11 Things Barcelona Could Actually Learn from Real Madrid
This title may shock a lot of the Barcelona faithful and while many of the points can be argued both ways, the fact is Real Madrid have been doing a lot of things right both on and off the pitch.
Taking the La Liga title away from their bitter rivals was a huge triumph for Mourinho and co—many say an inevitable result that had been coming for some time.
For La Blaugrana to lose one of their coveted titles was bad enough, but to see their Champions League dreams shattered too was a bitter pill to swallow.
Madrid have come through somewhat of a transitional period that probably started at about the same time the recession hit Europe.
And while they are still capable of amassing plenty of detractors, sometimes you have to tip your hat and admit you were second best.
Sometimes it takes a significant disappointment to re-evaluate and come back stronger.
That’s exactly what Tito Vilanova’s men intend to do.
The phrase “If you can’t beat them, join them” can often ring true in sport.
Barcelona are more than capable of beating Madrid but learning a few pointers from their arch enemies may not be a totally terrible idea.
Here’s eleven to consider
11) Mind Games
Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson are probably the two best exponents of mind games in the world.
The phrase can be interpreted in many different ways with plenty seeing it to be an unnecessary part of the sport.
But sport is as much about psychology as it is ability. It’s about having the mental strength to deal with a variety of high pressure situations.
While the purists, including Pep Guardiola, constantly refuse to get involved when asked about a response, sometimes the silence is a clear indicator that the method has worked.
Indeed Guardiola looked irked about a variety of situations concerning Real toward the end of his reign.
Of course Mourinho loves the limelight, but at the same time his comments and reflections take the focus and pressure off his team.
He is a lot cleverer than people give him credit for and maybe a refreshing early retort from Tito Vilanova will surprise the Portuguese head coach.
That’s if Mourinho knows who he is after the infamous eye gouging incident.
10) Galactico Purchase
Madrid and Manchester City have been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer market so far.
While this may be seen as a good sign to their rivals in Spain and England respectively, one suspects there is a big purchase around the corner.
Barca have already secured the services of Jordi Alba from Valencia, but Brazilian wonderkid Neymar could be the most important signing of the next decade.
He is head and shoulders above the rest, and the board must do everything they possibly can to spend the cash and make that Galactico signing that would be so priceless.
But if they waiver or baulk at the final price, you know the club who will try and snatch him from under their noses.
Madrid will do everything to bring him to the Bernabeu, and although Barca very rarely break their financial structure they must be bold this time or risk a sustained period of Madrid dominance.
Just this once, copy Madrid’s past transfer history and throw caution to the wind.
9) Manager Hot Seat
Madrid have been through an incredible ten managers in just seven years between 2003-10.
A quite astonishing number and one that made past big money signings unsure of whether their manager would still be in charge by the time they stepped onto the pitch.
Indeed in 2004 the likes of Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Michael Owen had three different head coaches in the space of seven months!
But with the amount of changes, it’s almost a certainty that you will strike gold eventually and whether you love him or hate him, Jose Mourinho is one of the world's best coaches.
I’m not saying Barca should go down the hiring and firing route Madrid did, but at the same time they shouldn’t be afraid to make big managerial decisions if things aren’t working.
No one knows how Tito Vilanova will perform, or whether he will have what it takes to step up from the shadows and become a number one. The demands will be a huge shock no matter how close he was by Guardiola’s side.
The board will know very early whether he is up for the role but if he isn’t, it may be better to make a change sooner rather than later especially with the future of Arsene Wenger still very much up in the air.
8) Corner Kicks
Xavi’s corner kicks have become slightly predictable over the past couple of seasons. There seems to be a lack of invention with Puyol consistently the main target.
In Madrid, there is a better quality from Xavi Alonso and Mesut Ozil. They consistently find their main targets of Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It does help with having added height in the box. On paper, Barca are one of the smaller teams in La Liga and that could be an area they need to address.
7) Diving Is an Art
Diving is a part of soccer. Like it or not, it will be many here for many years to come.
