The Barcelona team of 2009 completed what could be the closest to a perfect season in the current modern day football. If Ajax went unbeaten in 1995, Barca went on to win an unprecedented 6 titles in a single year, spread over the course of two seasons. In essence though, they started 2010 as holders of six different titles at the same time. To put that into perspective, they had just become the first Spanish in European football history to even complete a treble, leave alone winning six cups. This was a historic team whose roots were embedded in the age old La Masia philosophy of ‘tiki-taka’. They controlled the game from midfield and truly outran and outplayed their opponents and did so so comprehensively that it left the entire footballing world in shock and awe. No team has since ever come close to winning these many titles, for most seasons a double or treble is considered a success. The best part of their game was the fact that half the time it didn’t even look like Barca were playing to win or even score goals, they were just so content passing and keeping the ball, it brought out all that is good about the game. This team would also form the core of the Spanish team that went on to win two Euro Cups and the World Cup, becoming the first team to do so in successive tournaments.
The team was epitomized by the superior ball handling skills of every player on the team including the defense. They usually employed a very high line with Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol playing centre halves near the halfway line. They would double up as sweepers and it was their ability to make a good outlet pass that set the tone for a lot of Barcelona offense.
The two wingbacks were Dani Alves and Eric Abidal with Alves playing very high up the pitch almost like a winger and Abidal helping out in defense and rare forays in the opposition Penalty are. Alves was especially useful due to his chemistry with Lionel Messi. Messi playing in a Right Wing position in a three man attack, chose to cut inside with his left foot to score the majority of his goals at this time and his one two passing play and tandem with Alves was a huge reason for a lot of Barca success. Alves’ ability to provide the perfect crosses led to many memorable moments as did his powerful shot.
In midfield the two diminutive geniuses Xavi and Iniesta held away. With the transfer of Deco, Iniesta was an integral part of the playing XI and he did not disappoint, playing possibly the finest season anyone could ask for. Both Xavi and Iniesta controlled the pace of the game and out dribbled and outfoxed every opponent they came up against. They brought in a while new dimension to football with their ball control and precision passing. Teams could just not get near them and usually the only way out was to foul them. With Yaya Toure playing as defensive midfielder, you can imagine the kind of threat the Barca midfield provided. Yaya Toure has perhaps been the most prolific midfielder in the Premier league for the past few seasons and its amazing that he was so thoroughly under utilised in this team, but that was the thing with Guardiola’s Barca, it stressed on team play more than individual play. A policy that was a marked difference from the previous team that was reliant of Ronaldinho’s genius more often than not before he was also transferred in order to bring in the ‘tiki-taka’. This team was more about the passing and possession game with very high pressing. The pressure created by the Catalans usually resulted in the opposition making mistakes, which were capitalised to the fullest by Xavi, Iniesta, Henry and Messi. Xavi played as the centre piece of the tea and everything went through him, with Iniesta providing the offense from midfield. Teams just could not get the ball out of the feet of these two.
But the real star of the show was clearly becoming Lionel Messi. With his skill, precision and lightning pace, Messi truly arrived this season on the world’s stage and rivalled Ronaldo for the tag of the Gratest footballer on the planet. Playing from the right wing, Messi was so prolific that Guardiola switched him to the center of attack as false-nine and started making him the nucleus of his team. It was clear Messi had the talent to become the best-ever and he delivered performances week in and week out that suggested like wise. He scored from outside, near the goal, through headers, long shots and sometimes out fox the entire opposition and just pass into the net. Teams were left standing in awe. Henry and Samuel Eto’o both scored lots of goals, with Eto’o finishing top scorer in the league. Henry’s influence had decreased from his Arsenal days but he was a vital cog of the operation, something that numbers or words can not truly describe.Victor Valdes played in goal for a team that would provide close to 6 players for the 2010 World Cup final team, with Pedro and Sergio Busquets making the grade the very next year. It was a one in a lifetime sort of team with a once in a generation superstar who destroyed all in front of them. It was a true master class as Sir Alex Ferguson would comment two years later “We were beaten by a better team”. There can be no higher praise than these words from one of the game’s greatest managers. There zenith came in a league game against Real Madrid whom they beat 6-2 at the Bernebeau.
There can be very few perfect games, seasons or teams, but this FC Barcelona team experienced them all and unleashed the full.power of La Masia and Spain to the world.