Players come and go, but Barcelona’s style of play will continue to be its driving force on the world stage. Barca’s recent winter of discontent has been a wake-up call that renewal is necessary.
Back on the night of November 29, 2010, FC Barcelona was in the mood. Having already scored twice against Real Madrid, every Barcelona pass was greeted with a deafening “olé!” from the thousands of spectators watching on. But Barca didn’t settle there. In the 58th minute, Lionel Messi sliced a long diagonal pass through to David Villa, cutting open a disoriented Real Madrid defense. Looking up and picking out his target, Villa toe-poked the ball through the goalie’s legs to bring Barcelona’s lead to 4-0. The final score ended up being 5-0. The goals were typical Barcelona goals, but the team they were ripping apart was the great Real Madrid. Barca enjoyed their newly cemented status as the “special team.” The Blaugranas’ season continued to plow through opposition and set records. They became champions of La Liga, Supercopa de España and the Champions League. Each competition won further bolstered FC Barcelona’s status as a soccer empire whose model of tiki-taka possession (a style of play characterized by short passing and movement) and use of homegrown talent should be followed.
Fast-forward to April 23, 2013, the night of the Champions League semi-final. In the 82nd minute, Bayern Munich has found the back of Barcelona’s net once again, bringing the score to a jaw dropping 4-0 score line. Barcelona fans are no longer seen holding beers and chanting “Barca, Barca, Barcaaaa,” rather they are leaving the stadium early with scarfs in hands, no doubt car keys weighing heavily in their pockets. Barcelona came into the game as favorites (still riding the wave of past glory), but Bayern Munich used their underdog status to surprise Barcelona and the world with their dominance. The result was almost paradoxical in nature. Most attributed Barcelona with an individual superiority, however Bayern unified as a team to take down Goliath. Not only did Barca lose 4-0, they lost their incontestable credibility as the best team in the world.
The critics claimed this resounding defeat signaled the end of Barca’s reign and, therefore, the end of tiki-taka possession style soccer. Many outsiders believe a revolution in players, style and tactics is needed for Barcelona to climb to the top once again. However, what many fail to notice is how incredible it is that key players sustained their health and enthusiasm long enough to set records that are unlikely to be repeated, while also lifting Spanish soccer to the top of the world despite having little time to rest and regroup after each season. This begs the question: with some rest and fresh legs, can FC Barcelona regain its past glory?
The critics are wrong. The insiders know there must be a renewal, not revolution. Tiki-taka is not dead. Two of the club’s young players, Rafinha and Gerard Deulofeu, have been brought back from loans to other clubs. And, to the delight of fans, Brazilian superstar Neymar has been brought in to score goals. The speedy Uruguayan Luis Suárez has been added to the attack. Barcelona is attempting to buy Brazil’s captain Thiago Silva. With all these additions in mind, the restoration process will take time to truly show its positive impact, but the foundation of style and values will provide a constant baseline in the ups and downs to come in the near future.
All empires rise and fall like the Romans, Assyrians, Greeks and the Babylonians. However, Barcelona does not face the same fate as these forever-silenced superpowers. Like a continuous cycle, a new generation of players will emerge, hungry to rebuild what has slowly broken down and build even higher.