FC Barcelona. The name commands respect and so it should given that Barcelona are one of the biggest football clubs in the history of the sport. As with any major football club the list of quality players to have stepped onto the field of play for the Catalonian side is long and highly impressive. But who was the best of the best to play in the famous blue and red shirt? By cutting it down to the last fifteen years (picking up just as Johan Cruyff’s 90’s Dream Team began to leave the club) I can give you a clear indication of the modern greats who have played a part in Barca’s illustrious history. And beginning our countdown is…
10. Hristo Stoichkov
The younger generation will be unfamiliar with Stoichkov given that his prime was in the early 90’s but there’s something about a winger with cracking pace, unpredictability and the ability to score quite a lot that brings a lot to a team (Cristiano Ronaldo anyone?). Stoichkov was good enough to feature much higher up this list but he is down at 10 simply due to the fact that his best years for Barca were before our 15 year time slot and the Bulgarian wasn’t quite as deadly as he had been anymore.
9. Carles Puyol
Defenders are generally something of a rare commodity on lists such as these which make regard of the best players, not because defenders are unimportant, but because defending is overlooked in favour of attacking. Goals win matches is a famous footballing motto but the work a quality defender puts in must be heralded. Puyol is a fantastic player; he reads the game well, is solid in the tackle and in the air (despite not being of a particularly large stature) and puts his all into playing for Barcelona in every appearance. A local lad, Puyol is very highly revered by the Barca faithful as their inspirational club captain.
8. Luis Figo
Mention Figo’s name to a Barcelona fan and they will look disgusted, be sure of that. The man lost favour with the Barcelona fans (and in doing so lost a place higher up on this list) by leaving the club for bitter rivals Real Madrid but there is no denying the talent Figo possessed. The Portuguese was great on the ball, had fine vision and his all-around attacking play was a joy to watch. Shame he dived so much.
7. Luis Enrique
Figo is despised by Barcelona fans for leaving for Real Madrid and they are equally hostile towards players joining the club from Real Madrid. That’s what makes Luis Enrique’s place as a Barca favourite so impressive. Enrique joined the club from Real Madrid and was met by hostile Barcelona fans but he quickly won them over with his work rate, versatility, vision and passing skills. Enrique played practically all over the pitch at Barca during an eight year spell at the club which saw him become a club legend, retiring when he felt he couldn’t reach the standards he set himself. He is still inseparable from the club; currently managing the “B” team.
6. Xavi Hernandez
Every football fan knows who Xavi is. The diminutive midfield maestro is probably the best playmaker in the game at the moment. His passing and vision are second to none, his set-piece delivery is impeccable and he’s a local lad – which wins him extra points! Keeps Cesc Fabregas out of the national side which shows how good he is. Xavi’s partnership with Andres Iniesta makes up one of the most feared midfields in the world and is responsible for Barca’s taking apart of Premiership champions Manchester United last season.
5. Josep Guardiola
These days “Pep” Guardiola is known more for being the Barcelona manager and the first man to lead a Spanish team to a treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champion’s League. In his playing days though Guardiola was a force to be reckoned with. A defensive midfielder who you were not going to get past whose skills went so much further than the tackling and marking skills you’d expect of a defensive midfielder. With a great range of passing and dribbling skills along with fantastic vision, Guardiola played the role of deep-lying playmaker for Barca to great effect, eventually devastating many Barca fans by deciding to leave the club for pastures anew. His return looks to be as good as his playing career was though.
4. Lionel Messi
For me, Messi is currently the best player in the world, better than Cristiano Ronaldo. And he is undoubtedly one of the best players in Barca’s history despite his young age. It’s only his age that prevents Messi from topping this list, it would be premature to put him at the top of the list knowing that there is so much more to come from the Argentinian ace. Of all the players referred to as “The new Maradona” Messi is the one most likely to achieve as much greatness as the Argentine legend did. He’s already the best player in the world and almost unplayable, imagine what he could be like in a few years!
Barca’s predecessor to Messi, Ronaldinho was an absolutely majestic player when in his prime at Barca. He was a key factor in turning a Barca team that were struggling and miles behind Real Madrid into the champions and best team in Spain. With skills that Cristiano Ronaldo could only dream of, an eye for goal and the vision of an eagle, the beaming Ronaldinho was well deserving of his Footballer of the Year gongs as he was undoubtably the best player in the world. Unfortunately Ronaldinho would go on to lose form and fitness after just a few years at Barca and he hasn’t recovered his form completely to date. But that can’t take away from the brilliance the Brazilian displayed for the Catalonians.
Making it two Brazilians in the Top Three places is the legend that is Ronaldo. It says a lot of the man that he would later go on to play for Real Madrid but is still loved by Barcelona fans. Ronaldo only spent one year playing for Barcelona but it was enough to convince everyone that he was the best striker in the world. With a record of practically a goal a game, many of them brilliant (for example, a goal when he dribbled past seven players on his way to scoring – against Compostela if you want to look it up) Ronaldo flew to the top of the Spanish scoring charts, showing Europe just what he was capable of in a top league. Still regarded as one of the best strikers of all time, Ronaldo’s best ever season was the one spent in the blue and red of Barca and he remains a Barca legend for that year.
And that leads us to…
I have had the pleasure of seeing Rivaldo play in person, it was at the Nou Camp back in 1999 during a 3 -3 draw between Barcelona and Manchester United in the Champion’s League. During that game the Brazilian scored with his speciality: a bicycle kick. Performing a bicycle kick requires a lot of skill, and that tells you what you need to know about Rivaldo given that he scored from bicycle kicks pretty often! One of the most skilful players of all time, Rivaldo could dribble fantastically, his vision and crossing were remarkable and he had an eye for goal to be admired. Not as prolific as Ronaldo, perhaps not even as much of an impact maker as Messi, Rivaldo gets his place at number 1 on this list for not just his ability and performances for Barcelona but also for the fact that he played for the club for a longer period of time, consistently proving brilliant throughout that time and excelling as Barca’s playmaker. Loved by the fans, admired by all, Rivaldo deserves his place among the greats.
Romario, Sergi, Albert Ferrer, Gheorge Hagi, Andres Iniesta
Click here to comment on this articleor
Give us feedback on your Football Transfer Tavern experience