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What Brazil can learn from Barcelona

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Tim Vickery | 15:24 UK time, Sunday, 18 December 2011

In 1924, Uruguay arrived as unknowns at the Olympic football tournament in Paris, took everyone apart on the way to winning the gold medal and changed football forever.

The enthusiasm they set off led to the birth of the World Cup six years later. And like so many significant events in football, it was not just because they won - it was because of the way they did it.

Contemporary accounts raved about them. Influential journalist Gabriel Hanot praised their "marvellous virtuosity in receiving the ball, controlling it and using it," and drew attention to their "beautiful football, elegant but at the same time varied, rapid, powerful, effective."

It was South American football appearing before the world. It came from Uruguay, but it could have been Argentina. And within a few years, it could also have been Brazil.

Instead of the dominant, hard running, muscular Christianity style dictated by the English, this was something more subtle and balletic, made to measure for the short player with a low centre of gravity.


Barca added yet another trophy to their collection with a comfortable win in Japan. Photo - Getty

Fast forward 87 years. Two teams played in Japan on Sunday with the World Club title at stake. Hanot's words apply to one of them - and it is not the South American.

Like watching Muhammad Ali against some outgunned challenger, Barcelona's destruction of Santos was as joyful as it was clinical. Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi ran rings round Santos as if the Brazilians were traffic cones in a training exercise.

According to the dominant current of thought in Brazil in recent years, this sort of thing is not supposed to happen. The physical evolution of the game, it was thought, had made it impossible. In this modern football of reduced space, the central midfielders need to be six-footers, big and strong enough to win the 50-50 balls and protect the defence.

And there was no point in possession football - a move with more than seven passes had a reduced chance of ending up in a goal. The way to win was to block the middle and look for quick counter attacks and set-pieces.

And the quality of the play? "If you want to see a spectacle," says Santos coach Muricy Ramalho, "then go to the theatre." Or maybe go to watch his side taken apart in such style by Barcelona.

In football the idea comes first. And the line of thinking helps explain the type of players produced. In Neymar Santos could count on a Messi equivalent. But where is the Xavi or the Iniesta? Brazilian football no longer has them because it is not looking to produce them. They do not fit the mould.

Perhaps the closest in recent times is the ex-Barcelona player Deco, who struggled for space at home and made his career abroad.

Instead of mobile little intelligent passing midfielders, Brazil has excelled in producing flying attacking full-backs - something Barcelona have successfully assimilated into their model. And also tall, unimaginative, limited central midfielders. These Barcelona can do without.

The set-piece and counter-attack model could have worked on Sunday. After six minutes, the game still goalless, Neymar got into a threatening position in his team's first counter-attack. Carles Puyol snuffed out the danger. But imagine if Neymar had eluded the tackle and gone on to score. Santos could have parked the bus with even more conviction.

Internacional of Porto Alegre managed to do it to win the world title five years ago - admittedly against a version of Barcelona inferior to this one. With the talent of Paulo Henrique Ganso and Neymar, Santos would surely have carved out further opportunities on the counter. There are many different courses that a single game can take.

Brazilian star Neymar still has much to learn from the world's best player. Photo - Getty

But it is almost certainly in the long-term interests of the Brazilian game that Sunday's game panned out as it did. Because now there is no hiding place.

Five years ago Internacional had a ready-made excuse. The massive financial imbalance between European and South American football left them with no alternative but to fight from a trench.

That line no longer works. Brazilian clubs are benefiting from the country's economic boom. In the conditions of five years ago Neymar would already be playing his football in Europe.

In the new environment, Santos have managed to find a fortune to retain him. Since winning the Libertadores in June they have added to their squad, acquiring centre-forward Borges as well as midfielders Henrique and Ibson.

It was not economic power that tipped the balance in Yokohama. Santos were undone by a collective footballing philosophy to which, despite months of preparation, they could find no answer.

After Barcelona had beaten Al Sadd in Thursday's semi-final the Brazilian media were quick to criticise the Qatari team, casting aspersions on the fledgling nature of football in the region.

Totally forgotten was the fact that Al Sadd are Asian champions, and therefore, on paper at least, a notch above Kashiwa Reysol of Japan, who had given Santos such problems 24 hours earlier.

Come the final, the first half of Barcelona-Santos was a replica of the Al Sadd game. With the difference that since Santos had gone into the match with such expectations they were much sadder.

But the story could have a happy ending. Defeat is always an opportunity to learn, and a defeat this emphatic could serve as a turning point in the country's footballing culture.

There is much that Brazil can take from Barcelona - which does not mean slavishly copying something from outside. If anything, it means getting in touch with a lapsed tradition of intelligent, collective midfield play, of passing through the team and all over the field. It means making sure that Gabriel Hanot's words apply once more on the Brazilian side of the Atlantic.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag;

Q) Why do you think not much effort is put in advertising Latin American clubs or tournaments in Asia? Especially when there are millions of fans here, crazy about Brazil & Argentina and have been so for decades. This could easily translate to a lot of revenue for the clubs, as some of their big European counterparts are doing.
Anirban Ghosh

A) It's an excellent point. I think Boca Juniors in Argentina are relatively advanced in terms of their global profile. But the Brazilian clubs, though they talk of 'internationalising their brand,' are missing huge opportunities.

I saw a lecture of Sao Paulo directors a few years back were they gave figures for the number of fans that cubs have. But they were only counting the fans of Brazilian clubs in Brazil, the fans of Mexican clubs in Mexico, and so on. 'How little you understand,' I thought to myself.

It's not always easy for these people to think in global terms. The big Brazilian clubs, for example, are locked into a calendar that doesn't even give them space to take part in pre-season tournaments in Europe, Asia or North America.


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  • Comment number 1.

    You couldnt be more correct Tim. I read your articles everyweek and this one hits is right out of the park. In your next article let us know the Brazilian media response to this massacre. It is interesting to hear what they have to say.

  • Comment number 2.

    Tim... You forgot about Diego where his diminutive style I loved when in Bremen ls s rejected in the end by the tall player applied philosophy.
    I really think that the fluid visionary movement of two touch know-when-to-pass/dribble philosophy is the epitome of it all. Messi deserves it all. BRAZIL 2014 is his tournament. The ARG coaching staff need to understand that and build around him.

  • Comment number 3.

    When does domination become humiliation? I am a Barca fan but sometimes it becomes difficult to watch them killing their opponents. The match against Santos was one of those. Painful to watch - sometimes feels like enjoying seeing bullying going on.. Iam sure that Santos were trying their best, although it looked like they were not interested in the humiliation. I guess that all Brazilians are Madrid fans today, just like all the English became Madrid fans after that night in Wembley..

  • Comment number 4.

    ''All the English became Madrid fans after that night in Wembley''?

    After reading this, I've had to sign up so I can reply to such a bizarre comment.
    Are you serious, man?!? From my experience, the English were supporting Barca before the game and after - unless they were Utd fans, of course. Utd aren't exactly well-loved by the neutrals, are they? I'd sure hate for folk around t globe to be reading such a statement and thinking we're all Utd supporters. There may be the odd supporter who flies the flag for Blighty regardless of partizanship, but from where I'm from (Stoke, unfortunately) Utd are treated with contempt whatever competition they're in (I'm not trying to stir up ill-will, merely stating what, in my experience, is empirical evidence).

