Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has been vocal about the fact he feels the pressure at the club is different to anywhere else. Yet former teammate Emmanuel Petit, who spent a year alongside Xavi at Camp Nou, has told Football España that the main difference is political rather than the pressure on the pitch.
Petit had a 16-year career, all of which was spent at the top level, between Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea. Football-wise, Petit believed that big clubs all experience similar levels of pressure, or at least the players experience is similarly.
“The pressure is the same in all of the top clubs. The same in England and Spain. The only thing that is different in Barcelona is that it is a very political club, with a huge identity in Spain.”
A major part of that is that the club ensures top stars are aware of the club’s cultural identity, which also brings a political point to it.
“The Catalans are not Castilians. As soon as you arrive they say you need to speak Catalan not Castilian. You need to understand the tradition in Catalonia not Spain. You can see the huge difference, with millions of fans, and still for me one of the best clubs in the world. But there is this difference, it is very political.”
“It’s like you’re playing for a country,” he smiled.
The World Cup-winner should know. Petit was part of an iconic French team, the first to win the World Cup in 1998 on home soil, which is credited with uniting France. In Catalonia, Barcelona are regularly described by presidents as a symbol of Catalan identity around the world, and a reference point for the nation on a global scale.
While the football media in Spain tend to cater to fans of one side or another, particularly with Real Madrid and Barcelona in relation to the major outlets, it perhaps explains some of the angles that the Catalan media come from. The celebration of local and La Masia talents in particular, to pick just one example, is celebrated with a pride that goes beyond just fans feeling as if they are one of their own.
This interview was conducted with King Casino Bonus.