We all remember with elation that fantastic pass from Ronaldinho into the path of a streaking young sensation called Lionel Messi, as he caressed the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net. This what we think of when we see Barcelona play – Joga Bonito. This style of play wasn’t simply about short passes and wearing opponents out, it was about beauty, art, grace, lulling the opponent to sleep and then smashing them in the teeth. Barcelona is about Puyol and Mascherano not allowing a single pass or player past their domain, about Xavi’s midfield toying with their opponents in spite of being smaller and less athletic, about Eto’o and Suárez ruthlessly pouncing and finishing the plays. And behind it all, Ronaldinho, Iniesta, Dani Alves and Messi, breaking ankles, while audaciously seeing what no one else saw, and ripping the soul from defenses as they became as floodwaters, breaking upon a helpless town.
There are the reasons why this once underdog team has grown to be the most popular team, perhaps in sports history. This is the Barca we have engraved on our hearts and minds, yet not the one we see today. What has gone wrong? And, crucially, can it be fixed?
Having followed this site for several years now, and having been a FC Barcelona fan since I was an adolescent, I’ve become saddened to see what has become our our team in the past couple seasons. I know I am not alone in this sentiment. As an author of several books, including an international bestseller in Spanish, most of my work writing is backed by extensive research. With this experience, fused with my love for Barca, I wanted to take a chance to express some of my ideas about how this team might realistically be fixed.
My all-time favorite game is Career Mode in FIFA. While the game no doubt has its issues, there is a sense of control and creativity that can really be exciting. The best way to succeed is always to bet on youth, signing cheap and reselling for more, ensuring you have a deep squad, and only bringing in players who fit your style. I’ve always gone for players under 24 and gone for either a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3, which has led to enormous fun, success and incredible profits.
In real life, not all of these things make sense. First, experienced players to guide the younger generation are important, so you can’t go all-out youth. Also, one doesn’t just want experience for experience sake, one needs them to be true leaders, hard-workers who are still hungry for more. Also, modern tactics have drifted away from 2-striker formations, unless one is clearly a SS (supporting striker), and while 3 central defenders is attractive against smaller and/or slower teams, when playing the best teams in Europe, many use wingers in devastating fashion, forcing your own wingers to have to play both defense and offense at the highest level (which usually ends in a debacle, if attempted). Lastly, managing egos, playing time and fan/media pressure is something few coaches can handle, and is why they often stray away from playing young, giving old, tired players far too many minutes even in games where there is less need.