The 2017-18 La Liga title has been all but decided for weeks months now , but Barcelona made it official on Sunday: for the 25th time in club history (and the third time in four seasons), the Blaugrana are champions of Spain following their 4-2 win away to Deportivo La Coruña.
Lionel Messi scored a hat trick to put the exclamation point on what will surely be another La Liga player of the season award, bringing his league-leading goals tally to 32 (to go with a league-leading 12 assists) on the season (with four games still to play).
All Barca needed on Sunday was a draw to see themselves go nine points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who have just three games remaining and over whom they hold the first tiebreaker (head-to-head points won).
Ernesto Valverde’s unbeaten side wrapped up the title with four fixtures remaining after a hard-fought but ultimately comfortable 4-2 win away to Deportivo La Coruna as Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick after Philippe Coutinho had opened the scoring against a Galician side that came from 2-0 down in a desperate attempt to avoid the drop.
The vitcory sees Barca win two out of a possible three trophies this season, yet there is still disappointment among some supporters after their team’s Champions League collapse against Roma in the last eight.
And that frustration will be exacerbated if Barca’s fierce rivals Real Madrid, so poor in La Liga this term, make it past Bayern Munich on Tuesday and go on to claim the European Cup crown for a third successive season and a fourth time in the past five editions.
Barca’s European frailties, especially away from home, should not take away from ther sustained excellence this season. They could join an elite group of teams in Europe to go the entire league season unbeaten, they have scored 90 goals in 33 games and conceded just 21. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi is enjoying what some consider the most influential campaign of his career, his hat-trick on Sunday taking him to 32 goals in the competition.
After Barca’s recent 2-1 win at home to Valencia, which followed their Champions League exit against Roma, Luis Suarez said:
“It’s normal that the fans were angry. But their response was also a recognition to the league campaign we are realising, which has great merit.”
And he added: “Now it seems as if there’s no merit to winning La Liga.”
Part of that is down to a Madrid media machine keen to play down Barca’s achievements and if Real win the Champions League again at the end of next month, the Catalans’ domestic double will be belittled again by many.
But it should not be. Because for all the glamour and the glory of winning the European Cup, it is La Liga that shows which team is the best overall. And this season, once again, that has been Barcelona.