at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Madrid – Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova believes his first season in charge has been a success overall after Barca clinched their fourth title in five seasons.
The Catalans didn't even need to set foot on the pitch to seal the title on Saturday as Real Madrid's 1-1 draw with Espanyol meant Barca had already been crowned champions before their 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
And despite a 7-0 aggregate thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Vilanova insisted his side were somewhat unfortunate in Europe this season.
“It has been a good season. The shame has been that we couldn't compete better in the Champions League,” he told a press conference on Sunday.
“Next season it will be even more difficult because to be in the semi-finals seven years running is very complicated, but the evaluation of the season is good because in the league we have had a great season.
“In the Champions League we were not fortunate and the referees haven't helped us a lot.”
Vilanova missed three months of the campaign as he had to travel to New York for cancer treatment on a salivary gland and he admitted he wishes he could have been with the squad throughout the whole season.
“I would have liked to have been closer to the players to push them more, but this team doesn't stop motivating itself and we have to value this.
“We are the best team in the league by a distance and there is no doubt about that.”
One of the major reasons for Barca's stumble towards the end of the campaign, particularly in Europe, has been a hamstring injury to Lionel Messi and the Argentine's troubles continued on Sunday as he had to leave the field injured after Vilanova had made all his substitutions, leaving his side down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
“He has come off because of pain in the area that the problems have dragged on. He will have tests tomorrow.
“He had been training well and we thought he could play without any problems, but it was better not to force it because we didn't need to.”
Defender Dani Alves, meanwhile, echoed his manager's opinion about Barca's merits as champions.
“We are very happy, it has taken a long time but we have it. We need to celebrate it and give it the importance it deserves,” he said.
“We have won it four years in five, which is a good average. We have returned to the throne and we have to be happy.”
Alves even touched upon the possibility of Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho leaving at the end of the season, saying his absence would be felt.
“We will miss him. The league will miss him because he is a great competitor. I haven't fought with him, we are simply just two winners.
“He is one of the most ambitious coaches in the competition and he adds spice. You (the journalists) are going to miss him more than us.” – Sapa-AFP