Reconsidering trophies, aka “Every one is sacred when seeking perfection”

“I didn’t come here to become part of history, just to do the best I can, like everyone does in his job.”

I don’t mind saying that I have been pretty silly over these past few years, something that knocked me over the head in two parts, if you will:

The first was someone Tweeting to me that he believed Guardiola’s record is diminished when people count the lesser trophies among his haul, that really only the Liga and Champions Leagues are the ones that Matter.

The second was the quote, from Guardiola, above.

What’s made me silly is realizing, only now, that when you are striving for perfection, to be the absolute best all the time, every trophy is one of the ones that Matter.

There has never before, irrespective of Guardiola’s assertion about not wanting to make history, been a Barca club such as this one, and I don’t think, no matter what Tito Vilanova does, that there will be another one like it.

Recall Guardiola in the above picture, weeping uncontrollably in the aftermath of the World Club championship, and people wondering, “Why the hell is this the trophy that’s gotten him going?” It’s only now that we realize that it wasn’t the trophy, but what it represented: something approaching perfection. His club had won every competition that it entered, every trophy.

And this might strike some as naive, but I don’t really know that Guardiola parsed trophies the way we armchair pundits did. “Oh, piffle …. it’s just the Copa.” But in many ways, I now wonder, it wasn’t about major or minor to Pep Guardiola and our amazing team. It was, simply put, about that relentless quest for perfection. Each and every match, to be the absolute best that the unit could be.

We’d always wonder, with a 4 or 5 goal lead, why Guardiola would be prowling the sideline like a crazy man, shouting, gesticulating, displaying vexation as though his players were down by 4 goals. But his quote makes it all clear: He wanted the best, all the time, every time, from his players.

One of my favorite Buddhist sayings is “Whatever you did, you did your best.” The notion is to teach acceptance, to make you realize, also, the notion of Now. What you did was your best, as a simple reality, devoid of context. Messi hits the post with a penalty kick. That was his best. Yes, he buries that shot 9 of 10 times, 99 of 100, or any multiplier that you choose. But at that time, that was his best.

Guardiola’s version of “best” was malleable. His team could do its best in a loss, as long as it strove for that rarity, perfection.

Yes, perfection is impossible to achieve. There are always stray passes, players in the wrong spot, defenders not reading a match as they should. Never, ever has there been a perfect match, something that never, ever stopped Guardiola from striving for one, losing hair, aging almost overnight in an effort to wring that one, magical 90 minutes in which everything worked, and the club was perfect.

So when the club won trophies, I would wager that to Guardiola, as he sought to always be the absolute best, the competition, the trophy didn’t matter as much as the affirmation that, once again, he and his players had achieved what they were striving for: To do their best, and here’s the piece of silver to prove it.

Back in the day, the nickname for the great bicycle racer Eddy Merckx was “The Cannibal,” because he wanted to win everything. Tour de France, Tour of Italy, local criterium, track race in which he was a guest competitor — it didn’t matter. To him, it was all about winning, whenever you could, wherever you could, in a single-minded determination to be his best. And one of the ways that history calculates “best” is victories.

I have already prattled on about the rare, wonderful state of grace that is winning. What I have only of late come to realize is that maybe for Pep Guardiola and our beloved club, winning is winning, silver is silver and when a club is striving for perfection, to be the absolute best that it can, silver is a mark, an acknowledgement that for that time period in that particular competition, that club did its job — to be the best. And for that club, there can be no such thing as meaningless, or diminished silver.

I know some will say that this is easy for me to say, now that second-tier silver is all that club has going for it this season. And hey, I can’t tell people what to think about thoughts and motives. Maybe this realization wouldn’t have smacked me upside the head had the club won Liga and Champions League, had Guardiola decided to stay, had everything worked the way that it was supposed to.

Maybe. All I know is that I will be watching the Copa del Reig final through new eyes.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. messifan
    May 4, 2012

    So you have a change of heart about the CdR? How about next year? Or is it different year, different context?

  2. blitzen
    May 4, 2012

    All I know is that I will be watching the Copa del Reig final through new eyes.

    Wow, Kxevin. Great post. I said something similar recently after the game against Bayer Leverkusen: At 7 goals up and nothing in this universe to prove, Pep was still standing in his technical area gesticulating like a madman and barking out orders to his players. There was always always room for improvement.

  3. Megster
    May 4, 2012

    Great post Kxevin!

    Guardiola loves this club so much that he’d rather leave than for the team to suffer. It’s obvious he’s tired and somehow, quite frustrated on how things have turned up. But let’s give him the break he desperately needs. Four years of non-stop glory is such an amazing feat, especially during his first year as manager.

    Anyways, do we have a live blog tonight? 😉

  4. May 4, 2012

    When people started to examine what made Toyota such a high performance company many of the initial ideas about their success was thought to be a certain engineering, manufacturing or technology approaches they had adopted.

