Victory for Total Football


By now, after nearly a decade of dominating European and Spanish football, it is well understood that the half-yearly match-up between the Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona marks the apogee of the world’s club football scene. After all, El Clásico, as the Spanish “derby” is called, does not just project a football rivalry between Spain’s two top-winning clubs, but it reflects the intense passion for the sport laced with socio-political overtones specific to that country. Supporters in Spain during the El Clásico are almost always divided into two groups, one in support of the capital city-based Real Madrid, which is also seen to historically represent the centre of nationalist Spain; and the other in support of Barcelona, which is seen to represent federal autonomy and resistance to Spanish centralism. The intense rivalry and footballing excellence of the two clubs have now become globally recognised, and football-lovers the world over have taken to appreciate the quality of football played by the clubs in these games. When the Luis Enríque-coached Barcelona faced Rafa Benítez’s Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid on Saturday, supporters had again expected an intense and close battle between the clubs, which were stocked with some of the best international players.

Yet, it was Luis Enríque’s Barcelona that came out as the clear victor. Organised as a potent collective that combined the inventive strengths of its midfield (Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets) with the lethality of its forward line ( >Luis Suarez and Neymar) and the pugnacity instilled by its coach, Barcelona showed up Real Madrid merely as a collection of individual talent that could not gel well enough to put up a winning fight. The >4-0 victory was a win again for the philosophy underpinning Barcelona’s footballing style in the past decade, espoused by former club great and Dutch legend Johan Cruyff and honed by former coach Pep Guardiola. Luis Enríque has adapted the strengths of Barcelona’s unique footballing philosophy featuring ball retention and rapid passing, utilisation of space and all-round defensive tenacity by giving it more structure and emphasising supreme fitness among his squad. So much so that Barcelona managed the win in large part without the presence of its talisman and the world’s best footballer, Lionel Messi. >Rafa Benítez, on the other hand, sought to play to the loud Madrid gallery, gave in to the pressure heaped by his club’s image and its commerce-driven ownership, and deployed an attacking line-up that clearly lacked balance and organisation to take on Barcelona’s well-oiled machine. The result was the victory of collectivism over individualism; except the collective was one that featured individuals at their sublime and hardworking best as well. It was therefore a victory for Total Football, and therefore for the game itself, always meant to be a representation of team effort.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 4:19:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/el-clsico-victory-for-total-football/article7905776.ece

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