The icing on the cake of a magical 2009 for FC Barcelona came when coach Josep Guardiola guided his charges to victory in the FIFA Club World Cup for the very first time. That extra-time triumph in the final against Estudiantes de la Plata in Abu Dhabi also made Barça the first team to win six titles from a possible six in the same calendar year: La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League, Spanish Supercup, UEFA Supercup and FIFA Club World Cup.
Los Azulgrana have continued to amass yet more silverware since, with Guardiola having already bagged ten trophies in his three years at the helm. The Catalan giants head to Japan 2011 on the back of winning La Liga for the third successive season and the fourth Champions League in their glorious history, two of which have come under their home-grown supremo. Barcelona’s sparkling football and the outrageous gifts of key men such as Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa have earned them admirers the world over, and they now have the opportunity to prove themselves the finest side on Planet Football.
Currently the team to beat on the European scene, Los Blaugrana’s success has been built on an exceptional generation of players produced by their La Masia academy, including the likes of Messi, Xavi and Carles Puyol. And on the evidence of the latest talents emerging from Can Barça, such as midfielder Thiago Alcantara - a key figure in Spain’s recent triumph at European U-21 level - and youngster Gerard Deulofeu, the future also looks bright.
Facts and figures
Ladislao Kubala, Luis Suarez, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Gary Lineker, Romario, Andoni Zubizarreta, Josep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman, Hristo Stoichkov, Michael Laudrup, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Deco, Rafa Marquez, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o.
In the group stage of the 2010/11 Champions League, Barcelona won four times and drew twice to top Group D with 14 points, ahead of FC Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos. Arsenal were ousted 4-3 on aggregate in the Round of 16, before an emphatic 6-1 aggregate success over quarter-final opponents Shakhtar Donetsk set up a gruelling semi-final showdown with eternal rivals Real Madrid. A double from Messi in the first leg in Madrid ended up tipping the balance, with Barça eventually going through 3-1 over the two legs.
Nor could Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United find a way to stop Barcelona in the final at Wembley. Though Wayne Rooney fired a fine equaliser after Pedro had opened the scoring, further strikes from Messi and Villa capped a 3-1 win and a magnificent display from Guardiola’s side.
The numbers game
30 – Just as they did when winning the 2008/09 Champions League, Barcelona were the top scorers in the 2010/11 competition with 30 strikes. Twelve of those came from their diminutive Argentinian genius Messi, the tournament’s leading marksman.
|20||Jonathan DOS SANTOS|