Neymar was electric, Luis Suarez razor sharp. Andres Iniesta danced through the midfield like a tree nymph frolicking in the woods on a moonlit autumn night. By the time Lionel Messi came on in the 60th minute, having missed two months with a knee injury, Barcelona had already put in three goals, each more intricate and incisive than the last. The final scoreline was 4-0, Madrid’s worst home defeat in a Clasico since 1974.
There were some 80,000 fans on hand at the Bernabeau to endure Saturday’s humiliation, and a good two-thirds of them stuck around afterward to wave goodbye to their soon-to-be-ex-manager. In the weeks since taking over the job from Carlo Ancelotti, Benetiz has suceeded in transforming one of the great, attacking powerhouses of Europe into a defensive shell with no midfield and a mediocre defense. Barcelona made a team with a payroll the size of a small nation’s GDP look like the practice squad at your local high school.
It was merciful, in a way, to put the Benitez era out of its misery. But the smarter play would have been to draw out the suffering.