Barcelona Sporting Director Jordi Cruyff hints Barcelona may have to adapt style

There are few clubs in the world where the style of play weighs heavier on the manager than at Barcelona. While success pales any aberrations from what the fans at Camp Nou, deviating too far from entertaining football can impale any manager at Barcelona.

How exactly does that fit within a changing, evolving game though? Initially in the early 1990s under Johan Cruyff, Barcelona played ‘total football’, a style which became more idiosyncratic under Pep Guardiola around 2010. That became the holy grail of the Barcelona style, but since they have struggled to live up to it.

Speaking to MD recently, Sporting Director Jordi Cruyff was asked how the game had changed.

“Football has changed, and not because of the World Cup but as a general trend, it was that ten years ago if you won the battle in midfield you won the war. That was always said. Today that facet is not so important. Today it is often said that the result depends on the areas, your forcefulness in defence and your efficiency in attack. Which means that football is faster, which doesn’t mean more physical, but faster. And that the first touch is no longer lateral or horizontal or backwards but is vertical forwards. And this is a trend that has been in football for a long time, that is happening, and that you especially notice when you play against English and German teams, which are more transitional, robbing the ball and going forward. In this sense, there is a change, which does not mean that you cannot play with your DNA, we always have a great example in Guardiola as a coach with his philosophy, which is very similar to Barça and he is doing it in England. If we are saying that it is a country of transitions and yet he continues to put his philosophy and his DNA into play within a football that today requires a higher speed of play. One thing does not remove the other.”

Cruyff was then asked if he though that the DNA of Barcelona and the Spanish national team was stuck in the past.

“Obsolete and anchored [in the past], no. I think that nowadays if you have to play against a transition rival, if you can’t follow them you’re going to suffer every time you lose a ball, that’s true but that’s football in general. If you analyse the Barça midfield of 15 years ago, when you had the top three of 15 years ago, the needs of the midfield were different. You had to have the ball and choose the right moment to give it between the lines to those up front and they had that individual quality that decided the games. The Barça defender did not have as a priority not to concede goals, but it was to get the ball out, to give it to the midfield so that the midfielder could do the same to the attacking line.

“I think today’s needs are changing but the midfield always depends on what you have behind and in front of you. There are squads where the midfield has to provide cover for the central defenders, and there are others where they have to have to get into the box and score goals. It all depends on the template you have and how it is built. It’s not fair to pull out a defensive line and do an analysis. Depending on the staff you have, the demands and needs of your midfield are different. Comparing the function of the average now with that of ten years ago is unfair because there was also a different attack than there was today and a different defence. It is somewhat more complicated than simply saying that there are the three midfielders that there are and that it is obsolete, it does not work like that because they are three great players.”

Cruyff’s answers provide valuable nuance to the matter and look at the issue as more of team-wide problem rather than just what the midfield do.

Some would argue that Barcelona merely need to perfect their idea and that evolving it is the first step to departing from what made them successful. Others will say that those adaptations must be made in order to be successful, yet without the success itself, it is hard to know if those tweaks being made are the right ones.

Ultimately, if Xavi Hernandez can have success within a general vision of the Barcelona ‘style’, then he will likely be praised for doing coming closer to or moving further away from the idea.

Tags Barcelona Jordi Cruyff Pep Guardiola
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