    And if I was a Brazilian watching today's match, my first instinct wouldn't be animosity, it'd be awe.


  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry but being really biased against barca i just hope theat teams dont learn how to cheat from the world champion theatrics/diving team. Brilliant players let down by the fact that every ref supports barca and they milk it by diving constanly.

  • Comment number 6.

    How can anyone be remotely surprised at the result? As I kept pointing out on the last blog, Santos finished 10th in the Brasil Serie A this season with some very, very average teams above them.

    Also I tend to agree with post number 5. No doubt a great team but that shouldn't keep taking the focus and truth away from the fact that Barca are a team of a theatrical players that are seemingly immune to decisions against them.

  • Comment number 7.


    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you're saying you have to be short to be a great midfielder (I assume in the 1.70s?). I don't think those Uruguayans in the 1920s were noticeably shorter than their European counterparts. In fact, they were probably taller and stronger (post-war Europeans vs beef-eating "rioplatenses"). An ever since, most Uruguayan, Argentinian, and Brazilian midfielders have been tall, strong --or at least not smaller than their European counterparts--, and, yes, highly skillful players. The short, low-center of gravity midfielders in, say, Argentina are part of a relatively recent phenomenon, a post-Maradona development. Before Diegus Magnus, the typical Argentinian attacking midfielder was a Kempes-like slender, powerful, and, yes, skillful player. Even in Brazil players like Sócrates --tall, elegant-- were not an anomaly, albeit not the rule either.

    I think the issue here is less a physical type than a specific skill, and even a specific philosophy or mentality. I'd be willing to bet that, as far as physical type is concerned, the current Barcelona crop of midfielders does not resemble that of Uruguay all those years ago. But I agree with you in that most Brazilian midfielders today resemble even less so the great "meias" of the not so distant past.

    A lot has to change in Brazilian footie, and there's not enough time to develop the right type of player. Or the self-critical attitude to even acknowledge the need to change. Santos humiliation before the entire world won't change much. This will cost Brazil the WC in 2014. But there's 2018 not too far away.

  • Comment number 8.

    #4 just read the comment by #5 - very representative of opinion about Barca in England...

  • Comment number 9.

    #8 I am indeed english and like i said very biased against certain teams, but i can admit the quality of football barcalona play is the best I've seen.

    However I just feel like they are good enough to not have to go to theatrics, that doesnt mean I'm against Barcas football as i likeothers have mentioned supported barcalona over man utd in both CL finals I have seen!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Excuse the spelling in the above text. Dont know what happened and not sure why i called barcelona barcalona :-/

  • Comment number 11.

    Yeah, just read #5, but it's not homogenous with my primary point - not that everyone in England adores Barca - but that the English would have been leaning 'towards' Barca simply because Utd were their opponents.

    Liverpool were hated in the '80's due to their dominance, Utd ever since. Just as Bayern, Ajax, Barca and Madrid, Rangers and Celtic etc etc are widely despised in their respective lands due to their dominance. Just as Barca are slammed as divers and cheats on this blog - because they're dominant. It's human nature, it seems. Would the majority of Deutscher fussball-wachen public or Nederland voetball-kijken public be upset if Bayern or Ajax lost in the final of the Champions League? Nope - most of them would rejoice. Just as most English punters did when Barca beat Utd, I imagine?


  • Comment number 12.

    Barcelona players diving? I must've watched a different game, because what I saw was Barcelona players kicking some serious Brazilian behind standing up. Unless they were being forcefully made to fall by frustrated Santos players. And I ddin't see much of that either. Must be a satellite thing.

  • Comment number 13.

    How come there were two Asian teams in the semi-finals? I thought each continent got one representative, or do Japan as hosts automatically have a team in it as well? Also really think TP Mazembe could have given Santos a real challenge just to make the final if they hadn't been thrown out of the African Champions League

  • Comment number 14.

    Couldn't agree more with #5. It's fantastic, almost priceless, to watch Barcelona play but with the cost of diving and theatrics along the way, especially Alexis Sanchez and Busquets, who roll around ridiculously when being tapped by an opposition player.

  • Comment number 15.

    7 - i'm not saying at all that you have to be short to be a great midfielder. it's the other way round - you don't have to be tall.
    nothing against being tall - think toninho cerezo. But starting in the 1970s, the view spread around the brazilian game that the volantes (more defensive of the midfielders) had to be 1 metre 80.

  • Comment number 16.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Just to prove my point but there are countless millions of cases that show why barcelona are described as cheats. I again know other teams get up to it also but none as bad as Barcelona.

    I have no qualm about dominance and barcelona could play every team on the planet off the park so would wish that the diving would stop as they let down their own good play with the needless cheating.

    P.S there are millions of the videos on youtube of barcelona conning referees and it needs to stop.

  • Comment number 17.

    How the hack did Christianity get into it? It's a sport you're discussing!
    The difference is in the aesthetic sensibilities of the Latin psyche opposed to the utilitarianism of the Anglo Saxon. Religion doe not come into it.

  • Comment number 18.

    "just like all the English became Madrid fans after that night in Wembley.."

    Not a fan of this comment. As someone stated above, most English people were rooting for Barcelona before and after the game, as there is a general dislike to Man Utd.

    Being a Man Utd fan myself, I didn't find myself a Madrid fan after the game, they completely outclassed us and we deserved to lose, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Barcelona and absolutely love the football they play. I couldn't have dreamt of a better way to lose a Champions League Final.

  • Comment number 19.

    @Konstantinos Thomazos: I couldn't agree more. If Argentina can build a team around Messi, they will be favorites for the Brazil 2014. Not even Spain will stand in its way; funny irony that the Catalunyans will be on the receiving side of their favorite adopted son :).

    The reason why Argentina can't gain optimally from Messi's genius is player pride! The likes of Tevez, Aguero, Higuain e.t.c. stubbornly, or even stupidly, simply won't accept the fact the Messi is the man to lead the front-line! In Barca, the exceptionally good players like Xavi and Iniesta let Messi be the star man and look how it reaps trophies for Barca!

  • Comment number 20.

    "muscular Christianity style"? Could you explain the Christianity part here. I'm assuming the European and the S. American players were Christians in the 1924 Olympics.

  • Comment number 21.

    17 and 20 - the term 'muscular Christianity' refers less to a religion, more to a movement that was very influential in a sports ethos getting off the ground in english private schools in the nineteenth century.

    opening lines of the wikipedia entry on the theme - "Muscular Christianity is a term for a movement originating during the Victorian era which stressed the need for energetic Christian activism in combination with an ideal of vigorous masculinity"

  • Comment number 22.

    Haha all i do is show a video of diving barcalona players and, and it gets blocked. Just like referee's people look the other way when it comes to barcelona cheating.

    I would also like to see how much a team such a madrid or Man city would be prepared to pay to see the little genius that is messi playing in their colours.

    Finally I wouldnt bet on anyone by the time brazil 2014 comes around as even Euro 2012 looks to be anyones game having seen the German's and French pick up their game in recent times.

