Sergio Busquets explains genius behind brilliant career at Barcelona

Outgoing Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets is leaving the club after 15 years in the first team, and 18 at the club – over half of his life. Behind him lies an enormous legacy, but not just one that involves success, but a redefining of the position itself. Despite not looking similar to the elite athletes around him in physique, his mental ability has allowed him to compete at the top level for a decade and a half.

For many years, the difference between a Barcelona side with and without Busquets was night and day, such was the impact of his play. Many have praised his interpretation of the game, his ability to see things others don’t, but in a recent interview with The Guardian, Sid Lowe asked him what exactly was involved in that mental processing.

In terms of those who might come after him in the position, specifically Rodri Hernandez and Martin Zubimendi are mentioned, he said that while others after him are perhaps better than him physically, he was at the top of the game mentally.

“It won’t be easy; they’ll do other things. They make you feel even older, and they’re better prepared than ever physically. But not here [in the mind].”

“You have to control everything: it’s like chess. Do your opponents play with two forwards? A second striker? A line of three? You have to know where the spaces are, how to generate them. If your full-back attacks, who has to take that position? You have to know that, know who’s there. I calculate everything: where my teammates are, where are the opponents, what can happen in a play. A loose ball, a rebound.”

Busquets reveals that the it is a practiced mental process gained through repetition that almost became second nature to him.

“It’s learned, studied: you do it lots of times, and once you have it all under control it becomes intuitive. But to start with you have to know where everything is, what can happen. I would have to be alert to everything; that’s your role. From in there you give a lot of orders. In fact, lots of coaches would tell me that after a certain point in the game I should be alert to the bench so that they could tell me what the changes and substitutions are so I can apply those. You’re always thinking. The tiredness is more mental than physical.”

Few have ever reached that level of anticipation, and fewer still look as if they are close to doing so currently. It allowed Busquets and Barcelona to play in a way that was unique, and thus will require a complete restructuring of the position and alteration of the roles around him.

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