    But as people continued to try to understand what it was that made them so successful it really wasn’t any of the above that was the key factor.

    What Toyota did really well for a long time-what the key to their remarkable growth and performance for so long-was that they had adopted a system of trying to correct all mistakes regardless of how small they were.

    If a mechanic had to struggle to screw a bolt into a thread-that problem was taken seriously and corrected. They adopted an ethic of continuously studying not only what they were doing -but how they were doing it – in order to constantly improve the performance of the enterprise.

    No problem was considered to small to fix. Why? Because the goal was to literally achieve zero mistakes in every process, in every piece of machinery assembled. They knew that perfection wasn’t possible-but that was the goal.

    And in order to constantly run up hill to that goal there was nothing too small to take for granted – you couldn’t look past any problem not matter how small it seemed to appear.

    And that’s roughly the ethic, the “feeling” that Pep has inscribed in the club.

    Forget the trophies – it goes past even that. Every match – every play, every touch of the ball – the objective has been to play flawlessly.

    Big trophies, small trophies. Regardless of how ostensibly important they were the team’s approach and commitment wasn’t to change.

    And that’s because the goal was always the something that could never be achieved – a kind perfection in the game – even if it’s never possible.

    • Messiah10
      May 5, 2012


      I wonder what went wrong for Toyota as well? When their gas pedal started sticking to the floor there were obviously serious problems. Maybe the factory workers were burnt out, coasting on past glory. Maybe the upper management took the small things for granted and overlooked minor problems that needed attention immediately. Who knows? What I do know is that when the problems did occur, they stopped everything and took a long hard look at what they needed to change. Pep has done the same. He decided it was himself. He probably has other suggestions as well and I’m sure Tito is privey to them. I am really looking forward to the CDR. I have loved every competition the clubs played in and never taken one for less meaning full or less prestigous. It’s GLORY that we are after. To be the best on the day we suit up and show up. Have we had a few blips this year? Yes. Will we next year? Who knows. Probably. It’s the pursuit that matters.

  5. nia
    May 4, 2012

    During the mid week game v Malaga, the guy who was sitting next to Ballague, think he’s name is Mendietta, said something in the lines of the reason that Pep is leaving is that he lost the dressing room and some of the players were not happy at not being played. Granted he is an ex EE player so, i take what he said with a pinch of salt but it’s not inconcievable. I didn’t hear much from Ballague who i think is more trustworthy with such news. Anyone else heard of any such rumours?

    • mom4
      May 4, 2012

      If that were the case, I doubt tito would take over.

    • messifan
      May 4, 2012

      Based on my observation, a few players have been slacking a little this season. I wouldn’t say that Pep lost the dressing room, but I think he’s tired of some, and they are probably tired of him. When the job is very demanding, sometimes a separation is a welcome change.

      Don’t pay too much attention to reporters or pundits claiming to “know” every details about the club. We hear stories about Pique, Dani and others every single day. Sometimes, I feel like these people just repeat or reinvent same old stories using different words. It makes you wonder, does the media influence football fans or fans’ reactions influence media contents?

      If you want reliable stories, go directly to trusted publications like El Pais or local Catalan papers. Sport and MD sometimes have decent articles. More importantly, don’t read too much into English language reports because more often than not, they are just translated pieces from Spanish articles. And we know how clever they can be when it comes to omitting certain contents.

      Also, I hope Tito doesn’t give one-on-one interview after he officially becomes the first team coach.

    • sd
      May 5, 2012

      Mendieta played for Valencia and then later for Barca. Never for Madrid. Maybe it was someone else. Either way I think people speculate a lot and need to fill up time slots in this world of constant next new things and discussions. Only Pep knows why he is really leaving and as far as I am concerned in Pep I trust and so I take what he says at face value.

      • barca96
        May 5, 2012

        Maybe he is still mad at the lack of playing time here =p

    • nzm
      May 5, 2012

      If that was the case, I doubt that we would have seen so much genuine shock and sadness on the players’ faces at the press conference to announce Pep’s departure.

    • blitzen
      May 5, 2012

      Lost the dressing room? The players have been saying all along that they wanted him to stay and told him so repeatedly. Pique, who was benched in favour of Mascherano on several occasions, was one of the players who insisted on coming into last week’s press conference. And he looked gutted. Pedro too. Or does he think they were there to gloat? :roll:

      Commentators will speculate on just about anything. Remember when we were going to sell Villa last summer because he didn’t get along with Messi?

  6. Judas Pissed
    May 5, 2012

    Every trophy matters. If you don’t believe me, go see how EE celebrated winning the Copa last year; or how HARD they tried to win the Supercopa this year.

