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Barcelona currently sit on top of the Spanish league after yet another fantastic performance – this time away at Málaga – to record their 8th win in a row. The style of football being played is superb with players such as Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Bojan all starring week in week out. They are being compared to the great Barcelona Dream Team of the early nineties which is apt as current coach Pep Guardiola was a key member of that side.
Johan Cruyff, the Dutch superstar and the inspiration for the Catalan’s side’s title win of 1974 was appointed manager in 1988 in an attempt to turn the club’s fortunes around. At that time there was only one side in Spain and that was Real Madrid who thanks to Butragueño, Míchel, Martin Vázquez and Hugo Sanchez dominated La Liga with five titles in a row from 1986 – 1990.
But Cruyff did not just want to regain the title from Madrid he wanted to do it in style and so he decided to build his team around a young local playmaker, Pep Guardiola. He became the heart of the Catalan side and alongside other wonderfully gifted passers of the ball, Amor, Bakero, Beguiristain, and Eusebio, they started to threaten Madrid’s dominance. There was still some work to do however to finalise the team and at a time when European clubs were only allowed two, and then three, overseas players, each team had to choose carefully. And Cruyff struck gold. First with Dutch sweeper Ronald Koeman and then Danish superstar Michael Laudrup. Later Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov and Brazilian forward Romario also had very successful spells at the club.
They won four titles in a row, scored loads of goals in doing so and won the hearts of neutral fans everywhere with their slick passing game and attacking mentality. They also won the club’s first ever European Cup in 1992 thanks to Ronald Koeman’s free kick against Sampdoria at Wembley, while the only down side was that they did not win another. Indeed, they were thrashed 4-0 by AC Milan in the 1994 final which signalled the end of Cruyff’s reign.
Is this side the new Dream Team? Guardiola says no but if they keep playing the way they are then who knows, maybe Dream Team 2 will dominate Spanish and European football for the next few years. Let’s hope so.
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