Sergio Busquets: The man who actually runs Barcelona
The king of midfield who never sat on the throne
Sergio Busquets was picked by Barcelona’s youth system in 2005 and has played a crucial part in the club’s success for more than a decade now.
Busquets redefined the term “defensive midfielder” with his style of play and tactical prowess. He may be the only midfielder in the world who is more dangerous without the ball than he is with it.
The reason Busquets is more dangerous without the ball, is his positioning. The Spaniard finds space during the match, not only making it harder for the opposition to gain possessing but also allowing his teammates to get out of sticky positions.
Look at the picture above, against Leverkusen, he is deep down in his own half, playing as a centre-back while Mascherano and Pique are near the sidelines. This allows him to play long balls from a deep position.
Busquets often drops back to create a 3-man defence where he acts as a central pivot. With him, pique and Mascherano/Umtiti forming a 3-man defence, the two attacking midfielders fall back a bit luring with them 2-3 opposition players.
This creates space in the half of the opposition allowing the attackers to roam around freely and the wing backs supporting them on the flanks.
We have seen pique running up the field to support the attackers. This similar task is done by his Spanish compatriot Sergio Ramos but only during counter attacks or the last 2-3 minutes when Real Madrid are behind.
Whereas, Pique lingers in the opposition half for more than a few minutes, the reason being Busquets taking his place as the centre-back. Pique’s aerial prowess makes him dangerous inside the box, the only thing Busquets lacks in his game despite him being 6 feet tall.
Exhaustion is a holding midfielder’s biggest problem. No matter how good you are, you need rest. And that is where Barcelona get stuck in a problem. Busquets cannot be rested because of his impact on the game but at the same time, he needs to be in optimal condition to keep delivering for the team.
Over the years, Busquets has been the only man apart from Messi and Suarez who has retained the same position in the team no matter who their manager is. And that’s where the problem itself lies, due to his value to the team, the manager cannot afford to rest him and that results in dipping performance for a period in the season.
The only man who can be deployed as a stand-in for Busquets is Mascherano.
In his absence, Mascherano is often seen taking his place in the team, but Barcelona are very different when it comes to having Mascherano as the CDM. He may surpass Busquets in defensive ways, but his lack of positioning makes him a liability.
This is also the reason that Mascherano was never able to replace Busquets as the CDM of the team and forced him to switch to CB.
Sergio Busquets has lifted 25 trophies with Barcelona comprising of two trebles, a feat that only Barcelona have achieved. He was a crucial part in winning both the trebles.
He, along with Dani Alves, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Pedro and Xavi are the only players that were part of the squad that won two trebles.
Messi, Iniesta and Busquets are the real engines of F.C. Barcelona. They are invaluable to the club and to football itself. Replacing any one of them will be a very hard task, but Barcelona are already coping without Iniesta.
Something that Barcelona will never be able to replace is the man who pulls the string, Sergio Busquets. Without his positional brilliance, the team is caught during counterattacks and the spaces he creates for his teammates are absent.
As of now, no footballer is even close to this man’s understanding of the game and positional brilliance. Sergio Busquets should have been named the best midfielder a long time ago, but the lack of recognition of his talents will always be an unsolved mystery.