FC Barcelona: 10 Moments That Define What Barça Is Today
There's no doubt FC Barcelona is one of the best clubs in the world right now. But how exactly did it get there?
Without the club's troubled history, there's a good chance we wouldn't be seeing Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Fábregas, Thiago, Piqué and Puyol at the Camp Nou today.
There's also a good chance that without some defining moments, Barça wouldn't be what it is today, and it wouldn't have the titles and popularity it currently has.
But exactly which moments defined what Barcelona is today?
This slideshow will try to point them out in chronological order, simply because ranking each one without giving the historical precedent its importance would be very unfair.
So let's take a bit of a ride through Barça's history, then.
Joan Gamper Creates Football Club Barcelona from the Ground Up in 1899
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First thing's first: Nothing defines something like the moment it was created.
I won't bore you with the details, just like Joan Gamper (real name: Hans Gamper) probably didn't think about it much in 1899: The Swiss man just wanted to play some football.
A couple of newspaper ads later, Football Club Barcelona was born.
The rest as they say, is history.
A troubled one, as you will find out soon.
They do play the annual and very prestigious Joan Gamper Trophy (pictured above) every year, though, which Barcelona has won 35 out of its 46 editions.
Maybe I overdid it on the prestigious bit, though.
Laszlo Kubala Arives and Pushes FC Barcelona Forward in 1950
Fast-forward to 1950. I swear you didn't miss much.
In Hungary, the soviets took over, and young Ladislao, who enjoyed playing football, fled from his country in the back of a truck to join the "Hungaria XI" team on a couple of friendlies against Spanish teams, where Barcelona, impressed by his talents, spotted him and got him to sign for the Blaugrana.
But since he ran away, he had a one year ban from FIFA for fleeing his now Soviet-run country.
I swear I din't make that up.
So Kubala waited a year, and in 1951, he scored 26 goals in 19 games played in La Liga, including seven scored against Sporting Gijon, which remain a record to this day.
In short, he was a sensation and brought titles, fame and even Hungarian players like Kocsis and Czibor Barcelona's way.
His fame was so great, Barcelona quickly realized they needed a new stadium so they could fit more Kubala-thirsty men to inside.
The move out of Les Corts and into a new, bigger, better, Kubala-worthy stadium was on its way.
More on that later, though.
Di Stefano Signed for Barcelona... and Then for Real Madrid in 1953
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Would you imagine if Barcelona had kept Di Stefano?
That might have changed the club's history a bit, don't you think?
Anyways, long (over talked) story made short: Barcelona had him signed, then they didn't, then Madrid signed him, then Di Stefano lead Madrid to "only" five European Cups from 1955 to 1960.
The Franco part of it is probably a myth, and if it's not, it's not worth discussing.
What it meant for Barça, however, is still lived on by Barça fans to this day when a Merengue spills the "We've won nine Champions Leagues" argument they love to say.
If Kubala and Di Stefano had become partners... Barça's winning ways could have started way sooner.
Camp Nou Is Built, Barcelona Leave Les Corts in 1957
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I told you we'd talk about Barça's new stadium.
Actually, they still play there today, and you might have heard of it: The Camp Nou.
Built to house a Kubala-lead winning team, truth is it would have to wait a while to see the home team be dominant.
Di Stefano had changed the tides, and the momentum Kubala inspired had run-out by the time to was inaugurated in 1957.
Still, Barcelona now had a field that represented just how big it wanted to be one day.
Rinus Michels Imports the "Total Football" Style (And Johan Cruyff) in 1971
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Big fast-foward again to the 70's, when two Dutch men would arrive to the Camp Nou and bring the most fashionable tactic in those days to Barcelona: Total Football had arrived at the Camp Nou.
Leading the way was Total Football inventor and former Ajax coach Rinus Michels, who arrived in 1971.
In (very) simple words, the tactical innovation he had was scrapping the traditional "defenders defend, midfielders play in the middle and forwards attack" idea and having all players in his team capable of doing every duty anywhere on the pitch.
