Tuesday nights under the lights. ITV, Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend. The height of the UEFA Champions League. 

The visuals were magnificent. Europe’s finest clad in Adidas Teamgeist and Predators, or Nike Dri-Fit and Mercurials, doing battle on lush green carpets. 

If it was raining, which it always was, you knew it was a guaranteed classic. 
As a kid in England, you were used to watching Liverpool and Chelsea’s seemingly infinite knockout battles, Manchester United wiping teams aside or Arsenal looking simultaneously irresistible and calamitous. These were the games you spent all day at school thinking about.

Yet, every so often, you were treated to something even better than all of that. Something of even greater prestige. 

Sometimes you were bestowed the honour of watching Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. A team, no an entire squad, of footballing mystique. 

When Barca were on, the rest were irrelevant.

You had the superstars: 

Lionel Messi, David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Xavi Hernandez. They delivered every single time.  

But the real essence of Barcelona’s dynasty was the fruits of La Masia. Skinny, fresh-faced teenagers, each instilled with the same technicality and individualism that has become synonymous with Catalonian football.

Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, Bojan Krkic, Cristian Tello, Gerard Deulofeu. 

You might have only ever caught a glimpse of them on ‘Revista de La Liga’ but it didn’t take long for you to be brought under their spell, as they made European football their playground. 

That brings us to my inspiration for this piece. Barcelona’s 2010-11 Nike away shirt. My holy grail.

The tropical teal base finished with a strip of ‘Blaugrana’ colour across the chest, bearing the club’s iconic crest. Like a cup of herbal tea. It is the pinnacle of Nike design. Simple yet elegant and carefully considered.

This season will always be associated with the classical home strip. Messi’s solo-goal in the semi-final and the humiliation of Manchester United at Wembley will ensure that. But the away shirt, which was only worn three times in the Champions League that year; against Rubin Kazan, Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk, carries the superior aesthetic.

In particular, the quarter-final second leg against Shakhtar saw a striking contrast between the Ukrainians’ iconic orange and black stripes and Barca’s calming teal shirts, shorts and socks. 

Messi, Pique, Villa, Busquets and Ibrahim Afellay all wore teal base layers, and looked outrageously cool.

After a 5-1 first leg victory, it was a dead rubber, but Messi was at his nonchalant best, riding challenges and orchestrating attacks from every area of the Donbass Arena.His orange and black F50s danced round defenders with ease, poetically matching the colour scheme of his defeated opponents. 

He scored the game’s only goal on the stroke of half-time, receiving a pass from Dani Alves inside the box and stroking it into the bottom corner with consummate ease.

Luiz Adriano, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Douglas Costa and Willian were in the Shakhtar side that night, with Eduardo a 57th minute substitute. Just let those names sit with you for a second or two… 

I put it to you that the combination of kits, venue, players and competition make this game the most quintessential Champions League fixture of all time. 

The centrepiece of which being Nike’s teal masterpiece. A football shirt that epitomises the freedom and style of Pep’s Barcelona and reminds me of the rarity they possessed.

In true Barcelona fashion, it became the third kit for the 2011-12 season as the sponsor changed from UNICEF to Qatar Foundation and, honestly, *almost* makes the shirt better as demonstrated here by a young Thiago. 

But the crown remains with 10-11.

Peak Pep, peak Messi, peak Barca.

Que magnifico.

(By Stev_Ben on Twitter)