Futbol Club Barcelona, as their motto Mes que un club suggests, are more than a club. They are based in Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish region of Catalunya and are considered as the most important institution of Catalunya. They compete in Spain’s La Liga.
Barcelona have won La Liga 27 times and have also won the European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League) on five separate occasions, the last arriving as recently as 2015.
Formed way back in 1899, Barcelona have come to represent the region of Catalunya so much so that the club has now become the most famous and important institution of Catalunya, one of the most autonomous regions in Europe.
The history behind the formation of the club is as much amusing as enthralling. On October 22, 1899 Swiss player Joan Gamper placed an advertisement in Los Deportes proclaiming his desire to form a football club in the city of Barcelona and requested others interested in this project to join hands together on the deck. Eleven players exhibited keen interest in forming a club and Football Club Barcelona saw the light of the day.
FC Barcelona won their first silverware in 1902 when they clinched the Copa Macaya. They continued to win the Campeonato de Catalunya on several occasions and in 1928 along with other clubs founded the first Spanish first division championship. Barcelona duly won the competition in that maiden 1928-1929 season.
During the Spanish Civil War in 1930s and ever since, Barcelona became the most important outlet of expressions for the people of Catalunya. Under General Francisco Franco’s dictatorial regime, the club had to undergo several torturous moments as did the Catalan people but FC Barcelona was always perceived as something so sacred that it could transcend all the impositions implemented by Franco.
FC Barcelona gradually became one of the top European players and started attracting the likes of the Dutch great Johan Cruijff in the 1970s and started gathering silverware. Then they had the Golden Period, the era of the Dream Team in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s when they won no fewer than 11 trophies, including four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991-1994 and the European Cup (for the first time) in 1992. The manger of this Dream Team was Cruijff and he managed players such as Josep Guardiola, Jose Mari Bakero, Txiki Beguiristain, Gheorghe Hagi, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov.
Barcelona emerged again in the mid-2000s when they won the Spanish first divisions title two years in a row in 2005 and 2006 and also won the UEFA Champions League in 2006 riding on the wings of Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Deco and Xavi.
Barcelona won four straight La Liga titles from 2008 to 2011, initially under Frank Rijkaard, before Guardiola’s successful reign from 2008 to 2012 where they also won the Champions League twice in 2009 and 2011. Former player Luis Enrique also enjoyed a decorated period as manager from 2014 to 2017, with two La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey crowns and the 2015 Champions League triumph.
An enduring figure throughout all these periods was Messi, who overtook Xavi for most appearances in club history, with 778 games prior to emotionally leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2021. Messi is far and above the club’s leading scorer with 672 goals. He was with Barca from 2004 to 2021 and was linked with a return in 2023.
Another former player, Xavi, took over as manager in November 2021 and guided the club to the 2022-23 La Liga title, finishing well clear of rivals Real Madrid with new signing Robert Lewandowski scoring the league’s most goals.
In June 2007, the number of socis (club members/owners) reached 156,366 while in June 2006 the number of penyes (officially-registered supporter clubs) reached 1782 worldwide. Barcelona are only one of three clubs in Spain not to have been relegated from the first division.
They foster a fierce rivalry with Espanyol and contest the Barcelona derby with their city-rivals. But their fiercest rivals are actually Real Madrid with whom Barca contest El Clasico (also known as el derbi). The Barcelona unit perceive Real Madrid as the last remaining torchbearers of General Franco’s regime.
Barcelona are known affectionately as Barca to their supporters who also like to call their side the Blaugrana.
Barca play their home matches at Camp Nou which has an awesome capacity of 99,354 and which is known as the Cathedral of Football. It is the largest football stadium in Europe and the second largest football stadium, in terms of seating capacity, in the world. The venue’s record attendance is 120,000 for the 1986 European Cup quarter-final between Barcelona and Juventus.
- La Liga (27): 1929, 1944–45, 1947–48, 1948–49, 1951–52, 1952–53, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1973–74, 1984–85, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1997–98, 1998–99, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2022–23
- Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) (31, record): 1910, 1912, 1913, 1920, 1922, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1942, 1951, 1952, 1952–53, 1957, 1958–59, 1962–63, 1967–68, 1970–71, 1977–78, 1980–81, 1982–83, 1987–88, 1989–90, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2008–09, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2020–21
- Supercopa de Espana (14): 1983, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2022–23
- European Cup/UEFA Champions League (5): 1991–92, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2014–15
- UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (4): 1978–79, 1981–82, 1988–89, 1996–97
- European Super Cup (5): 1992, 1997, 2009, 2011, 2015
- Latin Cups (2): 1949, 1952
- FIFA Club World Cup (3): 2009, 2011, 2015