On that fateful night in May, when Barcelona demolished Manchester United to secure another trophy for the season, I was disheartened, not only by the manner in which the Premiership’s most successful team lost, but also that arguably one of the greatest football managers of all time, in Sir Alex Ferguson, allowed it to happen again. Such is the strength and the quality of the Barcelona team, their drive to define themselves as the greatest club in world football history and the insights and pioneering strategy of the talented, young manager at their helm that other great teams, like that of Ferguson’s, can be brushed aside so comfortably.
With the news that Cesc Fabregas is on his way to Camp Nou circulating the back pages for a successive summer questions must be asked as to exactly how the Catalan giants will accommodate such a player. Fabregas can’t sit on the bench all season, and with the likes of Xavi and Iniesta pulling the midfield strings whilst Busquets tidies up, we have to ask: where in all this does the Arsenal captain fit in? The answer from the Barcelona camp is that they may be forced to remove a defensive position in place of an extra one in midfield, playing with the vintage 3-4-3 formation that Pep Guardiola himself was a part of during Johan Cruyff’s reign at the club.
What strikes me about this proposed transfer is not the quality of the player, as it could be suggested that Fabregas is one of the top central midfield players in the world, regardless of his age, but the nationality. If Fabregas joins Barca then next seasons starting XI may realistically only house two non-Spanish players in Messi and Dani Alves. In fact in the entire first team squad at Barcelona there are only seven nationalities present, including Alexander Hleb who may well be on his way out of Spain this summer.
With all the top Spanish players playing in one team at club level it isn’t hard to see why Spain won last summers World Cup. It is also difficult to see any other international team challenging for the top spot in the not too distant future. What needs highlighting here is the uniqueness and rarity of Barcelona’s example. With the vast majority of the international squad on the payroll of one club, that is playing consistently at the very top level of world football, it is obvious that Spain, as an international team will benefit immensely.
The main problem that we face as supporters of England in international competition is the fact that all of our greatest players are bitter rivals the vast majority of the time. With the rife competition within the English game, and the larger number of teams who could potentially challenge for the title each season, rival players are not going to get on too well. Yes they are professionals and yes of course they want England to win something internationally but I don’t think you can take away the fact that nearly every week John Terry is kicking bits out of Rooney or Gerrard is squaring up to Baines. This cannot happen in the Primera Division of La Liga as all of Spain’s first XI play for one of two teams. There is passion and physicality in the English game that makes it our own but the consequences of these characteristics are that most of the time this will not help our national squad to get on.
That old cliché that the England team is top class on paper is overused but true. In Fabio Capello the direction and competency of the squad should too be under proven control. The backroom staff are of the highest quality available. All things considered, it is difficult to see how the English national side can be performing so consistently poorly other than the fact that the star players within the squad don’t like each other, don’t know how to get the best out of each other and, on a very basic level, cannot play successfully together.
When the English situation of ‘molare’ is compared to that of the Spanish, paired with the fact that regulations on training youngsters are not as strict, and the number of coaches far greater in Spain than in England, we can see just how far we need to go to attain world champion stature, and how this feat may be increasingly difficult with Spain’s club champions recruitment strategy.
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