When Barcelona brushed aside Manchester United last year, claiming its second Champions League title in three years, I wrote about hyperbole.
I wrote in my blog about journalists’ over dependence on it. They are prone to it the way excited teenagers are prone to drama, admittedly. It’s part of the journalistic condition; we like to feel that we are living in, and writing about, history in the making.
All that said, I truly felt that Barcelona FC’s recent version, under Pep Guardiola’s masterful watch, must surely have been among the top individual clubs of all time.
To see what they did that 2011 day (pictured) to Sir Alex Ferguson’s might men was breathtaking. Remember, this outstanding Manchester United assembly had just won another English Premier League title, crowned champions in an association so many consider the globe’s best. And yet, the loss to Barcelona looked like varsity vs. JV on the schoolyard.
I wrote that Barcelona, guided majestically by Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi, were absolutely playing a different game – and quite a beautiful one.
When elements of substance and style come together so seamlessly, so effectively, something truly enlightened is going on.
See, there’s that hyperbole I talked about. But I believe it’s justified in this case.
The entire side’s ability to create space and maintain the tidiest of control is like none I’ve ever seen. Their overall tactical awareness and individual attention to spacing and efficient movement off the ball is sublime. Their passing precision (giving the ball to the correct foot, for instance, at just the right moment) is utterly enlightened. Their footwork is perennially bright and active. And consider that the level of fitness required for that pressing game is something most of can’t fathom.
That’s what I wrote on my blog a year ago.
This year’s Barcelona? Something was clearly missing, a knife’s edge gone dull. Still, what Guardiola built over four years shouldn’t be diminished. The blessedness of substance meeting style never should be.