No one ever used to speak about trebles in Barcelona. Regardless of an illustrious historical past, the Catalan membership claimed their first European Cup in 1992 and their maiden Champions League crown in 2006. They weren’t used to being the easiest regularly.
However in the summertime of 2008, the whole lot modified. Pep Guardiola took over as coach and instantly took the courageous choice to dispense with Ronaldinho, believing the sensible Brazilian would not be capable of hit the heights of years passed by.
He was undoubtedly right, with Ronaldinho having been a fading pressure at Camp Nou for a while. Nevertheless, as one door closed, one other opened, and Lionel Messi inherited the Brazilian’s quantity 10 shirt.
The season began in uncertainty, particularly as Barca went right down to lowly Numancia on the opening day of La Liga after which drew 1-1 at house to Racing Santander within the second spherical of the competitors. However behind the scenes, there was already a sense that Guardiola was constructing one thing particular.
Pep’s mentor and former coach, Johan Cruyff, wrote in El Pais that Barca had performed “their greatest recreation in a few years” towards Racing, whereas Andres Iniesta stunned his boss by knocking on his workplace door and telling him: “We consider in you one hundred per cent. Maintain doing what you are doing.”
Guardiola was surprised and in addition touched that Iniesta, probably the most delicate-mannered member of his whole squad, ought to take such a step. The conclusion? Pep did proceed with what he believed – and Barca by no means appeared again.
A 6-1 win away to Sporting Gijon kicked off a 21-match unbeaten run in La Liga and with Messi on the forefront, the Blaugrana stormed to the title, profitable the Copa del Rey after which La Liga in the identical week. Cruyff and Iniesta had been proper all alongside.
Iniesta’s late leveller at Stamford Bridge towards Chelsea additionally despatched Barca by way of to the ultimate of the Champions League and in Rome, Guardiola’s aspect would have the prospect to finish the treble in his very first season in cost.
By then, Messi had hit 37 objectives from the best wing, already 20 greater than his highest mark for a season – 17 in 2006-07. Underneath Pep, the Argentine was enjoying nearer to the world and benefitted from an excellent provide line within the form of a 3-man midfield made up of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
Within the remaining, they have been up towards Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo, nevertheless it was their second. Messi’s second. After Sir Alex Ferguson’s aspect began stronger, Barca started to settle they usually have been forward via Samuel Eto’o inside 10 minutes.
Not often troubled after that by the Premier League aspect, the Blaugrana completed off the match when 20 minutes later, virtually in sluggish movement, Xavi picked out Messi with a floated move and the Argentine – who was on their lonesome – rose majestically to go residence the second objective as Edwin van ser Sar watched in horror.
“When Xavi’s move was within the air, I imagined myself scoring the aim and due to God, it went in,” Messi stated years later. “It was an essential aim for me in each sense: for the staff, for the way by which we have been enjoying that last, and for me. It is considered one of my favorite objectives.”
It was additionally the objective that marked Messi’s arrival, saying his brilliance to the world as he completed with season with 38 objectives and a treble triumph for Barca, with the Ballon d’Or to comply with after which a spectacular sextet within the months forward.
“Historical past has restored the status that we deserve,” then Barca president Joan Laporta beamed after the sport. And Guardiola merely stated: “A yr in the past I used to be enjoying for promotion with Barca B. I’m very fortunate to have been chosen as coach, and in addition to have these gamers.”
Messi particularly. With out Leo, Guardiola typically admitted that the Blaugrana wouldn’t have achieved all that they did in his 4 implausible seasons in cost. And as Barca return to the scene of that treble triumph on Tuesday night, this time for a Champions League quarter-last second leg towards Roma, little has modified.