From the 1990-91 season to the 1993-94 campaign, Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team dominated both domestically and in European competition
From the 1990-91 season to the 1993-94 campaign, Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team dominated both domestically and in European competition. In that time, they won what is now the Champions League trophy as well as four straight La Liga titles.
Of course, that squad can be and has been often compared to Pep Guardiola’s squad from 2008-2012 that won nearly everything they could in four years’ time. A number of players, including Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano, still remain fixtures in the Barcelona starting line-up, so it may be better to harken back to the time when they weren’t on the team to find inspiration for this year.
1. Trust in Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez
The “end” of the Cruyff era came with a horrendous 4-0 defeat against AC Milan in the Champions League final. Not long after, forwards Hristo Stoichkov and Romario left on less than pleasant terms due to troubles with directors within the club.
Last year, Barcelona’s front trio had a season that neutrals consider one of the best by a frontline ever. Thus, management would be wise not to try to change things up too quickly, referring mainly to Suarez and the recent rebuffed transfer speculation surrounding Neymar.
There has been quite a lot of turnover for Barcelona, with quality forwards such as Alexis Sanchez, Pedro, David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic having left the club in recent years. It is now time to keep things consistent again and stick to what results prove works.
2. No need to overspend
It’s easy to find parallels in Guardiola bringing up a young Sergio Busquets just as Cruyff brought Guardiola himself through the first team. However, since Busquets has entered his prime, now is as good a time as ever to continue to trust in the Barcelona midfield pipeline.
Luis Enrique seems to have some understanding of this in his usage of Sergi Roberto and his sticking with the midfielder despite doubters saying he wasn’t Barcelona material.
Even if Roberto is not trusted as a long-term starter, between Gerard Gumbau, Sergi Samper and teenagers Seung-Ho Paik (who has been training with the first team for over a week and will be eligible to play in January) and Carles Alena, they could save Barcelona a pretty penny if they can make that very difficult jump into consistent first team minutes.
Surely there are promising youngsters in La Masia at every position, but Barcelona have always been known for producing outstanding midfielders year after year. Although it may be too early for these prospects to break through, it doesn’t make sense to sign other players for huge fees, especially if that means they will be blocked from the team as a result.
3. Modify your own style when needed
When Johan Cruyff took over Barcelona, “Total Football” was not a new idea. Yet, Cruyff took it to new levels and thus tiki-taka was born. Under Pep Guardiola, high pressing helped to again characterize the style that had apparently lost its way, and tiki-taka saw a renaissance.
In the post-2014 World Cup game, counter-attacking has taken over as the favourite style among pundits, and even Barcelona has slightly altered their style to keep up with the trend. However, Cruyff’s ideas were based on the foundation of adaptability.
Now, with some of the top players in the world, Luis Enrique has the opportunity to put his own imprint on Barcelona’s legendary style just as Guardiola did and have his ideas dictate future football trends.
4. Patience and perseverance pays off
During the 1991-92 La Liga season, Barcelona trailed by eight points behind league-leaders Real Madrid, but Barcelona held steadfast. In fact, they fought back up the league table, and on the last day of the season, Barcelona defeated Athletic Bilbao and, combined with Los Merengues' slip up in Tenerife, the Blaugranas ended up lifting the title.
The next season, Barcelona’s persistence proved to not be a fluke. Again, Real Madrid were on top before the final day kicked of, but Tenerife again defeated Los Blancos and Barcelona downed Real Sociedad to capture their third straight title.
Johan Cruyff could have easily allowed his team to give in to their rivals, but they never quit on either their fans or themselves.
5. Fight for the Champions League, but also focus on La Liga
Football has changed. A club of Barcelona’s stature knows that the Champions League trophy not only makes the club the most money and, as a result, the team is expected to win it every year.
After the 1992 European Cup victory, Barcelona had to wait until 2006 to become European champions again. However, they did beat out Real Madrid for the La Liga title the very next year. In today's football, big clubs must focus on multiple fronts, and while repeating as Champions League winners has proven to be a very difficult task, La Liga is a long and arduous campaign that will always be a way for Barcelona to show their mettle.