In spite of a trophy cabinet that is in risk of needing reinforcement, FC Barcelona will have no shortage of motivation as they look to be crowned European champions for the fourth time.
Both Carles Puyol and Victor Valdés lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2006 and again in 2009, yet there is no danger of a squad already weighed down with winners' medals taking anything for granted ahead of another final meeting against Manchester United FC. "We have to enjoy this game," Puyol said. "It's been hard getting here and I don't know if it will be the last one of our generation so of course we have to go for it and see how it goes."
Just as important to Barcelona, however, is their style of play, something Puyol and Valdés – both schooled at the famous La Masía farmhouse – know only too well, although the goalkeeper pragmatically insists the result must come first. "We're going to try to enjoy ourselves and to win," Valdés said. "If possible, we will do it in the style our supporters like but you have to win these matches in whichever way you can. The important thing is to lift the trophy."
The pair are the only players to have started for Barcelona in both the 2006 victory in Paris and the Rome success against United three years later. Recalling those two final victories – both against English opposition – Valdés said: "Paris was different, it was new for many of us. It was different in Rome because then we had had the experience of Paris. We are here to live every second to the full and try to win it of course."
While Valdés won the Ricardo Zamora trophy, awarded to the Liga goalkeeper with the lowest goals-to-game ratio, for the third season running, Puyol has endured an injury-plagued campaign and last played on 3 May, although he insists his knee and hamstring problems will not be an issue at Wembley. "I feel great, I'm ready and fully fit," he said. "Because of my injuries I've not played a lot over the last few months but when I played against Madrid in the league and semi-final I had not played a lot either and that was OK. I've trained a lot more since then so I'm much better now."
Colleagues in the Barcelona first team since 2002/03, Puyol and Valdés have been through a lot together and both point to Josep Guardiola as the key element in their recent success. "I hope he will stay with Barcelona for many years to come; he is the best coach in the world and his place is here," said Puyol, who for two years was a team-mate of his now coach.
Valdés singled out Guardiola's strong link to the club, pointing to his role in their inaugural European title, won in north London 19 years ago. "The intention is to go on making history for the club and for this generation of players. With Pep, the shadow of [Johan] Cruyff is important; he has been a reference point. The coach has stood up to that mark since he came and that, the fact we are at Wembley for such an important final and the history of 1992 makes us proud."
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