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Barcelona caps perfect season in style

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

Barcelona did it all. All the trophies, all the glory and a position among the all-time greats beckons for a team that showed itself to be the best in the world by tearing Manchester United apart on Wednesday night.

An unprecedented three trophies – the La Liga title, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League – will all sit snugly in the Catalan club's trophy cabinet for the next year and all are deserved.

Barca's performance in Rome, just like its season, was one for the ages, a nerveless, clinical, yet beautifully executed passing game for which United had no answer.

With its resounding 2-0 victory, Barca further raised the stock of some of its superstar players, none more than the superb Lionel Messi.

WINNER: Lionel Messi

The little man stood tall.

For Messi it was all about getting his hands on the trophy, yet his performance and Barca's victory came with the added bonus of sealing his place as the finest player in the world.

Wednesday night's chief subplot was a changing of the guard between Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, who will surely be named European Footballer of the Year and is an overwhelming favorite to take home the world award, too.

Every time he touched the ball Messi was greeted by a swarm of defenders, but he patiently waited his time and his clinical header on 70 minutes effectively killed United's hopes at a comeback.

It has been a magical season for the Argentinean, who is still only 21 and has the world at his feet. The scary thing is that he may not have reached his peak.

WINNER: Andres Iniesta

You don't get tricks and flicks with Iniesta, but the diminutive Spaniard has blossomed into a superb player. He had not played for three weeks due to a thigh injury, but ran the show for Barca with a calmness and simplicity that eased the burden on his teammates.

Manchester City has been linked with a world record bid for Iniesta, but there is no chance of Barca letting one of its favorite sons leave, whatever the price.

WINNER: Pep Guardiola

Many expected Guardiola to be out-marshalled in his coaching battle with Sir Alex Ferguson. Instead, his team had the solution to everything United threw at them and Guardiola's game plan was flawless.

Guardiola's emotional connection to the club he served as a player is plain to see, and in only his first season he has already cemented his immortality.

WINNER: Soccer

One of the best seasons in recent memory ended with the club most dedicated to playing beautiful football walking off as the biggest winner of them all.

Guardiola and his players never once lost faith in their free-flowing, passing system and their play bordered on artistry at times.

Soccer got the result it deserved, from a team which mixes unity and entertainment into a devastating combination.

WINNER: Michel Platini

The UEFA president has made little secret of the fact that he feels the English Premier League's dominance of the Champions League is not in the best interests of the competition.

The EPL provided three of the four semifinalists for the third year in succession, but just like in 2007, failed to secure the trophy.

LOSER: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is rightly proud of his status as World Footballer of the Year and he had the perfect opportunity to live up to his billing. Instead, he didn't make an impact against a depleted Barcelona defense and repeatedly lost his cool as the game slipped away.

The main criticism of Ronaldo is that he fails to deliver in big games and this effort will have done nothing to stop those jibes.

The Portugal star's future is now uncertain, and a fresh spate of speculation linking him with Real Madrid this summer is inevitable.

LOSER: Michael Carrick

Carrick was always going to have to take charge of the midfield if United was to dominate the game, but he all too often found himself frozen out.

His attempts to create attacking impetus fell flat with many of his overambitious cross-field passes hanging in the air, enabling the defense time to intercept.

LOSER: United's old guard

Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville may never get another chance to win the Champions League and their memories of this final will evoke nothing but bitterness.

Giggs struggled to make an impact before being replaced after 75 minutes. Scholes was ineffective as a late substitute, while Neville did not make it on to the United bench.

LOSER: Rome

The Stadio Olimpico is a magnificent venue, but several violent skirmishes before and after the game cast an ugly shadow over the Italian capital.

Two alleged stabbing incidents were reported to police, despite the authorities' decision to limit the sale of alcohol in an attempt to prevent trouble.

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