A Spot of Tea and Busquets – By Josh Fitter
Sergio Busquets is one of the most underrated players in world football. That is not to say his talents aren’t acknowledged, but they aren’t acknowledged enough. Of course, what he does isn’t as eye catching as the extravagant talents of Lionel Messi, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior or Luis Suarez, but make no mistake about it, he is no less valuable to the Barcelona team. If MSN is the magicians, Busquets is definitely the guy operating the smoke machine and adjusting the mirrors. He is the best central defensive midfielder in the world, by quite a way I might add, and contributes to all aspects of Barcelona’s play.
Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest players of all time, said “Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is”. This quote must have been rammed into Busquets head as when you watch him play, everything he does is as simple as it can be. There is no ego in the Barca number 5’s style of play. He realises that there are better players all around him, who can do unbelievable wizardry on the ball (Messi, Neymar, Suarez Iniesta and Rakitic) and thus, he allows them to do this. Everyone is one touch, pass. He is always looking to move the ball on quickly, whether it being straight to the front three, or a simple 5 yard pass to his two centre midfielder colleagues. Checking out his stats on Squawka, Busquets completed 2074 passes this season, giving him a passing accuracy of 90%. An amazing stat, after 35 games, that just highlights his ability to keep the beautiful game, simple. However, the stat that really caught my eye was that 72% of those 2074 passes were forward passes. That is 1493 passes this season that progressed his team in the right direction. This proves that he isn’t one of those midfield players that just passes to the side or backwards. That he has the ability to move the ball forward and start attacks for his team. Another admirable trait of his, is Busquets remarkable talent of always being available to receive the ball, from any player on the field, at any point during the game. He always seems to be in 10 yards of space, giving him the time to pick his pass, and making sure Barcelona retain possession of the ball.
Defensively is where I believe he is so underrated. There hasn’t been a defensive midfielder as good as him defensively since Claude Makelele. The difference between Makelele and Busquets is the teams they play for. Barcelona spend the majority of their games in the opponent’s half, and this is where Busquets does most of his defensive work. We all know Barcelona’s unbelievable ability to play tiki taka on the edge of the opponent’s 18-yard box with such ease. However, it doesn’t always lead to a goal and that is when many teams would try and counter Barca. Nevertheless, this isn’t a regular occurrence, as the Catalan’s have Sergio Busquets. If you watch Busquets while Barca are moving the ball across the edge of the area, he mirrors the movement, in his position while screening the two centre backs. He is almost a table football player, with the ability to only move side to side. He is watching for that time where the ball becomes loose, and there is the threat of a counter attack, and then he pounces on the ball making sure Barca still have possession and they can reset their attack.
It is hard to find a player in any position who is better at being in the correct position for their team in world football, he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Now, this doesn’t mean that he isn’t able to defend in his own half. He is the perfect screen for the two centre backs, making it very difficult for teams to play into the feet of their frontmen.
Many pundits talk about the lack of height Barcelona have, especially their centre back Javier Mascherano. At 5 foot 8 and a half, he is very small for his size, but it’s not often Barca get beaten there. One reason is Mascherano’s dogged ability to win the ball but a second reason is for Busquets ability to cover for the lack of height from his Argentinian teammate, and take those aerial duels away from the centre back. At 6ft2 he has the height to compete with most strikers in the air. The defensive side to Busquets game is the reason that makes him so valuable to the Blaugrana and what separates him from the rest of the central defensive midfielders in the world.
I think that the main reason the general public don’t “rate” Busquets is the sour taste he leaves in their mouths. He is adept to the dark side of the game, the gamesmanship that is needed to be a top player, and he has it in an abundance. Many people mention the fact he dives, surrounds the referee and gets players booked and look at this as a bad thing. Don’t misunderstand me here, this isn’t something you want to see, but it is something that is more than needed when you play the position Busquets plays. These little devious little actions all serve a purpose for the team, the so called “dives” (which I believe he’s cut a lot out of his game) are used when he or his team are under pressure and need the time to reset and catch their breath. He will feign injury, to kill a bit of time or slow down the momentum of the opposition, so his team can get back to controlling the game. The surrounding of the referee and getting people booked is all to gain his team that extra advantage. If you can get the referee to think twice about giving a free kick against you, then you are going to be able to win the ball back with a more aggressive pressing style, which Barcelona like to employ. Getting players booked, although not being in the spirit of the game, allows players like Messi, Neymar and Suarez to become even more dangerous, as defenders will no longer be able to make any sort of challenge against them. As a fan of the sport, we don’t want to see these acts in the game, but if we look at them with a cold analytical viewpoint, we see that these are a part of what makes Sergio Busquets a tactical genius.
It is hard to really disregard Sergio Busquets as one of the best midfielders in the world, all you have to do is look at his trophy cabinet and see how influential he has been in two of the greatest teams in the history of football. He boasts 6 La Liga titles, 4 Copa Del Rey’s, 4 Spanish Super Cups, 3 Champions Leagues, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 3 Club World Cups, a World Cup, a European Championship and a Confederations cup. 26 major honours by the age of 27 is some seriously good going. And with him just signing a new contract at Barcelona until 2021, more trophies look likely. Pep Guardiola, the man who gave Busquets his debut, has been rumoured to be interested in signing Busquets, and why not, he will certainly improve every side in world football. The new contract will leave Pep Guardiola enjoying his tea without a Busquets.
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