MADRID - The 2008/09 season will live long in the memories of Barcelona fans as Pep Guardiola guided the club to a unique league, Kings Cup and Champions League treble in his debut season.
Barcelona had gone two years without a trophy but swept all before them to seal a historic treble that no Spanish team, not even the great Real Madrid, had previously managed.
With Spain's Euro 2008 heroes Xavi and Andres Iniesta feeding the striking trio of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry, Barcelona destroyed teams at home and abroad with a scintillating brand of football that harped back to Johan Cruyff's "Dream team".
Every Barca side since has been measured against Cruyff's great side, captained by Guardiola, that won four successive league titles between 1991 and 1994 along with the 1992 European Cup.
However, Guardiola wrote his own history by guiding Barcelona to the treble, leaving Real Madrid and Manchester United in their wake.
"We have demonstrated that we are the best," said Messi. "I'm also happy because everyone seems to enjoy our football, whether or not they are Barca fans.
"All over the world, I've heard people saying that they have been enchanted by us. This type of football deserves to be rewarded with titles. "I think it will be very difficult for something like this (the treble) to be repeated."
Real Madrid were humilated 6-2 by Barcelona at their Santiago Bernabeu and the result summed up a nightmare season.
Starting off as double champions Real had high hopes of a third successive title and having an impact on Europe but from the get-go they were clinging to Barcelona's coat-tails.
Bernd Schuster, moaning about referees and injuries, was axed in December and Juande Ramos came in with the task of reeling in the leaders.
Ramos helped claw Real back into the title race but when it mattered most his team were outplayed with Barca running rings around them in that 6-2 win and they were hopelessly outclassed by Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League, losing 5-0 on aggregate.
With Barcelona playing sensational freeflowing football, Real's jeering fans wanted the same but instead they got a pragmatic approach.
Even Real's players didn't like what was on show with French winger Julien Faubert, on loan from West Ham, pictured sleeping on the Real substitutes bench in their 3-2 defeat by Villarreal.
From an early stage it was clear that it would be a two-horse race with the other big sides competing for the Champions League.
Sevilla's approach, specialising in 1-0 wins, won points if few plaudits for coach Manolo Jimenez who guided the club into the top four and secured Champions League qualification to earn a new contract extension.
Atletico Madrid had another inconsistent season with their defence a shambles but their prolific forward line of Sergio "Kun" Aguero and Diego Forlan bailed them out, firing the club into fourth and a second successive season in the Champions League.
Forlan took the "pichichi" crown for the league's top-scorer with 32 goals after netting in the final eight games of the season.
Valencia and Villarreal both had chances to make fourth their own but paid the price for poor run-ins and had to settle for a place in the Europa League, the re-branded UEFA Cup.
Valencia must now try to persuade Spanish stars David Silva and David Silva, both bound by long contracts, to stay at the club and forego another season in the Champions League.
Villarreal just want to hang onto their highly-rated coach Manuel Pellegrini who has been touted for the Real Madrid job.
At the bottom of the table, Espanyol produced a minor miracle to stay up winning eight of their final ten games to climb off the foot of the table and survive when everyone had written them off.
Numancia and Recreativo Huelva were relegated from the top-flight along with Real Betis who dropped into the second division on the final day of the season as Osasuna and Sporting Gijon both won to save their skins.