UEFA Champions League

Is this Barcelona the best club team ever?

Barcelona (Getty Images)

It's been a few days since Barcelona thoroughly dismantled Manchester United to capture its second UEFA Champions League crown in three years, but the debate continues: Is the 2010-2011 edition of Barcelona the best club team ever?

There's plenty of evidence to support that notion.

The club's performance in the Champions League final was awe-inspiring. Between Lionel Messi's finishing and creating, the quality of Pedro and David Villa's goals, the incessant game of keep-away and the marking that made Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney — aside for one impressive finish — essentially invisible, the La Liga side dominated the title game on English soil. Barcelona possessed the ball for more than two-thirds of the game and outshot the Red Devils, 22-4, including a 12-1 edge in shots on goal.

The fact that hobbled centerback and captain Carles Puyol, who is having offseason knee surgery, only appeared to make a late cameo, makes the result even more overwhelming.

As for the rest of the club's achievements this season:

  • Barcelona went 30-2-6 in league play to win the La Liga crown.
  • Barcelona had a goal differential of +74 — 95 goals scored, 21 conceded — in its 38 league games (only Real Madrid scored more goals, 102, but it conceded 33).
  • Barcelona went 9-1-3 in Champions League play, with its only loss being at Arsenal in the opening leg of their Round of 16 tie. It had a goal differential of +24 (33 scored, 9 conceded) in UCL games and only yielded more than one goal in a game once — in the 2-1 loss to Arsenal.

And then there's the roster.

Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Pique. The list goes on.

Not all star-studded rosters complete the task at hand, but Barcelona did.

The lone blemish on the club's triumphant season from a results standpoint was the Copa del Rey loss to Real Madrid, which prevented Barcelona from completing its treble. Detractors will also point to the diving antics of Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets and the gang-whining to referees about calls, which was extremely prevalent in the team's four games in 19 days with rival Madrid.

Others may point to the 2008-2009 Barcelona team that won six trophies (La Liga, Champions League, Copa del Rey, Club World Cup, Spanish Cup Winners Cup, European Cup Winners Cup) as a team that may have been more successful.

Regardless, the most recent edition of Barcelona was perhaps even more dominant than that team and must be at the forefront of the conversation when mentioning the greatest club teams of all time.


What do you think? Is the 2010-2011 FC Barcelona the best club team ever? If not, which club from the past is?

Share your thoughts below.

  • ThaDeuce

    I wasn’t following international soccer at the time, but why doesn’t anyone bring up the 2003 and earlier man u team? Weren’t they solid back then? I’m ignorant and lazy.


  • dan


    The fact that Barca developed all these kids in their youth system, save one or two, is even more impressive. Best club period.

    It also shows how weak the Premiership is.


  • EastBayGrease

    Yes, until next season. Messi is just getting started.

    Any mention of a club pre-1990’s is silly. 60’s Santos? I bet 95% of that squad smoked a pack a day. Countries under authoritarian rule generally don’t produce “greatest of all time” anything.


  • Todd

    The best I have ever seen. Maybe not the most exciting, but clearly the best. They have a system that works perfectly for them. And most teams cannot begin to challenge them.

    Consider this – they thrashed Man U who thrashed Schalke using their scrubs for one game. This is the same Schalke that beat Inter and Valencia in the CL and won the German Cup.


  • Roberto

    yes Barca the best of all time…then Santos in the 60’s Independiente (arg)70’s Real Madrid (Di Stefano era & Galacticos too) thats it…. no more teams enter this circle


  • Josh

    One more thing in Barca’s favor: they don’t have to adapt to ANYBODY. They’re so good at what they do that they pretty much advertise it and dare you to stop them. Give ManU (and SAF) credit for putting together a versatile squad that can adjust tactically to whatever their opponents throw at them, but the sign of a true juggernaut is just doing whatever you want to do, and in that regard Barca is simply a class above everybody else at the moment.

    Again, I’m not ready to say they’re the best ever, but they’re easily the best of this era.


  • Michael F. SBI Mafia Original

    Maybe. I’ve been a player and fan of the game since 1983 but back then we were never able to see the games from abroad. So hard to say. I do take exception with Avi’s “thoroughly dismantled” description. Did we watch the same game? Look, Man Utd have a great year and is a great team. But Barca is that much better. But to say they thoroughly dismantled them is quite a stretch.


  • Adam M.

    I still think the Barca side with Ronaldinho in his prime (remember his standing O at Madrid?), Puyol in his prime, a younger but ever deadly Messi, and Eto’o as a dagger might have been more dangerous, but its tough to argue against this side. Part of the conversation has to be that the nucleus of this Barca side also won the World Cup last year playing the same basic style, which makes them all the more tough to argue against. The better question though isn’t whether this Barca side is the best team ever, but whether Barca over the last decade has crafted a style that makes them the best club, period. Is Barca the new Brazil?


  • Adam M.

    That does say a lot, I agree, but then again what was he going to say? Better to lose 3-1 to the best team you ever saw than 3-1 to a run of the mill side that caught a few breaks.


  • JoeW

    The 1977 Cosmos were an aging version of Real Madrid–lots of big names but not really a great side.


