The manner in which the Galacticos strolled to their 6-2 victory over Sevilla this weekend was reminiscent of a semi-dismal pre-season friendly that saw one side overcome the other through a lattice of showboating and extravagant forward play. Such daring and audacious football is something that’s usually kept exclusively for pre-season summer festivities in an American Football stadium in Chicago or Seattle, not a top tier showdown between 1st and 6th in Spain’s Premier football league.
‘The new SPL’ is a term that would send a proverbial shiver down any football fan’s spine. Yet it’s a very real threat that has engulfed the modern Spanish game. Crippling debts, unfair financial packages and the King of Spain are all factors that have contributed to the uneven competitive landscape that we affectionately call ‘La Liga’. Never has the gulf between second and third been so vast.
Yet, this isn’t the predicament that concerns me; at least not today.
For within this elaborate financial calamity lies a smaller, more discreet problem that has been defining the current age of football for quite some time. A problem that has had every possible remedy thrown at it, with no luck or surrender. This problem is of course Barcelona Football Club. Or rather, what they have turned us in to.
Since replacing Frank Rijkard in 2008, Pep Guardiola and his Catalonian giant have pillaged the quaint little village of football for the past three years, winning thirteen of a possible sixteen trophies up for contention.
Besides a minor blip in concentration during their Semi Final game between Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan two years ago, young Pep and his club have paved over European and Spanish football with a humility and core preservation for attacking football that has left us all loving every second of it. All well being with a sour taste in our mouths, which has unfortunately grown with their trophy collection.
In this seasons first El Clasico, few would have backed the Catalonians in favour of Mourinho and his efficient, well oiled Madrid squad. But this critique for Guardiola’s dream team wasn’t entirely candid or fact based; for most, it was simply a case of hope. We had so much desire to see this side matched, we craved to see these gods bleed.
Yet it didn’t happen. Despite an early goal from Benzema – gifted from Victor Valdes and his necessity to play the role of a daring midfielder – Messi & co went on to embarrass Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid and the world over for ever doubting their credentials. If there were any ill-intended feelings that night, they were that of our own for demanding this piece of art be tore down and burned at the hands of a Portuguese egomaniac.
Of course, this bitterness wasn’t born overnight. It has been a customary theme throughout national newspapers across the continent and none less than that of the English media.
For all Lionel Messi’s accomplishments, he was never crowned the champion of football until he could score against an English side. The Argentinean star of course took this in his stride and in the 2009 Champions League final, scored a header to single handedly quell such critique of himself, or that of the club he stood for.
This was only Guardiola’s first season in charge, yet he had quickly revolutionised an old Rijkard squad in to a domestic champion and a side that Europe took notice of very quickly. Such tactics by the media initially looked like nothing more than mere national jealousy and the spite that comes with any new star to the world game. Yet, a closer look would suggest an aggressive reaction to this new World power.
To the world of football it was the changing of the guards, outgoing was Alex Ferguson – the iconic totalitarian ruler of Manchester United, the greatest side in English football’s modern history. And in stepped the vibrant Pep Guardiola and his group of young stars – a relatively unknown batch of prospects. Change and evolution had always been part of football and over time would be accepted. What Barcelona stood for was revolution.
We take it upon ourselves to demand a level playing ground throughout our game to the extent that any club that step out of line and flourish, shall be ridiculed and demonstrated against through the media or in the stands, until order is restored.
It’s naive to articulate that such a mentality is nothing but a thin layer of jealousy that comes and goes with the success. The distain and resentment that fall upon any great side is regardless of success or attractiveness which altogether makes it all the more concerning; ten years ago we all prayed that somebody would come and break the Galactico rule, yet now we find ourselves praying their summer spending is enough to stop the very Barcelona that answered our calls.
Football is a sport that is ruled by an underlying socialistic mentality that contradicts the very essence of what a sport is. To demand that no such club can insist the luxury of being referred to as better than the rest or incomparably unique and superior, is a trait that truly shows a darker side to the beautiful game. It’s a prevailing attitude that has forever lurked in the shadows of the many achievements that football has brought to the world.
It is often said that society is reflected in the terraces of football grounds, and the resentment that surrounds this Barcelona side offers no shelter from that. With one hand we demand clean, passionate attacking football, but with the other we command the end to any established domination of our sport, despite how entertaining, pure, or right it may be. One day this great side will be reserved for the pages of history. Only then will they be universally adored.
Stefan is the Editor of The Oval Log and can be found on Twitter @SBienkowski.