When you say football, two things come to mind: Barcelona and Real Madrid. The duo has, without a doubt, dominated the sport for the past decade, and the two sides have become the dream teams every aspiring and professional footballer wishes to head to.
Currently, Zinedine Zidane is at the helm of a Real Madrid side that is simply the best in the world. Madrid are on an all time high like never before, and are the proud winners of the La Liga and the Champions League from last season.
The Spanish giants not only win, but they do it in style. With goals being banged in through utmost ease, and an arrogance about the way they dominate oppositions, not many teams out there come close to being as good as they are at the moment.
In such times, one cannot resist comparing the team to the Barcelona we all knew under Pep Guardiola. In his four seasons at the Nou Camp, Pep built a side that won 14 major trophies, including 2 Champions League crowns.
Here is an in depth look into how the two teams have similar characteristics despite being a decade apart from each other, and what made them the best:
1. The Managers’ Allegiances
Both Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane have been players of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively in the days gone by. Hence, each one of them knows what the taste of victory at the highest stage feels like, and the hardships that the losses bring along with them. Both the bosses have worn the pride of the club in their playing days, and thus, had that extra incentive to win it all while being in charge.
Barca then and Madrid now, became the best because of an unbelievable number of versatile players present in the squads. On paper, players were given their positions, but on the field, the roles were multiplied significantly.
Pep started the concept by using players like Dani Alves as an assist provider from the right side and turning a midfielder like Mascherano into one of the finest centre-backs of the game. Similar are the cases with Carvajal being a right-sided semi-attacker for Zidane, and players like Isco and Casemiro providing variety in positions.
The success has been similarly gigantic for both teams involved, and the primary reason for that to happen is the resemblance in the squads. Midfield geniuses can probably be called the engines that ran the success machine for both sides involved.
While Pep had Xavi and Iniesta as the world’s best midfield duo pulling the strings in the middle of the park, Zidane now has Modric and Kroos doing the exact same. Both partnerships made the oppositions run circles around them and provided the perfect balance for the attack and defence to gel as an unbeatable well-oiled machine.
While Pep had Puyol as a club icon and centre-back to captain the side and lead them to glory through his experience, determination, and dedication, Zidane has been lucky to find someone similar in Sergio Ramos. Not much to differ in between the two in terms of being skippers of the best clubs on the planet, and doing it with ease and brilliance.
In sides consisting of brilliance across all categories, the defence and goalkeeping can be seen as areas that could always do with a little improvement. While Zidane’s Real Madrid team does possess a physicality that Barcelona lacked under Pep Guardiola, leaking in goals and failing to keep clean sheets is a trait both sides share.
Both Victor Valdes and Keylor Navas are nowhere close to being the best in the world either. However, when the team can finish matches by scoring goals at will, conceding a few does not really come in the way.
4. Ballon D’Or Winners
Everything else kept aside, there is no denying that the key reasons behind the phenomenal success of the two clubs are none other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The two players have been the receivers of the past 9 Ballon D’Ors, and surely, the 10th one is heading in the same direction.
Lionel Messi hit prime form during Guardiola’s reign and became the best footballer on the planet, while being part of a jaw-dropping trio alongside Xavi and Iniesta. The Argentine touched unbelievable heights and led Barca to glory like never seen before.
What Messi did, Ronaldo had to do. The Portuguese hit top form in the past few seasons gone by, and with the help of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, he helped Real Madrid to humongous amounts of glory, and brought in the silverware that makes them the best in the world.
During Pep’s time in charge of the Catalan club, Barcelona became winners of every competition out there, and were a team nobody wanted to face. The team was too good for even Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils on two UEFA Champions League final occasions – a statistic that speaks volumes.
However, their arch-rivals have not stuck around in their hunt for glory either. The Blancos have won the Champions League thrice in four seasons now, and they also became the first team in the competition’s history to successfully defend the title.
If asked which of the two sides is better, there lies no correct answer, but if there is a pinnacle in the sport of football, it has to be them. The best there was and the best there is, the La Liga fans are surely a lucky bunch to say the least.
Written by Vikram Gupta
An attacker with his words, and defends each of them with pride. A love for the game which goes hand in hand with his will to forever write. A graduate in the course of advertising and a hopeful to be author. Herrera for the win.