The president Núñez faces the situation and prepares the revolution. The first step was to sack the coach, who supported the players. The next was to fire 13 players of the team: Amarilla, Calderé, Clos, Cristóbal, Gerardo, Linde, López López, Manolo, Moratalla, Nayim, Pedraza, Schuster and Victor, more than the 50% of the team. The remaining players were Alexanko, Carrasco, Julio Alberto, Lineker, Migueli, Roberto, Salva, Urbano and Zubizarreta. In a matter of two years, only Alexanko and Zubizarreta continued in the club. The president Núñez had "cut the head of the traitors", but the atmosphere in the Camp Nou was very hostile against his management and he needed a big impact to change the negative trend against him. It could only be one person, the last big idol of the club: Johan Cruyff.
Since the very first moment, Cruyff does not hesitate one bit to impose his model (or Ajax's model) in Barcelona. Cruyff bets on a revolutionary system in La Liga, a radical and, for some, suicidal 3-4-3 and style based on the ball possession, passing football and always opening the field with wingers. If this was not enough, Cruyff demands that every single team of the football section, since the youngest kids to the B team play under the same model and system. The whole system turned around the figure of the #4, the central midfielder, an anchor man designed to create and not to destroy. For this task, Johan Cruyff made a strong bet for Luis Milla, a player of La Masia who had the required skills to do the job and impressed everyone. The beginnings were not easy. The team struggles during the first season, adapting to such a revolutionary and unknown system. If this was not enough, Real Madrid continues with their dictatorship... adding the former blaugrana idol, Bernd Schuster, to the formula. Despite the difficult moments, the team ends up winning the Cup Winners' Cup at the end of the season.
The 1989-1990 season had to be decisive. The club satisfies the demands of Cruyff and bring two of his petitions: Ronald Koeman, a central back with talent to play the ball from the back signed from PSV Eindhoven, and Michael Laudrup, a Danish forward who had been considered one of the most important talents of the continent, but had failed in Juventus FC. Johan Cruyff did not move a centimeter from the line he had drawn the previous season and kept insisting in the attacking 3-4-3 and the ball possession. The team keeps suffering to follow an unbeatable Real Madrid and the criticism of the press is furious. Besides, Johan Cruyff decided to separate Luis Milla due to the high salary petitions, which break the new wages structure of the club. With the head of Johan Cruyff in real danger, the victory in Copa del Rey final of 1990 against the powerful Real Madrid saved the season of the team and the position of the coach.
The 3rd season of Johan Cruyff was definitive for him. It was all or none. Hristo Stoichkov signed for the club to reinforce the attack, but the press kept insisting about Luis Milla, who had been essential in the style and the formation of the team on the pitch. Charly Rexach, Cruyff's assistant, made an already mythical comment: "Forget about Milla, we have a kid in the B team who is much better". The new #4 was a 20 year old thin kid: Josep Guardiola. And everything started to work smoothly: Barcelona started to play like the angels, all the criticism disappeared and everyone started to praise the beauty and the style of football of Cruyff's Barcelona. It was the beginning of the most golden era of the club in its history: 4 Ligas and 1 European Cup in 4 years, not forgetting another Cup Winners' Cup and Champions League final in these years. The success and the legendary status of this team changed everything in Barcelona. The club got rid of the nostalgic and cursed feeling to become a self-assured community with a recognizable style. Since 1990, Barcelona had ups and downs, but the club never gave a step back towards the past.
|Barcelona's Dream Team at Wembley|
But something changed this year. Pep Guardiola insists in one technical aspect: "We must reinvent ourselves year by year". A phrase that easily belongs to Cruyff too. And it is true that last year's Barcelona was similar to the one of his first season, but not exactly the same. New variants have been introduced, like moving Leo Messi from his limited wing to the fake striker position, as Laudrup had done in the early 90s many times, but the basic 4-3-3 was not under question. While everyone was doubting about the way to manage players like Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fàbregas and Thiago Alcántara for only two positions, Pep Guardiola had a plan. The reinvention is here: Barcelona goes 20 years backwards and introduces a modernized 3-4-3 system to give these players the space they needed. The message is clear, Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc can play together and Thiago joins the party rotating one of the stars, but getting the minutes he was demanding in his progression. Probably, the arrival of Cesc, who added a more direct style to his Masia DNA, gave Guardiola the solution to reintroduce the 3-4-3 in Barcelona's football.
The players are different (probably even better) to those who were part of the Dream Team and some details difer, but the idea is the same. Villa and Pedro are the modernized version of Stoichkov and Goikoetxea; Messi is as fake striker as Laudrup once was; Cesc is an elitist version of Bakero; Xavi and Iniesta highlight the new gravity point of the team, just where Amor and Eusebio were the diesel engine of Cruyff's Dream Team; and "don't worry about Toure Yaya, we have someone better in the B-team" Sergi Busquets is a more muscular but equally intelligent Guardiola of nowadays.
Josep Guardiola did not forget the 3-4-3, he had never forgotten this system. It was somewhere stored in his memorable mind, in a brain that, since the first day, learnt everything from every single coach he had. Josep Guardiola is not a copy of Johan Cruyff, there are details of every coach who has managed him in his football. But, Guardiola owes Cruyff a lot and, as good barcelonista and member of the Dream Team, the seed of the master was in the pupil. The circle took 20 years to get almost completed. This Barcelona of records has still one to reach: the 4 consecutive Ligas of the Dream Team.
The frenetic game of Barcelona in Mestalla made everyone see Cruyff's Barcelona again, this infinite search of the goal by the blaugranas mixed with sudden heart-attacking counters of a rival exploding the spaces left by a 3 men back line. This is the reinvention, the tribute to the master and only the victory with the 3-4-3 would definitely close the circle.
|Johan Cruyff & Josep Guardiola|