Is this Barcelona the best club team ever?

Barcelona (Getty Images)

It's been a few days since Barcelona thoroughly dismantled Manchester United to capture its second UEFA Champions League crown in three years, but the debate continues: Is the 2010-2011 edition of Barcelona the best club team ever?

There's plenty of evidence to support that notion.

The club's performance in the Champions League final was awe-inspiring. Between Lionel Messi's finishing and creating, the quality of Pedro and David Villa's goals, the incessant game of keep-away and the marking that made Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney — aside for one impressive finish — essentially invisible, the La Liga side dominated the title game on English soil. Barcelona possessed the ball for more than two-thirds of the game and outshot the Red Devils, 22-4, including a 12-1 edge in shots on goal.

The fact that hobbled centerback and captain Carles Puyol, who is having offseason knee surgery, only appeared to make a late cameo, makes the result even more overwhelming.

As for the rest of the club's achievements this season:

  • Barcelona went 30-2-6 in league play to win the La Liga crown.
  • Barcelona had a goal differential of +74 — 95 goals scored, 21 conceded — in its 38 league games (only Real Madrid scored more goals, 102, but it conceded 33).
  • Barcelona went 9-1-3 in Champions League play, with its only loss being at Arsenal in the opening leg of their Round of 16 tie. It had a goal differential of +24 (33 scored, 9 conceded) in UCL games and only yielded more than one goal in a game once — in the 2-1 loss to Arsenal.

And then there's the roster.

Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Pique. The list goes on.

Not all star-studded rosters complete the task at hand, but Barcelona did.

The lone blemish on the club's triumphant season from a results standpoint was the Copa del Rey loss to Real Madrid, which prevented Barcelona from completing its treble. Detractors will also point to the diving antics of Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets and the gang-whining to referees about calls, which was extremely prevalent in the team's four games in 19 days with rival Madrid.

Others may point to the 2008-2009 Barcelona team that won six trophies (La Liga, Champions League, Copa del Rey, Club World Cup, Spanish Cup Winners Cup, European Cup Winners Cup) as a team that may have been more successful.

Regardless, the most recent edition of Barcelona was perhaps even more dominant than that team and must be at the forefront of the conversation when mentioning the greatest club teams of all time.

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What do you think? Is the 2010-2011 FC Barcelona the best club team ever? If not, which club from the past is?

Share your thoughts below.

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81 Responses to Is this Barcelona the best club team ever?

  1. Mark says:

    I don’t have the historical perspective to say definitively that this Barca squad was the best ever. I’m sure there are some past squads that might have a legitimate argument to the best ever claim.

    Having said that, since I’ve been closely following soccer in the mid 90′s, they are easily the best team I’ve ever seen play. And I’d have to say they’ve got to at least be in the conversation of the all-time best squads ever…

  2. kpugs says:

    Still can’t touch the 1977 New York Cosmos. Pele, Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, Beckenbauer etc. etc.

  3. Ben says:

    Comparing teams from different eras is an impossible task. Modern diet and training methods (not to mention PEDs *cough*) have really raised the level of athleticism.

    There’s also the money factor. Who knows how good some of the players of yesteryear might have been if they didn’t have to keep missing training to go on their paper-routes.

  4. bryan says:

    eh

  5. irant_irave says:

    SAF said this was the best team he had ever faced, nuff said.

  6. AL17 says:

    On the same level as Pele’s Santos team from the early 60′s? These guys however will get better and if we’re lucky as fans, more teams will try to emulate their style of play instead of hindering it. What we saw Saturday was truly something special. I’v already seen this one twice and I’m still in awe.

  7. The Dude says:

    Yes.

  8. Pitch Pass says:

    I’ll give you an underrated team. Ajax 1995. Van der Sar, F.DeBoer, Blind, Rijkaard, Reizeiger as your defense. Seedorf, Litmanen, R.DeBoer in midfield. Finidi, Kluivert, Overmars up top. Oh…and Davids and Kanu on the bench. One loss in all competitions on the season.

  9. prizby says:

    If Alfredo di Stefano comes out and says this Barca team is the best ever…thats when I think all conclusions can come drawn to a close because his 1950′s Real Madrid are really the only team that most people would contest as being possibly better and he has been around for so long and seen so much, he would be one of the best judges

  10. Oranje Mike says:

    Then you have the Ajax teams of ’71-’73.

  11. marden08 says:

    The answer to your question Ives is yes and Messi is the best player ever.

  12. Pico says:

    I doubt there are too many people who can say that (s)he witnessed all the past great teams against which this Barcelona team is compared to. And unless you followed them beyond your local league, it is hard to tell.