  7. BarcaOwl
    May 5, 2012

    Just checked the tv schedule and they’ve delayed the Barcelona match in favor of EE’s match! *rants* I loathe you, EE. I loathe you with the intensity of a million suns.

    • barca96
      May 5, 2012

      At my place, for years they have done that except on a few occasions even when we were champions.

  8. Laurentiu88
    May 5, 2012

    hope we have a nice good-bye party for Pep. it will still feel sad that the man won’t be there come next season, even if I am exited about Tito being our next boss.

  9. nzm
    May 5, 2012

    Great thoughts, Kevin.

    Yes – every piece of silverware matters, because of what it represents, internally, for the club. Trophies are a physical representation that everything has gone as well as it can.

    It’s recognition of the team’s performance, and when the trophies come in multiples, as they have for the last 3 seasons, it means that the level of performance has been extremely high – superpower strength.

    Champions League is the pinnacle trophy for European clubs – a match-up between the top clubs in each European league. To win this means that you have gone through a gruelling group phase, and then onto individual match-ups playing 2 games against each team. Tactics come more into play, and there is more of a risk element because of the 2 game format. CL is a true test of players as well as the skills of the managers to handle the competition better than any of the other clubs.

    The Club World Cup is the opportunity for winning clubs to play against teams that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to play against. The teams represent the best of their individual leagues and regions. It’s a get-together of all the strongest leagues in the world. The winner is ultimately the “king of the world” on a club and league level which is, obviously, reflected in the name of the competition.

    The Spanish Super Cup is a reflection on a job well done in the past season – i.e. the winning of La Liga for Barça. To win the Supa Copa at the beginning of a season is a psychological “stake in the ground” to signal that the team has lost nothing of its power from the previous season.

    Similarly with the UEFA Super Cup. To play in this means that Barça scaled the highest peak in European Football – they won Champions League. It’s an honour to play in this match in recognition of what they have achieved.

    The La Liga trophy is where the consistency of performance is measured. A team that can maintain the highest level of performance on a daily basis during the season will win this trophy.

    The Copa del Rey is the traditional element of the trophy cabinet. Any team across 4 Spanish Football Divisions can win this – they just have to be on form, dynamic and score more than their opposition over 2 games in order to progress. FCB has won the King’s Cup more times than any other club, and that is a poke in the eye for any club with “Real” in its name. 😀


    I truly believe that this team had the ability to do it all again in the past season, and if the squad had remained healthier and injury-free, we would have been looking at the world through rosier spectacles than we are at present.

    I’m excited for next season, because although we retain the continuity with Tito, I’m sure that we’re going to see some changes to some of the tactics.

    Tito is excellent with set pieces, and I think that we’ll see more of these from free kicks and corners. He will also use “the rules of the game” to force the opposition into having to play against Barca instead of standing in defence. He will build a more physical element into the game using the skills of players like Cesc, Alves, Afellay and Alexis to combine with Messi.

    Exciting times!

    • Laurentiu88
      May 5, 2012

      well seems RM has the most championships.. no point in bragging about our cups actually.

      trophies are important. and to some extend Pep has made the team fight like hell for every each of them. and maybe made everybody realize the value of the ‘lesser’ ones like the world cup or super cups. to some extent not even the league means that much – as qualification for UCL comes for runners up too. what was really hard to win, and boy did our club struggled, was the CL trophy.

      but because of this desire to win every trophy we compete for, because of this grand status that us and people everywhere were giving to our team and all this in the direct and mad competition with RM… every trophy became that much important and relevant.we were/are winning and doing it in style.

      all these victories starting meaning so much more when we started competing with legendary teams. I can only hope we can this going for as long as it is possible.

      • nzm
        May 5, 2012

        I can’t see where I was bragging about the cups, Laurentiu88. It’s not in my nature to brag about any achievements, and I trust that this is also reflected in what I write.

        Of course RM has more championships – some of them well-earned, most of them during the Franco years were earned with more than a “little help”, so it is written. RM has always been the major powerhouse in Spanish football.

        The constant comparisons to Real Madrid is what most weighs FC Barcelona down. Unfortunately, that’s something that’s not going to go away but, personally, I choose to minimise my analysis between the two teams and tend to ignore most things about Los Merengues because it’s better for my health. 😀

        • Laurentiu88
          May 5, 2012

          oh, didn’t mean to sound too serious about it. 🙂 ‘bragging’ was way to serious. (that 25 wins are a poke in the eye:)

          i know that entitlement issue tends to be forgotten 🙁 as a supporter i have suffered a great deal (my team from Romania was against the Ceausescu regime and I had to witnessed and learn about a lot of injustices. even that guy Dudu Georgescu that they mention now – with 47 league goals that Messi can overtake now scored them at the orders of people in power …)

          i actually think that our competition with RM has been good for us actually. it may have become bad now with some of JM shit flying around.. but in whole it has made us become better…

  10. K_legit in Oz
    May 5, 2012

    Wtf, Vic Sanchez (AKA Guy who could play every position and still couldn’t make it to the first team) now plays for Espanyol!!

