FC Barcelona – A New Football Philosophy!
At the height of FC Barcelona’s Tiki Taka style of football a few seasons ago, I wrote in one of my columns that I was lucky to be alive at the time to witness the phenomena of Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona at the same period in the history of football.
Tiki Taka has influenced how football is currently been played in several arts of the world, with its precise, patient, efficient possession football characterized by quick passing and dashing movements, where going forward is as important as taking the ball all the way to the back to restart an attack.
I wrote then, having personally experienced the generation of players from Pele to Neymar, that I consider Lionel Messi, the diminutive Argentine genius, as the greatest player of all time and FC Barcelona the greatest team.
Now I must add that the rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has been the keenest between any two footballers at the same time in history, and that the frontline of Messi, Neymar and Suarez may be the most lethal ever.
Of the four listed phenomena the last is the most obvious and least contentious. The statistics of the three players’ performances and achievements this season speak for themselves.
As for the rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, in the past 7 years, between them, they have monopolized the award of World’s Best Player. Messi won it four times and Ronaldo, thrice. No other pair in world football have played in the same era, challenged and inspired each other as much, and used their rivalry to dominate the global football scene the way this duo have done this past decade. Their rivalry obviously became a catalyst for their remarkable successes.
Now, once again, the next Ballon d’or is upon us. This time Lionel Messi is poised to win it for the fifth time, an unprecedented feat that would set him aside from every other player in history, as the greatest ever.
The interesting thing is that at 29 he still has a few years left to add to an astonishing statistic of accomplishments, and to become even better with age, like wine. These days Messi has become more prone to injury but more clinical and efficient in the things he does on the field of play. A sixth award in the near future may not be farfetched notwithstanding the new challenge of fast rising new kids on the Ballon d’or block led by Neymar.
FC Barcelona got to its zenith in football with their style of football hewn in the Camp Nou academy, a philosophy that translated into something truly unique – a team that played without any outright striker, that played with ten midfield players running, pressing, moving and passing at great speed and with the uncanny ability to keep possession of the ball longer than any other, and to leave opposing players in a daze by the speed of their interchange of passes and movements.
They were a delight to watch for several years until it became rather monotonous and boring to its victims, and the rest of football had to do something to slow them down.
Everyone thought there was nothing more to do to take the game to another level beyond Tiki Taka, but not the architects in Barcelona. Having been decoded and Barca’s total dominance diminished slightly for two seasons in Europe, the team has come up again this season with a new strategy that has the rest of the world once again scratching their heads in awe, amazement and admiration. It started with the recruitment of Neymar.
The evolution of Neymar
The past few months have yielded a bewildering harvest. Few saw it coming when FC Barcelona recruited an ‘outsider’ of exceptional ability and stature to their team three seasons ago, but whose style of play, cultivated in a football culture at variance with the basic tip tap style of FC Barcelona.
Neymar was a one-man football circus, a flamboyant artist and expressionist who loved to showboat, who took delight in teasing defenders, taking them on and attracting bone-crushing tackles to himself by holding on to the ball for a little bit longer than necessary, riding tackles or falling under them, either way making life difficult for defenders but at the expense of team play!
Neymar was not your typical team player and hardly did the one-two pass. The only common thread with Barca is that he loved to score exotic, ‘sexy’ goals, the product of uncommon creativity and dexterity.
So, Neymar was brought into FC Barcelona as the world waited to see how this would pan out and fit into the emerging jig saw puzzle.
It has taken three years to mature. Even then, to be complete, Barcelona acquired a third leg in a tripod of strategic injections into the team. That third leg is another player called Luis Suarez.
After the World Cup of 2014, Luis Suarez’s recruitment was an absolute shocker, his style was also completely out of character with the great club.
Suarez was undoubtedly an acclaimed predator in front of goal, the hunter upfront that badges defenders with his strength, pace and power, pouncing on any half chances and converting them, but he was not at all in the typical Tiki Taka mold.
His public image after been sent packing from the World Cup for very bad conduct was very poor and did not help matters. Yet Barcelona forsook all of that and hired him even whilst under suspension.