By: Akinloye Nafiu
In 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, it became a watershed in what could become another event of colonisation, however differently, it would occur in an extraterrestrial field where it would be needless for forceful indoctrination or servility. It was totally a groundbreaking event in human history as Homo sapiens, a variant of chimpanzees, defied expectancy and absolved into thick, frozen clouds. It occurred that analysts predicted human colonisation of outer earth. Some ranged between 30 – 60 years, but the truth is that we are now in 2020, yet Mars or none of those planets is still uncultivated lest colonised.
There’s been every logical connection that blights long sighted thoughts when there is momentum in urgency or spontaneity. The same happened when Johan Cryuff’s philosophy of football met the grounds of Holland and Spain. It ruptured every tender limbs of primitive football and as Cryuff theorised, “the brain was more important than the legs”. It is about passing, creating triangles and thinking. If it had happened in England, it is apt to describe it as a lame teaching a whole how to work.
But nonetheless, it evolved in a country with relative conservatism that has thrived on mimicking its neighbours. The peak of Cryuff’s managerial improvisation and the struggle to indoctrinate a relentless populace of “anyhow” football to a style heavily reliant on the brain than the biceps; on triangles than offside trap; on positional awareness than uncontrolled surges of adrenaline; Cryuff’s meteoric fame was at FC Barcelona, a club that adopted Cryuff’s legacy as if he was from their stock.
In the space of two decades, Barcelona trounced from being a local stronghold of Catalonia to a global force, not just popular with trophies but identifiable with one, if not the most attractive brand of football ever played. We could bring Lobanovsyski’s Dynamo Kiev’s highline pressing or Bill Shankly’s aggressive style that was laced with Merseyside bellicose mentality but none was as successful as Pep, a Grandson of Cryuff’s Barcelona nor as aesthetically enticing.
But, like many social phenomena when humans devise solutions to problem and the reactionary response it gets from counter-solutions, Football tactics wasn’t far from one. A copy-cat approach that becomes stale and supplanted by supermodels, partly tweaking itself from old ones with additional creations. Wolfgang Frank, for Instance birthed modern highline pressing; Jurgen Klopp revised it, added flecks of psychological impetus and an illusory belief of perpetual victory. Football club, Barcelona before Johan Cryuff had a history albeit not laded with monstrous successes, it was second only to Real Madrid in pecking order. Post-Cryuff era saw a totally dependence on Cryuff’s philosophies that is vindicated and translated an idealistic theory into paradigmatic model. But perhaps, the mistake is an overrelying delusion of total football in a transformative age with a magnetic pull of intelligence, intuition, aggression, psychology and physiotherapist advantages.
In the last six seasons since Barcelona won the Champions League, it is no doubt that Football is glazing past an overtly reliance on feeble, bright and an extremely idealistic version of football. Johan Cryuff was enamoured by Iniesta’s flair than his physicality but now, a combination of both is an extraordinary advantage for Wolfgang Frank, Ralf Ragnick, Jurgen Klopp. A distasteful trend is the obstinate fist of Barcelona’s immersion into Total Football that might probably makes it lose focus of modern Football trend that has obviously moved ahead. Ajax is now lost in that bubble struggling to cope with immediacy but flustered with an academy of Cryuffian thoughts and not Shankly’s might.
We might make arguments of Bartomeu’s scale of administrative misplaced focus, however, it reflects a Barcelona struggling to commensurate tactics with needed availability and prevailing trends. Whenever Barcelona secures a proven signing, it might spend eternity brainwashing him about the perfect way of total football while on course, eroding his reality and eventually feels frustrated. Every attempt to replace the old lore of total football and capture fans’ excitement has been in absolute sham, Valverde was a fair success.
But we’re reminded of his conservatism and an histrionic double-peat of embarrassment only to be replaced by a vast proponent of Cryuff — Setien whose ideas landed a worse humiliation, only second since 1964. The reality is simple; Football has visibly oscillated from Cryuff’s sacrosanct details of mental codes and a need to cope with reality is imperative.
FC Barcelona, a club of 122- year history is not clung to the three decades of Cryuff, introspectively with all due respect. Barcelona’s search for the precious ethos of puritanism is becoming more like a utopian ideal that is ignoring reality contexts. Added to this is the delusional belief in the illusory return of Xavi in reminiscence of Pep’s in 2007 but in all of these lie the disturbing paucity in the talent pool of la masia and perhaps most importantly, the lack of relevance of these players in the modern tactical landscape. It is high time the traditions are revisited, rekindled with the demands of modern football where there’s a synthetic blend of slouch moves coupled with an emboldening mental fights of victory that replicates contest and not artistry. Like the prophets that predicted colonization of Mars, and the ones that predicted an eternal hold of Total football in Europe, History might just bark at their footsteps again and remind them of its unpredictability and momentous dynamism.