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Cruyff's total football philosophy gets a Pep up

In Spain's Catalonia province, FC Barcelona is the greatest symbol that truly represents the Catalan people. Barcelona is the pride of Catalonia and puts the Spanish region on the world's map.

This is because of the philosophy they embrace as a football club, which is to play the game at such a high entertaining level and combine defence and attack in producing great results - and also with emphasis on keeping the ball at all times. And what truly makes this philosophy stand out is the fact that there is a strong emphasis on producing young talent.

Barcelona fans must be ever grateful to Johan Cruyff, who introduced the total football style of play during his reign as coach of the club in the early 90s. This saw the emergence of the Barca dream team that contained stars like Hristro Stoichkov, Romario and Ronald Koeman.

That team is often compared to the great AC Milan side of the late 80s and early 90s and also to the Brazil side of the 70s with the likes of Pele, Jarzinho, Tostao, Gerson and Rivelino. Just when we thought that we would never going to see any other football team to rival those greats, another Barcelona super team emerges.

This time Guardiola, a member of Cruyff's dream team of the 90s who is now the head coach, has modified the total football philosophy and used it in transforming Barcelona into arguably the greatest side ever to have played the game.

Guardiola has won 12 trophies in three seasons

In just three seasons Guardiola has won more titles than any other Barcelona manager in history, edging out the great Cruyff for the honour. Since taking over the club in the 2008/2009 season, Guardiola has won 12 trophies including three Champions League wins, three La Liga titles, three European Super Cups and a FIFA World Club Trophy.

So what makes this team so special? To start with, they had three of their players nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year early this year in Messi, Iniesta and Xavi - who came first, second and third respectively.

Statistics have it that in the Spanish league, Barcelona defenders have more fouls committed against them than they commit against opposing teams. What does that tell us about the team? Everyone in the team is so confident on the ball that even goalkeeper Victor Valdes can be tossed in to play in midfield.

The Barca midfield, which is more than a quartet, is the best in the world. With the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Busquets, Thiago, and now Fabregas (four of them World Cup winners) it is no surprise that they are expected to control at least two thirds of the ball possession in any match they play irrespective of who they are playing against.

Their full backs, Eric Abibal and Daniel Alves, are supremely confident on the ball and support the attack - with the latter considered to be the best attacking right back in the world. The central defenders, such as Pique and Puyol, are so good on the ball that they spend most of their time passing the ball around and attacking than defending.

Spain's all-time leading goalscorer 

Up front, David Villa averages more than 20 goals a season and is already Spain's all-time leading goalscorer. Pedro shows so much maturity in front of goal, as we saw in the Champions League final against Manchester United at Wembley, and is confident using both feet.

The bench is star-studded any many of the players who cannot make it to the fist team could walk into most major teams in Europe. This includes the likes of Mascherano, Adriano, Keita, Affelay, Maxwell, Thiago and Sanchez.

One unique quality that makes this team so good is their ability to defend and press teams high up the field when they lose the ball. It's the responsibility of the attacking players to do this and even Messi, the best player in the world, is always working hard defending for the team.

Guardiola has added something special to the total football philosophy instilled in Barcelona by Cruyff. This is a fundamental work ethic that keeps the players on their toes at all times and makes them hungry for more success.

Football has been taken to another level by this current Barca side. This team is surely the greatest of all time: better than the Milan sides of the 80s and 90s, the Barca dream team of the 90s and even the Brazil side of the 70s.

Feature by Onyere Kene


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