The ‘proper’ treble used to be about as likely as Djimi Traore’s rare, yet majestic 30 yard screamer in 2013 ever being repeated.
Today’s Champions League Final between Juventus and Catalan Giants Barcelona should be a situation you only find in Turkey thanks to an average days match fixing, two teams both on the verge of a ‘historic’ treble, duking it out to add another chapter to their already rich history books. I want to be super excited for the final and I am, but not as much as I should be. This should be a historic event that I am lucky enough to be alive for; however in my eyes the treble has been somewhat de-valued in recent years.
Before the turn of the Millennium, only 3 teams had won the ‘proper treble’ (Domestic League, Major Domestic Cup and European Cup/Champions League), Celtic in 1967, Ajax in 1972, PSV in 1988 and Manchester United in 1999. 4 winners of the proper treble in 32 years averaging at 1 treble every 8 years seems reasonable and made it rare enough to keep in a truly envious feat for other players and clubs to have missed out on, members of those 4 squads will always be true club legends. Since 2009 3 teams have won the treble which to me shows a sport in which certain off the field factors have made it so much easier for the bigger, richer teams to truly dominate domestically, and buy themselves a chance at the Champions League.
Whoever wins on Saturday will become the 4th team in 7 seasons to win the treble after Barcelona (2009), Inter Milan (2010) and Bayern Munich (2013) and as much of an achievement as it is for whichever side does manage it I can’t help but think that it will not feel quite as good knowing that nowadays club teams win the treble far more frequently than the World Cup comes around, the days of 1 treble per decade are long gone. These fantastic squads of our generation will never shine quite as bright as the squads that managed the treble in an era of football so much less reliant on money which is a shame given the heights players like Messi and Ronaldo are taking the game to.
A team like Barcelona, full of homegrown talent in 2009 and still a blueprint for teams wishing to have great success using academy players today are at least close to treble winners of the past thanks to their use of homegrown players; however if a team like Real Madrid or Chelsea ever won it, it would be difficult to put them on the same perch as some past winners.
Given the free spending power of teams these days, I feel a Manchester United 2000’s Premiership-esque dominance of the Champions League would be far more impressive than the treble these days, or even just winning it back to back. Unfortunately in a number of Europe’s major leagues, dominance with no major competition is part and parcel of the game with many teams in Italy, France and other places playing for 2nd and a Champions League spot as opposed to really competing with the singular big, rich gun from their respective leagues. However winning back to back Champions League titles would prove that team had not just spent lavish amounts of money cherry-picking the best talent from the season before to dominate domestically, but had managed them to perfection and made a completely cohesive team with a lasting drive to win.
You can fairly easily dominate most European league’s with enough money, as PSG have proved and to be honest many teams are just a good manager a few signings and a bit of stability away from it, as Juventus have proved in Serie A. Dominating the Champions League on the other hand requires you to beat these domestic dominators with just as much money as you. A team who could dominate Europe would have to be close to the perfect team, something not even Guardiola’s Barcelona could quite manage and would go down in history far more than the teams winning the treble nowadays.
Getting the little things, which are often the most difficult things right over a long period of time will be key to any team ever achieving true European dominance, and is surely the next barrier truly great teams need to break.