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Games between Barça and Espanyol were huge occasions in the days before La Liga. Bigger even than games against Madrid. The two clubs vied for supremacy in the Catalan Championship, the winner of which qualified for the end-of-season Spanish Cup, the precursor to the modern-day Copa del Rey.
The meeting on 16 February 1925 was a big as any. With just two games to play, the two rivals were neck and neck at the top of table. Espanyol were at home, although due to work being done on their Sarria ground had to borrow the home of another team, Europa, for this fixture.
Barça were soon in trouble. Their star player, Josep Samitier, limped off the field with an injury. With no substitutions in those days, they’d be playing the biggest game of the season with ten men.
As the game drew to a close, still 0-0, Samitier decided he had recovered enough to go back onto the field. It’s a pity that all this was happening in the days long before television, because what happened next was probably one of the most extraordinary goals ever scored in a Barça shirt.
Better than Messi?
By all accounts, if only we could see it now would surely be a match even for some of Leo Messi’s greatest moments.
Samitier weaved his way through the entire Espanyol midfield and defence and then chipping over his good friend Ricardo Zamora, the legendary keeper who was playing for Espanyol at the time.
People who were fortunate enough to have been there to see didn’t speak about anything else for days. The Barça founder himself, Hans Gamper, called it “one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life in football.”
Zamora swapped shirts with an outfield player to go and join the Espanyol attack as his team desperately looked for a reply. They couldn’t find one … Barça won that game and would go on to be proclaimed Spanish champions.
Euphoric Barça fans crowded around ‘Sami’ when it was all over. Among them was a mysterious figure, whose identity was never revealed, who slipped an envelope in his pocket.
Whoever he was, he was clearly not just an obsessive ‘culé’ but also incredibly wealthy. Later that day, when Samitier opened the envelope, he was astounded to find that it contained 5,000 pesetas, which in those days was a staggering amount of money – several times a month’s wages for even the world’s highest paid footballers.
That’s how much Samitier’s piece of magic meant at the time.
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