A Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona defeat Atletico Madrid by a single goal to win their 23rd La Liga title, and maintain their course for their second treble success.
A year ago, all Barcelona needed to do was to beat Atletico Madrid, at the Nou Camp, and they would have won their 23rd La Liga title. Diego Godin spoiled that party. The Madrid supporters celebrated their first La Liga title in 18 years, in front of the Barcelona fans.
Retribution is sweet.
In truth, Atletico Madrid lost their grip on their title a long time ago. It has been a two horse race for many months. Every club wishes to win the title in front of their home fans. Barcelona is no different, but it must have felt good to gain revenge in the Vicente Calderon.
Once again it was that man Lionel Messi who made all the difference. His wonderful solo goal was enough to beat Madrid 1-0, and take the title with one game to spare. The 23rd La Liga title is now in the bag.
It’s been a year of transformation for Messi. After winning the FIFA World Player of the Year award for three consecutive years (2010 – 2012), he had to watch helplessly as his archrival Cristiano Ronaldo took over the role of the world’s best with honors bestowed upon him in 2013 & 2014.
His performances in the 2013/14 La Liga campaign was below par (he still managed to score 41 goals in 46 games), and the Diego Maradona type World Cup performance eluded him as they lost out to Germany in the 2014 final.
But he’s back. His 54 goals in 54 games, coupled with 27 assists, mean he is a firm favorite to rip the Ballon D’Or away from Ronaldo, and he is still on course to become part of the second ever Spanish team to win the treble, with Juventus and Atletico Bilbao standing in his cross hairs.
Messi’s influence on this team has been made possible after the arrival of Luis Suarez. With Suarez spearheading the attack, Messi has been allowed to drift to the right, and his influence can be demonstrated by the marked improvement on his assist record (27 compared to 14 year-on-year).
During this weekend’s interview with Steve Gerrard, on Match of the Day, the Liverpool legend was asked what his greatest team ever was. Whilst he spoke fondly of the team that won the Champions League, he also spoke of the single reason Liverpool was able to challenge for the league last year: Luis Suarez.
His arrival at Barcelona didn’t only result in a positional switch for Messi, there would have been a motivational nudge also. The Brazilian Neymar would have felt the same need to excel, and excel the three of them did. The trio scored 79 goals between them in the league (Messi 41, Suarez 16, Neymar 22). You can’ t compete with that kind of firepower. It’s like going to war against a battleship in a tugboat armed with a harpoon.
Barcelona will face Atletico Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey Saturday 30 May, and then Juventus in the final of the Champions League Saturday 6 June. History will be made. The team of 2014/15 will join the team of 2008/09 as the only treble winners in Spanish footballing history.