The Team: Barcelona 2011

In 2009 Barcelona won their first treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League under their former player Josep Guardiola in what was a standout debut season as coach of the club.

By the time he left in 2012, he had assembled the best team of its generation before moving to Bayern Munich for a fresh new challenge.

Luis Enrique took charge and in 2015 won the very same treble himself, but by then, Barca were a force to be reckoned with, what started under Frank Rijkaard in 2003, blossomed under Pep Guardiola and continued under Luis Enrique, in large parts thanks to three of the best footballers ever to grace not just the Nou Camp, but the world of football. Xavi, Iniesta, Messi.

And whilst in 2009 and in 2015 success was perfection, the team of 2011 was arguably at its best only missing out on all three trophies by a stubborn Real Madrid who narrowly beat them in the Copa del Rey final.

Defending champions Barcelona were on a ha-trick of league wins and started the campaign with a 3-0 win at Santander. A shock home defeat to Hercules in week two saw Guardiola’s side slip down to eighth but normal service was resumed as they beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon.

Barcelona dropped just two points from their next eight games and beat Almeria 8-0 in November to go top of the league for the first time. A week later, the performance that cemented their status as the best team in Spain, dismantling Real Madrid 5-0 at the Nou Camp in one of the best performances in modern football. Xavi, Pedro, Villa twice and Jeffren all on target against a hapless opponent.

The tiki taka approach was at its pomp and nobody could touch Barcelona. Further wins 3-0 at Osasuna, 5-0 against Sociedad and 5-1 at city rivals Espanyol saw Barca go into the Christmas break with just one defeat and one draw from 14 matches played.

In Europe, things were a little tougher but Barcelona topped a group including Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos setting up a February tie against Arsenal in the last sixteen of the Champions League.

By then, Barca had just dropped their first points of the year in La Liga, drawing 1-1 at Sporting Gijon ending a phenomenal run of 16 straight league wins (scoring 60 goals in the process).

Arsenal did beat Barcelona in the first leg but Blaugranas were improved in the second leg and reached the Quarter Finals thanks to a Messi brace and one from Xavi. The Quarter Finals were more straight forward seeing off Shakthar Donetsk 6-1 on aggregate before their Copa del Rey final date verses Real Madrid who they had drawn in the league against four days earlier.

By now, the added spice of Mourinho verses Guardiola boosted anticipation even more than just two finalists in Spain’s KO Cup competition. The usual Barca v Real, and Messi verses Ronaldo, buoyed by their Managers, the best of their era. In a tactical battle it was Madrid who came out on top. Stopping the attacking threat of Barcelona to take the game to extra time, winning late on thanks to a single Ronaldo goal.

Just seven days later… Barca bounced back, in the semi-finals of the Champions League, they beat their fiercest of rivals 2-0 at the Bernabeu as two late Messi goals stunned the home fans into silence. Barcelona needed a draw against Real Madrid in the semi final to set up their third final appearance in six years against Manchester United who they beat in 2009.

By now Barca had the league won and wrapped up. Scoring 92 points (and 95 goals) they finished 4 points ahead of Real Madrid who themselves scored over 100 goals. Two astonishing performances, the performance by Madrid proving that this title was no fluke, this was two of the best and Barcelona were the best of those two.

The final against Manchester United at Wembley was a day when the aristocrats of football purred to the beauty of the Barca style. Pedro scored before Rooney equalised, but Barcelona dominated before the mercurial Messi found the target five minutes before the hour. With twenty minutes remaining David Villa made it 3-1 and Barcelona comfortably saw off their opponents to take the Champions League trophy for the fourth time in their history.

The solid defense of Pique & Puyol, the attacking full backs of Abidal and Alves, the stunning midfield of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, the strike force of Pedro, Villa, Messi. This was a team that played football the right way, the beautiful way, the way of tiki-taka and a style that is now synonymous with Spanish football, with winning football with the way football is played today.

The most beautiful team of its generation, playing the beautiful game in a beautiful way.

Victor Valdes – Eric Abidal, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves – Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta – David Villa, Lionel Messi, Pedro

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