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Best team on earth? Barca are on a different planet!

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It was a moment which summed up the night, hell, the season. Xavi Hernandez, surely the best midfield player on the planet at this moment in time, drifting effortlessly into space just outside the centre circle, and picking out the dynamic run in behind the demoralised Deportivo defence with the most measured of passes to put his team-mate clean through. Poetry in motion.

That would be wonderful if that team mate was Thierry Henry or Leo Messi racing clear of the defence, but in this case it was neither. It wasn’t even Samuel Eto’o or Bojan Krkic. It was the club captain. Carles Puyol. The most centre halfish of centre halves. And here he was cutting through the seventh best side in La Liga’s defence like the proverbial knife through Anchor. Frightening.

Puyol’s first touch took him slightly too close to keeper Daniel Aranzubia, but a deft touch took him beyond, until Aranzubia- out of frustration and desperation no doubt- stuck out a trailing leg to bring him down for a penalty, converted by Samuel Eto’o past stand-in keeper Juan Rodriguez to round off a 5-0 win that, if anything, flattered the visiting side immensely. The only shame from a neutral’s perspective was that the wild-haired skipper was not allowed the chance to get the goal his performance, well, his run anyway, merited. But goalscorers are goalscorers I guess, and Eto’o was never going to pass up the chance to net his 18th goal of a prolific, return-to-form, season.

Deportivo, as I mentioned, are by no means a bad side. They may not have the quality of their side of the late nineties/early noughties, with the likes of Diego Tristan, Djalminha, Fran or the phenomenal Juan Carlos Valeron, but their side is solid, well organised and in the likes of Rodolfo Bodipo & Andres Guardado, they have attacking players capable of springing a surprise. Just ask Real Madrid, who haven’t won at the Riazor in their last sixteen attempts.

All the more incredible then, was the manner in which Pep Guardiola’s side simply steamrollered their way through a side that, but for their head-to-head record with Villarreal & Atletico Madrid, would be occupying a UEFA Cup spot at the halfway stage of the season. Barça, put simply, were magnificent. On this kind of showing, there isn’t a side on earth that could live with them. Their team-wide mentality of passing, movement, effortless first touch, refusal to waste possession, and killer instinct in the penalty area is becoming almost ridiculous.

Barça have set new record number of points for the first half of a Liga season (50 from a possible 57), and are scoring at a rate of more than 3 goals per game. Since losing to Numancia in the opening league game of the season, Guardiola’s side have pretty much demolished anything unfortunate enough to get in their way, and in a style rarely seen in the modern game. Premier League observers often swoon at the thought of Arsene Wenger’s pass-and-move Arsenal side, but this side takes it to a new level.

They had opened up Depor within thirty seconds last night. Dani Alves, a right back who could lay claim to being one of the most devastatingly effective attacking players in the world right now, freeing Messi down the right, and the little magician’s cross allowed Henry to draw a smart block from Aranzubia with an instinctive first time strike from the penalty spot. Deportivo didn’t heed the warning, Eto’o jinking past four defenders cutting in from the left, before seeing his goalbound shot take a nick off a defender and slide wide of the far post. It was a matter of time before Barça opened the floodgates, and inevitably it was Messi who held the key.

For people who don’t watch La Liga, or Barcelona, it may appear that this Messi character is on the receiving end of rather too much hyperbole at the moment. After all, he is just a footballer at the end of the day. Only he isn’t, he is a genius. No player in the modern era- Cristiano Ronaldo aside- can dribble as effortlessly, at incredible pace, with the ball glued to their feet, yet still provide as consistent a final pass or shot, even in the tightest of spaces, and when usually being man marked by a hatchet-man defender as well.

His opener last night would have been stunning by anyone’s standards, by Messi’s this season it was almost expected from the moment he collected Xavi’s pass on the right touchline. Cutting inside the hapless Filipe with ease, he simply ran straight across the Depor defence on the diagonal before placing a beautifully steered left foot shot back across Aranzubia and in off the far post from the edge of the box. Andy Gray would have been applauding, Jonathan Pearce would have been exploding, Kevin Keatings on SKY simply announced “the little magician has done it again”. It said it all.

There were two further goals in the first half, Henry planting a rare headed goal past Aranzubia from a wonderfully flighted Alves cross, before Eto’o reacted first to bury a loose ball after the unfortunate keeper had kept out Seydou Keita’s flying header superbly. In between, Messi had at least shown us signs of being human by sending a free header woefully wide from eight yards, after that man Alves had again picked out a dream cross to top off a stunning run.

The second half didn’t need to be anything special; Deportivo’s players wore the look of a team that had been told at half time that they would be walking back to La Coruña in their kit, whilst Barca’s were content to stroke the ball around like a footballing Harlem Globetrotters.

Watching Xavi Hernandez in the form he is in at the moment is like watching a coaching masterclass, pass, move, receive, pass. Never wastes it, never lets the ball get away from him, never over-hits the killer ball, never telegraphs his pass. He is a joy to behold.

With Messi ahead of him looking like producing a wonder-goal every time he gets possession, Alves behind him effectively doing the job of two players, and Henry & Eto’o laying to rest the ridiculous claims that they couldn’t play together, Barca are simply unstoppable.

They picked up another couple of goals before the end of course, a slick team move eight minutes from time ending with Henry steering Xavi’s cut-back into an empty net from close range for his second of the evening, and his eleventh of the season. Then came Xavi & Puyol’s piece de résistance in the dying seconds, and Miguel Angel Lotina’s side were almost happy to get out of the Camp Nou and begin their walk home.

It is Numancia- the only side to beat them this season- next in the league for Guardiola’s men, as they look to begin the second half of the season the way they finished the first. And on this showing, you would be a fool to bet against Pep’s boys.

Comments (73)

  1. dont get ahead of yourself – its all relative..
    barca demolishing deportivo was once something to be admired, but such is the depreciation of la liga that it holds little credibilty elsewhere.
    one can wax lyrical about barcas domination of la liga all season long – but the real test is when they come up against top opposition, namely englands top 4.
    the champions league is the stage where all this overblown hype will come crashing down.
    they have undoubted talent in messi but were shown up against manchester utd last season. physically they cannot live with a premier league side, and for all their fancy touches, never came close to utd’s goal.
    style without grit,a criticsm of arsenal in the past, and while barca would porbably be made favourites if they were to face the gunners, there would be little wisdom in backing them.
    alas, it is a pity for spaniards or catalans or any liga fans but this is the reality these days.
    it is somewhat reminiscent of utd’s early domination of fergusons reign and their inability to bring that to the european stage. the reason was a gulf of class between englands leagues and those of spain and italy.
    however, the pendulum has truly swung in englands favour.
    and who could argue when the most exciting, pulsating, passionate football in the world is played in england.
    you only have to look at the stats to see which league spectators choose to watch. the epl is miles ahead when it comes to viewers. last seasons game between utd and arsenal was watched by more people worldwide than the world cup final!
    that, in itself, speaks volumes

  2. premier league defences>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>La liga defences

  3. As much as i support la liga, they haven’t played against any world class teams yet this season. Even Real Madrid’s administration was going through controversy at the time of their game. I think you have horribly overrated them to say what you have said. when real madrid was doing pretty much this good last year in la liga, no one said anything. if you ask me, it is barca who are in a galacticos era now. Real Madrid should no longer be criticized for “stealing everyone else’s good players” as the media, including this site, continue to do. For example look at the “stars” in barca’s roster compared to madrid’s “stars” before this season started. For the sake of fairness I will exclude home-grown talent in my argument.

