Adam's Reviews > Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World

Barça by Graham Hunter
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's review
Apr 25, 2012

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bookshelves: 1970-present, non-fiction, sports
Read in April, 2012

Good book featuring much knowledgeable analysis. But Barcelona is not the Greatest Team in the World or the Greatest Team of All Time.

Barcelona has invested everything in one style of play, requiring certain players capable of filling those roles. The aesthetic result is normally astonishingly beautiful and elegant in a way few things are in sports. But when other teams catch up and figure out how to play against you, you must then rely on the players being so damn good that tactical adjustment is not sufficient to avoid defeat.

This has been especially apparent this season, in Europe and in certain domestic matches. That Messi has had such a great season is reflective not only of his talent but also of how Barcelona have been forced to play recently. In both CL semifinal matches against Chelsea this year, and the April clasico, the reason why Barcelona will not win either La Liga or the CL this year was laid bare. If you don't let them play their way, they can't play, at least not like The Greatest Team in the World.

Guardiola's philosophy and Barcelona's philosophy has so overwhelmed the team's malleability that to beat them, you just need to be good enough to stop them from playing a flowing attacking game up front. Chelsea is an inferior team aesthetically, in terms of talent, etc. but never really looked like losing to Barcelona, because they held their ground and kept Barca from being Barca.

But the Greatest Team in the World ought to be good enough to work around that. At some point, playing short passes around and in the penalty area goes from looking dazzling to looking foolish. Real Madrid under Mourinho is a better club than Barcelona is right now, and that's just one example, because they are more malleable.

Footballing cultures and philosophies are great, but it often becomes extraordinarily hard to be the best when you get figured out and you can't then rely on individual talent to make sure you still win. Messi isn't always going to skip away from the defender that one crucial time and make that perfect last pass for the sure goal.

Barcelona is clearly, right now, one of the greatest football teams the world has ever seen, but its brand of tiki-taka may not have the necessary grit to justify claims to ultimate greatness, or indeed to get the results that matter the most on a consistent basis. This brand of tiki-taka, indeed, may be going the way of Dutch total football, which saw its ultimate fruit in the 1974 WC final. Cruyff's goal is one of the best ever, but the Germans did not luck into a win. Barcelona did not luck out of crucial results this season, either.

The greatest team of all time, or in the world, ought to be extremely pragmatic, no?
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by the gift (new)

the gift i do not watch a lot of league play, so i only knew every commentator was sure barca would dominate, barca was so much more skilled, barca had messi etc. - so then they lose. i did watch this game. chances blown, dominant possession, shots off the wood etc. are we overeager to claim this is the end of tiki-taka? sounds like you have thought a bit about this? but that ramires lob brazilian?

Adam This is not the end of tiki-taka, but might be the beginning of the end of Barcelona's specific style of it. The Spanish National Team played tiki-taka under Aragones and currently under Del Bosque and has looked more secure in their ultimate dominance than Barca this season. The difference is pragmatism and also the presence of some more grit and malleability. For me, what's questionable isn't whether or not Barcelona is currently a great footballing team, but whether or not it has the potential to continue this sort of dominance without changing its style of play a little bit.

The Euros are going to be very interesting tactically. Spain and the Netherlands will both be playing general variants of this style, and it will be especially intriguing to see if either of them can be dominated by the Germans or similar teams if it comes to that.

message 3: by Gaurav (new)

Gaurav Brat u r kidin right...

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