  • Comment number 23.

    Argentina are spoilt with a lot of forwards/wide players and not enough established clever central midfielders. Apart from Banega, they haven't got many players in the mould of Xavi or Iniesta who supply the platform for Messi and if they do, they aren't used enough or aren't doing enough at club level.

    Gaitan and Pastore don't seem to be trusted yet enough, though it is fairly early in their careers. Gago hasn't really fulfilled any of the promise/hype yet, although not done too badly so far for Roma (nice to finally see De Rossi back on good form, been far too long).

  • Comment number 24.

    jamesxfm - this blog refers to the FIFA Club World Cup match between Barcelona and Santos. I don't recall anyone diving in this match (from either team). Both teams really handled their discipline reasonably well. If you take issue with an aspect of Barcelona's supposed foul play (or, indeed, that of any other team) please comment on a more relevant blog.

    I was a bit disappointed that Santos didn't put up more of a fight. I wanted to see action from Neymar and Ganso after hearing so much about them and especially since they (Santos) have been preparing for this for ages. To me they almost looked shell-shocked and perhaps felt the pressure too much. Barcelona simply out-classed them and you can't take anything away from their victory.

  • Comment number 25.

    21. Thanks TV. Appreciate that.

  • Comment number 26.

    Wobbles @19-09.
    A lot of the older Man Utd fans have a soft spot for Madrid,simply because of the friendship forged by the 2 clubs before Munich and the friendly games arranged between the clubs after the crash,Madrid's way of giving Utd European football.
    However,the rivalry between Barca and Utd since '84 and the great games/football served up for the fans ,has most "younger" Reds firmly in the Barca corner when the men from the Camp Nou play any game.
    They are a joy to watch...and sometimes a joy to be beaten by.
    To a man,every Utd fan I know,Barca are their second team. We recognise greatness. Even give Liverpool grudging respect for their achievements.
    The teams in the premier league,who play the long ball game such as Bolton and Stoke,should be made to watch these players and learn what the game is all about and play something similiar.

  • Comment number 27.

    So the great Barcelona win a second rate competition against questionable opposition and we are all supposed to bow down before them. Enjoying watching their style of football is subjective, personally I prefer to watch the honest competition found in the Premiership or German Bundesliga. Each to his own I suppose.

  • Comment number 28.


    Which would make all my points relevant as i for 1 wouldnt like to see any more teams fall over all over the place like the Barca players do.

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim, do you not think Brazil and Brazilian teams need to find their own styles and not just copy the Barcelona model? I agree Barcelona are by far the best team in the world at the moment but to beat the best, I feel you need to come up with a new approach.

    As you rightly state, their current system is not working but I feel they should be looking at the 'next model' which will make the best system in the years to come. The problem is, no one knows what this approach is at the moment... maybe there is a team playing with the new approach somewhere in the world but without the quality of players?

  • Comment number 30.

    Interesting blog. Very well written as usual. Very relevant as usual.

    This is a very interesting debate. Much has been said about d barca style. Rightly so. But I wonder if d answer to their dominance lies in coping them.

    Johan Cruyff that is so often credited with barca's style popularized it out of a desire to better. To simply copy it now without attempts to modify may amount to ... I don't know.

    The Germans for example have been consistent with their style. Who knows how loud we'll be singing their praise soon. Besides, what happens when Xavi, Messi and Iniesta retire?

    Barcelona deserve all the praise being showered on them now. They have been true to a philosophy. Maybe the only answer to them will be in d birthing of another one.

  • Comment number 31.

    the great brazillian coach once said "if it wasn't politics brazill would win every world cup",he must be so upset upset at this coward santos team while admiring barca.the santos i have seen in the past few yrs is better than the group of cowards on display against barca these guys just didnt try to play.brazillian football has'nt reach the stage were players of a top club come to amatch and kit up to admire messi.yes i must admit that brazil have waned since the sides of socrates but to have but to have a brit jounalist telling what to learn is a real no no.

  • Comment number 32.

    Tim, concerning the question from Anirban Ghosh this week, have Brazilian clubs not considered, or even realized, that football clubs now operate in a globalised marketplace, just for football players and coaches, but also for football supporters? Also, could the underlying reasons why Brazilian clubs suffer from this lack of thinking in global terms be because for so long they've been the pipeline for producing talent for European clubs and perhaps also because so few players from outside of South America play in South America?

  • Comment number 33.

    Roma, under Barca desciple Luis Enrique, haven't found it easy to replicate some, if not all, of Barca's style this season. Of course, its still very early days but so far, square pegs and round holes sums up some of the issues Roma are having going down this very deliberate route of Barca-inspired tactics. Although Spalletti did use Totti very effectively in the striker-less situations a good few seasons ago but the overall balance is not right at all.

  • Comment number 34.


  • Comment number 35.

    I said before the game that it would be at least 5 nil to Barcelona and yet amazingly in the Brazilian press this morning, there were still some commentators predicting that Santos would win! Dream on! The quality of the Brazilian Championship was so low this year, that I doubt the top 4 teams would have even made it to the group stages of the Europa League, and Santos finished about 10th.

  • Comment number 36.


    Go cry somewhere else. All this 'Barca get every decision to their advantage' is just jealousy fuelled. They're a fantastic team who play football how it's meant to be played. Every team will take a free-kick if there's contact (which by the laws of the game is perfectly justifiable). But you see with players like Messi that they try to stay on their feet if the chance to shoot for goal is presented to them. Open your eyes and respect their skill on the pitch, and don't whinge about meaningless and petty things,

    rant over.

  • Comment number 37.

    # 17
    Latin psyche? Anglo Saxon utilitarianism?

    How the h.k did cultural essentialism get into this? How did Bentham get here?

    Didn't you read Tim's article? In it he discusses the changes --yes, changes as opposed to unchanging essences-- in Brazilian football (I assume you'd consider Brazil under L), toward a more physical style.

    If anyhting, that "distinction" is a false dychotomy. In South America muscular and utilitarian (I suppose you mean practical, not flamboyant) football isn't frowned upon at all, but a more skillful style has brought more success. And skill isn't alien to Europe, not even to England. I can name countless English players who could've played in Guardiola's Barcelona.

    I think it all boils down to availability. And today, English soccer looks to me more Benthamian than L. But that can all change, you know, because in football there's no such thing as unchanging essences --or unchanging preferences for that matter. We all want to win if that means having a Matthew Le Tissier, a George Graham, a Glenn Hoddle and a Chris Waddle, even a Frank Lampard, in the same line-up, so be it.

  • Comment number 38.

    Barca vs Santos is not really Brazil vs Barca..
    Barca has the best of Argentina, the best of Brazil, the best of France, the best of Spain... Barca made a pity of Real Madrid only a week ago..
    One has to recognize that the Barca of these past couple of years transcend any national game.. Barca has perfected the short pass, ball possession and a high level of automatism that no club football is able to match today..and this combined with the coming of age of a number of talented players in Messi, Iniesta, Dani Alves and Cesc Fabregas. I do not feel it is any reflection on the Brazilian game.. Brazil just a few months back won the under 20 WC..with the kind of players and physique that you seem to indicate is not match for the kind of players at Barca

  • Comment number 39.

    dont enjoy the Barca way of beating a Brazilian side too much Tim or we will be returned to the 'kick-them-off-the-park-if-we-cant-win" style of some recent Brazilian international teams!

