Belated praise for Barca
After months when Thierry Henry's divorce and Ronal-dinho's partying seemed to dominate the headlines, Barcelona's superstars finally got a pat on the back for their playing ability on Thursday.
"What a trio," hailed the Barcelona-based Spanish sports daily El Mundo Deportivo in the wake of the Spanish giants impressive 2-0 win over a defensive-minded Rangers in the European Champions League.
"The connection Ronnie-Messi-Henry was lethal and Barca win easily," the newspaper added on it's front page, including the often-inspirational Argentine international winger in the equation.
First half goals from Henry and Messi, with Ronaldinho having a hand in both strikes, meant Barcelona stay on top of Group E and the 2006 Champions League winners are all but mathematically certain to go through to the last 16.
"For the first time the connection between Ronaldinho, Messi and Henry worked to its best," enthused El Mundo Deportivo editor Santi Nolla, after arguably the best display by Barca since the start of the season.
"Messi, Henry and Ronaldinho was the trident that broke the Rangers wall," commented another Spanish daily Sport.
"We could have won five or six to nil but we couldn't quite make the most of our chances. Rangers played very defensively and that made life complicated," reflected Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard.
Noticeably, the packed Nou Camp crowd applauded Ronaldinho off the field when he was replaced 13 minutes from the end.
The two-time former World Player of the Year is clearly back in the affections of the Barcelona faithful, after two displays in the last seven days which come close to the prowess he regularly showed when he was the top player in the world.
By contrast, last month he was being jeered from the pitch after some lacklustre performances.
His dismal October outings were accompanied lurid stories in the more sensationalist members of the Spanish media which detailed his fondness for the Barcelona and Brazilian nightlife.
"It's always a pleasure watching the public applaud our players. Ronaldinho's finally put the injury he had behind him and little-by-little he's recovering his best form," said Barcelona president Joan Laporta.
"He wants to stay, that's what he's told me, and we want him to stay here for many more years," added Laporta, apparently putting an end to the rumours that Barcelona were prepared to off-load him during the winter transfer window.
AC Milan and Chelsea have both been frequently mentioned in recent months as possibly destinations for the Brazilian international.
At the other end, with a little less fanfare, Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes set a club record of 466 minutes without conceding a goal in European competition.
Valdes has not let in a goal in Barca's four matches in the Champions League this season.
The last time Valdes was beaten was on 21 February this year, when Liverpool's John Arne Riise scored in the English club's 2-1 win over Barcelona in last season's Champions League.
"It's a statistic that says as much about how good our defence has been this season as much as it does about me," said Valdes, suggesting that there is more to Barcelona's success this season than just their high-profile forward line.