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Three players who inspired Barcelona to win La Liga

Barcelona (AFP) – Barcelona won their 25th La Liga title on Sunday with four games to spare. Here, AFP Sport looks at the three key players behind their latest league triumph:

Lionel Messi 

Of course, the Argentinian striker, top scorer in the league with 32 goals, led from the front and, at times, dragged his team to victories they did not deserve. Messi not only scores goals, his assists and build-up play are also crucial. The number 10 has often played through spells in matches like a central midfielder this season and he also scored the goal which all but settled the title race, his bending free-kick against Atletico Madrid in March securing a pivotal 1-0 win. “If we took Messi and put him in an Atletico shirt, we would have won this match 1-0,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.

Andres Iniesta 

Iniesta will bid farewell to Barcelona after 22 years with a La Liga-Copa del Rey double. He has been the brain of the team on the field and a figure of calm off it in a season when Ernesto Valverde managed the midfielder’s minutes carefully. “Iniesta has symbolised an era,” said Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu after Iniesta scored in the brilliant 5-0 victory over Sevilla in the final of the Copa del Rey. Iniesta was again the soul of the team this term. He will be sorely missed.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen 

Barcelona’s ascendancy this season has more often been based on resilience and defensive discipline than attacking gusto, and at the heart of their backline has been ter Stegen. Barca have conceded the second fewest goals in the league, second only to Atletico, and their German goalkeeper has managed 18 clean sheets in the 34 games that he has played in the league. Ter Stegen, who is also exceptional with the ball at his feet, has enjoyed a season to mark himself out as one of the finest goalkeepers in the world.

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