    Barcelona
    Valdes
    Abidal, Puyol, Gabi Milito, Rafa Marquez, Dani Alves, Zambrotta
    Xavi, Iniesta, Keita, Yaya Toure, Hleb
    Eto’o, Messi, Henry, Gudjohnsen, Ronaldinho

    Is it just me or is this just obscene? And Barca continues to buy stars… all players listed above would make first team elsewhere.

    Real Madrid
    Casillas
    Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro
    Diarra, Sneijder, van der Vaart, Guti, Robben
    van Nistelrooy, Raul

    Is it just me or is this list half as long. Half of Real’s players are about to retire, and the other half are really young, whereas most of barca is in their prime. REal is hardly as star studded as they are made out to be.

    As far as I’m concerned this article is just an example the pro-barca bias among the media and fans of other clubs. Barca is everyone’s “second club”. sure, 3 years ago, real was the bandwagon but now it’s barca and bandwagon fans hate real. Every one couldn’t stop hating on real last year when they were in teh same position, but now everyone loves barca this year? Even this man u website loves barca and loves to hate madrid.

    and can someone explain to me the rankings on the fifa video game? all of the barca players are faster and stronger than real madrid players. abidal faster than robben? messi stronger than sneijder. lol. regardless of the fact that real killed barca the last two seasons, barca is consistently rated higher. what will they be rated after this season? Pro-barca bs if you ask me.

    Oh and sorry, but Xavi is good but not the best mf. but since the eurocup everyone has loved him. not before it though. bandwagon much? and messi is great but he’s not balanced or versatile enough to be considred the best.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your account of Barcelona’s win over Deportivo. You couldn’t have placed your words better if you watched that match live on the television. Its transparent that this team oozes envy from premier league regular viewers or Real Madrid fans. Barcelona 2008/2009 deserve their credit for what they are achieving just like when United and Real Madrid deserved their tremendous season last year.

  5. 3 comments so far and all of them are retarded. It goes to show that non of the above watch la liga they’re just brainstorming based on what they digest in the news. Stop calling yourselves football fans you biased tools.

  6. Unbelievable! Apparently some people believe West Brom may be better than Barca simply because WBA’s in the Premier League. I’ve watched Barca matches on the U.S. soccer channels and sometimes become mesmerized over the precision Barca presents on the field.

  7. I’m especially pleased with this article, because I am a passionate Barca fan. Thanks for your perspectives, Neil.

  8. The EPL and La Liga are not superior or inferior to each other. They’re just different. The Chelsea-ManU CL final last year plus the additional publicity/hype the EPL receives seem to have confused some. If you dont regularly watch games from all the major leagues you should. Each year is different. Barca massacred three times the same Atletico Madrid side that Liverpool couldn’t beat and also won over the Villareal side against which ManU couldnt score a goal. Each year is different.

    If EPL defenders are so much better, how did players like Fernando Torrres and Robinho who could never truly break out in Spain suddenly tear up those vaunted EPL defenses the moment they arrived? How did Micheal Owen or Becks do in Spain? It not that EPL defenders are worse its just a different style that’s suited for different playes. Dont confuse last year’s half-strength de-moralized Barca squad with a still injured Messi that you saw against ManU with this year’s squad. It will be fun to see how they do against the big Italian and EPL teams but that’s what the CL is for, right?

  9. RE: Bruce… I’ve watched every single real madrid and barcelona game since the start of the season, but what about you?

  10. i think this season barca could beat anybody in europe.the only side that can challenge them is united.barca are simply irresistible,their attacking play is awesome.messi IS the best player in the world,not officially,but if you watch him regularly you will see why.probably the only player around now that can be mentioned alongside players such as pele,maradona,cruijff,etc.

  11. ” For the sake of fairness I will exclude home-grown talent in my argument.”

    And then you mention Valdes, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, all of whom came up through Barca’s academy. And Zambrotta and Ronaldinho who were sold over the summer. Hmm, could it be that you included them because without them Real’s list would actually be longer? And what’s your point anyway, it’s not fair that Barcelona have built a world class squad? They’re not allowed to buy players?

    Calling that little diatribe an argument is a bit of a stretch mate..

    PS: Video games? Seriously? lmao…

  12. At the moment barca are really good, and it’s really brilliant to see them destroy their oppositions. At the moment they are arguably the most exciting team to watch, with really great football. BUT the team that plays the best football on earth isn’t necessarily the best football team. It’s a real joy to see them win but when you want to know if they are really the best it’s much more interesting to see how they cope when everything doesn’t go so smoothly, when for instance they fail to score for 60 minutes and then get one mean counter against them, that somehow goes in. At such moments you will see the difference between the best footballers and the best team.

  13. @Ruud – you make a good point about Barca picking up players from other clubs.

    However I’d point out that it doesn’t mean Madrid hasn’t done the same, it just means that Madrid’s team building policies are not delivering the same success as Barca’s. Selling Robinho on the last day when that money could have been invested in strengthening the gaps is madness.

    In comparison, Barca sold the players that didn’t fit in and brought in players that did, in time.

    No, not a barca fan. not a madrid hater either.

  14. RE: Bitter much?

    messi can hardly be considered homegrown. i said i was talking about before this season started so ronnie and zambrotta were still with barca. and casillas, guti, and raul also are real youth products, so barca’s list is still much longer and filled with more famous names. all i was trying to say is that it’s time people stopped hating on madrid for “chasing after stars” when they don’t even have the most star-studded squad in spain, much less the rest of europe. seriously, the minute real goes after a big name, everyone whines, but barca splashes out on star after star and everyone praises them. and i don’t think video games are irrelevant, since outside of spain the media as a whole are biased toward barcelona. my argument is that it’s not fair that real are criticized the way they are when barca have a more stacked squad and a firm grip on la liga.

  15. RE: Ahmed Bilal

    you are most correct, but i maintain that people turn a blind eye when barca pick up players from other clubs yet they go bonkers when its madrid.

  16. actually raul is a product of atleticos academy.real snapped him up when atletico couldnt afford to maintain their youth system

  17. Alves, Hleb and Keita weren’t in the squad last season. Doesn’t seem exactly fair to be counting both incoming and outgoing players. And Messi was picked up by Barcelona when he was 11, if that’s not homegrown I’m not sure what is. I consider Raul to be homegrown as well, even though he was 15 or 16 when he joined Real.

