Madrid: Spain on Wednesday feted Barcelona's "magical" 4-0 demolition of Milan, praising the Catalans for a spectacular Champions League fightback that swept aside fears that their greatest days may be behind them.
"Barcelona is back!" blared the front page of best-selling sports daily Marca. "The comeback -- and on track for a dreamed of clasico," said rival AS. "What a night!" declared the front page of Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo.
After going down 2-0 in the first leg in the San Siro, Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez had said the only thing this generation of Barca players lacked was a historic European comeback.
Many pundits doubted they could manage it as Barcelona seemed to be in a rut, suffering two humiliating defeats in five days to archrivals Real Madrid, who knocked them out of the domestic King's Cup with a 3-1 victory in the Camp Nou.
But two stunning Lionel Messi strikes in the first half, followed up by goals from David Villa and Jordi Alba gave gave the Catalans their longed-for comeback and a place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the sixth season running.
"Messi's Barca now has its magical night, its epic, its comeback. Its glory," said Santi Nolla, sports writer in Mundo Deportivo. "In a stroke, they delivered a 4-0 Champions League win over Milan and embedded 90 minutes into history."
Fellow Catalan paper Sport exploded with joy over the win.
"Happiness has a name: Barca, Barca, Barca!," wrote Sport's columnist Josep Maria Casanovas.
"What great joy! The perfect game. The dreamed-of comeback. An unforgettable night. A five-star Barca. A festival of goals that silences many mouths. Camp Nou bowed down to a team that does not tire of giving joy. Messi returned to being the god of football," he said.
The victory was especially sweet given Barcelona's rough patch, with coach Tito Vilanova in New York for cancer treatment," Casanovas wrote.
"One for you Tito," he said.
"The goals have a double merit because they come when Barca were in danger, on the edge of the cliff, crossing a perilous bridge after two consecutive defeats against Madrid. They were facing a comeback or the end of a cycle."
The Catalans' commanding lead in La Liga -- now 13 points over runners-up Real Madrid -- had left them too relaxed, said Sport's football analyst Albert Masnou.
"They were winning but doing less and less until they became just a shadow of their former selves," Masnou wrote.
But against Milan, Barcelona came out to play with "a cool head and a warm heart", he added.
"This generation now has the comeback they were asking for: they have won titles, they have swept away finals, they have have won leagues by huge margins, they have records all over, but what they lacked was a magical night like last night's in the Camp Nou."