Sergio Busquets has only turned 23 today, but he's already a vital piece in Pep Guardiola's all-conquering Barcelona side. The rise of Busquets has been absolutely extraordinary, especially considering that just two-and-a-half years ago most football fans didn't even know who Sergio was.
Busquets used to play in the B team under Pep Guardiola. The latter was so impressed with Busquets that he promoted him to the first team as soon as he became manager. He wasn't a regular starter in the 2008-2009 season, far from it, but he didn't fail to impress during the minutes he got.
His rise to stardom started in the 2009 Champions League final. A defensive crisis at the club (injuries and suspensions) meant that Yaya Touré had to fill in at centre-back. Guardiola, as reliant on youth as ever, trusted Busquets to fill in the Ivorian's usual position in the biggest match of the season, and Sergio didn't disappoint. It was the first test of the Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta trio—who now dominates opponents week in week out—in a major match, and it was a hugely successful one.
Only 20 at the time, Busquets showed the same calm and composure on the ball that have since become his trademark and helped Barcelona win their third Champions League.
In the following season, he displaced Yaya Touré and became an indisputable starter at Barcelona. Guardiola's decision attracted criticism from all corners, with even some sections of Barcelona supporters claiming Busquets was "too soft" and "too error-prone" and that Yaya was better than him. The criticism proved to be unfounded as Busquets had a very solid season at the club level and a fabulous World Cup, where he man marked star playmakers Mezut Ozil and Wesley Sneijder out of Spain's semifinal and final matches.
Vicente del Bosque was so impressed with Sergio's performances that he declared that if he could come back as any player, it'd be as Sergio Busquets. In less than one year, the then 21-year-old had gone from being nobody in the football to being the most decorated 21-year-old on the planet with both a Champions League and a World Cup-winning medal—as a starter and key player no less.
The 2010-2011 season was where Busquets became one of the world's best players. Yaya Touré had been sold in the summer in search of the game time he was unable to get with Busquets around, and Javier Mascherano was brought in.
Many believed Mascherano would displace Busquets, but they had another thing coming.
Busquets held on to his starting spot and was actually one of Barcelona's best players during the season. He used to be a bit error-prone, but not anymore. His season was pretty much flawless. His positional awareness, reading of the game and ability to play it simple made him a vital piece of a team that won the league and the Champions League. He also showed his maturity by keeping his cool despite ridiculous claims of cheating and racism.
Yet again, he shined in the Champions League final against Manchester Untied, pulling the strings in midfield along with his teammates Xavi Hernandez and Andrés Iniesta.
At 23, the sky is the limit for Sergio Busquets, who can only improve even further. Everything he does is so simple, yet so effective, a lot like Pep Guardiola in his playing days. Barcelona have found themselves a world-class defensive/center midfielder for the next decade.
When Pep Guardiola gave Busquets a chance back in 2009, who would have thought he'd end up becoming one of the world's best so soon? Now, two years later, it's impossible to imagine a Barcelona team without Sergio Busquets, who's won the fans over and is now a fan favorite among culés.
In the words of Cesar Menotti, Sergio Busquets is a rare talent, and one that Barcelona are lucky to have among their ranks. He will certainly achieve a lot more in the rest of his career as a blaugrana player.
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