Champions League final.
The Catalans totally outplayed Manchester United in Rome and fully earned their title of the best in Europe. Their ability to keep the ball and sustain pressure is well-known, but the gulf in class between themselves and United was a surprise.
It was in many ways reminiscent of Spain’s mastery of Germany in last year’s European Championship final. This is logical, as Xavi and Andrés Iniesta are the heartbeats of both teams. They have a telepathic understanding and United’s midfielders could not get the ball from them; it was a football lesson in a major final.
Of course Barcelona only just reached the final, having had their attacking threat stifled by Chelsea over two semi final legs, with the crucial goal coming in the dying moments of the second encounter. If Iniesta’s shot flew wide at Stamford Bridge, Barça would have been written off as a team with style but no substance.
This shows how fine the lines between success and failure are at the top level and it is dangerous to predict any team to dominate the Champions League. The spending power and expertise in Europe of the English clubs will make Barcelona’s task of defending the title difficult – just ask Sir Alex Ferguson.
It should also be remembered that Barcelona are far from masters of Spain, despite doing the domestic double this season – it was just their third La Liga triumph and only Copa del Rey win in the last 10 years.
However, the ingredients are there for a spell of Spanish domination. Their total superiority over Real Madrid was confirmed by their recent 6-2 win over their fierce rivals, who, like Sevilla and Valencia, are going through a transition phase.
Barcelona have discovered a brilliant young coach in Josep Guardiola, a Barça playing legend who is steeped in the traditions of the club. He has brought the calm leadership he exuded on the pitch to the dugout and could be about to build a Camp Nou dynasty.
Barça have an outstanding squad that features three of the best players in the world – summer transfer activity is a regular occurrence at the club, but as long as Xavi, Iniesta and Lionel Messi are kept together they will be the team to beat at home and abroad.