Real Madrid's 1956-60 squad vs Barcelona's 2008-11 squad: A Comparison
Which side is considered by the majority as the greatest? It's time to draw some comparisons.
As we approach La Liga's showcase match, El Classico, it's time to establish which team has fielded the greatest club side in the history of European football. The duo are forever in competition with each other, but whom exactly fielded the finest team ever.
After digging deep into the history books, it's obvious that Real Madrid's team during the 1950s is their greatest ever. On the other hand, Barcelona's side under Pep Guardiola is considered perhaps the strongest and most stylish team in modern football. But which side is considered by the majority as the greatest? It's time to draw some comparisons.
Winning Champions League in 2000’s or European Cup 1950’s?
For instance, Real Madrid's side during the mid-to-late 1950's won every European Cup (modern day Champions League) up for offer. In fact, from the competition’s establishment in 1955, Madrid never entered the competition and failed to secure silverware.
Now, when you look at those statistics, there's no denying that Los Blancos won more UEFA trophies on offer, but are the statistics that telling?
Pep Guardiola's side won two Champions League trophies in three years with some of the finest football ever witnessed. Then, in April 2010, an Icelandic volcanic ash cloud caused devastation across European aviation.
Had the freak act of nature not occurred, and prevented Barcelona from flying to Inter Milan, Guardiola's side wouldn't have been forced upon a 16-hour coach ride to Milan. The resulting match would ultimately cost the team another success - which would have seen them become the first club to retain the Champions League.
Greatest attacking danger?
When you watch rewinds of Madrid's side of the late '50s, the style of football generated by this fluid and devastating side was incapable of being constrained by any team. The attacking threat that was produced by the team was the closest thing to perfection - and indeed the greatest until that era - but does it topple Guardiola's trio of Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi, and Thierry Henry?
Madrid’s forward options then remain some of the greatest names in the game. Raymond Kopa - the France international - was signed in 1956 following the success of Stade Reims during the European Cup campaign which saw Madrid topple the French outfit. Kopa was crucial to Madrid's success between 1956-1959 with his right-wing dashes.
On the contrary, Pep Guardiola's side featured a young Pedro on the wings during their continental success in 2011. The Spaniard, like Kopa, was an integral part of his respected team's success. In fact, Pedro scored Barcelona's first goal in the final at Wembley and etched his name in the Barcelona folklore.
The outright forward in José Villalonga's side was Alfredo Di Stefano. The Argentine/Columbian/Spaniard (yes he represented all three nations before FIFA ruling changed) started as a centre-forward but dropped back to midfield whenever called upon and was considered the first modern-day superstar of football.
Di Stefano could be compared with Pep’s Lionel Messi, who himself became a modern day superstar, and is widely considered by many as the greatest ever.
Messi graduated from Barcelona's La Masia and has broken every record possible during his fourteen-year career with Barcelona. However, Pep Guardiola gave the Argentine the opportunity to become the star of his team.
Up-front, Ferenc Puskas joined Madrid in 1958 after defecting from communist Hungary. He would play at inside left but frequently moved into the box and was a great goalscorer. Puskas was considered by many as the greatest goalscorer of his generation, with his leadership role almost invaluable to the side.
Unlike Madrid, Barcelona regularly shared that central role with David Villa and Samuel Eto'o, devastatingly brilliant during both Champions League successes. Goals, assists, and leadership, Puskas's form was replicated by this duo during Barcelona's prime period.
Barcelona's early matches under Guardiola saw many flaws in their game and none more so than at Numancia in La Liga. Following the defeat to the Spanish minnows just two games into Pep's tenure, Barcelona fans called for the Spaniard to resign.
Later on that season, the 1-1 draw against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final proved just why this Barcelona side was so great. The club then won the competition, just one month later against Manchester United in Rome.
A fine display of total football against the Red Devils and the again two years later at Wembley, when arguably they played the finest footballing ever witnessed at the world's most iconic stadium against the same opponents.
In comparison, Real Madrid's iconic side in the 1950's showcased their excellent ability famously against Stade de Reims. But their real test came against AC Milan in 1958 when for the first time in the four-year history of the tournament, Madrid went into a match with the majority expecting the side to lose.
Madrid overcame the test against Milan and further cemented their legacy as European football's most dominant side.
Who had the better coach(es)?
Many consider the attacking front is slightly edged by Real Madrid, however, on the management front that argument may be slightly different. Unlike Barcelona, Madrid regularly changed managers during their successful period.
Firstly, Jose Villalonga was successful, with two La Liga titles and two European Cups, before leaving in 1957. Villalonga remains the youngest coach ever to win European football's biggest prize when he led Madrid to success in 1955.
Following his dismissal in 1957, Nice manager Luis Antonio Carniglia took charge at the Bernabeu and with big shoes to fill, he didn't disappoint. In two years, he won the La Liga title and European Cup to continue Madrid's legacy in the competition.
However, after he left in February 1959, the club went into slight turmoil. Three managers in two months resulted in Miguel Munez taking charge in his first stint at the club before he guided Madrid to another success in 1959. But do they topple Barcelona on this front?
Arguably not. In May 2008 when Pep Guardiola was confirmed as the new Barcelona coach, heads turned all over Europe as the former midfielder and captain had never managed a top-flight football club.
Nonetheless, the appointment would prove to be invaluable as Guardiola orchestrated, not only Barcelona's success during this period, but also revolutionised football.
His style of play and use of players was fundamental to the club's success. Without Pep Guardiola, Futbol Club de Barcelona wouldn't have won the number of accolades they did.
When you compare two clubs with contrasting styles but an equal amount of success, to answer which is the greater side is a big ask.
Did Real Madrid achieve great things in an era easy to dominate? Did Barcelona underachieve or was the competition too intense to dominate? Is Messi better than what Di Stefano ever was, or was Puskas the best centre forward ever seen? The questions are unanswerable, but undoubtedly, they are two of the greatest club sides ever established.