    The great Santos team of Pele didn’t play in Europe and the style being played in South America at that time was different from the one played in Europe.

    Even comparing the current squad against past Barcelona teams is difficult. Different style from the 1974 team that I started following and the Dream Team.

    Like Pep has said numerous times, it will take time for history to tell where they belong. Remember that the current team has changed quite a bit from the team that started the string of Championships in 2006.

    However, there is no denying that this team is something special, and that we are so lucky to see them in action.

    Cheers

  13. Oranje Mike says:

    I agree. Clubs from the past (in any sport) will always be called “the greatest” but I always contend that modern clubs, even the mediocre ones, would outplay any great team of the past.

  14. Grant says:

    Simple answer, no.

  15. john says:

    If the ’77 Cosmos had all been in their prime, you could make an argument. But ll of these players best years were well behind them. they were more comparable to a traveling testimonial team.

  16. A.S. says:

    Great team. I think Real Madrid were pretty close — would have been even closer (and perhaps even surpassed Barca) if they were as healthy the entire season as Barca largely was.

    As we saw in the Copa del Rey and the first 60 of the UCL first leg, Real Madrid was perfact able to play with Barca, so long as RM played Jose’s preferred defensive style (rather than the attacking style that saw them blown out at the beginning of the season) and the referee doesn’t make a dreadful error in sending Pepe off for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

  17. CrazyMike366 says:

    Greatness is all relative to the era in which it was achieved because so much changes as time goes on. Personnel and trophy-wise they are definitely among the elite. 60′s Santos, ’77 cosmos, ’95 Ajax, 03 Arsenal and maybe the current iteration of Real Madrid are likely the only teams that can compare. Tactically, tiki-taki is absolutely devastating. any team that can outpossess United 69/31% should be incredible but I just can’t stand watching them because theyre so blasted boring – no real “battles” between players, persistent fouling when they are forced to play defense, Busqetts perpetually rolling around clutching his face, and the ominous shadow of Barca’s incredible debt are real reasons to dislike this team compared to some of the other great teams of history. Just my $0.02.

  18. Hincha Tim says:

    More pathetic inaccurate excuses from a RM supporter with rose colored glasses and blinders on.

    When you are have the ball 1/3 of the time and are having to play defense 3 times as much and make 3 times as many tackles as the other team in a game, you’re much more likely to get yellow and red cards, especially when your gameplan is to tacle late and foul cynically. The more you put a ref in a position to possibly pull out a card the more likely you are to pay that price. The cards were the result of RM’s cynical defensive play, nothing else. Barcelona’s diving was a reaction to counter RM’s cynical play. You didn’t see Barca diving against Manchester..

  19. bass says:

    The Milan team under Arrigo Sacchi won back to back CL, something this Barca team still has to do. The same team beat Barca with Romario, Stoichkov, Guardiola and Co. 4-0 in the CL finals. Now, that is a legendary team.

  20. Elliot says:

    When was the last time that the three candidates for Footballer of the Year were all from the same team?

  21. WhiteHart says:

    I did find it interesting to see that there was not much diving in the finals against United, but against Real everytime a player came close to contact the Barca player went down..

    Their demolishing of Man Utd. eases my memories of the earlier CL knock-out games, but I did think Arsenal was playing a good game against them–though Silly Gunner fans who say they were going to beat them just isn’t accurate either..

    Another thing worth noting is that 7 players from the CL final were “home-grown” through the Barca Academy.. that is a truly mindblowing fact, and makes their ridiculous debt that much more ridiculous.

  22. A.S. says:

    “I just can’t stand watching them because theyre so blasted boring”

    Agreed completely.

    “tiki-taki is absolutely devastating”

    It can be, but it’s not unbeatable. You can’t try to attack them. Neither can you simply sit back and take the pressure. You need to be aggressive defensively. Inter did it well last year, and RM was doing it well this year in the Copa final and the beginning of the UCL, until the referee screwed them.

  23. Kevin says:

    I actually think the 2009 version was the best team of all time. They won six effing trophies in one year. I still think it was stupid they sold Eto’o. This team is a close second, though.

  24. Kevin says:

    boring? you’re nuts. almost every goal they create is a thing of beauty. the way they pass the ball and get out of tight spaces with one-two’s is something that mesmerizes, and they make it look easy, game in and game out. if barca bores you, you don’t understand soccer.

  25. partnerincrime says:

    Best club I’ve seen play. Hands down.

