LIONEL Messi and Luis Suarez inspired Barcelona to what will surely be the first part of a domestic double this season as they thrashed Sevilla 5-0 on Saturday to win the Copa del Rey.
Messi had scored once and Suarez twice before even the half-time whistle had blown at the Wanda Metropolitano, with the sublime Andres Iniesta and Philippe Coutinho later compounding Sevilla’s humiliation.
Barca’s exhilarating display earns them their 30th triumph in this competition and fourth in a row, having reached the final in each of the last five years.
But, despite hugs and high-fives at the end, the real celebrations will be put on ice until next Sunday, when victory over Deportivo La Coruna will confirm Ernesto Valverde’s side as La Liga champions too.
Even a clean sweep of the domestic trophies, perhaps polished by La Liga’s first ever unbeaten season, will not eradicate the lingering disappointment from Barca’s Champions League exit to Roma.
But this performance, as easy on the eye as it was emphatic, will certainly serve as a counter-point to those that believe Valverde’s team have been efficient, rather than exciting this season, and overly reliant on Messi.
The Argentinian was, of course, superb again on Saturday but this was not a one-man show.
Suarez scored his 31st and 32nd goals of the season while Iniesta delivered one of those effortless displays, in which at times he was virtually unplayable.
If this is to be the 33-year-old’s last Barca final before departing for China, it was a fitting farewell, with only goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen absent from the 10-man huddle that engulfed the Spaniard following his shimmying fourth.
By the time Coutinho converted his penalty in the 69th minute, Barca were simply sharing the goals around.
For Sevilla, defeat was always the most likely scenario but this was a whitewash.
Sitting eighth in La Liga, even Europa League qualification now looks an outside bet and there may be repercussions for coach Vincenzo Montella and some of his players in the summer.
They were second best from minute one, as Barca swarmed forward with barely a pause for breath in the opening quarter of an hour.
When the first goal arrived it came from a long Cillessen punt downfield as Coutinho found himself free behind the Sevilla backline and squared for Suarez to stab home.
Sevilla enjoyed perhaps their best period before the half-hour as three white shirts failed to connect with Jesus Navas’ cross and Franco Vazquez could have done better with a free header.
But Barca were in control. Iniesta hit the bar with a rasping shot from distance and soon they were two up, Jordi Alba keeping the ball alive with a backheel that Messi slammed into the roof of the net.
Messi could have had a second were it not for an incorrect offside call and then a cynical foul by Sergio Escudero, for which he was lucky only to receive a yellow card.
Both mattered little, however, as Messi set Suarez free in the 41st minute, and the Uruguayan slid a third under David Soria.
It was another one-two, with Messi again the pivot, that released Iniesta in the second half as the midfielder’s dummy-shot left Soria scrambling and an open net to finish for the midfielder to finish into.
Resigned to their fate, Sevilla’s fans sang to the end, even as Coutinho despatched a penalty to make it five after the ball had struck Clement Lenglet on the arm.
All that was left was for Iniesta’s substitution to be greeted by a standing ovation as the skipper ponders a predicted move to China at the end of the season.
Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season. The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.
There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.
No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08. Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.