This post was written by reader Luke, who wins eternal brownie points for this.
Being an American fan of FC Barcelona is sometimes trying. It is often times difficult to find team information—let’s be honest, Goal.com is useless about 94% of the time—as well as intelligent qualitative analysis of games and team decisions, as Soccernet almost exclusively covers the EPL. Finding games, even those in La Liga, can require an abacus, a farmer’s almanac, and a working knowledge of the timing of Haley’s Comet. But it is times like this when it is all worth it, when Barça completes the most historic and dominant season in the history of club football, and maybe even all professional sports. As Americans, we always attempt to compare teams, even across different eras when it may be impossible; what follows is my best effort to put this achievement into perspective.
First, a caveat must be made: Barcelona is hopefully in the process of creating an excellent run and possible dynasty, but this feat cannot yet be compared with the likes of Ajax who won the European Cup Winner’s Cup (the precursor to the Champion’s League) three consecutive seasons, the Boston Celtics who won the NBA championship eleven times from 1957-1969, or the UCLA Bruins college basketball team who won the NCAA Championship ten times from 1962-1976. However, it may safely be said that this is the most successful club football team in recorded history. For my purposes, I am counting the competitions beginning from the outset of the 2008-2009 campaign (La Liga and Champion’s League qualifying) through the 3 competitions that have been won since the end of said campaign (Super Cup of Spain, FIFA Club World Cup, and UEFA Super Cup).
During this time, FCB compiled a record 47W-12D-7L in the process of winning all six competitions in which they were eligible to compete. Technically, Barcelona was only eligible for a Quadruple as the Quintuple is honored for a team winning the World Club Cup, their top-level continental club competition (Champion’s League), domestic league championship, and primary and secondary domestic club cups (Spain no longer has a secondary club cup). I do not know why winning the UEFA Super Cup does not count, or the Supercopa de Espana, but that’s the way it is recognized (technically I do know why, because they are lower level club ties, but you get my point). Nonetheless, I will henceforth refer to this accomplishment as the Super Awesome Sextuple of Team Victory that will Never be Equaled by Another Club, Ever (feel free to copy if you like). Barcelona did this playing against the best players in the world and against those from UEFA, CONCACAF, and CONMENBOL and in the process beat a number of league and cup champions:
Manchester United (Premier League, Community Shield holders, Football League Cup winners)
Chelsea (FA Cup)
Shaktar Donetsk (Ukrainian Champions)
Real Madrid (La Liga holders at the time)
Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
Wisla Krakow (Polish champions)
FC Basel (Swiss Super League)
Estudiantes (Copa Sudamericana)
Atlante (CONCACAF Champion’s League)
That is every major league in the world except for the Brazilian Serie A, Italian Serie A, Portuguese Liga (although FCB did best Sporting Clube in the Champion’s League group stages), and the African leagues. Dominance such as this is hard to beat.
In terms of historical significance as compared to other club teams attempting to capture the Treble, only four other teams have completed such a feat in UEFA: Celtic, Ajax (with Johan Cruyff in 1972), PSV Eindhoven, and Manchester United. Seven other clubs have completed the feat outside of UEFA. Above the Treble, only Celtic, in 1966-1967 won the Quadruple, a great feat to be sure, winning the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup, the Scottish League, the Scottish Cup, and the Scottish League Cup, before falling just short of winning a Quintuple, losing to Racing Club (Argentina) in the Intercontinental Cup (precursor to the FIFA CWC) in 1967. That is the closest any other club has come to conquering every competition they have entered during a single year.
What Barcelona has done has never been equaled by any club that I can find information about. Many great teams have come from across the globe, and many have been centered in Europe, but none of them have come as close as Celtic did, and none before have actually achieved it. However, Barcelona did not simply do this by barely defeating great teams and feasting on the dregs of society. The team took to task many of the greatest teams in the world. The team beat Manchester United convincingly in the Champion’s League final, leaving little doubt after the 10th minute. FCB beat Lyon, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, and Man U by a combined scored of 14-5 (arguably 4 of the top 15 teams in the world at the time). Then who can forget the systematic dismantling of a Real Madrid squad playing their best football of the year, 2-6, the second worst defeat in the history of the Bernabeu and destroyed Bilbao after starting the game slowly in the Copa del Rey 4-1. These are not simple victories in most cases, but absolute thrashings against quality competition, and one could argue that the only two games where Barça crapped the bed and still advanced or won were the away leg at Chelsea (INIESTAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!) and the FIFA CWC against Estudiantes.
I would argue that this feat will not be accomplished again for a long time. There are too many factors working against it. Injuries, fatigue, complacency, and change can all kill a team’s momentum. This is not simply winning 6 games to win this championship; FCB had to win a grueling league competition, avoid letdowns against weaker sides in the Copa del Rey (no easy feat, just ask Madrid and Alcorcon), defeat the best European teams through six rounds of competition (and avoid a bus-parking Chelsea), come back from winning that Treble and defeat Bilbao again in the Supercopa, defeat a very game Shaktar side with little practice as a full squad, and then defeat an excellent Estudiantes side after playing 3,226 games in the last 21 days (slight exaggeration). Navigating these mine fields and winning the Champion’s League is tough enough, but to extend that to the league and every other competition is nearly unheard of. Even the 1999 Manchester United, widely considered one of the greatest teams in history, could not do it against some middling competition in the lesser cups. Only Barça could, and did, and has. Statistically, they are the best team ever (holding six cups at once), and subjectively, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would elevate another side above our blaugrana (even a Madrid-loving Marca would not do it).
This does not even look at the individual accomplishments of the players with Messi taking home every major player of the year award he is eligible for based on last season’s competitions and nearly every member of our rotating squad taking home a Best XI award of some kind.
Simply put, this is the greatest club team in the history of football. Every cule (actual or adopted) should take time to realize the magnitude of this event and be as happy as our beloved Pep, who could not contain himself after yesterday’s victory:
Pep, Pep, Hooray!