Luis Enrique once compared being at Barcelona to being in Disneyland. Since the Catalans overwhelmed Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 on Wednesday his players have been gorging themselves on free candy floss and using the attractions to their hearts content, with no queues and unlimited rides.
Barcelona have been in a state of partying since Sergi Roberto flung himself at Neymar’s dipping pass to bludgeon it past Kevin Trapp and set the Camp Nou alight.
There was jubilation in the stands and on the pitch, while a still-thrilled Gerard Pique labelled it Barcelona’s greatest comeback.
Deportivo La Coruña
“It’s an historic feat which has never happened before,” he said, ranking the historic comeback from the 4-0 defeat in Paris above Barca’s penalty shoot-out win over Gothenburg in the 1986 European Cup semifinals after they had lost the first leg 3-0 and Jose Mari Bakero’s injury-time away goal at Kaiserslautern to prevent an early exit in the glorious 1992 European Cup game.
Pique even preferred the second-leg thrashing of PSG to Andres Iniesta’s late leveller at Chelsea to book Barca’s place in the 2009 Champions League final, where Pique won his first continental trophy with the club.
“Gothenburg wasn’t this big, nor the Iniestazo, nor Bakero in Kaiserslautern. This is the greatest, there is no comparison.”
Some players hit the town afterwards, including Neymar and Samuel Umtiti — as seen on the Brazilian’s Instagram feed, with his father snapped looking the worse for wear–while Pique pledged to “party tonight, but tomorrow we’re back in training”.
They were, but just for a recovery session on Thursday, before the partying started up again. First, many of the players headed to an activity centre for children — Jungle Park, in nearby Gava — with family in tow.
In the evening, some players, including Neymar, Paco Alcacer and injury-time hero Sergi Roberto attended a surprise birthday party for Ivan Rakitic, who also celebrated his new contract, which keeps him at Barcelona until 2021.
The euphoria around the club and the team has not subsided. Jeremy Mathieu, an open book at the best of times, revealed a lot about Barcelona’s state of mind going into the PSG clash when he spoke to RMC, explaining how riled the team had become by the French side’s gloating after the first leg.
“They lacked humility,” he explained. “There was a lack of respect, I can tell you the dressing room was very angry about that… [arrogant social media posts] were the little things that really annoyed the dressing room and that’s why we really, really wanted to pull off the comeback.”
There is a danger, however, that the anger Barcelona used as motivation and the joy released after beating PSG could turn into a stumbling block for them going forward. Because how do you top the events of Wednesday night?
There is a danger that the PSG turnaround was the big moment, and nothing will ever match it.
Players like Pique and Andres Iniesta will be wary of what happened when Barcelona suffered a 2-0 first leg deficit against AC Milan but thrashed the Italians 4-0 at Camp Nou in 2013.
They scraped through against PSG in the quarterfinals before being humiliated 7-0 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the semis.
Against the Parisians, Barcelona had a fixed objective and they accomplished it. They racked up two big scores against Sporting Gijon (6-1) and Celta Vigo (5-0) in the prior two matches, giving them the belief they could also rout PSG.
Luis Enrique’s job now is to set new objectives for the team. All the talk is of winning a second treble in three years, although maintaining that hunger needed to keep on winning is far harder than it seems.
We will get an idea of how realistic those ambitions are when Barca head to Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, hoping to stretch their lead at the top of La Liga to four points before Real Madrid take on Real Betis later that night.
Barca trounced the Galicians 8-0 last season on their way to the title after losing three games in a row for the first time in over a decade. This time, however, there is less motivation surrounding the game. Their pride, scarred by the shock defeat at the Parc des Princes, has been restored.
That is why the game at Depor is as big a test of Barca’s title credentials as the PSG triumph was. After all, the team didn’t gain anything tangible with their historic win over the French champions beyond a place in the quarterfinal draw and jubilant celebrations and heavy nights out.
They merely corrected a bad situation they caused in the first place. They effectively earned the right to have a second shot at their own season.
And it starts now.
Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.