El Centrocampista

Unstoppable Barça inflict more final heartbreak on Athletic


Trophy number fourteen, check. It was almost inevitable that Pep Guardiola would end his four year reign as coach of arguably the greatest team in history with yet another win in a final; what will have surprised some was the ease with which it was accomplished. A blistering first twenty five minutes yielded the three goals which were more than enough to seal a second Copa Del Rey success for the man who will now go away and take a well-deserved sabbatical, before no doubt reappearing at another of Europe’s top clubs next summer.

The writing was on the wall as early as the third minute for an Athletic side who never looked likely to end their club’s 28 year wait for a trophy, with Pedro reacting quickest to sweep home the opener after a corner was not cleared. Indeed had a curler from Messi been a foot the other side of the post, they would have conceded the fastest goal in Copa Del Rey final history even before that, with just twenty five seconds on the clock. However by the time the mercurial Argentinian had slammed home a 210th goal in 221 appearances under Guardiola’s tutelage, and Pedro had added a third four minutes later, the game was well and truly up for the Basque side.

As a neutral it was hard not to feel sorry for Marcelo Bielsa’s men and their wonderful supporters, both of whom have lit up many a stadium this season with their exciting football and deafening noise, but who end the campaign as runners-up in two competitions and only tenth place in La Liga. Their failure to score in their last six games adds weight to the argument that they simply ran out of steam when it mattered most, although that statistic might well have been altered had referee Fernandez Borbalán seen a clear tug on Fernando Llorente’s shirt by Gerard Pique in the area just after Barcelona’s third.

As it was, the second half was a bit of a non event, although Ibai Gomez should really have given his side a glimmer of hope in the early stages when he chipped wide with only Pinto to beat. There was time for one final mesmerising run by Messi which ended with a good save by Iraizoz, whilst Auertenexte wasted Bilbao’s last chance for a consolation goal when he headed wide late on.

So what next for both sides? Whilst little is likely to change at the Camp Nou over the summer now that Guardiola’s successor has been decided, save for one or two additions to the squad, it seems likely to be a more uncertain and worrying time for Bilbao fans. Their inspirational coach has yet to commit to another season (although the sound of 25,000 Basque voices imploring him to do so after the final whistle must surely have been quite persuasive), and their best players will spend their holidays having large bundles of money waved in their direction from Europe’s biggest clubs.

It seems almost inevitable that one or two will be heading for pastures new, but I am sure that I am not alone in hoping that this does not happen. It is doubtful whether any side in the world could have coped with Barcelona last night, but if the likes of Muniain, De Marcos, Martinez and Llorente can be persuaded to stay put, there is surely a better than even chance that their time will come.

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