Barcelona provided Pep Guardiola with the perfect sendoff by routing Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the Copa del Rey final on Friday night, the club’s 14th trophy in four seasons under its most successful coach.
Pedro Rodriguez scored in the third and 25th minutes, and Lionel Messi ended his record-setting season with his 73rd goal in the 20th minute.
Barcelona were terrific in the first half highlighting all the style of player that marked Guardiola’s four seasons in charge; quick-touching passing, intricate combinations and clinical finishing.
Barcelona’s record 26th domestic cup gave the bittersweet season some shine as its fourth title of the season made up some for its failure to repeat as Champions League and Spanish league winners.
“We had a very good year, we won four titles and winning this cup gives them better value,” Guardiola said. “I’m happy to close out the season this way.”
Barcelona won the FIFA Club World Cup, European Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup this season to make it 14 of a possible 19 titles for the 41-year-old Guardiola, who decided to leave and will be replaced by assistant Tito Vilanova.
“I feel like I left some good things behind for the club and that others will continue the good work,” Guardiola said. “Now I will rest and try in the future a new challenge.”
Messi broke the previous European club record of 67 goals set by Bayern Munich’s Gerd Mueller in 1972-73 and the prior world club mark of 70 established by Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in the American Soccer League in 1924-25. Messi had a record 50 Spanish league goals, a European Cup-record-tying 14 in the Champions League, three each in the Copa del Rey and and the Spanish Super Cup, two in the Club World Cup and one in the European Super Cup.
“He’s a more competitive player now than when I arrived. In finals, he’s always a determining factor,” Guardiola said of the 24-year-old. “It’s been a privilege to have coached the best player that I’ve ever seen or will ever see.”
Guardiola’s defense coped without injured trio Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves, while Pedro got the nod in attack over Cesc Fabregas.
Athletic’s chase for its first silverware since 1984 again faltered as the young Basque team showed little improvement from its 3-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final on May 9, leaving its first season under coach Marcelo Bielsa without reward.