Without having to play, FC Barcelona on Saturday accomplished the formality of mathematically winning the La Liga title, which had been regarde d as a fait accompli many months before the official outcome. Any year in which Barça wins the league crown against fierce rival Real Madrid must be regarded as a good year, so Blaugrana fans, Catalans or just citizens of the world, will celebrate this title, the fourth in five years and the 22 th in club history, for which the players and coach Tito Vilanova and his chief assistant Jordi Roura deserve congratulations.
Yet no Barcelona supporter would say that this season, which had started so spectacularly, with Barça winning 18 of its first 19 league games for 55 points of 57 possible, made him entirely happy. It has been a strange season, with ups and downs, unexpected occurrences, recurring cancers, more injuries than ever, a permanently porous defense like an incurable disease, many comebacks and surprising announcements.
In fact, most Barça fans haven't yet digested the recent 4-0 and 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League which, combined, account for the club's most humiliating defeat ever in international competition. This happened no more than 16 months after Barcelona crushed Neymar's Santos 4-0 in the final of the FIFA Club World Club and people were asking themselves not if Barça is the best team in the world, but if this was the best team in the history of football.
Barcelona remains undoubtedly not only one of the world's most popular clubs, but also one of the best (three or four) teams, though certainly not the best at this moment. A healthy Messi would have alleviated only the severity of the German correction, not the outcome of the confrontation. While Barça dominated La Liga-though getting only one of six points against Real Madrid-the team was not impressive in CL competition throughout the entire campaign, playing just one really good game, the second one against Milan.
When Lionel Messi was winning his fourth straight FIFA Ballon d'Or as the world's best player in January his detractors (some born in Madrid, some blinded by ronalditis) tried to lessen his accomplishment by saying: "sure, Xavi and Iniesta, the world's best creative centrocampistas , play for him, let's see what he does with Argentina." Well, friends and foes, it's the other way around. Look yourselves in the mirror and try to answer this question: where would this Barça be without Messi?
The truth is that this title is entirely Messi's. He has had a fabulous season, adding to his legend, cementing his legacy and carrying on his shoulders a team without a coach, with aging, absent-minded, overrated, unhappy or unwanted (by exasperated fans) teammates. He has scored 46 goals in 27 games in his 31 league appearances, including scoring at least one goal in 21 straight games.
It's hard to recall another team in the last quarter of a century that depended so much of one single player as Barcelona depends of Messi. Messidependencia is not just the mot du jour , it's a reality, and it's not a disease, it's a blessing. It is the best situation possible to depend on Messi, not on Pedro, Villa, Alexis, Fabregas or Victor Valdes. Messi will turn 26 next month, he has at least five great years ahead, and with the right supporting cast can take again four of five La Liga titles from Real Madrid and perhaps beat Guardiola's new team for renewed world supremacy.
Vladimir Moraru played soccer for 15 years and has watched it for 60. He hasn't seen a player like Messi and a team like FC Barcelona.
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