A bold statement but a team that consists of the majority of Spain’s 2010 World Cup winning team with the likes of Messi and Dani Alves thrown in for good measure, was always going to be close at defining perfection, but so were Pele’s Brazil, the Dutch team that brought us ‘Total Football’, Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and Manchester United’s Treble Winning team, to name but a few. There are plenty of worthy rivals for the greatest team ever but Barcelona are certainly raising the stakes.
Barcelona’s players regularly scoop all the individual awards-most recently with Messi pipping Xavi and Iniesta to the 2010 Ballon D’Or- to add to players player, leading goalscorer and, well, the list goes on; but the real ‘x-factor’ about Barcelona is even if you take those players out of the equation, they can be replaced by Pedro, Mascherano and Bojan, a tactical headache any manager would dream of.
Pep Guardiola, a man who cuts a stern yet icy cool exterior on the touchline, is the ‘mastermind’ behind the team that continues to ‘wow’ the world of sport week in week out; and it’s been suggested that Pep Guardiola’s success has a lot to do with him being a product of Barcelona’s very successful youth academy (which has given us such talents as Pique, Xavi and Francesc Fabregas) and thus being in ‘in sync’ with the nature of what FC Barcelona really is: Més que un club (More than a club).
I’m running out of superlatives to describe the talent and achievements of the Catalan Giants, so I now have the ‘impossible’ task of finding flaws in an almost perfect working machine with the aesthetics to go with it; enter Inter Milan who surprised everyone when they convincingly dispatched of the ‘Champions’ League winners elect’ in last season’s semi final. It was a tactical victory for José Mourinho that gave a glimmer of hope to the chasing pack; the signs that Barcelona were beatable continued in this seasons Champions’ League when Russian minnows Rubin Kazan earnt a valuable point against Xavi and co and probably most surprising of all when Barcelona suffered a 2-0 defeat in their second game of the new La Liga campaign, to the newly promoted Hercules. These results prompted predictable responses from the world of football, ‘Barcelona are no longer unbeatable’, but fast forward to now, and Barcelona are five points clear of their main rivals, Real Madrid (who along the way, they thumped 5-0 in one of the greatest exhibitions of football ever) and have broken numerous records along the way, such as having the most points halfway through the season (52) and earning the most consecutive league wins with 16 victories (after their defeat of Atlético Madrid 3–0 at the Camp Nou). Overall, when you take everything into account, it seems to be a truly marvellous response from the supposed ‘fallen giants’ after a few dropped points early in the season.
And so the age old question once again rears its controversial head: ‘Is La Liga really as testing as the Premier League?’ With the Real Madrid era of ‘Galacticos’ appearing to be over and Valencia, while in third, are 17 points off Barca, perhaps it could be argued Barcelona are ‘a big fish in a small pond’, especially when you see stats that Lionel Messi has only scored once in nine games against English teams away from the Camp Nou; the same man who has over 100 La Liga goals in only six full seasons.
I suppose, like most things in football, it all comes down to opinion; are Barcelona the greatest attacking team ever? In this humble writer’s opinion: yes. I can’t even begin to consider swapping the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta for Zidane, Ronaldo or even George Best, but defensively, the likes of Cafu, Malidini or even Carlos Alberto would oust Alves, Pique and Maxwell without much trouble.
Defensively, a work in progress, offensively a work of art.