How far are this Barcelona side from the indestructible one which swept Manchester United aside at Wembley in 2011?
It was a late night in May 2006 when the world took note of the re-emergence of FC Barcelona. At the time they probably were the most in-form in Europe along with Arsenal and possibly Juventus.
Frank Rijkaard led his very talented team to come from behind to beat Arsenal to claim their second champions league. In my opinion this was probably the most important trophy in Barcelona’s recent history.
It announced the rise of a new super power on the pitch. Many years prior to this victory they had been living off their big reputation from past success.
Fifteen trophies just goes on to highlight how dominant the Catalan giants have been over the last seven years in both Europe and Spain. At the start of the great run it revolved around Ronaldinho and Eto'o, now it is Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.
The football that the team play is breath taking, passing the ball around as if there is no opposition.
I have witnessed the team make top European sides look like amateur teams, for example the way that they destroyed Manchester United in the Wembley final in 2011.
This domination has now been going on for seven seasons but in my opinion it could be coming to an end. I am not going to say that they suddenly are to fall away from the peak of European football, but I will suggest that there are a few clubs coming up that could take their crown.
The academy, La Masia, has produced many top players in the past and will continue to churn out great players in the future. The only issue I have is if the academy will ever have a genius as talented as Messi to work with again, who could just be a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
If they do not, then they will have to buy this player on the free market against the new rich clubs. In short I believe they always need to have a great player like the little Argentine to complete their team.
A more immediate challenge to Barcelona is the copying of the youth system. For example German football has implemented similar youth academies across the country, producing players such as Gotze, Rues and Ozil just to name a few.
These academies are producing kids with all the technical abilities as well as the old German winning mentality. This is a challenge for Barcelona as there are now many teams with younger players doing exactly what they have done. It will be interesting to see Bayern take on Barca in the semi-final of this year’s Champions League, especially with the shadow of Pep Guardiola looming large upon both teams.
As mentioned above the new super-rich clubs in Europe could have an effect on Barcelona in the future. Real Madrid (an old super rich club) has always been in the market to outbid Barca for a top player but now there are also others such as Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG.
As long as they have Messi they will be fine, but as soon as he is not there they will have a problem.
It will be very interesting to see what happens in the Champions League this season, I still believe that Barcelona will win it but I think their dominance has been reduced. In my opinion Bayern are very close, and it will be interesting to see just how near.
image: © mariosp