The Hard Tackle provides a throwback to five of the top highlights for Barcelona in 2016 and the year that was
It was a year of remarkable highs and disappointing lows for Barcelona, as the Blaugrana set records, won titles and saw some hopes dashed in what were eventful twelve months for Luis Enrique and his charges.
Here’s a look at five of the best moments in 2016 for Barcelona and their fans.
The Unbeaten Run That Captured The Imagination
It was a run that started in the final quarter of 2015, yet stretched well into the new year when Barcelona finally lost to fierce rivals Real Madrid in the El Clasico on April 2. That defeat would have been hard to take for the Blaugrana, but they had achieved something unprecedented in the modern era.
Sure, they couldn’t break the all-time record of a side in the Top 5 European leagues, with three teams having a better unbeaten run than Barcelona. Brian Clough’s great Nottingham Forest side went one better than Luis Enrique’s side, with 40 matches without a loss in 1978.
Fabio Capello led AC Milan to their greatest ever run in 1992/93 as they went 42 unbeaten. And the title of the greatest unbeaten streak ever belongs to Antonio Conte’s Juventus, who didn’t lose a single game in 43 in 2011/12.
However, what sets Barcelona’s efforts apart from that of the Bianconeri’s is that the Catalan outfit went about their run while they were competing in Europe, whereas Juve only competed in the Serie A and Coppa Italia during their record-breaking streak.
A run that started after defeat to Sevilla on 3rd October and ended on 2nd April. A run that took far less time than any other side took to complete their runs. This was a run that well and truly captured the imagination of fans, skeptics and neutrals alike.
Yet Another La Liga Triumph: Closer Than It Looked
14th May, 2016. It’s the last day of the league campaign and Barcelona lead Real Madrid by a point in the La Liga table, and Luis Enrique’s side just need to better Los Blancos’ result at Deportivo La Coruna to clinch the title.
And, in one of their most efficient displays they got over Granada 3-0, thanks to a clinical hat trick from their top scorer Luis Suarez. It was a result that made it 12 wins in a row for the Blaugrana and made Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over Deportivo irrelevant.
A thumping 4-0 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in November had many thinking that a league triumph for Barcelona will be relatively straightforward. However, the league win didn’t come easy.
That is because just when it looked like they were cruising towards the title there was threat of them losing initiative, as they lost 2-1 to Zinedine Zidane’s resurgent Madrid side at Camp Nou in a run that saw them being on the wrong side of the result thrice.
And, it took a 12-match winning run at the fag end of the season to ensure that they didn’t concede defeat to Real Madrid and won their 23rd league title. It was a league win that showed grit and determination, and a league win that showed their desire to triumph, even when things threatened to go against them, which makes it all the more special for the Barcelona faithful.
Extending The Copa Del Rey Record
Talking of grit and determination, that was exactly what was needed when Barcelona faced off against Sevilla, as they needed more than 120 minutes to get past Unai Emery’s tenacious Sevilla side and eventually beat them 2-0 at the Vicente Calderon and clinch their 28th Copa Del Rey crown.
Enrique’s side were up against it, as Javier Mascherano was sent off midway through the first half. And surely enough, Sevilla did make that numerical advantage count as they dominated the majority of the first ninety minutes of what was a gripping encounter, despite its lack of goals.
However, just as the regulation time was about to end Sevilla lost their advantage, and with it the momentum they had built up until then, as Ever Banega was sent off in injury time. Barcelona, who had withstood the Sevilla charge up until then broke free in extra time, and finally scored that elusive first goal.
Jordi Alba hit a perfectly executed low shot from Lionel Messi’s exquisite pass to break the deadlock and get his side a step closer to King’s Cup glory. In the dying moments, Sevilla gave the numerical advantage to Barcelona as Daniel Carrico was sent on his way.
Neymar rounded off an excellent win for the Blaugrana by slotting home from yet another beauty of a Lionel Messi pass to bring home the Copa Del Rey trophy and an eighth double for Barcelona, that reaffirmed their supremacy in Spanish football.
Luis Suarez’s Golden Year
2016 was also the year when Luis Suarez well and truly established himself as the spearhead of the Barcelona attack. Scoring goals by the truckload, he was ably supported by Neymar and Lionel Messi as he scored 40 goals in La Liga to clinch the Pichichi award.
Suarez’s heroics through the season also meant that he finally broke the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly on top of the Spanish goalscoring charts and became the first man other than the two to win the crown since Diego Forlan did it in 2009.
Cristiano Ronaldo ended up a close second with 35 goals, while Messi was a distant third with 26. Suarez sealed the Pichichi glory in some style, as he grabbed a classy hat trick in Barcelona’s final league game against Granada to go five clear of the Portuguese superstar.
And, his golden year continued as Suarez collected the European Golden Boot for being the leading goalscorer in domestic European football, beating Gonzalo Higuain to the prestigious award by four goals. To make it even more special for him, Suarez received the trophy from none other than his own two children, Benjamin and Delfina. Truly, a year to remember for the Uruguayan.
Messi Back To His Goalscoring Best
While Messi conceded defeat to Suarez in the run to win the Pichichi award and the European Golden Boot, and lost the coveted Ballon d’Or to his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, he didn’t fail to seize the initiative when it came to leaping to the top of the goalscoring charts for the calendar year.
Right from the onset of 2016, Messi was back to being his prolific best, as he led Barcelona’s charge to win the double, and then continued his form for his country as he led Argentina to the Copa America Centenario final by scoring a barrage of goals through the progression.
He then started the current season, right where he left off in 2015/16, scoring 25 goals to take his tally for the year to 51, one ahead of former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This has seen him lead the race to win the Pichichi award, as well as the Champions League top scorer.
Just when skeptics started claiming that Messi’s powers were on the wane, the diminutive Argentinian wizard has stepped up to lead the charge for his club once again. And Barcelona fans would be hoping for more of the same from his as 2017 begins.