doors to a better future. At half-time, in fact, the work seemed done, as Griezmann, after a great collective move led by Messi, has invented a beautiful goal from the front. The second goal in two games from the Frenchman, who seems to have understood that the best place to make a statement is on the pitch, with goals. With facts.
Conscious that Madrid seems as unstable as Barça, Koeman's team has given itself a special date, a placid triumph. It needed it in La Liga. In fact, Koeman has preferred to avoid risks, once he has seen that the three points would not escape, sending Pedri to the bench at half time to make Busquets play with De Jong. A little more cement to avoid getting hurt. The Osasuna, however, at no time has hurt a Barça that has sentenced quickly, with a third goal by Coutinho, although the work has been done Griezmann, who has recovered the ball and has assisted. The Frenchman, comfortable with Braithwaite, has connected well with the Brazilian and also with Messi. Koeman also gave minutes to Trincao and Dembélé, who scored a goal - offside.
Messi, the captain
Messi, in fact, has been the best. And he hasn't stopped until he has been able to dedicate a goal to Maradona, the man who said he would win him, the coach who then led him in the national team. Sometimes you have to face your idols, your father, to grow up. And Messi did it with Maradona, an example to keep in mind, to know what can happen to you when success overcomes you. Football is a good life lesson, and Messi seems to have kept it in mind. His leadership has been delightful, without shrillness. It has been the Argentinian Messi, with the 10 on his back, who has understood the game better, who has poured quality and who has led. And to close the party, he scored a beautiful goal, so that he could show the world the surprise he had in store: the shirt Maradona wore at Newell's in 1993, when the little six-year-old Leo thought it was incredible to see Diego at his club, without imagining that, one day, he would ascend to his throne. And that he would mourn him in the best possible way: with an unforgettable goal.