Welcome to Last Word on Football’s Team of the Decade series. Today we look at the players and manager who have made it into the Barcelona line-up. They have dominated the domestic competition in Spain over the last ten years. They won the league seven times and won the Copa Del Rey six times while adding two Champions League trophies as well.
Barcelona Team of the Decade
Manager – Luis Enrique
It’s easy to argue Pep Guardiola for this position but his glory began in the last decade. Luis Enrique got control of a lost team and made them champions again.
Back in January 2015, Barcelona has just lost away to Real Sociedad in a game where Lionel Messi started on the bench due to rotation. Messi was not happy. The team was not happy. But, at this point, Messi had been playing centrally, with Luis Suarez playing on the right. It wasn’t working and Enrique knew it.
Whether he knew it or not by benching Messi, Enrique got what he needed to survive. The team had a clear-the-air meeting, where Messi and Luis Enrique were able to settle their differences. After that game, Barcelona lost twice all season en route to the treble.
Formation – 4-3-3
Goalkeeper – Marc Andre Ter Stegen
Easily the best player of the last three seasons not named Lionel Messi was Marc Andre Ter Stegen. The German shot-stopper took a massive leap once he became Barcelona’s first-choice keeper. Unlike previous stoppers Victor Valdes and Claudio Bravo, Ter Stegen has reached the highest level of his position.
The moment he arrived at the club he was already one of the best passing goalkeepers in the world. The way he plays makes you think he could play in midfield for Barcelona and be right at home. When you add that he is easily one of the world’s two or three best shot-stoppers, it becomes a no-brainer choice.
Right Back – Dani Alves
There are few players more enjoyable to watch than Dani Alves. The audacious Brazilian was as dominant as anyone marauding down the right-hand side. His trademark overlaps were a devastating tactic for Barcelona and gave them an edge they have sorely missed.
His antics and personality are probably missed more, though. Alves is ever the light-hearted person and that can be seen all throughout his life.
Centre Back – Gerard Pique
Probably the most underrated defender of his generation; Gerard Pique has done it all for Barcelona. Year after year, Pique has been the leader and strength of the best defence in La Liga over the last ten years.
Cumulatively, with Pique at the helm, Barcelona allowed fewer goals than more heralded defences like Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid over the past decade.
Centre Back – Javier Mascherano
Next to Pique the most was Javier Mascherano. A midfielder by trade, Mascherano used his recovery speed and tactical awareness that made him so good in midfield to become a world-class safety valve in defence.
When an attacker got by Pique or Busquets, or the space behind Dani Alves, Mascherano would come flying to win the ball. The Argentinian played for seven seasons at Barcelona, winning four league titles and two Champions Leagues, all while playing out of position.
Left Back – Jordi Alba
Probably the fiercest character of this Barcelona era, Jordi Alba isn’t here for nonsense, except when it’s his nonsense.
Alba is without a doubt one of the best left-backs in the world over the last ten years. He is exceptional at timing his late run into the box so that he gets in unmarked. Alba stepped up in a big way after Dani Alves left the club.
As the primary full-back attacker, Alba was able to record a career season last year with 15 assists in all competitions.
Defensive Midfield – Sergio Busquets
Probably the most unsung hero of Barcelona’s last decade of success would be Sergio Busquets. The defensive midfielder is probably one of the best to ever play his position.
The effortless nature with which he moves through the field is what makes him so fun to watch, and allows him to correctly time interception attempts that no other player would even think about.
Right Midfield – Ivan Rakitic
Probably the most controversial choice, Ivan Rakitic has divided plenty of Barcelona fans over the years. Ask Luis Enrique or Ernesto Valverde, though, and they would do nothing but sing his praise.
Rakitic has been the midfielder for Barcelona who fills in the gaps. He started his time at the club as the legs to cover Messi, and now plays next to Busquets to cover him.
Both positions require selflessness in style of play that few others can replicate. He excelled in his positions and won league titles to show for it.
Left Midfield – Andres Iniesta
The legendary creative midfielder was always a lock for this team. The decade started with Iniesta at the peak of his powers. The pirouettes, the vision, the anticipation at their peak were always unmatched.
Even in his last season before leaving the club, Iniesta’s ability was always a joy to watch, and integral to Barcelona’s success.
Right Wing – Lionel Messi
The greatest to ever do it. Of course, Lionel Messi was going to be the right-wing here. Obviously we all know why, but this is a chance to appreciate just how diverse Messi’s decade was. He led treble-winning Barcelona sides in goals and assists as a right-winger and a central attacker.
His exploits and dominance as a false nine are well documented, but in his second treble season, Luis Enrique and Luis Suarez’s first season, he was at another level. He scored 58 goals and a career-high 27 assists in all competitions. Twenty-seven assists is a wild statistic that is hardly mentioned. It’s ridiculous to score the number of goals he does, but to also have 13 straight seasons with ten or more assists is absurd.
Striker – Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez will be remembered forever for a lot of reasons. His ability to score goals will always be chief among them.
Suarez has had 30-goal seasons (in the league) with three different teams, in three different countries. In each of those seasons, he had over ten league assists as well. In six seasons at Barcelona, Suarez has scored 141 goals
Left Wing – Neymar
Last but certainly not least the left-wing in our 4-3-3 – Neymar. The Brazilian playmaker starred for four seasons at Barcelona and played up and above his potential for most of his time.
The most memorable, of course, will be how well he played down the stretch of the treble-winning season. Neymar scored ten Champions League goals that season, secen of which came that spring. His play against Bayern Munich, in particular, was just incredible.