    All top European sides have star-studded rosters and they all spend obscene amounts of money on transfers and wages. When things don’t go well, they all get criticized in the press. Barca spent a lot of money this year, but they spent it well and are playing some great football. Big clubs always get criticized for supposedly buying succes, and Real is the biggest of the big clubs. They get the most criticism because they have by far the biggest trophy cabinet. Everyone roots for the underdog, including journalists, and (ludicrous as it may sound) anyone challenging Real Madrid fits that bill to some extent. This won’t change until:

    a) Someone equals or overtakes their record (not going to happen anytime soon)

    b) Real Madrid hit a dry spell for a decade or so (just ask Liverpool supporters)

    PS: Videogames really are irrelevant as they are pretty much completely based on international performances and individual trophies. Despite Real winning the league the last two seasons, Barcelona have done better in the CL recently. If you do well in Europe, your players end up higher in shortlists for individual awards, they get a whole lot a of positive publicity and better stats in videogames. Having one of your players as the posterboy for Fifa or PES probably doesn’t hurt either…

  18. Agree that Barca look outstanding this year and are most peoples favourites for the CL. The only note of caution could be the timing of form.

    Barca may well maintain this standard all season but may also face injury disruptions later.

    Man Utd and Chelsea have not yet hit the heights of last season and both have had their injury woes. However, peaking between March and May is the key and don’t be surprised if they do just that.

  19. UEFA Champions League Final 2008/2009: FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United…dream on!

  20. Hector’s made the most sensible comment here, and no one’s bothered to respond to him. He’s right, you know. This tiresome nonsense about “They’re good, but wait till they meet an English defense”… well, it could be right. Ferdinand and Vidic are great defenders, for example.

    But if you really think Barça hasn’t been challenged because they haven’t faced an English team, then you’re just repeating knee-jerk hype that you’ve read in the Anglophone press, which talks up the Premier League the way that Marca talks up Madrid. One all-English final and you’re acting like the Spanish league is the Greek league all of a sudden.

  21. You have summed up the down point of your argument in that first paragraph i’m afraid. A ‘demoralised’ Deportivo defence. I am not arguing against Barca being the best side in the world at the moment but Arsenal, Man UTD, Chelsea, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juve and Barca have all boasted the quality where people have accepted they are reaching perfection and yet they have had it snatched away from them. Being an Arsenal fan i could be called biased here and argue if we have a full, fit squad we could beat anyone. But i honestly believe that we could, and i echo the same sentiments with regards to Man UTD and a supposed club in crisis like Chelsea. Barca last year had a very similar squad and showed quality in parts and not so much at other times. I don’t believe anyone can go ahead and say without any doubt that Barca will win the Champions league. As Utd showed against Barca last year, and as a bunch of boring tossers show against the Gunners, a stubborn defence can stop a top attacking side in its tracks and when that team has the ability of most teams left in the CL, there is no definite winner for the CL. Although i believe them to be playing the best football at the moment, i would quite willingly put my money where my mouth is and say Braca will not win the CL

  22. I think a lot of the naysayers are making legitimate and good points. Nothing is guaranteed, and we should always question the hype, even when the hype is earned with performances like this.

    However, in response to Koewart: did you see the game against Osasuna? The bottom-placed team in the league frustrated the hell out of Barça and went ahead twice, with a truly scary home atmosphere behind them. But Barça woke up, changed their game, and pulled off a victory in the last 10 minutes. And that wasn’t the first time they came back from behind this season. I think the team has shown a lot of character under stress.

  23. dyan makes great points…

    and to be completely fair to the Barca argument (and it has been quite entertaining) you cannot take last year’s results and think they correlate in any way to this year’s team — as it is a new year, with a new coach, new squad (with new leadership) and a new resolve and hunger. and the team is in appreciably better shape, fitness-wise, than it ever was in ’08.

    although they managed to reach the CL semis on talent alone, the Rijkaard-led Barca team the world saw last year against Manchester United is nothing compared to this year’s version under Pep. this year’s Barca is much brighter, more unselfish, healthier, and more resilient in their overall approach to the game, not letting their head get down when things don’t go right for them in the early stages. they refuse to let themselves be frustrated by the opposition’s tactics, and keep pushing and fighting as a team — much unlike last year’s collection of individual stars.

    they show a grit that is characteristic of Premiership clubs, but still play with the pleasing, creative and always-attacking style that only Barca can produce in world football — much like the hungry, 2006 version but with more overall talent.

    continue believing this Barca is similar to last year’s if you like, but this supporter can tell you that, honestly, there is no comparison… Manu U was smart to park the bus at Camp Nou in the first leg last year. an unfit and out-of-form Barca could be easily frustrated by defensive-minded tactics in ’07-08. but similar tactics have only delayed the inevitable Blaugrana triumph in ’08-09 — just ask Real Liverp(Madrid).

  24. Daniel you obviously didn’t watch the champs league when utd played barca. I’m a united fan and it doesn’t take a genius to see that united got off lightly against barca. They buckled against a team that effortlessly kept possesion for the majority of the game and thank god scholes scored a fluke from nearly 30 yards, apart from that Ronaldo couln’t perform because of the big occasion. Another thing to take into consideration wasthat the last two seasons up until now barca were in a bit of a crisis. This year barca have beaten off all the top title contenders by a considerable amount and united well they might not have concrdied yet but they just aren’t scoring much. Even i’ll admit i’ve found it difficult to watch the dismal footy that utd are playing when the best football thats been on show since the 50s. Daniel my friend as a utd fan i’m happy to say if barca were in the premiership not only would they be more than capable of beating off competition of the so called top 4. Arsenal havn’t got the range, neither liverpool, in my opinion the premiership is turning into a plastic league, over hyped by the media, to the point where nobody outside of england wants to know.

  25. let’s wait for the end of the season then ;) this season’s Barca cannot be compared with last season’s team.Look at how the front three of henry-eto’o-messi performed under Rijkaard & Guardiola.last season’e ‘deadweights’ Deco & Ronaldinho are gone aswell

  26. @Thomas Morgan: You’re not a Utd fan and don’t fool anybody!
    “united got off lightly against barca.”

    You understand nothing about tactics and playing to your strengths.

    “Scholes fluke”

    Yeah, right! Go play with the girls! :)

  27. I rather play with girls than men. Lol. If it wasn’t a fluke then where’s all the screamers coming from this season. Oh yes there are none, and Ronaldo doesn’t seem to be the supposed best in the world this season. Not by a long shot. Your right though i’m not a united fan, its just its difficult to have a conversation about how good barca are when u guys scraped a goal back on saturday and all of a sudden think the league is over. I didn’t hear anyone singing their praises before liverpool drew last night. And if united are so banging then compare this. United 34 goals since begining of season with more games played. — Eto 18 goals, messi 16 league goals so far this season, and thats without counting Henry’s double figures and then u got Xavi, iniesta. End of the day, by the end of the season, unless united shape up Eto’o will have more than united as a whole. Just goes to show that united are not all as offensive as u united fans wish.

