Craig Williams (twitter: @onlyscotinsama) is back to give praise to the often under appreciated Sergio Busquets.
Barcelona’s home win against Real Betis marked a milestone 100th game for midfielder Sergio Busquets in the colors of the azulgrana, one that, at least by my reckoning, represents a cause for small celebration.
When you think Barcelona you think of Messi, you think of Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and Pique, even Puyol. Only after that do you think of Busquets. I guess this lies in the fact that Busquets isn’t he who does the tricks, scores the goals, casts his spell on opposing teams. If its possible to do “dirty work” within a Barca team as good as this current one, then its Busquets who holds that office as a job for life.
Strip back the beauty of the intricate, delicate and at times mesmerizing possession football, and here you have in Busquets, the clogs of the machine, and the catalytic converter of the sports car. Take that away, and well, who knows, a foul smell might begin. Barca might lose.
It can be argued that more than any other player it’s Busquets who carries the stamp of La Masia, Barca’s conveyor belt of producing talent. The system operated on not giving the opposite team possession. Pep´s best “discovery”, his “best kept secret”, or better said, Pep’s pied piper.
It can be said that Xavi is Xavi, Messi is Messi, and so on, but Busquets is Guardiola’s. Less an individual than a truly team player, his progression as a player ties in with that as a manager. Although it was Rijkaard who ushered Busquets into full squad set up, providing him his debut in the Copa Cataluña, the credit for his trajectory is the work of Pep. If you gave Pep some Plasticine, he´d make you a Busquets. You get the picture.
The recent media attention provided with this milestone (or lack of it) has been surprising, bringing with it both vehement support from some circles (mainly Barcelona based, as per) against some strong “denial” of his worth and value to Guardiola’s all conquering eleven.
For me, out of this current Barca side he seems to be the player that is given the least plaudits, he whose job isn’t the most noticeable. This is a role, that which Busquets performs, that mirrors the man off the park. In press conferences he comes off as a quiet, gentile and studied young man, a man that just wants to play football for the team he loves, nothing else.
So is it valid to ascertain that Busquets is “mediocre”, a player that is lucky that his game represents a glove fit into Pep’s system, and a player who would never triumph elsewhere. Does it matter? Some sections of the press/blog circuit seem to think so. I am not one for hypothesizing, all this “he wouldn’t be this, he wouldn’t be that”, and this “Messi against Stoke” garbage. Let’s focus on the here and now, lads, shall we?
Certain theatrics aside (aka the Inter/Madrid Champions League matches) he is disciplined and tactically astute. His avoidance of the long pass shows that he doesn’t complicate things. For that comparisons with Xabi Alonso are not merited, of that which there are many. Similar in some respects, especially in regards to their “clean” tackling and interceptions, they are for the most part different players, different viewpoints of the game honed under different masters.
Xavi, whom Busquets advises has been his “tutor”, to Pep’s “master” in his time at Barca, notes that he provides a balance to the team, an essential, and somewhat underutilized, word in the footballing vocabulary book.
When he first burst onto the scene many regarded him as a “player in black and white” in reference to his style of play, a style that mirrors that of the days when color televisions didn’t exist. Even Del Bosque, himself a deep lying (slow) central midfielder, advises that if he was to be re-incarnated as a player in today’s game, he would be Busquets.
His progression itself merits mention, from his beginnings within the Barcelona B setup to his role as a first name on the team sheet, whether for Barca or for Spain. A short search through the recent past brings up some interesting details. Let’s say the 8th June 2008. On this day Busquets was getting on a bus taking the B team to Barbastro (Google Maps needed) for a 1st leg playoff to go into the Segunda B (third tier). Fast forward one year, he was stepping onto a plane taking the national team to the Confederations Cup. Some turn around of events.
Indispensible as he was at the World Cup – he played all but 28 minutes of the tournament – he isn’t that name that springs to mind like the others do, but he should be. His master class against the German team propelled Spain into the final, in a game where they played their best football of the tournament. In the final he did his job, and did it well. The man who snuffed out Sneijder.
Just as well then that the hiccups that appeared with his contract renewal in 2008 subsided. He could have left at the end of that season for free, and there was even talk in the Spanish press of Wenger´s “vultures” swooping in and taking him to London. Barcelona´s initial (rejected) offer to Busquets, bonuses based on wins and a start-game ratio of 60% gives a slight insight into the possibility that even they didn’t give full consideration to how essential a player he was going to be. And with an $80 million release clause on his head, any admirers will have to pay big bucks to take him away from the bosom of Pep.
Perhaps now, since this milestone has been reached, more people will realize the role he plays within the side, the role he has been shaped into, made his own, the ‘quitanieves’, snow plough that clears the way of any danger. Forget your Messi, Xavi and the rest; it’s all about the Busquets baby.