Real Madrid claimed their first Spanish title in four years, ending the reign of Barcelona, as they beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0 on Wednesday for their 32nd league crown.
“It’s been a long hard season but we’ve finally done it and I just hope it’s the first of many with this young squad,” said captain Iker Casillas.
Gonzalo Higuain, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goals to give Jose Mourinho a record-breaking four titles in four different countries and the victory required with two games remaining. Mourinho’s first Spanish league title ended Barca’s run of three successive league titles in his second season at the club.
“We’re very happy,” said Sergio Ramos, who last Wednesday had experienced vastly different emotions when he missed a penalty in the Champions League semi-final shootout defeat by Bayern Munich. “It’s been a tough league and Barca were an extraordinary rival, we’ll enjoy it now and celebrate it with our fans.”
Mourinho again refused to face the Spanish press after the game but spoke to Real Madrid TV.
“It’s been a great title for us, no-one has given us anything all season, we’ve fought from start to finish, the players have been fantastic and deserve it,” said the 49-year-old. “I’ve won titles before in Portugal, Italy and England but this has been the most difficult of all. I think even Barca, after they’ve won three titles in a row, know that we deserve this one.”
La Liga was the toughest: Mournho
Mourinho believed that winning La Liga was the toughest of the seven league titles he has sealed in coaching stints in his native Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.
“It was the most difficult. Up until the final moment nobody gifted us anything. Bilbao put out their best team, the stadium was full and the team wanted to win and fight, which is the way it should be.”
Getting the better of Barca, where he was an assistant under Bobby Robson in the late 1990s, will be a particular source of satisfaction for Mourinho, who has made a habit of needling his former employers during his two years in the Spanish capital.
He could not help taking a dig at the Catalans, suggesting one of the penalty’s they had been awarded in their 4-1 home win over Malaga earlier on Wednesday was ‘soft’.
“Barca won a lot of games and tried to push the league as far as possible. I think that they themselves, champions and a club with a great tradition, know that we deserve this league title.”
Messi hat-trick in vain
Earlier, Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick that saw him break Gerd Mueller’s record for goals in a single European season and inspired Barcelona to a 4-1 win over Malaga.
Messi’s tally of 68 is one better than that mustered by Mueller while playing for Bayern Munich in the 1972-73 season but his joy was short-lived after Real sealed the title later on that evening.
“It has been a long hard season but we have finally done it and I just hope this title is the first of many titles we win with this young but talented squad.”
“We’re very happy. It’s been a tough league and Barcelona were an extraordinary rival, we’ll enjoy it now and celebrate it with our fans.”
“It’s been a great title for us, no-one has given us anything all season, we’ve fought from start to finish, the players have been fantastic and deserve it.”
“It’s great. It’s my first league here in Spain and I’m very happy. It’s mission accomplished and to win the league is great. It gives you a lot of joy.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2012.