  • Comment number 40.

    Technically what this Barcelona team is achieving has to be fully admired. Their level of passing, control, awareness and movement is exceptional. There are few teams in world football history who would be able to handle them when they are on their day.
    If you watch the youth teams at all ages they all have the same philosophy of ball control and precision passing. Spain has been fortunate to prosper on the basis of the football fostered in Barcelona. Barcelona FC has a football idendity which was founded by Cruyff in the early nineties and it is blossoming fully today as these players have grown up with this system. The footballers who have come from outside have been carefully selected as having the qualities to fit into this system.
    Neymar will end up playing for Barcelona and even Bale has a chance. Barcelona's supremacy is destined to continue.
    When you go to the Nou Camp there is a different level of expectation from the fans. They expect total football control and artistry. A one or two nil win is not enough, they want to see a spectacle. You will see this team beating a top European side seven or eight nil next year. Mark my words.
    As regards the critics of their theatrics on the pitch, it is only when teams like Madrid, Chelsea and Inter had to resort to brutality. A bit like Holland in The world cup final against Spain. This is not the kind of football people who love and know football want to see. The way Barcelona just hypnotised Santos with their level of skill and passing was something to behold.

  • Comment number 41.

    36 Has it occurred to you that people do both- enjoy Barcelona for their greatness but slate them for their (quite obvious) theatrics. Pointing out the obvious is not knit picking but pointing out the obvious. I respect Barcelona's style but give me the EPL over the Spanish league everyday of the week. Only 1 fixture holds true interest in Spain whereas there are many in the EPL.

  • Comment number 42.

    Tim did clarify his point - you don't have to be short, but you need NOT be tall...

    American basketball, for example - where the AVERAGE player is an astounding 6'-7" in height - has any number of players under 6'-1" who can head a ball 9' or more in the air, something even the tallest European midfielders would struggle to do... It's about skill on the ball, first and foremost - the athleticism can be developed if need be... IF the skill and quality are present...

  • Comment number 43.

    #26 1878; I couldn't agree more with your post. I found my admiration for Barca grew on a holiday to Spain when I had a conversation, of sorts, with some elderly non-English speaking Barca fans and found that I had more in common with them than any English fan due to their knowledge and respect for a fellow great club.

    It always amazes me how a bit of United hating creeps into every sports blog on the BBC. D9 is the typical English football fan for me, at pains to explain to the world how anti-United the majority of English football fans are but, of course, not trying to promote any ill will towards the club.

    I can assure D9 that my hatred for the type of anti-football stoke play is just as strong and, for the record, I will be hoping that stoke get a good hiding (for the sake of English football) in the next round of the Europa cup as the days of my pre and early teen years, when I naively thought English fans supported all English clubs in European competition (as I did, yes even Liverpool), are well and truly consigned to history. The hatred for United in this country goes far deeper than the ferguson era and, I suspect, far further than any continental football fan for their respective foe.

    Tim's blog is a good read, as usual, and highlights the problem that Brazilian football is going through at the moment. The attitude of the Santos coach is a sad one and doesn't fit with the idea that most people have of Brazil being the archetypal exponents of the 'beautiful game'. It seems that the fantasy football of the 80s world cup sides is well and truly long forgotten and has been replaced by a 'stoke' style with more athleticism.

    It was the Argentina team of the 70s and the Brazil team of the 80s that opened my eyes to the fact that there was more to football than mud, poor pitches, kick and rush, rugby style tackling and ugly hooligans. Where a player like Socrates could mesmerise the fans and then would be just as at home sat in a bar with a drink chatting to the fans rather than pumping iron and checking the bank balance.

    I seriously hope that now Brazilian club sides aren't so desperate for the money a visionary emerges from the Brazilian FA to turn back the clock, let the players express themselves (rather than train them up to be sold to Europe) and bring the samba style back.

  • Comment number 44.

    What a masterclass Barcelona put on for the world to see. It was a privelege to witness it. A wonderful christmas present.

  • Comment number 45.

    Really enjoy your blogs Tim, great to get a bit of knowledge and good research and journalism on this site unlike the drivel that McNulty spills out after going to his top 6 club of the week.

    As for Barcelona, I truly respect and admire their style of play, i think everyone does if they are honest with themselves. However, it doesnt mean that it is entertaining to watch. I personally would much rather watch some german league football which is very entertaining end-to-end stuff, especially with the new era of very technically gifted german midfielders that there is at the moment. Barca I admire, but it is less entertaining to see some second rate spanish la liga team on an eigth of their budget allow a team to pass, pass, pass, pass etc.

    As for the diving and theatrics, it really makes me sick. To see players like busquets and alves writhing in agony every couple of minutes to win a free kick is nauseating. I'm not saying it doesn't happen in other football because I know it does, however barca should not have to stoop to it.

    As for competitions, give me th EPL or the Bundesliga any day over La Liga. La Liga is just a farce when you consider the difference in wage bill of the top 2 to the rest. Barca and Realhave over twice the wage bill of the third team, and that is seen in the constant two horse race seen every year. Its even worse than the SPL!

  • Comment number 46.

    I respect the views of the posters who participate in the barca 'love in', there is nothing wrong with having that belief.

    What it does tell me, those same people have not seen enough football to judge whether a team has it all or not. It does work both ways of course, we have, they wouldn't have lived with so n so in the 50's.

    The truth is football, like everything has periods of ranging from the great to the downright awful periods that we sometimes experience.

    I've no doubt the great real Madrid side of the mid 50's given the same conditions, fitness, training methods, equipment, pitches even physios, in other words identical. I am certain it would be a test for both sides but I would favour Real simply because of their all round game. Other teams would have given Real a game and beaten them but not have beaten Barca of today. The style is so important.

    Then you have another way of looking at it take Barca back to bygone days with all it's conditions and test them that way, I think we'd be suprised at who would beat who.

    Barca will be here for a while then it will be someone else because that is how it will always be and thank god for that.

  • Comment number 47.

    The reference to the competition as second rate is sour grapes from who I suspect are some English fans. The EPL is hyped and their level of play has been exposed already in the continental championships. Barca has nothing to prove.

  • Comment number 48.

    #5 & #27: "Enjoying watching their style of football is subjective, personally I prefer to watch the honest competition found in the Premiership or German Bundesliga." The German Bundesliga is a joke comparing La Liga... Barca Diving?. This is what you don't understand, Barca plays art, and art doesn't understand about broken legs... I assume that is what you love about football...keep watching the Bundesliga is very honest.

  • Comment number 49.

    The great Madrid side of the fifties was heavily supported and funded by a facist dictator. It was Franco's only propaganda machine as Spain were cut off from Marshall aid. Di Stefano the great Madrid player was signed first by Barcelona. They were't allowed to keep him as they already had Kubala. Their five European wins are dubious considering the politics that was involved in football.
    As regards which league is best I think the premiership has to be thankful to la liga as all you have to look at where the main signings have come from not only Madrid and Barcelona but Valencia, Athletico Madrid. The premiership is exciting to watch and it is entertaining now that there are more teams in with a shout.

