Friday, May 29, 2009

Barcelona win the Champions League

Barcelona triumphed yesterday 2-0 in the final of the Champions League against Manchester United, courtesy of goals from Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi. It was a deserved victory. Even though their victory in the semi-final against Chelsea was mostly due to some unbelievably bad refereeing, it is hard to argue that Barca have not been the best team in Europe this season. Not only have they laid waste to all their domestic opponents, but they have done it the "right" way, relying on their technical ability and skillful passing game rather than Chelsea's brute force. Manchester United, the team that perhaps has the best balance of skill and toughness, were good this season but not as imperious as the previous year.

Remarkable also was Barca's victory without their first choice left-back and right-back, Eric Abidal and Dani Alves, due to suspensions in the semi-final, while centre back Rafael Marquez was injured in that same tie. Midfielder Yaya Toure was forced to play at centre back, with Carles Puyol filling in at right-back.

Another subtext in the contest was between the world's two greatest players: reigning World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, and heir apparent Lionel Messi. Despite both being insanely talented, they have very contrasting games; Ronaldo, all muscular 6 feet of him, has a combination of physical size, strength, speed and technique like none before, and can blast the ball in from anywhere. Messi, whose growth was stunted due to a medical condition, looks more like a hobbit, yet can dribble past anyone, and has an ability to make others around him better. In this, he typifies the Barca approach, and his clinching goal in the final has all but guaranteed he will usurp Ronaldo's crown this year.

The big winner in all this? Thierry Henry. The Frenchman, in the autumnal stages of a career as one of the very best players of his era, finally got the one trophy that had eluded him. Having reached the final in 2006 with Arsenal but losing, ironically by Barcelona, it seemed fitting that his new team have allowed him to claim the prize they denied him back then.

Viva Barca!

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