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By ESPN Staff

Madrid players hail "deserving champions" Barcelona

Real Madrid were quick to congratulate Barcelona on their title success after the two-time reigning champions finally ran of steam in their bid to stop their arch rivals taking their crown.

Trailing by eight points with just three games to go, Madrid needed to beat Villarreal to keep the title race alive, and even then Barca would only have needed a point from their match with Real Mallorca to take the championship.

As it was, Madrid failed in their task as they slumped to a 3-2 defeat at Villarreal, suffering their third successive defeat having previously taken 52 points from a possible 54 during a remarkable run that helped them get within touching distance of Barca.

Madrid coach Juande Ramos said: "You have to congratulate Barcelona. The league is the fairest competition and I think Barca are deserving champions."

Defender Fabio Cannavaro also paid tribute to Pep Guardiola's side, although he pointed out that Barca did not have the injury problems Madrid have had this season.

"Barca have had a great season, they've always been good, they haven't had injuries and they are just winners," he said.

"It's much easier to win when a coach has his whole squad fit and available."

Madrid president Vicente Boluda added: "They have been just winners. It's not in vain what we've done in the last two years, but it was not to be this time."

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