By Tim Hanlon
Winning goals from Luis Suarez and Neymar on the counter-attack to sink Juventus in the Champions League final encapsulated the new direct play from Barcelona that saw them become the first European side to win the treble for the second time.
Suarez has provided an acute understanding and extra firepower following his comeback from a biting ban last October and is the final piece of the jigsaw in an attacking trident for Barca that is devastating to watch.
The Uruguayan perhaps did not have his best game for Barca but he was still heavily influential in defeating Juventus with his predatory instincts seeing him pounce and slot home the ball after Lionel Messi’s initial shot was saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
When Barca last won the treble in 2009 they accomplished it through ball possession and short passing but now they are at their most dangerous on the breakaway.
It was after Alvaro Morata had equalised for Juventus and the Italians were bossing the game at 1-1 that Messi found the space in the lead up to Suarez’s goal and similarly in injury time Neymar sealed the win on another counter.
“We knew about his quality and his record,” said Luis Enrique, referring to Suarez in a news conference, who joined Barca from Liverpool ahead of this campaign.
“The only doubt was whether he was going to be able to adapt here. You can now see it has worked out. He has an incredible hunger and desire to win trophies.
The coach also praised the contribution of Messi and Neymar.
“Messi is our key player and the second goal was his. We are very happy with him and he gave us what he has been giving us all this season,” he said.
“Last year Neymar had a very good season despite it being the first at the club. Now he has developed and he has been spectacular. He demonstrated that he is one of the best players in the world.”
Barca have found solidity in defence and the impact of Enrique’s work on strategy at set-plays has clearly worked as it is no longer such a weak point.
But still it has been the three forwards that have made the difference.
Crucially, Enrique and Messi have improved their relationship in recent months and this was emphasised by the image of them hugging on the pitch after the final in Berlin.