By Kevin Koczwara
Barcelona plays soccer the right way, and they do it with a style no other team can copy. The Catalan club may be “more than a club” to the people of Barcelona in a historical and social sense, but for the rest of the soccer loving crowds, Barcelona is more than a club because the team plays like no other.
Any 11 players that walk out on to the field for Barca understand how this game was meant to be played: beautifully.
Spain’s National Team has been playing the Barcelona way for a few years now.
Spain’s dominance in the Euro’s of 2008 through the subsequent winning of the World Cup this summer looked much like that of Barcelona’s global dominance. Both the national team and Barca play the ball on the ground, pass it quickly, run into space, dominate possession, play a high defensive line, and try to score goals. Neither Spain nor Barcelona sit back, and play on the defensive for a draw. No, both teams out play and out class their opponents. The way the game wasn’t meant to be played.
Two players from Barcelona allow both the teams to play this way. Xavi and Andres Iniesta roam and control the midfield for both Spain and Barcelona. They are the cogs in both teams. They make the whole system click.
Iniesta and Xavi rose from the Catalan club’s ranks. They are Barcelona through and through. They bleed Barcelona blood. They both rose through the Barcelona youth system and it shows. They are the cream of the crop midfielder. They have unmatched ball control and skill. The ball sticks to their feet like Velcro. They can pass the ball through tight spaces and receive the ball under immense pressure as if its just another passing drill in practice. It’s simply remarkable to watch them work.
Finally the two players are getting the recognition they deserve. Both players have been shortlisted on the FIFA Ballon d’Or (combination of the FIFA World Player of the Year award and the journalist voted Ballon d’Or, best player in the world) short list for best player in the world award.
Iniesta and Xavi have been named with fellow Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi, Carlos Puyol, Dani Alves, and David Villa .
But, it’s all about Iniesta, Messi and Xavi when it comes to this year’s award. The three undersized – but unmatched when it comes to skill – players made the list and have to be favorites to bring the prize home. Messi won the award last year, but will his performance at the World Cup hamper his chances? I have to say yes.
Messi hasn’t shown up the same way for the Argentina National Team as he does for Barcelona. The little Argentine runs circles around the opposition for Barcelona, but he struggles to find space, time, and patience with Argentina. He didn’t score a single goal in the World Cup, which is unlike him. He struggles away from his Camp Nou buddies, Xavi and Iniesta.
Iniesta fully deserves the award for his ability to score key goals for Spain and Barcelona when crunch time comes. Iniesta proved in the 2009 Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea, he performs in the clutch. He proved it again this summer at the World Cup. He is also one of the world’s best distributors and creators.
But, for me, everything both Spain and Barca do goes through Xavi, the maestro, and he should be walking home with the award.
Not many players come withing feet of the type of skill Xavi has. At the end of a La Liga season you can count the amount of errand passes he makes on one hand. Most players make more bad passes in one half of a game than Xavi does in an entire season. He rarely turns the ball over on the dribble, if ever. His tackling is underrated and so is his goalscoring ability. He doesn’t have to score goals. He has players around him to do that, so why would he ever try and exert himself in that area of the field when he can focus on the other parts that suit him better?
Xavi has been the major part of more winning teams than any other player in the last few years, and it’s no surprise he is on the list. But, he may be forgotten because he isn’t the flashiest player, or the most outspoken. He plays the game. He plays his position better than anyone else. He doesn’t shout out or puff his chest out when the cameras are on him. He helps his teammates. And most importantly, he does it with that little bit of Barcelona flair.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.