FC Barcelona has reclaimed its status as top dog amongst Europe’s elite, overcoming a brave and determined Juventus 3-1 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, clinching a fifth UEFA Champions League title.
Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitić opened the scoring in the fourth minute after a superb team move in which all ten outfield players got a touch. The next period of the match saw Barcelona dominate and pepper the Juventus goal, with Gianluigi Buffon heroic in keeping the score at 1-0 at half-time.
The second period began with Juve playing with superior intent and devoid of the reckless nature of the first half in which Arturo Vidal may have been sent off on another day. The Old Lady’s goal came in the 55th minute, when Marc-Andre ter Stegen brilliantly saved Carlos Tevez’s shot, only for the ball to land perfectly for Alvaro Morata to pounce and equalise.
As is seemingly necessary in finals, there was controversy. Paul Pogba tangled with Dani Alves in the box claiming a penalty, which the referee correctly waved away. Almost immediately, the Catalans would re-take the lead. Luis Suarez pounced on a Lionel Messi shot which Buffon parried to the Uruguayan. Neymar would have a goal correctly ruled out for handball before scoring anyway in the 97th minute; the 3-1 scoreline a fair reflection on the match and just reward for the Blaugrana.
Barcelona’s double-treble vindication for Luis Enrique
Barcelona became the first club in history to win the treble including a Champions League twice. From the near mutiny at the club over the December-January period, the astonishing achievement is pure vindication for Luis Enrique, his methods and his tactics.
At the turn of the new year, Barca was well behind Real Madrid in La Liga, Luis Enrique and Messi had showdown talks and the rumour mill went into overdrive with whispers of the Argentine demanding a move if Enrique was not moved on. Just five months later, the two shared a symbolic embrace and they frolicked with their third major trophy in less than a month.
Juventus has a bright future
Juventus was anything but disgraced in Berlin and despite the pain of another loss in a Champions League final, the future looks rosy for the Turin giants. Dominant domestically, Juve is the only club in Italy who owns its stadium and has shrewdly built a terrific squad.
The key to taking the next step and winning the Champions League is to become a club of choice again, which seems to be already happening. Contrary to media scuttlebutt, Vidal and Pogba will stay at the club and will be joined by young Argentine superstar, Paulo Dybala. Many pundits thought the Palermo starlet was destined for the EPL, to Arsenal or Manchester United. Never a chance – Juventus was his club of choice. Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira and Chelsea’s Oscar could also be on their way to Turin next season. Fair to say, Juve is back.
Low profile Ivan Rakitić signing a masterstroke
While most of the attention last European summer surrounded the transfer of Suarez from Liverpool to Barcelona, the Catalans quietly completed the signing of Sevilla captain Rakitić for just €18 million. Many questioned whether he was the right man to replace the legendary Xavi, whether he was the player to move Barca forward.
Rakitić has proven to be a spectacular signing, with consistently excellent outputs, low maintenance nature and leadership qualities. The Croatia international has formed a superb midfield understanding with Andres Iniesta whilst providing Barca with new-found energy and pace. He might not have the profile or score the spectacular goals Suarez does, however Rakitić has proven to be an equally worthy signing for the newly-crowned European Champions.