FC Barcelona or, Barca as they are known, have always been associated with the beautiful game. Win or lose, they stick to their game. And when the whole game falls into place, they are a delight to watch. And watching them win the beautiful way is joy. Such is the magic in their play. Hold the ball, create space, pin point defense splitting pass, beautiful football. Add to that the galaxy of stars – Messi, Ronaldinho, Henry, Eto’o, Deco, Iniesta, Xavi, Toure and many more. Awe Inspiring...
Barcelona can claim to have the best possible attacking players in the world right now. Their front six can walk into any team in the world right now. Messi, Henry, Eto’o, Ronnie are the front four. They actually have to compete for their positions. Any other team and each one would be the leading striker. Of the four, only Messi has his position secured – he is fit, he starts. The rest have to actually battle it out. No other team in the world can afford to bench any one of them. Not even Real Madrid in their prime with Zidane et al. . Midfield is again filled with amazing players – Deco, Iniesta, Xavi and Toure. Only three have to be picked and again only Toure is safe – only because he is the only holding mid of them. Imagine Deco being benched. Such is the talent and brilliance in the team.
Nonetheless, anyone would agree that Barca have a poor defense. Abidal is brilliant as left back and so is Milito as the centre back. Even Milito can split the defense with his long through balls or crosses. Puyol and Marquez are okay. And right back is a serious trouble for them – Zambrotta despite being Italian isn’t great. Not bad a line-up but they somehow they aren’t the best defensive team in the world. But their weakest link would be the goalkeeper – the Dude in the team, as we call him. Valdez as he is known is one stupid fellow with panache for making glorious mistakes at the wrong times. Spill the ball into his own net, clearing the ball to the opposition, giving away cheap corners but mostly he lets in goals which ordinary keepers would save any given day. Yet he stands tall in the goal every match.
Barca actually play with the philosophy that “score as many goals against us as you can, we will score more.” And sometimes it backfires. The glamorous front six do everything right but put the ball into the net. But the defense still leaks goals at the same rate. Not the smartest way to play football. No need to be Italian to win games but at least WIN the matches damnit. We invest our hopes and emotions in you guys. Come on guys; give us the beautiful game and the victories. If anyone, you can do it. Be it any team of any style. Not for nothing does the world consider you the best.
It’s been two years now that you have not won any silverware. For a team like yours, it IS a matter of shame. Last season, Barca lost out to Liverpool on away goals in the Champions League. Losing 2-1 at home to a team which did not even bother to attack or pursue victory was stupid and inexcusable. A 1-0 victory at Anfield was not enough. In UCL it happens, but the blunders that they committed in La Liga were amazing. That and any more adjectives wouldn’t be sarcastic enough. They had an almost unassailable lead in the Liga almost till the mid and then they totally lost the plot. Finished on equal points with Real and lost the title on one-on-one results despite having a better goal difference (stupid way to decide the league but anyways the mistake was all Barca’s). It was heart breaking in the end but deserving nonetheless.
This year the fortunes have been reversed in the Liga and UCL. They have been disgusting at the least this year, losing many easy games. But the biggest mistake they made was that they drew too many games at home; games you would expect Barca to ace. They seem to have lost the magic up front. Clear cut chances have been put wide by a team which once could score almost impossible goals. Messi apart, every one up front has been hopeless. Eto’o was out at the beginning of the season, but his comeback hasn’t been exactly great. Henry, since his move from Arsenal hasn’t been the same force he was. Majority of his season has been on the bench, coming on only as a substitute late in the game. By the end of the season, he had to fight even for that against teen sensation Bojan Kirkic. Bojan being a Catalonian has an edge. Yet the biggest let down has been Ronnie. Two years since, he was the World Player of the year, two years running. To see his dismay, all you need to watch is the El Classico at Camp Nou. He went down far too easily and never looked like the man who held the promise of being the “greatest ever”. His antics cost Barca the game.
The mid has been okay. Iniesta has finally bloomed into a fine player. With deft control and incisive passing, he has proved to be a great asset but the best thing about him is that he plays at any position his team demands and yet remains one of the best players on the pitch. Xavi is good, but can do better at times. Being one of the senior most players, one would expect him to be a better leader. His game is good but given his role, better leadership would be great for Barca. Deco is mercurial but is one of the most creative players around. He along with Ronnie, Messi and Eto’o ruled the world for a couple of years. His best is not yet over. Though the same could not be said of Ronaldinho. Toure is good. Great rather. Keep him the way he is.
The defense looks suspect most of the times. But Milito and Abidal are class and lets keep them. Puyol needs to improve, so does Marquez. Barca, honestly need a better central defender. They should keep looking. Also for a right back – Zambrotta has no Italian defending qualities though he is good going up or on the overlap with Messi.
Anyways, all said and done Barca IS the best team in the world on, paper at least. One of the most formidable line-ups in recent times. Only comparisons would be Real in the Zidane - Figo era, and Puscas - Stefano era. Yet something has been holding them back. They haven’t been able to play to full potential. One of the reasons could be the presence of too many stars in the team. Each of the names is huge in the world of football. And we know many stars thrive on Glory. Other probable reason would be lack of leadership on the field. All they miss is one inspiring player who has the potential to lift the team by the collars when it is in dumps. Each one of the Blaugranes has enough potential to change the game in one moment of brilliance. Yet what they lack is the leadership in any of the players. They look defeated as soon as things start going against them. Not the way to play any sport.
All said and done, they still are my favourite team and nothing can change that – unless they migrate from the beautiful game. I just hope that they realize the greatness within them and start winning again – the beautiful way.
(The failures of the last two years has led to their coach being fired a year short of his term. Frank Rijkaard. He was an exceptional player and a brilliant coach and easily the COOLEST guy in any stadium he walked into. He instilled the values of good football in the team. The first three years of his reign were full of glory but the last two have been poor. I just hope that Barca stick to his style but play with a little more energy and belief.)
Good Luck Barca...