In 2009, Barcelona became the first Spanish team to win a League, domestic Cup and Champions League treble and joined a group of select European clubs who had done likewise. Now they are on the brink of making history again as they go forth looking to become the first European team to win two trebles.
Amazingly, a man enjoying his debut season in the Camp Nou dugout, Pep Guardiola, won the first fistful of trophies. Even more astonishing is that another Coach in his debut season, Luis Enrique, can land the second double. Should Barca win, there will be no end to comparisons between both squads, but why wait until then? Let’s compare and contrast now…
Victor Valdes ended up winning the European Cup three times for Barca and collecting multiple other League and cup medals. For many, he is the greatest goalkeeper to play for the club and when he left last summer, there were very big shoes to fill – so big that Barca had to sign two replacements, Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Bravo played in the League while Ter Stegen has played in the Cups and is still only 23. In theory the winner can only be Valdes, but this is about the squad and the fact is that Enrique has two top ‘keepers to choose from and Pep had Jose Pinto, a huge step down from Valdes.
Enrique can relax knowing that no matter who is between the sticks, it is a safe pair of hands and which means that it is the class of 2015 that wins this one.
Winner: Lucho’s shot stoppers
Back in 2008, the prodigal son returned and became a club hero – what Cesc Fabregas would have given to have experienced the return Gerard Pique enjoyed. Pique lined up with Carles Puyol at the back but Captain Caveman also found himself out on the right at times when a younger Dani Alves took a break – either due to suspension or injury – from tearing defences apart.
Out on the left, they had Eric Abidal and in reserve was Rafael Marquez, Sylvinho and a young Martin Caceres. They also had Yaya Toure who could slot in at the back, as he did in the final.
Although Javier Mascherano and Pique have done a great job in defence this season, Jeremy Mathieu has done well when called on, chipping in with a few goals, and Jordi Alba is a step up from Sylvinho, but you have to give this one to Pep’s men of 2009. They conceded more than the 2015 side but still looked a bit more solid.
Winner: Pep with Captain Caveman at the helm
It is ironic that people have accused Enrique of moving from Barca’s passing style to a more physical one when you consider the midfield Pep had – enforcers such Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita helping a young Sergio Busquets find his feet. Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez were in their prime, a year away from winning the World Cup, and there was even a place for Aleksandr Hleb.
Under Lucho, Xavi is one game away from leaving, Iniesta is still going strong and so too is Busquets. Ivan Rakitic has slotted in well since joining from Sevilla and Rafinha has played a good bit more as the season progressed.
Yet, it’s another victory for Pep and the class of 2009, who mixed style with steel perfectly, chipped in with more goals and equally aided the frontline.
Winner: Pep’s Iron men
At least in 2009 we still had adjectives to describe the brilliance of Lionel Messi but six years on and with thesauruses well used, there is nothing else left to say or do, apart from advocating that ‘messi’ becomes a new adjective, to mean unbelievable and inexplicable genius. Under Pep, Leo was great and although at the start he failed to hit it off with Enrique, he has gone from looking downhearted at the Ballon D’Or ceremony in January to smiling non-stop.
In 2009, Messi had Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry beside him. The Cameroon star was one of the best strikers in the world but played second fiddle to the Argentine and while he got amongst the goals, a lot, at times he was left looking at Messi and rarely turned a game on its head. Henry had that capacity but he too rarely played as an important role as Neymar or Luis Suarez.
The South American pair are there to supply Messi, but the difference between the 2009 and 2015 team is that Messi is also there to supply them. Barca now have a three-pronged attack that can pounce from anywhere and have scored over 100 goals this season – even more amazing considering Suarez didn’t start playing until the end of October and took a while to get going. Pep and Lucho both had Pedro there for back-up, with Pep also having Eidur Gudjohnsen in reserve, but the boys of 2015 win this one.
Winner: Lucho’s trident