FC Barcelona has placed its name in history, as El Blaugrana won its fifth European championship in club history. Barcelona defeated Juventus 3-1 at the Olympiastadion on Saturday night.
A second treble for the best club in the world.
We can talk about many things, but what I want to talk to you about is about redemption. Because the story of the 2014-15 FC Barcelona season is about redemption: for the players, the manager, and as a club.
It all started when last year's La Liga ended, as Barcelona fell one goal short of overtaking Atletico Madrid for the Liga title. Barça players watched as Atleti celebrated on the Camp Nou pitch. There would be no titles for Barcelona and everyone knew a change was coming.
Enter Luis Enrique.
Lucho came back home, and with the transfer ban suspended for the moment, the club officials were forced into an all-out shopping spree to change things around. Club leaders got the club into the mess they were in; they might as well spend all they can to get the club out of said mess.
After making all of the new signings and sending away some players, Lucho started his team's season on a good note; earning 22 or 24 points in La Liga. But after the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in the first Clásico, the season began to slip. Then the January crisis came, and it looked like Lucho was on his way out.
But Lucho didn't waiver. He stayed with his plan, stayed focused and believed in what he started. What he ended with is a run unseen in club history. In the Champions League, Lucho's team knocked out the then-defending champions of England, then the French champions, the German champions, and ended its run by defeating the Italian champions in the final.
From a great start, to nearly losing his job, to winning a treble. For Luis Enrique, this past season was complete redemption. His name is now written in football history and with golden letters.
2014 World Cup: a frustrating experience
The 2014 FIFA World Cup was a great tournament as far as exciting moments and memorable games. But it was a frustrating experience for FC Barcelona players, both that were at the club at the moment, as well as future Barça stars.
There was some hope early on in 2014 that Marc-Andre ter Stegen, then with Borussia Monchengladbach, would be called up as the third goalkeeper for the World Cup. While it was not a big shock that MAtS wasn't called up, it was an opportunity lost and some disappointment must have been felt.
Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo and Thomas Vermaelen — all who were still not Barça players officially — had their World Cup experience end in frustration and disappointment like it would end for the Barça players. Rakitic and Croatia's tournament ended when they lost 3-1 to Mexico in the group stage. Vermaelen suffered a hamstring injury and didn't play for Belgium in the knockout stage. It was this injury that he never fully recovered from, and would later require further surgery and miss most of the season for Barcelona minus one match. For Bravo, the story was good, as Chile eliminated Spain in the group stage and set up a date with Brazil in the round of 16. Unfortunately for Bravo, his side missed the last penalty kick, and a strong Chile side was eliminated.
The Spanish national team members of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Pedro went to Brazil looking to repeat some 2010 magic. What occurred was a disaster, as Spain were beaten 5-1 by the Netherlands, then were defeated 2-0 by Chile. Barça's players went home early to try and make sense of the national team's debacle. As for Dani Alves and Brazil, well, we all know what happened there.
A year later, all of the players who suffered frustration with their national team can now celebrate in full joy, as they've won Europe's biggest prize. It's not a World Cup win, but winning the UEFA Champions League title and a treble is something any footballer would take for their career resume. For some, it's their first Champions League title. For Xavi, it's a fitting tribute to him, as he says goodbye to the team.
MSN: A year of redemption
The trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar is the greatest attacking trio in football history. 122 goals, 55 assists and a chemistry that has grown throughout the season. But this title is redemption for the MSN.
A year ago, Neymar was on his way to leading Brazil in the World Cup. Playing at home was pressure, to say the least. Neymar shined in his home country, leading a poor Brazil team to the quarterfinals. But late in the match, Neymar was hit by Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuñiga, fracturing a vertebra in his spine. Neymar's World Cup was over, and a few days later, Brazil was humiliated 7-1 by Germany. Add to all of this the legal issues of his father surrounding Neymar's transfer to Barcelona and the deals Sandro Rosell and other might have made.
Dealing with all of this, Neymar overcame and conquered on the pitch.
A year later, Neymar is healthy, gotten better as a footballer, and is now a Champions League winner — scoring in the final minute of the CL Final and sending Barcelona into euphoria.
