A little less than a week before FC Barcelona host Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League, anything less than a stellar performance by Guardiola’s men and the heavily favored Blaugrana will exit this year’s tournament.
Last year, Barca was unlucky not to progress to the Champions League final, due to some bad calls by the refereeing staff. But then again, one could argue that Lady Luck was on Barca’s side when the Blaugrana squared off with Chelsea FC.
But the return fixture against Arsenal FC is not just another Champions League match; it could very well be THE game of year for the Blaugrana. Why is that? If FC Barcelona fail to achieve a victory and progress to the next round of the Champions League, their aspirations of becoming the best club side in history will vanish.
They might’ve had the best year in club football (2009) and are perhaps the most entertaining side in the world, but to truly cement their place as the best team in history they must win multiple CL trophies, or at least come close to challenging for them.
Personally, I’d rank Pep’s squad as the best FC Barcelona side of all-time, even as one of the best football sides ever, but there’s still some way to go before we can champion Lionel Messi & Co. as the best football team in history.
Although the format of the Champions League differed immensely from the current tournament, a straight knock-out competition, the Ajax or Bayern sides of the 60’s and 70’s won multiple titles within a 5-year timespan.
Each year one team is crowned Champion of Europe, but that doesn’t make the winning team THE best side of Europe. Sometimes it’s just dumb luck that determines the outcome of a game, especially in knock-out tournaments.
Nevertheless, it is a requirement to win Europe’s most prestigious and important competition AND dominate the domestic league if Barca is to be crowned the best team of all-time.
So far, FC Barcelona has fulfilled the minimum requirement of the continental double (domestic league and CL) on two occasions in the last five years (2006 & 2009). If Barca were to accomplish the double, or even the treble, in 2011 they would almost certainly become the prime contenders for best team of all-time.
In the last decade, AC Milan, one of Europe’s genuine big clubs, managed to win the CL in 2003 & 2007 but fell short on the domestic scene, having only won the Serie A title once.
About the only team that can rival FC Barcelona in terms of success is Manchester United. But for all their trophies, the Red Devils lack the spectacle that has become one of FC Barcelona’s hallmarks. Grinding out wins and trophies doesn’t automatically put one in contention for best team of all-time.
Inter Milan came awfully close in matching FC Barcelona’s feat of winning six trophies in one calendar year (2010) but no one is seriously suggesting that the Massimo Moratti-owned club is the best side in the world.
There’s a reason why some of the greatest football sides are associated with one or more icons of the sport. Take the Ajax or Real Madrid sides that dominated their era. They are forever known as Cryuff’s Ajax and Di Stefano’s Madrid, in large part because they played some spectacular football.
Result-based football a la Jose Mourinho or Fabio Capello will win trophies but it will not capture the imagination of football purists.
FC Barcelona is already the most entertaining side in all of world football, now it’s time to capture even more silverware. If the Blaugrana do accomplish yet another continental double then it’s safe to crown them as the best football team in history.