As Sergio Busquets turns 32, we look back at what has made him so special yet underrated through his Barcelona and football career.
Sergio Busquets, one of the most subtle and one of the smartest footballers to ever grace the game. The Octopus of Badia, as he is called, is one of the most important players in whichever team he plays. For Barcelona and for Spain, he has been a crucial part of these sides. He’s like a small cog in the system, hardly noticeable unless you actively watch him, but without him the entire team would fall apart.
He has proven this time and again, winning the World Cup and Euros once, the Champions league thrice, the FIFA Club World Cup thrice, La Liga eight times, the UEFA Supercup thrice, the Copa del Rey six times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times. Apart from these accolades, he has always been regarded as one of the best midfielders ever.
“The first time I saw Busquets playing, I called a friend and said: ‘I saw a player from an extinct species’. He’s a star”
César Luis Menotti
To put it concisely, Busi is a wonderful footballer. He is an excellent midfielder. His technique is impeccable, his passing creative and as accurate as possible, his awareness and game-sense some of the best ever. Under Pep Guardiola, Busquets went from being a young prospect to a household name throughout the world. Since then, many managers have come and gone. All of them understood what makes the Spanish midfielder such a special player.
Busquets’ attacking talent is mostly thanks to his line-breaking passes and intelligence. A master of la Pausa, he waits for his teammates to make the move, and just when the opposition is weakest, Sergio pulls the trigger. Very rarely is he the one making the killer pass like Andrés Iniesta or Xavi Hernández, but the attacks very often pass through Busquets. He dictates the tempo perfectly.
Knowing when to pass laterally, when to break the lines and when to pass backwards is very difficult. You have to be aware of the layout and current positions of both teams to make this decision. The fact that Busquets has been doing this consistently for a decade is ridiculous. Because of him, his team can sustain attacking play with him ready to recycle possession in the final third.
Since his debut in 2008, Sergio Busquets has always been pivotal in Barcelona’s first team | Photo by Imago
A lot of people state that Busquets is a liability in defence because of his lack of pace. His pace isn’t and has never been the best, agreed. But thanks to his excellent game-sense, Busquets still manages to contribute a lot defensively. When recycling possession in the opposition’s half, if the rivals do gain possession and look to counter, Busquets simultaneously covers the passing lanes while pressing the opposition.
The number of counters he has stopped and occasions in which he has helped Barcelona defensively is huge. His interceptions are one of the reasons he is called the Octopus of Badia, and rightly so. As a player who always knows where the opposition wants to end up, the defensive midfielder is superb in getting into position quickly and stopping the attack before it can begin.
As the Spanish veteran turns 32 on 16th July 2020, he is still a major part of the blaugranas. Maintaining such a high level for so many years, Busquets is an example for any young footballers, especially midfielders. As the popular quote by former Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque goes, “If you watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. But if you watch Busquets, you see the whole game”. This quote is accurate even now.
The shear grace, intelligence and awareness with Busquets plays is not matched by any other player. However, for some reason, there is a huge number of people who think that Sergio is not a good player or that he isn’t useful for Barcelona anymore. To those people, no response is needed, just the fact that the same person who they worship, Pep Guardiola, said the following: “If I was reincarnated as a player, I’d like to be like him”.
Sergio Busquets is one of the symbols of the very principles that FC Barcelona is based upon. His contribution to the club and the supporters is unimaginable. The day that he hangs up his boots will be one of the saddest days not only for Barça, but for the entire footballing community. But for now, as Barcelona face Osasuna in a few hours, the prospect of watching the genius midfielder play must remind us fans how lucky we are to witness Busquets play for Barcelona.
Trincão, Griezmann or Dembélé: Who should start for Barcelona?
From having to field center-mids such as Arturo Vidal on the flanks to now owning the likes of Dembélé, Trincão and Griezmann, it’s probably safe to assume that Barcelona’s wing play finally seems to have adequate profiles, individuals worthy of starting out wide. But, while healthy competition is always welcomed at the club, it’s apparent that Koeman must quickly find his “go-to player” and analyse whom he must bet on to consistently start games. With Barça successfully concluding their pre-season and looking ever so dominant in the opening game of La Liga, let’s take a look at what each player brings to the table.
Currently, it looks as if Antoine Griezmann has been reserved as a starter, which doesn’t come as a surprise given his immense status and the weightage his name carries in the squad list. However, Ronald Koeman’s intricate 4-2-3-1 system hasn’t truly allowed the Frenchman to fully express himself yet. Against Villarreal and even in the matches Antoine previously featured in, Griezmann was deprived of a fixated role and alternating occasionally with Messi as a direct number 9 or as a somewhat number 10 often left the right-hand side vulnerable, where Sergi Roberto would be tasked to produce most of the output upfield. Although Griezmann was seen making some well-timed runs, his link-up play was far from satisfactory, and as Messi would occupy the number 9 role, the former Atletico man would fail to operate effectively behind Leo or out wide.
In Barcelona’s La Liga opener, the left flank ticked every box the club seemed to have left unanswered and neglected last season. Jordi Alba’s runs from deep, Coutinho’s additional support as a mediapunta, and Ansu Fati’s exhilarating flare on the touchline proved too much to handle for Emery’s side since diverging attention from even a single player would lead to the visitors getting battered in the final third. Even so, while the Catalans eliminated their narrow and horizontal football to a somewhat acceptable extent, Ronald has only managed to refurbish one side of the pitch, with Griezmann and Messi’s natural tendency to operate centrally leaving the right flank vacant.
Therefore, to truly make the most of Barça’s offensive yield, it is vital to rely on natural wingers such as Trincão or Dembélé, players that can be considered ruthless on the counter and unforgiving in transitions. Whilst both players may eventually qualify as classic wingers, these two individuals propound different options, proving to be ideal in their respective departments. For example, in contrast to Dembouz, Trincão is likely to excel far more against a team with a low-block, given he is an exceedingly refined dribbler and considerably polished in his movement on/off the ball. Dembélé, on the other hand, could bring maximum results against a team with a higher line or a side that prefers to apply a suffocating press, mainly due to the fact that the winger is a space dominant player, and his unparalleled pace and chaotic style of play tends to add a sense of unpredictability on the flanks. Nonetheless, despite the slight differences in gameplay, they are ideal contenders to start for Barça, and must be prioritized in line-ups.
Spectators saw Lionel Messi function as a pure false 9 in the closing minutes of the game against Elche a few days ago as the Argentine partnered up with the likes of Dembélé and Trincão on each side of the pitch. Although Ansu Fati is probable to own the left flank for the upcoming games, it was refreshing to witness the Blaugranas look so imposing with two explosive wingers by Lionel’s side. As it turns out, Koeman’s experiment worked out even against the Yellow Submarine with him applying the same method in the second half. Barça saw their most promising football after proceedings just as Griezmann came off the bench for Trincão, who went on to form a trio with Lionel and Ousmane. Such flare and aggression was not seen previously considering most of Barça’s harvest came solely from the left-hand side of the field.
At this very moment, Barcelona has ample options to choose from, but for the newly adopted 4-2-3-1 formation to continue working at the highest level, it’s important to make the most of such diverse profiles in the squad. Ronald Koeman still has a backlog of work to do and must completely eliminate Barcelona’s horizontal structure if the club truly intends to compete in Europe. With Ousmane and Fransico looking immensely promising in their recent outings, the Dutch coach should take the bold decision of starting either one of them and pursue enhancing the front four’s capabilities.