Big players producing big moments on the big stage. We all love to see it.
And, at a club like Barcelona, who are arguably the greatest club-side of the sport’s modern history, the footballing world have witnessed an unholy number of world-class, match-winning performances delivered by the planet’s greatest players.
Crucially, they’ve managed it when it has mattered the absolute most.
And, at a club like Barca, all the many title-clinching occasions, each European cup final, and pretty much every single ‘big’ game is deemed a must-win. That’s what is expected, and that’s what happens (for the most part).
The standards have been set at such an extraordinarily high level over the years that, now, producing the biggest moments on the biggest of occasions is now part of Barça’s footballing identity.
So, it helps that there have been just a couple of world-beaters to have played for the Catalan giants down the years. And, when it matters most, they have turned up, played the game (not the occasion) and spearheaded their side to send seismic shockwaves around the world with their exceptional performances.
Without further ado, here’s 90min’s list of ?Barcelona’s greatest-ever big game, big moment players…
Whatever you might think of ?Neymar, and however you may judge the trajectory of his career after his £200m move to PSG in 2017, there’s one thing we all need to agree on: Neymar was a proper match-winner for Barcelona during his time at Camp Nou.
Neymar regularly produced moments of magic that inspired his Barça side to achieve success on the greatest of occasions. How did he fare on the road to the Catalans’ 2015 Champions League victory?
Not only did he score the goal that sealed Barça’s European crown (and historic treble-winning campaign) with a win over Juventus, he also scored twice in the quarter-finals against PSG, and three times in the semis with Bayern Munich.
Biggest Moment: They might not have won the 2017 Champions League, but Neymar produced one of the best-ever individual performances during Barça’s 6-1 victory over PSG in the second leg of the Round of 16 Champions League tie.
After winning a penalty earlier in the game, he then scored twice, and assisted the deciding goal in the final seven minutes – as Barça overturned a 4-0 first leg deficit.
Simply astounding stuff.
The Brazilian hitman is ninth on Barça’s all-time top scorer list, banging in 130 goals in just 235 appearances. His best year was 1999, when he scooped both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year – with his contribution to the club immeasurable.
Rivaldo was always among the goals, and regularly finished high up in the ?La Liga scoring charts as Barça won two league titles in succession in 1998 and 1999. But, there was one extraordinarily outstanding moment that the world will never forget.
Biggest Moment: Some context for you – it was last game of the season, and Barça needed to beat fourth-placed Valencia to secure Champions League football. Who turned up? Rivaldo.
The Brazilian scored what has been commonly accepted as the greatest hat-trick ever. His first was a sumptuous free-kick which he bent in from 30-yards. 1-0 Barça. His second was a thumping left-footed strike from 25-yards. 2-1 Barça.
And then, with the game level in the 87th minute, Rivaldo produced a stunning overhead kick from the edge of the box to secure the victory.
He is the most decorated Spaniard ever, and during his 22-year career at Camp Nou, he won a remarkable 35 trophies.
And, if you thought Iniesta’s role was largely confined to playing the silky second fiddle to Lionel Messi, you’d be wrong. He did do this to excellent effect, but his contribution to his club goes far further.
Some highlights – Iniesta was considered Barça’s most influential player as they won the ?Champions League final in 2009. It was a similar story six years later – he was named man of the match in the Champions League final as Barça secured a historic treble.
And, lest we forget the standing ovation he received at the Bernabéu – an inspired Iniesta was instrumental as Barça romped to a 4-0 El Clásico victory in 2015.
Biggest Moment: Now, any of the above could have done, but Iniesta’s stupendous strike against Chelsea in the dying embers of the 2009 Champions League semi-final cannot be rivalled.
What did Barça need – a goal. Who scored it – Iniesta, and he produced a stunning 25-yard thunderbolt that took his side through to the final. A truly iconic moment.
If there was ever anyone you’d want to lead the line on the biggest of occasions, look no further than Samuel Eto’o – one of the greatest strikers of modern times.
Not many players world-class players can say they’ve won the Champions League. Well, Eto’o is somewhat of an exception – he won it twice with Barça, scoring his side’s opening goal in both finals.
Biggest Moment: It’s still painful to look back over the 2006 Champions League final if you’re an Arsenal fan.
But, Eto’o was the man who brought the trophy to Spain. Not only did he win the foul that saw Arsenal go down to ten men, he also scored the equaliser to swing the tie back in Barça’s favour.
It is a sorry sight to see the career of Ronaldinho unravel in such a disappointing fashion. But, we can’t let his off-pitch misdemeanours tarnish our memory of the Brazilian world-beater in his prime.
The twice FIFA World Player of the Year, and once Ballon d’Or winner was one of the greatest ever to pull on a Barça shirt. He produced countless moments of pure footballing genius, and propelled Barcelona back to the top of European football.
And, Ronaldinho was the world’s undisputed best during the 2005/06 campaign. There was the stunning solo goal to knock Chelsea out of the Champions League Round of 16. But, there’s one moment that stands out as his greatest big-game moment…
Biggest Moment: His performance against ?Real Madrid at the Bernabéu in 2005 remains one the greatest ever 90 minutes played. He was the chief-orchestrater in a 3-0 victory during which he scored two glorious goals.
And, Real Madrid fans were compelled to applaud the brilliance of their rival’s star. Honestly, it’s near-impossible to get bored of watching the highlights reel of this one.
Xavi was undoubtedly the greatest central midfielder of his generation, and his presence in the Barça midfield as the side’s tiki-taka lynchpin was crucial for so much of the club’s recent success.
Perhaps his excellence went under the radar because of the consistent regularity of his excellent performances, but there were certain obvious moments of unparalleled quality. There was the assist in the 2009 Champions League final, there was the midfield-winning masterclass in the 2011 final and there were plenty more occasions where Xavi’s light shone brightest.
Biggest Moment: Xavi’s greatest talent was his creativity. He loved an assist, a beautiful pass or an ostentatious one-two. And, arguably his greatest game ever came during Barça’s 6-2 victory over Real Madrid. Xavi played a pivotal role in such an emphatic victory – he laid on a remarkable four assists, and produced one of the iconic midfield displays.
There’s little point trying to explain the genius that is ?Lionel Messi at this point. Simply put – words lack the capacity to describe just how brilliant the Argentine international is.
Given he’s the greatest footballer ever playing for one of the world’s most decorated sides, Messi has played a part in plenty of big games. And of course, there are just too many occasions during which he’s dominated proceedings while producing scintillatingly special performances.
There’s been an unholy number of wonderful moments during El Clásico contests. There have been match-winning contributions with league titles, Champions League and domestic cup titles on the line. And, while any could be deemed Messi’s greatest moment, this is the one..
Biggest Moment: Barça won the Champions League in 2011. And, Messi was named man of the match in that final. But, it was during the semi-final against rivals Real Madrid that Messi produced one of the great goals.
During the first leg in Madrid, Messi scored both goals, and his second is one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. He dribbled past the entirety of the Madrid defence as he drove from the halfway line before slotting home.
What a goal, what a player.