Barcelona has been named ‘The World’s Club of the 1st Decade’ (2001 to 2010) by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics) this evening. This represents a tremendous achievement by our club and is formal recognition of how well we've done over the last decade.
Barcelona did not start the decade too well. While the club had won successive La Liga titles in 1997-98 and 1998-99, Barcelona was rocked by Luis Figo's infamous defection to Real Madrid at the end of 1999-2000. The best we finished in the next three years was fourth. Standards dropped to such an extent that a fantastic last minute goal by Rivaldo to win the last game of the 2000-01 season against Valencia and ensure a fourth place finish was actually wildly celebrated.
The turning point in our fortunes was Joan Laporta winning the club presidencial election in 2003. Frank Rijkaard was appointed coach and after a slow start to the 2003-04 season the team rallied to eventually finished second, our best position in five years. The following season (2004-05) the club broke a six year title drought to win La Liga. In 2005-06 a second successive La Liga was won as well as the UEFA Champions League Final against Arsenal.
Barcelona should have won a third successive La Liga in 2006-07 but for what I call the "15 seconds from hell". Going into the second last round, Barcelona were level on points with Real Madrid who had the head to head tiebreaker advantage. Late goals by Raul Tamudo (Rspanyol) and Ruud van Nistelrooy ( Real Madrid) ensured that both Barcelona v Espanyol and Zaragoza v Real Madrid ended in 2-2 draws thereby costing us the title.
A disastrous 2007-08 in which we finished a disappointing third was marred by player indiscipline and saw the end of Frank Rijkaard's tenure as our coach. The players who were deemed responsible for the drop in standards were also moved on by the new coach, Pep Guardiola..
It came as a major surprise to many when Pep Guardiola was appointed coach for the 2008-09 season instead of the widely touted Jose Mourinho. It certainly proved to be a shrewd choice. The four years that Pep has been our coach have been the most successful in our proud history. As well as the many trophies won, Barcelona has gained universal acclaim for the quality of the team's football. Winning the IFFHS award is just another acknowledgement of the greatness the club achieved in the second half of the last decade.
I hope you enjoyed my little stroll down memory lane. It shows that not only can success never be taken for granted but that fortunes can also be restored if there is a downturn. The increase in Barcelona's popularity throughout the world can partially be attributed to the success which led to this award. It is also due to modern technology which now allows people throughout the world to their games live. It certainly was a great day for me when ESPN Australia began showing La Liga games live in 2004-05.
These days I seldom miss a Barcelona game. With Pep stepping down as coach and being replaced by Tito Vilanova we are at a crossroads. However, I am optimistic that the success we have enjoyed recently will continue.
Posted by: Drago , Columnist at 'Culé Talk'