First name on the Barcelona team sheet? Messi. Xavi. Sergio Busquets.
As Sergio Busquets clutched the World Cup in his hands on the 11th July 2010, a footballing fast-track journey started only 22 months ago, was complete. In less than two seasons, the 21-year old had broke into the Barcelona First Team, cemented his place, been called up to the Spain squad, and lifted the World Cup. And on the morning of the 2011 Champions League Final, Sergio Busquets will be the first name on Pep Guardiola’s team sheet.
In September 2009, Josep Guardiola asked the gangly, just-turned 19-year old to pull on the number 28 shirt, and take to the field for the first time. Alongside Xavi Hernandez and Seydou Keita, Busquets played the anchor role in a three-man midfield, breaking up attacks and supplying the ball to the more creative, senior players around him. A relatively unknown name to the majority of the Nou Camp, Pep Guardiola was no stranger to the youngster’s ability, having nurtured him through Barcelona’s B team into a player who was beginning to perfect a position Guardiola was once a master.
Fast forward two and a half years, and Sergio Busquets is the single most important player in the Barcelona team. His tireless work rate and discipline allow Xavi and Iniesta freedom to roam. His self-less attitude and positional awareness permit Dani Alves and Adriano to advance from their full-back positions, knowing the midfield anchor will cover them. Busquets provides the shape that Barcelona’s winning formation is based around. He featured in 43 games this season for Barcelona, and played every single game for Spain at the 2010 World Cup, proving his worth to both club and country.
In a 4-3-3 formation, a quality holding midfielder is essential. Busquets has this quality, and then some. Claude Makelele did the job for Chelsea during their glory years, but Busquets right now is the best in the world. He is deceivingly quick across the ground, and despite his rather thin frame, strong on the ball. He is composed on the ball, and fantastic in the air – so much so that he is often asked to mark opposition aerial threats at set pieces. The boy is 22, but with a footballing brain of a man ten years his senior.
So when did Sergio Busquets begin to become one of the best defensive midfielders ever? As soon as Pep Guardiola got his hands on him, it seems. Busquets arrived at Barcelona at the age of 17, where it took him 12 games to get a shot in the B team. But Guardiola saw the potential in the Spaniard, and worked with him on perfecting his position, and eventually handing him the position in the B team. When Guardiola was promoted to the First Team, he took Busquets with him, and despite stiff competition from Ivorian international Yaya Toure, Busquets cemented his place in the starting 11, and has been ever present since.
Without Sergio Busquets, Barcelona are one of the greatest teams in the world. With the tall number 16, they are undoubtedly, the best.