Barcelona clinch Champions League glory by mixing the old with the new
BERLIN -- Three thoughts on Barcelona's 3-1 win vs. Juventus in the Champions League final.
1. Barcelona complete a deserved treble
Barcelona, as Gerard Pique put it on the eve of the final, have reached "perfection." Perhaps the greatest attacking trio the game has ever seen -- Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar -- have appropriately won the treble, but that was not all that was fitting about this 3-1 win over Juventus.
Barca have had the perfect season in winning every trophy possible and this was the perfect showcase of why they, and that attack, have managed it.
It summed up the defining challenge these champions present every other side, as they showed the glorious variety of ways with which they can claim victory.
It was so apt that the first goal, scored by Ivan Rakitic after just four minutes, came from a vintage Barca trait: the glorious way they use possession. What a fitting feat for such a club and what a statement that all 10 of their outfield players were involved in the move.
The one possible criticism of Luis Enrique's side was that they didn't go on to produce a display for the ages which, at that point, looked likely. They got a little too casual and Juventus took advantage through Alvaro Morata's equaliser.
That was the point, however, at which we saw the new Barca at their best, highlighted by the Messi-led attack. With Juventus pouring forward, the Argentine suddenly broke from the morass of players. Gianluigi Buffon couldn't hold his shot, and Suarez couldn't miss.
It means Barca have won their second treble and fifth European Cup, with this the fourth in the last nine years. They seem to own the modern Champions League in the way Real Madrid owned the old European Cup.
By bringing together the old and the new, Barca are the reigning European champions.
2. Juventus lose but emerge with credit
Juventus went so close, and not just in terms of completing a treble. For a period in the second half, they looked like they might be European champions.
It was a period of pressure on the Barca goal when the score was 1-1; however, that just happened to be the point at which they conceded the key goal.
Letting the momentum of the game go to their heads, they forgot that they still had the bigger challenge of keeping Barca's stellar attack quiet. It meant they left far too much space in behind their defence, and they were inevitably punished.
This was the story of the game, and has pretty much been the story of Barcelona's season. It was also the grand dilemma that Max Allegri and basically every other manager has faced against them.
The Juventus manager even acknowledged it before the game: How exactly do you devote the required number of players to the task of keeping Messi and that attack quiet, while also having enough to actually attack them yourselves?
Juventus couldn't solve that riddle, and actually succumbed to it. For the manager's part, Allegri made a daring attempt to solve it, and he deserves some credit for the approach. It brought Juve closer than most.
One of the traits of the Italian side's season and why they have gone further in Europe than Antonio Conte's Juventus ever did has been the canniness with which they have only pressed with full intensity at certain times.
It won them the semifinal tie against Real Madrid, when they suddenly raised the tempo in the second leg at the Bernabeu, resulting in the equaliser, and it was almost the same here as the excellent Claudio Marchisio suddenly caught Barcelona's entire defence out of step with a glorious back-heel, which led to Morata's goal after Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied Carlos Tevez.
This time, though, it wasn't enough. The difference was that Barcelona attack, and the fearsome dilemma they represent.
3. Messi still proves decisive
After a season that was pretty much all about Messi, this game at least gave the spotlight to the players who have allowed him to so flourish. In fact, this was almost the reverse of the campaign in that the Argentine allowed those around him to shine.
Messi was a facilitator in each of the first two goals, before Neymar wrapped the win up with a rousing finish in stoppage time.
The Brazilian had perhaps offered the best pass of the match with a glorious sideways ball that no one expected except Andres Iniesta, who fed Rakitic for the opening strike, but it was Messi who had played the glorious arching ball that initially opened things up.
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For the crucial second, he saved his team in a different way. At that point, Barca were struggling and Juventus striding. Luis Enrique's team almost seemed frozen by the knowledge that they should have been out of sight, having squandered a host of opportunities.
Apparently driven to drag his team out of this difficult spell on his own, he suddenly burst forward before powering a shot at goal that seemed to distil so much of his frustration and anger at the situation. Buffon couldn't hold it, and Patrice Evra couldn't catch Suarez.
The Uruguayan put Barca's name on the trophy, before Neymar added the pretty ribbon with that final strike.
Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.