  • Comment number 50.

    For the Record....
    I'm brazilian but I certainly cannot speak for all football fans around here, but the general feeling before the match was that it would be David vs Goliath. We knew we were up against the best team in the World but, as football fans, we also believed anything was possible. The press here (like just about everywhere) tended to exaggerate about our chances, so they could sell more newspapers perhaps, but Santos' defeat came as no surprise. cheers

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.


    I can only assume you are an armchair fan who has joined the nauseating love-in with barcelona. They are a quality team but they do play-act more than most teams i know. And, as hard as it will be for some to admit it, they do get more generous officiating, especially at home. Maybe thats something to do with the atmosphere inside Camp Nou. I admire the way they play, but i don't find it particularly entertaining.

    And as for calling the Bundesliga a joke, that is very disrespectful to a less "glamourous" league. The quality of a league is not all about the quality of the teams/players. Obviously it has something to do with it but la liga i find dull and predictable, i think someone else has already said that there are only two fixtures of real interest which end up deciding the title. Barca and Real have so much more financial firepower than the other teams that there is no chance of any of them mounting a challenge to them, its a two horse title race with the other teams playing for europe or avoiding relegation. Also, the play in spain is a lot slower tempo with a lot of sideways passing which i know some people appreciate. I however prefer a faster game, not a long ball game, but a game focused on getting the ball down quickly and moving it as fast as possible up the pitch.

    The bundesliga is a very competitive league where a title can be won by 4 or 5 teams. Over the past 8 years 5 different teams have won the bundesliga and although bayern are in the lead, the financial position of all the clubs is not too different. The way the TV money goes means that not only the best teams get big money, which is good for competition. If you add in also the quality of some of the younger german players coming up through the game at the moment, Gotze is mentioned alot but also players like Reus, Holtby, Marin, Kroos and Schurrle are all quality technical players who are raising the reputation of the league.

    It floats my boat, it may not float yours but it should be given some credit as well for the very low levels of debt and low ticket prices. It puts the EPL and La Liga to shame in this regard.

  • Comment number 53.

    In Neymar Santos could count on a Messi equivalent???not even close beating a couple of people in a extremely poor brazilan league doesnt mean much he cant do it against quality oppostion as he has shown many times. for all his supposed talent santos still finished tenth!

  • Comment number 54.


    And one player does not make a team. Argentina with Messi were very disapointing at the world cup and this proves its all about service and form. Neymar did not get good service against Barca and while i know he has to take a measure of responsibility for his performance his service level should be taken into account.

    Also, the pressure on Neymar going into this game was massive. He was expected to match up to Barca and when you consider that this was probably the biggest game of his club career, that probably had an effect on him. Right or wrong, Neymar will be playing in Europe within the next 3 years and this was a massive shop window for him. It was maybe a bit too much.

  • Comment number 55.

    Busquets, Busquets he's always on the deck
    takes a hit on the shin & pretends it's his chin
    oh we'll always love Busquets

  • Comment number 56.

    You are right when you say that brazil don't develop the players that keep the ball moving and can play one and two touch football. But you have to look at the resources available and the history. Brazil has always had a history of producing fast skillfull players that can dribble the ball extremely well and beat players with ease. They are subconsciously greedy and play for their own personal glory rather than the team, its not their fault but it is what happens because they will play out on the streets and there isn't really a development school as such. I mean in lucas and ramires they have two players who are selfless but they do not have the creativity of iniesta and xavi and they are more workman like players. Ganso is probably the closest thing they have to emulating the player that has very good technical ability and can keep the ball very well and can unlock a defence with ease, and he has been compared to zidane but unless brazil look into developing the type of players that spain and germany are producing then they are not going to win the world cup for some time.

  • Comment number 57.

    Tim I think you are overexaggerating Brazilian expectations from the match.. Don't generalize all of Brazil;s opinion because of the open television channels who are nationalistic.. 80% of people in social networks, young people knew Barca were massive favorites.. In fact there is a huge sentiment of relief after Santos' loss given the nationalism of some channels saying "Our league is so strong, Neymar is 2nd best in the world" etc

  • Comment number 58.

    Hi Tim,

    You mentioned that Brazil no longer produce central midfielders who can pass the ball with intelligence and imagination.

    But what about Casemiro and Hernanes?

    Do you think they are good enough to play a more expansive central midfield role that was once inhabited by the likes of Falcao, Toninho Cerezo, Gerson, Didi, Zito etc. ?

    I’m not sure if there’s a desire to revive the lapsed tradition of intelligent, collective midfield play in Brazil’s coaching fraternity. But if a coach was to come in and say that it’s time to reconfigure the way our midfield play, are there players who can come in and fill the role?

  • Comment number 59.

    Having been living in Brazil for many years now, I think that Vickery is right on the nail! Every game I watch here is just an exercise in frustration, a short fight in the goal mouth, clearance, ball straight to the other end by a quick footed winger and repeat. I am in now way putting down the quality of players, the standard is generally very high, in almost every team.
    What I am talking about is the tactics of the game. There is no passing, and every time a player gets the ball, opposition players just back off. every chance a defender has of intercepting is practically ignored and often you watch the player turn his back and walk away!!! This lack of ball lust is frustratrating.
    There is no way in hell that a Brazilian team could survive in any european top league with the playing stayle that they have. I hope this thrashing by a well composed Barca inspires them to add everything good they saw to everything good they already have (their speed and attack) and create something truely awe-inspiring.
    And on another note, I have never seen a world cup club match aired in the UK (although I know it can be watched) and I have never seen anybody get even remotely excited about it. Do you think this is why us Europeans don;t take it so serisouly, their fans couldn't care less? This tournament is well over-rated in Brazil, and well under-reated in Europe!!

    None of this will stop me from going to Corinthians games however, even if i spend every 90mins frustrated haha


  • Comment number 60.

    Love them or hate them. People cannot doubt that Barcelona are at present the best team in the world. Yes they do playact now and again and it should be kicked out but maybe people should applaud the players who get kicked left right and centre but still play on without complaint. Obviously I am talking about Messi. I assume he has a lot of bruising after every match. Barcelona are not the only team that dives around but their higher profile means they are in the spotlight a lot more. Just like Rooney getting all the attention after kicking people.

    Santos were very disappointing. They were not expected to win but I had hoped for a better showing. Neymar definitely has a lot more to learn. Humbleness and humility along with his huge potential

  • Comment number 61.

    Well , on one side you have a team formed of 100% Brazilians, and on the other side you have a team (barcelona) which has 4 Brazilians on its looks like Brazilians are still on the top of the soccer world.

  • Comment number 62.


    The overall quality of Bundesliga is more enjoyable to watch, especially comparing lower club matches. Like Serie A, too many dud, monotonous and tedious affairs between lower clubs in La Liga.

    When was the last time a similar club in La Liga or even PL did what the club stature of Mainz did last season? A record equal start and a good finish was brilliant considering the circumstances. They even beat Bayern this season.

    As mentioned earlier, its a ideal league in terms of structure...well more ideal than PL or La Liga

  • Comment number 63.


