Many teams have been given the title of ‘best team ever’. Real Madrid sides of the 1950s with Puskas and Di Stefano or the Real Madrid of the early 2000s with Ronaldo, Figo, Zidane, Raul and co. The Manchester United team of 1999 with Giggs, Scholes, Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer, Sheringham, Schmeichel. The Liverpool sides of the 70s and 80s boasting Rush, Dalglish, Keegan and Kennedy. Who could forget the Arsenal invincibles of 2003/2004 with Henry, Vieira, Pires and Ljungberg all hitting their peak simultaneously. But, this Barcelona side is something else. Those teams were all undoubtedly great teams but I think Pep Guardiola’s current Barcelona team would beat them all.
Starting from the back with Victor Valdes. Okay, Valdes is not the greatest goalkeeper the world has ever seen, but, how often does he make a mistake? He is reliable and consistent and that is what every great team needs, a good goalkeeper. The defence is solid. Carles Puyol is the the epitome of a leader, he is passionate, he commands his defence and he is a rock at the back and his partner, Gerard Pique, is in my opinion the best footballing centre half in the world, as his goal against Inter Milan in last season’s Champions League shows. Dani Alves, rivalled only by his compatriot Maicon and Bayern Munich’s Phillipp Lahm for the title of world’s best right back. Alves’ marauding runs down the right, expert crossing and eye for goal make him an excellent addition to a side who love scoring goals. Maxwell or Eric Abidal at Left back, not the most eye-catching names but either would surely get in most other club sides in the world.
The perfect midfield three. Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets. It’s hard to find fault with any of them. Xavi dictates games, if Xavi plays well, Barca play well. He is creative, he can score goals as well as create them and he can defend for his team. It has been argued that Xavi never winning the Ballon D’or is one of football’s biggest injustices but i feel he has plenty of time left to win it. He has just been unfortunate that he has played in the era of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho who have rather stolen the show in recent years. Andres Iniesta was described by Wayne Rooney as the ‘best in the world’ after the 2009 Champions League Final and he never fails to show his class. He thrives the Barcelona way of playing football. Short, sharp passing, attacking football and football at the highest tempo possible and he is a master of the art. The third of the trio, the unsung hero, Sergio Busquets. He keeps Javier Mascherano out of the team so he must be well thought of. He breaks up play, much like Mascherano but unlike Mascherano, Busquets has skill and class.
What can you say that hasn’t already been said about Lionel Messi. He is just magnificent to watch. He is the best player of this generation by a country mile and I think by the end of his career, he will be thought of as the best ever, better than Pele, better than Maradona. Any team with Lionel Messi in it is going to win football matches. He is the catalyst to the Catalan success. Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have both been cast in the role of Barcelona’s main striker over the past few years and both did a decent job. Eto’o won the pichichi a couple of times and Ibrahimovic scored goals. However, David Villa is different he is much more of a typical Barca player and will undoubtedly score a lot of goals at the camp nou for years to come. Pedro completes the front three and early on in his career, he looks a class act. Time will tell if he can become as good as Messi and Villa and Xavi and Iniesta.
The manager is loved by the players too, Pep Guardiola, a Barcelona legend as a player and now as a manager. Adored by fans in the way that Frank Rijkaard never was in the days of Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Henry, which I feel held back that Barcelona side from glory.
So, they have a great team and a good manager but why does that make them the greatest?
I think there are two reasons. Firstly, These players are Catalan through and through. Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro all came through the ranks. Messi came through the ranks too so you could say he is a catalan as he has been at the Camp Nou since he was 10. The Barcelona way of playing does not need to be taught to them when they come into the side. It is imprinted on them, they have been playing like that since they were 8, 9 and 10. They look like they all know what they are going to do before they get the ball. There is something admirable about the way Barcelona go about things. rarely do they splash £30million on a player if they have someone in their youth team in that position. In fact, only David Villa cost them what you would call a big fee, especially by modern standards and the standards of their inferior castillan rivals, Real Madrid. Barca built it, they didn’t buy it.
Secondly, Barcelona don’t just win football matches, they play the most beautiful football. Sometimes Barcelona’s football is just breathtaking. In almost every game they have 60-70% of the possession, even away from home. Even when they lose, they still have the lion’s share of possession and they never lose their cool. Underneath this beautiful passing play, they are tough, they can take bad fouls upon them, something which Messi has to do every game and although they play neat, intricate football, they are made of steal.
I don’t think any other club I have ever seen has such an amazing team that plays such splendid football whilst maintaining a squad of homegrown players. One thing that can be said for Barcelona is that they always look after the young Catalan players and more often than not, they aren’t let down. Just look at the list.
Obviously, this is just my personal opinion and I might be wrong, Brazil of 1970 or Liverpool of 1977 might be the best but I think this Barcelona side has everything that a team needs to be great. Great players, great fans, an incredible stadium and a manager who loves the club. Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-0 tonight and look set to retain the La Liga title this year. Who would bet against them winning the Champions League and Copa Del Rey and cementing themselves as one of, if not the greatest side of all time?
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