Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain: Tradition vs Money
The Champions League quarter-final pits two different ideologies together
When Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona line up against each other over two legs in April, both teams will symbolise two vastly different cultures present in the game today.
Football's increasingly more global and corporate side, is symbolized in Carlo Ancelotti's troops, and they will do battle against the grassroots, 'mes que un club' philosophy of the Catalan giants.
It seems that while money can't buy you love in this world, it can buy you pretty much everything else, and success in football is no different. The huge influx of foreign cash into clubs across the world is helping to build new generations of “super-squads.” Is it in line with the ethics of football, that clubs without the structures for long term success can use the finances of a billionaire businessman or oil tycoons to buy trophies?
Take Paris Saint-Germain and their owner Nasser El Khelaifi for example. Without El Khelaifi's finances, would some of the biggest stars in the world like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Thiago Silva be lining up for the Parisians in the Champions League?
The success of clubs, like Chelsea, Manchester City and most recently PSG can be completely attributed to the influx of cash from eccentric owners.
Now look at the other side of the coin, we see Barcelona. The Catalan side are the antithesis to the ever increasing corporate nature present in football. Its supporters, or ‘socis’ run the club. Barcelona do not need the never ending chequebook of a Middle Eastern oil tycoon for success, their structure is built for long term success and is not easily overhauled.
The emphasis placed on the youth structure at Barcelona makes their success all the more remarkable. The famous La Masia youth academy has produced some of the world’s finest players, especially in recent years. The 2011 side that demolished Manchester United in the Champions League final fielded seven players that came through Barcelona's youth system (Carles Puyol would have increased that figure had he not been injured).
The Catalans even fielded a full La Masia eleven this season against Levante. When Barcelona field a team, the players don't just have the jersey on their back, each one of them represents the philosophy of the club, and the years of hard work invested into them. Barcelona blood is coursing through their veins.
Needless to say, while the even smaller versions of Xavi, Andreas Iniesta and Lionel Messi were talented in their youth, they were were by no means invincible, and suffered defeats at the hands of bigger, more physically superior opponents. However, the belief in the long-term system of youth team transitions to the senior team remained.
A quick fix in the form of a big money signing wasn't required. These players had faith shown in them, and they are repaying it back with interest.
In the wake of Barca's victory over Manchester United in the 2011 Final, Patrice Evra commented; "They know each other so perfectly. Every time Messi gets the ball he knows Xavi is going to be there, Pedro is going to be there, or Iniesta".
This 'perfect' understanding is down to a simple factor of time spent playing together.
With players playing together for so long, through youth teams and reserve sides, they build up an understanding that can't be bought in the transfer window.
Now by no means are Barcelona financially inept - in 2012 they announced record revenue of £494 million. They also have a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike, and hold the biggest stadium in European Football in the Camp Nou.
However Barcelona's financial success owes to their success on the pitch, not vice versa, which is unfortunately the ever-increasing standard in todays game.
The differences between the two clubs are vast, Paris Saint-Germain have rose to prominence quickly, whilst Barcelona, it seems, have been around the knock-out stages of the Champions League forever.
The end result of their Champions League tie will be dictated by events far beyond the white lines of a football pitch.
Can Nasser El-Khelaifi's billions, buy him the most coveted prize in club football or will the time spent with youth players on the grounds of an old farmhouse in Catalonia, continue to be the best tonic for success?
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