Columnists, Soccer, Sports

Full-Time Focus: Barcelona DNA in Paris

Last time Barcelona claimed the Champions League title, Luis Enrique managed the team from the sidelines with Xavi Hernandez as his captain.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

Today, almost ten years later, the situation looks different. 

Xavi has been in charge of the Barcelona squad since November 2021, after replacing Ronald Koeman. In his first season, he was able to bring the league title home for the Blaugranas. 

In Barcelona, these last few years have been labeled as a transitional period. Xavi has been tasked with the mission of reconstructing the squad after the departure of several important players. The absence of Messi, Suarez, Pique and others has not only impacted the team’s playing style, but has also affected the team culture. 

On the other side of the coin, Luis Enrique now finds himself in Paris. Enrique dedicated a big part of his career to Spanish football. As a player, he never left La Liga, playing for both Real Madrid and Barcelona. 

His first season as Paris Saint-Germain’s coach has already been met with several challenges. 

With a team full of top-tier talent in Paris, there’s immense pressure to achieve success in European competitions — something they really haven’t been able to do. 

In terms of financials, thanks to the Qatari state, Paris’ squad is worth €938m, in comparison to Manchester City’s €1.286 billion and Real Madrid’s €1.031 billion. These figures may not appear so different, but both teams have achieved success in domestic and European competitions — something PSG has fallen short of.

These high expectations surrounding Luis Enrique have forced him to navigate a lot of media scrutiny. 

The upcoming match between PSG and Barcelona represents a new opportunity for both teams to prove themselves as serious Champions League contenders. But apart from the obvious things that are at stake –– the title and pride –– this match symbolizes a dynamic balance, encapsulating both the yin and yang of football styles. 

Both Luis Enrique and Xavi claim to have a similar way of understanding the game. 

The inception of Barcelona’s possession-based philosophy can be traced back to Johan Cruyff. During the 1970’s, the Dutch player developed an ideology centered on the idea that the best way to win games was by having the ball as much as possible. Simply winning was not enough, the team should be able to dominate every aspect of the game.  

As a former Barcelona legend, Xavi came into the club promising to display this same style of play. When he was first appointed as coach, he even claimed that Barca’s style was “non-negotiable.”

“I am not satisfied with not having the ball. Sometimes [it is] the rivals and the circumstances that take you there, but defending is also part of the game,” he added after a 1-0 win against Real Madrid where they only had 35% of possession. 

Before Wednesday’s game, Luis Enrique decided to stir the pot by saying that he embodies Barcelona’s style of football better than Xavi Hernández.

“Look at the data: ball possession, goal scoring chances created, the high press, trophies. Look at it. It’s not an opinion. The numbers and figures are there. It’s not debatable. Others may think differently, but there are no doubts,” Enrique said.

Whether Luis Enrique is right is debatable. At the end of the day tactical analysis can be subjective. What is certain is that this Champions League match will decide who better embodies the essence of Barca DNA.

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