Barcelona’s 11 Greatest Sides of All Time, Part 2 of 3

by Stefan Vasilev

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The Laszlo Kubala Influence, Part One, 1951-58

On June 15, 1950, two Hungarians joined Barcelona to signify the beginning of yet another transformation: Laszlo Kubala and new manager Ferdinand Daucik. They were the masterminds of the success to come.

In 1951, Kubala scored 26 goals in 19 games, breaking the La Liga’s record for most scored in a single match with seven against Sporting de Gijon. Along with his manager and the help of his teammates, Emilio Aldecoa, Juan Zambudio Velasco, Joan Segarra and Antoni Ramallets, Kubala won five medals this season—one of the most successful seasons in Barcelona history.

That side won eight trophies from 1951 to 1958: twice the Spanish League, four times the Spanish Cup and twice the Supercope de Espana.

6. Rinus Michels’ Side, 1973-78

“It is an art in itself to compose a starting team, finding the balance between creative players and those with destructive powers, and between defence, construction and attack—never forgetting the quality of the opposition and the specific pressures of each match.”, Rinus Michels wrote about every manager’s fundamentals task.

It’s an art that he had perfected. He was the mastermind behind the Netherlands side of the 1974.

Michels had already been well-known for his successful employment of total football with Ajax and the Netherlands national side before he sat at the managerial stool of Barcelona.

He managed the club between 1971 and 75 and then from 1976 to 78. He had the time to build the side he wanted, and with his brilliant mind, he dove deep into the total football style to explore it.

Most of all, Johan Cruyff stood up from all the rest. He was the man who could make Michels’ ideas materialize on the field. The team revolved around him. The two Dutchmen made things click for the Catalans. The Dutch connection had started. And it brought success.

Although the side won only two trophies, they ended the club’s 13-year trophy drought through the tactical ingenuity of Rinus Michels, skill and vision of Johan Cruyff and the support of quality players like Juan Manuel Asensi, Carles Recach and Hugo Sotil.

This makes them a historical football side and one of the best Barcelona has had.

5. Frank Rijkaard’s Side, 2003-2006

Having lastly won a trophy in 1999, Barcelona fans were desperate to see the dry period end. Their hopes focused on Dutch hero Frank Rijkaard, who assumed the position of Barcelona manager in 2003.

Times were ones of change, as the club had gone through a change in administration: Joan Laporta had seized control from his unsuccessful predecessor, Joan Gaspart.

With the new president focused on reviving the glory years of the past, Rijkaard had a strong backing and was allowed the freedom to implement his ideas to the squad.

Not much was changed initially. Relying on the inherited team, and with one new signing in Ronaldinho, Rijkaard pushed the Catalan team to the second position in Premiera Division. In the next year, the refurbishment of the team began. Ronaldinho was given a more central role and previously promoted from the youth division players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol re-established themselves.

Two back-to-back La Liga titles followed; a Supercopa the Espana and a Champions League trophy after beating Arsenal 2-1 in the final.

Rijkaard’s philosophy was in the mould of Johan Cruyff’s—a thing reminiscent of great times for Barcelona fans. The team played attacking and beautiful football, which proved to be successful.

The Dutchman stayed for two more years, but failed to win more trophies. Despite that, he gave Barcelona the glory they sought after six years of drought and an emerging player, Lionel Messi, the foundation for development he needed.

4. The 1944-49 Barcelona Side, a Snowdrop Finds Its Way Through the Snow

In those difficult times for Spain—it was under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco—the Catalan club suffered repressions. Football was not as important as what it could relay.

And that’s exactly what Barcelona did for the Catalan people.

In 1943, Barcelona played Real Madrid in the Copa del Generalisimo (yes, there were football tournaments in George Orwell’s 1984; can you believe it?). They won with a result of 3-0 in the first match. Before the second leg, they had a visit from Franco’s head of state to remind them they were only playing due of the “generosity of the regime.”

Real won that match 11-1.

Despite the endured oppression, having players like Cesar, Antoni Ramallets and Juan Zambudio Velasco coached by Barca legend Josep Samitier meant Barcelona would inevitably succeed on the meadow.

From 1945 to 49 the Catalans added their second, third and fourth Spanish League titles.

What makes this side special was they played football and won during dangerous of times for everyone with a slightly different mindset than Franco’s—the Catalans had one and demonstrated it on the field.

They were on the rise.

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  • William Makora

    Barcelona have the magic! They are The King!

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