By Tim Hanlon
Barcelona have had to overcome many changes to win their 23rd La Liga title, coach Luis Enrique said on Sunday as the Catalans celebrated what could be the first of a treble success this season.
Barca beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 to become champions in a tricky first year for Enrique, who had to remodel the team after a poor campaign under Gerardo Martino in which they failed to win a trophy.
“I have only been here 10 months and there have been a lot of changes in staff and the squad of a club which doesn’t understand the idea of transition,” the coach told a news conference.
“There is no way that a trainer of a top club will not receive criticism during the year and I knew that, so I’m not trying to prove myself right now.
“We knew that we wouldn’t be given time but we did our best. We now have two titles to win but we have picked up the one now for consistency,” he added.
Barcelona still have important games to be played in the King’s Cup and Champions League finals as they attempt to win the treble.
The side that won on Sunday looked transformed from the one that looked in decline earlier in the season, with forwards Lionel Messi and Neymar far from their best while defensively Barcelona had looked weak and under-strength.
The strong minded Enrique set about introducing his plans and there was plenty of criticism as he continually chopped and changed while Real Madrid moved ahead in the standings.
However, he finally settled on a more direct style and during the second half of the campaign they have steamrollered opposition on their way to the league title.
The transition from a shorter passing game was seen in the dwindling influence of the veteran Xavi and growing importance of Ivan Rakitic, whose style is suited to making driving runs and knocking long balls to Barca’s lethal attacking trident.
Enrique now has plenty to celebrate but he will be keeping a lid on his emotions for a while longer.
“I prefer quiet and calm celebrations,” he said. “We will rest for a couple of days to allow the team to relax and then we will start thinking about the cup final.”