  28. we all know which the best team on earth is
    MANCHESTER UNITED

  29. Shame you got nothing else to say about them, but lets not forget that it’s not just me saying that barca are the best on the planet at the mo. Most proffesionals including Torres and Ronaldo have all openly spoken admitted that currently they are the best in the world. Also everybody knows that in football its all about goals goals goals, and if i do say so myself barca have got more than any other team in europe, and they’re getting them in style. (90th minute,– BERBATOV with the head) And utd have clawed their way back, (clawed, didnt dominate against a far worse team but managed to claw back a win) Dismal, boring. I know who i’d rather watch at the mo. How bout any one else?

  30. I really hope United get to play Barca this season again because it will really test how good barcelona are. Barcelona at the moment are the attcking team going but they havent played a team thats as defensively good as United so it wud b interesting

  31. I like the fact that Barcelona is so balanced nowadays. You’d go as deep as their fourth center back, like Pique or Caceres and still get a great win. They can even start Busquets or Pedro in Champions League games and they contribute. Something’s happened with the team. I think when Ronaldinho left, and Henry and Eto’o both woke up, it was about time that they got things right.

    But everyone here is correct to point out that Barca must be observed keenly when they have better opposition, especially those coming from the top European leagues.

    The real tests come when they meet the english and the italians.

  32. The CL shall tell all. However, it is a truly blind person that argues against Barca being the best AT THE MOMENT.

    Like any other big team, they constantly face smaller or mid-level (or big-level as in Real Madrid) teams that park the bus on their own end. Same as Chelsea, ManU, and Liverpool. The difference in tactics though is that Barca have been retooled this year with players like Alves, a re-positioned Messi and Iniesta, and Keita to attack such defenses. At the moment, no team on earth can keep up with them playing open football. Give Xavi, Iniesta, Messi or Eto some space and you’ll get a counter in hurry. So parking the bus and playing catennaccio is the only true viable alternative. The key to beating Barca is to score first and/or keep them scoreless until late in which case they might get desperate and lose concentration opening themselves to a counter. To do this you have to pack the midfield and disrupt their passing (very hard to do) If they score first its almost over because you are forced to attack and in effect give them the space they need.

    On the other hand, big teams that prefer to play tactical football and do most of their big damage on the counter like Liverpool and ManU struggle when they are forced away from their styles and the end result is a finish like last weekend’s with a Berbatov header in the 90th minute saving a near certain draw. It will be interesting to see if a Juve, ManU, Inter or Chelsea can hold off Barca and get a counter in this year. I actually think Juve is the best equipped for it this year. ManU did it last year but this is a different team. Giving Barca possession is playing with fire. Give them enough chances this year and they’ll probably eventually score then, if they score first, you’ll not have the personnel (assuming the line-up is based on defense and midfield disruption) to ideally attack.

  33. Fevered debate here, i will have a look at some of the arguments against Barca:

    @ Post 21- The reason why Deportivo La Coruna’s defence was demoralised for the fifth goal? Because they had spent the previous hour and a half chasing shadows. The fifth goal’s build up was simply the icing on the cake, indicative of yet another spell-binding performance. Deportivo aren’t Manchester Utd or Arsenal, granted, but I would fancy them against the seventh best team in England right now, and Barca mauled them.

    @ Post 3- Unfortunately your argument rather descended into farce, I’m afraid I have no bearing on the player stats for FIFA 09, I just write opinionated articles in my spare time which i like to discuss with people. i do however feel i must deny any accusation of pro-Barca bias, my affections in Spanish football lie with Rafa Benitez’s old side Valencia, and I love watching Real Madrid, Villarreal, even Sevilla also. No Barca bias from me, just an appreciation of some wonderful football.

  34. The real test will be the CL.

    Bayern 98/99 was set to be one of the all-time german greats, having won the league comfortably, and being in the final of the German Cup and the Champions’ League. But losing the CL final made the 98/99 team one of those that came “very close” to greatness, but not close enough.

    If Barça don’t lift the trophy in Rome, I will find it hard to consider their domestic domination as anything else than anecdotal, just like how Lyon’s domination in France was, or Bayern’s last season. Seasons where you break records domestically make a statement (Arsenal’s unbeaten league was one), but unless you win the most important trophy, you’re not the best.

  35. Since Barca got rid of Deco they’ve looked great. And since Chelsea bought Deco they’ve looked poor. Anyone see a relationship here?

  36. I think that Shazback raises an interesting point about perception of greatness. There is little to suggest at the moment that Barça — who, for full disclosure, I am a socio of and write a blog about — is either fantastically great or overrated. As some have said, the CL is the true test, but I would say that true greatness is neither a statistical category nor objectively measurable by any standard I’ve ever encountered.

    Leagues are capable of giving us the best team in that subset of teams insofar as two games, one home and one away against each opponent, are capable of suggesting who has had the best year.

    Tournaments, on the other hand, give us the best team in terms of who is capable of winning games one after the other, stringing together victories in the short term rather than being consistent in the long term as a league requires.

    One of the major shortcomings of a league is that it doesn’t put a sense of urgency on any one game (except, perhaps, at the end when the league becomes more of a tournament if the points are close enough).

    One of the major shortcomings of a tournament is that not all teams play each other and thus to claim that the best team is the one that wins the tournament is folly in that not enough data is really available. There are always “soft” runs to the championship game, surprise “Cinderellas,” or mishaps to opponents that help along the way.

    If you played last year’s Champions League over again, with the same teams, you’d more than likely end up with different teams at different stages. I won’t argue that Barça would have beaten ManU in the semis were the game played again, but the possibility is certainly there. The games were close and could really have gone either way — what if it was Evra that had flipped a ball to Xavi in the middle and allowed him the space and time to score? If we’re talking about elite teams then any mistake is capable of changing the outcome of the entire tournament via a goal or a missed opportunity.

    In my opinion, while a wonderful competition and certainly the most important competition in European football, the CL doesn’t truly represent who is the best, no matter who wins it. Barça weren’t the best in 05/06 simply by winning the CL, were they? If ManU was the best in 07/08 thanks to their CL crown, then it stands to reason that Barça, who beat 2 EPL teams, including one in the final, were the best team in 05/06. Again, I don’t agree with that assessment because, simply put, Barça didn’t have to prove their worth against every CL team.

    I would be more in favor of a Champions *League* rather than a Champions Tournament as we have now because I do think the shortcomings I listed above are fewer than in at tournament.

    Sorry if this post is overly long.

