Victory over Marseille in Lyon with a convincing 3-0 win completed the turnaround after a mixed European campaign in 2017/18 ended with a third European title in eight years for Atletico Madrid.
It marked a stark contrast with the reaction to drawing with Qarabag, effectively eliminating the Rojiblancos from the Champions League, which was always going to be disappointing, but few expected the shocking comments made by Atletico Madrid captain Gabia at the time.
“The Europa League? I’ll tell you that right now it’s a piece of s**t,” he said in October, as reported by MARCA.
On Wednesday evening, after lifting the Europa League trophy, he was quick to take back those comments.
“Now I have to swallow my words about the Europa League,” he told BeIN Sports, as quoted by MARCA, after the final whistle in Lyon.
“This cup has given us a lot.”
The midfielder believes that it reflected the strength of the Atleti squad, despite being knocked out of the Champions League earlier on in the campaign.
“For us, it was a very important game because it allows us to continue at the top, but if this team has anything it is the capacity to suffer, today we have shown that.
“We knew how to kill the game when it had to be done, and today we have shown that we are one of the best [teams] in Europe.”
For one man, victory was sweet as Antoine Griezmann won his second trophy with Atletico Madrid and he admitted that he is desperate for more.
“I left home at 14-years-old because I wanted to win trophies, this is my second after the Supercopa and I hope there can be more,” the man of the match told BeIN Sports, quoted by MARCA.
“My performance? Confident, [with] cold blood. [Marseille] are an offensive team, they work very well. We work ourselves and defend well to be a hard opponent who takes advantage of their errors.”
Some had claimed that Griezmann had a point to prove having been linked with a move away as transfer speculation has mounted in the lead up to this final.
“He didn’t have to prove anything, he had already demonstrated it through all these years,” Diego Simeone commented.
“He just confirmed what I already knew. I hope he is happy, and hopefully he will continue with us.”
That was echoed by Gabi, who hoped that such a night would convince the Frenchman that his future lies in the red and white of Atletico Madrid.
“Today [Griezmann] has shown that he is focused on Atletico and we will hopefully have him with us next year.
Of course, this victory will help him stay, and more so in the way we have won it, being as decisive as he is for us,” he said.
It was not all about Griezmann though as it turned out to be a hugely emotional evening for one man in particular, Fernando Torres.
The trophy represents his second trophy with his boyhood club and his first major title, the only previous victory having come with the Segunda title in 2002.
“I’ve never given him anything,” Simeone told the assembled media and as quoted by MARCA.
“For Fernando, it’s a dream come true [winning the Europa League], I hope the crowd explodes on Sunday, he’s a fantastic kid, everything he’s achieved has been earned by him.”
That sentiment was one which was echoed by captain Gabi, who opted to lift the Europa League trophy alongside Torres and gestured to the striker to get involved in the ceremony.
“I thought it was emotional,” Gabi explained.
“And I think there is no better way to say goodbye to Atletico than lifting the trophy and he deserves it more than anyone else.”
Finally, coach Diego Simeone had praise for how the squad handled his absence as he continued to serve a touchline ban following his dismissal against Arsenal in the semi-final first leg.
The Argentinian watched on from the stands as German Burgos took control from the dug-out and believed that both his assistant and his team deserved credit.
“The coaching staff have been lucky enough to find very strong men and footballers who have been improving year after year,” Simeone explained.
“I have a great communion with my players and I can be at home or in the hotel but they will still play the same way.”