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By 1999, Manchester United raised the bar once more by adding the UEFA Champions League to win a historic treble.
Fast forward to 2017, where the ground and definition of success has been shattered. In a watershed moment for football, one year changed the text books and rewrote the speeches.
In 2009, Barcelona won the world.
Never before had a Spanish side won a treble, never mind a sextuple of honours. Yet, across the calendar year, the Catalonia giants rampaged across the globe to an unprecedented clean sweep of trophies.
History was made right across the season. In May, as Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0 in Rome, to become the first Spanish side to win a treble.
By August, the side would go on to become the first team in European footballing history to win both domestic and continental super cups as they clinched the Supercopa de España and the UEFA Super Cup.
As the year came to a close, Barcelona rounded off the year becoming the first ever football team to win a sextuple following a 2-1 extra time win against Argentinean side Estudiantes in the Club World Cup.
It was an impossible dream which quickly turned into the stuff of fantasy. A new playing field had been created and the individual act of winning trophies had become obsolete.
The thirst for silverware had become rudimentary against the goal for world dominance, creating a feat which has yet to be matched in European football.
The scales of 2009, even became a mountain in itself to Barcelona as they clinched the quintuple across 2011; only missing out on the Copa del Rey following a 1-0 extra time loss to El Classico rivals Real Madrid, and once more missing in 2015 with a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa preventing the full set.
Football successes across Europe were elevated in the aftermath of the sextuple success. In English football; with the addition of the Capital One Cup, clubs elevated their ambitions; which where traditionally rooted in Manchester United’s 1999 treble winning season, to nosebleed-inducing dreams of a quadruple.
Yet, from 2009 to 2017, holding two trophies simultaneously is the most any English side has managed to achieve calendar year.
Chelsea’s Champions League and FA Cup double triumph in 2012 was matched Manchester City’s League and League Cup triumphs in 2013/14, which Chelsea themselves emulated in 2014/15 before crashing out to PSG in the Champions League and slipping to Bradford City in the FA Cup.
Many of European’s giants have tossed their names into the ring but none have prevailed. Bayern Munich’s 2012/13 treble winning season fell away into Super Cup and Club World Cup successes, but Borussia Dortmund stung the Bavarians in the German Super Cup preserving Barcelona’s record.
Paris Saint Germain’s domestic dominance has been unparalleled across Europe; winning a triple treble in France as well as the Coupe des Champions, but have failed to achieve immortality with failure to progress in the Champions League passed the last quarter finals.
The standards set by the Catalans has replaced the traditional preseason buzz with an annual gauntlet by managers and players alike. In 2013, newly appointed United boss David Moyes claimed,
When you are at Manchester United my thinking is you have to go for everything, you attempt to win everything
Whilst currently boss José Mourhino laid down similar phrase on his unveiling – “I want everything”
The 2009 exploits even served up as inspiration for long-standing Classico rivals Real Madrid, as echoed in the words of Gareth Bale before the 2014 UEFA Super Cup:
We want to win everything, and we will try to do that this season
Most recently, David Luiz of Chelsea has spoken of world domination. The Premier League champions will be looking “To win all the competitions, so it’s my ambition too. We will try to win everything”.
What happens now? With the German, Italian, English and French teams all dogging themselves out domestically and across the continent, a dog fight for the top awaits.
Football is no longer a battle ground, but a never-ending war of escalation in the pursuit of record-breaking dominance.
Heading into 2017/18, the pressure is on for Europe’s giants. Luckily for us fans, all one can do is sit back and enjoy the show.