"We must be humble. We will let time judge what this team has done"
Barcelona showed on Monday night that it has a superior edge in 'La Liga'
José Mourinho was gracious in defeat after Barcelona thumped Real Madrid 5-0 at Camp Nou, remaining on the field to shake hands with the match officials after his opposite number, Pep Guardiola, had swept into the tunnel with the appreciation of a raucous home support ringing in his ears.
In his post-match press conference the Portuguese, who had led his new team to a run of 19 games unbeaten in all competitions prior to its humbling in Catalonia, admitted it was the heaviest defeat of his career - never had a Mourinho side shipped five goals before. A 4-1 home defeat to Manchester United when he was in charge at Chelsea is the only comparable result.
"It's a defeat that it is easy to digest," the Real coach said. "It was a defeat in which there was no possibility of winning, not one of those that leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, because the referee influenced the result, or because you didn't deserve to lose, or through bad luck because you've hit the post three times.
"One team played to the height of its potential and the other played very poorly. It was a deserved defeat. It wasn't the worst 45 minutes of my career and it wasn't a tense match where I felt that I could help my team. I tried at half time. When they scored the third goal the game was over. I didn't want the team to lose its balance or its dignity and so I brought on Lass [Diarra] to reinforce the midfield. In these situations you feel impotent and unable to change what you cannot change."
It was a remarkably measured response to a feisty encounter that witnessed two onfield brawls, the first after Cristiano Ronaldo gave Guardiola a little push by the touchline and the second after Diarra and Sergio Ramos combined to scythe through Lionel Messi as the clock wound down.
Uefa's disciplinary committee on Tuesday handed down 20,000-euro fines for Ramos' and Xabi Alonso's red cards in the Champions League game against Ajax - incurred on the orders of Mourinho in order to serve a ban in Real's final group stage match and enter the knockout phases with a clean slate. Mourinho was himself slapped with a 40,000-euro fine and another touchline ban of two matches, one of which was suspended - he received a two-match sanction for insulting the referee during the King's Cup match against Real Murcia.
Iker Casillas received a 10,000-euro fine and Jerzy Dudek 5,000 euros for their part in the affair.
There was little debate about Ramos' dismissal at Camp Nou for a second bookable offense and the Real vice captain may be facing a lengthy domestic suspension after shoving Carles Puyol to the floor - a red card offense in itself. In all, 13 cautions were issued by match referee Iturralde González.
It was not difficult to empathize with Real, such was the dominance of Barcelona's possession play and its lethal execution of the counter-attack, the stamp until Tuesday evening of Mourinho's Real revolution. Los Blancos' back line was torn asunder time and again and, but for the woodwork and some comprehensible individualism from substitute Bojan Krkic, the score line might have been embellished even further. All of which begs the question: with Europe's pre-eminent coach, Spain's World Cup-winning captain, the world's most expensive player and several of international soccer's brightest young things playing in the white of Real Madrid, just how good is the Barça side Guardiola inherited and has since improved?
"It's not just what we did, it's how we did it, staying true to our roots," the Barça coach said after the game. "This is for the previous coaches, the previous presidents, the scouts who found Messi and Xavi. But we must be humble. We will let time judge what this team has done."
Neither could Guardiola resist a mention of his Argentinean dynamo, who once again came out of a duel against Ronaldo on the winning side. "Who is more complete a player than Messi?" he asked. "I haven't seen anyone. Messi is the best, in every respect. Not only does he score goals, he does everything a player should do and he's only 23 years old. He is simply the best."
Barcelona now stands atop La Liga, two points clear of its only rival for the title. Real now faces a tricky home schedule, with Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal the next three visitors to the Bernabéu.