Despite an illustrious history which stretches back over 100 years, there is one trophy that still eludes FC Barcelona: the FIFA Club World Cup. In 1992, Los Azulgranas reached the final of its forerunner, the Intercontinental Cup, only to lose 2-1 to Brazilian outfit Sao Paulo. And then at the 2006 edition of the event, their only other previous appearance, they swept aside Mexico's Club America 4-0 in the semi-final before being denied by a Brazilian team once more: Adriano’s goal clinching the coveted prize for Internacional of Porto Alegre.
Few believed that the inexperienced Pep Guardiola would have such instant success as Barcelona coach, especially after high-profile stars such as Ronaldinho and Deco had departed. His cause helped by judicious signings Dani Alves, Gerard Pique and Seydou Keita, the former Barcelona B coach led the Catalan giants to their most successful season ever, achieving a historic treble of league championship, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League. And all this while playing exquisite one-touch football, breaking various goalscoring records and going on several winning streaks.
Although it will be a huge task, Los Blaugranas' next goal will be to turn their treble into an unprecedented quadruple by clinching the global club title. But Guardiola’s work in transforming a disillusioned group of players into a cohesive unit shows that attitude is almost as important as ability, while motivation will certainly not be lacking come December's showpiece in UAE.
Facts and figures
Ricardo Zamora, Ladislao Kubala, Luis Suarez, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Gary Lineker, Romario, Andoni Zubizarreta, Josep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman, Hristo Stoitchkov, Michael Laudrup, Ronaldinho, Deco, Ludovic Giuly, Lilian Thuram
Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry
Guardiola’s side topped Group C ahead of Sporting Lisbon, Shakhtar Donetsk and Basel with four wins, one draw and one defeat. A 6-3 aggregate win saw off Lyon in the first knockout round, while a 5-1 demolition of Bayern Munich over two legs set up a gruelling semi-final against Chelsea, who they overcame on away goals thanks to a last-gasp strike from Iniesta in the return. In the final in Rome, goals from Eto’o and Messi sealed the fate of the Manchester United of Sir Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The numbers game
30 - With 30 goals, Barcelona were the highest-scoring team in last season’s Champions League. Their front-man Lionel Messi also scooped the individual top-scorers' award after netting nine times in 11 games.
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