Our Guest Author: Josh Bharadia
The past glories of Barça were heavily linked to those of the Spain national team, but the Catalan club should help build a strong foundation in both sides again.
Spain’s most glorious era of their history came from a team dominated by Barcelona players and quite similarly, the Barcelona DNA. Since the old guard went into retirement, Spain desperately began looking for talented players across the league from within their own league and although now its finally working, the emergence of specific values cannot be overlooked for things may finally be looking up.
The Spanish national team of old may not have played identically to the Barcelona at the time, but the similarities were evident as the squad’s better players came from Barcelona. This team inspired so many across the country to want to be like these players. As an example, Barça’s new boy Pedri said he idolises Andrés Iniesta.
As we all know that to control the ball is to control the game, it can be dreadful to watch if its just possession for the sake of possession, like Fernando Hierro’s Spain at the 2018 World Cup in Russia where you have all of the ball and none of the teeth where it matters.
Spain don’t sorely need a team of high IQ, talented but short players, but it would certainly help as I will mention in the next section. What any team, especially possession-oriented teams, need is stability in midfield and as we saw against Germany and Ukraine, Thiago Alcântara provided just that.
Thiago is a former Barcelona player, so his IQ has helped him a lot and although nowhere close to Xavi Hernández overall, his influence on the team is Xavi-esque. In attack, the emergence of Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati is evident that they take inspiration from the best of the best in terms of what Spain used to offer. That they know how to stretch the pitch, when to exploit gaps in between and, of course, the end product.
National teams like Germany, the Netherlands and to an extent England, have made youth the focal point of their teams and it has paid dividends. It would obviously be unwise to field an entire youth XI but in a team where new life is needed, a breath of fresh air would be an understatement.
To make things easier Spain has no shortage of talent with crazy potential, the likes of Pedri, Bryan Gil, Andeer Barrenetxea, Fran Beltrán and many more. There are about six overall players I can think of that they should build their team around for the future, all of which are flowing with Barça DNA.
Spain has many young and exciting prospects | Photo by Gabriel Bouys / AFP via Getty Images
A comfortable ball-playing partnership in Eric García and Pau Torres who can look to send line-breaking passes, a stable midfield pivot of Fran Beltran and Rodri Hernández to dictate the tempo and also provide verticality, and a dynamic attacking duo of Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres who can stretch the pitch and exploit spaces between the lines.
And this adds to my point in the next paragraph. These six mentioned would be ideal for Barcelona so it wouldn’t take too long to adapt and work together with good chemistry, and if this is the foundation then things will look bright.
Every team needs a foundation or the whole thing breaks apart. Many managers have tried to avoid a foundation on which to build the team around in recent years, and although it may work at the likes of various club teams, international football is basically do-or-die in every game and slip-ups cannot be afforded.
When Real Madrid won the Champions League in 20016 after starting their season abysmally, their players were treated like rockstars and welcomed into the national team with open arms. It was evident that at the time they tried to build the team around Real Madrid’s players and while it may have sounded like a smarter move to mass pick players from the best team in Europe, it can also fall into the trap of choosing the hype over the collective, something that hampers even the top national teams – England is a prime example of this.
But how does this relate to Barcelona or the Barça DNA? The Spain team of 2008–2012 built the team around a few vital cogs and had clear plans for them rather than expecting them to do the best they can on the spot.
As an example of a foundation, players like Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and David Villa had vital and clear jobs on the pitch, in some ways not even played entirely in their favoured position but they made it work and did so well it propelled the team to new heights.
Spain has always worked best as a possession-oriented team inspired by the great Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola, and with the best team in the country’s history trying that style and dominating their national team with the players they have, it would make sense where to take inspiration. In an ideal team, as well as a Barcelona team, everyone has a specific duty and shouldn’t be in a situation where they are forced to do more, like Lionel Messi in recent years.
Nothing can ever replicate the teams of old, as you cannot replicate randomness, only build on it. Something that looms over some of the players of a previously legendary team is the desire to want to be the star to fill a void, which is putting a player above the collective. With the more disciplined mentality coupled with patience and ability, perhaps Spain can once more be a collective rather than a cesspool for rockstars.
To conclude without getting into the economic factors, the talent is still there, it just has to be used properly and accordingly to their strengths. I believe with the Barça DNA is the trampoline that will send a semi well-crafted Spain team back to the top of the world, and convincing performances against a dominating ideology in Germany should serve as wings.