    The simulation antics of Mascherano, Villa and others is criminal though.

  26. Tweaked says:

    The core of the World Cup winning team plus Messi…that’s a pretty good team.

  27. ga-gone says:

    I also find Barca painfully boring. If this is the future of soccer, I’m out of here.

  28. Indigo Montoya says:

    To each his own. But, I love the passing and the creeping frustration on the faces of Barca’s opponents as the match progresses…

  29. The Most Interesting Man says:

    Know what you’re saying. I don’t have the historical perspective either and it’s hard to compare different eras… but yeah, Barca is is the best I’ve seen play in the last decade or so. Their performance Saturday was stunning.

  30. Josep says:

    Sorry kpugs:

    NY cosmos: big names no doubt about it, but soccer is not collecting stamps or cards. These players were playing in their decadence.
    A match NY-Cosmos Barcelona would be 0-7 or even more.

  31. Daniel says:

    No diving against Manchester United. I wonder why?

  32. BK says:

    And these guys weren’t playing an MLS team…they were playing the undisputed best team from what many argue is the best league in the world, Manchester United. The fact that they just absolutely demolished and dominated ManU is what blows my mind. Boring soccer, some people say? You’ve got to be kidding me! I’ve never enjoyed watching a team as much as I love watching this year’s Barca. Best team I’ve ever seen…Best team ever? I don’t presume to know, but I have a hard time believing any other teams could beat who we saw on Saturday.

  33. Kyle says:

    That Milan to me is still the greatest team in history and then the Bayern of the 70s comes closely behind who also won back-to-back European cups, if this Barca team wins the next years Champions League, then we can start to discuss whether they’re among the greatest.

  34. babieca says:

    It’s not just the players fitness, diet and trainign either. Would Barcelona’s short passing game work as well on the pitches of the 1950s? How would they do in international competitions if they had to travel by train and ship rather than charter flight?

    All I can say is they are easily the best team I’ve seen in my lifetime.

  35. Lance Armstrong says:

    PEDs…nuff said…

  36. Indigo Montoya says:

    Lance, did you get a kickback for the PED referral?

  37. Marty says:

    I think they are in contention for best squad, club or international, to ever play to game. The only arguments against them are weaknesses at goalkeeper and past their nucleus of 14 players or so. However, I think it will be a long time before another team is comparably dominant while playing such breathtaking football.

  38. bryan says:

    i believe he was joking.

  39. Josh says:

    Yes, except that the Real-Barca rivalry engenders the most vituperative and biased commentary (on both sides) that even if Barca’s current side is the best ever, di Stefano would never say it.

    In the 15 years that I’ve been watching, I think this Barca side is the best I’ve ever seen. However, I agree with other posters who feel that comparing teams from different eras is apples to oranges.

  40. Eurosnob says:

    Both Sacchi’s Milan and current Barca are great teams, but it is hard to compare them because the rules of the game are different. The offside rules have been relaxed and Sacchi’s Milan’s offside trap would not be as effective under the current rules.

  41. Mike Caramba says:

    I don’t really doubt this Barca team would beat any other team if they got in a time machine to play them, but Real Madrid’s run in the second half of the ’50s was pretty impressive.

    As for the team a couple years ago being “more successful”, that’s probably true on paper, but you also have to take into account that a stronger Real Madrid team stood in their way this year, and Barca got the better of them in the two most important competitions.

  42. Josh says:

    Agreed. I think Barca’s style is a pleasure to watch. The EPL plays at a breakneck pace, but it’s often rather unattractive soccer.

  43. This Guy says:

    93-94 AC Milan is the best team ever. They conceded 15 goals in league play in a much tougher league at the time. They conceded 1 goal in the Champions League. Won the final 4-0 against Barca. Backline was the best ever assembled.

  44. BellusLudas says:

    This Barcelona team has made the Beautiful Game…effective. In my lifetime, yes…the best team to play the game.

  45. Aquaman says:

    I don’t know, I’m always partial to the 2002-2003 Real Madrid team…but I’m biased towards Zidane since that is the great player I grew up watching.

  46. JP says:

    Real Madrid, Santos, Ajax, AC Milan, Barcelona… Exceptional teams on their own times…

  47. Rob says:

    Concacaf fired Chuck Blazer (tweet from Grant Wahl)….. Can we boycott FIFA’s sponsors till something changes?

  48. Rob says:

    Now being reported by Reuters….

  49. ThaDeuce says:

    agreed. That is the beautiful game. They beat teams with beautiful skill, not athleticism, sprint speed, or crunching tackles. So exciting to watch them create, like artists painting a canvas. Very unpredictable. Work very hard. Make it look easy. Amazing to watch.

