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5 years since a historic treble: What made Barça so fearsome in 2015?

Shahraiz Sajjad



Header Image by Paul Gilham via Getty Images

A day like today in 2015, Barça beat Juventus by 3–1 in the Champions League final to complete an unparalleled second treble in the club’s history. But what made that team so remarkable?

Self belief, assurance, and conviction: the three ideals that made Barça stand out during its dominant reign of Luis Enrique, starting from the 2014/15 season. No matter how strenuous the circumstances were, the blaugranas always emerged successful, and it was simply their unequalled desire to prevail that made Lucho’s side so untouchable. Any attempt made to break down the club’s spirit or pride would just end in vain for oppositions as Barcelona would relentlessly agonise teams with their awe-inspiring mentality.

During Barça’s historic treble-winning 14/15 campaign, the club had to go through some severe hardships. Things didn’t go in Luis Enrique’s favour from the very first minute as there were clearly issues in the squad that needed to be dealt with. However, while the Spaniard suffered some major setbacks at the start of his course, once he was able to maintain a rhythm, he never let go of it. His mesmerising attack would brutalise forces, and he constantly encouraged playing in the same manner he started the season off with.

Lionel Messi Luis Suárez Neymar Júnior MSN Barça 2015 treble

Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar Júnior. The MSN, a trio that terrorised the best defences | Photo by Lluis Gene / AFP via Getty Images

Although he experimented with his formations, his initiative to play direct and attacking football never faded away. He was determined to get results with his own philosophy and the moment the team clicked, games were practically considered over before they had even begun.

Once the club got in its groove and started building a reputable status, even the mightiest teams from Europe would crumble in front of the Catalans. Tactically, the club contained various flaws and was far from being picture perfect in all three departments, but the lionhearted mentality that Luis Enrique had instilled in everyone eventually got them past the finish line.

❛ Half-jokingly, I asked the players: ‘What is the worst thing that could happen to us today?’ The veterans gave answers like ‘to not to be faithful to our style’. I said: ‘The worst thing that could happen to you today is to be a Juventus player and have to face Barça’ ❜

Luis Enrique
on how he motivated Barcelona before the 2015 Champions League final against Juventus

That arrogance is what made Barça so special and, currently, it’s the one thing the current team lacks the most. In terms of tactics and technicality, Barcelona are arguably head and shoulders above everyone in the league. But besides the technical aspects of football, the azulgranas are gravely deprived of vanity. Overburdening your ego will hurt you one way or another, but at the same time, showing a lack of swagger will also lead to your demise. And that’s what Barça are currently experiencing: an insufficient amount of pride.

To represent the prestigious Barcelona crest, one must be gleaming and standing a cut above everyone else. Even so, the club has unfortunately been caught in this cycle of misery where it continually fall prey to its own deficiency of confidence.

The Catalans were obviously feared for possessing the most talented players, but along with that, it was most dreaded for its unparalleled self-esteem. Barça practiced its philosophy with so much conviction that it made fans believe that what they did was invariably right.

Current manager Quique Setién has countless challenges he must deal with in order to bring this side back to where it once belonged, but his biggest test will undoubtedly be injecting that sense of pride and honour in these players. Quique needs to ensure his way of playing leaves no doubts in the footballers’ heads so they know that what they are doing is the only way they will be able to dominate.

See also

20 May 1992. The day that changed Barcelona’s history

Comparing the attacks of Barcelona and Manchester City

• Eric García returning to Barça: A possible scenario?

Romário: 16 months of pure greatness and drama at Barça

Watching our homegrown legends move the ball in such distinctive manner and experiencing the vast set of emotions it brought simply made me fall in love with this beautiful sport. Barcelona's elegant football taught me that you don't have to be an admirer of art to be lost in a whirlpool of colours. This club being one of the few teams that gave performances to savour week in week out obliged me into becoming an exuberant member of this fan base, and this ineffable love for Barça I had encouraged me to spread Barcelona's colorful craft with other football enthusiasts.



