By 90Min
October 25, 2018

"Maybe it's time to let the old ways die."

Barcelona's eponymous style may not have been the first thing Bradley Cooper (or Jackson Maine) was thinking of when he crooned those weighty words, but it's got to be up there. 

It's certainly been a hot topic in Catalonia, pretty much ever since Pep Guardiola's voluntary exit from the Nou Camp. Whatever this old way was, it is clear that it has now either morphed/vanished beyond repair - because nearly all the key protagonists are gone.

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Only Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets remain from the 2011 Champions League Final squad that ascended the sport to become the demigods of their generation, and "The World's Team", as Grant Wahl put it. 

Only two of them were playing on Tuesday night, because, as was made abundantly clear during the broadcast, the former has broken his arm. With their talisman so tragically lost, and their form a pendulum of varying mediocrity, the arrival of Inter posed probably the greatest question of the 2018/19 campaign so far - a title that will quickly be claimed by this weekend's Clasico. 

And amidst this presupposed baptism of fire, it was the battle-worn faces of Luis Suarez and Busquets that emerged from the ashes to take up the mantle Messi had vacated. The former was, of course, not part of the Guardiola years, but forged his own place in the pantheons as part of the latter MSN days - the more direct and gung-ho evolution of those teachings

It's not like the new guard were bad. They were sincerely impressive, garnering many of the plaudits in the process. Rafinha, the surprise successor to the Argentine's fluid attacking role, excelled under such hefty expectations - scoring the crucial opener. 

Philippe Coutinho was energetic, bright, and a constant menace to the vaunted Inter defence, while summer signing Arthur put in another praiseworthy performance to add to his burgeoning European portfolio. 

But, amidst all of this promise and vigour, it was the old heads of Busquets and Suarez that ran the show. The Uruguayan's pass for Rafinha's aforementioned goal was utterly sublime, mesmeric in it's accuracy and idiosyncrasy. A lofted daisy-cutter of a pass, it was perfectly weighted to rise over Miranda's head - with whom he would share an almighty, made in (South) America tussle - and drop just in time to meet the readied left boot of the former Inter loanee.

If you had to display all of the qualities that make the 31-year-old's game so potent in 90 minutes - the ingenuity, the sh*thousery, the determination, the needling, the skill - last night's showing would be as good a bet as any.

While Suarez was barrelling around, only slowing to produce moments of inexplicable dexterity such as that, Busquets was helicopter-viewing himself to another masterclass. The 30-year-old has never been to everyone's liking on these shores - his greatness almost had to be hammered into people via weekly cries pronouncing his unassuming and unsung excellence - but it had come under further threat in the wake of the "Boys of Betis" triumph. 

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Outrageously snide comparisons to Eric Dier were made, on the back of an admittedly (and uncharacteristically) porous and ineffectual performance. But here, the Spaniard retrieved his conducting baton to once more orchestrate the show. 

His highlights reel would amount to a vintage drag back pirouette, and an atypically flashy, dare I say Neymar-esque, lifted-flick deception of two tired Nerazzurri midfielders. But, as is always the case, it was his over-arching calmness in the face of adversity that nurtured Barcelona through the tie. 

So, back to Bradley Cooper's tune that kicked this all of. Halfway through the certified banger, he muses: "I'm glad I can't go back to where I came from. I'm glad those days are gone, gone for good. But if I could take spirits from my past and bring' 'em here, you know I would, you know I would."

It would be foolish to call this an explicit return to the good old days - it wasn't - but it was a timely reminder, especially with the absence of the Argentine GOAT, that the DNA of both those classic teams is still there, however removed it now is.

Of course they still yearn for an Andres Iniesta or Xavi to "Take The Ball, Pass The Ball" to glory, but that doesn't mean they can't do it without them, at least occasionally.

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