Barcelona wins UEFA Super Cup, close to duplicating own record

12th August, 2015 12:03:37 printer

Barcelona wins UEFA Super Cup, close to duplicating own record

It's been done only once. By Barcelona itself, of course. Winning six trophies in a calendar year – your domestic league and cup, the UEFA Champions League, and then your domestic Super Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup – constitutes an unfathomable spell of dominance. Barca pulled it off in 2009, at the start of this ongoing dynasty. And on Tuesday, it won its fourth title of 2015, keeping the Blaugranas on course to duplicate its own record haul.


Following La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League triumphs last season, Barca beat Sevilla 5-4 in extra time in this year's ridiculous UEFA Super Cup, inexplicably played in Tbilisi, Georgia.


But claiming that fourth trophy of the year was rather an ordeal for Barca. After Ever Banega put Sevilla, the back-to-back UEFA Europa League winners, ahead with a third-minute free kick, Barca seized control. Lionel Messi, as if to make a point about free kick-taking, answered Banega's effort with two converted free kicks of his own in just 10 minutes. On the brink of halftime, Luis Suarez fed Rafinha the third goal and scored the fourth and final one himself shortly after the interval. And that, as is typically the case when you play Barcelona and go down by three goals, seemed to be that.


Sevilla, however, under the management of the fiery Unai Emery – who had never beaten Barca in eight years in charge of Almeria, Valencia and now his current club – mounted a spirited comeback.


Jose Antonio Reyes got Sevilla back in the game early in the second half, whereupon Kevin Gameiro converted a penalty. Then, late on, Ciro Immobile squared for a ball for his fellow substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka, who slipped it into the empty net to make it 4-4. That sent the game to extra time.


With Barcelona back in charge of the proceedings during the bonus periods, Messi won a soft free kick in the 115th minute. His initial shot was blocked by an arm and his rebound parried by goalkeeper Beto. But then Pedro, benched for the match and rumored to be on his way out to Manchester United, smashed the loose ball into the top of the net to finally decide the game.


If the collapse and subsequent difficulty of Tuesday's ultimate victory might concern some Barca fans, it's important to note that this was the first competitive game of the season, and that for much of it, defending wasn't much of a priority for either team.


And should Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao in its next two games, on Friday and next Monday, it will claim the Supercopa de España as well. After that is December's 2015 Club World Cup in Japan, where two more wins would hypothetically complete Barca's sextuple of trophies this year.


To illustrate the rarity of this feat, never mind accomplishing it a second time in six years, there are just two other clubs that have ever managed to win five trophies in a single calendar year.


In 1972, Ajax won the Dutch Eredivisie, the KNVB Beker, the old European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup, which was the predecessor to the Club World Cup. It also won the first ever European Super Cup, albeit unofficially, since UEFA refused to sanction the game. That's because opponent Rangers, courtesy of their victory in the old Cup Winners' Cup, were banned from European competition on account of crowd trouble. As of 1973, UEFA began recognizing the Super Cup, which was the invention of a Dutch newspaper.


In 2013, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga, the DFB Pokal, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup, but missed out on the sixth trophy in the DFB/DFL-Supercup in a 4-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund. A single defeat doomed their campaign to replicate Barca's feat, underscoring just how hard this is to pull off.


Barcelona also won five once, in 2011, when it claimed all but the Copa del Rey, which was won by Real Madrid that year.


Barca, of course, has already done the hard part – winning the treble. But the continued trophy binge under manager Luis Enrique, who enters just his second season in charge, underscores the club's longevity. While club stalwarts like Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes and Xavi have retired or moved on, the remainder of the team's core – Messi, Andre Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves and Gerard Pique – has held up the impossibly high standards set over these last seven seasons.


Not even the quick turnover of head coaches after Pep Guardiola's departure in 2012, when three different men took charge in the two seasons before Luis Enrique was appointed, could derail this dynasty. Nor could Real Madrid's persistent purchasing of world-class talent. Or off-field scandals in Messi's ongoing tax case and the many financial shenanigans played in the Neymar transfer, which caused the last Barca president to resign. Nor indeed could the two-transfer window ban the club was punished with for recruiting underage players against the rules.


Through it all, playing in the cauldron of its ever-demanding fans and under searing media scrutiny, this team has marched on, winning and winning, and winning again.


There should be no doubts at all now that this seven-year stretch is the finest any club has ever put together. The case was made on paper by five La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys, four Supercopa de España's and counting, three Champions Leagues, three UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups, with a third in the offing. It was confirmed on the field by Barca's transcendent play and paradigm-shifting interpretations of attack soccer.


Every additional trophy just seems to drive the point home further. And the eighth season has begun with yet another piece of silverware.