  11. Laurentiu88
    May 5, 2012

    RvP equalized … but after so many easy misses…

  12. Laurentiu88
    May 5, 2012

    and the third… 🙂

    ‘he scores when he wants’ they claim :)… i am not so sure to be fair.

    but how amazing are their supporters singing!! I hope we can ‘engineer’/transfer some ‘active fans’!! is what i wish most to see changing …

    • barca96
      May 5, 2012

      Are you talking about the Dortmund supporters?

  13. Salia
    May 5, 2012

    One league title in four years for how much they have spent and this is how much they talk.
    First TB saying EE are better than us. Yeah thats why you always play on the brake with 10 men behind the ball against us because your scared of getting cr*pped on.

    Then The usless waste of space Arbeloa saying our cycle is over. Probably dreaming about it but not yet over its only over if you equal what we have won. Erghhhh I still shudder to this day about
    how a piggybacker like him has even touched the world cup

    Now this is the most laughable thing Ive heard this season (yeah really) from who else but JM’s lacky Karanka, brace yourself cause this is classic “We are now living in the Real Madrid era.”
    Wow after one league title and not even playing glamourous football that makes you dream like our brand of football does. It is not unique or remotely exciting to play on the counter week in week out. It is so funny how EE win this title they have been craving for so badly yet neurals still believe we are the best team in the world. Even they must know it no matter how deluded they are.

    I dont know I think they are just saying it to ease their pains

    • Laurentiu88
      May 5, 2012

      Well it is normal that they ponder to their supporters. I would’t want to be a RM fan in the era of Barcelona either. Shouldn’t expect something else and why not let them enjoy it.

      Secondly, they did manage to win here. Sad that Shuster as well as JM’s Madrid managed.. before that there were like 18 years without defeat.

      They did manage to win a lot of games in the league too, albeit more than they should fairly done so. But maybe other teams need time to learn how to play them as they learn how to play against us.Maybe two seasons are enough for that. I hope next year they can find it harder!Also, i would like to see them play some real teams in CL as well…

  14. Laurentiu88
    May 5, 2012

    what is this non-sense with Pep and Messi having some sort of low moment? Did you read anything about such stuff?

    • Hajar12
      May 5, 2012

      There’s nothing to it, they’re just silly rumors.

      • Laurentiu88
        May 5, 2012

        they were saying it was reported by La Vanguardia which i assumed wouldn’t go for these silly rumors…

        • Hajar12
          May 5, 2012

          Ever since the day Pep announced he’s stepping down there have been rumors about tensions between him and Messi, especially since he didn’t attend the conference, but none of that is true. They’re getting along fine, besides, I’ve seen the videos of the last trainings and they laughing together.

  15. Messiah10
    May 5, 2012

    The FA Cup Final is probably the most boring game I’ve watched. I was hoping to see a great game w/both teams attacking. How foolish of me. Chelsea are playing. Why whould I expect them to bring it to anyone? Even Liverpool. I said I hope they win the CL right after our loss so we can say we went out to Champs, but I take that back. I changed my mind a while ago, but now stating it! They are so negative. I’ve changed the channel more than once to watch Mainz vs M’gladbach. Marco Ruetz is the real deal. He’s going to Borussia Dortmund next year. Although, I’ve heard Kigawa is leaving and possibly a couple others, he will add real class to the team. They should challenge for the Bundesliga again. Kagawa to Manchester United is what I’ve read. I’ve also read all the speculation about Alves is for NOTTA b/c he said he ain’t going no where! Chelsea were rumoured to be biggest pursuer. Keita is being linked to Liverpool??? I don’t see him leaving for them. Can’t see it?? Thoughts?

    • Laurentiu88
      May 5, 2012

      i think all depends an Tito’s plans; how much he will figure in his plans. after that it all depends on the alternatives available to him – my guess was Ac Milan as they tend to offer nice contracts to players his age.

  16. Laurentiu88
    May 5, 2012

    i have watched that video from with all CR’s goals. i know that i am quite biased but from 44 goals you can maximum find 4 that are ‘special’. that you notice a true great player there. and those are some quite amazing long range shots. then there are the penalties and some headers and most of them are just simple tap ins from 6 10 meters range. i think there are only 2 goals where he beats one opponent before scoring.

    on a sad note, before Camp Nou he has scored 2 goals in the same way. maybe valdes should have known this!

  17. hansh
    May 5, 2012

    Crap, guys, Gaurdiola is actually leaving. I was in denial about it until now and I didn’t even know it. I am going to cry during this game. :c

    Ok, well, are we going to have a liveblog?

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