Barcelona’s claim for comparison with the greatest club sides in history increased with their Champions League win at Wembley on Saturday.
The manner in which Man United were outplayed in a major final was even more impressive than Barca’s efforts when the sides met in Rome two years ago.
But for all of the plaudits bestowed on Josep Guardiola’s men, it’s easy to forget that much of the work began long before he took over as the club’s coach.
Throughout the side, there are players who’ve been first team regulars for many years. Victor Valdes, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi were all a key part of Frank Rijkaard’s 2006 Champions League winning team. An exciting team which at the time was considered the best in the world.
A lean couple of years followed and included off the pitch indiscipline involving some of club’s more senior imports. With success achieved at home and abroad, there was a sense that things were starting to go stale.
Amongst the team’s core, a desire for further success remained as strong as ever. Out went the likes of Deco, Ronaldinho and Eto’o, and in came younger and hungrier players in their place such as Dani Alves, Eric Abidal combined with new recruits from the youth academy. All have fitted seamlessly into the Barcelona system and, under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, have gone on to reach even greater heights.
Despite the talent, that success was far from guaranteed and Guardiola deserves a huge slice of credit for what FC Barcelona have achieved during his time in charge. It remains to be seen as to how long this supremely gifted collection of players can dominate Spanish and European football.
But while we celebrate the players and staff who’ve played a direct role in the achievements of the Guardiola era, let’s not forget those who contributed to laying the foundations, helping to make it all possible.