Gerard Pique hails Barcelona's 'historic' comeback after Nou Camp's night of human theatre

A match like no other left Luis Enrique and his players feeling as if they had won the Champions League, not merely reached quarter-finals

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In the moments before the free-kick that saw Sergi Roberto complete “the miracle” - as Gerard Pique put it - the entire Barcelona bench and subs like Ivan Rakitic were right up on the sideline, actively willing the win.

To watch this, just as Neymar stepped up for his second decisive set-piece of the night, was to watch live human theatre. It’s rare that life so publicly offers up moments like this, where intense emotion is so naked. It’s even rare for sport, then, to offer up releases like what followed. The Nou Camp erupted, in a way that even Luis Enrique - who has now spent 11 years there as a player and manager - admitted he had never seen before.

The players were at that moment one with the fans, having just put six past Paris Saint-Germain. Pique admitted that he was going to do exactly what the fans were, too: “right now, I’m going to party”. It was pandemonium, glorious chaos, call it what you want.

Amid all the happy struggles to put exactly what happened into appropriate words, and all the cheers, there was one lament - albeit delivered with a smile.

Luis Enrique said it was a pity that they still actually had to go and play a quarter-finals, and then a semi-finals and final if they don’t get through. That was the thing. The sensational nature of this victory meant that it fired the same emotions as actually winning the trophy, but they are still some way off that.

It is perhaps the only reason why this game is not quite up there with the 2005 final or 1999 showpiece in this very stadium, say, as its epic events did not have the same epic resolution. At least not yet.

In truth, though, this was really an occasion that stands on its own. It was a sporting occasion so rich, where every moment was imbued with so much tension and emotion, that it barely requires that extra context.

“It’s a historic feat that has never happened before,” Pique accurately surmised, before saying it surpassed previous Barca comebacks like the 3-0 to 3-3 and win a penalties against Gothenburg to go through to the 1985-86 final, or the last-minute winners to send them through against Kaiserslautern and Chelsea in 1992 and 2009 respectively. “Gothenburg wasn’t this big, nor [Andres] the Iniesta goal nor [Jose Maria] Bakero’s in Kaiserslautern. This is the greatest. There is no comparison.”

There is certainly no comparison in the history of any of football’s elite competitions, either, let alone Barca’s. None of them - not the World Cup, not the Euros, not the European Cup and Champions League before this - have seen a comeback as great as this, and not at a level of football as high as this, even if you might not have guessed that from the calamitous way that PSG collapsed.

It says even more, however, that it wasn’t even completely about the comeback alone. None of them have seen a game of this pulsating pattern.

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Gerard Pique recommended that the city of Barcelona should 'start hiring midwives' after the victory (Getty)

It already would have been utterly amazing and unprecedented, for example, for Barca to just recover from it by getting to 4-0 - something they seemed on the brink of. But for them to then concede an away goal, and seemingly have all their momentum and hope killed and then come back in a different way, was a level beyond. It’s actually remarkable to think that, for about 25 minutes after Edinson Cavani’s strike, the game was actually rather dead. In that sense, Barca almost had two very different comebacks.

Then consider some of the details that are almost mere sidelines and subplots, because of how seismic the last seven minutes of football were. Barca actually thrashed one of Europe’s finest sides by a score of 6-1. On any other night, that alone would be the stand-out fact.

Then there were the multiple ways PSG bottled it, and not just with the utter panic so regularly seen in their defence. Cavani and Angel Di Maria missed two massive chances to finish it all at 3-1. Had either gone in, there would simply be no debate about those admittedly dubious big late decisions.

In terms of the theatre of it all, though, that and the antics of both Suarez and Neymar actually only added to the game as an occasion.

Just look at what ran through it and drove it: the determined intensity of Barcelona from the off; the obvious nervousness of PSG’s supposedly accomplished expensive stars; the errors and goals that brought; the sublime touches and play of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Neymar; the agonising misses of the French champions’ South Americans; the quality of strikes like Neymar’s free-kick; the psychodrama of how these key moments so significantly altered the tone and thrust of the match; the tactical gambits by both managers; the context of a Cantera product like Sergi Roberto scoring; the emotion of all of that and then of course the tension that so fully charged all of this.

It’s remarkable that a game that started at 4-0 to one side never once felt anything like a dead rubber. Indeed, because of the fact Suarez scored so early - and what it revealed about both sides, as regard the intent of Barca and insecurity of PSG - this game was so suffocatingly tense right from the off. It was a gloriously enjoyable tension, at least for anyone watching on. 

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Luis Enrique admitted he had never seen an atmosphere like it in the Nou Camp (Getty)

"There was a spectacular start,” Luis Enrique said. “There was only one match with more tension that I've been involved in, and that was when I was a player.”

He declined to mention what that was, but everyone knew it was Luis Figo’s first back at Camp Nou after signing for Real Madrid in 2000.

Barca have moved on to much better things since then, and have probably overtaken Real Madrid as the club most associated with the modern Champions League; as the standard-bearers.

That has been helped by nights like this, nights like Andres Iniesta’s goal at Stamford Bridge.

There is a story in Barcelona that that 2009 victory over Chelsea saw birth rates shoot up 40 weeks later. Pique appeared to make cheeky reference to this, when revelling in this win, and reflecting how much it meant."We need to start hiring midwives,” the centre-half said. “A lot of love is going to be made tonight.”

Luis Enrique’s version of “football, bloody hell” was a bit more innocent. “I can only imagine what it must be like for a child coming to the Camp Nou tonight, because an adult would never forget it,” the Barca coach said. “This is a crazy, unique sport.”

This was a crazy, unique match, and that description does not begin to do it justice. It was supposed to be the end of an era. It was instead a game for the ages.

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