Barcelona players should not be too disheartened about missing out on the Champions League final as Spain’s domination of European club football shows the highly-competitive level of the Spanish game, Barcelona striker Neymar said.
Sevilla rammed home Spain’s stranglehold in Europe on Wednesday when they won the Europa League for the third time in a row, with a 3-1 victory over Liverpool. Meanwhile, two Madrid teams — Real and Atletico — are set to contest the Champions League final in Milan on May 28.
“The presence of two Spanish teams in that game illustrates just how well Barcelona have done to win La Liga. I congratulate the two teams that have reached the final,” Neymar said.
“This is proof that the Spanish league is very difficult. We have to give more value to this league title that we have achieved,” the Brazilian told Globoesporte.com ahead of Barcelona’s King’s Cup final with Sevilla this weekend.
Barcelona, with other stars such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, carried off the Champions League trophy last year for the fifth time, but were eliminated from the competition in the quarter-finals by Atletico. Real Madrid won it the year before.
Neymar said Barcelona were initially disappointed at being knocked out of Europe this year, but he said that result helped them to “dig deep” to reverse a loss of form and eventually win La Liga.
Barca held a nine-point advantage over Atletico in April before suffering a drop in form which saw their lead cut to one point heading into the final weekend of the competition.
A 3-0 win at Granada on Saturday allowed Barca to finish one point clear of Real Madrid, bringing them their sixth league title in the last eight seasons.
“I’m proud of the league we have had, not just for my performances but from the whole team,” he said.
“I have to congratulate my team mates for the hard work. We’ve had to sweat a lot to achieve this title, which was a difficult one. But in the end, we had our reward.”
Neymar concedes he could have done more.
While he has 30 goals in all competitions, that number is eight fewer than last season when Barca won a La Liga, King’s Cup and Champions League treble.
“This has not been my best season,” he admitted. “I always like to surpass my stats, my numbers. I always want to be better every day.
“It is painful not to be in the Champions League final, more so knowing we could have gotten there,” Neymar said. “These are things that happen and we have to accept them. Next season we will return to fight for it.”
Victory in the King’s Cup final will raise spirits.
“We are all highly motivated,” Neymar said.
“We always want to win titles and now we are in a new final. We have already won one title and this week, we have the opportunity to achieve a second title.”