Coach: Rijkaard, Guardiola, Luis Enrique
Achievements: European Cup 2006, 2009, 2011, 2015
Key Players: Ronaldinho, Messi, Eto'o, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Villa, Henry, Puyol, Dani Alves,
Star Player: Ronaldinho, Messi, Neymar, Suarez
This Barcelona team is simply one of the best that the game has ever seen. They played breathtaking possession-based attacking football based on movement and great technique, leaving ample space for flair players to express themselves. But, most impressively, this is coupled with a strong work ethic that sees all players press the ball, run hard for 90 minutes and support each other. Effectively three great teams, each with noticeably different styles of play, and different managers, but with a core of home-grown players and a continuity of success.
The first era began with Frank Rijkaard who followed fellow Dutchman Johann Cruyff's great association with the club by forming a system based on the traditional Dutch 4-3-3 and movement and forming a team that combined star signings such as Ronaldinho and Eto'o and emerging Catalan talent such as Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta. His team ended Madrid's domestic dominance and won the European Cup in 2006. His successor, the former player Pep Guardiola, tackled the star culture at the club by removing talented but egotistical players such as Ronaldinho, and later Eto'o, and further emphasising work-rate and teamwork. This took the club to even greater heights of beautiful, balletic team-play and saw them win the European Cup again in 2009, completely outclassing Man Utd in the Final in Rome. Foremost among this triumph was the emergence of Argentine winger Lionel Messi, who had been with the club from a young age. In 2009 he crowned his incredible season with a European Player of the Year award and in the following season looked every inch like the successor to Maradona, Platini and Zidane as one of the game's all-time legends. He was to get even better and would win the Ballan D'Or an astonishing four times.
In 2009/10 Barcelona were defeated in Europe by the shrewd tactics of Jose Mourinho and his disciplined Inter side. However, after Spain's World Cup triumph, which was based on the talent of many of these players, the club added the striker David Villa and completely outclassed Manchester United again in the 2011 European Cup Final, their third continental triumph in 6 years. Things changed again after Guardiola left the club. This was confirmed dramatically with a 7-0 defeat over two legs to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals in 2012.
In response, the club signed superstars in Neymar and Suarez and changed their style of play under new coach Luis Enrique. In true Barcelona fashion all three sacrificed their egos for the good of the team. Messi moved back to the right wing and Neymar plays on the left, to accommodate Suarez in the centre - representing one of the greatest forward lines in the history of the game. The homegrown core were ageing and the team did not press as hard as Guardiola's or pass with same quality, but players such as Busquets, Iniesta and Pique continued to make a major contribution. Mascherano was now established in defence as a key player and the signing of Rakitic as a midfield playmaker, taking over from Xavi proved another success. After a difficult start for Luis Enrique things clicked and the season ended with another European Cup win in 2015. It now seems that the Barcelona way is greater than both individual players and coaches and will continue to deliver greatness and success.
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