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May 27, 2009

Guardiola: Barca are the "best team in the world"

Triumphant Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was in the mood to celebrate after his team completed a unique treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League with victory over Manchester United.

Guardiola, who becomes the first man to win the competition in its current format as a player and a manager with the same club, said: "I am very happy, very excited. We have done something magnificent.

"We attacked, we defended and we won. We are are the best team in the world. We wanted to say we played and were not cowards and the players have done a great job.''

The Barcelona boss also insisted Lionel Messi had proved he was the best footballer in the world for a goal-scoring performance which eclipsed Cristiano Ronaldo.

Guardiola said: "Even if we had lost it wouldn't have changed my opinion. I think he is the best player and he should add his name to the gold ball (world player of the year). We didn't need to win to know he is the best.

"Messi has a talent and he will never hide. When the going gets tough he really starts moving.''

Guardiola also explained why he withdrew Messi from a forward position into midfield, a tactic which wrested control of the match.

"We didn't expect Manchester United to press so high," said Guardiola. ''We had problems with our build-up and I saw Messi had problems and that's why I put him in midfield.

"They tried to keep the ball with Vidic and Ferdinand and Michael Carrick but we controlled things very well. The most important thing was that when we attacked our defence paid attention to Ronaldo, Rooney and Berbatov in the second half.''

Guardiola dedicated the win to his big pal, AC Milan's recently retired Paolo Maldini, saying: "He's the best European player of the last 20 years, at least in defence.''

Thierry Henry could not hide his delight after finally getting his hands on the Champions League trophy.

"I've been waiting so long to get this title and finally today," Henry told ITV. "The last five minutes were the longest of my life. You never know what can happen - we were playing against best team in the world.

"It's amazing. All year we played the same way, we wanted to play football. I don't think we started well. We had to play better, then we passed the ball the way we can.

"You always remember winners, that's the difference. You can play good football, pass the ball well but unless you win silverware sometimes it doesn't count.''

The win was Barcelona's third in Europe's premier club competition following their earlier successes in 1992 and 2006.

"I struggle to describe what we have achieved this year. No team has ever done this treble in Spain. It is something amazing,'' he said.

"Apart from the way we play it is also down to the way we fought all season. Look at tonight - in the first 10 minutes we were kind of lucky and playing against a United side who are difficult to beat. But we fight and we never give up.''

"It's my daughter's birthday today so it's a double celebration."

Barcelona goalscorer Samuel Eto'o paid tribute to his team-mates after the game. "I think the credit must go to the good play of the team,'' he said. "I think the victory is much more important than the goal.''

Barca captain Carles Puyol, whose side had gone two years without a trophy prior to this season, added on Canal Plus: "In the first 10 minutes, until the goal, they (United) dominated. With the goal we were able to take control of the match. We were able to play with more calm and were able to play our game.

"We have given everything to win. We've won everything that we could win this year. We've tried to win everything and for this it has been an historic season.

"I want to thank the fans and hope they enjoy the moment. The last few years haven't been great. They have fought and suffered the same as we have,'' the Spain international said.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said it was special to win the Champions League with the club he had supported as a boy - but expressed his sympathy for his former Manchester United team mates.

Having not featured in United's success over Chelsea in last year's final in Moscow, tonight's victory capped a remarkable turn around for the young defender who is now part of a treble-winning side.

"It was special because we played really well, we deserved to win and Barcelona was always my club since I was a young lad'' Pique told Sky Sports 1. "I am sorry for them because they are very good friends of mine and to see them lose the game is not good - but I am happy for me.

"Since I arrived here I knew it was the right decision. When I arrived it was a great team, we started to play well and now we have won the cup, we have won the league, and now the champions league - it is a dream season.''

Midfielder Andres Iniesta, whose 93rd-minute strike against Chelsea in the second leg of the semi-final sent Barca to go through to the final on the away goals rule, said: "We are speechless, it is the perfect finish to a spectacular season.

"Manchester United came out better, in the first minutes they came out as we expected they would, but we were able to play our game after that,'' he told Canal Plus.

"I hope that fans have enjoyed it.''

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