  37. If you ask me.. I would say that Barcelona just got the devil inside them.. It is almost unreal to see them play and you would think.. This is a real football..

    I admit, English football is great. I for once love to watch Man U and Liverpool but, if you ask me to choose as all game play simultaniously, I will choose Barca anytime.. It is such a joy to see this team play…

    Oh, for those who think that English defender >>> Spanish.. they can eat sh*t! Don’t compare defender from the top 4 teams only.. compare it with the whole league team.. league vs league and top 4 english team is not equal to 20 teams where the class different is HUGE.. I would say that Spanish 20 teams is has a less gap in quality compare to English 20.

    Lastly, why English team is more famous? Because it’s English where people around the world get the exposure more than Spanish and Italy. Most country outside Europe basically get to see all English game but not Spain or Italy. For example, if you live in South East Asia, you can watch most English game at 8pm – 12am.. very good timing but La Liga game will be play at most 12am and always 2 or 3 am.. And the preview, review post game match is all done in English where most people in the world understand.. and to get a good review, preview, post view game for Spanish or Italy.. you just happen to understand their language.. or else you have to listen to English people who I can say.. don’t really have enough passion or love to the league.. Tell you, I talk from experience..

  38. Gotta agree with my boy Isiah about greatness and the distinction between a league and a tournament. Cruijf’s Clockwork Oranje never won a thing but who can argue against their greatness? Sure, they’re remembered for losing to Germany but their remembered even more for revolutionizing the game and giving us wonderful magic football. They went down fighting in a close game that could have gone either way against another great side but I dare anyone to say that that German team is more remembered than the Clockwork Oranje. THAT’S greatness without winning a tournament. It has happened before.

    Of course, Barca has to get to the Final which in itself is pretty darn hard. We’ll see in Feb-May what’s what.

  39. Hector and Isaiah Brief it all, what will Ramzi say more:)

    Remember when Porto and Monaco reached the CL final (And Porto beat Man Utd on the way)? Leagues in France and Portugal were the best by then right? Its so strange how some people analyze this game…

    I think even thought the Major clubs lean a lot on foreigners, but don’t you think the national teams performance MUST be taken in consideration when you compare leagues, I mean, in any league the domestic players are the base, and there you can see the product of the whole system, including the less flashy clubs, and what about the youth systems?

    I think if you take that in consideration, you will figure out that some leagues are like a fashion, goes up and down, while others have solid bases to stand on…

    Ibramovic is welling to sell Chelsea fc for the first dumb who is welling to spend 800 Millions, and he is even welling to pay all the club loans from that money, solid bases isn’t it?

    By the way, its not always that the best team win the CL. In few seconds the “Best team” changed from being Byern to become Man UTD in that final, remember?

    Some common sense when you do the effort of commenting…

    @Ruud van Nistelrooy, If Messi is not a barcelona youth academy product, then I can tell you a sad story about an Atletico die hard fan called Raul…

  40. Isaiah, Hector, Ramzi, man you guys are everywhere! :-)

    I am a Barça Fan. And I will always cringe when we are called “out of this world” because it just seems like a set up for a great downfall. But my love, Barça, is playng the best football. Unlike last year we have both skill and grit. We have that killer instinct and cojones. In regards to the leagues, like Hector said, saying any one league is better than the other is foolish. It is all in the eye of the beholder. Each one of us has preferences. I for one prefer attacking (truely attacking) teams so I prefer La Liga. Some like the fast pace, back and forth action, braun over brains that are idiosncracies of EPL footy. Some prefer great Defensive schemes such as are in Italy. Add to this the hype that England exports over it’s footy to a world who’s most spoken language is English. It all sums up to what is now. A true misconception!

  41. To those arguing against me, you guys sure hold yourselves up to high standards when arguing, avoiding such “farce” and “diatribe”. Too bad big words won’t cover up the fact that your arguments are just as petty. Of course you deny that you are biased. But your denial of pro-Barca bias is not any greater of an argument than vieo games.

    RE: munichheart
    I wouldn’t call it balance as much as depth.

    RE: Bitter much?
    First off, both the incoming and outgoing players are relevant because the incoming players were bought before the outgoing ones were sold. This ilustrates the fact that, desptie the lengthy list of stars on Barca’s roster, Barca still felt that its squad was inadequate.

    You seem to be at the same time contradicting yourself and agreeing with me. You acknowledge that there is prejudice against Real Madrid because of all their success, but you support the fact that Madrid will always be the team to beat even if Barca and Man U are so much better? I think that is just plain stupid. I think it’s ridiculous that some glory hunter can “support” Man U or Barca and act like they are rooting for the underdog, when in fact these clubs have alarger bandwagon populace than Madrid at this point. You know what I think it comes down to? People trying to justify the fact that they root for the team that wins everything. And what better way than to target Real as a scapegoat? They are the ones who tap up other clubs players! They are the ones who “buy success”! What’s that? Hypocrisy. Turning a blind eye to the facts. The fact is that Madrid have fallen victim to this next generation of glory hunters who support Man U and Barca, who, last time I checked, have been winning everything this season, and then try to criticize Madrid.

  42. RE: Bitter much?
    Also, to clarify, there is indeed a period between seasons, usually referred to as the summer transfer window, in which players are transferred between clubs.

    And to explain what portion of your post is self-contradictory- you seem to say that, no matter what, Real will be criticized by the press and the public, and you imply that other clubs are free to splurge in the transfer market and are applauded regardless of the result of the expenses. Is that not bias if not prejudice? I think so.

  43. RVN, Bitter Much, and municheart;

    I don’t wish to take sides in your discussion/argument about the merits or lack thereof of supporting either Madrid or Barcelona, I merely wish to point out a few things about the “list of stars” that have been mentioned. This is the list supplied by RVN:

    Barcelona
    Valdes
    Abidal, Puyol, Gabi Milito, Rafa Marquez, Dani Alves, Zambrotta
    Xavi, Iniesta, Keita, Yaya Toure, Hleb
    Eto’o, Messi, Henry, Gudjohnsen, Ronaldinho

    Real Madrid
    Casillas
    Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro
    Diarra, Sneijder, van der Vaart, Guti, Robben
    van Nistelrooy, Raul

    I think one of the problems that people are having is that, with or without homegrown talent, there are several Real Madrid players who are currently not listed there. If you include Gudjohnsen on the list, I think you have to also include Gago, Higuain, Saviola, Heinze, Marcelo, Salgado, Drenthe, Julio Baptista, and Robinho (if Zambrotta and Ronaldinho count, then so do Baptista and Robinho).

    You could also include Lassana Diarra (or Mahamadou if you were referring to Lassana with “Diarra”) and Huntelaar from this year.

    From Barcelona’s side, you could include Thuram, Bojan, Pique, and Caceres. Sylvinho, maybe, but if you include Sylvinho, then you’ve got to include Miguel Torres for RM.

