Barcelona won their 25th La Liga title with four games to spare and they won it fittingly with Lionel Messi scoring a hat-trick and Luis Suarez setting-up each of his three goals.
Messi’s hat-trick put him one ahead of Mohamed Salah in the race for the Golden Shoe and with 32 goals this season he becomes the first player in La Liga history to score 30 or more in seven seasons.
He has been the difference once again. Maintaining an extraordinary level week after week as Real Madrid threw away points and Atletico Madrid struggled to keep pace.
Things looked bleak for Barcelona back last August when, with new coach Ernesto Valverde still finding his feet, they were thrashed 5-1 on aggregate by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup. Neymar had left them and it seemed a difficult season loomed.
But Valverde prioritised the league with minimal rotations. They paid for that in the Champions League running out of gas in Rome. But it meant they dominated La Liga with Marc Andre ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Messi and Suarez all consistently outstanding.
The two players who were signed to replace Neymar have had a limited effect. Ousmane Dembele through injury and difficulties in adaptation. And Philippe Coutinho because he did not arrive until January. But both are into their stride and they combined for the first goal.
Dembele rolled the pass to Coutinho inside the area and he found the top corner with a first time curling shot.
It was Coutinho showing just how he can replace Andres Iniesta next season and it was Dembele reminding the club of his existence. If Antoine Griezmann arrives in the summer he will have another obstacle to the first team but he had helped unlock the Deportivo defence with his sixth assist of the season.
The home side were not offering much resistance, relegated before the game kicked-off save a miraculous end to their season. They have improved under Clarence Seedorf but bad luck has never been too far away and they were cursing it again on 18 minutes when Lucas Perez scored from the rebound after Raul Albentosa’s header was saved by Ter Stegen. Both players were offside as the cross came in and the goal was ruled out.
Iniesta had enjoyed the Barcelona goal from the bench sheltered from the rain. He as among the substitutes saving himself for next weekend when Real Madrid visit the Camp Nou.
Ruben Martinez saved well from Messi’s free-kick. Fabian Schar then headed over from close range when he should have forced a save from Ter Stegen.
Messi scored the second on 38 minutes from Luis Suarez’ pass. The goal looked easy but it was anything but. Suarez spooned a perfect cross up over the Deportivo defence and on to Messi’s foot. Arriving at the back post he side-foot volleyed it past Martinez at his near post.
It was his 30th goal of the season and made it seven of the last nine seasons in which he has scored 30 or more goals in the domestic competition.
Perez halved the deficit five minutes before the break and Emre Colak equalised on 63 minutes, converting Celso Borges’ pass. Sensing the league was won, Barcelona had slowed and Deportivo had taken full advantage.
Iniesta was now warming up and when Dembele put a cross straight out of play with Suarez waiting for the centre, Valverde made the change but it was Denis Suarez who came on, with Dembele making way.
Paulinho then replaced Coutinho and Iniesta took his seat again. Barca were wearing Roma colours and playing as they did in the last 20 minutes in the Stadio Olimpico. But Messi lifted them again.
First he played a one-two with Suarez before finishing past Martinez on 82 minutes. Three minutes later from another Suarez pass he completed his hat-trick.
There was still time for Iniesta to come on and receive an ovation from the supporters of relegated Deportivo as if he was running on with a blue and white shirt.
But it was Messi’s night. It has been Messi’s season. Barcelona are Spanish Champions for the 25th time in their history and if they see off Real Madrid next week they will be three games from finishing the season unbeaten.