The Barcelona Complex
Great interview in which Franklin Foer interviews Simon Kuper about his new book 'The Barcelona Complex' in which he discusses the rise and fall of Barcelona as an institution at the cutting edge of world football.
Of particular interest to me was 1) the relationship that Pep Guardiola had with Messi as well as the way that Barcelona is a multi-sport club and 2) how their soccer club took inspiration from some of the tactics employed by different Barcelona sporting teams (like handball, for example).
As an example, Kupor recounts a story about how Messi didn't like Zlatan Ibrahimović's playing style leading Guardiola to bench Zlatan which resulted in his exit a year later.
Guardiola notices on the bus after a game that Messi is sulking messy plus doesn’t say anything but he’s sort of sulking so Guardiola says you know Leo what’s what’s up and Messi sort of doesn’t quite say it outright but his message is "I come in from the right I dribble into the middle when I dribble into the middle I don’t want a massive Swede shouting at me to give me the ball which is Zlatan’s role he kind of stands up you know" and so that’s it that’s the end of Zlatan. Guardiola benches Zlatan within a year he’s gone.
Here's Kupor on how the multi-sport aspect of Barcelona lead to cross-pollination of tactics:
this kind of dark cafe with wooden tables and that's where the staff members sit around it's where the handball players would meet the football players and the basketball players and the coaches so Guardiola knew the other sports they knew the coaches they talked to them. In soccer you now are blocking on corners so when a corner comes in you have a couple of guys whose job is to head it and then you have a couple of other guys whose job it is to kind of block like an American football or in basketball it's a block to create space for Pique to head and score.