The Masters

David Ramos

Watching the best ever?

There's been a phenomenon on our TVs every weekend since the beginning of September. Except I keep missing it. I'm sure some of you do, too. But it's there, every weekend, and I can't catch it in time. It's like Haley's Comet or an eclipse and I'm stuck in a meeting or something.

It's Barcelona, and I always seem to tune into their matches somewhere between the 14th and 21st minute every time. Whether I forget, or I was watching something else and then flipped over, or just get home at that time, I always join in a few minutes late.

And they're always up 2-0 by the time I do.

You know the numbers by now. 40 of 42 points collected. +32 goal-difference. 48 goals in 14 games. Messi on 84 goals for the calendar year. It's....well, you come up with an adjective for it. Because I can't.

It's just so...cold. That's how it seems. It's like watching a polar bear thrash a baby seal every week. You understand why, it's what that polar bear does. They eat seals. But it's also how helpless their opponents have looked. Usually by the time I've tuned in, the light has gone out of the eyes of whoever Barca is playing. They already know their fates.

And they did this after we all wondered, at least a little, if their time had passed. Both Barca and Spain will go down as the best incarnation of club and national teams that I have seen. But Pep Guardiola had left, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Alves were staring at losing battles with Father Time. How long could you really keep it together, after all? Every team's window eventually closes. They'd lost their league title, they had a pretty weak exit from the Champions League to a Chelsea team that really had no business beating them

And now they're better than ever.

It's so strange, because you know what Barca are going to do. It's hardly a secret. And you can't stop it. We have wondered how the system would work for other teams (i.e. Liverpool) without the generational talent that Barca have. It's like in the NBA how the triangle offense doesn't look quite so genius when it's not Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant is there to bail it out at the end of the shot-clock.

But I think there's something to be said that it's the combination of that talent and the cohesion. How many times do Xavi or Iniesta or Messi or Busquets or Pedro find a teammate that not only did we think they couldn't see but we couldn't even see and we're watching on television! (It's also based on a work-rate that gets rarely mentioned, which makes it painful to watch Gerrard lollygag around at times).

That's not to say that Liverpool under Rodgers are ever going to look like this. But there is something to be said for identifying quickly who will be the core of this team and get them to playing together for as long as you can. What if Sterling, Suso, Shelvey, Suarez, Allen, Lucas have years together? What might it look like then? Part of Liverpool's problem has been the constant upheaval in players and systems and managers. Doesn't Barca sort of prove what stability can do, even when it looks dark?

Probably just a dream.

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