By Juan Arango
Midweek will be the final match of this decade for Barcelona. Without a doubt this is one of the most glorious times in Blaugrana history. For many it is a far reach from those first five years in which there was a great deal of uncertainty both on the pitch and off of it. The 90′s were the most successful era in the club’s history.
That era was followed by six years of failure as they did not win a single trophy during that time period. They were also overshadowed by Real Madrid’s successes both domestically and in Europe.
Victor Valdés: The youngster from L’Hospitalet was the surprising winner in the competition for the starting goalkeeper spot over Roberto Bonano and Rustu Reçbert when Frank Rijkaard takes over in 2003. At first Valdés was looked at as an extremely mistake-prone goalkeeper with a penchant for the spectacular.
While the criticism at first for Valdés was intense, he was able to maintain his starting spot despite incessant challenges from goalkeepers that came in early on and the presence of a non-threatening Albert Jorquera.
Time went by and after multiple Zamora trophies, Valdés became the undisputed number one for Barcelona and has been one of the
Dani Alves: Since he arrived from Sevilla, Dani Alves was able to make a huge impact in Barcelona. He quickly meshed with Lio Messi on the right and was a force to reckon with in Barca’s treble-winning season. Since then Dani Alves has won eight trophies on top of his five with the Andalusians.
Carles Puyol: Puyol is third all-time in appearances and has been with Barca in the best of times and the worst of times. The undisputed leader of the Blaugrana has brought his incredible skill along with his tenacity in over 500 matches. He is one win away from surpassing Alfredo Di Stefano as the captain with the most consecutive wins in La Liga with 19.
Gerard Piqué: From Barcelona to Manchester and back. Piquenbauer has quickly become one of the best centerbacks in the game and has offered a wrinkle that few players in his position have been able to in recent years.
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst: The Dutch left back made a reputation of terrorizing teams on the left. It took a few seasons for Gio to truly be replaced when Éric Abidal began to establish himself and later on Maxwell became the luxury replacement. This was probably one of the most controversial calls of this starting XI.
Xavi: If he plays in the first leg of the Copa del Rey, he will equal Migueli for all time in apprearances with 548. At 31, Xavi has become one of the greatest players in Barcelona history and should be the front runner for the Ballon D’Or. His consistency as well as his intelligence with the ball at his feet has set him as well as Barca on another stratosphere
Ronaldinho: If there was one signing in this decade that turned things around for Barcelona it was signing Ronaldinho Gaúcho from Paris-St. Germain back in 2003. His arrival to the Camp Nou marked the beginning of a glorious time for Barcelona and world football. It was also the time when we saw Ronaldinho at the height of his powers. During his first four years at Barcelona, he gave some of the most amazing performances ever.
He brought a different flair to the typical Barca style and drove the collective Catalan imagination to new levels. Although he left for AC Milan and is supposedly heading to this side of the pond come January- at least that’s what they’re saying.
Samuel Eto’o: The Big Game Hunter. After becoming the first player in history to both win back-to-back trebles and also become the first player in history to score goals in seven different tournaments it was an easy choice. That, plus the fact that he was absolutely huge in some of the biggest games in Barca’s recent history have placed Cameroon’s all-time leading scorer within the pantheon of Blaugrana greats, and eclipsed his “rival” Zlatan Ibrahomovic.
Lionel Messi: Well, if I started to say anything more, I would be bordering on redundancy. I think we know what he’s been doing and why he should be on this list.
Bench: Robert Bonano Belletti
Luis Enrique Patrick Kluivert
Coach: Pep Guardiola