    I can think of 3 Brazilians off my head in the Barca squad at the moment and all three are full backs, which is the one position that Brazil are doing well at, at the moment.

    These kind of full backs is perfect for the current trend of having attacking midfielders out wide/wingers cutting inside, instead of out-n-out wingers, as the full backs provide the width.

  • Comment number 64.


    Reckon Casemiro will turn into the midfielder that Julio Baptista didn't turn into. Direct, explosive, powerful and can do a bit of everything.

  • Comment number 65.

    #s 5, 6, 8, 11, 14, 16 & the rest sore losers - plz first read comment by # 12

    Yeah - die-hard ManU or Real Madrid fans! Typical of you. Never give up on losing and then complaining about the ref or the brilliance of barca players. Why all this bad mouth about barca.

    it really is insane, it just bugs me a lot! i hope one day all barca haters come to their senses and start showing some respect to whom it is due – Awesom Barca. You should consider yourself lucky that you are witnessing amazing history in the making. I know it is bad luck to your star players (ronaldo, rooney at el) that they are playing football in the same era as the likes of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, and even Alves.

  • Comment number 66.

    Tim, the only thing that is 100% true is that any game you can win before playing... Nobody can win just based on the quality of its players... Internacional was quite precise in 2006 to beat Barcelona (a team that, despite what you wrote, was quite similar to Barcelona 2011), playing all its efforts against all the odds to win. Neymar and his friends thought that Neymar himself would be enough because he is a genius. Wrong, a team must be a team and not only a group of players. Internacional covered this issued quite well in 2006 and made a huge mistake in 2010 when playing against Manzembe in the semifinal. Results, in some way, dont keep relation to the economic status of the clubs, as we could see in many other occasions. Cheers.

  • Comment number 67.

    Tim has a point. That Santos side that you saw yesterday has 7 Brazil internationals in it. Having said that, Barcelona could put some top international sides, playing their first 11s, to shame. Would love to see Barca v England for example, although that will never happen..

  • Comment number 68.

    Tim, do you think that the Santos's loss to Barcelona could be a watershed moment in Brazilian football the way that the national team's loss to the Netherlands in 1974 was? This is, I believe the first time that any Spanish team and any Brazilian team have played each other since the emergence of Spain as a national team in 2008, and what I gathered from your columns here and elsewhere is that Spain's arrival has unnerved Brazil. Given how thoroughly a drubbing the Club World Cup final was, do you believe this could be a cultural shift the way that it was in the 70's?

  • Comment number 69.

    Cannot believe how people are reading so much into an irrelevant match in a pointless competition. Without the guide above I wonder if anyone could have named the last five winners.

    This match has zero relevance to the world cup. Spain are a great side but are starting to be worked out at international level. When Germany or Holland win Euro 2012 this will be proved.
    Messi is a good player but not in the same league as Maradona yet. When he delivers for Argentina when it counts rather than for a team full of other greats, then he can be considered a contender to Pele or Maradona.

  • Comment number 70.

    To all those people who say that Barca are divers, take a good look at your own team first - I'll bet you have a diver or two of your own. If you discount Busquets (who since being found out by the cameras against Inter a few years ago, has improved tremendously), and to a lesser extent Dani Alves, Barca DON'T make a habit of cheating. I suspect the only matches you've ever seen have been the ones against your own sides or Real Madrid (where Barca were being kicked from pillar to post).

  • Comment number 71.

    Tim, ‘muscular Christianity’ = good auld stoic Protestant Christianity as opposed to in-cent throwing, gold bubble encrusted, Latin mumbling Christianity; am I far off . Either way Professor Dawkins might lampoon you as he did to a certain Mr Cameron recently, if you suggest that Christianity is interwoven into the anatomy of our game. That verbal contest would resemble the sorry excuse for a world club final we witness yesterday.
    Barcelona are exceptional and despite their theatrics perhaps the greatest club side in history. Ref #4. B.F.C was part founded by Englishmen, which their crest testifies to. Madrid once represented a Fascist regime that many young ideological Englishmen fought against in the civil war. Coupled with Sir Bobby’s previous tenure and some good football, Barcelona are a natural choice for English sympathies.
    It is shame that La Liga is not a suitable competition to display the prowess that both Real and Barcelona possess. As many have pointed out football is ever evolving, I expect the Brazilian game will adapt to this latest evolution or get used to losing.

  • Comment number 72.

    Stop this blog.

    You are not intellectuals.

    The less said about Tim the better...but for example...

    #2 - You what?!!

    I really think that the fluid visionary movement of two touch know-when-to-pass/dribble philosophy is the epitome of it all.

  • Comment number 73.

    This is now my favourite comment...

    Yeah, just read #5, but it's not homogenous with my primary point

  • Comment number 74.


    ha ha I agree completely. I have no idea what people on here are going on about.

    I think we may have microsoft word's thesaurus feature to blame for this.

    Too much pro evo at 3am for some for the young gentlemen on here...

  • Comment number 75.

    36 and 70. It's strange that the numerous anti Barcelona commentators miserably fail to challenge your remarks. I guess they would like to have the so called cheaters join their beloved team. Get over it Barecelona are the current European Champions, the second time in a span of 3 years (it probably would have been 3 in a row had Inter not physically muscled them out of the competition in 2010) and now recognized by FIFA as the best team in the world. As to how long this reign will last? Have a look at Barcelona's B team. They are destined to keep Barcelona at the top for many years to come.

  • Comment number 76.

    For all those who moan about possesion footbll - why do teams just not get the ball from Barcelona. It is easy right? Just go and get it then! And keep it for a while as well, no? The last time that the cream of the EPL played Barcelona (ManU and Arsenal), between them they managed 1 ONE attempt on goal. Correct me if I am wrong but they musted 1 shot that was Rooney's goal in the CL final, and Arsenal had zero attempts on or off goal! What do you want Barcelona to do? Should Messi be carrying the ball to the opposing team and say 'here, take it. It is your turn now..'.
    I am tired about people moaning about Barcelona's posession football. The ball is there to be won and kept. That is the point of it all isn't it? If you want end to end stuff then go for it. Madrid did it last year and got humiliated .They did it again week, and it is perfectly doable against Barcelona - only that the ball will be in the back of your net more times than you will want to remember..

  • Comment number 77.

    As expected, Barca trounced poor Santos. Neymar and Ganso, the over-hyped saviours of Brazilian football went AWOL. The professionalism, athleticism, organisation and motivation of the Barca players was too much for Santos.
    Their defending was extremely poor, especially Durval the No 6.
    They looked clueless when in Barca's half, when they managed to get hold of the ball.
    As for those constantly complaining about Barca theatrics, well you people must have been watching a different game. Barca are a class apart, just ask Real Madrid.
    Beautiful and effective football deserves all the success it gets. As for those claiming Messi will win the WC2014 with Argentina, think again, he is not the same player with the same team mates he has at Barca.

  • Comment number 78.

    can we have no more messi v ? please because there is always one who proves and it's getting boring now.

    can we keep it to maybe ronaldo v neymar or neymar v errmmm i dont know whichever player you want and leave messi alone without trying to drag him into a versus match against inferior players, it's insulting to the boy.

