Wednesday, August 4

Barça and Athletic, more than a century fighting for a Cup

  • The Barça team, with 30 Copa del Rey, is the one with the most trophies in Spanish football

  • Athletic, with 23, is the second although it has seen Barça take off in the last decade

  • Both clubs have honored this competition since they met in the first final in 1920.

The history between Barça and Athletic is so long that it lasts more than a century. There are no teams in Spanish football that have such a long and close relationship in the conquest of a trophy that they have been honoring for more than a hundred years. There are eight finals, with six Barça victories and two Basque victories, the last one dating back to 1984 with that unfortunate pitched battle after Endika’s goal (1-0) as an epilogue to a rivalry that has been perpetuated.

Barça has added six titles since 2009 until now, opening the gap with the Basque club

Seville will host this Saturday the ninth chapter of a match that has transcended because it faces Barça and Athletic again, an already classic final at the beginning of the 21st century where a little more than a decade ago they were very close to the title throne.

In 2009, Barça had 24 King’s Cups in its Camp Nou Museum; Athletic, 23. But that gap has been opened substantially because the Barça club has chained six more Cups, while the Bilbao team has remained anchored at 23.

And that in this pandemic course that Spanish football has lived through, 15 days ago he had the chance to gain his record, but he ran into Imanol Alguacil’s Royal Society, first a coach, then a fan, who left him on the shore.

Having lost the 2020 Cup, Athletic now aspires to achieve the 2021 Cup following the path it already traced last January when it snatched the Super Cup from Barça.

Marcelino’s team urgently needs to find the roadmap that he used three months ago to break a losing streak that lasted nearly 40 years in his duels with Barça.

Zero out of three

Athletic seeks to reissue in football terms the keys to that super-cup final because the memory of the last three Cup finals leads them to pessimism. Always with Messi as the storyline of Guardiola’s Barça first, Luis Enrique’s Barça later and now, of course, Koeman’s Barça. At three finals, Athletic appeared and all three lost.

Messi, Piqué and Busquets are the only survivors in the team that began to regain the taste for the Cup

That zero out of three tortures a club and a team that has made the Cup one of its cultural flags. Hence, the tremendous pain caused by the fall against Real, because it will last forever. They have been in Bilbao for hard days, trying to quietly digest the aftermath of that defeat, working, above all, on the psychological plane of a team that collapsed because it did not recognize itself in the clash with Real.

Barça, always related to the tradition of this tournament, now has to maintain the streak signed in this 21st century where it has won six Cups, although in its last final (2019) it conceded a defeat against Valencia, precisely, by Marcelino, the The same technician that you will now meet at La Cartuja in Seville.

Before and after Pep

He arrived just after Anfield’s blow where Liverpool warned, although Bartomeu, then Barça president, decided to ignore him of the collapse of Barça, certified in Bayern’s 2-8 match in Lisbon. That 4-0 of Jürgen Klopp’s team together with Valencia’s 2-1 were already more than obvious signs.

And even the Cup, which used to be a grateful scene for the Catalans, became hostile territory. As it had been in the last decades of the club before Guardiola’s arrival at the Camp Nou (summer 2008).

He chained two titles, in 1997 with Bobby robson and in 1998 with Van gaal, and then years of long 20-year journey came with no drink to celebrate. Guardiola appeared to give value to that title, achieving two in four years: 2009 and 2012.

From there, he chained four more trophies and consecutively. Three with Luis Enrique (2015, 2016 and 2017) and one with Valverde (2018). Until Marcelino arrived, who had at his side in Valencia Mateo Alemany (now Barça football director with Laporta) and cut off that superb streak.

1.- Whistle to the hymn and start of the sextet

(Mestalla-2009, Barça-Athletic, 4-1)

It all started with a monumental whistle to the Spanish anthem, which did not appear on TVE’s television broadcast, despite the fact that it thundered at the Mestalla and ended up being the beginning of the most glorious era in Barça’s history. And that Toquero overtook Athletic de Caparrós with a goal that broke the plans designed by Guardiola, who exhibited in Valencia the catalog of tactical resources to surprise.

He stretched the centrals (Piqué and Touré Yaya) to the corner flag to seek a clean exit of the ball, assuming the enormous risk that this implied, giving pass lines to Pinto, the traditional goal of the Cup. And it went well for the Cup. technically, precisely with the goal of the equalizer of Touré, who got off the hook in an offensive adventure that silenced the noisy Basque fans.

Laporta enjoyed his first Cup with Guardiola at Mestalla with Puyol walking through the grass hoisting the ikurriña

It was that shot, without knowing it then, the prologue of an adventure so utopian unreal that it seemed impossible. And in less than nine minutes, already in the second half, came the three goals that gave Guardiola’s Barça the first of the six trophies that he ended up achieving. Messi (m. 56), Bojan (m. 60) and Xavi, with a great direct free kick (m. 65), sealed the win that revived Barça after initial months of doubts at the start of Guardiola’s project.

