Barca, the greatest team in history; Messi, the greatest player!
Posted: Apr 15, 2012
Many people have asked me what team I support. They often expect me to name any one of several teams in the English Premiership. I dissappoint them with my choice.
I am an unrepentant fan of the Barcelona FC football style and tradition. Two seasons ago I wrote about the club, what makes them the greatest football team in the world at the time. I also paid my respect to the greatest player I have seen in world football. Two seasons later, my position has been even more reinforced.
I consider myself an extremely lucky human being to be alive at this time in history to be able to watch Barcelona FC of the Spanish La Liga at play. I marvel as I think of the following phenomena in human evolution: the internet, satellite television, the mobile phone, the GPS, digital technology, the political 'upheavals' in the Middle East, Usain Bolt (yes, the fastest human ever to run), and the still unfolding football wonders of the world - Barcelona FC and Lionel Messi! The last bits are my interest here. What we are witnessing in football, as epitomised by these two, are unprecedented in the history of the game.
I consider humanity as privileged to watch, from week to week, a football team give masterful tutorials on how the game of football should be played for maximum entertainment, impact and results.
Through my personal experiences I have a fairly good idea about the subject of football and the best that make up its constituency.
In that knowledge of the game, through the past 4 decades at least, through archival film footages, watching the game on television and live at all levels, I have never seen (forget the occasional losses and the present placement as second on the Spanish league table with 4 points behind Real Madrid) a team play the way Barcelona FC do. The team has been displaying to the world, consistently in the past four or more years, football as has never been seen before in the history of the game. It is a perfection of the Total Football concept introduced by the Dutch in the early 1970s and orchestrated by Johann Cruyff and company!
Not even the great European and South American teams of the past can compare with Barcelona is many aspects of the game. Not even the Brazilian national team of 1970, or Argentina's 1986 team put up the quality of football that Barcelona FC provides the world week in week out.
My opinion is buttressed by many other football followers and commentators whenever Barcelona FC play these days. What with the fluidity of players movement and passing, the speed of play, the comfortability on the ball, the ability to keep possession of the ball even in extremely tight corners, the fast and furious movements and running off the ball, the individual dribbling and shielding skills, the ingenuous endless creation of goal-scoring chances, the number, quality and ease of scoring goals, the elegance and beauty of self-expression on the ball, the fighting spirit, the humanity and sportsmanship displayed even when the team is occasionally floundering and losing. All of these put together in one assembly of players, in one team, in one era, make Barcelona FC not only the best football team in the world in this period and time, but also the best team ever assembled in the history of the game, in my humble opinion.
What makes Barcelona FC the team that it presently is also defines the national team of Spain, the current World Champions and the number one ranked team in the FIFA list for some years now. It is not surprising that there are at least 6 Barcelona players in the Spanish national team.
I have watched some of the great teams in football history in Europe and in South America, and I can say that none compares to Barcelona FC in style, character, consistency and in giving value for money. Barcelona FC play the perfect football symphony. From defence to attack, in every position on the field, they present artists of exceptional elegance, colour, cohesion, fluency, understanding and skills.
But even in this orchestra one man still stands out alone above the rest! His presence has illuminated the game of football like no one else in this generation and arguably in history. And I have seen many a great player in my life.
I saw the great Edson Arantes De Nasimento, Pele, play. Physically, perhaps, Pele is the most complete player ever, possessing every ability in football - dribbling, control, passing, shooting, heading, vision and discipline.
Maradona came slightly after my time in football but I watched him play through most of his career for club and for Argentina. I have had to go back to watch some of his games during his best years in Napoli FC of Italy. He was an artistic genius also.
I also watched Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, George Best, Zinedine Zidanne, all at their mercurial best.
But with the ball at his feet, I have not seen any player consistently do magical things, from match to match, the way Lionel Messi, the little Argentinian that plays in the heart of Barcelona's attack, does.
Still only in his early 20s, with many more years of football at the highest level left in his boots, the world has been watching some of the most brilliant individual display of football ever put up by a single player. Many people all over the world share my sentiment that in Lionel Messi the world is witnessing the best football player of all time.
Some argue though that unlike Pele, Maradona and Zinedine Zidanne that led their countries to win the World Cup, Messi has not lead Argentina to winning the World Cup yet. True. I do not, however, think that takes away anything from the little genius's consistent commanding performances every week. In my humble estimation, in Messi's performance, I see the single, most impressive individual display of football ever.
He always gives the impression that he can do virtually anything with the ball at his feet.
He is so quick off the mark that defenders are left for 'dead' when he takes off. He rides tackles like no one before him. He wriggles in and out of bone-crushing tackles, in twists and turns, at incredible speed, like a dancer on ice. He leaves defenders in a daze and cuts defences with clever passes or, solo, like knife through butter. When he is in full flight there is no defender in the world that can stop him. There has to be a whole 'battalion' of defenders swarming around him all the time to reduce, not eliminate, his impact.
Messi is always so tightly followed and tackled that it is amazing that he rarely gets injured. For periods during a match he 'disappears' from the action either out of frustration from endless attention by defenders, or to create some space or respite simply as a tactic. His left foot is a magnet for the ball, and football's deadliest 'weapon of mass destruction' as epitomised by his mounting goal tally every year in all competitions except the World Cup. I have a feeling that the world has not seen everything to see in this little genius called Lionel Messi.
The Secret of Barcelona's success!
The story of Barcelona and that of Messi are intertwined. From the reports I read in my search for answers to the Barcelona FC phenomena I find that the 'secret' of Barca's success lies in its style of play and its immediate past history.
Tucked away in a little corner house close to Nou Camp is the Barcelona Football Academy.
Barcelona FC is not an 'accident' but the product of a well conceived and well constructed idea developed in the academy. Most of the players that make up the team have been together in this academy since they were kids between ages 12 to 15. For years they have been kept, grilled, educated and trained in the football tradition that we now all see and admire.
The team works harder than any other team to recover the ball when they lose it. The players chase after the ball like men possessed and do not stop running until they recover the ball and immediately resume their near flawless passing and movements. Their individual ability to shield the ball and keep possession for long spells during a match is uncanny and unequalled.
Then, they play a system that defies understanding. There are no outright forwards in the team. There is no defined centre-forward or wingers. The team's full backs are its wingers, its midfielders its attackers and its defenders an integral part of the midfield. There is only one tall person in the entire team (Picquet). The players are constantly changing positions during a game.
Without question Barcelona FC are purists of attacking football, and that makes them a great entertaining side and a beauty to watch every time they play. Win or lose they make any one watching them fulfilled, with memories of great moments during the game. No matter what happens during a match they always keep to their style and tradition. No team ever dominates them or outplays them, not even when they sometimes lose!
It is in the content of work going on in the Barcelona Academy that the answer to the club's success lies. The hours of endless 'indoctrination', grooming, teaching and training pay off in the final product that is Barca.
Other great teams may also have their own youth academies, but there has not been one quite like that of Barcelona, The result is there for the world to see in Barcelona FC, Lionel Messi, Iniesta, Alvaris, Puyoll, Fabregas, Abidal, Pedro, Xavi,…..!
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