Barcelona's victory in Saturday's UEFA Champions League final enshrined the Catalan club as Europe's most successful team of the decade. Too strong for Juventus in Berlin, the La Liga champions added to their most recent triumphs in 2006, 2009 and 2011, and allowed iconic captain Xavi Hernandez to make the perfect farewell after claiming 25 separate titles with the Camp Nou outfit.
The 60th European Cup final was a similarly joyous occasion for four-time winner and man of the match Andres Iniesta, while Lionel Messi excelled in a performance that highlighted his qualities as a team player. In contrast, the showpiece event brought fresh disappointment for 37-year-old Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who has yet to lift the coveted trophy.
Barcelona's Olympiastadion win was the final instalment in a marathon journey that featured successive victories against the champions of England, France, Germany and Italy – Luis Enrique's men downing Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus to clinch their fifth European crown. They also became the first club to win a second treble of league, cup and Champions League, though to match their 2008/09 predecessors they will need to beat Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup and Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup, before winning the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan this December. Few, of course, would put that past them, especially considering the calibre of their individual talents and their overall team ethic, with Neymar, Luis Suarez and Messi establishing an understanding up front that marks them down as one of the most fearsome attacking units in football history. Statisticians were waiting for Messi to rattle in his 11th strike of the campaign, but the Argentinian was watched closely by two or three markers in the first half and displayed another dimension to his game after the break, drawing attention in order to free up space for his team-mates and pick them out with sumptuous passes. The golden era of Xavi and Iniesta may be over, but Messi still has a frightening amount to offer.
This season will not go down as a good one for English or German clubs, with Bayern the only side from the two nations to progress as far as the quarter-finals. Instead, the year had a distinctly Latin flavour as holders Real Madrid were joined in the last eight by fellow Spanish sides Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, plus French duo PSG and Monaco, and former winners Juventus and Porto. Five of the teams in the last eight had already lifted the trophy and four of them made it through to the semis, including record ten-time victors Real, who beat their city neighbours 1-0 over two legs in a repeat of last year's decider. Los Merengues would go no further, however, losing to Juventus as the curse of the reigning champions struck again.
The key moment
The final quarter of an hour of Barcelona's semi-final opener against Bayern will live long in the memory. FIFA World Cup™-winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had kept the home side's 'MSN' attacking trident of Messi, Suarez and Neymar quiet for 77 minutes, but he was powerless to prevent their late surge as Messi rattled in a pair of goals and set up another for Neymar.
Heading into the final, Spanish forward Alvaro Morata was the only man capable of winning successive Champions League titles after tasting success with Madrid in 2013/14. Unable to tie down a starting berth at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he had risen through the ranks, the 6'3 striker opted for a switch to Juventus last summer – and he promptly showed his old side what they were missing in the last four. Notching goals in both legs as the Italian champions ousted Madrid 3-2 on aggregate, the 22-year-old then gave Juve a burst of hope in the showpiece, burying their equaliser against Barcelona.
For the second time in three seasons, none of the Premier League's powerhouse clubs made it through to the quarter-finals. Liverpool set the tone for an underwhelming campaign when they finished third in their group behind Madrid and Basel, and the three remaining teams exited in the last 16 without a single home win between them. Chelsea were undone on away goals following 1-1 and 2-2 draws with PSG, while Arsenal's 2-0 success in Monaco was not enough to make up for their 3-1 home loss, and City went down 2-1 and 1-0 to Barça.
There was disappointment too for the Bundesliga contenders, with Bayern left alone as sole representatives in the quarter-finals despite Germany being the only nation to send all four of its teams through to the knockout phase.
On the positive side, Monaco took everyone by surprise. Languishing in the lower reaches of Ligue 2 as recently as January 2012 and ranked 74th in UEFA's club rankings at the start of the tournament, the principality club began the competition with just three players boasting previous European experience. Despite those omens, they advanced all the way to the last eight before losing 1-0 to Juventus on aggregate, and they remain the last French team to reach the final.
Did you know?
Juventus have been crowned European champions on two occasions but they have now lost a total of six finals – a record they would no doubt be happier without. Juve full-back Patrice Evra can also count himself unlucky, having finished on the losing side in four of his five Champions League deciders.
5 – The number of times Barcelona have won the Champions League, taking them level with Liverpool and Bayern. The record belongs to ten-time winners Madrid, with AC Milan closest behind on seven.
What they said
"The players are hungry for victories. The key is that they continue to enjoy what they're doing. That's important if Barcelona are going to remain one of the best teams in Europe," Luis Enrique, Barcelona coach.
1 - Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona) 10 goals and 6 assists
2 - Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Real Madrid) 10 goals and 4 assists
3 - Neymar (BRA/Barcelona) 10 goals and 1 assist
Top scorers from recent seasons:
2010/11: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 12
2011/12: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 14
2012/13: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 12
2013/14: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 17