FC Barcelona is a name that is familiar to anyone who has had even a brief glimpse into the world of football. The Catalans are undoubtedly one of the biggest and most successful clubs in both Spanish and World football and have made a name for themselves with their unique style of play and the immense amount of talent they developed over the years. Founded in 1899 by Joan Gamper, they are one of the only clubs alongside Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid that have yet to be relegated from the Spanish top flight, La Liga.
Barcelona’s trophy cabinet is not anything to scoff at either; with over 100 trophies under their name, they arguably have one of the most decorated cabinets in the world. However, their rise to becoming one of the biggest clubs in the world happened long after their foundation, specifically when they won the UEFA Champions League (European Club Championship) in 1992, under Johan Cruyff. As their head coach, he completely revamped their play-style and showed the world something it’s never seen before.
The club is not only known for having a plethora of talented players and support staff but is also known for the talent they produce in their academy. Some of the best players in the world started their training in the club’s youth academy, La Masia. To this day, the youth academy is a vital feeder for the club’s first team; having produced world-class talents such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Pedro, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets and to name a few.
However, the most prolific graduate from La Masia has to be none other than the Argentine captain himself, Lionel Andres Messi. After debuting for the first team at the tender age of 17, he grew up to be one of the best players in the world. Messi linked up well with Xavi and Iniesta and went on to form one of the strongest midfield combinations of all time and proved to be a threat to every team they faced.
Barcelona in their prime was almost unstoppable. The team was arguably at their best under the management of Pep Guardiola during the 2008-09 season. Balanced from top to bottom, in terms of pace, strength, mentality, and chemistry, this powerhouse of a squad went on to win all the trophies they possibly could that particular season.
The team continued to be a dominant side in the Spanish top flight and Europe even past this season as they also went on to clinch the double (the La Liga and Champions League titles) in the 2010-11 season. This was their fourth European Cup and it helped cement them as one of the best European sides, right up there with Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Liverpool.
Tito Vilanova was appointed as their next head coach soon after and molded Barca to be one of the offensively driven teams in the world under his reign. Unfortunately, Tito's tenure prematurely came to an end as he passed away due to a rapid decline in health. The subsequent season, the club ended up winning only one trophy, the Spanish Super Cup. Tito left big shoes to fill and the club desperately had to search for a replacement.
They eventually found what they were looking for, was none other than Luis Enrique, one of their former players. Appointed as the head coach in 2014, he paired Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez with Lionel Messi upfront to form one of the deadliest attacking trios club football has ever seen. The MSN combo put up brilliant performances game in game out, netting 122 goals throughout the season. On top of this, Enrique strengthened other aspects of the squad that were lacking and managed to rejuvenate the spirit of the club, which was seemingly absent since Titos passing. He successfully led Barcelona to their second Treble win in 2014-15, making them the first team to achieve such a feat twice.
In the following seasons, while still performing consistently well in La Liga, they were unable to succeed in the Champions League. With the departure of Xavi, Neymar, and Iniesta in subsequent years, Barcelona found itself in a vulnerable position, with a lot of pressure riding on their top marksman, Lionel Messi. They were beginning to be branded as ‘bottlers’ after continuously poor performances in the Champions League knockout stages. The classic Barcelona mentality and team spirit and mentality were starting to fade once again and this was made especially evident with humiliating Champions League defeats to AS Roma and Liverpool FC in 2018 and 2019.
The executive board behind FC Barcelona decided to sack Ernesto Valverde, Enrique’s successor as head coach, for his poor results in the Champions League even after witnessing his delightful track record at the domestic level; snagging the club La Liga titles in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Quique Setien was appointed as the new coach early into 2020 and was unfortunately unable to do much to better the poor results of the club. The loss of the La Liga title to rivals Real Madrid, the Copa del Rey defeat, and a humiliating 8-2 exit against Bayern Munich in the Champions League made the 2020 season one of Barca’s worst in years.
Things started to heat up within the club as Lionel Messi expressed his frustration over the club’s sloppy management and abysmal performance at the Champions League. In response, Barcelona has given its former player, Ronald Koeman the task of rebuilding the club as their newest manager. As the hero of the 1992 Champions League final, fans are eagerly expecting him to bring significant changes to the club and re-establish them as one of the best in Europe by bringing in young talent into the club once again. Barca’s fans the world over are bound have their eyes glued to every single move the club makes; having no other choice but to keep their fingers crossed in hopes of seeing the spirit of Barcelona return to the club after years of its absence.
Will FC Barcelona ever be able to dominate Spain and Europe again? Will football fans have the pleasure of witnessing Barcelona’s beautiful football come back to life? Only time will tell.