I moved to Barcelona in January 2008, six months before Josep Guardiola took over as the head coach of FC Barcelona. It was the beginning of four years of tika-taka. Although I have always liked Real Madrid more than their rivals, I was somewhat seduced by the style of football played by the Catalans, especially Messi, Iniesta and Xavi; the latter in that period deserved to win one of Messi’s Ballon d’Or.
After a year of watching tika-taka, I grew tired of the often pointless sideways passing of the ball. The worse part was that, at times, it seemed as if Barcelona were unable to change their tactics, as a growing number of opponents had learned how to play them. I started to wonder whether Guardiola’s rigid belief in ‘one-system-fits-all’ was not only ruining the extraordinary players’ freedom but also showing a lack of tactical skills.
Then, one day, I read an interview with Guardiola that he gave after he had left the club. In the interview, he admitted that he was not an exceptional coach and that he had only won with Barcelona because of the players – Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol. Of course, such a statement can be perceived as a show of false humility; however, the interview led me to study whether Guardiola’s team was better than Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ during the early 90s, which comprised players such as Michael Laudrup, Ronald Koeman, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov.
It was while I was comparing those two successful periods that I noticed how Laudrup played in slow motion compared to Messi. It made me think: If the game is much faster today than it was twenty years ago, how does that affect the role of the coaches?
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