    If you really do want to remove homegrown talent (and leave Messi because he’s Argentine), then your list is as follows, with every player who is not homegrown included:

    Barcelona: Pinto (GK), Caceres, Rafa, Gudjohnsen, Eto’o, Messi, Pique, Henry, Keita, Sylvinho, G. Milito, Alves, Hleb, Abidal, and Yaya

    Real Madrid: Dudek (GK), Cannavaro, Pepe, Metzelder, Sergio Ramos, Salgado, Heinze, Gago, Marcelo, M. Diarra, L. Diarra, Javi Garcia, Sneijder, van der Vaart, Drenthe, Robben, Higuain, Saviola, van Nistelrooy, Huntelaar.

    The total value of FCB’s transfer fees for those players was 188million euros.

    The total value of RM’s transfer fees for those players listed was 310million euros.

    I don’t know where that leaves your discussion, but there it is.

  44. @ruud van nistelrooy

    i dont know if anybody else addressed this above, i haent read all the comments, but in your first post in which you list all the talents of barca and the talents of RM you make some mistakes, quite a lot in fact. first of all you say you dont include homegrown players. then why is valdes, puyol, xavi, iniesta, messi in the list? they all came up through the cantera. second of all, ronaldinho and zambrotta no longer play for barca, and if you are using last seasons stats then remove keita, hleb and alves. if you are using this season, then remove ronnie and zambrotta.

    also the stars in barca were not stars, or most of them werent until they went to barca. keita is by no means a huge star. eto’o wasnt a huge star when we bought him from mallorca. henry is perhaps the only big star that we have really bought.

    you left out a lot of names from RM too. what about higuian? and by using ronnie in our list you should include robinho in yours.

    what about taking figo from us? that was theft. what about almost stealing ronaldo? your argument lacks credibility. notice barca has the most homegrown talent in the team than many other teams. the epl is only good because it is full of foreigners. liverpool, the no 1 team have so many spaniard, alonso, torres, reina etc. arsenal barely have any englsih players at all. why is the england team so bad that it cant even qualify for the euros?

    barca has the following players in first team positions that came up through the youth system, and most are catalan too: messi, bojan, valdes, puyol, xavi, iniesta, v sanchez, pedro, jeffren, busquets to name a few

    RM has what? 6 dutchmen? barca used to do that but those days are gone.

  45. wow isaiah, you made my comment redundant. great response. inteeresting point from hector that man u couldnt beat villareal but we did, and liverpool needed a fake penalty to beat atletico and we thrashed them 3 times. why are there no english players in spain again?

  46. @ruud van nistelrooy

    you got owned!!! hahaha.. obviously, facts are facts..

  47. Like John Said you did get owned.
    Just sayin!

  48. I made a mistake in omitting robinho and baptista.
    The whole thing about not using homegrown talent indeed contradicts my roster and I forgot to delete it when I decided to approach my argument differently. Sure, squad lists and video games may not be the best evidence to use in this context, but I hardly see anyone else supplying any proof for their arguments.
    But to say that I got owned because of minor details as such says a lot when it comes to you guys. The only part of my argument that you seem to acknowledge is my rudimentary lists of squads that were quickly formulating due to my lack of time to properly research them. I would like to thank you all for jumping on the bandwagon and overlooking the whole rest of my argument, against which no one has sufficiently argued.

  49. And continuing to beat a dead horse in the form of roughly compiled squad lists.

  50. I wonder how Barca would fair if they were forced to play a season in the EPL???

  51. @dave stopher, they will ruin your beautiful EPL, because the merchants buying the other teams hoping to use them to clear their personal debts will panic and run away leaving the fragile league and Teams in the mess…

    As you know, while every team in the EPL has a price so anyone (just anyone) with some money can come to buy and rule, Barcelona is priceless for being a fan based club with unlimited string of talents from age 6 to age 36…

    I doubt all EPL teams can generate in 5 years as many youth players as Barcelona every year, Your EPL rub more Barcelona youth products than they produce.

    To evaluate a league you need to be more open to see all the aspects involved, not only one or two good results.

    And its also nice to check how successful were the best EPL “stars” when they moved to la liga, and how did it went in the opposite sense.

    @Ruud van Nistelrooy, Its not that you made one mistake…I am really trying to make an effort to pick one thing right out of all what you said…sorry…

  52. @RVN

    how can you keep homegrown talent in your list that is evidnce as to how barca BUYS all the stars? surely that is a contradiction? arent they raising these kids to be stars?

  53. @RVN

    Again, you got owned!

    @dave stopher
    Well, it is obvious that Barca will change all EPL team to be super defensive..

  54. @RVN. I’m trying to understand your point. I guess it wasn’t the whole thing on the list of such you obviously let your own bias corrupt your judgement. Let be real for a sec. I’m biased pro Barça your Biased Pro Madrid. But don’t assume that just because I’m a cule I can not remain objective, can you? So if your point a that Barça doesn’t get as much heap as Madrid About signing big stars than I would argue this: Barça like most big clubs does buy “stars” as of lately there have been 2, Alves and Henry in the last 3 years. Ronnie became a star at Barça, Messi was bought at an extremely young age when no one knew of him. He is the result of our youth system, Iniesta,Xavi,Bojan,Puyol, Busquets, all are the result of La Masia. In a typical starting line up; Valdes, Alves, Marquez, Puyol, Abidal,Yaya, Xavi, Busquets,Iniesta, Eto’o, Messi 6 are La Masia products. That’s more than 50% of our startng line up. You might ask, ” why put Busquets in and drop Henry, just to make a case?” No! I believe this all be the standard starting line up when Iniesta is 100%. Now let’s look at your Team. Casillas,Ramos,Pepe,Heinze,Gago,Diarra(1)(2),Sneijder,Guti, Robben, Raul. That’s 3 players compared to Barça’s 6.

    Now it’s true that Barça is not hammered as much for buying players as much as Madrid is. But I argue that it’s because Barça depends more on home grown talnt than Madrid has for many years. Wich is funny because The Castilla produces pretty good players. Madrid spends more money as evidenced by Isaiah’s post than Barça.

    Additionally justbecause someone likes a team such as ManU or Liverpool or Barça and not Madrid does not mean they are Bandwagoners. Such as being a Madrid Fan does not preclude you from being one. If I misunderstood your point than we all did. And either we are all idiots or you are not explaining your self well or don’t have a good argument.