And for the likes of Barca and Madrid who tend to get some generous calls from referees, diving has almost become a formality in order to make sure they get the correct decision.
Sergio Busquets might be the main protagonist for Barca but there are plenty more in the Madrid dressing room.
Non more so that a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.
Like Messi, he is the main focus to the success of the team.
Great ability is a blessing and when you have the intelligence to use every part of the game to your advantage, it’s a no brainer.
The amount of penalties and free kicks that have led to goals far exceed that of Barca.
Messi is renowned for not going down under any type of contact unless it really is a true foul.
Maybe he should take a leave out of Ronaldo’s book in the wake of last season.
6) Unsettling Players
Many clubs including Barca refuse to comment or speculate on transfer targets until the deal is all but complete.
Madrid are not one of those teams. In fact, they use a lot of transfer speculation in their favor.
Because they are such a huge club who will pay the biggest prices for the men they want, players cannot help but get their head turned at the possibility of joining Los Blancos.
This summer is no different with the constant vocal pursuit of Luka Modric, and ultimately it looks like they will get their man.
The speculation also causes problems with the player’s current club who become frustrated at the interest going public, whilst other past short listed players are sometimes more willing to join the club when the focus looks to have moved away from them.
There has been very little from Tito Vilnova about the pursuit of Neymar. When he returns from the Olympics, maybe it’s time for the talking to begin?
5) Barcelona Formation
Barcelona’s 4-3-3 had been unbeatable until last season. The players picked themselves and everybody’s role was understood.
But maybe a change is needed? Madrid’s 4-2-3-1 looked far stronger throughout last season with Ronaldo given a free role on the left hand side of a midfield three to terrorize opponents.
The way they outplayed their rivals at Camp Nou maybe a sign of things to come.
If David Villa is fit and firing he could fit into the Karim Benzema role allowing Messi to create havoc just in behind.
Whatever the tactics, maybe a bit more adaptability is needed. If you can't beat them, join them!
Messi is without doubt the best footballer in the world, but if there is any weakness in his game his penalty taking would be one of them.
It’s just not a particularly natural approach and while his record is very acceptable, he did miss a crucial spot kick against Chelsea and does not look his usual confident self over the ball.
The same cannot be said of Cristiano Ronaldo and although he doesn’t hit the back of the net every time, as a fan, I’d rather have him over the ball in that particular situation.
Confidence is the key in a one-on-one situation, and that’s exactly what Madrid and Ronaldo have. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to take a bit of video analysis from their rivals.
3) Average Age of Squad
Barcelona's excellent mix of youth and experience has served them so well in recent years, but last season some of the players started to look their age.
With the amount of competitions Barca now find themselves involved in, it will only continue to get tougher.
At the time of writing this article, their average age is 27.25 compared to the younger Madrid squad who weigh in at a sprightly 25.13.
Maybe it’s time to bring some younger legs in and reduce that overall age. Neymar anyone?
2) Promoting the Global Brand
Barca recently signed a controversial first sponsorship deal with the Qatar foundation for €25m a year.
The Catalan giants still carry the UNICEF logo but after debts of more than $500m, sometimes you have to bite the bullet.
Some fans feel disappointed with the decision, but it was an inevitable move following their much publicized financial problems.
Many see it a sell-out, but the very fact they promoted UNICEF for five years (and continue to do so) speaks volumes about the type of club Barca are.
But the fact is they’ve followed the likes of Madrid and signed one of the biggest sponsorship deals in football history.
1) Give Media What They Want
Barca are notorious at being quite closed with the media during their pre and post match press conferences much to the frustration of the Spanish journalists.
While much of that is pre-meditated, the same cannot be said for their noisy counterparts.
In fact, when it comes to media interaction, Madrid are the polar opposite.
That may have a lot to do with their current manager but when it comes to obtaining the “sexy” headlines, Real give them in abundance.
It’s inevitable that being more affable with the media leads to better headlines and a slightly favored perception.
Although this may not bother Barca, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more open especially with the new relationships Vilanova will have to make.