João Félix starts off Barcelona’s comprehensive win at Atlético Madrid

Joao Felix of FC Barcelona celebrates 0-1 with Fermin Lopez of FC Barcelona during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona at the Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on March 17, 2024 in Madrid Spain.

It had to be him. Barcelona inflicted Atlético Madrid’s first league defeat at the Metropolitano in over a year and João Félix was the man who hurt them because, well, because of course he was.

The most expensive signing in Atlético’s history, the forward who still belongs to them but is desperate never to go back and who would not be welcomed back either; the man who went to Barcelona on loan and scored the only goal when these two teams last met, leaping on to the advertising boards at Montjuïc and blowing his former fans a kiss in December; the man who was whistled every time he touched the ball on his first trip back, scored the opening goal. He did not celebrate this time, just as he had promised, but it still stung.

That first-half strike was followed in the second by goals from the superb Robert Lewandowski, who scored one and made two, and Fermín López as Barcelona secured a 3-0 victory that takes them into second, eight points off the top, and leaves Diego Simeone’s team outside the Champions League places.

“Why can’t we dream of the league?” Xavi said. The Barcelona manager also said that, while Félix had played only 60% of the minutes this season, he was clear that he had to start on Sunday. 

He had, after all, been “extra motivated” – he wanted to be decisive and he was. Félix has now scored nine goals and provided five assists as a Barcelona player, and he would love the chance to continue in Catalonia.

By the time Félix was withdrawn late in the second half, booed all the way off, it was done, Atlético’s promising beginning long since forgotten and their record gone. 

They had collected 40 of a possible 42 points at the Metropolitano; this time though, they had no response to the moment the Portuguese put away the first, right in front of the supporters who, like him, hope he never wears their shirt again. Before the game, his plaque outside this stadium had been trashed. Some supporters had burned his shirt.

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