  55. RVN,

    Since you wish it, here is my response to some of your points:

    1) The point appears to be that Barça has bandwagon fans at the moment. I would agree with that statement. There probably are a lot of bandwagon fans choosing to follow Barça, but the fact also remains that Barça has the largest base in the world at over 160,000 members. Many of those members are in Spain, of course but there are those, like me, who are in other parts of the world and grew into their Barcelona-loving world through other means than the 05/06 CL or the fact that RM are the “bad team” these days. That doesn’t invalidate your point at all, though, because, in the simple statement that Barça, like all good teams, has bandwagon fans, you’re quite right. And Barça just happens to be the best team in the world right now according to most people (whether they’re right or not, that’s the impression you get by reading articles such as this one, right? And the masses will be swayed by that a lot)

    2) RM are the “bad guy” in the press right now. Since about two years ago when Barça went into “deep crisis” I’ve maintained the position that it is nonsense to consider a club that is in the Champions League spots in a major league in Europe to be in crisis. I believe that Real Madrid is only in a crisis insofar as the press is concerned; the club itself is, I believe, in a fairly good financial situation despite its expenditures thanks to its global branding — something that Laporta has changed recently and really done a magnificent job of doing.

    When I was growing up in the Midwest USA, the only Spanish team you really ever heard about was RM because their brand was globalized on a massive scale along with their CL successes and the burgeoning market of ESPN-broadcast CL games. Barcelona, then, became a major force in the CL over the last few years, just as RM’s fortunes in Europe fell off a bit. Barcelona, then, has been able to capitalize on a growing market in the US and Asia by being successful at a time of great expansion in viewership thanks to the aforementioned ESPN coverage. RM has been successful the domestic league over the last few years, but this success doesn’t reach as wide an audience as the CL success that Barça has enjoyed.

    The matches against Chelsea and the later against Arsenal and ManU (especially the final), I’m sure raised the profile of the club to lofty heights that it wouldn’t have otherwise been able to achieve.

    However, because Real Madrid have not won the CL or really come all that close, they are considered by many to be the second light of Spain. In a world where the media thrives on one-or-the-other, fight-to-the-death storylines, only one team from Spain can really be on top at a time. Note how rapidly the English media dismisses “would be title challengers” despite the fact that they’re only a couple of points behind, just so that they can play up the Benitez-Ferguson “mind game” nonsense.

    The same is true of RM-Barça, a very passionate rivalry that the media is able to focus on, regardless of whether or not there are shades of gray that should be dealt with. RM is not pure evil and Barça is not pure magic (nor vice versa) by any account, but if your criteria is “bad” and “good” then you are going to label one as one and the other as the other. That’s what the media does and that’s why one should rarely listen to what the media says without considering what they’re saying.

    Marca and Sport are opposite sides of the same coin and their hysteria should be taken with a grain of salt. Marca was anti-Calderon, but is pro-Florentino Perez; each paper has its allegiances (as any of the Berlusconi-owned papers/media in Italy, for instance) and that colors their view of things.

    There are other reasons, though, than exposure and European success that RM is considered the “bad guy” in the media. One of the reasons is that Calderon was never the politician Laporta is. Calderon was sneaky, squeaky, and a real nutjob, but Laporta, who is probably all 3 of those things as well, is more adept at taking failures in stride and not letting himself run at the mouth. I don’t have any great love for Laporta (I have very, very little, in fact), but I have to admit that he’s a good president in terms of marketing and staffing.

    Calderon gets all the blame for what is really a systemic failure within RM in terms of youth production and transfer policy. Mijatovic is, in my opinion, the most responsible person for the failure of the transfer policy to truly bear fruit. While I can’t say there wasn’t success in some sense because RM did win the last 2 league titles, it is clear to me that RM has not effectively consolidated the sporting visions of the hierarchy and the coaching staff. Mijatovic believes in big names regardless of their utility within a system — and he seemed to want the system to adapt to the players — while Schuster wanted players that fit the system he had in mind.

    Juande Ramos, then, has arrived and his scheme has been adapted more to the players, which is perhaps the only move that makes any sense and was one that the obstinate Schuster was never going to make. But still, there is an air of desperation and bewilderment coming from RM and Mijatovic (the latest being the signings of Lassana and Huntelaar despite the UEFA rules allowing only one to be signed up for the CL). The egos running rampant in RM are no different than the egos in Barcelona, but they’re all running in different directions, where as they’re all running stride-for-stride in Barça at the moment (and I stress that, at the moment). The media has picked up on this frenzied atmosphere and certainly goaded it along for headlines and readership, but that’s the nature of the media culture we’re in. It was like that for Barcelona last year, with Sport and EMD screaming endlessly about Laporta needing to get out and Rijkaard smoking pot and staring into space and blah blah. Same with the Madrid-based press now. It’s a cyclical process and the focus will shift back to Barcelona soon.

    3) Barcelona is as star-studded as RM, why don’t they get reviled as purchasers of big names? One of the reasons for this is what I mentioned above: Barcelona has a system that it runs and it buys players to fit that system rather than buying the biggest name on the market. The one exception to that that I can think of off the top of my head is Thierry Henry, who should never have been purchased if he was going to be a winger. I think that his purchase was a big middle finger to Samuel Eto’o from the Laporta administration, but it turned out that Eto’o still had the goods to keep his central striker role or at least a good enough relationship with Rijkaard to maintain his place. Other than that, the purchases made were made with specific roles in mind: Keita and Hleb to shore up the midfield role opened up by Deco’s departure, Yaya as a DM, Alves as a right back for the departing Zambrotta, Abidal for the left to replace an aging Sylvinho, and Gudjohnsen to replace Henrik Larsson.

    All these changes, while substantial and costly, come from a concerted effort to fill in the gaps in a team. It appears, from the domestic form, that this was successful; Real Madrid do not appear to have the same scheme or capability to come up with the right players at the right time. And, again, I argued against Henry and Hleb at the time and I still maintain that they are not perfect fits, but they are proving themselves very capable of carrying the flag for FCB when it’s necessary for them to do so.

    In a sense, yes, FCB is as star-studded as RM in that they have an approximately equal number of stars. However, RM has not produced a superstar from within its own ranks in several years (every since Casillas). Barcelona in the last 5 years alone has produced Iniesta, Messi, and Cesc Fabregas as legitimate superstars (Messi and Cesc obviously have higher profiles, but Iniesta is very rapidly climbing the rungs of the European hiearchy).

    I believe that there is major talent within the RM structure, but it is not properly exploited. Barcelona’s system, on the other hand, is exploited by dozens of clubs around Europe every year (especially considering the laws that in Spain don’t allow a player to play with a full professional contract until a couple of years after they’re allowed to do so in England — thus Cesc and Pique jumping ship, among others; no doubt it’s happened to Madrid as well).

    I fail to see how the failure of RM’s purchases to become integral, long-term members of the squad (Drenthe, Saviola (arrived on a free), Robinho, Baptista to name a couple) causes those players to suddenly be dropped from the list of star players RM has or has had on their roster in recent years, much less says anything at all about Barcelona. If RM has no star players, as you have suggested, that is RM’s fault for not bringing them through their canter or of getting long-term, solid players such as Yaya rather than flash-in-the-pan players like Cassano who are more headcase than player. Remember Cassano? I do.

    Hopefully this answers some of your questions/concerns.