  • Comment number 79.

    Barcelona are one of the best teams ever ,my only gripe is the histrionics .brazilians of course have perfected the latter ,think rivaldo in 2002 v turkey.with regards to man united and why they are hated I would like to remind you of 2000 when they decided they couldn't be bothered with FA cup and decided to travel to brazil for a tournament instead where they got tanked by vasco de gama.i have loved vasco ever since !

  • Comment number 80.

    Good read as always, Tim, thanks.
    Right, Santos is my local club here and have had a soft spot for them for a long time, even when I lived in the UK, probably because of the Pele connection and the fact that pre-internet and satellite tv, it was an easy name to remember.Also, for me, Santos is more like an English club than most others in Brazil in that it largely serves the local area. As for the game itself, as others have already said, it was men against boys. Most Santos fans round here genuinely thought they would, at the very least, run Barca close, so what came was a shock, but not to me. The hype about Neymar here in Brazil, especially here in the Sao Paulo and Baixada Santista area, it is so irritating. Sure, he has potential and his goals to game ratio for the national side is excellent but he has a long, long way to go before he can be compared to Messi, who is a once-in-a-lifetime player.After the game yesterday Neymar said that at least Santos could take satisfaction from being the second best team in the World. Dream on Neymar..

  • Comment number 81.

    Was very disappointed with Santos when they played Kashiwa. The approach play was very rudimentary and pedestrian, but largely overlooked I think because of the quality of their goals. If Santos could have given Kashiwa their forward line, and Kashiwa given Santos their approach work, then they might think of getting somewhere. There were a lot of hoofs upfield that Graham Taylor, Ross Jenkins and co at Vicarage Road almost 30 years ago would have been insulted to hear called 'direct play'.

    Just to highlight how poor they were, have to mention the oft quoted baseball fan wife who can just about tell you a football team consists of 11 players. "Why are they letting Barcelona run around doing what they like?", she readily observed.

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    Perfect article!

    You summarised my feelings and ideas in words.

    Since 1982 with the national team and at club level with Flamengo team from 81/82/83, there is no 'jogo bonito' being played with heart, body and soul in Brazil. Those were for sure the last really 100% Brazilian stile sides we've had.

    Obviously there were other good teams after that, but it was much more circustantial than as per its philosofy and understanding of the game. The Brazil side of 2002 had a sensational group of players that had some moments of brilliancy, more specifically against England in the quarter finals and that was it.

    In terms of clubs I could mention the SPFC from 92/93, Palmeiras 94/95, Corinthians of 98/99 and Cruzeiro 2002, but again much more down to a good group of forward minded players set up on a good tactical system than because of its football philosophy as a way of expression of the game.

    As a Brazilian that loves 'jogo bonito' and its meaning for Brazilian culture I hope your words can be disseminated across the country and people that helps on forming opinions. However, the reality is that our journalists which are suppose to be the 'eyes of the people' and raise those questions are not doing their job properly.

    I don't know if they do (NOT) do it because they are unaware of it or if they do not have jornalistic ethics in doing so.

    I beg you to write a column in a influential Brazilian newspaper as well as on BBC. PLEASEEEE!!!!

    Many thanks


  • Comment number 84.

    #69. It's true that compared to their own league and champions league that it is of lower profile but to call the cup irrelevant is wrong. No club will want to lose any cup especially one recognised as an international trophy. I am not 100% sure on this but I think FIFA or some organisation measures the most successful club team in how many internationally recognised trophies they won. (Champions League, Europa League, European Supercup, World Clubcup, and the old Cups Winner Cup, Uefa Cup etc). I think they say AC Milan is most successful. So any team and players will play to win even if the actually profile of the cup is not as high. Manchester United/City don't want to be in Europa League but giving the chance I am sure they would play to win it if in the final.

    The Messi bashing is also unnecessary. Yes Maradona and Pele are best ever. They are legends. But that is what they are, retired past legends. Part of the glorious history of football. Messi is 24 years old and still writing his story for 10 more years at least. He has achieved more at his age than countless others who finish their careers. Yes he is still underachieving at international level but Maradona won the world cup at 1986 at the age of 26. And no he did not win it by himself. That is humanly impossible 1 vs 11. He had 10 teammates on the field plus 11-12 substitute teammates plus managers and coaching staff. When Messi retires then you can compare Maradona v Messi. But even then it will be difficult. Different eras, different attitudes/mentality to football such as fitness, health (no more burger,chips, cigarettes and 5 pints after a match) and speed of play etc. Even comparing Pele v Maradona is difficult (Sorry can of worms here) so stop comparing a present player to a legend.

  • Comment number 85.

    I am not sure Brazil does not produce Barcelona type midfielders. What I am sure is that Brazil and its coaches cant MOUNT a team playing the same style as Barcelona which imho is much more about what they do WITHOUT THE BALL (both when the ball is with their opponent as when the ball is with another player in their own team), than what they do WITH the ball.

    Dismount Barcelona, player by player, you have a few awesome players, some good players and several average players. When playing together, they all look like supermen.

    Bah... Mascherano? How the hell did this guy ended in Barcelona? He was average at best when playing for Corinthians!

    Daniel Alves??? POOR POOR PLAYER! When playing for the brazilian team, he is consistently one of the worse players in the team.

    Messi? Yes, one of the best players ever. But he is a SHADOW of his Barcelona version, when he is playing for Argentina.

    These players can ONLY shine so much when they play together in Barcelona. Take them out, and some of them may even struggle when playing for other clubs.

  • Comment number 86.

    and that is a compliment of Barcelona. The play style of the club is so much above the players in a way I have never seen in another club.

  • Comment number 87.

    #85 and 86. Totally agree. The sum of the Barcelona parts are infinitely superior to the individual parts. I don't rate the left fullback side of Barcelona either (Abidal, Maxwell or Adriano). Valdes is not a great goalkeeper. He is lucky the ball rarely gets to the box because the rest of his teammates close down the ball so quickly. Saying that the Barcelona midfield is awesome.

    I do think Messi will come good for Argentina. It probably won't happen until he is 30 and the argentian manager finds a good balance for the side.
    Brazil on the otherhand need to sort out the midfield. If they are expecting neymar to win them the world cup, then they are going to be disappointed.

  • Comment number 88.

    barcelona are the most overrated team in world football. i agree completely about the referee. they win the easiest league in europe (only 2 teams really in it) and wouldnt win without the referees help and biased decisions. in a fair contest, with a fair ref, man uinited and man city would destroy them every time.

  • Comment number 89.

    As regards the critics of their theatrics on the pitch, it is only when teams like Madrid, Chelsea and Inter had to resort to brutality. A bit like Holland in The world cup final against Spain. This is not the kind of football people who love and know football want to see.

    but thats the only way you can beat them realistically, nullify. There are no better players on the planet, so why try and play the same football, its suicide. Everyone knows this. So i dont get this rubbish about playing against Barca the right way malarky. if you think that a team should go up against barca and try and play the way they do, then you are either completely insane, or really just like to get a beating. either way, illogical.
    I know it was a friendly, and some of the English press poo poo'd it, but, England played how you need to beat a Spain (i know no Messi) side like Barca. Man United, did it against them in 08 in the semi's as well. It aint pretty, but Arsenal know, theres no points or tropy for looking good.