Josep Samitier, the artist and hero of Barcelona’s first golden age

Amal Ghosh



Header Image by FC Barcelona

Josep Samitier was a surrealist artist on and off the pitch and a legendary midfielder that brought Barcelona its first successful era in the 1920s, as well as some controversy throughout his career.

Surrealism, a deceptive interrogation of reality that transcends the human subconscious to manipulate or alter the coherent understanding of existence. Josep Samitier Vilalta, or “L’home llagosta” (The lobster man) was the most surreal portrait in the history of FC Barcelona. He was called the ‘surrealista’, because his genius produced the illusions on the pitch that were perplexing to fathom as reality.

History is constructed up on the interdependency of figures and events. Samitier was one of those figures who created a rift in the annals of world football to produce the first reverberation of football in the streets of Barcelona. The footballing revolution in Catalonia peaked in the early 1920s, especially in Barcelona, as it was the beginning of the first golden age.

With the construction of the Les Corts stadium, the club assembled a group of talented, young players. Josep Samitier, along with Paulino Alcántara, Ricardo Zamora, Emili Sagi-Barba, Vicenç Piera and Agustín Sancho became the first generation of the club idols. Samitier, among others, was an integral part of Barcelona’s rebuilding of character and went on to become one of the most significant personalities both in terms of sporting and cultural relevance.

Samitier was born on 2nd February 1902 in a Catalan working-class family. As a young boy in the streets of Barcelona where the roads of passion and dreams lead to the grant Les Corts, ‘El Sami’ would kick the ball around waving at the passing commons.

After the club’s establishment, FC Barcelona had quite an attachment with the proletarian class. Especially at the time of industrial unrest, the institution always kept them close and the stadium was always packed with the same working-class populace. Young minds like Samitier who would grow up in the streets of Barcelona always had the ball on their feet and club in their heart.

Samitier started playing for FC Internacional before making his debut for Barcelona at the age of 17 in 1919. The club museum still preserves and cherishes his signing bonuses, a shimmering watch and a three-piece suit. By 1925, Samitier became the highest-paid player at the club and thus became the highest-earning player in the country.

The division of labour was evident in the early years of European football. Whilst the backline remained static to protect the goal, the forward line had to pick and fight the battle on their own. Samitier was among the key figures who created a paradigm shift from this prevailing ‘Basque style’, where the attackers held the sole responsibility to win the ball and navigate their own way to find a goal. Samitier was among the first players to orchestrate the game from the back. He was like a master of the opera performance where he controlled and navigated the rhythm and flow of the game.

Emili Sagi-Barba Vicenç Piera Josep Samitier Barcelona

Josep Samitier (middle), alongside teammates Emili Sagi-Barba (left) and Vicenç Piera (right) from the successful Barcelona team of the 1920s | Photo by FC Barcelona

Samitier was an exceptional player who could manipulate the ball like a wizard, and he dribbled the ball around the pitch like a ballet dancer. He was the first midfielder general in the history of Spanish football, whose role was the hybrid between a Pivote (central midfielder) and the Leñero (chopper) or sweeper. Samitier was the harbinger of the modern-day box-to-box role. Despite being positioned in a deep-lying role, Samitier was an outstanding goalscorer. It was rather unusual for a midfielder of that time to score an astonishing 184 goals for any club in Europe.

Even though Barcelona was graced with many prolific players, Samitier was the core of the magnificent Barça team of the 1920s. He would hack the ball from the opposition to carry the ball from the midfield to provide a line-breaking pass in the final third. His glorious days at Les Corts were filled with thrilling langosta (lobster) kicks which would eventually evolve into the modern ‘chilena’ or bicycle-kick. Samitier was an entertainer on the pitch. His ostentatious performance attracted the Catalans into the stadium.

His glittering thirteen years in a blaugrana shirt were decorated with 11 Catalan Championships, 5 Spanish Championships and the first Spanish league that began in 1928. Moreover, his time with Barça was embellished with title-winning goals in the Copa del Rey finals of 1922, 1925, 1926 and 1928.