Of those 14 players who gave him the first title, only three continue in the team: Messi, Piqué and Busquets. Laporta is the fourth survivor because he already enjoyed his first great success as president at Mestalla. Now, the leader opens, and also against Athletic, with another cup final.

One night that was born with those whistles to the anthem and ended with Puyol lifting the trophy with his great friend Xavi. The defender walking through the grass with two flags: the Catalan and the Ikurriña. In that “spontaneous gesture”, as Puyol confessed, he was returning the wave of affection they received from the Basque fans. Barça came to score six goals against Madrid, then four against Athletic and then they would kiss the League and the Champions League.

2.- The last dance with Guardiola

(Calderón-2012, Barça-Athletic, 3-0)

“This is just a point and followed. I was the one who told Tito that he would be the chosen one. What he receives is his own inheritance, as he has been part of the success.” With an unappealable triumph over Athletic de Bielsa, the coach to whom he went on an initiatory trip to Argentina in search of inspiration, Guardiola closed his four years at Barça.

Four years and 14 titles, although the greatest legacy, beyond the rain of trophies that he left in the Museum, is the modern and innovative football that his team spread. And he did it until the last moment, as he demonstrated in the duel held at the Calderón, a stadium that doesn’t even exist.

Pedro (m. 2), Messi (m. 20) and Pedro, again (m. 24) certified such superiority of Barça that the half hour had not been reached and the Cup was already theirs. He did not even allow Bielsa to compete, as if the Barça players (the three survivors of 2009 remain in 2012, that is Messi, Piqué and Busquets) wanted to pay a final tribute to the creator. Perhaps it was not even a coincidence that Pedro, who was once Pedrito, one of his great discoveries, whom he started from the Mini, signed two of the three goals.

“In terms of football, this year has been the best. Before we were all energy, then much more analytical,” Guardiola admitted before starting his sabbatical in New York.

The Barça triumph had such forcefulness that it caused doubts even in Bielsa. “Now we will evaluate my continuity,” the Athletic coach went on to say, although he endured one more year in Bilbao before leaving San Mamés.

Still with the confetti on the Calderón lawn, and accompanied by Manel Estiarte, his inseparable friend, Guardiola admitted that “soccerically speaking, this was the best year.” Yes, the fourth and last of the coach, convinced that the evolution of his Barça had not yet reached the ceiling.

“The first years we were all energy and in this we have been much more analytical,” admitted Guardiola, proud of the last dance with Barça before flying to New York to live a sabbatical year, totally away from football. He left quietly, unbuckling the belt that he put on in 2008.

3.- ‘Messiánico’ goal to honor the trident

(New Field 2015, Barça-Athletic (3-1)

There was nothing in that play that Messi started on the right wing. Nothing is nothing because Leo started from far behind, closer to the center of the field than to the Basque area. And, suddenly, a tsunami. One of those messianic plays that will last in the memory. Luis Enrique’s Barça, the one with the trident, finished with Athletic de Valverde (3-1). There was, to be related to what happened in 2009, another monumental whistle to the Spanish anthem. If the first went to King Juan Carlos, the second went to Felipe de Borbón, who made his debut in a Cup final.

Messi (m. 21), Neymar (m. 37) and Messi (m. 74) turned into an anecdote the sterile goal of Williams (m. 80) with the Camp Nou where there were more Basque fans than Barça fans still impacted by the size of the masterpiece designed by Messi. Balenziaga, Beñat, Mikel Rico and Laporte were left as extras, along with Iago Herrerín, the goalkeeper, in the painting that Leo drew on the stadium meadow.

“I don’t have the exact magnitude of Messi’s goal,” Luis Enrique said then after another display of his unstoppable trio of strikers

As the years go by, the memory of that fantastic goal takes on even more dimension. Because of how he did it. By where he built it, at 45 meters, and by how he finished it. That was the start of another MSN exhibition (Messi, Suárez and Neymar), the atomic trident that Luis Enrique harmonized for three unforgettable years.

It may interest you

That Cup was the double because the final of the Berlin Champions was still missing to complete the second triplet. Barça surrounded by a trio never seen before at the Camp Nou. That May 30, 2015 they reached the huge number of 120 goals.

Messi, with his two goals, had 58, Neymar had 38 and Suárez, despite missing two months due to suspension (he came from the bite of Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil), scored 24. “I do not have the exact magnitude of the goal of Messi “, Luis Enrique managed to say, who asked for time to process what happened in front of him. And Athletic ended up outraged by Neymar’s hat to Bustinza that he saw as a provocation.

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