TOKYO: European and Spanish champions Barcelona made it five out of six this year as they crushed South American title-holders Santos of Brazil 3-0 in the closing minutes of their FIFA Club World Cup final in Yokohama.
Lionel Messi (17 and 82 minutes), Xavi and Cesc Fabregas scored for Barcelona, also winners of the European and Spanish Supercups and who had crushed Al-ASadd of Qatar 4-0 in the semi-finals. Messi’s second goal was his 29th of the season in all competitions. He has scored in nine of the 11 finals Barcelona have reached since Pep Guardiola took over as coach in 2008.
Neymar, the Santos striker who is Brazil’s current top player, was anonymous. However he did collect third prize in the individual player awards. Xavi was runner-up to inevitable winner Messi.
Under Guardiola Barca have competed in 16 competitions, winning 13 of them. He said: “I’m delighted with the team’s performance and especially with the standard of our play in the first half. Winning the Champions League last May was no mean achievement and this is the perfect way to round the whole process off.
“We’ve got a core of very talented players and the secret of our success is simple. We study our opponents closely, use space well, keep control of the ball and move it around very quickly. My players are real competitors and I’m sure they’re going to want to keep on going and win more trophies.”
Santos coach Mauricy Ramalho, acknowledging Barcelona’s vast superiority, said: “I don’t think there’s any team out there today that can beat Barcelona, though maybe someone will find the secret in the future. They have changed the whole concept of attacking by playing without a genuine striker.”
Back in Spain Barcelona striker David Villa, who broke a leg against Al-Sadd, has sent a message to fans that he intends to regain fitness in time for the Champions League Final in Munich in May and for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Al-Sadd finished third, after beating Japan’s own Kashiwa Reysol 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw. The winning penalty was struck home by veteran Algerian fullback Nadir Belhadj.