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UEFA Women's Champions League

Now it's official: Champions League winners Barcelona have been Europe's best side all season

5:16 PM EDT 5/16/21
Barcelona Chelsea Champions League GFX
After being on the wrong end of a huge defeat two years ago, the Blaugrana put on a masterclass against Chelsea on Sunday to be crowned champions

Match statistics: Chelsea 0-4 Barcelona

The best team in Europe.

Barcelona may well have been unofficially as much this season, without a single point dropped in the league, averaging just short of five goals per game, and playing football that can only be compared to the stuff their men’s team played under Pep Guardiola, as tiresome as such comparisons can be.

On Sunday, they were officially crowned as much, ruthlessly beating Chelsea 4-0 in the Women’s Champions League final.

It was an absolute masterclass of a performance that will go down as one of the greatest to be played on the biggest stage.

A freak own goal gave them the lead inside a minute, but what followed was by no means out of the ordinary – for Barcelona, anyway.

The way they pressed, the way they dominated, the incisiveness they showed in the final third, the fluidity of the movement off the ball; it is what has helped them wrap up the Primera Division title with eight games to go.

Such chemistry does not come overnight. This was the product of a team being carefully put together over the last decade, players hand-picked to suit the Barcelona style from other teams or progressing through the club’s famed academy set-up themselves.They have also been trusted and backed by the club to reach this point.

“It's patience and it's project, I would say,” Maria Teixidor, head of women’s football from 2015 to 2020 and one of the most influential figures in Barcelona’s rise, told Goal this week.

“It's conscious decisions about making signings that will not last one year. In the old days, you had these contracts that were renewed year by year. We changed that, signing longer contracts.

“If I'm signing you for two, three years and then an additional fourth if things go well, what you are really saying to the players is, 'I am building something serious and you're in. You're not backed for this year. You're backed for a longer period and you have to be an important piece in this project’.”

When this team lost in the final to Lyon two years ago, 3-0 down inside 20 minutes, just as Chelsea were this year, it somewhat overshadowed all that good work both on and off the pitch.

Perhaps they had got there prematurely, but it was not undeserved. They were making the right strides, taking the right steps.

Sunday’s team was virtually the same, with only a few minor tweaks. The good work has only continued, the team has only got better, more experienced, and learned from that night in Budapest.

What was particularly impressive about the way they got their hands on the biggest trophy of all, though, was that, as effortless as they made it look, it was not going to be easy.

First and foremost, Chelsea are a very, very good side. The result might not have shown that, but this is a incredible team with a fantastic squad of top quality players.

With a suspension for Andrea Pereira, and no natural centre-back with big experience in waiting, Patri Guijarro dropped from midfield into defence for Barca.

Given the frightening rate at which Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby have been linking up all season, it could have ve been a weak point for Chelsea to exploit. The Blues did have some chances, but Barcelona's dominance afforded them few.

Alexia Putellas, one of the best players in the world and regularly Barca captain, trained alone on Saturday too, with heavy strapping on that left leg that could be mistaken for a magic wand.

Yet, if there were doubts as to whether she was fit enough to start when her name appeared in the line-up, it never showed in her performance.

But this was not going to be a game won by one player’s individual brilliance, so it would not be a game lost because of one individual aspect like that, either, particularly with both sides built on strong team ethos.

Nonetheless, the individual stories behind each player that walked up and collected their winners’ medals in Sweden on Sunday evening made this even more special.

Melanie Serrano has been at Barcelona since 2007, and no one embodies the club like her.

Vicky Losada had been back and forth between the team of her heart and professional opportunities for many years, before finally being able to play full-time for the Catalans.

Caroline Graham Hansen has two runners-up medals in this competition, with two different clubs.

It was the stuff of nightmares for Chelsea, but for Barcelona and every player that represents their club, this has been a dream for many, many years.

For a club that prides themselves on the beauty of football, it was a dream achieved in the most perfect way imaginable.