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FC Barcelona: Johan Cruyff Column

Favourites, but only until Saturday
Favourites, but only until Saturday

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:

Well, a week ago we (read Barca Blaugranes) published the translated version of a column written by Barcelona great, Johan Cruyff. Cruyff publishes his articles on a weekly bases and because the response by you, our readers, was very positive we will continue publishing Cruyff's words in English.

My Spanish is even worse than Sebastian's, so again we had to turn to our resident translator, Manuel Traquete. Manuel once again did a brilliant job and we thank him for it. Also don't forget to give credit to Cruyff for writing and El Periodico for publishing the article.

Barcelona: Favorites Until Saturday

The 92 points and 102 goals Real Madrid managed in La Liga only give added value to Barcelona’s third consecutive title. It remains to be seen whether the distance between the two sides decreases next season.

With just a few days left before the Wembley final, I believe it’s appropriate and fair to highlight again Barcelona’s tremendous achievement of winning the league again. It was the third consecutive league and the most difficult of all. The 102 goals Madrid scored during the season only enhance the merit of Barcelona’s work. The 92 points they collected only give extra value to this title. Now that everything comes down to who will be the winner of the Barcelona vs Manchester United final, I look back and see what a great season Mourinho’s team had. After the Champions League final, the new chapter (season) that will start in August promises to be more fascinating than ever.

With Madrid out, this is the best possible final. Both finalists have won their domestic league: Barcelona, their third consecutive; Manchester United, their fourth in five years. And if you analyze the European trajectory of both clubs over the past few years, you’ll only several finals and semifinals. The two teams are so stacked with individual talent that one could easily amuse himself doing man-to-man comparisons between both teams. But what truly distinguishes these sides is their football style: one is English, the other is Spanish. Or to be more precise, one is English, the other is Barcelona’s: talent, cantera and an obsession with ball. The idea: attacking well to defend even better.

Imposing your style

I have no idea who will be victorious, but there’s one thing I know: unless something completely unexpected happens, the team that manages to impose their style will lift the Cup. Neither Barcelona nor Manchester United will be comfortable playing in the other side’s terms. The team that manages to impose their own style on the game is very likely to take the trophy home. Are Barcelona favorites? Undoubtedly, but only until a quarter to nine on Saturday. From that moment on, they will have to earn the title.

While I said before that Barcelona’s response to Real Madrid’s tremendous season should make every culé proud, there’s two ways to interpret Cristiano Ronaldo’s 40 goals. On the one hand, he has set an outrageous benchmark for others, both in La Liga and in the future editions of the Golden Boot. Scoring 40 goals in a league is feasible, but doing so in one of the highest coefficient leagues is a tremendous achievement.

I have no doubt that the player and every madridista are very proud of these historical numbers. However, football is a team game and if Real Madrid is second again next season and Cristiano equals or even improves his goal tally from this season, I’m sure that there will be no collective or even individual joy. Messi has scored a lot of goals too, although not as many as Ronaldo, but his goals have taken his team further: a possible continental double is only dependent on Saturday’s result.

I usually find individual comparisons hideous, especially in a team sport like football. Being the number one player on the planet, Messi is constantly object of these comparisons. Individual qualities apart, he plays for Barca, and the others do not. This is so apparent that Messi has started being compared with himself: his club performances are always compared to his performances with his national side. These comparisons can be justified: after all, they are contemporary. However, the comparisons between players from different eras are often Machiavellian. Messi on the same level as Pelé and Maradona? That comparison is very unfair to Leo. We all know Messi is an exceptional player, that his private life is discreet, that despite all the kicks he gets during matches, he never dives and he never complains. In that sense, he is an example for everyone, but he’s only 23 and has pretty much all his career ahead of him. That’s where he comes up short against Pelé and Maradona.

Tribute to De la Peña

Now I want to pay tribute to another great person and amazing football player, Ivan de la Peña. We’ve seen little of him due to his injuries, some claim. Regardless of the number of games and minutes he played, we’ve seen enough of him to have enjoyed his last pass. I’m glad that it was Espanyol that was graced by his class for so many years. He found in the city of Barcelona, his home, the continuity the he was unlucky not to find in Barca. Neither he nor the other members of that famous and talented Quinta del Mini. Many years passed before Rijkaard and Guardiola appeared and brough back the Yes, I do believe in homegrown players formula. Ivan has retired at 35. If he were 19, as when he had his debut with me, even Guardiola would be a bit more pleased now.

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