Pepe Samitier’s momentous career at Barcelona transformed him from a sporting figure to a cultural icon in Catalan society. His reputation at the club produced a strong political outline for himself among the intellectuals in the society. It was an unprecedented period in the socio-cultural scenario of Europe. The entrée of subjective art and understanding by Salvador Dalí, Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh among other artistic prominence overtook the existing concepts of impressionism and naturalism.

Samitier aligned with surrealism, indulging the spirit of subjectivity. He reflected this both in the game and in his outside loyalties. His acquaintances mostly consist of radical artists and political figures of the time, including the tango maestro Carlos Gardel, Mauricio Chevalier, Salvador Dalí and, in contrast to his idol figure in Catalonia, he also had a close relationship with the dictator Franco.

In 1933, after a dramatic feud with the Barcelona management, an ageing El Sami dropped from the first team. Real Madrid, then called Madrid CF, took advantage of this dispute and were able to convince him to join the club. However, it was his secret allegiance with General Franco that helped Madrid to accomplish the operation.

Even though his short stint at Madrid wasn’t really celebrated, Samitier did guide them to win the La Liga title in 1932/33 and the Copa de España in 1934. But he played a significant role for Madrid, not as a player but as a super-agent in a decade-defining transfer of Alfredo Di Stéfano, whose intended destination was Barcelona. This signing was the inflexion point for Madrid in the 1960s, as Di Stéfano would go on to score 216 goals and play an important role in their European domination. Although Samitier’s allegiance with General Franco was visible, this transfer saga threw the relationship open into society.

Alfredo Di Stéfano Real Madrid Josep Samitier Barcelona

Real Madrid’s signing of Alfredo Di Stéfano (right) changed Real Madrid’s history forever | Photo by Staff / AFP via Getty Images

Before the Spanish civil war burst out in 1936, Samitier spent a brief time in managing Atlético de Madrid, succeeding Fred Pentland in the middle of the season, but failed to keep them in the first division. Nonetheless, the season was scrapped as soon as the civil war started and Samitier, who had strong ties with the nationalist side, found himself blacklisted and arrested by the anarchist militia.

Eventually, he was released by the militia and fled to France. His exile to France was later utilized by the Franco regiment to spread the anti-communist propaganda by portraying this event in a film titled ‘The Stars Search for Peace’, where Samitier enacted himself. During his time in France, Samitier joined OGC Nice as a player, where he would unite with his old teammate Zamora. He went onto score 47 goals in 82 matches. In 1939, he retired as a footballer and briefly managed OGC Nice in 1942.

After two years and 8 months, the civil war ended and the nationalists alliance under General Franco demolished the second Spanish republic to establish the new Spanish state. Josep Samitier returned to Spain in 1944, and he took charge of Barcelona. His homecoming was celebrated as he guided Barcelona to win their second-ever La Liga title in 1945 and lifted the Copa de Oro Argentina by beating the Copa del Generalísimo winners Athletic Club de Bilbao.

Subsequently, Samitier became the chief scout of the club and his keen vision in recognising the talent resulted in the discovery and recruitment of Ladislao Kubala, a player who went on to become a legend at Barcelona. The recruitment of Kubala was the status redemption for Samitier, who had lost its shine after the Di Stéfano transfer saga.

In 1972, Samitier rested his soul and left his showmanship and sorcery to cherish in the memories of Catalans. Despite serving Madrid and his close relationship with General Franco, he was given an honourable state funeral as a Catalan hero. Samitier was the most symbolic player in the history of the club. His close affiliation with both the cultural and sporting context of Barcelona formed an irrevocable stature of him in the Catalan society.

Samitier, as a footballing visionary, is a reference to the modern-day midfielders and, on the other hand, he was an imperative cultural icon who embraced a revolutionary socio-cultural movement in his life. Samitier’s journey from being an ambitious boy in the streets of Barcelona to a footballing legend remains one of the inspiring and reviving narrative in the history of the game. Even today, walking down the Josep Samitier Street, one could still gather an enigmatic chanting celebrating the greatest artist in the history of Barcelona.

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