How Barcelona defeated Real Madrid in Spanish Supercopa

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If you visit Rio Ferdinand’s social media accounts, you’ll discover him sharing a clip from Sunday’s Spanish Supercopa final, in which Barcelona dismantled Real Madrid 3-1 to win Xavi’s first Camp Nou trophy as a coach. The world-class former Manchester United sweeper announces, “The Xavi impact is here. I know what this feels like. Respect,” adding a series of distraught, crying emojis.

He’s referring to an undulating 44-pass move that included every single one of Barcelona’s players while the the Blaugrana are 3-0 up with 14 minutes left. ESPN’s own Steve McManaman (a former Blanco himself) yelps: “Madrid aren’t even laying a glove on them!” The metronomic, shuttled possession ends only when Rodrygo, understandably frustrated, scythes through Sergio Busquets for a foul.

– Report: Barcelona thrash Real Madrid
– Reaction: Gavi stars as Barca win Spanish Supercopa
– Highlights: Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid (U.S. only)

The inference is that Ferdinand recognises and empathises with what Carlo Ancelotti’s men in white were going through. After all, he himself lost two Champions League finals in the space of 24 months to Pep Guardiola’s Barca, who, as Sir Alex Ferguson memorably put it, would “pass you to death.”

The irony, though, is that for the rest of the match — particularly in some of the ways Barcelona picked apart the tired, sluggish Spanish champions — was a very distant cousin of that Guardiola side. Put frankly, several of Xavi’s clever ideas would have been completely forbidden under the stern, philosophically unbending man who’s now in charge at Manchester City.

After the match, Barcelona’s coach admitted: “The thing I’ll take away from this which satisfies me even more than lifting a trophy is how we won.” Well, here are three of the “how” from Sunday.

1. Launching the ball long

Football is a constantly revolving hotbed of tactical concepts — well-established but underused or even forgotten ideas that get dusted down and applied until too…

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