  50. ThaDeuce says:

    booyah@

  51. ThaDeuce says:

    I wasn’t following international soccer at the time, but why doesn’t anyone bring up the 2003 and earlier man u team? Weren’t they solid back then? I’m ignorant and lazy.

  52. Dave says:

    How about 99′ Manchester United that won the treble?

  53. dan says:

    BEST EVER, PERIOD.

    The fact that Barca developed all these kids in their youth system, save one or two, is even more impressive. Best club period.

    It also shows how weak the Premiership is.

  54. EastBayGrease says:

    Yes, until next season. Messi is just getting started.

    Any mention of a club pre-1990′s is silly. 60′s Santos? I bet 95% of that squad smoked a pack a day. Countries under authoritarian rule generally don’t produce “greatest of all time” anything.

  55. Todd says:

    The best I have ever seen. Maybe not the most exciting, but clearly the best. They have a system that works perfectly for them. And most teams cannot begin to challenge them.

    Consider this – they thrashed Man U who thrashed Schalke using their scrubs for one game. This is the same Schalke that beat Inter and Valencia in the CL and won the German Cup.

  56. Roberto says:

    yes Barca the best of all time…then Santos in the 60′s Independiente (arg)70′s Real Madrid (Di Stefano era & Galacticos too) thats it…. no more teams enter this circle

  57. Josh says:

    One more thing in Barca’s favor: they don’t have to adapt to ANYBODY. They’re so good at what they do that they pretty much advertise it and dare you to stop them. Give ManU (and SAF) credit for putting together a versatile squad that can adjust tactically to whatever their opponents throw at them, but the sign of a true juggernaut is just doing whatever you want to do, and in that regard Barca is simply a class above everybody else at the moment.

    Again, I’m not ready to say they’re the best ever, but they’re easily the best of this era.

  58. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    Maybe. I’ve been a player and fan of the game since 1983 but back then we were never able to see the games from abroad. So hard to say. I do take exception with Avi’s “thoroughly dismantled” description. Did we watch the same game? Look, Man Utd have a great year and is a great team. But Barca is that much better. But to say they thoroughly dismantled them is quite a stretch.

  59. Brett says:

    Best team I’ve seen. I can’t speak for “all time” though.

  60. Adam M. says:

    I still think the Barca side with Ronaldinho in his prime (remember his standing O at Madrid?), Puyol in his prime, a younger but ever deadly Messi, and Eto’o as a dagger might have been more dangerous, but its tough to argue against this side. Part of the conversation has to be that the nucleus of this Barca side also won the World Cup last year playing the same basic style, which makes them all the more tough to argue against. The better question though isn’t whether this Barca side is the best team ever, but whether Barca over the last decade has crafted a style that makes them the best club, period. Is Barca the new Brazil?

  61. Adam M. says:

    That does say a lot, I agree, but then again what was he going to say? Better to lose 3-1 to the best team you ever saw than 3-1 to a run of the mill side that caught a few breaks.

  62. JoeW says:

    The 1977 Cosmos were an aging version of Real Madrid–lots of big names but not really a great side.

  63. JoeW says:

    Until this year I would have said the Ajax team of the 70′s with Cruyff b/c of how they changed the game and dominated it (at a time when it was very defensive). But now, I say this Barca team. Let me explain.

    It’s difficult to compare teams by stats b/c those are often a function of their competition. For instance, if you dominate your league you get a great goal differential or an impressive W-L record or maybe you win the CL some consecutive times. And it’s true that comparing across eras is tougher. The game is tighter now, fewer margin for error but not as physical as it was in the 70′s.

    But here’s what this Barca team does that is so remarkable. Almost every good or great team talks about “getting results.” Maybe they go into a game and park a bus in front of goal. Or seek just to counter. Or play 89 minutes of non-soccer but a lot of tactics and denial of space and then maybe 30-40 seconds of brilliant counterattack. Or they rely on one gifted player. But this Barca team absolutely plays as a team (complain about tikka-takka all you want but it clearly doesn’t work if everyone isn’t on the same page, unselfish, moving off the ball, anticipating the runs of teammates). But most of all, they win not by denying what you do but by being so freaking dominant with the ball and attacking that you never get a chance to do what you do. They didn’t man-mark or foul Rooney out of the game. They didn’t play compact soccer and seek to “maintain shape”. They didn’t put numbers behind the ball. Sometimes they do those things but mostly what they do is they take the ball from you, they keep the ball, they go forward and they score as many times as you’ll let them. They play their game (which is not based on negative soccer or countering or playing compactly) and they defy you to beat them. And almost no-one does. Nothing wrong with Mourinho’s defend and counter strategy. Except sometimes the other team seeks to defend and counter. And then we end up with a match with 2-3 shots on goal. So much of Italian soccer is a tactical chess match seeking to avoid mistakes. Wonderful skill, clever tactics but no risk, no going forward. Barca says “play however you want, we are going to play our game and we’ll beat you.” And that’s the sign of a dominant team. There are very few club teams ever who’ve consistently played their game rather than having a few matches where they seek to defend or just counter.

