Lionel Messi remains the integral part to Barcelona's domestic dominance that shows no sign of waning

The Catalans have won an eighth La Liga title in 11 years, further cementing their status as Spain's dominant force, while freeing them up to focus on a first Uefa Champions League title since 2015

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There are number of ways to measure long-term supremacy in a domestic league. You can assess it in months: the likes of Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, serial champions of Italy and France, have lately seemed in a race against the arrival of spring to see which will come first, their coronation or the year’s first daffodils.

Or you can count it in podium placings. Barcelona, who wrapped up their eighth La Liga title in 11 seasons on Saturday, score high.

Some patient statistical work by El Mundo Deportivo, a newspaper never shy of celebrating Barca's mastery, reveals that, through the last 10 seasons, the Catalan club have stood at the summit of Spain's top division after no less than 265 matchdays.

The next best? Real Madrid’s 107 as table-toppers. Atletico Madrid, who famously deprived Barca of the 2013-14 title, have looked down on the rest just 16 times.

That’s quite a supremacy, and as Barcelona bask in the reflection of title No 26, with Atletico their most determined, but distant pursuers, Real Madrid feel concerned.

If this run of excellence continues at the current rate - in the last decade, Real have won two Ligas, Barca are closing in on a seventh - the date Barcelona catch up with Real, who have 33 Liga titles overall, may be much less than a generation away.

Perhaps Lionel Messi will be coaching at Barcelona by then. Maybe he will still be playing, a prospect that, to watch Messi still improving as he enters his 32nd year, often seems plausible.

So artful is Messi at playing at a higher speed-of-thought than every opponent while apparently moving at walking pace that it is not fanciful to imagine him governing a midfield aged 40.

He can still sprint when needed, and his electric bursts remain part of the package that has contributed 34 Liga goals and 15 assists to Barcelona’s total of 86 goals.

His finishing has been typically superb, and his sixth-sense understanding with those around him, especially Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba, fundamental.

Saturday's title was Messi's 10th. This one will feel distinct because, though he has been the team’s technical leader for at least seven of those Spanish championships, it will be his first as club captain, the role he assumed following the departure of the long-serving and much-loved Andres Iniesta.

Soccer Football - Champions League Quarter Final First Leg - Manchester United v FC Barcelona - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - April 10, 2019  Barcelona's Gerard Pique after the match                         Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith
Gerard Pique and the Barcelona defence have been excellent this season. Reuters

The armband endorses Messi’s authority, which, though apparently understated at times, is firm.

The most influential of the 2018-19 Barcelona newcomers, the midfielder Arthur, told an interview in his native Brazil that “Messi takes a real interest in the integration of players who come in to Barcelona. He has such fantastic experience and reads situations so well.”

In the course of a campaign that might yet bring Barcelona a treble, Messi has had some testing situations to read.

There was Ousmane Dembele’s much-publicised indiscipline, or poor time-keeping; Philippe Coutinho, to who the captain is close, has also had his ups and downs slotting into the roles once mastered by Iniesta.

And there is the anxiety that so-called ‘Messidependency’ breeds, the idea that Barcelona have become so built around their genius that they would be bereft were he to be absent long-term.

“Any team with Messi in it would be Messi-dependent,” points out Ernesto Valverde, the manager who has won his second successive Liga.

Valverde’s Barcelona are a lot about Messi, but not just about Messi. The captain’s oldest ally, Gerard Pique, has had an excellent season in a back four where Pique’s impressive partnership with Clement Lenglet has made Samuel Umtiti, a World Cup winner with France last July, third-choice central defender. All them would in turn applaud the fine goalkeeping of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Barcelona's French forward Ousmane Dembele runs with the ball during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 20, 2019. / AFP / PAU BARRENA
Ousmane Dembele has excelled for Barcelona - when he hasn't been injured or in trouble for poor timekeeping. AFP

Dembele, despite the distracting saga of his late show-ups, has been a dynamic addition to the front line when fit and selected, and went some way to justifying his vast price-tag - in excess of €130 million (Dh532m) from Borussia Dortmund when he was still only 19 - with his display, off the bench, against Real Madrid.

With Dembele on, Barca turned a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 Camp Nou humiliation of their fiercest rivals, the 21-year-old French winger galvanising the late deluge of goals.

That was the first of three wins, in La Liga and the Copa del Rey, over an anaemic Madrid. Messi will know this league title has been contested with less gumption by Spain’s other heavyweights than others he has been involved in.

Real have been weakened by the poor management and the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Atletico insufficiently consistent.

Which is why, with the league now guaranteed, full focus will transfer to Europe, a semi-final against Liverpool, and a close-enough-to-touch Champions League triumph that the Barcelona captain regards as overdue.