Luis Suarez and his Uruguay went into the World Cup to make another long run like they did in 2010. Suarez got a bit of revenge on his English critics, as "el pistolero" scored two goals and gunned down England in the group stage. But against Italy, Suarez lost control and bit Giorgio Chiellini. Suarez was rightly suspended. With the suspension and bad reputation, Liverpool sold Luis Suarez and he arrived at Barcelona. In a recent interview with Univision, Suarez said what was most difficult for him at the time was that at first, he wasn't even allowed to step foot in Barcelona facilities. The CAS' ruling allowed him to train with the club until his suspension ended. Suarez got off to a rocky start, but in January till now, Luis was on fire and has shown the football world why he's the best number 9 in the world. In the CL Final, Suarez grabbed the title-winning goal.
From villain to hero: Luis Suarez has redeemed himself.
Luisito's in his best moment, and as he's said, he's the happiest he's ever been with his family and his club.
For the best player of all time, it has been a year of pain and ecstasy. Lionel Messi led his Argentina past the group stage of the World Cup. Argentina went to the final, and everyone expected Messi to show up. Unfortunately, Leo didn't and he — along with Javier Mascherano — watched Germany celebrate and lift the cup. In January, there were rumors that Messi wanted Luis Enrique out, as the January crisis occurred. To add a bit of salt, Cristiano Ronaldo said during the Ballon d'Or ceremony that he hoped to catch Messi as far as number of Ballon d'Or's.
After all of this, Messi went on a tear: destroying teams, scoring golazos and assisting. Leo's brilliance shined in the Copa Del Rey, the Liga title-clinching match against Atletico Madrid, and in the CL semifinals against Bayern Munich. Messi got redemption by defeated Atleti on the road, allowing Barcelona to celebrate on the road a Liga title like Atleti did a year before. Against Bayern, Leo showed why he can change football destiny in just three minutes to send his old mentor out.
In the CL Final, Messi was on the world stage and while he didn't grab a goal, all three goals came from Leo starting the play.
In 2006, Messi sat on the bench in disappointment at the Olympiastadion after Argentina was eliminated against Germany. In 2015, Messi returned to the Olympiastadion, but this time, Leo is all smiles with his fourth UEFA Champions League title.
From last year's disappointment to this year's historic treble, the journey for Lionel Messi this season has been inspiring. Messi's fifth Ballon d'Or is essentially sealed, and in Copa América, Leo may be able to bring a title to his beloved Argentina.
El mejor de todos los tiempos: Leo Messi.
This has been one of the greatest seasons in football history, not just FC Barcelona history. From a great start, to a crisis that threatened the team, to making history. Redemption for Barcelona.
This season is a great learning lesson, and not just a football-learning lesson. FC Barcelona's 2014-15 season is testament that:
— never drifting away from what you believe in (Lucho),
— working and training hard,
— learning new things (style of play),
— embracing new teachings and new people (teammates) in your life,
— overcoming struggles, staying the course despite the world not believing in you (January crisis),
— and believing in yourself and in the people around you, you can and will reach your goals.
Barcelona didn't have "luck" on its side. Barcelona made its own luck this season. It was destiny. Barcelona, Luis Enrique, Neymar, Messi, Suarez, Iniesta and everyone else in the team was destined to redeem themselves after suffering setbacks.
Football presents opportunities for redemption. Some are able to accomplish it while others just fall short. For Barça, they were destined to redeem themselves together and all for different reasons. It's something special and it won't ever be forgotten.
Next season will see familiar faces like Xavi go, and new players come in like Aleix Vidal and potentially others. Barcelona will try to win a second sextuple later this year, as the UEFA Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup, and finally the FIFA Club World Cup will take place.
But before we turn the page to 2015-16, let's savior every moment of 2014-15. Take the summer to remember how great of a season it has been because these are the moments of dreams. We've been blessed to witness the greatness that is Futbol Club Barcelona. Not a day should go by when you don't thank the Heavens that you're a Culé. Because being a Culé is not just about being a fan of the team: it's a mindset, it's a way of life. It's in your blood, it how you see the world, it even effects the way you see world politics, culture and discrimination (if you know the history of the club).
We fight. We overcome the odds. We triumph.
We are Culés. We love our club. We are "Més que un club."
We are Futbol Club Barcelona.
We are champions!