It’s trickier than it looks. Picking only one Spanish player means Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, to name but a few, are fighting for that spot. Four of those, at least, would be in a best all-time Barcelona XI with no restrictions.
We want you to pick your own team and leave it in the comments below. Here are the rules…
One player per nationality, and it has to be the national team they represent or represented, rather than any other possibility—i.e. if they were born in one country but played for another.
Certainly, some players would claim they were Catalan rather than Spanish, but until FIFA verifies Catalonia as a nation, which will not be happening any time soon, players born there count as a Spanish.
Furthermore, in a bid to keep it to players that most people will have watched and appreciated, they have to have appeared for the club after the year 2000.
It’s all very well saying that Ladislao Kubala was one of the club’s all-time greatest players, but how many people have seen more than a few clips of him?
The setup also has to be a regular, commonly used formation (4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-4-3, etc) and respect should be paid to how the team would actually operate. For example, it’s tempting to pack the midfield with attacking stars but without an anchorman or pivot, they would likely be foiled at the top level.
Without further ado, here are our selections, and we are looking forward to reading yours in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo (Chile)
Is Claudio Bravo the best goalkeeper in Barcelona’s history? No, he is not. But Victor Valdes and Andoni Zubizarreta who would be battling it out for that accolade are both Spanish and therefore, it makes it tricky to pick them with so many other players from La Roja deserving of a place in the side.
So the Chilean it is, a player who for two seasons was superb and helped Barcelona win two league titles and the Club World Cup. Alexis Sanchez is the only other Chile star who has played for Barcelona recently, and he was considered a disappointment by many, and Barcelona have so many attacking stars that it makes Bravo a solid pick.
Right-back: Dani Alves (Brazil)
So that’s Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Neymar out of the window for starters. But Dani Alves, although not as brilliant in his final years at the club, was such a big part of the team’s success under Pep Guardiola that he is essential to include.
Carles Puyol was another option for right-back and also centre-back, but as legendary as he was, his nationality counts against him, as well as Alves’ quality.
Centre-back: Frank de Boer (Netherlands)
The centre-backs were the trickiest positions to fill in the squad, because the truth is they have been big problem positions for Barcelona over the years. Certainly Pique would make it into a best-ever team, but with only one Spanish player available, he misses out here.
Frank de Boer is the player in the side who goes back furthest, given he started playing for Barcelona in 1999 and finished in 2003. The Dutchman was smart, versatile and consistent.
Centre-back: Rafael Marquez (Mexico)
Rafael Marquez became the first Mexican to play for FC Barcelona and brought with him swagger and style at a low price—€5 million from Monaco. His longevity highlights his quality—Marquez played for Barcelona for seven years, between 2003 and 2010.
Like with De Boer, he isn’t one of the very greatest Barcelona players, but this team would be confident with him at the back.
Left-back: Eric Abidal (France)
Eric Abidal joined from Lyon and was part of the extremely successful Guardiola team, winning trophies both before and after he battled liver cancer and won.
The Frenchman was extremely smart, able to come inside and play as a centre-back when Alves went roaming on the right, meaning Barcelona had a back-three, essentially.
Defensive midfield: Seydou Keita (Mali)
Seydou Keita was battling with two other men for this spot. Ivory Coast star Yaya Toure and Busquets. While the latter is Barcelona’s best defensive midfielder, he loses out because of the team’s next pick. Yaya, meanwhile, played for the club less than Keita, who grew to be loved by supporters at Camp Nou.
He would be a responsible presence in this side, making sure that defensive duties were not neglected amid all the creative flair.
Right interior: Xavi Hernandez (Spain)
Doubtless this will cause many arguments, because who can say for sure if Xavi is better than Iniesta? The two should always go together. But in this team, they cannot.
Xavi was the best guardian of the club’s possession-based style, as demonstrated by their lack of control in many games since he left—particularly when his partner in crime Iniesta is out, too.
He will be the man in this team to ensure everything is functioning and that Barcelona have a stranglehold on games. And with Alves on the right, the pair can recreate their spectacular relationship that saw numerous clipped Xavi balls setting the rampaging Brazilian in down the right.
Left interior: Deco (Portugal)
When Deco came to Barcelona, many doubted how useful he would be. Another creative midfielder in a team that also boasted Ronaldinho was surely a luxury. But the Portuguese had far more to his game than the tricks that dazzled supporters. He worked hard in midfield and was an important presence. He won the player of the season award in 2005-06.
Right forward: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Lionel Messi was obviously the first name on the teamsheet, given he is the best player in the history of football. He can play in the right-wing role (on paper) that Luis Enrique deploys him in, but with the freedom to roam where he pleases.
Centre-forward: Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
This was a tough position to dole out. Luis Suarez has only been with Barcelona three seasons but has had a massive impact at the club. His goals helped propel them to the treble and the double in the first two years.
One of the key reasons he made it into the team ahead of the likes of David Villa, Patrick Kluivert and Co, is because of his spectacular relationship with Messi.
The pair are thick and thin on and off the pitch, and to split them up would surely only be counter-productive. Keep Messi happy and you’re halfway there.
Left forward: Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)
Thierry Henry would be a better positional fit for the left-forward role, but with Abidal a necessity at full-back, another great Barcelona striker gets the job.
Samuel Eto’o might prefer to play more centrally, but he can certainly do the job in this position—an intelligent, lethal player. If Suarez doesn’t get you, Eto’o will.
Over to you: Who would make your combined Barcelona XI comprised of one player from each country? Leave your comments and choices below or reply on social media: @riksharma_