Why Barca were mes que un club and how they could be again

The way Barcelona approach football is everything to me that football should be. From the youth players in La Masia being taught how to play football the Barca way, to the world class players who arrive at the Camp Nou and are forced to adapt or never reach the greatness at the club they perhaps promised.

Throughout my life, I’ve come to realise and live by a certain mantra. It covers football, politics and every day life. That saying is “the destination only matters if you went on the right journey”.

Basically another way of saying that the ends do not justify the means.

It’s at this point that we bring in a man with whom I have a love/hate relationship, Josep Guardiola.

Guardiola is responsible for the greatest footballing performance at a club I have ever seen, the 2010/11 European Cup Final.

This is no disrespect to Manchester United, they just happened to be the lamb led to the slaughter, I’m not sure any team would have coped that night.

Barcelona did something I thought I would never see, they took a team who were as dominant as there has ever been in the country of football that I grew up in and made them look average at best. They turned a European Cup into pracitcally a training ground exercise, it was breathtaking.

Guardiola was obviously the mastermind of this but it started back in Ajax in the 70’s but not with the man you might be thinking of.

Rinus Michels revolutionised football. He is the greatest manager the game has ever seen in my opinion and not nearly enough is done to preserve his incredible legacy.

The man created total football. Everything Cruyff, Sacchi, Bielsa, Guardiola and all these visionaries are doing, it all began with him. He looked at the game like no one else ever had.

The main difference to how Michels changed the game was the idea of not seeing football as a man to man game, but as a game where space, and how you would manipulate and exploit that space, was key.

No one in modern football uses space better than Guardiola, no one. It’s the main reason he is the manager he is. The term “half-space” is common place now and he’s the reason why.

Basically the conceptulization of football began with Rinus Michels. Cruyff played under Michels and learned and then built on Michels’ teachings and he took it Barcelona in 1988 and from that point on, Barcelona was never the same team again.

Barcelona with the most important and influential coach in their history created a philosophy of how football should be played.

Cruyff is the reason players like Messi, Iniesta and Xavi were even considered for Barcelona. He stated from day one that size and strength didn’t matter, ability did.

The great man made it clear that winning and losing were imposters and that playing what he considered the right way was the only way. He also believed that if you played the right way, you’d be rewarded not just in wins and trophies but in the pure aspect of the act of playing beautiful football.

Guardiola is a disciple of Cruyff who was a disciple of Michels and you could go further back and say that Michels was a disciple of Jack Reynolds at least to some degree.

What we saw in 2011 from Barca was not only a culmination of Guardiola’s work, but it was the apex at the time (and I don’t think it has been bettered since) of a philosophy that was decades in the making.

Unfortunately Barca in recent years have lost their way. I as a non-fan of the club at the time commented on this and stated that they were no longer “mes que un club” and that they were now “a poor man’s Real Madrid”.

When Laporta left Sandro Rossell came in and then the nadir was reached with Bartomeu. This I believe was when Barcelona became “a poor man’s Real Madrid”. Youth took a back seat and it wasn’t about developing players, it was about buying them.

I’m not going to lie, I thought Coutinho could be built for Barcelona, although I said he would have to adapt his game because despite his ability he was quite a selfish player if you actually watched him.

I think Turan did better than people think he did but he wasn’t coming into what I considered a Barca team and became somewhat of a scapegoat.

Dembele? Immensely talented but reminded me of when Barca tried to shoehorn in the likes of Simao and Quaresma. This was going backwards, not forwards. Same deal for Malcolm.

Griezmann? Built for Atleti, not Barca. Unsurpisingly it caused a tactical problem. Again Griezmann is a fine player, but it takes more to play for Barca.

It was clear to see there was no longer a was to play at Barca, a philiosophy that was rigidily stuck to at all costs, but instead something more akin to Real Madrid’s Galactico policy of the idea to get quality players and make them fit.

People remember the peak of the Galacticos when they were a joy to watch, they don’t however seem to realise that when they first came together they were not a “plug and play” solution. This proves that while Real Madrid’s way is different and is no doubt aided by the resources and ability to attract players, it takes more than just throwing money at it.

Which brings us back to the love/hate relationship I have with Guardiola. He took the purest teachings of one of the greatest men in football and has exploited them for his own gain.

Cruyff believed in the purest aspects of the beautiful game and on the pitch, so does Guardiola but off it he will do absolutely whatever it takes to prove he’s the best. His insatiable thirst has sadly led to him taking the most beautiful brand of football to a league that will appreciate it least and have allowed it to be used as a PR exercise for human rights abusers.

The heir to the throne of the greatest legacy the sport has known in my opinion, is using his powers for evil. It breaks my heart.

Guardiola himself said that legacy is what matters most, will they still talk about you in 25, 50 years? Well yes, we will. We’ll talk about a world class manager who revolutionised the game in England along with the likes of Jurgen Klopp and of course Arsene Wenger, but we’ll also talk about the fact that he betrayed the greatest gift that he was given.

And that brings us full circle because you see while Guardiola took Barca to their absolute peak, once a hero to people like me he’s now a villain. Now I doubt too many Barca fans would agree, but that’s okay we all view things differently, I’ve done no more here than state my case.

For me though, Guardiola is allowing himself and the teachings of Michels and Cruyff to be manipulated for his own personal gain and his own personal mission to win at all costs.

Winning at all costs is NOT and should never be the Barca way. If Laporta can remind Barcelona of that, bring in a manager who understands and can implement this(or maybe he has one?), if he helps make shrewd signings that fit a pattern that was created and improved decade after decade, Barcelona will once again rise to the level of where Guardiola put them.

I believe in no pasaran! I stand with Barcelona’s right to be free and independent, though I would prefer for all involved that they chose the kind of autonomy that the Basque region enjoys.

There is no doubt that when Barca were most mes que un club is when they provided shelter for Catalans to be Catalan under Franco’s regime of terror. That’s the most important aspect of mes que un club and should never be forgotten. It should also be pointed out that from what I’ve read Franco used Real Madrid more than as is sometimes suggested that Real and Franco had some kind of symbiotic relationship.

What happens off the field is important to me and unlike Guardiola, my morals don’t change to fit the situation. Freedom and the right to govern ones self is something I will always believe in.

All these reasons are why I chose Barcelona. As the game falls further and further from the game I knew and loved, I need something pure on the pitch and to some degree at least off it.

I’ll always be a Liverpool fan. I was born here, I grew up here and I have too many memories and friends and too much of a bond with the club not to be (unless we go the way of PSG or City) but English football no longer excites me, I feel like a stranger to it.

In La Liga and Bundesliga more so, I still feel that the game belongs to the fans.

I was called a glory hunter, people will think that and I accept that. The more I think about it, the more I realise these people are right.

You see there’s an inherent glory playing football in the right way, not just to win regardless and that’s the glory I seek no matter which club or which country I have to find it in.

Update: I’m going to be studying in Barcelona and chances are I’ll be working and living there, so there is even more personal now.


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