  56. RE: Andrew M

    Thank you, I had not realized that. I am glad that you have brought that to my attention.

    RE: John

    Seriously? I mean, really?

    RE: tutomate

    Funny, because the next post by Isaiah seems to provide a well-thought analysis of my argument. Maybe try reading that before you try to act like I’m calling aevery Man U or barca fan a glory hunter and every madrid fan a saint. Also, most of what you seem to be arguing with me about depends on perception. I’m sorry for even bringing it up.

    RE: Isaiah

    Well, that was sure impressive, and I don’t think I can argue with that, for the most part. I think one could argue against the statement that barca has the largest fanbase. You do bring up many good points regarding Calderon and the youth systems. And you seem to agree with me that Real remain the “team to beat”, yet you also claim that Real are “second light”. My problem is purely that I don’t think such a double standard is fair, regardless of the reasons. You are also correct that it is mostly a matter of what the press says, but I am trying to say that people are being influenced by this to a far too high degree, which I think you can agree with. It’s also kind of a blanket statement to claim Barca buy players because they need players as opposed to those pigs Real Madrid. I would disagree with you on that point, but I hardly think it’s something that would be worth arguing. I would prefer not to argue over my much-criticised squad lists. To clarify, I never said Real had no stars. And I would prefer not to remember Cassano.

  57. In my defense Isaiah is a brilliant guy. I attend his blog regularly. http://www.barcelona.theoffside.com Great place. But maybe you forgot what you wrote already. Comment 14. Here you reiterate what your concern/point is, to wit, its not fair that barcelona are not criticized the way madrid is for buying players. Than you list players. When some one responds as I did to said argument you state that, such was not your point as you did in comment 48. Then you go on to say that you did not put much effort on the list. After being told that Raul was a product of Atletico and was bought by your club at 15 and messi at 11.And I won’t even mention your first post notonly is it factually in accurrate butit speaks of a FIFA 09 conspiracy againts Real.

    I say that with all do respect. I hope Real Madrid gets up and conteds the title next season. And I hope they beat Roma and an English team to prove La Liga’s worth only toloose to us in the semi’s

    Visca el Barca!

    By the way its no wonder why SOME ManU fans hate RM lokk what they tried to do with Ronaldo. A product of ManU, yes i know he was from Sporting but Ferguson has made him into hat he is!

  58. Re: RVN

    Yes RVN.. Really. Seriously.

  59. I don’t agree that Barca is the best team on the planet.. As far as the best team is concerned that is definitely AC Milan bcoz they have the best side with a great combination.. and the way they play soccer is really amazing and they play like the Brazilian national side.. small passes and very attacking side.. dudes Milan is the best

  60. Well there you have it, Mack has spoken.

    RVN, fair enough on the squad lists thing. I shall mention it no more.

    The part about RM being a second light was in a sentence mentioning that it’s the perception of many, rather than factual. Perception is skewed because, as you have said, and I agree, people pay too much attention to the media and, indeed, debates like these.

    At the moment, Barcelona are the “team to beat” because of their relative position in the league, the domestic cup (with or without the 0-0 draw at Espanyol), and their dismantling of a fairly weak Champions League group. Whatever the term “team to beat” means, it is being applied to Barcelona based simply on current form. The team to beat in the Spanish league was definitely RM last year, as evidenced by their title. Again, whatever that means.

    Regardless of whether or not any cule like myself can come up with excuses as to why Barça failed to regain the title last year, the fact remains that Barcelona failed to do so. The same is probably going to be true of RM this year, unless Barça unravels in record-breaking fashion while Real Madrid somehow muster one of the greatest second halves in history. Thus, I think, the term “team to beat” is used. If you can beat us, you’ve got something to crow about, I suppose.

    I would like to clarify about the fanbase: I believe it is a fact that FCB has more paying members than any other club in the world. Perhaps I am wrong, but that is the impression I’m under, thus my statement about fanbase. Whether or not this means FCB has more fans in general than RM probably depends on whether or not you include the bandwagon fans or not. I care, in a sense, which one is more popular because I want my team to be more successful, but there can be no doubt whatsoever that RM is a major club both in Spain and throughout the rest of the world.

    I do think there will always be a sense of “we have to beat RM to have a good season” coming out of Barcelona because of the history and the rivalry. That doesn’t mean that Barça fans feel inferior to their RM counterparts, merely that it’s a true rivalry and that success against the opposition is gratifying. I believe that many RM fans, if they really think about it, don’t consider their season a true success if they don’t defeat Barcelona at least once.

    One thing is for sure, though, Barça are playing lights out in the league right now, well in the Copa even with the B team on the field, and we’re looking forward to our clash with Lyon. I am confident we can beat anyone on the planet on any given day, which while arrogant and self-serving, is certainly the right way to feel when you have a record like ours. Would we beat everyone? No, of course not, but the confidence is there and I’m sure that we would beat the majority of the top teams. We’ll never know, though, as I described above, saying that the CL is not a good test of who is the best team in Europe, unless, as Ramzi said, Porto was the best team in Europe the year they won the CL.

  61. RE: tutomate
    Actually, my point is that there is a double standard regarding Real Madrid and Barcelona, in proving which I unsuccessfully tried to use those lists. Thank you for your concern.

    RE: Isaiah
    I don’t think that I can disagree with what you have said, and in fact I must thank you for saying it, but I feel that maybe I should clarify what I meant by “team to beat”: not to imply that Real Madrid are better; rather the frequent perception that Real Madrid are the most successful club in Europe, as supported by “statistics”.

  62. RVN you are welcome and I thank you as well. There my be a double standard I personally could detect it do to my Bias, if there such a standard. I respect your opinion.

  63. Hey, I admit I’m biased as hell too but I was just saying that it does no good to say that one is not biased.

  64. Celtic-Rangers anybody????? :)

  65. hello. i love you. can i play for you barca?

  66. BEWARE BARCA they are the team to beat at this moment in time, but if Mourinhio ends up against them with Inter, thy will get beat by hi negative, defensive anti-footballing tactics. PS Man United had a goal wrongly disallowed against Porto in that game, so they shouldn’t have won.

  67. @BD condell

    I’ll take the bait…

    I don’t agree that celtic is the best team on the planet.. As far as the best team is concerned that is definitely Rangers bcoz they have the best side with a great combination.. and the way they play soccer is really amazing and they play like the Scottish national side.. small passes and very attacking side.. dudes Rangers is the best

    do i need to say more?

    (i had some help from the pros in the composition of this post)

  68. if rangers were better than celtic,SURELY they would be top of the table wouldnt they?

  69. @duffman90

    read comment 59 then read my comment. it was totally in jest. although i do support the gers

  70. @Duffman and andrew M: Didn’t mean to start anything!! :)

  71. too late now BD,its on!nah just kidding

  72. how come messi looks 40?

  73. @BD no worries, i am just being silly.