BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 29: Head coach Josep Guardiola of FC Barcelona gestures during the celebrations after winning the UEFA Champions League Final against Manchester United at Camp Nou Stadium on May 29, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Over the last three seasons, Barcelona have come to the forefront of world football for being one of best teams. As is customary in a sport that is ever changing with tactics, psychological edges, talent, and athleticism, Barcelona are currently in the zenith but this situation could change. Barcelona uses advantages that are unique to this team to produce it results. Barcelona like any squad, is endowed with a mix of unique attributes which others try to counter, if not adapt, in an attempt to balance power in Europe away from Barcelona and in their favor. This struggle to maintain the power of world football is what has lead Barcelona to be loved by die hard cules and hated by opposing clubs and fans alike. Power in the world of football and how to maintain it is thus no different that how nations themselves maintain power in a world in which competition is a constant force and profit & renown a constant motivation. Outlined below are just some of the ways Barcelona has achieved it's zenith and these points also illustrate how Barcelona can maintain it's supremacy in world football, if not, ensure that it will always be among the best clubs in the world. Football clubs by their nature, are like empires since those who have a great history are great clubs while those that are without one, never have such a tradition of being big name, competitive, historical powerhouses.
First, to create an empire you must assess and identify attributes that you are naturally endowed with and then formulate not only how to exploit them to your advantage, but remain firm with them. Barcelona are not the most athletic team, they are not all the best and most talented players in each position. However their tactical approach of total football allows them to magnify a talent which they are extremely well endowed with, retaining possession. This is and will always be, as long as Guardiola is coach, Barcelona's game plan. To impose their style over a team in a match and have them play how Barcelona wants them to play. It is how they control the opposition in almost every match and why no one ever feels safe against Barcelona. It is through this imposition of style how the psychological edge is won on the field and propagated to the world. Their style has always been firm, it doesn't change because as long as it produces results and Barcelona can keep magnifying this power through generations, from Xavi to Thiago, there is no need to adopt another style if it can achieve victory. For this first step to remain in place you need a man with a vision, a leader, and this is Guardiola's function. To maintain this dream alive you need to produce or acquire talents to suit your style and this is where La Masia and transfers come in.
The second step to achieve dominance is to propagate your vision, your idea, your way of doing things and make it the accepted best way, the norm. If you ask most football coaches in the world today who they'd like to play like, the answer is Barcelona. If you ask most up and coming players which teams they dream to play for, one will be Barcelona. If you ask most people who like football, which style today is most aesthetically pleasing, the answer is Barcelona's total football. If you ask people who do not follow this sport, which is the best team, some will mention Barcelona because they've heard the name. The general consensus is this that at this point in time Barcelona is the most complete football team on the planet. The point is to make your way of doing things the standard of greatness, of success, to establish it as the supreme ideological style of playing football. With this in place, general dissent and dissatisfaction is down but not out of the picture but with dissent emerge challenges. Once the idea of your style is established, the empire is basically built and now comes the real challenge to it's longevity, the challengers. The pleasing aesthetics of your style are what allow it to become the norm, it is the most important aspect to make it such. Coaches and players often forget that, it's not just about winning, but about how you won. For step two to become a standard you must please the viewers. Win over the fans and you win a world wide empire.
If the third rule is to be based on a line it is "History is written by the victors." The third way is to destroy, debased, defeat, and conquer all rivals that attempt to oppose your way. If football clubs are empires, then victory must be achieved at all cost. Barcelona use their propagation of the idea of best style to make rivals think of a unique way to challenge them for this popular support. The general way of challenging the popularity of total football has been with tough defensive football. What Mourinho managed with Inter in 2010 seemed to be an ideological changing point in this balance. Barcelona's power seemed to wane, at last a challenger had dethroned Barcelona many said. Subsequent tournaments were marred by the adaptation of such a style that although effective, has one uncorrectable flaw. The flaw is that it is rough, it is not pleasing to the viewers, it is viewed in a negative light and after Spain defeated Holland in the world cup final, it was viewed as abominable. Winning in this way is great if your a player and a coach and if football clubs were a bubble world, it would work. However, most people were not sold on this other way and Spain crushed this other way in the most prestigious tournament the world watches. In essence the Spaniards win in South Africa was a revival of Barcelona's way that seemed to be in jeopardy, and a defeat of defensive football. Spain's triumph was also a triumph for total football in that it helped it achieved what it had lacked as a style for so long, triumph in the premier tournament of football, a transformation from a style just for clubs to one for International prestige. The Final of the world cup established a precedent that Barcelona used to revive it's style. It established in the minds of fans and official alike a mentality that total football is beautiful, it is correct, and it must be protected and encouraged against the barbarity that is defensive football. When Mourinho tried again to perform the same miracle with Real Madrid, it didn't work because official and fans wouldn't allow it. Barcelona used this advantage of ideological acceptance to gain an on field advantages and defeat Mourinho's Real, in League as well as in the Champions League. To the victors go the spoils and so Barcelona have the ideological edge that Mourinho now has to win in another way if he is to be more than a one hit wonder with his style. Barcelona for their part are once again in ascendancy and challengers will have to come up with a new style that can not only defeat Barcelona on field but win the hearts and minds of the fans, officials, and the football world.
The fourth and last way Barcelona can establish a long empire is to encourage others to try and play the game their way but never allow them to be as proficient as Barcelona at playing the game well. Through the first two steps other teams such as Arsenal and Dortmund have come out to play styles that are pleasing to viewers in the hopes of achieving similar results. But Barcelona have recognized for example that to magnify their projection of football power and deplete a direct rival they must acquire Arsenals Cesc Fabregas. Barcelona have also been linked in the past with Dortmunds Goetze and Hummels. They have also convinced Alex Ferguson of Manchester United to play two open European finals against them, which they have won. It is safe to declare then that in the present time we are in the age where total football is king and the empire of Barcelona in clubs and the Spanish National team in International tournaments. Though challengers will arise and possibly defeat Barcelona, total football is not finished, in fact it will only become more propagated because it is not just about defeating a team. In order to kill total football you must eliminate the style from the roots meaning La Masia, Barcelona, The Spanish National team, the fans, the pundits and officials who believe in it, and the belief that it is the best style. As they say, it is easier to destroy an idea than it is to kill off the movement on which Barcelona's empire is currently built on. You can defeat Barcelona in a game but as long as Barcelona's way keeps generating success it will never end.
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