The following is a translation of Johan Cruyff's weekly column in El Periodico. The original article (in Spanish) can be found here.
Courtesy of El Periodico:
Another week has passed, and that means another Cruyff column. Last week's column centered around the build-up to the Champions League final, and of course Barca won! This week, the Dutch legend mentions Real Madrid, and the future of Pep Guardiola.
It is a great read, and it is all courtesy of our resident translator, and one of Barca Blaugranes founding members, Manuel Traquete. My Spanish is poor, and Manuel does a great job in translating. Of course, some credit still needs to be given to the writer, Johan Cruyff and El Periodico.
Football and Gestures
This squad can keep fighting for every trophy, but if you allow people from outside to interfere there will be problems.
Barcelona were worthy champions. Winning is a source of joy in itself, but doing it in the way Barca did it is something to be very proud of. Especially when even your opponents recognize your merit; on my way back from London, I found the time to take a look at what the English press had to say. I didn’t find a single excuse for Manchester United’s defeat, not even one. It was quite the contrary actually: endless compliments for the winners (Barcelona) and the recognition that right now Barca is one step ahead of everyone. Manchester lost and Barcelona won, but most of all football won. And Barca’s dynamic and offensive football is admired by everyone, everywhere (regardless of their colours).
Even beyond the football, this was a great match considering it was a final – if not the best, it was at least one of the best finals I’ve ever seen – there are small details that only make this group of winners even stronger. And this strength, based on small details, generates a positive dynamic in the group. I’m referring to Puyol’s late introduction only to let him wear his captain armband; I’m referring to the great gesture of letting Abidal lift the Cup. But it’s also worth mentioning the great gesture of starting Mascherano and giving a few minutes to Afellay in the end. Both are new faces in a squad that rewards performance and the effort put in to adapt to a magnificent, but very difficult to learn and implement, football philosophy. Much to Barca’s delight, Mascherano had an absolutely stunning performance. As for Afellay, he had his small reward for a small action that contributed decisively for Barca to reach the final. I’m referring to his play that led to Messi’s first goal at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the semifinals. With such a perfect and talented XI as Barca’s, it’s incredibly difficult to get into the team, and even more difficult to accommodate two new players and make them play in the same tune as the rest, but Afellay and Mascherano are now integral members of the squad.
The Cup won in the new Wembley stadium was Barca’s fourth European Cup/Champions League in 19 years and third in the past six years. I don’t know when Guardiola will leave. I was recently asked by some Italian journalists about his recent comments, where he said he was closer to the end than the beginning, due to the pressure. Guardiola has always linked his immediate future with the willingness and attitude of his players, so the culés have no reason to worry for now. That said, only he knows how fatigued he is and how long he can afford to continue, regardless of the unbelievable number of titles and records he has collected. Whatever he decides, we must respect his decision, aware that when he leaves someone else must come and that this decision will be fundamental; whether this 20 year cycle that changed the history of the club will continue or not will depend on who is appointed as the next manager after Guardiola.
Even with Guardiola in charge, if he wants and has the strength to continue, it’s crucial that he gets the support he needs: not from his players or his staff, but the club’s board. A winning cycle rarely ends because of the coach or the players, but for external causes. This group is more than good enough to keep competing for every trophy, but if outside people start interfering where they shouldn’t, problems will arise. Seeing what I saw live in Wembley, I remembered, naturally, our first European Cup in 1992 and step forward that was taken by giving first Rijkaard and then Guardiola total freedom to work, as well as their staff. Given their success and the way they reached it, it’s fair, at least for me, to pay tribute to the president who took a gamble and gave them a chance back in the day. The same president that the current board is at odds with. It’s because of this kind of attitudes that I fear for Guardiola’s future.
I’m not worried at all that Real Madrid might buy player x or player y to strengthen their side, or how much money they spend. No matter how many players they sign, only 11 can play. If Barcelona maintain their level, there will be no problem. But there will definitely be problems if someone from above decides to be a wise guy and undermine the work of the players and the coach.
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