The lights went out on Camp Nou just before midnight. The lights had gone out on Barcelona a couple of hours before. There weren't many people left; technicians pulling up cables, loading cameras into huge metal cases and wheeling them towards the exit; one last TV presenter resisting, bringing the clásico into Latin American living rooms; and the man they call The Observer. Not for the first time, he didn't like what he'd seen. This had been a bad night for Barça. It was over two hours since Cristiano Ronaldo had dashed towards the edge of the pitch and performed a gesture whose message was clear: "Relax, I'm here." It was over two hours since he had turned up and sorted everything out. Two hours since he brought an end to the match and to the league season. Maybe even to an era.
For Barcelona, hope had lasted two minutes and 19 seconds. That was as long as it took for Alexis Sánchez to score the equaliser, for faith to come flooding back, and for Madrid to rob the ball, string five neat passes together, Mesut Ozil to find Ronaldo, and Ronaldo to go beyond Víctor Valdés to score his 42nd goal of the season. Yes, forty-second. Pep Guardiola grabbed his head like someone had suddenly turned the volume in his ears up really, really loud, spinning on his heel, rotating through 360 degrees and ending up right back where he had started. José Mourinho leapt from the bench pointing. Ronaldo stood, chest out. Leave it to me. As plans go, it's not a bad one: for the third game in a row, he had scored at Camp Nou. He has now scored in four of the last five clásicos. He also scored the winning goal in the Copa del Rey final last season.