‘At a club like Barcelona you know you’re obliged to win’
Vindication so sweet for Suarez as he savours sweet taste of Champions League glory
Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez and children pose with the trophy after the Champions League Final win over Juventus at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Photo: Oliver Lang/Getty
It was quarter to one in the morning and the first of the treble winners to leave was Ivan Rakitic, heading down the slope in the basement of the Olympic Stadium and towards the bus, leading his young daughter by the hand.
The rest came a little later. Lionel Messi carried his son Thiago; Dani Alves carried a ghetto blaster on full blast and Sergio Busquets and Xavi Hernandez carried the European Cup, one handle each.
This was Barcelona’s fifth European Cup, Xavi’s fourth, the 28th trophy of his senior career and his 25th with Barcelona. It was also his second treble in six years. The 900th game of his career had ended the same way that the 899th and 898th had: with him lifting a trophy.
A week ago it was the Copa del Rey; the week before that, La Liga; now this.
“To finish like this couldn’t be better,” he said.
Out on the pitch, he had raised the European Cup but then seemed keener to keep hold of the match ball, his companion over the past 16 years. Now, though, he carried the trophy out with Busquets. Maybe he was trying to cling on.
“I already feel a little nostalgic, knowing that I won’t ever play with this team again,” he said. “But I am happy the way my career has gone. This ending has been incredible.
“We suffered a lot because Juve pushed us back in the second half after the goal. Mentally, it was hard after their equaliser but then Messi appeared yet again, in another move where he tipped the balance. The team was sensational and Messi was brutal, again.”
Xavi also insisted that the Barcelona coach, Luis Enrique, was the right man to help the club extend that run, even though the coach once again refused to give assurances over his future.
When the president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, was asked if the coach would continue, he replied: “That’s a question for him.” That was true – but it was not a question Luis Enrique was prepared to answer.
Asked if he could confirm that he intends to be manager next season, Barcelona’s coach said: “There’s nothing to confirm, only the fact that we’ll have a big party.”
Xavi said: “Without doubt, he should continue. On a human level, and in terms of results, it’s obvious. He’s the best man for next year.
Andres Iniesta added: “I hope he is here next season – we will have new targets.”
Despite the uncertainty, Gerard Pique said: “I think he will stay.” Then he added: “Two trebles? The absolute business - and it doesn’t get any better than winning like that, after January when it looked like everything was falling apart, after five brutal months, beating some of the best teams in the world, the champions of England, the champions of Italy, France, Germany.
“The team suffered a lot. That was shown when it went to 1-1, we had 10-15 minutes when we were screwed: they attacked us a lot and defensively we had to struggle. But up front, with the talent those players have, you know that they will take their chances.
“We have to make the most of this and win as many trophies as possible, to leave this club at the highest possible level.”
Pique has now won three Champions Leagues, while Messi has four. Luis Suarez and Neymar had each clinched their first. For Suarez, this was especially significant. He scored the winning goal, taking his tournament tally to seven goals in 10 games, and winning a treble in his first season – as many trophies at club level in the past nine months as he had won in the previous nine years.
At 28, he had sought out success that was probably overdue; now he had it. A season that began with him serving a ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini, sent home from the World Cup, ended with him as a European champion, scorer of 25 goals, including in the El Clasico in the league and at the Parc des Princes, the Etihad and the final in Berlin.
“I came to Barcelona to win titles, to achieve important things and that is what we have done today. This was a step I wanted to take,” Suarez said. “Things happen in football and I try to turn them round. So much has happened to me.
“At the World Cup against England, for example, there were people who didn’t think I would make it to the game and I was able to score two goals. And then everything that happened afterwards ? I had the chance to show people what I am [really about tonight] after all the things that people had said.”
Suarez, who admitted that he has felt tired and under pressure in recent weeks, continued: “The first people I thought of were my wife and my two children. They have been through a lot with me; they have suffered with me. They know what I have suffered and sacrificed to get here.
“I’m grateful to Barcelona for trusting in me after everything that happened and to my team-mates who have been spectacular. They treated me like one of the team from the day I arrived and I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
“I had scored in Paris, against City, against Real Madrid, and some people would say: ‘it’s done’. Quite the opposite. I always want more – and with the quality this team has I think we can win more. At a club like Barcelona you know you’re obliged to win. Now we just have to try to enjoy this.”
Pique appeared soon after, the last player to leave and board the bus. In the dressing room he had drawn on a gigantic cigar. “What next?” he was asked. “Enjoy it,” he said.
“I’m going to get drunk.”