In the end there was something for Camp Nou to sing about, with four goals in under 30 minutes helping Barcelona surge past Eibar, but much of this game left the world in no doubt over who deserved the Spanish league title this season.
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were guilty of some huge misses, Takashi Inui struck two nearly identical goals and Real Madrid’s La Liga winning party celebrations began in earnest just a few minutes after these games began.
Cristiano Ronaldo sent Madrid ahead inside two minutes and when Sergi Roberto let Inui roam into the box unchallenged in the seventh minute to blast home, the title race itself was settled. But there were other issues to resolve.
A huge tribute banner to Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was revealed in one stand, declaring him ‘one of our own, forever’, with this the Asturian’s final league game in charge of the club, with Ernesto Valverde set to replace him next season.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu announced after the game that the name of the new coach will be revealed on Monday May 29, after the Copa del Rey final.
Even with a victory over Alaves in the Vicente Calderon, it will still feel like Lucho departs on a flat note, but his record has been extremely good. Barcelona have won eight out of the 11 trophies he has competed for and are looking to make it nine from 12 on Saturday.
‘La Liga rewards consistency, which we did not have at home at times, especially early on in the season, and we paid for it,’ said Luis Enrique after the game, speaking from his seat in the Camp Nou press room for a final time.
“I think the team has done a lot of good throughout the season but unfortunately the line between defeat and victory is very marginal. I wish we could keep winning title after title but now we have rivals who want the same things and have reached our level.”
Having won the treble in 2014-15, Luis Enrique will be remembered fondly, but he added:
“I don’t care about [a legacy], I will simply keep the affection that I have received from the players, the club and the fans close to me.”
Asked about how his team is better than when he took over, Luis Enrique replied:
“Over the course of the three years we have tried to evolve by bringing these players on and continuing to play our football.”
Barca will be heavy favourites to lift the Copa del Rey against an Alaves side that finished ninth in La Liga. But Luis Enrique believes the difficulty they had in seeing off Eibar should be a lesson to avoid complacency.
“We should not forget that Eibar has made things very complicated,” he said. “So Alaves can also do it.”