Europe-conquering Barca return home

Barcelona: Barcelona`s Europe-conquering heroes paraded in an open-top, double-decker bus through cheering, packed streets and arrived to a roar of welcome at a bursting Camp Nou stadium.

Brandishing the Champions League trophy from their sublime 3-1 victory over Manchester United in London`s Wembley stadium, players made a victorious entry one by one to their home pitch yesterday.

The biggest cheer from the 98,000-capacity crowd erupted for man-of-the-match Lionel Messi, who scored the second goal.

"Actually, I have nothing to say to you," said the Messi, famed as a man of few words. "Simply, let`s enjoy all this. Thank you for this season. And I hope we will be able to enjoy a lot more."

French international Eric Abidal, who has recovered from surgery to remove a liver tumour only two months ago, thanked captain Carles Puyol for allowing him the honour of receiving the trophy in Wembley.

"Thanks to the captain for his gesture. It was the best day of my career," he said.

Defender Gerard Pique chose the venue to hit out at a slew of allegations against the team in the past season, some made by arch rivals Real Madrid, who they defeated to take the league title.

"We don`t take drugs. We don`t take dives. And we don`t buy referees. We just play football," said Pique.

The team landed from London just a few hours earlier in Barcelona-El Prat airport.

Accompanied by the deafening blast of Brazilian samba music and cheered by thousands of fans under a baking hot sun, the heroes weaved through the city in their bus, decked out in Barcelona`s red and blue and the word "Champions" on the sides.

Wearing t-shirts emblazoned "CHA-MPI-ONS", coach Joseph Guardiola and his men were driven past the city`s statue of Christopher Columbus, thronged with fans, some clinging on to the memorial for a better view.

David Villa, who scored the third goal, could be seen spraying team mates with canned beer. Andres Iniesta leaned over the top of the bus to snap pictures.

"Messi, Messi, throw me a shirt," shouted one young fan. His friend carried a girl on his shoulders and, as the bus moved through the palm-lined streets, he instructed her: "Throw a kiss to Messi."

A few paces in front of the bus, Catalan mounted police paraded in red full-dress uniform.

In the previous night`s festivities, 50,000 people turned out and police said they detained 84 people for throwing objects, damaging bus shelters and other street furniture, public disorder or attacking police.


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