What is “Real football?” The success of Barcelona and the Spanish national team over the last four-five years has made many people believe that anything that isn’t a short-passing, attractive style of football is an inferior way to play the game. Michu, Swansea’s Spanish star, proves that school of thought in a recent interview.
Swansea have gotten the nickname Swansealona for their style of play, which began with Brendan Rodgers and continues this season with Michael Laudrup. Michu, 26, is excelling in the current system, so far scoring 7 goals in 12 matches. He did score 15 for Rayo Vallecano last season, but goals in the Premier League usually make a bigger news splash.
When asked in a recent interview about Swansea’s style and the comparisons to Barcelona, Michu showed that he’s from the same school of thought that think there’s playing football and there’s the right way of playing it.
Nobody can play exactly like Barcelona, because they don’t have Barcelona’s players, but we do try to dominate opponents by keeping hold of the ball, and over here very few teams actually attempt to ‘play football’.
Maybe the style of Barcelona and other teams around the continent is the beautiful way to play the game, but it also involves a very rare case of managing to assemble an extremely talented group of players who can dribble, pass and retain possession at the highest level, while being extremely intelligent on the pitch as to their off the ball movement and ability to press against the opposition. Most teams in the world, almost all of them, don’t have that kind of privilege.
Football is also long balls, and not always playing to score. It may not be the prettiest version of it, but not everyone can win matches by applying 90 minutes (or almost) of pressure on the opponents’ defense and manage 65% possession of the ball. Watching a Napoli, Juventus or Dortmund game can be quite enjoyable. There a bigger emphasis on pace and physicality, but it doesn’t make them any less legitimate than Barcelona.
Same goes for Bayern Munich, Manchester United on a good day or even the more balanced and sometimes boring attitude of Manchester City, who seem (this season) to only be awaken after they concede a goal or two against inferior opponents. If everyone was trying the Barcelona style, it would be getting quite boring to watch. And there would be no real suspense in any competition, because no team plays it quite like Barca do.
Negative tactics aren’t what we want to see, but some teams don’t have a choice. If their options are playing an open match with free flowing tactics, guaranteeing a thrashing or clamping down with 10 men on defense in hope of managing a draw or maybe poaching a win, there’s nothing wrong with playing ugly from time to time.