The 2014/15 season was one to remember for Barcelona. The blaugranas became the only European club in modern history to win two trebles, as Luis Enrique’s team combined individual magic with collective brilliance.
The 2014/15 season, a season where haters became fans, where everything that could go right, went right. A season built on individual genius, tactical masterclasses and clutch moments. The 14/15 Barcelona side was the last side to win a Treble, a feat accomplished only 6 times in modern football. Given the current absence of football, and the uninspiring state of today’s Barcelona, let’s take a look back at happier times.
Messi. Suárez. Neymar.
The greatest attacking trio of all time. Period. The 14/15 season was the birth of a terrifying attack, of the most terrifying attack. The crux of the season; the success of the 14/15 season was largely based on MSN doing things never done before in football. They didn’t just raise the bar, they launched it deep into outer space. When one of the players wasn’t feeling it, the other two took charge, if two of them weren’t feeling it, one of them took the mantle on themselves, and if all three of them were feeling it, well, the game was over before it ever started.
Charisma. Brilliance. Magic. In spite of this being the first season where all three of them were playing together, the understanding they shared was telepathic, it was not normal. It was like the three of them were in a completely different dimension, where they could communicate in a supernatural way.
|Goals: 58||Goals: 25||Goals: 39|
|Assists: 27||Assists: 21||Assists: 7|
Extraordinary numbers. Extraterrestrial numbers. The three of them scored a combined 122 goals in the season. Such statistics were unheard of. The most impressive fact was that the goals were in the games that mattered. Neymar made history in becoming the first, and only person to date, to score in every single game of the Champions League knock-out stages. Messi and Neymar ended the season as the top scorers in the Champions League, with each of them netting an impressive 10 goals in the European competition.
The MSN was an unstoppable trio until Neymar’s departure in 2017
Suárez and Neymar both scored in the Champions League final versus Juventus, with Messi dropping a clinical performance as a playmaker. That campaign wasn’t short of individual awards either, with Leo picking up his record (no longer) 5th Ballon d’Or on the back of the season, and he was also named as the UEFA Player of the Year, with Luis Suárez finishing in the top 3. Another impressive feat was a 23-year-old Neymar Jr placing third in the Ballon d’Or ranking.
Don Andrés Iniesta
The midfield is the heart of a team, and Iniesta was the heart of the midfield. It was Barcelona’s first season without Xavi as a starting midfield, and even without Xavi, Iniesta delivered. A magician, a natural talent. Bar Messi, the best dribbler in the world, nobody could move the ball like Don Andrés. It was so easy for him. Running rings around some of the best midfielders in the world, singlehandedly winning games, making unfathomable passes and runs, it was all too easy for Iniesta.
More than anything, Iniesta turned up for all the big games in 2014/15, and his Man of the Match winning performance against Juventus in the Champions League final is one for the history books, an absolute and instant classic.
Things are different now, they don’t make them like Iniesta anymore. The first of his kind, and the last of his kind.
Rakitić: Filling Xavi’s void
Iván Rakitić is a name that stirs up a lot of angry emotions in the hearts of many culés. Many have grown to loathe him. While the criticism he gets is valid, the hate is beyond unnecessary. However, Rakitć’s reputation wasn’t always so low.
In Xavi’s last season at Barcelona, Iván Rakitić had to take up the responsibilities of completing the midfield trio alongside Busquets and Iniesta
Rakitić in 2014/15 was a different beast. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that he took up Xavi’s role better than anyone could have. Many times in the season, the team didn’t even miss Xavi. The Croatian was great defensively, made line-breaking passes, had unparalleled stamina, assisted Messi’s iconic goal versus Boateng, and also opened the scoring in the Champions League final.
Rakitić did everything he was told to do, and he did it brilliantly.
The 14/15 season had a bumpy start. Coming off the trophyless 13/14 season where rivals Real Madrid won the Champions League, the morale in the dressing room wasn’t really high. The newly signed Luis Suárez was banned from playing due to his biting incident in the 2014 World Cup. The scariest part, however, was the Messi sega. Messi didn’t get along with Luis Enrique, every day there were absurd reports in the Spanish press, but things really got crazy when Messi started following Chelsea FC on Instagram, and rumours of the Argentinian leaving Catalunya started surfacing, and it seemed like these rumors had basis. Messi and his father’s ongoing tax case in Spain also seemed to be a reason behind the maestro’s potential exit.
