Saturday’s Champions League final saw Barcelona’s big names coming through as expected against Juventus for the Catalans’ fifth trophy in nine years. Here’s what we learned.
It’s official – Suarez was right to leave Liverpool
Luis Suarez may have left the Premier League with a damaged reputation but this was emphatic proof he was right to leave Liverpool. His desire to win trophies has been rewarded with the ultimate accolade in terms of European club competition and he will feel vindicated, with his absence at Anfield this season so keenly felt.
After only one league cup win in the last three years for Liverpool, he has already claimed the Champions League, La Liga and Copa Del Rey in under 12 months at the Nou Camp. This was his first goal in five weeks but arguably the most important of his career.
Juve could struggle to bounce back
Juventus have become the first team to lose six Champions League finals, an unwanted record in their illustrious history. They did not deserve to win, but this was far from the one-sided contest many had predicted. Lionel Messi was not allowed to wreak the carnage he has delivered for so many years and Juventus’ second half response was admirable. However, manager Massimiliano Allegri is now facing the break-up of his team with Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal expected to leave, while midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo could opt for a move to the MLS.
The MSN delivered when it was needed most
Barcelona’s much vaunted MSN weren’t exactly operating at dial-up speed in the first half but still, Juventus would have been pleased to subdue a frontline that had scored 80 goals in 35 games since the turn of the year.
Barcelona’s opening goal was a team effort – with 10 players touching the ball in the build-up – and finished off by the midfield corps with Andres Iniesta sliding a square ball for Ivan Rakitic. Lionel Messi and Neymar had played their parts in the build-up, and the front three were causing sporadic havoc, but this was not quite the destruction some had anticipated ahead of a game which promised to showcase the best front line in history.
When the seemingly inevitable happened in the second half: Barcelona scored through Suarez. Messi was the provocateur with a lovely run and rapid drive which forced Buffon to spill the ball and Suarez’s finish was fantastic. That made it 121 for the season for Barcelona’s trident and it was 122 when in injury time Neymar finished off the kind of counter-attack which has been a prominent feature of their season. The best attack ever assembled? It is hard to quibble with that assessment.
Pogba would grace the Premier League
Coming to a Premier League ground near you next season? Paul Pogba only enhanced his reputation at the Olympiastadion and it’s pretty clear the Juventus midfielder will be one of the most sought after players this summer. His agent Mino Raiola has already claimed Juve have turned down offers and his departure from Manchester United appears one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s final, and most inexplicable, mistakes. United may attempt to bring him back while there could also be interest from Manchester City and Chelsea, plus many other big clubs in Europe.
Iniesta is still the puppet-master
All the pre-match hype surrounded Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Carlos Tevez but the enduring brilliance of Andres Iniesta, the puppet master of the Barcelona midfield, still cannot be underestimated. Iniesta will lose his midfield partner Xavi this summer but his qualities remain undimmed and he was a joy to watch in Berlin. His involvement for the opening goal was sublime and he is the beating heart of Luis Enrique’s team. When he finally retires he will be sadly missed, and not just by Barcelona.
Barcelona made history – but so did Juventus
Barcelona became the first ever club to win two trebles – a brilliant achievement for coach Luis Enrique who, like Pep Guardiola, did so in his first season as Barca coach.
This was ultimate vindication for a manager who seemed on borrowed time when crisis hit in January, but turned things around in remarkable fashion, finding a devastating system which has wrecked teams in Spain and abroad. This was not a triumph for tiki-taka, the philosophy which Guardiola’s treble established as elite football’s dominant force, but a new conception of Barcelona under Enrique.
As he said at his unveiling last summer: “We have to evolve that idea, perfect it, improve it, so that we can surprise opponents and so that they don’t know what type of play we will use … [with] nuances that enrich our approach.” He did so magnificently: Barca won more games, scored more goals and conceded fewer than in 2008-09.
For Massimiliano Allegri, though, this was a cruel evening. His treble dream was snatched away from him and now Juventus have the unwanted record of being the first club to lose in six European Cup finals. Theirs is a strangely poor record in Europe and they remain level with Nottingham Forest on two wins.
For 10-15 minutes the impossible seemed possible when Morata leveled for Juve after Ter Stegen spilled a Carlos Tevez shot to his feet. Barca looked compromised with Paul Pogba nearly winning a penalty and testing the keeper with a drive from range. But eventually they succumbed to their fate and failed to join Celtic (1967), Ajax (1972), PSV Eindhoven (1988), Manchester United (1999), Barcelona (2009), Inter Milan (2010) and Bayern Munich (2013) on the roll call of treble winners.
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