What is your opinion? Does Barcelona make Lionel Messi the great footballer he is? Or does Lionel Messi make Barcelona the great club it is? This is an ongoing debate amongst football experts. Whatever the answer to this question is, there would come a day in which you will be able to tell the next generation of football fans to come, "I have lived in this era in which Messi was playing for Barcelona and I have witnessed both him and the team conquering the world of football".
But before we dive into the present let's have a brief look at the club's history. FC Barcelona had humble beginnings. In October 1889, a young Swiss named Hans (Joan) Gamper who was residing in Barcelona, placed an advert in the Los Deportes magazine in order to find players that would be interested in forming a football club. A bunch of Swiss, English and local young men came and built the squad. This is how FC Barcelona was born. Joan Gamper himself was a dominant figure in the club for its first 30 years, first as a player and later as a president. He also brought the idea of having the blue and red stripes as the club's jersey. This beginning had marked one of Barcelona's characteristic features of having a blend of foreign and local players and also having foreigners in the leading positions.
Barcelona won its first national title, Copa Del Rey, in 1912 and has won it 29 times in total so far, more than any other club in Spain. It has 24 La Liga championships attached to its name, first one gained in 1929, which was the very first year in which La Liga was inaugurated. FC Barcelona has always been more than a football club for its fans. It has been a national symbol for the Catalan people. As a consequence, it took a toll due to political realities in Spain during the 20th century. It is one of the reasons why the club fluctuated between periods in which it had dominance over the Spanish football (like the early 1920s and mid 1940s until mid 1950s) and periods in which it gained very few titles or any at all, for more than a decade (like the 1930s and the 1960s).
Since the 1970's FC Barcelona is pretty much committed to the Total Football style. This style in its modern version was introduced to the world by Dutch coach Rinus Michels and his team captain in Ajax Amsterdam and in the Netherlands national team Joan Cruyff. It is characterized by an offensive way of playing with agile players that move all around the pitch playing in all positions in order to cover other players as they go for the attack. In the early 1970s FC Barcelona adopted the Total Football style by signing Rinus Michels as the head coach and a couple of years later by signing the best football player of his time and one of the greatest in history, Johan Cruyff himself. This style, has been taught and practiced in the club's academy (the famous La Masia) and has been mastered and perfected at the club ever since. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Cruyff put its name permanently in the club's hall of fame by leading the 'Dream Team' as a manager to 4 consecutive championships and 7 more titles including the first European cup for the club in 1992 and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1989.
With Frank Rijkaard as its manager (2003-2008) and Ronaldinho as its protagonist player, FC Barcelona developed a very attractive way of playing football, which has won it the second European cup in 2006 (the first in the Champions League era), 2 consecutive championships and 2 Spanish super cups. Pep Guardiola, one of the the 'Dream Team's players became the club manager in 2008. He further elaborated Barcelona's style to what became known as the 'Tiki-Taka' style in which Barcelona dominates the game by an endless amount of short passes among its players and constant pressure and attacks on the rival's goal. In four seasons under Guardiola's management the club won an amazing number of trophies (14) including 2 Champions League titles, 3 consecutive La Liga championships, 2 Copa Del Rey, 3 consecutive Spanish Super Cups, 2 UEFA Super Cups and 2 FIFA Club World Cups. This team is considered by many as the best team in the history of the club. Many would argue that it was the best team to ever play football with the best player that has ever played the game.
Of the long list of superb players that have played for the club the following and more recent could be mentioned: Michael Laudrop, Romario, Stoichcov, Koeman and goal keeper Zubizarreta of the 'Dream team' and in Rijkaard's and Pep's teams Deco, Puyol, Ronaldinho , Samuel Eto'o, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. Xavi holds the record of appearances for the club with more than 470 games in LA Liga and more than 720 in total. Extraordinary Messi holds the record of goals for the club with more than 400 goals and is breaking almost any possible record of the club being just at the midst of his career.
Biggest rivalries of the club are with Real Madrid (This match is called El Clasico) and the adjacent club of Español (This match is called Derby Barceloni)
CAMP NOU, Barcelona's stadium which was inaugurated in 1957 is regarded as one of the finest stadiums in the world and has the largest crowd capacity in Europe with 98,787 seats.
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