When Barcelona won the league title in 1991 it was their first triumph in five years and only their third victory in the past three decades. And it was a triumph that would spawn an era of unprecedented success for the Catalan club, the legacy of which can be found in the DNA of today’s Barcelona side, a quarter of a century later.
It’s an era which has boasted superstars from around the world; Laudrup, Ronaldo, Romario, Koeman, Messi, Neymar and Suarez to name but a few. However, at the heart of ach new team from the ’91 Dream Team vintage to the South American flavoured stars of 2015, there has been a steadying Spanish presence through the succession of midfield maestros cut from the same claret and blue cloth.
The Legacy of Guardiola
Pep Guardiola was a young Spanish midfielder making a breakthrough into Cruyff’s team of superstars at the outset of the 1990s. A product of the Academy (La Masia) Guardiola made his first team debut in 1990 against Real Cadiz and would soon establish himself as a dependable, classy midfielder in a team on the verge of glory. Over the next decade he helped Barcelona to success in 6 league title campaigns as well as victories in the Copa Del Rey, European Cup Winner’s Cup and a historic first win in the European Cup.
Noted for his composure on the ball, an expert reading of the game and a deceptively simple but effective range of passing Guardiola was a mainstay of the team through a number of changes on and off the field, growing to become a hero for the Barca fans.
Pep left the Nou Camp in 2001. Injuries had begun to take their toll and no longer was he a guaranteed member of the starting 11. Because a young protégé of the Spaniard was ready to take up the mantle.
Another young midfielder from La Masia, Xavi Hernandez followed an eerily similar path to Guardiola’s, becoming a first team regular towards the end of the 90s and gradually replacing the older man from the side.
With big shoes to fill Xavi was to become a lynchpin in the team of the new century. A footballer of grace and sublime technical ability his metronomic passing would become a feature of both Barca’s and Spain’s Tiki-Taka style football domination. Barcelona would enjoy more league success throughout the following decade under managers Van Gaal, Rijkaard and midfield predecessor Guardiola as well as going on to dominate in Europe with 3 Champions League victories.
And if that wasn’t enough then international domination was forthcoming as well as Spain won back to back European Championships and a famous World Cup victory in 2008.
Xavi remains at Barcelona into the 2015 season. However, as the years begin to catch up with this talisman, the baton has been passed on to his partner in the Barcelona engine room…
Yet another product of La Masia, Andres Iniesta began to establish himself as the young buck to Xavi’s experienced legs in the second half of the 2000s. With a low centre of gravity, allowing him to evade challenges and make devastating late forays into the opposing penalty area he was the perfect foil for hi solder partner and together they would represent the heart of arguably Barca’s greatest ever team; sitting in behind Messi and co on route to domestic and continental glory.
Like Xavi, Iniesta would go on to form a part of the great Spanish team, taking his club form to the international stage with great effect as he helped Spain with the 2008 & 2012 European Championship. But Iniesta’s crowning moment must surely be the 2010 World Cup Final when he popped up with the winning goal in a tight final against Italy, forever immortalising his name in Spanish football folklore.