As a matter of fact, it was revealed later on that Xavi managed to stop Messi from leaving. Just try to imagine how things would be today if Messi left Barcelona back in 2014. It just doesn’t seem right, and even the thought of it is disturbing.
Luis Enrique put all the pieces together to create the perfect symphony
The start of the season wasn’t great either, the results were inconsistent and Barcelona’s 3–1 loss to Real Madrid in El Clásico hurt the team’s spirit. So how did the season end with such unprecedented success?
The team persisted.
They persisted through everything, the results, the drama, everything. Everything slowly became about football and only football. The team started connecting, Suárez was back, Xavi and Pedro were coming in to finish games as substitutes, everything was getting better. It got better to a point where the Barcelona team was this monumental spinning wheel that simply couldn’t be stopped. The teams the blaugranas faced didn’t lack quality. The 14/15 RO16 was versus Manchester City, the reigning Premier League champions, the quarter-finals were versus PSG, the reigning French champions, the semi-finals were versus Bayern Munich, the reigning Bundesliga champions and the final was versus Juventus, the reigning Serie A champions. Barcelona wasn’t the clear cut favorite in any of the games. As a matter of fact, Barcelona were heavy underdogs versus Guardiola’s Bayern. But Barcelona triumphed, how? Because for that team, losing wasn’t an option.
“You wanted all three? Here they are: All three! Visca El Barça y Visca Catalunya”
–– Leo Messi
After the 2014/15 season, probably nobody could have predicted Barcelona’s horrifying nights in Rome and at Anfield. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. The quality remained. Messi, Suárez, Coutinho, Dembélé, all extraordinary players, and a squad consisting of them should be head and shoulders above the rest, and quality-wise it was. However, the mentality was lacking. Jordi Alba was in tears at half-time, versus Liverpool when the game wasn’t even lost. Coutinho looked like he was battling depression. Dembélé was regularly injured, and Suárez put up way too many bounds.
All of the responsibility lay on the same man, every time: Lionel Messi. To the point where it got too much.
Football works in funny ways, numbers, probabilities, odds, all go out of the window when it comes to the game. Things can change in an instant, players come, players go, managers come, managers go. Sometimes the players are in the mood, sometimes they are not. No one can predict what happens in football. Barcelona’s current side is uninspiring. It’s tedious to watch. People long for the games to finish. It didn’t use to be like this, not back in 14/15 at least. The immediate future of the team and the results are uncertain. But what is certain is that one day, someday, Barcelona will be back.
Ricardo Zamora: The greatest between the posts
Guest Author: Amal Ghosh
Ricardo Zamora has a rollercoaster of a footballing career, flooded with controversies. Despite that, he is said to be arguably the greatest goalkeeper of all time.
“He is alone, condemned to watch the match from afar. Never leaving the goal, his only company the two posts and the crossbar, he awaits his own execution by firing squad.” Eduardo Galeano perhaps wrote the most melancholic description of a goalkeeper’s life of solitude.
The memoir of a goalkeeper lies between the thin line of glorious feats and eternal damnation. There were not many of them in the yesteryears of world football that we still reminisce. In fact, many of those who survived the rushing cavalries of the opposition attack were shot, shun, or shaded by that one slip or misplaced dive.
At the beginning of the 1900s, when the game was a far cry from the sophisticated version of the present day, the football pitch was a grant arena to celebrate the sparring between the defence and offence. Stars and idols were born and illustrated for the knack to score goals or the flamboyant display on the pitch.
In 1916, a skinny sixteen years old from Barcelona, who had a fortuitous debut for Espanyol against Real Madrid, went on to become the first superstar in the history of Spanish football. Moreover, the first goalkeeper to make a name for his style and to become an inspiration for the generations to come. Ricardo Zamora Martinez was one of the greatest goalkeepers both in the history of FC Barcelona and La Roja. He was the first and finest of his kind and left a gargantuan legacy behind.
Born on 14th February 1901 in Barcelona, Zamora grew up and learned his craft in goalkeeping on the backstreets of the Catalan city. What started as a leisure activity in the neighborhood, it maneuvered Zamora’s interest in the game and transformed him into a guardian in between the sticks. Challenging and extreme measures to prevent the opposition from scoring often would end up in frayed clothes and bleeding elbows. His parents were unhappy about his pursuit to become a professional footballer as his father wanted him to inherit his field of medicine.
