Saturday, June 6, 2015
Barcelona Treble and Champions League Triumph over Juventus Built on Teamwork
VIA: When you watch Lionel Messi play football, it's easy to forget about the other 10 men on his team. Not because he doesn't involve them, but because the Argentinian is so mesmeric.
There was a beautiful move in the Champions League final that saw him float forward, exchanging one-twos with first Neymar and then Luis Suarez, before whistling a strike inches wide of the top left corner, Gianluigi Buffon turning his head, with his heart in his mouth, to see if it was heading in or over.
The other two players in the move, both smart, cunning forwards, were perfectly in sync with what Messi was trying to do.
After Messi scored the goal that won Barcelona La Liga, and two of the goals that earned them the Copa del Rey, of course he was the man everybody thought would have a key say in which of Barcelona or Juventus would win the treble.
And of course he did, albeit without finding the net in Barcelona's 3-1 win over Juventus. It was Messi who was the catalyst for the first goal, with a raking, pinpoint-accurate ball from deep into Jordi Alba's feet on the left of the penalty area.
There was still a lot to do before Ivan Rakitic flashed his shot across Buffon and into the net, but Messi started the move. Alba, Neymar and the brilliant Andres Iniesta put their stamp on it, with the latter bursting into the box at the perfect moment to square it for the Croatian midfielder.
Each player played his part to perfection, with Neymar's pass for Iniesta superbly timed and weighted. It was a team goal made out of several perfect individual actions. All 10 outfield players touched the ball in the build-up.
That was this Barcelona team in a microcosm: Bundles of individual talent, but they collude rather than clash. Every player will have their turn in the sun.
You can go through the whole team. Marc-Andre ter Stegen has produced displays mature beyond his 23 years to help Barcelona reach the final. Dani Alves has turned up to all of Barcelona's big games, putting in consistently impressive displays.
Gerard Pique has been outstanding for months now, while Javier Mascherano has shut his doubters up, both on the pitch and off it.
Jordi Alba has been wonderfully consistent, too, with his streak down the pitch to set up a Neymar goal in Barcelona's Copa del Rey win over Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon a particular highlight.
Sergio Busquets has grown through the season, showing supreme confidence. That manifested itself into a wonderful drag-back—his favourite move—that left the headless chicken Arturo Vidal flying in and getting himself booked.
This hasn't been the easiest campaign for Iniesta, as Barcelona's approach seemed top-heavy before the turn of the year. However, he was man of the match in this final, getting the assist for Rakitic's goal and playing one or two almost mind-blowing passes, which nobody else on the pitch would have been able to see.
Except perhaps Xavi. He replaced Iniesta with Barcelona struggling to maintain control of the game, despite their 2-1 lead.
The images of Iniesta putting the captain's armband on this Barcelona legend, telling him to go on and bring the trophy home in his final appearance for the club, will live long in memory.
Xavi duly did, winning his 25th trophy of a 17-season career with Barcelona ahead of his impending move to Al-Sadd.
Luis Enrique has used Xavi consistently as a substitute, brought on to commandeer games when Barcelona look like letting them slip. Cue jokes about Xavi being flown back in from Qatar next season to play the last 20 minutes of games.
Rakitic was the man who got the first goal of the game; he was the "abrelatas," or can-opener, and it's not the first time this season. He has opened the scoring for Barcelona on five occasions this season; he's a man they can depend on when the attackers have been locked down.
That doesn't happen a lot, though. Suarez and Neymar's goals mean that along with Messi they have a quite unbelievable 122 in all competitions this season, a Spanish record for an attacking trident.
A magnificent Messi dribble and low strike, parried by Buffon, led to Suarez's goal, which sent Barcelona 2-1 up just minutes after Juve got themselves level.
The Italian goalkeeper should have perhaps done better, a shame given his other incredible saves from Suarez and Alves, but Suarez made no mistake, rifling home from close range.
And emphasising the "team" nature of the victory, substitute Pedro came on and set up Neymar for the third goal, the final kick of the match.
That's just the team that started the Champions League final, with Claudio Bravo (the Zamora trophy winner), Jeremy Mathieu (first goal in the Clasico) and many more making key contributions too.
The third goal was harsh on Juventus, who after 10 minutes were fearing for their lives but got back on track and began to dominate, but Barcelona have deserved the treble this season. They have been the best team in each of the three competitions they have taken part in.
They've also had the best player, which always helps, but when Messi is being double marked, with Patrice Evra and Paul Pogba on his back, it helps to have solutions from elsewhere.
And Barcelona have a whole teamful of solutions.
Messi is the headline act, Neymar and Suarez the special guests, hauling an historic treble for Barcelona's historic trio. But don't forget the rest. Without the people who build the stage, there could be no show.