Nicolo Barella’s backheel assist was straight from a Nike ‘Joga Bonito’ ad

We’ve all seen Nike’s iconic advert from 1998, with Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Romario turning an airport terminal into a kickabout Copacobana beach. 

Even to first-time viewers, the combination of a hypnotic samba beat and seductive skill is enough to put a smile on the most jaded of faces.

It would appear as if Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella has consumed the advert with religious intensity if his assist during their Champions League match with Real Madrid is anything to go by.

The Italy international is regarded as one of the country’s most promising midfielders, with Italian newspaper Gazetto dello Sport paying Barella the outstanding compliment of comparing his game to that of Steven Gerrard’s.

In this context, it is understandable why Barella has forced his way into his club and country’s first team. That does not mean his moment of outrageous skill didn’t make our jaws drop.

With Inter trailing their Spanish hosts 2-0, it was clear that some inspiration would be needed to drag Antonio Conte’s men back into the game.

Barella provided it. Receiving a clipped pass from Marcelo Brozovic, the 23-year-old subtly twisted his body and extended his leg behind him to provide an exquisite backheel towards Lautaro Martinez.

Such was the breathtaking nature of Barella’s skill it would have been rude for Martinez to spurn the opportunity. Happily, the Argentina striker held off Raphael Varane and buried his shot past Thibaut Courtois.

It said much that the television cameras, after replaying the move in its entirety, couldn’t resist showing the flick one more time. After all, the first rule of television is to give the viewers what they want: pure filth.

Real Madrid went on to win a topsy-turvy match 3-2 to kickstart their faltering Champions League campaign, but we couldn’t stop thinking about Barella’s backheel assist.

He would only have been one-year-old when Nike’s advert dropped, but Barella demonstrated that its spirit still lives on.

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