Santos were lucky to leave the pitch with only four in their net. No one would have had any right to complain if it would have ended 6-0 for Barcelona, who outclassed the Brazilian side through all the 90 minutes. All the attempts to compare Neymar to Lionel Messi were no more than pitiful hype attempts, as the gap between these type of sides, especially when regarding Barcelona, is simply too wide to bridge.
It took Barcelona the first goal to really put this game to bed. The moment Lionel Messi chipped it gently over Rafael, it was over. The frustrating possession, the ability to pass and pass and pass and eventually, always, finding the open man to create a fantastic one on one chance, everything was there. Xavi scored the second as the Santos defense fell apart and Cesc Fabregas made it 3-0 just before the break as Santos left the pitch dejected and filled with despair.
The second half was more of the same, although Barcelona did ease up on defense a bit, allowing Neymar two fantastic opportunities to put his mark on the competition with a goal. Neymar doesn’t operate that quickly in front of goal, not yet, not at this level. Valdes swarmed him too quickly, and Brazil’s next Golden Boy was left with more “what if…” moments.
Lionel Messi showed his incredible ball control and balance with the fourth goal, scoring his third goal in two Club World Cup finals. He was simply too good for Santos, pretty much putting in a perfect display. So did Xavi. Another masterclass play making performance, a quarterback in a different sport. All the superlatives have been given more than once, so we’ll just skip to the end.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Neymar, all teared up, trying to get through the post match interview. He stayed on with Santos just for this match, just for the chance to prove his ability against the best club in the world. So did Ganso, who as another player who couldn’t match the challenge he was faced with. Barcelona are miles apart from most club in Spain and Europe, so the difference between a Brazilian side, skilled but used to a much slower game, is more like light years. The scoreline is probably a fair assessment of how far these two sides are from one another.
Barcelona go into their Christmas vacation feel pretty good about themselves, with a Clasico win and another trophy in the cabinet, their second Club World Cup title, the first team to win it twice since the insertion of this format annually in 2005. The battle for the real trophies, a fourth straight La Liga title and and another Champions League trophy, with Real Madrid standing in the way, resumes in January.