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FC Barcelona: Johan Cruyff Column

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 15:  Xavi Hernandez of FC Barcelona holds the La Liga trophy after the La Liga match between Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna at Camp Nou Stadium on May 15, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 15: Xavi Hernandez of FC Barcelona holds the La Liga trophy after the La Liga match between Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna at Camp Nou Stadium on May 15, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The following article is a translation of Johan Cruyff’s weekly column for El Periodico. The original article can be found here.

Courtesy of El Periodico

My Spanish skills…stink. Like I’ve written in an earlier post, I flunked my Spanish class. Not my most glorious moment in school. But as I have pointed out, I had other motivations for enrolling in that course. Once again, dating a fellow student is never a good idea. How does the popular phrase go "young mistake".

Anyways, to compensate for my horrible Spanish I can tap into the huge resources of our parent company, SB Nation. No, I’m just kidding.

What I can do and actually did, was to ask a friend of mine, Manuel Traquete, to translate the column for Barca Blaugranes. So while all credit for the column belongs to Johan Cruyff and El Periodico, Manuel takes credit for the translation.

I’m not so sure if we continuously feature his column on Barca Blaugranes or not, we’ll see.

Two decades, one philosophy

Guardiola once said that the Dream Team could never be matched. But it’s not about that, the teams aren’t comparable. Barcelona’s great achievement is to follow an idea/philosophy and improve on it with each passing year.

Three consecutive leagues and nine trophies in three seasons. Barcelona could conceivably not win at Wembley, but their presence in two finals, and one semifinal, of the Champions League in these three years confirms Barca’s hegemony in La Liga and in Europe. And not just during these three years. Barcelona enjoy a marvelous tyranny since all they look for is to enjoy themselves on the pitch and make the fans enjoy their play. Everything starts and ends with the ball. The goal: attacking well in order to defend even better. Always with the ball. And with as many homegrown players as possible. This is the great triumph of Barcelona, of their philosophy. They know how they want to play, with whom they want to play and what their fans enjoy.

They are not wrong, since the whole world enjoys their play. They’re not wrong because this philosophy yields great results. Pep Guardiola said the other day that they could never match the Dream Team no matter how much they win. We (Cruyff’s Dream Team) were the pioneers; we broke barriers at the time. Pep said nothing could equal that. However, now that he is only one league title away from equaling the Dream Team’s four-peat, the comparisons will certainly be frequent, and work as a kind of added pressure. But the reality is very different, and quite gratifying for Barcelona. It doesn’t matter which team is better than the other; the club must only be proud of a long era of continued success and the triumph of their way of understanding football.

The beginning of a long cycle

This long era of success has already lasted two decades. Of the 21 league trophies that Barca have in their museum, 11 have been won in the past 21 years. And this despite a drought some years ago, a very long drought, between Van Gaal’s last league title (1999) and Rijkaard’s first (2005). Despite this hiatus, this has been a golden cycle, where Barcelona also collected all their three European Cups (maybe four after May 28). It was very difficult to change mentalities in the club back in the day. But the merit of starting something is intimately connected with the merit of those who follow and continue the work. That continuity is what defines a cycle; it is what defines Barca’s current cycle, from the beginning of the 90s until this very day.

Nurturing an idea, such a peculiar, sometimes unique, way of understanding football as Barca’s, can no longer be credited to the one who started but the ones who actually improved on it: first Rijkaard and then Guardiola, who were both absolutely fundamental (to Barca’s current success). In my opinion, the period of the Dream Team, Rijkaard’s period and Guardiola’s period are in many ways in dissociable. During all these years, there were several presidents, but when they took wise advice, when they believed and took a gamble on young managers who, despite their inexperience, had a clear concept of how football should be played and shared Barca’s footballing ethos, the gamble always paid off: attractive football, great results, continuity and constant improvement were the results. With highs and lows? Undoubtedly.

In football, two plus two is never four. Unlike what many are led to believe, due to Guardiola’s extraordinary achievements, this is not a three year cycle, but a much more global, longer cycle, which started in the early 90s and is still going strong. There are always some wrong decisions, but you’ll get it wrong a lot less and will be much more likely to get it right if you always stick to your principles, to your philosophy (like Barcelona has been doing). Now that Guardiola, the staff and the players have finally clinched the three-peat, I must say that I believe that it is impossible to compare different league seasons. Each campaign presents its own set of difficulties. The first league was Pep’s first year as a professional coach. How many people didn’t picture him out of the club as soon as he started (not very brightly in the first few games) in 2008?

In the second season, a record-breaking Real Madrid forced Barca to win the title with more points than ever before, in the last day of the season. In the third season, the league was clinched sooner. Barcelona managed to wrap up the title with two games remaining.

A campaign full of obstacles

However, the number of obstacles that Barca had to overcome this season was higher than ever. The list is huge but we all know it by heart. It all starts with the World Cup (and its effects on the players). Fatigue, injuries, a serious and unexpected illness, insinuations, provocations… And despite all this, they came up victorious. Hats off to Barcelona!

I’ve always maintained that winning in the second season is always much more difficult than winning in the first. That said, winning for three seasons in a row is absolutely remarkable and defies all probability, at least in this club. The fact that only twice in their history have Barca won three consecutive league titles is a testament to Guardiola’s fantastic work, as well as the fantastic work of his players and his staff. As far as I’m concerned, this third title has been the most difficult and exhausting of them all.

Courtesy of El Periodico

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