Barcelona convincingly beat Real Madrid 3-1 in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to win the Spanish Super Cup, their first trophy since manager Xavi Hernandez took over.
Inspired by the teenager Gavi, who scored himself and set up goals for Robert Lewandowski and Pedri González, the Catalans produced one of their best performances in years against their bitter Clasico rivals.
Having enjoyed great success as a player at Barça, Xavi returned in November 2021 and, after a summer of big spending, this resounding victory is a sign that his project is moving in the right direction.
Karim Benzema scored a late consolation for Madrid, who have been far from their best since the World Cup break and also fell three points behind Barcelona in La Liga last weekend.
Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti suffered his first defeat in a final since 2014, when the Whites handed the trophy they won last season to Barcelona, who have now won the Super Cup 14 times.
“We knew it was an opportunity that we had to take advantage of. We have lived through a time of changes at the club and in the dressing room, and that will strengthen us to continue fighting for more titles,” Barça captain Sergio Busquets told Movistar.
Xavi crucially deployed four central midfielders, with the 18-year-old Gavi moving inside from a nominal starting position on the left and frequently giving Madrid’s right-back Dani Carvajal the slip.
Barcelona broke the deadlock when Busquets pressed well after a loose pass from Antonio Rudiger, prompting Lewandowski to feed Gavi, who confidently scored.
Gavi became the provider of the second, running towards De Jong’s pass and slipping the ball in for Lewandowski to finish clinically.
“(Gavi) is a kid who excites us all, when you see him compete like this, putting his soul out there, he is a character who infects the team, he has an innate leadership capacity,” Xavi said at a press conference. .
“It comes from within, it is spectacular. At 18 I have said it many times, but don’t stop, this boy has no ceiling.
– Real ‘weaknesses’ –
Gavi, who won the Golden Boy award in 2022, was the standout player of the game and showed that Barcelona is in good hands both now and for years to come.
Madrid’s young star, Vinicius Junior, was shackled by Ronald Araujo, the Uruguayan who played as a right-back to directly subdue the Brazilian’s threat.
“Today I think we lacked, we went out there giving 90 percent, 80 percent, and in a final against an opponent like that you can’t do that,” Madrid midfielder Fede Valverde told Movistar.
Courtois denied Dembélé after a brilliant run by Alejandro Balde and the overloaded Belgian plug kept Madrid’s slim hopes alive.
By contrast, Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen was not tested until the 70th minute, when his team had scored the third.
Lewandowski released Gavi, who crossed for Pedri to hit the far post as Barcelona cruised to a resounding victory.
The only blemish in Barcelona’s copybook was a late goal from Benzema, which ended after his first attempt was blocked.
“To say it was humiliating is disrespectful,” Ancelotti told a news conference.
“We lost a game against Barcelona as if we had beaten them in the league. They played better and they deserved it, period.”
The biggest blow for Madrid may turn out to be the boost to morale that victory brings to their rivals.
Although Xavi will ultimately be judged on his performance in major competitions, and Barcelona have already been knocked out of this season’s Champions League, he was excited by the win.
“It brings a lot of peace of mind, confidence, because what we planned worked wonderfully, we beat Madrid, dominating the whole game,” said Xavi.
“From this I take how we play, it is very important to me. The trophy yes, but how (we won it).
“We have three trophies at stake this season and that gives us confidence.”