La Liga

England Play Like Barcelona Is What He Said

"And we're better than Germany, and Upson's world class..."

So, Mr. Capello. Your England “stars” play like Barcelona. Hmm. I understand that there’s a lot of pressure on you, and that you are constantly hounded by the media for nonsense quotes, and that your English is shite, but that, my friend, is ludicrous.

Let’s compare a cross-section of both sides. Milner, Lampard and Rooney versus Messi, Xavi and Villa (or Ibrahimovic/Bojan, if you want a comparison with the Barca of last season). Now, Milner vs. Messi is an easy one. Lionel Messi is widely considered to be one of the best two players in the world, James Milner is widely considered to be an overpriced mercenary. Not much need for analysis there, although it has to be said that Milner often plays in central midfield for England; it’s just that, sadly, Milner is probably the closest player to Messi in the England set-up.

Rooney vs. Villa. Now Wayne Rooney is a wonderful footballer. For Manchester United at least. But throw him in an England shirt and he’s just not the same. David Villa, comparatively, is a real goalscorer. Maybe not quite as rounded a player as Rooney, but has an incredible strike-rate. 43 in 65 for Spain, 107 in 166 La Liga games for Valencia, and a goal on his league debut for Barca. That is seriously impressive, and with the creativity of the midfield he’ll be playing in front of this season, I can’t see anything other than a continuation of his scoring record. As good as Wayne Rooney is, his goalscoring record for England isn’t great, with 25 in 65. Crouch has a better hit rate for the national team, with 21 in 40.

Xavi and Lampard both kind of epitomise the manner in which Barca and England both play. Xavi is the metronomic central midfielder, pulling all the strings, with an incredible range of passing; rarely looking to snatch the headlines himself, emphasised by his strike rate of 35 in 352 La Liga games. Lampard, conversely, (and much like his identikit midfield buddy Steven Gerrard) wants to be the hero, looking for wild 30-yard shots that might just wind up being the winner, thus placing his name firmly on the back pages the following day.

But to look at the individuals that comprise Barca and England might be missing the point (although, it has to be said, Barca’s individuals are a lot better as well). It’s how the teams click that matters. Barcelona’s football is often telepathic, regularly outstanding, and always a joy to watch. To make the same comparison about England is ridiculous: a series of players who struggle to communicate with the manager as well as each other, who each want to single-handedly end 44 Years of Hurt™, whose idea of a common goal is which trendy bar to hit that night.

England are like Barcelona? I think you need a lie down, Fab.

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