In one of the most convulsive seasons in the history of FC Barcelona, Sergio Busquets has found the football shelter he was missing at the Camp Nou under the orders of Luis Enrique in the Selection. The 33-year-old veteran midfielder was one of the competitive pillars that sustained Spain against Italy and came close to knocking out France in the final. The Barça player was so successful and precise that ended up collecting the trophy for best player in the competition despite having lost it. Busquets is, without any doubt, one of the great winners of this international break due to his excellent performances. Meanwhile, the situation has planted a doubt among Barça fans. Why don’t you play like that with your club?
It seems a long time ago, but not so long ago, the Spanish ‘5’ was the fundamental complement of Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta in the best Barça in history. The piece that, without being the most valuable or the best, provided continuity to the methodical and automated football of Pep Guardiola in the engine room before releasing the forwards in the last third. When everything worked perfectly, Xavi Hernández was in charge of creation, Iniesta appeared on the next step and Busquets connected fast and precise passes at the exit. Sergio looked. When the team was together, ordered, the spaces were distributed well in the center of the field and the turnovers were cut in a few seconds with an infernal post-loss pressure. Busquets was smiling.
In a particular space and time, he was the best in his position doing what he did. He delegated and then balanced to recover balls on the balcony of the rival area. “If you watch the game, you won’t see Busquets. If you look at Busquets, you will see the whole game“that’s how I saw it Vicente del Bosque, the same one who, to resolve the doubts that arose around the Barcelona midfielder after the defeat against Switzerland on the first day of the World Cup in South Africa, assured that “If I were to be a player again, I would like to look like Busquets“.
On the other hand, if the team split, the spaces in the center of the field were immense, he had to defend by running towards his own field and was not protected by the system, the ‘5’ was condemned to error and overcome by the circumstances that surrounded him. So it was with Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, and also – for months – with Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde. Over time and as the years went by, Busquets went from being an ideal support to graduating as a midfielder. He increased his range of passes, created advantages from the beginning, matured in his decisions with the ball, gained ground with the ball and security when taking more responsibility both in the exit and in the distribution in the rival field. His relationship with Leo Messi, as his main pass filter in rival field, supported him.
Busquets needs an ecosystem to protect it
Nevertheless, his defects with and without the ball have remained to a greater or lesser extent the same. If the system of his team does not work and opens in channel, both in defense and in attack, Busquets will be the main victim of the failures of his team. The Catalan, by far, is the player who most needs his team to be united. Something that Ronald Koeman’s Barça achieves on very few occasions, since it has a huge tendency to split, not provide the necessary passing lanes and unprotect his midfielder. If we add to that that there is not a good circulation of the ball, the spaces are not distributed well and the exit of the ball is non-existent, we will have the current Barça situation. The most recent example we will find against Atlético de Madrid, where Piqué recoiled towards the area, Araujo and Mingueza jumped under pressure and the result was a painful defeat.
Charly Rexach, a privileged witness to the rise of Busquets, values the differences between the two ecosystems: “Busquets has played as he had been doing at Barça years ago: four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards. In the central zone, without moving much to the wings and executing fast at a touch or two. There, without having to run much, he is an irreplaceable player. ” Johan Cruyff’s eternal companion sums up his analysis in one sentence: “The important thing is the distance between linesAnd it is that Rexach emphasizes how in the Barça the lines are separated and “the more they do it, the more Busquets suffers, because they are not well distributed positionally.” The 94% success rate in the pass achieved in the Nations League contrasts with the 86.8% registered in LaLiga this campaign according to the Fbref data portal.
Without being a particularly fast or aggressive midfielder when offering lateral assists or jumping to pressure in the open field, Busquets is signaled when his team moves away from the style that made him indispensable. Due to his peculiarity as a midfielder (very fast of mind, but slow of legs), he is not fast enough to cover a lot of ground when his team does not have the ball or necessarily creative to act as the sole organizer. Something that Barça, especially since Messi’s departure, has forced him to do in many games. Busquets does not reach everything. And less at 33 years.
On the other hand, in Luis Enrique’s Selection there is a radically different proposal. More similar to what he has been playing all his life and where, without any doubt, he is more spoiled by the scheme. Whether it was against Italy with Koke Resurrection and Gavi squires or before France, with Rodrigo Hernandez and Gavi, Busquets always found multiple passing lanes, pressed forward (Aymeric Laporte and Eric García included) and shone in a team that collected passes in rival field traveling all together. “Busquets has been the best of the tournament, which speaks of his level. For us it is vital. It is the pillar on which we base our game of attack and defense“, the Asturian confessed after the final.
“As paradoxical as it sounds, the less space there is in the center of the field, the better it is for Busquets; because he doesn’t need space to play. What he needs is not to have to travel many kilometers towards his field “, Rexach ditch. The coach himself said before the Eurocup that” Busquets is a quite misunderstood player because he has been around for many years, but he is a unique player and a guarantee. ” right now there is no one who understands as good as Luis Enrique nor as bad as Ronald Koeman.