Barcelona – Best team of the decade

by Matt Quinn

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Total football is back

On a sub-zero Sunday evening in Spain, runaway league leaders, Barcelona, showed they could ally battling qualities to their undoubted flair and panache. Trailing 2-1 in some terrible playing conditions, Barca had to dig deep to secure an incredible 3-2 victory. Late goals from the influential Xavi and Lionel Messi simply added more integrity to the claim that this team is the finest of its generation.

New coach, Pep Guardiola, may have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal but the way he has set about his inaugural managerial season is nothing but impressive. Comparisons with Mourinho are looking more apt by the week. However, it is not just the astonishing lead that his club has built up in the opening months of the season that has caused the world’s media to take notice. It is the style and manner of the victories that has really announced the return of a footballing super-power. Barcelona are back and that could be bad news for the English clubs vying for the Champions league.

Every aspect of their team is functioning smoothly, although it is from the midfield forward that delights the purists. Having watched many Barca games this year, I can say that each time has been a privilege and honour. In line with the great Brian Clough mantra about clouds and grass, the ball never leaves the ground in its manipulation. Spain’s lynchpin, Xavi, is the fulcrum of most of their attacks and he must rank as the finest midfielder around at the moment. He has been aided and abetted by the young Sergio Busquests, Keita and Yaya Toure this year who have added much needed power and dynamism to Barca’s play.

Ahead of these is the much heralded attacking triumvirate of Henry, Etoo and Lionel Messi. With Henry finding something approaching form, this attacking trio has been nigh-on irresistible, although Henry may find himself back on the bench with the return from injury of the irrepressible Andres Iniesta. Everyone’s favourite footballing forehead has been out injured for a number of months but his return to action this month will only strengthen the Catalan’s creative edge. Indeed, I still maintain that behind Messi, Iniesta is the most gifted footballer in the world. The reception he received during a recent brief appearance as substitute shows his importance is not lost on the Barca faithful.

However, while the Barca team is exceptional in its own right, one man pushes them into a different stratosphere and will be the reason why this team may soon be lauded as the greatest for over a decade. Lionel Messi, is quite simply, the greatest player on the planet by a country mile. No-one can touch him. His wonder goal this weekend to secure Barca’s victory against Osasuna followed up a sensational midweek display away to Atletico Madrid. (Messi scored a hat-trick and was given the honour of hearing Madrid fans sing his name and give him a standing ovation as he was substituted shortly before the end)

Barca’s critics will point to an unusually weak Spanish league this year and suggest that Barca will struggle to cope in the face of physical pressure. I do not go along with this. This Barcelona team are just too technically superior to any of their European rivals to be derailed in their quest for silverware. I believe this Barca team will win several trophies this year and will go on to be remembered for decades. If you get the chance to watch Barca sometime soon, take the opportunity- they won’t disappoint. It really is footballing heaven. The greatest team of the decade.

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  • Stevie

    50 games unbeaten, the only team to go a whole season undefeated, nickname the invincibles.

    Say no more….

  • Mikie

    Excellent article. I’ve pretty much watched all of Barcelona’s games this season, and in my opinion they are the best footballing side I’ve seen for a very long time.

    Pep Guardiola has them playing as a unit but with flair, very much like the national side. Previous Barca teams were a team of individuals. Henry is finally showing us what a great player he is, Eto is still class & Messi is on another planet.

    Messi is a league above Ronaldo. Ronaldo rightly won European player of the year last season but that’s as far as it goes. He is not the same player this season. You rarely see him beating players like he used to. Messi on the other hand beats players for fun. He has already banged in 20 goals this season with 10 assists to his name. We are only half way through the season remember.

    Does anyone remember that fantastic goal that he scored in La Liga last season? A double for Maradona’s against England where he took on the whole team.

    Messi is still only 21 remember, it is quite possible this kid could become the greatest player of our generation if not all time!

