Boring Barcelona are Tiki-taking the Piss
By Michael Rowden
A certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic releases his book today, a tell all autobiography that gives a great, all-be-it one sided, insight into his time at the heights of European Football. Undoubtedly one of the more interesting sections of this book is his description of the time he spent at Barcelona under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola, a man fast becoming potentially the best manager in modern day European football.
Zlatan’s time at Barcelona was surprisingly short considering the lengths Joan Laporta, Barcelona’s President at the time, went to get his hands on the Swedish maestro. I always wondered why a man who Barcelona signed on a 5-year contract for £40m would depart for Italy having only made 29 appearances for the best team in world football.
Regardless of what you may think of Mr. Ibrahimovic, I am well aware his reported ego divides many an opinion, I can totally relate to his frustrations with the current La Liga champions.
He is blessed with a superb level of skill and ability, which is why it’s no wonder he’s won the domestic title for whichever club he played for in 9 of the last 10 seasons. This includes stints with Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and now AC Milan. By anybody’s standards, that’s some record.
Zlatan’s description of his time in La Liga combined with my current strong opinions regarding Barcelona and the football they play got me thinking… Do Barcelona play good football?
There can be no doubting that Barcelona play a style of football that any opposing player will inevitably dread but for all their possession and tiki-taka cleverness, I can’t help but find them incredibly dull to watch. They are almost robotically precise and Zlatan’s description of the dressing room atmosphere does a good job of helping me understand why. He describes the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Puyol as ‘quiet and unassuming’ and ‘happy to just take orders’ and that for me explains perfectly just why they are so boring. They take no risks.
If there isn’t the perfect opportunity, they won’t put the ball in the mixer and increase the tempo along with the heart rate of the watching audience, they’ll simply go backwards and start again.
Football is paid for by the fans, and fans are always happy when their team are winning but if I try and put myself in the shoes of a Barcelona fan, I think I’d rather switch my allegiance to Real Madrid.
What makes football such a global sport is that it’s so exciting no matter which team you hold dear. Barcelona however play as if they’re hell bent on boring the opposition and the paying public to death.
Their real thrust and vigor comes from 3 players – Lionel Messi, Dani Alves and David Villa. Remove them from the equation momentarily and what you are left with is a team that will easily hold 70% possession over 90 minutes but spend their entire time dithering between the half way line and the edge of the oppositions 18-yard-box without creating anything of substance unless one of the 3 mentioned above decides to step up to the plate. On the rare occasion that they do reach the byline, more often than not, the player in possession will put their foot on the ball and play it backwards, where the ball will inevitably end up at the feet of Xavi and Iniesta only for the whole, slow, painful and laborious process to start all over again. When was the last time you didn’t see them play a corner short?
Many rightfully admire Barcelona’s ability to retain possession so doggedly; often moving the ball so fast, the opposition never has time to close the ball down but in my not so humble opinion, I feel it may be this almost perfect style of football, that fits quite nicely into the term ‘anti-football’. The same term they are so keen to label arch rivals Real Madrid with.
Every time I get the chance to watch Spanish football on the goggle box, I do – mainly thanks to the brilliance of Sky Go. However, if it’s a game involving Barcelona, it’ll only be background noise; something I’ll glance at whilst doing other things just to check the scoreline such is the relative predictability of the end result and style of play.
On the other hand, if Real Madrid are playing, I’ll be fixated for the duration; more than happy to lap up the tension and excitement involved in fast flowing, counter attacking brilliance. Their style of play is far more akin to the EPL which is why I still believe that overall, ours is the best league in the world. If not on outright technical ability, then on pure excitement and unpredictability.
It now seems to be fashionable for every team to talk about copying Barcelona’s style of play. Even our own temporary captain, Frank Lampard, suggested as much, saying that England need to play more like Spain, after our 1-0 win over the World Champions in last weekend’s friendly. I for one, can only hope that this idea doesn’t come to fruition.
If it does then I’ll be cancelling my Sky Sports subscription, deleting Sky Go and forever cursing Pep Guardiola and his band of merry little men that have soured my love for European football almost to the point of no return.
Posted on November 15, 2011, in *Michael Rowden, Barcelona, Opinion and tagged Barcelona, Dani Alves, David Villa, England, Joan Laporta, La Liga, Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Premier League, Real Madrid, Sweden, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.