The La Liga title came down to two teams and one game: FC Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou.
The game was physical all game long, as Atleti tried to intimidate Barcelona with tough, rough play. Barcelona's timing was off at the start, but then settled down.
Atleti suffered two huge blows in the first half, as Diego Costa and Arda Turan went down injured and were taken out of the game. Costa came out of the game in the 14th minute as he suffered an apparent hamstring injury. Turan collided with Cesc Fabregas and injured his leg. Turan limped off in the 22nd minute.
Alexis Sanchez got the scoring started in the 33rd minute as a great pass into the box by Cesc found Lionel Messi who chested the ball to Alexis and the Chilean, as beIN Sports' Phil Schoen said, threaded the needle and slammed the ball toward the near post and past Thibaut Courtois for the golazo.
What. A. Goal!
But after that goal, Barcelona was off its game. In the second half, Diego Godín equalized in the 49th minute to give Atleti the Liga. Tata Martino put in Neymar and Xavi to try and win it, but there was no more Barcelona, Camp Nou or even Lionel Messi magic left. Solid defending by Atleti helped Los Colchoneros win their first Liga title since 1995-96.
Unlike what some other so-called "pundits" say, FC Barcelona didn't run out steam; they were "beaten" by a better squad in Atletico at the Camp Nou. Besides, this Barça squad ran out of gas a while ago. It's not all on Tata Martino; let's look at the players as well. Finally, the FCB board put this team together, and they failed in putting together a major-title-winning squad for 2013-14.
Final: FC Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid
First, let me say congratulations to Diego Simeone and Club Atletico de Madrid. They were the best, most consistent team in La Liga all season long, and are very deserving champions.
I was glad the Camp Nou stood up and applauded the new champions of La Liga. In the post-game interview, Diego Simeone thanked the Camp Nou faithful for their class. "The ovation at the Camp Nou? Barça players, coaches and fans showed they have class."
Who says Culés aren't classy?!
Simeone is already a legend at Atletico; this win only further enhances it.
As much as I wanted to see "El Capità" Carles Puyol winning one last title, Victor Valdes winning one last title, and one more dedication to Tito Vilanova as the curtain came down on this era, it just wasn't meant to be. Besides, Atleti earned it and deserved it.
As you know, I've written articles on how the "Fin De Ciclo" is here. Winning La Liga would have been the best way to say goodbye to the 2008-14 era, but it didn't happen. As we all know, many changes are coming to the club this summer. A new manager, new goalkeeper, new defenders, and other changes are coming-including players leaving. Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Tello, Ibrahim Afellay, Isaac Cuenca, Alex Song, Jonathan Dos Santos, Sergi Roberto, and Cesc Fabregas are all players that could leave the Camp Nou this summer. Rafinha Alcantara and Gerard Deulofeu will return to the squad.
Javier Mascherano, a player who could be leaving this summer, said after the game what we all know: this FC Barcelona era is officially over. "This hasn't been a good season, the club will have to make decisions. A cycle has ended. An unrepeatable cycle has ended. I don't think this club-or any other club-will ever live this again. Now, we can value it."
Just because Mascherano and others-myself included-say that the "ciclo" has ended doesn't mean that any of us believe FC Barcelona is going to be bad. Not at all. All we are saying is that this 2008-14 era is over, and we can officially start the 2014- era. Barcelona will rebuild and this team will be better than they were this past season.
Don't fear the new era, instead, embrace it and embrace the much-needed changes that are coming to the squad, manager included.
Tata Martino announced his departure from the club after the Atleti game. Tata is rumored to be considered for the Malaga job, and I'm sure he is in the running to replace Alejandro Sabella as manager of Argentina when the World Cup ends. Tata had a tough gig, as he was the last-minute replacement for the job. He was an outsider trying to organize a team that prides its philosophy on its homegrown style of play, and Tata stuck out like a sore thumb. It's not entirely his fault of Barça's shortcomings, as he was handed a team lacking defense and other issues. But Tata never was able to win over his players fully, he had issues with the rotation and lineups, and he was just not the right guy for the job.
For the last time, let me say thank you to Gerardo "Tata" Martino, and I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.
A few weeks ago, Andoni Zubizarreta said he was going to start making changes "as soon as La Liga is over." Well, it's now over, and I am hopeful Zubi keeps his word and starts this week.
Luis Enrique, who last week announced he would be leaving Celta Vigo at the end of the season, is expected to be announced as the new manager of FC Barcelona soon-maybe as soon as Monday or Tuesday. Don't be surprised if this week Marc-Andre ter Stegen finally announces the obvious and says that he will be joining FC Barcelona. Victor Valdes, currently recovering from his knee injury, could also his expected move to his new team soon, with AS Monaco expected to be his destination.
With Messi's contract renewal, a new manager, and an expected 100 million euro shopping spree coming this summer, let the new FC Barcelona era begin. Many deals won't be made official until after the World Cup, but there is a always a shot a deal or two could be agreed upon prior to it.
While I am sad that Barcelona could not win a major title this season, I know this team will see better days once again. It's the tough times that make us stronger because it makes us appreciate the triumphs even more. And it's during the tough times when true FC Barcelona fans stand by their team.
For the first time since 1951, the two teams atop the La Liga table played for the Liga title in the final game of the season.
Barcelona and Atleti started the 2013-14 competitive season in Spain facing off in the Spanish Supercup, and ended the Spanish competitive season battling it out for the Liga title.
In the end, Atletico Madrid was able to survive and win their 10th Liga title in their history.
For FC Barcelona, the season ends in disappointment, but keep your head up, Culés. Better, brighter days will come once again.
Once again, congratulations to a deserving Atletico Madrid: 2013-14 La Liga champions.
This summer will be interesting in Catalunya, as old faces leave the club, and new faces become new Blaugrana heroes.
But let just say, as a Culé, that all Culés believe and know that this team will rise, and will be atop the football world once again. The future is and starts now!
Let the new Futbol Club Barcelona era begin.
"O le le,
O la la,
ser del Barça és
el millor que hi ha!"
Xoel, The Voice of els Culés