"It's certainly among the best sides of all time. But so was the Milan side with (Franco) Baresi, (Carlo) Ancelotti, (Roberto) Donadoni and the Dutch players," said Sir Alex Ferguson, referring to the squad that Arrigo Sacchi coached to back-to-back European Cup titles in 1989 and 1990.
Few things from the footballing mind and mouth of Sir Alex Ferguson can be argued with. So when the Manchester United manager/legend acknowledges that Barcelona are undoubtedly amongst the best teams in the history of the beautiful game, one has to sit up and take notice.
Now having sat up and taken notice, and despite back-to-back draws—which in Barcelona's case is seen by some as a crisis—the team is looking as strong as ever. So it begs the question: why settle for being "among" the best when you can "be" the best?
That is the challenge. So, here are five reasons why Barcelona must win it all again.
Passing it down
This is without doubt the single most important factor in the pursuit of greatness. Whether it is a team, a player, a single season or an era, success is defined by sustainability. After all neither a team nor a player will go down in history for a single performance or a single season? The ability to perform at the highest level consistently is what wins individuals accolades and teams trophies.
As for this particular generation of Barcelona players—despite the unwarranted criticism that has been directed at them—most notably from a town down south, they have time and again risen above all negativity and continued to sustain their quality and competitiveness. Having said that, all good things come to an end and Pep Guardiola will know in the back of his head that it's only a matter of time before the track starts to turn bumpy.
Between now and then, Guardiola & Co know exactly what they have to do in order to ensure that their star shines brightest.
"El Clasico" is not just the biggest football match in Spain, it is arguably the most explosive sporting occasion on the planet. Serving as a barometer for relations between the fiercely independent Catalans and seat of power—Madrid.
Anyone who watched the recent games and the subsequent fracas would know full well that this is a duel in which the consequences of either team's actions on the field of play have the potential to unwrath a much deeper animosity off the field. Fortunately, due in large part to the patience and diplomatic policy adopted by the board of FC Barcelona, we are not quite at the stage as predicted by some, where there would be blood in the streets.
Real Madrid claim the right to nine European Cups, and although Barcelona have made strides toward that number in recent years, they remain some way off. There is little likelihood that this achievement will be surpassed under Guardiola's watch—as manager at least.
With each season, Guardiola has the chance of taking another step toward the ultimate prize, and there is little doubt that few things are more important to the Catalan people (Guardiola included) than to beat Madrid!
David Miller called Johan Cruyff “Pythagoras in boots.” Barcelona’s current tactician (and Cruyff pupil) Pep Guardiola once said: “Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barca’s subsequent coaches must merely restore and improve it.” Wes Pickard said: "When Cruyff was on the field, he had a knack for knowing where everyone on the pitch was at all times. He understood the pitch like Gretzky understood a hockey rink. Cruyff’s position was more puppeteer than midfielder, arguably the finest footballing brain."
Now, I'm not entirely sure this will come out right, but Johan Cruyff is a freak of nature. Luis Enrique told his Barca B players last season, "Don't try to be like Messi. Players like him only come along every few hundred years." Therefore, by definition a freak of nature is something which occurs extremely intermittently and very randomly.
Cruyff's glittering career shone as a Barcelona player, peaked as Barcelona manager and now in his capacity of Barcelona's "Godfather" he is basking in glory. And in Pep Guardiola it seems he found the perfect apprentice to ensure the chapel will always remain pristine, though, under his ever-watchful gaze.
Johan Cruyff managed Barcelona through their most glorious era, until a few years ago when Guardiola stepped up to the plate with Cruyff's blessing. In the three seasons as manager of FC Barcelona, Pep Guardiola has won more silverware than Cruyff—and in doing so, no doubt surpassed even his own wildest expectations, and we dare say even those of Cruyff.
Now with one more league title to win to equal his mentor, Guardiola will no doubt be looking beyond four consecutive titles and hoping to set a record of his own and in doing so establish a "Dream Team" to rival Cruyff's.
Is it something in the air or perhaps the water? How is it possible that an area as small a Catalonia can give birth to one of the best goalkeepers in the world, two of the best central defenders in the word and three of the best midfielders—not to mention nurturing the best footballer in the world, and less and less arguably the best manager in the world.
For the answer to this predicament most people point toward "The Farm," or La Masia as it is locally know. Legend has it that the old farmhouse, used for boarding bristling young talent, faced the Nou Camp stadium so that every night, before lights out, the young players could stare through the windows dreaming, one day...one day.
Now those fortunate dreamers who grace the Nou Camp Colosseum week in and week out, defending the claret and blue jersey find themselves in an interesting situation. Fate has conspired to make this particular generation special, with many of them have already cemented their legacies as individuals. It is as a team that they have the chance of establishing the ultimate benchmark and writing their names into the history books of both the club and the sport.
As long as the fundamental qualities of comradeship and humility are not lost on them anytime soon. It should only be a matter of time.
'Manchester City's £100m plan to be the Barcelona of the Premier League'
This was the headline of the Guardian newspaper yesterday the 19th of September 2011. "They are the benchmark for developing young talent," said City football administrator Brian Marwood of the Spanish champions. "You talk about the DNA, the philosophy and the culture, and it is there at every level in terms of how they play."
On their new 80-acre site Man City aim to replicate Barcelona's Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, and by doing so make the most important strategic decision in the recent history of the club. This is a commendable move and desperately need in the English game; more clubs must follow suit.
But the key here is the term "benchmark." The revolution which started with the arrival of a Dutchman and his philosophy to the city of Barcelona is now the glowing beacon of how the beautiful game should be taught and played.
The difference between Barcelona and every other club in the world is the sacred revolutionary foundations. Manchester United risk losing it when Sir Alex Ferguson steps aside and Real Madrid never really had it. Barcelona are the only club which have ensured the sustainability of the revolutionary qualities, and when Cruyff's time is up, no doubt Guardiola will fill his post as he has done already, and Xavi or Puyol or Iniesta will fill his current boots and the chain goes on and on and on...
So, with this latest development by Manchester City, it's a clear case of "when you can't beat them, join them." And if more clubs follow the Barca blueprint, then maybe somewhere down the line, Barca may become victims of their own success.
Until then, however, Viva La Revolucion!!!!!