In 1913, Zamora was sent to attend university, which was a turning point in his life. Along with picking up nicotine addiction, he also joined a local team, Universitari SC, and started playing full-time football.
At the same time, the founder of Barcelona, Joan Gamper (Hans Kamper) was scouting for young and fresh talents across Catalonia to bolster the transitioning Blaugrana outfit. Gamper inadvertently encountered a young Zamora who was delivering a staggering performance in front of the goal. Enthralled by his astounding shot-stopping technique and anticipation along with the aplomb character on the pitch, Gamper encouraged him to pursue professional football. Despite acknowledging his talent, Gamper was unsure about recruiting him due to his age, which would make it difficult for him to serve as an immediate replacement at the club. However, at the age of fifteen in 1916, Zamora signed for the rivals Espanyol and made his debut at sixteen.
Pere Gibert, the starting goalkeeper for Espanyol was absent and the club approached young Zamora to accompany them on their trip to face Real Madrid. Zamora delivered an impressive performance against a Los Blancos led by Santiago Bernabeu. The match against Madrid announced the teenage sensational in the Spanish football and promised the starting spot ahead of Gibert. He safeguarded the Espanyol goal till 1919 and inspired them to lift the Campionat de Catalunya in 1918.
However, a dispute with one of the Blanquiazul directors resulted in him leaving the club and signing for the cross-town rivals Barcelona. Zamora dawned the garnet and the blue for the first time on 31st May 1919 in a friendly match against an international eleven consisting of players from the allied nations that had succeeded in the First World War (France, Belgium, and England).
The mere friendly match at the old Carrer Industria ground was in fact much more. It was a monumental instance for its symbolic representation of diplomacy and the introduction of two of the greatest players in the history of Blaugrana — Zamora and Josep Samitier. Both the players became the Blaugrana legends and defined the history of both Barcelona and Spanish football.
The 1920s witnessed the first footballing revolution in Spain. It was the dormant period for the political insurgencies in Catalonia, where the proletarian uprisings and anti-anarchist movements ceased temporarily. Instead, the populace was witnessing another revolution, the rise of the first golden generation at the Les Cortes. Moreover, it was the inception of the Spanish National Team as a major footballing power in world football. Zamora along with Samitier and Paulinho Alcantara were the three pivots responsible for the transformation of Barcelona in the 1920s. Zamora was selected to represent the Spanish national team in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.
It was the first-ever Spanish team to compete in an international tournament. He made his debut in La Roja’s first international match with a 1-0 victory over Denmark. Though the rampant Spaniards defeated in the final against Belgium, Zamora’s performance throughout the tournament established him as the best shot-stopper in the world.
It was an eventful tournament for Zamora in some other ways as well, who also grabbed some unwanted attention on and off the pitch. He was sent off in the match against Italy for punching and breaking the jaw of an opposing player. Another time, airport customs officials caught him smuggling Havana cigars across the Belgian border which caused the entire team to get detained and searched before leaving for Spain.
At Barcelona, he earned the nickname El Divino (The Divine One) and his road to stardom surviving the assaults from opposition attacks bagged massive applause from the Culés. He possessed an immense threat in anticipation to charge down attackers in his own box and had all the physical attributes that modern-day football demands from a player. Enormous, build stature, and nonchalant character, Zamora wore the iconic high-necked polo jumper and a hard cap and stood in front of the goal to wait for the unleashing thunderbolts and storm. His style was imitated by many of his contemporaries, who could mirror all but that nerve-wracking stare at your soul.
At Barca, he moulded into one of the athletic goalkeepers of the time. His agility and quick reflexes along with the physical superiority often perplexed the attack. Zamora helped Barcelona to lift two Copa del Rey titles and three Campionats de Catalunya. He led a lavish and celebrity life; in fact, he was the first one to explore the scope of marketing the sporting stardom in Spanish football. The Spaniard spent his time with Tango singer Carlos Gardel, smoking three packs of cigarettes a day and drowning in his favorite cognac tipple. Zamora and Samitier had famous night outs in the 1920s, at the time when Barcelona was becoming one of the fashionable cities in Europe. There were poems and songs flattering his honor, cocktails were named after him. Zamora even acted in a film called ‘Zamora Weds At Last’.
