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Rediff.com  » Sports » Images: Shakira celebrates with Barca after CL win

Images: Shakira celebrates with Barca after CL win

Last updated on: May 30, 2011 17:42 IST

CL final was soccer played at the most sublime level

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The heroes of newly crowned European champions, Barcelona, paraded in an open-top, double-decker bus through cheering, packed streets and arrived to a roar of welcome at the Camp Nou stadium on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola may deny all comparisons with the past but the breathtaking display of his Barcelona prodigies in the Champions League final has confirmed the elevation of his team into the soccer stratosphere.

Their 3-1 demolition of English Premier League champions Manchester United at Wembley, of all places, was a masterful demonstration of soccer played at the most sublime level.


Image: Colombian pop star Shakira dances with boyfriend and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, and his teammates during her concert at Lluis Companys Olympic stadium in Barcelona on Sunday
Photographs: Reuters
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Barcelona -- a team of talents

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After the win, defender Gerard Pique used the opportunity to hit out at allegations against the team in the past season.

"We don't take drugs. We don't take dives. And we don't buy referees. We just play football," said Pique.

Barcelona coach Guardiola, collecting his second Champions League crown in three years, has produced a team of talents who can now stand comparison with those wonder sides of the past -- Real Madrid, Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan.

In United, Barcelona had opponents who are hardly nobodies. This was their third Champions League final in four years, they have just won the Premier League by nine points and they boast in Wayne Rooney one of the best players in the world.


Image: Singer Shakira (right) embraces her boyfriend and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique during her concert in Barcelona on Sunday

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Most comprehensively magical display in a European final

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Yet United, in a Wembley stadium with 'home' fans far outnumbering Catalan followers, could manage just 37 percent possession, muster only one shot on goal and not earn a single corner, so much did they fall under the spell of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and their supporting cast.

It was the most comprehensively magical display in a European final since AC Milan trounced Barcelona 4-0 17 years ago in Athens.

Barcelona defender and French international Eric Abidal, who has recovered from surgery to remove a liver tumour only two months ago, thanked captain Carles Puyol for allowing him the honour of receiving the trophy in Wembley.

"Thanks to the captain for his gesture. It was the best day of my career," he said.


Image: Barcelona's players celebrate atop a bus with their supporters on the streets of Barcelona on Sunday

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No team can survive Barca's onslaught

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With Brazilian samba music playing on one side and cheered by thousands of fans under a baking hot sun on the other, the heroes weaved through the city in their bus, decked out in Barcelona's red and blue and the word "Champions" on the sides.

And, when Barca play the way they did on Saturday it is hard to imagine any team surviving their onslaught. The close control in tight situations, swift inter-passing movement and clever working of spaces to create chances are simply devastating.

They force opposition fans to look on with jaws dropped in admiration of football played at a level of skill and sophistication one would not even dare dream about.


Image: Barcelona's players celebrate atop a bus with their supporters on the streets of Barcelona on Sunday

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Ferguson's big praise for Barca

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At the parade, wearing t-shirts emblazoned "CHA-MPI-ONS", coach Pep Guardiola and his men were driven past the city's statue of Chrisopher Columbus.

The victory became even sweeter for fans and players alike when beaten Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson acknowledged their pre-eminence.

"In my time as manager I'd say they are the best team I've faced." he said. "Nobody's given us a hiding like that but they deserve it because they play the right way and they enjoy their football."

Barcelona certainly play with a joy which echoes the truly great teams of the past.


Image: Barcelona's players celebrate on top of a bus with their supporters after winning their Champions League final against Manchester United on the streets of Barcelona on Sunday

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Barca's 'Total Football' changed the game forever

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The Real Madrid side which won the first five editions of the European Cup between 1956 and 1960, culminating in a 7-3 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 final, played with similar verve.

Ajax, with Johan Cruyff in his pomp and Johan Neeskens in close support, were the next great team to enchant neutral fans with three consecutive European titles in the early 1970s.

Their "Total Football", which saw players constantly switching position and mesmerising opponents, was a spectacular tactical innovation which changed the game forever.

The AC Milan side which won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 is probably the only team since to inspire the same kind of awe. That side, built around the Dutch trio of Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, matched skill and athleticism to produce classic entertainment.


Image: Barcelona's team pose with the Champions League and La Liga trophies after winning their Champions League final against Manchester United

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'Let's enjoy all this'

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During the parade, the bigggest cheer from the 98,000-capacity crowd erupted for man-of-the-match Lionel Messi, who scored the second goal.

"Actually, I have nothing to say to you," said Messi, famed as a man of few words. "Simply, let's enjoy all this. Thank you for this season. And I hope we will be able to enjoy a lot more."


Image: Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the Champions League trophy at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona

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Messi will continue to inspire Barca

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All the players were seen enjoying themselves on the tour bus. But one who seemed like having the most fun was David Villa, who could be seen spraying teammates with canned beer.

Then, Andres Iniesta leaned over the top of the bus to snap pictures.

Barcelona have still to amass the titles of these illustrious predecessors. Competition is undoubtedly tougher these days and it is notable that no team has ever won the Champions League twice in succession since it was introduced in the 1992-93 season.

But Barca have now won two of the last three European titles and three in six seasons and it would be rash to think that Messi, at just 23, will have stopped inspiring his team to collect ever more trophies.


Image: Barcelona's player Andres Iniesta holds the Champions League trophy at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Sunday

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