By Tim Dykes at Stamford Bridge
Johan Cruyff, the man who guided FC Barcelona to their 1992 European Champion Clubs' Cup triumph at London's Wembley stadium, was also part of the Netherlands team widely regarded as the best side never to win the FIFA World Cup, the late Rinus Michels's mesmerising 'total football' pioneers defeated by organised, hard-working West Germany in 1974.
Firm in his belief that football is and always should be a beautiful game, Cruyff led Barça to European club football's ultimate prize - the trophy clinched by Ronald Koeman's blistering drive - so it came as no surprise to hear him examining Chelsea FC's structured approach in the build-up to the second leg of their UEFA Champions League tie.
Style and substance
"If you don't give your people what they want, then they will stop coming to the stadium," Cryuff said. "If Chelsea don't turn their mean choice of playing style into a lot of titles the public will end up bored." Frank Rijkaard, the latest Dutchman at Barça's helm seemed to agree when he said: "We play to entertain the season-ticket holders while Chelsea play more on the counter."
Three Dutchman were on the scoresheet the last time Barcelona won in London - against Arsenal FC at Wembley in 1999 - so the script seemed set for either Arjen Robben or his opposite number Giovanni van Bronckhorst to star. But Robben's injury paved the way for Joe Cole to rampage on Chelsea's right in his place.
Six minutes of almost-total Barcelona possession from Pierluigi Collina's first whistle was too much for Cole, who took the game by the scruff of the neck. Winning the ball on the halfway line - a feat in itself for a player who traditionally prefers flicks and feints to hard graft - Cole released Mateja Kezman, then watched Eidur Gudjohnsen finish off his good work.
"We let ourselves down out there," Cole had remarked after the first-leg defeat at Camp Nou. "So we'll be looking to put that right." And make amends he did, cutting inside Van Bronckhorst eleven minutes later to set up a second goal thanks to a rasping effort that Victor Valdés could not hold.
Barely had the Barça backline had time to regroup when Cole was causing havoc again, crisply laying the ball into the path of Damien Duff for Chelsea's third. The home crowd waved at the startled visitors and chirped 'adios' - and boyhood Chelsea fan Cole was in full flow.
Although Barcelona seemed to have turned the tie by half-time, Van Bronckhorst was substituted but Cole continued to torment the visitors as Chelsea chased the game, dancing through to win a dangerous free-kick at one end, tracking back and heading clear at the other. And had Kezman crossed instead of playing for time by the corner flag with the game almost won - no doubt incurring Cruyff's wrath - Cole would surely have scored the goal his display deserved.
Judging by the way the Chelsea manager sought out Cole at full time, wrapped an arm around him and showed the 23-year-old off to the crowd, it looks as though José Mourinho is taking a real shine to his rough diamond.
Sparkling Ronaldinho may have scored the goal of the game, but Barcelona's fluid football won them nothing but admirers here. "It is nice to hear you say we created a good impression with our football," a downcast Rijkaard said afterwards. "But at the end of the day, all that matters is winning."
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