Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughCatalan carousel - the story behind the success - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Catalan carousel - the story behind the success - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Catalan carousel – the story behind the success

When Pep Guardiola took the reigns as Barcelona manager in June 2008 few would have predicted what was about to happen over the following four seasons. The club has always been a major player in European football, and provides the strongest resistance to Real Madrid’s total supremacy in Spanish football. Great names have both played and managed this incredible institution, and success is never far away, even in the most troubled of times.

A fiercely strong identity runs throughout the club, from the junior players in the academy all the way through to the senior pros at the top of their game. Everyone is focused on respecting and maintaining the traditions that surround the club, and it is genuinely an honour for players to pull on the famous blue and red shirt.

This is a team with a worldwide reputation, known for attacking football and home to many stars over the years. However, a new form of football has recently emerged, and a swagger and style now surrounds the team’s players every time they take to the pitch; not a pretentious, cocky arrogance, but a knowledge that some of the finest players in the world have merged and integrated their exceptional talents into a devastatingly effective team, and this is a team that let their feet do the talking.

The greatest compliment that you can pay any team is by trying to copy them. By doing this you are acknowledging that you aspire to play like them and believe that they have the correct ideas about the game. Modern day football is full of coaches and teams that are trying exactly that, and they are all using the same club for reference. 

Not often will players, coaches and fans be desperate for their side to avoid another team in competition, but there does exist one at this moment in time. Such is their reputation and renowned ability that Barcelona have become that team, and fear is the single greatest emotion that they have inflicted upon the footballing world. Evidence of this is clear when you look at the faces of the club representatives when UEFA draw the next round of the Champions League. Everyone is thinking exactly the same thing; who will get Barcelona?

It hasn’t always been this way however, and a lot of time and planning has gone into producing what the coaching world now sees as the finest example of club football being played anywhere on the planet. Today we see a club focused on developing and progressing players through their youth academy, and preparing them for 1st team action. Turn the clock back 10 years and it was a very different story. Notice the contrast between the line-ups below, particularly the nationality of the players. The 2002 team had good individuals, but they never quite managed to gel as a collective unit, highlighted by the fact that the club didn’t win the league between 1999 and 2004. There was an emphasis on buying in ready-made talent and trying to fit them into the team philosophy, rather than the other way around.


              Rivaldo    Kluivert     Saviola                           Iniesta      Messi     Pedro

                    Xavi    Cocu   Enrique                             Fabregas   Busquets   Xavi

          Sergi    de Boer   Puyol   Reiziger                 Jordi Alba    Pique   Puyol   Dani Alves

                            Bonano                                                          Valdes


                             2002                                              2012


By 2012 the Dutch contingent had all disappeared, and there was a much greater emphasis on Spanish players, particularly those that had come through La Masia academy, Barcelona’s football factory. In fact the regular starting eleven would often contain 9 Spaniards; Lionel Messi, although Argentine, has been at the club since the age of 11, and grew up playing in the youth sides with Pique and Fabregas.

The famous 4-3-3 formation remains, a product of Johan Cruyff’s influence during his time at the club and the belief in total football played by Ajax and Holland. However, the 4-3-3 used today is very different to previous versions. Its current form is an innovative, free flowing creation, devoid of a traditional striker and allowing for midfielders and full backs to surge forward in waves of attacks. It is not uncommon to see the entire team in the opposition half of the pitch, with just Victor Valdes keeping guard and watching as the opposition is herded closer and closer toward their own goal, pinned back and restrained from expressing themselves.

Modern day Barcelona are a team that press incredibly high and quickly, hunting in packs of three, four, or more, always attempting to win the ball back within a few seconds of losing possession, not that they lose the ball very often! Ball retention and movement characterise this side, and even the best teams seem unable to cope with simple one touch passing that leaves opponents chasing shadows. With the undeniable excellence on show it was only a matter of time before success arrived, and the trophy cabinet was soon filled with 14 titles during Guardiola’s period as manager.


3 x La Liga
2 x Champions League
2 x Copa del Rey
3 x Spanish Super Cup
2 x UEFA Super Cup
2 x FIFA Club World Cup


Throughout this period there has been an increasing number of debutants coming from the B team, most in their late teens and early twenties, and trusted with an opportunity at the elite level of football. Busquets, Pedro, Tello, Cuenca, Montoya, Bartra, and Thiago have developed rapidly since 2008, and many are now first team regulars or on the verge of breaking into the first team. Not many clubs show such faith in their academy, and perhaps because Guardiola himself is a product of this system, and saw the benefits it had upon him, did so many of these men receive the opportunities that they did. One thing is for sure though, that the current squad is a unique entity, the like of which we rarely see, with so many players at the peak of their ability.

Football moves in cycles, and whilst many claim that the present belongs to this crop of talent from Spain, who is to say that it won’t continue long into the future?

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