  • Comment number 90.

    Tremendous stuff Tim, great blog. Was extremely disappointed with Santos though, was hoping for a decent game. Even if they had taken the lead, I don't think they would've had a prayer.

    Neymar has always looked a good player in the games I've seen him play, but he simply isn't a patch on the top strikers in Europe IMO - yet. Same goes for Ganso (in a creative sense). The fees being hawked around for them seem ridiculous IMO. For Brazil's sake, we need to hope they continue to improve before 2014.

    The less said about some of the responses here, the better. This obsession with Barca players occasionally overstating the severity of challenges on them is tedious and a complete red herring. It goes on every week in every league in the world, and every team has a player who does it more than average.

    Aces - surely you must accept that Alves had a decent game yesterday? Everyone has their own opinion - but someone who can take care of an entire flank of the pitch like Alves does, should surely command a bit of respect as an absolute minimum. He is 3 players rolled into 1 at times.

  • Comment number 91.


    messi looks head and shoulders and produces what matters most twice as much as every other "great" in the barca team, so what does that say? yawn

  • Comment number 92.

    You know, Tim, the sad part is that Santos qualified for the Libertadores winning the Brazilian Cup playing attacking, exciting football, with 3 strikers plus Ganso and two defensive midfielders that knew how to play ball.

    And then Dorival Jr. was fired because he dared to challenge Neymar (which actually ended up doing the latter some good, and he is a much more mature and humble player now) and Ramalho takes over so they play just like this.

  • Comment number 93.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 94.

    It continually amazes me when you read the sort of nonsense written in posts such as #19 and #85 in this thread.

    Higuain, Aguero selfish when playing with Messi. Have you actually bothered watching the seleccion play ?

    Tevez is another case where his ego has grown enormously as was seen at the Copa where he proved a disruption in more senses than one and deserves to be in the cold.

    And Messi struggling outside of Barcelona ? Or indeed Iniesta. I would vouch for the fact that any player that has spatial awareness, technique and the passing ability of these players would become lynchpins in any side they come into.

    Coming to Messi in the seleccion his productivity in terms of assists and overall play has increased in this year but the systems he is employed in and the coaching is still substandard.

    That Argentina has the talent in midfield and upfront is undoubted. There are even signs that there is talent emerging in defence with the likes of Tagliafico at left back in what has otherwise been a poor season for Banfield.

    But no player not even Messi can shine when the system does not maximize his abilities and that his team mates and coach do not utilize effectively the space created when he is double/triple marked like a decoy a point to which Tim himself alluded some time ago.

    And the chronic absence of genuine attacking fullbacks has also hindered him as opposition defences can remain compact. However Zabaleta has been a beacon down the right but the left flank remains rather dead.#

    It would also help if Sabella does decide to employ more than one playmaker. Employing Banega deep is one thing but Messi still has to drop deep and perform 2 roles of shadow striker and playmaker himself. Since Roman departed that role has not been fulfilled.

    Someone like Pastore or Franco Vasquez needs to take over this though it may still be too early for them certainly in the cases of Belgrano's Vasquez. Sabella may instead look to Pablo Aimar someone with whom Messi has played with and has an instinctive understanding at seleccion level.

    They have created moments of magic against Mexico in 2006, a friendly against Algeria so that may also be the solution.

    Prior to Sabella the coaching has been little short of a disaster with such luminaries as Papa, Schiavi, indeed almost anyone being called to the side.

    As for Mascherano ? He certainly did well at Liverpool and has grown into his role at Barca. People who always wondered he could actually pass the ball obviously know nothing about the great River Plate cantera where the emphasis from early on is to know how to pass the ball accurately.

  • Comment number 95.

    #88 Except for Real Madrid (special one especially) always stating that Barcelona are not as good as them. Everybody else in football will acknowledge that Barcelona are the best at the moment.

    During summer friendly Napoli played Barcelona and lost 5-0. Hamsik and fellow Napoli players all stated Barcelona are 1-2 levels above them. Didn't Napoli knock out Man City in some competition? Wait Barcelona got the referees attention and somehow made City lose to bayern and Napoli.

    Even Neymar humbly stated that Santos were the second best side in the world after Barcelona.

    Barcelona as I said before do playact a bit. Especially Alves and Busquets. Do they con the referee. Yes they do. But so do every other team in this world. Do they provoke the referee. Yes they do but all teams do too. I have rarely seen any team not confront the referee in a match. John Terry, Ashley Cole for Chelsea do that a lot. Rooney and co are surrounding referees regularly. Which team doesn't. The high profile and success of Barcelona makes these actions more notable.

    People complain because they win too much and are successful. There are always people who try to knock down success and bring it back to their own low level. Man Utd winning 12 league title is an amazing achievement but there will be some who will knock their achievement and berate them. Same with Real Madrid when they were winning. Envy and jelousy to success is normal. It is now Barcelona who gets this. In 10 years time, maybe it will be Man City after their billions wins 5 champ league in a row. Who knows

  • Comment number 96.

    "tall, unimaginative, limited central midfielders. These Barcelona can do without."

    Sergio Busquets please??? The luckiest football player on the planet. The only things he can do competently on the pitch are pass sideways/backwards a metre or two to Xavi or Iniesta or dive

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    I should be praising their skill and dedication, but quite frankly, Barca winning is getting boring now. I just can't help but root for the other side, whoever it is. A good competition comes from closely-matched teams, at whatever level. Barca are so high above everyone else that they might as well form a league all by themselves. Watching sides get tonked 4 and 5 nil every match isn't fun. I for one would rather see equally-matched teams than an inevitable procession of possession football.

  • Comment number 99.

    @ no. 15 and no. 7 - Socrates, and Viera, Gullit, Lucho Gonzales, Z Boban, examples of the tall ones that can play. Tim's point was clear, its more that Barcelona have gone against what is the current Brazil trend: tall, fine, physical specimens but without the flair... Viera for all his agression had flair, some cracking goals scored for Arsenal.

  • Comment number 100.

    An excellent blog Tim. Insightful and informative. The blog is correct that Santos and perhaps Brazil (and all teams global) can learn from Barcelona's destruction of Santos and from Spain's victories as well. But it isn't necessarily correct to believe that learning is solely about learning how to play like Barcelona. It is about understanding how Barcelona play their system. It is also about implementing a system that utilises one's own strengths and utilises techniques that exploits Barcelona's weaknesses. For as good as Barcelona is, they do have weaknesses.
    The current Barcelona team benefits from Messi and the considerable pair of Iniesta and Xabi. Without 2 of those 3, Barcelona are not so dominant. Arguably quite a lot less effective without any 1 of the 3. So what of Barcelona in 5 years times? I have watched Barcelona's B team much the last 2 years and the answer is not an obvious "their system will generate the effective players with the correct playing philosophy".
    One last comment. Yes Barcelona deserve all the plaudits coming their way. They can only beat what is in front them and they tend to. Do I often watch Barcelona when the opportunity arises? No, because whilst I do like the attainment of "perfection" in sports, I also like competition.


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