  • JoeW

    Until this year I would have said the Ajax team of the 70’s with Cruyff b/c of how they changed the game and dominated it (at a time when it was very defensive). But now, I say this Barca team. Let me explain.

    It’s difficult to compare teams by stats b/c those are often a function of their competition. For instance, if you dominate your league you get a great goal differential or an impressive W-L record or maybe you win the CL some consecutive times. And it’s true that comparing across eras is tougher. The game is tighter now, fewer margin for error but not as physical as it was in the 70’s.

    But here’s what this Barca team does that is so remarkable. Almost every good or great team talks about “getting results.” Maybe they go into a game and park a bus in front of goal. Or seek just to counter. Or play 89 minutes of non-soccer but a lot of tactics and denial of space and then maybe 30-40 seconds of brilliant counterattack. Or they rely on one gifted player. But this Barca team absolutely plays as a team (complain about tikka-takka all you want but it clearly doesn’t work if everyone isn’t on the same page, unselfish, moving off the ball, anticipating the runs of teammates). But most of all, they win not by denying what you do but by being so freaking dominant with the ball and attacking that you never get a chance to do what you do. They didn’t man-mark or foul Rooney out of the game. They didn’t play compact soccer and seek to “maintain shape”. They didn’t put numbers behind the ball. Sometimes they do those things but mostly what they do is they take the ball from you, they keep the ball, they go forward and they score as many times as you’ll let them. They play their game (which is not based on negative soccer or countering or playing compactly) and they defy you to beat them. And almost no-one does. Nothing wrong with Mourinho’s defend and counter strategy. Except sometimes the other team seeks to defend and counter. And then we end up with a match with 2-3 shots on goal. So much of Italian soccer is a tactical chess match seeking to avoid mistakes. Wonderful skill, clever tactics but no risk, no going forward. Barca says “play however you want, we are going to play our game and we’ll beat you.” And that’s the sign of a dominant team. There are very few club teams ever who’ve consistently played their game rather than having a few matches where they seek to defend or just counter.


  • TimN

    I agree with some posters above in that it is really challenging, if not impossible, to compare teams of different eras. There have been so many changes in the game and club structure in the last 20 years or so. However, having said that, I’ve been following club soccer since the mid 1980’s, and I’m extremely hard pressed to think of a team that’s any better, or even as good as, the one that completely dominated an excellent Manchester United side on Saturday. My vote is “Yes,” best club team ever.


  • A.S.

    Translation of “fouling cynically”: play effectively. Barca’s simulation was much more cynical to me. Of course Barca didn’t simulate vs Manu – why would they have to when Manu never challenged them?


  • fischy

    A good forward line — all strong — but not in Barcelona’s class. I”d also take Barcelona’s back line, but that’s a close call. Ajax had a better goalie.


  • DC Josh

    They are the best club team I have watched in my 28 years. I have only gotten into European soccer deeply for the last 4 or 5 years – ever since I got FSC. I can never remember seeing a team dominate so thoroughly offensively and defensively as Barcelona have.

    One stat Ives failed to mention is Barcelona averaged over 60% possession in all competitions this year. Amazing.

    If Barcelona are not the best club team ever, then who is?


  • DC Josh

    “The only arguments against them are weaknesses at goalkeeper”


    Victor Valdes would start on pretty much every club minus Madrid.


  • DC Josh

    Good description of how they play. It’s amazing how simple they keep it: short passes, move off the ball into an open space, swarm the opposing ball carrier. They play like they are in a park or on the beach while on vacation.


  • bass

    Don’t forget 4 yrs back they won the CL back to back, something this current Barca team still has to do. They hardly struggled against big opponents, unlike the current Barca team that struggles against Chelsea/Milan/Inter…


  • Erik

    Arsenal’s 03/04 Invisibles squad could put a very good game against Barca. If somebody made a time machine please get Barca’s team and go back to 04 and make these teams play.

    Campbell – Toure K
    Cole A
    Viera P – Gilberto Silva

    All those players were in their prime. Lehmann was definitely the best goalie in the world at that time, and was a much better goalie than Valdes. The defense was rounded out and let up just 26 goals and were undefeated that season. While Barca only let up 21 goals, I think we can all agree that La Liga is a two team league. (3rd place was a full 20 points below 2nd).

    Arsenal is the the best team I’ve seen in my 20+ years of watching all football.


  • Brent McD

    Invincibles. And yes, I agree. Don’t forget Kanu and Wiltord coming off the bench to score goals. That team also had a young midfielder named Fabregas.

    This Barca team would not have won at Highbury.


  • Domaw

    Its not so much Barca are winning that we are in awe, its how they play, that they are small and look really, really, really beautiful when they play.

    I have seen some teams on tv that I admire, 70 Brazil, 74 Holland, 82 Brazil, 86 France, Argentina. This Barca team is not a once assembled national team, they have been doing it for 7 years. No club team comes close, no one. Whatever good club teams you mention, AC Milan late 80s for example were not as beautiful to watch like this Barcelona team.


  • Jart

    This Barcelona are a better defensive team than they are an offensive team.


  • JohnDjojo

    Fortunately Barcelona players are not Crazy as Mike.They are good entertainers on the field.The supporters understand football.I will recomment this Crazy to go for Rugby maybe he likes violence instead .


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