FC Barcelona, also known an Barcelona or Barca, is a football club based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and plays in the La Liga Santander, Spain’s top division of football. It is one of the most successful clubs in the history of football, and even to some extent, sports. They are one of the founding members of the La Liga, and have never been relegated alongwith Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao. They were also the first Spanish club to win the La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League in a single season, constituting the ‘continental treble’ in 2009.They repeated the feat in 2015.
The club is often associated with Catalan values, and is regarded an important Catalan symbol by the fans. The club’s motto is “Mésque que un club” which means “More than a club” stands in accordance with the club’s association with Catalanism and the Catalan spirit. Their crest also has the Catalan flag on the top right, while a St. George’s Cross on the left and the club colours on the bottom.
Along with being one of the most successful clubs, it is also one of the most valuable clubs, and in ranked as the third most valuable sports team with an annual turnover of $750 million and a total valuation of $4.07 billion.
The club is known for playing a highly entertaining style of football, which continues to provide results.
The club’s home stadium is Camp Nou, which has a current capacity of 99,534. It is the second largest soccer stadium in the world, and the largest in Europe.
The club was formed after the eminent Swiss businessman and football pioneer Hans Gamper placed an advertisement in the Los Deportes stating his wishes to form a football club. The response was positive and was attended by 11 players, who decided to form the Foot-Ball Club Barcelona in 1899. The club colors were red and blue which led people to believe that they were selected by Gamper, and were based on his home team FC Basel.
The club made a steady start participating in the Campionat de Catalunya and the Copa del Rey. They won their first trophy in 1902, the Copa Macaya and made it to the finals of the Copa del Rey but lost out to Bizcaya in the final 1-2. In their road to the finals, Barcelona defeated Madrid FC in the semifinals, which was the first El Clasico in the history. However, the next few years were detrimental for the club as they began to struggle for performances and also faced serious financial issues. In a bid to save his club, Gamper, now known as Joan Gamper took over the position of club president.
They moved to their first stadium, the Camp de la Industria in 1909, which had a capacity of 8,000. The following year, the club redesigned its crest which was made by Carles Comamala, and still stands to this date with minor variations.
The club began participating in the Pyrenees Cup, which was regarded the most prestigious tournament in the region at that era. They won the the tournament consecutively four times, since its inception. Led by Gamper, the club started taking shape and established itself as one of the most important club in Catalonia. Gamper recruited Jack Greenwell as the club’s first full-time manager, which further enhanced the successes of the club.
By 1925, the club had won eleven Campionats de Catalunya, six Copa del Rey and four Pyrenees Cup. The Barcelona side featured legendary players like Ricardo Zamora, Josep Samitier or “L’Home Llagosta” and Paulino Alcantara, who was the club’s top goalscorer with 356 goals as well as the youngest goalscorer for the club. While the former record was recently broken by Lionel Messi, the latter record still stands to this date. Barcelona also won the inaugural edition of the Spanish League in 1929.
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The club became more and more associated with the Catalan nationalism as supporting the club became more related with associating with the Catalan spirit, rather than the football the club played. In a spontaneous reaction to the Spanish dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, the Catalan fans jeered the Spanish national anthem played by a British band, but cheered on the English national anthem. This led to the closing of Barcelona’ home stadium Les Cortes for six months.
The club went on a decline from then onwards, as Gamper was forced to give up the presidency of the club. Political conflicts came to the fore, and football was overshadowed by the society. In the Spanish Civil War, several players from Barcelona fought against the military uprising. Club president Josep Sunyol was murdered by the Falangist soldiers, and half of the team seeked for asylum in their tour to Mexico and the United States.
In 1938, Barcelona was bombed by the Italian Air Force which destroyed one of the club offices as 3,000 people were killed. The Spanish government banned the Catalan flag and added several restrictions to FC Barcelona. Despite such hindrances, the club enjoyed considerable success in 1940-50s.
The signing of Laszlo Kubala became an important milestone for the club in 1950. With the help of the prolific Hungarian forward, Barcelona established themselves as an immensely successful club, winning five different trophies in the form of La Liga, Copa del Generalísimo, Copa Latina, Copa Eva Duarte and Copa Martini Rossi in 1952. The late 1950s saw the rise of Luis Suarez, who was the first Barcelona player to win the Ballon d’Or. However, in the 1960s the club completed the construction of their new stadium Camp Nou which led to a few years of financial insecurity while they were dominated on the pitch by a great Real Madrid team led by Alfredo di Stefano.
However, the club signed Johan Cruyff from Ajax in 1973 in world transfer record. One of the greatest footballers of all time, he also harbored the Catalan spirit and named his son Jordi after the Catalan saint. He won the European Player of the Year twice with Barcelona as the club met with success after success.
Return of Cruyff
Post 1978, the club became more inclined to ensure the financial security of the club and establish itself as the one of the top football clubs. Barcelona won their first UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1979. The club went on to sign more legendary players like Diego Maradona, Bernd Schuster, Gary Lineker and Michael Laudrup.
Johan Cruyff then returned to the club as a manager, and he was crucial in the development of the famous La Masia academy which has produced the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol. Cruyff led Barcelona to four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994, and eventually became their most successful manager with 11 trophies. He introduced the highly entertaining form of football that Barcelona play even to this date.
Legends like Maradona and Ronaldo came and went, but Barcelona held on to their policies of financial security while new stars arrived in the form of Luis Figo, Patrick Kluivert, Luis Enrique and Rivaldo.
The club celebrated a hundred years in 1999. The 2000s saw a sharp influx of international stars into the club like Ronaldinho, Deco, Samuel Eto’o and Edgar Davids while the La Masia produced players Carles Puyol, Xavi which led to an immensely successful side which dominated both in Europe and Spain. Ronaldinho won the Ballon d’Or consecutively in 2004 and 2005, while Eto’o was third placed in 2005.
Problems started arising again in 2006, as Barcelona finished trophyless and there were internal disputes in the squad. However, they saw the rise of the then young star Lionel Messi who drew comparisons from Maradona.
Pep Guardiola took over the club in 2008 and introduced a new style of football now famously known as the tiki-taka. Guardiola reign ushered in a new ‘Golden Age’ which saw the Barcelona side create history. They won the Copa del Rey for a record 25th time and also defeated Real Madrid 2-6 to ensure that they won the La Liga.
In 2010, the Ballon d’Or finalists were all Barcelona players with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi named for the coveted trophy. Xavi went on to win the title. Star players like David Villa, Mascherano and Cesc Fabregas joined the club, as Guardiola won an unbelievable 13 out of possible 16 trophies. After Guardiola, Tito Vilanova took over at a highly star studded Barcelona side and led them to a La Liga title, with four games left to play and maintained top spot of the league for the entire season. However, Vilanova announced that his throat cancer had relapsed and he left the club in 2013.
Again they faced troubles with president Sandro Rosell resigning after the alleged misappropriation for the transfer of Neymar, while the club failed to perform under Tata Martino. The club brought in Luis Enrique to replace Martino, he then created the attacking trio of Messi-Suarez-Neymar (MSN) which scored an astonishing 122 goals. Enrique broke Guardiola’s record of 28 consecutive unbeaten games and even went on to a record 39 games unbeaten. They also recorded the biggest comeback in Champions League history, against Paris Saint Germain winning 6-1 in the final leg, after they were defeated 4-0 in the first leg.
The current squad is managed by Ernesto Valverde and they won the 2017-18 La Liga title.
FC Barcelona have won 25 La Ligas, 30 Copa Del Rey, 5 UEFA Champions League, 4 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup and three FIFA Club World Cup.