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Who is the Most Influential Person in FC Barcelona’s History?

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With over 115 years of club history, picking a single individual is tricky but there are a few candidates that stand out from the rest.

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Joan Gamper

Where better to start than with the man who started the club. Gamper was a swiss businessman who founded many clubs in his homeland including FC Basel and FC Zürich, in 1898 he traveled to Barcelona. The city was meant to be a layover on his journey to Africa but Gamper fell in love with the Catalan capital. He stayed and on the 22nd of October 1899 he placed an advert in Los Deportes, stating his intention to form a football club. A group of Swiss, British and Spanish football fans responded to the advert so they met at the Gimnasio Solé on the 29th November and FC Barcelona was born.

Gamper started as club captain and a member of the board before being elected president in 1908. During his presidency, Barcelona started to become a dot on the footballing calendar. He established the club's first stadium, signed legendary player Paulino Alcántara and is widely credited for being president during Barça's first "golden age".

Despite the tragic end to his life in 1930, Gamper is still a familiar name to any Barça fan thanks to the annual Joan Gamper Trophy. Gamper also has a street named after him in the Les Corts district and his membership number has been retired. Although many influential men have come to the club since Gamper, there can be no denying that without him this club wouldn't be what it is today.

Johan Cruyff

"If the 175,000 FC Barcelona members, or socios, queued up in an orderly line, night after night, to massage his tired feet, cook his dinner and tuck him into bed; if they carried his golf clubs round Montanya's hilly 18 holes; if they devoted 50 per cent of their annual salary to him ... it still wouldn't be anywhere near enough to repay the debt that those who love this club owe Johan Cruyff" Graham Hunter

When talking about Barcelona's success, it is hard to have a conversation without including Cruyff's name. A lot is talked about Barça's DNA, about the kids who come through La Masia, all of this stems from Cruyff. He changed the idea that small footballers are useless, not only that but he convinced the world that they were the way forward.

The Dutchman began his career at Ajax, winning eight league titles and three European cups. Barcelona came calling and he won European Footballer of the Year in his debut season along with the league title. After he hung up his boots he returned to Ajax as coach before again switching the windy city of Amsterdam for the heat of Barcelona.

He set about assembling the dream team. Cruyff brought in Txiki Begiristain, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Hristo Stoichkov and Pep Guardiola. Barça won four league titles in four years and reached the pinnacle of European football by winning the club's first European Cup at Wembley.

For any other manager this would be the showpiece of their career, the best thing they ever achieved. But for Cruyff, the trophies come a mere second. His greatest work was the creation of La Masia. Cruyff's brainchild of establishing a fully-functioning youth system that parallels the ideologies of the first team was an idea that has benefited the first team since its creation 36 years ago.

No Xavi, no Iniesta, no Valdés, no Busquets, no Messi without Cruyff. All of these world beaters were formed in La Masia and without Cruyff they would've been deemed too small, not strong enough for the physical game.

Cruyff revolutionised Barça's philosophy. He set the wheels in motion for the plan that would see Messi, Iniesta, Xavi et al under Guardiola's guidance become one of the greatest teams to ever play the game.

Pep Guardiola

Pep

When Guardiola's promotion from B-team coach to the first team was announced, there was understandably doubts. This was a man with only a year's coaching experience under his belt being given one of the biggest jobs in world football.

The story of his appointment is a familiar one to most culés. The board faced a decision between Guardiola and José Mourinho, they chose Pep and the next four seasons was the most successful era of the club.

Guided by Cruyff's philosophies, he installed a new team ethic, reintroduced a total football like style of play and showed an unrelenting desire to win. League titles followed as did Copa del Reys and two Champions Leagues along with plaudits claiming this to be the best team the game had ever seen.

Guardiola's influence was most noticeable after he had left the club. The team retained the league but have since had a new manager every season and haven't been able to replicate the success they enjoyed under Pep's leadership. While it's true that the players were naturally going to decline, the absence of a skilled man motivator and tactician such as Guardiola is paramount.

The evolution of Bayern Munich from a counterattacking side to a possession based one is a key example of the kind of impact the Catalan coach can have in a short space of time.

Ronaldinho

"Playing for FC Barcelona was my magic moment" - Ronaldinho

The Brazilian superstar was the iconic player of Frank Rijkaard's reign and the team was formed around him. A man who was originally bought as a consolation prize for the loss of David Beckham to Real Madrid, quickly established himself as one of the best players to ever wear the shirt.

During his time in Catalunya he won two Ligas, one Champions League, two Spanish Super Cups and three Catalan Cups. However what speaks most of his greatness was being applauded by the Santiago Bernabéu crowd during a 3-0 victory in one of the most memorable Clásico moments of all time.

While Ronaldinho can't claim to have reformed the club from the ground up, he is a true superstar and the tactic to run the team through him was a blueprint that opened doors for Messi.

Lionel Messi

"Don't write about him, don't try to describe him. Just watch him." - Pep Guardiola

When you are riding a wave, it is impossible to fully understand the size of the wave until it is finished. This is the perfect analogy for Messi's career. Most players are finally accepted into the pantheon of the greats after their playing days are over, it shows how good Messi is that he is already being considered as possibly the greatest ever at the tender age of 27.

There is no doubt that Messi has already had a huge impact on the game. Winning four consecutive Ballon d'Ors, becoming Barcelona's, La Liga's and the Champions League's all-time top scorer was unlikely to go unnoticed. His influence has spread across the world and we now starting to see kids professionally playing and citing Messi as their role model.

The true measurement of Messi's influence is unlikely to be clear for a few decades yet. When we see kids growing up imitating Messi and those kids going on to play on the world's biggest stages then we will start to understand the phenomenon that is Leo Messi.

Other Notable Candidates:

Xavi Hernández

Rinus Michels

Hans Gamper

Ladislao Kubala

From looking at the list, it becomes increasingly clear that Cruyff stands head and shoulders above the rest. It was his idea that revolutionised the Barça style and has since become the blueprint for their success. While we are yet to see the full extent of Guardiola's or Messi's influence, for now only Cruyff can boast such an influence in the club's history.