By Manuel Traquete
Sergio Busquets is certainly one of the most underrated players in Pep Guardiola’s Dream Team, but he has been steadily silencing his critics ever since he joined Barcelona’s first team.
Just one year and a half ago, Sergio was a complete unknown in the football world. Now, however, the 22-year-old is among the finest defensive midfielders on the planet, a World Champion and an undisputed starter in the best club and national team sides over the past two years: FC Barcelona and Spain.
Last season, Guardiola decided to bench Yaya Touré and play Busquets. This option was highly controversial, and even some sections of Barcelona supporters were quick to criticize it. Sergio Busquets was deemed by many “not worthy” of playing in Pep’s all-conquering machine. Conspiracies theories included, but were not limited to, the following:
(1) Busquets only played because his father, a former Barcelona goalkeeper, is friends with Pep Guardiola, hence why the Spanish tactician preferred him over Yaya Touré,
(2) Busquets only played in order to ensure a spot in the Spanish National Team for the World Cup,
and (3) The La Masia hype had got to the Barcelona board, to such an extent that even unworthy players like Busquets were given the nod.
Busquets was a very unpopular player, even among the Blaugrana faithful, and blamed for every bad result Barcelona had. After Barcelona was knocked out of the Champions League by Inter Milan, some had the audacity to blame Busquets for it. “If Yaya Touré had played, Barcelona would have advanced”, some claimed. Putting the blame on Busquets, who acutally had a good performance (although not as good as usual) at San Siro was obviously quite ridiculous. Zlatan Ibrahimovic anyone?
Del Bosque, however, saw past the hype and selected Busquets for the World Cup. Moreover, he made Busquets an undisputed starter in a double pivot system with Xabi Alonso. In fact, come substitution time, it was Alonso, and not Busquets, who left. This decision was heavily criticized, but the results proved Del Bosque right, just like they had with Guardiola.
In the world’s biggest stage, Busquets showcased all the qualities that make him irreplaceable at Barcelona: excellent movement off the ball, an incredible ability to read the game and anticipate it, fabulous passing skills and an unbelievable, especially for a 22-year-old, poise on the ball. Busquets took the defensive midfielder role at Barcelona and Spain to a whole new level; not only does he help the centre backs, but he also speeds up the circulation of the ball in the midfield. He’s basically a Guardiola of the modern days. Watching Busquets play, it’s impossible not to find similarities with the current Barcelona manager.
In the World Cup final, Busquets had one of his finest performances by virtually shutting down Wesley Sneijder. Del Bosque was proven right and praised Busquets’s performances, even going so far to claim that if he could choose to be any football player, he’d be Busquets.
After the World Cup, only “haters” doubted Busquets. But the Spaniard seems to have made a mission out of proving them wrong. Mascherano was signed, and even though he’s one of the best defensive midfielders around, he’s on the bench more often than not.
One adjective comes to mind when describing Busquets’s performance in last week’s El Clásico: perfect. Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo…are all great players, but Busquets handled them all with relative ease. Barcelona dominated possession as expected, but Real Madrid could never catch them on the break because Busquets was impeccable. Xavi and Iniesta didn’t even have to worry with defensive duties.
The very same adjective could be used to describe most of Busquets’s performances this season, hence why two of the most accomplished defensive midfielders in World Football, Yaya Touré and Javier Mascherano, were relegated to the bench. Not because Busquets is Guardiola’s pet, but because no one can play the defensive midfield role at Barcelona better than the 22-year-old Spaniard.
Pep Guardiola’s Dream Team is widely acknowledged as one of the best club sides of all-time, and the 22-year-old Spaniard is a key player (in one of the key positions in modern football) for their success, which speaks volumes about his quality.
At such a young age and such a long career ahead, Sergio Busquets has everything to become a Barcelona legend