The latest edition of the Ballon d’Or has authenticated Barça’s unique story. The link between the winners, and therefore Leo Messi and Alexia Putellas, is the Barça club, the only one in Spanish football that has two winners of the highest continental award if it is remembered that the winner in 1960 was Luis Suárez. The Galician midfielder was transferred to Inter for financial needs in the same way that Messi ended up at PSG in the summer after bankruptcy was declared at the Camp Nou.
Although the conquest of the Copa América was decisive for Messi to reach the trophy for the seventh time, his 38 goals with the Barça jacket were decisive to be crowned on Monday in Paris in a close vote with Robert Lewandowski, the star of Bayern. Nobody disputed the success of Putellas and his love for Barça, the entity that has given the most professionalism and feeling in women’s football, to the point that he put the game and style before the brand when he ruled out the signing of Megan Rapinoe.
It was not about buying an icon of football and feminism but about betting on a Barcelona culture that has metabolized, like the best of Barça’s men’s teams, Cruyffismo, a bet led by Markel Zubizarreta, Zubi’s son. Nobody represents Barcelona better than Putellas, a midfielder who is portrayed in her childhood with Xavi, today a Camp Nou coach. Xavi was also part of that famous trio of the 2010 Ballon d’Or along with Andrés Iniesta and Messi, the striker who generates the most literature on the figure of the false 9.
Messi is the end point of the most praiseworthy Barça narrative, the same one that today is being rewritten from Xavi, while Alexia would be the beginning of the story that Barça is preparing to write. And it is that the Barcelona story is nominally difficult to beat if one takes into account that the most revolutionary players have had some relationship with the team with the exception of Pelé. Maradona, Cruyff, Messi and Di Stéfano, before Barça refused to share it with Madrid, have been united with the Camp Nou.
In the absence of Di Stéfano, Kubala symbolized the perfection of the technical and still game; Cruyff gave him flight like a flying ace; Maradona taught that soccer has a lot to do with tango and, therefore, that it was as important to accelerate as to slow down, not to say dribble; and Messi expressed the synthesis of his predecessors and the evolution of Ronaldo, Romario and Ronaldinho. There are few shop windows that allow you to better notice the evolution of football than that of Barcelona. The Barça story is difficult to beat since the Ballon d’Or.
And yet, it has been difficult for Barcelona to show off its figures, to the point that it has even denied or at least marked distances with respect to some that it did not want to assume, such as Maradona’s. He has preferred to fight a lost competition with Madrid in the Champions League. The European Cup has always been associated with the Bernabéu. Real Madrid can tolerate the loss of the League. On the other hand, he does not accept the European elimination, and less when the protagonist is Barcelona, as happened in 2011, when José Mourinho reigned, the antidote against Pep Guardiola.
Barcelonismo has been blinded by the chimera for reducing the Champions League difference with respect to Madrid in Messi’s time: 13 to 5. An impossible struggle that has led to misunderstandings and also to no unique trophies that symbolize its status as a social, integrating club and maximum exponent of Catalonia. The Fairs Cups of the sixties are as relevant as the 1979 Basel Cup Winners’ Cup. However, none have deserved the highest trophy treatment, but the extinction of the competition also meant their disappearance practically from Barcelona’s record.
The Barça attitude contrasted with that of Madrid, who tiptoed through the Parisian gala, represented by Emilio Butragueño. The best way to ignore the rival’s success, enlarged on the Barcelona side with the award given to Pedri as the best young man, is by not appearing with the nominee Karim Benzema. Florentino Pérez, after all, was already applauded by his partners when he sold the Super League as an evolution of the Champions League, he put Madrid before UEFA and explained that the story does not sell well or Movistar.
Paris invited Messi, Alexia and Luis Suárez Miramontes to a Barça party and, nevertheless, Barça did not know how to square a collective story either because it failed to express its current link with Messi or Luis Suárez. Cruyff is no longer there, Guardiola lives in Manchester and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán died. This is how it is explained that Barcelona fans live pending the voice of Xavi and Laporta.
You can follow EL PAÍS DEPORTES in Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Sign in to continue reading
Just by having an account you can read this article, it’s free
Thanks for reading EL PAÍS
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.