That way, a defender could attack, a midfielder should do both and attackers could (and did) defend.
In the end, what this meant was that when another player left his position, another would fill in it naturally, allowing great fluidity amongst its lines tactically speaking.
Then, the player best suited to play in this new tactical setup arrived at Camp Nou: Johan Cruyff.
Starting from a centre-forward position he roamed all over the field acting as a midfielder, and sometimes even as a sweeper in between defenders.
If all of this sound familiar, that's because it should. That's more or less what Barça still does to this day football-wise.
Michels and Cruyff are the men to thank for that.
Johan Cruyff Establishes the Ajax Youth System Philosphy for Barça in 1988
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After winning it all with Ajax as a manager, Cruyff followed in Michels' footsteps and embarked on the managerial job at Barcelona.
There he revived the Total Football spirit Michels had in the 70's and imported one more tradition from Ajax: the way the youth teams work.
At the Dutch Club, youth players were always used to build their their teams form the ground up instead of buying them from other clubs.
They also played the same tactual style (total football style) all the way up from children to youth levels to reserve teams to the first teams.
Every team in their system played the same way. And Cruyff brought that idea with him to the Camp Nou.
Twenty years, or a full generation of coaching later, was all it took for Barça to start pumping out talent regularly.
Probably the first talent to come out of this idea was Pep Guardiola, but it wasn't until the Cesc, Piqué Messi generation that it was perfected.
Now, every year, we see two or three first team worthy players out of La Masía.
That's all thanks to Cruyff.
But that's not all he brought to Barcelona...
Cruyff and the Dream Team Win the Club Their First European Cup in 1992
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Needless to say, Barcelona had none, or you would have seen it on this slideshow already.
You should all know this too well, as Barcelona won it 1-0 with a brilliant Ronald Koeman free-kick goal.
He would get himself in position to win the second one too, only to lose 0-4 against Arrigo Sacchi's Milan in Athens in 1994.
Still, winning the first one was a huge step forward for the Blaugrana.
And without Cruyff, it just wouldn't have happened.
Joan Laporta Fails to Sign Beckham...Brings in Ronaldinho Instead in 2003
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Barcelona would had to wait 11 years after the first UCL win move forward once again.
This time on a bit of a fluke.
New president Joan Laporta wanted to bring David Beckham, of all people, to the Camp Nou.
Happy for him (and Barcelona's history) that never came to be because greedy Florentino Pérez got to him first, and with a bigger paycheck.
Barça had to settle for a Brazilian playmaker named Ronaldinho.
As you might know, Dinho was integral to the team that would eventually do something quite special for the club...
Rijkaard, Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Deco Win the Club's Second UCL in 2006
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Joan Laporta had a bit of luck signing Dinho.
But signing Deco, Giuly, Edmilson, Márquez, Belletti, Larsson, Mark van Bommel and Samuel Eto'o in the 2003 to 2005 span was simply top class.
It earned him a Champions League too.
Barça won it 2-1 against Arsenal in 2006, getting their second European title and putting their name back in the running as a European heavyweight 14 years after Cruyff had done the same at Wembley.
Guardiola Continues Cruyff's Tradition and Wins UCLs 3 and 4 for Barça in 2011
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And now we are, well...we're now.
Pep Guardiola is making history of his own as we speak next to Messi and a generation of footballers grown at la Masia, thanks to all you've seen and read before this slide by winning the 2009 and 2011 editions of the Champions League and dominating La Liga and elsewhere too.
And while it is completely possible that Pep's team might start slowing down an day now, with the team's philosophy very well put in, it seems unlikely it will flat out stop any time soon.
This in part because Guardiola knows his history well and is a brilliant La Masia-born talent both as a player and as a coach that understands all the fundamental aspects of Barça lore all too well.
And while that's the case and a certain Lionel Messi is on the team and riding the throne being the world's best footballer, you can expect to see this list to get even bigger.
Barça's truly defining moments are the ones that we are seeing every day.
And the ones we are still to see in the following years.
Follow Andrés Ehrli on Twitter! @ehrli