Barcelona’s 11 Greatest Sides of All Time, Part 1 of 3

by Stefan Vasilev

Monday, May 30th, 2011

“More Than a Club” is the slogan for Barcelona FC.

Since its founding, Barcelona has been on a road of self-discovery. Some time along the way, the people of Catalonia started to envisage Barcelona as a symbol of their country—more than a club.

To some, especially in times of oppression under Fransisco Franco’s long dictatorship in Spain, Barcelona FC was envisaged as the club who expressed the rights and freedom of the Catalonian people.

In history, the club has done its best to not disappoint the people who support it.

Through many faces, many sides of footballers led by managers with visions for the game as different as every sunrise, the L’equip blaugrana has always found a way to convey the concerns and believes of its supporters.

Some have managed to do it better than others.

Who are they?

Here are the 11 Greatest Sides in Barcelona’s history:

11. The Cesar Menotti Transition to Terry Venables, 1982-85

How can I not mention the tenure of one of football’s greatest in the Catalan club, Diego Maradona?

He joined in 1982 after the World Cup, and a year later, he donned three medals on his neck. But his tenure in Barcelona was not an easy one. He suffered a broken leg and got infected with hepatitis. He left in 1984 for Napoli.

After the 1983 success, with the inauguration of Terry Venables as the new managers, midfielder Bernd Schuster grabbed the opportunity to shine. In 1985, Barca won the Spanish League for the first time in 11 years. Two years later, they snatched the Spanish League cup.

The English manager also took L’equip blaugrana to their second European Cup final, but after a dramatic penalty shoot-out in which six out of eight penalties were squandered, Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti lifted the cup in front of dispirited Catalan faces.

10. Bobby Robson’s Short but Fruitful Stint, 1996-1997

Bobby Robson’s surprising arrival to Barcelona in 1996 brought two other branded-to-become-famous faces: Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho, who he previously worked with at Porto.

Although considered as a temporary solution to Barca’s managerial aspirations, Bobby Robson’s tactical acumen and Ronaldo’s best year of his career quickly paid off.

Three more cups were won: the Spanish Supercup in 1996 and Copa Del Rey and the European Cup Winners cup in 1997.

Bobby Robson was just the temporary man for the job until Louis van Gaal became available, but the results his side achieved in such a short period of time left many wondering what would have been his football side if he had more time to build it.

Nonetheless, Bobby Robson marked Barcelona history.

9. The Laszlo Kubala Influence, Part Two, 1958-61

In 1958, Laszlo Kubala persuaded two of his compatriots, Hungarian refugees, to come and play with him at Barcelona. The three Hungarians would form the nucleus of the team with Luis Suarez and Evaristo.

The Catalans’ success from the previous seasons poured uninterrupted. They won the double in 1959 and yet again the Spanish League and Inter-Cities Fair Cup in 1960.

With the beginning of the next decade, Kubala found himself fallen out of favor in the eyes of manager Helenio Herrera. Like Sauron without his ring of power, Barcelona suffered defeat at the hand of arch-rivals Real Madrid in the 1960 semifinals of the European Cup.

Herrero fired; Kubala restored to first team: revenge was served in the next year. Barcelona became the first club to beat Real Madrid in the European Cup competition.

Laszlo Kubala’s rein of Barcelona affairs ended soon after.

PS: Part One is higher on the list.

8. Louis Van Gaal’s Side, 1997-2000

With the arrival of Louis van Gaal from Ajax in 1997, a true Dutch colonization was instigated at Barcelona.

Slowly but surely, the Ajax stars that had taken over the world under Van Gaal started to rejoin him one by one. Reiziger, the brothers Frank and Ronald De Boer, Philip Cocu, Jari Litmanen, Patrick Kluivert and Boedewijn Zenden were among the army of colonizers led by Van Gaal.

From a Blaugurana perspective, the new Dutch manager might have seemed as one preaching a fundamentally different philosophy from theirs. This was bound to cause clashes, and it did.

Despite winning the La Liga twice and the Copa Del Rey once in his first two seasons of tenure, the failures of Barcelona on the European stage were enough to elevate the buried discontent of the fans to the surface.

He was not liked by the fans and by the media despite winning three trophies. Players often contradicted him. Brazilian star Rivaldo was one of those players. Overall, Van Gaal couldn’t brag with living through the best of times in his Barcelona tenure.

His positives were often overlooked, but in truth, Van Gaal’s side reaped some success, and most importantly, provided the favorable environment for players to emerge from the youth ranks. Xavi Hernandez, Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol were some of those players who were given the chance.

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  • darren

    great blog and a good read.

    Barca are without doubt the worlds most glamorous club, forget Man United, all the worlds greatest players have either played for Barca or Real Madrid.

    This current Barca side are the best club side of all time, they almost achieved back to back trebles. With Messi still only 23, and the rest of the team at their peak, can they be stopped?

  • stefan vasilev

    Personally, darren. I think there’s more to be done for this side to be called the best. I will post Part two and three a bit later today 🙂

  • Peter

    It’s actually FC Barcelona not Barcelona FC. This is very important as Franco made them change their name so it fell in line with the Spanish language (FC at the end) rather than the Catalan language (FC at the beginning)

  • ray

    I hated Van Gaals time at Barca. That should not be in the list or should be at 11. We were terrible to watch and he imported way to many Dutch players. Thats the only time I can remember not been proud of our team as we forgot our footballing philosophy under Van Gaal (AKA Duckman)

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