Zamora’s three-year-long stint at Barcelona came to an end under some controversial circumstances. It was reported that in June 1922, Zamora allegedly asked the Barca board for a wage of 50,000 pesetas. He wanted a move back to Espanyol and Barca was reluctant to approve of the transfer. Even though he managed to convince them for the transfer; in 1922, a yearlong ban from the association for deceiving the tax authorities about the transfer fee resulted in delaying his return. Zamora stayed at Espanyol until 1930, guiding them to win their maiden Copa del Rey title, and also played the first La Liga season in 1929.
In 1930, Zamora’s performance with a broken sternum in an international friendly against England at Estadio Metropolitano de Madrid was enough for Madrid to pick him up for an astounding 150,000 pesetas, of which he personally received an enormous 40,000 pesetas, making him the highest-earning player in Europe of the time. Zamora’s eventual move to Madrid resulted in a downfall with his once admired Barça fans, who suspected him of having allegiance with anti-Catalan institutions.
At Madrid, Zamora partnered with the stopper-backs Ciriaco and Quincoces to form one of the best defenses by conceding just 15 goals from 18 matches in the league and lifted the first LaLiga title with an unbeaten record. The following season Los Blancos signed his compadre and Barca teammate Samitier and retained the league title by conceding only 17 goals. In spite of the disappointments in the league in 1934 and 1936, he guided them to lift the 1936 Copa del Rey trophy by playing a crucial role in the final against Barcelona. It was inarguably one of the best and crucial performances of his career.
The Cup final tie played at Valencia between Barcelona and Madrid was the last competitive match before the Civil war. The match was going into the final minutes with Madrid leading 2-1 and Barca was pressing high and surrounded Zamora alone in the box. After receiving the ball in the final third, an inform Jose Escola who already scored one back, fired the ball hard and low aiming for the inside post. The dry pitch was covered with blinding dust and it was obscuring the view. The crowd was already screaming and started celebrating the goal. When the dust was cleared, Zamora stood there indifferently holding the ball in his hand. A photograph that was taken near the post, the dive he pulled off seconds before the stupendous save remains one of the iconic images of a goalkeeper in the world of football. A photograph that broke the heart and soul of cules.
The Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936. Zamora who had a sound relationship with the Franco regiment was captured by the left-wing militia and imprisoned at the Modelo prison. However ABC, a pro-nationalistic paper reported the execution of Zamora and finding his lifeless body in a canal-side in Moncloa district. Nationalistic forces used this as an opportunity to strengthen their propaganda.
Zamora hailed as a gallant victim of the radical left violence. Nationalists were able to exploit the commotion caused by the alleged death of Zamora and in 1934 he was awarded a medal of the Order of the Republic by his namesake by then president of the second Spanish republic, Niceto Zamora. Whilst all this was happening, Zamora was in fact living his life with his regular three-pack cigarettes and cognac in the town of Nice in France. He was partnered with Josep Samitier who fled the country for the same cause, for the third time to play for the local club OG Nice.
Zamora returned to his native in December 1938 to participate in a benefit match between Spain and Real Sociedad, for the Francoist militia. He was later honored by the Franco regiment by the Great Cross of the Order of Cisneros in the 1950s, an evident validation for the great services to the regime. Zamora died in 1978, leaving behind a rather complicated and memorable career. La Liga honoured his majestic contributions by naming the award (Ricardo Zamora Trophy) for the best goalkeeper in the league after him.
“As with so many figures from the dark ages of football, it is difficult to separate the truth from the misty-eyed recollections, but everyone seems to insist that Zamora was the greatest, better than Yashin, Zoff, Banks, Arconada, and any others you care to mention”.Phil Ball | Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football (2003)
He remains one of the most important figures in the history of Barcelona and in Spanish football. He might have left on bad terms, but the Blaugrana still adorns the impact and legacy that Zamora left behind. The golden generation of the 1920s was the foundation that established Barça as one of the best sporting entities in Spanish football. His magnetic presence in front of the goal not only won them trophies but inspired the generations of talents to pursue the keeping role. The times when goalkeepers were overlooked for their contributions and presence on the pitch, It was the ‘the divine one’ sent by the heavens to finally write a new testament for those who guard the goal post.