  64. TimN says:

    I agree with some posters above in that it is really challenging, if not impossible, to compare teams of different eras. There have been so many changes in the game and club structure in the last 20 years or so. However, having said that, I’ve been following club soccer since the mid 1980′s, and I’m extremely hard pressed to think of a team that’s any better, or even as good as, the one that completely dominated an excellent Manchester United side on Saturday. My vote is “Yes,” best club team ever.

  65. A.S. says:

    Translation of “fouling cynically”: play effectively. Barca’s simulation was much more cynical to me. Of course Barca didn’t simulate vs Manu – why would they have to when Manu never challenged them?

  66. fischy says:

    A good forward line — all strong — but not in Barcelona’s class. I”d also take Barcelona’s back line, but that’s a close call. Ajax had a better goalie.

  67. fischy says:

    +10,000

  68. fischy says:

    I hope you’re kidding about the ’77 Cosmos.

  69. DC Josh says:

    They are the best club team I have watched in my 28 years. I have only gotten into European soccer deeply for the last 4 or 5 years – ever since I got FSC. I can never remember seeing a team dominate so thoroughly offensively and defensively as Barcelona have.

    One stat Ives failed to mention is Barcelona averaged over 60% possession in all competitions this year. Amazing.

    If Barcelona are not the best club team ever, then who is?

  70. DC Josh says:

    haha

  71. DC Josh says:

    I would take David Villa over Eto’o all day long.

  72. DC Josh says:

    “The only arguments against them are weaknesses at goalkeeper”

    ????????????

    Victor Valdes would start on pretty much every club minus Madrid.

  73. DC Josh says:

    Good description of how they play. It’s amazing how simple they keep it: short passes, move off the ball into an open space, swarm the opposing ball carrier. They play like they are in a park or on the beach while on vacation.

  74. bass says:

    Don’t forget 4 yrs back they won the CL back to back, something this current Barca team still has to do. They hardly struggled against big opponents, unlike the current Barca team that struggles against Chelsea/Milan/Inter…

  75. Erik says:

    Arsenal’s 03/04 Invisibles squad could put a very good game against Barca. If somebody made a time machine please get Barca’s team and go back to 04 and make these teams play.

    Lehmann
    Lauren
    Campbell – Toure K
    Cole A
    Ljungberg
    Viera P – Gilberto Silva
    Pires/Reyes
    Bergkamp/Henry

    All those players were in their prime. Lehmann was definitely the best goalie in the world at that time, and was a much better goalie than Valdes. The defense was rounded out and let up just 26 goals and were undefeated that season. While Barca only let up 21 goals, I think we can all agree that La Liga is a two team league. (3rd place was a full 20 points below 2nd).

    Arsenal is the the best team I’ve seen in my 20+ years of watching all football.

  76. Erik says:

    Arsenal 03/04. Enough said.

  77. Brent McD says:

    Invincibles. And yes, I agree. Don’t forget Kanu and Wiltord coming off the bench to score goals. That team also had a young midfielder named Fabregas.

    This Barca team would not have won at Highbury.

  78. Domaw says:

    Its not so much Barca are winning that we are in awe, its how they play, that they are small and look really, really, really beautiful when they play.

    I have seen some teams on tv that I admire, 70 Brazil, 74 Holland, 82 Brazil, 86 France, Argentina. This Barca team is not a once assembled national team, they have been doing it for 7 years. No club team comes close, no one. Whatever good club teams you mention, AC Milan late 80s for example were not as beautiful to watch like this Barcelona team.

  79. Jart says:

    This Barcelona are a better defensive team than they are an offensive team.

  80. sunny edwin siahaan says:

    Those are just names with almost superlative plays.

  81. JohnDjojo says:

    Fortunately Barcelona players are not Crazy as Mike.They are good entertainers on the field.The supporters understand football.I will recomment this Crazy to go for Rugby maybe he likes violence instead .