  • Matt Quinn

    The “Maradona-esque” goal was amazing but he seems to score similar goals every other week. During his hat-trick against Madrid this week he went past 4 players and hit the cross-bar. From the rebound, the ball was crossed straight back in to him, he went round the keeper and chipped the defender on the line. Never seen anyone like him.

    Thierry Henry, of the “invincibles”, said he is proud that one day he can tell his grandchildren he played with Lionel Messi.

  • Jamie Farrier

    It’s become quite something to see imports to La Liga having to choose between two clubs – Barca and Real. Whichever they choose, it defines them as a player. Real offer capital-culture megariches, showpiece matches every week, a place in the enormous trophy room and lucrative marketability.

    The true greats of the game, however, are choosing to play for Barca.

    I’m glad the sheer brilliance and panache of Barca’s game has been recognised here in a really strong article.

  • Darren

    I know how passionate Matt is when it comes to Barcelona and Lionel Messi. He has been known to ask his girlfriend to wear the his Messi top in bed. Say no more.

    As Jamie rightly points out, another great article….

  • Dan Church

    I dont like watching Spanish football. the bloke who does the commentary does my head in….

  • Darren

    shocking excuse for not watching some of the worlds finest players!! Matt where are you?

  • Matt Quinn

    Revista de la Liga is a good show, it’s good to watch a football show on Sky without Jamie Redknapp!

    I particularly like the views of Guillem Balague, who in fact comes from Barcelona but supports Espanyol. He chose to support Espanyol after watching them thrash Barca 5-1 over 20 years ago.

    Yes it’s true, I love Lionel, I would turn if he asked me…

  • Darren

    off topic slightly but does anyone think that Scolari is losing the plot?

  • Matt Quinn

    forget Chelsea, Still very amused about Kaka. On sky sports news yesterday they had some journo saying that Kaka was not what City need in a relegation scrap!!! What an idiot! Who does he suggest? Nigel Quashie? John Hartson?

  • Darren

    City do not need Kaka, especially on 500,000 per week. It would completely split the dressing room. Why would Stephen Ireland who has been their best player by a mile want to stay for 20,000 a week when someone else is earning 500 times as much? If they sign him they will go down, believe me!

  • Matt Quinn

    They would not go down!!!

    They might not win the league but there is no way they would go down!

    If I was Stephen Ireland I would be pretty happy… getting to play with Kaka. I’d be pretty excited if I was him!
    Kaka has been World Player of the Year and has won everything in the game. If Steven Ireland thinks he deserves parity in terms of wages then he is the one with the problem! Kaka has earnt that pay packet through years of being best in the world. Steven Ireland has played quite well for half a season for a struggling team!!!!

  • Darren

    They are not ready for players of his caliber just yet. It needs to be a five year plan. Build up slowly towards winning the Premier League. Real Madrid won nothing for ages remember!

    Robinhino has done well at home but away from home he has been very disappointing. I also think Mark Hughes not the right man to take them forward. Mourhino would be a much better bet but there’s no way he would go there.

  • Darren

    just seen this

    Kaka’s agent says he would not go to Manchester City purely for the money. “He would never do something like Robinho, who, just to earn more, contented himself with a solution that was not a winning one,” said Diogo Kotscho. (Corriere dello Sport, 1200 GMT)

    Then why would he go to an average Premier side that will not win the league for a few a seasons if ever at all?

  • Matt Quinn

    No… but he could donate half his pay packet to the church. I bet that would get him over here.

  • DArren

    Wow, You’re Derren Brown! We were just talking about the church and the spirit world!

  • Jay

    it aint gonna happen!

    Brazil star Kaka says he wants to stay at AC Milan despite talk of a transfer to Manchester City.
    A City delegation has been in Milan and reportedly made a bid in the region of £100m, with a weekly wage of £500,000, for the midfielder.

    However, the 26-year-old told the website of Mediaset, a TV company owned by Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi: “I want to grow old at Milan.

    “My aim is to become at some point in the future the captain of this team.”

    a very good source. BBC

  • Jay

    I’ve just seen Jesus at White Hart Lane, he is going for a medical. They need a miracle to stay up so maybe he is just what they need!!

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