In a game that produced breathtaking moments of skill and scintillating football we are once again remembering a Barca v Real Madrid game for its scuffles on and off the pitch, as well as the antics of Jose Mourinho.
The brilliance of Messi has again been shoved to one side by a flurry of theatrical dives, imaginary card waving and increasingly aggressive tackles, culminating in Marcelo’s reckless lunge on Cesc Fabregas.
Given the simmering tensions between the two sides a tackle like that was always going to make things boil over. And so it did, with gusto.
Marcelo was rightly shown red for the challenge before David Villa and Mezut Ozil followed suit for their part in a ugly mass brawl involving both sets of players and benches. For those who watch and bet on La Liga , it was a sad, familiar sight.
Mourinho, who just can’t resist in these sort of situations, got involved by reaching over and, what looked like, gouged Barça’s assistant coach, Tito Vilanova’s eye.
Mourinho, who is always riled when he meets Barca, continued his tirade against them after the game, claiming they behaved like a ‘small club’ for removing the ball boys when they were 2-1 up in the second half.
His opposite number Pep Guardiola avoided any confrontation, instead appealing for calm and issuing at warning that further incidents like this could tarnish the Spanish game indefinitely. El Clasico is one of the highlights of the footballing calendar, and the La Liga betting is always dominated by the two clubs. Spanish football can’t afford to have their biggest asset sullied by petulant misbehaviour.
But however wise Guardiola’s words are they are unlikely to resonate with Mourinho and Madrid, the warnings need to someone neutral, disconnected from the two clubs, difficult in the tribal world of football I admit.
But it needs to be done – the spellbinding football by Messi Ronaldo et al, deserves top billing, not to share the bylines with petty touchline scuffles.